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Year in bike tech: The Cyclist team's favourites from 2016

Cyclist magazine
16 Dec 2016

The Cyclist team give their favourite new products from 2016 in 5 categories: Bike, kit, component, accessory & innovation

2016 has been a bumper year in the world of bike tech, so we decided to pay homage to the oodles of new product releases by remembering our favourites.  

We asked each of our discerning tech writers to single out one product from five categories - bikes, kit, components, accessories and innovation - that they'd describe as their favourite new release from 2016. The reasoning could be that it was simply a fantastic product, or that they had the original wotzit when it first came out in 1994 and nothing else will ever compare, ever. But we asked them to give their reasons anyway. 

Here's what they thought: 

Peter Stuart, Commissioning Editor

Bike: Open U.P

"When I first saw the Open U.P it was a strange sort of abomination, attempting to bridge the gap between road and mountain bikes with 650B wheels and almost infinite permutations of wheel and tyre combinations. When I started riding it, it was just about the most fun I'd ever had on a bicycle. Former Cervelo founder Gerard Vroomen has shown with the U.P that he just fundamentally gets cycling."

veloatelier.co.uk

Kit: Assos LL. Mille tights

"Very rarely will a set of bib tights really juggle the tricky balance of winter riding - enough flexibility to never restrict mobility, enough breathability to never become sweaty and enough water resistance to keep you fundamentally comfortable. With a water resistant exterior material mixed with a fleece like inner lining, the Mille tights manage it in a way I don’t quite understand, but am immensely grateful for."

assos.com

Component: Garmin Vector 2 pedals

"A huge amount of data, quick switchability between bikes and a reliable reading in all conditions make the Garmin Vector 2 pedals my go-to power meter, and a good bet for a quick route to good form."

madison.co.uk

Garmin Vector 2 pedals long term review

Accessory: Cycliq Fly6 rear light

"A rear light with a camera may seem like a gimmick, but not only is the Fly6 an excellent safety measure should you be tipped off the bike, but a pretty great camera too. Filming in HD, it can do a great job of capturing a dramatic mountain descent."

cycliq.com

Innovation: Trek Domane Isospeed

"Rolling the Isospeed system to the front fork seemed like a slightly off the wall idea from Trek originally, as an oscillating steerer tube seemed like a mechanical migraine. In practice, Trek has worked it out perfectly to soften the bumps of the road to an exceptional degree while not sacrificing handling or stiffness."

trekbikes.com

Trek Domane SLR 9 review

Stu Bowers, Deputy Editor

Bike: Specialized Tarmac S-Works Disc

"By far an away the standout winner for me, as the only disc equipped bike I’ve tested this year to retain that sublime feeling of an out-and-out race machine, where so many other disc brake bikes seem to have lost a little something. My least favourite tyres though, setting a new PB of 7 punctures in a single ride."

specialized.com

Specialized S-Works Tarmac Disc review

Kit: Shimano S-Phyre RC900

"To my mind Shimano continues to show the rest of the world a clean pair of heels (I thank you) when it comes to top end race shoes. The S-Phyres are everything I want in a shoe, and with half sizes too, fit, well, like a glove."

madison.co.uk

Shimano S-Phyre RC9 shoes review

Component:  Zipp 454 NSW

"I’m speculating ever so slightly here as at time of writing I have not put any miles on a set, but knowing the way Zipp approaches a problem I am confident this will likely set a new benchmark for the rest of the industry. Stability will be the new ‘buzz word’ for wheels from here, mark my words. And they look frickin awesome too."

zipp.com

Zipp launches 454 NSW wheel: First look and video

Accessory: Silca Hiro Chuck v.2

"Go on…say it…I’m a loser for picking this as my favourite accessory, but I don’t care. I love it. And I challenge any true connoisseur of the workshop to not feel the same."

silca.cc

Innovation: Sram eTap

"This blew me away. Not just in the fact that it was finally possible to ditch shifting cables for good which really cleans up the look of a bike, but also that it actually works. Flawlessly. I’ve been shifting furiously with it for a good while now and it hasn’t missed a beat. Plus you can have it mounted and set up literally in minutes. Sram nailed this. Period."

sram.com

Sram eTap review

Sam Challis, Editorial Assistant

Bike: Specialized Allez DSW SL Sprint Expert

"Specialized is one of only a few brands that continues to invest in aluminium as a frame material. As a result, it's been able to accomplish some impressive feats in the Sprint - it occupies a nice middle ground between the regular, endurance-orientated Allez and the racier aero Venge. The frame is efficient and great fun to ride, and at £1500 is also impeccable value."

specialized.com

Specialized Allez DSW SL Sprint Expert first look

Kit: Castelli Omloop bibshorts

"The Omloops came into being after Castelli learned that its sponsored pros were cutting down knee warmers to create shorts with just a little more length and protection for the Spring Classics. The resulting product is this 3-season garment, which brilliantly insulate yet aren’t too warm in changeable conditions. Love 'em."

saddleback.co.uk

Castelli Omloop bibshorts review

Component: Schwalbe Pro One tyres

"Tubeless tyres are gaining traction (pardon the pun) in the road market and for my money Schwalbe’s Pro Ones are currently the best of the bunch. They are no harder to install than regular clinchers and the improvement in comfort, grip and rolling resistance is immediately tangible. Puncture protection is great and although there are harder wearing tubeless tyres on the market, there aren’t any that feel quite as fast or supple."

ison-distribution.com

Accessory: K-Edge Sport mount

"As the Devil says: the delight is in the detail, so a good-looking and top-performing computer mount is a must. K-Edge’s Sport mount fits flawlessly to both carbon and aluminium bars and holds a Garmin rock-solid no matter the conditions under wheel. At 30 quid it is on par with most of its competition and aside from a slightly more fiddly set-up, it performs no differently to its £46.99 big brother, K-edge’s original mount."

madison.co.uk

Innovation: Zipp NSW 454 

"In terms of pure aerodynamics, revolution had slowed to evolution over the last couple of years in the deep-section wheel market, but a few weeks ago Zipp rocked the boat with the release of its radical new 454 rim design. Admittedly I'm yet to test the efficacy of the 454’s technology but in my book any new product that looks as badass as these do, yet still claims to improve your performance, is worthy of recognition."

zipp.com

Zipp launches 454 NSW wheel: First look and video

Pete Muir, Editor

Bike: Bianchi Oltre XR4

 

Super bikes don’t come much more super than a top-tier Bianchi, and this year saw the revamp and release of the enduring flagship, the Oltre. As well a new proprietary Countervail material – a viscoelastic layer buried in the carbon that substantial dampens road buzz, the bike has undergone further aero tweaks, but it’s the fact it’s now a genuinely comfortable ride on top of its super sharp, race quality that makes this my bike of 2016. That and it’s a Celeste coloured Bianchi.

£3,400 (frameset), bianchi.com

Kit: Dhb Aeron Softshell jacket

Ostensibly Dhb’s answer to the Castelli Gabba, but without the pricetag. Admittedly it’s a bit heavier duty than the Gabba, but that only makes the Aeron better for colder days. You won’t remain bone dry in a deluge, but the race fit of the neoprene-esque material ensures thermal properties akin to a pared down wetsuit. The high collar is a wonderfully snug fit too.

£100, wiggle.co.uk

Component: Vittoria Corsa G+ tyres

Graphene arrived to much fanfare a few years back, but arguably Vittoria was the first company to do anything significant with the material in cycling. Of course we have to take it at its word that there’s any graphene in the Corsa Gs, but what is indisputable is their performance. The tan walls look pro too. If you can keep them clean.

£56.99, chickencyclekit.co.uk

Accessory: Classic Bocadillos

When you can feel a product almost dissolving your teeth at the first bite you know it’s packed full of sweet, sweet energy, and when they taste like these classic sugar-cane and guava Colombian snacks you’ll worry about the dentist later. By far and away the nicest mid-ride pocket food I’ve tasted, and best of all they come individually wrapped in compostable dried banana leaves, making sticky, landfill-bound foil sachets a thing of the past.

£15.99 (12), luchodillitos.com

Innovation: No cables

"The humble Bowden cable has done a sterling job, but I’ve always been a fan of tucking them inside frames to preserve a bike’s clean lines, likewise hydraulic lines and electric cables. Finally, thanks in no small part to the industry’s penchant for aero, there are bikes that exist cable free (ok, there’s also a little stub of hydraulic hose or brake cable on show, but otherwise). Trek’s 9-series Madone is one, as too Specialized’s Venge ViAS and the BMC Roadmachine. Elegant and functional, its a trend I hope continues."

James Spender, Features Editor

Bike: Specialized Venge ViAS Disc

 

"Bar a handful of sportives each year I don’t race, and while I don’t mind the odd bit of Strava-bashing, speed has never really been my thing. So I’ve surprised myself with just how much I liked the Venge. Put simply: it’s bloody fast. It accelerates like a rat down the proverbial drainpipe, holds speed like an America’s Cup spinnaker and I guarantee will put a smile on even the biggest aero cynic’s face. Needs to be ridden to be believed."

£8,500, specialized.com

Specialized Venge ViAS Disc review

Kit: Sportful Fiandre WS LRR jacket 

"I didn’t want to like the Fiandre. It’s a huge amount of money for one piece of kit, and besides, who ever heard of a short sleeve jacket? Yet, somehow, it works, and became my go-to top layer for majority of the year. The elbow length sleeves make it suitable for warm but rainy days, but pair it with Sportful No-Rain armwarmers and a merino baselayer and it morphs into a foul weather, highly insulating jacket. Importantly, though, I found it highly breathable, without the boil-in- the-bag, refrigerate-when-you-stop problems that afflict so many similar garments.

£185, c3products.com

Component: Sram eTap

"Technically this is actually components, but when somethings are this good I think we can forgo semantics, and Sram’s wireless groupset is just that. There has never been an easier groupset to fit as there’s no shift cables or wiring looms (and no brake cables at all with the hydraulic disc version). It also lends a supremely clean look to any bike. But, crucially, it works, and the left paddle up, right paddle down shifters make you feel like an F1 driver."

from £2,000, sram.com

Electronic shifting: Where we are, where we're going

Accessory: Garmin Fenix 3

"A watch might not seem like an obvious choice for a cyclist, but over the course of this year I’ve inadvertently become reliant on the Fenix 3 for cycling. I say inadvertently, as to start with this was a just running aid, then it was used for the odd commute, and now its virtually usurped my Edge 810 and Mio Cyclo 505 as my go-to computer. Why? Because it does pretty much everything most dedicated bike computers do, but because it’s a watch I’m never without it, nor the capacity to mount it somewhere."

£379.99, garmin.com

Garmin Fenix 3 review

Innovation: More tubeless

"In theory tubeless tyres are a wonderful idea, but difficult installation and a lack of compatible wheel and tyre options held back the march of the tubeless army. Until 2016. Pretty much every big brand released a high-end tubeless wheel this year, and it’s now tough not to find tubeless rubber in most tyre brands’ catalogues. Schwalbe’s Pro One 25mm stands out in those tyre stakes, and Easton’s EC90 Aeros are a beacon amid wheelsets. But the real winner here is the tubeless tech itself. It’s a way off ubiquity, but at least it’s now a genuine proposition for race bikes, offering tangible benefits: Faster rolling, self-repairing, lighter wheels."

Honourable mentions...

Finish Line Speed Clean degreaser

1x11 'One-by' drivetrain systems

Oakley Radar Pace eyewear system

Gaggia Classic Coffee machine

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