Gear of the year 2018: Benedict Pfender’s top picks

Streamlining my gear with luggage, tool-kits and a do-it-all base layer

While I’ve had the chance to try out a whole bunch of stuff this year, my focus has really been on consolidating things into a cohesive and useful package. There’s definitely a focus on utility and versatility here, and rest assured my exacting requirements mean the recommendations haven’t been made lightly…

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Outer Shell bar bag

I’m a fan of bar bags and think this might just be the perfect one.

The Outer Shell bar bag is the best piece of bike luggage I've used
The Outer Shell bar bag is the best piece of bike luggage I’ve used
Benedict Pfender

It’s suitably niche and cool, while also being practical and well thought-out, and providing all the on-bike storage you could need.

The bag is perfectly sized to hold a camera, spare layer, snacks and tools, making it an ideal companion for all-day rides.

But the standout feature is the brilliant closure, with a separate storm-flap on top to keep things dry on the inside. Plus there’s a novel drawstring that pulls it all together neatly. It’s easy to open and close one-handed.

The Outer Shell bar bag has been through its fair share of adventures and, to prove it, is liberally covered with sweat stains and — after a nasty crash — bloodstains.

Despite the abuse, it’s still going strong and I’m hoping to expand my collection of Outer Shell gear with some additional bikepacking luggage soon.

  • From $90

Brynje Super Thermo C-Shirt

Jack actually reviewed and recommended this last year, but I’m going to make the claim that I was the one who put him on to Brynje in the first place, and it’s well worth mentioning again.

The Brynje vest is the only base-layer you'll need, even if the looks split opinion
The Brynje vest is the only base-layer you’ll need, even if the looks split opinion
Jack Luke / Immediate Media

I started using the rather fetching tights and top combo for my other outdoor pursuits and have since expanded my collection to a Super Thermo vest, which is perfect for cycling. String vests are back!

This is the best base layer I’ve used (and probably the only one I’ll ever need).

I treat it as a comfort layer to keep me dry and my temperature regulated in a wide variety of conditions. I use it in everything from sub-zero to low twenties (obviously with more or fewer layers to suit). It really is that versatile.

The magic is in the mesh, which traps air to create a cosy insulating layer, and in the hydrophobic polypropylene, which draws your sweat away from your body leaving you feeling nice and dry. Layer appropriately and you’ll be comfortable in all conditions.

It may not be a particularly fetching look, but I recommend you try one — it will be a revelation.

  • £27

Topeak Ratchet Rocket Lite DX

Multi-tools have always annoyed me. They’re either too small to get leverage, don’t have the right bits, have too many bits, come with too low-quality steel, and, and, and… The list goes on.

However, the Topeak Ratchet Rocket Lite is one of the first multi-tools that actually delights me whenever I have to use it.

It's nice to have a multi-tool that actually works as a usable tool
It’s nice to have a multi-tool that actually works as a usable tool
Benedict Pfender

Rather than put everything together in one unit, the tool uses a mini-ratchet driver with individual bits. This layout has a number of advantages.

First, you can take precisely the bits you need for your bike and no more. Second, the ratchet provides you with decent leverage and is quick to use. Finally, you can add, replace or upgrade tool bits as required — something that isn’t possible with an all-in-one multi-tool.

The only danger is that of potentially losing a bit, but the handy case should help ensure that you don’t.

  • £27.99

Lezyne Pressure Drive

The Pressure Drive might be diminutive, but it packs a pumping punch
The Pressure Drive might be diminutive, but it packs a pumping punch
Lezyne

In the process of trying to streamline my toolkit, I was looking for a small pump that would also fit inside the bar bag further up this list.

The Lezyne Pressure Drive ticks all the boxes of a mini-pump. Crucially it has a hose, which eliminates any tugging or pulling on the delicate valve when pumping the tyre.

It’s surprisingly effective. I’ve tried it on everything from skinny road tyres to mountain-bike tyres and although it takes a while longer with high-volume options, it’s perfectly capable for all your inflation needs.

It looks good to boot and isn’t obscenely priced as it’s often available at a good discount.

  • £35

Puncture spares kit

I’m extremely good at destroying tyres and after one ride too many with a split sidewall (don’t ride delicate tyres off road), I decided to put together a fully fledged tyre-repair toolkit.

With my puncture repair emergency kit I'm covered for any eventuality
With my puncture repair emergency kit I’m covered for any eventuality
Benedict Pfender

The first step is to buy yourself a traditional vulcanising kit because the box it comes in will have enough space to hold the rest of your tools too.

I have pre-glued tyre patches in there, but have largely given up on them as I find they only work when conditions are nice and dry i.e. not when you’ll get a puncture. Vulcanising patches are definitely the way to go.

Some power testing and punctures on BikeRadar diaries

Along with that, there are some tyre plugs (these are actually automotive ones as they can be picked up cheap from car supply shops compared to the cycling-specific ones), a tool to insert them and a razor blade for cutting them down.

Radial patches are perfect for repairing small tyre tears. They’re essentially burly vulcanising patches that get glued onto the tyre (rather than a tube). For extreme tyre damage, there’s a curved needle and some dental floss for sewing sidewalls together.

For less committed repairs there’s also a Park Tool tyre boot for getting me home, and of course, I’ll always carry some spare tubes separately too.

It might seem overkill, but the kit doesn’t weigh much and should cover any tyre mishap I may encounter.

Voile Straps

Not something you’d want to take with you on every ride, but if you ever need to strap things to other things, then Voile straps can fulfil your needs.

I’ve used these for everything, from skiing, to climbing, to cycling and even moving house.

Voile Straps are perfect for all your strapping needs
Voile Straps are perfect for all your strapping needs
Benedict Pfender

The straps are brilliant because they’re strong, easy to fasten, hold securely and are easy to release when they’ve done their duty. In other words, they might not look like much, but they are extremely versatile.

  • From £7.99
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