In December's tech of the month, we took the opportunity to reflect on a year jam-packed full of product releases, revealing a couple of our staff picks for Gear of the Year.
It was also confirmed that Decathlon's own bike brand, Van Rysel, would be joining the UCI World Tour in 2024, marking the beginning of a sponsorship deal from the French sports retail giant.
Sam and I also shared our thoughts on our favourite bike of the year, ahead of our full review which will be coming soon. Let's jump straight in!
Van Rysel bikes join the World Tour
It's fair to say that the cycling industry has faced some serious hardship over the last few years. Overstocking and a poor economic climate (amongst other things) after the Covid-19 pandemic has left a lot of companies in difficulty - and it's for this reason that we are pretty chuffed to see Decathlon come on board to sponsor Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale (formerly AG2R Citroën Team).
A multi-year contract shows Decathlon's commitment to the sport even in tough times, and most importantly for some, it marks the end of the infamous brown cycling shorts.
Alongside a fresh new look for 2024, Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale will be riding the Van Rysel RCR pro race bikes, fully specced with Shimano's Dura Ace Di2, Swisside wheels, and Deda finishing kit.
Perhaps of most interest here is the relatively low cost of this pro bike. A World Tour spec build is said to launch in the new year, available for around £8,500, making it one of the lowest-cost pro bikes on the market, and not far off of half the price of something like Tadej Pogacar's Colnago V4RS.
Gear of the Year: a sneak peak
Over the next couple of weeks, we will be revealing our staff's favourite products from 2023. These are products that not only impressed us during testing but stood the test of time too, becoming our go-to products.
Among the standouts for me were the Pirelli Cinturato R tubeless road tyres, which are the only tubeless tyres I have ever used without a single issue. No punctures, crashes or installation issues, a rare combination!
I also picked out the Specialized Prime Alpha Jacket, which is, to my mind, the perfect cafe ride garment. A windproof and water-resistant outer shell is combined with a thermal mesh to create a packable jacket which provides far more warmth than a standard raincape.
We'll be releasing our full Gear of the Year list over the Festive period, so stay tuned for that!
Sam and Joe's Bike of the Year
We test a whole host of bikes every year here at Cycling Weekly. This privileged position allows us to scrutinize the best kit on the market, ultimately allowing you to make a more informed purchase.
Bikes have come such a long way in the last few years which has led to the gaps at the top of the market narrowing somewhat. One bike that stood out from the rest for Sam and I though, even up against all the marketing hype, was the Specialized S-works Tarmac SL8.
The Specialized S-works Tarmac SL8 was by far and away the most anticipated road bike of the year, and in the end, it seemed, for good reason. Sam and I both spent some time on the bike around the launch in August, where we instantly noticed its composure, improved stiffness and precise handling.
I was lucky enough to have the bike for a long term test and quite frankly, the more I rode it the more I fell in love with it. It's no secret that Specialized is great at marketing - they wouldn't be so successful without it, but the SL8, for us, did live up to the hype.
While the aero claims were somewhat futile, at just an 8watt improvement over the SL7 (of which 'more than 50%' comes from the new handlebar), the engineering system as a whole, with lower weight and increased stiffness is super impressive.
We'll have a full long term review of the SL8 coming to the site very soon, so stay tuned for my full breakdown!
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