Editor’s Note: Every year, we compile our favorite items from the prior 12 months of riding and Reporting. Some we’ve actually used, others – well, we’d like to. Think of it as an editor’s choice, a best of, or simply what got each of us excited over the course of the year. As for Anna, she likes her bikes and components to be very flashy and very custom. She digs tools and components that are fabricated to a high level of quality, designed to be a pleasure to use and to age well. While Anna enjoys riding dirt, her heart is solidly in the velodrome and on the road. If you have a cyclist who ticks these boxes, this is the gift guide for you.
Ride the brand new LEXUS VELODROME. For fans of track, a new velodrome opening is always exciting. Each one is different, requiring different styles of riding and racing. Given the diversity in types of events for the sport, a new track can represent a whole new venue for your area of expertise or passion. With so few velodromes in the US (~25 in operation), having a new track for your style of racing is a pretty big deal. Which is exactly what the Lexus Velodrome represents for me.
As a steep track fan from a spectator and racer standpoint, this facility totally floats my boat. A 166 meter velodrome with 50 degree banks, this track is designed for fast, exciting racing with accommodations for spectators in the walkway around the top of the track and in the infield space (rumors are that concessions will be sold also). I am practically giddy in anticipation of a real deal six day race popping up on its schedule. Plus, it appears that the Lexus Velodrome is really taking strides to making it a center for athletic development of inner city Detroit youth.
Road, Gravel or Cyclocross TRACK Bike
Ground Up Speed Shop. I recently had someone ask me if, I could have any builder create a new custom track bike for me, what would it be? The answer was easy: Ground Up Speed Shop’s Eric Baar. For years, Eric has been developing and fine-tuning his off-the-wall track frame design for stiffness and aerodynamics. The massive aluminum tubing profiles make his bikes look like they are straight out of a sci-fi movie. When a lot of the world looks at the track bike as a fossilized form, Eric is always pushing the creative limits of what this kind of machine can be. His pink glittered track beauty from NAHBS this year with its helmet – glittered, pinstriped, and gold leafed to match – was a showstopper. Flashy and outrageous, and very much in the spirit of the sport.
Plus, as was witnessed at The Philadelphia Bike Expo and NAHBS this year, Eric is at a particularly interesting point in his evolution as a builder. He’s looking for new ways to show off his craft and abilities in different mediums and in different materials. I’d love to set him loose on something outrageous.
Triton Bikes. This brand has always been compelling to me, for its top notch detailing and playful sense of humor in frame finishing (see the bear above). But with Triton having recently established a machining infrastructure in their native Russia, they’ve begun to expand the functional capabilities of their bikes through custom yokes and frame fittings. And the team seems poised to continue to push into new creative and functional territory. Why Triton for this category? It is where the heart of Dmitry Nechaev (brave leader of Triton and notorious furry hat enthusiastic) lies, and it is clear through the completely boss collection of bikes from NAHBS this year.
Tern GSD. As I don’t personally have a car and don’t enjoy driving or city traffic, I’ve always been compelled by cargo e-bikes. Hey, I’m not a hero. I commute and train on top of getting my groceries or gear around. And I don’t like feeling physically run down all the time. Here’s the thing: I don’t have anywhere to park this station wagon. It’s a cruel irony that a category of bike that easily replaces a car seems to require a garage for storage.
So when I got to play with the Tern GSD at Interbike this year, I was super stoked. The shorter, narrower package it folds down into means that it doesn’t overwhelm whatever space I would park it in. The small diameter wheels give it a stable platform for hauling while still allowing me to pull it onto an elevator. Plus, with their Dual-Battery Technology (not shown), I can run errands all over town without concern that I will run out of juice for the load I’m hauling.
Raketa Diamond Ring. It was love (and some pretty serious lust) at first sight with the Raketa Diamond Ring. When it caught my eye on a Jam Bike at NAHBS this year, the reaction was visceral. I wanted it. For me, it is one of those components that’s such a stand-out example for what it is that people will be hunting for it twenty years from now for NOS track builds from the heyday of the fixie crit era. It would look just as boss on a traditional track bike as it would on the hottest latest and greatest aero frames. Heck, it’d look beautiful on my wall… which is just where it would probably live in the off-season. Raketa claims that the diamonds aren’t just for show, that they actually stiffen the ring… something I’d love to verify.
What’s even more compelling about the chainring for me is that it is coming out of Russia’s emerging new wave of independent builders and domestic component makers who are bringing a whole new flavor and energy to the table (like Triton, see above). Their product is fresh. It’s engaging. It’s made, very proudly, in Russia.
Plus, this chainring seems to be just the tip of the iceberg for Raketa. The brand has a totally fleshed out, real-deal track drivetrain line on the way, with chainrings from 45T to 55T (stock and by request) as well as sprockets from 12T to 19T. Considering their very serious looking Standard Track Hubset, I’ll probably be looking to them to help fill my track sack. It completely warms my heart to see a new entrant into the track category, especially one that seems to be embracing the spectrum of its spirit (from flashy to performance). I’ll be watching this brand very closely over the next few years.
Clothing & Gear
Lazer Bullet with MIPS. It’s aerodynamic and, when you need it, it has ventilation in spades for hot days on outdoor tracks or road climbs. I love both the function and the look of the front vent. It’s practical. It’s distinct. It’s got a low frontal profile for performance. The people I know who race the Bullet love its versatility. Plus, it comes in a MIPS version for improved performance in impact scenarios (a system I’ve personally experienced and definitely appreciated). It’s available in the standard version, in a flurry of colors, for $260; and with MIPS for $290 in a more limited color pallet.
Flambeau Rechargeable Heated Socks Kit. Minnesota gets pretty frosty. And while it’s been a balmy winter here so far, we are mere days away from air temperatures in the single digits. Even with warm boots, toes can still become cold and painful. With fat bike racing season coming fast and the potential for long days playing in the cold, I’ve been eyeing up rechargeable socks. These are sure to be a hit with anyone in cold weather areas. This particular pair features a Merino and polyester blend sock material and warms your toes by an “unobtrusive” carbon fiber heating element up to six hours on Low, four hours on High, when fully charged. The slim, lightweight 3.7V Lithium-ion rechargable batteries tucked into your upper sock are recharged by mini-USB. Plus, the sock is machine washable (from $59).
SILCA Pista Floor Pump with (or without) Travel Bag. Any trackie would be seriously stoked to receive this package for the holidays. I had the absolute pleasure of using a broken-in Pista floor pump at the OTC Velodrome in Colorado Springs a few months ago and it was a total game changer for me. The handle with the cut-out to secure the hose is beautiful, feels premium in your hands, and is a great shape for pumping one-handed. The action on the pump when broken in is sublime (yes, I said that on purpose… I mean it when I said this was a pleasure to operate).
The pump alone would be a fantastic gift but the Travel Bag (which I also had the pleasure of exploring) really took it to the next level for me. Not only does it provide protection for the Pista within, it is awesomely functional. The long, structural pockets on either side of the pump in the case are perfect for long, track chainwhips and wrenches. The “lid” of the case has a specially sized mesh pocket for your chainring bag. The Pista by itself is $125 – a perfect gift for your favorite trackie (or roadie), and one that you can be assured will only get better with age. The Pista and Travel Bag together will run you $199.
Feedback Sports Omnium Portable Trainer. This product has been on the market for a few seasons now, but that hasn’t lessened my appreciation for it. It’s still awesome. I’ll probably keep throwing it on lists for years to come. It’s lightweight. It folds up small. It works with QR and 12mm and 15mm Thru Axles (standard 100mm spacing and Boost 110mm). It rides fabulously. With this, there is no reason not to travel with your trainer. (from $399 as of this post)
Lake CX 145. It’s perfect a mid-season boot for early winter/early spring (at least for weather conditions in Minnesota). Fabulous for when weather is cold and I want to be secure in my road pedals for long, spinny rides. The CX 145 is waterproof with an additional waxed canvas upper for further water resistance for roads wet from melting snow and chilly spring rain. It’s warmer than my road shoes, but much more flexible than my super cold weather boots, and they allow me to ride my power pedals. This shoe would bridge the seasons gap for me. While it’s been out for several seasons already, it has recently received a stealthy and very attractive black refresh. Available for $260 MSRP.
Off The Bike
CBD Softgels by Floyd’s of Leadville. Now officially off the WADA banned substance list, there is no reason not to try or benefit from CBD oil in your recovery. I tested these at Interbike where, after a few days of walking the show and of after hours social time in Vegas, your body (and mind) can be totally trashed. The benefits were immediately apparent, helping to mitigate sore legs and feet, headaches, and the general stress of trade show environments. Pick up a bottle for your friend who doesn’t spring back from sessions like they used to, or who battles training pain on the regular. A bottle of 25mg CBD oil pills are available through Floyds of Leadville (or your very cool local shop) for $60 MSRP. (Check our coverage here, and an interview with Floyd about his business here)
Air Relax Leg Recovery System. While we’re on the theme of recovery – the Air Relax Recovery system would be absolutely amazing for anyone’s post race recovery, but especially for after race nights when it’s harder to fall asleep. This system has been on the market in some form for several years and it remains a tried and true method of recovery. Plus, at $390, it is far more accessible than similar systems on the market. I could definitely see myself pairing these with the previously mentioned CBD gels in a super recovery session.
Altra Women’s Escalante Running Shoes. With the amount of traveling I do, its difficult to stay consistent on a cycling-specific training plan. It is for this season I’ve been building up my running chops so I have something I can do on the road (running shoes travel much more easily than bicycles). The Altra Escalante is what I’ve been eyeing pretty hard for my next running specific purchase. It has a cozy soft knit top that “fits like a sock” and a wide toe box so my toes are assured space to splay. Plus, it has moderately cushioned Zero Drop sole platform, a bandwagon I haven’t jumped on yet but I’m excited to. The Escalante is available for $130 and comes in six colorways.
Three Small Things
Item #1. Jen Green Custom Head Badge. Jen Green has been making a name for herself for years making some of the custom bike world’s most recognizable and distinctive head badges. Commissioning a custom head badge for someone is a beautiful and meaningful way of adding something special to a cyclist’s favorite ride. Do they have a stock steel bike they happen to love? Dress it up with a mixed metal badge depicting one of their passions or some memory you share. It’s an opportunity to be sweet and sentimental or ridiculous – however you want to play it. According to Jen’s site, most custom badges range from $140 to $160 (more for precious metals) and take around 3-4 weeks to produce.
Item #2. Stem Top by Ocean Airs Cycles. As a top cap, it’s definitely distinctive. You’ll certainly be asked about it on rides. As a top, it’s well-weighted and a great way to entertain yourself. As someone who has one of these on a bike, I can tell you that it puts a smile on my face whenever I look down at it. (It is solid brass aside from the threaded spindle, so not for weight weenies.) Available for $60 at the Ocean Air Cycles store.
Item #3. Richard Sachs Seat Lug Survival Kit. It’s like Richard Sachs read my soul with this product. People are willing to invest in an expensive custom bike but will happily install a readily available, extremely low quality seat binder bolt on it. It troubles me. Cheap binder bolts can strip or bend or break in seat lugs with integrated clamps. Plus, poor quality allen keys used to install them can further exacerbate this travesty by stripping the sockets on these binder bolts. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Richard, for producing this Seat Lug Survival Kit. It includes a SILCA tip top of the line, thin-dense Chrome coated S-2 Tool Steel 5mm allen key (plastic coated to ensure a secure grip), a Richard Sachs Seat Lug Bolt and Nut, 2.5mL of NFS Race Grease, and a bite sized Twizzlers candy because, you know what? You’re worth it. The precision machined nut and bolt is clearly the star in this story, with cold-rolled threads to ensure a system that is “30% stronger and has a superior surface finish.” Everything is red, including the box, because that is The Color.
Who do you get this for? People like me who love well-made details, really nice tools, and Twizzlers. The whole kit is available for $54 on the Richard Sachs’ website, which is a steal considering that a NOS Vintage Campagnolo binder bolt will run you about that… and they don’t include wrench, grease, or candy.