Cycling wise, 2016 has been a pretty darned good year for me. I've met many of my riding goals, did more sick skids than I care to remember and started my time here at BikeRadar — my dream job riding posh bikes and trying out fancy kit for a living.
However, as my job demands, I'm exceedingly critical of anything that lands in my grubby mitts, so picking my favourite kit from this year was no easy task. Read on to see what made the cut.
Endura Airshell Helmet
I’m a big fan of garish cycling kit as I believe that if you’re going to look like an idiot in stretchy, go-fast pants, you might as well do it with (no) style.
It’s a deeply rich shade of high-viz green that differs from your usual commuter fare — think of your usual fluro green high-viz vest, but fed on a nourishing and iron rich diet.
And while the helmet obviously helps to keep me a little bit more visible on the road, the fact that it goes with absolutely none of my kit is the primary attraction for this walking postmodern statement.
In fact, my current favourite combination is a pair of Uvex Sportstyle 705 glasses in a coral red that when matched with the helmet clashes so shockingly that any other wardrobe travesty I may commit on the bike can almost be entirely overlooked.
Blackburn Outpost Front Rack
Yes, I am so furiously boring that a front rack has made it onto my gear of the year list.
But this is no ordinary rack — the Blackburn Outpost rack is about as Gucci as a pannier rack gets. It's constructed from chunky 6061 tubing, is flawlessly welded and, dare I say it, is kind of pretty in its deep champagne-like hue.
Should you so happen to be in the business of transporting champagne, you’ll be able to carry up to 20.5kg of the stuff on the rack. I can tell you from experience that it also handles little brothers and drunk friends with ease, though I'm loath to recommend such nefarious activity to you, dear reader.
The Outpost rack attaches via an ingenious system of highly adjustable arms, cup and cone washers and movable stays, meaning it will work on even the most esoteric of set ups.
I’ve fitted the rack to a number of bikes, but it’s found its primary home on the front of my 1985 Bianchi Grizzly, shred-sled cum porteur bike. With this set up I’ve transported many a weekly shop and have even indulged in a few overnight trips, carrying all my outside-sleeping paraphernalia with ease. If you’re in the market for a high-end pannier rack, look no further.
BIGxTOP tool roll
I’ve spoken at length about BIGxTOP and the products this one-man operation produces in my Christmas gift guides — this is because I truly believe in what Jordan Trent, the man behind the brand makes.
There’s plenty of small scale brands out there, producing a wealth of really interesting products, but I can’t think of one that offers comparable kit at the prices BIGxTOP does. The quality of the handmade products is up there with the best and you pay a fraction over the cost of a similar option from far larger brands.
The saddle roll remains one my favourite bits of kit and has seen nigh-on daily use for close to three years now. It’s been covered in a highly abrasive combination of mud and sheep poo more times than I care to imagine and has survived a zillion washing machine cycles as a result.
At £15 (Jordan will also ship internationally), it’s pretty much impossible to fault this simple, but deeply satisfying bit of kit.
Panaracer Pasela PT
If you’ve known me for more than five minutes and the subject of bikes has come up, I probably will have mentioned the – in my eyes at least – legendary Panaracer Pasela.
This tan-wall (if you chose anything but the tan-wall version, you’re a fool) beauty presents nearly everything I want in a tyre; it’s cheap, it’s supple and it’s puncture resistant.
The side walls are among the most pliable I’ve ever seen, but when coupled with Panaracer’s kevlar-like ProTite puncture protection layer, they are puncture resistant enough for all but the most glass-strewn of rides.
While I wish they were offered in sizes wider than 38mm in 700c, I can’t complain for a moment at £24.99 ($32.99, AU$43.99) a pop.
The world would be a much more supple and friendly place if we all rolled on Paselas.
While a bit of a left-field choice for a cycling website, my beloved Fujifilm X30 has been on more rides with me than most of my kit this year.
In a previous life I was a photographer and a tutor in the subject, so documenting my travels by bike on a mere camera-phone just wasn’t good enough — so after far too much research, I settled on the X30.
Weighing in at 489g with a strap, it’s a fair bit heftier than your average iPhone, but the quality of the images that are produced by this little camera and its fixed, 28-112mm lens is quite remarkable.
Sadly, the X30 has been discontinued and superseded by the more compact, but slightly less capable X70.
But until this little camera bites the dust (which probably won’t be long given how much abuse I give it), you’ll continue to see me riding about with it pulled tight against my sweaty back.