As predictable as the passing of the seasons or the ebb of the tide, each Friday a deep and instinctual urge brings together the staff of BikeRadar to make an offering of the shiniest cycling trinkets to the bike industry gods — yes fellow cycling devotees, it’s time for 11-speed, your weekly roundup of the freshest road and mountain bike kit to land in the hallowed halls of BikeRadar HQ.
So don your ceremonial loot robe, purify your surroundings and prepare your mind for a deeply spiritual journey towards gear nirvana.
New mountain bike gear
NOBL TR33 wheelset
NOBL is a small Canadian wheel company that focuses on making high-end carbon hoops.
To complete the package, NOBL teamed up with Onyx Racing Products to supply its hubsets. Onyx takes a decidedly different approach to freehub design and that’s what sets it apart from the competition.
Onyx freehubs use a sprag clutch to provide instant engagement. You can think of a sprag clutch as a one-way roller bearing, it spins smoothly in one direction and doesn't give an inch, or a degree, in the other. In addition to immediate engagement, the system is virtually silent, so there are no angry bees or other perturbed insects to deal with.
We’re currently testing the 29er version of NOBL’s TR33 wheelset, which has an external width of 33mm and an internal width of 27mm. NOBL sees this as the optimal width for 2.25 to 2.4in mountain bike treads. Other features include external nipples for ease of maintenance and a hookless profile.
The weight of our test wheelset with tubeless tape and valves installed is 1,800g.
- £TBC / $1,695 / AU$TBC
Fix It Sticks tire levers
Fit It Sticks has a new addition to its line of multitools. The new two-piece tire lever set works with removable bits in conjunction with Fit It Sticks.
The plastic levers are co-molded with 1/4in bits inside the lever body that allow them to fit onto Fit It Sticks like any other hex bit. This arrangement has the added benefit of reinforcing the plastic lever with the metal core of the Fit It Stick.
- £8 / $10 / AU$14
Northwave Outcross Plus
The Outcross Plus is Northwave’s latest trail shoe. It features what the company calls its “Explorer Sole” to provide a firm pedaling platform with enough flex in the medial zone for hike-a-bike moves.
Another nod to off the bike utility is the Michelin rubber outsole, intended to provide grip in all conditions.
The Outcross Plus is offered in sizes 36-47 and uses two Velcro straps and Northwave’s own S.L.W. 2 ratcheting closure system to dial in fit. If dials aren’t your thing, Northwave also offers a more affordable version of the Outcross with three Velcro straps.
- £105 / $140 / AU$200
Orange Seal Endurance Sealant with injector
Orange Seal’s new Endurance Sealant is made to go the distance. The company claims this new formulation lasts three times longer while still sealing punctures and cuts up to a quarter inch wide.
Endurance Sealant is available in 4oz and 8oz bottles and comes with an injector as well as a dipstick to check sealant levels.
- 4oz: £9 / $11 / AU$15
- 8oz: £14 / $17 / AU$21
Feedback Sports Team Edition Tool Kit
Feedback Sports is expanding its reach into the tool market with several different tool kits, which are suitable for home mechanics of every ability level. The Team Edition Tool Kit shown here is designed for serious wrenching.
This 19-piece / 24-function tool kit has pretty much everything you need to service bikes on the go.
It comes in a thoughtfully designed case that can mount to Feedback’s repair stands. The case also offers room for additional tools, so you can customize it to suit your particular needs.
- £200 / $250 / AU$320
New road bike gear
Compass Cycles Randonneur Handlebars
These unconventionally shaped bars are produced by legendary Japanese components manufacturer Nitto and are designed to offer far more hand positions than a modern drop bar, reducing pressure on your hands during long days in the saddle.
The tops of the bars have a gentle upward curve from the centre towards the hoods, so your hands have far more positions to sit on the tops than with more conventional bars.
The hooks of the bars are also subtly flared, which puts your wrists in a more natural position when riding on the hoods (try stretching out your hands and looking at the slightly angled position your hands rest in).
Lastly, the drops are long enough to accommodate all but the biggest of hands without forcing your phalanges back up into the hooks.
Randonneur style handlebars are nothing new and these bars are actually based off a design by now defunct French manufacturer AVA. We opted for the 42cm wide, ‘Superlight’ version of the bars that weighed in bang on the claimed 298g weight.
Expect a review once we’ve had a chance to try these out over the next few months.
- $125. Compass doesn’t offer international pricing, but will ship worldwide. The handlebars are stocked in a number of bike shops around the world, too.
White Industries R30 cranks with VBC chainrings
White Industries’ VBC (Variable Bolt Circle) cranks have had a loyal following for years among those looking for a highly customisable and more minimal looking crankset than those offered by the big drivetrain manufacturers. However, until recently the cranks were only available for square taper bottom brackets, but the US based brand has finally made the jump to a HollowTech style system with its R30 cranks.
The R30 system uses a 30mm diameter spindle that is compatible with BSA threaded T47 and Press Fit 30 bottom bracket standards.
The inner chainring on White Industries’ VBC system attaches to slotted arms on the proprietary spiderless outer chainring, allowing you to use any 5-arm chainring regardless of its BCD.
This means that you are able to mix and match your inner and outer chainrings in any configuration that your heart so desires. Fancy super close spaced ‘cross gearing one day but are planning on heading to the mountains the next? No problem.
We’ve opted for a relatively conventional 48/34 ‘super-compact’ set up for now, which including the R30 system’s dedicated bottom bracket, weighs in at 875g.
- Cranks and spindle: £320 / $300
- Chainrings: £190
- Bottom bracket: £110 / $100
Smartwool Corbet 120 insulated jacket
Although we’re mercifully close to the turning point of this seemingly endless winter, our Bristol based contingent is still suffering through the oppressively damp-cold of a British January.
However, the dreary weather has presented the perfect opportunity to try out a wealth of insulated jackets in the hope of discovering the perfect layering solution for cycling in cold conditions.
The latest addition to our growing collection is this rather nifty hybrid jacket from Smartwool. It uses an insulated front panel matched with merino / nylon arms and back panels to create a lighter weight solution than a fully insulated jacket like the Rapha Brevet jacket we featured previously.
Unlike other jackets, which use synthetic loft, the Corbet 120 uses Smartwool's own SmartLoft insulation that is a 75 percent wool / 25 percent polyester mix.
We asked Smartwool for comparative data between SmartLoft and Primaloft, and although it didn’t have numbers, it claims that if it “looked at warmth alone, Primaloft would probably be slightly warmer for the same weight, but, because it doesn't transfer moisture as well, the user ends up sweatier and then requires more insulation to stay warm while sweaty.”
We’ve taken the jacket on a few short morning rides and so far our first impressions are very good — when matched with a thin base layer the jacket is more than warm enough for spirited riding in temperatures close to freezing.
The jacket is cut quite long and boxy though, so we would recommend dropping down a size if you want a tight fit.
- £145 / $200 / AU$TBC
B'Twin Ultra AF
B'Twin is the in-house brand of French sports giant Decathlon and it's been a consistent winner on value. The Ultra AF isn't stunningly light at 8.7kg (for a medium), but it has a pretty amazing spec for such an affordable bike in the era of Brexit — with a full Ultegra groupset and Mavic Cosmic Elite wheels.
The angular aluminium frame is rather a handsome thing and it's impressive to see branded finishing kit like the Fizik Arione saddle at this price. Look for a full review in the coming months...
- £1,050 / $N/A / AU$N/A
Praxis Zayante crankset with 48/32t Buzz chainrings
The increasing popularity of gravel riding and adventure touring has led companies to rethink road gearing. “Micro Compact” is the term Praxis is using for its new 48/32t chainring combination.
Praxis’ 110 BCD Buzz chainrings in the Micro Compact gearing are now available as a stock option on the Zayante crankset. Unlike the Alba cranks we highlighted a few weeks ago, the Zayante features hollow forged alloy crankarms to save weight.
Weight, with the 48/32t chainrings, is 708g.
- £200 / $240 / AU$TBC
Panaracer Gravelking 28mm tyres
It’s long been known that the extra plump of a wider tyre on your road bike can improve comfort and control on the pavement, but the extra cush of a more girthy tyre also opens up opportunities for light off-road excursions.
While a slick tyre will work to a certain point, a little bit of tread can help to improve control on unpaved surfaces and Panaracer recently sent us through its Gravelking tyres in a most-bike-friendly 28mm wide.
The Gravelking tyres have a light file tread with supple 126tpi sidewalls, our set weighed in at 284g.
Panaracers Instagram account has recently been filled with lots of cool pictures of otherwise pedestrian road bikes getting a little rowdy on the gnarmac and we’re feeling inspired, so expect to see these make their way onto byways and gravel tracks in the coming months.
- £29.99 / $38 / AU$50