Brooks Cambium C-13 saddle
Field Test: The C-13 is the lightest weight saddle this heritage brand has ever produced, but at 259 grams it’s not all that light. It is, however, a modern carbon-railed saddle with a vulcanized rubber skin in place of Brooks leather. It also comes complete with the classic Brooks riveting—which long ago introduced the world to the term “on the rivet,” sitting far forward on the nose of the saddle grinding out the cadence. If you’re not overly weight conscious (it’s only 80 or 90 grams heavier than an ultra lightweight saddle) it’s a fine race saddle, but we think it’s best matched to a comfy endurance road bike—the cotton and vulcanized rubber top seems to demand a firmly seated position on the rear of the saddle, decidedly off the rivet.
Why It’s Timeless: It’s elegant and classy, but it’s not an anchor.
Stages Power Meter
Field Test: The problem with only using a heart rate monitor? During shorter intense workouts, it takes some time for your heart rate to catch up with the work that you’re doing. And on longer efforts over three hours, your heart rate will naturally increase while your legs are doing the same (or less) output. Since they take away the guesswork of training, power meters have been popular with elite athletes for a decade or more, but the Stages Power Meter is the most accessible to the cycling masses. No need to buy a new power meter equipped rear wheel or a set of pedals, you simply swap out your left crank arm for a Stages equipped replacement. My Garmin recognized it with almost zero extra setup. And since it also counts cadence, I was able to remove the cadence counter from my chainstay. I’ve ridden with it for the past four months, and, as advertised, it’s taken the guesswork out of my riding. I don’t do any formal interval training—ever—but now I see that the group rides I do each week are a fine substitute, especially when we’re surging on the flats. And on longer rides, it’s easier to discern if my legs are benefitting, or if it’s time to head home. Even more beneficial? Between my heart rate monitor and the power meter, I can zero in on my optimal training zone, maximizing the quality of time spent on the bike. To take even more advantage of the Power Meter, the next step would be to have an actual cycling coach put me on a power based program. Meh. Maybe not. The Power Meter gets me most of the information I need as a recreationist.
Why It’s Timeless: Heart rate ebbs and flows with your fitness through the season, but a sustained and normalized 20-minute effort measured in kilojoules is forever.
Assos T.Rally Shorts_S7
Field Test: Yes, they’re expensive, but the Assos Rally mountain bike bibs are of such a quality that you could easily get 700 days out of them. Which, if my Intro to Economics math is correct, gets the cost down to 60 cents per outing. (I’ve had $225 bibs fall apart on me after 24 rides.) So there’s that. They’re also the most comfortable bibs I’ve ever worn bar none. There’s a subtly contoured pouch for your man stuff. The one-of-a-kind Assos fabric is equal parts silky, tough, and weirdly breathable. And the leg grips and suspenders are supportive without being constrictive. I now wear them beneath my baggy shorts on casual rides and alone for mtb races. For the former, I slot in the included crash pads that sit smartly just beneath the hipbones—smart, because if you put them on the hipbones they’d be uncomfortable. Placed where they are, they’ll float the bones in a crash.
Why It’s Timeless: Hand-wash and line dry them and they’ll last many years.
Specialized S-Works Turbo Road Tubeless and Roubaix Pro 2BR 30/32
Field Test: First off: If you ride in mountains, road tubeless tires are the cat’s arse. I’ve had two flats in eight years. And the lower tire pressure and burlier sidewalls let you corner like a pro on screaming descents—in hailstorms. Specialized is a stalwart in the road tubeless realm, and independent testing revealed that their race-day S-Works Turbo tubeless tires offer some of the lowest rolling resistance of any tire available. That translates to both a silkier ride and less wasted energy. But this is a story about tire width. Just as with mountain bike tires, a small jump in tire width can dramatically improve your bike’s handling and ride qualities. Or alter the bike altogether. I mounted the new 30/32mm wide Roubaixs in place of the knobby rubber that came on my cross bike and that switch alone turned it into a worthy gravel grinder. Similarly, swapping out my 24mm race tires with the 26mm Turbos means I can more comfortably ride sections of dirt road—with almost no weight or rolling resistance penalties.
Why They’re Timeless: Often, fatter means faster. So fatten up.
From our High Summer 2016 issue.