First Impressions: Wolf Tooth PowerTrac Chainring

Like many trends in the bicycle world, oval chainrings go through periods of dormancy and popularity. And while elliptical rings haven’t gained much traction in the on-road sector, there’s definitely no shortage of companies offering oval rings for dirt and gravel riding. On the surface, elliptical chainrings may look similar, but Wolf Tooth Components takes a slightly different approach with their US-made PowerTrac Elliptical rings.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel bike gravel grinder wolf tooth chainring oval
Image courtesy of Wolf Tooth.

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First Impressions: Smoove Chain Lube

I like quiet bikes. The last thing I want to hear when I’m riding is a noisy chain. And while I know the benefits of a properly lubed chain, I’d rather spend my time riding than cleaning and lubing my bike. Dry lubes promise sparkling drivetrains, but that often comes at the expense of longevity. Wet lubes offer long-lasting protection, but they can be messy. Finding a lube that combines the best of both worlds is a challenge, but Smoove’s universal chain lube ($14.95 / 150 mL) makes it easy to keep your bike lubed and mess-free.

Based in South Africa, Smoove designed their chain lube to withstand the brutal conditions faced by racers competing in that country’s Cape Epic off-road race. Unlike solvent-based lubes, Smoove utilizes a proprietary water-based formula that contains wax and special additives. Did you raise an eyebrow when you read the word wax? Don’t freak out, Smoove is nothing like those oldschool wax lubes that left your bike’s drivetrain looking like a wax museum reject.

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First Impressions: Five Ten Freerider Pro Shoes

When I decided to give flat pedals a try after 25 years of riding clipless, I knew that the right shoes would be a major factor in the flat pedals’ success. When it comes to shoes for flat pedal use, Five Ten pretty much wrote the book with their sticky-soled Freerider family of footwear (say that three times fast). I started with the company’s Freerider Contact model, and it’s served me well for several seasons. In the back of my mind, though, I found myself wishing for a slightly stiffer version with more traction on and off the bike. The folks at Five Ten must be psychic, because they developed the Freerider Pro ($150 MSRP) with exactly those features–and more.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel bike gravel grinder Five Ten 5.10 Freerider Pro
The author’s Freerider Pros after several months of testing.

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First Impressions: Marin Four Corners Bicycle

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel bike gravel grinder touring Marin Four Corners Shimano Sora

Thirty years ago Marin Bikes got its start designing and selling bicycles in the eponymously-named county that’s home to Mount Tamalpais and and the iconic Repack race. And while the company has a deep history in mountain biking, Marin’s lineup also includes models for women, kids, pavement, and mixed terrain. If you’re a drop-bar aficionado there are plenty of bikes to choose from, including the versatile Four Corners ($1099 MSRP).

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