The new, the nifty, the quirky gear du jour

Specialized's retro-moderne BG 74 shoes 

Searching the Specialized website for something else entirely, we happened to notice that the Big S's most unusual high-end shoe, the BG 74, is now available.

BG 74's combine the retro looks of a perforated kangaroo leather upper – like the shoes your Uncle Jim used to race in – with Specialized's super-stiff FACT carbon sole, as used on their top-end BG S-Works Road shoes.

They also get the S-Works' twin-dial BOA closure and Body Geometry outsole with BG+ High Performance Footbed. The combination is claimed to educe hot spots and improve knee/foot alignment and we know one bike fit expert who swears by BG shoes as an often-effective, simple solution for riders' knee problems.

The heel tread's replaceable if you wear it out and the tongue is vented for breathability. The sole has a three-bolt pattern for Look-style cleats.

At £250 they're £50 more than the BG S-Works Roads, but that's the price you pay for style – and kangaroo leather.

More details from Specialized


Fast Forward turns blue

Noticing that Vacansoleil-DCM's gorgeous celeste blue Bianchi Oltre bike was romping away with our poll to find the best looking bike in the WorldTour, the guys at Paligap dropped us a mention of the latest matching wheels.

If your Oltre isn't complete unless its wheels have matching colour highlights, take a look at the F6R Celeste wheels from Dutch wheelmaker Fast Forward – who just happen to be Vacansoleil-DCM's wheel sponsor.

The F6R's have 58mm rims with aluminium braking surfaces and Fast Forward's DARC double-curve aero shape. Built on Fast Forward's own rims, they'll set you back £1060. They're available in clincher and tubular variants with a choice of Shimano or Campagnolo-compatible freehubs. 

More details from UK importer Paligap.


Blink / Steady rear lights

Bike lights - they’re a pain. Affordable ones are generally dim and plasticky. Nice ones are great, until you forget to remove them when you lock up, and they’ve disappeared on your return. Wouldn’t it be great if you could find some that were not only tougher than old boots, but also hard to nick? Take a look at New York manufacterer Blink / Steady.

Machined from solid aluminium, these lights are built to last. There’s no chance you’ll forget to light up on a dark night - they’re fitted with an accelerometer that lets them know when you’re on the move, and a light sensor that knows when it’s dark enough to come on. as well as an auto-off after 30 seconds of immobility. Here’s the clever part; the accelerometer is sensitive enough to pick up on the tiny movements you make waiting at traffic lights, so it knows not to make you invisible all of a sudden.

The unit flips over; one way up the light blinks, the other way up it’s a steady beam. Blink / Steady. Geddit?

It’s also hard to pinch thanks to an Allen key fixing to the seatpost, and Blink / Steady emits a very bright but distributed light from its two .5W LEDs that is visible from nearly 180 degrees - useful in busy traffic, and uses two AAA batteries.

They start at $95, so they’re not cheap, but you didn’t really think they were going to be, did you? Front lights and alternative fixtures are in the pipeline.

Here's the inevitable video:

More details from Blink Steady


Flat-pack frame jigs

We’ve written before about The Bicycle Academy, where you can learn the art of frame building and then ship your first effort out to Africa to start a new life with someone who really needs it. The runaway success of these guys only goes to show the renewed interest in these traditional arts which seemed only a few years ago to be all but lost.

Should you be inclined to get welding yourself and are looking at setting up a home workshop you could do worse than check out The Jiggernaut from Flat Pack Foundry. It’s an MDF jig that packs flat for shipping (it’s all in the name) and with a bit of practice you could be churning out hand-built custom frames. It’s $349, and you’ll need a bit of tubing and some tools, but for well under £400 you could put yourself something together in the garden shed - and how satisfying would that be?

There’s a fairly detailed Instructable available with plenty of photos to get you well on your way to creating your first lugged frame.

More details from Flat Pack Foundry


Magnetic bike lights

Totally different, but equally desirable are these little button-like magnetic lights. Obviously only of use to those of you with a steel-framed bike (as they say in the blurb, ‘sorry, but that’s physics for you’), they pop on anywhere you like, and turn on automatically when they make contact. Then when you arrive, it only takes a second to pluck them off and stash in a pocket for later.

The devil is in the detail and they’re carefully shaped to hug the curves of the bike frame, and are available in highly polished aluminium (the Randonneur model) or blue silicone rubber (Lode) finishes. But then you wouldn’t expect anything less from Copenhagen Parts, with their design-led, minimalist aesthetic.

Available for pre-order now for Autumn 2012; price to be announced.

More details from Copenhagen Parts


New collection from AnaNichoola

The perennially popular providers of women’s gear, AnaNichoola, have just announced their second Summer range, entitled Diva.

The centrepiece is the striking Black Star Jersey at £54.99, which is rather a welcome departure from the usual sickly pink that dominates women’s bike gear. In a slightly gothic purple and black print, it brings a little rock-chic to your morning commute, and cute details like slightly-puffed shoulders and curved rear pockets with poppers certainly don’t go amiss.  It’s also available in white with sherbert-coloured stars.

AnaNichoola stuff is all cut for curves, so there’s room for womanly hips, while still focussing on performance and technical fabrics. Anna Glowinski, who created the brand, is no stranger to competitive cycling, so she knows her stuff.
Also in the range are the Kestral gloves, which have made a return from last summer in two new colours and sporting a larger snot wiper. We reviewed them last year /content/review/35847-ana-nichoola-kestrel-glove and thought highly of their stylish looks, so we can only hope the new incarnation is even nicer.

The Kestrels are billed as a long distance glove, priced at a reasonable £34.99 and made of goat leather, with ventilation cut-outs, breathable mesh upper and the aforementioned terry towelling snot repository. They come in white and pink, or black and silver.

More details from AnaNichoola 


A lighthouse for your head

Many city riders attach a light to their helmet, and it’s probably no bad thing in terms of forcing drivers to take more notice. But what if the helmet was the light?

Torch, the brainchild of Los Angeles industrial designer and cyclist Nathan Wills, turns your head into a glowing beacon, with front and rear lights covered with plastic lenses that disperse the light over a wider angle to make you visible from all sides.

The prototype helmet that Wills is hoping to put into production is a lightweight polystyrene body with a thin shell, in a classic skate-style profile. It doesn’t look as though it has many vents, so it’s probably for the short city hop over the Sunday hill-climb.

The helmet will be available in three colours (red, black, or white) plus a special Midnight Edition (black with smoked lenses). Power is provided by two rechargeable CR2 batteries, which should provide over five hours of run time in non-flashing mode.

A pledge of at least US$80 will get you one, if the funding goal is met and production commences. After that, the price will be nearer $100.

The rear light in particular makes you look like you have an oddly glowing brain, but honestly, anything that makes the driver behind you look more closely has to be a good thing.

If you can't imagine what a man with a very big light on his head looks like, here's a video:

More details from Kickstarter 

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.