There has no doubt been a lot of bad this year, with an incredible amount of upheaval to our daily lives thanks to, you know, that global pandemic. Everyone has had to adapt, but we have always had our trusty bikes (indoors and, when we can, outdoors) and with that there has been some good along the way...
We have a look back at the tech, fitness and racing trends of this year. Some were good, others were bad.
Covid-19 restrictions first imposed in March in the UK saw a perfect storm for bike usage: enforced free time as a result of people being furloughed and restrictions to other activities, cycling being a permitted exercise option, cycle shops being classed as essential and permitted to remain open. On top of that, people wanted to stay off public transport and we had some excellent weather.
The result, as we reported in July, was that many shops were cleared of bike stock by early summer, particularly at the lower price points.
There has been no need for shops to discount products as they have had no trouble shifting stock at full RRP.
Instead, popular items at the start of lockdown, such as turbo trainers, were even subject to price hikes above the RRP at stores including the likes of Evans Cycles.
Even worse, it has been frustrating not being able to get hold of essential bits of kit and bikes at all. In some cases this will have halted the rides we have craved to do this year.
Going down the secondhand route has been a viable alternative, although this avenue is not always appropriate for what is needed.
Claiming victory at all three grand tours this year, rim brakes certainly haven’t held back the professionals. First in September, UAE Team Emirates’s Tadej Pogacar snatched victory at the Tour de France on Colnago’s V3Rs rim brake road bike.
Then, the Giro d’Italia winning Pinarello Dogma F12, raced on by British Ineos Grenadier rider Tao Geoghegan Hart, was also specced with rim brakes.
Finishing off the Grand Tour trinity, Primoz Roglic of Jumbo-Visma powered to victory at the Vuelta on the rim brake version of Bianchi’s Oltre XR4. Even though the bike is available in a disc brake option we reckon this decision was down to weight savings, like the new black point job.
With such prominence still in the professional peloton it is clear rim brakes aren’t going away any time soon. But disc brakes are well and truly dominant on mid- to high-end road bikes now with ever more models being launched solely in disc designs. The new Trek Emonda SLR and SL are disc-brake only, for example, as are the Specialized Tarmac SL7 and Aethos.
That said, it’s not all over for rim brakes on top-level road bikes – Giant still offers them on its new TCRs, for instance – but the trend is certainly moving in that direction.
Encouragingly, Strava statistics, reported in The Guardian, reveal that there has been a large increase in the numbers of female cyclists this year. There was an impressive 108% rise in the median number of activities uploaded by women aged 18-29, with still significant rises of between 52% and 65% in other age groups.
In terms of professional women's cycling, the inaugural edition of the Paris-Roubaix Femmes was planned for Sunday 25 October ahead of the men's race.
The first Paris-Roubaix Femmes never happened. Alongside the men's version of the event, it was cancelled as the race was due to finish in Lille, which had moved up to a 'maximum alert area' because of soaring levels of Covid-19.
At regional and national level in the UK, it became clear that some event organisers still believe it is acceptable to have unequal prize pots, with female finishers in the top three taking home less than men. We reported back in October about the sexism row between a female entrant and the organiser of the West Yorkshire Holme Moss Hill Climb, who was accused of saying that women don't "make tea at TTs anymore" in defence of his event's unfair cash prize allocation.
Everyone has been giving it a go at climbing the 8,848m needed to complete the Everesting challenge, both on real roads and virtual ones on platforms such as Zwift—which the likes of Mark Cavendish described as "grim" after completing the challenge himself.
With this, official records have been smashed time and time again. One week in May, the Everesting World Record was even broken twice. Mountain biker Keegan Swenson stole the record from retired WorldTour pro Phil Gaimon by taking 12 minutes off and setting a new record of seven hours and 40 minutes.
British rider Hannah Rhodes ascended and descended the 10.9 per cent average gradient Kirkstone Pass, 27.5 times, to set the new women's world record at 9 hours 8 minutes and 31 seconds, back in June. This was also the fastest completion by any British rider, male or female.
It has gotten a teensy bit harder... if you want to cycle the new official height of the world's highest mountain that is.*
Mount Everest is 0.86m higher and now stands at 8,848.86m as surveyors from China and Nepal agreed on the new height, earlier this month – so 8,849m when rounded to the nearest whole metre.
Most of the major brand bike redesigns and launches this year have seen a move to fully internal cable routing for its aesthetic and small aerodynamic advantages. Scott updated its Foil road bike with fully integrated cable routing for both mechanical and electronic shifting. Orro did the same with its new Venturi carbon aero road bike, and Orbea revamped its Avant aluminium endurance road range.
That said, not all brands have followed suit. Giant launched the lightweight TCR Advanced range in April, with an aero makeover, but its revised gear cable routing still has partly external cables.
EF Pro Cycling caught the attention of fans at the Giro d'Italia with a special edition kit as a move away from their usual pink (which would have blended in with the leader's jersey of the Giro). And oh yeah, they made the most of this opportunity...
Rapha and the skateboard brand Palace collaborated to create a radical and wild new design which featured ducks. Everyone was talking about it and when the jerseys and bibshorts went on sale in limited quantities they sold out incredibly quickly.
Not unavailable for long, these went back up for sale. But this time on Ebay and resale prices were mental, hitting as high as £600.
Rapha hasn't stopped there with the wacky collabs. Teaming up with designer Robyn Lynch last month, for an eccentric fashion collection, a cycling windbreaker/knitwear jacket combo made from repurposed garments was among the unusual-looking offerings.
Experiencing not just one massive international outage, Garmin Connect was down twice this year. Various Garmin websites and services were first offline for succesive days in July, when it was widely reported that the US firm was victim to a ransomware attack. The hackers, believed to be the Russia-based Evil Corp group, were said to be demanding $10 million...
Six weeks later, the company frustrated users again who were unable to sync their activities to platforms such as Strava to analyse their efforts. This time, Garmin said it was "due to an issue with one of our providers". Not good...
Garmin has reported that they have had big profits, with a revenue increase of 19 per cent in the third quarter that ended on 26 September. Sales from Tacx indoor turbo trainers and Edge head unit cycling computers led the way, up by a whopping 35 per cent.
Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas were both left out of the Ineos Grenadiers team for the Tour de France. Instead reigning champion Egan Bernal was given the opportunity to defend the yellow jersey, with Richard Carapaz also selected as a leader.
Froome went to the Vuelta but finished over three hours and 30 minutes down in the GC behind Roglič. The four-time yellow jersey winner has been ditched by the British WorldTour Tour (after a successful 11 years) and will instead be racing for Israel Start Up Nation for the 2021 season.
Thomas seemed to be coming back into form after finishing second behind fellow British rider Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) in the Tirreno-Adriatico. But, although he started the Giro he had to abandon after fracturing his pelvis in the neutral start of stage three.
For a considerable period it also looked as though Mark Cavendish was going to be forced to end his career earlier than he would have liked. The 35 year-old Bahrain-McLaren rider was in tears after the Gent-Wevelgem as he was still without a contract in October. However, we were delighted to report this month, that it was not the end for the Manxman. Cavendish rejoins the Wolfpack, aka Deceuninck–Quick-Step and will race the 2021 season.
We have seen a new generation of British riders snatching successes throughout the season.
A British rider still picked up a Grand Tour victory. He may not be a rider many of us (or even his own team, Ineos) would have bet on, but Hackney's Tao Geoghegan Hart is definitely a rider to watch. The 25 year-old took the lead and the magia rosa jersey in the Giro d’Italia after beating Sunweb's Jai Hindley by 39 seconds in the final stage 21 time trial.
Preston-born Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling) impressed at the Vuelta, taking his first Grand Tour stage win at the summit of the Angliru, the most feared climb amongst the professional peloton because its punishing, steep gradients. Not only did the 26 year-old take a stage win, he also finished third in the general classification.
On Zwift's roads, 19 year-old April Tacey (Drops Cycling) claimed two stunning stage wins at the first Virtual Tour de France in July. What is even more impressive is she achieved this after a disjointed winter recovering from a serious knee injury.
Is this a bike format whose time is passing? Bike manufacturers have been moving away from having one purely aero bike in their line up to aero optimising their lightweight climbing/grand tour bike.
First up in April, Giant unveiled its new TCR range, which made bold claims of being lighter, stiffer and more aerodynamically efficient. Giant said: "The new TCR takes a major leap forward in aero performance... This is where its most quantifiable gains, compared to the previous generation, can be found."
Next landing in June, Trek's updated Émonda boasted a new carbon material and aero tubing, as well as weighing less than 700g.
Then, the new Tarmac SL7 from Specialized, released in July, claimed to be almost as aerodynamically efficient as the current Venge aero road bike while being at the UCI's minimum weight limit for racing.
It may be bad news for this old crop of aero specific bikes but combining lightweight and aero bikes surely is good for our bank accounts and space about the house or garage.
Bikes suitable for off-road adventures have been extremely popular this year, especially the great-value offerings from Decathlon.
The Triban RC 120 Gravel Adventure bike, was launched in February, for just £499.99. It came with an aluminium frame, carbon fork, enough clearance for 38mm tyres, flared handlebars and plenty of mounting options for racks and mudguards.
Spring forward to November and the Triban GRVL900 Titanium Gravel Bike was unveiled. It features a hand-welded Dedacciai titanium frame – Grade 9 3AL 2.5V titanium – a full carbon fork, a 1x Shimano GRX 600 groupset and Fulcrum RR900 wheels... For only £2,499.99. Again, a lot of bike for the money and so getting hold of one of these bikes has been incredibly tricky. The demand has definitely outstripped the supply.
Other notable launches this year have included a massive redesign for the Specialized Diverge gravel bike range, with new Future Shock 2.0 front-end suspension, a re-jigged geometry, increased tyre clearance, and storage inside the down tube. Cinelli re-orientated its Zydeco performance gravel bike for bikepacking with new "fast fuel eyelets" on the top tube. Bianchi also revealed its new full-carbon gravel bike called the Arcadex which has been aerodynamically optimised, featuring like deep-section fork legs, dropped seatstays, and an internal seatpost clamp.
Gearing options for these bikes have also been improved. Sram unveiled wider gearing for its wireless Force eTap AXS groupset, which includes a 43/30-tooth chainset, a 10-36-tooth cassette.
Then, Campagnolo launched a 13-speed gravel groupset called Ekar, which features a wide gear range with an absolutely tiny 9-tooth sprocket. The brand offers the choice of 38, 40, 42 and 44-tooth chainrings, with three cassette options: 9-36, 9-42 and 10-44.