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Felix Smith’s Gear of the Year 2021

The products that made my long-distance riding better in 2021

POC Omne Eternal7

I’ve managed to get out on some great rides this year, both through work and of my own volition.

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A highlight has got to be the Dirty Reiver, which I rode with my colleagues Jack and Robyn back in September. This was a super-hard day out and I can’t wait to do another big gravel race in 2022.

I also enjoyed a lovely cycle tour with my sister back to our parents’ house on Bodmin Moor in August. On both rides, I used at least one thing that has made its way into my Gear of the Year round-up, and that defines the overall theme for my picks – products that made the long-distance riding I enjoy most safer, easier and more enjoyable.

Stans NoTubes Dart tubeless plug and refill bottle

Stans Dart tubeless sealant kit4
I never ride my bikes without a wee bottle of sealant in my saddlebag.
Felix Smith / Immediate Media
  • £25

I have run a tubeless setup on all of my road bikes this year. I’m not sure how many punctures I’ve had because most of them go completely unnoticed due to the sealant quietly doing its job.

But, for bigger holes, this small 59ml bottle of Stan’s NoTubes tubeless sealant and the matching Stans Dart tubeless tyre repair plug kit have proven invaluable.

The bottle is compact in size, which makes it easy to take along with me on a ride. The little nozzle also means I can easily top up the sealant in my tyre on the side of the road once the valve core is removed.

Stans Dart tubeless sealant kit4
The Dart plug works exceptionally well.
Felix Smith / Immediate Media

The Dart tyre plug is very effective at sealing punctures that sealant can’t quite plug alone. The plastic tip acts like a barb, so once it’s pushed into the puncture and removed, it remains inside. The black material also reacts with the sealant itself to form an airtight seal.

I’ve found this to be the best way to arm myself with a pretty bombproof tubeless puncture repair system. A single lightweight inner tube could be slightly smaller and lighter, but this combo has several advantages.

I’ve found topping the tyre up with fresh sealant can be enough to sort most punctures. If it’s not, and I’ve not been able to get home on lower pressures, the Dart comes out. After a bit of careful stabbing at the tyre, the air holds and I’m good to carry on.

This is, of course, quicker than fitting a tube, and eliminates the need to take the wheel off the bike, which can be a real pain, especially in winter with cold hands and an oily chain.

POC Omne Eternal helmet

POC Omne Eternal
The Omne Eternal integrates a neat little light into the rear of the helmet.
Felix Smith / Immediate Media
  • €250 (further pricing TBC)

The POC Omne Eternal helmet is the world’s first “self-powered” road bike helmet.

A special kind of solar panel made from Powerfoyle is integrated into the top of the helmet. What’s extra cool is that these solar cells charge by any form of light, even if that’s the fluorescent light in your living room. This powers a small integrated rear light.

I’m always looking for ways to make cycling safer and easier, and this helmet does both. I know it’ll always be charged and I’ll always have a secondary flashing rear light for added visibility.

POC Omne Eternal
The solar panels on the top of the helmet work with any light source.
Felix Smith / Immediate Media

The Eternal’s light doesn’t have an on/off switch. Instead, it just knows when it’s on your head – I don’t even need to remember to turn it on and off!

POC claims that, as long as it’s exposed to some form of light, the battery in the helmet will never fully die. That’s a bold claim, as even light from the stars in our universe is finite, but you get the idea.

If you’re planning a long night ride, where there won’t be any extra light sources for some time, you should expect the light to last around 10 hours. Once morning arrives though, it’ll start recharging as you go.

POC Omne Eternal
As well as being safe, I think the helmet looks pretty neat.
Felix Smith / Immediate Media

The helmet itself is really neat and I find it exceptionally comfortable for my head shape. There are multiple vents to keep you cool and it doesn’t look too much like a giant mushroom atop your head.

Tailfin cargo cages

Tailfin Cargo cage
I love Tailfin’s cargo cages.
Felix Smith / Immediate Media
  • £39

Tailfin’s cargo cages are a fantastic way to significantly increase your on-bike storage because you can strap pretty much anything to them.

The cages attach to a bike using three-bolt bottle cage bosses. These bosses are becoming more and more prevalent on adventure-style bikes, and I have the Tailfin set up on the ultra-versatile Genesis Croix de Fer, which I rode in this year’s Dirty Reiver gravel race.

I’ve been using the large version which – if it matters to you – weighs only 79 grams. There’s a smaller version available, but the difference in weight and footprint between the two is very small, so I’d just go for large.

Due to this low weight, I leave the cages on at all times. This gives the impression that I’m prepared to bikepack my way out of a zombie apocalypse, and I’m fine with that.

Tailfin Cargo cage
The cages are really well made.
Felix Smith / Immediate Media

The cage is made from super-strong machined 7075-T6 aluminium. This means it should be ultra-reliable while still looking good on any bike.

I’ve paired the cage with Apidura’s Expedition Fork pack. This combination feels totally bombproof.

For multi-day rides, when I’m not focused on out and out speed, I’ve found I really need to carry a lot of gear with me to feel comfortable enough to enjoy the experience.

This is amplified if riding through the colder months of the year when a winter sleeping bag and sleeping mat are needed. The cargo cage enables me to carry those extra bits with ease.

If you’re riding somewhere hot and dry, it’s a great place to store extra water on a long ride too.

I also like the idea of keeping the cages free. Say you’re racing an ultra-endurance event and resupply points are rare, providing you have straps and bags with you, you could quickly chuck the extra supplies on ready for when you need them later.

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Provided weight is evenly distributed, I’ve found having luggage down low on the fork doesn’t disrupt a bike’s handling. If anything, it can help plant the front tyre onto the ground on steep terrain.