Gear of the year: Jack Luke's top 5 products of 2017

A dinky cargo bike, a tandem, a creepy string vest, a spanner and a helmet

I’m the first to admit that my tastes in bike tech fall into the realms of nicheness on occasion, and my five favourite bikes and bits of gear from 2017 are no exception.

Orbit twin tandem

I bought a tandem earlier this year and it's been the most fun I've had on a bike in years
I bought a tandem earlier this year and it's been the most fun I've had on a bike in years

I bought a tandem earlier this year and I’ve have had more fun riding it with my girlfriend than I’ve had on any other bike.

#Cecilthetandem is a burgundy, circa ‘99 Orbit Twin, with clearances for mammoth tyres, roughly one zillion braze-ons and a positive can-do attitude.

We’ve used the tandem for all sorts of daft rides this year, including Laura's first century, which was a very wet and grimy affair. 

Buying Cecil has been a great excuse to nerd out on weird tandem tech
Buying Cecil has been a great excuse to nerd out on weird tandem tech

As well as being an absolute delight to ride, we look damn cute aboard Cecil and the amount of Instagram fodder he's produced is unsurpassed.

Buying the tandem has also given me a chance to obsess over all sorts of super nerdy tandem techiness — from how to service an Arai drum brake to rekindling my love for the much neglected triple chainset, the experience has been super interesting and I can’t wait to spend more time aboard Cecil next year.

Our favourite road/gravel products of 2017

Runwell Aqualia 15mm spanner

The Runwell Aqualia15 is the perfect 15mm spanner
The Runwell Aqualia15 is the perfect 15mm spanner

Despite having only been in my possession for a few weeks, this incredibly handsome 15mm ring spanner from Runwell Japan has already taken pride of place in my tool roll.

Arriving just as I received a glut of fixies for review, this impeccably-designed spanner loosens and tightens 15mm axle nuts more quickly than I could ever have hoped.

POC Octal X helmet

The Octal X is a MTB friendly version of the legendary Octal
The Octal X is a MTB friendly version of the legendary Octal

The POC Octal has become something of a modern classic and is one of the most popular lids among testers here at BikeRadar.

The Octal X is a slightly burlier version of the road helmet. It includes POC’s ‘aramid bridge’ technology, which in the brand's words “adds structural rigidity and guards against impact penetration,” and is designed primarily for XC racing.

Just like the road helmet it is based on, the Octal X is incredibly airy, light and comfortable.

Naturally I went for the brightest helmet that POC offers. Not only does this fit in with my favoured clashing aesthetic; it adds a degree of hi-vis, which is always welcome on the road.

Brynje base layers

Brynje's base layers have revolutionised my riding and style
Brynje's base layers have revolutionised my riding and style

Without doubt the least sexy addition to my wardrobe this year has to be these sleeveless Brynje mesh base layers.

What they lack in attractiveness, they more than make up with performance — the base layers were used on the first ascent of Everest and are estimated to still be used by approximately 90 percent of professional Polar expeditions today.

On the bike, the pocket of air that the thick, totally non-absorbent polyurethane ‘weave’ creates does a superb job of keeping you warm in chilly weather, but also allows you to quickly ‘dump’ excess heat by opening your jersey.

There is also a Merino version for those who are allergic to or don’t like the feel of synthetic fabrics.

Nobody needed to see this...
Nobody needed to see this...

If I could recommend you try anything from this list (it’s not realistic to expect you to all go out and buy a tandem), it has to be one of these. They’ve revolutionised my cycling wardrobe and I now won’t be found doing anything outside without one on.

And giving credit where it’s due, I was first alerted to these base layers via Andy Kirpatrick’s article on keeping warm on UK Climbing, which is a seriously worthwhile read for any outdoors sportsperson.

  • Brynje Super Thermo C-Shirt: £27 / €29.90 / $29 / AU$45
  • Brynje Super Micro C-Shirt: £22.99 / €25.90 / $25 / AU$39

Orbea Katu cargo bike

I rode an e-bike version of the Katu, but the £429 Katu 40 is the one that interests me most
I rode an e-bike version of the Katu, but the £429 Katu 40 is the one that interests me most

Bike wise, I’ve spent a lot of time this year on some really lovely bikes — highlights include the Neilpryde Bura, the Fairlight Strael and recently, the Surly Steamroller, but it speaks volumes that this dinky cargo bike has made the list.

While attending the launch of the Orbea Gain e-road bike I had the chance to ride the Katu, a funky little 20in-wheeled cargo bike from the Basque brand.

The bike is such a hoot to ride
The bike is such a hoot to ride

Although I was only on the Katu for a very short time, it was enough to seriously impress me — the dinky bike is an absolute hoot to ride, but oozes genuine practicality, with a cavernous basket up front alongside mudguards and dynamo lights fitted to most models.

The one-size-fits-all bike starts at £349 for a super basic singlespeed model, rising to £2,499 for the very fanciest electric version of the bike.

You can read more on what I thought of the bike in my first ride review.

Jack Luke

Staff Writer, UK
Jack has been riding and fettling with bikes for his whole life. Always in search of the hippest new niche in cycling, Jack is a self-confessed gravel dork and thinks nothing of bivouacking on a beach after work. Also fond of cup and cone bearings, skids and tan wall tyres.
  • Discipline: Long days in the saddle by either road or mountain bike
  • Preferred Terrain: Happiest when on a rural road by the coast or crossing a remote mountain pass. Also partial to a cheeky gravel adventure or an arduous hike-a-bike.
  • Current Bikes: Custom Genesis Croix de Fer all road adventure wagon, Niner EMD 9.
  • Dream Bike: A rigid 44 Bikes Marauder, all black please.
  • Beer of Choice: Caesar Augustus
  • Location: Bristol, UK

Related Articles

Back to top