John’s Favorite Products of 2023 (… and Top 10 Albums!)

We’ve had a busy year over here at The Radavist. From the return to being 100% independent, launching our Group Ride subscription service, our Rad Bazaar marketplace, and adjusting to being a small business owner again, my free time has been limited. Yet, I can thank a few products for making my job and life easier this year, along with the albums that became the backdrop for my rides, so let’s check out my Favorite Products of 2023!

Stinner Frameworks Bike Prop Stick

This little nifty bike stand is something I’d asked numerous framebuilders to make me for years. Before this Y-shaped stand, I’d use a metal dowel rod and remove it in post-production. I began shooting bikes like this in 2008. Before this method, people would use bike stands and leave them in the final photo, creating a distracting final product, ATMO, anyway.

For me, the result was a visual elevation of the bicycle, making it feel ethereal and alive for a few seconds. When I started documenting bikes like this, I was working full-time as an architect, and it felt like I was presenting a proper elevation of the bicycle. You could really understand the geometry because the bike was completely flat in elevation. Don’t know the angles of your bike? Just measure a photo like the above one, and you’ll find them out easily.

The Y shape of this stand provides stability, keeping the bike from rolling while it’s being propped up.  Aaron Stinner made this Y-shaped stand that breaks down into three segments and packs into my backpack or hip bag. It’s so small I bring it everywhere I go these days because you never know when you’re going to see a bike you want to document…

Paragon Machine Works Radavist Headset Wrench

When you ride a lot of 1″ headset bikes, you’re gonna need to tighten your locknut at some point, and no, hand-tightening doesn’t do the trick! That’s why we asked our buddies at Paragon Machine Works to resurrect these wrenches from the late 90s with us. Yes, this is a self-serving plug as it’s a Radavist-branded item, but we’re not in the business of putting our logo on products we don’t believe in!

These titanium wrenches will be back in stock in 2024.

My Starling Murmur V3

This bike is the vessel for some of my favorite products this year. I’ve logged more miles on this thing than any other bike in 2023. Unless I was riding a review bike or caught the fully rigid bug and wanted to ride around on my Black Cat or a vintage bike, I rode the Starling Murmur every day.

I just can’t get enough of this bike. What’s mind-boggling about the Murmur is that it’s such a simple design and is wildly deceiving on paper. How could something so simple be so good? Well, Joe and the team at Starling Cycles figured out how even a single-pivot full suspension has a place in the modern mountain bike zeitgeist. With only a single pivot, there are but two bearings to replace when it comes to maintenance. It’s a procedure that takes all but 10 minutes…

Read my review here:

A Little Goes a Long Way: Starling Cycles Murmur V3 Review

Industry Nine Enduro 300 Wheels

The Enduro 300 wheels from Industry Nine pushed my preconceptions of how good aluminum wheels can be. After constantly breaking aluminum wheels a few years back, I switched all my mountain bikes to carbon wheels and had far fewer issues.

Yet, when I got the press release for these new E300 wheels, with a special cross-section design that eliminates pinch flats, I had to try them. Well, I’ve had these wheels all year and have abused the living crap out of them, pushing them as hard as I can, and they’re still straight as an arrow and begging for more.

That, to me, is a success story!

Sincere Cycles eeWings Crank Bolt

When Bailey and I were lamenting the Achilles heel of the awesome eeWings cranks, a customer of his with access to a machine shop, John Rowley, overheard us. The eeWings cranks require a massive 10 mm Allen key. “WHAT? WHY?” He exclaimed. A few weeks later John had made a handful of these crank bolts. I’ve had these bolts on both my Womble and my Murmur and have been stoked to report that you can put enough torque on an 8 mm bolt to get the cranks to tighten up if they loosen up on a ride. At least long enough to properly torque them once you’re home.

Paul 6-bolt 22.2 Stem

What makes this product so special? Well, that’s a two-part answer. First, I love the team at Paul. Second, this is a response to riders using ultra-wide, 840 mm+ moto-style handlebars wanting to feel more secure as they’re torquing their singlespeed up a steep climb. 6 bolts are stronger than 4 and offer superior strength when the bolts are torqued to spec. Paul Component Engineering has something special going on. Big <3, y’all!

Check out my first look here:

22.2 Ain’t Dead! A Look at the Paul Component Engineering 22.2 Boxcar 6-Bolt Face Stem

Austere Manufacturing Belt

Wow. I guess I am a gearhead? Who would have thought a belt would have been one of my favorite products of 2023? Well, when it’s something this nice that you use every day, and it makes your life easier, it’s worth it! Plus, Austere is one of my favorite “new” manufacturers in the US maker scene. These belts “lockout” to keep the nylon webbing from slipping, come in a handful of colors, and are machined by Austere Manufacturing.

Check out my review here:

Hold Up: Austere Manufacturing CNC Belt Review

Fillo’s Walking Tamales

Tamales have been used as food on the go for centuries but are usually wrapped in corn husks. Fillo’s figured out how to make these great and hardy snacks trail-ready. The Fillo’s Walking Tamales are made in Mexico and are found all over the Southwest. They’ve quickly become my favorite trail snack… The habanero is my favorite.

Espresso Forge

I’ve used this super minimal espresso maker every day for a year now and can report that it pulls a mean shot of espresso. The Espresso Forge makes my morning routine all the more enjoyable with a nice and fruity, light-roasted Ethiopian bean. I’ve since upgraded to a Niche Zero grinder to streamline the morning coffee process…

See my full-length review here:

A Different Kind of Coffee Routine: Espresso Forge is Owned and Run by Cyclists

Canon R5 and the RF 70-200 f2.8 Lens

I’ve been a lifelong Canon shooter. My grandfather gave me his AE-1P when I was a teenager, and I’ve always shot Canon ever since. After a brief stint with Sony, I’m glad to return to shooting on a Canon. There’s something about the colors of a Canon sensor that just does it for me. Plus, the ergonomics and simple menus feels like you’re shooting a camera, not a computer like the Sony always felt like. No more dense files and cumbersome menu navigation!

I picked up the R5 full-frame mirrorless camera and the teeny RF 70-200 f2.8 lens, and they’ve transformed how I shoot. Telephoto lenses are typically large and bulky, but this 70-200 fits in a big hip bag and is much easier to ride with than its DSLR ancestors.



Now for something a little different. I wanted to outline some of my favorite albums I listened to in 2023. Most of these are 2023 releases, but one came out in 2022, and it took me a while to appreciate it. All of these albums are metal, mainly black metal, but they all brought something unique to the ever-expanding genre. The US black metal scene, and metal scene in general, surged in 2023, and these are some of the standouts…



Solar Cross (US): To the Ever Gleaming Pinnacle of Timeless Mastery

Holy shit. This album deserves to be at the top of the list as it will reign supreme in the US black metal scene for years to come. It’s a masterpiece, blending atavistic black metal from the 90s with d-beat, crust, and thrash. It’s a wild ride through this intense and visceral landscape. The intro and first track alone are masterpieces. Good luck finding the 12″, as copies are selling for $80+ now on Discogs, but if you do, cherish it!



Arbor: Behold… the Age of Pagan Blood

Taurus might be the busiest man alive in USBM, and his surprise debut of Arbor’s first LP, “Behold… the Age of Pagan Blood,” dropped on Blood and Crescent this year, selling out immediately. His other acts, Fellwinter and Gauntlet Ring, also have releases on this list, but Arbor brought about an entirely different sound. “Our Souls Glare in Flame” and “Return to Forest” are modern black metal masterpieces. This album became my go-to “descent” album after a long climb.



Fellwinter: The Dawn of Winter

Continuing with Taurus’ other projects, Fellwinter’s “The Dawn of Winter” is a non-stop onslaught of tremolo picking and ghastly vocals right out of the gate. While the album is only 37 minutes long, it takes you on a journey through cavernous voids filled with inter-dimensional riffs. The intro, along with the ravens cawing in the background, sets the stage for this ethereal experience as it erupts with Taurus’ emotional explosion of fast-paced and raw black metal.



Gauntlet Ring: Beyond the Veil of Night

With Taurus releasing Fellwinter and Arbor, I worried his standout act, Gauntlet Ring, had taken a backseat. This is the band we used in our Beautiful Builds: Moots Womble video. Gauntlet Ring combines blackened punk sounds with cataclysmic metal. It’s raw, guttural, ethereal, and powerful. Listening to “Beyond the Veil of Night,” you’ll pick up Judas Iscariot vibes as it continues the brand’s iconic sound into the ether, opening with a slow and somber track and ending with an eerie outro. While it’s not as good as the band’s 2021 opus, “Upon the Wings of the Black Eagle,” it’s still better than 99% of black metal releases this year.



Lore Liege: Dreams of a Forgotten Curse

Early Darkthrone worship at its finest, Lore Liege’s new release “Dreams of a Forgotten Curse” continues to fly the Pure Norwegian Black Metal banner forged by the early bands of the genre but in the USA. Cavernous vocals highlight the four-track EP but it’s the standout track of “From the Dark Mist Unseen” that landed it on this list.



Blood Incantation: Luminescent Bridge Single EP

Death Metal has come a long way since Death first obliterated the US metal scene in the mid-1980s. Denver-based Blood Incantation showed its inter-dimensional magistry with “Hidden History of the Human Race” in 2019. Later, in 2022, to the surprise of its fans, the band released Timewave Zero, a completely instrumental space-inspired electronic album. Personally, Timewave Zero is their magnum opus, and Blood Incantation’s 2023 release, Luminescent Bridge, once again molded together its classic death metal sound with a spacescape track on a maxi single EP. These guys get it.



Wolves in the Throne Room: Crypt of Ancestral Knowledge EP

Nature is metal! No one comes close to Wolves’ legacy. Spanning over 20 years, the Olympia, Washington-based band blends inspiration from the natural world found within the great Cascade Mountains and second-wave black metal to form a unique sound that has evolved over the past two decades. Crypt of Ancestral Knowledge, while just an EP, stoked the flames for its fans this year. Long live Wolves!



Full of Hell & Nothing: When No Birds Sang

Post-hardcore and indie rock unit! Full of Hell’s Dylan Walker and his vocals have made Full of Hell a band held in fortitude within the post-hardcore world. Full of Hell has collaborated with everyone from Merzbow, to The Body, and Primitive Man but it’s this year’s split with Nothing that culminated in a masterpiece. Each chest-crushing, oppressive Full of Hell track is juxtaposed by Nothing’s melodic and smooth sounds. It’s quite the ride!



Mizmor: Prosaic

Buckle up for this one! Mizmor began in 2012 as a means for its sole member, A.L.N. to process his loss of faith. The band’s name means “psalm,” “prayer,” or “melody” in Hebrew. To this day, A.L.N. still uses his songwriting as an outlet to grapple with life’s great mysteries, writing music full of emotion and spanning various subgenres of metal.



Prosaic, like the stellar cover of Portugal. The Man’s “Doubt” eviscerated the black metal genre in 2023. I can’t not include this track in this list! The visuals alone are mind-blowing, somber, and you can really feel the pain A.L.N. exists within. Plus, interdimension crafts beaming energy into an impaled A.L.N. as he blasts riffs off? How nerdy is that? It makes you want to don a coif. This is the song of the year for me and it’s a Portugal. The Man cover! Who doesn’t love a good medieval weapon play in the cold, dark woods?



Earth: Earth 2.23 Special Lower Frequency Mix

If I had to list a favorite band of all time, it’d be Earth. I’ve been following along with this drone/experimental band since its inception, with Earth 2, and The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull, being my two favorite drone albums of all time. This year, the band released a fun Earth 2.23 Special Lower Frequency Mix album featuring acts like The Bug and Flodan. This one feels light and airy by contrast to the other albums on this list, but it’s been on heavy rotation since its release…



Well, this was a wild one! I hope you enjoyed this list and that the music selection wasn’t too distracting. What were some of your favorite products we featured here on The Radavist? And did I miss any black metal releases in this list? Let me know!

I’d also like to point out that streaming services like Spotify don’t do anything for musicians. If you like music, buy albums! Buy the band’s merch. I linked to the band’s Bandcamp in this list when applicable. Music isn’t digital junk space; it’s art!

Let’s keep the blast beats and riffs blaring at eleven in 2024!   

\m/ xoxo