From luxury garb to essential components, here are the products Oscar's relied on in 2022
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It feels surreal that I’ve nearly completed my first year at BikeRadar. It’s proven to be a thoroughly enjoyable journey so far.
As well as covering the latest news, my highlights have included delving into my specific cycling interests – from workshop tools to pondering what Campagnolo’s next electronic groupsets might look like.
I’ve also enjoyed reporting on some exciting new product launches. These ranged from Lazer’s unveiling of its KinetiCore helmet technology to getting a sneak preview of the Canyon Lux in Germany and riding the Scott Lumen in Italy.
Riding-wise, I enjoyed completing the West Kernow Way bikepacking route and the Moonrakers & Sunseekers audax, resulting in a total ride distance of 327km.
I also enjoyed two holidays road cycling in Portugal and Sardinia.
So, from a luxurious Campagnolo groupset to an unassuming dropper post lever, let me take you through my tech picks for our 2022 Gear of the Year series.
I finally built my Pinarello Gan K up at the start of this year – a project almost two years in the making. Expect to see a BikeRadar Builds feature on it at some point.
Being an Italian frame, I had to spec it with a Campagnolo groupset. The original plan was to plump for the third-tier Chorus, but my arm was twisted and I ended up going for Record.
Despite the fact the groupset was announced in April 2018, it’s still a terrific performer and probably the best mechanical groupset I’ve ridden.
The shifting is brilliantly precise and the hoods, resplendent with carbon levers, are a happy place to perch your hands.
There’s no mistaking when you’ve changed gear. I love the reassuring ‘ker-clunk’ and the meaningful interaction of feeling the cable shift the derailleur.
In my opinion, electronic shifting hasn’t been, and likely never will be, able to replicate this glorious sensation.
I also rate the Ultra-Shift mechanism. This enables you to down-shift up to five gears at once. No other brand’s mechanical groupset enables you to down-shift more than one gear at a time.
The carbon crankset is a work of art, as are the carbon lever shifter blades.
Record doesn’t have its own namesake chain and cassette, so I opted for the Chorus-level option rather than Super-Record. As far as I’m concerned, chains and cassettes are wear items and I couldn’t justify the extra expense.
Campagnolo has hit a home run with the hydraulic disc brakes, too – they’re simply phenomenal with bucketloads of power and modulation, and easily the best of the Big Three.
There’s no surprise the brand didn’t change the winning recipe for Ekar, which I’ve also found to be a top-performing gravel groupset.
Other than the price, the only gripe I have with Record’s performance is the front-derailleur shifting isn’t quite as refined as Shimano’s. The shift doesn’t feel as light and the trim feature is a little finicky although, on the plus side, it’s a lot easier to set up.
I’d also like to see Campagnolo introduce the C-Link quick link to the 12-speed chain, which still needs a joining pin that requires peening.
Assos launched its first gravel collection this year, which includes a gravel-specific jersey, cargo bib shorts and baggy shorts.
Towards the end of the year, Assos added the Löwenkralle jacket that converts into a handlebar bag, which I also got to test.
However, it was the Kiespanzer cargo bib shorts that seriously impressed. Designed with adventure riding and bikepacking in mind, the shorts feature four storage pockets – two on the thighs and two on the rear – and its tried-and-tested C2 pad with a 19mm gravel-specific insert.
Once broken in, the shorts have been terrific. The pockets work as prescribed and I can’t feel any items I store while pedalling.
I’ve used the shorts on plenty of long escapades this year – the West Kernow Way, the Moonrakers & Sunseekers audax and countless training rides.
The shorts didn’t quite earn five stars because the rear cargo pocket access is still a little awkward and there’s no getting away from the price. Otherwise, it’s a home run and there’s little for Assos to work on in a second generation.
Flannel is a burgeoning category in adventure clothing and Italian brand Cascada’s Land Wool Shirt is positioned as one of the more premium options on the market.
Crafted from a breathable blend of wool and polyester, Cascada claims the shirt guarantees maximum comfort all year round.
The shirt features poppers rather than buttons, so you can make quick adjustments, and there are two chest pockets for smaller items. You’ll also discover a hidden slot just above the left pocket to store a pair of cycling sunglasses.
This flannel shirt has delivered in spades. It’s supremely comfortable both on and off the bike. In fact, I wear it so often off the bike that I almost don’t want to wear it while riding, in case it gets muddy or tears on a trail obstacle.
I’ve used it as a casual fleece on milder double-digit evenings, through to holidays and even some hiking.
If the exuberant Earth Shadow colourway is not your bag, there are plenty of other options.
Like chain-wax connoisseur Simon von Bromley, I’m a pernickety person when it comes to chain lube.
I’m not after the fastest option that will save me half a watt and I’m not prepared to go through the hassle of immersive chain waxing. I simply want the drivetrain to run quietly.
Silca’s Synergetic is my chain lube of choice for the road, but it’s a rather decadent option to use on every bike, particularly because I regularly head off-road.
Towards the end of last year, in my previous role at Carbon Bike Repair, we stumbled upon Fenwick’s Professional Chain Lube in the workshop and were blown away by how quietly it enables the drivetrain to run. It quickly became my more ‘budget’ chain lube of choice.
What’s more, it lasts well in all conditions and doesn’t amass lots of dirt. There’s nothing worse than the horrible rasping sound of a dry chain crying for its life within 30 seconds of a rain shower…
Any cons? It has an odd smell reminiscent of cow manure, so you’re best stepping away from the bike for half an hour.
Overall though, performance-wise, Fenwick’s Professional Chain Lube is my top choice, with a modest asking price.
There’s no such thing as a perfect gravel bike tyre for all conditions, but in combination with the Vittoria Terreno Wet, Schwalbe’s G-One Overland is among my current favourites.
While the Terreno Wet has no issue with mud, the G-One Overland tyres excel in drier or mixed-terrain conditions.
Schwalbe says the tyre is for cyclists who split their rides between tarmac and road, and it’s also rated for electric bike use.
The tread is relatively shallow, with more aggressive, taller knobs on the tyre’s shoulder. Schwalbe uses its Addix Speedgrip compound, found on many of its trail and all-mountain bike tyres.
The Overland is available in 700c x 40mm, 45mm or 50mm widths and in black only – apologies tanwall enthusiasts…
While they make for a faster option on tarmac compared to the majority of gravel tyres, they’re no match for a road bike tyre if you’ll be riding exclusively on tarmac.
Off-road is where the magic happens and their grip is excellent and assured, holding their line no matter what the trails throw at you.
They feel particularly assured on tight corners and ride lighter than their claimed weight would suggest (515-625g). They’ll even handle light mud, too.
The lever is often the Achilles heel to a dropper post assembly and Wolf Tooth’s simply named ReMote Dropper Lever has proven a transformatory upgrade for my Norco Optic.
It’s compatible with all cable-actuated dropper posts, and the ReMote allows the cable head to be housed at either end. It proved remarkably easy to install.
Wolf Tooth also makes a Light Action dropper post with a slightly longer lever – you should opt for this variant if the distance between the pivot centre and the end of your lever is greater than 52mm.
The ReMote’s lever has a textured grip and a 21mm sealed cartridge bearing for silky smooth action. Crucially, there isn’t an ounce of play, which is something you’ll find on the majority of levers.
There’s a machined path for the cable routing, which extends to the custom pinch-bolt to clamp the cable and prevent any damage. Even the barrel adjuster is well designed and offers a satisfyingly smooth action.
Luckily, I’ve not had to test this feature out yet (and I hope I never will), but Wolf Tooth says it has engineered a failure point, allowing the lever to break away from its base in a crash.
Wolf Tooth manufactures clamps to work with all brakes, but because I like to run my dropper lever further towards the stem than the brake lever, I’ve opted for the 22.2mm hinged clamp option.
Oscar Huckle is a technical writer at BikeRadar. He has been an avid cyclist since his teenage years, initially catching the road cycling bug and riding for a local club. He’s since been indoctrinated into gravel riding and more recently has taken to the dark art of mountain biking. His favourite rides are epic road or gravel routes, and he has also caught the bikepacking bug hard after completing the King Alfred’s Way. Oscar has close to a decade of cycling industry experience, initially working in a variety of roles at Evans Cycles before joining Carbon Bike Repair. He is particularly fond of workshop tool exotica and is a proponent of Campagnolo groupsets. Oscar prefers lightweight road and gravel frames with simple tube shapes, rather than the latest trend for aerodynamics and full integration. He is obsessed with keeping up to date with all the latest tech, is fixated with the smallest details and is known for his unique opinions.
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