Gear: The Commuter Revolution

Going to work has never been more enjoyable with new gear like this. 

No one in our office puts in as many days on the bike as our production designer, Brian King. Every weekday, he rides from Bristol to work in Middlebury and back nearly every day, sometimes making that 12-mile uphill trek home in the dark in a snowstorm. And on weekends, he mountain bikes.

PedalsAfter six months of 125-mile weeks, King swears by the new Catalyst Pedals ($120), released last winter by Pedaling Innovations. Designed for better ergonomics, the pedal is as wide as a regular pedal (3.75 inches) but measures nearly 5 inches front to back, giving support across the arch of the foot. Says King, “This pedal is engineered to take all of your power with the least amount of stress points. I almost feel like laughing out loud every time I ascend a hill, and standing on my pedals on descents feels like I’m riding an all-new, more responsive bike. At the end of the day my feet and legs feel noticeably less sore. When I swapped these with the pedals on my drop-bar commuting bike, I knew I would not be clipping in again.” The company is so sure of itself it has a 30-day money-back guarantee.

wayside-backpack-pannierAnother product that’s made bike commuting or light touring more stylish and practical is the Wayside Backpack Pannier/Combo ($80) from Blackburn. Blackburn’s newest pannier is designed to be a good-looking choice for school or office commutes. The 1,150-cubic inch pack measures 11”W x 16.34H x 5”D and weighs in at 2.05 lbs. It’s not flashy (there are no reflective details or bright colors) and the sophisticated design features water-resistant waxed canvas and inside pockets accommodate a laptop or tablet. Best, this pannier doubles as a roll-top daypack with padded shoulder straps that tuck into a zippered pocket before attaching it to a rear bike rack using its strong Velcro straps. Says Brian: “I found it sturdy, watertight in a downpour, and handy for shopping trips and commuting to work. it’s comfortable to wear for short trips, even with a full load, though I prefer attaching it to the bike rack for my daily 25-mile commutes.”

Volata Side Moon Grey_highresOne thing we have yet to try (it won’t be released until 2017) could be the ultimate commuter bike. The Volata ($3,499) is what happens when Silicon Valley and the bike industry fall in love and have a baby together. Start with the bike: aluminum frame, carbon fork and a relaxed frame geometry, which looks like an appealing road/trail bike marriage. Then there’s the grease-free, quiet, low-maintenance carbon belt drive, Shimano Alfine Di2 electronic shifting and internal gear hub. But what makes this a standout is everything else: a fully-integrated 2.4-inch computer display embedded in the headset with GPS tracking, an anti-theft motion detector (that flashes lights, sounds the horn and alerts your phone if the bike is moved), auto-on LED lights molded into the fork and top tube, a dynamo front hub charger and even a horn. The computer interfaces with your smartphone so you can track your ride (or your bike—if it’s stolen), Strava, the weather forecast, your music and more. A joystick on the gear shifts controls the computer, letting you keep your hands on the bars. In theory, this is a dream commuter bike that comes with all the accessories designed into it. Or, thanks to the complex systems and internal wiring, potentially a bike mechanic’s worst nightmare.

Anti-Fog-1-LR-TransSometimes, it’s the little things that make summer riding (or running) a little less pleasant and even potentially unsafe. For instance, when it’s hot enough to steam up your glasses on a long climb or a hard run, what do you do? When we heard that Vermont’s resident Nordic ski racers, Olympian Andy Newell uses Sven Can See ($10.95) anti-fog gel and endorses the product, we tried it. All winter it kept our ski goggles fog and ice-free. Guess what? It works just as well in the summer, particularly when you’re dripping with sweat and the steam rises into those wrap-around shades. Recently Ironman champion Rob Gray also signed on as a team athlete, too.

20160513_Velocio_Fits_086Last, if you are planning on spending a lot of time in the saddle, a really, really good pair of bike shorts is well worth the investment. Our ad manager, Christy Lynn, loves the new Velocio Lela Rose bib shorts ($219). “They’re super comfortable and the mesh fabric on the bib keeps you cool but also means the straps don’t move around or dig into you,” she says. The leg band has a good fit as well, thanks to a light silicone finish and is imprinted with fashion designer Lela Rose’s Poppy design (there’s a matching jersey too). The Men’s ES short is $209.

Evan Johnson

Evan Johnson is the staff writer for Vermont Sports Magazine. The native Vermonter enjoys steep and deep skiing and wandering all over the state by Subaru. Find him on Twitter at @evanisathome.

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