What a year, eh?
Like yours, my year didn’t exactly go according to plan, but gear-wise I still got to test a bunch of sweet stuff, from the new Specialized Diverge, to the new Canyon Aeroad to every smart bike on the planet (okay, there are only four). Alongside tech editor Dan Cavallari and my coworker Betsy Welch, we plowed through a fair amount of gear in 2020.
I’ve done these year-end wrap-ups for a while now, and I thought this year I’d focus on what really made riding enjoyable in 2020, and not necessarily the shiniest, newest, most expensive toys.
These things below are what I used the most, and what allowed me to do what I love most about cycling — interact with other riders, whether just shooting the breeze on a ride or hanging on for dear life in a race.
Hopefully, by this time next year, the coronavirus pandemic will be behind us, and we can return to your regularly scheduled programming of shiny toys. In the meantime, here are the 10 products I favored and relied on in 2020.
If one thing sums up riding in 2020, it’s the world wide web. Whether following and chatting with riders on Strava, watching pro races on FloBikes, or Zwifting with people around the world, my cycling experience involved the internet every single day this year.
Pandanas and bandanas
For riding outside, it was all about the face coverings this year. I remember buying a five-pack of masks from Eliel in the spring, thinking my family would probably just use them for a couple of weeks. Then, of course, months later we bought another five-pack as the pandemic dragged on and on.
My go-to for riding though are Pandana neck gaiters, because unlike masks they just can’t fall off, and they’re much easier to pull up and down on the bike.
I’m all in on Zwift at this point. It was funny this summer to use the platform for group rides and races — when it was a beautiful 70 degrees outside. But I was and am grateful that such a huge community now exists on the platform.
This one falls in the category of something I believed to be ‘not for me’. A gamer voice and video group chat app? Way too nerdy. Alas, I love Discord for the regular group rides with friends and for Zwift racing with my team.
I didn’t see nearly as many people in person on the bike this year as a normal year, but I still enjoyed following my friends and even folks I have never met around the world. I’m not super wrapped up in your fourth-place finish on a random segment, but I am very interested to see what bike rides look like in Vietnam and Nigeria and Belgium. And even what my friends are doing here in Boulder.
StagesBike SB20 smart bike
Of the four smart bikes out there, the StagesBike is my go-to because it’s rock-solid, easy to adjust, and an all-inclusive unit with phone and tablet holders and chargers. I just leave an iPad plugged into the thing, so the pre-ride/race shuffle is greatly simplified.
Tacx Neo 2T
As I extolled and complained about in this Love Bugs, the Neo 2T is the most fun smart trainer to ride because of the surface treatments, coasting dynamics, and overall ride feel — but sometimes the power reads low compared to other meters. Solution? Use an on-bike meter for power output, and let Tacx handle resistance and ride dynamics.
Giordana FR-C Pro bib shorts
I’ve got way too many pairs of bib shorts, via testing or multiple years of team gear. We went with Giordana this year for VeloNews kit, largely because our CEO and lead cycling fanatic Robin Thurston knew what he wanted. And I’m glad he did! Giordana’s FR-C Pro bibs are top of the pile for me. Giordana has its own factory and decades of experience. It shows.
Abbey Crombie Tool
Okay, two things here in the utilitarian category: a simple tool and a workstand. The Abbey Crombie is a thing of great beauty. Many of you know that removing a cassette or a rotor lock ring often involves two tools: a metal nut and then a wrench to hold it (plus a chain whip or something similar). Abbey’s one-piece solution is elegant in construction and just a hell of a lot easier to use. You might not be swapping rotors amongst dozens of wheels or scores of smart trainers in a year, but just use this thing once and you’ll be sold for life.
Feedback Sports workstand
You can pay a wide range of prices for workstands, and I’ve tested a few. The only one left in my garage, though, is an old Ultimate bench-mounted stand that I’ve mounted to a low-hanging part of the ceiling. In my limited space, workstands on the ground always get in the way; having one off the floor frees up space. Feedback Sports bought Ultimate years ago, and the quick-release design — like the Abbey tool — is beautiful in its utilitarian simplicity. It’s well over a decade old and works like a charm.