It’s that time of year again. As the year winds down, I end up thinking back and looking over my pieces for 2023 and awarding my picks for Editor’s Choice. I noticed while doing so, that I didn’t review a whole lot this year… at least not as much as I would’ve liked. And I didn’t do a lot of travel this year.
What travel I did do for the two shows I attended, I could drive to… I didn’t have to get on a plane, which was nice.
I am in a temporary workspace, so I didn’t have a lot of space to store stuff to review… like bicycles. As a result, I only reviewed one full bicycle this year.
I’m not complaining at all. I had a great year, and I know I have a dream job. And, I feel lucky every day to have the opportunity to share bike stuff with you guys. I appreciate you guys. You are a huge part of the success of Bikerumor. I love sharing my thoughts and opinions with you, and I enjoy reading yours.
So, let’s start this year-end Editor’s Choice Awards ritual with a big one for the readers….all of you, even the snarky ones. I do appreciate the crap outta you guys. And, I appreciate the time you take to geek out with us every day, it’s pretty awesome!
You guys butter my biscuits!
Let’s get to the other awards for the year.
Best Bike Experience
Editor’s Choice: MADE Bike Show
As I mentioned earlier, I did attend two shows this year. One was the always fun and crazy Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, CA. The other was the MADE Show which was held in Portland, Oregon. 2023 was the inaugural run of this particular show. MADE is the brainchild of Billy “Souphorse” Sinkford of ECHOS Communication. Billy has an unmatched and contagious passion for the bicycle and all of the culture that surrounds it.
The show was put together to showcase the wonders of the handmade bicycle frame fabricators and the small cottage industry of artisans, parts makers, inventors, and tinkerers that support the handmade bike world. The show wasn’t held in a sterile, boring convention hall, it was held at a cool venue called Zidell Yards. A huge open-air, 100-year-old barge manufacturing building, Zidell Yards matched the feel and aesthetics of the show perfectly. When all was said and done, it was the perfect venue for this show.
Billy’s scope of the show – to turn the world’s attention to the small independent bicycle frame makers, came to fruition with attendance hitting an impressive 5000+ mark for the three days. And to help all of the brands, even international brands take part in the magic, the exhibitor’s booths were very reasonably priced. This was great, as so many of these small brands are true cottage industries with only a single owner/operator.
It was a fun and magical few days in the PNW.
The best bike show of 2023 goes hands down, to MADE 2023. And I’m looking forward to attending in 2024!
Best Drop Bar ATB
Editor’s Choice: Sklar Super Something
The Sklar Super Something was the only bicycle I had the opportunity to review in 2023. And let me tell you, I’ve ridden a lot of bicycles in my day, and the Super Something is pretty amazing. It’s a wonderfully designed bicycle.
It’s also one of the easiest and best-handling bikes I have ever ridden. The geometry isn’t anything trendy, or groundbreaking it’s just a rock-solid blend of perfect angles that lead to a superb handling bicycle. The tire clearance on the Super Something is fantastic, lending to the bike being able to be set up in so many different ways, like a true ATB.
The Super Something I reviewed was the top-tier model of the five Radavist versions made available last year. The new Super Something framesets are designed by Adam Sklar in Boseman, Montana, and manufactured in Taiwan. They retail for $1500 and for a bike that rides like the Super Something, that price is a steal.
My choice for the best bicycle for 2023 is the Sklar Super Something… I will own one very soon.
Best Place for Your Tush
Editor’s Choice: Brooks B17 Special Ti Saddle
Those who know, know. And those that don’t know, don’t care to know. But, that’s OK… here are the facts, Brooks England makes a great bicycle saddle. The most comfortable one. And their B17 model is the only saddle I’ve used for the last 10 years. Sure, I know it’s not for everyone, but it’s the cat’s meow for me.
The Brooks B17 Ti saddle is in no way, light… even with all titanium rails and frame. It is, though, a lot lighter than a traditional B17 Special. A traditional B17 Special (retail: $200) weighs in at 540g, while the B17 Special Ti (retail: $300) version comes in at 444g. It’s not a saddle that you would use while racing a road bike, or racing any bike for that matter. But, if comfort is what you want while getting in those “smiles per hour”, or you hate riding with a pillow between your legs (a chamois), then the Brooks B17, B17 Special, or B17 Special Ti saddle could be your jam.
I have been riding blissfully lycra-free for approx 10 years, and the Brooks B17 has been a big part of the equation when it comes to my comfort while doing so. It does take approx. a hundred miles or so, in my experience, to truly break the B17 in. But man, when it’s broken in and molds to your sit bone anatomy like a butt-glove, it’s magic.
The B17 Ti ramps saddle comfort up a few notches by the added compliance in the titanium rails and saddle frame. This Ti version of this saddle rides like no other B17 I own. It’s the epitome of gluteus maximus comfort.
For my behind, the best saddle for comfort in 2023 is the Brooks B17 Special Ti… butts down.
Best Bar Tape… Ever
Editor’s Choice: Camp and Go Slow Western Rattler Bar Tape
No hyperbole, the Camp and Go Slow Eastern and Western Rattler bar tape is the greatest bar tape available to mankind. I’ve been using the Western Rattler bar tape exclusively for a little over 3 years now. I am in the process of finally getting a formal review of this tape.
But all kidding aside, it’s no joke… this tape is pretty remarkable. Not only is it super-duper handsome, adding a wonderful aesthetic to just about any bike, but it’s also washable and reusable. The colors of either “coast” match leather saddles perfectly…so, you got that going for ya. I’ve used the same tape on three different bar swaps, it still wrapped beautifully and feels great. The tape also comes in a nice little reusable nylon rip-stop bag, that’s made in Pennsylvania.
Coming in two rolls of 3300mm in length, the woven tape can wrap the widest of bars. It’s made of a long-wearing, durable nylon blend. It’s only slightly padded (1.5mm), and the weave of the tape lends to riding gloveless quite nicely as it is very comfortable. It retails for $44 and comes packaged in a USA-made rip-stop bag. No plugs or finishing tape is included.
So, yeah… my pick of the best bar tape in 2023 (and forever….shhhh).
Best Roof Rack
Editor’s Choice: Yakima Rib Cage for Jeep JL
When we got our “new” 2021 Jeep JL back in July of 2023 I immediately started researching racks that could accommodate a rooftop tent. I was shocked by the sheer amount that was available. They were all very expensive and other than one of the methods, all of them required drilling the top of the Jeep.
The top of Jeep Wranglers are fiberglass and removable. So, the rack systems that can hold the occupants of a rooftop tent need to incorporate the inside structure of the Jeep. Drilling through the top, like in this case, is done to use the roll bar for its weight bearing.
While scrolling YouTube, I found an installation video, by Yakima, on their Rib Cage rack system for a Jeep JL 4-door. It looked like a simple-ish install. So, I looked on the Yakima site and was shocked that their rack system was, literally half the cost ($600) of the others I was considering and had almost double the dynamic weight capacity (330lbs). Dynamic weight capacity is, in my opinion, the most important of the weight ratings for a vehicle like a Jeep.
One of the most attractive things about the Rib Cage is that, without load bars on it, it virtually disappears while on the vehicle. Also, the Rib Cage, after being installed, still allows you to take the roof off your Jeep if you so desire.
I installed it almost immediately after receiving it. I watched the video 3-4 times, and other than the daunting task of drilling the roof, the installation went fairly easily. I’ve driven close to 6000 miles, and have done a dozen off-road trips with the SkyRise Rooftop Tent on it, and the rack remains silent with not a single creak to be heard. Impressive.
Best roof rack system for Jeep JLs with 4-doors, the Yakima Rib Cage gets the award!
Best Top Tube Bag
Editor’s Choice: Orucase Top Tube Bag
Magnetic zippers…who’d a thunk? That’s the feature that drove me to review the Orucase Top Tube Bag in the first place. I mean, I think top tube bags are useful and, in some cases, essential gear, but there usually isn’t a lot to “review” about them
Not the case with the Orucase. What makes the Orucase unique is the magnetic zippers. They were a shocking game changer for me when accessing my snacks or phone for photos while riding. In a true one-step/one-handed operation I just dipped my hand into the bag and pulled out my phone… boom, the bag closed right back up, and Bob’s yer Uncle, all in less than a second.
The Orucase Top Tube bag fits my large phone (Google Pixel 6 Pro) too, with no problem. It has a cool cable port which is great for earphones or charging your light or phone. But for me, it’s great for running a charging cord from my phone in the bag down to my dynamo light to charge my phone while riding. It holds my phone, a bandana, a fig bar, sunglasses, and even a banana if you Tetris it in there. It retails for only $50.
It’s a great lil’ bag and my pick for the best Top Tube Bag of 2023.
Best Cycling Shoe
Editor’s Choice: Stomp Lox Slack
The great pair of shoes is the Stomp Lox Slack – a unique, handsome, sturdy, well-made, comfy cycling shoe that has a nostalgic aesthetic. I’ve got a few hundred miles on them and they are holding up very well. Being that they are closed, suede leather shoes, you pair them with a pair of Pinebury wool socks, and your feet will be toasty warm on cold night rides to drink beer or an early morning #coffeeoutside session.
They’re head-turners and conversation starters as well, as they are reminiscent of 1960s hiking boots. You could even say that they look like the shoes that the MTB pioneers were wearing while flying down Repack.
They are effortless when it comes to clipping in and out of my XT Trail pedals. They are also nice for regular walking during those “off-the-bike” moments. They are great while hike-a-biking too.
Look, they’re a great cycling shoe. The supple soft interior leather, especially in the heel cup, comfortably keeps you from suffering “heel slip”.
Coming from riding, mostly exclusively in Bedrock Sandals, the wide-toe box of the Slacks looked appealing to me. The toe box is wide, but not gratuitously so. It’s perfect for my feet.
The best bike shoe for 2023 goes to Stomp Lox for the unique and versatile Slack cycling shoe.
That’s it! I hope you enjoyed the list. I had a great time testing the gear out and loved sharing my thoughts about them with you guys.
Until next year!
Each of these products was entirely chosen purely on their technical merits, by me personally, and for the reasons described above. More great products passed through my hands in 2023. Under no circumstances were any of my picks, paid for by their producers. Nor was any preference or favor given to brand or advertiser. My selections are 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.