There’s been a whole lot of gear to have come through the doors of BikeRadar Towers this past year, so much so that I once tripped on a set of handlebars on the way to the water fountain and almost ended up with a seat stem protruding from my, ahem, bottom bracket…
Suffice to say that you can rarely swing a Cateye around here without hitting a new piece of kit. So picking out the best bits is no mean feat.
Nevertheless, here are my picks of the best beginner’s, family and budget gear of 2014. Looking to get into cycling or want something for the kids? You can do worse than checking this lot out.
New British firm Worx impressed us recently with its JA24 kids’ road bike. We called it a ‘masterpiece of kids’ design’ in our review – praising its lightness and comfort, and pointing out the oversize thin-wall alloy down tube and flattened seatstays.
This bike was unanimously picked out by all of our young reviewers as the best of the bunch and duly received a five out of five score, putting it on par with the Islabikes Luath 700 as one of the best children’s bikes we’ve yet seen.
Related reading: Best kids’ road bikes
US$N/A / £475 / AU$N/A
Giant Defy 0
We recently updated our best road bikes under £1,000 article and one of the top new entries was this great all-rounder. While it’s not exactly cheap, the Defy range goes all the way down to US$700 / £500 / AU$1,049, and I’ve recently seen last year’s models on sale for around 20 per cent less than that in the end-of-season sales.
The Defy 0 was praised for its superb kit, quality of frame, reduced price, speed and comfort – and a lot of this can be said of other models in the range.
As far as beginner’s road bikes go, these have consistently done well in our reviews over the years. The aluminium frames, Shimano Claris componentry and compact geometry form a sound foundation for any beginner getting into cycling. My best recommendation is that I forked out my own cash for one earlier this year.
Related reading: Giant Defy 0 review
The Defy 0 is not available in the US or Australia. In these markets, the slightly cheaper Defy 1 is the closest option, with same frame and a Shimano 105 11-speed groupset.
US$N/A / £999 / AU$N/A
This entry-level off-roader was given the full five out of five when we reviewed the 2012 edition, and it’s continued to impress us. We included the latest edition in our list of best mountain bikes under £500 earlier this year.
Although it remains on the heavy side (this can be remedied with some careful upgrading), the Vulcan is superbly balanced, has a great spec (including hydraulic disc brakes), offers class-leading handling and is all-round tremendous value.
Related reading: Best mountain bikes under £500
US$N/A / £380 (exclusive to Halfords) / AU$N/A
Abus MountX children’s helmet
Right at the beginning of 2014 we reviewed a load of child’s helmets, and the Abus MountX took the honours in our group test round-up. It impressed us with its safety features, such as added visibility via reflective panels and an integrated LED light. The urban styling went down well with the kids who tested it for us too.
Considering it falls into the ‘very reasonably priced’ category, and scored five out of five in our test, this was a surefire 2014 winner.
Related reading: Best children’s bike helmets
US$70 / £35 / AU$N/A
The GoPro HERO for under a ton (in the UK) is an absolute no-brainer. It’s a great camera at a great price and it sorted my Christmas present out very nicely this year. We first reported on it back in September. The device offers 1,080p HD recording at 30fps or 720p footage at 60fps. If you want a cheap video camera for recording your or the family’s rides, this one has to be considered.
The budget gadget also enables you to take still photos at five megapixels, via the wide-angle lens. There’s also time lapse and burst functions as well as the new light mode featured on the top-of-the-range GoPro HERO4 Black, which saves you from flicking between dark and bright light settings.
We were so excited about the 111g HERO’s release that we even let you know where you could buy it from (in the UK).
Related reading: The £99 GoPro HERO – first look
US$130 / £99 / AU$129
Gregor is the Beginners and Family Editor at BikeRadar.
What were some of your favourite products from 2014? Let use know in the comment section below.