Have you, like so many others, just got into gravel bikes? Or cyclocross, or adventure bikes, touring, bike-packing… There are so many names and so many blurred margins between genres of bikes these days, but there’s a bit of a difference between kit needs.
I am a mountain biker that has bought myself a gravel bike for longer, tamer days out. It’s been a process figuring out my needs and wants for this new adventurous form of cycling, so I am here to share my favourite and most used pieces of kit. The main differences for me have been how accessible my spare layer and snacks are, and how comfortable I am. On a mountain bike I’ll happily carry a heavy backpack with more than I could ever need on one ride. Mountain biking can be very stop-start, so repeatedly taking your bag off to grab another Haribo isn’t much of an inconvenience. On the gravel bike I’ve considered trying to keep my bike lighter or more aero, but I don’t really care too much about weight, just carrying as little as possible and making sure I can grab it without slowing down enough to get cold.
Rapha Core Bib Shorts
- Price: £85.00
- From: Rapha
Being a mountain biker that’s quite new to road and gravel riding, it’s been hard to let go of the baggies. Especially when I have such chunky strong thighs. When shopping for bib shorts I wanted some that are a decent enough length to stop me from having muffin-thigh, I wanted them to have good grip tape to keep them in place, and most importantly I needed a pad that would suit my sit bones. I’ve never experienced saddle soreness on a mountain bike, but gravel is a different story and I’ve found myself really sensitive to uncomfortable saddles.
The Rapha Core Bib Shorts tick all the boxes, with the added bonus of being an excellent fit and a really reasonable price from a brand known for being on the pricey side. The material has a good stretch, the tape holds them firmly in place without being too tight, and the shoulder straps are both soft and extra stretchy for comfort. These shorts are substantial enough to wear as my outer layer on the gravel/road bike, but they’ve also become my go-to bib for under mountain bike shorts.
Rapha Core Jersey
- Price: £60.00
- From: Rapha
Something you may not consider when buying a cycle jersey is how it copes with fully loaded cargo pockets. I have unfortunately found myself with several jerseys that simply can’t carry all the items I need without hanging too low or flopping to one side. The Rapha Core Jersey is one that I’ve been pleasantly surprised with – managing to carry a jacket, banana, several snack bars, phone and keys without moving out of place.
The fit could be better on me. I have wide hips and a narrow waist, and quite a long upper body, and I’ve found that when bent over in riding position the stomach bunches up quite a lot. It’s a small complaint that’s cancelled out by the comfort and function of the jersey though. The lower back has a strip of grip tape that helps keep the jersey in place, the arms are a great length for if you wear arm warmers, and the top of the zip protects your neck from being nipped when you’re one-handedly zipping up half way down a descent.
This jersey comes in an array of great colour choices, all with the signature Rapha stripe.
POC Essential Road Jersey
- Price: £130.00
- From: POC Sports
This is my favourite piece of kit so far this year. Made from recycled polyester and elastane and meeting the Global Recycling Standard, it’s soft and stretchy, a really great fit and the design is so simple yet really stands out. The colour is a head turner, and I can’t find a bad word to say about the fit, comfort or durability. I guess you really do get what you pay for with this, as it’s not cheap but it feels like a piece of forever-kit.
I have long arms, or just a long upper body in general, and the sleeves meet my wrists and stay put during the ride. I have often found with long sleeve jerseys that I look like I’ve shrunk the arms in the wash, but in this case I have a great fitting jersey. The cargo pockets are well structured and don’t affect the fit or position of the jersey when you fully load them up, and the zip pocket is in a good position to access it without contorting.
Cafe Du Cyclist Dorotheé Jacket
- Price: £142.00
- From: Cafe Du Cyclist
This doesn’t look like a lot of jacket for the price, but that’s the point. It stuffs down into such a small bundle you can fit it in any pocket. Shorts, jersey, jacket, or a tiny top tube bag, it can fit anywhere and be with you as an emergency layer for any scale of ride.
Though it is small, it offers excellent wind protection even as the only outer layer. It is fully windproof and water repellant, has a decent amount of stretch yet is tough enough to cope with being mistreated. The fit is on the small side – you can find my measurements at the bottom of this post, and I’m in a size large. It’s not a style you would want to be baggy, yet I would prefer a bit more room in the arms just from a comfort point of view.
Showers Pass Cloudburst Jacket
- Price: £175.00
- From: Showers Pass
This jacket arrived just as a bout of extremely cold weather did, so it has mostly been worn in sub-5degree temperatures with wet trails splashing up onto it. I’ve really enjoyed having a waterproof jacket that isn’t a baggy design with a hood and a bunch of pockets. There’s a rear zippered cargo pocket, a high collar to keep the weather out and the jacket is tailored to be a comfortable yet close fit.
I feel very visible in this jacket, though it’s not super reflective it is bright and it bounces light back off it. There are reflective trims, so it’s a great choice for commuting or riding anywhere near traffic.
Handske Jo Burt Limited Edition Lightweight Gloves
- Price: £30.00
- From: Cyclorise
When Hannah first gave me these gloves, I thought ‘Oh great – white gloves’, rolled my eyes and stuffed them in my back-up kit bag. Then the sun came out and I needed some mid-weight gloves to wear with my short sleeved jersey. These are short, so only cover your hands, meaning with most long sleeved jerseys or jackets you’ll be left with a gap. But they’re such a great option for keeping the wind off, and they look fantastic! Who doesn’t want bright flowers on their fingertips? If you need a spring/summer glove to take the cold edge off and just keep your hands comfortable on your bars, this is the style to go for. If you’re out in the depths of winter you may want more wrist coverage.
All In Multitool v3
- Price: €67.90
- From: All In Multitool
OK, so I’m not wearing this, but my bike is. The All-In-One Multitool magnetically sits within your crank axle and is inserted/removed with no screwing or excessive amounts of pressure. The magnet is strong enough to keep it in place on even the roughest of descents, yet not so strong that you can’t get the tool out with cold wet hands.
The tool itself is loaded up with 4 Allen keys (3-6mm), T25 Torx, a Phillips screw bit, and a chain tool. The bits are a generic size so if you needed to customise the tool you could actually buy the specific bits, but I’ve found this to have everything I need for minor trailside tweaks.
One of the main reasons I like this tool so much is the fact it’s always there. I’m not shy when packing my bike/bags for an adventure, but to have a multitool that’s guaranteed to be in the same place as your bike at all times is really useful. Not only that – the fact that the tool is hinged in both directions makes it great to use on fiddly sections of a frame. The seat post bolt on many gravel bikes is diagonal entry from the inside of the main triangle, which can be extremely annoying with a short stubby multitool.
Let the adventures continue…