As publisher of off.road.cc, I don’t get the time to test anywhere near as much stuff as I would like and 2022 has been a crazy year for me. And that’s okay, that’s not really my job. We have a fantastic team of testers on the site covering a wide range of riding and interest styles and we have grown again in numbers not just in readership figures, as discussed by Aaron in our collective 2022 Gear of the Year feature, but in actual physical staff working on the site. It’s a symbiotic relationship really, the more staff you have, the more content for you guys to read, so I’m very pleased to say that 2022 has been a successful year for us and we have been able to expand.
I think that’s enough of an overview from my ‘boring head’ now what about the fun stuff. 2022 felt like a huge relief from the stresses and strain that lockdown had imposed and it was great to see a lot of cancelled events back on the calendar again. That meant training and trying out new gear for what would be two diametrically opposed events: Dirt Dash and Gritfest. These two events were without doubt two of the finest I have done for a long time for completely different reasons. Dorset’s Dirt Dash was full of laughter, sunshine, beer and friends from across the world. Gritfest, on the other hand, was a war of attrition with the weather being foul for the whole of the first day and thoroughly testing my fortitude and my gear only to be relieved by the sun arriving at 9pm and a wonderful night with new friends and a hard but dry day two.
Both these events allowed me to test a wide variety of new products alongside my own favourite kit so without further ado here’s my short list of test kit that I really rated this year.
Best item of clothing: Endura GV500 Insulated Jacket
Endura’s GV500 insulated Jacket has become a firm favourite over the course of the last 12 months. Its Primaloft Active Gold insulation has been incredibly effective for its weight and its low bulk makes it easy to stuff into a seat pack or frame bag. The hood, when up, is cosy and when not in use, doesn’t bellow and flap noticeably. The two-way front zipper works a treat to allow excess heat to escape if you are really motoring.
If it does get a little damp (on the forearms with me) it dries fast and stays warm. It’s been a constant companion for my bike packing trips and all-around cold-weather activity on and off the bike. It washes well and so far, it has survived pretty much unscathed regardless of my bramble patch detour habit. The GV500 is a fantastic jacket.
Best component: Hope Union Clip Pedal RC
I’ve spent two decades mostly riding another brand of pedals so it came as a bit of a surprise that my old knees coped so well with Hope’s Union RC pedals and continue to do so a year in. The brand went its own way with its cleat design so they are not compatible with any other design on the market but two sets of cleats are provided for you to try out to get the setup and feel you prefer. You’ll also get a nifty cardboard cleat tool to select the correct spacer depth for your cleats to get perfect engagement and support with your shoe. Out of the box they are beautifully machined and anodised, lightweight and spin smoothly on those serviceable titanium axles and come with a two-year warranty. Oh and they are made in the UK
Best accessory bag: Ortlieb Seat Pack QR
Many seat packs on the market claim that their design reduces the wag of a fully laden pack when you push hard on the pedals. If you’ve been bikepacking you will have seen some atrocities of sway that will make you want to cry.
Not so with Ortlieb’s Seat Pack QR. As long as it fits your rails (no ovalised ones I’m afraid) the simple mechanism snaps shut on the rail and holds vice-like around the seat post. No matter how much I've stuffed in it or hung from its bungee cords, it's refused to wag the dog. It’s a medium-sized bag which is enough for a few nights away and the ease with which you can pack it on the ground, release any trapped air via the valve, and then just snap it on the bike when done is a game changer. It’s Ortlieb, so it’s waterproof and works brilliantly - enough said.
Best accessory: Peaty's Holeshot Tubeless Puncture Plugger Kit
Riding off-road means punctures are inevitable and, these days, that means the hiss and squirt of sealant and hopefully nothing more than that. But if that hole won’t seal, the excellent Holeshot Tubeless Puncture Plugger Kit tool from Peaty’s has you covered. It has everything you need to fix six holes out on the trail and then use the brand's excellently reviewed Holeshot CO2 Inflator Kit to get back up and running.
The Puncture Plugger Kit's magic is the prong's design that holds the worm that you push through the tyre. Its single-sided design is much easier to install the worm on and push through the tyre than the standard two-prong design. The tool is available in 12 anodised colours from machined aluminium and is comfortable to use.
Object of desire: Scott Lumen
LUMEN_2023_SCOTT_Ebike_photo_by_Michal Cerveny_60.JPG, by Suvi Loponen
This one was going to be tricky until Scott sent me an email a few weeks back. I mean, just look at it… What is not to like about this lightweight short-travel e-bike?
Scott has been knocking it out of the park this year with the new bikes featuring the new shock placement. The bikes look uber-clean and to the untrained eye difficult to see what is going on.
The Scoot Lumen just raises the bar that bit higher. It follows suit with the hidden shock design and it features the new TQ HPR50 drive system which delivers the most natural feeling and quiet motor system out there according to the PR.
Please Santa, I’ve been a good boy, can I have a large one?