Editor’s Dozen: Miles’ 2019 Picks
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Next up in our Editor’s Dozen gear lists, Miles shares his thoughts on some components, clothing, and events that stood out in 2019. After six months on the road, from the Pacific Northwest to the Southeast and back again, Miles has packed in his fair share of riding. Here are a dozen items that have continued to prove their usefulness, over and over again…
I’m a total gear nerd. You wanna chat lightweight tents? Minimalist rain jackets? Found yourself a titanium poop trowel? Count me in. Although I’m no expert, I’m fascinated by the design and construction of high-quality gear, whether it’s designed with cycling in mind or not. Beyond my gear reviews that end up here on the site, there are plenty of products I haven’t yet gotten around to writing about. You’ll also likely notice that four of my twelve picks fall into the apparel category, which stems from my desire (and need) to own less. I want everything I own to have a purpose, and that starts with good quality clothing that can be used all year long. I’ve also included a few non-products for good measure. Consider the following items my personal recommendations, often based on complete satisfaction or simply because they fail to die…
Porcelain Rocket Microwave Panniers
Released back in March, Porcelain Rocket’s Microwave Panniers are the epitome of home-grown innovation. They’re based around a simple holster and removable drybag that attaches securely to pretty much any rack out there using Voilé Straps. Although I have yet to tackle any longer bikepacking trips with my set, they’ve performed flawlessly (and silently) during overnighters and loaded commutes around town.
As far as micro panniers ago, I think the Microwave Panniers are the perfect size. They provide more capacity than a standard saddlebag, but aren’t big enough to detract from riding fun trails, including singletrack. The Voilé Strap attachment is very clever, offering an easily replaceable and rattle-free design that is lightyears ahead of standard hook-on panniers.
- Capacity: 13L per pannier
- Weight: 460 grams per pannier
- Place of Manufacture: Alberta, Canada
- Price: $275 CAD
- Manufacturer’s Details: PorcelainRocket.com
Rockgeist Cache XL
For the last couple of years, I removed any kind of top tube mounted bags from my gear list. I favoured a clean top tube over the marginal carrying capacity gains offered by most bags in this category. However, after Rockgeist introduced their Cache XL, I figured it was time to give it a shot. The Cache XL measures 4.75″ tall at the stem, and has a total length of 9.25″, offering enough room for most smart phones, and more.
It’s been great having a safe spot for my wallet, iPhone, and keys, while leaving room for a few smaller snacks as well. The exterior zippered pocket isn’t terribly impressive, just big enough for a small pocket knife, lens cap, or a few wrappers. In true Rockgeist fashion, the Cache is available in a huge list of colours and fabrics, bolt-on designs for frames with top tube mounts, and with added reflective webbing for $2.
- Price: $54.95 – $66.95 USD
- Place of Manufacture: North Carolina, USA
- Manufacturer’s Details: Rockgeist.com
Outdoor Research Ferrosi Hooded Jacket
This is one of those non-cycling-specific products that I just can’t get enough of. I purchased my Outdoor Research Ferrosi Hooded Jacket over five years ago, and it’s never far from my side. The Ferrosi collection is Outdoor Research’s do-anything, go-anywhere soft-shell lineup, boasting great durability, stretchy fabrics, and decent weather resistance. I find myself reaching for the Ferrosi Hooded Jacket on windy summer days, cool fall mornings, and as an outside layer on dry winter days.
The jacket uses a light and stretchy 90d ripstop nylon fabric on the body and hood, plus a harder wearing 120d fabric on the shoulders and lower sleeves. It’s quick drying, extremely breathable, and can shed light rain. The fit is slim and true to size, and my size large is as comfortable worn over a merino t-shirt as it is with a heavier weight layer worn underneath on colder days. The Ferrosi Hooded jacket is available in several different colours, in both men’s and women’s. And the Ferrosi Shorts are also fantastic for bikepacking.
- Price: $129 USD
- Place of Manufacture: China
- Manufacturer’s Details: OutdoorResearch.com
Velocio Delta Long Sleeve
I didn’t want to like Velocio’s Delta Long Sleeve, I mean, it’s very yellow. However, after wearing it countless times over the past four months, it’s proven to be really useful. It’s a summer-weight long sleeve, providing exceptional sun protection and abrasion resistance. Made from Polartec’s Delta, a cooling, warm-weather fabric that’s highly breathable and lightweight, the Delta Long Sleeve is perfect for desert ramblings and summer adventures.
The Delta Long Sleeve is ideal for when the mornings are a little cooler, but temperatures rise throughout the day. It’s light enough that you won’t overheat, still offers protection from the sun, and the yellow option ensures your friends won’t lose you on the trail. I’ve found the fit to be spot on, it’s slightly longer at the back and in the sleeves so it doesn’t ride up while on the bike. Not so keen on yellow? The Delta Long Sleeve is also available in a light grey in both men’s and women’s sizes.
- Price: $99 USD
- Place of Manufacture: Italy
- Manufacturer’s Details: Velocio.cc
PNW Bachelor Dropper Post
I originally picked up PNW’s Bachelor Dropper Post as part of my Why S7 dream build. Although I had no prior experience with PNW’s products, their line of affordable dropper posts and eye-catching levers grabbed my attention. Their highest-end post, the Bachelor, is based around an adjustable sealed air cartridge within a lightweight 7075 alloy body. I’ve been using a 170mm travel option, but it’s also available in 125, 150, and 200mm travels in 30.9, 31.6, and 34.9mm diameters.
I can’t dive deep into the mechanics behind a good dropper post, but I can tell you that after half a year of solid riding, this post is still performing great. It’s only developed a very slight wiggle, much less than previous dropper posts I’ve used, and only needed the pressure topped up after four months. It goes down, and comes back up…as intended.
- Price: $349 USD
- Place of Manufacture: Taiwan
- Manufacturer’s Details: PNWComponents.com
Wolf Tooth Components Bits
Besides having the ability to get super matchy-matchy with the small bits on your bike, Wolf Tooth Components’ line of headsets, top caps, seat post collars, and axles are all impressively high quality and precision machined. The vast majority of their products are made at their headquarters just outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and with a variety of different colours and specs available, everyone can add a little bling to their bike. I’ve been using their Wolf Axles, seat post collar, headset spacers, seatpost clamp, headset, and CAMO chainring system for some time now, and I have no complaints at all. I’ve always loved the appearance of Wolf Tooth’s products, and while not all of them may boost the performance of my bike, I know they are well made, durable, and perfectly suited for bikepacking.
- Price: $5-$99 USD
- Place of Manufacture: USA
- Manufacturer’s Details: WolfToothComponents.com
Yaak Design: M-Series Belt
I was introduced to Yaak Design after meeting up with Marc Basiliere in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Marc has extensive experience in the cycling industry, and with a background in product design, his company, Lindarets, offers product design services for companies looking to take concepts to the real-world. Lindarets has worked with companies like Wolf Tooth Components, Spurcycle Bells, and their own projects like Yaak Design. Marc hooked me up with one of their Yaak Design M-Series Magnetic Belts, and I’m hooked.
It’s the ultimate adventure belt. The buckle is manufactured in the USA from carbon fiber reinforced polyamide composite, and uses a strong magnetic closure that remains closed until you want it open. The band features a custom-woven herringbone pattern and 10% stretch for a secure fit. I’ve used other adventure-style belts in the past that require adjustment and tightening, and that is simply not the case for the Yaak M-Series Belt. Best of all, the belt is vegan, and molded, sewn, and packaged in the USA. The standard M-Series belts can fit up to 46″ waists, but custom lengths are also available.
- Price: $40 USD
- Place of Manufacture: USA
- Manufacturer’s Details: Yaak.Design
Pearl Izumi Merino Wool Socks
Wool socks are a no brainer for bikepacking. My feet get stinky on a normal day, so anything that helps keep my toes dry and less foul is a win in my book. I have around five pairs of Pearl Izumi wool socks now, and they’ve been my longest lasting socks by far. Due to my growing collection, I’ve started to wear them outside of riding, so my oldest pairs have seen some truly significant use, but refuse to fall apart.
The Pearl Izumi wool socks are available in several different heights, weights, and colours, but I’ve had great success with the Elite Wool Socks and Merino Wool Tall Socks. The latter are made from a polyester / merino wool blend, fit snugly, do not stretch out, and are made in the USA. The tall models also provide a little extra protection for your ankles while riding or when wearing boots, thanks to a 19cm cuff. Gear that lasts is great, and it’s pretty hard to find a sock that won’t fall apart after just a few bikepacking trips.
- Price: $19 USD
- Place of Manufacture: USA
- Manufacturer’s Details: PearlIzumi.com
Wera Multicolour Hex Keys
There are a lot of different tools out there, and most of them aren’t completely necessary for the home mechanic. However, if you’re going to be doing the majority of adjustments and small repairs yourself, a good set of hex keys is pretty much mandatory. As recommended by a mechanic friend of mine, Wera is known as the “tool rebels” – reinventing tools and finding solutions to problems often thought unsolvable. Although not specifically designed for bike mechanics, the Wera Multicolour Hex Key set is top notch.
The set, which includes 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 10mm hex keys, features colour coded and printed size markings, fitting snugly within a rubber case. Each tool features a standard and ball-end, a thermoplastic coating, and a durable ‘BlackLaser’ finish. The same kit is available with torx heads, as well as with a stainless steel finish if that’s what you’re after.
We Are One Convert Wheels
We Are One manufactures high-quality carbon bicycle rims, as well as their new bar and stem, in Kamloops, British Columbia. They recently updated their lineup, including the new Convert wheel; a wide mountain bike rim designed for tire widths of 2.5” – 3.0”. Besides a fantastic finish and boasting made-in-Canada status, We Are One also offers a “No Questions, Lifetime Warranty,” which means they’ll replace it if it breaks or fails.
I’ve been running a set of their 27.5 Convert wheels with 2.8″ tires on my Why S7 for over six months now, built up with their standard issue Industry Nine Hydra hubs, and they’ve been nothing but flawless. I’ve smashed them off more natural trail features than I care to admit, yet they continue to spin true and smooth. Even if you’re not a Canadian, I’d recommend checking out their lineup. It’s amazing how much quality is coming out of their small facility.
- Price: $1,875 CAD / wheelset (~$1,430 USD)
- Place of Manufacture: Canada
- Manufacturer’s Details: WeAreOneComposites.com
The Bikepacking Summit
I’ve been lucky enough to attend the past two Bikepacking Summits, organized by Lindsay and Neil Beltchenko, as part of the media team and to report back here on BIKEPACKING.com. You can check out my reflection on the 2018 Summit here, and highlights from this year’s Summit here. I’ve actually come onboard, along with a few others, to help Neil and Lindsay plan next year’s Summit, which is already in the works. As such, it’s difficult not to have a soft spot for what they’ve been doing.
Between fantastic presenters, awesome venues, and the opportunity to meet fellow bikepacking enthusiasts, it’s the one event I hope to be able to work into the schedule every year. If you haven’t had the pleasure of attending the Bikepacking Summit before, I strongly suggest you try to do so in 2020. It’s going to be great.
The Rad People of 2019
Lastly, I’ve met so many extremely friendly people this year while travelling throughout North America. Top of my list is spending time with the core BIKEPACKING.com editor team, including Lucas, Virginia, Joe, Logan, and Cass, which makes communicating and working with each other that much easier. I’ve also met up with so many complete strangers that turned out to be industry professionals, super fine folk, or just people willing to show me the local trails. There are way too many to mention by name, but this goes out to the community, the shop owners, bag makers, and local shredders that have made 2019 a memorable one. You know who you are, and I hope to see you all again soon.