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Biking Is the Perfect Exercise for the Covid Era. Here’s What You Need to Get Started.

Go down the rabbit hole with our list of the very best bikes, attire, and cycling gear.

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You’ve got cabin fever. The roads are mostly empty. Now’s the time to buy a new bike and get away from everyone else.

There are a range of fabulous cycling options. From bopping around back roads with your kid to the most extreme mountain-bike trail, there’s a type of biking that dovetails with your particular environment and desire for adrenaline.

Here’s the other thing. If you’re passionate about exotic carbon-fiber machines, high-tech apparel, and novel gadgets: Cycling is a gear-lover’s dream. You’ll want the very best bike, and then start collecting all the awesome sweat-wicking attire, brain-protecting helmets, ultralight footwear, and cool gadgets.

Think about that new bike (and all the cool stuff) now, as summer and the empty roads call. Below, everything you’ll need for just about any kind of ride. Drop down the rabbit hole with us.

 

ROAD BIKING

Those spandex-clad warriors chugging along lonesome back roads have discovered something—there’s a calming zen to logging long miles. You become one with the landscape, appreciating the road and landmarks in a new way. And if you like thrills, a great road bike can speed downhill very, very fast.

Canyon Endurance CF SLX Disc 9.0 eTap

Canyon Endurance CF SLX Disc 9.0 eTap.  Courtesy of Canyon

The bike: Canyon Endurance CF SLX Disc 9.0 eTap ($7,500). When it comes to road biking, you want a machine that is the master of everything. Nimble and light, yet comfortable over long miles. It should have the best technology—carbon everything and cable-less electronic shifters—and it should look awesome. The Endurance is that bike. It comes from Germany-based Canyon, which sells directly to consumers, so you don’t even need to go to the bike shop.

This is the top-flight Endurance model, weighing less than 16 pounds, utilizing high-tech SRAM RED eTap electronic shifting, and aerodynamic DT Swiss wheels. Over hundreds of miles of riding, we found it fast and thrilling on downhills, but gentle on our butt. A dream on the road.

Bontrager XXX WaveCel Aero Road Helmet

Bontrager XXX WaveCel Aero Road Helmet.  Courtesy of Trek Bicycle Corporation

Head and feet: Your brain matters, so invest in the very latest helmet technology. Bontrager’s  XXX WaveCel Aero Road Helmet ($300) has a cell-like structure that works like a crumple zone on impact. Road shoes should be ultra-light with mega-stiff. Rapha’s new, futurist Pro Team shoes ($355) use new-age woven fabric and carbon-fiber soles.

Rapha Men's Pro Team Bib II

Rapha Men’s Pro Team Bib II.  Courtesy of Rapha

Wear it: We also love Rapha’s latest pro team bibs and jerseys for their lack of overt branding and high style. You don’t want to look like a bike dork. For pops of color and personality, Bontrager’s racing socks are everything. Lastly, 100 Percent’s brand-new Hypercraft ($175) uses a weave of carbon fiber and nylon for the lightest sunglasses ever, protecting eyes from sun and wind.

Extras: At some point you’ll need to get your bike(s) around. We attached Kuat’s aluminum Sherpa 2.0 ($500) to a Lamborghini Urus SUV within minutes—the clever design stands away from the vehicle itself so finishes never get marred. It holds and securely locks two bikes, and when not in need clips to a garage wall via the handsome RackDock. Genius.

 

MOUNTAIN BIKING

Technology has changed mountain biking. Superior front and rear suspensions allow even newbies to drop off ledges on steep descents, and wide tires allow for great stability. You can pretty much go literally anywhere.

Santa Cruz Tallboy XX1 AXS Reserve

Santa Cruz Tallboy XX1 AXS Reserve  Courtesy of Santa Cruz

The bike: Santa Cruz Tallboy XX1 AXS Reserve ($10,399). The right mountain bike makes you a hero. California-based Santa Cruz redesigned its iconic Tallboy and we took it down hair-raising dirt descents, over small jumps, through rock scrambles, and crossed small streams. At less than 28 lbs., it’s incredibly tough, and the 29-inch tires blast through everything. We’re not even particularly good mountain bike riders. The Tallboy just made us look like it.

Abus MonTrailer MIPS helmet

Abus MonTrailer MIPS helmet.  Courtesy of Abus

Protect yourself: You don’t want a stick in your eye. Smith’s new Pathway ($199) shades are shatter resistant and the lenses transform from completely transparent to very dark when exposed to sunlight. While you’re at it, padding from 100 Percent for elbows and knees are a great idea for adults or kids learning to shred.

Head and feet: German engineering is behind the Abus MonTrailer MIPS helmet, and Giro makes the coolest mountain biking shoes we’ve ever tested, the just-released $225 Sector. They look sci-fi and provide good traction on or off the bike.

Rapha Explore Hooded Gore-Tex Pullover

Rapha Explore Hooded Gore-Tex Pullover.  Courtesy of Rapha

Wear it: Dressing for the mountain is tricky. You want free-flowing clothes that still provide cushioning and protection. Pearl Izumi’s Elevate shorts ($175) are water and tear-resistant, yet comfortably loose. The BOA dial on the waist allow you to adjust fit. The Launch 3/4 Jersey is the brand’s most technical trail top, with recycled polyester mesh for stellar breathability. If heavy weather is expected, pack along Rapha’s $345 Explore Hooded Gore-Tex Pullover—the rainproof hood accommodates a helmet.

Extras: You’ll need an awesome floor pump, a miniature one to take along on rides, and a shock pump. We favor these from Bontrager.

 

GRAVEL BIKE

Gravel bicycles are the fastest growing in the biking universe. They look like road bikes with fast geometry and drop handles. But the frames are more compliant, absorbing bumps, and the tires are thicker and more resilient. This allows for explorations on back country roads of dirt, gravel, and pitted asphalt.

DeAnima Soul

DeAnima Soul.  Courtesy of DeAnima

The bike: DeAnima Soul ($9,000). The sleek and graphically stirring Soul is built of hand-laid carbon fiber in northern Italy, leaning on Italian bike-making heritage. Our tester had electronic shifters and the Roval Terra CLX carbon-fiber wheels ($2,500), the lightest and most durable rims on the market. The Soul handles slippery surfaces with utmost confidence—we found ourselves flashing down a twisting gravel road at 35 mph—and is still nimble on tarmac.

Smith Trace helmet

Smith Trace helmet.  Courtesy of Smith

Head and feet: The all-new Smith Trace helmet ($250) has an air-venting system that make it an ideal pick for a day in hot dust or swirling dirt. And Pearl Izumi has created a gravel-specific shoe, the X-Alp Gravel ($150), designed to allow you to walk around comfortably.

Wear it: San Francisco-based brand Mission Workshop makes stylish stealth attire, and its PNG Jersey Pavement And Gravel Collection includes a jersey ($180), bib shorts ($265), and high-tech underlayers.

 

EVERYDAY BIKES FOR KIDS AND ADULTS

So you’re not hardcore? You want to teach your elementary or middle-school-aged kid to ride really well. You want to occasionally slip down to the beach or to the hardware store without taking the car? These are the best bikes for everyday riding.

Haanjo 7C

Haanjo 7C.  Courtesy of Diamondback Bicycles

The bikes: Diamondback Line 24 ($500) for kids and Haanjo 7C for adults ($3000). Once your kid moves past that first small bike and is ready to explore the greater world with an adult, the Line 24 is ideal for intrepid riders from ages seven to twelve. The sturdy aluminum hardtail is the real deal, with disc brakes,  8-speed SRAM drivetrain and front shocks. It handles everything from the schoolyard to the backyard. Our young tester is obsessed with his, hitting forested single track for the first time.

Diamondback also makes the Haanjo for adults, ranging from the 2 ($700) up to the full-carbon Shimano Ultegra-equipped 7C. Fast and sturdy, the 7C makes an ideal around-the-city bike, handling potholes and broken asphalt, but can also handle a 30-mile ride on dirt trails. A great all-around cycle.

100 Percent Status Helment

100 Percent Status Helmet  Courtesy of 100 Percent

Protect yourself: Keep your kid’s head on straight with Bontrager’s Solstice MIPS ($64), using the same protective system we recommend for serious adult riders. If they start shredding on mountain bike trails, go with a second full-face moto-style helmet. The light, sturdy Status ($175) from 100 Percent will protect their face and is suited for protective goggles. For adults looking for style around town, the Thousand Chapter Helmet ($135) has its own rechargeable light and MIPS tech.

Wear it: Pearl Izumi makes the Junior Quest Jersey for kids with rear pockets and the Junior MTB Glove, while 100 Percent’s riding shorts and serious moto-style pants and jerseys are best for gnarlier kids rides. They fit well and are super durable.

Extras: Keep yourself well watered with the insulated Podium ($20) water bottles or an integrated hydration system in the Chase Bike Vest ($100), both from Camelbak. And if you’re carrying your laptop around the city, keep it protected in the expandable bike-appropriate Vandal backpack ($335).

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