Specialized Pizza Rack, $90, and Pizza Bag, $100
Before I get into this review, I feel the need to clear up a common misconception. The Pizza Bag does indeed look like a delivery-style insulated pizza bag, but it’s smaller, more like Personal Pan Pizza–size. And while it is weatherproof, it’s not insulated. So you could deliver pizza with it, but it would have to be small, cold pizza.
The Specialized Pizza Rack and Bag combo is a good example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Well, some of its parts, anyway. But we’ll get to those.
Together, the Pizza combo is a kind of modern randonneur setup, with a waterproof roll-top bag strapped to a lightweight aluminum rack that can also accept panniers. I used this combo exclusively on our recent All-City Gorilla Monsoon project bike (reviewed in the Aug./Sept. 2019 issue), and it worked fantastically for carrying stuff to work on my daily commute, picking up a few things from the grocery store, or keeping essentials, like snacks and warm layers, close to hand during an overnight. The Pizza Bag is on the small side, at least compared to a traditional rando bag, and you shouldn’t try to overload it if you still want to be able to close the roll top and keep it weatherproof. But it can fit a 12-pack, with ice. (Or so I’ve been told.)
As good a system as it is, I have nits to pick. The lower plates are adjustable to get the best possible fit on your fork, but the bolts are soft and prone to stripping and bending. Moreover, the hardware that bolts the upper bracket to the fork crown only works with forks that have larger holes — if your fork crown has a smaller hole, you’ll have to make do with a longer bolt and a nut. But the biggest issue I had was mounting panniers to the rack’s bottom rails. After swapping out the hook inserts in a couple of different Ortlieb front-specific models to accommodate the Pizza Rack’s 13mm rails, I still couldn’t get either pair to mount properly. The distance between the two rails is such that Ortlieb’s lower hook isn’t happy either above or below the lower rail. I finally gave up and threw on a pair of North St. Bags’ Micro Panniers, which use a more traditional hook-and-bungee attachment mechanism. The upper hooks were a little small for the rails, but I tightened the bungee enough that I figured the panniers wouldn’t go anywhere. And they didn’t, luckily. I later tried Arkel’s GT-18 front panniers, and they fit just fine.
If you’re looking for a lightweight rack-and-bag combo for your everyday carry and touring needs alike, you can do worse than the Pizza Rack and Bag. Just be sure to test out your panniers first. –Dan Meyer
Darn Tough Sassy Stripe Crew Light, $21
Socks matter, especially if your feet get too hot, too cold, or too smelly. I love merino socks, particularly Darn Tough’s Sassy Stripe Crew. They seem to regulate the temperature of my feet perfectly, regardless of the season. These socks are thin enough that on hot days when my feet swell, they don’t feel too tight, and the merino helps dissipate the sweat. On cold days, they take the chill off. And every day, merino’s natural anti-odor properties keep them from getting stinky even when I wear them for three or more days. Darn Tough makes specific cycling socks, and these aren’t those. For riding, I prefer these lifestyle socks for their minimalist construction and the happy stripes that match a bunch of outfits. If you’re not into stripes, there are many other patterns to choose from. Whatever Darn Tough socks you buy, they come with a lifetime guarantee. Get a hole and Darn Tough will replace them, regardless of how many days they have on the pedals. –Berne Broudy
MSR TrailShot, $50
Water is the heaviest thing I carry when I’m touring, and it’s an art to figure out how much to have on board without running out. MSR’s TrailShot makes that easier. The 5oz. hollow fiber squeeze-to-pump pocket filter lets you drink straight out of a stream, or fill up a bottle, without a lot of setup and breakdown. It’s small enough that you can travel with it in a jersey pocket or somewhere you can grab it fast. And it’s instant gratification. I can filter a liter a minute with one hand. If it ever slows down, I give it a few shakes, as recommended by MSR, which clears it and returns it to full flow. Because it’s so quick to deploy — all I need to do to use it is unfurl the strainer hose, which is permanently attached — I carry less water, and I have an excuse for a quick break when I need it. The only time I don’t take the TrailShot is for third-world international travel. It removes bacteria, protozoa, and particulates, but doesn’t filter out viruses. –BB
Ortovox Windbreaker Jacket, $200
I love the idea of windbreakers, but in practice they often feel clammy when I’m sweaty from pedaling. Ortovox’s Windbreaker feels different. It’s made from 55 percent merino combined with nylon with a rain-repelling coating, and it didn’t stick to my skin with sweat or in weather because it’s more than half wool. In fact, the jacket acted more like a highly weather-resistant lightweight baselayer, wicking sweat, breathing without feeling drafty, and never feeling like a plastic bag. It was soft on my skin and stayed fresh-smelling ride after ride. I liked the jacket’s details, like long-cut cuffs, a hood that didn’t fall over my eyes, the elasticized hem, and the single chest pocket that’s big enough to easily fit an XL iPhone and a map, and that doubles as a stuff pocket for the jacket. This windbreaker is light — sub-5oz. — but not sheer, and even after a year of regular use, it isn’t showing signs of wear. It’s pricey, but in this case, you get what you pay for, which is a technical piece of gear that you’ll have for many years. I found myself reaching for this windbreaker as a breathable winter fat biking shell, to cut the wind while Nordic skiing, and anytime there was a slight chill in the air. In other words, I wore it way more often than I’d expected. –BB