Home
Handy bits and pieces to spend your Christmas money on

[This article was last updated on December 19, 2017]

How much difference can you make to the way your bike performs for under £50? A surprising amount, it turns out, especially if your definition of performance includes comfort and practicality as well as factors like weight and speed. Here are 10 good ways of spending that £50 your auntie put in your Christmas card.

Cannondale Synapse 3.5mm Bar Tape — £9.99

Cannondale-Synapse-Bar-Tape-35mm-black.jpg

Cannondale-Synapse-Bar-Tape-35mm-black.jpg

If you want comfy hands, then this bar tape — the same as used on Cannondale’s Synapse endurance bikes — adds some very useful cushioning, making it ideal for long rides and those commuting runs where you can’t always dodge the potholes.

Deuter Energy Bag — £15.00

Deuter Energy Bag.jpg

Deuter Energy Bag.jpg

Being able to snack while you ride — whether on gels, energy bars, Snickers or Jaff Cakes — is the secret to staving off the dreaded bonk on long rides. A top tube bag like this is a comfortable alternative to stuffing your jersey pockets, and easier to get at too.

Michelin Air Comp Latex Road Inner Tube — £9.29 ea

Michelin Aircomp Latex.jpg

Michelin Aircomp Latex.jpg

At 75g each these tubes are a bit lighter than the 110-120g that’s typical of regular butyl rubber tubes, but that’s not really the point. Because latex rubber is more flexible than synthetic butyl rubber, latex inner tubes reduce the rolling resistance of your tyres, so you go (very slightly) faster for the same effort. The downside is that latex is more porous, so loses pressure more quickly. You should pump up latex tubes before every ride.

If you want to lose a few grams as well, Vredestein makes an 50g latex inner tube

Tektro RL720 Series Brake Levers — £19.91 - £22.98

tektro-rl720-black.jpg

tektro-rl720-black.jpg

There are times, especially in traffic, when you want to be able to cruise along in an upright position so you have the best possible view of what’s around you. With these nifty extra levers you can do that and still brake when you need to.

K-Edge Chain Catcher — £19.99

K-Edge Chain Catcher on Madison Genesis team bike (©Madison Cycles).JPG

K-Edge Chain Catcher on Madison Genesis team bike (©Madison Cycles).JPG

A dropped chain is an annoyance on a ride, but can be a disaster in a race, leaving you frantically trying to sort it out while the peloton vanishes up the road. Even the most careful front mech adjustment can’t completely prevent this, so a chain catcher is handy insurance.

Read our review of the K-Edge Chain Catcher

Shimano Ultegra 6800 R55C4 brake pads & shoes — £14.99/pr

Shimano BR-6800 brake shoes and pads.jpg

Shimano BR-6800 brake shoes and pads.jpg

Quietly and without fuss, Shimano has been making some of the best brake pads around for years. It’s one of the reasons their Ultegra and Dura-Ace brakes stop so well, and you can improve the stopping power of many cheaper Shimano brakes and the countless clones on mid-priced bikes by fitting Shimano pads and shoes.

Ritchey Classic 220 stem — £40.99

Ritchey Classic stem.jpg

Ritchey Classic stem.jpg

You’d be mad to change your stem just to save weight; even inexpensive modern stems are surprisingly weight efficient. However, the reach to your handlebar is a vital part of getting your bike comfortable. If it’s wrong you can end up with a sore back, neck, arms or hands. It’s therefore worth having an expert figure out where your bar should be, and if you then need a new stem, this shiny little number comes in lengths from 70 to 130mm. If you need your bar dramatically higher or lower than the Classic’s 6° angle allows, take a look at Zipp’s 25° Service Course stem (£42.24).

Fabric Scoop Elite Saddle — £44.99

fabric-scoop-shallow-elite-saddle-p25314-52127_image.jpg

fabric-scoop-shallow-elite-saddle-p25314-52127_image.jpg

You don’t have to spend big to get a more comfortable and lighter saddle. Fabric's Scoop saddle comes in a range of widths and shapes so you should be able to find one that works for you, though the usual caveats apply: a saddle has to fit the shape of your bum, and if it doesn’t it’ll never be comfy. Other sub-£50 options include the bargain Cosine Ti Endurance and Prologo Kappa Evo PAS T 2.0.

Selle Italia Women's Gel Flow Saddle — £39

selle-italia-womens-gel-flow-black-top (1).jpg

selle-italia-womens-gel-flow-black-top (1).jpg

If there’s a women’s saddle that deserves to be called a classic, it’s this one. Broad enough to support a woman’s wider-spaced sitbones, it’s decently but not excessively padded and has the de rigueur pressure-alleviating central gap to look after the tender bits.

Jobsworth Pro Torque Wrench — £39.99

Planet X Jobsworth torque wrench.jpg

Planet X Jobsworth torque wrench.jpg

If you’re using parts or a frame made from carbon fibre or lightweight aluminium, a torque wrench is a workshop essential. It’s easy to overtighten areas like seat post and handlebar clamps with regular hand tools, and the old adage of ‘tighten it until it breaks then back off half a turn’ gets expensive very quickly.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

7 comments

Avatar
flathunt [245 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

"Because latex rubber is more flexible than synthetic butyl rubber, latex inner tubes reduce the rolling resistance of your tyres"

 

Eh? I tend to keep my inner-tubes on the inside of my tyres, I can see how they might reduce rolling resistance if you wore them superman's-pants style but this is surely horseshit, no? Happy to be educated otherwise.

Avatar
peted76 [820 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes
flathunt wrote:

"Because latex rubber is more flexible than synthetic butyl rubber, latex inner tubes reduce the rolling resistance of your tyres"

 

Eh? I tend to keep my inner-tubes on the inside of my tyres, I can see how they might reduce rolling resistance if you wore them superman's-pants style but this is surely horseshit, no? Happy to be educated otherwise.

A tyre and a tube isn't one solid mass, so there is resistance on the inside of a tyre with a tube.. 

You get a softer more flexible tube (latex) to mold with your naturally harder tyre = less resistance between the two.

Tubular tyres and Tubeless tyres do not have tubes in, ergo less rolling resistance. 

Bear in mind this is relative, if you're not bothered with the weight and rolling resistance of your tyres, then there's nothing to be concerned about here. When I ran tubes I went with the lightest tubes I could find circa 50grams contis, I now run tubeless, I think it makes me faster on a club bash, but I'd be equally happy riding my bike on a more sedate social without a care of what tyres or tubes I ran.

Avatar
ktache [637 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I like my latex tubes, always have since I got my then 2nd hand getting about bike back in '97 which had them fitted.  AirB back then, pink, pricey. Now Michelins, fairly light and a lovely shade of green, and meant to have lower rolling resistance and better puncture resistance, who knows.  But their one huge advantage is that when I'm fixing a puncture I can mark the hole and the edge of the patch where I need to put the vulcanising solution with a marker pen.

The AirBs were meant to have a coating on the inside which was meant to minimise air loss, but the Michelins do have to be pumped up a couple of times a week, with snakebite problems after a couple of weeks, if you are a bit lazy or forgetful.  I'm a little more fredlike these days so less of a problem.

When I'm running my summer semislicks, supersonic contis, it can sound that I'm riding on balloons.  Bit odd.

There can be a problem with exploding tubes, mostly after just pumping them up, and for older tubes.  Drastic sounding I know, but for me the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

Avatar
Pierre [101 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
peted76 wrote:

Tubular tyres and Tubeless tyres do not have tubes in, ergo less rolling resistance.

Tubular tyres _do_ have tubes in, but they're usually thinner than regular tubes, and often made of latex. This is why you can repair _some_ tubular tyres when they puncture, by un-picking the threads and patching the tube, then sewing them back up again. This is, however, a lot of faff. And some tubulars are sealed rather than sewn up.

Avatar
cyclisto [345 posts] 2 weeks ago
0 likes

I would really like to see a reliable braking test with all shimano brakes using these brake pads. I guess the results will be almost identical.

You latex guys, do you have increased punctures with them? I like the idea of better rolling, but with my butyl tubes and hard skinned tyres I have had near zero punctures.

Avatar
kevvjj [308 posts] 2 weeks ago
1 like

You can get that Jobsworth torque wrench for ten quid less if you buy it as X-Tools branded.

Avatar
Spangly Shiny [163 posts] 2 weeks ago
0 likes

I tried latex inner tubes but returned to butyl after a heat induced blowout coming down Holme Moss. I surmised that it was heat induced because it was the sidewall of the tube that failed. 

Since then I have adopted a tubeless setup which although a bit of a faff initially I am now settled with.