While it may seem premature, are the first signs of spring popping out here in the UK? Certainly, the bulbs I planted in autumn are showing strong growth, with a few little snowdrops peeking their white heads above the soil.
It’s certainly getting that way in the bike industry too, with a brace of new bikes, as well as a new dropper being unveiled this week.
Luke Marshall has been the lucky chap who’s got hold of the new Santa Cruz Heckler ebike – as seems to be the fashion these days, there are 29in and mullet options, as well as a far-reaching battery.
Then, when it comes to curly bars, we saw the release of the new Cotic Cascade. Cotic is a brand with a long history of bringing out some amazing steel mountain bikes, and I wonder how this steel gravel bike will fare when on test?
Droppers-wise, OneUp released the longest-drop dropper out there, with a jaw-droppingly long 240mm travel.
We also took a slightly more serious look at the problems linking cycling and eating disorders, and how bicycle tyres can be recycled.
Other than those blessed with living in a riding Mecca (and thus never feeling the need to explore further afield), transporting your bike on or in a car or van is an inevitable facet of cycling. Roof or rear-mounted racks are handy ways to do so, but if you decide to carry your bike on the roof of your vehicle you’ve got to get it there first.
This heavily engineered solution from Norwegian brand Dropracks isn’t actually a bike rack. Instead, it’s an articulated set of roof bars, onto which you mount your rack of choice.
As you can see, via a crank that winds round, the bars are dropped to much more manageable heights for van users, or those who struggle to lift their bikes onto a car’s roof.
The roof bars take standard T-bolt connections, so there’s a broad array of rack options out there that are compatible.
Of course, this doesn’t limit you to bikes – skis, canoes, kayaks and roof boxes can also be strapped on board.
There are two products on offer – the Droprack Sport and the Droprack XL. Which you choose will depend on your vehicle’s size.
The Sport has a width of 140cm, with an effective load width of 130cm. The Droprack XL is 160cm wide, with a 150cm load width. They have carrying capacities of 75kg and 80kg respectively.
The Sport is built for cars, small vans and small 4x4s, with a 70cm drop when unfolded by your car, while the XL is built for vans, larger 4x4s and pickups, and will bring your bikes 80cm closer to the ground.
Five Ten Freerider EPS Mid
Winter is often a time of chilly toes and damp feet here in the UK. While Five Ten’s Trailcross Gore-Tex flat pedal shoe is likely the more technical off-road winter slipper, the Freerider EPS Mid has been in the brand’s range for a little while longer.
It has Five Ten’s classic styling, utilising a leather-like outer material that, while not Gore-Tex lined, should shrug off most splashes and rain drops, while also wiping down nice and clean.
The mid-height construction gives a little more weather protection, as well as keeping muck at bay. The tongue has a continual liner all the way to the sides of the shoe, further eliminating water ingress (well, as much as can be expected anyway).
What sets it apart is the Primaloft insulation. The synthetic material helps trap heat in the shoe to keep your pinkies rather less pink than they might otherwise end up, while still being relatively low-bulk. This means that despite decent weather protection, they don’t look like a pair of leather clogs.
As you’d expect, they feature Five Ten’s classic dimpled Stealth Rubber sole, so you can be assured that on-pedal performance is as good as it gets.
Gtechniq Bike Cleaning and Protection
Twenty years of experience in high-end automotive and marine cleaning and detailing is likely to teach you a thing or two about how to keep grime off, and paint well-attached to fairly spendy bits of kit. As such, we’ve high hopes for this range of cleaners, and a ceramic coating, for bikes from Gtechniq.
Instead of drip-feeding one product at a time, Gtechniq has gone straight in with a range of products, mostly aimed at bike cleaning and degreasing, but also with a kit cleaner and a flagship product, the Bike Ceramic coating for your frame.
The Bike Clean and the Bike Clean Concentrate are typical spray-on, wait, hose-off type bike cleaners, while the Bike Wash is more like a car shampoo. The Drivetrain Degreaser is self explanatory, while the Tri Clean is built for keeping your helmet, shoes and non-washables fresh. A range of mitts, brushes and towels are all there to make life that little bit easier.
Some bold claims are made about the Bike Ceramic kit – if they hold true, it might be the key to keeping your bike looking fresh for longer.
It comes in two forms – a Ceramic Quick Coat and the Bike Ceramic kit itself.
The Bike Ceramic kit is said to give your frame a chemically bonded, completely optically invisible ceramic film. This ceramic coating is said to minimise adhesion from mud, brake dust and road grime, meaning your bike finishes a ride cleaner, and is much quicker to clean in the long run.
Applying the coating requires a deep clean of the bike, and a little bit of time to apply carefully and let cure properly. Once done, you should get 24 months of protection. All the bits and bobs needed are included in the £55 pack.
The Ceramic Quick Coat (£19.50) is the quicker option, with a spray-on, buff-off application. It should give you as much protection, but for up to six months.
- Cleaning fluids: £9.75-£19.99
- Brushes, towels, mitts: £3.98-£14.99
Scott Pro Shield glasses and Trail Hip Belt FR 5
Scott has long, quietly, turned out some great P&A and clothing, with helmets, shoes, bags and clothing all being top-notch in our experience.
The Pro Shield glasses are its deep-lens, high-coverage offering, with both full-frame (as shown) and half-frame (Sport Shield) options available, along with a range of interchangeable lenses.
The lenses are curved on one plane, but initial use suggests that optical distortion is minimal, and overall optical clarity is good.
Their arms are much more hooked at the end than many mountain bike sunglasses, giving excellent security on your face, though making stowage in helmets a touch trickier.
The nose-piece is simple, but effective and comfortable.
The hip belt has 5 litres of stowage space that’s un-fussy and easy to access, thanks to a pair of zips on the top, as well as one sleeved and one zipped pocket by the hip.
The belt is broad and built from what feels like a sturdy yet thin material. While other hip belts’ Velcro is backed up with a clip, Scott seemingly doesn’t feel this is necessary, contributing to a low-bulk, lightweight build.
The white material certainly looks good in the sun, but we’d wager it isn’t going to look so flash by the end of the winter!