This week we've had plenty of kit make its way into the office for the perusal of our discerning testing crew. The gear making it into a carefully curated Five Cool Things is Race Face's latest Aeffect R pedals, some slim pads from G-Form, and Easton's brand-new EX90 AXL handlebar. That's not all as there's also body armour from Race Face and a neat-looking multitool from PRO. As per usual, we'll also sink our teeth into the most interesting stories from the week.
The biggest news of the week is that Fox finally steps into the footwear market, now offering a complete head-to-toe range. The Union shoe line-up features three models, the Union Boa, Union and Union flat and each has been designed with the aid of top downhill athletes, Greg Minnaar, Jackson Goldstone and more. New product has been coming thick and fast with the introduction of Liv's Lurra, a new women's specific hardtail MTB and Trek upgrades Rail e-MTBs with the Bosch Smart System.
Moving onto our buyer's guides and features, we've released our Best mountain bikes 2023 - top options from XC to Enduro piece where we unveil the best mountain bikes as well as offer you our top tips on how to find the best one for you. We've also given you 5 ways to boost your bike's performance for free, proving that you don't need to spend to improve your bike. Then, Lance has uncovered the secrets behind bicycle chain wear - why it matters and how to prevent it.
As for our reviews, as usual, our crack team of testers has been churning them out. First off, Matt Page has put CROW's Gravital UL2 e-gravel bike to the test, praising it for its surefooted handling and comfort, though he found the Fazua drive system frustrating. The Leatt 7.0 HydraDri flat pedal shoe has been awarded a respectable four stars for its combinations of flat pedal grip and all-out waterproofing and Rhian gave the TSG Chamber Knee Guards three stars after enjoying their breathability but finding their price a touch high.
Race Face Flank Stealth Core D3O Protection
2023 race face flank body armour 5ct.jpg, by Liam Mercer
Now for the coveted five cool things and we kick this week's selection off with the Race Face Flank Stealth Core D3O Protection t-shirt. Constructed of lycra and mesh, it's home to three D3O pads, one at each shoulder, and a large back piece to keep the spine well protected. Though, the brand says that each of these pads is easy to remove, so you can tailor the level of protection to the kind of riding you're about to do. The protective top is then finished with a heat-moulded foam chest piece.
Race Face Aeffect R pedals
Continuing the theme of Race Face, we've got the brand's latest Aeffect R flat pedal offering. This pedal builds on the success of the Aeffect by gracing it with a larger platform kitted with 10 top-loading pins. That body is forged using a 6000 series aluminium which spins around a cro-mo axle that benefits from Race Face's tried and true bearing and bushing setup.
With all of that, the pedal is covered by the brand's Lifetime Warranty and it comes in six colours, including purple.
G-Form Pro Rugged 2
Born out of years of offering protection for footballers, G-Form has turned its non-Newtonian protection tech towards the demands of mountain biking. Here, we've got the Pro Rugged 2 which is a knee guard that's designed to offer durability and a custom-feeling fit. Its pad is made up of three protective layers, with the first being a DuraTx abrasion-resistant fabric. There's then a body-mapped, impact-absorbing SmartFlex pad layer and finally, a soft inner foam to keep the pads comfy.
Other features include an adjustable strap at the top of each pad and there's an extra-wide silicone gripper to keep the pads in place. The back is made using a ventilated mesh for cooling and the pad certifies up to CE-1621-1 standards.
Easton EC90 ALX handlebar
Released just yesterday, Easton's new EC90 ALX bar is the brand's lightest and most versatile handlebar. It's built to take on gravel, pavement, and everything in between. It gets a 10-degree flare and size-specific profiles to enhance flex for the best vibration damping while maintaining torsional stiffness in the drops.
The new bar is a combination of the EC90 AX and SLX designs, offering the best of both worlds with an ergonomic top section and size-specific shape. It comes built with Easton's Maximum Contact Drop too. As for sizes, the new bar is available in 38 to 46cm widths, each with an 80mm reach, 123mm of drop and there are a pair of Di2 Bar End Junctions.
PRO Mini Torque Wrench
Bringing up the rear of this week's 5 cool things is PRO's Mini Torque Wrench. In its small 8cm long package, it boasts 3, 4, 5 and 6mm Allen bits along with a T25 and SL4. Though the real trick up this tool's sleeve is the 5Nm torque adapter. All of this hides inside the tool, whereas the cover takes up the role of a sturdy handle when in use.
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