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Unlike my CyclingTips colleagues, you will not find below a list of tools and tech. My product consumption is mainly in clothing – I love fashion and am influenced by bright colors. With the way the world is at the moment, you will find items that helped me get through these tough times, both literally and also mentally.
This year it was important for me to slow down and take a look at the life I have created for myself, what I need to be happy, and what I value. The conclusion I came to was a combination of time with a very select group of friends, my “quarantine crew” if you will, and how I spend my time alone. The mountain biking frenzy was an effect of the friends I spent most of my time with. If this were a list of products I loved in 2020 not related to cycling, a lot of books would have made the cut, along with running/hiking shoes, and probably my dog, Ezi. Yeah, Ezi would have made this list.
Thank you for reading, and may you have a happy holiday season.
Taylor Swift’s folklore
Look, I am aware that this is not strictly speaking a “cycling” product, but hear me out.
On the morning of July 23rd I woke up and immediately turned on the new album by Taylor Swift. By the second song, it was clear that the tone of this album mirrored that of 2020, of my personal feelings, of pandemic life. After a hasty breakfast, I jumped on my road bike, not necessarily because I wanted to ride a bike that morning. With my right earbud snuggly in place, I started the album from the opening track, ‘the 1’. The wind made my eyes water in the early morning air but I couldn’t help my smile. Drivers of the cars passing in the opposite direction would have thought to themselves “wow, she really likes riding a bike” or “she’s crazy”.
I made my way through the Spanish countryside, trees hanging over the road, new smells at every turn, just taking it all in. Alone, with my bike under me, I listened through the entire album, once, twice, three times. I cried while listening to ‘my tears ricochet’ and ‘epiphany’. I danced a little for ‘seven’, ‘august’, and ‘the last great american dynasty’. Listening to ‘peace’, I had to stop, feeling it was all too relatable.
Earlier in 2020, I had discovered the pure joy of listening to new music while riding a bike. When The Chicks released Gaslighter I found that listening to it on the bike presented a completely different outlook on the melody, the words, and the tone. With no distractions other than remaining upright and conscious of traffic I could focus wholeheartedly on the music; I could let it consume me. Similar to reading a really good book or watching a really good movie, the music can transport you to far away places, to memories, and daydreams.
Taylor Swift’s folklore was one of the best things to come out of 2020, and dare I say, her best album to date. Gone were the attempts at rapping and the Kidz-Bop style dance songs (don’t get me wrong, I love those as well). It was a step back in time listening to ‘betty’, the closest Swift has come to making country music in almost a decade, while also signifying a new Taylor Swift era. This skip-less masterpiece got me through some of the worst parts of 2020 while allowing me to just feel my emotions. Out on the bike, listening to folklore, the world doesn’t feel like such a bad place.
For the last six years, riding a bike had been for training; there was always an end goal. This is potentially the reason I never actually reached said goal – the inability to enjoy the process. For months after retiring, I couldn’t even look at a road bike, let alone ride one. But this summer, with the help of folklore, Some Nights by Fun., Gone Now by Bleachers, Tickets to my Downfall by Machine Gun Kelly, Gaslighter, Women in Music Pt. III by HAIM, and Fine Line by Harry Styles I once again fell in love with the open road and all that it can bring.
Price: The deluxe version of folklore can be found on Apple Music for $7.99. As this album is completely and utterly majestic when listened to all the way through, I also recommend finding it in vinyl format, although this can be a tad more expensive.
More information: www.taylorswift.com
P.S. This was written before the release of folklore‘s “sister album” evermore which is, in my opinion, another masterpiece. I will spare you an even longer review, but you haven’t heard the last of it.
Yeti SB100 Beti
Having recently hung up my racing bike after a tumultuous few seasons trying to chase my road cycling dreams, I struggled to enjoy riding a bike. I stopped being able to even look at a bike. My road bike was dismantled and sold for parts. In my heart I was convinced I would be a runner; I even hired a running coach to help me transition. I learnt that running injuries are real.
I’ve been a big fan of Yeti since I briefly rode on their cross country MTB team in 2013. Unfortunately, that was the summer I fully discovered road racing and discarded riding mountain bikes altogether. But when Yeti dropped a pink women’s bike for shredding I had to have it. There was no logic involved – it was just gorgeous. I’d been riding the same Yeti team bike I was given in 2013 for years, a perfectly awesome machine, but I’d never ridden a 29” bike and the Yeti SB100 Beti was calling my name.
So, in 2018, I pooled all my prize money to buy it. For a year it sat in my garage, unused. At one point I took it on a spin around the block, but my blinders were on and road racing was life.
Sometime around March 2020 I took my pink beauty off the wall and out on a proper adventure for the first time and all I can say is, WHAT. WAS. I. THINKING!?! Sure, the previous version was fun, but it was a completely different experience riding the Yeti SB100 Beti. I would compare it to going your entire life without tasting peanut butter and then having someone offer you a PB&J.
Long story short (or short story long?), I didn’t buy this bike in 2020, but I discovered it this year.
One of the major upsides is the dropper seat-post. Those things make all the difference in the world. I could probably skip the rear suspension and get by just fine on a hardtail with a dropper post. This mountain bike will ride over almost anything. The bike itself exudes confidence, both a blessing and a curse (because as much as I think I can ride that drop, no Abby, you’re not there yet). The bike is smooth as coconut milk but it can take a beating. In summary, this bike is amazing.
Unfortunately, Yeti does not make this model anymore. I’ve seen it pop up on theproscloset.com before.
Price: (brand new in 2018): $7,999
Brakes: SRAM Level TLM hydraulic disc
Travel: 120mm (front), 100mm (rear)
Suspension: Switch Infinity
Drivetrain: SRAM X01 Eagle
Wahoo Kickr Core and indoor cycling desk
In the winter of 2020, in an attempt to be able to at least ride with my fiancé for an hour, and still ride with my friends, I started riding Zwift a lot. There’s a bunch of workout plans built into the game that I got really into completing, not knowing if there was any benefit, but it was just nice to get something done.
I’ve ridden many trainers in my career, most of them giant clunky things that have permanently scarred my shins. This winter I got hold of a Wahoo Kickr Core and my roommate bought two of their indoor cycling desks to go along with our ever-expanding “Zwift Cave”.
The Kickr Core was the best trainer I’d ever experienced riding. The smart side of it worked perfectly well when connected to Zwift but what I enjoyed most was the ease of use. It’s light enough for someone who struggles to carry a 6-pack of San Pellegrino upstairs and is absolutely foolproof to set up.
In addition to the trainer, the desk is an indoor riding experience game-changer. I could fit my iPad (for Zwift), my computer (for watching Supernatural), and my water bottle on it. The height is adjustable so if I ever needed to work while riding I could, and it’s on wheels so I could also push it across the room if Sam and Dean really annoyed me.
As the pandemic continues the Kickr Core will continue being one of my go-to tools of the year. Fitness is something that makes me happy, being confident in my body. In case we go back into lockdown here in Spain, I’m not concerned about my ability to get in a good workout.
Price: Wahoo Kickr Core smart trainer: $899.99, Wahoo desk: $249.99
More information: www.wahoofitness.com
Outdoor Voices + Rapha bumbag
When I found out that Rapha and Outdoor Voices had teamed up for a line of women’s clothing this summer I was over the moon. I have long admired Outdoor Voices and their general attitude towards exercising and body positivity, two things I think cycling could learn about. Or at least, I needed to learn about it. The entire collection from the crop t-shirts to the socks was exactly what you would expect from two such stylish brands, but what really caught my eye was the bumbag or fanny pack/handlebar bag.
I’m pretty sure I used it the same day it came in the mail. A sandwich, my Fuji-film camera, my phone, and a spare pair of socks (because are you even mountain biking if you’re not mountain biking through puddles?) fit perfectly into the bag. For the first few rides, I opted to use it as a bumbag, hesitant to put it on my bars for fear of hampered steering. Eventually, I decided to try it and found that all the hipsters out there are really on to something!
The bag is beautiful enough to wear in everyday life – I’ve even seen the fashion icon of cycling Hannah Barnes wear it cross-body, something I’m sure I couldn’t pull off. At this point, there’s no way to get the red mud off my bag, because I wear it so often. But then, that’s a sure sign of a loved product.
Price: rapha.com: $80. Unfortunately, it is sold out at the moment. Cross your fingers for another cross-over next year?
More information: www.rapha.cc
IRIS Cosmic Crew
I’ve known Iris Slappendel for a few years now. I was lucky enough to be her teammate in her final season of professional racing and we remained in contact after she retired. It came as no surprise to anyone when she started her own cycling apparel brand, full of colorful and catchy clothing that highlights her ability as a graphic designer.
This summer Iris added a line of t-shirts to her brand, all part of theSuper Future Female project. Each of the five shirts was designed by a woman in the cycling sphere – not necessarily a bike racer or rider, but all of them have a connection to cycling.
What is rad about the collection itself is not just the designs, which all have their own meaning and message, but also that for each shirt sold IRIS donated 5 euro to the Cyclists’ Alliance. The Alliance itself strives to make women’s cycling more than it is. Safer, equal, professional. The donations from the Super Future Female shirts were used to support up-and-coming riders.
For me, the Cosmic Crew designed by Chloe Batchelor was one of my favorite pieces. Released after the shirts had already dropped, the crew features a kind of retro vibe. It reminded me of Futurama, one of my favorite TV shows. I also giggled when I saw the design because it’s so fun. To top it off the crew is super comfortable. I wear it all too often.
The Cyclists’ Alliance is a project worth supporting, and if I can support them while also scoring some sweet gear, I’m a happy camper.
More information: www.i-ris.cc
Handup MTB gloves
As I mentioned already, I got really into mountain biking this year. Really into it. In the beginning, I was going gloveless – a combination of hating short finger gloves and only owning a range of winter gloves.
Scrolling Instagram one day I saw Stefano Barberi rocking some brightly-colored gloves and immediately looked them up. I proceeded to order three pairs and a shirt for my fiancé for his birthday. (Side note: sponsorship works).
The gloves themselves work great. They fit really well, the summer ones are breathable and my hands didn’t get super sweaty in the Spanish sun while the regular ones are surprisingly warm – I’ve been wearing them in the 30-40 F (-1 to 5 celsius) days so far this winter. But what I most love about them are the designs. I’m all about color and fashion (maybe you noticed) and if something functions at 80% while looking 100 it’s a win-win for me. These function great, and while I do have a more comfortable pair of Gore MTB gloves, I really love Handup’s designs and the fact that each run is a limited quantity. When they dropped the dinosaur gloves I stopped mid-ride and bought them immediately, lest I miss out. 9/10 for gloves, 12/10 design.
Price: Summer and regular gloves $29
More information: handupgloves.com
Alison Tetrick’s bandanas
Unless you’ve been living the last what feels like a decade in the Spider-Man multiverse, you probably own a handful of face masks. In the beginning, it was up in the air whether or not one should wear a mouth covering while riding a bike or running, but I always opted to just wear something. Although studies have now shown that a proper mask works better than a bandana or neck gator there are also some articles suggesting exposure time and contracting coronavirus. Better safe than sorry, and better something than nothing. I won’t mention the “rona” anymore, but I will say, I got super into wearing a bandana while riding this summer.
I ride alone 90% of the time. Wearing a bandana was an easy way to cover my mouth quickly if I’m riding by someone or if I’m riding through town and pass a little old lady on a bus bench. After a while, I started to find the bandanas a stylish addition to my new post-bike racer wardrobe of t-shirts for riding.
This summer former professional road bike racer and current gravel B.A. Alison Tetrick launched a collection of bandanas. Designed by the one and only Sarah Sturm of Oso Creatives, these beautiful bandanas brought life to my cycling outfits. Similar to the Cosmic Crew by IRIS, Tetrick’s bandanas benefit a cause worth supporting. Proceeds from the sale of the bandanas funded a scholarship for one student-athlete at the NorCal High School Cycling League for one year.
Making cycling more accessible is key to promoting equality in the sport. We have to build it from the ground up, and Tetrick is helping to do that with her project. Not only backing one potential future superstar, but also supporting the next generation of cycling.
My favorite color is yellow and I’m from Colorado so … cowboys. Thus, one of these bandanas has been worn far too many times. All of the designs are really fun. I got the full set of three to be able to mix them with all of my outfits.
Price: Individual $20. Pack of three $55
More information: here.
Elta MD UV clear broad-spectrum SPF 46
A question I got all too often when I was racing was “what advice would you give your younger self?” And I never knew. I always thought that I wouldn’t give myself any advice, because every decision I made led me to where I am now, and there’s no place I’d rather be.
This was before I turned 30.
Racing for years did serious damage to my skin. As someone who had never in my life had acne, I had no idea what to do when all of a sudden my face was covered in it due to the training, hormones, and probably lack of proper nourishment. I tried tons of different products and procedures to get back to the flawless complexion of my youth, to no avail.
This year, during the lockdown, I could no longer see my aesthetician so I started researching products to try at home. Countless YouTube videos by Skincare by Hyram told me that sunscreen was key. Hyram would be appalled to know that throughout my career I rarely wore sunscreen. I disliked the feeling and usually blamed the sunscreens for my breakouts. Out on the road for hours and hours with nothing protecting my face, no wonder I now have crippling acne scarring. More internet research introduced me to Elta MD UV clear broad-spectrum SPF 46, used by such athletes as Emma Coburn, the steeplechase runner.
This sunscreen is specifically for acne-prone/sensitive skin. It goes on like a moisturizer and isn’t gooey or overly white.
Without a doubt, if I could give any advice to my younger self I would tell her “wear your dang sunscreen!”
Price: Elta MD UV clear broad-spectrum SPF 46 at Dermstore: $36
More information: www.dermstore.com
Camping coffee setup
At some point during the pandemic, when it was encouraged to see other humans outdoors rather than inside coffee shops, I started carrying my camping coffee setup in a backpack on hour-long rides. While it is pretty inconvenient, it made for a really fun time. Plus, everyone knows coffee tastes better made in the woods. Friends would laugh when I showed up for a road ride in spandex with a small backpack, but once I had made them a “camp coffee” the jokes stopped, and a few of my people even got their own setups.
For the most part, I used this on walks, especially in the forests of Latvia. During the early winter, I was lucky enough to spend six weeks in the Latvian forests. My fiancé’s home is 2.5 km from the Baltic sea, so while I was in two weeks of quarantine and he was out riding I would walk to the beach, make a coffee, and walk home. Or meet him on his mountain bike ride and share a brew with him. (The rules in Latvia for quarantine upon arrival extended to the forest, lucky me).
The setup I have at home in the USA is my favorite, the Jetboil system. The Jetboil is sweet because everything fits inside the pot and it’s super secure and easy to use. In Europe, however, we have the Komplekts Crux Lite setup (purchased in Latvia). This includes an Optimus pot duo and a Gabali stove. Also, a must is some kind of coffee-making apparatus. My go-to is the Kalita Wave because it’s metal so it can be banged around and it’s light which is key with an already cumbersome situation. I go for the full shebang and grind my coffee beans roadside, but this is definitely not obligatory.
Price: Jetboil $84.95, Komplekts Crux Lite $72.67, Kalita Wave price will vary but roughly $25, and I recommend coffee from a local roastery. If you don’t know of one in your area, tweet at me and I’ll find you one!
More information: How to brew a Kalita Wave coffee.
Velocio Microdomal Trail Tee
If you’ve made it this far in my reviews you may have noticed that I took to mountain biking quite often in 2020. So, it will come as no surprise that one of my favorite items comes from Velocio’s line of trail wear. They have a few awesome pieces in the collection; the Micromodal Trail Tee is 86% modal, 12% elastane, and 2% carbon making for a soft and moveable fabric.
This Tee is incredibly comfortable. I wear it when I run and hike as well. It washes well (despite the wrinkles which I will explain shortly). In general, it’s just a quality piece of clothing. Amongst my riding buddies it is considered “cool” to tie it at the bottom, hence the wrinkles in the photo. Usually, it drys a lot smoother, in this instance, it was washed while tied, highly unrecommended.
Also in the trail lineup is the Radiator Tank and Tee, both of which are incredible in the hot summer months.
More information: Micromodal Trail Tee