Inevitably, my Gear of the Year for 2022 is dominated by items that appeal to my very specific tastes in bikes – namely go-fast road-cycling kit, plus anything related to smart trainers, power meters or data.
As the joke goes, have your ‘von Bromley bingo card’ at the ready, and well done to anyone who gets a full house…
You might be surprised by the last pick on this list, though.
It’s food for thought for 2023, and although I don’t expect to come back this time next year as a completely different cyclist, it’s certainly given me a nudge to expand my riding horizons.
Specialized S-Works 7 Lace shoes
I’m a huge fan of lace-up cycling shoes, both for performance and aesthetic reasons. So, when Specialized announced the S-Works 7 Lace – its long-awaited successor to the cult classic Sub6 shoe – I immediately knew I wanted to test a set.
Rather than pitching them at the ‘aero is everything’ crowd, Specialized pivoted slightly and marketed the S-Works 7 Lace as a shoe for the type of people who like the S-Works Aethos.
Fortunately, though, these are still ruthlessly racy shoes under the hood. They’re exceptionally comfortable, but the sole doesn’t give anything away in terms of flex and they still have a sleek aerodynamic profile.
I was also impressed by the level of attention to detail across the shoe. They have adjustable cleat bolt holes, reinforced upper lace-eyelets for greater durability, and even the stretch-resistant laces aren’t just bog standard, off-the-shelf things.
So, yes, these are expensive cycling shoes, but I found this particular pair very hard to fault.
In fact, I thought these shoes were so good I spent my hard-earned cash on a white set (which I’ll be saving for summer 2023), when I saw them being sold at a discount.
I even managed to get hold of a set of the original Warp Speed lace-covers too, for that extra marginal gain.
Did I need another pair of high-end road-cycling shoes in my life? No, absolutely not. But if I could only have one pair, these might be the ones.
Hunt 54 Aerodynamicist Carbon Disc wheels
Having originally reviewed these wheels in May, they’ve stayed on my Giant TCR.
As I said at the time, they’re an impressive aero wheelset at a great price, and my time with them has been entirely trouble-free.
I’ve used them for testing various tyres and have yet to find a tubeless road tyre that wouldn’t seat on them with relative ease.
They’re fast on the flat, yet light enough not to feel slow even on the steepest climbs. Though slightly lighter, the Giant SLR-1 42 wheelset, which came with my TCR as stock, doesn’t get much use anymore.
It might not be the most progressive wheelset available, nor the outright fastest in any specific situation, but they’ve impressed me thoroughly with their mix of speed, good handling and lack of problems.
Since I reviewed them, the price has risen slightly to £949 (from £869 when my review was published in May 2022), but I still think they’re competitively priced and would struggle to justify spending much more on a carbon road wheelset.
PRO Vibe Aero Alloy Pursuit handlebar
Given they’re one of the first things to hit the deck when your bike falls over (or you have a spill), I’ve always felt expensive carbon aero handlebars were particularly hard to justify.
So, when PRO launched its Vibe Aero Alloy handlebar range in late 2021, I was very excited.
On paper, it ticked a lot of boxes – aero tops, internal cable routing, good shape, narrow widths and, most importantly of all, not too expensive.
Since putting it on my TCR late last year, it’s become my new favourite road handlebar.
The 36cm-width option gives a hoods position that’s 36cm-wide centre-to-centre, while the drops flare out slightly to 40cm (again, centre-to-centre).
For my tastes, it’s a perfect balance of an aerodynamic cruising position on the brake hoods, while still getting the extra control of a slightly wider bar at the drops, which I find useful for more confident descending at higher speeds.
Despite being almost a third of the price of the PRO Vibe Aero Carbon handlebar, it only weighs about 70g more, which to me seems more than a fair trade-off.
Being a narrow and relatively stiff alloy handlebar, it doesn’t have quite the same ability to mute road buzz as a posh carbon bar might have.
It also has a rather lengthy 101mm of reach, designed to get you into a more stretched-out, aerodynamic position. I’m fine with that, because I have a fairly long upper body and tend to prefer a lot of reach on my road bikes.
However, If you don’t like it, the PRO Vibe Aero Alloy handlebar (the non-‘pursuit’ version), has a more typical reach of 78mm. Sadly, though, the narrowest width available in that version is 38cm.
But for those who want an aggressively shaped handlebar for a racy road bike, this is a fantastic option at a good price.
- £449 / €499 / $499
As someone who’s happily embraced indoor training in recent years, I’ve become BikeRadar’s primary tester of new smart trainers and related gear.
However, the most exciting launch of the year in this space was undoubtedly the Zwift Hub.
If you do any significant amount of indoor training, a direct-drive smart trainer (as opposed to a wheel-on one) is a key investment, because these tend to offer the best experience when connected to an indoor cycling app.
Until recently, direct-drive smart trainers have been fairly expensive or had faults that compromised the experience. But the Zwift Hub comes closer than any other smart trainer to solving those flaws.
At £449 / €499 / $499, including a choice of cassette, it’s one of the cheapest direct-drive smart trainers available.
It offers impressive ride feel, is exceptionally quiet, and does a good job of producing accurate power and cadence data in most scenarios (very high flywheel speeds trip it up a bit, but this isn’t something that affects the in-game experience often).
For most people, whether you use Zwift or a different app, it will be difficult to justify spending more money on a smart trainer.
Cube Aim SL hire bike
- £28 for 3 hours or £35 per day, at Cyclewise Whinlatter Bike Hire
One of the most memorable bikes I rode this year was the Cube Aim SL – a basic hardtail mountain bike (with an RRP of around £850), which I hired for a few hours of fun on a couple of occasions at Whinlatter Forest Park trail centre in the Lake District.
I am not a mountain biker. I work among them and I occasionally overhear their strange conversations. I think I know what ‘long, slack and low’ means, but don’t ask me to put numbers on any of those (or ask me if this bike qualifies as such).
Given it costs less than £10 per hour to hire, I assume it probably isn’t an amazing bike.
The 2x 9-speed Shimano Alivio M3100 drivetrain was a little clunky (although it shifted gears without drama).
I have no idea if the suspension fork was any good or whether it was set up properly.
None of that matters, though, because I had so much fun on it – more fun than I’ve had on a road bike in a long time.
When I got back to work, one of the first things I did was have in-depth conversations with colleagues about whether I should get a mountain bike. I was already dreaming (and had even checked out some cheap mountain bikes online).
It turns out being a mountain biker in Bristol isn’t amazing. You have to drive to get to the best trails around here (which isn’t ideal).
But still, I had a great time at Whinlatter on the Cube Aim SL and I’ll definitely be going back for more next time I’m in the area.
It was a great reminder that the bike itself isn’t all that important, it’s what you do with it that counts.