Even before I started working here at BikeRadar, in a role that tasks me with testing swag to the limit for the betterment of you, the people, I was notorious for abusing my gear. I think that life is far too short to worry about keeping something in good nick and will always value gear that I can rely on, or repair, for years at a time.
A lot of my tastes are also inspired by my background in mountaineering and, in particular, my dad’s immovable old-school opinions on certain outdoor gear that he has imparted on me over the years.
As such, I sometimes like to look backwards to see what has worked for decades with little change or look outside of cycling altogether when choosing my gear.
So for something to make this list it means it's survived a period of abuse with me above all else, which is a very high accolade indeed.
Paramo Velez light jacket
I cannot speak highly enough of my Paramo Velez light smock.
I’ve done all manner of nonsense in the Velez since I received it around a year ago, including the Jeroboam 300k, the Grinduro, a five-day tour around Wales in foul weather, lots of winter riding and even a little bit of winter mountaineering back home in Scotland.
Paramo constructs its jackets out of its proprietary Nikwax Analogy waterproof fabric, a unique three layer “directional” system which quickly wicks away sweat and condensation to the outer, breathable waterproof shell.
In practice I’ve found the Analogy system does exactly as it claims and the jacket is the most comfortable thing I’ve ever worn in warm and wet weather.
The only downside of this arrangement is that the jacket is quite warm compared to other shell jackets, but the soft liner is comfortable enough to wear with just a baselayer — something I’ve done on more than a few occasions.
If things get really roasty-toasty, two enormous vents down each side of the jacket and a generous chest zip mean you can keep air moving — and perhaps more importantly, dry yourself and the jacket off when the rain stops — with minimal penetration of moisture
The hood is enormous enough to accommodate even big enduro lids and has more toggles and adjustments on it than I could ever fathom needing. The big marsupial style pouch on the front of the jacket is also perfect for stashing phones and maps.
Despite the super thin outer shell, I’ve yet to put any holes in the jacket, but Paramo insists that repairing the jacket with a needle and thread is no issue should you lose a fight with a thorny bush.
The jacket takes a little more care to keep it beading than a regular jacket, but even when abusing it for months at a time, without reproofing, it’s kept me warm, comfortable and dry.
The jacket is also nowhere near as light or packable as some of the more minimal cycling shell jackets we’ve tested in the past, but when I’m off on some daft adventure and know I’m likely to be facing inclement weather, the Velez will always find a place in my saddle bag. Oh, and it’s an amazing colour.
- £245, international pricing TBC
Carradice saddle bag
Carradice has been making its distinctive bike bags from waxed duck cotton in Nelson, Lancashire for the past zillion years.
I bought a second-hand Carradice bag for £1 around six years ago, and went on to mod it in a very amateurish, DIY fashion — making a hideous Bagman-style support out of a sheet of aluminium and two pannier rack struts. It’s since been on more stupid cycling adventures than probably anything else I own.
The bag has proven to be capacious enough to carry all I could need for a lightweight overnight adventure, and much to my surprise, when I first got the bag, the duck cotton really does actually do a remarkably good job of keeping everything dry.
My colleagues also love to wind me up about how large it is, but I think that just makes me like it even more?
Sadly, my poor ol’ bag is looking a little worse for wear these days (primarily my fault as I’ve put a million holes in the thing), but Carradice was kind enough to send me a new bag to test over the next few months. Watch this space…
- My super old bag isn’t available anymore, but the new Super C is £64.99 / €78.50 / $90 / AU$110
- Buy the Carradice Super C Audax saddlebag from Evans
- Buy the Carradice Bagman quick release support from Practical Cycles on eBay
Panaracer Pasela PT tyre
The Panaracer Pasela looks like a thoroughly unsexy, touring oriented tyre at first glance, but in practice I’ve found it to be an amazing all-round, road, gravel and nonsense friendly tread.
The tyre strikes a great balance between lightweight performance and winter-friendly-hardiness, with a supple-enough 66tpi sidewall that is matched with a very puncture-proof tread.
Note that the PT and TG suffixes are pretty much interchangeable and only refer to a minor running change Panaracer made to the tyres a few years back
It’s definitely not the fastest rolling tyre out there, but it’s hardy enough to put up with all sorts of abuse. I must have put a good 5,000 miles on the set of 32mm tyres I had on my old Genesis Croix de Fer, and while they’re looking a little bald after innumerable cheeky skids, I reckon they’ve got approximately one zillion more miles left in them.
If you’re looking for a great all-round tyre this is a one to consider.
Oh, and if you go for anything but the tan wall version of the tyres, you’re a fool.
- £24.99 / €29.49 / $33.99 / AU$42.99
BackCountry Research Tülbag
I first came across Backcountry Research via Rich Dillen’s blog Team Dicky.
If you’ve followed his blog for any length of time, you’ll know that Dillen is a man who describes himself as obsessive about his gear, so when I found out he had a hand in designing the Tülbag I was keen to try this little sack out.
The Tülbag is a 4x5” bag that is designed to keep your tools neatly organised in a jersey pocket. It is constructed from Terrain XPAC, which is a super lightweight material that I’ve found to be impervious to wear during a year of use.
However, what makes the bag unique is that the rear panel is made from a super grippy, rubberised fabric that stops the bag from inadvertently flying out of you jersey pocket — I’ve been using the bag for the better part of a year now and it’s yet to come free while riding.
More importantly, as someone who is chronically disorganised, I only have one thing to find before a ride with all of my riding-gubbins safely stashed inside the Tülbag.
Trust me, you need this little bag in your life.
- £15.99 / $13 / AU$27
Topo Designs Lightweight Mountain Shorts
For summertime post-work mountain biking, general cruising, cycle touring, canoeing, hiking and pretty much any other activity that involves my milky pins being out 'n’ proud, I usually turn to my Topo Designs lightweight Mountain Shorts.
The shorts are made from a lightweight and quick drying synthetic fabric. They’re also cut nice and slim and are unmolested by bloody cargo pockets (I can’t stress how much I hate cargo pockets).
The inbuilt belt keeps them cinched in place when riding, and if I’m going for a longer ride or touring but don’t want to faff about with bib shorts, I usually match them with a pair of Giro Chrono shorts for maximum bathroom-break-easiness.
There’s no getting around the fact that the shorts are relatively expensive, but they’re supremely well made, are backed up by a lifetime guarantee and tick every box in my ludicrously strict short buying criteria.
The price also hasn’t stopped me fascinating about getting a set of Topo’s matching Tech Pants, or pretty much any of the other stuff in their range. One day…
- £109.90 / $89.00 / AU$TBC
Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer
If I’m leaving the house on a bike it’s a safe bet that I’ll have a Tunnock’s Caramel wafer stuffed into my jersey pocket.
Not only are they a delicious regional flavour to remind me of the homeland, but I’m yet to meet someone who doesn’t also enjoy them, so they're always a welcome sharing snack to offer out when I feel like stopping.
Considering they’re comprised mostly of sugar, I doubt they have astounding nutritional value, but you can always mix it up with a Caramel Log — which are coated in that nutritious treat of dessicated coconut — if you want a healthier option.
- £1-ish each in any good supermarket, or...