The greatest testament any editor of a cycling publication can give to a piece of gear is what he or she uses themselves. Call this a gift guide if you like, but think of it more as insight into what the individual editors at CyclingTips value in terms of equipment and clothing for their own riding. Here are ten products Ella Editor Anne-Marije Rook uses day in, day out.
Velocio Recon Quilted Vest
I’ll admit that the idea of a heavy, quilted vest made of Merino wool and windproof panels made me skeptical. After all, when would I ever need something that substantial?
As it turned out, Velocio’s quilted Recon vest has become my go-to item all year long, both on and off the bike.
On the bike, it works well with winter tights and a wool jersey when a standard wind gilet isn’t warm enough. The slightly longer tail provides good coverage, there’s a zippered pocket for storage and a loop on the back for a rear light, and the two-way zipper is even offset so it won’t irritate your skin.
But what sets this product apart is its versatility. Highly functional yet fashionable, the Recon vest looks great off the bike as well whether you’re out on a hike or out on the town.
The price is steep, but then again, it could easily be the only vest in your wardrobe.
Price: US$279 / AU$200 / £TBC
Oakley EVZero Range Prizm
Sometimes, impulse buys are the best buys, and that was definitely true in the case of my Oakley EVZero Range Prizm sunglasses. I picked them up at the Sea Otter Classic in May, fresh after Oakley had launched them – a good way to spend some hard-earned prize money, I thought.
The brightly coloured and substantial frames that make other Oakley models like the Jawbreaker so distinctive are noticeably missing here. Instead, the EVZero Range is frameless. The rimless lens provides lots of coverage and an expansive, unobstructed view.
At around 22g, these are also the lightest Oakleys on the market, and among the lightest sports performance shades in general. The frameless design also improves airflow, which in turn prevents any fogging of the lenses. The only downside is that the arms and lens are permanently affixed so you can’t change tints or replace the lens by itself if it gets scratched.
Combined with its feathery weight, the best-in-class comfort, and a no-slip grip on the arms, the glasses almost seem to disappear, except for where it counts, in sun protection and the Prizm lens technology. Two separate Prizm lenses are tuned specifically for either the road or the trail, with each highlighting certain colours to enhance vision. On the road, this means being able to spot subtle changes in the texture, while on the trail, the lens picks out shades of brown to better see obstacles and transitions in dirt conditions.
The EVZero series offers two lens shapes: the bigger Range version that I prefer, and the somewhat smaller EVZero Path. Both are available in multiple frame colours, lens tints, and a so-called “Asian fit” with a thicker nosepiece for smaller noses.
Price: US$170 / AU$220 / £140
Specialized Women’s S-Works 6 Shoe
The Specialized Women’s S-Works 6 is the best women’s race shoe I’ve worn this year thanks to the super-stiff carbon sole, ultralight materials, Boa closures, a roomy toe box, and an unusually tight heel cup. All together, it makes for a snug and secure fit that’s also comfortable. Redesigned for the 2016 race season, the revamped S-Works 6 also sports a cleaner look and a lower profile. The replaceable tread is a nice touch, too.
Although these shoes come with a hefty price tag, they’re arguably one of the best shoes on the market.
Price: US$400 / AU$550 / £280.00
Whether it be after a ride or at a race, cyclists are constantly changing in public spaces. By now, most of us are either experts at changing behind a towel or in the cramped passenger seat of car, or simply have stopped caring about being naked in public.
But when I received the Kickstarter-funded Undress as a birthday present one year, it changed my pre- and post-ride experience significantly. The Undress is a mobile changing room that you can even fashionably wear post-ride, and mine basically lives in my race bag. I don’t travel anywhere without it.
At first glance, The Undress looks simply like a big, flowy dress, but its ingenious halter design and side access allows you to remove your sweaty clothing – yes, even your bra — without ever feeling exposed.
And while it was designed as a modest changing station for women specifically, my guy friends constantly steal mine as well. I wasn’t alone in that and so Undress came out with a men’s version this year.
Undress came out with an updated Sport version this year, which is shorter in length and more like an actual garment than just a changing station.
New features include a wicking, antimicrobial fabric; a new fit and more stylish designs; zippered side access; and an overall more wearable product. You can use it to change and continue wearing it at the post-ride coffee and food stop.
The Undress is truly a most-have item for any (female) cyclist who spends a lot of time changing in public spaces.
Price: US$79-$99 / AU$TBC / £TBC
The Spurcycle Bell
Fast bikes need loud bells, but not all bells are created equal. After trying several different bells in 2016, the Spurcycle came out on top.
Spurcycle launched its first bike bell back in August 2013 with a Kickstarter campaign. 10,000 bells were produced to fulfill that initial round of Kickstarter orders and rewards, and several production rounds have been completed since then.
Precision made of premium nickel brass and stainless steel, the bell has a distinct dome shape and comes in either a brushed steel or matte DLC (diamond-like coating) black.
With its high quality material and design, Spurcycle got people to buy into the idea that quality and design matters, even for utilitarian items. The Spurcycle is beautifully designed, and has a long and loud, yet polite, ring. It’s truly a luxurious item you’re proud to have on your bike.
Price: US$49 / AU$75 / £46
Boon Lawn Drying Rack
Here’s an item that won’t be stocked in any bike shop, but perhaps it should be as it’s highly practical for cyclists.
You see, next to cyclists, perhaps the biggest users of bottles are infants and toddlers. And from the bottles themselves to cleaning supplies, the baby industry makes entire lines of bottle-related products.
Among them are these handy-dandy drying racks.
Specifically made for baby bottles and other baby accessories, the Boon Lawn is a countertop drying rack to air-dry your just-washed baby bottles – or in our case, water bottles.
The flexible plastic “grass” blades securely hold up to six water bottles and lids at a time while the tray below catches any dripping water. It’s perfect for storing your water bottles (or any other lightweight dishes) after you’ve washed or rinsed them. It’s low profile and it’s a fun-looking item to have on your kitchen counter.
Price: US$25 / AU$40 / £23
Specialized Airnet helmet
I have been a big fan of the Giro Synthe helmet because of its shape, lightness, ventilation, and look. So when I first received the Specialized Airnet, I couldn’t help but notice its aesthetic similarity. Like the Synthe, the Airnet has a somewhat retro look with a nod to cycling’s early “hairnet” helmets, but there’s more to this helmet than style points.
Despite its wallet-friendly price, the Airnet is actually Specialized’s third most aerodynamic helmet behind the S-Works TT helmet and Evade aero helmet. It has the same baseline shapes as the Evade, but with large vents and exhaust points for a cooler and more versatile helmet. The soft and comfortable Merino wool pads keep the sweat at bay, the integrated vent grippers are convenient for sunglass storage, and the “hairport” is a must-have for all riders with a ponytail. The Airnet even comes with an optional soft visor, which can be inserted for added weather protection without actually having to wear a cycling cap.
Understated in the best meaning of the word, the Airnet offers performance and style at a relatively affordable price. I have worn mine in summer crits as well as winter cyclocross races, and the helmet functioned really well.
Price: US$150 / AU$200 / £100
Bontrager Ajna Pro Carbon saddle
Saddles are very personal, and finding the right saddle for you takes time. But the Bontrager Ajna Pro Carbon works so well for me that I now have it on three of my bikes.
The race-ready saddle features a lightweight carbon fiber-reinforced shell, limited padding, and a shape engineered specifically for an aggressive riding posture, but the wide cutout alleviates soft-tissue pressure and there’s excellent sit-bone support.
I find myself moving very little while in this saddle, which is a good thing, yet the shape does allow some pelvic rotation to switch between being ultra-aggressive in the drops, to a slightly more forgiving position while on the hoods.
The newest version features some subtle refinements to accommodate road and mountain bike racers alike. While its general shape and characteristics remain the same, the 2016 model offers increased stability at the nose and better pressure distribution throughout. Suspended oversized carbon rails increase compliance for ultimate comfort, too, while keeping the saddle feathery light.
Price: US$200 / AU$249 / £150
Coffee and cycling, cycling and coffee: it’s a beautiful, long-standing pairing, and the coffee culture among cyclists seems bigger than ever before. But cycling also tends to take you to new, and often remote, places where coffee – let alone good coffee – is hard to come by. Thus, traveling with the coffee of your preference is a good idea.
I used to travel with a pour-over coffee filter designed for camping, but this year I was all about the AeroPress.
AeroPress was designed by Alan Adler, who also happened to design the Aerobie flying disk. The AeroPress is his answer to the quest of being able to make a single cup of coffee that’s rich yet smooth in flavour, but without the acidity of a French press or the hassle and price tag of a coffee machine.
Years of coffee tasting and no less than forty prototypes later, Alder finally had it. The result: a couple of inexpensive plastic parts and a small, round filter.
The AeroPress is similar to a syringe in that there are two cylinders. The smaller of the two fit inside the bigger one and works kind of like a plunger. A third piece is a cap that holds the paper filter and screws onto the wider cylinder, which is essentially the brewing chamber.
Simply put, you place a paper filter in the cap, screw the cap onto the wider of the two cylinders, and place it on top of a cup. You then add a scoop or two of freshly ground coffee onto the filter, pour hot water (175 degrees if you want to get picky) onto the ground coffee, stir a few times and then place the smaller cylinder – the plunger – inside the brewing chamber and push down. Just like that, you’ve got one cup of coffee ready to enjoy immediately.
The AeroPress has gained quite a cult following, and everyone seems to have their own technique on how to make a cup of coffee to suit their own preference. In fact, there’s even an annual World AeroPress Championship for baristas and coffee geeks.
To add even more appeal, the Aerobie AeroPress is highly affordable, super easy to clean, compact, made of BPA-free plastics, and incredibly durable, making it very travel-friendly. And lastly, it makes great-tasting coffee in just a matter of minutes.
Price: US$30 / AU$35 / £28
Knog Blinder Road Twinpack
I’ve been a fan of Knog’s fun-but-functional approach to light designs, and the Blinder range only reaffirms that view even further.
The 250-lumen front output and 70-lumen rear makes you hard to miss on the road, and the front is strong enough for the occasional night-time dirt ride. Convenience is a major priority on both, too, with built-in USB plugs (meaning no extra cords are needed), flexible silicone rubber straps that work on a wide range of tube shapes and sizes, and waterproof casings that have held up well to frequent Pacific Northwest downpours. The front light even comes with a helmet mount to help make the most of the modest output on poorly-lit roads.
Price: US$135 / AU$187 / £105