Continuing with our editors’ Favorite Products of 2023, we look at Morgan‘s list, which breaks down into the following categories: carrying stuff, community, self-sufficiency, and pieces of flair. Let’s check out what Morgan enjoyed using this year!
This year has been an unusual one in many ways for me. While my overall mileage is down, my hours on the bike are pretty similar – owing in large part to spending a lot more time on mountain bikes and doing slow, exploratory riding, honing in on meandery routes to share with the community here in Vancouver.
I’ve spent more time on my Rock Lobster this year than in the past few, with an asterisk as most of that time has been on the indoor trainer. I worked with Jonathan at Framework Bicycles to create a beautiful all road bike, and put gears on my Stooge Scrambler and leaned back into knobby tire camping with a side of singletrack. And, I reviewed the Rocky Mountain Element, my first time doing a suspension bike here on the Radavist.
While each of these bikes is special in its own regard, they’re all primarily recreational. Don’t get me wrong, I love bikes as recreation, but bikes for transportation and utility are much more important to our communities and our society. But I’m digressing into the topic of an upcoming Dust-Up, so I’ll get back on track.
By far, the greatest number of individual rides happens on my year-round commute, and for that, my Elephant National Forest Explorer has been my main ride. So, while I could point to shiny and expensive products in this list, I’ve chosen to focus on the things that see near-daily use and either make my bike life easier or more joyful.
Around this time of year, my DMs are regularly slid into for fender consultation. While I love using Honjo fenders for builds, and specifically Sim Works for their wide range of shapes and finishes, a Honjo install requires care and time.
I’ve found Velo Orange fenders to be a great value and easier to work with for most folks. You still need to properly radius the fenders prior to installation, and might need to drill some holes and get creative with hardware for a *perfect* fit. But, just like Honjos, once they’ve been installed with care, they go on and off easily, and spark joy in a way that plastic fenders rarely can.
I particularly like the VO fender sold as 700×63 Fluted. The reason I say “sold as” is re-radiusing fenders allows them to literally shapeshift between different wheel sizes. When you radius a fender to a smaller wheel, it gets wider, and vice versa. Radiused around the 650×50 tires on my Elephant, the 700x63s plump out to a wonderful 68mm wide. Joy, sparked. For a cool $95.
Weird Appendages and Ergon GC1 Grips $39.95
Speaking of sparking joy, this is the weirdest thing, but this year I’ve gotten super into little add-ons to make my bikes’ fit more versatile. I have my pal Kenzy to thank for the vintage tandem stoker dummy levers on the Elephant and for the also-vintage, chopped down bar ends on the LeMond.
In the case of the LeMond, the broomstick-straight integrated bar stem was essentially a deal breaker for me on the bike as a whole. But, after publishing the review, I gave the Prolog another chance, and added some Ergon grips. This was an improvement for sure, but not quite a complete solution. The faded and chopped ano purple bar ends offer an additional position that allows me to stretch out and drop my elbows, which has simply made this bike more enjoyable to ride.
On the Elephant, which has a frame reach designed around a drop bar fit, I played around with a number of sweepy bars before landing on the Velo Orange Granola with a 130mm stem. While the upright position on the grips is great for ATB adventures and my ~20 minute commute, this bike loves to stretch its legs and I was missing a forward position to dig in on steep climbs or grind into a headwind.
I started by adding some leftover Campandgoslow rattler tape around the front of the bar, but the addition of those old Dia Compe tandem nubs allowed this bike’s fit to transcend the limitations of the swept bar on a short-ish frame. I also love the Ergon GC1 grip, designed specifically around high sweep bars, as that extra bit of material on the front of the grip serves to make the bar feel both wider, and gives you something to pull against when you’re laying down power.
What Happened x Campandgoslow Ride Wallet
If there’s one person who I trust to make aesthetic decisions for me and my family, it’s our pal Casey, the friendly face behind Campandgoslow. Camp’s heavy cotton t-shirts are in regular rotation for me, and we’ve been clamoring for Casey’s collaboration products over the years, including his work with Swift Industries, Makeshifter, and, in this moment, What Happened Outdoors.
While Campandgoslow’s work with Swift Industries may have made a bigger splash, it warms my heart that Neza at What Happened Outdoors worked with Camp’s offcuts to create cute and unique sewn products. While this ride wallet is a simple piece, it’s a subtle reminder of our friends who do interesting work, and of the joy of collaborative work.
We also recently picked up one of Camp’s collabs with Makeshifter, which is another cool collaboration story as Casey’s partner Sarah quilted the canvas, which she then sent to Becky at Makeshifter in Portland, and then back to Camp HQ to share with the bike nerds.
Campandgoslow’s collabs often sell out quick, just like the products of Casey’s main vocation, Great Basin Pottery. Like I said, I trust Casey to make aesthetic decisions for us, so we drink from his mugs as well. You can’t go wrong with timeless products made with heart.
Crank Bros M17 Multi-Tool $29.99
This one certainly isn’t just a 2023 favorite but it’s found its way into my everyday kit this year for extremely logical reasons. I’ve had this particular Crank Brothers M17 for over a decade, but have often left it behind in favor of tools with nicer in-hand feel. The M17 isn’t the most ergonomically enjoyable multi-tool, nor is it the lightest, but it’s got a couple features worth squawking about so I guess I can say our love-not-love relationship is currently rosy.
First off, the chain tool on the M17 is my favorite on a portable tool: good quality tool steel that doesn’t shatter upon first use, threads that don’t mind being cranked on, and a simple integration with the tool’s design. Second, the end of the chain tool is a perfect fit for valve cores – an important part of a ready-for-anything tool kit in the tubeless era. And finally, the M17 has a dedicated 8mm Allen rather than a separate adapter, which I appreciate.
Aeropress Go $39.95
We’re soon to be celebrating seven years of Camp Coffee Club and over those years I’ve dialed in my favorite way to fill a ti dangle with hot bean water outdoors. The plunger in my old Aeropress was on its last legs for a long time, and would explode if you looked at it sideways. I finally caved and bought an Aeropress Go this past winter and wondered why I didn’t do it sooner.
The more compact size of the Go is better in almost every way (other than pressing into a pot when you forget your mug) and not worrying about getting a proper seal is quite nice indeed. I’m still using the Able Brewing Disk Filter as I was with my old press. I like the Aeropress for its ease of use and cleaning, and not using paper filters means I’ve got one less thing to worry about coming home when doing coffee outside.
While I am a big advocate for liquid fuel stoves (and still prefer them for longer/family camp trips), there’s no doubt that a canister system is more convenient and easier to pack. A few years back some of our camp coffee friends developed the SimmerShield Solo system to serve their minimalist thru-hiking needs, but it’s also nice to add less bulk to your bag when doing camp coffee on the way to work.
The SimmerShield system uses a simple BRS burner with a titanium windscreen and floor, and two-piece neoprene sleeve for the ti pot. It’s meant to be run at low throttle so it’s quiet, but efficient. My friends are such nerds that they did some testing and put together a great comparison page with other lightweight stoves if you’re curious. While you could probably throw together a minimalist canister system for less money, a complete system like this is a pleasure to use.
The Wald 137 basket goes on my personal list of all time useful products, and the number of hand-sewn bags made specifically for this silly little basket is simply wonderful. While I wasn’t confident that the Outer Shell Basket Tote would be suitable for all-weather commuting, as sewn bags are at best water resistant, the custom-drawn cow print Cordura finally won me over, and I decided to give it a go.
As it turns out, the Basket Tote’s lined and semi-rolltop design is actually quite good at keeping water out. I recently went out for an hour-twenty ride in an atmospheric river and the bag’s contents stayed completely dry. The tote’s smaller footprint means less overall capacity, but my 13” Macbook slides easily into the computer sleeve and the array of internal pockets are nice for separating daily items.
The Basket Tote’s zippered opening with side buckles means this bag plays a bit like a mix between a rolltop bag like my long time daily the Porcelain Rocket Meanwhile (now made by Rockgeist) and Stephanie’s fave, the Swift Industries Sugarloaf. It’s quick to get things in and out of (even bulky items like my big camera), has batten-down-the-hatches capability, works wonderfully off the bike, and, as has been the theme of this roundup – the cow print really does bring me great joy.
My Elephant National Forest Explorer $1800 frameset
As a bike that I lusted after for years, the Elephant National Forest Explorer did not disappoint when I finally built my own. While I wanted to keep this list of products in the affordable range, I am highlighting this bike because I think it’s the type of bike everyone should own. You don’t need this particular bike but you want one that does what this one does.
Ironically, Stephanie’s Wolverine has been doing this very similarly since 2016: a bike that is quick, and has fenders and a basket and a dynamo system. A comfy fit. Good for toodling, commuting, or camping. A bike that blurs the lines between transportation and recreation. A good everyday bike.
This year really does feel like a homecoming for the Radavist with the site’s ownership back in John and Cari’s hands. With our move back to being an independent media site, buying merch or a Group Ride / Rad Bazaar subscription quite literally supports the work of the folks pouring their hearts into making content here on the daily. So, if you’ve got the means, grab a couple water bottles, or a shirt or a jersey, or even just some stickers – we appreciate it. And if you want to be like me, you can live in a Radavist Camp Hat all year round.