Another year is coming to a close and it has been a whirlwind in the world of bikes, tech and kit.
Thinking back over everything that's passed through BikeRadar's Australian HQ, there's been so much solid gear that it's hard to choose my favourite items. My gear of the year might not be the flashiest, lightest or most exciting, but it's comfortable and reliable stuff that I gravitate towards time and time again.
Wahoo Elemnt Bolt
I’ve used quite a few of Garmin computers and watches over the years, and I still use a Fenix 3 on regular basis.
But while Garmin's products have always been my default choice of device, they've also given me a fair amount of trouble. Some have been difficult to pair with sensors, others have randomly reset themselves and one would switch from miles to kilometres all on their own. So when my Garmin Edge 500 finally died I decided to try something new.
I bought an Elemnt Bolt and am now well and truly a Wahoo convert. Everything from the smartphone integration, to pairing with sensors and even automatically syncing rides to Strava and Training Peaks is simple and works well.
I especially love the zoom feature because with a range of different test bikes comes a range of different sensors, and being able to customise the Element's screen at the touch of a button is really cool.
Bad chain lube creates problems for your chain and headaches for you; good chain lube just makes your bike and your life better. Smoove is a good lube – it runs clean on the road and trail, doesn't pick up much grit and it lasts for ages.
It might not be the fastest lube but I’ve no need to count every last watt. For me, Smoove cuts down on the amount of time I need to spend cleaning bikes as, for the most part, it doesn’t punish me when I forget to do it or put it off for one more ride.
Mons Royale Air Con Jersey
For me, the true test of any cycling garment is how much time it spends in the laundry. The more an item of clothing needs to be washed, the more it’s being worn.
The Mons Royale Redwood 3/4 Raglan T Dirt is in pretty much every load of laundry I do. The Merino wool it's made from is a bit of a magic material – it’s warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and soft and comfy all year round.
It's covered my back on many MTB rides this year but because it doesn’t look like 'just' a MTB jersey it’s also come with me ski touring, camping and even on a few nights out at the pub.
Astute Star saddle
It’s amazing how much your opinion of saddles can change when you find one that properly suits you. My saddle of choice had been the Specialized Romin for as long as I can remember.
That was until I tried the Astute Mudline saddle, which uses the shape that's found on the brand's Star road saddle. The Mudline went on my MTB and hasn’t moved since. It was only recently that I had the opportunity to try out the Star saddle and, having done so, it's become my new favourite.
The shape suits me even better than the Romin did and the multi-density memory foam used throughout the Star makes for a comfortable perch, which is something I’ve come to appreciate more since I began spending increasing amounts of time on gravel and less on smooth tarmac.
Scott Centric Plus
Scott's Centric Plus has already featured in my Go-To Gear, but considering it landed on my desk this year I've got to include it here as well, considering how much I wear it.
I can't speak as to how aero it might be, but I can say it fits my head very well. It also cools effectively and I love the way it looks. I'm also a fan of the perforated MIPS liner because it definitely dumps heat better than some helmets with solid MIPS liners.
Oakley EVZero Path Photochromic
In 2016 my favourite sunnies by far were Smith’s PivLock Arena Max, however, this year I’ve gravitated toward Oakley’s EVZero Path. Initially, I wasn’t sold on their look, but it’s grown on me over time. The main reason I kept coming back to these sunnies is the photochromatic lens.
It's not a new innovation by any means, but the EVZero Path is one of only a few frameless designs that use adaptive Photochromic technology. I'm often on the road as the sun is rising or setting, and having a lens that can change its tint to suit the light conditions means I don’t have to fuss with my glasses. I can just put them on and see clearly, whether it's a pitch-black night or high-noon on a clear day.
They're especially useful on the MTB because all of my local trails seem to either head into direct sunlight or disappear underneath a thick canopy of trees. But the variable lens means I can always see without having to constantly take off and put on my shades.
The lens shape is big enough to offer plenty of coverage, which is much appreciated given my overly sensitive eyes, and the lack of a frame means there is nothing to block my field of vision.