We’ve reviewed hundreds of cycling accessories on road.cc over the past year and here are the very best of them.
In this article we pick the standout products from all those we tested in 2020, covering everything from chain cleaner and multi-tools to lights, backpacks and helmets. It’s a diverse category, to say the least.
All of these reviews scored a 9 or above in initial testing, so if you’re in the market for an upgrade you know these products come with a big thumbs up from road.cc.
We’re not ranking these accessories as we did for our various Bike of the Year categories, but we are giving out three awards:
Bargain Buy This goes to a product that we feel gives the biggest bang for the least buck; a superb performance but with an emphasis on value for money.
Editor's Choice This goes to a product that gives the best combination of performance and value for money.
Benchmark Product This goes to a product that offers the highest level of performance outright – one that sets the technical and performance standards against which all the rest are judged, and price doesn’t even come into it. Think of it as the money-no-object award.
The prices given here are the ones in place when we reviewed each product, whether or no they’ve been altered since.
Gadgets get their own separate category this year. We'll deal with products like bike computers, watches and smart trainers in the road.cc Best Gadgets of the Year 2020/21 on Friday.
Right, let’s get cracking…
This is an excellent bag for commuting, being comfortable when laden, adjustable for fit and storage, and with a removable laptop and organiser sleeve to keep everything in place. It's completely waterproof, lightweight and smart looking, with an external key pocket and loops for holding your lock and a rear light. Pretty much the perfect bag.
It comes with adjustable and removable waist and chest straps so you can dial the fit for your body shape or what you are carrying. The shoulder straps are also vented, which allows adjustable positions for the chest strap as well as air to flow through them.
Part of the Commuter’s comfort is down to its unloaded weight of only 742g and partly because of those odd-looking pipe lagging style pads on the back which hold the bag off your back and allow airflow between you and it.
This is a well-made, capacious, weatherproof and comfortable roll-top backpack with the extra practicality of an almost-full-length side zip to enhance access. Add in some other unique features and you've got a bag that's just as good for the weekend shop as for the daily commute.
The BLCKCHRM 22X Yalta 3.0 is a sturdy nylon sailcloth construction with multiple external and side pockets including specific options for phone and water bottle. You get an internal 15in laptop pocket, chest strap, and even a detachable waterproof inner tote bag.
Open the side zip and you have access to the bag's side-mounted inners – including its laptop sleeve, three zipped pockets and one mesh pocket – just like a courier bag.
The fabric, waterproof zips and super-sturdy construction prevent any moisture getting through, while the Chrome Crossvent rear padding is good and provides decent airflow. Comfort generally is impressive and stability is excellent.
Evoc's Commuter Backpack keeps most water out, it’s roomy, and it can transport all your tech essentials in safety. It's also very comfortable, looks good and there are some great reflective details.
The PVC-free tarpaulin Commuter isn’t 100 per cent waterproof – it has several zips for opening its various compartments instead of a roll top – but after a 20-minute ride in heavy rain, there was no water to be found inside. Some water might eventually get in but it's still very impressive, and certainly good enough for the amount of time most people spend riding on a commute.
There are loads of compartments on the inside, perfect for stashing all sorts of things, including a laptop pocket. There are plenty of pockets on the outside too, while the bottom of the backpack is covered in Cordura which helps to prevent it getting worn when it's on the floor. Overall, it is a very sturdy and well-protected backpack.
This looks like a stylish and casual tote bag for around town and leisure use, but it's also a rugged and well-made pannier with plenty of well-considered design features for regular bike use. It is spot on for anyone wanting a useful way of carrying stuff about on or off the bike without looking purely like a sporty or functional cyclist.
The bag is available in a variety of colours, and is made from heavy-duty, fully-lined, water-resistant cotton canvas. A sturdy zip opening keeps everything secure and protected from the weather, a generous zipped pocket inside is ideal for keys and the like, the bottom of the bag is reinforced and padded, and there's an optional adjustable cotton webbing shoulder strap. The rugged build and the lightly padded back make the bag effective at protecting a laptop.
The Restrap Race Saddle Bag is a quick-fitting, lightweight and stable way to carry bulky items on your bike. It's a great bit of kit at a good price. The quality is excellent too.
The 7L Race attaches with simple straps and buckles, and it works fine across a variety of bikes and saddles, with no noticeable swaying. During a month's battering about Highland gravel roads and rough estate tracks, the Restrap Race Saddle Bag stayed put.
The included 7L drybag is a single section of waterproof fabric, tape-sealed. The rollover closure is sturdily reinforced with a plastic lip to give it shape, with standard snaplock buckles for closure. There's reflective detailing on either side of the bag too.
Restrap has removed every ounce possible without compromising stability or functionality, and has done so at a good price. The Race Saddle Bag is made in the UK too, if that's important to you. As a design for going a long way fast, it is a classic.
The Giro Agilis MIPS is a great fit for narrow craniums, it’s also high quality, well vented and decent value.
The helmet looks good too, with the whole of the expanded polystyrene 'cage' encased in a tough outer shell. The lower shell is separately wrapped in a shiny finish and this wraps round to the inside of the brim. The boundary between the glossy and matt shells is very neatly done.
The lower is sculpted to swoop down behind the ears. This is a helmet that covers the back of the head well. It also gives it a slightly more rugged look that will appeal to gravel-types as well as dyed-in-the-wool road riders.
The strap system is Giro's Roc Loc 5 which works well, adjustment being by a single wheel at the back of the head.
You’ll feel a definite cooling breeze blowing through the vents and the MIPS insert is custom-cut so that it doesn't get in the way.
This helmet is a lightweight and well-ventilated option that comes with a MIPS safety system and a crash detection sensor that can tell your emergency contacts that you're in need of help.
If the ANGi sensor detects a crash it will communicate with Specialized's Ride smartphone app which will send your most recently uploaded GPS position to your emergency contacts via text and/or email.
The S-Works Prevail features MIPS SL tech which is integrated within the padding. The pads have a smooth plastic backing, the idea being that in the event of a crash, the bulk of the helmet can move relative to the pads, reducing the possibility of certain brain injuries.
The Prevail II features large vents along with deep internal channels and sizeable exhaust ports at the rear. The whole system does an excellent job of moving air across your head to keep you feeling cool and (at least relatively) sweat-free.
The Scott Centric Plus is comfortable, very light too, and the ventilation works brilliantly. While it's not cheap, it is very well finished.
This lid focuses on aerodynamics, airflow and weight. At 222g for this medium (55-59cm) size, it is certainly a very light helmet and feels that way when you are wearing it.
It is also very airy. It certainly keeps you cool when you're riding hard or the temperatures are high. The vents are positioned to scoop in as much air as they can from the front before funnelling it out of the large ones at the rear. They’re very effective.
The Centric Plus uses MIPS technology inside, designed to reducing the shock transmitted to the brain in certain types of impact. The MIPS layers are interlaced with the helmet's padding.
Overall, this is a top quality helmet.
The Magicshine Allty 1000 is a compact unit that packs enough punch to illuminate even the darkest of road rides. It has a great beam, mode selection is simple, and all options are easy to navigate, even on the fly. It's not programmable and the battery indicator could be more detailed, but if you're looking for a do-it-all light road light, the Allty 1000 is hard to beat for the price.
The Allty 1000 features a rugged aluminium body, and behind the lens sit two bright Cree XP-L V6 LEDs and a smaller, always-on 55-lumen LED for daytime running.
It has an integrated 4000 mAh battery which allows for decent burn times even at high power, and up to 28.5 hours on its most frugal mode. The single large button is perfectly usable even in thick winter gloves.
The Recon TL 200 is an excellent rear light, offering lots of brightness, useful modes and decent run-times. It's a useful for day rides as well as at night.
The rectangular housing contains two LEDs pushing out a maximum 200 lumens, with 270° of visibility. That's useful for getting you seen by motorists approaching from side streets. You can mount the light vertically or horizontally.
The USB charging port is nicely protected under a rubber flap. On the opposite end is the on/off and mode cycle button, which doubles as a power status indicator. There's a silicone band for attaching the light to the bicycle, and once mounted it's secure.
There are seven modes to choose from, and durability is excellent too. We’ve used it in horrendous rain and mud, jet washed the light and dropped it in a bucket of water, and it stills works just fine.
The Lezyne Super Drive 1600XXL packs some impressive illumination power into a high-quality package that can be switched easily between bikes. It is more than bright enough for travelling at high speed on unlit lanes or even venturing off-road.
The Smart Connect feature allows for pairing with compatible Lezyne rear lights, and custom mode choices go some way to overcoming mode selection issues that could be irritating with some Lezyne lights. Lezyne hasn't forgotten the basics either: run-times and beam patterns are good, and considering the power it's not a bad price.
The machined aluminium body feels premium and does a good job of dissipating heat. The light has an IPX7 rating, meaning water doesn’t pose any issues, and it continued to perform through some horrific weather during testing.
The button on top is raised which makes it easy to use even in gloves or with numb fingers, and it doubles as the battery indicator.
The Knog Plus Rear Light is impressively simple, weighs almost nothing, yet at 20 lumens is bright enough for a useful visibility boost. The magnetic mount, cable-free charging and decent battery life – given its tiny size – in the flashing modes make it perfect for winter training.
The Knog Plus takes four hours to fully recharge, and offers five modes. The longest claimed runtime is Eco Flash at 40hrs – it's still pretty visible, too – while the shortest is Steady at 2hrs.
The Knog Plus will appeal to both commuters and committed winter cyclists, and given its size and weight (and affordable price) it's a great second light or emergency backup too. It's simple to use, easy to operate and a very handy thing to have.
Topeak Pocket Rocket weighs in at just 109g and is a smidge over 22cm long, meaning it can easily nestle down in a jersey pocket without falling out. Despite its small size it works really well, pumping up a 28mm tyre to 70psi in around 150 strokes.
The Pocket Rocket is far more premium than its price would suggest. The quality of construction and overall feel are excellent. Although it fits easily in a jersey pocket, the pump comes with a bracket and rubber strap that can be tucked under a bottle cage mount for fixing securely to a bike frame.
Like other Topeak pumps, it works with Presta and Schrader valves.
Overall, it is light, ergonomic, and performs brilliantly.
This wrench set might be pricey but these are excellent, professional quality tools with features to make bike maintenance a little quicker and easier, and to help remove rounded bolt heads.
You get eight hex keys in the most common sizes for bike maintenance and a wall-mounted holder to keep them on. Each hex key is a combination of chrome vanadium and S-2 tool steels and has machined, chamfered tips that showed no signs of wear after a couple of months' use.
The T-handle can slide through the head at the top of the main body of each key, so you can adjust it to give you greater leverage or greater access, depending on what you're working on.
The integrated Strip Gripper is a useful feature – the twisted black tip on one end of the T-handle that's designed to remove oversized and rounded hex heads. It's often enough to loosen a bolt that a standard hex key can't shift.
The Topeak Mini PT30 is a cracking little tool, bang up to date with modern bike needs. Including an excellent chain breaker and quick-link tool, disc pad spacer, tubeless tyre plug reamer and insertion fork, there are very few road/trailside tasks it won't master, all in a tiny package.
It is small enough to slot into spaces in a frame bag or seatpack. At 168g it's not light – but you are getting pretty much everything you're likely to need.
The Mini PT30 is a class bit of kit with a high-quality feel and finish. This is not a tool for those on a tight budget... but it is for those appreciating having everything to hand, in one compact package.
The Fabric Hex Key Set offers an attractive, useful and high-quality array of tools that will enhance any cycling workshop, without costing the earth.
You get all the common hex sizes plus a T25 for those pesky star-shaped bolts and a tough steel build. The ends have a hardened vanadium finish which holds up to regular use.
Fabric’s powder coated colour coding is useful; it really does make it easy to grab the one you need without constantly having to check its size.
Other niceties include ball ends, which are a must-have when you can't access bolts at the perfect angle, and handles that are both grippy and extra long, so you can reach in past components, cables and frame tubes without blocking your hand. The extra length also gives you useful extra leverage on stubborn or highly torqued bolts.
Elite's Jet bottle is made from biodegradable plastic, has an oversized nozzle that is easy to drink from and seals efficiently.
The Jet works faultlessly. The oversized nozzle allows for increased flow and makes taking a decent gulp an efficient and clean process.
The nozzle cap is removable – in fact it's the same type used in the Fly bottle that's designed to blow off if run over in order to reduce the chance of a crash – so you can disassemble the bottle into three parts to put in the dishwasher.
The Jet bottle – which comes in 550ml, 750ml and 950ml sizes – is treated with a bio additive that makes micro-organisms attack the polymeric chain of the plastic, according to Elite, so it takes between three months and five years to break down once it enters a regular industrial composting cycle, instead of the 100-1,000 years of regular plastic products.
Juice Lubes' Dirty Little Scrubber is a seriously effective chain cleaning device that works in minutes, leaving your chain sparkling and clean. It's easy to use, cleans efficiently, and comes in at a competitive price.
Like similar devices, the Dirty Little Scrubber works by having bristles that coat both the rollers and plates of the chain in degreaser, making for a far more efficient cleaning process than just a sponge and a rag.
Once it's attached to the chain, you don't have to hold it in place. It hangs from the chain and doesn't move thanks to the metal attachment hook that loops round the rear mech hanger.
All the chain then needs is a wash off with a sponge and hot water, a little lube, and it’s as shiny as new.
The Juice Lubes Dirt Juice Boss Chain Cleaner is fantastic at cutting through grime. It's fast acting and long lasting while also being environmentally friendly. While the price is high per millilitre, its superb effectiveness offsets it because you use less each time than with weaker cleaners.
This is the toughest cleaner Juice Lubes produces, is intended primarily for drivetrains, though it's safe for use anywhere). You need to wait just 30 seconds before cleaning, which is great for the time-crunched cyclist, or if the weather's bad post-ride.
The Flinger Race Pro Clip mudguards provide excellent coverage for temporary fixtures, turning any bike into a 'winter' bike. They are simple and quick to fit and remove, so there is even the option to take them on and off depending on the weather. They are robustly built and there is is very little noise when riding.
The Flinger Race Pro Clip mudguards don’t require the eyelets needed to attach traditional guards. It’s a very simple job, and you can adjust the length of the stays using the simple thumb-crew barrel adjuster to suit almost any road bike.
Out on the road we were impressed by how well the Race Pro Clip guards work, with no rattling and first-rate coverage, despite the lack of a storm flap on the front guard. They also offer fine value for money.
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.