Cyclocross

Community Tested Bicycling’s Gear of the Year – Bicycling

At Bicycling we continue to broaden the selection of bikes and gear we review and feature to better represent and meet the needs of everyone who loves bikes. Products that better represent how you see yourselves as cyclists. Products that perform the way you do. Products used and tested in the ways and places you ride. For Bicycling’s Gear of the Year selections, we invited seven influential cyclists from communities around the country to contribute. They chose a range of products that enhance their experience on the bike. After all, we know you’re not all amateur racers who want slim-fitting aero jerseys and super-stiff carbon soles. You need stuff that works for the unique ways you enjoy bikes.



John Hamilton

LUCIA DENG

ATHLETIC CERVEZA ATLETICA / $13 for 6-pack

Lucia Deng is a dynamo of the New York City–area bicycling community. Appointed in 2020 to the USA Cycling Board of Directors, Lucia is the past president of the Century Road Club Association. One of the most storied and influential cycling clubs in the United States, the CRCA is also the most diverse bicycle racing club in the country.

THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING SOBER WAS PROBABLY THE SOCIAL PRESSURE. BUT HAVING GOOD NON-ALCOHOLIC OPTIONS, LIKE ATHLETIC BEERS, SOLVES THAT.

In addition to her leadership roles, Lucia races road, cyclocross, and mountain bikes across the Northeast. Over the past year, she has become involved in safe streets and transportation equity in the Bronx, New York, with the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives.

In 2019, I decided to do the Sober October challenge that Athletic Brewing Co. sponsored and realized I just did not miss alcohol. So after the month was up, I kept it up. I came to accept that alcohol simply makes me feel bad. Without it, I slept better, didn’t get heartburn anymore, and saved some coin.

The hardest thing about being sober was probably the social pressure. But having good non-alcoholic options, like Athletic beers, solves that. Unlike most other NA beers on the market, Athletic brews actually taste really good! It’s really hard to pick a favorite—they make several rotating seasonal flavors—but nothing beats a chilled Cerveza Atletica after a ride or race—or just after a rough day. I really appreciate Athletic for providing an option for folks who want to enjoy a cold brew along with everyone else but prefer to skip the alcohol.


Hernan Rodriguez/Courtesy Castelli

REGGIE MILLER

CASTELLI SAY THEIR NAMES JERSEY / $100

Most people know Reggie Miller as an analyst for TNT and a basketball legend. Playing 18 seasons for the Indiana Pacers in the NBA, Reggie is a five-time All-Star, Olympic gold medal winner, and 2012 Basketball Hall of Fame inductee. But away from basketball, Reggie is an avid mountain bike rider, racer, fan of the sport, and fixture in the Southern California mountain bike scene.

IT WAS A CHANCE FOR ME TO GIVE A VOICE TO A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO LOOK LIKE ME, THAT ALSO HAPPEN TO RIDE BIKES.

Reggie partnered with his clothing sponsor, Castelli, on the Say Their Names jersey to raise funds for the Equal Justice Initiative, an organization committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, challenging racial and economic injustice, and protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society. In addition to the Say Their Names jersey’s message, it’s also a seriously functional piece of kit. The lightweight jersey features a full-length zipper, mesh side panels, and three pockets.

My favorite gear by far is my Say Their Names kit. It was a chance for me to give a voice to a lot of people who look like me, that also happen to ride bikes. The kit speaks for itself, and I’m proud that to this day it’s the biggest fund-raising/limited-edition kit ever sold for Castelli.


Trevor Raab

AJOA ABROKWA

HAUTE HIJAB FLEXFIT SPORT HIJAB / $65

Like many people, Ajoa Abrokwa got into cycling during the pandemic. As a lifelong athlete, she was quickly drawn to racing, but didn’t see other women like herself riding, much less competing. She wanted to change that. This spring, she received a mini-grant from Ayesha McGowan’s Thee Abundance Summit to participate in the Tour of America’s Dairyland, an 11-day series of criterium races in Wisconsin.

AS A MUSLIM WOMAN, AN IMPORTANT PART OF MY CYCLING JOURNEY WAS MAINTAINING MODESTY WHILE BEING ACTIVELY INVOLVED.

As a Muslim woman, an important part of my cycling journey was maintaining modesty while being actively involved. I had to consider how I would stay modest and be able to comfortably engage in this activity. Initially, I used pieces of athletic gear I had from when I ran, gear that covered my arms and my legs fully. However, my hijab presented itself as a fun and interesting challenge. I could not find a comfortable way to wear the shaylah-style hijab, something I typically wear in my daily life, and make it work with my cycling. For Muslim women, there are different ways we can choose to wear and style our hijabs. Ranging in color, length, and material, hijabs come in different shapes and sizes. Shaylahs are typically longer and more rectangular in shape. With this style, women typically wrap the shaylah around their face and may tuck or pin the remaining fabric. The shaylah wasn’t breathable during hot rides and would often get in the way or come undone on longer rides. Because of this, it was imperative that I find alternatives so I could comfortably, and safely, ride bikes. I started searching for sports hijabs, athletic hijabs.

Haute Hijab is a brand created by a Muslim woman for Muslim women. They make sports hijabs for women like myself who want to engage in physical activity.

Finding a hijab that worked for me was symbolic because, just as any form of uniform or adornment helps the athlete or participant to get into the game mind-set, my sports hijab did the same. It also enabled me to feel more connected and comfortable as I forged my own path and started my own journey in the cycling community.


Natalie R. Starr

MARLEY BLONSKY

PEARL IZUMI WOMEN’S MONSOON WxB JACKET / $150

Marley Blonsky is a Seattle-based rider, instructor, and advocate for size inclusion in cycling. Last spring, she co-starred with Kailey Kornhauser in the short film All Bodies on Bikes, which tells the story of how the two women are working to challenge the perception that cycling isn’t meant for larger-bodied people. It’s an emotional and moving story told through their personal narratives, friendship, and a riding adventure.

FAT PEOPLE AREN’T WATERPROOF. NOBODY IS. YET AS A PLUS-SIZE CYCLIST, I’VE RIDDEN FOR YEARS AND THOUSANDS OF MILES, THROUGH COUNTLESS SEATTLE COMMUTES, WITHOUT A PROPERLY FITTING, CYCLING-SPECIFIC RAIN JACKET.

Fat people aren’t waterproof. Nobody is. Yet as a plus-size cyclist, I’ve ridden for years and thousands of miles, through countless Seattle commutes, without a properly fitting, cycling-specific rain jacket. That era is over, however, with the release of Pearl Izumi’s Monsoon WxB Hooded Jacket, my pick for 2021 Gear of the Year. It’s available in their full size range, is functional, cute, and has some clever features that help it perform nicely both on and off the bike. With a relaxed cut, there’s space for layering on colder days while also offering zippers at the armpits for extra breathability, preventing that swampy feeling that can happen with some rain gear. My favorite feature is the hood: It’s specifically designed to go over your helmet while still preserving your peripheral vision so you stay dry and safe while riding!


Natalie R. Starr

MOLLY CAMERON

RIDE GROUP WRISTBANDS / $30 for 3

Molly Cameron is a fixture of the American cyclocross and road racing scene as a professional cyclist, industry veteran, team owner, and outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ community in cycling. This year Molly founded RIDE (Riders Inspiring Diversity and Equality) in response to the cycling industry and the sport’s governing bodies failure to act on discriminatory legislation signed into law across the country that targets LGBTQ citizens’ human rights, access to healthcare, and participation in youth and scholastic sports. With RIDE, Molly has been working with cycling events and brands, politicians, advocacy organizations, and governing bodies to dispel disinformation about trans athletes, promote inclusion, and advocate for LGBTQ employees and riders. RIDE’s signature cotton-nylon-blend wristbands—a perfect accessory for keeping sweat off your hands during hot, summer rides—have been popping up on the arms of prominent bike riders and promoters all season.

THE WRISTBANDS HAVE NOW BECOME A WAY FOR ALLIES AND COMMUNITY MEMBERS TO VISIBLY DECLARE A COMMITMENT TO CRITICAL CONVERSATIONS AND A COMMITMENT TO PROMOTING FAIR SPORT AND INCLUSION.

The wristbands, in the familiar light blue, pink, and white of the transgender pride flag, began as a conversation starter amongst pro bike racing colleagues to raise awareness of the oppression and discrimination of trans folks. The wristbands have now become a way for allies and community members to visibly declare a commitment to critical conversations and a commitment to promoting fair sport and inclusion. When you’re on a ride, at a race or event, and see someone wearing a RIDE wristband, it signifies that they are interested in fostering and creating a safe space for LGBTQIA2+ and non-binary folks. They’re also a fund-raiser for RIDE Group, enabling the organization to further its educational policy and advocacy work.


Brian Fraser

RANDY LOCKLAIR

GIRO ARTEX MIPS HELMET / $140

Randy Locklair is key to the growth of bike racing in New York City. As membership director of the Century Road Club Association, he helps oversee recruitment and retention for one of the largest bicycle clubs in the country. This year Randy started the BE Cyclocross team for Black and Brown athletes to have a place in the sport of ’cross, and to help lower barriers of entry—in an equipment- and travel-heavy discipline—by supplying bikes, coaching, mentorship, and transportation. This year’s BE Cyclocross team is composed of five athletes from NYC who will be racing events in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region.

HELMETS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN A CHALLENGE FOR ME. I HAVE A LARGE HEAD. I ALSO HAVE NATURALLY STYLED BLACK HAIR. THESE BOTH INDIVIDUALLY MAKE HELMET FITTING A CHALLENGE—COMBINED, THEY MAKE IT NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE.

Helmets have always been a challenge for me. I have a large (64+cm) head. I also have naturally styled Black hair. These both individually make helmet fitting a challenge—combined, they make it nearly impossible. So I’m incredibly grateful that Giro has a true XL (61–65cm) in their lineup, and the Giro Artex MIPS is a fantastically built helmet for riding on the road or on the trail. It feels light and cool—I took it for a few blazing hot summer rides and barely knew it was there. The Roc Loc 5 Air fit system allows me to properly place the helmet on my head and lock it in; it’s the best-fitting XL I’ve tried. I would love to see Giro offer some of their colorways and more high-end helmets in my size—as our sport becomes more inclusive, we must remember natural hair, too!”



Ash Ponders

RENEE HUTCHENS

OXDX TOGETHER WE RISE TANK TOP / $32

Renee Hutchens is a mountain biker, gravel rider, bike mechanic, writer, filmmaker, artist, and activist for Environmental and Indigenous issues. She’s outspoken on issues related to Native lands and growing her community to create more space for Indigenous peoples and for their voices to be heard in the mountain bike industry.

OXDX’S ARTWORK BRINGS INDIGENOUS ISSUES TO LIGHT AND CHALLENGES THE INSTITUTIONS CENSORING OUR EXISTENCE.

As a Diné cyclist, riding on the land—a place that holds our stories, culture, and lifeways—is a beautiful experience of embracing and expressing who I am through movement. Expression is voice, and voice has been the heartbeat of our oral tradition for millennia. Expression speaks. It is written on the land, woven into our rugs, painted as art, felt in colors and patterns, heard in songs, sewn into fabric, but most importantly it’s created by us. This is why my pick for 2021 Gear of the Year is the Together We Rise tank top designed by OXDX, a Diné-owned fashion label operating out of Tempe, Arizona. The words of Indigenous voices for the land are the same they have always been. For more than 500 years, white people in our country have discussed how long it would be before Indigenous peoples finally disappeared into white society. Not if, but when. Five centuries of survival under the most excruciating pressure of killing diseases, wars, genocide, land expropriation, government policy, forced assimilation, and outright termination. Never has this land seen such staying power. This is our resilience, visible at every mobilization and protest, every time we speak our truths, and breathe life back into our lifeways. It is our Ancestors working to ensure we exist as Indigenous peoples, as they have always done. We are still here.

Fighting cultural appropriation in this industry is a constant. This is why I love wearing and amplifying Indigenous-owned companies and apparel created by Indigenous designers and creatives. OXDX’s artwork brings Indigenous issues to light and challenges the institutions censoring our existence.

What I love about this tank top is the purposeful story attached to the design. It’s a portrait of three sisters: Naelyn Pike, Nizhoni Pike, and Baase Pike, commemorating their strength and grace in protecting the land through the Apache Stronghold and the Protect Oak Flat movements. The Pike sisters are shining examples of the power of our future generations.