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Sea Otter Day 1: Gravel suspension and sneaky helmets

Gravel goods from Laguna Seca Speedway

Sea Otter is back and, based on the early crowds at Laguna Seca Raceway, bigger than it has been in years. Gravel is also booming and there are a host of mixed-surface developments on display in Monterrey this year.

Here’s a quick selection of the best gravel (and road) gear from day one of 2022 Sea Otter.

Fox 32 Taper Cast

Fox launched its completely re-designed gravel specific suspension fork this week and it is already on numerous pro bikes around the pits here at the speedway. Fox’s videographer, Nick Kupaik had one on his custom titanium Naked Bicycles gravel bike. He’s also had actual time on the fork on his home trails, too, and said the fork performance was suprising. “I knew on chunky fast stuff, it’d feel better,” he says. “I was surprised how much of a difference it made in the areas you wouldn’t expect.” Smoother gravel and less challenging surfaces, it adds traction and lets you ride faster. Maybe gravel forks will stick, this time?

Bell XR Spherical

Bell quietly ducked out of the road helmet game a few years ago. The iconic brand is back on, or near asphalt with the new XR Spherical. Based on the classic VR1 helmet design, the new XR Spherical provides more coverage for when your road rides venture off tarmac. It also uses the dual-layer Spherical impact protection system, developed with MIPS. Other updates include the fidlock strap closure, and light 285-gram weight. There’s a range of colours from this bright blue to more sedated white and black options or the near-invisible camo pattern so you can blend in to the woods.

4iii Precision 3

Calgary, Alberta’s 4iiii returns with its first major update to its crank arm-based power meter since 2015. The Precision 3 is visibly thinner than its predicesor. 4iiii worked with brands like Canyon to make sure it would fit within the tight tolerances of the Aero Road and other modern road bikes. The new model now boasts a massive 800 hour battery life. When you eventually manage to burn through those hours, there are new indicator lights for battery life, connection and a few other features. The Precision 3 is available now on Shimano Dura-Ace, Ultegra and on XTR and XT on the mountain bike side. Factory instals are an option for SRAM products. See our review of the 4iiii Precision 3 here.

Muc-Off Punk Powder and Sonic Chain Cleaner

Muc-Off first made its bike cleaner in 1994. Back then, visibility was more of a concern for the public than environmental concerns, leading to the bright pink formula. It turns out it’s always been biodegradable and environmentally friendly, though. Now, Muc-Off is taking the next step to remove plactic packaging as much as possible. Add any water to the powder and you get the same formula that comes in the spray bottle. It redues packaging size, one packet makes 2L and is half hte size of a 1L bottle, and removes plastic packaging. Muc-Off’s sold 400,000 units since it was launched in August. They say that adds up to saving 1,800 plastic bottles a day since that launch. It’s also the world’s first plastic-free bike cleaner.

On the performance side, Muc-Off was showing a sonic chaing cleaning set-up. The little metal boxes were developed for the World Tour pro teams, like INEOS, that demand ultimate efficiency from their drivetrains. Muc-Off made a smaller version to sell to shops, so consumers can get the same experience as pros. It’s shop-only for now, in part because it’s rather expensive if you’re not using it at scale. But, the three stage cleaning, protecting and lubing process makes a huge difference in longevity and efficiency of your drivetrain.