Given how much gear we get through on BikeRadar, it’s a proud endorsement of any product if it gets used by our writing team on a regular basis. Here’s the gear and kit favoured by staff writer and social media manager Josh Evans.
My cycling year has so far very much been a game of two halves.
Following a decent winter of steady training with some of my BikeRadar colleagues, I then headed off to enjoy the Gran Fondo Strade Bianche in Italy, followed by a couple of weeks riding and testing in Belgium and France during the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix cobbled Classics.
Come May, however, and my riding had dropped off a cliff. My first house purchase has meant stripping paint, moving radiators, plastering and repeat. As a result, my summer of cycling has been near to non-existent.
Now, though, there is light at the end of the tunnel and I’m back riding and chasing back fitness for the cyclocross season.
It’s worth saying that I’m an all-out roadie. I got my first proper road bike for my 14th birthday following a several year obsession with Armstrong and the like — oh, how times change — and the kit I choose is generally inspired from the pro-peloton’s racing or training gear.
Here are a few of those pieces, which despite the products that cross the BikeRadar desks I will always go back to at the first opportunity.
1. POC Octal helmet
I’ve had my trusty fluoro orange POC Octal for around three or so years now and as divisive as its aesthetics are, I simply haven’t worn a helmet that is as comfortable, well ventilated or as light since.
Every head shape is different, but a medium sized POC Octal with the central sliding spar set at maximum extension fits me like no other helmet. I even bought the black RaceDay Aero version, which I accept looks utterly ridiculous — for racing and for wet or cold weather.
At least it’s not the bright green version the Cannondale-Drapac team have to wear…
My medium standard Octal weighs 217g, while the Aero version comes in at 237g. To put this in perspective, a medium Kask Protone weighs 251g. There are lighter helmets available, but the POC Octal is certainly up there.
The Octal’s ventilation is also class leading. The British summer hasn’t exactly been scorching, but the ample ventilation ensures the cool air is let in and any hot air produced during efforts can escape easily.
- £220 / $TBC
2. Giro Empire SLX
What links Eddy Merckx and Fausto Coppi to Taylor Phinney and Bradley Wiggins? Well apart from a few wins between them, they have all worn lace-up cycling shoes in the biggest races on the planet.
Although Merckx, Coppi and the like didn’t have the choice of Boa dials back in the day, Wiggins and Phinney do. Yet they continue to wear lace-up shoes, which have seen a small resurgence in recent years since the dominance of the more popular ratchet or Boa dial systems that emerged in the past few decades.
We all like to emulate the pros occasionally, whether it is riding the cobbles in the spring or taking a pilgrimage to Mont Ventoux in July. However, my reason for preferring lace-ups is that I simply have weirdly shaped feet.
Laces offer more adjustability than any number of Boa dials or ratchets can, while (with the correct laces) shoes can still be as stiff. Yes, they are a bit of a pain to set up and you can't adjust on the fly or tighten them up ahead of a sprint, but for me, comfort is king.
The Empire SLX shoes are also pretty light at 534g in a size 46 with Shimano SPD-SL cleats and I think they look awesome, even in this ridiculous orange colour.
- £274.99 / $TBC
- Buy now from Wiggle
3. Vittoria Corsa tyres
Most seasoned roadies will have used these tyres at least once and will agree that they feel fast, are supple and provide ample grip. However, most will also argue that they wear fast, are expensive and puncture frequently, too.
There are cheaper, faster clinchers available, but for me the softer compound at 320 TPI offers a ride quality that makes these worth the cost, and in the gum sidewall option they look fantastic.
The next sentence will either prove me right or I will be cursed with an eternity of punctures: I rarely puncture on these tyres. With a bit of extra care (picking out any flint, gravel etc.), when cleaning your bike, the tyres will easily give you 5,000+ kilometres or more in my experience. Swapping front and rear after half of that distance will also extend the life span.
The 25mm options are my preference with gum sidewalls for the summer and black sidewalls for the winter. I’m currently building up my Bowman Palace alloy frame with new components and the rubber will be the new graphene Corsa G+ versions.
- Corsa G+: £56.99 / £TBC
- Buy now from Wiggle
4. Sportful Stelvio jacket
Sportful in general is my first choice from my kit bag, I find the fit and chamois on its kit to be industry leading and I recently persuaded the BikeRadar team to get our branded kit made by the Italian firm, which has resulted in the office echoing my sentiments.
I’ve picked out the Stelvio jacket however because it is the product that has impressed me most from the brand in the last couple of years — and also won a Eurobike award last year.
The key feature of the Stelvio jacket is the combination of water protection and breathability, which Sportful claims to be industry leading. Unable to get the desired material from fabric producers, such as Gore or eVent, Sportful opted for a unique material from a Japanese vendor.
Even in torrential downpours, the jacket keeps me dry and is in an aggressive enough cut that it doesn’t flap around in the wind while I'm riding. The breathability is noticeable, too; despite still getting slightly warm on climbs and having to unzip the top quarter, when on the flats you’ll forget you’re in a full protection rain jacket.
Another nice touch is the extra piece of elastic past the wrist, enabling ease of getting the cuff on or off, but without baggy arms that can sometimes be common on rain jackets.
It is certainly expensive, but save it for your weekend rides and not your mucky commutes and you’ll get at least a couple of seasons' worth of wear from it.
- £260 / €299.90 / $299.99
- Buy now from Wiggle
5. Attaquer nylon pocket pouch
My personal preference is to generally not ride with a saddlebag and this means my spares need to be stored in my jersey pocket. Generally this will include one spare tube, a pack of self-adhesive patches, tyre levers, multi-tool and a mini pump.
Attaquer advertises the product to carry your phone, card, cash, keys and spares, and you can use it for some of those things but not all of them. I opt to keep my spares (as listed above) in there with my mini pump stored in the same pocket, but not actually in the pouch. An internal divider protects the inner tube from any stray sharps from the multi-tool and the full zipper provides easy internal access.
This means that when swapping bikes, as we frequently do here, all my spares are a simple hand grab, shove in the jersey pocket and I go. It may seem a trivial product, but it’s one that I will use on every ride without fail.
- £23.95 / €26.19 / $31.23