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Back at the start of the year, on the first pod of 2022, if I recall correctly, our then-host, editor-in-chief, and captain of the ship, good old Caley Fretz, quizzed us all on our cycling goals for the year. On that sunny January day, looking out of the kitchen window, I could see the peaks of the Pyrenean foothills off in the distance. And I splurted into the microphone something along the lines of, “the past two years have been pretty mental, but I’m feeling settled into life at the mo. I think I’ll have time to get back to some serious cycling. Maybe even head to the hills, enjoy a bit of a bikepacking.”
Rose-tinted glasses, a little. Foolish, most certainly.
Most of 2022 has been great. It’s also been hectic and, as many of you will know, just a touch tremulous at times.
The one major change in my life is that we, and I mean my partner and I, struck lucky and ended up getting on the property ladder with a nice little apartment close to the French Basque capital of Bayonne. It was our second house move in just seven months. No small undertaking with two little girls in tow. My work life finally got back to some normality, and then abruptly didn’t – let’s put that to one side for a moment, though – races became easily accessible again, bike brands launched products in person, and tourism projects were back in the works. With all that on the cards, the adventures and bike rides I planned for myself didn’t come to fruition. I’ve got the miles in, fewer than I’d have liked, but heck, we can all say that. So while looking back at my year in cycling, it surprised me that the gear I’ve used hasn’t veered too far from my setup of 2021. There have been a few tweaks and new bits ‘n bobs; not a lot, but certainly enough for a lovely 2022 list.
Rad Power RadWagon 4
Let’s kick the list off with the heaviest, least aero, and cheapest bike we’ve probably ever reviewed on CyclingTips. The Rad Power RadWagon 4.
I’ve had this bike built and ready to use since the spring. But before the big move, I lived in a village of about 1000 inhabitats; the kids’ school was 100 meters from our front door, the local grocery store about the same distance, the nanny lived a few doors down, and the bar where I occasionally sat to work often left their fibre broadband on so I could steal it from my living room when they were closed. It was indeed a tiny village, and that meant the RadPower RadWagon was redundant.
But with the move to Bayonne in July, the budget option e-cargo bike has seen action every day. Since then, we’ve already clocked up close to 800 kms just in the daily school and nanny dash. Then there have been the supermarket and post office runs, the trips to the beach and even the odd taxi service for mates.
The RadWagon is one of the cheapest longtail e-cargo bikes on the market. At €1800, it’s less than half the price of some big brand options. Sure, you can see where some of the cost-cutting measures have been made to hit that silly low price, with cheap components and own-brand items, including the motor, but it’s still mind-boggling how darn good it is for such silly money.
I love it, the kids love it, and car drivers (probably) envy it as we whoosh past every morning, leaving them to sit in 20 minutes of traffic jams for the three-kilometre school run. It’s glorious.
And yes, there is a full review coming, I’m a little behind schedule on that one, but I’m sure you’ll understand why.
Price:€1899 / £1649 / $1999
More information: radpowerbikes.com
Mavic Ultimate SLR 45 Disc wheelset
I’ve got a soft spot for Mavic. For starters, like many, I miss their iconic yellow neutral service cars at the major one-day races and the Tour de France. Yes, I know Shimano is doing a sterling job at replacing them, but it’s just not quite the same. Just like when Le Tour swapped from Fiat to Skoda or allowed teams to use their own team-branded bottles instead of the Red Coca Cola ones.
Now, Mavic has gone through a hard time over the past few years. It’s changed hands and had significant layoffs, but as of writing this, it is getting back to what it does best – making some truly great products. And as I’ve found, the Cosmic SLR ’40s are just that, a solid, well-made product that harks back to what Mavic have always tried to do.
I’ve again been meaning to get these out as a stand-alone review, so instead, I’ll just quickly cover why I dig them and then hopefully, if we all stick around long enough, I’ll get a proper review out.
I’ve never been one for deep-section wheels, but these have persuaded me otherwise. I’ve used them all summer on the Ritchey Logic disc (yes, it never got returned) and have been mighty impressed.
I’ve had zero issues, be it in performance or mechanically. They’ve been absolutely fuss-free. They whip up to speed beautifully, take on every road surface that I’ve thrown at them without trouble, and have just been a product I’ve relied on all year.
If you’re in the market for a nice set of hoops, I’d advise you to consider them. It’s great to see Mavic back to their winning ways.
And I tell you what people, I promise I’ll bring you a full review soon.
Price:€2100 / £1890 / $2100
More information: mavic.com
POC doing their thing
I may be jinxing myself here, but I have been a lucky lad for many years on the bike; crashing has been something I’ve avoided since I hung up my racing wheels. But, of course, that was until the recent YT Szepter gravel bike launch.
As I state in my review of the bike, it’s confidence-inspiring, or more to the point, a little too confidence-inspiring. With YT being predominantly a mountain bike brand, their new gravel bike leans heavily in that direction. Plus, the fact I’m a pure roadie with zero off-road skills made for a perfect storm. The result was a trip over the bars and into the local countryside.
If you want to see it for yourself, skip to about 5:50 into the review vid. You’ll be glad to hear I had a GoPro on to catch all the action.
Luckily, damp bracken and soggy moss broke most of the fall, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t violent enough to cause damage, as I found out once we’d all regrouped at the end of the trail.
Whipping my helmet off, we quickly noticed that I wouldn’t be using it the following day. The crack on the rear was more than considerable. I’d taken a good old blow to the head.
So for this product recommendation, it’s more about well-designed products doing their intended job without fuss, and the POC falls into that camp with aplomb.
I’d just like to take this moment to post an open letter to the good people at POC:
Cheers for doing your job; you saved me from a definite trip to the local A&E department. Thanks again, and keep up the great work. Happy Holidays.
P.S. What’s your crash replacement scheme like?
Price: US$290 / AU$430 / €270.
More information: pocsports.com
In June, if I’m not mistaken (yep, I’ve just checked my emails, and it was indeed June), I ventured north to Scotland for the first tourism project I’ve undertaken in a long while. Aberdeenshire was the destination this time around, and if I’m brutally honest, I wasn’t expecting too much. It’s part of Scotland that never really stood out in my eyes. There were always more stunning higher-profile locations. But man, was I wrong.
It was all good, from the simple things like the hedgerows, lush unkempt barriers that hemmed in the roads, all devoid of cars which led to scenic spot after scenic spot. It was a road trip and a half.
But the grub was also a surprise. Now I know the U.K. has its fair share of quality cafes, although admittedly more and more are getting a bit too gentrified, aiming to appeal to the campachoochoo, latte, frothy yaks milk types. But Aberdeenshire kept it honest, with proper cafes dotted everywhere. And all of them with one delight in common, the buttery.
If you don’t know what a buttery is, well, I can’t blame you – I didn’t either. I’m sure it’s one of those well-kept local secrets. Anyway, it’s a tasty treat perfect for the cyclist on a long ride. Butter, lard, flour… Yes, it’s chock-full of calories, but by god, it’s moreish. If you are up that way, ensure you get one. You won’t be disappointed.
Price: Worth every penny
More information: Just check the road trip out
Elite Jet Green bidons
I know this item has been about for a few years now, but it’s often the things you don’t notice that need a little nod of recognition. And the Jet bottles by Elite are such an item. These have been my bottles of choice for a while now.
Functionality-wise, Elite seems to have nailed the product. The plastic used is super supple, so it’s easy to squeeze; the nozzle delivers a good burst, and for cleaning, it pulls apart easily, so no grotty germs can hide anywhere. And if you’re a weight weenie, they’re probably the lightest bottle out there.
But for 2022 (or at least from what I’m aware of), Elite updated the bottle by producing them from plant-origin bioplastic derived from sugar cane. The new Jet Green bottle is more eco-friendly, and it is one way Elite is approaching its manufacturing so they become carbon neutral. It’s a sizeable step in the right direction.
In previous years, James and Abby praised the Bivo alloy bottles, a product that should see years of service. Unfortunately, it’s a product that doesn’t seem available yet in Europe, so the Elite will be my go-to bidon for the time being.
Price:About €5 / £5 / $5
More information: www.elite-it.com
Y.T. Szepter Gravel bike
As we’ve already established, I got to spend two days bashing about on the new YT Szepter at the recent launch, and I came away with a huge smile plastered across my face. It’s a bike that comes at gravel from the opposite direction to most, with YT claiming it’s gravity-inspired. I’ll admit, it does indeed live up to that.
It’s just a fun bike. I won’t recap what I said in the first ride review, but I found a bike that stood out from a crowded gravel market and one whose designers cut no corners. I get the impression that it lives up to their initial design criteria, which is refreshing to see.
On top of that, it also comes at a fair price; you get a lot for your money with either of the two models on offer. Take a look, sure, YT may not be a brand you wouldn’t usually consider, but they will be if they keep up with delivering drop bar bikes like this.
Price: US$3,300 / €3,300 / £3,200
More information: yt-industries.com
Udog Cima shoes
Udog may not be a name that you’re too familiar with, and that’s probably down to them being the new kid on the block. The new shoe brand hails from Veneto, Italy, and even though they’re a fresh-faced start-up, the man who started the brand, Alberto Fonte, has long been around the cycling industry, working at Pinarello, Kask and Fizik.
The Cima is Udog’s top-end model, although that’s not a massive claim as they only have two models in their lineup. But I like that. It’s a small range, but at least there’s no faff or muddiness to knowing what shoe sits where. Alberto and his colleagues have, I feel, used their experience well and produced a shoe that’s lightweight, stiff (but not overly stiff) and, above all, comfortable. They’ve ticked all the boxes that I want in a shoe.
As for them being a lace-up, I’ve also never been a massive fan, seeing it as a bit of a redundant method of fastening a shoe. I’ve long loved BOA dials and such, but the Cima has changed my perspective. The laces mixed with the one-piece knitted construction make for a secure-fitting shoe. All in all, I’m impressed.
Price: €250 / $300 / £220
More information: udog.cc
Ritchey WCS Beacon handlebar
I’ve had an Ascent in for review for a long time now, a really long time. So let me just say I’m holding off on publishing it until Ritchey has stock of it again. It sells well for a reason.
Anyway, it’s nice. But one item on there that I turned my nose up to at first were the bars. On first inspection, I thought to myself that they’d be swapped for something a little less nuts. Well, again, I was wrong. The bars are surprisingly excellent.
Stupidly wide, stupidly comfortable and they suit the Ascent perfectly.
We know Tom’s got some magic, and there’s a touch of it in the Beacon bars. They’ve got more flair than a ’70s prog-rock band. Sure they’re not going to be for everyone, but for those that want something that gives you usable hand positions for big adventures, these bars may be right up your street.
Price: €109 / $109 / £92
More information: ritcheylogic.com
Etxeondo Alde Jersey and Orhi shorts
I’ve always had a soft spot for this Basque brand; I always dreamed of owning one of their knitted buff-type hats. But, for some reason, I’ve never got around to achieving that tiny little dream. Probably because I know I would never live up to how slick Ullrich looked in one back in the early Coast days.
But what I have in my wardrobe from them I love. The Alde jersey and Orhi bib shorts have been welcome additions this summer.
There’s something about the brand’s clothing, it feels slightly luxurious, and there’s a certain velvety quality to the materials they choose.
The pad in the shorts doesn’t look much when compared to other brands, but its performance is absolutely bang-on. And the jersey is the same; it doesn’t try to scream “cutting edge”, but it’s incredibly comfy, well made and with a cut that’s slim enough to be flattering but not feel like it’s been painted on you.
It’s not a brand that gets a lot of publicity, which is a shame as pretty much all the kit I’ve had over the years has been long-lasting, hard-wearing and great performing.
If you’re after something a little different, take a look, I highly recommend their gear.
Jersey price: €139 / $208 / £139
Shorts price: €169 / $253 / £169
More information: www.etxeondo.com
Schwalbe One TLE tyres
I’ve been running these since the spring sprung early, and they’ve impressed and pleased me ever since.
What can you say about a tyre and not repeat what a formal review would cover? Not a lot, really!
They’re just great tyres; they roll fast, seating and inflating them are a breeze, I’ve yet to puncture on them, and the grip is excellent in pretty much every type of weather. I’ve only ever had the one “oh, hold up, the wheels aren’t doing what they should be” moment once with them, and to be truthful, it was my own fault for thinking I could ride across a damp old wooden jetty early one morning a few days back.
Yep, they’re not the cheapest available, but damn they’re good.
Price:€69.90 / US$81
More information: schwalbe.com
Met Hooray kid’s helmet
Hang on, this is number 11, isn’t it? Oh, damn it, who cares? I’ll continue. After all, there are a few fewer top tens this year than others.
I’ve included Met helmets in other years’ lists, and there’s a good reason they keep cropping up: they’re good. And the new Hooray is no different.
I bought this for my now 18-month-old daughter; her sister had long used the Elfo helmet from Met and got on with it without trouble. The Hooray steps into where the Elfo used to be in Met’s kids’ range, and it improves upon the already great outgoing option.
What do you need to know about a kid’s lid? It’s very well made and has a great new buckle that should stop any kid (or adult) from accidentally nipping the chin when fastening it; it seems to be lighter than the Elfo and more ventilated, plus it sits lower on the back of the head. It’s just a nicely thought-out helmet, and if your budget can stretch, they even do it with a MIPS liner.
More information: met-helmets.com
I’m going to continue, folks, as I’ve just thought of a few more ‘products’ that I’m sure will ignite the comments section.
S-Works Recon Lace Gravel Shoes
Here we go, another expensive product that just happens to be a pair of shoes. The Specialized Recon lace-up gravel shoes have been the footwear of choice when I’ve turned to the dirt this year.
I’m also pretty sure that, so far, no one else has a Specialized product in their top ten list, so I’ll be the shill this year 😉
They’re the first silly money shoe I’ve had for gravel or off-road. Previously I’ve used shoes that are about a third of the price of these dab boys. So, the question is, does that make these three times better? The simple answer is: no. But they are outrageously good, or at least they are for my feet. After all, one shoe that is good for one person may be an absolute dog for another.
Apart from them being super comfy, they also seem to be hard-wearing. I’ve had them a few months now, and they’re still looking, if not box fresh, wardrobe fresh. Yeah, they’re looking good. And yes, they’re super stiff.
Sure the grips and “pontoons” on the sole aren’t replaceable, but they show no evidence of wear yet. Again as I mentioned with the Udog Clima shoes, lace-ups were never my thing, though now I’m going to have to admit that I’m a bit of a fan. Maybe this is a sign that I’m far from a fast lad anymore and don’t need to worry about tightening the shoe on the fly for those stop sign sprints.
If you have a healthy budget for an excellent shoe, but want to get something stiff enough for the club burn up and tough enough for gravel, these may be your answer.
Oh and what I will admit is that I have actually swapped out the S-Works insoles for some pretty damn cheap FLR ones. Actually, I tell you what, I’ll include them in my list…
Price: Bloody expensive US$325 / AU$500 / €330
More information: specialized.com
FLR Performance Insoles
It wouldn’t surprise me if FLR isn’t a name you’re aware of.
When these arrived, I thought nothing of them. I presumed they were cheap (which they are in price) bog-standard items – nothing flash or exciting.
Three pairs turned up when I took delivery of an as-yet-unreleased FLR road shoe. I’ll test them more once the weather turns a bit brighter; they’re slightly on the bright-white side of the colour spectrum.
As for the insoles, though, they’ve impressed. I have a relatively high arch, and out of the three insoles that range from near flat to high arch, I found the mid-arch support perfect for my feet. I’ve swapped these between a few shoes this year, and in every pair, they’ve helped improve the fit.
I’m sure there’ll be other brands doing something similar out there, but at something like €15 a pair, it’s hard to find any that can touch that price.
Price: US$14.99 / €14.99
More information: flr.shoes
The inagural UCI Gravel World Championships
Here we go, I know I’m in for some agro with this choice.
Ok, can we class this as a product? After all, the UCI is trying to sell it to us, the fans.
And I was sold.
Sure the course wasn’t what many class as true gravel, the women’s peloton got a raw deal with a shortened distance, and the gridding on the start line was a farce, but there was a lot to like about it too.
I’ll admit that being on the ground certainly helped with appreciating the race. I won’t say I fell in love with it, but I certainly enjoyed it a damn sight more than many of the big races that I’ve attended over the years I’ve been with CyclingTips. The chilled, smaller and hugely friendly start and finish area didn’t resemble that of any WorldTour race on the calendar. Sure it wasn’t amateur hour either, but it straddled some odd ground where the pros and all others that entered could meet on a level playing field.
The stories from there were wonderful, too; I wish we’d had a bigger team on the ground to bring you them all. Many racers had paid out of their own pocket to be there, some coming away with stunning results. No more so than German rider Jade Treffeisen who came fourth in the women’s race, and had Canyon on the phone the next day asking her why she wasn’t on the new bike; “I bought it myself, I’m not one of your sponsored athletes,” came the reply as she told me.
It was just a wonderful odd weekend that didn’t resemble anything else on the UCI calendar.
As an event, it was a start, one with lots of kinks that need ironing out. But if the UCI can keep it as chilled and pretension-free as that first edition, it should flourish into a race I’ll happily attend year in year out.
Alright, so I can’t count, I think I’m up to 15 now. But this one needs to be included since it’s an important one. And one that, unfortunately, I’ll miss in 2023. I know James and Iain have both eloquently said their pieces about how things have been going here at CyclingTips, and obviously, I’m no Iain nor James when it comes to putting words down. But I want to put my bit out there, too.
Quite simply, I want to say a huge thanks to all that have been part of the CyclingTips and VeloClub community.
It’s been more than a touch humbling to see this community voice their feelings on all that has happened in 2022. We knew we had a great backing here at CT but it’s been mind-blowing to hear from so many people who clearly feel just as we do.
I’ve grown up around cycling, and there’s always been a community. From the small gang in the back of my dad’s shop, all drinking tea and watching him build frames back in the late ’80s and ’90s, through to today’s thriving, latte-drinking, gravel-grinding, aero-is-everything, diverse cycling community. And in all those years, I could have never dreamed that a large enough group of like-minded people would have allowed and helped me, and the people I can call my friends, to bring them a daily dose of online cycling action. The community around CT has been second to none.
There was nothing and is nothing like it elsewhere, and it’s something that’s brought me joy every day (for the most part – you know who you are who’ve slagged my accent off). So thanks. Thanks for being there. It’s been ace.
Ok, I’ll leave it there. Merci, for getting this far. It’s been a long one this year. Have a great off-season, enjoy the festive period and again, thanks for reading. Enjoy your cycling. Shoddy.