Tech we can’t live without — Jack’s all-time (controversial) favourites

Tandems, a weird baselayer and... Instagram

I talk through my top five favourite bits of kit from the last few years, which, of course, includes some typically daft choices

I find it hard to believe myself, but it’s been two and a half fun- and nonsense-packed years since I started working for BikeRadar.

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In that time, I’ve had the pleasure of using, testing and abusing a tonne of cycling kit — some of it great, some of it not so great.

With this in mind, and as my shockingly handsome colleagues Joe, Tom and the recently-departed Reuben have just done, I plonked myself down in the studio to look back at my top five bits of kit since I started at the good ship BikeRadar.

1. My beloved tandem, Cecil

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Any excuse to talk about my tandem

I’m really beginning to sound like a broken record on this one, but there’s no denying that buying Cecil — my beloved mid-nineties Orbit touring tandem — with my girlfriend has been the best thing I’ve done in years.

I’ve written a treatise-worth of rubbish on why I love our tandem, so I won’t repeat myself here but, to summarise, the novelty of riding on a bike for two is yet to wear off (as is the fear of quite how fast you can go on descents).

Of course, it’s not all sunshine, roses and easy Instagram likes. Cecil is a pig on the climbs and storing it is a complete nightmare, but if I measure him up on a cost-to-fun ratio, he comes out streaks ahead of anything else.

2. Brynje baselayers

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I will also make any excuse to talk about how good these baselayers are

Second on my list is another thing I can’t help but hark on about. It’s something that I’m sure the thought of using is as offensive to many of you as the idea of owning a tandem.

Brynje baselayers have revolutionised my cycling wardrobe. They are made of a loose and totally non-absorbent polypropylene weave that does a better job of wicking away my copious amounts of perspiration than any other baselayer I’ve used.

But how can a non-absorbent fabric wick away sweat? Well, rather than the fibres themselves absorbing any moisture, sweat is attracted to the space between these loosely weaved fibres, effectively transporting it to your outer layers.

Sweat is the only thing that is attracted to the baselayers because there is absolutely no denying that they are among the ugliest things I own. Nonetheless, it’s no exaggeration to say that you’ll find me wearing one of these on nine out of ten rides these days and I can’t see that changing anytime soon.

3. Surly Steamroller

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Oh Steamroller, how I miss you so

I’ve had the pleasure of testing some very, very fancy bikes for BikeRadar, but the £850 Surly Steamroller stands out as one of my all-time favourites.

I make no secret of my love for fixies, but the do-it-all capability, ride quality and sheer fun of the Steamroller quickly won it a special place in my heart.

It’s one of those bikes that seemingly everyone owns at some point and the number of different builds out there, and the types of terrain people tackle on them, never ceases to blow my mind.

Sadly, the Steamroller went back to ISON — Surly’s distributor in the UK — some time ago, but that hasn’t stopped me longingly checking eBay for a cheap frameset every now and then so I can relive the magic that was this bike.

4. Insulated gilets

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Insulated gilets are remarkably versatile

I’ve been using insulated gilets for about a year and a half now and, like the Brynje baselayer, they have changed how I dress on the bike.

While they obviously do a good job of keeping you warm on the bike, their versatility throughout the seasons is what has earned them a place on this list.

In particular, I found that on hard rides of a summer evening (yes, I do ride hard sometimes) where you would inevitably get sweaty, being able to don the gilet as the sun went down and temperatures dropped was invaluable.

The Rapha Brevet is my all-time favourite, but I’ve also been using a Pedal ED Tokaido Alpha vest, which has also impressed me.  

5. Instagram (yes, really)

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Instagram is a must-have for any (not) serious cyclist

As my colleagues have done, I have chosen a controversial option for my last choice — Instagram.

Yes, I really do place the world’s number one photo sharing app as one of my top tech choices from the last few years.

Why? Well, as I’m sure many sports do, cycling often looks at itself through an all too serious lens.

That may be up your street, but it’s not my vibe at all and Instagram is the perfect opportunity to poke fun at this daft industry that I am so very lucky to be a part of.

As well as this, there’s no denying that I enjoy seeing what riding my friends are getting up to around the world.

Finally, daft as it may sound, I could probably count over a dozen stories I have sourced for this very site from Instagram — whether it’s an industrial designer drawing whacky bikes, a man who collects steel dropouts or just some cool old tech I’ve stumbled upon, the ol’ Insta-g’s is a rich seam of content that I will continue to tirelessly mine for years to come.

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What do you think of my choices? Are they all terrible and should I waste no more of my time scrolling through Instagram or am I the enlightened messiah of the fringes of cycling tech? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments!