A few items of gear and more that proved useful during the course of the year…
Wahoo Elemnt Bolt
I’ve been using a Wahoo Elemnt Bolt for a while now and mine developed some problems. It was long out of warranty but the company offered a replacement model for a discount – good but no repair offer – and in fact they sent out the V2 version that’s been produced since 2021, an upgrade. It’s got a colour screen which at first seemed like a bit of a gimmick but even reading speed or distance in black and white is better as the screen has more contrast. The battery life is longer too, and not just comparing a new model to an old. A USB-C connection is welcome too. The only downside is the inbuilt thermometer which is consistently three degrees off, and this doesn’t seem to be correctable and it’s a regular problem for others, look at Strava uploads from a bike race and Wahoo models often wildly over and undershoot. It’s not a deal-breaker as you can add or subtract but it does mean if you’re out on the hottest or coldest day of the year… your friends on Strava won’t know it.
Fairmean rinko bag
Travelling? You may find bicycles are banned on trains, and picky hoteliers won’t let you keep your bike in the room. Meanwhile a normal suitcase doesn’t attract the same reservations. With a rinko you can turn your bike into luggage and win. Being able to carry your bike into a hotel room or guest house means you may well sleep better knowing it’s not left unlocked downstairs. Rinko bags are ubiquitous in Japan where it’s standard to remove your wheels bag your bike for train travel. So it’s a bike bag? Sure but a rinko is light, this is the difference.
This one from Fairmean is like a rainjacket as it folds up into a small pouch that fits in a jersey pocket or stuffs in a bottle cage, obviously impossible with a usual bike bag or box. There’s a trade-off as the Fairmean’s for light travel rather than daily commuting and you’d be reckless to entrust your bike to an airline. It’s pricey but has paid for itself in saved bike supplements and improved sleep.
Assos Spring Fall Gloves Evo
Want to have warm hands? There’s a lot to be said for thinking of gloves last, as in get your underlayers and outerwear right first. As the name suggests these ones aren’t meant for winter but they work pretty well down towards freezing, you can put another layer underneath them if needed. Yet they’re light so you can drop them a jersey or jacket pocket for days when things warm up or might cool down and there’s no bulk.
From cold to hot now. Over a decade ago team-issue jerseys went form fitting, you sized them small and the elastic fabric hugged the chest, an instant aero gain. Today there are plenty of jerseys on the market promising amazing wicking properties and mesh cooling for high summer and the more you pay, the less you get as in jerseys that only weight a few grams and have open necks and delicate pockets. But if you’re not in a hurry during a heatwave, fish out an old jersey that’s in a light synthetic fabric, think something from 2010-2012 and a size too big. The secret seems to be to get the right fabric in the right size, not too retro as older fabrics were heavy, it needs to be light to ripple in the breeze so it pulls air inside one second and expels it the next. A bit obvious but having got so used to tighter jerseys that are quick to dry on a descent but not necessarily cool on the flat, this was a welcome retro win.
Remember the “Virage Pinot” on the Petit Ballon last summer? Big crowds had gathered to roar on Thibaut Pinot. Apparently none of them knew their man was leading up the climb so they went wild when he appeared solo in front of them. How could they not know? It might sound too romantic but you try visiting a mountain stage of the Tour as the crowds can overwhelm the local mobile signal, even refreshing a web page or fetching a tweet fails. Race sponsor and telecom provider Orange actually installs mobile cellular masts to add capacity but typically at the finish rather than a surprisingly crowded hairpin. So a low-fi battery FM radio works if you’re going to a popular race like the Tour or Ronde and want to know what’s going on… as long as the FM signal still works.
Some peasant hacks so far. Now for a more pricey choice but have you tried shopping for new wheels for a rim brake bike? The market has almost dried up, especially if you’re looking for something light. Discs work increasingly well and make sense in many ways as you separate the structural rim from the braking surface. But the nice thing is to have choice and the simplicity of a rim brake set-up for some summer travel works, the toolkit for a long weekend is an allen key. But it’s getting harder to find wheels as manufacturers drop lines. MTB legend Keith Bontrager is said to have remarked “light, strong, cheap: pick any two” and Campagnolo Bora wheels are light and strong, so far the 45 size makes a big arch and they’re as true as they day they got delivered despite farm tracks and unpaved passes. These roll well and the braking track offers good friction and the supplied pads don’t need upgrading.
The app and streaming service has made it simple to watch a bike race, it’d be easier to list the road races they didn’t show as in shorter, but the omissions were so few and far between it’s hard to recall. The best thing was the sheer ease, having it one one channel at home would be convenient – like Sporza for Flemish residents – but it’s better than that as it’s both portable, you can watch on your phone and it’s global, you can watch a race from a cafe whether your in Koksijde or Kyoto. Alas it’s all ending and replacement services are set to be more expensive and less portable.
Things that came in useful before… and are still often used too