Editor’s Note: Every year, we compile our favorite items from the prior 12 months of riding and testing and present them as our picks for the best items to give and to get. It’s our version of an Editor’s Choice awards, without all the hoopla. Each of us has our own riding style, and Michael’s leans towards fast miles on the road. When he does pull out the mountain bike, it’s usually long travel and ridden hard (sometimes too hard), but most miles are seen on pavement and gravel. If that sounds like you, enjoy…
2017 has been a bit of a trip for me. I started the year off strong by training inside and out in preparation for an Everest attempt in mid July. But as I entered my final semester of college, school work took over and I lost a lot of ride time. Since graduating, my schedule has calmed down and I’ve been blessed with riding and travel oportunities. Some of my favorite riding was in Pisgah, North Carolina. Fast downhills, technical sections covered in roots and slick rock climbs were only part of what made the region appealing. I believe starting the year off strong helped immensly for the fall, but next year I plan on sticking with my training to crush 29,000 vertical feet.
Road, Gravel or Cyclocross Bike
Fuji Jari 1.1. It’s been a while since riding the Fuji Jari 1.1 ($2,999 or less) but comparing it to other gravel/adventure bikes I’ve been on since, I can say it holds its own. The aluminum frame is ready to be loaded with bags and fenders for epic bike packing trips, and its splayed out drop bars open up the rider’s position for better leverage while roughing it. Overall, it proved to be a comfortable and capable bike.
Litespeed Gravel. We recently got Litespeed’s Gravel bike in and after a short period of time it’s already exhibited wonderful ride qualities. The handmade titanium frame on a carbon fork offers a smooth ride, and it’s relatively light at 20.8lbs in size large with meaty tires. We’re currently putting it through the paces at Rocks, Roads and Reggae in Gainesville FL, so stay tuned for the full review.
Norco Sight C 9.2. The Norco Sight C 9.2 is a long travel bike I wouldn’t hesitate to revisit since riding it this past spring. Its geometry, cockpit and specs are all things that lead to a confidence inspiring ride. But this isn’t to say it’s for everyone. The long travel, raked headangle and weight may be overkill on mellow trails with little elevation changes.
Cannondale Scalpel SE 2. On the XC side of things I’d like to get on the Cannondale Scalpel SE 2 ($4,500). Its carbon frame frame is complete with a 120mm Fox Float fork, a 115mm Float shock and built up with SRAM GX Eagle components. The short travel and 650b wheels (sizes S-L) would be polarizing next to the long travel all-mountain builds I’m typically on, but a welcome option on faster XC trails.
Zipp 30 Course Alloy Road Wheels. They’re not wrong when they say wheels are one of the best upgrades to make. On the road I’ve made the switch from Mavic’s Aksium Elite wheels to Zipp’s 30 clinchers. The 30s are an affordable upgrade at $800 for the set and offer a generous 21.5mm internal width, 10/11 speed cassette compatibility and weigh in at 1,655g.
Clothing & Gear
Velocio Signature kit. To keep my style up to par next year I like the look of Velocio’s Signature Jersey ($120) and their matching Signature bibs ($230). The jersey offers a lightweight and breathable race-cut construction, silicone grippers, a short collar and 4 pockets with one being zip secured. The bib shorts also have a race fit with grippers, reflective logos and a high-end chamois.
Smith Overtake MIPS Helmet. Using a helmet that has MIPS – or any other form of concussion preventative system – is becoming more of a must for me after repetitively hitting my head these past few years. The Smith Overtake may be the solution for my road biking habits with its MIPS liner and in-molded Aerocore. 21 large vents move air over the head and their VaporFit harness system allows for easy adjustments.
Mavic Cosmic Elite Vision CM. Wet riding on roads becomes more common as we get deeper into winter. To combat cold and wet feet during low visibility conditions I would look into the Mavic Cosmic Elite Vision CM shoes ($180). They offer a water-resistant toebox and 360º reflective details. They also have the performance side covered with Mavic’s Ergo Dial ratchet strap and their Energy Carbon Comp outer sole.
Giro Terraduro HV. For the trails, I’ve been enjoying how Giro’s Privateer HV shoes hold my feet. As a slight upgrade focused on gravel riding, both those and their their Terraduro HV (shown, both $150 or less) shoes. They keep the same wide fit as the Privateers but get an upgraded Vibram outer sole for improved traction across different terrain. And the Terraduro is very walkable, perfect for post ride social activities.
Off The Bike
Thule AeroBlade. I’m a bit hesitant to install a hitch on my car since buying it a few months ago, and though a roof rack drops the vehicle’s fuel efficiency I believe it’s a worthy multi-purpose addition. Thule’s AeroBlade system ($510) is complete with towers, bars and locks plus it’s available in black and silver options. For use on a hatchback, I find the roof rack offers good options for extra storage with an aero box, kayak rack, roof cage or just bike options.
CycleOps Hammer. As I mentioned earlier, I got a headstart on the season by training during the winter. I’m not always on an indoor trainer, but when I am programs such as Zwift are key to stayinig motivated. So having trainer that offers power metering is important. The Hammer direct drive indoor trainer by CycleOps ($1,199) is on the high-end of trainers, but it offers a direct drive setup eliminating tire wear and an accurate PowerTap sensor. Plus, it connects to Bluetooth 4.0 and is upgradable with a cadence sensor, ANT+ USB and BlueGiga USB options.
Cut-Resistant Hockey Pants/Baselayer. Alright, so this one isn’t exactly bike related, but it may keep me from injuring myself and thus keeping me on the bike. During a recent beer league game of hockey, I somehow managed to fall onto my skate forcing the blade through my old pants and deep into my inner thigh. Thankfully I missed any major arteries and was stitched back together by the hands of a skillful doctor. I was scared s#!tless while at the same time thoroughly convinced that it was time to get a new pair of pants and/or at least cut resistant compression pants. CCM has a pair that offers some cut protection and padding ($90) which in cycling terms relates to race fit with extreme abrasion resistance – chamois not included.
Three Small Things
JetBoil MightyMo. This wasn’t something that I thought I needed, but since realizing I’ve lost my previous cook set, a replacement JetBoil MightyMo ($50) would be a great addition to the go bag. I’m sure there are other systems out there that are lighter and smaller but I’ve grown familiar with its usability. Plus, it’s small enough to take bikepacking while large enough to cook for two.
I’m guilty of neglecting to clean my bikes after a grime filled ride and part of the reason – so I think – is the lack of bike specific cleaner. The other part of it is pure laziness… But having dedicated products could be the necessary motivation. Muc-Off’s Nano Tech frame cleaner ($15) paired with their Bio drivetrain cleaner ($20 or less) may be the solution for an all-around happy bike. Their Nano Tech spray is safe to use on all parts and frame materials and provides an environmentally conscious alternative to some other products. Similarly, their Bio drivetrain spray offers a grease, oil and wax cutting formula while also being biodegradable.
Portable Data Storage. I’ve always been a fan of keeping redundant backups of files and computer data. But cloud storage is only free up to a point and once it’s full you can either subscribe to more space or independently manage your data. Plus, having a place to dump videos on the go cuts back on data usage – which may be useful depending on your plan. Seagate’s Backup Plus offers up to 4TB of storage for $90 or less. It’s small enough to slip into a bag and large enough data wise to hold all of my precious documents. (Ed. It’s also a good way to keep your computer’s hard drive clear of mega video files so it’s more responsive for everyday use!)