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Jack Luke’s gear of the year 2019

Tubeless road tyres, trendy handlebar bags, a comfy saddle, grippy bottles, rim brake pads and ludicrously comfortable bib shorts

2019 has been a wonderful year for me here at BikeRadar. Covering news and product launches across all disciplines, I’ve been lucky enough to ride some really cool new bikes and kit, feature in some truly silly videos, and post lots of scintillating content to my ever-influential Instagram account.

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Highlights from the year include breaking (if I do say so myself) the juiciest exclusive scoop we’ve had on-site in some years – the news that Shimano is (probably) developing a gearbox for bicycles. In August, I was also promoted to the role of assistant editor of this good ship

In between all this fun, I have found time to clock significant miles on a host of new kit and, in the process, a handful of products have truly stood out. With that in mind, here are my top five products of 2019. 

WTB Exposure 30 tubeless road tyres

Close up image of a bicycle rim and tyre
I’ve been seriously impressed by WTB’s Exposure tyres.
Andy Lloyd

30mm-wide tubeless road tyres are weirdly few and far between. It’s a size that offers a noticeable improvement to comfort and grip over 28mm tyres and is also the upper limit of clearances for many modern road bikes. 

However, more critically for me, the size gives a bit more clearance with mudguards designed for 32mm tyres. This is vital if you like to indulge in the sort of daft off-piste nonsense I enjoy – a little extra mud and leaf room beneath your ‘guards is not something to be sniffed at. 

WTB’s Exposure 30 was one of the few tyres available in this Goldilocks size. 

The tyres seat and seal tubeless very easily, and plump up to a lovely round profile. They also feel relatively supple, with a delightful vibration-isolating ride quality. 

After around 2,300km of riding, I have finally had to retire the rear tyre. 

This is no fault of the tyre, and I suspect I could get a good few-thousand more kilometres of riding out of it – I was a very naughty boy and ignored the small wobble on my rear wheel for the past three months, which has created a pseudo-skid patch of sorts and the tyre has worn down to the casing at four points. 

This overall performance and the fact it comes in a suitably fashionable tan wall version has firmly cemented the Exposure as one of my all-time favourite tyres.

  • £49.99 / €56.49 / $59.95

Brooks England Cambium C15 All Weather

Brooks Cambium C15 saddle
The Cambium has quickly become one of my favourite perches.

The Cambium C15 was a last-minute addition to my All-City Mr Pink long-term test bike

It was pilfered from a box of saddles used in a group test and was chosen for its aesthetic qualities over all else. 

However, from the very first ride on the Mr Pink, I was impressed by just how comfortable this saddle is. 

The shape suits the profile of my peachy bot just so but, more importantly, the hammock-like, hull-less construction of the saddle lends a degree of bump-taming comfort that is unmatched by a more typical perch. 

My 2020 long-term test bike will have a distinctly more go-fast quality than my Mr Pink but, regardless, I expect to turn once again to the Cambium – though likely a more feathery model – for this bike. 

  • £95 / €110 / $120

Kool Stop Dura 2 Salmon brake pads

Kool Stop Salmon brake pads
These pads made an enormous difference to the performance of my brakes.
Jack Luke / Immediate Media

Kool Stop’s Salmon compound brake pads have reached a near-legendary status in the cycling world.

In my experience, the sticky pads provide the very best possible wet weather braking on alloy rims. They’re also, supposedly, much less harsh on your rims than typical pads, but that’s hard to really measure.

I replaced the stock pads on my Velo Orange Grand Cru long reach calipers and they made an enormous difference to the power on tap. Despite their length, the brakes are phenomenally stiff and they make full use of the pads’ grippy compound.

At a push, I think they also improved the modulation of the brakes. They’re ever so slightly more squidgy than normal pads and feel really good and easy to control in an emergency stop.

They’re never going to match the power and feel of disc brakes but, if you run alloy rims and want to make a significant upgrade to your braking, these come highly, highly recommended.

  • £8.99, international pricing TBC

Fabric Gripper water bottles

Fabric Gripper water bottle
I love these bottles from Fabric.
Jack Luke / Immediate Media

I picked up my first set of Fabric Gripper water bottles as a freebie at the inaugural edition of Grinduro Scotland in 2017. 

Nearly two years later, these are still my go-to bidons. 

The moulded gripper portion provides a genuinely useful level of additional grab-ability and the large valve and entrance to the bottle make them super easy to clean. 

Cheap. Easy to clean. Available in a wide range of jazzy hues. What more could you ask for?

  • £8.99 / €9

Pearl Izumi PRO bib shorts

Pearl Izumi Pro shorts
I couldn’t find a photo of me riding in these shorts, so here’s a collage of me lying on a bed in Llanelli after riding in them all day, and a photo of me fixing a puncture in them.

I had no idea shorts could be this comfortable. 

Pearl Izumi has seriously stepped up its game in 2019 and, from the very first ride, I was floored by the quality of these shorts. 

Pearl Izumi PRO Bib short on white background
I love these shorts so, so much.
Pearl Izumi

The fit is absolutely spot on, the materials feel super-premium, the chamois pad is sized just right and is very supportive, the straps are wide and soft and oh my goodness I love these shorts so much. That they come in a natty shade of navy is the icing on the cake. 

My only criticism? Pearl Izumi does not produce a set of matching leg warmers and like hell am I going to be caught mixing navy and black!

I spent most of my summer miles in these shorts (yes, I did wash them) and I expect them to be my favourites for years to come. 

  • £189 / $200

Road Runner Bags Burrito Supreme

Road Runner Bags Burrito Supreme
A bar bag is a joy to have on long rides.
Road Runner Bags

I’ve made this exact joke around one thousand times on BikeRadar but, I’ll do it again – nothing quite says ‘well-curated Instagram feed’ than a trendy handmade saddle roll or handlebar bag. Saddlebags are perfectly functional but they’re so lamestream.

The Road Runner Bags Burrito Supreme has become my all-time favourite bar bag this year. It’s super stable and holds its shape well, thanks to the hard plastic liner. It’s also remarkably water-resistant and is the perfect place to stash snacks and additional layers on long rides. 

If I’m going out for more than a few hours, it’s a sure bet this will be on the front of my bike. 

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