Tech of the Month August: Magnesium bikes, wheels and pedals; new Vittoria tyres and Enve's Melee road bike
Are magnesium alloys really the wonder material they're cracked up to be?
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This month we take a dive into magnesium alloys in wheels, frames and pedals – looking back to some classic products as well as checking out those at the cutting edge from VAAST, DMR and the e-bike newcomer Honbike.
Alongside that, we take a look at the new crit-specific race tyres from Challenge and Vittoria's recently released Corsa N.EXT performance tyres – designed to be a Continental GP5000 killer.
Finally, after attending the launch of Enve's Melee road bike, we take a look at what exactly the frame has to offer.
But just before all of that, we just wanted to let you know that we've partnered with Garmin to give away a brand new set of Rally XC100 power meter pedals.
These are compatible with two-bolt Shimano SPD cleats, making them well suited to gravel and more adventurous road riding. As a '100' series model, these only measure the power output of your left leg – but it is possible to upgrade the right pedal down the line, should you wish for more granular power data.
It's also possible to swap out the pedal bodies and convert them to power pedals for Look or Shimano road cleats – there's a lot of versatility packed into Garmin's new Rally platform.
To be in with a chance of winning, simply click this link or fill in the form below. We’ll get in contact with the lucky winner by the end of this month. If you don’t end up being the lucky one – don’t worry, we’ll be running it again next month.
VAAST R/1 magnesium road bike
VAAST has recently released its R/1 road bike which, as with all of VAAST's bikes, is built with a magnesium alloy frame. It's not a material you see so often these days, although there have been many notable products released through the years that do make use of the alloy.
The Kirk Precision is perhaps one of the most striking, but Pinarello also produced a Dogma in magnesium for a number of years. American Classic – now relaunched as a tyre brand – produced a set of super light magnesium wheels, whilst magnesium flat pedals have pretty much a constant through the decades.
VAAST claims that the R/1 frame weighs just 1,250 grams – which is about 250g lighter than what would be considered very light for aluminium. VAAST believes that its frames can be made more feathery still, admitting that they are still near the start of their manufacturing experience with the material and that further refinements are yet to come.
Considering that aluminium bikes have had the best part of 40 years to hone their production, for VAAST to be dropping in at this level is pretty impressive. It's also claimed that magnesium can offer a smoother ride feel, closer to that of titanium than aluminium – but with modern wide tyres and low pressures, nuances such as this can be hard to detect.
Either way, we've got one in on test, so stay tuned for our review!
Challenge Criterium RS and Vittoria Corsa N.EXT tyres
The Criterium RS from Challenge are quite a 'traditional' tyre in a few respects. They utilise a 350 Thread Per Inch (TPI) cotton casing, which is a very high TPI count and should make the tyres more supple and better able to cope with deflection. The tyres are also offered in only 25 and 27mm widths – no larger 'plus size' options here.
But in other ways, the Criterium RS are quite up to date – they're tubeless compatible and will work with hookless rims. It doesn't come cheap though, with each tyres setting you back €84.90 / $94.99.
On the other hand, we've got Vittoria's new Corsa N.EXT tyres, which are designed as a cheaper and more accessible performance tyre. Rather than the cotton casing that the flagship Cora Speed and Corsa Control tyres use, there a nylon casing is employed – similar to that of Continental and Schwalbe.
This allows Vittoria to reduce the price, selling them at £54.99/$74.99, which undercuts both Continental's GP5000 S TR and Schwalbe's Pro One TLE. We'll publish a full review once we've spent more time on them, but so far they do feel like a strong competitor.
Enve had already dipped its toes in the frame-making game with the 'Custom Road' last year. That was a high-end, bespoke carbon bike, made to measure in the USA and with an understandably high price to match: $7,000 for the frameset only.
Now, Enve has launched the Melee, a lower priced model ($5,500/£5,300) that comes in stock sizes, is made “overseas”. It's still a very expensive frame, comparable to the Specialized Aethos and Colnago C68, but while those models come from brands with a proven heritage, the this is a bit more of an unknown.
Still, Enve certainly has plenty of experience in manufacturing carbon, with high-end wheels, handlebars, forks and seatposts all in its portfolio. If it can mass produce a frame to the same standards, that's certainly something to look out for.
We've got one on order and will bring you our first impressions as soon as we've put some miles into it.
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After winning the 2019 National Single-Speed Cross-Country Mountain Biking Championships and claiming the plushie unicorn (true story), Stefan swapped the flat-bars for drop-bars and has never looked back.
Since then, he’s earnt his 2ⁿᵈ cat racing licence in his first season racing as a third, completed the South Downs Double in under 20 hours and Everested in under 12.
But his favourite rides are multiday bikepacking trips, with all the huge amount of cycling tech and long days spent exploring new roads and trails - as well as histories and cultures. Most recently, he’s spent two weeks riding from Budapest into the mountains of Slovakia.
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