Every year, I set myself ambitions to take part in road racing, time trialling and a ‘cross season, and like most years, I hardly achieved any of those.
I did however travel to the most races in a season I ever have before to cover tech for BikeRadar and race news for our sister site Cyclingnews, which began in Australia at the Tour Down Under in January — finished with a non-race trip to Girona, Spain in December with Zwift.
- Tour Down Under 2018 news and bike galleries
- Inside the race: AG2R La Mondiale at the Tour Down Under
- New Specialized aero bike spotted at Criterium du Dauphine
I did manage to do some riding in between the travelling, however, and alongside some old favourites there have been some headline products I’ve ridden this year that have seriously impressed. Here are my favourite five products from this year.
Gear of the year
MAAP Team Bib 2.0 bib shorts
I first started wearing these bib shorts around springtime and throughout the summer they were my first-choice bib shorts every ride.
I like the simple design, the legs offer compression in the right places and the cuffs stay in position, the bib straps are lightweight so you don’t notice them even when you’re particularly hot, and the chamois is one, if not the, comfiest I’ve ever tested.
I gave the bib shorts a full five-stars in my review, but put simply, they look good, have excellent performance and are comfy. What more do you need from a pair of bib shorts?
- £175 / €190
Stages left-sided power meter (Shimano Dura-Ace R9100 and Campagnolo H11)
2018 is the first year, since probably 2013, that I have consistently ridden with a power meter. I have used the Stages Left-Sided meters in both Shimano and Campagnolo guises — and the benefit of using a left only is the ability to stick it on a test bike or a borrowed bike at a trip or product launch with minimal fuss.
Dual-sided power meters will offer more accuracy and left/right balancing, but for my needs the versatility and ease of setup from the single-sided meters is a big plus.
Towards the end of this year, I’ve been tipping my toes into the virtual world of Zwift alongside getting my head around training with power and creating specific sessions.
This may not be new to a lot of you, but for someone who generally aims to just ride as hard and as long as they can, these are big movements.
I look forward to using the power meters to their maximum capability and look forward to all the racing I’ll get around to next year… right?
Shimano Dura-Ace R9100 pedals
In terms of functionality and aesthetics, the Shimano Dura-Ace R9100 pedals are very similar to their Shimano Ultegra R8000 little brother. However, the range-topping pedals are around 10 percent lighter and, in my opinion, the best pedals on the market.
The carbon-composite construction also looks as good on a Shimano Dura-Ace crankset as a Campagnolo crankset.
The pedals have needed zero maintenance throughout the year, the tensioning sprint has remained constant and the satisfying click of a new pedal has remained. I expect I’ll be sticking with these for several seasons to come.
Specialized S-Works Venge
In November, I headed to the Sagan Fondo in California, which is sponsored by Specialized and Sportful among others. A member of staff at Specialized kindly lent me his personal S-Works Venge for the ride, which is a bike I’ve been eager to take for a spin since I first spotted it at the Criterium du Dauphine in June.
A quick shakedown ride (to a pub) the night before the event was staggering. Immediately you could tell this bike was the real deal. In the past I’ve ridden several aero bikes including a Scott Foil, Trek Madone, Ridley Noah, Cipollini RB1K The One, Pinarello Dogma (off the top of my head), but the new Venge felt like it was on a completely different level.
The bike encourages you to ride hard and fast and subsequently rewards your efforts. I want one!
Rudy Project Tralyx sunglasses
I first wore these sunglasses back in the spring of 2017, and after trying several top-end sunglasses since I keep returning to these.
Sunglass shapes and designs can be very subjective, and while there are possibly more exciting sunglasses out there, these tick plenty of boxes for me.
The simple white and black frame matches almost all helmet and kit choices, and I like having sunglasses without a frame on the underside of the lenses for improved field of vision.
Rudy Project’s ImpactX Photochromic 2 lenses adapt to light conditions and are suitable for all light conditions excluding the brightest of summer days. Ample ventilation means they’ve never fogged up on me while I’ve been riding and the air is flowing over them.