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BikeRumor Editor’s Choice 2023 – Tyler’s Top Picks

Tyler Bikerumor editors choice 2023 v2
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This is always one of my favorite posts to write because I get to gush over the things that really impressed me each year. No need to sound impartial here, these are the things I love.

A quick primer on me to put my choices into perspective. I’ve been riding most of my life, as a “cyclist” for 30 years, and enjoy all the things, from road biking to gravel to enduro, with most of my time leaning more toward the XC/trail side of MTB. Not because of a preference, that’s just what we’ve got locally.

I also really enjoy e-bikes, particularly for city commuting, cargo bikes, and long-travel mountain bikes. I’ve noticed that the only people who don’t like them are the people who haven’t tried them. I know at least one guy who doesn’t want to try them for exactly that reason. I love to travel, and did quite a bit of it this year, which is almost always an opportunity to ride new bikes in new places with new people, and it’s awesome. Highly recommend it.

On that note, here are my picks for the best products of 2023…


An overland, MTB & gravel road trip with my son

pics of people riding bikes in various locations

This trip’s itinerary kept changing almost until the day we left, and I don’t think it could have been better. Out of 16 days on the road, more than half had some sort of adventure. We mountain biked Mt. Nebo (AR), Bentonville (AR), Palo Duro (TX), and South Mountain (AZ). We rode gravel in Organ Pipe National Monument (AZ), after offroading for two days from Yuma to Ajo on El Camino del Diablo (check out that story here). And we hiked the North Rim and Guadalupe Mtn.

We saw friends and family in numerous states, ate amazing Mexican food (perhaps the best we’ve ever had), and boondocked among lava rocks and alpine forests. I got to upgrade the van with a GMRS radio, water tank, and fuel can and play with new apps for route planning. We even got to (finally!) use my recovery gear to get out of soft sand. If you know me, you know I love gadgets and tech, but none of these were the highlight.

The best part of the trip was spending time adventuring with my son. He constantly surprised me on the trail with an uncanny (and typical 18yo fearless) ability to stay on my wheel no matter what the terrain, even pushing ahead and leading through some seriously rocky, techy sections with a lot of exposure. I taught him to drive through soft sand and negotiate rough terrain in the Vandoit, and we both learned how to tow it out (thanks Ron!).

I have a lot of friends, but there are only a handful I could hang with 24/7 for more than a few days. So the absolute best part of this trip is knowing that my son is one of them.

Pisgah Monstercross gravel race

The Pisgah Monstercross barely registers as Type 2 fun. It’s that hard. The 73-mile course has almost 9,000 feet of climbing, but not just any climbing. It’s chunky, rough Pisgah Forest “road” climbing. Some of it’s quite steep. Or loose. Or both. And there’s a lot of it, with most of the mileage found far off the paved roads.

I thought I was prepared. My bike was, and the new Shimano GRX 12-speed group and wheels performed flawlessly (bike shown further below). But it was a stark reminder that I am not a climber and that such courses are meant to make me suffer. The reason I include it here is because I think we all need a reminder that we can do hard things and appreciate them for what they reveal about us. Eric and his crew put on an excellent event. It’s not as highly polished as some, but it’s well-run with great feed stations and burritos and beer at the finish. The campground across the street is fantastic (and convenient!), making this a low-key sufferfest that’s perfect to do with friends.


EDITOR’S CHOICE: Lauf Úthald Road Bike

lauf uthald road bike with mountains in the background

One of the (many) things I love about Lauf is that they aren’t afraid to do weird things if they believe in them. Their leaf spring gravel suspension forks are highly visible proof of that. Less obvious is the new Úthald road bike, which certainly has a unique look thanks to the curved and bent seat tube and deep-drop seatstays. But those are only a tiny part of what makes it special.

The geometry is more akin to XC mountain bikes than road, with a slack head angle and long fork trail, that makes it unbelievably stable at speed. Lauf’s goal was to actually make riders faster rather than just make a bike that “felt” fast, and they succeeded beyond measure. Normally I get sketched out over 42mph. On my first test ride, we hit easily 50mph and I was wishing I had more gear so I could go faster. I’ve never in my life felt so stable, confident, and safe on a road bike at speed, and I don’t think I’ve found my limit on this one.

It’s easy to adhere to tradition and simply meet expectations. Lauf gets my Editor’s Choice not only for making an amazing bike, but also for showing that there are still ways to surprise and delight riders. If you’re in the market for a new road bike, you owe it to yourself to try this one.

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Ride1Up Prodigy V2 Commuter e-Bike

ride1up prodigy v2 commuter e-bike

I’m as surprised as you are. I’ll have a full review up soon, but suffice it to say this budget e-bike delivers way more quality than should be possible for its price. The Ride1UP Prodigy V2 comes with Gates Belt Drive, Brose mid-mount motor, Enviolo CVT (continuously variable stepless gearing) rear hub, Maxxis Rekon Race tubeless-ready tires, and Tektro 4-piston hydraulic brakes. That’s a lot of high quality, brand name parts for a $2,400 e-bike.

It even comes with a decent-if-unbranded air suspension fork, broad-coverage aluminum fenders, front and rear lights, and a metal rear rack. It’s a Class 3 bike that gets up to 28mph (feels like more, actually), with smooth power delivery and a great torque curve that matches output with effort in a way that feels on par with bikes costing much more. It’s not just me, either, my whole family loves this bike, and all we have to do is adjust the seat height to fit everyone in our house. At 6’2″, I could use another inch of seatpost, but that’s literally my only complaint, and it’s an easy fix.


santa cruz heckler sl e-mountain bike

I rode one of Santa Cruz’s earlier e-mountain bikes and was nonplussed, I think mainly because the coil shock never felt right for me, but who knows. I just didn’t feel dialed riding it. So I wanted to give them another shot with the new Heckler SL, and I’m glad I did. It gets an Honorable Mention because I’m still figuring a few things out and need to get more miles on it, but first impressions are very good.

The Heckler SL is reasonably light, weighing 43.1lbs for an XL with Reserve carbon wheels and SRAM Transmission. And it’s reasonably powerful, with the Fazua Ride 60 system getting me up the hills much faster, but still requiring some work on my end, so it feels like I’m really mountain biking. What impressed me is how nimble it is. Climbing a rapid succession of very tight, steep, technical switchbacks at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Texas, I fought the urge to dab and the Heckler SL rewarded my trust with perfect traction and just the right amount of assist. If you’re a fan of the brand, this one feels very much like a Santa Cruz, just faster.



closeup of sram transmission mtb drivetrain

SRAM’s Transmission drivetrain shifts exactly as well as they promised, which is perfectly. It’s pretty easy to set up, seems bombproof, and perfectly leverages their long march toward a universal mounting interface, which benefits every rider whether or not you ever ride this group. Even the shifter pods are growing on me, with a design that’s clearly made for a future full of electronically controlled devices.

That they could bring it to market in the height of everyone else’s supply chain woes is impressive, too. And then they trickled it all the way down to GX group ($1,099 at Backcountry) just a few months after launching the top levels. Additional Kudos for seeing the move to internal stealth brake routing and being first to market with levers that send the hoses parallel to the bar. Even if your frame uses standard cable ports, they make for a very clean cockpit! Well done, SRAM.

EDITOR’S CHOICE: TRP EVO 12 mechanical group

TRP EVO 12 MTB group closeup details of drivetrain

If you’re squarely in the mechanical camp, the new TRP EVO 12 group is worth a look, too. It’s hard enough dancing around Shimano and SRAM patents, but they did that and introduced clever new features (Hall Lock) that keep the derailleur rock solid and completely quiet, even on the roughest trails. Shifter feel is good, with a satisfying mechanical clink and the ability to customize paddle position and the number of gears per push. There’s a lot to like about this group, and it’s refreshing to see competition coming back to the high-end mechanical drivetrain category. Read my full review here for all the details.

EDITOR’S CHOICE: MicroSHIFT Sword 1×10 gravel group

microshift sword gravel bike drivetrain

Another mechanical group that really impressed me is MicroSHIFT’s Sword drivetrain. It’s fully mechanical, has 10 speeds, and works like a champ. The best part? The complete 1×10 group, including cranks, chainring, cassette, derailleur and shifter/brake levers is as little as $400 with options to add a higher-end cassette, left-hand dropper remote brake lever, or make it a 2×10 group with a double chainring and front derailleur.

Not only does it work great, I never really found myself missing the extra two cogs. The 11-48 cassette has plenty of range, the clutch keeps the chain onboard and quiet, and the hood and lever ergonomics are fantastic. I paired it with TRP’s HyRD disc brakes and a KMC chain and it’s been flawless. The bike aficionado shop folks that have tried all love it, too. If you wanna gravel without grinding away your savings, this is a great option.


Shimano’s latest GRX 12-speed group wasn’t a groundbreaking change from the 11-speed version, but it is an important update worth recognizing. It brings all of their top-level drop bar groups to 12 speeds. The hood ergonomics are even better than they already were. They get dedicated gravel derailleurs for all cassette sizes, with the ability to swap pulley cages to go between 1x and 2x rather than replace the entire part.

And they stuck with a mechanical option to keep it affordable (don’t worry, Di2 is coming in 2024). I appreciate that you don’t always need to be dramatic with your improvements (or your marketing) to offer something new and better, and this is proof.

Their updated RX880 carbon gravel wheels are also worth a shoutout. They’re as light as most other top-end gravel wheels (1394g), have Shimano’s smooth-as-butter cup and cone bearings with their first-ever swappable freehub body, and are wide enough to handle 50mm tires. And they’re a very reasonable $1,549. I raced the complete group in the Pisgah Monster Cross and it finished stronger than I did.


EDITOR’S CHOICE: OneUp Alloy Handlebar

oneup components alloy handlebar on a bike

I avoid alloy handlebars as much as possible. Compared to carbon, they’re harsher and stiffer, transmitting more bumps and vibrations to my hands. OneUp’s carbon handlebar is one of my favorites thanks to an ovalized profile on either side of the stem, creating a flex point that allows just enough compliance to soften any blow. So I was intrigued when they launched an alloy version of it…how could it possibly compare?

Turns out, pretty darn good. It’s immediately my favorite aluminum mountain bike handlebar ever. I swapped it for another handlebar on my Fezzari La Sal Peak with a Rockshox Zeb. Even with 170mm of travel, vibrations and bumps still get through, but it was a noticeable improvement as soon as I installed the OneUp bar. It shares the ovalized tube shaping, and it works almost as well as their carbon bar, but for $70 less. If you have carbon dreams on an alloy budget, the Oneup Alloy Handlebar is the way to go.

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Prologo Scratch NDR XC saddle

prologo scratch ndr xc saddle

I’ve generally liked Prologo’s NDR saddle line, but the new Scratch NDR XC race saddle is the best thing they’ve ever made. The various foam densities are perfectly placed, with a softer center over a cutout to relieve pressure points and a flat, wide nose that’s easy to perch upon on the steepest climbs.

The padding on the back is supportive, with a good shape for powerful pedaling but flat enough to easily get behind it. Not sure what the extended carbon tail is for, but it makes a nice little mud flap. It comes with Tirox (hollow steel) or Nack (carbon) rails, and the latter creates a wonderfully light 166g saddle. MSRP is $200 as tested, and the Tirox version is $127.

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Granite Designs Aux Bottle Cage

granite aux side entry bottle cage on a bike

Granite’s carbon-and-thermoplastic Aux Bottle Cage is a side loader that’s compact to easily fit in tight spaces, particularly on smaller and full suspension frames. I love the stealthy matte finish, but the best part is that it’s incredibly easy to get the bottle in and out, yet it holds it super secure. I have it on my trail bike and have never lost a bottle, even a larger 24oz bottle, over any terrain. And it’s only $21.

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Industry Nine iRiX headset

industry nine iRiX headset installed on a mountain bike

Headsets seem like the hardest spot to bring innovation to, but Industry Nine did it with two cool features on the iRiX. Dual lip seals top and bottom keep crud from reaching the bearings, and tiny spacer rings let you adjust the gap between the upper cap and the frame.

That’s a small thing that makes a big difference. Where a standard top cap would need to maintain a larger gap to accommodate different frame tolerances, now you can get an extremely flush appearance without having it rub your frame. Combine that with the brand’s signature good looks, style, and color options and it’s a winner. (Read my review and launch coverage for more)


EDITOR’S CHOICE: Hunt Proven Race XC UD Carbon

hunt proven race xc ud carbon

Hunt’s top-of-the-line Proven Race XC UD Carbon wheels get a very wide 30mm (internal) but shallow (22mm deep) ultralight rims with front- and rear-specific layups, laced with UD carbon spokes, to come in at just 1,271g on my scale (Micro Spline, rim tape, but no valve stems). That’s exceptionally light for a 29er mountain bike wheelset, and they accelerate exactly as good as you’d expect. They’re also very laterally stiff but also comfortably compliant.

I rip corners so fast with these wheels, and climbing feels effortless (as much as it ever will for me). I’ve ridden other ultralight MTB wheels, but these are something special because they give nothing up to achieve their low weight. And they’re only $1,699.

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Scribe Elan Carbon 32D

scribe elan carbon 32d shallow ultralight road bike wheels

Weighing just 1,345g on my scale (with rim tape but no valve stems), and retailing for just $1,499, the Scribe Élan Carbon wheels are a helluva good deal for a lightweight set. But it’s their performance that makes them a top pick. Wide carbon rims (21mm internal) are paired with ultralight carbon spokes (2.6g each), ceramic bearings, and a 54-tooth single-sided ratchet (6.6º engagement).

That combination of lightweight, stiff-but-not-too-stiff construction, quick engagement, and smooth rolling makes them a potent partner in chasing speed. I tested the 32mm deep model, they also come in 42, 50, and 60-millimeter depths. They also offer options for race bearings with lighter seals and grease, and even 15mm front and QR axle options on top of the standard 12mm thru axle. I want to get more miles on them before writing a long-term review, but I’ve got enough good rides on them to know I like them. A lot.

HONORABLE MENTION: Astral Luna Carbon Approach

Astral Luna Carbon Approach all-road wheels being ridden

The Astral Luna Carbon Approach wheelset is handbuilt in the USA with their Approach hubs, which are made by sister brand White Industries. So you’re basically getting White Industry hub internals, but with a steel freehub body rather than titanium. And they have the same frictionless, effortless spin as White’s hubs, too, with Enduro bearings inside.

Their carbon rim design uses mini bead hooks to make tubeless setup easy and secure, but with a modernly wide 25mm (internal) rim that gives 28-30mm tires a great shape. Or throw gravel tires on them and head off road. They’re reasonably light at 1,538g (on my scale, well under the 1,600g claimed weight, and the included valve stems only add 16g). They’re also reasonably priced at $1,899. If you’re looking for an all-road, all-purpose wheelset that’ll do it job all year round, year after year, this is it.

Tires & Inserts

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Vittoria Air-Liner Light

vittoria air liner lightweight tire insert for xc downcountry and trail bikes

If I had to name a “Product of the Year”, this would be it. I’ve always understood the benefits of tire inserts, but never wanted to pay the weight penalty. But, the Vittoria Air-Liner Light inserts ($70 at Backcountry) are only 50g each, and they elevate the tire’s performance to a new level. Here’s why: Their semi-permeable closed-cell design will slowly absorb air, meaning that it’ll initially compress when you inflate your tire, but then expand back to normal size over ~8 hours. Then if you puncture, it’ll expand to fill your tire so you can keep riding. Freakin’ magic.

It’s enough to finish a race, or at least get back to the trailhead, without destroying your rim or tire. Not only that, but it supports the tire so well that I can run 3-5psi less than normal, which gives me monstrous amounts of traction and comfort. These are amazing and I want them on all of my mountain bikes. Now they just need to make a gravel version.

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Maxxis MaxxSpeed XC tires

maxxis maxx speed xc tires

Years ago, I got to ride a set of team tires from Maxxis with a ridiculously high TPI casing. They were amazingly supple and felt like they literally melted around every bump and imperfection in the trail. But they weren’t for consumers, sadly, and they would’ve been prohibitively expensive.

Fast forward to 2023 and the new MaxxSpeed lineup gets us pretty close. They’re “only” 120tpi, not the 180-200tpi I recall riding, but the new MaxxSpeed rubber compound makes the most of it, especially since it’s only available on the widest 2.35-2.4″ sizes. That extra volume allows for lower pressures and a supple ride, even with the EXO sidewall layer, and the ultra-grippy MaxxSpeed rubber keeps them planted. I feel faster than ever on these tires. I paired a Rekon Race (front) with an Aspen (rear), but the compound is also available on Ikon and Severe XC tires. If you’re looking for an edge, this is it.

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Vittoria Corsa Pro cotton casing road tires

The Vittoria Corsa Pro is their top racing tire, with a ridiculously soft 320tpi cotton casing, grippy Silica & Graphene infused rubber, and tubeless-ready design. They come in 24/26/28/30/32 millimeter widths. I’ve been riding the 700×32 and they’re glorious. They weighed 306g & 309g on my scale, less than the 320g claimed weight.

Many of my road rides include stints on gravel connectors or dirt country roads, and I’ve been able to bring them down to 52psi, at which point they make small gravel and chip seal disappear. Like, totally disappear. It’s uncanny. And that’s with a double ply of Aramid for puncture protection, so they’re tough on the inside. I was worried that the lightly coated sidewall exteriors wouldn’t hold up to those gravel sections, but so far there’s no signs of wear. The only downside? They’re $105 each.

Clothing & Gear

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Velocio MTB clothing

Velocio got into mountain bike clothing this year, and they nailed it. I’ve been wearing their Mesh Bib Liner, Trail Ultralight Short & Micromodal Trail Jersey (pictured above) along with their Merino Tee, and they’re all fantastic. The shorts come with an Arcade belt, which is super low-profile and works way better than velcro straps for keeping the waist comfortably snug. They also dry quickly, making a fine swimsuit in a pinch.

On cooler days, I really like their Ultralight Trail Hooded Jacket and Anorak, the former easily stuffing into a pocket. The Trail Access Hardshell is a heartier jacket, good for the really wet days, and it’s quickly become one of my favorite raincoats for daily use, too. It fits great on the bike, but also off of it, helping to justify the $389 price. Some road brands struggle to do MTB well, but Velocio’s collection is dialed for everything from downcountry to enduro.

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Rab Cinder bike clothing

rab cinder gravel cycling kits and jacket shown on riders and the bike

Outdoor clothing and gear brand Rab’s debut Cinder cycling collection is an impressive freshman effort, showing that they paid attention to what cyclists (and particularly gravel cyclists) need rather than just slapping their label on something. The short-sleeve jersey (center image, on my buddy Greg from Pedal Vision) has hidden reinforcements down the back to prevent it from sagging with loaded pockets, and a large center zip pocket makes it easy to stash cash and cards.

The Cinder Cargo Bibs have mesh pockets that’ll just fit a (non “plus”) iPhone with case, but the top edge is flipped inward to create a lip that prevents contents from slipping out. The windbreaker rolls up and its integrated stretch loop and hook lets you wrap it around a top tube, saddle rails (both shown on right), or handlebar. It’s hood has a bendable plastic strip that magically holds its shape even after you smash it into a ball for storage.

The rest of the collection, from a long sleeve tee to insulated jacket and baggie shell shorts are all great, too. I owe them a full review, and there are a couple of things I’d like to tweak, but overall it’s a great bit of kit that I’ve been wearing quite a bit. Also available in women’s versions.

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Trek Velocis helmet

trek velocis road bike helmet

The Trek Velocis MIPS road bike helmet is possibly the most comfortable helmet I’ve ever worn. It’s also really light, has huge vents, and is feature rich. Rubber docking ports hold your shades, and a BOA dial wraps its retention system evenly around your head. The cradle folds forward into the helmet when you’re not wearing it, making it easier to pack or rest on a table at the cafe.

MIPS Air adds a bit of rotational safety without adding weight, and OCLV carbon overlays add a bit of strength while actually saving 6g over the prior version. A beveled front edge not only keeps it out of view when you’re biting the stem on a tough climb, and it sits high enough on the forehead to work with the most ridiculously oversized cycling sunglasses. It even has a 5-Star rating from Virginia Tech.

Tools & Such

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Park Tool Flat Snip

park tool flush cut pliers

The Park Tool Flush Cut Pliers are my new favorite tool. They have a flat side that cuts zip ties perfectly flat, no more pointy remnants to scrape my calves or snag my shorts. They’re the perfect finishing tool, giving your bike a clean, professional look. They’re $25 and worth every penny.

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Chap-Snap lip balm holster

chap snap chapstick holder

I thought the Chap-Snap was silly when I first saw it, and then I went riding in the desert and had to keep fishing my lip balm out of my pocket every 10 minutes. Now I get it. The silicone housing straps to your stem (or wherever), then you remove the cap from your favorite Chap Stick flavor and stick it in there. It keeps it at the ready, and you don’t have to fiddle with a cap while you’re riding, either. That also makes it perfect for riding in winter, making it easy to use even with thick winter gloves, too, and it’s only $10.

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Bluetti AC60 Portable Power Station

bluetti ac60 portable power station battery bank

It took me using the Bluetti AC60 side by side with several other brands of portable battery power stations to appreciate what makes it unique. There’s no charging brick or special adapter, you just plug it into the wall to recharge it. That’s a small thing, but it’s a big deal if you ever lose those proprietary charging cables. The built-in light (on the back) is bigger than others, too, and it can recharge in as little as 60 minutes.

The AC60 is compact and light, but stores 403Wh of power and outputs up to 600W, enough for most little outings and portable devices. All outlets are covered against moisture, dust and dirt, too, and it works with their (or any) 200W solar panels for off-grid recharging using standard MC4 connector cables. It’ll power a smart trainer for pre-race warmups, and I use it in my car to charge my laptop more efficiently (and more quietly!) than a plug-in DC/AC converter. If your goal is simply to work remote or have an affordable backup for the fridge at home, this is a great little unit.

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.

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1 month ago

Great article

Glenn Olsen
1 month ago

Tyler, there is a company called GEO HANDGUARDS and you reviewed a set of their handguards in early 2020 and since then they have developed THREE additional handguards and have a DERAILLEUR GUARD that most BIKES would benefit from using…they also have another DERAILLEUR GUARD coming out very soon that performs similarly to the BRANCHY derailleur guard that was brought out at SEA OTTER this year.
They also make a cleaver SKID Plate for the Gen 3 Specialized Levo and are working on more models for the most popular E bikes.
The DERAILLEUR GUARD by GEO is only $30.00, it’s made in the USA and would make a great stocking stuffer and it adds additional protection to the EXPENSIVE Electronic Derailleurs that are becoming so prevalent these day’s!
Thanks, Glenn E Olsen aka “GEO”

Deputy Dawg
Deputy Dawg
1 month ago

Mt. Nebo memories are burned into my noggin, and Park’s flat snippers are always handy in my shop. Good choices. Ho Ho Ho!

1 month ago

Pisgah Monster Cross is put on by Pisgah Productions/Eric Wever.

1 month ago
Reply to  Dicky

Yep, thanks for the correction, I updated the article…sorry Eric!

Daniel Jamison
20 days ago

I bought two of these Granite Aux bottle cages and have launched two bottles so far. I ride lots of gnarly dirt roads and trails. Pretty disappointed. They look nice but have been a total let down on carrying water. More of a bottle rocket and dispenser. I will be sending them back.

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