I’m pretty lucky to have long riding seasons where I live, but it always seems to end too soon! Winter is setting in across British Columbia, so it’s time to take a short break and reflect on the bikes and cycling products that impressed me most throughout 2023.
Despite a leg injury this year, I still managed to test a few mountain bikes and a fair number of products. Clothing and gear was the biggest category for me this time; I tested quite a few nice pieces but I’ve highlighted my favorite helmets, gloves, jackets, and eyewear below.
It’s been nearly nine years since I wrote my first article for Bikerumor, and I’m always anxious to see what’s coming next for the bike industry. In this short period mountain bikes have seen huge improvements, let alone the rapid development of ebikes. Mechanical reliability is generally excellent with today’s bikes and components, which equates to less time fixing things and more time in the saddle.
Living in a small mountain town in British Columbia, I spend most of my time riding trail or enduro bikes (electric or not). I’m also happy to test gravel or commuter bikes, but road riding hasn’t caught my interest quite yet. I’m not a competitive rider, having fun is the number one goal for me. That said, I like to ride fast on rough, slabby trails and push my limits when the feeling is right!
While I’m not including this because it was a favorite of mine, my biggest cycling-related experience this year was physiotherapy! In late February I strained my left adductor (the big muscle that runs down the inside of your thigh) and initially, it was bad enough that five minutes of pedaling would have me hobbling up my front stairs afterward.
With the help of my physiotherapist (shout out to Anna at Lifemark Physiotherapy!) I gradually regained flexibility and strength in my strained adductor. Physio didn’t speed up the process as I hoped, but within what’s considered a normal time frame I was back riding bikes. By mid-June, I was able to ride fairly well, and by the end of the season, I was pedaling just as long and far as I normally would. I’m now done with physio sessions and will be sticking with a basic maintenance program through the winter. Here’s hoping for a better start to next year!
Editor’s Choice: Trek Slash
I’ve always liked Trek’s ABP suspension linkage, but what they did with the high-pivot version for the 2024 Slash only made me happier. The Slash’s forte is manhandling rough terrain, and does it ever! Now bumped to 170mm travel front and rear, this bike gobbles up bumps of all sizes better than anything I’ve ridden yet. And that’s with a 27.5” rear wheel.
What really won me over was realizing the Slash isn’t just extra squishy; I found it pops off jumps better than other Treks I’ve ridden and launches out of corners very well. Combine that solid suspension with modern, adjustable geometry and you’ve got a top contender in the enduro class. This was also the first MX bike I’ve ridden long-term, and I agree they’re a fun ride. Rear wheel clearance on steeps is great, but the sharper cornering is what I really enjoyed.
I’m currently wrapping up my review of the 2024 Trek Slash, so watch Bikerumor shortly for that article!
Editor’s Choice: SCOR 2030
On the opposite end of the spectrum, SCOR’s 2030 was the shortest travel bike I’ve ever tested at 120mm rear/140mm front. Thankfully though, SCOR designed this bike to ride like a short-travel enduro, giving it a slack head angle of 64.5° (in Slack position) and building the frame just as strong as their 4060 enduro bike. While some readers weren’t too impressed with the weight of 30.78lbs with pedals, this is several pounds less than anything I’ve ridden recently so that combined with 29” wheels made the 2030 an absolute joy to climb.
Of course on the descents, that slack head tube allows you to ride the 2030 with practically no limitation. I did not hesitate to ride my area’s steepest and roughest trails on this bike, and while the short travel demands a bit more body language, the bike handled everything just fine. Riding the 2030 encourages precise handling, but leaves plenty of room for error! It would be a great choice for long-travel riders who want to play with something a little smaller and lighter.
Honorable Mention: Pivot Shuttle AM
The only ebike I had more than one ride on this year was Pivot’s Shuttle AM. Pivot did a fine job of building a frame with up-to-date geometry that perfectly fits the Shuttle AM’s ‘All Mountain’ classification. There is a flip chip too, so you can fine-tune the angles by +/- 0.4° to be a bit more ‘trail’ or ‘enduro’. I also liked this eMTB’s comfortable reach and low standover height.
I was pretty impressed with Bosch’s electronics too. The Performance Line CX motor and a 750Wh battery give the Shuttle AM plenty of power and range. What I really liked was the fast, precise response to pedaling inputs, and I found Bosch’s self-regulating eMTB mode managed power output really well. The wireless remote and rear wheel sensor also make for a nice clean look on the bike.
Editor’s Choice: FUNN Python Pedals
As one of your contact points, it’s important to have a good set of pedals that your feet like sitting on. FUNN came to the table this year with their updated Python flat pedals, and at 100x110mm I found them just big enough to offer solid support to all parts of my size 9.5 feet. The pedals look quite shapely, but they maintain a fairly square platform. The nice part of being ‘just big enough’ is the weight stays impressively low at 373g for the pair. For an alloy model, FUNN also managed to keep the price of the new Python Pedals relatively reasonable at $115 US.
While the pedal bodies are slightly concave, FUNN sells optional longer pins for the new Pythons. The grip was already good without them, but I installed the longer pins on the front and rear of the pedals which boosted traction and enhanced the concave feel.
Clothing and Gear:
Editor’s Choice: ABUS Airdrop Full Face Helmet
ABUS might not carry the same prestige or history as brands like Troy Lee Designs or Bell but don’t count their helmets out. This year I tested the AirDrop full face and came away pretty impressed with how cool and comfortable it was. Even without a carbon shell, the AirDrop MIPS is lightweight enough to pedal in for hours, hitting my scale at 799g for a size S/M.
The new ABUS AirDrop is also MIPS equipped, very well ventilated, offers a great field-of-view and goggle compatibility, and includes a dial retention system to ensure a snug fit. Last but not least, ABUS offers the option of adding their crash detecting and ride metric tracking QUIN sensor, so you can feel safer on solo rides and analyze your personal stats.
Editor’s Choice: 7mesh Cache Anorak
I’m a fan of 7mesh’s riding gear, and their new Airmap Cache Anorak did not disappoint. One of the first pieces of the brand’s new PFAS chemical-free Airmap line, the Cache Anorak is an excellent temperature regulator that breathes well enough to justify not having pit zips. As an outer layer, it blocks wind effectively and keeps you warm right down to freezing temperatures with a good mid layer underneath. It’s also a versatile jacket on its own, with a half-zip to open up some airflow and 7mesh’s Stash System that straps it to your bike if you get too warm.
Water resistance was great too; while it’s not advertised as waterproof, the Cache held up to at least 45 minutes of steady rain without soaking through anywhere. Finally, 7mesh nailed the Cache’s relaxed fit – there’s ample room for layers underneath but the anorak isn’t baggy at all. The only thing I would have preferred is a slightly larger and adjustable hood so you could ride with it over a helmet on colder days.
Editor’s Choice: Racer Factory Gloves
Racer’s Factory Gloves quickly earned a spot as my new favorite! What I liked most about them was the slick Lycra main fabric, which feels like a thin wetsuit and offers a bit of stretch for a second-skin fit. The lambskin palms were also great; they’re thin, grippy everywhere, and soft to the touch. The Factory gloves presented no comfort issues with seams or bunching during my test rides. While there’s nothing that makes these gloves particularly cool, they do breathe well and are perfectly suitable for three-season riding.
As soon as I got the Factory Gloves, I thought they looked and felt like a high-end product. Riding in them confirmed this, and I’ll definitely be reaching for them next spring.
Honorable Mention: Leatt Velocity 4.0 X-Flow Goggles
In almost any conditions Leatt’s massively ventilated Velocity 4.0 X-Flow goggles are a great option to keep your face cool and your lenses clear. You get the protection of a full-sized goggle lens, but with the open vents up top and the cut-out frame below, air flows through these goggles like no other. I never found the airflow itself was enough to bother my eyes, and never managed to get any water or mud sprayed up behind the lens. The lens would not produce any condensation, through variable conditions from hot mid-summer rides to short climbs in cool, damp weather.
I did have one issue with water dripping off my open-faced helmet onto the inside of the lens, so there are conditions they may not be suitable for. That said, in anything short of monsoon rains the Velocity 4.0 X-Flow goggles will be my top choice for next season.
Honorable Mention: Julbo Edge Sunglasses
This summer I rode with Julbo’s Edge sunglasses, which included two lenses that are super simple to swap out. A small magnet holds the lens to the frame, and a simple upward push on the lens pops it off. Most importantly, the lenses stay put while riding!
Julbo’s Reactiv photochromic lens offers a wide range of light transmission, and it’s always great to have a clear lens to swap on for mud or wind protection. I liked how lightweight the Edges were (26g), and that the lenses are fairly tall, providing good eye coverage and lower peripheral vision. Both lenses proved to resist condensation very well too.
The Julbo Edge sunglasses don’t come cheap but getting both the photochromic and clear lenses makes this a versatile pair of sunglasses you could wear on any ride.
Off The Bike:
At Crankworx Whistler, Trek Bicycles decided to hook up all the media people with a pair of Crocs! I had never owned a pair until now, and I quickly realized why they’re so popular. They’re comfortable, well-ventilated, and more protective than most sandals, and since I use the heel strap they stay on my feet reliably. I took them on a camping trip and really liked how you could step in and out of the water with them. They were great for wading around the rocky beach I was visiting, and they drain themselves out when you’re back on land. Thanks Trek!
Having recently achieved ‘over the hill’ status, the years are flying by faster than ever! I’ve had two significant injuries in the last three years, but generally speaking, I’m in the best shape of my life so I’m glad I got into MTB! I came to the right place to do it – it’s hard to beat British Columbia’s mountainous terrain and endless trail networks.
As for what the future holds, I’m curious to see how much electronic componentry finds its way onto mid or even entry-level mountain bikes in the next few years. I’ll bet we see more and more bike parks popping up at ski resorts, and more e-commuter bikes cruising the cities. Hopefully, most people that got into cycling during the pandemic stick with it and get hooked on the joy of riding a bike, whether that means racing DH or enduro, tricking the local dirt jumps, or simply pedaling around town. Ride on!
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 any brand or advertiser. My selections are limited to products I’ve actually spent time riding/testing in person. 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.