Bike Gear Is a Racket. These Items Aren’t.

Affordable, high-tech cycling gear that bests top-shelf stuff

By Michael C. Brown

High-End Bike Gear. One-Third the Price.
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25 May 2016

Being a cyclist can sometimes feel like you're constantly window-shopping.

Tech tends to outpace your pocketbook. The dizzying pace of invention is such that you just have to pry yourself away from the window of your local bike shop and ride wistfully into the post-workday sunset.

But trust us, there's some really top-notch gear we think you should absolutely pay attention to, as it could very well transform the way you ride your bike.

Best of all, the stuff below is within reach of us mere mortals, toiling away in the bike lanes of the world.

For city rides 
If the idea of some staid townie totally turns you off, but locking-up a $2000+ bike on the street for a couple hours seems an equally harrowing prospect, you should test ride the Cannondale Hooligan ($980). Punchy, quick, low-maintenance and light, this thing eats Citi Bikes for breakfast.

To protect your head
The Bell Annex ($125) commuter helmet is one hell of a brain bucket. Equipped with MIPS, the Annex has an integrated light mount, adjustable vents and removable visor. Think a luxury sedan cockpit — built especially for your cranium.

Sartorial sweat 
At a price point below such high-end cycling "clothiers" as Rapha or Assos, Ten Speed Hero is definitely on to something. Their playful, splashy kits scream refinement (think Andy Warhol meets Wes Anderson). We're particularly fond of their socks, which not only add a little pizzazz to otherwise dull Big-Name-Brand kits, but also look great worn out of the saddle.

How to go fast 
So you want to go fast, but you can't justify spending more on a bicycle than a Ducati Monster? As budget speed machines go these days, bikes like the Specialized Allez Elite X1 Comp ($2000) really make this author reconsider the virtues of his own $7000 steed. Built with SRAM's Rival X1 groupset, this thing is built for racing crits and generally just being ridden with absolute abandon.

Room to move
Your skinny selvedge denim jeans just don't cut it for the morning commute? This is where Betabrand's Bike to Work line comes in. Their line of affordable, utilitarian gear is designed specifically with cycling in mind. Their pants come loaded with such handy things as reflective detailing, stretch fabric and U-lock loops. We recommend their Bike to Work Britches ($108), handmade in San Francisco.

Now you see me 
Lace-up cleats is one retro-minded trend we can get behind. Whether it's in the pro peloton on your local weekend group ride — who gives a hell how functional they are, it just looks stylish. Giro's Empire ACC Reflective ($275) introduces a little function into the mix — that is, by wrapping their popular mid-level shoe in ultra-reflective material. Check out their commuter-friendly Republic model ($190), too.

Keeping track 
Garmin changed the GPS head unit game with the release of their Edge 520 ($300) computer last year, basically outperforming (and undercutting) their own top-of-the-line Edge 1000. These computers not only track speed and distance, but measure BPMs and cadence/wattage (when integrated with power meters), all to provide a detailed post-ride breakdown of your performance. Garmin also has a panoply of cool gear, from touring-oriented GPS units to the new Varia Radar ($200), which syncs with your Garmin computer to display oncoming traffic behind you.

Stay in the light
Knog is our go-to brand for city commuter bike lights. Their USB-rechargeable Blinker lights ($64.95) can’t be beat, whether for commuting or a long day in the saddle as it spills over into the twilight. There are no weird batteries to replace. You can strap them basically anywhere on your bike, and they fit handily in your pocket after you've locked your bike up to head into work (or happy hour).  

This is but one installment of 37 Things a Man's Gotta Do This Summer, our annual compendium of everything worth seeing, doing, eating, drinking and generally making time for in your neck of the woods between now and September

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