Before I joined the BikeRadar team a mere month-and-a-half ago, my year was filled with long-distance road cycling, a bikepacking trip across the Trans-Cambrian mountains (TCW), and a bit of summer heatwave melting in between. You’ll see some of this reflected in my top picks for 2018.
- Specialized reveals revolution in women’s saddle design
- Best women’s road bikes for 2018: 11 of the best
Best cycling kit
Ortlieb frame-pack 4L
Being slightly shorter than average (I’m one of those small packages that good things come in), means that sourcing a bikepacking setup for my diddy XS-framed 26-in wheeled hardtail can be quite the challenge.
Finding a well-fitted frame bag was the most difficult part, so I was really chuffed when I discovered that Ortlieb’s 4L frame-pack was quite simply perfect for the job.
Not only does it fit like a glove, but it’s a super robust bag that’s fully waterproof, and despite having to opt for the smallest available option, I found it could still pack quite a lot.
I used it to carry my tools, pump, snacks, a bottle of methylated spirits and the trusty shovel (kept away from the snacks, of course).
Alpkit Love Mud Confucius bar
Another change I made to my Cotic BFe in preparation for the Trans Cambrian Way was swapping out my flat bars for this slightly swept back alternative, complete with a loop for extra space in the cockpit.
While it certainly changed the personality of the bike, the slightly more upright position was great for long days in the saddle, and the increase in width gave me more control when things got a little hairy (as they’re wont to do in the middle of Wales).
Best of all, the extra cockpit space meant that I could keep all the essentials within reach: the Garmin, the front light, the cockpit bag (filled with snacks, obviously), and there was still plenty of space for the bar bag, complete with my entire sleep system.
Specialized Power Expert saddle
This is nothing new. So many people are evangelists for this saddle, and there’s a good reason why. It is so incredibly comfy, and as a woman with womanly bits, the short nose was a game-changer for me.
It’s really had an impact on my road riding. I’ve put in thousands of miles on it, sometimes for 10–12 hours at a time, and I’ve never had any issues with it. Perfect comfort and — touch wood — no saddle sores!
I’ve recently got my paws on the new Power Mimic saddle, and used a 100k audax as a launchpad to get a good feel for it. So far, so good. I’m looking forward to finding out for sure.
TorTec universal storage hooks
Bike storage solutions are the bane of many cyclists’ existence, and my partner and I are no exception. Being somewhat enthusiastic about bikes, we happen to own a fair few of them, and moving into a small flat with no garage or garden proved to be a challenge.
Throw in a total ban on drilling into the walls, and we came to a bit of an impasse.
Earlier this year, while I was happily (and at times unhappily) pedalling my way from Bristol to Clitheroe, my partner had a small stroke of genius. He bought some TorTec storage hooks, picked up a couple of pallets and two-by-four, and magically conjured up this freestanding bike rack.
The hooks themselves are made from high-tensile steel, so they’re really nice and sturdy. They work well for a full array of wheel sizes, including 29ers, and have an anodised coating to protect your rims. They also look really smart and would suit many people looking for a way to hang their bikes off the ground.
Madison DTE Women’s Hybrid jacket
Some cyclists like to look the part, and others don’t. I like to dress covertly if I’m commuting or generally pedalling about, so casual cyclewear really floats my boat.
This year I’ve been getting a lot of use out of the Madison DTE Hybrid women’s jacket, in grey. It’s nice and warm, it’s a relaxed cut and it blends right into my wardrobe (which is rather monotone in colour). It’s my go-to everyday coat at the moment, on and off the bike.
Its stealthy hood fits perfectly under my helmet and keeps my ears and neck free from wind chill. Generally I’m happy to wear it when it’s drizzling slightly, though it’s certainly not waterproof.
It uses Thinsulate Platinum hydrophobic fabric to keep you warm in between seasons, though it’s still doing a great job through this rather mild winter we seem to be having in the northern hemisphere right now. I’m actually dreading the point where I have to swap it for a full-on winter jacket.