2021 saw something of a return to normality in my cycling life, and I was lucky enough to enjoy some superb riding this year.
I finally got to use my new-ish tent in anger on a 10-day tour, I enjoyed some epic days out on my own and with pals, and I even squeezed in a splendid tour from Newport in South Wales right up to Bangor in the north with my partner.
Though my work elsewhere on BikeRadar has meant reviewing has taken a back seat this year, I have still tested a range of great kit in a personal capacity.
From an outrageously expensive saddle to the only dynamo kit I’ll ever buy, these are my top cycling tech picks for our 2021 Gear of the Year series.
Specialized S-Works Romin EVO with Mirror saddle
- £390 / $450
I’m almost disappointed to say the 3D-printed Specialized S-Works Romin Evo with Mirror saddle was my standout piece of tech for 2021.
Why disappointed? At a heady $450 or £390, this saddle is almost offensively expensive. To be absolutely clear, I think that is an outrageous amount of money to spend on a saddle.
Regardless, I have found it to be stupendously comfortable, but perhaps more importantly, it deserves to be celebrated as an interesting talking point for tech to come in the future.
Like others of its ilk (such as Fizik’s Adaptive range), the saddle pairs a carbon shell and rails with a 3D-printed upper that is made of 22,000 individual struts.
This construction method allows Specialized to tailor fit to more evenly distribute pressure and, damn it, it really works.
Riding in an upright position, the difference between this saddle and a more conventional one is pretty subtle, but when riding in an aggressive position or in the drops, the reduction in pressure really is notable.
The Pro Stealth is still probably my number one choice in terms of overall shape, but the additional comfort the Romin Evo with Mirror offers makes it a very close contender.
The saddle also demonstrates there’s a bright future in 3D printing technology that offers genuine benefits over conventional construction techniques.
More importantly, I have no doubt the technology will become more accessible and affordable in the years to come, and a future in which we’re all riding on saddles like this doesn’t feel out of the question.
Sportful Tempo jacket
- £160, international pricing TBC
I seem to live in a permanent state of discomfort when it comes to temperature regulation during winter riding. I typically suffer through either hours of sweaty riding or finish my ride frozen to the bone.
This is only exaggerated in the winter months here in the UK, where it’s normal to enjoy a beautiful crispy 1 or 2c day, only to be tortured by a mild, wet and windy ride the next.
Paired with thoughtful layering, I have found the Sportful Tempo jacket to be the perfect companion for most cool-weather riding.
At its heart is a windproof outer with a brushed-fleece lining. It also features Gore-Tex Infinium membrane on the sleeves and front to provide wet-weather protection.
The cut of the jacket is spot on and after a year of hard riding, the sleeves and elastic are still perfectly snappy. The tall fleece-lined collar is also a highlight because it helps to keep drafts out. The DWR coating has held up well too.
Paired with a sleeveless summer baselayer, this sweaty Scotsman is comfortable down to around 3c in the jacket. With an additional waterproof or insulating layer on top, I can ride in just about any condition I’d actually want to be riding in.
The latest-season jacket is also available in bright yellow – what’s not to love?
If you’re looking for a do-it-all winter layer, this comes highly recommended.
Vango F10 Erebus 3+ tent
- £500, international pricing TBC
Way back in October 2019, I was given a Vango F10 Erebus 3+ tent for my birthday (I might add it was bought on sale – my family aren’t that generous).
It wasn’t until August 2021 that I actually had a chance to use the tent in anger when my partner, Laura, and I enjoyed a 10-day tour of Wales on our tandem, Cecil.
I have done a lot of cycle touring with a variety of tents and the Erebus 3+ is by far the best I have ever used.
The three-person inner is luxuriously spacious – nay, palatial! – for two people and the large vestibule makes storing gear so easy.
Even though we were blessed with 10 days of dry weather – something of a miracle in Wales – cooking in the vestibule on chilly evenings was also an absolute joy. Three-bean chilli followed by chocolate muffins with custard was our scran of choice on this particular trip, if you’re wondering.
When you consider our total system weight on this tour was probably north of 170kg (and I suspect that’s an underestimate), fretting over a few hundred grams saved here or there on a tent would be a fool’s errand.
Nonetheless, it’s still nice to know at just 2.6kg, I could conceivably use the tent for bikepacking if I found two pals willing to split the load with me.
My only criticism is levelled at the door to the inner. Most tents use a two-layer door, consisting of a bug mesh and a solid panel for cooler nights. The bug mesh on the Erebus 3+ only extends around one third of the way across the door, which means airflow is a bit limited on warmer nights.
You can, of course, just unzip the door fully, but you then run the risk of inviting bugs into your cozy abode. This is a particularly bad idea for me because I was recently voted the most delicious man in cycling media by Mosquito Monthly.
That small issue aside, I have no doubt the Erebus 3+ will be a great companion for many adventures to come.
Schmidt SONdeluxe dynamo hub and Edelux II headlight
- SON Edelux II headlight: £139.99 / $230
- SONdeluxe dynamo hub: £199.99 / $296
I really like dynamo lights (so much so that I wrote a whole guide to bike dynamos).
I’ve used lots of different systems over the years but, this year, I finally invested in a full setup from SON/Schmidt.
The quality of this setup is essentially incomparable to previous lights and dynamo hubs I have used. The construction is second-to-none and, thus far, both the light and hub have been utterly dependable.
There’s next to no drag when riding and the coaxial connector on the hub is a really neat design that makes removing the front wheel a lot faster than other dynamo setups.
If you’re considering investing in a dynamo light setup for your bike, you really can’t go wrong with the best.