Another week done and another week closer to summer, First Look Friday is here again, serving you the latest and greatest kit to land on our desks this week.
Before we get into that, though, here are a few highlights from the week.
The big news was the release of the world’s first Shimano SPD-SL compatible power meter pedal system, the Garmin Rally. We had a dual-sided road set in to test, so once you’ve digested that exciting news, don’t forget to check out my full review of the Gamin Rally RS200 power meter pedals.
It was also a big week for ebikes, with Specialized launching the latest version of its Turbo Levo electric mountain bike and GT revealing its Grade Power electric gravel bike. Look out for reviews of both bikes in the near future.
Our in-depth guide to tubeless tyres was also updated by resident expert Matthew Loveridge. It’s got all the latest information on the what, why and how of tubeless tyres for both on and off-road use. And with tubeless road standards seemingly changing all the time, it’s worth making sure you’re up to date on the current situation.
With all of that out of the way, let’s get on to what you really came here for, the new tech.
Prime 343 carbon rear disc wheel and BlackEdition 85 carbon front wheel
Time trial season is approaching rapidly, so it’s time to take the dust covers off your legs, head to your nearest dual carriageway, and see how you measure up in the ultimate test of cycling prowess.
Of course, how hard you can turn the pedals and how efficient you can make your body position will be the greatest determinants of success. But fast kit can make a big difference too, and a set of time trial-specific wheels – typically a deep section front wheel and a solid rear disc – is an obvious upgrade for any dedicated racer.
Available exclusively through Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles, Prime’s tubeless-ready carbon wheels are renowned for their value, and these are no different.
An RRP of £499.99 for the 85 front wheel is very reasonable, but £699.99 for the 343 rear disc wheel is extraordinary even by Prime’s standards. It’s certainly the cheapest full carbon rear disc wheel I’ve ever seen being sold by a major brand.
Despite the low prices, it doesn’t appear that any corners have been cut. The 85 front wheel features a thoroughly modern profile, with a 27.5mm external width, 19.3mm internal width and 85mm deep U-shaped rim.
Built with DT Swiss aero spokes onto Prime hubs (which use 699 bearings), the wheel weighs 800g with rim tape installed – some 12g less than the claimed weight.
The 343 carbon rear disc wheel features a 18.7mm internal rim width with a flat driveside profile and a slightly lenticular non-driveside profile. This sample weighed in at 1,232g, which is spot on the claimed weight of 1.23kg.
That’s a total of 2,032g for the set, but obviously, with wheels like this, weight isn’t a key concern. What I care about is aerodynamics, and these certainly make my Planet X time-trial bike look fast – hopefully form follows function.
Both wheels ship with quick-release skewers, carbon brake pads (both are rim brake wheels), spare spokes and everything you need to set them up tubeless, other than tyres.
I’ve fitted 23mm Vittoria Corsa Speed tubeless tyres, which were fairly tight on both rims, and while I was able to seat the rear tyre with a standard track pump and the valve core still in, the 85 front wheel required a tyre booster with the valve core removed to seat the tyre.
It’s worth noting that, in this case, I think this is likely the tyres rather than the rims because they’re also a tight fit on every other rim I’ve installed them on.
Rotor NoQ BCD110x4 chainrings and bolt covers
Having recently purchased some new, shorter cranks for my time-trial bike (following a recent deep dive into crank length), I needed to source some new chainrings for the different bolt circle diameter (BCD).
Fortunately, Rotor makes some very nice four-bolt, 110 BCD chainrings in the kind of sizes that aren’t available from the likes of Shimano.
CNC machined from 7075 aluminium, these chainrings are available in a massive range of sizes from 46 to 58 teeth for the outer and 34 to 44 teeth for the inner rings. I’ve gone for 56/42 teeth rings, making a straight swap from what I already had on my Planet X Exocet II time trial bike.
Weighing in at 134g for the 56-tooth big ring and 64g for the 42-tooth small ring, they add a few grams over the TA Alize chainrings I was using previously, but the shifting quality is vastly improved.
Though these chainrings are compatible with Rotor’s own cranks (such as the new Aldhu Carbon cranks), the brand also makes these smart bolt covers for mounting the chainrings on Shimano four-bolt cranks, which are designed for Shimano’s hidden-bolt chainrings. It’s a nice touch that really cleans up the look of the combination.
Why such big gear ratios? It’s not because I’m a monster on the bike by any means, it’s more about efficiency.
As Friction Facts once helpfully demonstrated, there are decent efficiency gains to be made by using bigger chainrings, bigger cassette cogs and by keeping a straight chain line. And as someone who doesn’t produce much power, I’m always looking for ways to improve my efficiency on the bike.
Schwalbe Pro One TLE Transparent tubeless-ready tyres
We’re big fans of Schwalbe’s all-round road racing tubeless tyre, the Pro One TLE, with Matthew giving it an almost perfect score.
What has vexed many fashion-conscious cyclists, though, has been the lack of a tan wall option. Especially since two of its cousins, the Pro One TT TLE and the slightly cheaper One TLE are available in this design.
Having spotted what looked suspiciously like tan wall Pro One TLE tyres on Team Canyon//SRAM bikes at the opening Spring Classics, a reader kindly pointed out that a ‘transparent’ version had been added to Schwalbe’s product catalogue for 2021.
Naturally, I got in touch with Schwalbe to confirm the availability of these new tyres, and it kindly agreed to send me a set in a 700 x 32c size (which is also new for the Pro One TLE range in 2021).
The Pro One TLE Transparent uses the same construction as the standard, black Pro One TLE, but the nylon casing simply hasn’t been dyed black, allowing its natural colour to shine through.
They’re a darker colour than the traditional bright tan sidewalls we see on cotton clinchers like Vittoria’s Corsa, but I still think they look very smart.
Interestingly, Schwalbe’s rival Continental also recently released a Transparent edition of its GP5000 clincher tyre, but a tubeless-ready version was nowhere to be seen.
Of great interest to me specifically is that the Schwalbe Pro One TLE is on Giant’s approved list for its latest hookless rims. That means I can put them on my Giant TCR Advanced Pro 2 Disc long-term review bike, and I’ve opted for the 700 x 32c to max-out the bike’s tyre clearance (Schwalbe says they should measure 32mm wide on a rim with a 19mm internal width) and see how it performs in that setup.
My sample tyres weigh 335g each, some 10g over the claimed weight, but that’s within tolerances and nothing to worry about.
Pirelli P Zero Race clincher tyres
Recently announced and released, Pirelli’s latest P Zero Race clincher tyres use the Italian tyre company’s latest rubber compound, SmartEVO.
Said to combine three different polymers to provide a balance of low rolling resistance and good grip, the compound has been tested in the WorldTour by Pirelli’s sponsored professional teams, AG2R Citroën, Trek-Segafredo and Team BikeExchange.
This clincher version follows Pirelli’s tubeless-ready P Zero Race TLR tyre, which was released in July 2020, and uses a similar 120TPI casing with a lightweight puncture protection belt beneath the tread.
Pirelli says the P Zero Race clincher tyre is designed for performance and endurance road riding, and there’s a tan wall option available too, if that’s more your cup of tea.
Our sample set weighs 216g per tyre. That’s about 10g over the claimed weight, but that shouldn’t affect performance.
Helpfully, Pirelli also includes detailed information on how these tyres will size up on rims of different sizes. Designed around the latest ETRTO standards, Pirelli says these 700 x 26c will measure 26mm wide on a rim with a 19mm internal width.