10 products I loved in 2022: Dave Rome

It’s that time of the year again when things slow down and we reflect on the year gone by. I always look forward to writing my entry into this long-running ‘most loved’ series, mainly because it’s my chance to remind myself of the products that impacted me most and what I’d buy again without hesitation. 

I may enjoy writing these, but oh gosh, they get significantly harder to write each year! After all, I don’t want to repeat my recommendations (although I will to some extent this year), and that’s tough when I could happily re-publish many of my previous editions. 

To that point, I’ve done these articles every year since 2016. By my count, of the 60 products I’ve since praised (not including the 10 in this article), I still use 53 of them. And the missing seven are either bikes I no longer have or are superseded products I now use the replacement for. 

Anyway, onto the 10 cycling-related products I loved most in 2022. Some have been well-loved for many years prior, and I’ll surely continue to rave about all of them for years to come. 

Tubolito S Tubo inner tubes 

I don’t get many flats these days and have tubeless to thank for that.

Still, things can go wrong and even though my tubeless sealant and tubeless plugs will keep me out of trouble 99.9% of the time, it’s that 0.1% chance that keeps me carrying a spare tube and a way to inflate it. But why carry the extra bulk of a regular tube for something so infrequently or potentially never needed? That’s where Tubolito’s S TPU tube range comes in. Nothing is more space- and weight-efficient.

Tubolito offers a bunch of different tubes, and the S is the company’s most minimalist version. It’s so scant that it’s only for disc-brake bikes, where the braking heat doesn’t impact the tyre system. A road version weighs just 23 grams, the gravel version (pictured above against a Continental tube of the same intended dimension) is barely heavier at 34 grams, and a 29er mountain bike tube is just 41 grams. All of these pack into a size that is easily half that of an equivalent butyl tube – meaning you can either carry more spares or downsize whatever you carry them in. 

I see these tubes similarly to carrying a rain jacket so that you don’t get rained on. And if I need to use these tubes for some reason, then I know they’ll get me home and can be re-used as a spare again. Just be warned, the S version does require more care in installation. 

Price: from US$38 / €33 / AU$40
More information:

DT Swiss 350 hubs 

I’m bothered by strange things. For example, I’m disheartened knowing how many people own (and continue to buy) wheels with hubs that may not be convertible to a different freehub fitment or serviceable down the line. It’s a commitment to waste. Similarly, some hubs chew through bearings or are just more complicated to repair than they should be.

And that’s why DT Swiss’s mid-tier 350 hubs have made it onto my list (and for the second year in a row given they’re at the centre of Roval’s Terra CL wheels). The 350 uses DT Swiss’s original and less-noisy Star Ratchet mechanism and is effectively a Taiwanese-made version of the old 240S hub. Whether it’s the rim brake road or the Super Boost mountain bike version, no hub in the world is better supported for various axle and freehub configurations. 

The fussiest wheel builders may tell you that the flange spacing isn’t the best for spoke tension balance. The grumpiest old-school mechanics may complain that the bearings aren’t angular and there’s no bearing preload adjustment. Meanwhile, those with a taste for flair will point out the lack of anodised colour options. And that’s because the 350s are the Toyota Camry of bicycle hubs. They are boring and lack desire. However, you’ll never need to think or worry about them, and that’s why they’re exactly what I want at the centre of my mid-tier wheelsets. 

Price: Variable based on specific hub type and whether it’s in a wheel.
More information:

Ogle Component Design Titanium rotor lockrings

This is a pair of the finest titanium disc rotor lockings. They’re perhaps one of the most unnecessarily over-the-top items in my possession. 

I’ve never felt a lockring thread into a hub with such ease and smoothness. Similarly, they create an incredibly tight and precise fit with whatever tool you choose to place over them. The incredible detail in these small items easily surpass what the eye can see, a fact that makes sense once you learn that Josh Ogle was previously making high-end titanium watches.  

Is a 14-gram pair of flawlessly CNC-machined titanium lockrings a must-have? Oh hell no! In fact, I can think of reasons why a nicely machined aluminium lockring may be better. But equally, I’m glad these exist, and they’re a wonderful piece of jewellery for those who seek out obsessively made products. I also genuinely believe that these tiny, easily overlooked products help raise the bar for others to try to match in design and/or quality, which may just benefit everyone in the long term. 

Price: US$155 for the pair (not a typo). 
More information: OgleComponentDesign

Abbey Bike Tools Lever Setter

This one is easily my favourite new tool of 2022. It threads in place of a headset topcap (anything that uses a M6x1 thread) and lets you use a derailleur hanger alignment gauge to set the symmetry of your brake hoods. 

Yes, many drop handlebars have alignment markings on them. All too often those markings aren’t even and can’t be trusted. And sure, there are plenty of other methods for such alignment. You can do it on a workbench before the handlebar is installed on the bike. You can do it by eye. You can use a ruler, string, or a straight edge. You can close your eyes and align them until things feel right. 

Regardless of what method I’ve used successfully, I now enjoy using this little tool at every opportunity and being frustrated when I can’t (such as with Cannondale’s older expander plugs). It’s an incredibly simple idea that, amazingly, nobody had thought to do before Abbey made it.

Price: US$35 / AU$70
More information:

Great affordable bikes

I know it’s hypocritical of me to praise a pair of CNC-machined titanium rotor lockrings, and then talk about affordable bikes in the same article, but hear me out.

The past two years saw interest in bikes soar, supply dry up, and prices rise to literal insanity. I don’t see the top-end prices correcting themselves anytime soon, but thankfully some brands are continuing to fight the good fight at the affordable end of the market. 

The unfortunate reality is that the major component manufacturers have deemed electronic shifting and hydraulic disc brakes as the future. While those technologies are great, they also carry greatly increased complexity and cost relative to where the road bike industry previously stood. The result is that a previously affordable mid-tier road bike now costs what a top-end model once did. So without getting too far into the economics and marketing of this topic, I’ll praise two affordable bikes that have left a memorable impression on me in 2022. 

The Salsa Journeyer is an alloy do-it-all gravel bike that lets its rider decide what type of bike it is. Easy handling, simple parts, accessible fit, and a relatively affordable price – things don’t get much more welcoming than this bike. 

Then there’s the Canyon Endurace CF 7 (review coming). A bike that costs US$N/A / £2,000 / AU$3,000 and gets you an impressively great-riding carbon frame, a comfortable fit, and a reliable pick of parts. Nothing on this bike takes away from the enjoyment of the ride, and that’s saying something for a bike that costs a third of what many new road bikes are asking. 

I truly believe the cycling industry has become top-heavy, with too many chasing the money at the top tier and not focusing enough on getting new riders in at the bottom. Bike industry, please take note.

Price: Less than the bikes we talk about most (sorry, we’re actively trying to improve on this).
More information: bike reviews

Dynaplug Racer Pro 

While rarely mentioned, one of the biggest benefits of tubeless tyres is in the event of a small to medium-sized puncture, you can plug it. And when it comes to tubeless plugs, I haven’t been shy about saying that Dynaplug is a cut above the rest. 

I recommended the Dynaplug Racer tool back in 2018 and still carry that same tool (OK, I have two of them) with me on many rides. However, a more capable option is the new Dynaplug Racer Pro

The Pro version packs double the plugs (preloaded for jabbing) into a tool that’s 12 mm longer and 2 g heavier than the regular Racer. It’s a clever design: one that’s always ready to use, and with a build quality that’s made to last. I can’t say that about any other competing tubeless plug tool on the market. 

Price: US$58 / £45 / AU$90
More information:

Cargo bib shorts

OK, cargo bibs aren’t a specific product but a category. And while I thought they were a little silly when Rapha first released theirs, I’ve since come around to loving them for gravel rides and XC bursts. 

On these rides, I find myself preferring to wear a more casual-looking T-shirt-type top without pockets. I feel more comfortable, and relaxed in it. I then call on the pockets of cargo bibs to hold my phone on one leg and my keys/snack/multi-tool on the other (spares are on the bike). Not only does this make the contents even more accessible, but it’s more secure and free of bouncing when compared to any jersey pocket. And it’s certainly less distracting than a handlebar bag.

I have cargo bibs from Cuore and Assos on constant wash-and-wear rotation. The Cuore Pioneer Utility is effectively a cargo version of the bibs that many of CyclingTips’s past kits are made up of. Priced similarly to the Rapha Core Cargo, the Cuore is an impressively comfortable option from a brand that few consider when buying aftermarket clothing (Cuore mainly focuses on custom business).

Meanwhile, the Assos Mille GTC Kiespanzer C2 (try saying that three times) is an eye-wateringly expensive option that I managed to hold onto after the last CyclingTips Field Test. They cost more than double the Cuore, and I wish these weren’t so damn comfortable! The chamois is easily the thickest I’ve experienced in recent memory, and yet it stays incredibly stable, moves with the body, and never feels like a soggy nappy (a genuine issue with many other super thick chamois’).

Those stretchy but secure mesh pockets make for easy retrieval of whatever you stash. And they even seem durable against being ridden against the ground (oops). Unfortunately, they only do a men’s version, which feels odd in 2022.

The good news is that cargo bibs don’t have to be a huge expense. Pick a brand of bibshort you know works for you and see if they have a cargo version. 

Price: from US$140 / £100 /AU$175 (for Rapha Core Cargo)
More information: I haven’t tested them all, yet. In the meantime, you do you.

Shimano bleed kit insert 

You don’t need many speciality tools to bleed a Shimano disc brake correctly. You can even make it work with supplies from a pharmacy or vet. However, the right tools certainly make the job easier and cleaner. And that’s especially true for the tiny little bleed syringe insert that Shimano introduced with its TL-BR001 bleed syringe

This unassuming insert helps guide and secure the plastic tubing onto the caliper bleed nipple. And while it doesn’t look like much, it makes a night-and-day difference in how easily the hose slips into place and how securely it stays. 

Currently, this insert isn’t widely available, and to attain one, you’ll either need to buy a fairly expensive (and mediocre) Shimano syringe or the Park Tool upgrade kit. That said, it seems like a pretty easy thing for other bleed kit brands to implement into their own kits, and with time this one little metal insert will help transform how people perceive the task of bleeding Shimano brakes. 

Price: US$38 / AU$60 (Shimano syringe with fitting). Park Tool BK-UK is less but lacks the syringe.
More information: CyclingTips Cool Tool Tuesday

Wheels Manufacturing Eccentric bottom bracket

First, let me say that I feel dirty recommending an eccentric bottom bracket. It’s an imperfect concept that I’ve shaken my fist at more than once as a mechanic. But this isn’t about eccentric bottom brackets – a concept that lets you move the effective position of the crank spindle in order to adjust the chain tension on a single-speed bike – rather, it’s about me re-discovering the pure unplugged cycling joy that is off-road single-speeding. 

A little over a decade ago I was super into cross-country single-speed riding. It was my most-used bike, and I’d take it to both club races and group rides. The smoothness and drive efficiency of a straight chainline without a derailleur is hard to beat. It’s a wonderfully pleasing feeling, at least when your selected gear is appropriate. Combine that with the challenge of having to stay on top of the gear, or spin like the wind to go nowhere, and it’s a hilarious time. 

Chronic injury, clutch derailleurs, full suspension, faster friends, and several other factors all played a part in me and single speeds parting ways. That was until the recent onslaught of Sydney’s endless rain coincided with the desire to upgrade my old 29er carbon hardtail and a friend pressuring me to ditch my gears. Just like that, I once again owned a single-speed. The rather fancy Wheels Manufacturing Eccentric BB let me turn the PF30 shell of that older 29er hardtail into an eccentric device that created an ultra-clean and smooth single-speed setup. 

Certainly, this product is rather specific with what frames/cranks it will and won’t work with. And there are far cheaper ways to convert an old bike to single speed. The main takeaway is that single-speeding can be a super fun way of bringing new challenges into your old rides, and the fact it saves you from wearing out expensive drivetrain components is a bonus. 

Price: US$176 for the Wheels Mfg Eccentric BB. Singlespeed conversions can cost nothing through to the cost of a whole new bike.
More information:

Homemade products with a 3D printer 

I’ll admit that I quite easily got to nine products and then had a long pause for the 10th. Initially, I wanted to shout out my Cool Tool Tuesday series, as I’ve truly enjoyed creating that this year. But I guess self-promoting is a cop-out, so I won’t.

Instead, my 10th favourite product of 2022 is the byproduct of one from 2021 – 3D printing. My 3D printing journey has mostly revolved around the workshop. The top-load Shimano bleed blocks from Chris Heerschap are one 3D-printed item I love to use. And I have a growing number of weird one-off tools I designed to solve ultra-specific issues that perhaps don’t need solving, such as a tool to knock out seized 24 mm cranks, inserts to better support hub shells in removing bearings, and random tool storage solutions. 

Perhaps my favourite creation is a tiny threaded bolt I created to attach a CO2 head to the SWAT mount of a Specialized Rib Cage II bottle cage. I suspect there won’t be many who see the need for such a thing, but I came to wanting such a solution on my new hardtail that I spent much of the pandemic thinking about (Bikes of the Staff Bunch feature to come).

On this bike, I have a OneUp EDC in my steerer with a CO2 cartridge held beneath. A Tubolito S (wrapped in a protective bag) and Dynaplug Racer Pro is strapped low on the frame. And that left me with a CO2 head without a home (I’ve lost them while attached with frame straps before). A saddle bag is an obvious answer, but I actively avoid those on mountain bikes because of mud, swing weight, and rattles. The answer was a quick bit of drawing and a three-minute print (which you can do at home). I love how a 3D printer opens the door to finding new solutions to odd problems. 

Price: Cents / pennies if you have a printer.
More information: Nerd Alert podcast on all things 3D printing.

Source link