The weekend may have seemed to be ages away when you first sat down at your desk on Monday but praise be, it’s finally Friday! Here are some of the latest shiny widgets to arrive at BikeRadar’s Colorado office that might make your next road or mountain bike ride just a little bit sweeter.
New mountain bike gear
X-Fusion Sweep RC HLR suspension fork
X-Fusion is taking the fight to RockShox and Fox with a new damper cartridge called Roughcut HLR. The fresh cartridge features a fully bled architecture – meaning there’s no air inside at all – and a rubber bladder to account for changes in internal volume as the fork moves through its travel. We expect increased small-bump sensitivity since bladders produce much less stiction than traditional O-ring seals, and X-Fusion says the updated damper circuits should yield more consistent and distinct ride quality changes with each turn of the knob.
Speaking of which, high-speed and low-speed compression damping adjustments are now conveniently located right up top.
X-Fusion will offer the Roughcut HLR damper only in its 34mm-diameter forks for now, and we’ve opted for a 140mm-travel Sweep RC HLR trail model. Actual weight is 1,884g (4.15lb) including the 15mm thru-axle – 20g lighter than claimed.
US$750 / £555 / €TBC / AU$800
Specialized Roval Traverse Fattie 650b wheels
Got the itch to go wide on your mountain bike but don’t want to spend a ridiculous amount of money on something carbon? Specialized’s Roval Travese Fattie 650b wheels feature a generous 29mm internal width and a tubeless-ready profile that should allow for bigger tyre footprints, lower operating pressures, and better traction overall than more traditionally shaped rims. Naturally, the alloy hoops are a bit heavier than carbon ones but they’ll also be easier to repair, too.
The pawl-type rear hub internals are borrowed from DT Swiss’s 350 model – meaning they’re reliable but somewhat slow to engage – and DT Swiss also provides the ultralight Revolution butted stainless steel spokes. Interchangeable end caps are included for quick-release, 100x15mm, 110x20mm, and 142x12mm axle fitments.
Actual weight for our set is 1,762g (819g front; 943g rear) including rim tape and valve stems.
US$600 / £400 / €TBC / AU$1000
Pearl Izumi X-Project 1.0 shoes
Pearl Izumi blurs the lines between race and trail-oriented mountain bike shoes with the X-Project 1.0. As with the first-generation X-Projects, these use a carbon sole that’s rigid from the ball of your foot back but flexible under the toes for greatly enhanced walkability compared with what we usually expect of carbon MTB footwear. There’s also a wedge of foam padding beneath the heel to lessen the impact of being on foot and a grippy dual density outsole for ample grip on mixed surfaces.
This latest version gets a sleek welded synthetic upper bolstered with twin two-way Boa cable reels for a snug and even fit that’s noticeably more conforming and accommodating of various foot shapes than the original. Actual weight for our size 44 test pair is 762g, including the adjustable insoles and toe spike plugs.
US$320 / £270 / €390 / AU$450
Bontrager Lithos helmet
Whereas most helmet companies are constantly trying to reduce weight, Bontrager has gone the other way on its latest Lithos trail lid. At 438g for a medium sample, it’s unquestionably heavy – and it feels like it on your head. But it’s also feature-laden and clearly built for toughness.
The extended-coverage exterior is reinforced with more durable plastics in key areas, there’s an in-moulded internal skeleton to help hold the helmet together during a crash, and the interior sports noticeably softer foam – in addition to the usual padding – for a more luxurious feel. Speaking of padding, Bontrager includes two sets with the Lithos: one made of standard synthetic and other with a strip of silicone rubber built into the browpad to help channel sweat away from your eyes. Up top is the requisite adjustable visor.
Perhaps the best trick, however, is the sleek and secure Blendr mount for Bontrager lights or GoPro-compatible cameras. Simply snap it into the uppermost vent and you’re good to go.
US$150 / AU$159
What once was old is new again, right? Years after riser bars essentially wiped bar ends off the map, some riders now miss having multiple hand positions. Like the TOGS we showed you a few months ago, SpirGrips mount inboard of the grips and give your thumbs something to wrap around for more of a ‘cruising’ position.
Unlike the simpler TOGS, which are moulded from Zytel plastic, SpirGrip are made of aluminium with a much more substantial and ergonomic shape, plus a conveniently hinged clamp for easy installation. We’ve only just started playing with these but they’re undoubtedly comfortable – albeit also somewhat heavy and disappointingly expensive. Actual weight is 115g per pair.
US$103 / £66 / €91 / AU$133 (approximate)
New road bike gear
Knight Composites 65 carbon clincher wheelset
Knight Composites – the brainchild of industry veterans Beverly Lucas, Jim Pfeil, and Kevin Quan – claims its versatile 65 road clinchers are the fastest in its category owing to its highly refined shape, which features a 65mm depth, 28mm external depth, and bulbous profile with a notably blunted nose.
Speed may be one thing but Knight Composites says the 65’s shape was also specifically penned with crosswind stability in mind – a key attribute for riders looking for a fast wheelset that can still be used in blustery conditions. The carbon rims are laced with Sapim bladed stainless steel spokes to your choice of DT Swiss 240s, DT Swiss 180, or Aivee hubs, and pricing is quite competitive compared with similar wheels from other high-end brands.
Actual weight for our clincher set without rim strips is 1,656g (898g rear; 758g front). The included quick-release skewers add another 55g for the pair.
US$2,499 / £1,619 / €2,299 / AU$2,999
Enve SES Aero Road handlebar
Whereas most aero road bars are only intended to be fast themselves, Enve’s SES Aero Road is designed to help the rider adopt a sleeker and faster position, too. In addition to the requisite aero-profile tops and internal cable routing, the SES Aero Road features an unusually narrow hood position coupled with dramatically flared drops. The idea here is that modern riders are faster with their arms outstretched on the hoods and their forearms level to the ground instead of with their hands in the drops, and narrowing up the arms reduces frontal area – and consequently, aerodynamic drag.
Just how narrow are we talking? Our 42cm sample measures 42cm from centre-to-centre at the flared ends but just 37cm at the hoods. It feels a bit odd at first but hey, faster is faster, right?
Actual weight is 246g.
US$400 / £375 / €TBC / AU$TBC
Bontrager Velocis shoes
Bontrager’s latest midrange road shoes look to tick all the boxes for desired performance features, including a full carbon/fiberglass composite outsole, two-way Boa cable closures, replaceable heel treads, and lots of ventilation holes in the synthetic uppers – not to mention a highly refined fit and impressively low weight.
Bontrager even offers the Velocis in a trio of colours, from mild to wild. Naturally, Bontrager provided us with the hot pink variant (not available in Australia), which means we’ve got some training to do if we’re going to successfully back these up on road.
Actual weight for a size 43 pair is 475g.
US$220 / £170 / €200 / AU$359
Abbey Bike Tools HAG derailleur hanger tool
Abbey Bike Tools has quickly gained a loyal following, not least among BikeRadar staffers, for its impeccably designed (and built) collection of lightweight and high-precision tools for discerning professional mechanics. One of the latest offerings is the new Hanger Alignment Gauge – or HAG, for short. Although it’s quite expensive, the unusually tight tolerances make for more accurate derailleur hanger adjustments while the anodized aluminium construction helps keep toolboxes to a reasonable weight.
Abbey lets you lock in the ‘feeler’ so it can’t be knocked out of place while working, and it can also be rotated to clear stays and drivetrain parts without losing its position. When you’re done, the feeler stores in the handle, making for a nicely compact tool that won’t take up too much room in your workspace.
Abbey says the HAG is “the last hanger tool you'll ever have to buy” and if our experience with the company’s other offerings is anything to go on, that’s a rather believable claim.
US$185 / £165 / €TBC / AU$230
Pedro’s Chain Pig and Pig Juice
The latest chain cleaner from Pedro’s isn’t just adorable to look at – it really does look like a pig, curly tail and all – but promises to get your chains cleaner and last longer than similar items from competing brands. Four sets of extra-stiff brushes scrub the plates and rollers from all sides while the clever attachment method keeps the whole process relatively hands-free.
Pedro’s says the real secret to its chain cleaning system, however, is its new Pig Juice cleaning fluid, which supposedly strips dirt and grime from your chain without resorting to harsh solvents or petroleum products. Pedro’s says the formula is also completely safe for carbon fiber, plastics, rubbers, and all painted surfaces, and just 30mL (1oz) is needed per session – and that’s assuming you recharge the cleaner with fresh fluid each time.
Now if you’ll excuse us, we’ve got some test bikes to clean up…
US$28 / £TBC / €TBC / AU$TBC (Pedro’s Chain Pig chain cleaner)
US$11.50 / £TBC / €TBC / AU$TBC (Pedro’s Pig Juice cleaning fluid, 12oz (355ml) bottle)