Gear of the year: Joe Norledge’s picks for 2017

Lightweight shoes, one seriously lightweight bike and a cafétière

I’ve had a busy year of riding and racing in 2017, which means it’s time to take a closer look a what has served me well throughout the season.

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Scott MTB Pro shoes

For the money, Scott's MTB Pro shoes are hard to beat
For the money, these shoes are hard to beat
Immediate Media

Being a keen racer on both road and MTB fronts I’m often attracted to the lightest/fastest/most premium products on the market, and while that’s great for me as a tester, it’s not always so great for prospective buyers’ wallets. So when a more value-focused product comes along and punches well above its weight, I’m super keen to sing its praises.

A case in point are Scott’s MTB Pro shoes, which feel great with a fit reminiscent of shoes three times the price. The composite sole is relatively stiff, which combined with a low stack height makes for brilliant pedalling manners when putting the power down.

The sole is plenty stiff for a composite
The sole is plenty stiff for a composite
Immediate Media

The only thing that stopped these shoes from getting a perfect score was the bulky ratchet strap, but at this price I can’t recommend them enough.

Fuji SL 1.5

My Fuji SL in its orignal spec
My Fuji sl in its orignal spec
Oli Woodman / Immediate Media

When reviewing bikes I always ask myself the classic question: ‘If I was spending my own money, would I buy this?’ I’m a fussy so and so, meaning up until now I’ve always said no, however that all changed with the arrival of my long term Fuji SL 1.5.

For just over €3,000 it’s light, fast and unfussy, making for a prefect everyday/race bike that doesn’t completely break the bank. It’s also one of the few bikes on the market that comes stock with SRAM’s Force groupset, which is once again nice and light for the price.

The Fuji SL 1.5, looking stealthy in its weight weenie guise
Looking stealthy in its weight weenie guise
Oli Woodman / Immediate Media

My SL received some pretty serious upgrades for the 2017 UK hill climb season and you can read all about its transformation at the link below.

Sidi Tiger vs. Shimano S-Phyre

Sidi Tiger shoes

I've put some decent time in with the Sidi Tigers too
I’ve put some decent time in with the Tigers
Oli Woodman / Immediate Media

I was a big fan of Sidi’s Drako MTB shoes, so was keen to get my hands on their new for 2017 Tiger model. The fit and shape remains decidedly Sidi, being fairly narrow, with a generous sculpt on the carbon last. They’re also very Italian, coming in a glow-in-the-dark fluoro yellow colourway.

The big change is in the upper, with Sidi moving the retention system from the sides to the tongue of the shoe. This makes the fit a touch more comfortable, and crucially keeps the dials out the way in the event of a crash. Having crashed in both the Drakos and the Tigers I can attest to this being a welcome addition.

The new retention system protects the dials from crashes
The new retention system protects the dials from crashes
Oliver Woodman / Immediate Media

Finally I just love the Sidis for their durability – they’re built like tanks and nearly every part on the shoe is replaceable. This is rarely seen on footwear with such a premium price.

Our favourite road/gravel products of 2017

Merida Big Nine Team

Merida's Big Nine Team in its original spec
Merida’s Big Nine Team in its original spec
Peter Travers

I love racing marathons, especially the hilly variety, so the 8.8kg Merida Big Nine Team was high on my list of bikes to test in 2017.

After doing the initial review it went back home to Merida, but fate bought us together once again when I qualified for the 2017 UCI Marathon World Championships.

Seeing stars at the finish
Seeing stars at the finish
Sportograf

The course in Singen, Germany wasn’t technical, but featured plenty of climbing — meaning the super lightweight Big Nine Team was the perfect race weapon. Fortunately Merida still had the exact same bike I reviewed in stock, and we were reunited for a thorough thrashing around Germany at the hands of the world’s best marathon racers.

It was the perfect tool on a day that went perfectly for me, so I’ll always have a place in my heart for the Big Nine Team. It’s perhaps not the most fun race bike, but if you’re all about intervals and racing hard on a no compromise machine, then it’s well worth a closer look.

Marks & Spencer cafétière

Happy family coffee times
Happy family coffee times
Oli Woodman/Immediate Media

Here at BikeRadar towers we like to start our day with some delicious coffee, but with many caffeine-craving writers to satisfy I needed a large cafétière to meet their requirements.

Thankfully my mum came up with the goods and bought me a one-litre specimen from M&S for Christmas 2016, and since then it’s seen daily use in the office. We’ve learned that about an inch of Tesco’s Columbian coffee works well and a five-minute brew time gives the best flavour. When brimmed to the absolute top this badass coffee dispensing device will do five cups.

Extreme plunging
Extreme plunging
Oli Woodman/Immediate Media

The plunger seems a little harsh off the top, so we plan on adding some volume spacers further down the line, but in general the travel feels relatively progressive, especially on square-edge tables.

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Deserving of a place on my gear of the year 2017? You bet it is!