Welcome friends. It’s been a year.
I’ll start by saying thanks. Thanks for reading.
And thanks to Zach for taking over as Editor-in-Chief this year. It was a long time coming. Honestly, he’s been doing the work for years, just without the title. He’s doing management things that I never wanted to do. And, quite frankly, didn’t do, which is why I’m basically a freelancer here now…and I love it. I’m thankful that I can contribute here while pursuing other projects.
Thank you to Cory and Jessie-May and Jordan and Steve and all the new freelancers I haven’t yet met in person. Y’all are crushing it. And even though it’s no longer my baby, I still appreciate it.
And thank you to Kristi for continuing to check the comments and post the Picture of the Day. It’s underappreciated in many ways, but so important.
There are so many things that go on behind the scenes that make the machine tick that no one sees and rarely thinks about. It’s true here, it’s true at home, and it’s true at your favorite bike shop, brewery, and coffee shop.
If you have a moment this holiday season, thank someone you interact with. I’m sure you can think of a reason to, and it’s more powerful than you think.
Here’s what you need to know about me to put my Editor’s Choice awards into perspective:
I like all the shiny things. It’s why I started Bikerumor as a tech site and not a racing news site. While I still very much appreciate an incredibly light bike or component, more and more I’m accepting of a few extra grams if they improve the ride. And as you’ll see in several of my picks below, I also really appreciate a brand that can flick a big middle finger to convention in the pursuit of performance, trolls be damned.
I ride all the things. I like under-biking a rough trail, but also smashing a big bike through stuff that scares me. I’m finally learning to jump and drop bigger stuff. I like the solitude of solo road rides and my every-other-weekend long-distance rides to breweries with Watts, which always involve hitting random gravel and singletrack on our road bikes. I like our local mountain bike trails even though I’ve ridden them a million times, because there’s always that one corner I could take faster. And I like gravel, because who doesn’t?
Let’s get to it…
If I’m being honest, there are better bike parks than Jackson Hole Mountain Resort… unless you’re riding an adaptive bike. While the trails are getting better each year as they bring in more talent to design, build, and expand them, it’s the adaptive trails that make it stand out. Not just because they accommodate a four-wheel mountain bike for riders who can’t use their legs, but because the trails built for them are also wicked fun for riders on regular mountain bikes, too.
Combine that with proximity to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, some killer XC loops, and plenty of good restaurants and other outdoor activities (like Via Ferrata!), and it’s a destination that works for everyone. Check out my full story on JHMR to see more.
Closer to home, Watts and I have an informal every-other-week-ish tradition of riding 50 to 80 miles to a brewery. Like most middle-aged white men, we talk about starting a podcast. We might. And we talk about our relationships, destinations we’d like to ride, and how his shop is doing.
Or mountain biking with my friend Mike, who is often my photographer but mostly one of my best friends. We talk about similar stuff, family stuff, jobs, and future plans.
Sometimes another friend or two join these rides, but if I’m being honest, it’s better when it’s just two of us. It’s cathartic. It helps us get out of our heads, and our conversations can go deeper since I don’t feel the need to bounce around and talk to everyone. I still like riding with everyone, but one-on-ones are powerful. I have no idea if they feel the same way.
Same goes for riding with my kids, it’s better one on one. They talk more, and the longer the ride, the better it gets. Who knows how long it’ll last, or where they’ll go after high school, so I’m enjoying it while I can.
I’ve also really enjoyed watching some of their friends get into mountain biking and commuting and teaching them how to do basic repairs and maintenance. It’s fun to watch them figure it out and enjoy the sport on their own terms.
OK, on to the products…
Road & Gravel:
EDITOR’S CHOICE – GRAVEL: Specialized Diverge STR
It’s a long way down to the comments section, so you better start now. Type away, you won’t sway me. This bike is rad. Specialized took their surprisingly effective front Future Shock suspension steerer and found a way to match the cushioning in the rear without sacrificing performance at all.
The Diverge STR looks different, but I like it. And I appreciate and applaud both the engineering challenge they took on and the effective execution they pulled off. There’s a full review coming, but know this: It works exactly as advertised, letting me sit and hammer over the choppiest of “gravel” surfaces without missing a beat. And the rest of the bike delivers exactly the type of high-end performance you’d expect of a top level Specialized. Well done, folks. Well done.
EDITOR’S CHOICE – ROAD: Pursuit All Road
For more than a decade I’ve dropped kudos on Carl Strong, but it’d always been based on the praise he’s received from his framebuilding peers and my own conversations with him. I’d never actually ridden one of his road bikes. Now, finally, after he’d retired from titanium to focus on carbon fiber with his new Pursuit brand, I have. And it’s glorious.
The Pursuit All Road’s ride is sublime. It instantly became an extension of me, no matter how I rode it. Those adventures with Watts? No problem. Long miles on country roads? Awesome. County line sprints? Full gas, no flex. Carl and his team have created a premium option for riders wanting a custom-tuned layup while leaning on his decades of expertise in geometry. In this case, that geo is gravel inspired, with clearance for 700×40 (or 650Bx48) tires, but feels right at home on the roads. All the roads.
EDITOR’S CHOICE: BMC Fourstroke 01
It seems like all the good ideas have been had, but every once in a while something truly surprises and delights me. The new BMC Fourstroke 01 cross country race bike did just that with its Auto Drop seatpost. Push the lever all the way in and it drops on its own, without batteries or electronics. It’s pneumatically controlled, with a carbon fiber air chamber molded directly into the downtube, and it works brilliantly.
After a long day of test riding at the launch, I got to race it at Roc d’Azur, and the benefits are clear. No wasted time or energy squatting the saddle down before a descent, just keep riding and hammering. Seconds count in races, saving energy counts more, and this does both. Even with just two (long) rides on it, I found myself wanting my own bikes to do it at home. Fortunately, the rest of the bike, from suspension to handling to weight, is also really damn good. (read my full review here)
EDITOR’S CHOICE: Scott Genius ST
The new Scott Genius is a very capable trail bike, whether I was riding up or down the mountain. And the ST (Super Trail) models are the way to go, giving you finer controls over the forks by ditching the front remote. There are a lot of great trail bikes out there; what sets the Genius apart is the continual refinement of their dual-travel suspension design.
Not only does it work better than ever, it also looks better than ever now that they’ve hidden it inside the frame. Combined with modern geometry that also changes with the travel to suit climbing or descending, it’s an effective solution that’s also easy to use and offers a clear benefit. (Read my full review here, and check my podcast interview with their MTB engineers, too)
EDITOR’S CHOICE: Niner RKT
At 23lb 1oz for an XL, the new Niner RKT starts off light and has a ton of potential to go lighter (just wait until you see what I have planned for it). What’s most impressive, though, is how much Niner reimagined their XC race bike. Every brand says their new bikes are longer, lower & slacker, but this one takes it to extremes.
The frame sits so low it feels like a BMX bike, and there’s a flip chip so you can go lower. The increased travel (now 100mm rear, prior model was 80mm) helps it come to life on rougher trails. Even with a just 100mm travel up front, it flies through the chunky stuff, then rips up the climbs as Niners always have. Niner may not be grabbing headlines like they used to, but I’ll be damned if they’re not still some of the best performers out there. (Full review coming soon)
EDITOR’S CHOICE: Trek Fuel EXe
While most of the news this year has been on shorter travel “ultralight” e-mountain bikes, the Trek Fuel EXe is unapologetically big, yet also light. At a respectable ~42lbs, it’s not too heavy, relying on the same lightweight TQ HPR50 as the recent crop of ~35lb bikes. But the added weight delivers a bolder ride, stiffer frame, more travel, meaty tires, and a lot of confidence.
The low-key, silent assist is just enough, keeping it riding like a real mountain bike but making the climbs less sucky. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good high-power eMTB, but I loved this bike, too. Trek’s Fuel EX’s handling is dialed, and this is merely an enhanced version of that. I tested the top model, but, fortunately, there are also mid-priced models that eschew some of the AirWiz(ardy) without giving up any of what makes this bike rad. Read my full review here.
EDITOR’S CHOICE: Bontrager Kovee RSL
The weight of these wheels defies logic considering the abuse their top World Cup XC riders give them. At just 1,238g on my scale (with rim tape and valve stems!), the Bontrager Kovee RSL 29er mountain bike wheels are unbelievably light, yet they have no rider weight limit and come with a lifetime guarantee and two-year crash replacement program. The new, shallower rims are compliant, yet laterally stiff, so they fly up the hills but can handle the rocks, drops and other technical bits, too. A lot of brands are doing really light wheels these days, but so far nothing “off the shelf” touches these.
HONORABLE MENTION: HED 180mm
I haven’t ridden these. I kinda want to, but they’re not for me. However, they did work quite well for a lot of top triathletes in Kona this year. More than anything, I have to give HED an Honorable Mention for the sheer audacity of creating such a thing and taking it straight to the Ironman World Championships and sticking it under their top athletes. Who does that? Winners. (Subscribe to the Bikerumor Podcast for an upcoming conversation with Anne Hed about how these wheels came to be)
EDITOR’S CHOICE: Shimano Ultegra Di2 12-speed
It’s fast, light, quiet, smooth, good-looking, and basically Dura-Ace performance for a lot less money. There’s a lot to like about the new Ultegra. Small refinements in the rear derailleur’s design maximize chain wrap, yet it still shifts as fast and smooth as ever. Actually, more so. The new shift paddles are more intuitive and distinct, even with full finger gloves on. The hoods are comfortable for hours on end, with a perfect girth for grabbing hold on spirited climbs. And the lack of shifter wires makes the cockpit so much cleaner.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that Shimano was able to deliver an extra cog while maintaining their world-class performance, but what makes it special is they somehow imbued an electronic shift with the feathery light-action feel of the premium mechanical systems it replaced, R.I.P. Bonus points that I haven’t dropped a chain yet, even on chunky gravel roads, despite a clutchless, lightly sprung pulley cage. (Read our launch coverage here)
HONORABLE MENTION: AbsoluteBLACK HOLLOWcage
Does it reduce drag? Maybe? But I do know that combined with their graphenLUBE wax chain lube, it makes for a nearly silent drivetrain that spins effortlessly. Literally, it’s super quiet, which is one of its main claims to fame. Shifts are solid, too. It’s outrageous looking, and outrageously expensive, and I love it.
EDITOR’S CHOICE: Challenge Criterium RS
If you could pack every high-end feature you wanted into a road bike tire, you’d get the Challenge Criterium RS TLR. Handmade with an incredibly supple 350tpi cotton casing, with a light but durable puncture protection layer and grippy yet long-lasting rubber compound, it’s got every spec a roadie could want. And it seems to live up to the hype. While I have a lot more miles to go before I rate its long-term durability, the ride quality and handling performance were immediately apparent…once I got it installed.
They ship perfectly flat, and installation and tubeless setup is more labor-intensive than most. But it’s worth it. The first few rides had them gradually losing air, which stopped as they’ve settled in, but it was a blessing in disguise. When I thought I finished a ride around 60psi, they measured as low as 46psi. So, yeah, you can run them ultra-low to create a very smooth ride, but even at a measured 60psi on light gravel, they are mind-blowingly smooth. If you ride rough roads, these are 100% worth the effort.
EDITOR’S CHOICE: Ultradynamico Cava Race
Measuring an ambiguous 700×33.??, the Ultradynamico Cava Race all-road tires are made for whatever you feel like riding. With intentionally vague marketing and specs, they’re for the rider that just wants a scrumptiously smooth ride no matter the surface. They grip everything, and tamed all the crunchy stuff. Surprisingly, even though they’re ~5mm wider than the Challenge Criterium RS, they’re only about 20g heavier per tire.
There’s no sidewall protection, so they’re not really a pure gravel tire, but for adventurous road riders that want a little more volume and are willing to trade a bit of rolling efficiency for comfort, these boutique tires are super fun to ride (and look great!).
I’ve ridden a lot of new kits this year, so I have quite a few accolades to dole out. Most are expensive, but they work for anything from road to gravel to XC, so I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of them.
EDITOR’S CHOICE: Ornot gravel kit & Trail Magic Jacket
With Ornot, you piece together the bits you want, and I found that the Cargo Bib Short and LS Lightweight House Jersey made a great combo. The top is light enough for warm (maybe not “hot”) weather where sun protection is helpful, and the shorts are comfortable across all terrains for hours. My iPhone 14 Pro with case disappeared in the pocket -I never felt it bouncing or even noticed it through road, gravel, and singletrack- but was right there when I needed it.
When it turned a little chilly, the Micro Climate Jacket is perfect. Tiny fleece dots inside add just a bit of loft for warmth, and the water-resistant fabric blocks wind. All of these things fit tight -I wore XL and it was all snug– so maybe size up if you’re on the fence. And they’re expensive, but one friend has been wearing the same two Ornot kits for a couple years, ride after ride, and they still look brand new.
For more casual rides, or mountain biking, the Trail Magic Jacket builds on the amazing performance of their Magic Shell jacket that’s won my Editor’s Choice award in the past. With a helmet-sized hood and zip-in/out Polartec Alpha vest, it’s warm, and the stretchy-yet-waterproof-and-breathable Polartec NeoShell outer works flawlessly. My only complaint is I should have ordered black ’cause I don’t wanna get this gray one dirty!
EDITOR’S CHOICE: Mission Workshop Pro kit
A racy fit, luxurious materials, and unique design make the Mission Pro Jersey and Mission Pro Bibs stand out. I’ve worn it for both gravel and mountain bike rides, including a full day session at BMC’s Fourstroke Launch, and they’re remarkably comfortable no matter how much chamois time you get in it.
One caveat, the front of the jersey is a bit short, so taller riders may have a little tummy exposed when standing upright, but once in the cycling position, its cut is perfect. These, too, fit snug, but the size charts led me in the right direction. And the myriad available colors are simply fabulous – bold and bright, yet somehow all work together however you mix and match.
EDITOR’S CHOICE: SQ Lab MTB bibshorts
The SQ-Short ONE11 BLK bibshorts are a unique design, with a protective feature that proved itself on the trail – speed-sensitive foam pads (they feel like gel) at the femoral head. After crossing a stream directly onto a very, very slick rock incline, my bike slipped out from under me and sent me toppling back into the stream, landing on a hard rock slab, shoulder and hip first. It hurt, but considering the height of the fall, my hip should have hurt a lot more had I not landed directly on the padding.
SQ-Lab’s chamois is unique, too. It’s very thin, just 6mm, and firmer than most, with a gel slip layer in the middle to help it move with you. It seems weird at first, but it works well for mountain biking where I’m in and out of the saddle a lot more. Lastly, the inseam is really long. Almost too long, even for me, but that’s perfect for covering knee pad’s sleeves, helping to keep them from sliding down or showing a gap. It means you’re going to see the SQ-Labs logo peeking out from under all but the longest baggies, though, and short riders should just skip these (sorry).
EDITOR’S CHOICE: Eliel Cycling Del Dios
If you love a black kit but ride in blazing heat, Eliel’s Del Dios cycling kit is for you. The material is paper thin, yet tough and stretchy. It breathes well, feels futuristic, and felt great on long rides. One of my favorite features is the pockets; they held my DLSR firmly in place, and there’s still plenty of room for snacks, phone, etc. in the others. Bonus points for having longer sleeves, too! This kit also fit very tight. (read my full review here)
EDITOR’S CHOICE: Pearl Izumi Pro Bib Short
I like these cycling shorts for a few reasons. First, they’re long (10.5″ inseam), and as a tall rider, I appreciate that they come down almost to my knees. But they also offer a short version (8.5″ inseam). Second, they feel luxurious and have an excellent chamois pad. Lastly, they come in this rich “Dark Ink” (basically gray) color that’s a nice break from all the black, which pairs very well with a lot of their jerseys…like the Attack Jersey in “Ocean Blue Hatch Palm” shown here, which also comes in a summer-weight long sleeve jersey, too, and is made with recycled plastic water bottles.
EDITOR’S CHOICE: Reserve Fillmore tubeless valve stems
Zach beat me to the punch on these, but I’ve been using the Reserve Fillmore valve stems on my road bike, where they also excel. Big air volume and a core-less design make them super quick and easy to use, and eases tubeless setup, too. They’re comically expensive for a valve stem, but this list is about the best products, not the cheapest.
EDITOR’S CHOICE: Silca titanium cleats
Silca makes three versions of their 3D-printed titanium cleats – Shimano SPD, Time, and the Crank Brothers ones I’ve been riding (read my full review here). The TL;DR version is this: They’re half the weight, 3x the price, and claim to last 4x longer than the stock brass cleats they replace.
That’s a good start, but what pushes these into “let’s give them an award” category is that they actually improve the performance of the pedals. They’re shaped just a bit differently, so they click in more aggressively and hold more firmly. If you love Crank Brothers’ pedals but have wanted just a little something more from them, these are it.
EDITOR’S CHOICE: Doormate Garage Door Opener
I was so overjoyed to find the 12speed Doormate universal garage door remote at Sea Otter this year…I’ve wanted something like this for years! It’s easy to setup and pair with virtually every brand of garage door opener, and it fits snug and hasn’t budged since I installed it in April. For $40, it’s a great convenience, and a fun trick when you’re pulling up to the house with friends.
EDITOR’S CHOICE: Knog Frog 2.0
I loved the originals, and now the Knog Frog bike lights are back with a much improved design. Not only are they rechargeable, but they upgrade to a COB (Circuit On Board) LED panel that lets them create some fun light patterns. If you’re a fan of Battlestar Galactica, you won’t be disappointed!
Off the Bike
EDITOR’S CHOICE: Drink Wholesome MRP
Simple, real-food ingredients and great taste make Drink Wholesome’s MRP a standout in the “meal replacement” field. Literally, there’s nothing else like it that pairs a complete, non-plant-based protein with complex carbs, healthy fats, and no artificial sweeteners. If you’re training hard and/or trying to add muscle without shoveling in empty calories, this is an easy and healthy way to do it. I liked it so much, I talked them into providing a discount code, too – use “bikerumor” for 10% off.
EDITOR’S CHOICE: Velous Pacific Flip
The perfect aprés footwear, Velous Pacific flip flops are designed to help you relax and recover. The foam footbed is soft yet supportive, squishy without being mushy. Basically, super comfortable without the wrestling-to-keep-them-on feeling of less supportive sandals. The wide straps kept my foot in place without any tightness, and there’s plenty of grip on the bottom. They dry quickly, so they’re great for post-ride bike washes, too!
EDITOR’S CHOICE: 10 Barrel Brewing Crush Sours
If you like sours, no one has a wider variety of flavors than 10 Barrel Brewing – these are just four of many more flavors, some are seasonal, and some offered year round. They’re subtle, so they’re easy to drink after any ride, without the pucker or gut punch some overly sour beers and goses. I’m a huge fan, just wish they’d start selling it on the East Coast!
…and that’s it. Happy holiday to all, enjoy the ride!
Many more great products have passed through our hands this year, but this collection highlights the best I’ve seen or ridden. Full disclosure: Each of these products has been chosen purely on their performance and/or technological merits for the reasons described above. Under no circumstances were any of our selections paid for by their producers. Nor was any preference or favor given to advertisers or brands who invite us on trips. Our selections are limited to products that we’ve actually spent time riding/testing in person. So, a brand’s willingness to invite Bikerumor to join a launch event, or to provide product samples, does make it more likely that we will have considered their products simply because we’ve had a chance to try them firsthand.