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Matthew Loveridge’s Gear of the Year 2020

The bikes and food that cheered an otherwise grim year

Forest of Dean gravel scene

There isn’t anything I can say about 2020 that hasn’t already been said. Maybe we could all just pretend it didn’t happen?

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Elephant in the room aside, there were some good moments, like the time Jack and I ate the entire Clif Bar range voluntarily, or being among the first people in the world to ride Specialized’s new Tarmac SL7 and Campagnolo’s 13-speed Ekar gravel groupset.

I enjoyed dunking on virtual bike racing, I caused a mild stir by proposing a radical alternative to indoor riding and I stood up for the humble kickstand.

I also took a deep dive on the state of road tubeless and the ins and outs of hookless rims (a topic I don’t doubt we’ll be returning to in 2021), and investigated an interesting Shimano crank failure.

Oh, and I got married, that was nice. My wife (pictured above) rides bikes too.

While normal launches and industry events were on hold, I still managed to try out a whole load of different bikes and kit. Here are a few of the things that got me excited in 2020.

Specialized Diverge

S-Works Diverge with Ekar covered in mud
I couldn’t have asked for a better Ekar testbed than this Specialized S-Works Diverge.
Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media
  • From £2,600 (carbon models)

Campagnolo was kind enough to set me up with a testbed for the new Ekar gravel groupset and it took the form of a 2021 Specialized S-Works Diverge with the latest Future Shock 2.0 suspension adding bounce to the cockpit.

I’ve been running the Future Shock-equipped Roubaix Expert endurance bike as a long-termer and loving it, so it was a delight to get a chance to sample its gravel counterpart, which offers similar qualities but offers much larger tyre clearances, mudguard mounts (yes!), and in-frame storage.

The Diverge really is a remarkable bike, and without question the best gravel bike I’ve ever ridden.

It’s ultra-comfy, surprisingly capable on technical terrain and yet somehow not utterly compromised on the road.

The S-Works frameset is hugely expensive but, if I were shopping for a do-everything bike right now, a cheaper Diverge would be high on my shortlist.

Rose Pro SL Disc 105

Rose Pro SL Disc 105
The Rose Pro SL Disc is a lovely bike at a very reasonable price, if you live in a country where it’s available.
Felix Smith / Immediate Media
  • €1,599

I have a lot of time for affordable bikes that punch above their weight in terms of pure riding enjoyment, and the updated Rose Pro SL Disc 105 I reviewed this year definitely belongs in this category.

It’s a simple formula, executed well. The Rose has a lovely looking aluminium frame with decent clearances, a complete Shimano 105 hydraulic groupset, and decent wheels.

It rides sweetly and, despite being a road bike, it’s comfy enough to dabble in gravel.

As I noted in the review, it’s a shame the Pro SL Disc once again lacks mudguard mounts, but in other respects it’s the perfect first road bike.

This is a bittersweet inclusion on this list of course – Rose pulled out of the UK market this year and we’ve got no idea if or when the brand might return to this lonely isle. For our friends on the continent, this one comes highly recommended.

Bar bags

Mon Chasseral wheels fitted to Specialized Roubaix Expert
I guess I’m a bar-bag guy now.
Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media
  • From £20ish

After years of being sack-agnostic, I’ve finally embraced the achingly trendy bar bag, and there’s no looking back.

I’ve never been a great fan of saddle packs – although small ones are okay – as they can rather ruin the look of a bike and also come with a side order of anxiety lest they fall off and you don’t notice. You laugh, but this has actually happened to me.

Bar bags, on the other hand, offer lots of carrying capacity and sit conveniently to hand, to the point that it’s tempting to root around for things while in motion. Don’t do this.

I also think they look cool, although I know that’s controversial. I might hesitate to put one on a fancy aero race bike, but on more endurance-oriented machines and those built for gravel, it feels right.

A pasty white Scotsman called Jack Luke riding around Fribourg on the new Scott Addict RC
Jack’s decision to run a bar bag at the launch of Scott’s Addict RC back in 2019 probably caused at least one bike engineer to cry themself to sleep.
Scott

I don’t really have a favourite bar bag yet, but this year I’ve mostly been riding with one from Topo Designs and another from Chrome, both cast-offs from full-time influencer and part-time friend Jack Luke.

These do the job well, although I’m still hoping to find one that will accommodate a full-sized DSLR so I can take my proper camera on rides when I need to shoot review bikes.

Fish finger bhorta

Fish finger bhorta
A food photographer, I am not.
Matthew Loveridge
  • £depends how posh your chosen ingredients are

I included a simple pasta dish in my 2019 Gear of the Year, one I’m still making regularly, but this year I’m going a little more exotic.

I’m not going to pretend this is some kind of ideal post-ride food – if anything it’s too light on carbs for that – but Nigella Lawson’s fish finger bhorta is unexpectedly delicious and very easy to make.

The pickled onion goes beautifully with the wholesome fish and it’s probably good for you too, although I’m not qualified to tell you that.

When I make this dish, I play fast and loose with the quantities and I use copious quantities of frozen spinach rather than fresh, because it’s convenient.

Nigella suggests 12 fish fingers will feed two but, unless your fish have massive hands, I don’t agree – around 16 is about right.

Try it, you won’t be sorry. I’m told it’s pretty good with a vegan fish alternative too.

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Thanks for reading, and for crying out loud let’s hope 2021 sucks less. Oh, and follow me on Instagram. What’s the worst that can happen?