2017 was packed full of product launches, with plenty of new kit to view and review. I like variety in my cycling, so I’ve pulled together the bits of kit that have impressed me during the year from mountain biking, road cycling and general adventuring by bike.
Speaking of launches, there were plenty of new bikes to get my teeth into: the Jualiana Strega mountain bike, the new Canyon Endurace and Ultimate road bikes, and the Specialized Tarmac.
There was more new clothing and kit than ever before too from big brands such as Liv as well as smaller grass-roots brands including Findra, Flare and Queen of the Mountains — all founded by women.
But now it’s time to rest up, consume many mince pies and ride bikes, as well as get prepared for the crazyness of the new season! I’m looking forward to seeing what’s new and of course testing 2018 bikes for Bike of the Year. It’s going to be busy.
Alpkit Koro Mountaineering Stove
A little stove with plenty of heating power Alpkit
The Koro stove from British outdoor company Alpkit is genius. When packed into its little bag it will sit comfortably in the palm of your hand, so it’s easy to pack in a rucksack when you’re off adventuring.
It’s light and powerful, too. While not quite up there with pricier stoves from the likes of MSR, it has a winning combination of above-average output with a very reasonable price indeed.
I’m a fan of Alpkit in general. The company makes great quality outdoor kit at an accessible price that opens up the outdoors to more people; from bikepacking kit and sleeping bags to stoves and bouldering mats.
It puts its money where its mouth is too with the Alpkit Foundation, which offers grants to help youth and adult groups run expeditions, and fund outdoor education programs and conservation endeavours.
My little Koro stove has been on a few bothy adventures with me this year as well as a bit of camping, and has even whipped up a very welcome post-ride tea in a chilly trail centre car-park.
The stove has been going strong since I got it and is one of my go-to pieces of kit for adventures. I’ll be bringing it with me on my 2018 adventures for sure. I love it.
- For more information and to buy now visit Alpkit
Specialized 2FO shoes
Who knew an internal cuff would make such a big difference in comfort?! Specialized
Specialized brought out this new version of the 2FO flat pedal mountain bike shoe in autumn 2017, and having tested the previous model I was interested to see how the new version performed.
In short, I love them and they’ve become my new go-to MTB shoes, particularly in bad weather.
The main new feature I love is the internal neoprene cuff that fits around the ankle. This makes the shoe feel snug and secure, keeps drafts from the ankles, and provides protection from grit, sticks and stones getting inside the shoe. The cuff isn’t waterproof but does slow the ingress of water and helps keep the heat in even if it gets wet.
Good-sized pull tabs at the front and back of the cuff make getting the shoes on nice and easy too.
Seriously, I’m completely sold on this feature for riding in autumn, winter and spring, although having not tested them in hot weather yet I can’t comment on whether the cuff would make the shoes feel too hot.
Specialized has also updated the rubber used in the sole as well as the tread pattern, making it almost as grippy as the soles on FiveTen shoes, but with a bit more grip for walking and a slightly more flexible sole than the previous incarnations.
Overall, the shoes are sleeker and less bulky-looking. Specialized has also incorporated foam into the toe area to absorb impact from rock strikes, along with a rubber bumper to protect the outer toe area.
Finally, I love the little elastic loop which means you can tuck the laces out of the way. Simple but genius.
Santa Cruz Reserve wheels
The new Santa Cruz Reserve wheel did pretty darn good when riding in rocky Whistler Phil Hall
After years of working closely with Enve, Santa Cruz decided to launch its own wheels, and the result is the Santa Cruz Reserve wheelset.
Available in 27.5 and 29-inch versions, these carbon wheels have modern wide internal rim widths with different width options to suit your riding style and an asymmetrical rim profile, designed to improve comfort, traction and durability.
I’ve been riding these for a few months with Maxxis Minions (DHF 3C EXO TR and DHR II EXO TR) on the Juliana Strega and they have a good balance between compliance and stiffness.
Incidentally, according to anecdotal evidence, they are also apparently one of the easiest wheels to put in a tyre insert, such as Cush Core, though I haven’t tried this myself yet.
While pricey, they are still cheaper than some of the other top-end carbon hoops and there are a number of other selling points that swing in their favour.
First, there are two hub options so you can get them at a few different price points, plus you’ll be able to swap the hubs out in the future should axle standards change. Again.
Secondly, Santa Cruz offers a lifetime warranty on them, which is a pretty big selling point for a set of carbon wheels!
As mentioned, these wheels were tested on the Juliana Strega, which has also blown me away this year, so keep your eyes on BikeRadar for more on the Strega and its sibling the Santa Cruz Nomad shortly!
Specialized Women’s Deflect Gloves
Keep the wind off and the heat in Specialized
Cold hands are no joke, and I always get bitterly cold fingers when I start out for a ride. Happily, I’ve found the Deflect gloves from Specialized to be rather effective at keeping out the cold without adding lots of bulk.
I don’t really like lots of padding (though I dislike it less than cold hands) so these are pretty much perfect, consisting of a wind-resistant upper shell with a grippy suede palm.
The upper keeps the cold wind at bay, which eliminates a lot of the chill you experience when riding with your hands out in front of you without shelter. When it gets colder, I’ve found wearing a thin pair of Merino or silk liner gloves adds a nice bit of insulation.
These have served me well on both road and mountain bike rides, including a three day trek into a howling headwind and driving rain across Wales — they kept my hands warm through that, so they get a big thumbs up from me!
Canyon Endurace WMN road bike
Comfortable, performs well, easy on the eye Russell Burton / Immediate Media
Canyon updated both the endurance-focussed Endurace and the race-focussed Ultimate for 2017 with women’s specific geometry. You can read more about the ins and outs of the theory behind and implementation of said theory in my news story and review on the Endurace.
I’ve ridden two versions of this bike: the super high-end limited edition which was, you won’t be surprised to discover, rather nice, and the entry-level model.
And I really enjoyed both. For practical purposes if I were purchasing this bike I’d be more likely to go for one of the lower-priced models because, well, they’re cheaper and represent great value for money but are also very comfortable to ride. And the fact I’d be a tiny bit less paranoid about it getting nicked.
The ride feel is supremely comfortable with steady steering and a planted, secure feel on descents.
- From £1,799 / AU$2,899 for the entry level carbon model. WMN model not available at this price point in USA.
- Available from Canyon