Tektro recently unveiled the e-bike-focused Gemini HD-M530 set. It’s a 4-piston front, two-piston rear powerhouse that’s built around 2.3mm rotors. There’s not a lot of bells and whistles on these. No contact point adjustment, no shifter-mount capability, no finned pads. Thank god, no finned pads. But they feel really, really nice. Despite having resin pads, they’re extremely solid. Though these too may be another OEM play, they just may live up to being an aftermarket upgrade like their bigger sibling, TRP.Bikebox Company
Yeah. It’s a box. But hear us out. If you want to ship your bike or take it on a plane, you can either buy a canvas or hard case for $300 (which is on the cheap side), or you can try and track one down from your local bike shop. But it may be in rough shape by the time you get it. And it may not be the right size. And it may not have any of the packing material you need. And it may not survive the trip you send it on. But those canvas bags aren’t perfect either. Aside from the expense, some of us just don’t have ample garage space to keep them in. That’s where the Bikebox Company comes in.
The South African startup makes reusable bike boxes out of polypropylene sheeting. It’s structurally similar to corrugated cardboard, but the material is plastic-like. It’s abrasion- and tear-resistant. It’s also lightweight and foldable. It collapses down to something not much bigger than your wheel… if it were square. But it opens up to a pretty robust-feeling box, thanks to the nylon webbing support straps and velcro that buttress it from within.
Add a puzzle of bike protective panels, and you’re on your way. The large box is 140 x 80 x 30cm, just about big enough for a 29-inch enduro bike. There may be some sticker shock from the 2,299 South African Rand price tag, which is about $130 USD, but it can be used dozens of times. And like cardboard, it can be recycled in the end. Sunrace
Sunrace probably has the widest reach when trying to find who’s in third place in the drivetrain race. Not necessarily because they’re selling whole gruppos, but because they’re able to shave precious pennies for brands speccing drivetrain parts like chains and cassettes. Especially in the wide-range 12-speed era, when cassettes can be the highest-dollar member of your gearbox, it’s an attractive spot to save money. But cassettes are heavy. Especially inexpensive cassettes.
So, Sun Race has introduced a 12-51 12-speed cassette that, like a Shimano XTR cassette, uses aluminum for its biggest three rings. No, there’s no aluminum spider, and no titanium in the mix. But it’s about 100 grams lighter than Sun Race’s all-steel cassette. The CSMZ601 (catchy) cassette doesn’t have a publicized price yet, but it’s bound to be cheaper than XTR.Fuji
The Fuji Rakan 29 LT Carbon is an expensive bike. It’s €3,799. So what the hell is it doing in a budget lineup? Well, this is a carbon bike, so that’s kinda not bad. And this is 2022, which… has been kinda bad. We’ve seen bike prices shoot up right when the bikes were just starting to roll back in stock. For example, the Ibis Ripley AF was about €3,200 seven months ago. It’s now more like €3,900. So the fact that Fuji can release a brand new carbon bike in July of 2022 and put the number €3,799 on it is pretty impressive.
The fact that it’s a coil-sprung enduro bike with modern geometry and not-bad components is even more impressive. Seeing the Rakan in person, it looks absolutely race-ready. The lines are clean and the fit and finish are dialed. It's just the classic question of putting your money into your frame or your components. And if you want what carbon offers while you work your way through an upgrade here or there, this just may be the ticket.NXT
To continue this theme of actually-not-that-expensive expensive stuff, the NXT inner tube is an expensive inner tube. It’s $15. But don’t compare it to the mass of butyl rubber that’s strapped under your top tube. This is a lot more like a Tubolito tube, which usually go for €30 or even €40. That means it’s pretty light. 135 grams for a 29 x 2.6". A traditional tube this size will often be close to 250 grams. And though the NXT doesn’t like to naturally lay quite as flat as a Tubolito, we could get it to pack down nearly as small, and it does feel a little more substantial. This new breed of tubes, made of TPU or thermoplastic polyurethane, are generally a little more puncture-resistant than butyl rubber, and that looks to be the case with NXT. And to boot, they’re made in Italy. Fancy.Trimm
Ok, one more not-cheap cheap thing. This is a €200 GPS unit. And on top of that, it’s only available in parts of Asia and Europe right now. Some of its functions are the same as the free version of the Trailforks app. But if you’re looking for a mapping GPS you can safely mount on your handlebar without looking like a tourist, it’s nice to have a dedicated device for it. Problem is, they’re either tiny or expensive.
The One Light, from South Korean Kickstarter success story, Trimm, is neither. The 3.2-inch display isn’t rich with color, but it’s clear and bright. And the form factor is thin and modern. It feels like using a high-end Garmin, without the touchscreen. And its battery can last as long as 50 hours, but if that’s not enough, there’s a nifty little solar charger you can cleanly mount right near it and, as long as it’s sunny, it’ll run indefinitely. Sorta like a solar calculator, though you probably just use the one on your phone.Microshift
Wouldn’t it be nice if brands paid as much attention to kids-bike performance when we were young? There probably wasn’t anyone worrying about drivetrain range back when you got your first 20-inch mountain bike. Hell, there probably weren’t even 20-inch mountain bikes around back then. And if there were, nobody would have cared if your derailleur was too close to the ground or if you had too much chain slap. “Chain slap puts hair on your chest,” they said. Or something like that. Where were we? Oh yeah. Drivetrains.
Microshift had the new Super Short versions of their Acolyte and Advent line. To squeeze the derailleur you need for a 38-tooth cassette to fit a 20-inch wheel bike, they moved the cage pivot near the center, between the pulley wheels. And that pivot actually includes a clutch to keep the chain silent and out of the dirt. The Advent gets a ratcheting clutch while the Acolyte gets a more traditional friction clutch, but the derailleurs feel nice and solid in the hand.
The shifter also gets a lighter action, which works great for kids but, honestly, felt pretty good to us. In fact, they’ll be porting the concept over to their more grown-up lines in the coming years. Microshift has already secured OEM spec with several brands, so you'll probably be seeing them in the hands of a spoiled kid near you soon.