Best of 2019: Editor’s Choice Awards
As another year rapidly comes to a close, we’re looking back at the best of the best we’ve seen and ridden in 2019. New bikes, new components, new gear… the cycling industry never disappoints in cranking out new products. And we’ve been lucky to Review much of it in amazing places to ride. Here, our annual Editor’s Choice Awards celebrate our personal selections for the best new products we’ve seen or tried over the past year. Still hunting a (really) last-minute gift idea? This could be a good place to start, whether looking for a new bike, a new gadget, or a new adventure to share with a fellow cyclist in the new year.
I just want to ride my bike. It doesn’t really matter what kind of bike, as long as I’m getting some form of exercise and on two wheels. At one point I would have considered myself more of a mountain biker than anything else, but as I’ve gotten older road bikes, CX bikes, and now gravel bikes have become a much bigger part of my life. I can get bored pretty easily with a single style of riding, and for me one of the biggest motivators is being able to constantly improve and add new skills to continue to evolve as a rider. At the same time though, this year more than ever I’ve really started to appreciate the journey as much as the act of riding and the gear itself. Bikes have taken me to some incredible places and play a huge role in who I am today.
Photos courtesy of Patrol Bikes
EDITOR’S CHOICE: Big Trip: Riding Besakih Bike Park in Bali, Indonesia – Part of me still can’t believe I’m even writing those words. Easily the farthest away and hardest place to get to that I’ve ever ridden, my trip to Bali with Patrol Mountain Bikes was one of those utterly transformational adventures you’ll never forget. Prior to this trip, Bali isn’t a place that I would have even considered as a mountain bike destination, but Eric Sanjaya and the Bali Mountain Bike crew have done an impressive job cultivating the local riding scene. The riding at Besakih Bike Park isn’t overly technical, but to me it was more about the whole experience – where else can you ride a bike park on the slopes of an active volcano where you can finish the ride by coasting down to the biggest Hindu temple in the region? Along with the bike park, Bali Mountain Biking also offers guided rides which are much more adventurous – just be prepared for a lot of dust, tricky situations, and a mix of everything from singletrack to riding through fields, villages, and “roads”. Bali may be tough to get to from the States, but once you’re there the opportunities are endless and the dollar goes far. For the most part, we stayed away from the touristy areas of the south western side of the island, but I was happy to take in the full spectrum – from the most rural areas to the most developed. If you want to take a bucket list-style trip, hit up Bali Mountain Biking and book a day or two at the park which includes hotel pick up, transportation, a Patrol Mountain bike to ride, lunch, water, and a full day of uplifts in a truck. Then use the rest of your trip to take in the culture, check out the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, and maybe catch a few waves.
EDITOR’S CHOICE: Small Trip, Big Party: Grinduro
For something a little closer to home, Grinduro was one of my favorite events of the year. Depending on how far away the nearest Grinduro event is, this could still be a fairly long trip. But with even more locations added for 2020, it should be easier than ever to find the ultimate ‘Party-to-Race Ratio’. This year I had the opportunity to attend my first Grinduro which also happened to be the first time they held a Grinduro Canada in Charlevoix, Quebec. The course was beautifully brutal – one of those rides that you’re left with a true sense of accomplishment at the end. More importantly, there is just enough racing to satisfy your need for speed, but mostly it’s chill riding with your friends followed by a massive party. The format is just about perfect, and will probably change the way you feel about gravel racing. And racing in general.
EDITOR’S CHOICE: No Passport Required: White Rim 3 Day Trip with Rim Tours
My favorite trip within the United States this year was probably the 3 day adventure on the White Rim Trail in Moab. Hydro Flask brought us out to check out their latest hydration pack, and the experience itself turned out to be worthy of any bucket list. The riding isn’t very difficult other than a few tough climbs, but the scenery is the definition of epic. Our guides from Rim Tours were amazing, and knew all of the cool, off the trail/map things to look for. They also provided incredible meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and carry all of your camping supplies meaning all you have to do is ride.
ROAD & GRAVEL BIKES
EDITOR’S CHOICE GRAVEL: Devinci Hatchet Carbon GRX LTD
It certainly didn’t hurt for my Grinduro experience that I was there to Review out the all new Devinci Hatchet. I’m convinced that the bike aided my performance – at least in the more technical and loose sections. The new Hatchet is everything I want in a gravel bike. It’s lightweight with a beautiful carbon frame, but also has room for massive tires. Technically rated to 700c x 45mm, we raced Grinduro on 700c x 50mm Maxxis Ramblers, and I’ve been riding the bike at home with 700c x 50mm WTB Ventures. Even with the Ventures fitted, the frame still has plenty of clearance for thick mud, so the 45mm rating is definitely conservative. Designed with more modern geometry with a longer reach and shorter stems, toe overlap is a non-issue even with 50mm tires. The handling is on point whether dropping into a surprisingly technical Quebec MTB trail mid-Grinduro, or screaming down a loose fireroad with sand deeper than your tires. The frame is dropper compatible which was way more useful than anticipated throughout the event, and it even worked out well for a loaded bikepacking trip with the Blackburn Outpost Elite bag’s dropper post compatibility. At $3,299, the Hatchet Carbon GRX LTD also seems like a great value for what it offers.
HONORABLE MENTION GRAVEL: Otso Waheela C
Like the Devinci, the new Otso Waheela C also packs in a ton of tire clearance, dropper post compatibility, and a carbon frame. In fact, the Waheela C has even more versatility than the Devinci with the ability to run both smaller, and bigger tires (up to 29 x 2.1″ MTB tires”) thanks to their adjustable dropout system. While the Waheela C might not have quite the sharp looks of the Hatchet, it’s definitely worth a look – especially if you want to be able to run multiple tire sizes.
EDITOR’S CHOICE ROAD: Why Cycles PR
When it comes to these awards, I often ask myself, “would I buy this with my own money?” In this case, that’s an easy answer – yes, I did buy this bike with my own money. I had such a good time on this bike after building it for review, that I couldn’t send it back. Initially, the thought of it only being compatible with wireless drivetrains was a bit of a turn off, but I ended up liking SRAM’s Force eTap AXS so much, that it became a non-issue. I have to believe that we’ll see a similar wireless drivetrain option from Shimano at some point in the future as well. For me, this bike was the perfect balance of comfort and speed, sharp handling and rider confidence. It has clearance for 32mm tires, and it’s Ti – it should last a while. Photo c. Road…