Another year has absolutely blown by, and we’re already starting to plan for 2019. But before we pop the champagne and start making ride plans in the new year, it’s time to look back on some of the best gear from 2018. As usual, there was no shortage of incredible products making this selection process quite difficult. Everything below is something that I have actually used, but more importantly would continue to use. If you’re looking for the best, our Editor’s Choice lists are a great place to start.

About Zach

To me, riding is all about fun. If I had to describe my riding goals, fun would be one of the most important descriptors. I (try to) wheelie everything. I’ve never been that into racing, and I’m not all that concerned about fitness – except to be able to ride longer, go faster, and have even more fun. To me, traction, ride feel, and handling are more important than having the lightest, stiffest, etc.

While I’m a mountain biker at heart, I also spend a lot of time on drop bars. However, the proliferation and improvement of the gravel bike means I’ve spent almost zero time on a road bike this year. During the winter (or summers on the beach) I ride a lot of fat bikes, and have been dabbling with the occasional e-bike for commuting.

EXPERIENCE

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Picking out your favorite riding experience is similar to what I’d assume it’s like to pick your favorite child. Each riding destination brings something unique to the the table in terms of terrain, environment, and atmosphere. But more often than not, it’s the people you’re riding with that make the greatest difference. Which is probably why for two years in a row now, one of the events I’ve most looked forward to is the Atomik Adventures Rocks, Roads, and Reggae ride.

There’s no one reason why it’s one of my favorites, but trading the cold, wet midwestern shoulder season for the warm and (mostly) sunny weather of Florida surely doesn’t hurt. Then there’s the road trip aspect of it all – driving for hours with a good friend, making ridiculous pit stops along the way, and planning out the adventure. Pre-event, we set up camp on the beach and rode our fatbikes for hours, only to ride even more the next day, and the day after that on some local mountain bike trails.

Three days later it’s time for the main event, Rocks, Roads, and Reggae II – a two day bikepacking/slackpacking ride through the sandy back roads of Gainesville, FL. No one was racing, everyone was just riding their own pace, chatting, and having a great time. Follow that up with some incredible Jamaican cooking and live Reggae jams from Garner parchment (with some help from The Gravel Cyclist on “Down Under“), and you have a party within a ride (or maybe a ride within a party?). I’ve made some great friends from the event, and I’m already looking forward to next year (which may or may not be back in Florida).

It’s easy to get stuck dreaming about rides in far off, exotic lands. But don’t discount the rides in your backyard. Sometimes those can be the most fulfilling, and don’t even require a passport.

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks
Photo c. Jens Stoudt/Pivot

HONORABLE MENTION: There are so many other adventures this year that would certainly be worthy of mention, but riding Porcupine Rim on a big bike was a utterly memorable experience. I’ve ridden this trail a number of times prior, but never on a bike like the Pivot Firebird 29. This trail is made for long travel and 29″ wheels, and the Firebird pedals well enough that the few spots that aren’t downhill weren’t an issue. The only thing that would make this ride better would be starting out at the top for the Whole Enchilada, but I’ve never been lucky enough with the weather while I’ve been in Moab to make it happen. The Hazard County trailhead is the highest I’ve been able to start due to snow and mud up top, but this at least adds some incredible trail to the full ride. Some day…

ROAD/GRAVEL BIKE

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Kinda letting the cat out of the bag on this one before the final review, but the Kona Libre DL has been such a fun bike. The geometry and positioning is pretty wild compared to some of the competition, but I think that’s part of why I like it so much – it certainly meshes well with riders coming from an MTB background. While the bike sits you up fairly high, and the bars are super wide, the ride is incredibly comfortable and I realized the other day that I haven’t been getting numbness in my hands on rides which tends to happen on other bikes almost no matter what. It’s super easy to wheelie, handles mountain bike trails like a champ, and has plenty of mounts for just about anything you’d want. It’s also ridiculously fast. Faster than my current “road” bike, and this thing has 45mm knobby tires. Add in a light build that doesn’t resort to too many carbon parts, and you have a great bike for bikepacking or just gravel adventuring.

MOUNTAIN BIKE

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks
Photo c. Harookz/Specialized

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Specialized has always had great bikes, but for whatever reason, they never really struck me as my “favorites.” That all changed with the 2019 Stumpjumper 29. With a complete redesign, Specialized got nearly everything right. The suspension, the frame stiffness, the tire clearance, cable routing, dropper length compatibility, SWAT, quietness, the list goes on and on. My first impressions of the bike were great, but it was when I got it onto my home trails that I really fell completely in love with the bike. Every time I ride the new Stumpjumper, I find myself thinking ‘this is a proper mountain bike’. Not an enduro bike, trail bike, or any other designation. Just a mountain bike that can ride just about anything, and ride it extremely well. It also doesn’t hurt that I’ve built my review bike up with a number of other EC winning parts, but even at the base level Comp Carbon 29 12 speed version, it’s an incredible bike.

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks
Photo c. Jens Stoudt/Pivot

HONORABLE MENTION: As mentioned in the experience section above, riding the Pivot Firebird 29 on Porcupine rim was a transformative experience. The big wheels and the suspension were perfectly suited to riding the rough, ledgy trail at warp speed and it was a ride that I didn’t want to end. The Stumpjumper just edged the Firebird out on accessory storage and overall versatility though – I could ride the Stumpjumper on Porcupine rim or on my trails back home, but the Firebird would be a little much. With that said, if I had a choice for which bike to ride Porcupine rim again, it would still be the Firebird. But that’s just me – if you lived somewhere where you could use the Firebird on a daily basis, it is one hell of a fun bike and would be a great choice.

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

HONORABLE MENTION: We’re often riding very expensive bikes because well, they’re usually the most exciting and companies want riders to at least lust over their high end bikes. But that typically leaves consumers looking for reviews on affordable bikes disappointed. I had the chance this year to put a lot of miles on the Polygon Siskiu T7 which retails for $1,899. Granted it doesn’t ride like the Stumpjumper, but you’re getting a lot of bike for the price and it’s more than adequate for a beginner, intermediate, or even advanced rider on a budget.

Fat Bike

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

EDITOR’S CHOICE: I’m jumping the gun here with a lot of my end of the year reviews, but my EC pick for a fat bike in 2018 is an easy choice. As I see it, when it comes to fat bikes these days, you have two choices – either you go with 26 x 3.8-4.6″ tires and 27.5 x 3.8-4.0″, or you go the full 26 x 5″ and 27.5 x 4.5″ route. For the smaller tires (and narrower Q-factor), the Otso Voytek is still my hands down favorite. But when it comes to max flotation, the Why Cycles Big Iron is in a league of its own. It swallows the biggest tires on the planet in both wheel sizes, and does so with an ultimately durable titanium frame with geometry that is still completely shredable. In the words of Wayne Lee after riding with us at Alafia, “I didn’t know you could ride a fat bike like that!”

E-BIKE

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Yes, another Specialized, but it should come as no surprise since the new Specialized Turbo Levo was based on the new Stumpjumper Sidearm frame design. It’s also lighter, with more range, smoother power output, and feels more like a mountain bike. After riding the new Turbo Levo I thought to myself that this was the first e-MTB (that I’ve ridden, there’s still many that I haven’t) that I actually wanted to own. Enough said.

DRIVETRAIN

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks
2018 Shimano XTR Launch in Crested Butte, Colorado, USA  Photo c. Shimano/Sterling Lorence

EDITOR’S CHOICE: OK, this one still isn’t technically available yet, but the new Shimano XTR group is exactly what you have been waiting for from Shimano. The shifting is Shimano perfect, the gear ratios are good, and the brakes, well, they’re Shimano. It’s taken them way too long to bring it to market, but once it’s here they should have no problem selling it. More importantly, the development of this group represented a pretty sizeable shift in thinking from Shimano with more input from their testers, racers, and the mountain bike community as a whole. Not only that, but once this technology comes down to XT and Deore level, Shimano will be back in the game. Assuming SRAM doesn’t introduce 1×13, 1×14, or any other crazy new drivetrain tech first…

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

HONORABLE MENTION: I love these cranks. The Cane Creek eeWings titanium mountain cranks blend old school cool with modern performance, and so far, they’ve been a perfect addition to any bike. The only downside is the insane price tag of $999 – which doesn’t include a chainring or BB. But hey, these cranks will probably outlast your bike, so there’s that…

SUSPENSION

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

EDITOR’S CHOICE: I was a big fan of the original Cane Creek Helm 27.5, so it is probably not that much of a surprise that I love the new Helm 29. The fork brings all of the perfectly plush travel and adjustments of the original, but in a larger platform for bigger wheels. I hate to admit it, but I was a 27.5″ hold out for a long time. Being on the shorter side, the geometries of 29ers just weren’t there – until now. Notice that all of my EC picks for mountain bikes have 29″ wheels. The time for 29″ wheels has truly arrived, and this is one of the best forks for the job.

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

HONORABLE MENTION: While we’re on the subject of big suspension forks, they don’t get any bigger than the Manitou Mastodon EX. This gargantuan fork is made to fit the biggest of big tires and wheels, but it does so without sacrificing stiffness or ride quality. Full disclosure, I have not ridden this fork in full winter conditions yet, but I’ve been fat biking on beaches, and put the fork through its paces with some fast mountain biking, big jumps, and north shore stunts. As long as the suspension performance is still there once the temperature drops, this fork will be my favorite true fat bike suspension fork – in spite of its looks. Just remember that if you’re ordering an EX (extended model), to accommodate for the extra height (i.e. the 100mm travel fork is roughly the same size as a 120mm Bluto).

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

HONORABLE MENTION: In terms of new suspension systems, the Orion system launched on the Esker Cycles Elkat was very impressive for its initial debut. With very little tuning the bike rode great right out of the box, and we hear that the ride may even improve with further tweaks to the shock. My initial impressions led me to believe it was one of the most active and pedal efficient suspension systems out there, which is to say it rode really well.

WHEELS

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

EDITOR’S CHOICE: At 5’8″ and 155lb with gear, I’m not the biggest guy out there. And I also tend to ride pretty smooth. Both things that leave me feeling like a lot of carbon wheels are overbuilt leading to a harsh ride. That’s one of the reasons I think I love the Industry Nine Enduro 310 24h carbon wheels so much. The I9 spoke system is already incredibly stiff, so running 32 or even 28 spokes for me is probably complete overkill. These wheels drop to just 24 spokes per wheel while maintaining a stiff, snappy ride. The carbon rims are plenty wide at 31mm internally, they seat up tubeless in a snap, and of course the legendary I9 hubs offer excellent engagement and performance. These wheels would win even if they were just black, but the fact that you can completely customize their look with I9’s AnO LaB is the anodizing on the cake.

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

HONORABLE MENTION: Compared to the last set of Whisky Fat bike wheels that I rode, the No. 9 80W wheels really turned things around. This time, they’ve proven to be highly durable, shrugging off plenty of abuse. These were the 27.5″ size of which there aren’t that many carbon fat bike rims and wheels available yet. When ridden with 27.5″ x 3.8-4.0″ tires, 27.5″ rims are probably more susceptible to strikes since the sidewalls are shorter on the smaller tires (all of the 3.8-4.0″ tires we’ve tested measure smaller than claimed). With that said, the 80Ws are still going strong, look great, and are available with numerous build options through QBP and your local bike shop.

Tires

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

EDITOR’S CHOICE GRAVEL: This one was a complete surprise. I like a number of WTB tires, but I never expected the performance that the Riddler 700 x 45mm provides. It’s a massive tire – actually measuring like a 46.5mm tire on Easton AX rims. But thanks to the low profile center tread section, the tire flies on pavement, hardpack, sand, and other surfaces. Then, when you need to lean it over to get some grip, the side knobs noticeably dig in, keeping you upright. The side knobs are so aggressive that during hard cornering on the road it almost feels like you’re dragging your brake. But these really aren’t made to corner like a 28mm road slick, so that’s a small price to pay for such a fast tire that still handles off road situations quite well.

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear PicksBikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

EDITOR’S CHOICE MTB: For mountain biking, Maxxis tires have always been high on my list, but the Minion DHF 29 x 2.6″ 120 tpi is truly special. One of the newest sizes for Maxxis (that’s still not on their website), this tire slots in above the 2.5″ WT and measures a full 2.6″ wide. The 120tpi casing keeps it dreamily supple, and the 3C EXO TR compound/sidewall/tubeless tech makes it easy to mount, and deliciously tacky. I’ve been riding a DHF front and rear which was great until it started getting a bit wet and leafy out, and have since added a Forekaster 2.6″ to the rear which makes for a great combo.

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

EDITOR’S CHOICE FAT BIKE: There’s definitely a trend here, all of my favorite tires are at the widest end of the spectrum, and it’s no different for fat bikes. When 27.5″ tires first popped onto the scene, I wasn’t a fan. The 27.5 x 3.8-4.0″ tires all came in under sized, cutting down on the flotation that I’m looking for in a fat bike. But then came the Terrene Cake Eater 27.5 x 4.5″, a true monster of a tire that ends up almost 30mm taller than Terrene’s own 26 x 5.0″ Johnny 5. Out of the 27.5″ fat bike tires that I’ve tested, the Cake Eater is the first to measure larger than claimed, offering all the flotation you could want. It also features a tread pattern that works well in soft, soft sand, and still rolls pretty well on dirt and hard pack. There aren’t many bikes out there that will actually fit this thing, but if you have something like the Why Cycles Big Iron (above), it’s a great option.

TOOLS

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks
Fits 26 x 5.0 or 27.5 x 4.5″ wheels without taking off the tires. Perfect.

EDITOR’S CHOICE: For this one, all you need to do is look up to the last EC tire pick. Fat bike tires and wheels keep getting bigger, and it’s a real pain to have to break down your tubeless set up and remove the tire just to fit your wheel on the truing stand. The Park Tool TS-4 stand has been out for awhile, but this past year was the first time that I had to contend with 26 x 5 and 27.5 x 4.5″ tires. Being able to keep the tire on the rim and service every wheel and tire size imaginable (or at least, currently) is a huge bonus for shops that see a lot of fat bikes in the winter. And now that there’s a tilting base stand available for the enormous truing stand, you can complete your installation instead of leaving it on the floor like I have to do.

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

HONORABLE MENTION: The Wolf Tooth Components Masterlink Pliers might just be the perfect addition to your tool kit. Depending on your multi tool, you probably don’t have master link pliers, and you may not have storage for extra chain links. The pliers also work to tighten valve stem nuts, and you’re getting an extra tire lever (for aluminum rims) and valve core tool out of the deal. Lastly, if shit really hits the fan, you can take it apart and use the chainring bolt that holds it together to get you out of a jam. The whole device weighs just 38g, and is small enough to fit in your pack or pocket. It also doubles as a fidget spinner for adults – just don’t leave it somewhere around your house and misplace it. I really should find that thing…

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

HONORABLE MENTION: The original, and still the best – Dynaplug will fix your flat and get you moving again. I’ve only used the original Micro Pro, but now there are a number of other options with bigger plugs, and faster access so you can stab your tire and go. The only problem is that they’re small enough that they’re easy to lose!

BAGS, GEAR & ACCESSORIES

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

EDITOR’S CHOICE: This is not a new product this year. In fact, this model isn’t even made by Saris any more and has been replaced with the updated Superclamp EX. But I’m including the Freedom Superclamp because it’s been the best rack that I’ve used in years, hands down. I have to carry a lot of different bikes and in drastically different sizes when I’m traveling with someone much taller than me, like Michael. And yet, I’ve rarely had an issue with fitting bikes on the Superclamp – like two fat bikes and two gravel bikes. Or two fat bikes, a gravel bike, and a beach cruiser with fenders. Or four dirt jumpers. And so on…

It also has been the most durable in terms of finish and function. It’s just starting to show some surface rust and corrosion on the hardware, but everything is functionally perfect including the locks. I don’t know how many thousands of miles I’ve driven with this rack fully loaded, but I know that it’s survived three very salty winters and a lot of use. It might not be the sexiest looking rack out there, but it does its job incredibly well.

If you’re looking for the same performance but with a slightly updated design, the SuperClamp EX 4 bike rack should be just as good. Just note that on mine, I have the Fat Tire Wheel holders which extend the carrying capability to 5″ wide tires. However, one of the updates to the SuperClamp EX was the addition of wider trays that will fit up to 4″ tires, so it will carry many fat bikes right out of the box.

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

HONORABLE MENTION: I have a love/hate relationship with top tube bags. I love the easy access to food and other bits while riding, but I hate when they rub on your knees when pedaling. I’m sure that’s more of a short legs with wide quads kind of thing, but for me it’s a real issue. The Revelate Designs Mag-Tank not only has a bolt on option to fit bikes with the necessary mounting spots, but the profile is thin enough that it clears my legs while riding. It also allows effortless access to the inside with a magnetic clasp, that’s also damn near self closing. It’s not waterproof thanks to the open design of the flap, but it will keep the majority of water out. Overall, just a really well constructed bag that has a roomy interior without being too wide.

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

HONORABLE MENTION: If there was a ‘most improved’ award, it would probably go to the Blackburn Outpost Elite bags. The new bags are a dramatic step up from the previous versions with more sizes of the frame bags for better fit, better materials for a lighter weight construction, and a saddle mount that keeps the saddle bag rock steady. They’re still a “universal” frame bag, so some frames will fit the bags better than others, but considering this, Blackburn did really well with the redesign.

Lights & Electronics

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Every once in a while there’s a component from a company you never would have expected that really surprises you. For me this year, that was the Axiom Lazerbeam 180 tail light. It’s hyper bright, has an excellent adjustable mount (that includes a seat post, seat rail mount, and a belt clip), and a number of modes that are arranged in an intuitive way. The USB rechargeable light seems to have excellent battery life, and the light is large enough to offer a wide swath of light, but not overly bulky.

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

HONORABLE MENTION: Lezyne has been killing it with their electronics recently, and I’ve really been enjoying the Lezyne Deca Drive 1500I. The ‘I’ stands for Infinite Light Power Pack capable which is a secondary battery that plugs into the light. You can use the light with its built-in battery or go for the extra run time with the Infinite pack – up to a whopping 1500 lumens for three hours. And yet, it’s still small enough to mount to your stem and the front of your bike.

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

HONORABLE MENTION: I love how much side visibility the new Niterider Sentry Aero 260. It’s also incredibly bright, has a ton of different modes, and fits aero seat tubes and has its own aero profile. If this had better battery life and more intuitive mode switching, it would have been a contender for EC.

CLOTHING & APPAREL

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Even though Gore calls this jacket the Rescue B/C5 (and used to be called the C7), to me it’s more than a “just in case” type of rain jacket. There have been plenty of rides where we started out in pouring rain and knew it wouldn’t get much better. In every situation the Gore Active jacket has proven to be a super light, breathable shell that does exactly what you want – it keeps you completely dry. It won’t add much in terms of warmth, but I’d prefer to layer underneath in most situations anyways. It also is extremely simple with a single chest pocket and lightweight hood, but that’s part of what makes it so appealing. When it dries up, the jacket easily stows in your pack or even in some jersey/bib pockets. After encounters with many thorns I can say it’s very durable. My only wish is that it came in black.

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

HONORABLE MENTION: If everyone sweated like I do, this would be an easy choice for EC. But since a lot of people might not need aggressive sweat management (maybe you have hair?), the Sweathawg helmet liner is at least worthy of an honorable mention. Almost every one of my rides during the summer starts with putting a Sweathawg liner in my helmet, and I prefer the standard liner for mountain biking and their standard liner or cycling caps for road and gravel. Both absorb a lot of sweat, and work better for me than most other sweat management systems while also increasing a helmet’s comfort.

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

HONORABLE MENTION: It’s taken a while, but I’ve finally found a pair of waterproof gloves that I really like. The new Showers Pass Crosspoint waterproof knit wool gloves block out all of the water, and breathe better than most. While the gloves use a three layer construction, the finished glove feels like a single layer which makes taking them off and putting them back on a lot easier than a glove that has a loose liner inside. I wouldn’t wear these in temperatures above 60° or so (I’d probably just ride gloveless), but anything below that, they’re great.

Helmets and Protection

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks
Hidden under an also excellent Leatt jersey is the Leatt 3DF Airfit body protector. Photo c. David ‘BigMac’ Mcfarlane / Polygon

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

 

EDITOR’S CHOICE: I don’t ride DH and park as much as I used to, which makes me even more inclined to wear protection when I do. During the Polygon XQUARONE launch in Scotland I got to try out the Leatt Body Protector 3DF Airfit upper body suit, and I’m glad I did. I didn’t technically need it since I didn’t crash, but if I did, I feel it would have saved me from some big impacts. Most importantly, the suit is body huggingly comfortable with excellent ventilation. So even on a hot Scottish summer day (it happens occasionally), you’re not going to sweat to death. Mostly, the suit just provides a calming sense of protection in a perfectly comfortable way that also doesn’t look like you have a set of hockey pads under your jersey.

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks
Photo c. Markus Greber

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

HONORABLE MENTION: Am I the only one who struggles to find knee pads that don’t slide down your legs or cut off circulation? If not, you may love the POC Joint VPD System Knee Pads like I do. They’re amazingly comfortable and stay in place fairly well for my oddly shaped legs. At this point, they’ve been through the wringer, washed a number of times, and have protected me from a number of spills and they’re starting to wear out. But definitely worth the money for the all-day comfort on the trail.

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

HONORABLE MENTION: I don’t do a lot of true road riding any more, but when I do, I usually reach for the Giro Aether MIPS Spherical. The helmet offers a great blend of comfort, ventilation, and hopefully, safety through the MIPS Spherical system. I like the looks, it’s light, and fits my square-ish head well.

SHOES

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

EDITOR’S CHOICE: This was a pretty easy choice. Not because there weren’t a lot of great shoes this year, but because the 45NRTH Ragnarok Boots performed so much better than most of the similar shoulder season boots I’ve tried. They’re light, mostly water proof, easy to put on and take off, and they pedal really well. They’re a big spend for something you’ll only use during Fall/Winter or Winter/Spring, but worth it.

The Chambers worked great for DH as well as enduro and even trail riding. Photo c. David ‘BigMac’ Mcfarlane / Polygon

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

HONORABLE MENTION: I have a confession. I hate lace up shoes. But the Giro Chamber IIs made me look past that. These shoes are supremely comfy and with the addition of the velcro power strap, you get plenty of power transfer when you’re getting after it. I love how the shoes look and feel almost like your average sneaker yet pack plenty of performance. I’m not sure I’d opt for the bright blue if I had a choice, but they’re available in two more neutral color ways.

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

HONORABLE MENTION: Ride Concepts came out of nowhere this year, and initial impressions are very positive. Apparently our first sample came with a stiffer lasting board than it should have (which I actually didn’t mind), but the new versions do offer even better feel at the pedals. I’ve been riding the Hellion for a bit at the pump track and skate park, and love the fit and the grip – which is super tacky, but not so tacky that you can’t reposition your feet on the pedals.

OFF THE BIKE

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

HONORABLE MENTION: We travel a lot over the course of the year, and that usually involves lugging around a ton of camera equipment and electronics. I’ve tried a number of different camera backpacks, and so far the EVOC CP 26L Photo Bag is my favorite. It’s big enough that there’s a good amount of room for international travel, but small enough that it will still fit under many airplane seats if you don’t have room in the overhead bin. The bag has a few quirks ( I’d like to see more protection at the front for your laptop, and slightly better pocket organization), but overall it’s been a great bag with an even better harness system which helps when you have to sprint the length of JFK with a 50lb backpack.

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

HONORABLE MENTION: Insulated cups and bottles are seemingly a dime a dozen these days, but I have really enjoyed the Hydroflask Coffee Mug and Rocks glass. The rubberized coating on the coffee mug feels good in your hand since you don’t get the typical warmth of a ceramic coffee mug, and both offer reduced spillage with a simple, easy to clean tumbler lid. Fill up the mug with coffee in the morning and switch to your favorite spirit in the Rocks glass at night for a good time at any campsite (or backyard).

Yaak M-Series Belt Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks
photo c. Yaak

HONORABLE MENTION: Like the lace up shoe thing, I’m generally not a fan of wearing a belt while riding, but sometimes you just have to. Fortunately YAAK Belts (formerly ABL) are available in a band that stretches for movement or a fixed band if you’d prefer. They’re also made with carbon buckles in either a hooked design or a two part magnetic clasp – both completely TSA metal detector friendly. I started wearing this belt just for travel, but it’s become my go-to belt for adventuring, riding, or working around the house.

THREE SMALL THINGS

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

ITEM #1: Wolf Tooth Components is really good at creating things that I love, and the WTC Morse Cage is no exception. This one is a collaboration between WTC and King Cage, which results in a MUSA bottle cage in stainless steel or titanium with four mounting positions to better fit your bike – and the Morse code inspired mounting holes are arranged so that one bolt has a circular hole to prevent slippage, while the other offers tolerance for slightly different bolt spacing.

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

ITEM #2:  I know. CBD, right? *eyeroll* I was skeptical too – still am when it comes to the pills and tinctures. But the Floyd’s Transdermal Isolate CBD Cream is amazing. For all I know the pain relieving powers of the cream could have nothing to do with CBD and everything to do with the other ingredients, but whatever it is, it works. I pulled out of my pedals recently while sprinting with all of my might, and in the process smashed the pedal right into my shin – the bony part just under your knee. Then I danced all night, and drove 13 hours home the next day (see Rocks, Roads, and Reggae above). Needless to say, the next day at home I could barely put weight on my leg. After slapping two pumps of this stuff on there, I was back riding the next day. It’s still tender two weeks later, but the cream really decreased the amount of pain, and seemed to get me back riding faster than I would have otherwise. You can make your own judgement call when it comes to CBD products, but I’ll be happily using this from now on.

Bikerumor Editor’s Choice Awards 2018 – Zach’s Best Bikes & Gear Picks

ITEM #3: These are still my favorite grips, only better. Ever since Ergon launched their slightly ergonomic grips geared towards enduro, I’ve been hooked. Now the GE1 Evo Factory grips add more siping and softer rubber that seems just as durable for an even better hold at the bars.

Want a different take on the year’s best products? Make sure to check out Tyler’s picks here, and Cory’s here.

There are so many more great products I used throughout the year, but this collection represents the best I’ve tested or seen throughout 2018. Full disclosure: All products are chosen purely on the merits of their features, design or utility for the reasons explained in this post. Under no circumstances do we charge for placement in this list, nor is any favor or preference given to advertisers or brands who bring us on trips. Our selections are mostly limited to products that we’ve actually had a chance to ride, try or test, so a brand’s willingness to bring us to a launch event or send product makes it more likely we will consider their products only because we’ve actually used it.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Who is the source for Polygon Bikes? I have tried and no answer from them via email and FB is disheartening. Tried calling their rep and spoke to him, that never called back after this past Sea Otter. I’m intrigued by their line up of the T and N series. Considering that I now live in Bentonville, AR now you’d think it would awaken someone’s eyes. Good job over all on the reviews.

  2. I have a Helm coil 29 fork on one of my bikes, and it is amazingly good. They also just dropped $200 in price…right after I bought mine of course.

  3. Hydroflask small insulated thermos is awesome. It slots beautifully into a bottle cage and allows me to take warm coffee with me on a ride.

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