Where has this year gone? It’s hard to believe another year is coming to an end, and with it, a heap of miles ridden, new roads and trails explored and plenty of gear tested.
There isn’t a lot of genuinely bad gear nowadays, but with everything at a high level, it’s becoming harder for products to go off the front so to speak. Some things, however, even once the review is written I'll continue to use even sometimes when I should have moved onto the next product.
My top picks may not be the shiniest, newest, most-expensive or exciting bits of kit. Instead, they’re the one’s I keep coming back to, have purchased myself and would advise BikeRadar readers to spend their money on.
Fuji’s SL 1.5 isn’t particularly aero, nor does it have disc brakes, fancy mechanical pivots or built-in suspension. Despite this, it was one of the most fun bikes I rode all year!
Not only is it lightweight at 6.4kg, it’s stiff, playful and takes off like a rocket when you hit the gas. Even better, considering the quality of the frame and components, it won’t empty your bank account the way other bikes of this calibre will.
It’s no secret I’m partial to shoes with laces, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see the S-Works Sub6 show up here. While shoes with velcro straps, ratchets and BOA Dials offer two or three points of adjustability, there are six on these laced kicks.
Having more than my fair share of kneecap tracking problems, the arch support built into the sole and varus wedge under the cleat have done wonders for my comfort on the bike. On top of that, the Sub6 sees the same uber-stiff FACT Powerline carbon plate as the S-Works 6 shoes and a well vented supple upper, and heel security unmatched by any shoe I’ve previously worn.
Cycliq has taken the concept of combining a camera a light and created two awesome products that keep finding their way onto my bikes. They’re not the lightest or the brightest on the market but do a great job of attracting the attention of motorists.
While they may not stop you from being hit out on the road, the growing awareness of these products seems to have some motorists thinking twice before they take a chance with a sketchy manoeuvre. I also like knowing that if I do get hit there'll be an account of exactly what's happened. And, of course, they're also great for catching your buddies doing silly things during rides.
Speedplay Walkable cleats
I’ve long been a fan of the Speedplay pedal system. I like the dual-side entry and the ability to adjust each axis on the cleat independently, however the cleats can also make moving off the bike problematic. Without cafe covers, the standard Speedplay cleats made you feel as if you were walking on ice.
That was until the release of the Walkable cleats, which added a dimpled, rubber cover around the cleat.
Speedplay claims that these cleats, used with the (single-sided) Aero pedals, provide a wind-cheating advantage but that’s not why I love them. Not only does the rubber cover add much-needed traction on slippery cafe floors, its rounded profile makes walking in cycling shoes generally a little bit less awkward. The covers are also replaceable so if you wear through a set before you’re due to replace the cleat, you can get some new ones (and they come in a range of colours so you might find some that match your shoes).
Cell Brunswick 2.0
It’s not necessarily a ‘road’ product per say but it's got drop bars and I had fun riding it so it’s made the cut.
Australian consumer-direct-brand Cell has hit a home run for the second time with its Brunswick 2.0. With front and rear thru-axles, hydraulic disc brakes, a 1x drivetrain, tubeless-ready rims and plenty of tyre clearance it ticks all the boxes of what I’m after in a ‘crosser.
Better still, it's got more rack and bottle mounts then you can shake a stick at, so it's as comfortable being a commuter or bike-packing rig, as it is chasing podium spots in CX races.
Initially, I wasn’t a fan of the green and orange paint job, but all it needed was a healthy smattering of mud to complete the look.
Smith Pivlock Arena Max
I've always been an Oakley guy, and various iterations of the Radar have been my go-to eyewear for riding until I tried the Smith Pivlock glasses. There's no frame to block your vision and the lens is easily big enough to keep the wind at bay even when you’re super aero. The lens clarity is also among the best I’ve used.
Rather than the arms ‘snapping’ onto the lens like most frameless sunnies, Smith uses a small egg-shaped nub that goes through a hole in the lens and allows the arms to pivot down and lock on. Utilising this system for swapping lenses not only means less pressure is put on the lens but also less wear on the arms from being continually snapped on and off.
They cost about the same as a pair of the latest Oakley’s, but for that money you also get three lenses and a hard case.
Garmin Fenix 3
Garmin's Fenix 3 does just about everything a dedicated head unit will, but in a smaller 'take it everywhere, do everything with it' package.
Most day’s you’ll find me swinging my leg over a bike, but it’s not the only way I like to get outside. With functions covering about every sport under the sun — and more downloadable from the Connect IQ store — the Fenix 3 has been my go-to for not just riding, but also ski touring, hiking, canyoning, surfing and backpacking.
Speaking of the connect IQ store, with smart Bluetooth connectivity the watch can connect to your phone to wirelessly upload activities to Strava and download widgets, apps and watch faces.
It's got a built-in barometric altimeter too, which offers an accurate altitude reading and the built-in compass has gotten me out of a couple of sticky situations.
Being a native Coloradoan (Go Broncos!) and now living on Australia's Gold Coast, the heat and humidity take it’s toll on me. Even with Colorado’s altitude and dry climate, I find I need to drink more when I'm riding in Australia just to keep up with the amount I’m sweating.
With an ingredients list a fifth-grader could understand and high salt content, Scratch Labs’ hydration mix easy on my stomach but also helps my gut absorb the fluids I'm taking in. The flavours aren’t overpowering and Skratch uses real fruit!
There are heaps of flavours available but my favourites are pineapple, and apple and cinnamon — which is still pretty good on ice even though it’s meant to be served hot.