Charlotte Head: My 4 favourite bike things of 2022 ft. Ultegra 12-speed Di2 and Spatz | Cyclist

2023-01-10 00:39:13 By : Mr. Simon Liu

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Charlotte Head: My 4 favourite bike things of 2022 ft. Ultegra 12-speed Di2 and Spatz | Cyclist

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In 2022, we saw Covid-19 precautions starting to relax, Geraint Thomas coming third in the Tour de France and the first ever UCI World Gravel Championships.

Over in Grenchen, Filippo Ganna broke not only the Hour Record but also the Best Human Effort, previously held by the legendary Chris Boardman.

While much of the world has slowly been returning to a semi-normal state, the cycling industry has been out in full swing, with two years of pent-up energy and ideas to release.

On the tech front we got Shimano’s new 105 12-speed Di2 groupset which, almost six months later, is still a controversial topic amongst any group of cyclists due to its lack of rim brake options and chunkier price tag. As you will see later, I’m a huge fan of its slightly fancier Ultegra sibling.

Trek also brought us the new Madone SLR, an aero bike with a curiously large hole in the seat tube and we saw gravel bikes with suspension become more popular.

For me, it meant joining the Cyclist team mid-November and I’m very pleased to be here. All bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, my best picks of ’22 may not be some of the newest on the scene but are the products that truly stood out to me this year and have set my cycling alight (or mostly just kept me warm).

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Long gone are the days where electronic groupsets only appear on World Tour level bikes. Since Shimano’s Ultegra 12-speed Di2 made its debut in 2021, you could say that electronic shifting has almost gone mainstream.

I could wax lyrical about the technological advances, the weight-saving components and all of the marginal gains, but this groupset won me over on practicality alone.

I often struggle with numb hands whilst riding, especially in the cold. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced the moment of desperately trying to shift gear with a frozen stump of a hand but I have, and I hate it.

Happily, Ultegra’s revised shifter ergonomics means the gear are so easy to operate that even with no feeling in my fingers I can shift, which is a big win in my books.

The speed of the shifting is also undoubtedly brilliant. No cable friction or poor frame routing can slow these gears and I love it (even if I do occasionally forget to charge it and end up stuck in the big ring for 100km).

I also loved the ease of installation, with Bluetooth connection between the shifters and derailleurs and minimal wiring needed between the rear components. To me, Shimano’s semi-wireless format strikes a nice balance between battery life and practicality.

Albion is relatively new on the cycling clothing scene but has already made a big name for itself. The company’s aim is to help riders ‘stay outside for longer’ with a focus on warm clothing equipped to handle the changeable British weather.

Albion’s literally named long sleeve jersey has proved a very practical addition to my wardrobe.

As part of a wider movement committed to more sustainable production, Albion has made this jersey from 82% recycled polyester and 18% elastane.

The jersey works well on its own on cooler summer evenings and can be paired with a thermal base layer and jacket for the colder months, and has been on regular rotation as part of my cycling kit throughout the year.

Not only has Albion made a really great product, but it also won me over as a brand with their dedication to reusable fashion, with pop-up repair stalls at events such as Bespoked and giving out free repair kits on Black Friday.

I’m very late the party when it comes to Spatz overshoes but these have genuinely been a game changer for me this year.

When taking part in a mad attempt to do the Festive 500 in one go around a velodrome last year, I was kindly lent some Spatz Pro 2 by a friend and have lusted after these overshoes ever since.

From purchase, these overshoes did not disappoint. Spatz says they are for ‘deep winter’ use but, as with many of my winter-specific products, I use them all the time.

Made from Spatz’s ‘Aero Armour’ Neoprene, they have consistently kept my feet warm and kept the rain out. Sometimes they have been so warm as to make my legs slightly sweaty but it’s a price I’m willing to pay to retain circulation.

It is worth noting that you must be quite careful when putting them on, as the Neoprene can be ripped by fingernails. Once on though, this poses few problems as the vulnerable parts of the overshoes, such as the inner heel, have been reinforced with Kevlar panelling.

Okay, this next offering is no road machine or gravel bike but it really is a beauty.

The Dolan DF4 is the newest iteration of the brand’s long-standing history with track cycling. The previous model, the DF3, has been used to win over 80 World and European Championship races, according to Dolan.

Using the same geometry, the DF4 frameset is claimed to be 115g lighter and 18% stiffer than its predecessor.

In the flesh, the DF4 is sleek and has been finished to a very high standard.

The integrated chain-tensioners are a tasteful touch which make transporting and setting the bike up much easier, an added bonus if you’re forever lugging your kit around the country.

On the boards, it flies. Having transferred the components from a previous frame, the stiffness and aerodynamic performance specifically from the frameset was instantly noticeable.

For those looking for an extravagant addition to their cycling collection, the Dolan DF4 is not to be sniffed at.

Ever since I was 12 years old, I have been dancing along to Florence and the Machine in my bedroom. I fell in love with her ethereal first album and her latest work, Dance Fever, is a masterpiece.

In a world where trends change several times a year and new vogues come at you like a stampede of wild horses, the achingly familiar voice of Florence Welch comforts me right down to the soul.

My particular favourite from the album is ‘Free’, where Welch explores her history with her mental health and the internal reckoning really resonated with me.

The song’s music video also features a gently dancing Bill Nighy, so what’s not to love?

Head to our gear of the year hub for more 2022 highlights

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A well-rounded bike, a pair of...

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Charlotte Head: My 4 favourite bike things of 2022 ft. Ultegra 12-speed Di2 and Spatz | Cyclist

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