In the old, prepandemic days, I used a combination of gym time and sports to stay fit. A regular schedule of pickup basketball, pickleball and soccer adequately supplemented a handful of weekly gym workouts. Since the coronavirus swallowed the US, however, my gym has been closed and social distancing protocols have put the kibosh on many group sports.
Back in March, I dragged my 2005 Lemond Tourmalet bike out of the garage, put on four layers of warm clothing and went for a ride. Since then, I’ve been cycling every other day — and I’ve put more miles on my road bike during the past two months than I did over the last five years. I wrecked the Tourmalet earlier in June, but have since replaced it with a used 2010 Specialized Roubaix Pro, and have also borrowed a friend’s old Santa Cruz Nomad for excursions on the trail.
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Some of my cycling gear was overdue for an upgrade, and I’ve been trying out a variety of new — to me — cycling clothing, bike gear and technologies that have made my cycling safer and much more enjoyable. Note that I haven’t comprehensively tested out any of these product categories; this is just a sampling of my own personal top picks of the best cycling gear. I’ll update this as I try new gear.
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This summer I tested out a variety of hydration backpacks and hip-packs. I’m a big fan of the Camelbak Chase. It has a useful amount of storage capacity — for 70 ounces of water plus a good amount of gear — as well as lots of handy pockets and other bells and whistles. (Literally, it has an integrated safety whistle.) It also has an integrated protective impact panel, which could come in handy should you fall off your bike and land on your back. It’s not cheap at $200, but if you’re an aggressive rider, the additional protection is worth it.
That noted, if you’re looking to spend less, the Osprey Syncro 12 is a great alternative for biking (and hiking). I actually prefer the Osprey water bladder to Camelbak’s system, though both are great. And the Syncro has a nice balance of storage capacity and accessibility, including an integrated rain cover.
There are plenty of folks who ride in order to leave the emails, texts and calls behind, but I prefer to keep my phone handy when I’m in the saddle. (Obviously, I pull to a complete stop on the side of the road if I want to engage with the screen.) Until recently, I was tucking my phone into the pocket of my jersey, which was often underneath a jacket, which made it difficult — and unsafe — to access while rolling. Then I got this Quadlock case and mount. It’s been a total game changer.
The Quadlock mount sits atop the bike stem, and I feel quite confident in its capacity to keep my phone safe and secure, even when traversing bumpy terrain. When the ride is over, or I’ve pulled off the road to take a photo, it’s dead simple to release; just pull the mount’s locking mechanism upward and twist. The Quadlock phone case is hefty — there’s a raised bump on the back that fits onto the mount — and I’d trust it to ably protect the phone in a crash. But when I end my ride, I switch over to my preferred Catalyst case.
I’ve been using Kryptonite’s U-locks for years. But this summer I added Hiplok’s Z Lok security tie to my small bike bag. Weighing in at 2.5 ounces, it’s almost imperceptibly light and though it’s not going to deter a pro bike thief — I wouldn’t rely on it in a treacherous city like San Francisco — the steel core is strong enough to give me peace of mind when I park my bike at the beach.
If you’re looking for an affordable water bottle that will keep your water chilled, Polar makes excellent 20-ounce and 24-ounce insulated squeeze water bottles in a few different color options. Just add a little ice and your water will stay cool — even on long rides. Starting at around $14, they’re BPA-free and come with a lifetime guarantee.
Solid performance gear that’s comfortable to wear, has built-in UPF 35 sun protection and isn’t overly festooned with logos, as you’ll sometimes find with cycling jerseys.
I had been wearing the same bike helmet for a long, long time. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends replacing your helmet at least every 10 years, and mine was at least that old. After doing some research, I opted for a mountain biking helmet for the extra protection and, in my opinion, cooler look — even though I do primarily road cycling and I’m not as much of a mountain biker or a competitive cyclist. After trying out several, I decided on the Smith Forefront 2 mountain bike helmet, and so far, I love it.
Most importantly, it features MIPS architecture, which can mitigate the force of an impact on your brain. It’s relatively lightweight and breathable, and it has Koroyd on the interior — a layer that offers additional crash protection as well a way to screen out bugs.
I found these comfortable to wear and secure on my face, quite lightweight and stylish enough. If you poke around, you may be able to find a deal: I found a pair for $35 on Backcountry.com, though they’re listed at $100 and up, depending on color.
Where I live, it’s windy and cold weather all year long except for a glorious stretch of 10 weeks or so in the summer. We’re not there yet — and I wouldn’t have made it out on any ride without the protection of this cycling jacket. It’s kept me warm and dry, even in weather that feels like winter cycling, without ever making me feel stifled, constricted or bogged down. And though it has no pockets, there are zippered slots that allow through access to jersey pockets.
I’ve been using Strava to track and share rides (and runs and hikes) for years. But in March, I upgraded to Strava premium subscription service, called Summit, which costs $8 per month or $60 if you pay upfront for a full year. I did it mostly for safety purposes: Summit’s Beacon feature lets you choose a contact who can monitor your whereabouts during each ride. But there are a few other attractive features, too, including advanced training metrics and leaderboards.
I will not suggest that it’s the safest choice to listen to music when riding a bike. A lot of cyclists frown on the practice of wearing headphones while cycling, arguing that all of your senses should be on alert for danger. I think that makes a lot of sense and I’m not going to convince you otherwise.
If you do listen to music when you ride (or run), however, you can mitigate the risks with a set of headphones that doesn’t completely shut you off from the outside world. A pair that has some version of transparency mode — like the Apple AirPods Pro — is a good bet.
Otherwise, I highly recommend the Adidas FWD-01. They’re comfortable to wear, easy to control with one hand and loud enough to hear — even in very windy conditions. They have a built-in microphone, so you can jump onto a call when needed. The knitted fabric cable, which is water resistant, is lightweight and does not tangle. And the battery life is superb.
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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.