2020 has been, well.. pretty sh*t hasn't it. But with all the difficulties created by COVID we're fortunate that the bike business has continued to do well as getting outdoors and riding bikes has been one thing that COVID has not managed to lock-down!
It's also been a good year for new products and gear, so coming to the end of the year we thought we'd have each of the team here at AVT share some of their favorite gear of the year.
So, I'm first up with a selection of both bike and non bike product that has kept me going through the pandemic.
New Saddles - Fizik Temp Argo R1 & R3. From $149.
Saddles are a very personal piece of bike kit and over the years I have done a lot of experimenting with various saddles to find one that perfectly matches my posterior ;) A few years ago I had a bike fit from a very good fitter who immediately suggested I throw out my at the time too narrow Fizik Aliante saddle in favor of a Specialized Romin which came in a 168mm width. While it pained me at the time to have to buy a Specialized product at full retail price it worked.. until it didn't.
When we hit COVID I spent more time on the trainer and quickly found it too hard & uncomfortable... Fortunately Fizik had launched some new saddles since the fit, including the Argo Tempo in a 150mm width. Designed as a gravel saddle it features a big cut out and softer padding and has been on all of my bikes ever since.
IBIS Hakka MX. From $3399.
A veritable swiss army knife of bikes this one... primarily bought as a gravel bike, turns out with a set of deep section road wheels it doubles up as a highly capable endurance road bike. Granted its not a race machine, but for the hilly mixed terrain riding in Southern Oregon it really is one bike to rule them all. Even with 650x2" MTB wheels it can handle much rougher terrain.. OK it's not going to replace a mid-travel MTB for the majority of trails around here, so maybe that's 2 bikes to rule them all. Still a highly impressive, well designed and extremely versatile bike. So much so I am actually looking forward to putting fenders on it to create the ultimate in winter road bikes.
White Industries G25A Rim Packaging.$0 with any rim purchase ;)
It's a given that White Industries first go at making rims turned out great with the same top quality and attention to detail as the rest of their products. This extends to the packaging, and even the inside of the box!! Not only featuring a great design but very functional and designed to hold a box with hubs in the middle of it. Well done White Ind!
Workshop tools are easily over looked until they mess up something on your bike.. and this is definitely the case with hex keys which are not created equal. I was using a cheaper set and after a while found the ball socket end quickly rounding when adjusting pre-load on Chris King hubs. Cue the Bondhus set, high quality, much reduced risk of rounding bolts and they come in a big range of sizes including a 1.5mm and 10mm which are used for fitting White Industries MR30 cranks.
Pro Meal Bar. $39.99 for 12.
Having tried a ton of different bars over the years, I've grown pretty tired of anything that too closely resembles a sports bar in favor of real food. Pro Meal Bars have been my go-to this year and strike a good balance between the convenience of a sports bar and real food. Gluten free and nutrient dense they pack a decent amount of calories and protein into a single bar which lets me carry less when I'm out for a long ride.
If you're using a 24mm Shimano crankset chances are it comes fitted to a very cheap plastic Shimano BB. Now Shimano make a lot of great product but BB's are not one of them.. these plastic units are pretty much throwaway items after a season or less heavy use. Fortunately there are some very good alternatives from Chris King, White Industries and Phil Wood.
Investing in high quality bottom bracket bearings is, alongside decent quality hubs one of the upgrades that will have the biggest impact on smoothness and rolling resistance. You can tell just by spinning the bearings of one of these BB's just how much smoother they are than the Shimano equivalent, they will last years with regular maintenance and are all made in the USA in a sustainable and responsible way. My pick of the 3 we sell would be the Phil Wood one, I think it has the smoothest bearings of the 3 and is refreshingly light weight for a Phil Wood product!
For an upgrade cost of $99 upwards it's one of the best bang-for-your-buck upgrades out there.
PNW Loam Lever. $69
Not only a really high quality, well made (right here in the North West) dropper lever, but comes with the added benefit of a Shimano iSpec EV fitting. I'm a big fan of keeping the cockpit clean with as few clamps as needed and this one does the job great attaching directly to a Shimano XT brake lever.
Regular Yoga. YouTube (100's of options). $ Free.
Another casualty of COVID were my weekly CrossFit sessions which I found invaluable for building strength on the bike and all round flexibility and injury prevention. So when my local gym closed I needed a back up plan. I find if I just ride my bike I get pretty tight in the back, neck, shoulders and hips which inevitably leads to some sort of non cycling related tweak and trip to the Chiropractor.
Regular yoga a couple times a week has been a surprisingly great alternative to the gym, building strength and flexibility especially with back to back big days on the bike. There are a ton of free options on YouTube to find one that hits the spot.. my go-to for a more physical and less spiritual focused session that gets a sweat on; Yoga with Tim's 30 Day Challenge.
Over the last few months as winter closes in on Southern Oregon I actually get a little bit excited about the novelty of busting out the winter kit wardrobe that's been sitting unused for 8-9 months. This fades a little as winter sets in, but as someone once said (not sure who?) "there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad equipment".
These winter gloves from Castelli have never failed to keep my hands warm when the temp dips below freezing. On or off road they are winter staple.