10 products I loved in 2022: Iain Treloar
Showcasing the products that sparked joy in the lives of CyclingTips' staff.
Showcasing the products that sparked joy in the lives of CyclingTips' staff.
I’m not sure how to feel about the fact that every one of these lists, for the last few years, starts with me trying to articulate how it sometimes feels like I’ve been circling the drain. Perhaps it’s where it comes in the year – fatigued, ready for a break, fingers tired from months of tapping. Perhaps it says something about the context the world seems to occupy – where it’s easy to be bombarded with bad news, waiting for a win that doesn’t feel like it’ll ever come. Perhaps it’s simply that I’ve been doing less to take care of myself.
Top of that list – bike riding. Pre-kids, pre-pandemic, I was regularly in the 8,000-10,000 km range a year. Lots of that was incidental commuting kilometres, but there were lots of long rides in the mix too. Last year I got 200 rides in, for a total of 4,500 km. This year, it’s an even less flattering sum – less than a hundred rides; less than 2,000 km. It’s a chicken and an egg kind of thing, I guess, but along with that has come increased stress and recurrent back pain. I ride less because I ride less. I want to ride less because I need to ride more.
Even if it’s less frequent, though, there has been joy sparked – products that in their form or function have made me remember what I love about cycling.
I hope to spend more time remembering that fact in 2023.
It’s been years since I’ve owned a mountain bike. Coming from a preference for drop bars, a gravel bike quickly felt more comfortable for tackling the singletrack and trails near home. At times I was certainly underbiking, but I also didn’t have anything to compare it to. Those gravel bikes absolutely copped it, though, spending the winter months in a state of muddy decay. Surely there must have been a better way?
There was. I started looking a bit directionlessly at mountain bikes, not really sure what I wanted but feeling an urge that I didn’t really understand. I peppered Caley and Dave ( 😔) with questions – how much travel do I want? Dual suspension? Do I need a dropper? Then there were questions of availability to overcome.
In the end, I got impatient about navigating price hikes and stock shortfalls and pounced on a second-hand 2019 Specialized Chisel Expert. It’s been a great bike for the spirited short bursts of trail that I’ve mostly used it for, with double-duty as a bike to ride with my daughter to school and back. I’m sure I’ll upgrade at some point as off-road fever sets in, but for now, this bike meets me where I am.
For more: see Specialized.com.
Price: This model is no longer available (obviously) but retailed at AU$2,600. The closest current equivalent is AU$2,900, in a lower spec.
Ah yes, dropper posts! As it turns out, yes, Dave suggested one, yes, they are a good thing, and yes, it does makes a difference to how far I feel comfortable pushing the Chisel.
This one’s a OneUp Dropper Post V2, with 120 mm of travel. There were a limited number of options for a 27.2 mm diameter, many of them designed with shorter travel, and this one gave me about as much as I could get with a decent compromise of weight, cost, and durability. It was even surprisingly easy to set up, which was unexpected, given it was my first time playing with internal routing. A few months in, the use of a dropper has started to become muscle memory, and I wouldn’t want this bike without one now.
For more: see OneUpComponents.com.
This event ticket was really an investment in friendship. A Melbourne institution for the past 16 years, Melburn-Roobaix is a non-competitive alley-cat where people dress up in costumes, ride their best (or worst) bikes, rattle along cobbled laneways, and explore our vast city. The 2022 edition was, due to COVID, the first since 2019, and it felt like everyone I knew through bikes was counting down the days for most of the year. It was the first time I’d ridden with a lot of these friends since the last Melburn-Roobaix, and this year that brought both extra joy and poignancy. Friends with kids I’ve never met, new relationships, broken relationships. Big stuff and little stuff.
It pissed down with rain the entire day, and everyone looked filthy by the time we got to Brunswick Velodrome for a celebratory lap. Would I change a thing? I would not – other than resolving to ride with my friends more often.
For more: see Fyxo.co
This makes three from five years that I’m including a Ritchey handlebar in the list, so apologies if it’s getting a bit formulaic. In 2019, it was the Ritchey EvoCurve – a road handlebar with a broad, comfortable top section. In 2020, it was the Ritchey Butano – similar top section, 12 degree flare, currently on a couple of my personal bikes. Having become habituated to that flare and the shifter angle it provides, I was on the search for something new when I was rebuilding my Road Logic. Courtesy of Facebook Marketplace, I picked up these Ritchey EvoMax Comp bars for $30. Although they haven’t been manufactured for a few years now, they’re a slightly more road-leaning predecessor of the Butano, pairing a lot of the shaping I like into a very comfortable bar.
Ritchey’s hold on me in the handlebar stakes continues, even when we’re talking about bars that haven’t been in the catalogue for four years.
For more: see RitcheyLogic.com
Price: This model is no longer available, and I don’t know what it cost; not much, as it’s from the brand’s basic Comp line.
I think, in the CyclingTips staff, we all pick up things from each other – whether that’s a seemingly company-wide Taylor Swift fandom, or never not referring to Alexander Kristoff as ‘The Stavanger Stallion’. From Dave, I picked up an appreciation for better tools. Around last Christmas, frustrated, I asked for advice on why I kept rounding out hex screw heads; I thought my Park Tool hex keys were OK, and I thought I’d learnt my lesson from the cheaper ones I’d had before them. Turns out I didn’t dream big enough.
Dave’s suggestions were a few brands I’d never heard of, and ultimately I ended up with a set from Wera. They cost more than I thought I’d ever spend on a set of hex keys, but you get what you pay for – they’re a reassuringly secure fit, have a profile which increase the contact surface in the head of the screw, and feel like you’re working on a bike with quality tools rather than slowly doing damage.
For more: see Wera.de
As a chronic tight-arse, the ever-increasing price of handlebar tape leaves me feeling a little grouchy. Since the halcyon days of <$20 Fizik on Wiggle, I’ve tried a range of options at the cheaper end of the spectrum – from AliExpress, Bontrager, and basic cork tape from a number of brands. They’ve been fine, but I was feeling fancy with that Road Logic rebuild so I splashed out on a set of nice tape from Tasmanian company Burgh.
Annoyingly, it’s just better. The graphics add a bit of flair, it wraps nicely, it has nice metal expandable end-caps, and for once, the finishing tape included isn’t completely useless. Like flying business class, it’s ruined economy for me hereafter. You win, Burgh.
For more: see Burgh.cc
If I’ve learnt anything from being a dad of two daughters, it’s that it’s hard to be a big sister. All that attention from the before times, divided. A little sister in your space, grabbing things, breaking things. Along with all the sisterly love and pride and protectiveness you feel, sometimes you feel really sad, and sometimes you feel really mad.
Now, you – a hypothetical six-year-old girl – might feel inclined to zone out and watch TV, but what really settles things down is to go for a run or a ride, or do something creative. So the other day was a good day: a big bike ride to buy a big box of chalk.
This chalk box is no ordinary chalk, dear reader. There are 64 colours. Some of them are marbled. Some of them have sparkles. All of them are thick and sturdy, resistant to the teeth of a two-year-old. It cost $12 or something at Bunnings, and has delivered hours of domestic tranquility, collaboration, and connection. No matter your age or the age of your kids – or even whether you have any – I think life could be a more mindful journey if more people went and bought a big box of chalk.
Find more: at your Friendly Neighbourhood Chalk Merchant. If you can dream it, you can achieve it.
I love our family cargo trike, but it prioritises things differently to all my other bikes. That’s totally fine and no slight on the fine folks at TrioBike – when you are building a machine that can carry a couple of kids and a full week’s worth of shopping, you make something sturdy and dependable. But hit a pothole, and yeah, you feel it.
Relief for the wrists has come with this New Zealand made handlebar made of laminate bamboo. They offer an incredible amount of extra comfort, with discernible flex when you push down hard – and I suspect they’re quietly filtering out a lot of microvibrations, too. The 760 mm width also gives some welcome leverage when getting the trike around tight turns. I doubt there are too many cargo bikes in the world with a performance bamboo bikepacking bar, and I doubt Passchier had this application in mind when they designed it, but it’s a lovely synergy.
Now, note that this is not a rave without qualification: Dave experienced cracking on his sample, which is worth noting. But I haven’t had such issues, and on a cargo trike you’re riding pretty passively – no standing out of the saddle, no sharp accelerations – so I’ve been able to put aside my concerns, and have happier hands as a result.
For more: passchier.co.nz
Price: AU$295 / US$250
To quote Conor Oberst, “I keep making these to-do lists but nothing gets crossed out”. One of those things on my to-do list is finally writing up a proper review of the Sensah SRX Pro groupset. In the interim, I’m going to show my hand – it’s pretty good!
Sensah is a Chinese manufacturer at the bargain end of the price-range, selling products (to the west, at least) via channels like AliExpress or rebadging them for OEM customers like State Bicycle Co. Their shifters are a patent-skirting hybrid of Shimano and SRAM – double-tap, but in a form extremely similar to last-gen Shimano. As a company, I don’t know much about them, or their warranty coverage, or any of that, and attempts to contact them proved unsuccessful. So you have to take a bit of a shot in the dark. The reason why? It’s cheap. So cheap.
Now, I was fully prepared for this to be terrible. After all, it cost US$186 – that’s for the shifters, rear derailleur, cassette and chain, including shipping. And to be fair, its finish and performance is a bit worse than its big name rivals (although not as much as you’d think). Regardless, that fact doesn’t mean there’s not a place for it – there are plenty of cyclists in the world that want something competent enough that doesn’t obliterate the piggy-bank.
For more: AliExpress.com
Price: Varies depending on configuration, location and seller.
There are some albums that are regular companions, becoming part of the fabric of your life forever. Others are more transient – there as comfort when you need it rather than in regular rotation. That doesn’t diminish their worth, and in fact, sometimes they’re more meaningful because of that fact. Cassandra Jenkins’ exceptional latest album, released early 2021, is one of those.
It’s hard to know how to categorise it, but ‘ambient folk’ is probably a pretty good descriptor. It was the song ‘Hard Drive’ that first lured me in – spoken-word verses and a sung chorus, compelling storytelling over chiming guitars and saxophone, with a meditation at the end. Initially my (not very close) closest point of reference was Arab Strap, but it’s a much more hopeful beast than they ever have been – so warm and calming that whenever my nerves have been jangling, it’s been a go-to.
It’s a lean album, more of an EP really – six stunning songs chased by an ambient instrumental – but for a few weeks earlier this year I listened to almost nothing else. When I put this on now, I’m transported back to rides through the ancient hills of the Fleurieu Peninsula, or summer-time walks along the beach and down the canyons. A point when I was preparing for future grief but feeling like with this album, everything might just be OK.
Find more: at CassandraJenkins.com.
Price: Varies, depending on whether you’re a vinyl, CD, or streaming kind of person. Support live music; buy merch.