Our Gear of the Year series is an opportunity for the BikeRadar team to reflect on the bikes and products that have made an impact through 2021.
Sometimes, that’s the everyday items we reach for on a day-to-day basis, or the gear that simply solves a problem out on the road/trail. Or it can be the test kit that’s remained front of mind beyond its initial launch, or long after the bike has been boxed up and returned to a brand or distributor.
For me, it’s a bit of both – two predictably big-ticket launches and two pieces of go-to gear that I’ve used consistently through the year.
Shimano Dura-Ace R9200
Okay, okay, this is an obvious pick, but the arrival of Shimano’s latest flagship road bike groupset – Dura-Ace R9200 – was also the biggest launch of 2021, so it’s a shoo-in for my Gear of the Year picks. Much-anticipated and with the pre-launch rumour mill going into overdrive, the new Dura-Ace finally landed in August and, well, it’s really rather good.
No surprises there, of course, but having logged 500km or so on Dura-Ace R9200 while riding the new Pinarello Dogma F (more on that to come), shifting on Shimano’s latest pro-tier groupset is a genuine advancement over its predecessor.
That’s no mean feat. Dura-Ace was already a highly refined, WorldTour-ready groupset, so any tangible improvement out on the road is noteworthy.
Yes, the launch headlines focused on the move to 12-speed and a semi-wireless setup, with no cabled option, but, in use, the front shifting steals the show. I’m not the first to say it – it’s lightning-fast and incredibly accurate, every single time. Regardless of what you ask that front derailleur to do – regardless of what gear combination you’re in, or how much power you’re putting through the chainset – it delivers without missing a beat.
There are refinements elsewhere, of course – namely the hood ergonomics, braking and a broader range of gearing options – but from the first gear change, that front shifting is the standout.
We’ll have a full review of Dura-Ace on BikeRadar in the new year and, having spent more time on the groupset across the team, the opportunity to share our thoughts on R9200’s performance across the board.
We also hope to get our hands on the new Shimano Ultegra R8100 groupset in the near future. Ultimately, Ultegra is the groupset likely to find its way onto the bikes many weekend riders are mulling over as an upgrade, even if global price rises have shifted Ultegra into what was previously Dura-Ace territory.
The big question, then, is whether this time next year we’ll be singing the praises of a new Shimano 105 groupset? 105 Di2, anyone?
Pinarello Dogma F
This really is turning into a predictable edition of Gear of the Year, isn’t it? The trouble is, the Pinarello Dogma F is the best bike I’ve ridden in 2021 (and the most expensive, at a beyond-eye-watering £12,000).
Granted, I don’t use as many bikes and products as our test team, but I’ve ridden plenty over the years and the Dogma F Disc is up there with the very best.
It is an outstanding race machine: incredibly stiff, with pin-point handling, the option to add in additional comfort through 28mm tyres, and a smattering of aero features. As with almost every Dogma over the years, it’s unique in looks, too – at a time when it can be difficult to tell one halo bike apart from the next.
Since the Dogma platform was overhauled in 2014, with the introduction of the Dogma F8 and its aero-tweaked tube profiles, Pinarello has stuck resolutely to the idea of ‘one bike to rule them all’ with its bike for Team Sky/Ineos.
That initially came at a time when other brands were creating both dedicated aero bikes and specialist lightweight climbing bikes. The Dogma was a bit of an outlier, in many respects, but the bike industry has come full circle and all-rounders such as this are all the rage once again. All things told, the Dogma F is a beautifully balanced race bike.
Patience is a virtue, eh?
Rapha Brevet Long Sleeve Windblock Jersey
This has been one of my go-to jerseys over the past few years and one that’s finally getting a place in my Gear of the Year round-up.
Rapha describes the Brevet Windblock as ‘the multi-tool of cycling jerseys’ and that’s it in a nutshell. The weather here in the UK is consistently average for much of the year. Not too hot, not too cold – just a bit, well, meh… and this is the jersey I reach for on those rides.
The Brevet has a windproof panel stitched onto the chest and front of the arms, paired with a Merino construction on the rear. It’s a near-perfect combination for much of spring and autumn in the UK, as well as milder winter days.
I used to wear arm warmers a lot, but have rarely done so since owning one of these. Choose the right baselayer and it’s ideal for a surprisingly broad range of temperatures, from low single-figures up to the teens.
The reflective stripes throw some low-light visibility into the mix and the two zipped pockets on the front are a surprisingly useful addition to the three standard pockets on the rear. Good job, Rapha.
Kask Mojito 3
Despite a fair amount of kit passing through the BikeRadar office, I’m best described as a creature of habit, and that’s particularly the case when it comes to cycling shoes and helmets. Once I find something I like, it’ll take some convincing for me to switch.
That said, as a long-time user of the original Kask Mojito, the Mojito 3 was a safe bet as an upgrade, and that’s proven to be the case.
On the face of it, the Mojito is a fairly unremarkable helmet. It’s not the lightest lid in the Italian firm’s range, nor the best ventilated, or the most aerodynamic. But for day-to-day riding, it’s excellent and my standard choice. No bells and whistles, it just does its job really well.
Comfort is a key part of that. Helmets can be frustratingly inconsistent in their shape and fit from one brand to the next, or even between models in a brand’s range, but the Mojito fits my head like the proverbial glove.
The padding is luxuriously thick; the faux-leather strap might appear a gimmick but tucks beneath the chin with no irritation; and the retention system provides security and adjustment as required. Ventilation is excellent, too, with generously-sized ports and deep channels to draw air through the helmet, while the styling is on point – compact with less of the flicks and flair of the original.
The lack of a MIPS-equipped option might be a deal-breaker for some riders but, for anyone else, the Mojito 3 is a smart choice as an everyday road lid. Fuss-free, just as a helmet should be.