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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. Following on from the 10 favourite items of US technical editor James Huang, content strategist and tech writer David Rome provides his.
Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape
I can’t remember when I first started using Lizard Skins DSP bar tape, but it was at least six years ago, and I keep returning to it.
It’s not the easiest to wrap, but once installed it provides a secure and comfortable hold to the handlebars that’s perfect for all drop-bar activities, no matter the conditions. It’s the tacky rubberised surface that makes this tape great, and while plenty of other brands have followed suit (such as ODI and Supacaz), I’m quite content with the original. I like that the colour and design options are forever growing, and there are multiple thickness options, too (I use the original 2.5mm).
On the downside, I’ve found the rubberised texture does dry out with enough time, eventually peeling off of the base tape. Despite this, the comfort and control benefits of this tape continue to outweigh the negatives.
RRP: US$42 / AU$60 / £33
PB Swiss Tools Rainbow Hex Keys
I’m a sucker for high-quality hand tools, and I even had a column devoted to it at my last job. I find myself buying tools I don’t really need (thankfully my partner doesn’t read my work) and just about everything from PB Swiss Tools falls into this category. Made in Switzerland, these are some of the finest hex wrenches going and are commonly found in the toolboxes of pro race mechanics. The colour coding means grabbing the right size off a cluttered bench is easy, and adds a little grip in use, too. The ball-ends are superb for those hard to reach places, and the long length means leverage is never an issue.
Surprisingly, the exact sizing of these keys are a little looser than some other top-quality options such as from Wiha or Bondhus, and you can feel a little more wiggle in the bolt when using these as a result, but you’ll also never not be able to fit them into poorly sized bolts. Weirdly, despite this looser fit, they never seem to cam-out or damage any fasteners, and forever look new at the ends. It’s something I can’t quite explain, but these just feel better to use.
They can be difficult to find depending on your location, but regardless, the “PB 212LH-10 RB” is the set to get. Word of warning: if you’re anything like me, be prepared for this to just be the beginning of your PB Swiss Tools collection.
Approx: US$76 / AU$105 / £50
SwiftWick Aspire Seven Socks
Boring in design, amazing in function: that’s probably how best to describe Swiftwick socks. I’ve been using the Aspire Seven (seven-inch cuff) socks for just over a year now, and they’ve proven to be the most comfortable, breathable, and durable socks I’ve ever used.
Swiftwick claim these are the most technically advanced socks on the market, with super high stitch counts, a one-piece toe area, and various other supportive features from the socks’ compressive nature. But all that really matters is that they go completely unnoticed when riding (and, yes, even running). Sadly, the range of standard design choices in the longer lengths is limited to just a small handful of solid colours, so barring custom options, it’s not for those that love a little sock style.
RRP: US$18 / AU$35 / £TBC
Sydney has some outrageous cycling laws that came into affect in 2016. One of those was an astronomical increase in the fine for not having a bell fitted to your bicycle — such an increase that police were suddenly incentivised to pull over cyclists and fine them for a law that had previously existed but was never enforced.
For someone that takes pride in their bikes, strapping on any old bell borders on sinful. For me, Spurcycle’s bell was the obvious option, and despite the high price, I’m glad I went that route. The ring it produces has a seemingly everlasting tone, it never rattles, and actually looks pretty classy. Made in the USA, I see the Spurcycle as the Chris King of bells, something you take to the next bike. Given a recent limited-edition collaboration, Chris King apparently sees this bell in the same way.
RRP: US$49 / AU$75 / £46
Honey Stingers Gluten Free Organic Waffles
Not so much by choice, but I live a low-gluten life. A few years ago, I worked on a story that rounded up the gluten-free energy bars on the market, and the list sadly stopped at six. Nowadays, that list would be far, far longer. Still, waffles are an unexpected treat for anyone gluten-free, let alone a waffle that’s made to substitute an energy bar while on the bike.
At least for me, these things are the most delicious energy product going, and I’ve yet to pick a favourite between the cinnamon, maple, and salted caramel flavour options. They’re quite small and can be a little crumbly to eat while riding, but are perfect for those longer training rides or a post-ride snack. And yes, you can get them with gluten, too.
Unfortunately, being that I’m in Australia where food laws are even tougher than those for riding without a helmet, they’re an absolute pain to source and the shipping costs are typically offensive.
RRP: US$23.84 / AU$N/A / £N/A (box of 16)
Oakley Radar EV Path Prizm Sunglasses
Cream naturally rises to the top, as the saying goes, so it’s perhaps no surprise that this next item landed on the “10 favorites list” of more than one CyclingTips editor. So much attention is given to the Oakley Jawbreakers, but it’s the simpler Radar EV Path that is by far my favourite eyewear. I’ve been using Oakley Radars ever since the initial release, about 10 years ago, and the latest EV model fixes my main complaint by raising the top of the frame out of sight. I find these super comfortable, while the arguably more stylish Jawbreakers rattle ever so slightly on my face and don’t breathe quite as well.
The Prizm lenses are impressive, too, with both the Road and Trail versions doing exactly as claimed by boosting contrast in specific conditions — so much so that they almost work poorly when they’re not matched to the intended use. Put simply, life looks better with the Prizm lenses and improved vision is certainly nothing to scoff at.
RRP: US$190 / AU$270 / £145
Specialized Road Tube Spool
This is a pretty basic product and, at first, I thought it was a bit gimmicky. The moulded plastic core holds a road inner tube (up to a 60mm-long valve stem), a supplied CO2 inflator head, a CO2 cartridge, and a dedicated doubled-ended tyre lever — and that’s it. The genius lies in how compactly and conveniently it all packages together: the valve stem tucks into its own dock to keep it from rubbing a hole in the tube, the other bits snap securely into place, and a single hook-and-loop strap keeps everything nice and neat.
It’s rather minimalist as far as spares go, but is perfect for chucking into a jersey pocket or as a rattle-free option in a saddle bag. Recently released, users of newer Specialized saddles can get the Bandit Road Wrap, which bolts directly to the SWAT threads underneath the saddle and uses the Road Tube Spool to keep everything together. I’ve got that setup on my cross bike, but my road bike doesn’t have the SWAT threads and so I’ve found using the Road Tube Spool inside a modified SpeedSleev wrap makes a pretty impressive solution to carrying minimal spares for nearby rides. It never rattles, doesn’t rub anything, is tucked away beneath the saddle and removes with the simple rip of a strap.
RRP: US$15 / AU$25 / £20
Morgan Blue AquaProof Paste
I was only recently put on to this special grease by Kogel Bearings and can attest that it’s pretty impressive at silencing creaks. Kogel labels it as “Shut Up Grease”, while Morgan Blue’s naming is a little more literal. It’s effectively just a thick, clear, and waterproof grease with a high holding function. It’s a bit of a mess to use, but is proving perfect for press-fit interfaces, seatposts, and problematic threaded surfaces.
I hate creaks, but this stuff makes them go away, which is exactly why I love it.
RRP: US$30 / AU$40 / £16
Park Tool Internal Cable Routing Tool
You’ll probably understand why there’s another tool on this list if you’ve ever built a bike with internal cable routing. Sold as a kit, it’s a bit more of shop tool in that it’s designed to handle the routing of mechanical cables, housing, hydraulic lines, and Di2/EPS wires. It’s proven a godsend for routing things like dropper-post hoses, internal hydraulic disc brakes lines, and even tricky derailleur cables.
Unfortunately it’s not all that useful for frames that use segmented housing with closed ends to allow bare wires within the frame, but even in these cases, the supplied high-strength magnet comes in handy. Combined with a few pieces of internal frame tubing (check on eBay for PTFE F4 Tubing Pipe), this tool saves mechanics a lot of frustration.
RRP: US$60 / AU$135 / £50
Bontrager Flare R Tail Light
Here’s another item that both James Huang and I love. This little unassuming rear light has changed my thinking on daytime safety, and I’ve been riding with at least a rear light even in daylight hours ever since testing it last year.
It’s understandably difficult to understand just how visible the latest daytime lights are for people that haven’t yet seen them in person. Bontrager claim 2km of visibility from this light in the daytime, and even if the truth is half of that figure, it’s a lot safer than no light at all.
In addition to being crazily bright, the simple strap just works, the battery lasts long enough for most needs, it weighs nearly nothing, and doesn’t cost a fortune, either. Nicely done, Bontrager.
RRP: US$60 / AU$75 / £45