Peak summer, memories of rain jackets and numb toes barely even a blip in the collective memory of the northern hemisphere’s cycling community. Heatwaves, ultra grippy tires and tarmac, tan lines, and the Vuelta a España.
We’ve been making hay while the sun shines this month, if by ‘hay’ you mean ‘premium quality cycling content’. We’ve brought you a review of the new Garmin Edge 1040 Solar, perfect for long sunny days and riders who forget to charge everything. Also, given the shortages in the supply of almost everything nowadays we brought you a list of bikes with Shimano 105 Di2 that you can actually get your hands on.
We’ve got a load of tires queued up for the coming months, and as a primer, we’ve put together a guide to TPI (threads per inch) and why it’s important, as well as a list of the best tire levers so you can actually get the things on and off your rims without resorting to coarse language.
But that’s not all. In fact, while we thought July was a busy month thanks to the Tour de France, August has been just as packed.
For example, Zipp launched a new pair of deep aero wheelsets. The 808 Firecrest and the 858 NSW. The latter could really shift the needle of what’s expected from a deep wheel, with its impressive weight of 1530g. Cadex did a similar thing with its new 50mm deep 50 Ultra Disc wheel system, which we weighed at just 1316g. Elsewhere, Cannondale also put one of its products on a diet, this time the SuperSix Evo, with the launch of its 90g lighter Leightbau edition.
The other big breakthrough this month was from British time triallist (and performance engineer at INEOS Grenadiers) Dan Bigham, who topped Victor Campanaerts from his World Hour Record throne with a distance of 55.548km. He did so on a Pinarello prototype with some wild aero considerations.
Talking of aero considerations, our tech editor Josh went to the wind tunnel with a car full of wheelsets and put them through their paces. The resulting road bike wheels aero test was hugely popular among our readers, even if the results did lead to just as many questions.
One of those questions was whether you need to spend big money to get the best wheels, and that’s a theme we’ve continued throughout other areas of cycling. For example, we pondered what the differences were between cheap and expensive bike computers, as well as wondering whether there’s a safety concern when comparing cheap vs expensive bike helmets
Elsewhere, Josh also had a chat with Wahoo’s Head of Sports Science, Neal Henderson, where they dove into the future of cycling training at Wahoo, and how the evergrowing number of sensors could be used to create effective algorithm-based training plans.
That was before he flew to Switzerland to ride 275km in the Alps for the biggest Chasing Cancellara sportive of the season. There’s plenty of updates to come from that in the coming days.
It’s safe to say we’ve been busy, and that’s without going into the host of other product reviews and buyer’s guides we’ve been working on. In fact, we’ve been so busy that we’ve not been able to give the airtime we wanted to everything that landed at CN HQ this month, so we’re going to use the rest of this article to do just that. Scroll down to see what they are.
Generally speaking the cycling world is moving towards disc brake ubiquity, with the consensus being that hydraulic systems are superior to cable actuated ones. Personally I’m still a fan of rim brakes in certain contexts, but that’s not a hill I’m going to die on today.
Despite the prioritization of hydraulic systems at the high end of the market, Paul Component Engineering has resolutely stuck to its conviction that cable discs can, if made properly, compete with the best disc brakes.
Constructed from 6061 aluminum they’re certainly a masterful piece of machining, and there’s some well executed design features too. The callipers are modular, meaning that if you swap from short to long pull, or to Campagnolo, you simply swap out the actuation arm rather than having to replace the whole body.
Brake overheating leads to brake fade, but given the sheer volume of metal in play here that shouldn’t be as much of an issue; they’re no lightweight, but they are a brilliant heat sink, and even if they do get hot there is no chance of the plastic bushings usually found in cable discs melting as Paul has used needle bearings instead.
Yes, they are expensive, but they look incredible (especially if you love 90’s anodised parts) and if you loathe the drudgery and faff of bleeding hydraulic systems then these may well represent the best alternative.
In the meantime, if you’re curious, head to the Paul website to find out more.
Trail High Gravel Wheelset
Having recently published a review of the Parcours Alta 650b gravel wheels the British brand launched the latest iteration of its Alta gravel wheelset, featuring what it calls Impact+ technology. In essence this is the use of a slightly more flexible resin at the rim edge in order to better take impacts that come from lower pressure tires or rougher terrain.
This is music to my ears as my local gravel trails often take the appearance of a fashionable 1970s rock garden rather than the beautifully graded gravel tracks that we all dream about. They’ve been fitted up to my long termer, the Fairlight Secan, and as well as being under test in their own right are providing a capable test bed for my stack of 700c gravel tires.
24mm hookless internals keep things modern, and optimal for 38-50mm tires, although you can push the extremes up to 55 and down to 28 if you so wish. Interestingly this is 1mm narrower than the previous model, bucking the trend somewhat for ever-widening internals.
The 36mm rim depth however is 1mm deeper than previously in a satisfying conservation of total millimeters, representing a semi-aero all rounder. They’re not going to challenge the true aero specs of something like a 55mm set, but they will cut through the air better than shallower options.
Will they end up on our list of the best gravel wheelsets? Only time and some big days out in the hills will tell.
Challenge Getaway Pro Tires
Our list of the best gravel tires is awash with options that will cover you from bad tarmac through to deep mud, and most are constructed in the traditional way, ie a vulcanised rubber body with the tread created using a mould.
Challenge, along with some other tire manufacturers, does things a little differently with it’s pro range. These tires feature a latex-impregnated cotton casing with a bead sewn in, with the tread glued on afterwards. This cotton construction leads to a tire with a much higher thread count than can be achieved with other methods, 260TPI in this case, which allows the tire to more easily deform over inconsistencies in the road or trail surface and therefore improve grip and reduce rolling resistance .
This improvement in grip is why you’ll see cotton cased tires, or even silk cased in some cases, wrapped around the rims of the best cyclocross racers in the world, but is there a case for cotton for gravel riders too?
The getaway from Challenge is a fast gravel tire with closed spaced knobs in the center to keep the straight line rolling unhindered, and wider spaced larger knobs on the shoulders to bite in softer terrain.
I’ve been using these for a while now on mixed surface rides, taking in dry sandy trails, tarmac, and some more loamy offerings. A full review will be landing shortly.
Endura Shumba II Sunglasses
Having tested a load of extremely premium sunglasses over the last few months I thought I’d try something a little more affordable before the rains arrive: Enter the Shumba II from Endura.
While not cheap, these occupy the middle ground in terms of price between cheap cycling sunglasses and the more expensive premium offered in our list of the best cycling glasses. If you want to know why some cycling glasses cost so much more than others then have a read of our guide to cheap vs expensive cycling glasses. You might find it eye opening.
I’ve been riding in the Shumba II for a few weeks, in the tail end of a UK heatwave and along the Cote d’Azur too, including a roasting, shadeless hour up the Col du Madone before flying down the other side. I think they punch above their weight, but you’ll have to wait for the full review to hear why.
As much as anything else I think they look great. If you’re considering a pair you should definitely go for the high-vis yellow option; there’s something slightly 80’s Americana about them that the often seen Pit Vipers try to hit in an over the top way. Think double stonewash denim, a moustache, and a perm and then channel that energy.