The holidays are here so it’s time for me to dust off my wish list as well, one so my wife will see it, but also so it may give you some ideas. Just to give you an idea where I am coming from, I’m a rider of any kind of bike that involves getting the tires dirty. That means that even on a road bike with 23s I end up hitting the dirt roads, and prefer to keep the bike rides in the forests. I’m based in Prague, so my list has a more European tinge to it.
I’m in the middle of masters cyclocross racing, so while predominantly a mountain biker, now is the time of wet, muddy, snowy, and slippery rides on skinnier tires. I am spending a lot of time trail riding on cross tubulars, a little bit of dirt and gravel road training, and a lot of rides where I come home cold and wet. But I am dreaming a bit of cross country rides in crisp snow, of hitting some steep root and rock strewn technical descents, and getting in some all day exploring rides when warm weather returns. Most of my picks then are to get me through the dark days of winter, with the hope of warm, dry rides to come.
24 hours of mountain bike racing without lights above the arctic circle in Finnish Lapland. How can that not sound like an amazing idea? On the weekend of the summer solstice each year, the Levi ski resort 170km north of the arctic circle runs the Levi24, a unique 24hr race with sunlight through the night. I’ve done plenty of 24hr races over the last 15 years and always loved the sunrise lap, but have experienced nothing like this. Its next running is 12-13 June 2015, and could be a great chance to throw the family into a camper and go explore some fjords and gravel roads.
ROAD / GRAVEL / CYCLOCROSS BIKE
We’ve somehow managed to not write much about the 2800€ Focus’ Cayo 3.0 Disc over the last half year, but I think I will work on remedying that in the new year. Updated and reintroduced this summer, Focus claims the frame to be just 880g making it about the lightest disc brake road bike available. With geometry and carbon layup tuned for all day comfort, plus disc brakes and thru-axles at both ends, I get the sense that it would make a solid do-it-all road bike. As an alternate, I might swap in Focus’ similar cyclocross Mares Disc that I rode at Eurobike. Its stiffness when stomping on the pedals, excellent braking and steering, and stable ride feel are what really turned my attention towards the Cayo.
I’m pretty content with my current geared and single speed mountain bike setups, so until I have more time to spend riding much more technical terrain, I would actually have the $5500 Juliana Bicycles Joplin Carbon C on my wish list (that we showed back in the summer) to get my wife excited to ride even more. She’s riding a decade old aluminum Santa Cruz Juliana that’s still going strong, but could really benefit from a substantial weight savings, plus VPP suspension, and bigger wheels. If Santa (Cruz?) brought her that bike, I might also be able to make room under the tree for the Canyon Dude fat bike I rode at Eurobike to play in some winter snow and spring mud.
I’ve been riding the new Shimano RS685 Hydraulic/Mechanical shifters with an Ultegra 6800 drivetrain on a Stevens Super Prestige Disc in the first half of the cyclocross season, and I have to say I am very happy with the ability to pair Shimano’s excellent disc brakes together with their more affordable mechanical shifting. Now that 105 5800 is here in 11speed, the path to excellent hydraulic road disc brakes is much more attainable. I’ve been testing 160mm rotors, but would love to size down to the 140mm option. Frustratingly, they still are only available for centerlock hubs, and a lot of frames won’t accept the smaller rotors that would surely provide ample braking power and sufficient cooling with Shimano’s rotor technologies.
Being the later half of cyclocross season, I’ve been knee-deep in muddy bikes for the past couple of weeks. Testing bikes, wheels, and tires has meant at least one pressure washing session a week. Thanks to some Thule roof racks, I’ve managed to escape the cold wet lines for bike washes after races to head to the nearest gas station with a warm water pressure washer. But I would much rather be able to wash the bikes and gear at the car, before we pack up from the race to head home. In the last couple of weeks I’ve seen several racers with either rechargeable battery operated or cigarette-lighter powered, portable pressure washers. I’d been eyeing them for quite a while, and would love to have the 210£ British Nomad 14 liter, 18volt Li-on rechargeable portable pressure washer. While I’ve seen other options from Chainreaction’s Mobi house brand, Canadian version Mountain Washer, and some others rebranded, the Nomad looks to be the best.
I would love to have a full Craft kit (or really any of the individual pieces), including: the excellent Mesh Superlight Baselayer, Elite Body Control Bibs and Glow Jersey, to the super-packable Featherlight Jacket, up to the bike Siberian Glove and bike Tech Jacket. With a big crossover into cross country skiing, Craft does well with fabrics and cuts that keep you dry and warm during intense cool and winter time activity. The designs are understated, but I’ve had great luck with everything I tried of theirs. Plus, I’ve yet to find a baselayer or lightweight vest that I think performs better.
I’ve just got a new RainMEM Passion kit from Czech-producer Kalas, and it seems to be living up to the promise to keep me warm and dry down to freezing temps. The jersey has a drop tail for extra water protection on your rear, but so far I think the standouts are the Arm and Leg warmers. The weatherproof membrane fabric really shines in keeping my limbs comfy when it is inhospitable out.
Since they have been getting me through cold autumn rides, I might have picked Rapha’s Pro Team Thermal Bibs and Pro Team Jacket if Tyler hadn’t already chose their fair weather option, so I’ll just leave them here as another kit alternate.
Like Zach said earlier in the week, you don’t really appreciate winter shoes until you have them. Northwave’s 180€ CX Tech shoes make something of a transition between a low-cut mountain bike shoe and a full-on winter boot. An inner neoprene liner keeps feet warm, while a close-fitting neoprene cuff does the very important job of limiting water running down into the shoe or mud and debris from getting inside. The high-vis only shoes also don’t lack high performance, with a carbon sole modified for cross use.
…THREE SMALL THINGS
Everyone needs simple waterproof gloves this time of year. I’ve been using Sealskinz socks for years to stay dry, and their 38£ Dragon Eye Glove looks like a pretty solid option, even if they aren’t too cheap.
I’m a sucker for a nicely designed pair of merino wool socks. Really is there a better present than wool socks, or is that just me? Anyway try Ten Speed Hero’s Team CX sock; for $20 you get a nice looking pair of 6″ socks that will look good splattered in mud.
Lastly, we saw upstart company TwoWheelCool at Eurobike, and they had some interesting $30 Toe Caps. Available in 7 colors the simple, grippy silicon toe warmer felt pretty heavy-duty in hand and look like they will make a solid water and wind-proofing option to extend the riding season of vented road shoes. The Toe Caps are molded extra thick around the cleat and in the toe, so should hold up as well or better than most to covers.