2022 has been quite a year, and for me it was a good one. Several awesome trips abroad in Austria, France and Spain, and in the UK in the Peak District and Surrey Hills to test new bikes and kit have filled me with joy and, overwhelmingly, the Spirit of Gravel.
I’ve also had the chance to ride some Very Good Bikes of varying materials: carbon fibre in the new Canyon Ultimate, titanium in the Stanton Switchpath Ti, steel in the Fairlight Strael 3.0 (review out soon), and magnesium in the Vaast R/1. Paging aluminium – I need to complete the set.
I went to the Tour de France for the first time at the Grand D?part in Copenhagen, a dream not only to watch the race but to spend time in a place where bikes thrive. Although I’m lucky not to have been footing the bills.
Enough about me, these are the four best products I’ve had the pleasure of riding on or in in 2022.
Products included in annual round-ups are independently selected by our editorial team. Cyclist may earn an affiliate commission if you make a purchase through a retailer link. Learn more.
1. Argonaut GR3
At the end of October I flew to Girona for the first time to truly qualify as a cyclist and to attend The Service Course and Enve’s Girodeo weekend to see some custom bikes and ride Catalunya’s finest gravel.
While there, I was fortunate to be riding Argonaut’s new GR3 gravel bike. The Oregon manufacturer’s first gravel bike came in very hot with a unique geometry featuring a very slack 68.5? head tube angle, very short 415mm chainstays and clearance for 700c tyres up to 50mm.
Photos: Patrik Lundin
Those measurements combined make for a bike that balances raciness with downhill stability and I found it to be the most well-rounded gravel bike that I’ve ridden.
Whereas you’d normally find racy gravel bikes have to sacrifice comfort and stability on technical terrain, and those that do offer that make various speed sacrifices, whether that be weight, stiffness or rider position, the only thing the GR3 sacrifices is your cash.
With framesets starting at $6,500, it is expensive, however each one is custom and hand-built and it could well change your life. Riding the GR3 made me, not the most technically confident rider, want to ride sketchy descents all day long.
Read the full details of the Argonaut GR3
Order now from argonautcycles.com
2. Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 8
Another exciting new bike, this time from a bigger name: it’s the new Canyon Ultimate. I got to go to the launch of the new bike in Nice and took out the top-spec, 6.4kg (size large) Ultimate CFR around the local roads including the Col d’?ze and Col de la Madone and it was great.
However, it was the model I got to review back in the UK that makes this list, the Ultimate CF SLX 8 – the second-tier, Shimano Ultegra Di2 version. I found it to have pretty much all the things I liked the most about the CFR apart from the weight, and 7.3kg isn’t heavy, so the value on this spec is far better.
Photos: Mike Massaro
With slight modifications from the previous Ultimate including minor geometry tweaks to align it with the Aeroad, cable integration, bigger tyre clearance and the new adjustable – and folding – handlebars, I couldn’t fault it.
I found it supremely comfortable – with an excellent balance of stiffness and compliance, and confident and capable handling – and riding it I felt like I could do anything.
It looks great too, doesn’t it?
3. Quoc Gran Tourer II
Photo: Patrik Lundin
I’m not going to beat around the bush. These are the most comfortable cycling shoes I’ve ever worn.
The second generation of Quoc’s gravel shoes adds a proprietary dial closure system – compared the its predecessors’ laces – as well as a sturdier upper, improved ventilation and drying, and a stiffer nylon sole.
Photo: Roo Fowler
I wore them throughout the summer and my only qualm was that the single dial system made it’s difficult to tighten the bottom half without pulling the wire yourself. A second dial would make them perfect.
Once that was figured out, however, the Gran Tourer IIs proved snug where it matters, stiff enough to feel good putting power down (but not too much to reduce long ride comfort), plus they clean and dry really well, and the sole has enough grip to make walking through streams easily.
Buy now from Sigma Sports
4. Maap x PAM T-shirt
This is the cycling-related product I used the most this year, and is part of Maap’s collaboration with fellow Australian brand Perks and Mini, which includes normal kit too. This technical T-shirt is good for both on- and off-bike.
It can be worn with normal clothes and not look like cycling kit, or worn with cycling kit and look like a trendy gravel tech tee.
Photo: Mike Massaro
I’ve worn it a fair bit casually, as well as on proper rides, including a very hot day bikepacking in the Peak District, but found its best use as work attire as it means I don’t have to get changed after cycling to work and I don’t stay sweaty all day either.
It was also the perfect thing to wear on the hottest day of the year with temperatures of 38?C, and firmly won me over to the world of tech tees, of which I’m now a huge fan. This colour also gives Joker vibes when I’ve worn it with a green jumper or jacket.
Buy now from Mr Porter (?35)
My favourite albums of the year
I did this last year so I’ll do it again this time. If you’ve read any of my In the Drops pieces over the last year you’ll know that I’ve been compiling playlists of new music, and while that search for songs has reduced the number of albums I’ve listened to, that has raised the bar for what sticks with me.
These are six of my favourite albums of 2022. It’s not exhaustive or in order, just good stuff.
Black Country, New Road – Ants From Up There
This album is an experience, so take a deep breath before diving in. It’s a complex, emotional and musical masterpiece that was released shortly after lead singer Isaac Wood left the band due to mental health issues.
Wood’s intense vocals and lyrics are a huge part of what makes Ants From Up There so good, so the band’s next releases will be interesting to see, but the power of the instrumentation – blending rock and orchestral sounds – on this album pair up with the rollercoaster Wood takes you on superbly. In fact if you listen in order you’ll be hooked before the vocals even threaten to start.
It’s hard to describe without unfairly pigeon-holing it, so I won’t attempt to, but I wholeheartedly recommend getting stuck in and if you’re not sure, ‘Good Will Hunting’ is a great place to start.
Best song: ‘Good Will Hunting’
Listen to Ants From Up There on Spotify
Oscar Jerome – The Spoon
This one caught me off guard. I hadn’t heard of Oscar Jerome until I was sifting through new releases for In the Drops. The first couple stood out enough to stick them in playlists but didn’t necessarily blow me away, then I listened to the album.
The Spoon is a sensational piece of music that is just the right side of arty to keep my basic sensibilities interested. ‘The spoon’ refers to the warped versions of ourselves we see in the modern world and that type of commentary is blended into delicate but complex songs that fuse genres to create 48 minutes of mind-warping sounds.
More structurally familiar songs are interspersed with those more experimental tracks, which is what makes it holistically superior to its individual parts.
Best song: ‘Berlin 1’
Listen to The Spoon on Spotify
Wallows – Tell Me That It’s Over
Yes that is the bloke from those TV shows you’ve seen that looks like Sid from Toy Story. Dylan Minnette is his name and, besides acting, Wallows is his game along with pals Braeden Lemasters and Cole Preston.
They make indie pop/rock that will absolutely appeal to fans of that kind of stuff. Classically romance-led lyrics paired with guitar-led instumentation could make them any other band on the planet, but Wallows’ charm – musically and lyrically – help them stand out with bangers like ‘I Don’t Want to Talk’ and ‘Marvelous’.
This was my most played album released in 2022 largely due to the fun first half, but the back half blends in some more emotional tracks to make it a more well-rounded piece. But it’s still those first five songs that I’m returning for.
Best song: ‘Marvelous’
Listen to Tell Me That It’s Over on Spotify
Wet Leg – Wet Leg
Wet Leg came out of nowhere (well, the Isle of Wight) with the release of single ‘Chaise Longue’ in June 2021, it blew my mind among many others and the duo quickly became the most hyped band in music.
They quickly knocked out the eponymous debut album this April and it is all killer. ‘Chaise Longue’ set a high bar but the care-free, upbeat indie, sometimes psychedelic rock is addictive.
It’s simple but effective and addictive. They’ve been nominated for five Grammys and for good reason. Believe the hype.
Best song: ‘Chaise Longue’
Listen to Wet Leg on Spotify
Steve Lacy – Gemini Rights
Steve Lacy released Gemini Rights and I got bragging rights. I’ve been a big fan of Lacy since he released Steve Lacy’s Demos in 2017, a lo-fi indie-pop EP made completely on his iPhone.
His music hadn’t quite reached the same standard since then but the singles for Gemini Rights showed a return to form, especially ‘Bad Habit’, which was immediately on repeat and echoed his early style in a lyrically and musically superior way.
A few weeks later ‘Bad Habit’ blew up on TikTok and became a massive hit, but I did get there before TikTok, I promise. Not that it matters because that means good music is spreading, which is only a good thing, and the rest of the album is really good too.
Hints of Jeff Buckley in his voice make the progressive music and sweet lyrics all the better, and the support from Foush?e add another layer of brilliance.
Best song: ‘Bad Habit’
Listen to Gemini Rights on Spotify
Yard Act – The Overload
While ‘post-punk’ is a confused term, Yard Act’s music technically falls into this category due to its socially conscious, guitar-led songs. Mixing catchy hooks with witty, largely spoken vocals in a homely Yorkshire accent.
One of the first albums that I got into this year, a few of the songs featured in my early In the Drops playlists just before the full record was released, and it speaks to its quality that it made it into my most played music of the year despite it being so long ago.
It’s all too easy to make social and political lyrics feel forced and cringe, but Yard Act do it exceptionally, while putting a smile on your face (apart from the nihilistic closer ‘100% Endurance’, which triggers my anxiety) and a spring in your step.
Best song: ‘The Overload’
Listen to The Overload on Spotify
Liked this? Don’t miss In the Drops, with new products and cool things every Friday. I’m up next.