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May 02, 2023

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Plus a new urban helmet from Abus and a boutique cargo strap from Fair

Plus a new urban helmet from Abus and a boutique cargo strap from Fair Bicycle

This competition is now closed

By Jack Luke

Published: September 30, 2022 at 7:00 am

If you’re after a steaming hot bowl of fresh cycling swag to melt away thoughts of the impending gloom of winter, then you’ve come to the right place.

In this week's edition of First Look Friday, we have some fruity flat bars from Surly, a solid randonneur rack from Velo Orange, lightweight tubeless tyres from Panaracer and a new commuter lid from Abus.

If that doesn't quite sate your appetite, fill your boots with the bountiful harvest of news, reviews and buyer's guides that have graced the homepage of BikeRadar over the past seven days.

Kicking things off was our round-up of some of the best road bikes you can still buy with rim brakes – a dying breed, admittedly, but there's more choice out there than you might initially assume.

We also updated our list of the best mountain bike lights that money can buy with the results of Alex Evans’ monstrous 10-way test. Alex put approximately one zillion hours of work into this group test and the results are well worth a read.

We also took a close look at Oscar Huckle's tasty custom Specialized Allez DSW SL and learnt all about Bosch's new Performance Line CX Race electric bike motor.

Over on the BikeRadar Podcast, we ran our latest tech Q&A (please email us with any questions for future editions) and beefed on night riding.

What do you do if you want to try drop bars on your flat-bar bike but don't want to splash out for a new set of shifters?

Enter the Surly Corner Bar. This funky flat bar allows you to use regular 22.2mm clamp flat-bar brake levers in a position close to that of a flared gravel bike handlebar.

Regular flat-bar thumb shifters or bar-end shifters can then be fitted to the small extensions above the ‘drops’. This setup goes some way to mimic the functionality of an integrated road shifter.

Unusually, the bar is made from Chromoly steel. Most handlebars – be they road, gravel or mountain bike handlebars – are made from aluminium or carbon fibre.

Doubly unusual is the fact the bars use a veritably old-school 25.4mm clamp diameter. Most stems now employ a 31.8mm or, more rarely, 35mm clamp.

The choice of steel likely dictates the use of a 25.4mm clamp – compared to aluminium, steel with a wall thickness suitable for a handlebar would be very difficult to form into an oversized clamp.

In any case, the Corner Bar ships with a set of 25.4 to 31.8mm shims, allowing you to fit them to most modern stems.

If you’re looking for an affordable albeit aesthetically divisive way of trying out ‘drop’ bars on your flat-bar bike, the Surly Corner Bar could be for you.

There has never been a better time to be a cycling luggage nerd.

The breadth of options available for schlepping stuff on any type of bike has exploded in recent years – from affordable bikepacking bags to nifty tool-free racks, there really is a solution for everyone.

However, if you’re a serious portaging person, there is no better solution than a permanently fixed rack.

Velo Orange offers a wide range of front and rear racks, including a line of ‘randonneur’ racks to fit most bikes.

A randonneur rack is a catch-all term used to describe small front racks intended to support a medium- to large-sized front bag. The design of these racks is heavily influenced by the French constucteurs of the early to mid 20th century.

This particular rack mounts onto a fork's cantilever brake studs and crown. Options to mount on specially brazed eyelets also exist.

This rack does not feature an integrated decaleur. A decaleur is a two-part system. First, a small bar is attached permanently to a bag. This helps to maintain its shape and secure it to a rack. This then slots into a receiver on the rack.

If you want the most secure fitment possible, a rack with a decaleur is a good idea, but some bags – such as my handsome C. Brenn bag, which will sit proudly atop this rack – are suitably stiff, so as to not require one.

This rack will be fitted to my new custom frameset (more details soon) and is a welcome move away from the less elegant modified Brick Lane Bikes rack as used on my soon-to-be semi-retired All-City Mr Pink.

Arriving at BikeRadar HQ mere days after its official launch, the Fair Bicycle Daily Hook is a premium cargo strap made from CNC-machined aluminium, that uses a recycled inner tube to provide elasticity.

Speaking from experience, inner tubes make surprisingly good cargo straps. They’re wider and tackier than a usual bungee cord, so stuff is held firmly in place. The addition of a hook only adds to already solid practical credentials.

Attaching firmly to your pannier rack or basket using a satisfyingly stiff steel spring gate, the hook feels absolutely rock solid.

Because the hook features a gate, this strap is also far less likely to ping off and take your eye out than a normal bungee cord (a surprisingly common occurrence).

Panaracer recently refreshed its top-end road bike tyre line-up.

The new Agilest range is made up of four models – the Agilest Tough & Supple, The Agilest Duro, the Agilest Light and the Agilest TLR.

We have the Agilest TLR in for test, which is the tubeless-compatible version of the Agilest Tough & Supple.

Our 28c sample weighs 246g. That compares to 280.6g for a Continental GP5000 S TR tyre.

The effect of rotating weight is often overstated, but a 246g 28mm tubeless tyre will certainly pique the interest of dedicated weight weenies.

The tubeless tyre is also available in 25c and 30c options.

The rest of the range is only available as traditional clinchers, and all come in 23c, 25c and 28c options. A 32c option will also be available at a later date.

For the real retrogrouches, a single 25c tubular version of the Agilest Tough & Supple is also available.

The Abus Hud-y is a new commuter helmet that features a small integrated visor and an integrated rear light.

According to Abus, the helmet is constructed using four layers of foam, each with different densities. The strap is secured with a Fidlock magnetic buckle.

The in-mould construction (which sees a plastic layer protect the usually exposed foam around the circumference of the helmet) should ensure decent longevity, and two large vents are there to help keep all but the sweatiest bonces dry.

Better still, in the words of Abus, the "helmet stands for coolness and blends into any cityscape" – quite the heady statement!

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Deputy editor

Jack Luke is the deputy editor at BikeRadar and has been fettling with bikes for his whole life. Always in search of the hippest new niche in cycling, Jack is a self-confessed gravel dork, fixie-botherer, tandem-evangelist and hill climb try hard. Jack thinks nothing of bikepacking after work to sleep in a ditch or taking on a daft challenge for the BikeRadar YouTube channel. He is also a regular contributor to the BikeRadar podcast. With a near encyclopaedic knowledge of cycling tech, ranging from the most esoteric retro niche to the most cutting-edge modern kit, Jack takes pride in his ability to seek out stories that would otherwise go unreported. He is also particularly fond of tan-wall tyres, dynamo lights, cup and cone bearings, and skids. Jack has been writing about and testing bikes for more than six years now, has a background working in bike shops for years before that, and is regularly found riding a mix of weird and wonderful machines. Jack can also often be seen zooming about with his partner aboard their beloved tandem.

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