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“I’m sorry! Come again?” I think, as I scratch my chin and continue reading the email James Huang had sent out. “It’s the end of the year already, and we need to put together our top ten picks?” I look out the window. It’s cold, the clouds are looking heavy with what could be snow, and the sun is struggling to show its face. It seems like James isn’t lying after all.
This year has whipped by quickly – somewhat surprisingly, really, considering long periods of time have been spent on the home trainer, and an hour on a trainer staring at a screen is the equivalent to four hours of ‘normal’ time.
It goes without saying that it has been one heck of an odd year when it comes to … well, pretty much every aspect of life. And the chunk of my life that I devote to the bike hasn’t escaped that fate either. I’m guessing I’m not alone. But the bike has been there for me, no matter what.
Not being able to take for granted that getting out the door is a certainty, the times I have been out have been that much sweeter. It’s been a year that’s reminded me how bloody awesome bike riding is, and I’m hoping at least some of my ten picks reflect that.
DMT KR1 shoes
Let me cut to the chase; these are bloomin’ lovely. Like two big bearhugs for your feet.
I’ve got fussy feet. They’re like the problem child of my body. I won’t go into details, but I’ll just say that I’ve struggled to find a pair of shoes (any shoes – cycling, running, hiking) that I’ve loved. But boy oh boy, have I finally found a pair of shoes that my feet agree with! The DMT KR1s are sweet to my feet.
They just fit and do the job perfectly, which if we’re honest is what we want to find in any product. Yep, there’s that issue of the high price, but let us be frank they aren’t the only brand that occupies a $300+ price point – far from it.
They’re just super-duper comfy, more than stiff enough for getting the limited amount of power I put out to the pedals efficiently. And on top of that, they’re some of the funkiest looking shoes on the market.
You may think that one Boa dial isn’t sufficient to keep them firmly wrapped around the foot. But I’ve found that that sole Boa dial and the use of the fully knitted construction hugs the foot to the point where, on occasions, I’ve rolled out the door, done my ride, got back home then realised I’ve not even twiddled the dials up. Yep, they’re that secure.
The other little factor that I admire about the shoes is the fact that they’re more eco-friendly, or as eco friendly as a cycling shoe can be when compared to many of the cycling shoes on the market. The knitted construction method means that they produce way less waste when compared to standard shoe construction.
They’re a treat for your feet.
More information: dmtcycling.com
Ritchey Logic Road Disc
If you caught my video on the Road Logic Disc a few weeks back, you’ll not need me to explain why I’ve included this bike in my top bits from 2020. If you haven’t had the opportunity yet to check my “alternative” review out yet, please do. It’s a nine-minute love letter to the Road Logic.
Quite simply, it’s a bike that has made me happy every time I’ve swung my leg over it, no matter how crap the legs have felt. As I’ve found out this year, that’s pretty much all I want out of a bike at the moment.
It isn’t the most aero – far from it. It ain’t the lightest – ditto – or stiffest – ditto again – or, in fact, the top of any class-leading metrics that the industry usually measures a bike’s performance by. But by god, it’s the most smile-inducing road bike I’ve had the pleasure to pedal in decades.
From the comments on the YouTube video about this bike, it would seem that I’m not alone. Plenty of other Ritchey owners claim the same. I’ve been lucky enough to meet the man behind the bike a few times now, and I honestly think his outlook on what riding is all about has been condensed into this bike.
Everything about the bike has been “bob-on”, from the Sram Force AXS eTap groupset that I’ve had zero problems with, to the Zipp 303s, which I very well may save for a future review. All I’ll say there is that they’re a wheel I really wanted to include in the top ten, but I’ve decided to bundle them in with the Ritchey … you know, ‘two birds’ and all that.
Frameset Price: $1,399.00 / €1,449.00
More information: ritcheylogic.com
When I first heard last year that Scicon were entering the sunglasses market I thought “here we go, another brand knocking out cheap Asian-made sunnies with their logo slapped on them”. And I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that, but boy, was I wrong.
I’ve had the Aerowing model dangling off my face since I managed to get an early pair turfed my way at the Tour. I have found I’ve been reaching for them for the majority of rides I’ve taken ever since.
Sure, they may resemble in some ways a model from another big player in the sunnies scene, but let us be honest, most sunnies have either taken design cues from other brands or older models that they want extract a bit of nostalgia from.
The Aerowings are just what you want from a pair of sunnies. They’re light on the face, have very decent optics with a plentiful array of tints and a frame that doesn’t slide down the face when the going gets sweaty.
Price: $200 / €180
More information: sciconsports.com
I’m not sure if I’m going to get called out for this one by the big bosses. After all, I’m giving column inches to ‘rivals’ that we compete against when it comes to the valuable marketing budgets of the big brands … but what the heck.
This year I’ve found myself devouring a bunch of my cycling literature via the glossy pages of several magazines. I grew up with the printed press. My dad bought them all – and still does – spending a small fortune each month. Breakfasts back home when growing up were silent affairs; magazines would be scattered across the breakfast table, Dad and myself sitting there with our noses in the magazines with the odd interruption from eating our Rice Crispies to discuss an article or two.
Over the past few years, or at least since I moved to French France, I’ve missed that routine.
Popping down the newsagents and gathering my monthly reading material isn’t a thing now, and living in France doesn’t really help the situation. But I started to miss it. So this year, I got back into the habit of browsing a mag or two. And it’s been a real treat while having my pain-au-chocolate or finishing off my daughter’s breakfast that she’s refused to eat.
The other reason I got back into subscribing is to give a little something back. After seeing a few outlets putting the call out for a little help in keeping their lights on, I threw my cold hard cash down on a couple of subscriptions. After all, we’ve got to look out for each other.
Breakfasts are again screen-free. My daughter at two-and-a-half flicks through them, pointing to the riders and asking if it’s me, and on top of that I now get that warm feeling knowing I’m helping other outlets. It’s all good!
Sportful Fiandre Light NoRain jersey
I’ve come to realise that the Italian brand Sportful seems to be a bit of a go-to now when I’m after functional kit. They make some tasty looking fuss-free gear, and the Fiandre Light NoRain jacket has seen way more action than I expected it to this year.
The Fiandre range is designed with grotty conditions in mind, all tested on the roads of Flanders. But unfortunately, or not so unfortunately, I’ve not had that much of a chance to test this in rainy conditions. Instead, it seems to have become my go-to long-sleeved jersey for those early morning rides when the mist is just rising up over the mountainsides here, there’s a nip in the air, and you want a bit of protection from the elements.
I’ve found heavier ‘Gabba’ style jerseys a little limited in their use at times, but this light version seems to sit nicely as a usable garment for a variety of conditions.
The cut is obviously on the racy, slim side. It was after all developed with the help of the Bora team, so that’s to be expected.
I know that once we get back to dashing around the globe to races and product launches that this jersey will be packed for every event. It’s just super versatile and looks kind of unique in that deep green colourscheme.
Price: $160 / €149
More information: sportful.com
POC Ceramic VPDs Bib Shorts
If you go and check out Caley’s top ten picks you’ll notice that he’s included POC’s very lovely Ventral Spin lid, and I’m with him on how great it is. But I’ve got to say that although POC is better known for its helmet and shades lineup, they have managed to spring an absolutely lovely pair of bibs on me.
The POC Ceramic VPDs Bib Shorts don’t look like much – just a classy, understated black bib, with some slightly different lycra on the thighs, a pad that doesn’t look too flash, nothing flashy in appearance. But don’t let that fool you. They’re much like any Swedish minimalistic product; the parts that need to be there do the job perfectly, the rest of the bells and whistles that can detract from the bits that do the job are gotten rid of.
The fabric panels have a fancy ceramic coating that POC claims will help you slide a bit more when you crash. I’ve been lucky enough not to have had to test that out yet, but I’ll believe them. After all, they do seem to know what they’re doing when it comes to having a nasty spill on your bike.
The VPDs Contour Pad is POC’s top-end chamois, it’s comfy, ergonomic and after having it on the wear, wash and repeat cycle all summer t seems robust, having lost non of that undercarriage hugging loveliness.
As for the compression, well it’s just enough to be noticeable and comfortable, whereas some compression shorts I’ve tested in the past can feel like you’ve got a boa constrictor wrapped around your thigh. All in all, these bib shorts are a joy to wear. Again they are pricy, but like the DMT shoes, they just are so damn comfy.
Price: $200 / €250
More information: pocsports.com
Unior Pro Tool Roll
Last year I included the Unior bike stand and the tool roll like the bike stand has upped my garage game.
I’m no Dave Rome with his walls of tools. I’m no nerd in that department. Most of the tools I’ve had in the past have been stored in a single large-ish toolbox, thrown in there in no order, just a big box of rattling steel.
This tool roll has got me all nice and organised now in the most simple way possible. No more do I need to rummage through old bent and rusty tools to find the one that I need. Just like the GoPro, I wonder why I’ve not bothered before.
It’s got enough pockets to slip in the majority of the major tools you’d ever need to work on your bike, with easy access to all of them.
The material looks like it should take a good amount of abuse, as does the generous amount of velcro that helps the roll pack down to a size that’s easily stored on a shelf.
I’ve also found myself actually taking it away on trips, or at least trips that involve throwing the bike in a car, family holidays camping or such. It’s far too big and heavy for a trip via plane – or at least I’m guessing so, as it’s not like I’ve had the opportunity this year to test that theory. But it’s allowed me to take more than a multi-tool like I normally would on a trip away.
All in all, it’s been a welcome addition to my usual shabby garage workshop setup.
More information: uniortools.com
Rudy Project Spinair 59 casual sunglasses
I have a problem with finding casual sunnies. I did at one point seem to go through them a bit too quickly, to the point where I decided a while back that I’d only buy casual sunnies that were on super sale or in the bargain bin.
I’d had too many instances where I’d find a nice pair of sunnies slipping off my face, usually while holding my daughter and it would come to either dropping her and saving the sunnies or vice versa. I just found casual sunnies absolutely crap for being robust and built for “normal” daily life.
Rudy Project has come to my rescue with the Spinair 59. They’ve not only survived nearly a year of Dad life, but also not been left behind in a cafe/library/supermarket. A win all round.
They’re just made so damn well. There’s a good solid weight about them, the adjustable rubberised temples and nose pads have helped the glasses not just stick on my face when chasing after a toddler in the park but also work as a casual on-the-bike sunglass too. The lens has been spot on for a variety of conditions, from lovely summer sun to autumnal sunsets.
If you’re after a casual pair of sunnies that offer sport performance characteristics I advise you to check the Spinair line out.
Price: $149 / €129
More info: rudyproject.com
Met Rivale MIPs helmet
I’ve long been a fan of Met helmets. Their shape seems to always fit my noggin, they have that Euro-but-not-too-Euro look, and functionally have never disappointed. As for the new Rivale, it’s been a helmet that (when we’ve been allowed out) has been perched on top of my head for a heck of a lot of rides.
The new Rivale got its first outing at the Tour. That was a bit of a surprise as the Rivale is Met’s third-tier road helmet, sitting below the very snazzy Trenta and Manta models. Finally, Met has finally got round to including MIPs into their road line. And at €150 it seems a bit of a steal with all it’s offering.
It’s light at about 250g for a size medium, and feels light on the head. It has a clean, compact design, seems well ventilated (enough to give me brain freeze on Tuesday when I went out without a skull cap on under it) plus the new Safe-T Upsilon retention system is super secure. It’s also ponytail compatible, which has oddly been lucky considering I’ve only managed to cram one haircut in during 2020.
All that and the fact that the toffee apple red is just gorgeous makes for a very appealing lid. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s after a mid-priced helmet that manages to pass itself off as a high-end lid without a worry.
Price: $180 / €150
More information: met-helmets.com
Syncros Belcarra R 1.0 Channel Saddle
I know, I know! Syncros probably wouldn’t be in the top five or even ten names of saddle manufactures if I asked you to reel off the big and not so big players. But that hasn’t held them back at all when it comes to producing a performance perch!
Syncros have apparently put a whole ton of work into designing their recent saddles. They’ve worked with a German bike fitting company whose name escapes me at this moment in time, and released a line of saddles that fall somewhere between the short-nose versions that have become popular and something a little more standard. It’s definitely a shape my rear end agrees with.
Sure, it’s not as bum-snuggly comfy as the outrageously expensive Specialized Mirror Power saddle that I’ve been lucky to have used, but it’s not far off. And it is a damn sight cheaper.
There’s also a neat little system of two small bolt holes that allow you to attach anything from proprietary made saddlebags to GoPro mounts and Ass-Savers. It’s a neat addition.
It’s yet again another item that just has agreed with me this year, and like pretty much everything on this list has allowed me to get out the door without a fuss and just enjoy the bike.
Price: $150 / €150
More information: syncros.com