The best part of tax season? Getting a return and splurging on gear.
A financial guru would tell you to use your return to pay next year’s taxes or invest. We say screw that. Tax returns feel like winning the lottery (albeit a tiny one), so feel free to spend it. Here are some suggestions for where to start.
Café du Cycliste Zahira Diamant jersey ($144)
Lots of companies make high-quality, high-performance cycling apparel, and plenty of them do the understated Rapha thing. But very few are able to pull off brash style like Café du Cycliste. (Though you should also check out Babici.) Maybe it’s just my African roots (I was born in Nigeria), but CDC’s new Zahira jersey, with a dizzying mix of patterns straight out of a Nigerian marketplace, is super appealing. I guarantee that no one else on your group ride will look this fresh.
Ketl overshorts ($160)
It’s tough to justify paying a lot for a pair of shorts, but newcomer Ketl makes the investment worth it with these simple but hardworking baggies. Cut from a four-way-stretch Schoeller fabric treated with a water-repellant 3XDry treatment, these overshorts feel as soft and casual as your favorite cotton ones, but are also tough, breathable, and wear day after day without bagging out. The fit is dialed, too, with a knee-length inseam, a built-in adjustable waist strap that’s so trim it’s barely noticeable, rear-facing pockets that keep equipment out of your way while riding, and a cut that’s roomy but not dumpy.
Brooks x Vans Vault Sk8-Hi shoes ($220)
This collaboration between the purveyors of some of the finest leather products in cycling and possibly the most beloved sneaker company in the world is one of the sharpest-looking shoe designs I’ve seen in a long time. There’s no real justification for spending this kind of money on sneakers, other than they look badass and you have some cash burning a hole in your pocket. Better hurry: they’re selling out fast.
Giro Factor Techlace shoes ($350)
When these shoes were released last year, I really didn’t want to like them. The Velcro-and-lace mashup closure seemed, well, ridiculous. Especially when Giro was trying to convince that the design somehow improved fit and performance. Now that I’ve ridden them, however, I’m won over. The shoes do fit incredibly well, have a really nice low-stack sole, and are amazingly light (210 grams), and the Techlace configuration looks super sleek on the bike.
Bontrager Line Pro 30 or Kovee Pro carbon wheels ($1,200)
The absolute best investment you can make in any bicycle is an upgraded wheelset, but it can be hard to pull so expensive a trigger. That’s especially true on the mountain-bike front, where rims take a beating. Bontrager makes the leap a little easier with a new, lower-cost selection of hoops. The Line Pro 30 is an excellent all-mountain or enduro wheel, with wide, 29-millimeter internal measures for strength, stability, and tire spread. The Kovee is more XC and marathon oriented, with a 22.5-millimeter internal width. Both are available in 27.5 and 29 and tip the scales between 1,500 and 1,600 grams for a set.
Salsa Fargo Titanium frame ($2,000)
I still consider titanium to be one of the finest bike-building materials available for its combination of light weight (lighter than steel) and vibration dampening. Salsa just brought back two of its most killer bikes using titanium, and truthfully, I want them both. The Timberjack Ti, a hardtail with clearance for 27.5+ that’s equipped to accommodate a 120-millimeter fork, is the more practical of the two. Depending on where you live, this could easily be your only mountain bike. (And yeah, I’d probably look at stepping up the fork to 130 or even 140.) The Fargo, which is the company’s original drop-bar mountain bike, is the perfect choice for backcountry riding, bikepacking, and epic adventures like the Tour Divide. Sold as framesets only, both bikes are build-to-your-preferences. I’d equip the Fargo Ti with 29+ wheels, so long as you can get those Maxxis Ardents with sick gum walls and a matching Brooks saddle. These two bikes are so sexy that they have me wishing my tax return was big enough for both.