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The Musette - New gravel shoes, garish eyewear, bling jockey wheels and more

A brightly coloured pair of sunglasses rests in a pink flowering bush
(Image credit: Will Jones)

The Musette is Cyclingnews’ Friday series in which we take a quick look at some of the world’s best cycling gear. We’ll take a look at pro-level equipment, bikes and components, alongside some of the most desirable clothing and newest accessories in the sport.

It's Easter weekend coming up, which means it's time for Eggs. It also means it's time for me to find a difficult segue from eggs to some of the things that have landed on our collective doormat this week... brace yourselves.

We've got some new gravel shoes from Quoc, which come in a shade of beige not dissimilar to that of an egg. We've got some new super-premium bib shorts from Rapha, which you certainly wouldn't want to play chicken in for fear of ripping them in a crash. We've got some custom sunglasses from Roka with a partially white frame... eggs have whites? And if you can work out how to link some extremely bling replacement jockey wheels or a lightweight gilet to eggs then you're clearly better at this than I am.

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Quoc Gran Tourer II shoes

Did someone say Neapolitan ice cream? (Image credit: Josh Croxton)
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Quoc Gran Tourer II shoes

Reflective details add a nice touch (Image credit: Josh Croxton)
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Quoc Gran Tourer II shoes

Rubberised toe bumpers and large lugs help with off-road suitability (Image credit: Josh Croxton)

Quoc Gran Tourer II gravel shoes

I must confess, I'm a Quoc shoes virgin. I've long been familiar with the brand and their offering - such is the requirement of my job - but I've never tried them. A few of my colleagues are big fans: Aaron successfully battled for their inclusion in our 2019 'Gear of the Year', and one of our reviewers subsequently gave the Gran Tourer lace-ups a perfect score in his review. So when Quoc emailed with an opportunity to get my feet into a pair, I thought it best to climb aboard the bandwagon and see what all the fuss was about.

The pair in question is the Gran Tourer II, a brand new update to the aforementioned Gran Tourer gravel shoes. The most noticeable difference comes in the form of a dial closure instead of laces, but Quoc says there is plenty of change besides. One such change is a stiffer sole, made from a nylon composite construction, which Quoc says was chosen in order to add performance and race-readiness while retaining some 'hike a bike' walking comfort. There's also an upgraded weatherproof microfibre upper, which Quoc claims to have added without losing the comfort and support that earned the predecessors their reputation. This upper is surrounded by what the brand calls a 'signature colour border', which leads us nicely onto the colour.

They are available in four colourways: 

  • Black with a black border and a black sole
  • Black with a black border and a brown sole
  • Sand with a black border and a black sole
  • And easily the most polarising of them all, brown with a pale pink border and a brown sole

As the pictures above will tell you, in a fleeting moment of thinking I was cool and younger than I am, I went for the controversial option.

They are priced at £190 / $265 / €255, which is far from cheap for a pair of shoes - especially ones that will be hooned through the woods and thrashed through the bushes, but refreshingly, this is actually CHEAPER than their predecessors. When was the last time a brand did that? 

Josh Croxton - Senior Reviews Writer

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A white man in a backwards cap and a colourful jumper holds a mug of tea while wearing brightly coloured sunglasses

The custom options meant I could design a pair specifically to clash with my new jumper (Image credit: Will Jones)
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A white man in a backwards cap and a colourful jumper holds a mug of tea while wearing brightly coloured sunglasses

Arms, grippers, frames, lenses and nosepieces can all be colour coordinated. (Image credit: Will Jones)

Roka Matador Air

I'm a big fan of sunglasses and am always down to try something new. While we feature the usual suspects (Oakley et al.) on our list of the best cycling sunglasses, I'm keen to see what smaller brands have to offer in the space, so I approached Roka to get my hands on a pair of Matador Air glasses, as seen prominently covering the eyes of Marc Hirschi in that Tour de France, the riders of L39ion of Los Angeles and SD Worx.

At 25g they are extremely lightweight - nearly class leadingly so - primarily thanks to a half-frame design constructed of TR-90 Nylon. Not enough to pip the 23g POC Elicit Clarity, but certainly nothing to trouble the neck muscles on a big day out. I opted for the mid-blue 'Glacier Mirror' lens, rather than one designed for full sun, because it's still Spring in the UK and we won't get our allotted week of sunshine for another few months yet. I haven't done a great many miles in them, but I have found them to be extremely comfortable, with no slippage or interference with the helmet cradle that so often plagues me thanks to a small head. I can't honestly say they improved the optical performance of my morning cup of tea, but they certainly added a certain je ne sais quoi to proceedings.

The key design feature on paper for me is the dropped arms that are claimed to avoid interference with caps and helmet straps. I haven't had enough time with them yet to confirm or deny whether they do as they say, but on an aesthetic level having the arms extend from the bottom of the lens rather than the top is an eye-catching choice that I am rather fond of.

The option to customise the colours was also clearly not lost on me, as you can see by the tasteful Miami Vice vibe I was aiming for. The lenses, nose, arms, frames and gripper are all available in a slew of colour options, so if you are as fashion-forward as me, or Josh if you go by his latest shoe choices, then you too can go bananas with the options. 

Stay tuned to see how these get on after a proper runout.

Will Jones - Reviews Writer

AbsoluteBlack Hollowcage on a wooden stump with grainy, textured background

(Image credit: Aaron Borrill)

AbsoluteBlack Hollowcage Carbon Ceramic Oversized pulley cage - Shimano Dura-Ace R9200

Aftermarket drivetrain specialists, AbsoluteBlack, has carved out a niche for producing ovalised chainrings across multiple configurations and disciplines - 1x, 2x, you name it. The British brand has also started to venture into other verticals and now produces grips, graphene-based chain lube and wax, and oversized pulley wheel systems such as the one pictured here.

While companies such a Shimano is quick to dismiss the notion of tangible performance gains pertaining to the oversized pulley wheel concept - Shimano reckons 'gains are lost on misalignment from lateral movement and momentum in real-world scenarios', few can dispute the visual allure of the leading protagonists led by CeramicSpeed, Kogel, Muc-Off and Token. These then - according to Shimano - are nothing more than frighteningly expensive visual upgrades but AB claims its oversized system has other benefits.

Like its rivals, the AbsoluteBlack Hollowcage utilises the same optimised-chainline blueprint but the trump card here is its almost-silent levels of operation. Using a proprietary 'Silent XRing Pulley' system has helped reduce noise by 60 per cent over regular polymer or aluminium pulleys - that's a reduction of 12-14dB when compared to stock Shimano Dura-Ace pulleys. AbsoluteBlack has achieved this by using suspended rubber bands that dampen the chain impact on the guide pulley teeth, which helps nullify engagement chatter.

In terms of performance, it's hard to quantify any of AbsoluteBlack's claims: this includes aerodynamic gains and watt savings but two standouts include the shifting precision and radically reduced drivetrain noise. Whether or not these two attributes warrant you ditching your stock derailleur is up for debate but I've quite enjoyed using it on two of my current road bikes.

The Hollowcage you see here is compatible with the new Shimano Dura-Ace R9200 groupset. It weighs 70g and can be optioned with a black, gold, red, titanium or pvd rainbow lockring. The bearings are covered by a four-year warranty. At £429 / $579 / €499, it's a costly 'upgrade' many enthusiasts will feel could be better spent on other components. 

Aaron Borrill - Tech Editor

View the Hollowcage Carbon Ceramic Oversized pulley cage at AbsoluteBlack

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A yellow gilet hung up on a garden trellis archway

Superlight and ultra packable, the Explore Lightweight Gilet has long distance ambitions (Image credit: Will Jones)
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A pile of yellow fabric on a set of vintage scales against some chocolate biscuits

It really is a featherweight bit of kit (Image credit: Will Jones)
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A gilet stuffed into its stuff sack next to a lemon

For those short on space it packs down very small indeed (Image credit: Will Jones)

Rapha Explore Lightweight Gilet

Bikepacking and longer distance, multi-day rides (or what more vintage riders would probably call 'bike touring') are taking up an increasing amount of space in the collective cycling consciousness. Whether you're taking on the Transcontinental or taking on your first overnighter, having gear that packs down small is usually of great benefit. 

In a few weeks, I'm off to ride down the coast of France at a leisurely pace, and while panniers may be the sensible choice I've opted for a full-frame bag and saddlebag combo. Given that space will be at a premium for ten days I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to try the Explore Gilet from Rapha. It weighs the same as two-and-a-bit chocolate digestive biscuits (other biscuity snacks are available) and packs down into an integrated stuff sack the size of a plump lemon. 

The fabric is an extremely light 25gsm ripstop Nylon that does feel gossamer thin, but on an initial and incredibly breezy 70km on the coast of Cornwall, I found it to be more than adequately wind resistant. I opted to size it as an outer garment, as I would a rain jacket, rather than I would a jersey, so it is a touch baggier than would be ideal for road riding, but for touring and longer days, it's spot-on as far as I'm concerned.

It does have a DWR coating to aid water repellence, but the weather has been kind of late and I haven't been afforded the opportunity to put this to the test. I'm sure ten days of touring (sorry, bikepacking) should give me ample time to see how it performs, and whether it can make our list of the best gilet for cycling.

Will Jones - Reviews Writer

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Will Jones
Will Jones

Will joined the Cyclingnews team as a reviews writer in 2022, having previously written for Cyclist, BikeRadar and Advntr. There are very few types of cycling he's not dabbled in, and he has a particular affection for older bikes and long lasting components. Road riding was his first love, before graduating to racing CX in Yorkshire. He's been touring on a vintage tandem all the way through to fixed gear gravel riding and MTB too. When he's not out riding one of his many bikes he can usually be found in the garage making his own frames and components as a part time framebuilder, restoring old mountain bikes, or walking his collie in the Lake District.

Height: 182cm

Weight: 72Kg

Rides: Custom Zetland Audax, Bowman Palace:R, Peugeot Grand Tourisme Tandem, 1988 Specialized Rockhopper, Stooge Mk4, Falcon Explorer Tracklocross