TRP CX9 Brakes
Having first noticed the world-cup mtber and technology early-adopter Adam Craig racing 'cross with these brakes a couple of years ago, i have to admit i was intrigued. The old-fashioned logic for 'cross brakes is that the mud clearance afforded by cantis is so much better than even though a v-brake offers more braking power, this is outweighed by their tendency to clog. However, the british cross season is getting earlier each year, and with four races done in a lot of the local leagues by the end of september, there are an increasing number of "dirt crit" races on the calendar, where powerful, confidence-inspiring brakes are really important. For me, the kick i needed to invest in something a bit stronger than my classic froglegs was having my entry to the three peaks accepted. The race in Yorks really doesn't tend to get that muddy (although there were one or two choice exceptions in this year's course after a week of rain), but you definitely want brakes that can scrub off some speed quickly when decending 700m peaks.
First test rides on the Lomond Hills confirmed that they gave better, more stable braking than the froglegs, and even on the wettest, muddiest days, the closer approach of the pad to the rim didn't cause problems. You go faster when you know you can go slower...
Descente Winter Gloves
These were bought for me by my colleagues at TT Electronics before i left, well, they got me the wiggle vouchers i bought them with! They were an absolute godsend up in Scotland, and have made riding even on the coldest days comfortable in the hand department. I don't have the best circulation, and have always found that tight-fitting gloves, whilst excellent for control in the first 10 minutes of a ride, are utterly useless for control when your hands are freezing and feel like a bag of useless sausages anyway! It was with previous experiences of gloves like this in mind that i opted for the waterproof, windproof and rather well fleece-lined, but perhaps rather large and less digit-hugging descente winter gloves. They have performed admirably through two tough winters, and left me with nairy a chilly fingertip over that time - thank goodness it's time to put them away again now though!
High5 Iso Gels
Having been given several boxes of these by AWcycles to get us through our respective summers of racing, Rachel and I amazed ourselves by getting through more or less all of them (apart from a few caffeine-supplemented offerings) by October. The big idea behind the ISO gel is that they're designed to be used with minimal requirement for extra water - most gels recommend that you take on extra fluid with them, in some cases up to 250ml per gel! They're pretty easy to take as they are a lot more fluid than most gels (particularly good for cold days and cross races), although they're not ones to carry with you and not take, as the packaging is a bit fragile, and if you manage to puncture it and leave it in a warm place it tastes pretty rank! Easy on the stomach, i reckon they're a good bet as long as you're not out for a loooong time, as they're pretty heavy per calorie!
Sportful Base Layers
I have become a bit of a fan of sportful kit, they make nice, understated but stylishly Italian kit that doesn't cost the earth. Their undervests are particularly good, wicking sweat away from your skin fast to stop you from getting irritated skin, and runners/cyclists nipple. They're cut nicely so they don't bunch during long rides, and possibly the ultimate compliment i can give is that you just put them on and go. They'll be coming with me to Europe in the coming summer, that's for sure!