It’s been a great year on the bike. I’ve gotten heavily into gravel riding, and the change has both revamped my motivation and added a whole new level of adventure to riding. Don’t get me wrong though, I still enjoy the road and my time spent on the bikes is still more pavement than gravel.
Combining the two, I am on track for more miles than ever this year. As such, I’ve found several new products I really like, and continued to be faithful to my old favorites. This list covers some of both. And with Christmas being way closer than it seems it should be, I’m breaking them down by price as a holiday gift guide for you or the cyclist on your list. Go ahead, buy yourself an early present. You won’t regret any of these.
Darn Tough Vermont Team Micro Crew Ultralight $17—My favorite cool to hot weather sock. Perfect fit, nice cuff height, thin, highly comfortable and, yes, darn tough. I’ve put more miles on these socks than any other sock I have ever used. They still don’t show the slightest hint of wear. My full review of the socks can be found here.
Woolie Boolie Socks by DeFeet—My go-to sock when the temperature drops. They are available in various cuff lengths of 1” ($12.99), 4” ($15.99), 6” ($16.99), and knee high ($24.99). Warm without being too thick, and highly durable.
RideWithGPS.com $0—By far the best route mapping/planning site. Ride With GPS is free without annoying ads. There are premium subscriptions, but you get a whole lot for nothing with the free account. The maps are highly accurate and the elevation predictions are closer than other programs from my experience. Also, the cuesheets are much better than other programs.
Dale’s Pale Ale $8-$10/6 Pack—Perfect for relaxing post-ride, the aluminum cans are also pack friendly for taking along on extended adventures. This well-balanced beer features a healthy dose of citrusy hops, but the malt backbone allows it to appeal to non-hopheads as well.
Specialized Therminal Beanie $30—Though mine is a few generations old, it is good to see the current beanie keeping what I like the most about mine. Soft fleece lining, lowered ear coverage, grips for the arms of your glasses, and a cut that fits easily below your helmet.
K-Edge Garmin Handlebar Mount $39.99—Of the three out-front mounts I have used, this one is tops. It securely holds the Garmin, and a perceptible click lets you know your computer is locked it. It doesn’t hurt that this mount is gorgeous as well.
Castelli CW 6.0 Cross Gloves $50–The best all-around glove I have used, especially for off-pavement riding. These have a very large temperature range, and I have worn them from around 30 degrees to well into the 80s. Their prime range is about 40-65 degrees. They feature great grip and have so far proven to be very tough. My hands really appreciated them in Trans Iowa.
Revelate Tangle Frame Bag $70–For any gravel ride over about two hours, I strap on the Tangle half frame bag. Small enough to be unnoticed, the large was also big enough to hold many essentials over my 32 hours of Trans Iowa. The large can hold up to a 3 liter bladder and still offer room for food and other gear in the opposite pocket. It not only keeps loads off of your back, it keeps them lower and centered so as not to affect bike stability. A full review of the Revelate can be found at this link.
Lezyne Classic Floor Drive $69.99–I won’t lie, I do lust after the Silca SuperPista Ultimate, but 450 bucks is a ridiculous price-point. The much more affordable Lezyne is also sexy and a great quality pump. The screw-on reversible chuck grabs the stem securely yet releases easily without worry of bent stem tips.
Dirty Kanza 200 $95 (2014 pricing)–You’ll probably hate me for this, but you’ll love me after. The DK200 is dubbed the “premiere gravel grinder” for many reasons. The town of Emporia really embraces this ride and welcomes the riders. A 1200 person gravel event is something to behold. It will be one of the hardest things you have ever attempted, but it will also be one of the most rewarding.
Mountainsmith Bike Cube Deluxe $79.95–Keep all your bike gear organized and ready to hit the road with the Bike Cube Deluxe. As I discussed in my review, it will not only store and carry the essentials such as helmet, shoes, food, and clothes; it has enough room to pack all necessities for a weekend trip so that you’re not dividing things among bags.
Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 Sleeping Bag $380–This is a perfect bikepacking sleeping bag. The 32 degree rating offers a broad temperature range from mild spring/summer nights to cold winter ones. I have slept comfortably in 60 degree temperatures and have stayed warm in the mid-20s by wearing light base layers. At less than 1.5 lbs, it is very easy to pack, especially with the miniscule 6 inch stuffed size.
Castelli Gabba Short Sleeve Jersey/Jacket ($120-$180) and Castelli Nanoflex Arm Warmers ($60)–For ultra-endurance events and other rides where the weather looks to change, this is a great combination. The short sleeve jersey is great in cool conditions by itself, but when paired with the arm warmers, you can be prepared for low temperatures. I have used this combination in Trans Iowa and on a 10 hour gravel race that started at 26 degrees and finished in the 60s. Both the jacket and arm warmers offer protection from light rain as well. The Gabba 2 was just released, and you can currently find some good deals on the previous generation.
Oveja Negra Gearjammer Bikepacking Seat Bag $125(large)–As I said in my review, I am highly impressed with the Gearjammer. The attention to detail and quality is top-notch. Seat bags are essential for bikepacking, and this is the best bikepacking seat bag I have seen.
Gaerne Shoes ($varies)–For both road and gravel riding, Gaerne shoes are on my feet. They are the most comfortable cycling shoes I have worn. The road shoes are light and well-ventilated. The mountain shoes are tough yet comfortable. Gaerne shoes can also be seen on the feet of many professional riders. Gaerne’s pricing offers choices for a variety of budgets. My full review of one of their road models is found here.
Cheers and Happy Holidays!
– Alex (Steak Sauce)