Matthew Allen’s go-to gear and kit: 6 favourites

BikeRadar senior writer's most beloved cycling kit

We use and wear a huge variety of kit in the course of our testing at BikeRadar, so it’s quite the compliment when a garment or accessory gets pressed into regular service. Here’s a sample of the gear that keeps senior writer Matthew happy on the road and trail.

I love new stuff, but above all I appreciate things that do the job well. Apart from the Tacx bottle cages and the Castelli jacket, the products on this list all pre-date my time as a bike journalist.

They’re still in regular use because despite lacking the shine and allure of newness, they’re extremely good at what they do. 

Oakley Radar Path sunglasses

My Oakley Radars have had a hard life, but they're just so good
My Oakley Radars have had a hard life, but they're just so good

I suspect that more pros have worn Radars than any other single sunglasses design, and I can see why.

I’ve got loads of shades kicking around my house but somehow I invariably pick these up, as the combination of a secure-but-not-overly-tight fit, good lenses and pure unadulterated Euro styling always wins.

The lens coverage is perfect for road cycling, but not ideal for mountain biking where in wet conditions I’ve had spray off the front tyre Karchered straight into my eyeballs.

In really, really bright conditions (e.g. snow), they let a little too much daylight in below the lens, but they’re spot-on for 99 percent of my riding using either the Jade Iridium (green!) or orange lenses.

Of course, the bigger Pitch or Range lenses would help with coverage, but they’d look stupid on my skinny face, and I’m extremely vain.

After around six or seven years of abuse, my Radars are showing their age: the original ear socks (those rubbery bits on the arms) went gooey over time as soft-touch plastics are wont to, becoming a magnet for filth.

I finally caved and bought new socks (with my own money, I should point out) this year, as they were pretty disgusting despite frequent washing.

While I’m complaining, changing lenses is a fiddlier process than it needs to be and I occasionally yearn for something less scratched, but until I break these properly they’re staying my go-to.

Castelli Idro jacket

The Idro was a life-saver at the freezing and wet Shimano Dura-Ace press camp last January
The Idro was a life-saver at the freezing and wet Shimano Dura-Ace press camp last January

Yes, £260 is an obscene sum of money for a glorified rain cape, but the Idro is so much more than your basic boil-in-the-bag jacket.

It’s Castelli’s take on the membrane-only design that we first saw with the Gore One jacket and it’s astonishingly effective.

It manages to be properly waterproof without suffering from the heat build-up you get with conventional jackets when you exert yourself.

In the summer I’ll typically grab a very lightweight gilet or a pair of arm warmers to stuff in my back pocket, but for changeable weather the Idro is my number one choice every time.

I keep it for road riding only however — it’s a very thin jacket and I’m pretty sure even a minor spill on the trail would wreck it, which would break my tiny, delicate heart.

Topeak Ratchet Rocket Lite multi-tool

The Topeak Ratchet Rocket Lite is a delightful little tool kit. The Michelin tyre lever and Speedplay cleat spring are my own additions
The Topeak Ratchet Rocket Lite is a delightful little tool kit. The Michelin tyre lever and Speedplay cleat spring are my own additions

A lot of multi-tools suck. They include an absurd number of functions but ill thought-out design means they’re often pretty useless in the real world where access to fasteners is awkward.

This Ratchet Rocket Lite was a Christmas present from my parents years and years ago, and when I first opened it I assumed it was a bit of a novelty item as I couldn’t imagine such a tiny tool being any good.

I was completely wrong. It’s a really nicely engineered little thing that does a far better job than most Swiss army knife-style multi-tools.

The Ratchet Rocket is like a tiny scale model of the tools I use to dismantle my car
The Ratchet Rocket is like a tiny scale model of the tools I use to dismantle my car

The included bits cover the bases for everyday roadside repairs and adjustments, and the reversible ratchet makes faffy jobs, like undoing stem bolts, a whole lot quicker.

The handle is long enough that you can apply a respectable amount of torque and so far, despite frequent use and abuse, the ratchet mechanism hasn’t complained. For fine work you can insert a bit into the end of the handle.

I carry the Ratchet Rocket on most rides, with a Michelin tyre lever and a spare Speedplay cleat spring slipped inside the case.

The latest version of this tool (the Ratchet Rocket Lite DX) actual includes two tyre levers as standard, as well as an extension for added reach. I want one…

Tacx Deva bottle cages

The Tacx Deva is inexpensive and very good at being a bottle cage
The Tacx Deva is inexpensive and very good at being a bottle cage

If you get excited about bottle cages, consider seeking help. Having said that, I think we can all appreciate a well designed cage that simply gets the job done.

The Tacx Deva comes in a range of nice colours, doesn’t weigh too much, doesn’t cost too much, and holds my bottles firmly without being awkwardly tight.  

I’ve used Deva cages on countless test bikes both on and off road, and they just… work.

Lazer O2 helmet

The Lazer O2 is an old design now, but it's comfy and remarkably unobtrusive for its internal size
The Lazer O2 is an old design now, but it's comfy and remarkably unobtrusive for its internal size

Helmets are a very personal thing so what works for me may not be all that relevant to you, but hear me out.

I have a massive head that’s somewhat oval in plain view, which means I generally need a size large helmet.

Being otherwise diminutive, big lids make me look comically top heavy, and I really like the O2 because the M–L size looks more like a medium but somehow fits over my disproportionately immense noggin.

If it’s exceptionally hot I’ll choose a helmet with slightly better venting, but the rest of the time the O2 is my favourite for road riding, so much so that I’ve worn through two sets of pads in the time I’ve owned it.

The O2 has been on the market for the better part of a decade and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it’s about to disappear, but right now there are still bargains to be had on this fine piece of headgear.

Altura Nightvision gloves with liners

Altura's Nightvision gloves have seen me through the darkest of days
Altura's Nightvision gloves have seen me through the darkest of days

I bought these beauties in a bricks-and-mortar bike shop in Edinburgh around 2010 because the weather is crap in Scotland approximately all of the time.

The Nightvisions are not particularly sexy, but they’ve served me well through the depths of many a winter.

Mine are on the verge of falling apart now (a recent repair has delayed the inevitable) and they definitely need re-waterproofing, but these remain one of the best pairs of gloves I’ve ever used, offering loads of insulation and adequate dexterity with a side order of visibility.

They’re completely out of date now and it looks like Altura has stopped doing these with a separate liner, but the current Nightvision 3 looks rather promising. Do you think it’s time?

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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