These pieces will extend your gravel season well into winter.
I used to do a lot more of these off-season gear round ups back when I was still young and hungry and it really was all about the gear and the passion for innovation and getting more people outside.
But with the advent (or should I say the takeover) of sponsored content and affiliate driven gear reviews, I just lost my enthusiasm for the game. But hey, now that we’re mostly post-pandemic, things are feeling slightly normal, product is actually in stock, and after surviving a bad wreck in a race this summer (yeah, lemme know if you know the dumbass who hit me), I’m coming back around. I’m passionate to get out and ride and ski as much as possible, and I still get FOMO if I’m not trying out the latest and greatest. And I assure you that none of the gear I review am I getting kickbacks from of any sort.
So here’s a look at a few pieces I’ve been rocking of late and recommend. More to come and links to more of my work below.
Decathlon’s in-house cycling product engineers developed the Triban RC500 winter jacket to be the ideal layer for winter riding, featuring a water-repellent and windproof softshell outer layer to shed light rain and spray, a fleece lining, and a removable neck gaiter, plus zippered underarm vents for temp management. Six pockets keep your phone, tools, and nutrition secure and at hand, at a true value price of a hundred bucks. You know I’m a gear snob but these Decathlon products just continue to impress.
For something more performance oriented from the global Decathlon brand, their Van Rysel water-repellent and windproof cycling tights are ideal for winter rides that hover around freezing. Most brands make a winter bib such as this, and I love the Pearl version also, but for an incredible value and race fit, I really like this stuff coming out of Van Rysel. A new Elastic Interface outer layer will keep you comfortable and dry in spitting rain or snow while the “Super Roubaix” material will keep you protected from the cold. Again, an incredible value at $129.
The Van Rysel 520 Road Shoes provide excellent breathability thanks to 3D mesh and two vents for air flow, plus a polyamide/carbone sole for an optimal balance of efficiency and comfort. Compatible with Look Delta, Keo or Shinamo SM-SH, and SPD style cleats. Closure is secured by a proprietary micrometrical tightening wheel.
The Van Rysel Training Base Layer is made of an ultralight blend of spandex and polyester cationic for a moisture-wicking, breathable, and comfortable fit perfect for indoor trainer sessions and as an all-season base layer under your jersey. I need more of these.
I have not actually tested these but I keep hearing awesome things about Wild Rye, mountain bike apparel for women-identifying individuals, founded by my friend Cassie Abel out of Sun Valley, and the Gnarnia provides comfort and warmth for winter adventures in the brand’s first cold weather glove. They say that, from the skin track to cold two-wheeled adventures, the Gnarnia is warm, breathable, wind-resistant, and durable. I’ve also been testing the new FlyLow mountain bike glove and they are the bomb.
Listen, who doesn’t love BUFF. If you’re outside, you are wearing some version of this product. I tend to get a little hot cycling in a BUFF if it’s not real chilly, but BUFF’s ultralight and seamless DryFlx tubular was created for cycling and other high intensity activity. Thanks to its 360-degree reflective design, it’s perfect for early morning outdoor action in the city or on the trails at dusk with improved safety. Breathable and stretchy, it provides quick-drying extra warmth around the neck, ears and face; I like to pull mine up under my helmet on cold rides to keep my ears warm instead of a cycling cap or skull cap, but I also have a Pearl insulated headband I like on cold weather rides.
Stay hydrated on the bike, whether it’s an indoor trainer session or a fat bike ride on snowy single track. CamelBak’s podium bottles feature a high flow nozzle that allows you to easily drink with the squeeze of your tired hand. The nozzle can be turned off to be fully leakproof and is easy to disassemble for cleaning between rides. It’s BPA-free, available in a range of colors, in two sizes (21 and 24 oz.), as well as insulated models, which I highly recommend for both summer and winter.
For bikepacking, touring, and commuting, while the number of bag makers has grown exponentially, for my money it’s hard to beat the original. Ortlieb is German-made, RF-welded, waterproof, with highly engineered attachment systems and bombproof zippers. The new Fork-Packs (at just $65-$75) are one of the most efficient bikepacking/commuter bags they’ve launched in recent years, practical for all bikes and rides. Additionally, the Commuter Daypacks ($170-$260 in a wide variety of colors and fabrics) are all super comfortable and built to last. My favorite are the Daypack High-Visibility Duffels ($205 – $420). Traveling and want something truly unique, sustainably made, and waterproof? The Duffle comes in a number of variants, but the Duffle RS has wheels and in its 140-liter version weighs just seven pounds.
ERGON’s new handlebar tapes come in three thicknesses and designs, awesome colors, unrivaled comfort, and easy to wrap guiding patterns that double as traction for your slimy digits. And here are the latest touring grips now made in Germany—winged ERGON GS1 Evo handlebar grips—with official availability coming in early 2023.
Yes, everyone wants $35 Uber-lightweight, easy to carry, TPU inner tubes: They might just not know it yet. The latest and greatest is the burlier X-Tubo-CX/Gravel, which comes with a one-year guarantee. If you don’t want to mess around with tubeless, this is the next best thing.
—Definitely Wild is a column by EO Contributing Editor Aaron Bible. He has been writing for Elevation Outdoors and Blue Ridge Outdoors, among other outdoor publications, for more than a decade, covering cycling, skiing, gear and mountain life. The opinions expressed here are his own. Follow him on Instagram at @DefinitelyWild.