BikeRadar gear of the year: Oli Woodman's 2015 picks

Eeek it’s that time already, where does all the time go (etc etc)? A generally busy year kept me off my mountain bike far more than I’d anticipated, but the unexpected flipside of this was finding enjoyment from a road bike for the first time in well… ever. Maybe I’m just getting old. Either way, here are the bits and bobs from this year that I’d give my own seal of approval.

Elephant bike

Nope, I’m not on commission! I know I’ve spoke about these bikes a lot, but the fact of the matter is I’m still struggling to get my head around quite how neat they are for the money. Also, unlike most products you’ll see on this website, here’s one that genuinely will improve the lives of others.

For those not in the know, £250 (about $372 / AU$523 at time of writing) can now get you an ex-Royal Mail Pashley postie bike – specifically one that has been refurbished by young offenders here in the UK. Better still, the charity behind these bikes ensures that for every Elephant bike sold in the UK, one will also be sent to Malawi, Africa, where it’ll make a difference to the livelihood of less bike-fortunate people.


As an ownership proposition they’re a leisurely and comfortable way to travel, particularly for those who want to carry large loads. I’d say they carry an inexplicable charm that you only get from old, solid machinery. Occasionally maintain the simple, proven parts and it could well outlast you – not bad for £250. 

Hell, the Elephant bike has even crept in on my personal life, it was only a couple of weeks back that I was putting the finishing touches to an Elephant bike that now belongs to my girlfriend’s mother. Kind of wish I was on commission now…

For an in-depth story behind the Elephant bike check here, or for my first ride impressions read here.

Norco Search

Empire Cycles MX6-EVO

Camelbak Hawg NV pack


Calibre Bossnut

Check out all of our 2015 Gear of the Year articles

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3T Ionic 25 Team Comfort seatpost

The Ionic 25 Team Comfort is a variant on 3T’s standard mid-level carbon seatpost that adds a vibration-damping device to the head. This takes the form of a polymer ring encircling the clamp, which effectively isolates it (and the saddle) from the rest of the bike.

A 350mm long, 27.2mm diameter post weighs 268g, which is nothing special at this price.

The Ionic’s most ingenious feature is also its most frustrating one. The Difflock clamp system uses splined cylinders that sit within one another to give a precise, repeatable saddle angle adjustment.


It’s a nice idea, but means even minor adjustments require a full disassembly of the clamp, and if your saddle has oval rails you’ll need to buy alternative clamps because there isn’t room in the standard ones. If you’re a bit of a fiddler, the novelty will quickly wear thin.

The splined Difflock clamp adjustment system is a good idea but we found it frustrating in use

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Whyte T-130 RS

Whyte introduced its T-130 range in 2014 but, weirdly, while it had radically stretched the slack geometry in its G-150 gravity bikes and 900 series trail hardtails, the 130s were shorter and steeper.

Long enough, at last

Compared with other brands, they were still pretty rad for 130mm bikes, but they weren’t as progressive as their Whyte stablemates and we thought it had missed a trick. That meant we were delighted to see Whyte’s freakishly long and slack front end geometry nosing the SRAM front wheel out of Whyte’s van long before the rest of the T-130 when we hooked up with the British company on Yorkshire’s Ilkley Moor for an exclusive preview of its 2016 range.


The head angle stops the steering from wandering

Whyte has gone wider too. Not with plus-sized tyres – it’s tried them and isn’t yet convinced yet – but with 110mm front and 148mm rear Boost axle compatibility. The RS and S (£2299) models get the single-ring SCR frameset with a wider main pivot and shorter symmetrical chainstays for a big step-up in rear end stiffness.

Related: Whyte’s T-130 short-travel ripper gets a carbon makeover

Light feel

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Horse for the Course: Custom Specialized S-Works Epic 29 World Cup for the Laramie Enduro

I’ve done the Laramie Enduro endurance mountain bike race several times now and the event never disappoints with a surprisingly entertaining mix of singletrack and dirt roads, fantastic views of the Wyoming high desert, and more than 7,000ft of climbing – all at least 7,500ft above sea level. I’ve historically opted for some sort of trail bike on race day but this time around, I decided to try a slightly different tack: less suspension but more wheel-and-tyre, all centred around a custom-built Specialized S-Works Epic 29 World Cup.

  • The course: The Laramie Enduro, a mountain bike endurance race near Laramie, Wyoming. 111km/69mi in length with more than 7,000ft of climbing, held over a mix of dirt roads and modestly technical singletrack
  • The equipment goal: A hyper-efficient XC full-suspension 29er with high-volume tyres, a lightweight dropper post, and enough storage capacity that I could leave my jersey pockets empty
  • The horse: A custom-built Specialized S-Works Epic 29 World Cup

My bike choices for Laramie have always been quite similar: something fast, light, and efficient but still reasonably comfortable and capable of some rowdiness. But whereas I went into last year’s event as a bleary-eyed new father short on saddle time and heavy on the scale, this time around I was actively training for the six-day Breck Epic mountain bike stage race (which would follow just a week later). I didn’t just want to make it to the finish line; I wanted to get there quickly.


When it comes to getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible on a cross-country trail, there are few better choices than an S-Works Epic

As such, efficiency took on a higher priority but I still wasn’t willing to go with a hardtail (I am old, after all). Instead, I opted for the next best thing: a Specialized S-Works Epic World Cup, custom outfitted through the company’s recently introduced ‘S-Build’ program.

The SRAM XX1 1×11 drivetrain and Guide RSC brakes, Specialized carbon fibre flat bar and S-Works Phenom saddle, and my trusty Shimano XTR Race pedals were fairly straightforward choices but I went distinctly off-script for the wheels and tyres.

Time to go racing!

Best ride ever

Complete specifications:

  • Frame: Specialized S-Works Epic 29 World Cup, 95mm travel
  • Rear shock: Fox/Specialized remote Mini-Brain
  • Fork: RockShox SID World Cup Brain 29, 100mm travel
  • Headset: 1 1/8-to-1 1/2in tapered, integrated
  • Stem: Ritchey WCS 4-Axis, 70mm
  • Handlebar: Specialized FACT Carbon flat with SpirGrips
  • Grips: Specialized XC Race XL (glued on)
  • Front brake: SRAM Guide RSC hydraulic disc with 160mm Centerline rotor
  • Rear brake: SRAM Guide RSC hydraulic disc with 160mm Centerline rotor
  • Brake levers: SRAM Guide RSC
  • Front derailleur: n/a
  • Rear derailleur: SRAM XX1
  • Shift levers: SRAM XX1 trigger
  • Cassette: SRAM XX1, 10-42T
  • Chain: SRAM PC-XX1
  • Crankset: Rotor InPower power meter, 175mm, 30T Q-Ring
  • Bottom bracket: Enduro TorqTite XD-15 PF30
  • Pedals: Shimano XTR Race PD-M9000
  • Wheelset: Roval Traverse SL Fattie 29
  • Front tyre: Specialized Fast Trak Control, 29×2.2in
  • Rear tyre: Specialized Fast Trak Control, 29×2.2in
  • Saddle: Specialized S-Works Phenom
  • Seatpost: Specialized Command Post XCP
  • Accessories: Specialized SWAT top cap chain tool, Specialied integrated mini-tool, Specialized SWAT storage box, Specialized Zee Cage II (2), Bar Fly 3.0 Garmin computer mount, Incredibell
  • Total weight: 11.69kg (25.77lb, complete, as raced)

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Dainese Pro Pack

Dainese’s Pro Pack is both a back-protector and a riding pack with a trick up its sleeve. The integrated protection is certified to the highest standards, and it provides more complete full-back coverage than most designs currently out there.

For shorter rides or racing, the whole main storage compartment can be removed, leaving the back protector, along with a pocket for a hydration bladder, a couple of pockets for pumps, and a small storage pocket.

With the main storage compartment attached, it’s a veritable all-day pack with 12-litre storage capacity, three external pockets and a helmet carrier. At 993g, it’s not too heavy for a large pack with spine protection, and only 160g lighter without the main storage compartment attached.


Thanks to broad shoulder and waist straps, the pack stays in place exceptionally well while riding, even when loaded up. Our 6ft 3in tester found the adjustable waist strap very handy. The back isn’t particularly well ventilated though, so it does tend to get sweaty when riding on hotter days.

Storage is pretty well laid-out and the integrated waterproof phone case and media pocket are useful features. The helmet carrier holds open face lids securely, but full-faces can sway while riding.

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The Toddlebike: for parents who can't wait to get their children into riding

If you’re keen to get your young one riding as soon as possible then this one could well be one for you. The Toddlebike is a lightweight, simple and inexpensive kid’s bike that’s been designed to get children as young as one into riding.

Bridging the gap between sit-on baby toys and pre-schooler friendly balance bikes, the £23.95 plastic Toddlebike is ready to ride for any child that’s able to stand. In truth, the Toddlebike isn’t actually a bike. Look closely and you’ll notice four wheels – albeit ones that are closely spaced together in pairs on common axles.

Related: Our guide to kids’ bikes for Christmas


This quad bike format gives added stability over a regular two wheeled bike, but it’s still fairly easy for a child to tip the bike over, thus providing a gentle introduction to the cruelly related worlds of balancing and crashing.

The Toddlebike 2 appears to us to be a clear improvement over the first generation product

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Felt F1x Di2

The revamped Felt F1x cyclocross racer is all-new for 2016, featuring an ultra light carbon frameset, a disc brake-only configuration, and tubeless carbon wheels that can hold their own against many tubulars but without the hassles of glue. Felt has even reprogrammed the stock Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 transmission to create its own custom 1x electronic drivetrain.

All in all, it’s a slick package and unquestionably speedy – but it’s not without its quirks. International pricing was TBC at the time of publication.

A fantastic new chassis…

Whereas some ’cross bikes proudly tout their versatility and practicality for a wide range of uses, the F1x is singularly focused on going fast – preferably on a race course. The new frame’s oversized tubes yield an incredibly efficient chassis that rockets forward under power, matching the best full-on road frames in terms of responsiveness.


Felt’s new carbon ‘cross frameset is absolutely superb

There’s no wag detectable through the bars when sprinting out of the saddle, for example, and not the slightest iota of side-to-side movement through the rear triangle when you’re really on the gas. Fork rigidity is impressive, too, with no twist even in hard, high-speed corners with excellent traction.

…and a clever build kit to go with it

Great bones to build on

Complete specifications as tested:

  • Frame: Felt Cyclocross UHC Advanced + TeXtreme carbon
  • Fork: Felt Cyclocross UHC Ultimate + TeXtreme carbon, 1 1/8-to-1 1/2in tapered
  • Headset: FSA NO.38/42
  • Stem: 3T ARX II Team Stealth
  • Handlebar: 3T Ergoterra Team Stealth
  • Tape: Felt CxGel
  • Front brake: Shimano BR-R785 hydraulic disc w/ Shimano SM-RT99-SS 140mm rotor
  • Rear brake: Shimano BR-R785 hydraulic disc w/ Shimano SM-RT99-SS 140mm rotor
  • Brake levers: Shimano Di2 STI Dual Control ST-R785
  • Front derailleur: n/a
  • Rear derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 RD-9070
  • Shift levers: Shimano Di2 STI Dual Control ST-R785
  • Cassette: CS-5600, 11-28T
  • Chain: Shimano CN-HG600
  • Crankset: Rotor 3D+ CX1 w/ 40T Rotor XC1 Q-Ring and 40T Rotor XC1 NoQ-Ring
  • Bottom bracket: Rotor BB386
  • Pedals: n/a
  • Rims: DT Swiss XCR1300 Carbon db, 28h
  • Hubs: DT Swiss 350 Centerlock, 28h
  • Spokes: DT Swiss Competition w/ ProLock alloy nipples
  • Front tyre: Schwalbe X-One Evo tubeless, 700x33c
  • Rear tyre: Schwalbe X-One Evo tubeless, 700x33c
  • Saddle: Prologo X-Zero TiRox
  • Seatpost: 3T Ionic VR 25 Team Stealth
  • Total weight: 7.44kg (16.40lb, 53cm, without pedals)

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Four steps to making bike-based resolutions you'll stick to

The new year is full of the rusting wheels of good intentions. In an effort to tackle them early we asked performance psychologist Bill Beswick to suggest ways to ensure your resolution lasts…

1. Commit to paper

Decide what your goal is and why you’re doing it, then write it down with a deadline for you to achieve it. Make sure you’ll regularly see your list of goals – create a diary reminder on your phone, for example, or stick it to your fridge as a constant spur to keep it fresh in your mind. It needn’t be your action plan as such, just the eventual target, whether it’s a specific ride you’re working towards or a weight or fitness target. This will serve to motivate you when you’re flagging or possibly tempted to go ‘off plan’.

2. Create an action plan

Break your resolution into micro-manageable steps that are realistic yet challenging. These have their own dates and targets on a smaller scale. If you’re training for a major race, this will be your weekly ride schedule – distances covered, times achieved plus comments on how you feel.


Related: How to train like a pro

Set relevant benchmarks for where you want to be after one month, three months and six months, say – or by a next birthday, or the start of the Tour. In the case of weight management, this could be a food diary and body fat record.

3. Take some inspiration for motivation

4. Start measuring this Monday

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CycleOps Classic SuperMagneto turbo trainer

It’s that time of year again when (if you’re reading this in the Northern Hemisphere) riding indoors occasionally seems preferable to venturing outside, so here’s a new and relatively inexpensive turbo trainer from CycleOps.

Using its trusty Classic folding frame, the SuperMagneto takes minutes to assemble, measures just 49 x 52 x 29cm when folded, and weighs 8.38kg complete, which is less than some bikes. It’s easy to transport and store, rapid to set up, and has a lifetime warranty.

Related: CycleOps PowerSync Bluetooth Smart


Simply swap your rear quick-release skewer, locate the non-driveside, and turn the opposing spring-loaded bolt-action lever to secure the bike. It’s designed for most bikes with quick release wheels and rear dropout spacing of 120mm, 130mm or 135mm, and 650b, 700c, 26, 27 or 29in wheel sizes with tyre widths up to 2.25in. You’ll need a front wheel riser block to avoid slipping forward on the saddle, and we’d definitely advise using a specific indoor trainer tyre.

The SuperMagneto offers four resistance settings via the large rubberised grip on the outside of the flywheel enclosure. These can only be adjusted between sessions; the only way to alter resistance while riding is by using your gears.

Easy setting allows you to spin easily and warm up your legs, Road mode is for smooth, steady riding over extended sessions, with a decent ride feel thanks to the large flywheel. Interval setting increases resistance, and is handy for those on fixed-wheel, while Mountain setting feels far more draggy, as if you’re riding on a gradient.

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