Tuesday 16 December 2008

top 10 pieces of kit i like

In the spirit of those Top 10 Christmas lists that surface this time of year and some potential last minute Christmas shopping, I thought I would run through some of the cross and non-cross things that put a smile on my face through comfort or functionality and ensure their place in my kit bag or on a bike on a regular basis. Who knows, if you get your significant other to read this, they may even turn up in your Christmas stocking........

There was a danger that this might turn into an infomercial for Rapha but I have resisted the temptation, and there are some perhaps surprisingly economical choices in there as well......

In no particular order:

Vittoria Open Pave Evo CG open tubulars, 24mm

I dont know why but I have always gone a bit gaga over these fat green and black clinchers from Italy - maybe it is the association with Roubaix and the other rough classics, or maybe because they bridge that gap between riding on smooth roads and riding on rough surfaces, cross style. They are supremely comfortable, perform on the worse roads imaginable (mostly round where I live) and got me through the Flanders sportive at 5.5 bar with grip, comfort and no punctures. They seem pretty puncture proof apart from one terrible week where I punctured 4 times in 5 days and nearly threw them away - bizarre considering they dont puncture any other time really.

Rapha Cap

Warm when cold, cool when hot. Wicks sweat beautifully. Washes time and time again and retains it's shape every time, rather than retaining as much integrity as Nora Batty's stockings after a few washes. Worth every penny, depite mutterings from some about paying THAT much for a cap.

Aldi Gloves

Crane Sports manage to do technical sporting gear, sold by Aldi, at ridiculous prices. For example I picked up a windproof winter jacket that directly copied my Assos Airjack for about a 10th the price. And it works well too. My Aldi winter gloves fit well, wash well, wear well and cost £3. Not quite Rapha styling as they say 'Biking' on the back but who cares when they work as well as £30 gloves. Seek them out, I dare you.

Orange FMB Superprestige cross tubs

I actually didnt use these much in the few races I did this season, preferring to run Dugast Rhinos as it was always really muddy. However, they are simply the mutz nutz when it comes to cross tubs. Geniunely artisan/hand made, rather than Dugast hand/machine made, covered in latex and weatherproof they have the most incredible ride, seemingly absorbing much of what the terrain can throw at you. Grip is brilliant in all but the worst mud and on a pair of Mavic GP4s they feel utterly bombproof and reliable. I took the file tread version all over Nidderdale on a 7 hour off and on road extravaganza last year (in lieu of the 3 Peaks) - no punctures, great grip and super comfort on hard rocky tracks.

Shimano 105 shifters, 10 speed

Why buy Ultegra or Dura Ace when these are as good as the previous incarnations of Dura Ace? Maybe because I spent up on FMB tubs.......... I rest my case though.

Endura overshoes

Wetsuit-like, shiny rubbery with an inside that matches my Rapha cross bibs. They are incredibly warm, reasonable in the pouring rain and have kevlar stuff on the bottom so they dont rip on the studs and tread of my cross shoes which I also use on the road all the time.

Old Mavic GP4 tubular rims

The yellow and purple ones with quite tall sidewalls. Bombproof, repairable, stiff, good for braking in the wet and mud. Everything that my carbon wheels are not. Note to self - use these and not carbons as they work better. And now it is stylishly acceptable too as the Euro pros are ditching deep carbons like they are going out of fashion......

Rapha cross bibs

OK, there was always going to be a homage to Rapha, but these are simply brilliant. Snug and supportive with no baggy bits, and with a great pad insert they have kept me warm on some close-to zero or sub zero commutes in the last couple of weeks. They were great off road too in the Wheelbase cross, even if they did put a target on my back (?!). Even the bib thing doesn't slip off my slopey shoulders as I ride. If wear is anything like the other Rapha stuff they will be a worthwhile investment for sure. Not sure about the usefulness of the matching top which has 1 small pocket though.

The eagle eyed or those who have read to this point without surfing off to more titillating websites will have noticed that there are only 8 things in this top ten. So be it, though honourable mentions would go to my growing collection of Euro cross DVDs now spanning the last 5 seasons and my compact chainsets which have enhanced my cycling pleasure over the last few years as hills officially get steeper in line with global warming.

Happy Christmas!

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