This week's Five Cool Things spans gravel and MTB with Fara's sleek-looking F/Gravel and Zefal's gravel-specific mini pump. We then straddle the MTB/gravel divide with POC's Signal All-Weather jacket and Muc-Off's Ceramic Protection Kit before fully stepping into the realm of mountain biking with Fizik's Gravita Tensor flat pedal shoe. But first, let's take a glance at some of the best stories and articles to hit off.road.cc over the past week.
As we head into December, there have been several hot new releases with Fizik introducing the Argo X saddle for off-road racing and Mondraker updating its kid's mountain bike range. Fulcrum announced the new Red Zone Carbon+ wheelset but perhaps the most exciting news of all, 3T unveiled the Extreme Italia gravel bike, and we've already got our hands on one.
With the cold weather certainly taking hold here in the UK, there's been no better time to swat up on our winter bikepacking tips and our review of the Troy Lee Designs Descent jacket. We also highlighted the best mountain bike saddles we've tested while telling you exactly how to buy the perfect perch for your bike. And with Christmas just around the corner, we've shown you how to buy a mountain bike for cheap.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday may have been and gone, but that doesn't mean that there's not a good deal to be had, so head over to our MTB deals 2023 feature where we highlight the best bargains to be had.
Muc-Off Ceramic Protection Kit
Super-advanced ceramic bike coatings are gaining in popularity and they're potentially one of the best ways of protecting your bike ahead of winter. Muc-Off's Ceramic Bike Coating is a silicon-infused layer that bonds chemically to your bike's paint to give it a hydrophobic layer. With this applied, your bike should shed mud and water, rather than alloy it to stick.
The whole idea is to keep your bike cleaner for longer while making it easier to clean between rides by reducing surface tension. Muc-Off claims that its Ceramic Protection Kit can last up to two full years and it offers handy UV protection to keep your paint from fading in the summer. Like stick-on vinyl frame protection, is ceramic protection going to be a must-have for every brand-new bike? Keep your eyes peeled for the full review coming soon.
Fara F/Gravel Apex AXS
As its name very strongly suggests, the F/Gravel is Fara's gravel bike that boasts large tyre clearance and a rather lovely-looking Toray carbon-fibre frame that's claimed to weigh in at 1,050g. Designed for life well off the beaten path, this bike is kitted with full internal cable routing and all of the bikepacking solutions you could ask for, including mounts underneath the top tube, along the fork legs, and even a Stash-Hatch cut into the downtube.
The F/Gravel's geometry looks rather racey, donning a 72-degree head angle on this large (56cm) frame and a 73-degree seat tube. Though, for the price it looks reasonably well specced, featuring SRAM's latest Apex AXS groupset, Fulcrum Rapid Red 700c wheels and Panaracer Gravel King tyres. Fara has been properly helpful here too as each size bike gets a specific kit list which includes bar widths that are the most suitable for the size.
POC Signal All-Weather jacket
POC's Signal All-Weather jacket looks to be a great choice if you're looking for one jacket to span road, gravel and MTB riding. For the price, it's saddled with interesting tech such as a RECCO reflector and twICEme NFC Medical ID chip, both of which we saw on POC's Kortal Race Mips helmet.
It's built around a Ripstop fabric and it can be packed down into its rear pocket while offering good waterproofing and breathability properties. Inside the jacket is a soft jersey finish to boost comfort and as all of the best mountain bike jackets should, it gets a longer back to fend off spray and further improves comfort. There's then a yoke piece across the shoulders which POC says utilises the natural stretch of the material while retaining a closer fit.
Zefal Gravel Mini
The Gravel Mini has been developed especially to inflate gravel rubber from 35 to 47mm in width by compromising air volume and compact size. It's constructed of aluminium and despite its small size, it gets a lengthy retractable hose to help avoid damage to the valve when pumping away.
Fizik Gravita Tensor Flat
The Gravita Versor from Fizik is a flat pedal shoe that's designed with nothing but gravity-focused mountain biking in mind. As well as trying to offer enduro racers and downhillers the best-performing mountain bike shoe, the brand wanted to create a light kick and one that fits well.
To aid the cause, Fizik has employed a Vibram outsole to provide the pedal grip with an XC Trek Evo rubber compound and a specific zonal lug tread pattern. This pattern has been shaped with a low profile toward the centre of the foot to offer a direct engagement with a pedal's pins and the tread gets deeper towards the toe and heel for grip when walking. The shoe is then designed to be more supple, allowing a hint of flex to help the shoe conform to a flat pedal's profile and there's plenty of protection provided by the TPI-armoured toe-box and raised inner-ankle that gets a protective ankle pad.
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