An Abbey Bike Tools employee feeds tube stock into a machine. Dave's face is jankily superimposed over the employee's.

Our favourite stories: The best of Dave Rome, tech and tool titan

More than just tool talk: highlights in a year of Dave's exceptional tech coverage.

Iain Treloar
by Iain Treloar 29.12.2023 Photography by
Dave Rome
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Welcome to our year-end Favourite Stories series. To pick the best of our over 1,000 stories published this year, we assigned each of our staff and core contributors to write about someone else. Today, Iain Treloar assesses the legacy in a year of Dave Rome’s content.

It takes a combination of talent, obsession, and peer respect to be seen as one of the world’s leading authorities in a category, but that’s a space where Dave Rome sits. Over his lengthy tenure in the cycling industry – in retail, in wholesale, and for the last decade or so in media – he’s built a formidable reputation as The Tool Guy. 

At Escape Collective, Dave’s passion for this subject has made its natural evolution into a recurring newsletter, Threaded, as well as the regular franchise, New Tools Day. Those formats allow Dave to write at length about different themes in the tool world – a week dedicated to the history and evolution of the screwdriver, say – or showcase the latest additions to his extensive tool collection. 

Tools are just a part of what makes Dave who he is, but the way he engages with the subject also give a lens for understanding his considerable gifts as a tech reporter – he approaches his work with passion, curiosity and detail. That informs his bike reviews; he has such a rich understanding of the way bikes work (and why) that he’s able to detect the subtleties, and communicate them in an accessible way, usually accompanied by beautiful and detail-rich photography. He’s also extremely personable, great on a podcast, a master of the pun, and deeply engaged with readers in social media, Discord and article comments. 

What I love the most about Dave’s work, though, is when I can see the love and passion he has for his subjects shine through. It’s a reminder that he’s not just some dry authority in the space on a pedestal somewhere, but a key animator of it. 

Here are some of Dave’s stories this year that struck a chord for me. If you’d like to read more (which you would), hit up his author page.

Threaded #1: You never thought a single hex key could be so fascinating

For the first instalment of the Threaded newsletter, Dave started strong: a deep exploration of hex keys – specifically of the 4 mm size, but with a heap of useful information that’s applicable for other sizes, too. You think that a single size of hex key is too niche a subject to sustain a whole article? You haven’t read Dave before, because it’s not just one hex key but detailed tips on 11 different varieties of them, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, each lovingly explained and photographed. 

The Threaded series continues to this day, with Dave’s columns becoming a financially crippling gateway drug to the joys of quality tools for people the world over. 

Read “Threaded #1: Don’t make me pick one hex key” here.

Staff Joy Rides: A look at one of Dave Rome’s very own rides

That attention to detail clearly (clearly!) applies to Dave’s own bikes, and his Staff Joy Rides feature on his luxurious Factor Lando hardtail gave a fascinating glimpse into his process when speccing and putting together a machine of his own.

Want to know why he’d choose that cassette, or that oversized pulley? Want to know exactly how narrow Dave’s Q-factor is, and how he shaved 8.5 grams from the stem? This article has all that meticulous detail and more. 

Read “Staff Joy Rides: Dave Rome’s Factor Lando HT” here.

Does every mountain bike brand now have a gravel bike?

Another key component of what Dave brings to the table is his big-picture view of the shape and direction of the cycling industry, honed over years of shrewd observation. That allows him to write pieces like his July article about the drop-bar infiltration into the product lines of traditional mountain bike brands, where the Venn diagrams of gravel and MTB increasingly intersect. 

Dave’s perspective here – supported by interviews with brands that have insightful things to say – gives a nuanced picture of the direction of the market and this category in particular, and is a cut above the majority of business case-studies you’ll see in cycling media. 

Read “Does every mountain bike brand now have a gravel bike?” here

Gallery: A factory tour of Dave’s happiest place

You know how amazing it is when people you like have things go their way, and the peripheral joy that you get out of seeing their excitement? That’s kinda how I think many of us felt about Dave’s factory tour of Abbey Bike Tools earlier this year. Knowing his passion for high-end, high-quality tools, there’s a palpable enthusiasm that came through in this beautifully shot gallery, which gives a fascinating glimpse inside the inner-workings of one of the leaders in the space. 

One of the triumphs of Dave’s work – and I think it’s showcased really well here – is that it gets other people excited about the subject matter. I get that looking through this gallery filled with lustworthy green tools that I wouldn’t even begin to understand what to do with, and its a credit to Dave’s genuine joy about the subject shining through in every frame. 

Read Dave’s factory tour of Abbey Bike Tools here.

Joy Rides: you never forget your first custom bike

Dave’s great at making a head-to-head review of workstands interesting, but the appeal of that subject is not necessarily going to find interest in every reader. Beautiful bikes, though: that’s something that pretty much any cyclist can get behind. Dave’s coverage of bike shows like MADE and the Handmade Bicycle Show Australia are filled with carefully composed, technically interesting and sometimes just plain gorgeous photography of amazing craftsmanship. 

It’s hard to choose a favourite of these galleries (this might be mine, but they’re all stunning) so instead I’ll throw to another gallery from our Joy Rides series: this incredibly cool Prova made for a very lucky five-year-old.

Check out the gallery and story behind this stunning custom Prova kids mountain bike here.

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