We roadies are a funny bunch. Off the bike, most of us are pretty ordinary, fashion-neutral guys. We’re more interested in what dinner looks like than what our street clothes look like, never mind what some other guy is wearing. But put us on the bike and all of a sudden we’re the fashion editor of Road Vogue, with highly pointed opinions about the minutiae of how things should and definitely should not look.
I often judge cycling books by their covers, whether that’s clothing or bikes or bike parts. And, it bears stating, ridiculous-looking things often are in fact ridiculous, like this, or have a function, but not one I deem worthy of the aesthetic price, like Cat Ears or the Sweat Gutr.
But occasionally things come along that I laugh at, make fun of, and then… end up really appreciating. All of a sudden, I’m the guy wearing the Cat Ears and the Sweat Gutr with a sincere look on my face, trying to convince you of the merit of these goofy things.
And so, allow me to present seven weird-looking things I’ve come to really appreciate.
1. Garmin Vector 2S
One of my main gripes with the Vector power-meter pedals is the goofy pods that dangle down off the pedal axle like Truck Nutz. The Look-style Exustar pedals themselves are neither here nor there for me (Shimano is my standard pedal), but that dangly pod just kills me. It’s also pretty easy to get knocked around or broken.
Still, I’ve found myself grabbing the 2S pedals for recent worktrips because it’s an easy power-meter solution for traveling. One 15mm cone wrench, one 2.5mm Allen key and you’re good to go. As long as the cranks aren’t super wide like some Specialized models, you can pop them on pretty much any crank.
The original Vector S crapped out on me recently on a trip, which was frustrating, but the newer Vector 2S keeps on, uh, trucking.
(Yes, the PowerTap P1 pedals are another similar solution, but I think those are ugly, too.)
2. North St Pioneer 9
I have been warned that hipster bar bags may cause facial hair and tattoos, but I tried this one from North St anyhow.
I’m torn on storage. On one hand, we’d all like to ride like a pro in a race, with nothing in the pockets or on the bike — and yet plenty of supplies close at hand. But in reality, we have to carry some stuff, and most of us do just fine with a saddle bag and three jersey pockets.
So why the heck do you need this man purse strapped to your bars?
I’ve appreciated the bag for special occasions, like lugging a DSLR for work, a giant bag of cookies for a New Year’s Day ride, or a bunch of clothes and flat supplies at the Paris-Roubaix Challenge when I had a rear-facing GoPro on my saddle rails instead of a bag.
2. HED Jet 6 Black
HED makes excellent wheels. The late, great Steve Hed helped pioneer aero wheels as a category, and the company arguably led the wider-is-better charge well before it was cool. But these faux carbon clincher wheels felt like a cheesy misrepresentation to me, like Tofurky or something.
Instead of an all-carbon build — Steve Hed never felt comfortable with even the remote possibility of a heat failure — the Jet 6 Black is an alloy box section hoop with a carbon fairing. And instead of a carbon brake track, the wheel has a grooved black metal surface.
From a distance, it looks like a carbon clincher. But up close, it’s a fairing, and one you’re not supposed to hang on a hook.
But here’s the thing, or things, really, that I discovered. One, the brake track works phenomenally. I can one-finger brake down super-steep descents as if on discs.
Two, the wind doesn’t care how much you spent on your wheels. And our recent lab testing has shown HED still very much understands aero.
And finally, these wheels beat out carbon clinchers like Zipp and ENVE when it came to flex-induced brake rub in a recent test we did at Microbac Labs.
Sorry, HED. I was wrong. These wheels kick ass.
3. Specialized Power saddle
A tri-curious stint opened my mind on funny-looking saddles. The Power seemingly lacks a nose. How can you feel planted on such a thing?
The Power saddle lets you ride in an aggressive, forward position, with your hips rotated forward and blood still going where blood needs to go. It comes in three widths, and different padding levels.
I argue a good saddle that lets your body be aero can make you faster than aero wheels.
4. Assos S7 leg warmers
These warmers feature the Swiss brand’s expected high-end fabrics, but the standout thing is the hip extensions. Instead of the standard symmetrical tubes, these guys have a rounded flap that comes up on the outside of each leg.
They are a little finicky to put on — leg warmers first, then your bibs, then a little tugging on the warmers — but on cold days the extra warmth is much appreciated.
I feel thermal bib tights are a better all-around solution, but the versatility of leg warmers is certainly a plus.
Just be sure to use them with bib shorts, or thermal bib shorts, that have decent compression, otherwise those flaps will creep down and make you look like you’re wearing baggy underwear underneath your shorts.
5. Selle SMP Dynamic saddle
Even goofier-looking than the Power perch above, Selle SMP’s line of wide-channel, bent-nose saddles stand out.
Unlike many saddles where you can slide fore and aft slightly, on the SMP you are locked in place. Because of the generous cutout, you can stay seated as long as you like, even when rotated forward into an aero position.
6. Shimano MW7 winter cycling shoes
The MW7 blends winter boot insulation with trail shoe performance. But for road cycling?!
Well, for Colorado winters, when the conditions are nasty enough to warrant thick booties and thick socks, chances are you’ll be putting a foot down in snow and grit, if not walking around in the stuff. Plus, pulling on multiple layers — especially tight booties — gets old.
I’ve come to appreciate the insulated waterproof Gore-Tex liner and thick, fleece-covered insole, in a shoe that is very easy to stroll around in no matter the conditions.
Fit isn’t super snug, and the SPD cleats won’t offer the same solid connection as road cleats, but these things keep your puppies toasty and warm, no matter what.