Last winter I found myself temporarily in possession of more bicycles than pedals. While I could have simply swapped pedals between bikes, I opted for the path of least resistance and decided to purchase another pair of pedals. My criteria were simple–good grip, all-metal construction, sealed bearings, and a street price of $50-$60. Using my best Google-Fu, I determined that VP Component’s Vice ticked all those boxes, so I picked up a pair in the basic black colorway.
Bicycling can be an expensive activity. The best equipment often comes with a price tag that’s beyond many riders’ budgets. While the $49 Spurcycle bell certainly ain’t cheap, it’s generally regarded as the finest bicycle bell available at any price. And after using one for more than a year, I’d have to agree. My personal Spurcycle bell has seen duty on every single bike I’ve ridden during that period. Bikes may come and go, but that bell–like my favorite saddle and pedals–always gets transferred from bike to bike.
I will be the first to admit that I am no longer a spring chicken. A lifetime of skateboarding, riding (rigid) mountain bikes, and computer use have taken their toll on my hands and wrists. I never gave it much thought, however, until I relocated to Colorado in early 2001. It took exactly one off-road ride in the 38th state for me to understand exactly why they’re called the rocky mountains.
Determined to improve my bike’s comfort, I did what any self-respecting bike geek would do–I replaced good components with better ones (which included more than a dozen pairs of grips). While my bike–and wallet–got lighter, my hands/wrists still hurt. Desperate for relief, I decided to try some odd-looking touring grips from Ergon of Germany. And guess what, my hands immediately felt better with the new grips. From then on, if my bikes sported flat or riser bars, you’d find them equipped with Ergon grips.
If you’re a regular reader of GRAVELBIKE, you know that I’m a big fan of Skratch Labs’ Exercise Hydration Mix. I became so enamored of the product that it earned a spot in my Things I Like series of articles. When Boulder-based Skratch Labs introduced their new Matcha + Lemons flavor, I jumped at the chance to try the company’s latest addition.
I am an unabashed fan of Selle Anatomica’s saddles. Three of my bikes are fitted with the company’s tensioned-leather saddles. That fourth bike–a rigid 29er–is ridden on much rougher terrain than its stablemates. For technical, off-road riding, my saddle-of-choice is Wilderness Trail Bikes’ (WTB) Pure V Team model.
What makes the Pure V such a capable off-road saddle is that it successfully blends comfort with unobtrusiveness. Measuring 148mm at its widest point, the Pure V is wide enough to offer plenty of comfort, but it’s not so wide that you can’t slide past the side for ultra-steep descents. The saddle’s relatively flat profile (side-to-side) helps support your sit bones, and the center depression (aka, Love Channel) provides soft-tissue relief without negatively impacting the saddle’s structural integrity).
Make no mistake, the Pure V saddle is not just about comfort. Combine the Flex-Tuned shell with the unique fore/aft profile, and the result is an effective platform for climbing or hammering the flats. On long, grinder-style climbs you can push against the raised whale-tail for a little extra leverage. When you’re struggling to keep the front wheel planted on those ultra-steep pitches, the drop nose makes it easy to shift your weight forward without feeling like you’re being skewered.
Over the years, I’ve owned several Pure V Team saddles. The oldest one (pictured above) is close to eight years old. It’s been transferred from bike-to-bike more times than I can remember, and yet, it’s still going strong. The cover and stitching are starting to show their age, but it’s been a part of so many adventures that I simply cannot bring myself to retire the damn thing. At $130 MSRP, it’s more than paid for itself in fun and memories.
While it may sound like a cliche, the best components are the ones that you don’t notice. These components are not unremarkable because they don’t meet our expectations, but rather, they excel because they outperform lesser parts that require frequent adjustment and maintenance. For me, nothing epitomizes set-and-forget status like Thomson‘s stems and seatposts.
Stems and seatposts may lack the sex appeal of 11-speed drivetrains or aero wheels, but they’re essential pieces of the bike-fitting puzzle. Many of Thomson’s competitors offer only a handful of sizes. Not Thomson, though. Need a 25.4mm seatpost? They’ve got you covered. With stems that range from 50mm to 130mm in length, chances are there’s one that’s right for your particular setup.
Other companies may offer a similar range of stem lengths and seatpost sizes, but few–if any–can match the reliability and performance of the Georgia-based company’s products. Thomson’s stems and seatposts don’t slip, are easy to adjust, and remain silent without the aid of anti-slip goop or cheater bars. While beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, Thomson has elevated the industrial aesthetic to high art. If the monochromatic thing isn’t your style, you can add some bling to your X4 stem with the company’s Dress Up Kit.
Because I spend a significant amount of time evaluating and reviewing components, I place a very high value on parts that don’t require any additional babysitting. Thomson’s stems and seatposts are two items that I can count on to be trouble-free, freeing up more time for enjoying the ride.