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Editor’s Choice: Jordan Villella’s Best Bikes & Gear 2022

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It’s hard to narrow down the best of the year with so many excellent products released in 2022. However, there are many standouts and ones that made my Editor’s Choice list created a lasting impression long after the review period was over — gear that I just could not put down. This gear ranges from road to mountain, tires to head units, and a ramp for good measure.

About Jordan

Photo Credit: Evette Gabriel

As a bit of get-to-know-me, I’m the road, cross-country mountain, and cyclocross guy, I like to race my bike, but I have as much fun cruising around with the family. I gravitate to the race and performance side of cycling and can spend too much time talking about tires and tire pressure. I spent years as a mechanic, so I love seeing parts evolve and how they stand up to real-world abuse. I coach cyclists of all abilities with Cycle-Smart, so I love to see how human performance and bike technology converge.

Jordan V Ed Choice raphi racing
Photo Credit: Mike Briggs

For 2022 I spent lots of time on the road (with a Garmin Varia radar) and in the woods searching for hero dirt. I spent my weekends experiencing our local race scene in Pittsburgh and enjoying events. During the summer months, I spent an equal amount of time in the single track and regional criteriums, and I am happy to see racing back to (somewhat) normal in our part of Western PA.

Jordan V Ed Choice nino racing
Photo Credit: Mike Briggs

From the late summer till winter, I spent lots of time at our local cyclocross course at Hollow Oak Land Trust, slopping around in the mud, mentoring new riders, and racing with friends. 2022 is the year I saw my kids enter their first race, and I entered my first master race; I’m excited about the road ahead.

Jordan V Ed Choice running
Photo Credit: Shawn Geiger

Thank you for reading, commenting, and contributing to our world here at Bike Rumor — now, on to the most excellent gear of the year!

Best Road Bike: Chapter 2 KOKO

Chapter 2 Koko review full bike
Photo Credit: Jordan Villella

The Chapter 2 KOKO is an anomaly. It’s an aero-focused bike that can fit up to 30mm tires, has adjustable seat post compliance, and looks like it should be on a wall in a gallery. The ride is comfortable, the frame is responsive, and the wind is not a problem. The Chapter 2 KOKO hooked me from the first ride.

Chapter 2 Koko review profile front
Photo Credit: Jordan Villella

The KOKOs geo is much more aggressive than most aero bikes I’ve ridden and way more convince inspiring. My first “wow” moment with the KOKO came on a routine descent on my local road loop. I pushed the pace a bit. My upper body was relaxed, and I was calm, going much faster than usual. I found out (after checking my Strava) that I set a PR on decent, yet my heart rate was low, the same with the power. It was a small testament to the forward-thinking design and calm, confident riding the Chapter 2 KOKO inspires.

Best Kid’s Bike: Prevelo ZULU Four

Jordan V Ed Choice prevelo
Photo Credit: Jordan Villella

I passed a booth at Sea Otter, and something caught my eye, a kid’s bike with a colossal cassette, unique design, and kid-focused after-market components. After a quick chat with the team at Prevelo, I knew they were different. We talked about kid-specific geometry, pedals, crankset length, everything — this team was about giving kids a great riding experience and developing lifelong cyclists.

The bike that caught my eye was the Prevelo ZULU Four, a “first real mountain bike” with suspension, hydraulic brakes, and gears… so many gears. I was lucky enough to get one for my son to try out and rip around our local trails.

Prevelo Zulu new Advent rear
Photo Credit: Jordan Villella

Gears and suspension were a big step. After a quick how-to shift tutorial, and suspension lesson (locked for pavement, open to shred it), we were rolling. My son, at this point, had only ridden a single speed. From the first ride, he was stoked. “I can ride up all the hills now,” was the first thing he shouted, dropping me on the neighborhood “big hill.”

Prevelo put lots of thought into all aspects of the design. For example, the pedals are long and narrow (perfect for kids’ feet), the crankset has a narrow q-factor, and the geo is slack, inspiring confidence in new trail riders. The brakes have an easy-adjust knob for reach adjustment for small hands. The “climb it all” gearing is a 1X10 with a Microshift Advent X G-Series 11-48T cassette. To top it all off, the tire and wheels come set up tubeless; add Stans (or what you dig), and you’re ready to roll.

Prevelo Zulu Heir full line
Photo Credit: Jordan Villella

My son was empowered riding the ZULU, and now he could climb the steep trails at our local single track and mountain bike for real. Our rides have gotten longer and more adventurous, and ZULU has taken all the slams with grace and little scuffs. I highly recommend the Prevelo ZULU for anyone looking for a kids bike that will foster a love of mountain biking and be solid to pass down for many kids’ uses.

Best Road Wheels: CADEX 50 Ultra

Photo Credit: Jordan Villella

The CADEX 50 Ultras are everything a roadie could want in a wheel. Unapologetically high-end, boutique presentation, and maximum performance. From opening the box to the setup and finally riding, the CADEX 50 Ultras impressed me.

Like most (if not all) CADEX wheels, the 50 Ultra come with wheel bags, build data, and some cool extras. The add-ons are nice, but what’s most impressive is the ride and versatility. For most high-end road wheels, they are a one-trick pony, too soft for gravel or too narrow for much else. The CADEX 50 Ultras have a beefcake build, with an internal width of 22.33mm and an external of 30mm, leaving 4mm of bead.

CADEX 50 Ultra gravel CRUX
Photo Credit: Jordan Villella

The size is right in the sweet spot for crits, long road rides, and the occasional gravel — though the price could hinder the latter. The aesthetics of the CADEX line is something I love, subdued matte carbon with a metallic design element, matching easily to any bike in the garage.

Best Mountain Bike Wheels: Bontrager Kovee Pro 30

Bontrager Kovee pro 30 rim 2
Photo Credit: Jordan Villella

The Bontrager Kovee Pro 30 is an all-around powerhouse of a cross-country wheel. Light, outstanding hub bear performance with Bontrager’s 108T rear hub and can take one heck of a beating. I’ve been riding the Bontrager Kovee Pro 30 for a while, and they live up to the hype of a supreme training and racing wheelset. Yes — they are not at the top of the Bontrager Kovee line. That space is reserved for the Bontrager Kovee RSL. The Bontrager Kovee Pro 30 is the slightly heavier (1,395g) version of the Bontrager RSL (1,200g) cross-country race wheelset. 

Photo Credit: Jordan Villella

What’s the difference? About 200g and $1000, or a bunch of race entries and gas. I’ve only ridden the Kovee Pro 30, but I can’t see much more coming from a loss of 200g and center lock hubs. The carbon layup for the RSL rim is slightly different, and I understand 200g is a lot for a race bike, but the performance is outstanding for $1,499. The rim is a shallow 22mm and has a pleasant, responsive, but not harsh ride quality.

Photo Credit: Jordan Villella

The rim’s 29mm internal width provided an excellent perch for tires and, paired with a 35mm external width, a robust rim for taking hits. 
If you’re looking for a mountain bike wheelset that can do all the training and racing you need, the Bontrager Kovee Pro 30 is worth a long look. Plus, with the Bontrager “Warrantied for life” program, all Bontrager carbon wheels are backed by a lifetime warranty for the original owner, so shred away!

Best Saddle: CADEX Boost

CADEX Boost Saddle top side
Photo Credit: Jordan Villella

The CADEX Boost saddle is now my favorite road saddle, and it’s been that way since my first ride. Its shape is a mix between the Specialized Power and PRO Stealth, with unique padding that separates it from the bunch.

The most impressive quality of the Boost is the saddle rails, which cradle the rider and dissipate road chatter. Pair that with the EVA+ETPU Particle Flow padding, and you can ride powerfully for hours.

*Remember that all saddles fit riders differently, and the CADEX Boost size of 149mm wide and 246mm long is an excellent mix for my fit.

CADEX Boost Saddle padding
Photo Credit: Jordan Villella

There was little dial-in time for the CADEX Boost compared to other saddles I’ve reviewed. I nosed the saddle down 2° (my go-to fit) and only had to make one adjustment since. I could have serendipitously struck gold with the first adjustment, but I think the saddle’s shape is the real reason. There is no goldilocks’ perfect angle; the fit is very supportive and accommodating to different shapes. If you’re looking for a new road saddle and posterior comfort is paramount, the CADEX Boost could be your new best riding partner.

Best Smart Trainer: Zwift Hub

Zwift Hub Trainer side of trainer
Photo Credit: Jordan Villella

When Zwift came out with its Hub trainer, I was happy to see it targeted more than the watt-watching. There are many trainers and ultra indoor setups, and most cater to high-end or Zwift-race-driven customers. The price of $499 paired with the performance makes this trainer very special.

Zwift with older bike
Photo Credit: Jordan Villella

The setup is straightforward for new smart trainer riders and can accommodate 8 to 12-speed cassettes. Highly recommended for those looking to make the smart trainer jump! After spending months on the Zwift Hub, it stood up to all manner of intervals, race, spilled drink mix, and constant shuffling around the garage.

Best Mountain Bike Shoes: Shimano XC902 S-PHYRE

Shimano xc902
Photo Credit: Jordan Villella

I spent all cyclocross season on the Shimano S-PHYRE XC902 shoes, and I loved them. Let it be known that I came from the previous S-PHYRE shoes and was a fan, but the tread didn’t last long at all. The improvements made to the model are significant in fit, performance, and gear longevity. The S-PHYRE XC902 has a slightly wider fit (something that suits my feet) and a slightly different enclosure system. I wear the same size as the previous version, and there is no fit discrepancy.

Shimano xc902 old vs new
New vs. old Photo Credit: Jordan Villella

The fit is more secure with no hot spots, something I find common amongst footwear that employs the BOA system. This updated security is most likely from the new Shimano Asymmetric Eyestay pattern. Shimano says it “prevents foot twisting when pedaling hard,” but I felt it allowed for a natural feeling pedal stroke with foot movement.

Shimano xc902 tread
Photo Credit: Jordan Villella

Shimano focused intently on the fit and weight of the new S-PHYRE, but the updated toe spikes and tread compound were a significant upgrade for cyclocross. The new toe spikes are 18mm long and are more like a football cleat than a mountain bike shoe. The updated Michelin Ultratread compound is slightly sticker than previous versions and with more midsole traction for unclipped cyclocross pedaling.

Shimano xc902 toes spikes
Photo Credit: Jordan Villella

After many (many) muddy races, training, and power washing, the Shimano XC902 S-PHYRE are just as solid as the day I got them. The color is tinged from scrubbing, but the rubber, carbon, and everything else are intact and ready for mountain bike season. They are highly recommended for riders looking for an off-road race-focused shoe that accommodates wider feet without wide specific sizing.

Best Road Shoes: Giant Surge Pro Shoe

Giant surge pro road shoe
Photo Credit: Jordan Villella

I rarely love a shoe more than the Bonts Vapors I’ve been using for many seasons, but the Giant Surge Pro shoes came across my desk, and I haven’t looked back. The fit is unique; it’s very secure but without feeling constrained. Giant uses a tech called ExoWrap that wraps the foot securely without causing hotspots or tightness. Pair that with the BOA Li2 dials, and your shoe is ready for a sprint for the line all the time.

Giant surge pro road shoe BOA
Photo Credit: Jordan Villella

It’s not only Exowrap that enhances the fit, though. The ExoBeam allows for a super still pedaling platform and some torsional flex in the sole. I loved the Surge Pro on the super hot summer days, the ventilation is supreme, and the open sole vents are very noticeable.

Giant surge pro road shoe carbon EXO SOLE
Photo Credit: Jordan Villella

If you’re looking for an eye-catching road shoe and an all-around performer, the Giant Surge Pro Shoe is a great mix of performance and comfort.

Best Road Tires: Vittoria Corsa N.EXT

Vittoria Corsa N.EXT side
Photo Credit: Jordan Villella

A tire that I’ve ridden nearly all year is the Vittoria N.EXT. I’ve been a fan of the Vittoria Corsa Cotton tires for years, but the cost and fast wear compound make them race-only tires. When the Corsa N.EXT came to market, all my tire needs coincided; tubeless, excellent ride feel, long wearing, and flat protection — Training tires that wouldn’t hold you back in a race.

Vittoria Corsa N.EXT Proto
Photo Credit: Jordan Villella

The nylon casing of the N.EXT gives it a slightly different ride from the Vittoria Corsa Cotton lineup, but not in a bad way. The tire can take more road abuse and still feels supple in the corners with an excellent ride feel.

Vittoria Corsa N.EXT 28mm weight
Photo Credit: Jordan Villella

I appreciate Vittoria’s extensive sizing, from 700 x 24c – 34c, and the wide range of conditions the Corsa N.EXT can accommodate. If you’re looking for a training tire that you can beat into the ground and still race on, you have to try these. I recommend the 26c for racing and the 28c for training, as they were designed around a 19mm inner rim width and run slightly wide on others.

Best Headunit: Garmin Edge 1040 Solar

Photo Credit: Jordan Villella

It was only a matter of time before Garmin merged their solar charging tech from their adventure watch line to their computer head units. The Garmin Edge 1040 Solar is the first (that I know of) to use solar charging that works simultaneously as you ride. It charges while you ride and gives you updates on how much battery you’re gaining.

Garmin Edge 1040 Solar shut donw charging
Photo Credit: Jordan Villella

The Garmin Edge 1040 Solar proves to be a great companion working seamlessly with other Garmin units and apps. The unit is large, but I find it a great training partner and very easy to see on rides — I guess I do belong in the master field.

The large screen allows many metrics to be displayed at once, and the color is delightfully bright in the forest. For turn-by-turn directions, the Edge 1040 Solar is fantastic. The routing is precise and avoids dangerous roads when possible.

Best Skills Development: Sender Ramps Rookie Ramp and Core Skills Manual Machine

Sender ramp Rookie core manual machine
Photo Credit: Sender Ramps

I tried the Core Skills Trainer and Rookie Ramp from Sender Ramps for the family and crew. First, I was impressed with the build quality of the equipment; these are heavy-use intended, which is great because I started to bring them out to our neighborhood ride sessions. I’m terrible at jumping and manuals and want to learn and expand my skills.

The Core Skills Wheelie Machine is an excellent tool for anyone looking to learn to manual and balance their bike better. It fits a crazy wide range of wheel sizes and is excellent for kids, though it is pretty challenging for them. The build is robust and looks more like furniture, so it’s a great conversation/house party piece if you have room. If not, it breaks down quickly and stores well. Sender Ramps Core Skills Manual Machine is a perfect reminder that you can always learn no matter how skilled.

Sender ramp Rookie up
Photo Credit: Sender Ramps

The Sender Ramps Rookie Ramp gets lots of action at our house; it’s portable, has a customizable height, and is fun. It’s great to get riders used to taking lil’ jumps and drops, no matter how old. The risk is very low for beginners, and the lowest setting is rollable for most wheel sizes. We transitioned from using the Rookie Ramp as a flat launch ramp to positioning it before rolling landings.

Sender ramp Rookie down
Photo Credit: Sender Ramps

The Sender Ramps Rookie Ramp packs down reasonably small (for a launch ramp), and we take it to races and NICA events for a fun warm-up. It’s great to see kids and adults enjoy the ramp, and the build quality ensures we can enjoy it for many years.

Here’s to a great 2023 — full of challenging rides, great experiences, and a whole lotta new bike gear!

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3 Comments
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Jason DW
Jason DW
1 month ago

I really need to invest in the Rookie Ramp. Price is right.. no excuse to suck and cower away from jumping

Joe
Joe
1 month ago
Reply to  Jason DW

I really need to invest in the Rookie Ramp. Price is right.. no excuse to suck and cower away from jumping

Joe
Joe
1 month ago
Reply to  Joe

I’m 44 and still jump my bike off things just like I did when I was a kid. It never gets old and I hope to be doing it into my 50s and 60s.

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