As another year rapidly comes to a close, we’re looking back at the best of the best we’ve seen and ridden in 2019. New bikes, new components, new gear… the cycling industry never disappoints in cranking out new products. And we’ve been lucky to test much of it in great places to ride. Here, our annual Editor’s Choice Awards celebrate our personal selections for the best new products we’ve seen or tried over the past year.

Still hunting a last-minute gift idea? This could be a good place to start, whether looking for a new bike, a new gadget, or a new adventure to share with a fellow cyclist in the new year.

About Cory

I’m a devout off-road rider, even if I put in a lot of time on dropbars. I think any bike with disc brakes is made to ride off-road (beware road product managers!). I ride a lot of cross, gravel and all-road bikes, as they open up endless road & trail possibilities right out my door. This year, I’ve spent more time getting back to my roots on the trail, frequenting the bike park as my wife morphs into a gravity junkie. Based in Prague, I’m always on the hunt for great adventure rides throughout Europe, and apparently also fixing other people’s stuff. Here’s what stood out in 2019 for me. Stay tuned for the rest of our team’s favorites…

BIKING EXPERIENCE

Bikerumor Editor's Choice Awards 2019 - Cory's Best Bike & Gear Picks TheBash.cc

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Bohemian Border Bash. This year a new gravel event popped up in one of my favorite places to ride. The Bohemian Border Bash traverses Bohemian Switzerland & Saxon Switzerland National Parks on both sides of the Czech & German border. Besides taking in some of my favorite gravel & quiet back roads (even showing me a lot of new options I’d previously overlooked) the three day Bash did what I love best about multi-day gravel events – it brought new people together both on and off the bike.

With a tagline of “it’s not a race”, The Bash dumped just over a hundred likeminded cyclists from all around Europe (and a few beyond) into a secluded campground with the option to pitch a tent or stay in one of the tiny cabins. Three days of riding covered distances of 75, 150 or 300km (it is part of the 3T Jeroboam concept after all), or just one big day for those who couldn’t get enough time off work. And people casually broke into groups out on the route depending on how hard they felt like pushing. Then, many regrouped waiting for ferry crossings or when someone decided to stop along the way for beer or ice cream.

Bikerumor Editor's Choice Awards 2019 - Cory's Best Bike & Gear Picks TheBash.cc

And in the end, everyone enjoyed the nighttime party, barbecue & fire show around the campfire that will be hard to top.

This is my favorite kind of event that perfectly balances hard efforts out on the bike with post-ride good times that keep you coming back for more. The date for next year has been set – Sep 10-13, 2020 – and registration will open on the first day of the new year. Get your spot and join us next year. BohemianBorderBash.com aka TheBash.cc

Bikerumor Editor's Choice Awards 2019 - Cory's Best Bike & Gear Picks Kronplatz

HONORABLE MENTION: My next favorite experience of the year is a bit more open-ended… bike parking. After fun times in a few bike parks in 2018, my wife told me she wanted to ride more lift-served trails this year. Using the gravel bike to work more on endurance & fitness, we’ve turned a lot of our mountain biking into skills training, and really just having fun on the mountain bike.

Modern bike parks aren’t just about flying down DH tracks & jump lines anymore (although that can be fun, too!) We’ve had just as much fun using lifts like an easy enduro transfer, enjoying endless runs of flowy berms and technical singletrack. Our favorite bike parks of the year? Kronplatz in South Tyrol, Italy, offers a great mix of riding above or below tree line and is part of a much larger Dolomiti SuperSummer program that accesses 100 lifts with one pass!

Bikerumor Editor's Choice Awards 2019 - Cory's Best Bike & Gear Picks Klinovec

Or closer to home for us, Trail Park Klínovec on the northwest Czech border with Germany has just one lift, but a handful of great trails, fewer people (on most days), and lift tickets that cost less than half of what you pay in the Alps.

Bikerumor Editor's Choice Awards 2019 - Cory's Best Bike & Gear Picks 2019 RCC Summit Mallorca

HONORABLE MENTION: Rapha Cycling Club Summit. This year’s seventh summit was in Mallorca bringing together RCC members from around the globe for three days of communal riding. Next year it’s heading to Japan. There’s always going to be lovers & haters of Rapha, and especially the RCC, which some cyclists have the misconception is overly elitist (certainly doesn’t seem to be the case, at least in Europe).

But Rapha also recently cut RCC membership costs in half, making it even more accessible. And I’ve found nothing but friendly and welcoming vibes on every Rapha event I’ve joined in on – from the original Gentlemen’s race series to its Prestige evolution, Supercross, RCC club rides, and now their RCC Summit too. I would happily meet them in Japan if my schedule & budget allows.

MOUNTAIN BIKE

2020 NS Bikes Synonym XC mountain bike, modern slack lightweight carbon 100mm cross country or carbon 120mm trail mountain bike

EDITOR’S CHOICE: NS Synonym TR. While mid- to long-travel enduro bikes have been all the rage in the mountain bike sphere for the past few seasons, I’ve also seen an uptick in more capable cross-country bikes. The NS Bikes Synonym TR is a good example, an XC bike morphing more into a trail bike thanks to a longer travel option. NS has plenty of experience with burlier bikes, and the new standard Synonym is a lightweight deviation from that – a dedicated carbon race bike with 100mm of travel, albeit with slack geometry. But by swapping in a longer stroke shock & longer travel fork to the same frame platform, the longer, slacker Synonym TR stretches out to 120mm front & rear turning this into a lightweight all-rounder trail bike (<12kg) that flies both up and down hills.

Privateer 161 mountain bike, 161mm travel aluminum aluminium alloy enduro EWS trail MTB prototype

HONORABLE MENTION: A new bike brand on the block out of the Hunt Wheels collective The Rider Firm, Privateer is all about building afford bikes that perform at the top of their game. I haven’t yet had a chance to ride the new Privateer 161 alloy enduro bike, as it was only a pre-production prototype when I caught up with it in September. But when they ship in March, the 161 is set to become one of the most affordable, high-performance enduro race-ready mountain bikes on the market.

2020 Vitus Mythique trail bike, affordable aluminum alloy aluminium trail mountain bike, 130mm or 140mm travel, 27.5
c. Vitus

HONORABLE MENTION: Another, even more affordable alloy mountain bike is the Vitus Mythique 29 VRX. Thanks to its direct-to-consumer sales through Wiggle & Chain Reaction, the simple four-bar Mythique lets you pick 130 or 140mm of travel and 27.5″ or 29″ wheels. Again one I haven’t tried yet, but I love that brands old and new are pushing better bikes down to lower price points, helping more riders get in on the game. The Mythiques are available now; we’ll be testing the £1600/$2000 complete 29er trail bike early next year.

GRAVEL & CYCLOCROSS BIKES

CX Pro Bike Check, carbon Cervelo Aspero gravel bike raced at the Cyclocross World Cup as a cross race bike by Joris Nieuwenhuis

As a long time cross racer, it seems sacrilege to mash CX & gravel into one category. But with so much of the cycling industry focused on gravel, there really wasn’t a ton of true cyclocross innovation this year. I mean, pros were even racing new gravel bikes on the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup circuit! My home Masters series even got cancelled! What has the world come to? Maybe I should try out that new Cervélo Áspero after all?

Ritchey Swiss Cross limited edition modern disc-brake steel cyclocross bike CX
c. Ritchey

EDITOR’S CHOICE (CX): Ritchey Swiss Cross. The only actual cyclocross bike that got me really excited in 2019 was the limited edition red & white version of the reshaped steel Ritchey Swiss Cross. And as great as that modern update to a cyclocross classic really was to ride…

Bikerumor Editor's Choice Awards 2019 - Cory's Best Bike & Gear Picks

It really is now almost more of a versatile gravel bike than a dedicated cross racer. The Swiss Cross now fits up to 700x40c tires, so I spent a lot of time on it this summer riding big 40mm SpeedMax tires, rather than racing in circles. Riders wanted bigger than UCI CX max tires, so Ritchey conceded. It still has a higher bottom bracket than the Outbacks, making it better suited to ‘cross off-cambers, or even more trail riding. But this latest evolution of Ritchey’s steel cyclocrosser is more of an all-rounder than ever before.

OPEN WI.DE. gravel bike, carbon fat tire gravel bike off-road adventure gravel bike DT Swiss GRC1400 wheels

EDITOR’S CHOICE (gravel): Open Wi.De. The new, massively oversized Open Wi.De. gravel bike with room for 2.4″ mountain bike tires is totally (perfectly) overkill. Which is why I had a blast riding it, both with faster rolling 47mm & 2.1″ gravel tires or properly knobby 2.4″ MTB rubber. This monster(crosser?) is probably more of a modern dropbar mountain bike than a gravel road bike at this point. But if trail versatility is what you are looking for, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another gravel bike that can match it right now. Slap some fast rolling 47mm slicks on, and the light bike can eat up miles of smooth, hard surfaces. Or put on fatter mountain bike tires (fatter than I have on my full-suspension XC bike!), and there is no singletrack too technical for the capable & forgiving carbon frame & fork.

c. Lynskey

HONORABLE MENTION: This past spring Lynskey talked about being quick to adapt when they introduced the new lighter, shaped & faster 6AL/4V titanium Lynskey Pro GR. In the half year since, they’ve already continued to refine the bike, now giving it room for up to 700x45mm or 27.5×2.1″ tires. It’s hard to argue with a lifetime of smooth riding from a ti bike made in the US, and this Pro GR looks set to be a fast gravel killer. One more bike that I’m anticipating. We have a unique Campy gravel build in the works that will make this machine shine by the start of spring!

ROAD BIKE

2020 BH G8 Disc aero road bike, aerodynamic all rounder carbon road race bike
c. BH

EDITOR’S CHOICE: BH G8 Disc. Onto the road, and the aero BH G8 Disc really caught my eye. I spent a lot of time riding the previous generation G7 which was an excellent race bike – from the cobbles to smooth tarmac. This new bike only gets a few updates to make it more integrated & more aerodynamic – both nice improvements to a bike that was one of the first disc brake aero all-rounders raced in the pro peloton. Oh, and that bright red is so much flashier & faster-looking than the old white logos on black frame I used to ride.

Pinarello Dogma FS road bike, electronic-control, full-suspension lightweight carbon road race bike
c. Pinarello

HONORABLE MENTION: This Pinarello Dogma FS is a full-suspension electronically controlled, all-road ready race bike for the pros to take on the cobbled classics. Do you need a full suspension road bike? Probably not. But the technology that makes the HiRide eDSS suspension automatically lock and unlock has been shown to improve speeds over rough race courses. I already was enamored by the HiRide tech when it was only available as the K10s rear end. Now that Pinarello got on board with their fork too, that gives this system even more legitimacy, and it is now a deservedly unique road racer.

eBIKE

Bikerumor Editor's Choice Awards 2019 - Cory's Best Bike & Gear Picks

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Cairn Adventure. The most interesting e-bike I rode in 2019, was an e-gravel bike from Cairn (full review coming). The alloy Cairn Adventure 1.0 is set to become available in the first week of the new year. Propelled by a Fazua pedal-assist powertrain in the downtube, it strikes the perfect balance of giving just enough support to make the climbs a bit easier without every feeling like you are being pulled along. Comparing this back to back with a standard gravel bike on the same on & off-road loop, my heartrate was always just as high riding the Cairn, just my speed up every climb was noticeably faster. While most dropbar e-bike setups are literally a drag any time you get above their 25km/h limiter, the Fazua-powered Cairn was just as comfortable and natural feeling while pedaling at 20km/hr as it was at 40.

DRIVETRAIN

Campagnolo Super Record EPS 12-speed Campy EPS SR 12 Movement 12 road bike groupset gruppo

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Campagnolo Super Record EPS. I know that electronic shifting isn’t entirely necessary, and Super Record itself is a total luxury. But combining excellent Campy ergonomics, lightning-fast EPS electronic shifts, and the best road disc brake performance on the market, the latest Campagnolo Super Record EPS 12-speed is undeniably the best groupset I have ridden in 2019. And it is made in Europe! The move to 2×12 meant smooth gear steps and wide ranging gearing from 11-32 in the back. I’ve even put the bigger 11-34 ‘gravel gearing’ Chorus cassette on a Super Record equipped bike for even better hill climbing gears, still with excellent shift performance. Can I justify the 4,677€ groupset pricing? Of course not. But that Super Record EPS gruppo is hard to beat, and it didn’t hurt that my first rides were on the road bike I gave an Editor’s Choice award to last year.

Bikerumor Editor's Choice Awards 2019 - Cory's Best Bike & Gear Picks Klinovec

HONORABLE MENTION: AXS definitely deserves a gravel nod too, specifically a mixed SRAM AXS Force+Eagle wireless gravel bike setup. I didn’t give it full honors because I honestly haven’t spent enough time on it (only riding a Force+XX1 setup on the 3T Exploro), and will need to get ahold of a groupset for a personal bike for longer term testing, but also because the proper AXS MTB group is likely to get a further shoutout as our other Editors make their choices known. But AXS is all about flexibility, and the ability to pair a set of ‘semi-affordable’ Force AXS eTap road levers to a ‘reasonably-priced’ X01 Eagle AXS rear derailleur means a solid wireless 1×12 gravel groupset with a 500% gear range. That’s a concept I can get behind!

TIRES

2020 all new Schwalbe Pro One TLE tubeless road bike tire, faster supple souplesse, photo by Irmo Keizer

EDITOR’S CHOICE – ROAD: Schwalbe Pro One. The Schwalbe Pro One was one of the first lightweight, high-performance road tubeless tires on the market. The fact that a next generation Schwalbe Pro One TLE tubeless tire is here and is lighter and more supple than ever before is all I really needed to hear to know this is the new road tire of 2019 for me. Addix rubber, a new extra light TT version, and options in 25, 28 & 30mm widths!

WTB expands into wider, more versatile 700c treads with new Venture 40 & 50mm

EDITOR’S CHOICE – GRAVEL: WTB Venture. The WTB Venture was 47mm x 650B only until earlier this year when I decided to give it a try. Now with 700 x 40 & 50mm versions, this is an excellent high-volume, all-conditions gravel tire, no matter what gravel bike you ride. I’m personally not a big fan of tires with smooth center treads & aggressive shoulder knobs as they never feel like a smooth transition from going straight to cornering – especially on a bike that alternates from tarmac to loose gravel & sandy turns, then back again. The Venture though, offers loose surface grip from one switchback to the next. And while it isn’t as fast rolling as a proper slick, it is much more versatile & predictable.

Challenge Handmade Tubeless Ready tires HTLR, road gravel tires

EDITOR’S CHOICE – CYCLOCROSS: Challenge Gravel Grinder HTLR. Last year I singled out Challenge for finally getting on board with some tubeless clincher versions of their popular CX treads. Now, this year they have taken it one step further with Challenge Handmade Tubeless Ready tires. These are non-vulcanized, tubeless-ready tires made with their signature supple 260tpi polyester casings – the ride of a tubular with the convenience of a tubeless clincher. Unfortunately, they weren’t ready in time for cross season this year. But we expect to be riding them to prep for racing next year – probably to grind some gravel too!

Onza Porcupine retro modern trail all-mountain bike tire

EDITOR’S CHOICE MOUNTAIN: Onza Porcupine. I haven’t actually ridden any new MTB tires this year, which seems odd thinking back. But instead I’ve been mostly riding on tires that I know and love like the Maxxis Minion DHF/R combo & Schwalbe Magic Marys. So, I’m gonna go out on a limb and call out the retro white Onza Porcupine trail tires. I have a fun steel hardtail project bike I’m going to be building up before the end of the year, and a set of white rubber, skin wall 27.5×2.4″ Onzas would be a killer way to finish off the look. Hopefully they ride as good as they look!

ELECTRONICS

Bikerumor Editor's Choice Awards 2019 - Cory's Best Bike & Gear Picks smart watch Wahoo Roam

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Wahoo ELEMNT Roam. I’ve long been a Garmin Edge user, sticking with the easy to manage but capable 520 for years as my primary GPS. Then, riding The Bash next to my wife using a Wahoo ELEMNT Roam, I noticed how much easier it was to read her high contrast color maps (a new feature for a ELEMNT). Now I might just be a Wahoo convert. I’ve grown accustomed to the colorful LEDs on the left telling me what heartrate zone I am in without needing to read a number. Then the LEDs across the top alerting me to navigation routing. Battery life is also killer (although I’ve still managed to push it to the brink). I’m starting to think about buying a bunch of new mounts!

Lezyne Femto USB Drive, rechargeable mini blinkie light refresh

HONORABLE MENTION: I’ve had little Lezyne Femto lights on my city bikes for years, but this year they got a big overhaul, ditching disposable watch batteries for something more sustainable. The latest Lezyne Femto USB Drive front & rear lights are a bit more expensive, but the USB-rechargeable mini blinkies are a big step up, still in a tiny package.

Bikerumor Editor's Choice Awards 2019 - Cory's Best Bike & Gear Picks smart watch

HONORABLE MENTION: I’ve just started using the latest Polar Vantage M multi-sport smart watch a couple of weeks ago, replacing an older, heavier & thicker V800. But this new one has already re-sold me on the concept of regularly wearing a smart watch. With optical heartrate measurement, GPS activity tracking, and analysis of sleep patterns that has already given me some insight as to how I can rest & recover more effectively, this is a major upgrade for me at more than a third lower price than before.

TOOLS

Stan's NoTubes DART tubeless tire puncture repair tool

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Stan’s DART. The new Stan’s DART is a new take on plugging holes in tubeless tires. I’ve seen it stop a leak faster than any slug or anchovy with its malleable fabric plug and special chemical treatment that congeals sealant on contact. I’ve yet to repair my own tire with it on the go, but it has taken the coveted place of always being with me on mountain bike & adventure gravel rides, so time will tell…

Bikerumor Editor's Choice Awards 2019 - Cory's Best Bike & Gear Picks tools

HONORABLE MENTION: Fix Manufacturing debuted a few new modular mini tools & ways to carry them this year – the Wheelie Wrench Pro Hans Rey Dynaplug edition combines a full-featured multi-tool with tire sealing & the Strap On Tool Holster lets you carry it on a backpack or any flat strap. But I’m still using the original Wheelie Wrench and All-Time belt as my favorite setup. The belt is weighty but secure, and it’s reassuring to always have a set of tools close at hand, especially when I am traveling for work. And of course, it is airport security compliant.

Muc-Off Pressure Washer review, bicycle-specific bike& bearing-safe compact electric regulated-pressure pressure washer with Snow Foam soap bubble attachment sprayer

HONORABLE MENTION: The pink Muc-Off Pressure Washer is something of an odd ball in the tool department. As cyclists we are always taught not to get a pressure washer anywhere close to the bearings on your bike, while watching pro mechanics spray away (before they proceed to regularly rebuild & repack bearings). So Muc-Off put together a slightly lower pressure solution that they are calling the first bicycle-specific pressure washer. If you already have a pressure washer, you probably don’t need this (just be careful around those bearings!) But if you never made the leap to buying one, maybe Muc-Off’s solution will sway you. The low pressure nozzles are still strong enough to blast away most of the gunk, and an adjustable nozzle will give plenty of power for other uses around the house too. But the reason, I really like it is the Snow Foam attachment that blows tons of mud-eating foam when you attach a bottle of Muc-Off Nano Tech cleaner. It really does make cleaning a lot easier. Now, if only I didn’t need to plug it into an outlet and could use a portable water reservoir to take it to the trailhead or race venue…

GEAR & ACCESSORIES

Bikerumor Editor's Choice Awards 2019 - Cory's Best Bike & Gear Picks Klinovec

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Apidura Racing Top Tube Pack. The lightweight, streamlined Apidura Racing Series bags dropped right around the time I was dishing out awards last year. But it wasn’t until this past summer that they added more bags to the family. And now, in the six months since it launched, the flap-topped Apidura Racing Top Tube Pack has been strapped to more of my own person & test bikes for longer periods of time than any other bikepacking bag before. The bag is waterproof and easy to open & close with a magnetic latch, yet it’s also small & narrow enough that it doesn’t hit my legs when I pedal or stick above the stem on most bikes. It is literally the best example I have seen of what a small bag tucked behind the stem can do.

76 Projects Little Piggy Dry Bag storage review, on-bike storage Little Piggy mount Piggy Dry Bag pouch

HONORABLE MENTION: The 76 Projects Little Piggy & Piggy Dry Bag cut a fine line for me between being a bag and a tool setup. But they’ve done such a good job this year of securing a mini-tool & spare tube on the bike through dust and mud, that I could give them an honorable mention either as gear or as part of our regular tool category. Whether strapped directly to the frame of a bike without enough mounts, or to an extra set of bottle bosses, this little $42 dry bag & mount combo Piggy setup has become indispensable for being always prepared for trailside repairs.

Fassa Separator & Defender 2.0 bike protection pad

HONORABLE MENTION: I mentioned the idea of getting some #vanlife last winter, and finally made the jump this year. Then one of the random accessories that I tested earlier became a staple on every trip I’ve taken since. I initially debated the necessity of the Fassa Separator & Defender bike pads. Then, after numerous trips with multiple bikes in the trunk of the wagon or the back of the van, I was always reaching for one or the other pad to separate bikes. The 2-sided clamshell Defender (the black one, above) has become my favorite. The £100 pad can be easily hung over one bike to separate it from another bike on either side. Or you can just put it in between two bikes. Two long velcro straps make it easy to loop over the saddle & stem, so you can even roll the bike with the protector attached.

CLOTHING

Dissent 133 Ultimate Glove Cycling Pack for cold and/or wet winter riding

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Dissent 133 Ultimate Cycling Glove Pack. The Dissent 133 three or four piece glove system showed up just at the end of last year, but quickly became my favorite for cold weather riding. It is the first layered glove system that I feel actually works as well as advertised, without annoying bunching up or an overly bulky or too tight fit. Pick a heavy waterproof or a lighter wind & water resistant shell, then layer up with a silk liner and/or a middle insulating layer. Mix & match for all conditions. Since we got out first generation Ultimate Cycling Glove Pack, Dissent 133 has iteratively improved the waterproof outer layers with two new options for even better wet & cold protection, and they’ve upgraded to an even better fitting Cordura TouchFit insulating layer, too. It might be time for us to upgrade to those latest options!

Rapha Pro Team Insulated Gore-Tex jacket, insulated waterproof Gore Shakedry Polartec Alpha wet & cold weather jacket Review

HONORABLE MENTION: Let me mark the Rapha Pro Team Insulated Gore-Tex jacket down as the highest performing product in the smallest niche that I have tested this year. The likelihood of most riders needing a jacket to keep you warm while riding in heavy rain at or below freezing temperatures is pretty small, right? Who rides when the weather is like that anyway? Well, I have to ride year round in whatever weather comes in order to test new products (it’s all for you, dear readers). So this crazy waterproof and insulated jacket with a built-in hood is perfect for the harshest conditions I face. The 375€ jacket isn’t cheap, but if you ride in miserably cold & wet weather, it’s worth every penny.

HELMETS

Endura MT500 Full Face helmet, side

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Endura MT500 Full Face. It’s been a good year for helmets, so I get to dole out two top-level awards – one for mountain biking, one for roads. The Endura MT500 Full Face helmet is a new way to look at extra enduro & trail protection, combining the lightweight in-mold Koroyd construction of their standard trail half-shell, with an open & fixed chinbar. The result is a 230€ full-face helmet offering DH-certified protection that’s vented enough for trail riding, and light enough to wear all day. It really weighs just 640g! This isn’t the kind of extra heavy-duty helmet that you are likely to throw in the bed of truck to bounce around in between shuttle runs. Instead, it’s built lightweight like a regular trail bike helmet. I’m pretty sure if you crash you will know you need to replace it, just like any other in-mold EPS helmet. But that has made it my go-to for aggressive enduro riding and trips to the bike park. I’ve yet to come off wearing the MT500 Full Face, but feel much more secure now that I’m wearing it instead of a half-shell.

Abus Airbreaker helmet review, lightweight vented aero road bike helmet

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Abus AirBreaker. Abus made a big step up in performance in helmets this year, too. And their latest AirBreaker road helmet does a nice job blending aerodynamics with light weight and good ventilation. I started wearing a bright yellow Abus AirBreaker helmet back in March in Taiwan, and it quickly became my choice for riding road & gravel in hot weather. Besides being aero and only 220g, it kept my head surprisingly cool. And then when I started sweating profusely in super hot weather, it did a great job in keeping sweat out of my eyes – something few helmets do well for me.

2020 new gravel road bike helmet from POC

HONORABLE MENTION: The latest POC Ventral Air SPIN NFC deserves an honorable mention as the other standout helmet I’ve been wearing this year. I’ve only had the Near Field Communication chip equipped road Ventral helmet since October so I can’t really rate it in hot weather yet. But it was the NFC functionality that piqued my interest, allowing first responders to scan the chip to link to my online medical data profile via twICEme if I were unresponsive. Sure, most rescue services aren’t using this technology yet, but I appreciate POC’s forward thinking. And I was happy to include key health information that could ensure the best care for me in an emergency (but not overly sensitive personal data) on the platform as I travel. Plus, it requires an up close & obvious NFC connection, so it is unlikely to be a true data security risk.

SHOES

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Rapha Explore shoes. Rapha’s latest lace-up all-road shoes have become my go-to across almost all disciplines this year. In 2018 I called out two recent gravel shoes from Bont & Quoc for stiffness & durability, respectively. But these new Rapha Explore shoes have since supplanted them as better all-rounders. Their simple looks work more or less for on or off-road riding – I’ve put away road pedals for the winter, so these are my current road shoes when it’s not too cold outside that I need winter boots. The carbon sole is stiff enough for great pedaling efficiency, but they still have a bit of flex zone at the heel & toe that make them walkable. And the upper is soft, flexible & comfortable, with a unique lacing attachment that has meant perfect tightness from the first bow I tie, on every ride. What’s not to like?

OFF THE BIKE

Bikerumor Editor's Choice Awards 2019 - Cory's Best Bike & Gear Picks

EDITOR’S CHOICE: #Vanlife. Last year I had #vanlife aspirations. This year, I bit the bullet on a decade-old Transit van, and built it into a low-key adventure mobile. It has literally been the best single purchase towards getting my family to enjoy more bike trips together. Our DIY setup reinforces that you don’t need to buy some luxury camper, or do you need to try to live in a van. The simple homemade setup sleeps my wife & I with our two small kids in cool to hot weather (little insulation & no parked heating). We can pack in two adult & two kid’s bikes. There’s solar powered phone & tablet charging, as well as a solar refrigerator. What more do you really need? I highly recommend taking the #vanlife plunge!

THREE SMALL THINGS

Bikerumor Editor's Choice Awards 2019 - Cory's Best Bike & Gear Picks Klinovec

ITEM #1: The Ass Savers Mudder Mini strap-on front fender has been around for a few years. I even reviewed it with a complete flat-pack, strap-on fender setup last year. But the little 12€ fork crown fender alone does such a good job at keeping mud off of my prescription glasses that I try to always have one on any all-road, gravel, or cyclocross bike I ride. It’s cheap, easy to put on the bike, requires minimal extra tire clearance, and now comes in this pre-splattered Detour edition too.

Rex Black Diamond lube, paraffin wax-based nanotech fastest ever bicycle chain lube

ITEM #2: Free watts! OK, so you have to pay for it. But it is relatively cheap (compared to a ceramic bearing upgrade), and it comes out of your wallet, not your legs. Rex Black Diamond claims they’ve introduced the “Fastest Ever” chain lube. I can’t independently verify that claim. I can say that it is smooth & clean running. I’ve used a number of ‘super fast’ chain treatments in the interest of experimenting in the past. And Rex Black Diamond is up there with the best UFO & wax based systems I’ve tried.

Bikerumor Editor's Choice Awards 2019 - Cory's Best Bike & Gear Picks

ITEM #3: Merino socks, always! Seriously, you can never have too many pairs of wool socks this time of year. For 2019, I’m going to pick SockGuy TurboWool again. They routinely offer up new styles, so you’re sure to find something to up your #sockgame. And you can get in the holiday spirit now with some red/green bikes & trees, some chill Santas, festive sharks, creepy Christmas skulls, or even classic sock monkeys if that’s more your look. I’ll leave the style choice up to you.

Parting thoughts

Bikerumor Editor's Choice Awards 2019 - Cory's Best Bike & Gear Picks

As I look back over new tech every year, the best memories again were just riding in new places with friends, new & old. The best of the new gear just makes it easier and more fun to spend more time creating those Experiences together. If you made it this far, write out an IOU for one of your riding buddies, and plan a trip to go ride somewhere new in 2020.

Bikerumor Editor's Choice Awards 2019 - Cory's Best Bike & Gear Picks

With that, I’ll leave you to go ride. It’s cold in my neck of the woods these days, so bundle up, pack up the bike, and go find a new adventure. Or get ready to cheer for some classic  Kerstperiode cyclocross. Or since it’s the 10th year of the Festive 500, take one last chance to crank out some base miles/kilometers in this decade.

Want to see more of what we thought were the best new products of 2019? Check out Editor’s Choice awards from TylerGreg & Jessie-May, too!

Many more great products have passed though our hands this year, but this collection highlights the best I’ve seen or ridden. Keep an eye open for Tyler’s & Zach’s best-of lists coming in the next days. Full disclosure: Each of these products have been chosen purely on their technical & performance merits for the reasons described above. Under no circumstances were any of my selections paid for by their producers. Nor was any preference or favor given to advertisers or brands who bring us on trips. My selections are for the most part (but not exclusively) limited to products I’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, if only because then I can share my real, firsthand experiences.

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