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TPC's best stories of 2020

How wide should your rims be? What tire pressure should you run? Do you choose a gravel bike or a 29er hardtail mountain bike? Which endurance road bike is best, the Specialized Roubaix or Trek Domane? These were some of TPC's most-read cycling tech stories of 2020. Check out our top 10 to learn even more!

Written by: Bruce Lin

Published on:

Posted in:Fun

What do perfect rim width, the most versatile gravel bike, and the best value drivetrain have in common? They’re all topics that you, our readers, wanted to learn about this year! We shared lots of great cycling stories in 2020, and along the way, we discovered that our readers are hungry for stories about bike tech.

Our most-read posts included beginner tech guides, in-depth comparison pieces, and interviews with industry experts. If you missed some of these stories, don’t worry, we’ve rounded them all up here. Sit back with a cup of coffee, take some notes if you like, and enjoy TPC’s top blog posts of 2020.

1. A beginner’s guide to bike tire pressure

Beginner gravel bike tire pressureWe wouldn't have guessed this story was going to be our top post of 2020, but clearly, a lot of people have been pondering PSI. For starters, the bike boom has seen a lot of beginner riders get in the saddle, maybe leading them to look for info about something as simple as tire pressure. Also, technology is changing the way we tailor tire pressure — wider rims (more on that in a moment), tubeless tires, and tire sealant all allow us to run lower pressure on all manner of bikes, from road to MTB.

2. Choosing a gravel bike vs. a hardtail 29er MTB

Gravel bike vs 29er hardtail mountain bikeIf you can only choose one bike to handle all gravel riding, do you choose a drop-bar gravel bike or a hardtail 29er? This story spawned lots of good discussion in the comments, and it was clear we weren’t the only ones asking this question. A surprising amount of gravel riders love using their mountain bikes! We covered the pros and cons of each type of bike, and in the end, I explained why I chose a drop bar gravel bike over a hardtail 29er. I’ve since complicated things by impulsively buying another hardtail. I’ll have to reread this story when it comes time for me to pick which one to keep.

3. Specialized Roubaix vs. Trek Domane

Specialized Roubaix vs Trek Domane endurance road bikeIt comes as no surprise that a comparison of our two most popular road bikes would make the top three. The Roubaix and Domane are endurance road bikes that have scored numerous professional wins, top road bike sales, and help countless riders discover cycling and put in big miles. They continue to stand out in a competitive endurance bike market thanks to clever features like FutureShock and IsoSpeed technology. For anyone trying to pick between the two, we covered every tech detail and race win in our comparison to make the decision just a little bit easier.

4. Shimano 105 vs. Ultegra vs. Dura-Ace 

Shimano 105 vs Ultegra vs Dura-ace road bike drivetrain group setShimano dominates road drivetrains and its 105, Ultegra, and Dura-ace road groups are found on nearly 75% of the road bikes we sell. Customers comparing Shimano-equipped bikes regularly ask us what the differences are. Is the performance of a top-of-the-line group like Dura-Ace worth it? Or is the more budget-friendly 105 group good enough? To break it all down, we went over the features and technology behind each group, got a scale out to weigh some parts, and even put the question to Shimano’s road product manager.

5. Shimano Deore XT vs. SRAM GX Eagle

Shimano Deore XT vs SRAM GX Eagle mountain bike drivetrainShimano Deore XT and SRAM GX Eagle are incredibly popular mountain bike drivetrains. They’re light enough to suit weight-conscious XC riders, rugged enough to handle the abuse of enduro, and refined enough that most riders will never need to upgrade. For many, choosing between XT and GX is simply a matter of brand loyalty. If you’re looking for an in-depth comparison though, this story covers the key differences in features, tech, cost, and weight. We also polled experienced riders at TPC to find out their preferences and discovered some interesting reasons for their choice.

6. What’s the perfect rim width? The experts weigh in

Wide rims perfect internal rim width for road, gravel, mountain bikesIf you’ve paid any attention to wheel and tire tech over the past five years, you’ll have noticed that everything is getting wider. Wide tires that offer more compliance and traction and less rolling resistance are being paired with wide rims that increase air volume and sidewall support. But are wide rims always better? Are rim widths going to keep expanding? And how do riders pick the right rim width for their tires? To answer these questions, we interviewed wheel experts from ENVE, Stan’s NoTubes, and Industry Nine to find out what they think.

7. How to upgrade your wheels

Carbon wheel upgrade aerodynamics and wheel depthWheels are the best upgrade you can make to any bike, and if you can only pick one part of your bike to spend money on, it better be the wheels. Even though some of us prefer riding budget-friendly aluminum frames, it’s always nice to upgrade to a nice set of carbon wheels. A good pair of wheels, carbon or otherwise, will make your bike feel lighter and snappier. Plus, they just look fast. If you’re picking out your first wheel upgrade, this story goes over every detail you need to consider including rim material, weight, aerodynamics, and hubs.

8. SRAM GX Eagle vs. XX1 Eagle 

SRAM XX1 X01 Eagle vs SRAM GX Eagle mountain bike drivetrainEarly this year, I went through a “treat yo' self” phase and upgraded the drivetrains on my two mountain bikes from GX Eagle to X01 and XX1 Eagle. My impulsive splurge meant that you got a nitty-gritty comparison article. I went deep and compared the weights, materials, and construction of each individual component as well as my personal experience using both groups. Interpret the info in this story as you wish. Use it to feel content with the quality of your budget-friendly GX drivetrain or justify spending more for an XX1 drivetrain.

9. Zipp vs. ENVE

Zipp vs ENVE carbon road bike wheel aerodynamicsSo we already know from the “How to upgrade your wheels” story that wheels should be your first upgrade. If you’re looking for the best carbon wheels on the market, then Zipp and ENVE are top candidates. They’re high-quality, American-made, and loaded with the latest wind tunnel tested aero tech. How do you pick between them? Learn the history behind the brands, their latest tech innovations, and what our own experienced riders think about them. The choice is hard, but no matter which wheels you choose, you’re going to go fast and look good.

10. Gravel bike drivetrains: 1x or 2x?

1x vs 2x gravel bike drivetrainsTechnology is evolving rapidly in the world of gravel bikes, and man is it fun to see what comes next. However, this means lots of riders (even myself!) have questions. A lot of people want to know: Is it better to ride a single chainring as you do on most mountain bikes or a double crankset, like a road bike? Spencer examined the advantages and disadvantages of both setups. As you’d expect, the answer to this gravel question is: “It depends.” Terrain, rider preference, riding style, and much more come into play when you leave the pavement behind.

So what stories would you like to read in 2021? Let us know in the comments, and thanks for reading!