MY FAVORITE CYCLING THINGS OF 2023
We’ve tested and published reviews of more road and gravel cycling gear this year than ever before.
I counted 50 products tested and 45 reviews so far in 2023.
Shout out to my fellow testers Nate, Miles, Conor, Aiyana, and Adam for carving out time to evaluate gear during their busy family and work lives. While trying out new gear is usually a good time, we put a lot of thought into analyzing the performance characteristics and differences between all of the wheels, tires, helmets, shoes, saddles, bike computers, power meters, components, bibs, and other apparel we get to check out and tell you about.
You might think that reviewing more gear than ever has made it harder to pick our favorites this year.
While many of the selections are the best gear we’ve tested, the only requirement is that they are, for whatever reason, our favorite cycling things. That’s much more subjective, easier, and fun.
So here are our favorites. Leave a comment below to let us and your fellow readers know about your favorite cycling things of this year.
All Road Jackpot – Roval Terra CLX II
Beyond the training and group rides that are the core of my cycling life, I’m riding a wider variety of terrain and surfaces than ever. Road and gravel, long climbs and rollers, smooth and chunky roads, epic rides and hard events.
While I want the best gear for each ride, the cost of having a “quiver” of different wheels that are the best for each terrain and surface is beyond my reach and likely that of most.
While not a new concept, there’s a growing category of all-road wheels that excel across the broader range of cycling situations that enthusiasts increasingly ride. Formerly the domain of the ENVE SES 4.5 and SES 3.4 and, more recently, the Zipp 454 NSW and 353 NSW, wheels I continue to recommend, high-performance wheelsets from Bontrager, Cadex, Reserve, and Roval are also now part of this category.
I’m not talking about Swiss army knives or jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none compromised wheelsets. Rather, these wheels are laterally stiff yet vertically compliant, wide yet light, deep yet stable, and responsive yet durable enough to do a crit one day and a gravel ride the next or a long, steep road climb followed by a cyclocross race. And they ride as well as the best wheelsets dedicated to any of those disciplines, terrains, or surfaces.
The Roval Terra CLX II hit the jackpot for the road and gravel cycling Miles and I did when we tested it this year. This one wheelset excels across a broader range of terrain and surfaces than most other high-performance all-road wheels and does so at a better price.
You can order it from Performance Bike, Tredz (10% off with code ITKTDZ10), and Cyclestore, online stores I’ve vetted and recommend for their competitive prices, selection, customer satisfaction, and reader support.
To read more about this wheelset and others in this category, go to my review of the best all road wheels.
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Comfort Plus Confidence Equals Speed – Vittoria Corsa Pro G2.0 TLR
Put the numbers aside for a minute. When I ride tires that feel super comfortable and whose grip and handling give me the confidence to push my bike as hard as my legs can, I will ride faster and with more smiles per mile than on ones that don’t deliver those same sensations.
That’s how I felt riding the Vittoria Corsa Pro G2.0 TLR when testing it this year. It’s a cotton tire with heat-bonded tread in a tubeless form that holds air and keeps out punctures as well as the top everyday training and racing tubeless tires like the Continental Grand Prix 5000 S TR.
And the Vittoria’s tire-loss rolling resistance and mounted width measurement numbers are in the same top tier as the Conti.
Yes, I still love riding the Conti GP5K S, and it remains our benchmark tire for wheelset testing. But when I’m not testing or just want a fast and fun ride, you’ll find me riding the Vittoria Corsa Pro.
To read more about these tubeless tires and others in this category, see my review of the best tubeless tires.
Gravel Racing Stoke – DT Swiss GRC 1400 Spline
While I’m a party-in-the-back kind of gravel rider, my fellow tester Conor is a business-up-front racer. When I reviewed his notes from testing the DT Swiss GRC 1400 Spline gravel wheels, it was clear he was super-stoked after racing them.
Conor is my top gravel tester. He lives in Vermont, where most roads are dirt, and the gravel and mountain bike trails are seemingly endless. Riding these DT Swiss gravel wheels, he set PRs and moved up the KOM ranks on several Vermont segments.
And while I’m not nearly as fast as Conor, I sensed an energy in the GRC 1400 when I rode them that told me this was a day to ride hard rather than put it on cruise control.
What about the DT Swiss GRC 1400 Spline gets us revved up? They’re laterally stiff and very responsive to your call to accelerate. You almost feel them propelling you forward. And when the rolling is steadier, the GRC 1400 maintains its momentum better than most gravel wheels we’ve tested.
It’s not a climbing wheelset or as comfortable for some on a long day in the saddle. But for a typical, several-hour gravel race or fast ride, it’s built for speed.
I’m always happy when one of my testers or fellow cycling enthusiast readers raves about some gear I’ve exposed them to. That makes the DT Swiss GRC 1400 Spline one of my favorite cycling things of 2023.
Glad to Know You – Tufo Gravel Tires
A little-known brand outside the tubular tire world and one not widely distributed in the US, Tufo rose to the top of my tire consciousness this year.
The Czech company’s Gravel Thundero and Gravel Swampero proved to be top performers in our ongoing tests of small knob and big knob tires, respectively, and rate among the best gravel tires we’ve tested.
The Gravel Thundero is fast on pavement, dirt roads, and smooth gravel. It’s also versatile enough to perform well on rougher surfaces. While not a specialist tire, its large edge knobs can also get you through on sand and mud where traction is at a premium.
I rate it right up there with the Continental Terra Speed. Conor prefers it, especially in the 44mm width.
Nearly as fast and even more versatile, the Tufo Gravel Swampero has big knobs both down its center and along the edges. As its name suggests, it’s a mud season tire as good as the much revered Rene Herse Hurricane Ridge in those conditions.
And it’s 100 grams/tire lighter and 50% less expensive than the Hurricane Ridge. Better yet, the Gravel Swampero is also versatile enough to be an exceptional all-around gravel tire that gives you confident handling on loose and rough Class 3 and Class 4 surfaces while not giving up much in dry, fast conditions on paved, dirt, and spread gravel roads.
When I’m unsure what mix of gravel I’ll find on a new route or too lazy to mount up the best tires for one I’ve know well, I don’t feel like I’ve over-tired or slowing myself down riding the Gravel Swampero.
I’m looking forward to testing their everyday road tubeless tires next year. In the meantime, you can pick up the Gravel Thundero and Swampero using this link to BTD (Bike Tires Direct).
Old Dog, New Tricks – Video Inserts, Reels, and YouTube
With a face for radio and a voice for writing, this old dog waded ankle-deep into the video waters this year. And while I’m still learning how to do it, readers and viewers seemed to appreciate what video adds to our ability to help you decide what gear and kit to get.
Being able to drop short video clips of products we’ve tested into the reviews I put up on the site, like the one at the top of this post, gives a better sense of what the gear looks like when riding it than still photos.
For those dipping (or diving) into social media, the short videos I put up on our Instagram account keep you up to speed on what we’re testing or just finished reviewing.
And with our YouTube video reviews like the one above, you see and hear things that are hard to describe in words and photos alone. Things like how Garmin, Hammerhead, and Wahoo computer screens look in different light conditions or what a gurgling SRAM brake sounds like.
I’m enjoying the positive reaction we’re getting from these videos. If you want to see them, do the follow and subscribe thing, and I’ll keep them coming.
This One’s Just for You – Posedla Joyseat
For a review I hope to finish in early December, several of my fellow testers and I rode four 3D cycling saddles from leading suppliers.
One of my goals for this review was to fulfill the request to review saddles I regularly get from readers but can never seem to deliver on with more than a two-word phrase – it’s personal. Just because a saddle works for me doesn’t mean it would for you. But can the right, personalized 3D-printed work for anyone?
While choosing the 3D-printed saddles to test, determining how to evaluate them, and comparing them against each other 3D-printed and standard saddles was new for me, the result of our testing was far more straightforward than I had expected.
The bottom line? If you haven’t found a standard cycling saddle that gives you the fit and comfort you need or want, the Posedla Joyseat is the best, competitively-priced 3D-printed saddle solution we’ve tested.
I’ll have more to say and plenty of details in the upcoming review. But because this saddle was one of my favorite cycling things of 2023, I wanted to include the Posedla Joyseat in this post.
In the meantime, or if what I’ve told you is enough to start to look into it further, you can go to the Posedla site to check it out yourself.
Extend the Season in Comfort – Assos Equipe Bib Tights
While I’m not one to ride outside during the winter – I’d rather be skiing – I do like to get out as soon as the roads are cleaned up in the spring and keep riding through the fall until the temps drop low enough for the snow guns to start pumping out the white stuff.
There are a lot of good jacket and jersey choices to keep my torso comfy during the variable spring and fall weather “shoulder season” when temps range from 40-60F/5-15C.
But like their summer bib shorts, Assos’s Equipe RS Spring Fall Bib Tight S9 stands out among bib tights for rides in those temps and was one of my favorite cycling clothing things I tested this year.
The bib tights include Assos’s supremely comfortable Equipe RS chamois, the best I’ve ever worn. At the same time, the thin fleece-lined leg panels with just the right amount of compression and stretch, a single, well-placed seam along each leg, and no bunching behind the knee make these bibs feel like they are part of you rather than something you’re wearing.
Below the Surface Changes Bring It to the Top – Shimano RC903
There are several very, very good road bike shoes we recommend. Among those, the best one for you will likely have the heel hold, forefoot width, and toe box room that fits you best and the style you like the most.
Amidst all the good options, the new Shimano S-Phyre RC903 is one of my favorite cycling things this year. While already one of the best-performing road cycling shoes, Shimano made two changes inside the shoes that now make them one of the most comfortable.
By adding room to the toe box and reshaping the heel cup for a more anatomical fit, the RC903 fills the gap in the high-performance, dual Boa cycling shoe category.
They now slot between brands that have increased their top shoe’s volume in search of more comfort in exchange for a less precise fit and others whose shoes have remained true to the traditional tight and narrow last characteristics that give your feet more control of the power coming out of your shoes, at least until your toes and forefoot want a comfort break.
I could go on, and I do in both my comparative review of the best road bike shoes and an entire YouTube video about these latest Shimano S-Phyre RC903. Click on either of those to see more or size and price them out using these links to Competitive Cyclist, BTD (BikeTiresDirect), Tredz (10% off w/code ITKTDZ10), and Cyclestore.
The Best Gets Better – Specialized S-Works Prevail 3
Of all of those, Miles and Nate loved wearing the Specialized S-Works Prevail 3 most of all. Amongst helmets and the other gear they tested, the Prevail 3 was one of their favorite cycling things this year.
While they’d reviewed and rated the previous Prevail as one of the best, the Prevail 3’s added ventilation, improved fit adjustments, better integrated MIPS system, and increased clearance for large sunglasses make it even better.
Click the first link above to read more or one of these links to recommended stores Competitive Cyclist, Performance Bicycle, Tredz (10% off w/code ITKTDZ10), and Cyclestore to order the S-Works Prevail 3.
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Thank you for reading. Please let me know what you think of anything I’ve written, or ask any questions you might have in the comment section below.
And let me know what your favorite cycling things have been this year in the comments below.
Thanks, and enjoy your rides safely! Cheers, Steve