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.
This week the collective mailboxes of Cyclingnews have been straining under the burden of some slightly leftfield products. Not your usual slew of special-edition jerseys and high-end eyewear, instead we've been treated to personalised wall art, a backpack to haul your canine companion, a distinctly old school saddle and an exercise bike. To keep things sensible we've also got some fresh gravel kicks for your next adventure ride.
You know the drill by now - pour yourself a drink (coffee, rum, strawberry milk - no judgement) and ease yourself into the weekend with something a bit different.
Leather saddles for bikes have been around for almost as long as bikes themselves. Until the introduction of plastic-based options they were simply known as 'saddles', and featured on everything from race bikes to sit-up-and-beg shoppers. The Swallow, Brooks' most racy saddle, is rarely seen on performance bikes outside events like Eroica, where they'll sit atop restored classics.
The shape has remained unchanged since 1937, which is probably a record for a road saddle in terms of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it', but not as vintage in form as its B17 model, and will have been raced at the Tour de France back in its day.
So why test a leather road saddle nowadays, when there are lighter, more high tech options available in our list of the best road bike saddles? Well, mostly so I can go through the discomfort of breaking one in so you don't have to. I run B17s on three of my own bikes and they are extremely comfortable once they're broken in. They weigh as much as a mid-sized ferry, but once they formed to my unique posterior I can quite happily ride for hours without having to bother with padded bib shorts, even over rough terrain.
I've never tried a model as racy as this, however, and my aim is to find out over the long term how it compares to the more modern perches like the Cambium C15. Don't expect a short term review - the break-in period in my experience can be rather unpleasant, but old school tech might still offer comfort to riders who struggle to find a saddle that fits them.
If you see me walking around, legs akimbo, like I've been riding an unruly horse for a week then please be understanding.
Will Jones - Reviews Writer
Peloton Bike +
Given the obvious similarities, it baffles me that the 'spinning' cycle market (the one dominated by Peloton) and the indoor cycling smart bike market (dominated by Zwift, Wahoo, etc) don't cross over as much as they could.
With indoor cycling, specifically with regards to smart bikes (since they are more similar to Peloton's offering) you choose your smart bike from Wahoo, Wattbike, Tacx etc, then choose your indoor cycling app of preference. If you don't like the app, you can cycle through the dozens of others to try out them all. The best smart bikes benefit from a freewheel (ie, you can stop pedalling whenever you want) as well as market-leading cycling power meter tech.
The spinning market, meanwhile, does it differently. Here you buy into one connected system. You get the bike, the app and the screen in one go. You can only use the app with the bike of the same brand and vice versa.
In the case of the Peloton Bike +, which is admittedly one of the costliest options out there, that'll cost you £2,295.00 (or £54 per month for 43 months) plus £35 per month ongoing for continued use of the app (which you need for it all to work).I've been using the Peloton Bike + for a few weeks, so I will save my opinions for when I publish the full review, but going back to my original point of crossover (or lack thereof), wouldn't it be better for Peloton to either open up the bike to be used with other apps, or the app to be used with other bikes?
Josh Croxton - Senior Reviews Writer
Based in Staffordshire, UK, TrailMaps is a print company that specialises in creating bespoke, commemorative art for cyclists of all disciplines. What started as a university project back in 2009 has steadily grown into a family-run business led by husband and wife, Aaron and Helen Tolley. As cyclists themselves, the couple understand the culture and how we, as bona fide gearheads, love to reminisce about previous epic rides, cycling trips abroad or special once-in-a-lifetime races. The TrailMaps concept aims to freeze that moment in time and package it in vividly detailed-yet-tasteful design to remind you of your achievements.
While the brand offers a range of services including a cycling-specific photo retouching and original cycling photography, design and illustration, it's the TrailMaps that got me rubbernecking. I first caught wind of the brand while browsing Instagram and was immediately hooked by the stunning use of colour and contrast, the beautiful typesetting and exquisite detail of the maps. All that is required is a GPX file or link to the Strava file and the TrailMaps team will take care of the rest. The artwork design is then printed on soft-touch velvet paper using the latest foil-printing technology, it looks incredible.
Having just participated in the 2022 UCI Cycling eSports World Championships for South Africa, a TrailMaps print of the course, route profile and elevation, and race date was something I was very keen to get produced. I contacted the team and we chatted about a bespoke design incorporating a few other elements to make it even more special. As a result, we settled on adding my name and photograph, my Zwift statistics from the official trump card series Zwift created ahead of the Championships, not forgetting the official Cycling South Africa emblem. I mailed over all the elements and left it to Aaron Tolley to work his magic.
Having not seen anything until it arrived in the post, I was totally blown away by the piece; not just the exceptional design execution but the quality of the printing and the framing, too. The framing is an optional extra and can be had with or without a mount - I suggest the latter as the white mounting board contrasts the black frame and map, adding another layer of refinement to the presentation. The print itself measures 30 x 40cm so it's just the right size - not too big or too small (40 x 50cm including frame).
The TrailMaps concept is a great idea. It makes the perfect gift for a cyclist who already has everything, and represents a novel way to commemorate an occasion or cycling achievement. Not only does TrailMaps offers bespoke trail map design, the brand also has a stock range of popular maps so if you're looking to re-live or celebrate conquering your favourite climb or trail park, there's a selection available on the website including maps of Ventoux, Alpe d'Huez, Sa Calobra and Stelvio to name a few.
In terms of pricing, there are various packages on offer and it all comes down to what you want - framing, foil and background colour. The TrailMaps piece pictured here will set you back £54.95 (mount framed), £34.95 (unframed). Current turnaround time on Design-Your-Own printed is 10-14 working days.
Visit TrailMaps to find out more.
Aaron Borrill - Tech Editor
K9 Sport Sack Knavigate
This might not be the most obvious product to add to your cycling arsenal, but for the dog owners out there who haven’t quite mastered transporting their furry friends while riding, the K9 Sport Sack Knavigate could well be the solution.
As the proud owner of a very fickle and girthy rescue Staffy, I’ve been wanting to take him further afield, but not owning a car often scuppers those plans, and I’ve tried him in a trailer and I’ve never seen him panic so much when it started moving.
So as a backup, I’ve decided to try him out in what I’m lovingly calling his ‘doggy backpack’. K9 Sport Sack started when the co-founders, Joseph and Jen Watson, found a puppy in the trash. ‘Dumpster Daisy’ as she’s come to be known, became their first pet and the couple wanted to find a way to bring her along on their bike rides without tiring her out too much. Over the years they’ve developed a series of dog-carrying backpacks that can be used for various sports, and these have become popular with dog-owning cyclists.
They come in an array of sizes, and feature lots of pockets and compartments so you can carry everything you need for your day out, including lots of treats, toys, and a lead for your four-legged friend. The carrier is designed in such a way that your dog sits on its hind legs with its front paws draped over your shoulder, so it can look around and enjoy the view as you pedal together.
We’ve only taken it for one test ride so far, but it was a resounding success, and I’m confident that I’ll be able to get my weird hairy 14kg son out on some longer rides pretty soon. Stay tuned for a full review, and head over to my Instagram page if you want semi-regular dog-carrying updates.
Mildred Locke - Reviews Writer
DMT GK1 gravel shoes
As most of my attention is on the muckier side of cycling, Italian shoemaker DMT doesn’t really show up on my radar. As far as I was aware the brand is predominantly focused on dainty road kicks as worn by the likes of Pogačar. However when we were at Core bike a few weeks back something caught my eye on the wall covered with DMT’s best cycling shoes.
To my surprise, it wasn’t just on-road but also a good number of off-road shoes on show. The ones that particularly caught my eye were the DMT GK1. Not only is the yellowy gold colour lovely but the neat design, soft upper and lace closure certainly ticked my best gravel bike shoe criteria and should be well suited to the summer ahead. The sole also looks great, DMT has worked with grippy rubber makers Michelin and it features a large chunky tread that should provide plenty of sure-footed confidence on hike-a-bike sections no matter the surface. Its dual-stiffness as well which should make walking easier too.
The most interesting thing about the GK1s is that they use a one-piece knitted upper. The tongue area has some stretch to it to help get them on and to offer a snug fit. The lace loops are actually sections of cord anchored from the sole which should help with durability and create an even closure across the foot when tightening the laces.
We were lucky enough to get sent a set and are looking forward to taking them out on the trail to see how they ride when the weather gets a little warmer and drier.
Graham Cottingham - Senior Reviews Writer
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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.
Rides: Custom Zetland Audax, Bowman Palace:R, Peugeot Grand Tourisme Tandem, 1988 Specialized Rockhopper, Stooge Mk4, Falcon Explorer Tracklocross
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