As 2016 draws to a close, it’s time to look back at the best products I’ve reviewed, ridden or just admired this year.
Best bikes reviewed:
All of the bikes I’ve been fortunate enough to review this year have had their merits but the two that were my favourite and the most difficult to give back have been the Genesis Datum and the BMC Team Machine SLR02.
The Genesis Datum is a fantastic example of the new more versatile road bikes. It’s got a geometry based on the well loved Equilibrium, it’s got huge tyre clearances (40mm without guards), it’s got flat mount disc brakes, it’s carbon and frankly it’s just good fun to ride. If you want a versatile disc braked bike for British riding conditions – it’s a terrific choice and I loved reviewing it. I’ve kept thinking about buying one ever since. Also hugely enjoyable this year was the BMC Team Machine SLR02. If you’ve googled this bike to check the reviews, you’ll have noticed they’re all glowing.The reason for this is simple, it’s a terrific bike.
Fast, fun, comfortable, the BMC is a terrific ride. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every outing on it. It does everything well from climbing to cornering, this is a bike that deserves the plaudits it gets. For those of us who don’t have the budget for a pro-tour ride but want a race bike that punches above it’s weight the BMC SLR02 is a great option. Yes, you sacrifice a couple of hundred grams of weight over the SLR01 and it doesn’t have internal cable routing but it’s a fantastic bike that’s more affordable as a result. The stock wheels and tyres sell the bike enormously short and swapping these out made a big difference. If it was my own, I’d also upgrade the Ultegra to Di2 as that’s my favourite groupset and this would be a perfect summer bike for me. As happy with short flat out rides as all day 100km distances.
Most wanted bikes:
The bikes, that I’ve lusted after most this year were the Canyon Endurace CF SLX – so much of this bike looks exactly as I’ve had wanted to design it – great geometry, light weight, great tyre clearance, even good colours.
This is the bike I’ve spent the most time admiring online and in-person at the Cycle Show. It’s the bike, I’d most like to review at present. Still on the most wanted list from last year is the Trek Madone 9 Series, which I’ve been smitten with since launch. A cutting edge design, with H2 geometry that I could actually ride and Trek’s IsoSpeed for comfort. It’s a bike I’d really love to try sometime. Another Trek bike that I’d very much like to try is the new Domane SLR either with or without discs – the Domane has a great geometry and I enjoyed the 4.5 disc I reviewed, but a lighter, faster SLR would I reckon be a seriously impressive ride. Other bikes that have me very curious include the new Cannondale SuperSix Evo Hi-Mod Disc as I’d love to find out just how good a job they’ve done on the ride feel with disc brakes. Also the Parlee Altum Disc is another high-end disc brake road bike that I’d love to see how well it rides.
For more affordable bikes, there are three aluminium bikes, I’d love to try. Another Trek, this time the Emonda ALR6 with Ultegra – light, fast, Trek’s proven H2 geometry and of course, the lifetime warranty. It’s probably all the bike I ever need and I’d love to try one. Another bike on my wishlist is the new Cannondale CAAD12 – either caliper or disc brake. I’ve never had the pleasure of trying a CAAD but they have a terrific reputation and I hope I’ll get to try one sometime. Another affordable bike I’d love to try is the Pinnacle Dolomite 6. Pinnacle is Evans Cycles own brand and James Olsen,the designer, is someone who I have a lot of respect for. The Dolomite 6 has been updated for 2017 to include flat mount disc brakes, a through axle front end and clearance for 28mm tyres with full mudguards.
Dura Ace R9100
I was fortunate enough to attend the launch of the new Shimano Dura Ace 9100 groupset in France during 2016. Part of the launch involved some short test rides on the new groupset and as good as the mechanical version is, the new Dura Ace Di2 hydraulic including improved lever ergonomics really, really impressed me on the first ride performance.
I hope to get the opportunity to try it in more depth. It’s also made me feel very positive indeed about just how good the next evolution of Ultegra Di2 might be. I expect it to be launched in 2017 and I can’t wait.
I wrote a first look review on the Hunt Race Aero wheels earlier this year. What I think wheels like the Hunt’s have done is that they’ve brought well specified, wide-rimmed, tubeless compatible wheels that are light and ride really well into a lower price point and we’re all winners for that. I’ve been impressed with the Hunts and have been enjoying riding them. They’ve been a great upgrade to bikes like the BMC Team Machine SLR02 I’ve had to review – they were a major improvement over the stock wheels for a sensible amount of money.
I’m a self-confessed wheelaholic, I really like bike wheels and would have lots hanging up in my garage given the chance and funds. There has been a bunch of really interesting wheels launched over the last year or so and here are some of the one’s that stand out to me. The Zipp 303 NSW are a stand out launch from 2016 to me. The 303 NSW’s feature Zipp’s latest aero tweaks, an improved brake track, the interesting new Cognition Hubs and all in a good weight for 46mm deep rims. Not cheap though at £2,150 but owning the best is never cheap. Another Zipp wheelset I’d really like to try is the 303 Disc. To me the 303 is the classic rim from Zipp and a disc brake version makes huge sense – great aerodynamics and no issues with braking. They’re tough too – cyclocross tough, so a wheel for all seasons – even if they’re still 6 bolt rather than centrelock. I really think Zipp should get over any hangups with the Shimano designed standard – the patent’s expired and it’s just better. Come on Zipp, show us you’re able to move forwards 🙂
Moving on from the Zipps, I’m looking forward to trying some of Reynolds 2017 range. The Aero 58’s that are in my Hall of Fame have been superceded by the Aero 65s. A deeper and wider rim, with new Industry Nine hubs and they only weigh 10 grams more than the 58s. I hope to have some to try in the New Year and can’t wait. Also interesting is the new Aero 46 DB (disc brake) – sadly it’s now only available for disc bikes. Again a new rim design that’s wider and Industry Nine hubs, I’ve seen them in person and they look great too. Also changing is the Reynolds Performance Line with new graphics and new hubs for the disc wheels, which should make a good wheel even better. I’m keen to try these too.
Another wheel I have a lot of interest in is the Bontrager Aelous D5 TLR – in either disc or caliper brake versions. Trek are very punchy about the aerodynamic performance of these rims and the 50mm caliper versions are only 1440 gms a pair and are tubeless compatible clinchers. The updated graphics look good too and I think these wheels ought to be on any one’s high-end shortlist.
My star find of 2016 has been Sportful’s impressive clothing and the R&D range in particular. I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing the R&D jacket and bib tights this year and am now trying the new improved R&D jacket. Also being tested at present is the Sportful Fiandre NoRain jacket and bib tights and these have also made a very positive first impression (more on these soon). As well as good fit, good value and an excellent understated Italian style, the Sportful clothing I’ve tried has all been really comfortable and performed very well indeed. Sportful certainly isn’t priced as highly as soon other brands but the performance is as good as anything I’ve ridden in.
Another pleasant surprise this year, has been Rapha’s Core range. It’s challenging for brands to push down on the price point – especially for someone like Rapha. I’ve been riding in the Core bib shorts and short sleeve jersey for much of the year and I’ve been very happy with it. In fact, I probably wore the bib shorts more than any other in my wardrobe this year and I’ve really enjoyed them. The fit and comfort is excellent and they’re held up well to regular use and washing. The only downer has been how the writing on the labels all washed off within a few rides but other than that they’re still going strong … in fact I wore them today on the turbo. I also enjoyed Rapha Core jersey, perhaps more than I anticipated. I particularly enjoyed the understated styling, so much that the Core jersey got worn a lot during the summer. The only thing I don’t like about this jersey is that the pockets on the rear are too tall and I found it uncomfortable reaching up to put things in them or get things out.
I’ve just published my first look review on the Tacx Neo, but to cut to the chase, I’m really impressed and loving it. Yes, the £1200 retail price is high but it’s over £1,000 cheaper than the Wattbike I rode 6,000km on. Not only that but it’s close to £1,000 when you shop around. Indoor training has become a key part of my riding. I don’t have the time to ride outside during the week and sometime not at the weekends either when family live gets in the way. A high quality turbo trainer like the Neo, means I can train with power all year round and get the best out of platforms like Zwift and Trainerroad. Given that I know I’ll spend 100 to 150 hours a year on a turbo, the investment doesn’t look so intimidating, especially when I know the price include an accurate power meter and the ability to mimic climbs of up to 25%, so I can train to ride in the Alps on it. For me, it’s a better spend than a winter bike as it’s something I’ll use all year round. So as you can tell, I’m well on the way to convincing myself to buy one!
If you can’t justify that money, then check out the new Tacx Flux. For £699 retail, you get much of the goodness of the Neo for £500 less. If you shop around, you can find them closer to £600 too. What you’re sacrificing is a motor that can only go up to 1500 watts rather than 2100. The Flux motor can also “only” simulate a 10% climb rather than the 25% of the Neo and you lose the ability to mimic the surfaces that is a very cool feature on the Neo. The Flux also has fixed legs rather than folding – but consider it the Ultegra version, with the Neo as the Dura Ace.
The Tacx Neo has transformed my Zwift and Trainerroad experience. I’m a newcomer to Zwift and will be writing about it soon but it’s added some real fun to riding indoors. I’m happy on the turbo anyway but Zwift with the Neo, has brought the virtual terrain to life. It’s an impressive platform that I’m enjoying a lot – the gamification of indoor training is here and it’s at it’s best with a smart trainer. Also improved with a smart trainer is the Trainerroad experience. The Erg mode where you simply choose a cadence you want to ride at and the trainer adjusts the power output for you, is a great way to ride interval sessions (except really big jumps in power, which can nearly bring you to a standstill). Both of these impressive platforms show how far indoor training has involved and how impressive the technology is. If you’ve not tried them and if you can find a way to try a smart trainer – I highly recommend it.
Garmin Edge 1000
It’s been around for quite a few years now and I suspect it’s the next in the Garmin launch cycle but I still consider the Edge 1000 as the best GPS on the market. Amusing for riders of my age and older, it’s the large screen that’s the big winner as we can read it while riding! It’s a highly capable unit and available at large discounts if you shop around. At the other end of the scale I’m testing the latest Lezyne Super GPS, which packs in great features and performance for £130 retail. Bluetooth and Ant Plus connectivity, excellent GPS performance, long battery life and thanks to an update just before Christmas it also promises turn by turn navigation. More on this soon but even without the turn by turn navigation, it’s an easy recommend for £130 retail. It does have a small screen though, so it’s still tricky for the shortsighted 🙂
So there you have it, some thoughts on some of the products that stood out best for me in 2016. I’m looking forward to writing more posts for you in 2017 and special thanks to those of you who took out a subscription to support the site this year, it’s hugely appreciated. I hope that £10 isn’t too expensive and I appreciate the support.
For 2017, I’ll also have some girodilento clothing to tempt you with at some point. More on that in due course, once I’ve chosen suppliers.
Happy New Year and thanks for reading
If you’re curious as to what products made this list in 2015 – check this post out