Ten products I loved in 2020: Dave Rome
Well, what a year it has been. Things started off as usual, and then nothing was normal. The lack of travel proved a blessing in disguise as I took to my local trails and roads with greater frequency than what I’d managed in recent years, and similarly I found myself spinning spanners more often, too.
And it’s that time at home that’s helped me confirm many of my most loved products of 2020. These are the items that I found myself reaching for countless times throughout the year, or even in years past. They’re products that I’d recommend to others without hesitation, and buy again in a heartbeat.
Want more evidence of how much I love these products? Well, I still swear by all the products I’ve suggested in previous editions of this series (2019, 2018, 2017), so much so that I had to be careful not to repeat my choices for this year’s edition.
And with that, here are 10 products I loved using in 2020 and that, no doubt, I will continue to love for many more years to come.
Pedro’s Fixed Torque Drivers
I have a certain approach to torque wrenches. This is to have preset torques tools at easy reach for common tasks, and then have an adjustable torque wrench (or six) for where less common torques are needed.
I got my hands on a set of Pedro’s Fixed Torque Drivers in 2019 and they quickly made it into prime position on my workshop tool board. They’re colour coded for easy torque identification, the most commonly used bits all sit within easy reach, and they’re super comfortable in the hand. More importantly, they click accurately and consistently, while the cam-over design means it’s impossible to accidentally over-tighten things with them.
A full set of three isn’t cheap, but you’ll likely get the most use from the 5 Nm (orange) version. Just be careful of those exposed bits in the handle if using the tool at weird angles or in tight spaces near paint.
Price: US$42 / €44 each.
More information: pedros.com
2021 Specialized S-Works Epic Evo
Yep, one of my most loved products is a AU$19,000 bike, otherwise known as a product I can’t afford. However, after borrowing this lavish thing for a few weeks I did try to buy myself a 2021 Epic Evo Expert. Alas, those were entirely sold out for the year.
The new Epic Evo is a brilliant example of the type of trail-friendly cross country mountain bike that I’ve spent the last three years waiting for. It’s light and efficient under power like a good XC race bike, while the geometry and new (simplified) suspension screams for you to point and shoot it at all sorts of fun things. It’s a bike that begged me to see where that new trail went with little fear of the climb that surely awaited afterward.
Put another way, this bike out-descends my longer-travel Trek Fuel EX (previous generation), while it really doesn’t give up that much to a good hardtail – especially around the rough terrain of Sydney. And so with a bike like this I really could turn my current mountain bike collection of two into one.
Ok, so I’m most certainly not in love with the price of the S-Works version – it’s ridiculous. But I also think Specialized has done an incredibly impressive job with this newly updated platform. Oh Epic Evo, how I lust for you.
Price: US$11,500 / AU$19,000
More information: Specalized.com
Skratch energy bars
I’m the weirdo on the team that’s both gluten- and dairy-free. These first-world-problem eating ailments mean it’s quite rare that I come across an energy bar that’s not only nutritious, effective and delicious, but also something I can actually eat.
I almost lived on these things during the Gravel Bike Field Test earlier this year. And not only did they always cure my hunger, they were always lip-smackingly good. They’re the right amount of sweet and salty, with a balance of real-food crunch and moisture that makes them a pleasure to palate.
The chocolate ones do suffer from melting and so can be messy to eat, but I’ll take that trade-off. Sadly I’m quickly coming to the end of this caloric happiness – pictured are the last bars I have to savour until I can return to the USA and pick some up at a fair price.
Price: US$2.65 each
More information: skratchlabs.com
Wahoo ELEMNT Roam
In recent years I’ve moved away from recording my rides and trended toward a habit of clip-in, go, and smile.
Part of it is that my rides just generally aren’t that interesting. But another aspect is that cycling computers have gotten more complicated (and arguably more buggy) over the years, and my brain is already always busy working through the other new tech that I’m wearing or riding at the time. Electronics should make our lives easier, not more complicated, and I’m not convinced that many of the features we add to our bikes fit into the right camp.
And that’s where the Wahoo Element Roam comes in. Not only does it have my name on it, but it has also proven to be so simple to setup, so fuss-free to use, and so free of drama that I’ve taken to recording a growing number of my rides once again.
The mapping functionality is equally intuitive on the rare occasion I use such a thing, the auto-sync to Specialized’s Angi safety system has me actually using it, and the size and clarity of the screen suit my poor eyes wonderfully. And even the often problematic things such as auto-uploads and Bluetooth connectivity have remained consistently free of thought.
Price: US$380 / AU$600
More information: wahoofitness.com
Favero Assioma Duo
In the same vein as the Wahoo Roam, I had also moved away from bothering with power meters on my bikes. Fussing with batteries, connectivity and zero-resetting would quickly turn my riding time into work.
And then I tested the Favero Assioma Duo pedals. Never had I used a power meter that was so simple, care-free and consistent as these. Clip in, go, always there.
As my testing came to a close I had decided that I was still loyal to the Shimano SPD-SL pedal platform and that I’d be sending these back. And then I bought them.
I have chronic sciatica/tendonitis issues in my hamstring from an old crash and it has caused some pedalling imbalance that I’ve been trying to overcome. Having the Assioma around has proven an easy (this is key) way to check in on my progress, regardless of what bike I’m riding that week.
Price: US$664 / AU$1,100
More information: cycling.favero.com
Park Tool Wheel Holder
Here’s a workshop tool that I first dismissed as a gimmick and have since grown to love. It’s a simple tool designed to hold a wheel from a workbench or bench vise, and I use it a whole lot more than I initially thought I would.
The one I have is the more expensive WH-1 (US$100) but Park has since released a simpler and smaller WH-2 (US$53) version, too. Both versions allow any thru-axle or quick release wheel to be mounted in a vertical or horizontal orientation, while the more expensive version adds a 45º mounting angle, too. I typically leave it set up for use with thru-axles, and clamp it into my bench vise when needed.
My most common use for it is tubeless tyre setups (no more splashed sealant) and applying fresh rim tape. This tool also sees use with fiddly hub services, rim decal applications, spoke tension checks and the list goes on. It’s also great for tubular glue jobs and could be used as a makeshift truing stand, too.
It’s most certainly not a must-have tool, but I miss it whenever I’m working with tyre sealant and am away from my workshop.
Price: From US$53
More information: parktool.com
Enduro Press-fit bottom bracket tools
Press-fit bottom brackets are most certainly not as home-mechanic-friendly as threaded variants, however, the task can be made quite pleasant with a little knowledge and the right tools.
I’ve used a significant number of tools specifically designed for press-fit bottom brackets over the years, but none have impressed me more than the BRT-003 (BB90/BB-86-92) and BRT-002 (BB30/PF30/DUB) from Enduro Bearings. I own a number of tools from this company, and these are certainly my favourite of the lot.
These tools were some of the first on the market to offer a way of pulling out the bearings and bearing cups without the need for a hammer, and they make the process quite rewarding. Many of the components are then reversed for pressing in fresh bearings or bottom bracket cups.
These do the task with a minimalist design and a wonderful build quality. Of course, that means they’re most certainly priced in the professional tool category. Still, if you have a number of bikes with similar and common press-fit formats, and you’re keen to do the work yourself, then you won’t regret this purchase.
Note: On rare occasions, even the Enduro tools will be stumped by a certain frame or bottom bracket design. There is no such thing as a perfect do-it-all press-fit bottom bracket removal system and so most professional workshops will have a number of different tools at their disposal.
Price: US$200 / AU$266 for the BRT-002, US$209 / AU$266 for the BRT-003.
More information: endurobearingonline.com
Prototipo bidon cage bolts
Yep, they’re just bidon cage bolts. Really nice bidon cage bolts, in fact. And they’ll add a touch of elegance to any bike.
Prototipo bolts seat the hex head deeper into the threaded portion of the bolt than most, and the outcome is a wonderfully low profile bolt. Equally, they’re impressively good quality and so the engagement with the hex tool is positive, while the threads hold up securely.
You don’t need this product in your life. They won’t make you faster, more attractive or safer. And most of your riding buddies will never notice them. However, it’s exactly this type of easily overlooked obsessive detail-driven design that keeps me excited to be a tech editor and that’s why I love them.
Price: From AU$10 (approx US$7) plus postage for a pair.
More information: prototipo.works
Cuore All Mountain shell shorts
I’m not new to baggy shorts. I got my first pair of Fox Rangers back in the early 2000s and have since followed those with shorts from countless others. Some have been pretty good, others less so.
These days I have a number of shorts I really like, but none as much as the simple shell short from Cuore. As the name suggests, they’re a lightweight outer short to wear over your choice of bibs, short liner, undies or other (I won’t judge). They’re lightweight, minimalist in design, and feature a nice length that sits just above the knee.
But most importantly they manage to strike a balance between not feeling baggy nor restrictive. The length is great for pedalling, as is the material. Perhaps my favourite feature is the stealthy adjustable waistband that uses a thick elastic band and button system on the side of the hips to function like a belt.
Dare I say, these are the only baggy shorts I’ve used that go by completely unnoticed and quickly forgotten. And that’s the mark of a truly great product. I should really get myself a second pair.
Price: US$95 / €82 / AU$120
More information: cuore.ch
Strength and conditioning coaching
My chronic injuries have followed me for a number of years. At their worst, they’d keep me up at night and off the bike during day. I had become used to sitting, riding and sleeping in pain. I went to countless physio sessions, got punted from one surgeon to another, tried some weird stuff (no, I don’t want to talk about it), and then repeated the process all over again.
That was until I started with a strength and conditioning coach (S&C), and slowly my chronic pain subsided as my happiness to be on the bike returned. It hasn’t been a quick fix, and I won’t say I’m as good as new, but I’m most certainly in a very different place to when 10 minutes in the saddle was agony.
One perk of 2020’s travel ban was that I managed some consistency in getting into the gym and doing the work. Resultantly I now feel stronger and more resilient, and I know that the chronic pain can be managed and kept at bay.
Unlike mass-market gyms or circuit classes, this type of coaching should be personalised and aim to overcome your weaknesses and ailments while making you stronger for it. Such a service isn’t cheap, but I can honestly say it’s helped to create a happier and healthier version of myself.
I attend a small independent facility called Athletes Authority in Sydney. Similar sports science and physiotherapy-driven S&C businesses are continually popping up all over.
Price: Varies. Expect to pay more than a chain gym membership, but less than surgery.
More information: Google.