We all have favourite bits and pieces, the kit that’s first out of the draw, first to be fitted to a new bike and bits that are constant companions in the back of our vehicles.
Our writers are lucky enough to have access to a bewildering array of kit, but even we have our favourites. So, we thought it would be interesting to have a quick look at what kit and gear the BikeRadar team rely on day in, day out, while out testing bikes.
First up here’s technical editor Tom Marvin’s stalwart stuff.
1. Shimano ME7
The ME7 is Shimano’s top of the range trail/enduro shoe, and by far it’s the shoe I’ve ridden in most since I got my hands on them.
I’m quite a fan of footwear, so the ME7 must surely have some special property that keeps me coming back, yes? Well, no, not really. It’s just a super capable, comfy shoe that seems to find its way into my day’s riding kit and suitcase when I go away.
First off, the fit just suits my feet; the upper is shaped just right, it’s not too baggy, not too tight. The sole is a particular highlight; stiff enough to pedal well on long days in the mountain without hotspots or energy sapping flex, but with enough feel that you know what’s happening under your feet.
The tread is also stellar, using Michelin rubber. I’ve done a lot of hike-a-bike in these, and the tread is grippy on virtually every surface — way better than Vibram.
The upper has just enough protection when things get jagged, while the flap over the speed lacing means there’s a nice balance between an airy feel and splash protection.
Are they perfect? No. The ratchet closure has to be done all the way up for my low profile feet, which can make undoing it a touch tricky. And after a year, I noticed yesterday that the tread has just parted company with the sole.
Will I stop using them? Nah, a bit of super glue will solve that…
- £160 / $200
2. Ion Universal Utility Bag
As the world’s most forgetful man, I always leave behind something important when I go riding: shoes, lid, pedals, pumps — you name it, I’ve forgotten it.
In a bid to avoid such inconveniences, I have an Ion Universal Utility Bag, stuffed to the gunnels with kit that I know I need when I ride.
In fact, most of it’s duplicated and there’s far more stuff in there than I need: two shock pumps (one broken, obviously), half a dozen tubes for wheel sizes I don’t use, crusty socks, half eaten energy bars, a few solitary gloves and enough mud and dirt to bring fertility back to the Sahel.
Whenever I go ride, this bag is the first thing to get chucked in the van.
Should you get one? If you forget everything, every time, then yeah — though a 50p FRAKTA Ikea bag will serve the same purpose…
- £17 / $20
3. Bontrager Torque Key
I’m forever putting bikes together, and storing them in a secure lock-up, or taking them along with others in vans. As such, stems are constantly being done up. The Torque Key is super simple to use, so I know I’m not over or under-tightening my stem bolts at any time.
Mine has a 4mm bit permanently attached, and I’ve the 5Nm version — other options are available from Bontrager.
Bonty isn’t the only company to make these, Park and Topeak (among others) also have them, but the Bontrager is the one I have in my toolbox on my worktop, so it’s used a number of times per week. Quick, easy, hassle- and worry-free stem and bar tightening. Perfect.
- £16 / $21
4. Adidas Zonyk Aero Pro
I’ll admit that I rather like the Euro-styling of the Zonyk Aero Pro. They also match nicely with a couple of lids I frequently wear.
They’re lightweight and comfortable, as well as having just enough adjustment to make sure the fit is right. While I love Oakley Radar sunnies, I find the arms interfere with helmets when there’s a little extra protection in front of the ears. The low-profile arms of the Zonyk slip under these and never get in the way.
The lens is also good. There’s no noticeable distortion, the tint changes reasonably quickly in varying light and fog clears quick. It's not necessarily the best tint for mountain biking in some ways, as it doesn't help trail feature pop like Oakley's Prizm Trail lens does, but it's certainly no lightweight in the performance stakes. Sadly there's now a big scratch right in the middle of it!
While I spend most of my time on mountain bikes, I jump onto gravel and road bikes from time to time, so it’s nice to have a pair of sunnies that work well in terms of shape, style and function across my rides.
- BikeRadar's Adidas Zonyk Aero Pro review will be coming soon...
- £160 / $249
5. Specialized Mountain Liner Pro Bib Shorts with SWAT
On any local or short ride, I hate wearing a pack, so when bib shorts with storage pockets came along, I jumped straight on the bandwagon.
I have a few pairs, from Sombrio to RaceFace, but the Specialized ones are the ones that get plucked from my wardrobe first.
The basics of a bib short have been done correctly — the pad suits my bum and the cut fits me well (I have a longer torso and the RaceFace ones give me a right wedgie!) The material is also comfortable on the skin and seems breathable enough.
But Specialized has also nailed the storage. The pockets are deep enough to give confidence that nothing will fall out and they’re separated all the way to the bottom (unlike the Sombrio), so things stay where you put them.
The pockets aren’t attached all the way to the bottom, either, so they hang over the waist band of your shorts, meaning your baggies aren’t pushed down.
I have the US spec ‘Pro’ version of the bibs, sadly not available in the UK, however the non-Pro version is in UK shops.
- $150 (non-Pro £65 / $90)
6. A decade old track pump from SKS
Could I get a better pump than this? Yeah, for sure. In fact, technically I probably have one. But this is the pump I’ve been using for years, and I, for some reason, still use this the majority of the time.
I don’t doubt that the gauge is inaccurate, however consistency is key, so I know what feels good, and I know what that looks like on my gauge.
The base wobbles, the pump action is stiff and creaks and the hose isn’t very long. But when I’m pumping an Airshot up to 160psi I know the hose can take it (it doesn’t swell up alarmingly), it has been dropped dozens of times, without issue, and the head doesn’t pull valve cores out (ahem, Lezyne).
It seems then that a good pump is worth it’s weight in gold, even if it is a bit rubbish…