OK, another wild year in the books. 2022 started with remnants of two years of chaos, then gradually edged back towards ‘before-times’ normal. What that means for us all here, is that once again I rode more new bikes, more new gear, and in more varied locations than in recent years. So my first-hand Editor’s Choice Picks come from a deeper pool of great contenders this year again. Hurrah!
But I’ve still got some Honorable Mentions for a few promising new things that I just haven’t had a chance to spend quality time with, yet.
As always a quick refresher on me and my proclivities: I’m a mountain biker, a technical one, not afraid to get sketchy on pretty much any ride. Sure, I’ll ride anything with two wheels, from almost any cycling discipline, and even the occasional motor. But it’s all gonna end up off-road at some point. Probably gonna get pretty muddy too.
I’ve been lucky this year to spend more time on fat, knobby tires – both at home and abroad. More secret enduro tracks, more chunky gravel roads, and again more days in bikeparks. All that trail riding even helped motivate me to ditch the city I lived in for 15 years, and move up into the mountainous borderlands where proper trails start just across the field from my yard.
Oh yeah! #afterworkrides
Editor’s Choice: Blinduro
A bunch of amateurs racing brand-new, purpose-built trails, all sight-unseen. So fun! Also humbling. Fronted by 3x World Champion Michal Prokop, the Blinduro mountain bike race series is a blast. Two days of blindly racing enduro trails no one has ever ridden before, in whatever weather comes your way, it’s both incredibly exciting and a reminder that you probably aren’t quite as strong a rider as you thought.
At least that’s my takeaway every time I show up to race.
But with a super welcoming atmosphere for riders of all levels and truly top-notch super technical trail building, Blinduro creates a great vibe where you can hang out with friends on the transfers between timed stages, pin it between the tape until you can see your heartrate, then meet new friends hanging out in between the two days of racing back at base camp…
All while trying to best your riding buddies on the enduro stage timing. My wife is more likely to end up on the podium again than me, but I’ll still be back for more for my third year in a row in 2023!
Or if racing isn’t your vibe…
Honorable Mention: S24O
Bikepacking seems like it takes a lot of commitment, a lot of gear, and a lot of time, right? But it doesn’t have to be. I didn’t get out on as many Sub 24-hour Overnighter bikepacking trips this year as in 2021. That’s a bit of a shame. Probably because I spent more days traveling abroad, testing new gear.
But the short overnight escape is always within reach. Pack up enough gear to make it through the night, some snacks for dinner & a quick breakfast, and pedal out of town to a secluded spot for some leave-no-trace wild camping. Get up early the next morning, and pedal back home before the time you left the day before… <24 hours out and back.
So, I think I have a New Year’s resolution to work on… back into the woods!
Editor’s Choice: Canyon Spectral 125
A year ago, I definitely did not think that short-travel enduro was a thing. But Canyon’s excellent Spectral 125 proved me wrong. The regular 150mm/160mm Spectral 29er was already a solid do-it-all all-mountain bike. Then Canyon dropped a bike with 25mm less rear wheel travel, 20mm less front wheel travel, but the exact same geometry.
Would it ride like the bigger all-mountain bike?
Instead, it was even more fun, clearly the most fun bike I rode in 2022. The shorter travel makes the bike feel more progressive, yet the handling is confident through steep & rough trails. It’s an aggressive-feeling trail bike when you hit local singletrack, boosting off every trail obstacle. Then, you can still take it on steeper all-mountain & enduro trails, where the geo is forgiving when you get in over your head, you’ll just feel worked over at the end of a long enduro day.
This is already the fourth photo of me riding the bike across all 4 seasons, in an article not just about this bike (another below, too). It probably got the most saddle time of any one bike this year.
I feel like it’s the perfect bike for extra technical mountain bikers who group ride with people on longer all-mountain & enduro bikes. Or for riders who feel like they might want a modern enduro bike, but end up doing 90% of their riding on singletrack and more tame trails. It requires more work on steeper, rougher trails, but at the same time, you never feel like you have too much bike for more chill rides.
Gravel & Cross Bikes
Editor’s Choice: Ridley Kanzo ADV
Ridley completely revamped their gravel bike line-up over the last couple years, adding the more off-road-focused Kanzo ADVenture this spring. Along my idea of riding every new bike like a mountain bike, this thing actually almost is a modern rigid carbon mountain bike. It gets a bit slacker than normal gravel geometry, long frame reach, wide 1x Eagle gearing, and room for 29er by 2.1″ MTB tires… or faster rolling 45-47mm gravel tires, if you want.
But where it really excels, is as a versatile, adventure & bikepacking-ready gravel bike.
Prospective adventure riders can of course mount anything they can imagine to the 18 bolt-on points for cages, plus additional full fender tabs. But it’s maybe the ability to deeply customize your setup straight from Ridley that has me sold. Pick your fav tires, swap in your preferred bar & stem sizes, maybe even opt for a gravel suspension fork, or just have it custom-painted so you end up with a one-of-a-kind bike.
They’ll even build an adventure setup for you with a dynamo front hub powering front & rear LED lighting, and route all the internal wiring so you don’t have to mess with it!
It’s limitless possibilities that make this a great gravel bike, and you feel that out on the gravel roads or even singletrack. It all feels dialed on the Kanzo Adventure, making for a bike that’s fun to ride on any terrain.
(All) Road Bikes
Honorable Mention: Festka Rover
I’m kinda still over road bikes. Skinny tires just seem so limiting… I want to explore and wander aimlessly. And my local roads are all pretty rough & broken up.
But All-Road certainly has its appeal to me. Some of the bikes in this category are marketed as ‘light gravel’ or ‘fast gravel’. But I’m pretty content dubbing anything fitting bigger than 32mm & smaller than 40mm tires an ‘all-road’ bike.
My carbon all-road Festka isn’t ultra new – it actually came even before the name Rover, as Festka built the bike for me during their all-road/gravel prototyping & development stage. But the more I ride bikes with proper quick road handling but room for massive tires, the more I think this is what most people’s road bikes should be. Just 30mm road tires often aren’t quite enough, but 35s will take you anywhere you can imagine.
Editor’s Choice: A TQ-equipped gravel bike
Update: Keep reading down, now that this ebike just dropped!
Here’s the thing… my favorite new ebike this year is a gravel bike,
AND it doesn’t come out until January. But with TQ’s awesome HPR50 motor & light battery, it is enough of an improvement to what’s out there, that if I were going to buy a new e-bike (and if I had money to burn), I would just wait and get that one. (No more waiting required.)
BMC recently debuted a new version of their Roadmachine AMP X with the TQ motor, but its smaller tires limit it to all-road rather than gravel. And I also rode a TQ-equipped Scott Lumen eRide trail mountain ebike, which was really impressive – quiet, smooth, and super light. But I’m still torn about whether I would want to personally own an e-mountain bike or even e-road bike…
But with all the time spent above the 25km/hr pedal-assist limit on a gravel ebike, it feels a lot less like cheating and only really helps you on the significant climbs. And the TQ system is super smooth, surprisingly customizable, and a TQ carbon gravel ebike can be built up as light as many steel bikepacking bikes anyways, even before you strap on gear.
The wait is over.
Christmas came early for Scott and an early shipment of their new gravel ebike showed up sooner than expected. So what was thought to wait until January, is in Scott bike shops before the end of this year. The new 2023 Scott Solace Gravel eRIDE is almost as light as a normal gravel bike. Its TQ motor is virtually silent, powerful-enough, offers just-right range that’s also extendable, and has the most-natural riding feel I have experienced. There are 50mm gravel tire & 38mm road race tire versions to suit any kind of gravel or all-roading you want. If only we all had the budget for that top-spec model!
Honorable Mention: Hagen Flagship e-Cargo bike
This is a bit of a cheat, as this is essentially the same KP Nighthawk that I singled out last year. But KP changed their name, changed up their offerings a bit, and I decided to actually bike this workhorse. My cargo ebike is a grocery getter, a flatbed shuttling gear for testing back and forth from home to office, a wheelbarrow to transport anything from a kid to bags of recyclables. It’s made entirely in Europe, is gravel-ready, a bit of an activist, and it’s already gone through a second iteration to long-term test another alternate drivetrain. Stay tuned!
Hauling cargo is really where powerful e-bikes shine.
Wheels & Tires
Editor’s Choice – Gravel wheels: Hunt 40 CGR
These new Hunt 40 CGR, Carbon Gravel Race wheels weigh just 1400g, with a 40mm deep aero section 25mm hookless tubeless internal & 30mm outside and an affordable carbon pricetag of $1160/1200€. Hunt rates them for fast gravel racing on tires up to 65mm wide, but you can also fit tubeless-ready tires as narrow as 28mm for a fast all-road ride.
I’ve got them set with some knobby 40mm CX-inspired Tufo Swampero gravel tires (that earned their Editor’s Choice last winter) that keep the wheels feeling super quick, but with tons of grip when gravel devolves into muddy dirt roads, wet field crossings, or snow-covered singletrack. It’s a super versatile setup that makes any gravel bike feel fast.
Editor’s Choice – Gravel tires: Hutchinson Tundra
These Hutchinson Tundra gravel tires are essentially scaled-down, lightweight mountain bike treads and offer much of the performance you’d come to expect from a narrow XC race tire. It really rides a lot like the old Hutchinson Black Mamba XC tire, but with taller knobs that actually offer more cornering grip, even in this relatively narrow 700c x 40mm width. There are also 45mm & 50mm wide versions for even rougher riding, with the high tpi tanwall versions made in France.
Components & Gadgets
Editor’s Choice – Drivetrain: AXS Blips, remote buttons
My favorite drivetrain component this year is probably the set of unobtrusive SRAM Blip remote shift buttons that I stuck under my adventure bike’s bar tape this year. You can barely see the bulges just next to my stem. Mine are the older wired versions, but SRAM added Wireless Blips this summer to make setup even easier. You can argue about the disposable nature of those, if you want.
But after riding a bunch of other SRAM AXS test bikes this year, every time I got on one I was mad that they didn’t have a set of Blips in the same place as my bike back home.
Modern electronic shifts are so quick & precise, making it seamless to always match gearing to your ideal cadence. I shift maybe 1/3 more on an electro-shift bike than a mechanical setup. So, it’s super nice to have those little buttons just under my fingertips where my hands naturally rest while chilling with my hands on the tops. But that just makes me annoyed on all the other AXS bikes that are missing out on this opportunity!
Honorable Mention – Drivetrain: Shimano 105 Di2
Somehow I didn’t actually ride the new Shimano 105 Di2 R7100 groupset that I wrote about this year. Weird. Anyway, it’s less than half the cost of Dura-Ace Di2, yet still promises all the same semi-wireless and perfect electronic shift benefits for a few hundred grams more. Unfortunately, it’s still not cheap.
Therein lies the only real downside I see… that it’s a crying shame that the much more affordable mechanical 105 R7000 group (~2/3 the cost of 105 Di2) didn’t get the same 12-speed upgrade. Oh well, progress marches on and waits for no one.
Editor’s Choice – Saddle: BikeYoke Sagma Carbon
This one came out just a few weeks ago, but BikeYoke’s unique floating, semi-suspension Sagma saddle now gets a lighter carbon-railed version that is just 210g, yet just as comfy as ever with the same supportively stiff memory foam padding.
Picking the softer elastomers lets the saddle move under you on the mountain or gravel bike to help eat up vibration and simply move more smoothly under your butt & between your legs when riding through the rough stuff. Or, I’ve swapped in a stiffer rear elastomer for a more stable platform for more hard surface & road pedaling, limiting my hips from rocking while still getting damping from the soft elastomer in the nose.
And for those who just want conventional rails, Sagma Lite has added those not too, with the same comfy top.
Honorable Mention – Saddle: Posedla custom 3D-printed Joyseat
The promise of 3D-printing saddles from the start was actual individual customization for each rider, but that never really materialized, until Posedla and their Joyseat. I’m really excited about their customization process, and how it will turn out.
It only gets an honorable mention because I don’t have it yet. But this fully custom 3D-printed carbon saddle is in the works and I’ve been documenting the process. I’ve provided all the rider questionnaire data. I’ve completed the home butt-scanning process (don’t worry it’s a scan of a butt imprint, not my bare backside). And the full-custom price is effectively the same as the stock, off-the-shelf cost of 3D-printed saddles from Specialized & Fizik.
Honorable Mention – Electronics: Wahoo Elmnt Roam 2.0
I don’t have this one yet either. But I still prefer the OG Roam for its big, easy-to-read screen and the ability to so quickly & intuitively, make changes on the go via their Elemnt app. Oh, and those useful custom alerts. The new Roam has a more colorful screen, increased contrast, more memory, improved GPS tracking, and USB-C… what’s not to love with a great product getting better.
Editor’s Choice: SQlab SQ-Tool Nine Key Card
I’m an unrepentant Bike Tool Nerd, and this new SQlab SQ-Tool Nine Key Card scratches that itch. This 50€ mini tool kit is just a set of premium Wera hexes, Torx bits & a Phillips screwdriver that clip onto a credit card-sized plastic carrier with a rubber strap around it. On the back side is a recess to carry your ID, a card & a little cash.
Does it have every tool you will ever need on the bike? Of course not. But you won’t find a better quality set of tools this compact anywhere.
Editor’s Choice: Silca Gravelero Pump
Yes, Silca also got on the gravel-specific bandwagon with their new Gravelero pump. Sharing much of the same proven performance tech as was in their Tattico, the newer $75/90€ Gravelero mini-pump gets a slightly larger barrel that airs up larger-volume gravel & mountain bike tires much faster. The smooth external isn’t as nicely grippy as the Tattico, but it doesn’t fill up with mud on every ride. And both pump & hose are just a tiny bit longer. Still mini-ish so it will fit in a jersey pocket, bikepacking bag, or tuck out of the way under a water bottle cage… but it inflates tires faster & easier now.
Honorable Mention: Syncros iS Tubeless Handlebar Tool
The new $35€ Syncros iS Tubeless Handlebar Tool is another simple way to tuck tire repair into the end of your bars tool-free à la Sahmarai Swords – a plug needle, 10 classic plugs in two thicknesses & a knife to trim it clean. It only gets an honorable mention for two reasons: One, I only had the Syncros tool on ~3 rides, although I did get the chance to plug one flat tire with it successfully. And two, the iS suggests an integrated System since its end tab fits best with Syncros’ grips that feature a special corresponding recess to easily get the tool in & out. The Syncros grips aren’t bad, but they’re not my favorites. And while this tool works with other open-ended grips, it will be harder to pull out when you need it.
Editor’s Choice: Ass Savers Win Wing
My first thought was why did Ass Savers make a more complicated clip-on fender. Then, riding with the new Win Wing for a couple of months I realized that it delivers so much better protection – better ass saving – yet it also works better off-road than any full-coverage rear fender I’ve tried. Sure it is still rear wheel-only, but it fits everything from road to XC, rigid & suspension bikes, tires up to 2.35″ wide. And now, Ass Savers keep my taillight clean and my dropper post protected from wheel spray. All for just 25€.
Editor’s Choice: Beer CanClaw
With the simple note of “hold my beer” my friend Robert introduced me to what may be my most useful bikepacking accessory of the next year. Put all of those extra mounts on your adventure bike to good use with the CanClaw Dosenbierhalter (German for Can of Beer Holder).
For 15-19€, Team Dosenbier will 3D-print you a super-secure CanClaw carrier for 33cl, 44cl, or 0.5l cans in many different color options. It holds so tight, you can even take a beer mountain biking with you. Just watch which way you aim it as you crack open a cold one after an especially rocky ride… So, next time you ride past a gas station on the last leg to camp, you can clip-on a beer (or few) for a little post-ride celebration. It’s called a recovery drink, look it up.
Editor’s Choice – All-mountain/Enduro: Dainese Linea 01 full-face
At a real 667g for my XL full-face helmet that’s DH certified and vents so well you’ll pedal up hills with it. The Dainese Linea 01 is a bit of a safety revelation. With MIPS inside & a twICEme NFC chip, it’s probably the world’s lightest full-face helmet. It’s so light on your head and so open with all the vents, that it certainly doesn’t feel like you are wearing a full-face helmet.
I especially like it for chill summer bikepark riding, when a bigger hardshell helmet will make me sweat too much and I don’t plan on trying any new backflips (eds note: Cory has thankfully never tried a backflip or he would break himself, good helmet or not). Or it’s perfect for really difficult enduro trail riding, where it just makes you feel more secure to have the extra face protection.
At 275€ it’s a bit more than most ultralight full-faces, and isn’t super adjustable so you have to get the fit right from the start. But this is the only full-face I will readily wear when I know I’ll be pedaling up big hills.
Editor’s Choice – DH/Bikepark: POC Otocon Race MIPS full-face
Yep, two awesome light full-face helmets in one year! A nod back to my techy riding this year. The POC Otocon Race MIPS has some similar tech to the Linea (MIPS & twICEme NFC), plus a RECCO reflector and a dial-retention that securely wraps around the back of your head. But this slightly more closed and a bit higher volume full-face has a much more burly feel.
At a real 861g for my Large purple, this is the helmet I wear to feel most protected in the bikepark. But at the same time, it is well enough vented for pedaling on cooler days too. I rode it today on a snowy fat bike ride.
But what really makes this helmet shine is the way the dial retention comfortably tightens the helmet securely all around my head, while allowing the integrated MIPS Integra liner to still move to deflect an impact. It’s strange to have a full-face helmet that feels so comfortable on my head, yet be cinched so securely in place. It instills a lot of confidence in me that it will deliver the best protection when I need it the most.
Editor’s Choice – MTB jersey: RVMBLE long sleeve
I don’t often write about clothing from RVMBLE because the tiny German company typically only sells limited-edition designs on a pre-order basis. But these Ltd. DBM (Dynamic Body Movement) long-sleeve shirts are the best 3-season mountain biking tees I’ve worn in years. They are made in Europe from a lightweight & fast-drying, recycled Ocean Balance polyester – taking 500g of plastic waste out of the ocean to make each tee.
They are simple, keep me cool in the summer, yet don’t get too wet from sweat, and they are cheap for MTB jerseys – just 45€.
Above is a past Hide & Seek camo version, below is their Zack Bvmm pattern in white & pink (also in the first Experience photo, at top), and there’s also a NightTrip green colorway of the Zack Bvmm (in the first Blinduro photo & last Spectral 125 photo, above). The trick is, now there are still some brown versions of this zig-zaggy Zack Bvmm pattern still available today. Otherwise, get on the Rvmble newsletter to get on the next pre-sale.
Editor’s Choice – MTB pants: Rapha Trailwear Trail Pants
I have one pair of Rapha Trailwear Pants, but they are in 6 different ride photos in this article. Zach was pretty sure that the shorts were some of the best clothing Rapha ever made, and I think these pants are just as good.
The Trail Pants have a perfect tapered-leg close cut that never gets in the way & never bunches, while comfortably fitting most kneepads underneath. They have four useful main pockets, zippered mesh side vents, and a secure waist belt that’s easy to adjust but never comes undone. They also come with Trailwear repair kit, but I’ve crashed in them a number of times, and they still look unscathed and their DWR treatment still sheds light rain.
On & Off The Bike
Editor’s Choice: Chimpanzee Salty bars
Chimpanzee is a Czech-made, all-natural sports nutrition company that makes great bars, gummies, drink mixes & more to keep you fueled for your ride. The signature had been a real food taste to on-the-go nutrition. But with 3 all-new Salty bars, they’ve kinda turned things on their head. These three bars will make you rethink what you eat on the bike.
Almost every energy bar has a sweet flavor. That seems to come down mostly to athletes looking for quick energy from sugars to fuel their efforts. But Chimpanzee recognized there are only so many chocolate & berry flavored bars you can eat in a row before getting an upset stomach, so they went salty.
Chimpanzee picked Olive – the most chill of the bunch with cashews inside; Pizza – with some Oregano flavoring on top of cashews & tomato; and Spicy – packed with real smoked peppers & peanuts. All three are Vegan, gluten-free, and sell for around 2.5€ per bar or 46€ for a box of 20.
Do yourself a favor and try all three to see which you’ll like best after you’re sick of sugary bars.
Editor’s Choice: Lupine Piko headlamp
Ostensibly, the Lupine Piko is a super-bright 2100-lumen LED helmet light for mountain bike night riding. But get the whole All-in-One kit and it comes with a headlamp strap to make the brightest light you’ve ever strapped onto your bare noggin, plus a Bluetooth remote, and several stick-on & strap-on mounts for various helmet setups. The whole German setup is very well-made, and easy to swap around the latest generation Fastclick battery mounts & Frontclick lamp mounts (just be careful not to force the Frontclick).
The Piko isn’t Lupine’s brightest (leave that to the ungodly bright 8100-lumen Alpha), but it puts out plenty of light for most normal speed on or off-road night riding. And it feels like your best value in lumens per €.
Editor’s Choice: Kolektor Liquishot 25.1 pressure washer
The Liquishot is a really nice stand-alone cordless, high-pressure washer that looks like a cordless drill. That’s because the Slovenian company behind this premium cleaning tool decided to blend the proven ergonomics, power & battery of a Bosch Professional 18V handheld cordless drill and use it to pump out high-pressure water to clean anything that needs cleaning.
What you get is an easy-to-operate, light & compact washing setup (<1500g) that can pressurize water up to 350psi, and pump water out up to 3l/min. It doesn’t need external power, and doesn’t need a pressurized water supply. You can feed it out of a bucket of water, even hot or with detergent already mixed in.
It’s perfect for cleaning bikes away from a water source, but… the catch is, it’s not cheap. The core setup to get you washing is around 490€. Even cheaper if you already have a Bosch drill as it does share the same battery. But you can also get the Pro Kit with all the accessories too for a bit less at 450€ through the holiday shopping season.
Editor’s Choice: Austere Cam Straps
Straps do so much for a cyclist. Hook a spare tube under your saddle rails. Lash down gear onto a bikepacking setup. Strap down boxes on a cargo bike. Secure bikes in the back of a pick-up or adventure van. And for all that precious cargo, you need a strap you can trust. Austere’s Cam Straps with their precision-machined allow clamps and customizable strap lengths keep my stuff in place. Long straps tie down our whole family’s bikes when we go bikeparking, and short straps get all the small gear to stay where it belongs.
OK, that’s a wrap.
I could wax poetically without end ’til the cows come home about all the gear I’ve ridden in 2022. Instead, I’ll look back to starting the season in the sun with gravel friends in southern Spain.
And then, to the local mountain bike skills center, hitting frost-covered step-down drops with my wife after we dropped the kids off at school one day last week…
There may still be supply shortages as not every bike industry company managed to correctly predict what the world would look like after two years of pandemic followed by a year of war on the edge of Europe and a looming energy crisis. But there will always be new bikes, new tech, and new stories that need to be told. Sometimes that is easy, sometimes it is more complicated.
But I’m ready for another year of new bike gear, and I’ll do my best to show you the best of what’s to come.
Until then, a happy holidays to all of you beautiful nerds. I hope you can get out and ride your bikes between now and the new year. Or that you can appreciate your time off the bike. We’re all looking forward to more great rides, and more great riding with friends in 2023!
Full disclosure: Each of these products has been chosen purely on their performance and/or technological merits for the reasons described above. Many more great products have passed through my hands this year. Under no circumstances were any of our selections paid for by their producers. Nor was any preference or favor given to brand or advertiser. My selections are mostly (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 can make it more likely that we will have considered their products, if only because we can share our real, firsthand experiences.