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It’s crazy to think that a year has already passed since our editors shared their favorite products from the previous 12 months, but yet, here we are. In that time, the market has become flooded with fat-tyred road bikes, 12-speed shifting is well and truly on the way, and the sight of disc brakes on aero road bikes is no longer weird.
Tech writer David Rome has managed to get his hands on some lovely pieces of kit in 2018, and included here are 10 of his top picks. If this year’s list is anything like the products he loved in 2016 and 2017, he’ll likely still be using and raving about them for years to come.
Other CyclingTips staff will also be sharing their tried-and-true favourites over the coming weeks.
I’d already gone tubeless on my gravel and mountain bikes long ago, but I also made the move on my road bike for good this year. I had tried road tubeless many years ago and had soon reverted back to tubes, but with tyres getting wider and tyre choices growing, tubes are fast becoming nothing more than an emergency item to me.
One part of the equation is the growing availability of clever tyre-plugging products in case you do puncture. These are used when the hole is too large for liquid sealant alone to seal. Having tried a number of tyre-plugging products, I can wholeheartedly say that nothing compares to Dynaplug in design, ease of use, and effectiveness.
Of the three Dynaplug products I tested last year, the Racer has become my favourite. The dual-sided design includes a regular plug at one end, and an extra-large Mega plug at the other for larger cuts and tears.
It’s small, light, sealed from the elements, and built to last, meaning I have no issues strapping it into an exposed seat roll on the back of a saddle. When it comes time to use, I simply pull the cap off, jab it into the tyre like I’m trying to kill someone with an EpiPen, and then pull it out. Ahh, you just repaired the tyre, you brilliant thing.
Price: US$44 / AU$75
Kask Valegro helmet
This helmet was a review sample and it’s something I’ve since mentioned in a CT Recommends feature covering our favourite road helmets. I have a fussy head shape and this thing gives me no cause to complain; the fit is perfect.
The Kask Valegro is crazy light, airy, and I like the look of it, too. It’s not at all aero, though, the sweat channeling could be refined, and the retention system feels like it’s taken from a $50 helmet. Likewise, while the leather chin strap is loved by many, I’m on the fence with it.
However, I’m willing to overlook all of those issues given how well it fits. I really rate this lid, but seriously, Kask, make the detents of the retention system more positive – this isn’t a cheap product!
Price: US$250 / AU$299
Molten Speed Wax
I used to laugh at the idea of cooking a chain in melted wax. I’d read the Friction Facts report and I knew it was faster, but it never seemed worth the effort. It was only after I did a deep dive into the topic of chain lubes and chain longevity that I was finally persuaded to try submersion waxing. I was skeptical. And now I’m sold.
Once you’re past the initial cleaning stages, and invested in the right equipment (a $20 slow cooker, some alcohol-based petrochemicals, and a bag of wax), the rest is easy. And I have to say, my drivetrain has never felt smoother, looked cleaner, or shifted faster. I can now run my calf along my big chainring all I like without fear of ridicule, and I no longer worry about keeping my bikes within my carpeted apartment. And degreaser? What degreaser? I no longer need it.
Don’t get me wrong; I still think submersion waxing is a terrible idea for the masses. Waxing a chain is only good for a specific crowd of meticulous tinkerers, but for those with a little DIY ability, and a willingness to invest in a little upfront cleaning time and a few quick links, you’ll see where I’m coming from.
If dipping a sterilised chain into a hot pot of melted wax is just too crazy for you, then let me instead point you toward Smoove, NFS, and Squirt – all fantastic drip lubes. The bikes I’m yet to convert over to submersion wax are still running perfectly with Smoove (which was in my 2017 picks).
While I’m on the topic of wax, either go a wax lube (Smoove or Squirt) or go the full hog with submersion waxing. Some in-between products (*cough* WendWax *cough*) may claim similar benefits, but logic (and tests!) strongly suggest otherwise. Rub a candlestick against your chain and tell me how well that’s lubricating the inside of the chain rollers.
Prices from: US$20 / AU$45
Wolf Tooth Components Pack Tools
I’ve been a weight-weenie since my earliest cycling years. That constant tinkering quickly resulted in a balance-sheet-breaking obsession with tools to do the fiddling. Wolf Tooth went after my own heart with the Pack Tools, a collection of functional tools specifically made for weight-weenies like me. Despite their minimal mass, they’re still “real” tools: removing Center Lock rotor lockrings, loosening stubborn pedals, and even undoing a chain are all well within their capabilities. I’ve found them ideal for travel use.
I previously criticised the central Pack Wrench as being a little uncomfortable to hold for harder jobs, but Wolf Tooth recently remedied the design with an updated and more impressively made shape that provides far better ergonomics (old version pictured, which is also 20g lighter).
The highlights for me are certainly the Pack Wrench Pliers and the Pack Wrench with the 8mm hex and cassette bits. To this I add a Silca Ti-Torque + T-Ratchet bit set (and any other small tools the bike I’m using requires) and carry it in a mesh sleeve from Adventure Tool Company. It’s the perfect travel kit when I’m away from home.
Prices from: US$30 / AU$TBC
Specialized Turbo Vado 3.0 E-Bike
CyclingTips founder Wade Wallace wrote a piece last year about how an e-bike replaced his second car, and it motivated me to join the masses of “lazy” riders. I bought the same model as what Wade was using and immediately felt like I’d become the suburb dork. This thing has fenders for days, a rack that you can’t remove (unless you forego the snazzy integrated rear light), and reflectors at every angle.
I tried to justify it at the time as a cost saver, but selling my car would prove far too inconvenient. I soon moved to the health and environmental impacts, but heck, my ‘cross, gravel, road, or mountain bikes all tick that box already, and do so without the need for a gigantic lithium-ion battery. In the end, I bought it simply because I wanted it; I clearly didn’t need it.
But without a doubt, I now ride more than I used to. Unless the weather is terrible, my short trips are no longer in a car and I get an overwhelming sense of happiness with everywhere I need to go when I use this thing. E-bikes can be super practical, but more importantly, they’re just plain fun (so maybe people should stop hating on them). Some days my legs are heavy and I don’t feel like riding, but I’ll happily still take the long way home on the e-bike.
Price: US$3,450 / AU$4,800
DaHnger Dan Pedal Hook
Bikes are awkward items to store, and being in Sydney, I certainly lack the luxury of excess space. It wasn’t until I had finished writing a feature about indoor bike storage solutions that I got my hands on a US-made DaHanger Dan Pedal Hook. While more involved to install than a basic hook, I’ve yet to come across a more unique, secure, and stylish bike-hanging option. And it’s incredibly space efficient, too.
I now keep a bike above my home office desk where space was previously an issue. The bike sits perfectly perched at a slight angle as if it’s falling away from the wall, enough to impress visitors. The bike is simply held by the left-side pedal, and further supported by two matching separate wheel shelves. It’s incredibly simple and more importantly, solid.
The little Dan Pedal Hook also includes a sticker kit with googly eyes, a mustache, band-aids, and even a little jersey. Googly eyes make everything great.
Price: US$49 / AU$TBC
Mineral Designs Mini Bar
I’d used a PB Swiss bit-based multitool for years and thought it couldn’t be beaten. Testing bikes means I get more use from a multi-tool than most, and being a tool geek, I’m fussy, too. I still really like the PB Swiss tool, but a recent comparative test of similar multitools revealed a new favourite.
The Mineral Designs Mini Bar is fast to use, super strong, and easy to carry. With magnets for each bit and a handle you can stand on, it just does so many things right. From an absolute weight and size point of view, the SpurCycle tool is better, but if I could only have one multi-tool to use across all of my bikes, it’d be the Mini Bar. Unfortunately for those that like a multi-tool with a chain breaker, this one is a no-go.
Price: US$35 / AU$TBC
Shimano XC5 multi-surface SPD shoes
Want an affordable pair of do-it-all cycling shoes for commuting, gravel, bikepacking, or mountain biking? The Shimano XC5 is my pick.
With a casual aesthetic and a reflective heel, these fit perfectly into commuter life. Hit the dirt and the Michelin tread along with a little controlled sole flex make them comfortable for extended hike-a-bike sections. And despite being of the two-bolt SPD variety, they’re trendy enough to sneak into a road pack.
These aren’t the choice if you’re seeking a performance-focused kick; there’s too much sole flex and slop at the heel for that. Likewise, it seems the shoelace length can be a little hit-and-miss depending on your required size. But for recreational or utility use on a budget, I find them tough to beat.
Price: US$150 / AU$199
Abbey Bike Tools Decade chain tool
When I embarked on my massive chain-breaker test earlier this year, there were few tools I needed less than a new chain-breaker. I already owned some trustworthy professional models, but I also have a weird fascination with owning the best tools available. When I fondled the first Abbey Bike Tools Decade prototype at Eurobike, I knew I had to buy one.
I’ve used just about every chain-breaker there is, and this thing is the smoothest, most comfortable, and most precisely made of the lot. Yep, it’s absolute overkill for all but the most discerning mechanics, and it’s not my first pick if you work with Campy chains on a daily basis (it’ll peen 11/12-speed chains, but is slow with the task). However, those willing to spend up will find absolute joy in the full-metal construction. This one is going to be in my life for a very long time.
Price: US$175 / AU$270
Feedback Sports RAAK
I used to be happy with my PRO bike stand, but would often find fit limitations on bikes equipped with disc brakes. This is another item that I “had to have” following the CT Recommends indoor storage article. It’s simply a freestanding floor stand that holds a bike by the tyre and nothing else.
I’ve used this stand to hold everything from road bikes to mountain bikes with 29×2.4in rubber. I’ve already used it to hold a number of flash bikes for shoots, and then for performing some basic maintenance, too.
If you want a simple way to hold a bike for cleaning, lubing a chain or keeping it stored on the floor, this is my pick. I’ll be taking mine to Tour Down Under to cover the bikes of the 2019 WorldTour, and I have complete faith in it.
Price: US$43 / AU$75