Hot stuff: what we’re excited about this month

This month brings us: silver stoppers, carbon gas, watery belts, rubber charity, jelly pads, jaffa kecks, wireless pi and more!

Read more: Bikefinder – sub £1000 mountain bikes in stock now

Hope XCR Brake, £250

Down-country is hot right now, bikes like the brilliant Transition Spur sum up the genre best by mixing light weight, short travel and aggressive geometry for an exhilarating ride. Lightweight bikes need lightweight brakes then, Hope reckons, and as such it’s just released a new version of the X2 brake. Called the XCR, it promises to be lighter, more powerful, have better ergonomics, and a lighter lever feel than the
old stopper.

What’s not changed is the old XC caliper, Hope is keeping that the same. What’s new is at the other end, there’s now a carbon-fibre lever blade and you now get a hinged handlebar clamp to make it easier to pop on and off. The lever also has improved bushes that Hope says will reduce friction and make the action lighter, a neat touch as the only real failing of the old X2 was its heavy lever feel. Hope has kept its radially configured master cylinder design. The brake, complete with lever, hose and caliper, weighs 199g, Hope says, making it far lighter than the old set-up.

You can have any colour you want on the new XCR as long as it’s the silver anodised finish. Hope isn’t offering the full rainbow like it usually does with its hardwear because the brake is being made in the firm’s R&D department rather than the shop floor. Demand is so high for the existing brake line-up that this is the only space available, Hope says, at least until some new machines turn up.

The X2 was our favourite two-piston brake – consistent, comfortable, highly adjustable and easy to source parts and repair yourself, the only chink in the armour was the lever and its slight lack of power. If Hope’s got it right, the XCR could be our new brake of choice for lightweight trail bikes, although the price has shot up by £100.

Carbon Air, £priceless

The big guns of suspension design have worked hard over the past few years to increase the sensitivity of their forks and air shocks. We’ve seen bigger negative air chambers to increase progression and thereby create a softer stroke, as well as a trend for independently adjustable air chambers from some brands. Others, such as DVO, have fitted small negative coil springs to help ease the fork into its travel and make it more supple.

Now there’s something new from a small band of UK engineers called Carbon Air that could really push suspension development on apace. It’s a bottomless token… queue the tumbleweed. It’s not one of your usual nylon jobs though, this is made from something called actuated carbon, an incredible material that works in exactly the opposite way to a conventional nylon spacer. So instead of taking up some of the space inside the chamber, the Carbon Air spacer will actually allow more air to fit in there for exactly the same pressure. Mind. Blown.

How much more air? Carbon Air says it can absorb up to six times more air than the equivalent space the air would fill. “It’s like putting Dr Who’s TARDIS inside a fork,” John Coakley from Carbon Air told us. Impossible, we hear you cry. Well, not if you take into account Van der Waals forces, a molecular physics effect that under some circumstances causes air molecules to stick closer together. This is exactly what happens inside your fork or shock with a Carbon Air spacer, the brand says, thanks to the porous material used.

If you’re still with us, this has got some pretty exciting implications for mountain bike suspension. The first is that you’re going to gain a lot more sensitivity from the top part of the stroke, but without necessarily losing support. The second is that using actuated carbon will help an air shock take on the same linear feel of a coil spring, according to Carbon Air, with less impact from heat or progression. You could also build a custom token for your fork, mixing different inserts with different properties together and thereby tuning both ends of the suspension curve. Or you could independently vary both the ride height and the suspension curve, something that’s been impossible until now.

If that all sounds pretty exciting, there are a couple of flaws with an actuated carbon spacer – the first being that you can’t actually buy one right now. We wouldn’t be surprised if Carbon Air brought out a product in conjunction with Fox and or RockShox too, meaning perhaps you won’t even be able to buy one aftermarket. The product is also certain to be more expensive than a nylon equivalent, pushing up fork prices even higher, although it’s hard to say how much higher right now. But the potential of this technology is so exciting, and close to fruition, we couldn’t help having it as our Most Wanted.

Top 100

100% Airmatic jersey, £39.99

The Airmatic jersey from 100% is designed to look and feel like a T-shirt, as such its made from polyester rather than blending in spandex to make it stretchier. It has a dropped hem for a good on-bike fit, an internal eyewear wipe on the hem and boasts fade-free logos.

Balm bag

Camelbak Repack LR4, £70

Sore back? The Camelbak Repack LR4 bumbag shifts the weight down to your hips, and now comes in a range of new colours. Features a 1.5L reservoir and 2.5L of cargo space, compression straps, magnetic hose, and pockets on the waist belt.

Charity hoops

Specialized Butcher T9, £45

Buy one of the new Soil Searching tyres and Specialized will donate a portion of the price to its charity dig days, which it’s been organising since 2018. Limited-edition tan wall version, Butcher tread, T9 compound, available in 29×2.3in.

New school shoes

Clarks CICA shoe, £55

Clarks has a new sporty kids’ shoe, designed for stability and balance with the help of BMX prodigy Kieran Reilly, it looks promising for mtb too. Called the CICA, it has a suede upper, dual-density EVA footbed and sole, and comes in 28 sizes and two widths.

Knee bother

Fox Enduro D30 Enduro Knee Guard, £75

The Fox Enduro D3O Knee Guard is a slip-on design, and features a removable D3O pad that lets you wash the sleeve in your machine rather than by hand. It also has a tough skid plate on the knee, and uses Cordura fabric for abrasion protection.

Smart casual

Sungod 8KO Lense Glasses, £110

Sungod has taken its best 8KO lens from the mountain bike range and added it to its casual sunglasses too – Classics, Renegades, and Sierras. Sungod lets you customise the frame colour, style and lens options including a polarised version, all through its website.

Cotton trader

BAM Jersey Bamboo Sport Trunks, £18

BAM says its bamboo-made clothing is better for the environment than cotton – the Jersey Bamboo Sport Trunks here save 88.3 days’ drinking water and 2km of driving emissions compared with an equivalent cotton boxer. They’re comfy and odour-eating, too.

Sunset strip

Endura Singletrack Lite Short, £69.99

It’s easy to think of summer when you see Endura’s Singletrack Lite Short in tangerine hues. Lightweight yet durable, with laser-cut venting holes, it’s made from stretch nylon. Best of all, it comes in both short and long leg lengths. Other colours are available.

Life of Pi

Pi, £99

Pi is a new Bluetooth intercom that lets you talk with your buddy on the trail. Fit the unit inside any helmet and use it to chat, play music, take a call or follow GPS directions. Range is a quarter of a mile, battery life is six hours and connectivity is via Bluetooth 4.1.