Gear of the year 2017: Matthew Allen's picks

Five things that made 2017 less awful

2017 has been a really weird year — but luckily we still got to ride bikes. Here are five things that moved the needle for me on two wheels.

3T Strada

Whether or not the 3T Strada is the shape of things to come, I'm glad it exists
Whether or not the 3T Strada is the shape of things to come, I'm glad it exists

The 3T Strada is weird, and I like weird. An aero machine with 1x gearing, discs and fat-for-a-race-bike tyres is Not Normal.

I’m still not fully on-board with 1x on the road, at least as long as we’ve only got 11 cogs at the back, but I do love innovation and I think 3T deserves praise for going its own way with the Strada (and the Exploro that preceded it).

Road cycling is a ridiculously conservative sport that needs brands willing to do things a bit differently, and I’m looking forward to seeing what 3T comes up with next.

Whyte S-150C WORKS

The Whyte S-150 is a ridiculous amount of bike for little old me, and I loved it
The Whyte S-150 is a ridiculous amount of bike for little old me, and I loved it

I’ve been confronting some of my cycling prejudices this year, and getting the chance to take Whyte’s S-150 Works on a couple of rides was another eye-opening experience.

The S-150 is a rowdy do-it-all 29er whose capabilities far exceed my personal tolerance for risk.

It’s a big bouncy bike with bars that are comically wide for such a fun-sized human, and I absolutely loved it.

My colleagues have been banging on about the merits of long bikes for ages and the Whyte has convinced me that there’s really something there.

The medium S-150C has a healthy 458.5mm of reach and it’s just incredibly confidence-inspiring having that much bike in front of you. The sense of security doesn’t detract from the fun at all, it just makes you braver.

It didn’t hurt that I was riding the incredibly Gucci WORKS-spec model which is a superbike by any measure, but I fear it’s left me utterly ruined for all other mountain bikes. Damn.

Our favourite road/gravel products of 2017

Canyon Endurace AL

The Canyon Endurace AL deserves to be the benchmark for other affordable road bikes
The Canyon Endurace AL deserves to be the benchmark for other affordable road bikes

I promise I’ll shut up about this bike soon, probably, but Canyon deserves real praise for the humble alloy Endurace, which has become something of a benchmark in entry-level bikes.

The Endurace is an exceptional bike for the money and it pleases me that even in these uncertain times, you can still get a really bloody good road bike for a thousand pounds, one that really doesn’t have to make excuses for itself in any way.

It’s got a great frame and a pretty flawless spec, but more importantly it’s a genuinely excellent ride.

Focus Project Y

The Focus Project Y makes e-bikes seem rather more appealing
The Focus Project Y makes e-bikes seem rather more appealing

I’m sure you’re fed up of hearing about e-bikes, and I have to admit I’m rather bored of debating their merits, and arguing over whether they count as bicycles.

Nevertheless, I do think e-bikes that fit more closely with our conventional idea of what makes a bicycle a bicycle have real potential.

Focus’ super-light-for-an-e-bike Project Y is interesting because it feels like the designers set out to expand the capabilities of a normal bike, rather than creating an entirely new thing that awkwardly sits somewhere between a pushbike and a motorcycle.

At a claimed 12.5kg for a medium, the Project Y is within spitting distance of a conventional touring bike, and I like the idea that electric assistance could act as a range extender and helping hand, rather than defining the whole riding experience.

I’m also believe that anything that gets more people on two wheels is a net benefit to the rest of us. There’s safety in numbers on the roads...

Shimano Ultegra R8000

Ultegra R8000 is my kind of groupset
Ultegra R8000 is my kind of groupset

It’s slightly ironic to be including this as I’ve yet to actually ride the mechanical version of the latest Ultegra groupset (the Specialized Tarmac Pro I have on test right now is equipped with R8050 Di2) but it makes the list because it’s something I’m actually excited about.

Dura-Ace is the Shimano groupset we all lust over because by its very nature, it’s the best. But Ultegra is somehow more impressive because it offers 99 percent of the performance for a lot less money.

My colleague Jack Luke awarded R8000 five whole stars in his in-depth review and I’m looking forward to spending some time on the new groupset in the coming year.

Matthew Allen

Senior Technical Writer, UK
Former bike mechanic, builder of wheels, hub fetishist and lover of shiny things. Likes climbing a lot, but not as good at it as he looks.
  • Discipline: Road, with occasional MTB dalliances
  • Preferred Terrain: Long mountain climbs followed by high-speed descents (that he doesn't get to do nearly often enough), plus scaring himself off-road when he outruns his skill set.
  • Current Bikes: Scott Addict R3 2014, Focus Cayo Disc 2015, Niner RLT 9
  • Dream Bike: Something hideously expensive and custom with external cables and a threaded bottom bracket because screw you bike industry.
  • Beer of Choice: Cider, please. Thistly Cross from Scotland
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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