I’m a utilitarian cyclist. While I do ride for fun, my love for the bike stems from how useful it is. That means commuting, shopping and seeing how much I can carry without toppling over.
My gear of the year is a little more attainable than most, and that’s reflected in the products I’ve chosen. They’re mostly things that have made my daily life on two wheels that little bit more enjoyable.
Here are five things I’ve loved – up close and from afar – in 2019.
- Christmas gifts ideas for those who commute by bike
- Best commuter bike 2019: what’s the best bike for commuting?
Schwalbe Super Moto-X 27.5 x 2.4in tyres
You will have seen these in my Surly Bridge Club long-term review, where I called them in to test out the bike’s road capabilities. Spoiler alert: I love them.
For one thing, they look a bit ridiculous, but ridiculous in a ‘it’s so weird it’s kind of cool’ way. Tyres that are 2.4in thick would normally find themselves on the trails with a knobbly profile, but these have a practically slick tread in comparison, and make more sense on tarmac.
Adding these tyres to the Bridge Club makes people ask, “what the hell is that bike?” when you pass them. They’re not going to win any races, but that’s not the point of them. They make on-road riding incredibly comfortable and I don’t need to think twice about taking the messier route home. Compared to ‘road plus’ tyres, like the WTB Horizon, for example (which I have on my commuter hybrid), the Schwalbe tyres are surprisingly grippy. Their tread pattern has a subtle profile, but there’s enough there to give you a little traction. Obviously I would advise sloshing around in the woods, but if you need to take a slightly muddy or gravelly path, you can do so without worrying.
Their beefiness also signals their strength. Without wanting to jinx myself, I haven’t yet had to worry about fixing a flat, and fingers crossed I won’t have to any time soon.
Really I just think they’re great fun. They bring a welcome amount of comfort and make an already interesting bike just that little bit more eye-catching (and who doesn’t love an admiring glance from passers by?).
My singlespeed (Genesis Flyer)
I’m the opposite of a fairweather cyclist and do most of my leisurely riding in the winter. I know. It’s weird. While others are making use of their turbo trainers, I’m out in the cold, crisp air, freezing various bits off, but enjoying the ride.
This winter I’m dedicating to the singlespeed — more specifically, my Genesis Flyer — because it’s simple, requires little maintenance and challenges me to push harder when I’d rather be hibernating. In fact, it’s become my favourite bike to take on a cold morning ride out to the coast for a coffee.
Yes, I may be pushing it up more hills than usual, but the stop-start of it counts as interval training, right?
I’m yet to ride it fixed though, that’s a cherry I’m not quite ready to pop.
Bags, bags, and more bags
As Goldmember loves gold, I really love bags. In fact, I have an entire cupboard full of them. It shouldn’t be that much of a surprise though, because every utilitarian cyclist knows how essential they are.
Among the many that I frequently use, these are my absolute favourites…
Restrap Rando bag
Again, this is one I’ve been using with the Surly Bridge Club. It’s roomy enough to carry all the essentials plus whatever you need to grab from the shops on the way home.
Or, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be enamoured with how perfectly it can fit a volume of The Walking Dead like a glove. The magnetic mounting system works well and I love having the clear pocket on the flap to store a map or have a list of written directions on display.
Goodordering 3-in-1 Market Shopper and Bar Bag
Here you get two for one, and they’re beautifully coordinated. Goodordering bags are handmade in London and they have a retro look that’s impossible not to love. They have an array of options from panniers and backpacks to satchels and buggy bags.
In my case, I love something versatile, so the 3-in-1 Market Shopper is an excellent bag for most occasions. It can be used as a pannier, worn as a backpack or slung over your shoulder. It’s got a wealth of internal and external storage, including side pockets that are perfect for stashing bottles, umbrellas, baguettes… you name it.
The handlebar bag on the other hand can also be worn as a handbag, and has a similar but smaller layout. It’s perfect for carrying essentials, a book and some lunch, plus those side pockets are ideal for keeping your bananas happy.
Thule Pack ’n’ Pedal Shield
I like to think I’m pretty good at remembering to carry the essential tools I need on every ride: a multi-tool, tyre levers, patch kit, pump and spare inner tube as a bare minimum. The secret to always being prepared, I reckon, is keeping them in a really useful bag that can be easily switched from one bike to the next with no fuss.
I find the Thule Pack ‘n’ Pedal Shield bag extremely handy for this. It’s stiff and durable, has a handy light loop with a reflective patch, and its roll-tight closure combined with a welded construction does a great job of keeping the rain out. It’s my go-to, and I’m very rarely without it.
It’s not just me who rates it either because it’s at the top of our best saddle bags list, scoring 4.5 out of 5 stars.
KM Made This bum bag with D-lock holster
Bum bags (or fanny packs) are bang on trend right now, so naturally I had to have one in my collection. This one is handmade by Katherine Moore, who should be familiar to many, and features a handy strap that acts as a D-lock holster.
With it being custom made, I got to choose the colours and request some extras, such as a key clip and an internal pocket, and best of all I get to support someone I know personally in their creative endeavours.
These bags are undeniably cute, and come in an array of eye-popping colours. She also makes patches, so you can personalise them even more, and her offering includes bar bags, frame bags, stem bags, and more.
Where There’s A Will: Hope, Grief and Endurance in a Cycle Race Across a Continent, by Emily Chappell
A book might seem an odd choice, but of the many things I’ve read this year, Emily Chappell’s new book, Where There’s a Will, had a profound effect on me. It’s always inspiring to read about the incredible achievements of others, but for me it’s even more important to hear about how they reached that point in the first place.
Emily talks openly about the fear and self-doubt she had to overcome, the imposter syndrome that haunted her at the start line of her first Transcontinental Race, and the brilliant story of how she cried her way up Mont Ventoux, two kilometres at a time.
This book has motivated me, like no other this year, to get out on my bike, push myself, explore and appreciate the beautiful landscapes around me. It’s a riveting read and I can’t recommend it enough.
I wish I could say I’ve actually ridden this bike, but sadly I’ve only done so in my dreams.
You may remember, earlier this year, the so-called Pubesmobile was auctioned off to raise money for Planned Parenthood. It raised a very impressive $10,250 and has officially gone down in history as the best bike that I will, alas, never own.
I strongly encourage you to read about it in its full glory, but if you’re short on time, let me just say this: 20in wheels with 4in tyres, a cantilever-activated bugle horn at the front and whoopee cushion at the rear, a custom alternative to the Safety Pizza in the form of something more dangly, shall we say, and a custom bar bag to match. A true masterpiece to say the very least.