Picking the best gear of 2018 is often pretty easy, but sometimes it requires a decent amount of hair-splitting. This year it’s a combination of choosing something with a touch more refinement in addition to simply looking at the items that continue to be staples — long after the review period ended.
Shimano Ultegra R8070 Di2 Disc
We are huge fans of SRAM eTap HRD, but it’s impossible to overlook the updates that Shimano made to their Ultegra R8070 Di2 Disc groupset this year. The difference from the previous-generation Ultegra is monumental with some of the most comfortable hoods on the market coupled with consistent shifting/braking all the time. Shifting is instant with larger, easier-to-use buttons — which is great on the road or trainer. Ultegra Di2 is the most affordable and proven electronic groupset money can buy. Oh, and using mineral oil instead of brake fluid is the icing on the cake.
Review: Shimano Ultegra R8070 Di2 Disc
Fox 34 Factory 120 Step-Cast Fork
It turns out that 32mm stanchions just don’t cut it (at least in our book). When Fox released their new 34 Factory 120 Step-Cast, the promise of a stiffer, smoother and lighter trail fork caught our attention. As it turns out, after 6 months of use, this all-new fork is the one to beat. Definitely the best trailbike fork available today.
Gore C7 Gore-Tex Shakedry Stretch Jacket
Waterproof jackets are a dime-a-dozen. Heck, a plastic poncho is waterproof. But, the Holy Grail is to be waterproof and breathable. It just so happens that Gore-Tex has found a way to make their beloved membrane breathable, waterproof and stretchy — something that they had yet to achieve. The C7 Gore-Tex Shakedry Stretch Jacket is a modern wonder. It’s certainly the most expensive cycling jacket you’ll ever buy, but it’s also the best we’ve ever tested.
Sugoi RS Pro Bib Shorts
With an endless array of bib shorts on the market and a bazillion in my closet, Sugoi’s latest RS Pro Bib Shorts stand out with one of the best chamois I’ve tested. But, the best feature is the lower-back compression they provide — it’s above and beyond what you’ll typically find and makes these an easy choice.
Review: Sugoi RS Pro Bib Shorts
Zipp Service Course SL Carbon Seatpost
Almost all road bikes these days feature a svelte 27.2mm seatpost diameter. Some (Cannondale Synapse) go even smaller at 25.4mm. Those small diameters translate into added flex for superb comfort. But, flex alone does not a great seatpost make and Zipp has made an affordable one here that’s easily-adjusted, comfortable when needed and stiff under load. This seatpost can transform your ride for a mere $160!
Redshift Sports ShockStop Stem
Elastomer suspension gets a bad rap, but Redshift has perfected it with the ShockStop stem. This adjustable stem really does take the edge off without feeling wonky. The suspension travel is subtle, smooth and controlled — all without losing steering precision. It’s the perfect companion for gravel bikes or any bike in need of more comfort up front.
Review: Redshift Sports Shockstop Stem
Pinarello Dogma F10
It’s expensive, that’s a no-brainer. But, there’s simply no question that the Dogma F10 is the most responsive, comfortable and fast all-rounder we’ve ridden to date. With iconic looks and lights-out performance, it’s easy to point to the F10 as the secret weapon of Team Sky (and now Hagens Berman Axeon). Every inch of the F10 is optimized for absolute performance and it shows with each pedal stroke — uphill or down.
Review: Pinarello Dogma F10
Cannondale Synapse Carbon Red eTap
Endurance bikes of yesteryear had the reputation of being slow and relaxed. Luckily, those times have changed as modern endurance bikes offer increased tire clearance, disc brakes and even feature a responsive and racy platform. Cannondale has delivered the knockout punch with the new Synapse. It’s comfortable, snappy and a ton of fun wherever you ride.
RaceFace Turbine R 35mm Bars
Wider is definitely better and RaceFace’s Turbine R 35mm bars fit that bill at 800mm. That width is amazing — especially on 27.5+ bikes like the Niner SIR 9 and Giant XTC Advanced 27.5+ where the added leverage turns all that extra traction into something special. All this for $80 and there’s no question these are a great option that will instantly transform your ride.
Review: RaceFace Turbine R 35mm Bars
Castelli LW Bib Tights
While Castelli’s Sorpasso 2 Bib Tights remain the best cold-weather bibs on the market, their hybrid LW Bib Tights really hit the sweet spot of the most ideal temperature range (40-50 degrees). In the 30’s, you have to be bundled up to the hilt, but in the mid 40’s, you can get by with less and yet remain comfortable. It’s that sweet spot where the LW’s shine. Though not as weather-resistant as other models, cold and dry rides will meet their match with these amazing-fitting and warm bibs.
Review: Castelli LW Bib Tights
Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt
Cycling computers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but without question, the latest GPS devices from Wahoo kick butt in nearly every way. Ease-of-use and reliability are easy reasons to select the aero-optimized ELEMNT Bolt here. On top of that, intuitive menus and snappy/modern companion mobile apps make this a slam dunk.
Review: Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt
Thule Hullavator Pro
Loading kayaks, large paddle boards or canoes atop any vehicle can be a chore, but the Thule Hullavator Pro makes quick work of loading and unloading your boats. We even tested it atop a Sprinter van and it works awesome. Save yourself the hassle and go straight to the Hullavator Pro for rooftop kayak hauling.
Review: Thule Hullavator Pro
Osprey Porter 46
Trekking or adventure travel requires the right kind of equipment. For 11 days in Peru, the Osprey Porter 46 delivered with excellent carrying comfort and just about everything else you could ask for. With bombproof construction, the Porter will be on many more trips.
Review: Osprey Porter 46
Ultimate Family Hot Cocoa Kit
Days in the mountains with kids requires a mixture of bravery and mad ninja skills. To reduce the difficulty level and provide an extra dose of sanity, hot chocolate is always a hit. Keeping multiple cold kiddos primed for a day on the slopes, the family hot cocoa kit (Yeti Rambler 64 and GSI Doppio Mugs) hits the proverbial spot in our families.
Review: Ultimate Family Hot Cocoa Kit
The North Face Summit L5 Ultralight Storm Jacket
At a mere 6 oz., the L5 Ultralight Storm Jacket is bonkers-light. And, even though it’s light, it has proven itself under the most demanding conditions. The L5 was the perfect companion on a snowy trip through the North Cascades.
Costa Caldera Untangled Sunglasses
Recycled fishing nets form the basis of the materials used to make the Costa Untangled Collection. So, not only do you get excellent style with the Costa Caldera, but you can feel good knowing that you’re putting those abandoned fishing nets to good use.
Patagonia R1 TechFace Hoody
Patagonia’s classic R1 fleece has been matched up with weather-resistant TechFace fabric for the ultimate in hybrid insulation and versatility. With ample abrasion-resistance for repeated use and the ability to block wind and keep out light rain, the new R1 TechFace is a killer option for cool-weather adventures, high-output winter activities or layering up.
Review: Patagonia R1 TechFace Hoody
The North Face Phantom 50L Pack
Getting a few days deep in a weeklong adventure and finding out that your new backpack isn’t what you thought it would be is a terrible way to adventure. The North Face Phantom 50L delivers comfort beyond its $189 price point and won us over with its bevy of features, durability and astounding price tag.
Review: The North Face Phantom 50L
Thule SnowPack Extender
Just like boats atop vehicles, sometimes getting skis on or off the roof rack can be a chore. Have no fear, the SnowPack Extender is here to make that process easy. With large levers to engage the Extender, excellent security and low wind noise, the SnowPack extender is another winner from Thule.
Review: Thule SnowPack Extender
Outdoor Research Interstellar Jacket
There’s stellar and then there’s interstellar. Outdoor Research doesn’t mess around and the Interstellar Jacket and has chosen to give it durable and functional materials, yet it still remains light weight. Add on top of that a little stretch for comfort and the Interstellar has won us over.