We have a crammed edition of Tech of the Week lined up for you, including cool new bikes from Bianchi and Mason, just-released clothing from Rapha, 7mesh and MAAP, and even a bike without any wheels, but we’re kicking off by wondering whether Van Nicholas’ new Nootau is really the ultimate bike-packing machine… or just a retro bike repackaged for a new era.
Is Van Nicholas’ Nootau the ultimate bike-packing machine… or just a very cool 1990s mountain bike?
Titanium bike specialist Van Nicholas says that its new Nootau is “the ultimate bike-packing machine”, designed to be comfortable over long distances and capable of carrying everything you need on an epic ride – but are designs like this essentially 1990s mountain bikes given a new lease of life?
“It will go anywhere, carry anything, and keep you comfortable while doing so,” says Van Nicholas.
There’s a certain amount of hyperbole thrown in there but you get where the Dutch brand is coming from.
The Nootau features “a low-slung titanium frame and a lightweight tapered carbon fork” that are designed to keep the weight down. It also has a long wheelbase designed around 29in wheels, with space for tyres up to 2.8in (71mm) wide. The relaxed geometry is intended to provide comfort and control over various types of terrain, and you get multiple mounting points on the frame and fork to take care of luggage handling requirements.
“We also engineered a new yoke with an eccentric bottom bracket, which helps accommodate the wider tyres, but also allows us to fit an internal, sealed Rohloff 14-speed hub,” says Ralph Moorman, General Manager of Van Nicholas.
Titanium frame, flat handlebar, rigid fork, fat tyres, disc brakes… Is the Nootau – and others like it – really a mountain bike from 25-30 years ago before suspension took over? Are a lot of today's bikes simply about clever marketing of old concepts, and have we just come full circle? We’d be interested to hear your thoughts.
The Nootau is available as a complete bike at prices from €4,999 (which converts to around £4,300). The frame and front fork are €2,299 (which converts to about £1,980).
Arkéa-Samsic’s Kévin Vauquelin has been riding a new Bianchi in La Vuelta a España that could well be a new Specialissima (click on the fourth pic on this Twitter post).
𝐏𝐫𝐢𝐦𝐞𝐫𝐚 𝐬𝐞𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐚 🇪🇸📸 pic.twitter.com/OsVuBquW1T
— Team Arkéa Samsic (@Arkea_Samsic) September 4, 2023
The team riders spend most of their time on the Oltre RC but this bike has a totally different silhouette. Whereas the Oltre RC has deep tubes, including a seat tube that curves around the leading edge of the rear wheel, the bike pictured here has slim tubes and appears to be built with a light weight rather than aerodynamics in mind. Vauquelin’s bike is equipped with a separate handlebar and stem rather than an integrated cockpit too.
All of this ties in with the idea that this is a new version of the Specialissima, and the timescales would be about right too, the previous version having been released in 2020.
Standby for an announcement from Bianchi sometime soon.
Trek, through its Bontrager brand, has introduced two new additions to its Aeolus carbon wheel range using a new OCLV NEXT thermoplastic construction that it says helps absorb vibration while being “much more friendly on the planet than traditional carbon manufacturing”.
We’ll come back to the wheels themselves in a mo; it’s the OCLV NEXT tech that’s the really interesting thing, particularly in light of Trek’s just-revealed plans to accept used bikes and sell second-hand as part of a sustainability drive.
Trek says, “OCLV NEXT thermoplastic carbon material replaces brittle, toxic epoxies with tougher plastic polymers that are easier and greener to manufacture while making a stronger wheel that helps absorb vibrations for a smoother, faster, and overall more durable ride.”
“Unlike traditional thermoset carbon fibre, OCLV NEXT is 100% recyclable. It doesn’t require additional sanding or deburring which helps reduce up to 95% VOC [volatile organic compounds] and carbon dust emissions associated with more traditional carbon rim finishing processes.”
Fellow US brand Chris King launched a range of recyclable carbon wheels earlier this year, so is the bike industry moving in the right direction in terms of environmental concerns, or are we being spun a line? There’s a real sustainability theme in this edition of Tech of the Week with Rapha announcing a range of clothing using excess fabrics to reduce waste and 7mesh introducing new PFAS-free riding gear.
“The Aeolus Pro 37V wheels [£799.99 front, £999.99 rear] will be replacing the Aeolus Pro 3V wheels and are ideal for riders who want a versatile carbon wheel for riding roads and exploring off-pavement,” says Trek.
“Tested on Paris-Roubaix’s roughest cobbles, the new Aeolus Pro 37V wheels provide 15% more radial deflection and reduce vibrations by 5% while being over 100g lighter than the previous Aeolus Pro 3Vs.”
Okay, but not too many of us ride cobbles on a regular basis. Levels of vibration are considerably closer on the tarmac.
“The Aeolus Pro 49V wheels [also £799.99 front, £999.99 rear] emphasise aerodynamics and are for riders who want even more efficiency with higher-volume tyres,” says Trek.
The number in each name refers to the rim depth in millimetres. Trek claims weights of 650g (f) and 815g (r) for the Aeolus Pro 37V wheels, and 690g (f) and 865g (r) for the Aeolus Pro 49Vs.
They have 25mm internal rim widths and are tubeless-ready, Trek says they’re designed to be fastest with 28mm tyres.
Following an initial release earlier this year, Rapha has unveiled a second Excess collection of clothing using surplus fabric that would otherwise have gone to waste – hence panels in colours that don't necessarily match.
The London-based brand is keen to highlight the environmental advantages of the Execss range, and we applaud that. Plus, turning excess fabric into saleable clothing can’t hurt the bottom line either. A win-win, then.
“We recognise to some extent that as a clothing business, the existence of surplus is unavoidable,” says Rapha. “[We are] working towards long-term solutions for surplus, not just a quick fix for today. The goal is to minimise excess to a point where we do not have enough to make a collection.”
The Excess collection also includes short-sleeved jerseys, bib shorts, and socks.
Fizik has teamed up with Danish cycle clothing brand Pas Normal Studios for a cool-looking collaborative edition of its gravel-specific Ferox Carbon shoe.
It comes in an off-white finish with navy detailing, as well as the use of Pas Normal Studios’ ‘Road to Nowhere' tagline. You also get a pair of socks (we're not sure about the wisdom of using the 'PNS' abbreviation; maybe that's just us) and a musette for storing the shoes during travel.
The collaboration is the first in a series from the two brands.
The Pas Normal Studios x Fizik Ferox Carbon shoes are priced at £290.
If you’re wondering, it’s the car that’s powering the trainer, not the other way around.
To be fair, you could do this with an inverter out of a 12v socket on most cars, but this guy is so 2023.
Shimano last week announced its new 12-speed mechanical 105 R7100 and GRX groupsets and loads of brands have been clamouring to get news out there of models that feature the new components. One brand we’ve not covered yet is Mason…
“Our Bokeh 3.0 (fast gravel), Exposure (gravel adventure), and InSearchOf (ultimate adventure) models have been equipped with new gearing options to cater to a wide range of riding styles and adventures,” says Mason. “You can now choose from GRX 1x12 with 10-45T or 10-51T, or GRX 2x12 with 10-36T or 10-34T.
Bokeh 3.0 GRX 820 builds begin at £3,300.
“Additionally, our Resolution (steel all-road, pictured) and Definition (alu all-road) models have been updated with the latest 105 12-speed mechanical shifting groupsets,” says Mason. “You can opt for the 105 7100 2x12 with either 50-34T or 50-36T and 11-34T or 11-36T gearing options.”
Resolution 105 7100 models start at £3,265, and Definition 105 7100 models are priced from £3,045.
Marking the launch of the new Shimano GRX 12-speed groupsets, Mason has introduced a Bokeh 3.0 in a limited-edition OpticGreen finish (pictured above).
The AirMach Mini Pump (£30) features a machined aluminium barrel and a pull-out flexible hose with a reversible CNC-machined head that’s compatible with both Presta and Schrader valves.
Muc-Off says the AirMach Mini Pump offers a maximum pressure of 110 PSI and weighs just 80g (excluding the holster).
The 17-in-1 Multi Tool (£20) comes with aluminium sidebars and chromium-vanadium tool bits and is said to weigh just 112g.
“This tool has everything from hex wrenches to screwdrivers, Torx tools to spoke wrenches, as well as a chain breaker and a nifty bottle opener for cracking post-ride brews,” says Muc-Off. “This is a small but mighty ride-saver.”
It's a bike without wheels. Why? Who knows?
The move towards more environmentally friendly technical clothing is huge news right now – we told you about Santini’s use of Polartec’s new bio-membrane last week, for example – and Canada’s 7mesh has introduced Airmap to its clothing range, which it describes as “the next generation of air-permeable, water-resistant PFAS-free riding gear”. PFAS are often called “forever chemicals” in that they hardly degrade in the natural environment.
“Constructed using strategically layered zones of three different laminate fabrics, Airmap controls airflow, putting air in its place to open up new levels of comfort in variable weather conditions,” says 7mesh.
“Three-layer Airmap provides impressive weatherproof protection, two-layer Airmap offers robust wind resistance, and single-layer Airmap maximises permeability and breathability. These three fabrics are carefully mapped and deployed in each garment to maximise protection and airflow.
“Airmap’s multilayered system controls air movement across different areas of the body, blocking the air in the direction of travel, managing water inside and out, and breathing to allow moisture and heat exchange.”
Cycle clothing brand MAAP has unveiled its latest Transit range which it describes as a “performance-oriented streetwear-first collection”.
The Phase Pant (£120) and Phase Short (£100) are new too, designed for use both on and off the bike. They use a two-way stretch technical fabric and a DWR (durable water repellent) coating for weather protection.
Over on the women’s side of things, there’s a new Padded Lightweight Liner Jacket (£195) and a Power Air ¼ Zip high-neck sweater (£120) made from Polartec’s Power Air performance fabric, hence the name. Power Air is designed for insulation and to reduce microfibre shedding – although the model doesn't look overly thrilled with the good news.
The range is pretty extensive these days; go to MAAP’s website to see it all.
Orbea has introduced new colours and customisation options for its Orca Aero. The road bike is now available in this Tanzanite/Lilac finish, for example.
If you’d like your bike to stand out even more, Orbea has brought in new options for its MyO customisation tool. You can now incorporate two patterns, for example, select the frame colour in two sections, and even choose the colour of your seatpost from 28 options.
As previously, you can use the MyO tool to select from various component options.
Apidura has introduced an Expedition Waist Belt that’s designed to add a litre of on-body storage and avoid overladen pockets. The bike-packing brand also points out that traditional jersey pockets are less common than they once were thanks to a trend towards loose-fitting clothing, particularly for off-road riders.
The Expedition Waist Belt is made from a lightweight and breathable four-way stretch fabric and comes with storage pockets for carrying food, gels, and other ride essentials. The two outer ones are angled for easy access.
The price is £38.
In case you missed it earlier in the week…
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.