We’ve got the low down on all the cycling gear you need, from bikes to bibtights and tires to tops. Here we look back at some of the gear our team of gear reviewers were most impressed with over the last year…
Endura Windchill Biblong Tights (with pad)
The best equipped of all the bibtights we tested to cope with foul weather, the Windchill has a windproof membrane on the front of the leg, from hip to ankle. This gives the tights a slightly stiffer feel, but it’s more than worth it for the warmth in the face of an arctic blast. The backs of the legs have a more breathable fabric so it doesn’t get too clammy behind the knees, and the bib element is a fine mesh to boost breathability.
There’s first class detailing in these tights, from reflective strips at the ankles to robust YKK zips, and even a zipped fly. The chamois pad isn’t Endura’s top-of-the-range model, but offers great long-distance comfort. Or, save £10 and buy the same tights without a pad.
Verdict: An excellent option for cold, windy winter days
Reviewed January 2016
RRP RearGuard Road
I’ll cycle through winter, grit my teeth in the face of rain and grin and bear hail, but it’s the constant spray of water up my back that really gets me. It gradually seeps through my layers, dirties my jacket and bike (cleaning a bike in a cold shed at the end of a chilly ride is the absolute pits).
This mudguard offers a partial solution. It’s ingeniously swift to fit – a single Velcro-strap looping through saddle rails (so there’s no room for a saddle bag), and it doesn’t rattle like just about every other set of mudguards I’ve used. But the height at which it sits means it protects me rather than the bike, which still needs a clean at the end of the ride. At least my back is clean and dry as I wipe down the frame.
Reviewed January 2016
Pearl Izumi Men’s Elite Jersey
For organised cyclists this jersey is a godsend, with five pockets or pouches at the back. None has a zip, but it does make it easy to stow and access gels or snacks without awkwardly reaching past pump, tyre levers and spare inner tubes. The full-length zip makes it easy to spill heat if necessary, but it’s already a very light fabric with different mesh panels at the armpits to boost breathability.
If I were heading to the heat of the Alps or Pyrenees at the height of the summer, this is the jersey I would take, especially with its UPF50+ sun protection. It’s a slim fit, and the gripper tape prevents it from riding up, but I did find the arms a little baggy.
Endura FS260-PRO SL
It’s the chamois pad that should be making the news with these bibshorts, but I’ll start with the hems and leg grippers which have the welcome feel of compression shorts and stay in place superbly. The shorts are available in three different pad sizes, depending on the width of your sit bones and saddle, and I found the chamois to be the most comfortable on test.
Longer leg options are also available. The bibs are a highly breathable mesh, and the shorts have UPF50+ sun protection. My favourite pair on test, no question.
Reviewed July 2016
Brooks Cambium C13 Saddle
Brooks may be best known for its leather-topped, last-a-lifetime touring saddles, but the C13 marks a new, performance-led direction for the British firm. Using carbon rails for light weight, and a vulcanised seat with cotton upper to flex in response to road imperfections, the C13 is a triumph of usability and style. Its rounded profile assisted me in rehabilitating a niggling knee and hip injury, and to damp out the harshness of a race-ready carbon road bike on pock-marked roads.
Traditional aluminium rivets along the back of the saddle scream “heritage”, and while there are lighter saddles out there with carbon rails none of them come close to looking as good as this one.
Reviewed July 2016
Endura Pro SL Thermal Windproof Jacket
There’s a weight and robustness to the Pro SL that makes it the go-to jacket when the weather is squally. The windproofing on the arms and torso is particularly good, while a stretch fabric across the back helps some heat escape. It’s an athletic cut, but there is still space to squeeze a merino baselayer below without threatening the zip. And when the mercury does fall, it’s very useful to be able to do up/undo this chunky zip with gloved hands.
The long, tailored cuffs aren’t as tight as most of the rivals, but the collar is the highest and the hem gripper is by far the best on test, anchoring the jacket in place. In terms of extra details, the three rear pockets, plus small zipped pocket, are easy to access, and generous reflective detailing enhances the hi-viz nature of this jacket.
Verdict: Zip this jacket on in October, and you might not take it off until April!
Reviewed Nov/Dec 2016
Lezyne Deca Drive XXL
Brightness: 1,500 lumens
Modes: 6 – overdrive, high, medium, low, flash, pulse
Run time: 1:45 hours on overdrive to 35 hours on pulse
Recharge time: 8.5 hours
Battery indicator: Yes
This powerful light pumps out a sublime, white beam for long range vision. It’s a narrower spread of light than some, so better suited to road riding, especially as the rubber band mount doesn’t feel very secure for bumpy off-road tracks. It’s worth investing in a USB plug too, to speed up recharging.
Reviewed Nov/Dec 2016
Thule Proride 598 Bike Rack
It takes a fair degree of confidence to put a cherished bike on a roof-mounted rack. I’ve traditionally used a boot-mounted rack, which allows me to keep an eye on my bike as I drive, but with the ProRide it’s out of sight, if not out of mind. The security with which the rack fits to the roof bars though is hugely reassuring, and thankfully the frame holder and wheel trays support the bike while you tighten up the contact points. It might be a physical struggle to lift a downhill mountain bike onto the roof of a SUV, but it’s exceptionally easy to lift and position my road bike on the roof of my Ford Focus.
The bike is probably worth more than my car (please don’t tell my wife), and I do give the frame a good shake before setting off, and double-check it’s still there in any reflection I can spot, but it feels as safe as houses. Moreover, the fact that the bike is locked to the rack, and the rack locked to the car means swift excursions into service stations are possible without leaving someone on guard. This is a really impressive piece of kit
Reviewed Nov/Dec 2016
Lake CX331 Wide Fit
Popping these shoes in the oven prior to heat moulding the heel counter, it was difficult to resist the sense of gimmick, and yet it works. The snugness of the fit removes the need for copious padding and has avoided any friction blisters from the very first ride. And if you’re not happy with the fit, simply pop them back in the oven and try again. The kangaroo leather upper is blissfully soft, mesh panels in the uppers and the sole help to dissipate heat and moisture on even the warmest days, and the boa fastening system (a thin wire that snakes around the shoe) creates an unbeatably snug fit that still allows an element of customisation. On the road, the carbon sole unit provides a flat and unflinching platform to transfer power to the pedal. They are expensive, but for endless miles of comfortable cycling… priceless.
Verdict: Top dollar performance for a top dollar price.
Reviewed August 2016
Tacx Vortex Smart
Tacx’s Vortex Smart combines portable practicality and intelligent software interaction at a great price. There’s a bit of simple assembly required, but the wide-splayed, fold out legs and big cam closed axle clamps give a very secure and steady stance, and the roller engages with the press of a foot pedal. The urethane roller gets a metal covering plate for a relatively quiet action even at high revs, and slippage is rare despite good speed sustain from the heavyweight flywheel. There’s immediate Bluetooth transmission of speed, accurately calculated wattage and cadence to any enabled device, for training display or software interaction with Tacx’s own impressive app. The 950W max resistance and 7% gradient simulation will be enough for most riders and the brake still provides progressive resistance if it’s used unplugged for pre-event warm up. Tacx even include a front wheel support block to complete the excellent value package.
Verdict: Top value user friendly wheel drive smart trainer with enough resistance for most.