I’ve been riding a bike seriously for over 30 years and I can honestly say, every year I learn something new. It might be a useful tech innovation, a gadget or something different to try in training. This year has been no exception despite not being a normal one. Here are my 5 cycling revelations of 2020
#1 Shimano GRX Brake Levers
Without doubt the most comfortable brake lever hood and blade I’ve ever used. It all comes down the the flatter, fatter brake lever profile. They simply give you more surface area to rest your fingers on. For me it feels better, more confident and genuinely more comfortable than anything else I’ve ever used…..and I’ve used a lot in the last three decades. A brilliant design I’ve only just found by having my new Dolan GXA equipped with the GRX groupset. It won’t be the last either. Project Ribble next.
#2 Shimano GRX 1x drivetrain
This is another Shimano wow. If you commute like me, you may only use a few gears. I use about 3 regularly and employ the lowest on the steepest of hills. It was for this reason I opted for such a simple setup for commuting. It made no sense to have so many redundant gears on a 2x setup. The only fear were enough gears given how wide the ratio can be. After careful consideration, I went for a 40T chainring (correct chainring size is key) and an 11-40 cassette. My commuting gears are stacked high among the smallest sprockets with smaller jumps in size and then when I need super low the 40 sprocket offers me a 1:1 ratio low enough for anything I’m going to tackle. I’d go as far to say for most average joe’s like me, more or less all of the time they will have too many redundant gears and a 1x setup for most would be a more efficient use of their gears, simpler and weight saving. Needs a clutch mech though to stop the chain unshipping. Anyone who thinks they need a 52 or 53 outer ring is, quite frankly, talking bollox.
#3 Panniers for commuting
For years I scoffed at racks and panniers. Then I took up touring and they became a key component in a good setup but I still turned my nose up for commuting. For 3 years I used a light rucksack because I had a locker at work to store my kit and had no need to carry anything else. Now I have a new job, I need to carry my laptop. Snobby me decided to rucksack it still but I couldn’t get the laptop in my bag properly and the weight put a real strain on my delicate back. I knew panniers were the answer but they didn’t look cool. I gave myself a slap and decided I had no choice and fitted my touring rack and went with a single pannier. What a revelation. The weight on the bike makes cycling so much more comfortable. Yes, I’m slower. Yes, I have to use lower gears on the hills but thats just like touring fully loaded. Low n Slow. I’m down with that. I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner. It is hands-down the best way to carry luggage and kit for work.
#4 Using just one pannier on one side of the bike.
On all my cycling tours, I’ve always tried to balance the weight in my pannier bags. Common sense dictates with most of the weight on one side of the bike it will be out of balance. Won’t corner properly or will feel really one-sided and weird when climbing out of the saddle. It’s a myth people. I decided I didn’t have enough work kit to justify two half-empty bags so I popped it all in one bag and ran it on the right hand side of my rack. To my surprise you just don’t notice it when riding and even when out of the saddle pulling away from traffic lights, for example, you just seem to adapt your style to make it work. When I ride my bike bag-less I can tell and you just adapt again. So, one, heavy pannier bag on one side feels and rides absolutely fine.
#5 Electric Bikes are the next big thing
I’m three months into my new job working for an Electric Bike company now and it’s been a pleasant surprise. Before I recruited, I managed the smallest store and during that period and since at all of our stores I’m quite surprised (still) how many people want them. Guys coming in spunking £3 & £4K on an electric mountain bike is common. Or couples spending £6k on their his n hers. Crazy money really but when you compare that to a holiday, a car, a new kitchen. Is it? It’s not really. People want to ride bikes. It’s that simple and the humble electric bike could be a gamechanger for the health and wellbeing of our nation and an effective antidote to the car addiction the UK has too. eBikes make cycling so much more accessible for all. Its is NOT cheating. If the government lowered VAT or subsidised eBikes like they do the car industry, the uptake would be exponential and would massively benefit the population in a host of ways. Car junkies can do one.