Stan Portus’s Gear of the Year 2021

A puffer, clear-lensed specs, chain lube and a must-read book

Gear of the year stan tile

While my time spent riding bikes might have dropped off in 2021, my time thinking about them sky-rocketed.

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In May, I joined BikeRadar as a digital writer, covering the latest news and products from the world of cycling.

I’ve enjoyed being thrown into writing about a range of subjects and interviewing some big names in the world of bikes, too. Since I started, I have written features on ceramic bearings, MIPS, COP26 and asked, Is the cycling industry getting real about climate change?

I’ve also had access to a wide range of products, some of which have made their way into my Gear of the Year 2021.

SunGod Airas sunglasses

The large lens gives an unobstructed view.
Stan Portus / Immediate Media
  • From £105

I was grateful for the opportunity to pick out a pair of glasses from SunGod in 2021, when I was in need of some clear-lens specs for riding in low-light conditions.

I opted for the large Airas because I really don’t like having my field of vision obstructed, particularly when navigating traffic or cycling across junctions. I’ve also appreciated the large frame size of the Airas, and it has meant I’ve suffered from no pressure points on my temples or skull, which can be a real nuisance on long rides.

SunGod gives you the option of customising your glasses and lens choice when you order directly via its website. I chose this rather pared-back design, using SunGod’s Infinite Grey recycled frame material. This let me choose the clear lens, too, which isn’t a standard option.

I’ve really appreciated the quality of the lens, which provides excellent clarity. It effectively ups the contrast of the outside world, making any cracks and crevices in the road more visible, and generally makes things more pleasant to look at – a win considering I got these for riding in bleak winter light.

Albion Zoa insulated jacket

Stan Portus zipping up Albion Zoa jacket
The jacket is plenty warm and has a two-way zip for easy ventilation.
Tilly Sleven
  • £185

The Albion Zoa collection was only released in November 2021, but the Zoa insulated jacket has very quickly become one of my favourite bits of kit from the last year.

Using a combination of Pertex Quantum outer fabric and PrimaLoft Gold insulation, this hooded jacket provides plenty of warmth, as well as wind and water resistance.

This jacket is definitely angled towards the adventure and bikepacking market. While I haven’t used it for any overnight camping trips, it has proved exceptionally useful when the temperature has dropped.

What I appreciate is how the cut of this puffer makes it easy and comfortable to wear when you’re off the bike. I find it’s not restrictive or tight over the shoulders, which many cycling jackets can be.

Maybe I am a shameless, millennial hipster, but I love the look of this jacket too. The Pertex graphic down the right-hand sleeve might not be to everyone’s taste, but I quite like it in a techwear kind of way. After all, if this jacket is designed to be worn off the bike, you wouldn’t want to look like you were supposed to be on one, surely?

Silca Synergetic wet lube

Silca Synergetic Lube
Silca’s Synergetic chain lube attracts virtually no grime or grit.
Stan Portus / Immediate Media
  • £32

I’ll admit it. I’m not the most fastidious bike cleaner, maintainer or mechanic. But one gear highlight from the last year that has helped me with my maintenance woes is Silca’s Synergetic wet lube.

Synergetic wet lube is said to be the fastest oil-based lubricant ever tested. Now, my use of the lube hasn’t been precise enough to assess whether or not it is in fact 98.1 per cent efficient, as Silca claims.

But what I appreciate is the lube’s waterproof quality and the fact that, despite it being a wet lube, it seems to attract virtually no grime or grit from the road, making for easier cleaning and a drivetrain that runs smoothly for longer.

You apply one drop of the Synergetic lube to every link in your chain via a needle-like tip. While this might seem to involve more faff than other lubes, I reckon it’s worth the time and effort.

Finally, this stuff lasts. You use such small quantities that my bottle carried me through 2021, and I’m sure it will take up a fair chunk of 2022.

Desire Discrimination Determination – Black Champions In Cycling by Marlon Moncrieffe

Black Champions in cycling book photographed against white background
This book is the first of its kind.
Stan Portus / Immediate Media
  • £25

In the summer of 2021, I spoke to Dr Marlon Moncrieffe about his latest book Desire Discrimination Determination, which offers a new paradigm for understanding the history of cycling.

The book brings together the experiences of Black athletes in competitive cycling and tells the stories of Black cyclists, who despite being present throughout the sport’s history, have not been given the same platform or opportunities as their white counterparts.

What I really love about the book is how so much space is given to the stories of the athletes Moncrieffe spoke to. It tells their tales and puts forward its arguments by assembling lengthy quotes. This feel like a truly generous act: no one’s words are lost or buried by Moncrieffe’s, even if his analytical skills and historical research act as a thread through Desire Discrimination Determination’s pages.

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The book is testimony to many athletes’ experiences and raises much the cycling world must address moving forward. But at the same time, it’s a deeply entertaining and inspiring read, which highlights why anyone, regardless of race, can fall madly in love with the sport.