There are lighter helmets on the market, but it’s tough to beat the Bell Variant’s list of features at any price point. Cam lock adjustment straps and a clever fit system make it easy to dial in a perfect fit. The sturdy adjustable visor is more useful than you’d expect; it’s there to shield your eyes when you need it, but easily adjusts up when you want to see all the way down the trail.
Club Ride’s apparel looks and feels just as good climbing up a trail as it does hanging out at the brew pub after a ride. Constructed from wicking RideDryWearämaterial, the Roxbury features ventilated mesh underarms and a zippered back media pocket.
Dakine’s Drafter packs a 100oz reservoir to keep you hydrated on long rides. Not only is there a ton of space (700 cu. in.) to carry all your gear, there are plenty of ways to carry it with a myriad of pockets, helmet and armor straps, and a padded media pocket so your phone won’t get wrecked even if you do. This pack really does come with all the bells and whistles—or, whistles at least, as there’s rescue whistle built right into the pack.
When it comes to gloves, less is more. Thick padding on the palm can encourage numb fingers and stiff armor creates painful hotspots. The Fox Dirtpaw Race glove is a no frills model that keeps your hands cool with good ventilation, comfortable with a lightly padded suede palm and stretchy neoprene knuckles, and in control with sticky silicone striped fingertips.
Good lights put an end to post-work races against the sun and open up a whole new world of possibility where even the most mundane trail ride feels like a special event. You can spend a lot of money on fancy lights, but all you really need is a compact helmet light that puts out at least 1000 lumens. The 1400 lumen Gemini Duo is an excellent design and good value, but Gemini’s well-reputed customer service is what makes this light the one to buy.
The Lezyne RAP 14 is a beautifully designed multi-tool, cleanly integrating all of the tools you’d typically need for minor trailside repairs into a small, lightweight package that feels good in the hand. What sets this tool apart from others is a tiny LED flashlight that makes finding the patch kit at the bottom of your pack so much easier.
A rugged tread gives Pearl Izumi’s Enduro traction during those times when the climb is too steep or the obstacle too big. This shoe has a ratcheting buckle system to maintain a secure fit, while the shoe’s quick-drying and breathable uppers will make sure stream crossings don’t put a damper on the ride.
Good riding shorts have a litany of functions, like protecting legs from trailside underbrush, ventilating quads on hot days, keeping them dry on wet days, cushioning your soft bits, schlepping your energy bar or shades, fitting well enough to be forgotten. Royal Racing’s Signature Short performs all of these roles while looking darn good.
It doesn’t matter if you ride trails in Florida or Montana, you need to be ready for quick changes in weather. The North Face Verto Jacket is a wind and water resistant hooded jacket that packs down to the size of a tennis ball and weighs less than two energy bars, making it easy to carry on any trip.
The mini-pump is often what makes the difference between a quick flat fix and an epic repair. Some pumps are too small, some too large, and most pumps clamp directly on the valve stem making it hard to pump vigorously without breaking the stem. Topeak’s Mini Morph is just the right size and comes with a hose to allow for floor pump-style operation.
Any quality jersey is probably going to satisfy your technical needs, but shouldn’t it stoke your fire a bit, too? Twin Six’s Argyle jersey conjures images of heroic jockeys urging mighty thoroughbred steeds to victory. Featuring a full-length invisible zipper, big back pockets, and moisture-wicking microfiber construction, this jersey looks and feels fast.
How often can you afford to buy the best? King Cages are made in Durango, Colorado with an artist’s eye for detail. Stainless steel’s smooth, springy nature is combined with a thoughtful design to provide perfect tension when removing a bottle and guiding it back home. Never lose another good bottle to a flimsy cage again.
A good pair of gloves protects your hands and keeps them comfortable without sacrificing dexterity. Specialized’s Deflect UV gloves combine these features into one very nice road glove that feels light and fast. Body Geometry gel in the grippy synthetic leather palm fights hand fatigue and microfiber material on the thumb helps swipe sweat away. The best part? They’re touchscreen compatible.
Ever seen a rock shoot out from underneath a skinny road tire and break a car window? It happens. So does sun glare, road spray, UV damage, and the occasional 30mph insect collision. You don’t want any of these things to happen to your eyes, so you need a good pair of glasses. The Via Photochromic sunglasses constantly adjust to light conditions, always providing just the right amount of tint. These ultra-light glasses resist fogging and fit small to medium faces best.
There is a simple joy to traveling lightly on a nice road bike, and that joy can be extended through a rainy day by a good set of lightweight clip-on fenders. Designed to be quick on and off, Planet Bike’s Speedez provide good protection against wet road grime, puddles and passing rain showers.
Regular cycling shorts may seem plenty comfortable—that is, until you try out a well-tailored set of cycling bib shorts. Cycling bib shorts conform to a rider’s position, providing a seamless feeling of fit and support. More importantly, they make you feel somehow more Italian. Pearl Izumi’s Attack bib shorts bring high-quality construction and design down to a remarkably low price point.
You’ve invested in a road bike to enjoy the feeling of easy speed that comes with skinny tires and lightweight components. Don’t compromise that feeling with a bulky pump and tube. Lezyne’s Twin Kit includes everything you need to fix a flat in a feathery, wallet-sized package. One kit will fill two flats and replacement CO2 cartridges are available at your local bike shop.
The Giro Atmos is a classic, not because it is old or dated, but because it has been so good for so long. It combines everything you want in a performance road cycling helmet into one high-value package. The Atmos is still competitively light, even compared to much more expensive helmets. And thanks to its high riding design and ample venting, the Atmos is one of the coolest helmets you can buy. Add in the Roc Loc 5 fit system and you have a helmet so comfortable you’ll forget it’s there.
As is often the case, this shoe is the beneficiary of technology trickle-down from Giro's top-of-the-line models. Here, they're repackaged into a performance-driven, value-oriented shoe that's stiffer and more feature-heavy than similarly priced competitors. It's built on the same dialed-in last as Giro's top models (read: great fit) and the Zytel nylon sole is the stiffest non-carbon option on the market. It also subs in a high-quality plastic buckle where competitors stick with all-Velcro straps, and a antimicrobial treatment reduces odor in the footbed. Simply put, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better value.
Component ace Shimano has produced one of the most reliable, easy-to-use and competitively priced pedals with the beginner-friendly R540. The wide-platform pedal presents a large target for clipping in, and the adjustable cleat tension can be dialed down for easy release. Once you're comfortable, ratchet up its hold, and you've got a solid aluminum pedal that should last you years of riding. Also, though it retails for $69.99, you can get it in the $30-40 range on sites like Amazon and nashbar.com.
Cyclemeter GPS is a relatively new cycling app for the iPhone and Android. It tracks the same data as similar apps (speed, distance, elevation, etc.), but Cyclemeter GPS is set apart by the level of detail and analysis available within the app. While others rely on a download before most data can be accessed or analyzed, Cyclemeter keeps it conveniently on board and easy to access. The downside is that there is no online counterpart to the app that allows for sharing, tracking trends or virtual racing, but to some that’s a good thing.
The Camelbak Podium Chill is one of those products that beautifully solves problems no one much cared about. A water bottle is a water bottle, right? Well, this might just be the perfect water bottle. It’s insulated without being too bulky or stiff, and has an auto-opening soft nozzle that can blast water into your mouth, down your back, in your face, towards your friends or wherever.
A kickstand is the most underrated bicycle-commuting accessory. Without one, it is nearly impossible to load a pannier bag full of groceries and unexpected topples cause expensive accessories to meet concrete more often than they should. Pletscher’s Double Kickstand has two legs to keep your bike upright and stable. Designed for bike touring, its durable lightweight design is compatible with most bikes.
Fenders keep you dry, simple as that. Even the most beautiful days come with puddles, and the nastiest days are far more tolerable when icy water isn’t blasting your legs. Planet Bike Cascadia fenders are made from an unbreakable lightweight polycarbonate and the hardware is stainless steel, so they’re made to last. Plus, 25% of Planet Bike’s profits go to supporting bike advocacy. Double win!
There are lights that let you be seen, and there are lights that let you see. The Lezyne Macro Drive USB rechargeable light is the latter. It packs 300 lumens into an attractive, remarkably small package that makes evening trips to the market a pleasure.
A stolen bike can make you doubt your fellow man, so keep that from happening with a good lock. Kryptonite’s new Evolution Integrated Chain combines the flexibility of a chain with the security of a U-lock, using 10mm six-sided manganese steel links to foil all but the most determined and well-equipped thief. Add the included $2,250 in bike theft protection and you should have the confidence to lock up anywhere.
Though you’ll probably find that a friendly voice sounds best to passers by, a bell is handy when you need to get someone’s attention. Plus, bells and bikes somehow go together like peanut butter and jelly, instantly triggering memories of childhood escapades. There are thousands to choose from, pick one that matches your style or get this Electra Compass Bell if you are navigationally challenged.
Delta Cycles’ Smartphone Caddy II uses an elastic cord and well-placed rubber bumpers to quickly secure almost any smartphone to your handlebar, providing easy access to navigation apps and tunes. Better yet, take your next conference call from the saddle. A variety of mounting options make it compatible with any handlebar setup.
Safety lights on the front and back of your bike are a must for commuting safety, since you never know when you may be out after dark. There are plenty of less expensive options out there, but the CatEye Solar’s combination of solar charging and automatic activation while riding in low light makes it the safety light that always works, whether you remember to turn it on or not.
Nothing ruins a day like a flat tire, especially if there’s a morning meeting to get to. Carrying a cartridge of Caffelatex Espresso sealant is good insurance against the flat tire blues, as it instantly fills and seals a punctured bike tube. Better yet, put sealant in your tires now to avoid most flats altogether.
Why fill up a bag and sling it over your back when the bike can carry that weight? Take a load off with Topeak’s Super Tourist DX Pannier Rack. Constructed of 6061-T6 tubular aluminum to be strong and light, with stainless steel hardware for corrosion resistance, the Super Tourist provides a good balance of value, light weight, and durability. Its long deck and generous rear extension make carrying big loads a breeze.
Rain should never have to be the reason not to ride. Banjo Brothers Waterproof Pannier offers the piece of mind of knowing your stuff will stay dry no matter how wet it gets. The tough nylon bag holds a removable waterproof liner and offers 360-degree reflectivity. It’s a well-made and thoroughly thought-out design at a good price. Pair it with Banjo Brother’s folding Grocery Bag Pannier ($39) for added versatility.