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Our gregarious roaming reporter, David Everett, closes out our collection of editors’ personal favorites for 2016. The weather is now deep into winter in his European home base, so several of the products are skewed to keeping you warm and dry. The rest are a mix that may interest regular travelers or cyclist who like to keep their bike looking pristine.
Bontrager Harelbeke backpack
I’m lucky to travel quite a bit for this job, and the Bontrager Harelbeke backpack has become the go-to choice for general hand baggage when flying. The Bontrager brand isn’t primarily known for its luggage line, but the Harelbeke certainly hits the nail on the head.
The spacious and squarely-built backpack seems to have a bit of a TARDIS quality about it. The 29-liter bag swallows kit with ease; I’m constantly amazed at how much stuff I can cram in the three main compartments. The square shape allows for all areas to be used to their maximum, with ease of access to all due to a plethora of zips.
Primarily designed to be a race-day bag with a separate wet compartment for dirty shoes and grubby kit, it’s equally at home as a multi-use bag with its wide selection of pockets to store all your essentials, including a well-padded laptop pouch that extends the length of the bag’s back. Having handles on both the side and top make it easy to drag out of overhead lockers on planes, too.
The built quality is superb with hard-wearing, water-resistant material that still looks as fresh as the day I got it at the start of the year despite countless hours of air and ground travel.
Price: US$250 / AU$n/a / £150
Etxeondo Sekur jacket
I’ve only had this jacket a few months, but it turned up just in the nick of time for when the summer vanished and the winter reared its ugly head. Living in Northern Europe, the weather is a far cry from what our guys in the Melbourne office are experiencing at the moment. Exteondo’s long history with the likes of Team ONCE, SEAT-Orbea, and Euskaltel–Euskadi – and now Giant-Alpecin – has clearly paid dividends if the Sekur jersey is anything to go by; this is a quality garment, and one that’s defiantly still made in the Basque region of Spain.
The jersey sits somewhere between a heavyweight winter jersey and a a lightweight jacket. The race-focused, close-cut fit hugs the body with a little extra length in the arms well suited to being stretched out on a road bike. The velvety fabrics feel surprisingly luxurious, too, but yet there’s still an eye on durability with anti-abrasion panels on the elbows – something I haven’t seen on any other jacket. It’s a design feature carried over from the Exteondo’ top tier race shorts, and something I’m pleased to see included. I, for one, have had far too many winter jackets ruined when the mix of skinny bike tyres and black ice cause sudden greetings with the tarmac.
I usually wear this jacket when the temperature is around 3-12°C (37-54°F), but it’ll see action in much colder conditions when paired with a heavyweight gilet and a quality thermal undershirt.
It’s an expensive item but it’s an absolute pleasure to wear. It screams quality, every detail is second to none, and somehow just feels a little special.
Price: US$253 / AU$315 / £200
Castelli Perfetto Light Jersey
An update to Castelli’s popular and highly copied Gabba range of lightweight, water-resistant cycling clothing, the newer Perfetto Light jersey has been seeing plenty of action during the unpredictable autumn weather in and around my French home base.
Castelli uses a silicone-infused Nanoflex fabric throughout on the Gabba, but the Perfetto Light uses a lighter-weight Gore Windstopper up front that works for a wider variety of weather conditions. Whereas the Gabba could get a little too hot and heavy to use on the warmer (but still wet) days, the Perfetto Light comes into its own with noticeably better breathability. Even so, Castelli claim the Perfetto Light can still handle 90% of the conditions for which the Gabba was designed – which is fine, considering I’m happy to stay home when it’s that nasty out.
The fit is as you’d expect from an item that’s been developed with the pros in mind: fitted, snug, and aero. The three rear pockets still allow for ample goodies to be stored, and the drop tail is a nice little touch for extra coverage, too. When combined with Castelli’s Nanoflex arm warmers (a product that made it on to Neal Rogers’ list of favorites this year), you’ll have your upper body protected to perfection during the spring and autumn months.
As an added bonus, the Perfetto Light jersey is less expensive than the Gabba, too.
Price: US$160 / AU$280 / £125
Orbea R10 helmet
The R10’s compact exterior helps it stand out from the likes of Kask, Giro, and the other usual suspects, and Orbea say it makes the helmet just as aerodynamic as other companies’ dedicated aero lids. The slightly narrow shape is also one of the most comfortable lids I’ve used, it’s amply ventilated with 29 intelligently spaced ports, and the upper and lower microshells help protect it from everyday abuse, too.
The retention system is also simple, secure, and easy to adjust (although the strapping system could be a little smarter), and mean-looking, two-tone finish adds a bit of European flair – no surprise as it was designed in San Sebastian. Even better, the optional clip-on shell provides a little extra protection in bad weather and further improves the aerodynamics, and the snug fit doesn’t rattle.
The R10 isn’t offered with a MIPS liner, though, and it’s built with single-density foam so it perhaps isn’t the most technologically advanced option out there. But it’s a product that I can’t help but like, anyway.
The only question you need to ask is if it’s acceptable to use an Orbea lid if you don’t have an Orbea bike.
Price: US$TBC / AU$TBC / £150
Craft Active Extreme Windstopper LS base layer
With 30 years of experience heavily rooted in cross-country skiing, Craft know a thing or two about keeping the body warm; you could even say it’s in their industrial DNA. They’ve also sponsored many cycling teams over the years, and will be supplying Peter Sagan and his teammates on Bora–Hansgrohe with clothing for 2017. Craft’s catalogue of undershirts is especially deep and covers any weather condition under the sun, but I’ve become a particularly big fan of their winter options.
My favourite is the Active Extreme WS LS, made with Craft’s ultra-warm Extreme 2.0 thermal fabric throughout along with Gore Windstopper panels up front for that extra bit of protection on the chilliest of rides. Its wicking properties are superb, too; I’ve rarely come away from a ride feeling clammy or overly sweaty. The snug, close fit is also just right, with extra length in the rear to cover your lower back, but without dipping too low on the front to cause bunching. It’s hard to think where Craft could improve upon this particular undershirt.
Price: US$125 / AU$n/a / £50
Specialized Stix Sport LED Lights
Barely the size of a pack of gum, the Stix Sport lights are small enough to throw in the bottom of a bag and forget about (until you realise you need them). and the rubber strapping system is compact and works on a wide range of tube shapes and sizes. They also run long enough to get you home even on the brightest settings, recharge quickly, and the USB plugs are built directly into the bodies so there are no extra cords needed.
The 14-lumen and 70-lumen front and rear claimed outputs aren’t enough to work as a primary nighttime lighting system, but it’s enough to be seen when dashing amongst traffic – even in daylight.
Getting caught out without lights isn’t the smartest of moves, and these little Stix lights from Specialized have saved me on several occasions. They’re not anything extraordinary in any way, but do their job admirably.
Price: US$55 / AU$80 / £35
Bontrager Classique road shoe
Much like our US technical editor, James Huang, noted in his review of the Specialized Sub 6 shoes, I was a little dubious of the need for lace-up shoes when they made a comeback a few years ago. But after using these shoes for the past seven months, I’m a convert.
Bontrager approach the Classiques from a different angle as compared to the Sub 6, using a more vintage-inspired look for the uppers and a heavier sole plate made of a mix of carbon and glass fibres (that still rates as a 12-out-of-14 on Bontrager’s self-described stiffness ranking). They’re more than stiff enough for racing, in my opinion, but makes them really shine as an all-day shoe is their comfort.
I’ve been using these matched with a pair of Solestar insoles, and after eventually getting my cleat position correct have found them a pleasure to wear. The lace pattern seems to evenly distribute pressure over the upper foot, and the heel cup holds the foot in place well with no slippage.
If you prefer a more customised look, Bontrager includes a bunch of different lace colours, too.
Price: US$270 / AU$360 / £200
King Cage titanium bottle cage
Simple cages that work: that’s about all you need to know about King Cage bottle cages. Made by hand in Durango, Colorado, these have barely changed since being first introduced in 1991 and have long been a personal favourite.
The tubular titanium construction not makes them feathery light, but also damn-near indestructible. It also won’t corrode, it doesn’t leave marks on bottles, and the rare finish looks beautiful.
An item that does its job with no fuss, is tough as old boots, and also has the appeal of being handmade is something that is slowly dying in this day and age. Other products often feel gimmicky, but these are about as timeless and classic as it gets.
Price: US$60 / AU$92 / £50
Clever Standard tyre levers
Tyre levers are tyre levers no, well yes…and no.
You might think that it’s impossible to improve upon a simple tyre lever, but Tomo Ichikawa has done just that with the Clever Standard, which clip together to serve double-duty as chain pliers.
This may not be something that you’ll use all too often, but it only takes being caught out on the side of the road while out cycling with the need to split the chain it’ll be a welcome feature; it’s also handy for those who frequently travel with their bikes and need to remove the chain before packing.
I may only ever use it as a split link remover a few times in its life, but it’s the thought process behind the product that really appeals to me. It’s a neat idea, and I like that Tomo has though outside the box on this one. And even if I don’t need to separate a master link, it will always come in handy as emergency noodle/spaghetti fork.
Price: US$12 / AU$TBC / £TBC
Morgan Blue cleaning brushes
Keeping your bike clean is the first step in keeping it running smoothly, and having the right tools not only makes that task easier, but also lets you do a better job. Why it’s taken me so long to eventually get around to getting a brush set for cleaning my bike is anyone’s guess, but I’m glad I finally have.
Morgan Blue have put together a package of brushes and sponges similar to several other brands out there, but it’s the inclusion of a two specific items that make these brushes my favourite when cleaning my bike: the Cleaning Glove and the Quick and Clean Brush, both of which I now swear by when attempting to make my bike gleam.
The Clean Glove does away with the need for a sponge and makes getting the bike soaped up a breeze. It has also helped reduce the need to stock up on plasters by eliminating the danger of catching your knuckles on the chainrings. The mitt soaks up enough water and cleaning product to quickly and efficiently wipe down most areas of the bike.
Where the glove doesn’t reach, the Quick and Clean will, fitting snuggly behind callipers, between spokes, and around chainrings. If you want to speed up your bike cleaning routine, they’re well worth splashing the cash on.
Price: US$TBC / AU$TBC / £TBC