Top 5 weird and wonderful road and gravel kit of 2018

Zip on tyres, full suspension gravel, one-size-fits-all shorts... 2018 has been weird

2018 has brought a whole host of weird gravel and road tech

Every year there emerges — among the inevitable tide of uninspired ’faster this’ and ‘lighter that’ tech — a number of weird and wonderful new products that make us sit up and pay attention.

Sometimes these are great ideas that change the way we view bicycle tech and sometimes… well, they’re interesting for a whole other set of reasons.

Here are five of the weirdest, wonderfullest and weirdly wonderfullest products that we’ve seen in 2018 so far.

2018's weird and wonderful road and gravel kit

Specialized Shiv

The Shiv is just... wow
The Shiv is just... wow

There’s still one month left of 2018, but we think it’s a pretty safe bet that nothing will show up before the end of the year that will outshine the new Specialized Shiv in the outright weirdness stakes.

The oh-so-very-non-UCI-compliant tri-specific bike features more unique tech than we could ever pack in here, but the giant aerofoil that doubles up as a hydration tank, the dual-crown-like fork, the foldable cockpit and wildly dropped rear end are all pretty good places to start.

While we’re unlikely to see such tech ported to the road in its current form, it’s still exciting to see what wild ideas — with all restrictions dropped — Lord Zinn and his aero-gremlins can conjure up. Reader and viewer comments about the bike have also been equally entertaining.

Canyon Hoverbar

The Grail is one of the most talked about bikes this year
The Grail is one of the most talked about bikes this year

How could we talk about the weirdest tech of 2018 without mentioning the Canyon Hoverbar — the crazy double-decker handlebar that defines Canyon’s Grail gravel bike.

Unlike every other drop bar in existence — where the stem attaches to a clamping area in the middle of the tops of the bar — the Hoverbar places the tops of the bar above a stem that connects to an additional bar that in turn connects the apex of the hooks… phew.

If that sounds confusing, that’s because it really is, and we recommend you closely examine photos of the handlebars to actually understand what’s going on.

The bar was developed in a bid to improve front end comfort and control without the added complication and weight of suspension. By the accounts of a number of BikeRadar testers that have used the bars, it does work to a point.

Regardless of performance, the Hoverbar and the Grail are, without doubt, two of the most talked about products this year, so if you manage a brand and are watching this, develop something as radical as this and you’re almost guaranteed attention.

Niner MCR 9 RDO full suspension gravel prototype

Full suspension gravel? Sure, why not!
Full suspension gravel? Sure, why not!

The concept of using suspension on a gravel bike is totally sound — it’s worked on mountain bikes for decades now, so its adoption in the world of gravel is inevitable.

But, with that said, there’s something about this prototype full-suspension gravel bike from Niner that just looks… odd.

We can’t quite decide whether it’s the full-size double chainset, the giant front triangle or the shortened RockShox RS1 fork, but something about the bike just doesn’t sit right.

Aesthetics aside, the bike looks really interesting, and by all accounts, is one Niner is serious about bringing to production. This is one we’ll be watching very closely in 2019.

Retyre Zip on tyres

Retyre is the zip-on tyre solution you (might) have been waiting for
Retyre is the zip-on tyre solution you (might) have been waiting for

Changing tyres is a hassle, right? Do you ever wish there was a way you could swap your treads on the fly without fiddling with tubes or sealant?

We haven’t either, but that hasn’t stopped Norwegian brand Retyre from developing a zip-on tyre system that allows you to do just that.

The modular system pairs a semi-slick tyre — that is fitted with a sturdy zipper next to the bead — that acts as a ‘core’ with a number of different treads that you can add to suit various conditions.

So far, the available treads include everything from general treaded off-road options to ice-spiked winter tyres. Better still, these are available in a number of colour options, so you can match your treads to your beloved bike!

We can’t decide whether the concept is just odd or oddly compelling, but we have a set en route for testing, so we’ll sure to let you know how we get on.

Ekoi Morpho one-size-fits-all shorts

One-size-fits-all shorts, not as bad as you might imagine
One-size-fits-all shorts, not as bad as you might imagine

Finding kit that fits well can be a nightmare — one brand’s medium is likely to be wildly different to another’s, making for an incredibly frustrating buying experience.

With this in mind, Ekoi shook up the world of bib shorts this year with the release of its one-size-fits-all Morpho bib shorts.

Made from a super-elastic, tubular-woven material, the shorts are said to be good for anyone sized between 4ft 6in and 6ft 4in tall, or between 7½ stone to 15 stone.

Four different BikeRadar testers squeezed into the shorts — not at the same time — and the Morphos conformed to the unique profile of each beautiful body with remarkable ease.

The shorts feature an external chamois pad, which is, to be generous, divisive. For some riders, no amount of claimed performance benefits will change the fact that it looks as though you have your shorts on inside out, but we applaud Ekoi all the same.

What are your top picks for weird kit this year? Have we missed anything from the list? As always, leave your thoughts in the comments.

Jack Luke

Staff Writer, UK
Jack has been riding and fettling with bikes for his whole life. Always in search of the hippest new niche in cycling, Jack is a self-confessed gravel dork and thinks nothing of bivouacking on a beach after work. Also fond of cup and cone bearings, skids and tan wall tyres.
  • Discipline: Long days in the saddle by either road or mountain bike
  • Preferred Terrain: Happiest when on a rural road by the coast or crossing a remote mountain pass. Also partial to a cheeky gravel adventure or an arduous hike-a-bike.
  • Current Bikes: Custom Genesis Croix de Fer all road adventure wagon, Niner EMD 9.
  • Dream Bike: A rigid 44 Bikes Marauder, all black please.
  • Beer of Choice: Caesar Augustus
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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