10 products I loved in 2022: Ronan Mc Laughlin
2022! It’s a year I’ll not look back on fondly. In fact, the less said, the better about 2022 so we’ll leave it at that. So, moving swiftly along, we all need a bit of positivity right now. With that in mind, I am chucking the “ten” and “cycling…
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
2022! It’s a year I’ll not look back on fondly. In fact, the less said, the better about 2022 so we’ll leave it at that.
So, moving swiftly along, we all need a bit of positivity right now. With that in mind, I am chucking the “ten” and “cycling products” rules out the window here with some of my silver linings to the cloudiest of years.
Ilizarov external fixator
I didn’t think these hideous-looking devices were still in use. I wrongly assumed they were now the thing of Hollywood film sets, but as a doctor described the external fixator device and procedure to me, my ignorance turned to fear and so many questions.
In hindsight, I had nothing to fear. Yes, the Ilizarov was a proper pain in the
behind leg. It constantly hurt for the first few weeks and needed constant care throughout the four months I carried it about. Some of the pin sites inevitably got infected, the frame banged off stuff and damaged furniture, and we destroyed several trousers trying to get them to fit over it.
As torturous as it was, the Ilizarov was also a godsend. With the benefit of hindsight, I now realise I was lucky my leg broke so badly that the Ilizarov was the only option. I was also pretty darn lucky the break was isolated to above the ankle, only just, and below the knee, so I didn’t require any movement restricting pins in my joints. In fitting the Ilizarov, I was weight bearing and moving when I otherwise would have been laid up.
Yes, it took some getting used to at first, but once accustomed to it, I enjoyed mind-boggling mobility considering I had a broken leg. Not only did I avoid having a restrictive cast, but the Ilizarov gave me the strength and freedom to walk, do physio work, work, and even ride the Wattbike and do single leg deadlifts. I travelled to the Tour of Flanders and Paris Roubaix, and enjoyed a family holiday with a few 20,000-step days.
All with a broken leg.
I have no doubt all this mobility and activity – along with specialist laser treatment, hyperbaric chamber sessions, and a select few supplements – all accelerated my healing process. I had the frame removed exactly in-line with the specialists’ shortest predicted recovery period. Better yet, within an hour or two of having the frame removed, I felt normal. There was no pain, no side effects, and other than a few (18 to be precise) pin-sized scars and a slight decrease in the range of motion through my knee (which quickly returned), it was as if I’d never had the injury. Within a day or two, I was on the indoor trainer. I ventured outdoors a month later following my final check-up, and now, seven months later, it’s not only as if it never happened, but I actually feel better, stronger, more symmetrical on the bike. While I hope no one reading this ever requires an Ilizarov frame – and to be clear, I never want to see one again – I do love mine in all its 180 mm carbon rotor glory.
Fanatec ClubSport Formula V2.5 X Steering Wheel
Cycling will always be my number one sport, passion, hobby, etc, but my new passion is Formula 1. I say new, but actually, I was an F1 fanatic long before I ever heard of the Tour de France. That passion fell by the wayside as I chased the cycling dream, but now it’s back. I am hooked on anything and everything F1, the races, qualifying, and even free practice sessions. Podcasts, YouTube videos, news articles: I want it all.
Interestingly, I can’t be bothered with the Drive to Survive series on Netflix, but my god, sim racing captivates me. I had long toyed with the idea of getting a “sim rig”, but struggled to justify the cost associated with a decent-level setup. I often think back to that mental back-and-forth trying to determine if a sim rig would be money well spent, and even which components to get, and then compare this process to what new riders must endure trying to decide if they should buy a bike: how much to spend, and what to get amidst the vast minefield of options. I sometimes thought I had lost my marbles, even considering spending that much money on a hobby I had no idea if I would enjoy or commit to long-term. Ultimately, the loss of a friend far too young reminded me life is too short, and along with the insurance payout for the broken leg, I took the plunge and bought the kit.
I settled on the Fanatec GT DD Pro direct drive wheel base, wheel, pedals, and 8 Nm booster kit, which is everything I need right now, but more importantly, the wheel base was merely a holder for my true desire. My true sim rig love is the F1-style ClubSport Formula V2.5 X steering wheel also from Fanatec.
With a 5 mm-thick, solid carbon fibre front plate, aluminium shifter paddles, rotary switches, 11 buttons, 12-way multi-position switches, thumb encoders, toggle switches, genuine Alcantara grips, and LED panels, this hefty 1.2 kg thing brings the F1 cockpit to my office desk. Given this wheel might be the thing I loved most this year, clearly my nerdery extends well beyond two wheels.
Price: US$400 / AU$620 / €400
More information: Fanatec.com
Sim racing is a daunting challenge at first. The F1 series I most enjoy is more of a game than a true sim and offers varying levels of assists. There are steering, braking, ABS (anti-lock braking system), pit, and ERS (Energy Recovery System) assists. Along with the racing line projection and automatic gearboxes, the assists give newbies a chance to get up to speed. While I have all the assists turned off for my F1 driving, the new Cervelo S5 rides as if it is the cycling equivalent of “full assist.”
There is a long term review on the new Cervelo S5 published just last week, so I’ll keep it short here. The S5 thrilled me on every ride, making me feel faster than I was. In sim racing terms, the S5 is like driving with the assists turned on, making the game easier without compromising the thrill. It’ll be a tough day when I hand back the S5 and turn those assists off.
Price: US$9,000 / £9,199 / €9,699
More information: Cervelo.com
Northwave Extreme Pro 3 shoes
Two years ago, I included the Lake CX403 road shoes in my most loved products of 2020. While not the lightest and pretty stiff, the shoes offered a fit to match my tall in parts, low volume in others feet. Prior to those Lakes, I had Northwave’s Extreme Pro and, while I found the heel cup on the loose side and the retention dials a little awkwardly placed for my feet, the shoes were otherwise quite nice. You can imagine my eagerness to try the latest in the Extreme Pro range, the Extreme Pro 3, when I seen the new “dual-zone closure” wider retention dial placement and a much grippier fitting heel. Not to mention the Speedplay cleat adapter plate for my beloved Speedplay pedals.
The Pro 3s did not disappoint. The new closure dial position offers a secure and comfortable fit with the option to vary the retention between the toe area and the top of the instep. The supple upper provides a comfortable fit, while the perforated outer section and mesh inner combine with vents in the sole to provide more than adequate cooling for our Irish climate.
The sole is apparently rated 15 in terms of stiffness, while the “Powershape” arch support carried over from the Extreme Pro does support my mid-height arches. The shoes are not perfect, Northwave’s closure dials get sticky and are awkward to release or tighten beneath overshoes, and the white finish has proved impossible to keep clean, even long before their first wet ride.
That said, these shoes fit, and I definitely plan to buy them in every colour.
Price: US$346 / AU$495 / £277 / €329
More information: Northwave.com
Gebiomized saddle and insoles
Speaking of fit, Gebiomized is a German brand synonymous with bike fitting, pressure mapping for saddles and shoes, custom offerings, and now, off-the-shelf insoles and saddles. The off-the-shelf products aim to provide ergonomic support without mortgage-like payments.
Even before a visit to Gebiomized HQ in Germany, level 3 fitter Jan Neuhaus was able to advise which of the brand’s range of saddles might work best for me. That online assessment did involve having to stand up on a zoom call and reveal I was still wearing pyjama bottoms, but unphased, Jan’s assessment at the time was proven correct by an in-person assessment and saddle pressure mapping analysis. The results suggested the Gebiomized Sleak [sic] saddle might work best for me, and that has proved correct.
While the Sleak [sic] isn’t the lightest saddle at 209 g, it is one of the few saddles I can get easily get along with, even with minimal attention to its exact positioning. Swapping it between bikes, time and time again, it just works for me. With other saddles, I find myself constantly adjusting: a mm here and a mm there; up a degree, down a degree. I’d probably try sideways if it was an option. The Sleak eliminates all that.
I also had the chance to try Gebiomized’s new heat mouldable insoles this year. The insoles are available with three arch support heights, each named after a famous climb in cycling for a quick and easy way to understand the support levels. The Poggio is the lowest level of support, Sa Calobra mid-level, and the Galibier at the tallest end of the scale.
The insole design and concept is based on more than 25,000 foot scans globally using Gebiomized’s pressure mapping tools and software. The result is an insole that provides support and the option for customisable fit through heat moulding if required. The Sa Calobra insoles just worked out of the box for me: just cut them to size, and they were ready to go. The insoles have transferred from shoe to shoe since, and even the Northwave shoes fit better with the Gebiomized insole. I’ve never tried properly custom-made insole or shoes, and the idea they may be better again is staggering.
Price: Sleak saddles – €179
More information: Saddles and insoles.
So-called aerodynamic sensors have been around for a while now. The common consensus is they are difficult to use, temperamental, unreliable, and only for the immensely patient aero nerd dead set on maximising performance. I had an aero meter for a few years without ever achieving much more than a snapped temper.
We first reported on the Aerosensor back in August, and have since had a few months of testing with the new device. While not yet the finished article as the brand works on finalising much of the analytical software, it was immediately clear to me just how much more user-friendly the Aerosensor is. Aero testing will always be a challenging task with many countless ways for things to go wrong, and while the Aerosensor still requires patience, crucially, that patience is rewarded.
I’ve unfortunately had to send my sample unit back, but I did more testing in one morning with the Aerosensor than I had done in the past few years of performance obsessive aero-mindedness. Will aero meters follow a similar path to power meters and become commonplace on countless bikes? Like many, I’m not convinced. But Aerosensor has convinced me this is no longer a sector reserved only for World Tour teams and aerodynamicists.
Furthermore, I now realise the true potential of these devices is not just in optimising time trial positions, but assessing the equipment that works best for you in road, time trial, and track racing in a given set of conditions. Where I used to ask, “what’s my CdA?”, I’m now asking, “at which yaw angle is that CdA” or, more importantly, for the events I am targeting, “at which yaw angle is my CdA lowest?” Rather than assuming that deeper wheels are almost always faster, I can now objectively measure how wheels perform in given conditions, and the results are sometimes rather surprising. If Aerosensor is on the way to cracking at-home aero testing, the data from that at-home aero testing could prove the next frontier in all manner of bike, frame, and component design.
More information: Aerosensor.tech
Garmin Varia RCT715 and My Bike Radar Traffic
The combination of both GPS and radar on a bike is next-level nerdery to the general public, but I’ve been behind the times on this innovation. Garmin first offered its Varia radar devices as many as six or seven years ago. The latest generations are almost universally lauded as one of the cycling products owners would buy again without hesitation. Still, I’d never tried one – until recently.
Within a few short rides, I knew I’d never again be happy riding on public roads without the Varia radar. It’s reliable, simple to attach, smart, and it warns of and displays the distance of vehicles approaching from the rear relative to me on my head unit.
Paired with the My Bike Radar Traffic Garmin Connect IQ app, I can see much more detailed information about the total vehicle count, relative and absolute vehicle approach speed, and distance behind me of an approaching vehicle. The My Bike Radar website also offers a post-ride analysis of where, when, and at what speed vehicles passed during a ride.
Now, I am not one to shoulder the responsibility of being safe on the roads onto cyclists or pedestrians. That said, while an audible and visual alert of approaching traffic is useful, the greatest benefit to me of the Varia and Connect IQ app is in knowing the exact right second to look behind and make eye contact with the driver. While purely anecdotal, I find this simple but human connection with the driver has all but eliminated close passes. And while I soon get tired looking behind me on busy roads, until our national and local governments, infrastructure, traffic planners, traffic police, and judicial system collectively do more to ensure the safety of all road users, I’m going to keep practising looking backwards while riding forwards.
Garmin’s latest Varia offering, the RCT715, also includes a built-in camera that records at up to 1080p/30 fps. The Varia app for viewing and downloading the recorded footage needs some work, but the camera seems as reliable as the light and radar.
Lastly, as you might expect, I have also found a potential performance benefit in the Varia RCT715. For as long as aero testing has existed, cyclists have searched for traffic-free roads to conduct their testing uninterrupted or disturbed by passing vehicles. Given that most of my events take place on open roads, I want to better understand how passing traffic impacts aero performance. Using the Varia RCT715, My Bike Radar Traffic app, and the Aerosensor mentioned above, I could assess the aero impact – positively and negatively – passing traffic has on my aerodynamics right down to how this impact varies with traffic speed. While I am yet to try this, theoretically, I could use the Connect IQ app to monitor average traffic data at a point along a time trial course and then tailor my equipment choices using aero-testing data to match. EXCITING!
Price: RCT715 US$400 / £350
MyBikeTraffic CIQ app – Free
More information: Garmin.com and MyBikeTraffic.com
Parcours Chrono (68/75)
Simply put, these wheels improved every bike I put them on.
Measuring 68.6-mm deep and 32.0-mm wide up front, paired with a 75.7 mm-deep, 30.5-mm wide rear rim, the Parcours Chrono are wheels designed for straight-line speed with real-world stability. With such deep and wide rims optimised for 28 mm tyres and with 22.5 mm internal rims widths, you might that speed and stability would come with a weight penalty, but Parcours has managed to bring the new Chronos in at a tad above 1,600 grams a set. With hooked rims and Sapim CX-Ray bladed stainless steel spokes, there shouldn’t be any long-term setup or servicing issues.
The new Parcours Chrono 68/75s feel fast and roll so smoothly. They offer a blend of speed, stability, and rim depth that’s hard to come by. The wheels are as stiff as you might expect from a performance road racing, time trial, or triathlon wheelset, but with just enough cushioning to provide a sensation of supreme traction through medium to high-speed corners, even on less-than-perfect surfaces. The Chronos performed well across a series of aero tests, even outperforming more expensive wheelsets from bigger brand names in blustery conditions where, subjectively, the Parcours seemed to harness the gusts to their advantage rather than stall. Speaking of blustery conditions, while any front rim measuring nearly 70 mm-tall will also prove more susceptible to a side gust, Parcour’s “Think Wider” real-world stability rim technology is evident in the Chronos. If this was my only wheelset, I’d be confident riding it in anything up to gale-force storm winds. That said, I did spend six years racing echelons in Flanders and Netherlands, so your milage may vary.
So far, so good with the new Parcours Chrono, but all that considered, I think the new Chrono’s greatest party trick is its value. Starting at £1,200 with steel bearings and rising to £1,480 with ceramic, these wheels offer all that performance for less than a pair of Campagnolo Boras 20 years ago.
More information: Parcours.CC
Continental GP5000 S TR
There isn’t much left to say about the Continental GP 5000 range. It is one of the most popular tyres on the market and is available in a range of sizes as well as clincher or tubeless. We know it well.
I include it in my list this year because it has become my road tyre quiver killer. Here is a tyre I can run on the days I’m chasing absolute performance but also on the days I’m merely exploring country lanes. It’s fast, grippy, light, and I never have an issue mounting it. The S TR is now my one-stop shop for road tyres. The only downside is just how darn expensive the S TRs are.
Price: US$100 / £70 / €80
More information: Conti-tyres.co.uk
Albion Zoa jacket range
I am a big fan of Albion, especially given the brand’s commitment to producing quality cycling kit in a responsible way. The company offers well-made products that last, using only responsibly sourced fabrics and materials, made only in factories that treat their workers fairly, and relying on vegetable-based C0 DWR treatments instead of nastier alternatives, and it’s all covered with free lifetime repairs and at home repair kits.
The brand’s ABR1 bibs featured in my ten most loved things of 2021, and there was an honourable mention for the Burner insulating layer. The Burner is still one of go-to accessories for countless rides. This year I include Albion’s Zoa Insulated Jacket and Zoa Rain Shell as two of my favourite items of the year, despite almost never using either for an actual bike ride.
The Insulated Zoa is a versatile, warm, lightweight, and wind-blocking jacket designed for on- and off-bike use. The outer fabric is 100% recycled Pertex Quantum, while the insulation is Primaloft Gold Eco, an environmentally friendly, premium synthetic insulation made with 55% recycled content. It fits, well, normally, which is about the best thing one could say of a cycling jacket designed for use on two feet as well as on two wheels, and it has pockets galore. I imagine it would make for a great bikepacking or adventure riding jacket, the kind of riding I unfortunately never do [we should fix that, Ronan – Ed.]. I greatly underestimated its insulating properties for the one 10°C road ride I did in the Zoa and cooked like a microwaveable corn on the cob. Instead, the Zoa has become my go-to jacket day in and day out over the past year for everything outdoors, not involving a bike.
For wetter days, there is the Zoa Rain Shell. Again, this jacket hasn’t seen too much bike riding activity, saved instead as my go-to rain jacket for school runs, grocery shopping, walks, and just about anything that might involve diving between rain showers. To my horror, it even served as a drawing board for my daughter at one point.
The Rain Shell drops the insulating layers of the warmer Zoa, replaced instead with a breathable waterproof membrane. It also features a similar helmet-compatible hood, pockets all over, and great fit. Combined, both of these jackets feel like a barrier against the elements to hide inside.
Price: US$235 / AU$335 / £185 / €270 (Zoa insulated jacket); US$325 / AU$500 / £260 / €380 (Zoa rain shell)
More information: Albioncycling.com
Sportful Total Comfort winter jacket
Speaking of jackets, Sportful’s Total Comfort winter jacket also makes my list, and unlike the Albion’s, it actually gets plenty of riding time. Total comfort might not be the first thing that springs to mind when we think of cold winter rides, but I can’t think of a better name for this particular winter offering.
It’s roomy without being flappy, and fits without being restrictive. The jacket features Polartec’s Alpha lining, and I can see why James loves it so much. The lining is soft and light to the touch, and oh-so warm. The whole jacket is like one great big warm cuddly hug in the depths of winter. It’s not the most breathable or water-resistant jacket, and so I save it for steadier endurance rides, which is fine, given that steady endurance rides happen to make up the bulk of my training this time of year, anyway.
Price: US$300 / AU$410 / £310 / €325
More information: Sportful.com
POC Elicit glasses
If I had more money, I’d like to be a watch guy, but sadly the lucky numbers have come up yet. In the meantime, I’m a sunglasses guy. I’ve had four new glasses this year: one pair of Ray-Bans that turned out to be a disappointment, and a few pairs of cycling glasses.
POC sent its new lightweight, frameless design Elicit glasses recently. At 24 grams, the glasses are impressively light, but that low weight doesn’t come at the expense of performance. POC is known for going big with its glasses design; check out the Devours James reviewed last year. I have those insanely oversized Devours also, but somehow the comparatively small lens on the Elicits provides better coverage for my eyes with less field-of-view obstruction. I found it easy to forget I was wearing the Elicit, which is perhaps the best feature of any glasses.
Swapping lenses is as simple as sliding the arms off one lens and onto another, and despite the simple system and low weight, the glasses offer a surprisingly secure hold. If I have one complaint with glasses, it’s with the nosepiece. While it fits and grips well, it comes off too easily and could go missing. If I had a second, the lens does struggle in high glare and rapidly changing lighting: the type you might find riding along a tall hedgerow with a low autumn sun shining through branches and briars.
Price: US$250 / £180 / €240
More information: POCsports.com
Factor Hanzo TT bike
For all my fascination with time trial bikes, I’ve never owned one I was happy with. Ever since I had a lend of a Cervelo P3C way back in the day, everything since then has been either not quite at the level I wanted, the wrong size, lacking in key design elements, or all three. All my TT bikes left me feeling like I was losing time before I even started.
That is, until this year, when I set about building a time trial bike for breaking endurance records. The Factor Hanzo is the first TT frame I have had the pleasure of riding since that P3C that feels like it is at the cutting edge of current TT tech. For a TT and F1 nerd, cutting-edge tech is lifeblood. Every wheel, component, and detail attached to the frame is at the same cutting edge.
As far as TT bikes go, the Hanzo is a joy to ride. I spent three hours on it yesterday alone. I plan to spend a lot more time on it in 2023.
Price: Starting at US$6,250 / AU$TBC / £TBC / €TBC
More information: factorbikes.com
Wove V8 TT Saddle
Sticking with the time trial theme, the Wove V8 is a late addition to my most loved products of 2022, but has already proved a revelation in time trial-specific saddles. At 140 grams, it is as light as it is expensive. Priced at a whopping US$595, the V8 is more like a throne than a saddle. The carbon shell and carbon rails look the part and keep the weight down, while the wide nose and huge channel down the centre keep the numbness at bay while providing plenty of support. The V8’s real magic lies in the sheer grip the upper material provides. The saddle helps me to no end in maintaining the aero position for up to three hours without issue so far.
We all know saddles are quite the personal preference kind of thing. Still, the only problem I can find with the V8 (beyond that price tag) is that it’s come many years too late for Tony Martin’s sandpapered rear end.
Price: US$595 / AU$A LOT / £A LOT / €A LOT
More information: Wovebike.com
Velocio Concept Radiator Jersey
An ultra-lightweight hot weather mesh jersey might not seem like a natural choice for a rider living not far from the most northerly point of Ireland. I literally got two days this past summer to truly avail of the Radiator’s intended use case. That said, this is one of my most frequently used jerseys this year.
The Concept Radiator is lightweight, breathable and sweat-wicking thanks to the Polartec Delta Mesh fabric on the front and sleeves. It offers an aero-like fit and features long sleeves that stay in place without the restrictive hold. The body is a superb length for me, and the “stability pockets” are stable by name and stable by nature. There’s also the low-cut collar, YKK Camlock zipper, and a zipper garage to protect shorts from abrasion over time. Best of all, despite the low weight and mesh material, the jersey has so far proved quite robust, showing no signs of wear.
The Concept Radiator is a superb summer jersey, but it’s become my most used jersey this year as I found as much use for it for indoor training rides and as a sweat-wicking autumn and winter layering item. The Concept Radiator has proved much more versatile and useful than I could have imagined living in not-so-sunny Ireland. That said, at US$199 for a jersey, it had better be useful.
Price: US$199 / £160
More information: velocio.cc
Good kids’ bikes
Regardless of what’s happening in the world, kids have this amazing ability to turn “big people’s” frowns upside down. Watching my daughter zoom up and down the street on her balance bike elicits some of the biggest smiles. Truth be told, she’d have been zooming about on a pedal bike months ago if she didn’t love her “super fast black bike” (aka the Specialized Hot Walk Carbon) so much.
Bike riding smiles are one thing, but my daughter’s newfound obsession with the bike section in the local Halfords store is another thing entirely. When she says, “Daddy, please, can we go to the bike shop?”, how could or why would one say no?
Those trips to the bike shop have expedited her step up to the pedal bike. While this Hornit Hero isn’t quite the pink my daughter would ideally like and doesn’t yet have a baby seat (Santa is on the job, though), Daddy likes its well-thought-out design, functional brakes, belt-driven drivetrain, and relatively low weight (5.4 kg, size 14″, with pedals).
I’d also include the Met Hooray MIPS kids helmet, but Shoddy Dave beat me to it… who’s the Shoddy one now 🙂
More information: Hornit.com