Editor's note: As we welcome a new year, we're taking a moment to look back at the bikes and products that improved our riding experience in 2019. Some products were new for the year, others are tried and true items that are still best-in-class. Here are five products that James Stout fell in love with in 2019.
James Stout's 2019 Gear of the Year
Most of my road riding these days is more about wandering than wattage. I appreciate bike parts that last, bike clothing that is comfortable, and bikes that let me sprinkle in a healthy smattering of gravel on my road rides. For my products of the year, I tried to focus on the things that really make my bike riding more pleasant on any bike. There have been quite a few new road bikes this year, and even more new gravel bikes, but the things I put on all of my review bikes are the ones that really make the difference.
Spurcycle Key Clip
Just like everything Spurcycle make, the Key Clip is simple, beautiful, and incredibly functional. I touch mine every day, multiple times, and with more than a year as use, it still looks brand new. There's not much tech to explain here-it holds your keys on a belt loop. But the combination of the included bottle opener, perfect length to allow the keys to fit in a back pocket, and simple but strong spring closure make it a pleasure to use.
More info: www.spurcycle.com
Velocio Signature Softshell Vest
I live in Southern California, but I often travel to less temperate climates to ride. This gilet, or vest if you must, comes with me almost every time I leave. It's incredibly versatile thanks to the Primaloft breathable insulating fabric. It holds of most rain with its DWR coating, has pockets (I can't stand outer layers without pockets), and works either on top of a light jersey or a warm mid-layer and base layer in a huge range of conditions. I am also a big fan of the olive drab color.
More info: https://velocio.cc
Orucase Smuggler Handlebar Bag
Handlebar bags might seem like a bit of a trend, but if you like long rides they are really handy. At this time of year, a ride might begin at 45 degrees and finish at 65, that requires an entire wardrobe change and I hate stuffing my jersey with gloves, legwarmers, and vest. Orucase's smuggler bag isn't huge, but it has enough space for a light pair of gloves, a small jacket, and a snack. What really makes it stand out is the excellent use of ski straps to hold it to the bars without flapping around or falling into your front wheel. Since I got this review sample I have not ridden without it.
More info: www.orucase.com
Specialized Power Mimic Saddle
Astute readers will notice that this is a saddle marketed at women, and despite my long hair and shaved legs, I am a real boy. But, just like many men, I love this saddle. The padding Specialized introduced in this saddle seems to do a great job of supporting things that need supporting without pressing on things that don't. As Andy Pruitt, who played a key role in the design of the saddle, told me "we sell a lot of these to guys and I don't remember us ever getting one back".
More info: www.specialized.com
Squirt Chain Lube
I have operated under the assumption that there are essentially three chain lubes in the world for the two decades that I have ridden road bikes. Those lubes are as follows: messy wet lube, dry lube which turns black, and paraffin wax for people who should really ride more and fuss with their bikes less. Squirt added a much welcome fourth category: lube that you don't have to think about. This lube is longer lasting, cleaner, and more weather tolerant than anything I have used. I am not the guy to talk to about wattage lost to resistance, but I hear good things there as well. Seriously, try this stuff, it's incredible.
More info: www.squirtcyclingproducts.com
Was there a piece of gear you loved in 2019? Let us know in the comments.