2020 was a year of drastic contrasts – from the tumbleweed weeks of lockdown to the flat-out franticness of the more ‘normal’ weeks, which involved catching up on bikes and kit in order to keep the good ship BikeRadar fully stocked with review content.
Fortunately, I managed to get our Trail Bike of the Year test done and dusted before the UK locked down.
From there I had a flurry of pre-Olympic XC bikes to keep me riding locally, before the year’s longer travel options prevented my adrenaline from flowing. So, throughout the year, what have my highlights been?
- See all of the BikeRadar team’s Gear of the Year for 2020
Wahoo Kickr Bike
- £2,999.99 / $3,499.99 / €3,499.99
If you’d asked me 12 months ago which bike would keep me the most sane in 2020, and where I’d be riding it, neither an indoor trainer nor Wattopia would have registered in my mind.
However, like most of the cycling world it seems, the digitally enhanced world of Zwift, in conjunction with a rather fancy indoor training bike, literally kept me spinning for a few months.
Certainly, the benefits were noticeable. Once I was allowed back on the bike, my fitness levels were higher, and through the magic of Discord, I’d managed to keep riding with my buddies Nick and Darren – even on 90km ‘epics’ in a made-up world. What an odd situation!
Oh, and the Wahoo Kickr Bike? Simple to set up, accurate with its data, comfortable to ride, and the tilting function very much adds to the gamification of Zwift, making it actually rather bearable. Something I never thought I’d say.
Marin El Roy
- £2,295 / $2,569 / €2,799
I apologise for kicking my list off with a pair of bikes – some kit will follow very shortly.
The Marin El Roy bought more grins to my face than any other bike this year. It’s a 140mm-travel steel hardtail with a front-end length that is laughably long, and tyres that make mince-meat of rough, slippy, sketchy descents (and any element of pedalling efficiency on the way up).
With a 63-degree head angle and 510mm reach, the El Roy stretches out into next week, while the relatively compact rear end means it still gets round a corner fast.
The kit is all dependable, mid-range stuff – a largely Shimano Deore groupset, Marin’s own wide-rimmed wheels and a Marzocchi Z1 fork. And, given it weighs a fair bit and has no discernible suspension at the back, the Double Down Maxx Grip Maxxis Assegai tyres are an absolute godsend.
I liked the bike so much I almost bought it. Fortunately (for my bank balance) Marin agreed to let me keep hold of it as my 2021 Longtermer for MBUK Magazine and BikeRadar. Phew.
Gore Windstopper Base Layer Shirt
- £49.99 / $80 / €59.95
A windproof base layer sits in the same category as Castelli’s Gabba for me – one of those ‘why didn’t I think of that’ type items.
Gore’s base layer has a Windstopper panel on the front, as well as over the kidneys, and at the front of the arms. And, if you hadn’t realised, it keeps the wind from stealing all your hard-earned warmth on a chilly day. At the same time, the side and back panels are fully breathable, so it simultaneously avoids getting too sweaty.
On the body it feels good – it’s a little less stretchy, and creates a little more rustle than a normal base layer, but I’m happy to forgive that.
While I could wear a shell or softshell to keep the wind out, these are often too warm for the conditions where just a bit of wind protection will keep you comfortable. I usually run this base layer under a regular riding jersey, so I keep both style points and my warmth.
- £120 (depending on accessories package)
I’m terrible when it comes to washing bikes, especially straight after a ride, as I’m inherently lazy.
This generally means my bikes are disguised under a layer of dirt for far too long. I’m in the fortunate position that long-term degradation of parts isn’t such an issue for me (other than for my Longterm review bikes), however it’s always good to look after bikes properly. And, with winter in full swing, I’ve decided my test bikes deserve TLC.
The Worx Hydroshot is a battery-operated pressure washer with a hose that can be popped onto a tap, in a stream, in a bucket or bottle too. It has enough power to easily blast away dirt, and friends who’ve used these longterm, say it doesn’t seem to strip bearings.
There are a range of parts and accessories available for the Hydroshot, but as long as you have a decent-sized water-source where you wash your bike, I think even the most simple arrangement should fulfil your needs. If you have more tools from the Worx range, the battery is cross-compatible too, saving costs.
My only real complaint is that it gets through water fairly fast – on the flip-side, it is by far and away the best portable cleaner I’ve used.
7iDP Project Knee Pads
- £110 / $119.99
Though the aforementioned El Roy might be as calm and stable as a rad hardtail gets, there comes a time when gravity and grip have a disagreement and a swift meeting of knee and ground is inevitable.
At this point, I’ve been treating my knees to 7iDP’s Project Knee Pads.
They’re quite different to many of the pads I’ve tested, with a far more girder-like shape – by which I mean the front section of the pad meets the side-knee section at a right-angle, as opposed to a more traditional curved-cup structure.
This feels odd when you pull them on, but instantly (in my experience) feels comfortable once settled over your knee. Given their fairly rigid structure, there’s no noticeable pinching of the protective padding material, and the cut-away behind the knee means I’m happy in them all day.
The above-knee sock is long, and has adjustable Velcro straps to secure, while the woven material’s compressive fit adds stability and comfort.
I’ve had a few biggish crashes with these pads on, and I can confirm that I end 2020 with no more scars than I started it with, and my knees still flex with only minimal creaking.