Around this time of year, many of the real bicycling websites put together lists of their favourite products and services for the year which usually appears as a curated list of endorsements of the sites’ sponsors’ offerings (call me cynical). They usually also add a list of their favourite music tracks at the end to set the mood.
This website, on the other hand, is a wholly non-commercial, unsponsored, free-flowing indulgence of molten rants, tepid ideas and other random garbage. It has no income and, in return, is beholden to nobody.
Nonetheless, I have curated my own “best of 2023” list because it’s fun and because I can. Needless to say, it is somewhat more derisive than the other lists and contains items that may more widely be regarded as odd choices but don’t let that stop you from adopting my recommendations. So, in no particular order, here we go:
Hip packs, bum bags, waist bags
Call them what you like but just get one if you’re like me and don’t like backpacks when mountain biking and don’t like stuffing items into a jersey pockets when road biking. Don’t worry about the right, bike specific one. Just get one that’s comfortable and the right size for your needs. I’m not going to link any specific ones but most common department stores have them as well as some sporting goods retailers and they should set you back about $15 to $40.
Topeak have various models available for different types of bikes and different purposes. I’ve been using one of the Super Tourist DX models with the extra horizontal bar to lower the centre of gravity when you hang your Ortlieb Classic pannier bags off them (see below). The rack is reasonably priced, high quality and easy to install. It can be used with or without pannier bags and is great for camping, shopping and myriad other purposes.
As I’ve said before, pannier bags, in most situations, are superior to many of the waggy, saggy oversized seat packs that have become fashionable in recent years. No, they’re not as cool and no, they aren’t as aerodynamic as the seatpacks but maybe you don’t need to be aero if you’re carrying stuff on your bike. I’ve been running the Ortliebs for quite some time now and found them to be very high quality, waterproof (I carry a laptop in mine) and roomy. If you want some extra stability, buy some extra bottom hooks for them for about $15 each to help hold the bags on the rack a lot better. Other spare parts for the Ortliebs are also readily available at reasonable prices.
Bungee chords and straps
To add additional carrying capacity to your Topeak rack or just to strap stuff to your frame, you can’t beat the simplicity of bungee chords. Hardware stores and department stores have bike sized, hooked bungees and those flat straps that are sold for a bomb as bike specific product in various places for dirt cheap. Grab a handful and strap them to your rack or keep them in a pannier bag for when they’re needed.
If you live in Brisbane, there’s plenty of places to ride but when you want an easy, civilized city ride and to stimulate the mind at the same time, there’s no place better than QAGOMA to see the latest art exhibitions and other curios. Do a few one off trips and if you find yourself returning often, consider a membership for discounts and other benefits.
Rexona 50ml deodorant can (it’s the teeny, tiny one)
Available at any of the major supermarkets and small enough to fit into a bum bag, jersey pocket or handlebar bag, these are great for when your riding destination requires you to be fresh and sweet smelling on arrival.
Cancer Council 35ml sunscreen (also teeny, tiny)
Also available at supermarkets and department stores, these are great to carry with you on longer rides. Sunscreen gets sweated off in hot weather more quickly than you probably think and should be reapplied regularly anyway so these are great to keep on top of your sun protection. And once they’re empty, you can screw the cap off, make the hole in the top bigger with a pair of scissors and refill them from a larger Cancer council pump pack.
Plastic zip lock bags that come as packaging when you buy stuff
I’m mainly talking about the heavy plastic ones that are probably almost waterproof. Don’t chuck them out because even if they aren’t completely waterproof, they’re usually good enough to keep your phone dry in a light to medium downpour and they fold down so you can stash them in a jersey pocket, bum bag or handlebar bag when not in use.
When you need something more waterproof than a zip lock bag like when you’re kayaking, these Pelican pouches are a good choice. I take mine kayaking all the time and haven’t had any problems. You can use the lanyard to tether the phone to the kayak and mine can happily sit in the bottom of the kayak with water lapping over it all day long. You can still take reasonable photos while the phone is in the case and you can even dunk the whole thing under the water to get underwater shots.
Public swimming pools and beaches
Heatwaves are a problem at this time of year but if you combine your rides with a swim in the middle of the ride, you can beat the heat and still enjoy your ride. The Brisbane City Council is offering $2 swimming pool entry for the next little while so just pack a small towel (see below) and get swimming. It’s a great way to combine activities as well. And if you’re riding closer to the beach like at Wynnum or Redcliffe, a swim at the beach is free.
Swimming chamois and microfibre towels
These things have been around for ages and are available really cheaply at department stores and sporting goods shops. They fit into bum bags, jersey pockets, etc and are great for drying off after a mid ride swim when you don’t have room for a full sized towel.
9 speed drivetrains
In a world where the word on the street is one-by, one-by, one-by it’s easy to lose perspective and forget that front derailleurs also still have a place in cycling today. I have a couple of one-by setups on my mountain bikes and I love them but they do have their downsides as well. One is that the gear range can be limiting which doesn’t affect me personally because I have enough bikes that my mountain bikes can be geared low and I still have enough options for faster travel on sealed surfaces.
But if you only have one or two bikes or you’re travelling mainly on sealed surfaces, a drivetrain with both front and rear derailleurs may be a better option. Why? Because the other downside of my one-by setups is the cost of replacement parts. One-by cassettes can easily cost deep into three figures and may offer no benefit over a cheaper front/rear derailleur setup in some cases. And from what I’ve found over time, a 9 speed front/rear setup is about the optimum in terms of quality vs cost with cassettes going for about $35 to $50.
If you’re making a decision between one-by and a front/rear derailleur setup, please at least look at how much it costs to replace a chain and cassette on the one-by. You may be in for a shock.
Bicycle work stands
If you own a bicycle, and even more so if own multiple bicycles, having a go at repairing them yourself can be one of the most rewarding and cost saving activities you can do. I have a go at most things except hydraulic brakes and suspension.
Bicycles (at least those not at the top of the range) are extremely simple machines. YouTube videos on repair techniques are aplenty and many things are simple enough to work out yourself anyway. All you need is some common tools as well as a few specialty ones which aren’t all that expensive anyway.
One of the first and most often used specialty tools is the work stand. I’ve seen them around for as little as $50 so hunt around online, at your local bike shop and I’ve even seen Aldi selling them. I’ve had mine for years and find it indispensable for repairing bikes as well as for washing them.
Clear safety glasses
Hardware stores and department stores sell these things for next to nothing. They last forever and are great for riding at night or on very overcast days when sunglasses are not a good option. They protect your eyes from rain, flying insects, sticks poking out of odd places and dirt flicking up off the road or trail.
Looking after Queensland’s many natural resources is no small task and QPWS does it well. I can’t even imagine what riding off road in some of the area’s most interesting places would be like if the land wasn’t managed properly – destruction, motor vehicles everywhere, fires, garbage, people expressing their free-dumbs in other repugnant ways beyond description. We’re lucky that QPWS has as much clout as they do to keep everything in check. Go ahead and plan your next ride in some of the best parks and forests around.
Quick drying, flexible and able withstand some punishment, these have been a really great clothing item for riding bikes. They’re fitted enough so they don’t catch and flap around but loose enough to be comfortable and able to be worn with a pair of cycling nicks underneath. They’re also reasonably priced to boot. Available at sporting goods outlets.
Mine’s a few years old now so slightly different to the one in the link but it’s been a great piece of kit and is showing no signs of giving up. It’s small enough to pack on the bike as a bikepacking item but thick enough that you won’t end up touching the ground even if you’re lying on your side. And another item that’s pretty well priced. Available at camping shops.
Fishing hand lines
For fishing off a kayak or even on a bike trip, you can’t beat the simplicity of a hand line. Rods are great but they take up room, take a while to set up and can become unwieldy on a kayak. If you just want to do a bit of no-fuss nonchalant fishing for a bit of fun and some dinner, you can’t beat these. They cost about $3 to $18 from tackle shops and department stores usually with the line already on them and, as a bonus, most of them also float in case you drop them in the water.
Obtained cheaply from department stores and freely at conferences and various other events, these reusable backpacks are highly foldable and stowable and provide great overflow carrying capacity when you suddenly find you need it while you’re out riding. I always carry one whenever I’m riding a bike without pannier bags.
The most sustainable way to obtain bicycles and bicycle related goods is to buy them second hand wherever possible. Gumtree is a good source of cycling stuff around Brisbane with a well established community.
And now for the obligatory playlist
Some of these were released in 2023 while others are just ones I listened to a lot in 2023. Here we go:
Nick Cave – B Sides & Rarities (look for the other 2 discs as well)
Gorillaz – Spacemonkeyz (an oldie but a goody)
Tune in again this time next year for another riveting instalment of The List™ which will contain largely the same items as this year’s.
Ride safe and see you out there sometime.