Ten products I loved in 2017: Anne-Marije Rook
Now, it’s time for a woman’s point-of-view, courtesy of Ella editor Anne-Marije Rook.
Once upon a time, she hardly spent a weekend without pinning on a number. But over the past year, she’s been racing less and exploring more, adventuring in places near and far. Fun may be playing a bigger role these days, but there’s still been plenty of saddle time. She logged over 14,000 kilometres in 2016, and 2017 is looking much the same.
Here are some of her favourite products that she uses day in and day out.
Giro Factress Techlace shoes
I’ve now ridden thousands of kilometres in Giro’s Factress Techlace shoes this year, including Flandrian cobbles, oceanside California roads, and the rainy Norwegian countryside. And through it all, I have come to one simple conclusion: these shoes are darn comfortable, straight out of the box, with no break-in period required. They’re also Giro’s lightest women’s road shoe yet at just 195g each (size 39), and show almost no wear after eight months of riding.
A key reason for all of this is Giro’s neat Techlace system, which takes the comfort and fit of its Empire lace-up shoes and pairs it with the convenience of a strap. There are no buckles, D-rings, or other hard plastic hardware like with conventional straps, but there also isn’t the hassle associated with laces. Two Techlace “straps” are on each forefoot while a Boa IP1 dial does the lion’s share of the work in keeping the upper part tight and secure.
Closure aside, the Factress Techlace has all the usual features of a high-end shoe: a breathable and durable synthetic leather upper, Easton’s super stiff and light EC90 SLX carbon fibre outsole, Giro’s customizable SuperNatural Fit Kit insoles, and a replaceable heel tread.
The Factress Techlace shoes may not have the same elegant simplicity of the lace-up Empires, but for me, their comfort and convenience trump aesthetics.
Price: US$350 / AU$419 / £290
Showers Pass Crosspoint knit gloves
I look at knit gloves the same way as base layers: understated, must-have pieces of clothing. I usually start pulling them on my hands once autumn rolls around, and they don’t come off again until the spring. They’re budget friendly, versatile, and fairly packable.
However, even the best wool-blend knits offer little protection against the combination of cold, wet and windy that I often deal with here in Seattle. Luckily for me, the Oregon-based, inclement weather experts at Showers Pass have come up with a solution.
At first glance, the Crosspoint gloves look and feel very much like any other knit glove, with a snug, stretchy fit that’s soft on the inside, and slightly more textured on the outside. But this isn’t your grandmother’s yarn. The fabric is made of three bonded layers: a wear-resistant knit exterior, a Coolmax FX moisture-wicking antibacterial knit lining on the inside, and an Artex membrane in between.
This makes for a soft, stretchy, and breathable glove that’s also wind- and waterproof. Additionally, the palms are covered with silicone rubber for grip.
While I do wish that the fingertips were touchscreen-compatible — you know, for ‘gramming purposes — the Crosspoint waterproof gloves are the best fall-weather gloves I have come across.
Price: US$45 / AU$TBC / £TBC
Wahoo Fitness Elemnt GPS computer
Having previously been a long-time user of Garmin products, I broke up with the company in 2017 and became a Wahooligan. Wahoo Fitness is making a great range of products and just one glance around the peloton tells me that their GPS computers, TICKR Bluetooth heart rate monitors, and KICKR indoor smart trainers are really catching on.
My recent shift from racing to adventuring has made satellite navigation more important to me than ever, and from foreign travels to the less-travelled roads in my own state, the ELEMNT computer became a trusty companion whenever I found myself someplace new. The large LCD screen, simple turn-by-turn navigation, and intuitive usability is unlike any other computer I have tried.
But what truly sets this product apart are its reliability and intuitive, easy-to-use interface. Nearly everything can be set up and customised using the accompanying phone app: the instant you adjust something in the app, it’s visible on the computer. The only time you’ll need to plug the ELEMNT in is to charge the battery (which lasts up to 17 hours). Data transfers are wireless, too.
Even uploading maps and routes is a snap. Simply download a GPS file, upload it to one of Wahoo Fitness’ partner apps (such as Ride with GPS or Strava), and it’ll automatically sync to your ELEMNT. Additionally, thanks to its WiFi connectivity, you can also simply open the map inside the app and get directions to anywhere your heart desires. The large screen will display a detailed bread-crumb map as well as text and graphical directions.
Other convenient features include on-screen text and phone call alerts, Strava Live segment prompts, and customisable LED lights to visually indicate speed, power, or heart rate zones.
Best of all, my ELEMNT has yet to malfunction with no connectivity issues, no lost Strava rides, and no frozen frames – something I couldn’t say about my old Garmin.
Price: US$330 / AU$500 / £250
100% Speedcraft sunglasses
I’ll be honest: I bought these purely for style points. But make no mistake about it; these are also designed for performance.
The sunglasses get their unique look from 100%’s goggles, with a distinctly tabbed upper section and a curved shape that provides a wide field of view and excellent coverage. I personally really like the somewhat outlandish lens size because it not only keeps the sun out of my eyes, but also shields most of my face from wind, dust, rain, and debris.
And yes, I also think they’re totally Peter Sagan-cool.
Long arms and a soft, grippy rubber nose bridge effectively keep the glasses in place, and the glasses also come with a second, smaller nose piece if you want a tighter fit. At just 35g, I barely notice them while riding, and there are also small openings between the lens and frame to prevent fogging. A second lens is included for low-light riding.
100% offers a smaller version called the Speedcraft SL, but the 1980s of the standard version is all me.
Price: US$175 / AU$229 / £140
Gore Bike Wear One Lady Gore-Tex® Shakedry™ Bike Jacket
Like many people living in the notoriously rainy climate of the Pacific Northwest, I have an extensive jacket collection. We’ll see about 155 rainy days in a typical year, a 30% chance of rain on every other day, and some random snow days thrown in for fun as well. And so, your wardrobe becomes filled with jackets for every condition, and you quickly learn that when companies say “waterproof,” it’s usually more of a suggestion than a promise.
Consumers are a demanding bunch, and I will acknowledge that rain jackets have evolved into very complicated products with highly technical and complex textiles and coatings. We want to be kept dry, but also have a jacket with excellent breathability so we don’t overheat. We want full coverage, but also a snug and supple fit. We want hard shells and soft shells, packability and durability. The list goes on and on, and the quest for the perfect rain jacket is never-ending.
But in Gore Bike Wear’s Shakedry jacket, I have finally found a very trusty and truly waterproof outer layer, one I’ll wear and/or carry with me on every ride for the next five months.
The water beads off the jacket even in the heaviest rain, and there’s no coating to wear off. All of the seams are taped to keep water from sneaking in, too. Once the rain stops – or you’ve reached a coffee stop – you can simply shake off any remaining water and the jacket dries in no time.
The jacket is exceptionally lightweight and among the thinnest rain jackets I have ever worn, and it packs down nicely either into its own pocket or into your jersey pocket.
Price: US$280 / AU$385 / £250
Machines for Freedom long-sleeve summer jersey
Women’s cycling apparel continues to get better and more fashionable with every passing year. There are many gorgeous designs and fabrics on the market right now, but the Machines For Freedom summer jersey was a standout for me.
First off, it is aesthetically beautiful with a detailed design of dark blue ferns, two-toned dots, and black elements on a popping blue base. But what makes it unique is that it’s a long-sleeve jersey made for warm-weather riding.
Machines for Freedom uses a silky-soft and superlight polyester-and-elastane blend that’s arranged in a flattering feminine cut, but also offers the added benefit of built-in UPF 50 sun protection. Seemingly weightless, the jersey gives you full range of motion while still providing excellent breathability and wicking capabilities. All the necessities expected of other high-end jerseys are present here, too, like a flat-laying full zipper, three full-sized pockets, and a moisture-resistant, zippered side pocket for your valuables.
In all, this jersey invites you to enjoy those long summer adventures without the risk of overheating, getting sunburned, or getting new tan lines. It’s perfect for those long days in the saddle when shade is hard to come by.
Price: US$169 / AU$TBC / £TBC
Natural Delights Mixed Berry Energy Bar
The selection of energy bars these days is vast and increasingly complex, packing everything from chia seeds to nut butters to cricket protein. Still, after a long season of riding, few stand out from the crowd. Chocolate, peanut butter, almond, coconut, and the usual varieties and combinations thereof are base flavours for just about every nutrition company.
They all taste fine, but I’ve come to accept that on-the-bike-nutrition is often pure necessity instead of something particularly enjoyable. Over the years, however, I have learned that variety is key, and so is knowing what works for you and your body. For me, that means keeping things as simple as possible with bars made of just a handful of easily digestible ingredients.
Date-based bars are usually my go-to. Calorie-dense and packed with glucose and fibre, I’ve found dates to be a perfect energy food before or during a ride. And when I stumbled across Natural Delights’ Medjool date-based energy bars at this year’s Sea Otter Classic, I was instantly hooked. Surprisingly light and fruity, their mixed berry flavour is hands-down the tastiest bars I have tried. The bars are hard to find in stores, though, so you’re best off getting them online.
Price: US$15 / AU$TBC / £TBC (10-count box)
Foothill Products Offset Hooks
When I moved into my new apartment at the end of last year, I was faced with a problem: I was downsizing to a one-bedroom, so where the hell were all my bikes and gear going to go? The extra costs and inconvenience of keeping my gear in a storage unit wasn’t an option, and so my living room now doubles as my bike room. As such, my gear storage needs to be functional, but also has to look presentable.
Foothill Products’ Offset Hook gives me just that. The extruded aluminum double hanger staggers two individual wheels (or wheel bags) so they can lie parallel to the wall. It protects your wheels by getting them up off the ground, while relieving you from any clutter on the floor. The hooks feature a soft pad for the wheels to rest on, too, guarding them against possible scratches.
Price: US$25 / AU$TBC / £TBC
Wheel Brightz Lights
I randomly received two Wheel Brightz light systems as part of a prize purse at a cyclocross race. And while many people probably wouldn’t dream of mounting these on their bike, I couldn’t wait to put them on my city bike.
Wheel Brightz is a wheel-based lighting system that uses a string of LEDs attached to a battery pack, all of which is fastened to the spokes of your wheels using zip ties. Yes, it’s all very clunky, heavy, and not at all aero. But I have been on the receiving end of a swinging car door and car bumper several times while riding, and so I try to do whatever I can to be seen. These obnoxiously bright lights certainly do the trick. And really, dorky as they may seem, they’re super fun.
I’ll admit that they’re pretty clunky looking in the daylight, but at night, you’re turning heads wherever you go. I really like the idea of being seen, but I do also enjoy the smiles and reactions I get from passersby.
Price: US$15 / AU$TBC / £TBC (per wheel)
DNA 5″ Performance Socks
I have an entire drawer filled with cycling socks of all colours, lengths, and thicknesses, yet there seems to be about half a dozen pairs that get worn more than the rest. Among them are two pairs of DNA’s Performance socks.
Full disclosure: I race for a DNA-sponsored cyclocross team, but these really are awesome socks.
The Utah-based cycling apparel company is mostly known for its high-end custom apparel, but their products – including these socks – are becoming increasingly available to general consumers.
With a standard 5″ height and a limited range of simple designs, the socks may not stand out in the sock drawer, but they’re so soft and comfortable that I’ll wear them on- and off- the bike.
The socks feature a reinforced heel and toe for durability, and the quality fabric offers stellar breathability and sweat-wicking.
Price: US$12 / AU$TBC / £TBC