Well that was a year. Personal highlights included getting behind the scenes at the opening stages of the 2022 Tour de France in Copenhagen (my new favourite cycling city) and taking snaps of some very tasty bikes including Tom Pidcock’s Pinarello Dogma F and Mads Pedersen’s stunning Trek Madone among others.
Photo: Joseph Branston
I also very much enjoyed writing features on three of my bikes: the ultra-predictable Specialized S-Works Aethos, my throwback Giant TCR with rim brakes and my rusty but beloved On-One Pompino fixie.
Lowlights included falling off my bike quite hard, that Chris Froome hoodie and the fact that NFTs still exist.
Here are six things that honked my donk in 2022.
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1. Specialized Diverge STR gravel bike
If there were a prize for most memed bike in 2022, the Diverge STR would surely take it.
I still haven’t fully resolved my feelings about this thing but I salute Specialized for making something that’s genuinely a bit out there.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, the Diverge STR added rear suspension to the existing Diverge gravel bike using a flexible ‘frame post’ whose movement is controlled by a teensy little damper hidden at the rear of the top tube.
I wrote an in-depth piece on the development of ‘Future Shock rear’ as well as a full launch story and a very verbose Diverge STR first ride review.
The STR is a slightly mad piece of design and while its exposed rear suspension has a whiff of prototype about it, I think it’s very clever and my experience is that it actually works within its remit.
The bigger question for me is whether this is what I want from a gravel bike, and my answer to that changes from day to day.
The Diverge STR is pretty complicated and – in S-Works guise – incredibly expensive. It would be boring if all bikes were the same though, right?
2. Shimano 105 Di2
Shimano 105 Di2 was starting to feel like the bike industry’s Half-Life 3 in that it was always coming, but never here.
105 has always been the go-to groupset for the sensible road cyclist, offering all the important features performance of Dura-Ace and Ultegra and near-identical performance, but at a drastically reduced price.
It’s always been mechanical however, through successive generations of Ultegra and Dura-Ace groupsets.
105 R7100 changes all that, bringing the mid-range in line with Dura-Ace R9200 and Ultegra R8100. It launched disc brake-only and there’s currently no sign of a mechanical counterpart.
Believe it or not, I’ve yet to ride a bike with 105 Di2, but I’m including it in my picks because it’s such a significant launch.
By all accounts it is essentially a heavier, cheaper R8100, and that’s great news for riders on a budget who want the benefits of electronic shifting.
I still have a soft spot for mechanical shifting however, and rim brakes for that matter. It remains to be seen whether Shimano is phasing out these technologies completely. We can only wait and watch.
3. Giant Revolt Advanced gravel bike
Photo: Joseph Branston
Yep, it’s another gravel bike. If the Diverge STR represents the bleeding edge of clever gravel tech, the Revolt Advanced Pro is arguably the purest possible distillation of the ‘standard’ gravel bike.
Geometry altering flip-chips aside, the Revolt is a fairly straightforward design. Its numbers aren’t ultra-progressive and the flexible seatpost and dropped stays are as close as it gets to having suspension.
Nevertheless, it’s a wonderful bike, a real joy to thrash around the woods.
I love gravel bikes that don’t pretend to be mountain bikes. Flat bars and suspension forks exist for a reason and I’m not going to kid myself that a gravel bike is the best choice for rooty singletrack or drop-offs.
The Revolt is light and stiff enough to mix it up with road bikes but it has the generous clearances and handling that work off-road. It’s not radical, it’s just bloody good.
4. Shokz OpenRun Pro bone conduction headphones
Photo: Joseph Branston
Listening to audio on a bicycle is a controversial subject, oddly so given cars have had radios since the year dot and nobody complains about those.
Anyway, I like listening to podcasts on solo rides but having things in my ears isn’t always ideal.
My first experience with bone conduction headphones left me cold, but the latest generation tech is really rather effective.
The OpenRun Pros give pretty respectable sound quality and don’t interfere too much with my helmet (stop sniggering you complete child).
Audibility can still be an issue in windy weather or at speed – I just press pause when that’s the case – but it’s decent overall.
Oh, and they’re fantastic for dog walking and just doing things round the house.
5. Ren? Herse Nivex derailleur
Photo: Ren? Herse
A late entry to my picks for the year, the Nivex is one of those products that feels thoroughly irrational in a very appealing way.
This modern reimagining of a 1930s design focusses on mechanical involvement and doesn’t even fit standard frames without modification.
Nevertheless, I love it and I’m glad that there’s space in our little industry for projects like this alongside the mainstream kit that dominates headlines.
6. Rok EspressoGC espresso machine
Could I be any more of a cycling clich?? Last year I recommended a coffee grinder (still going strong by the way, thanks for asking) and this time it’s a coffee maker.
I’ve long resisted buying a full-fledged espresso machine – they take up counter space and seem needlessly elaborate for a household where only one person actually drinks coffee.
They’re also prone to failure and cheap models aren’t necessarily designed to be serviceable so they often end up in landfill when they break.
The Rok is a manual espresso maker where good old leverage forces the water through your grounds.
You still need a kettle to boil the water, but the Rok itself is simple and repairable. There’s very little to go wrong and the brand stocks wear items such as the main o-ring.
Most importantly, the Rok looks really cool when it’s not in use and having it on my shelf lets all my millennial pals know that I’m one of them. Oh, and the coffee tastes good too.
Buy now from Amazon (?189)
Happy new year, folks!
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Main image: Joseph Branston