Longtime contributor, product tester, and Bespoked co-owner Petor Georgallou shares his list of Favourite Products of 2023. With an eye for aesthetics, function, and alternative uses, Petor’s top picks run the gamut of what you might expect to find on this site, from boutique bikes to a lowly notebook. Read on to learn how he hacked a Wizard Works bag, made use of a “smiling butt kit,” a look at a couple products he’ll be reviewing next year, and two playlists he recently assembled for Bespoked…
I’m super late to the party with this one, but this year Harry from Wizard Works lent me a Mini Shazam bar bag to replace my old bag that was light but terrible. As a bar/saddle bag the Mini Shazam is great, but I’ve been most enjoying it in slightly modified fashion. I was really in need of a fast-access camera bag for riding with—but they literally don’t exist—so I started using it like a tiny messenger bag, with an old clip-on strap from a different messenger bag, and this is where the Mini Shazam really began to shine. My personal modifications continued when I added some padding from a different bag to the insides to create more organization compartments while protecting my camera equipment.
I use this bag most of the time now both on and off the bike: its small and not too heavy, expands via the roll-top design to carry most things, is waterproof(ish), the inside liner is yellow so you can see your stuff, and it has heaps of lashing points on the outside so with a couple of straps it’s insanely versatile. There’s even a point on the bag you can use for a stabilizing strap, making it an incredible bar bag but also the best accidental mini messenger/ riding camera bag I’ve used to date.
Straps: Austere Manufacturing and Gramm Tourpacking
This year I’ve become evangelical about Austere Manufacturing straps. Until very recently they were quite hard to get in the UK (not to mention they’re the most expensive strap going, and for good reason), so I’d been distributing the few straps that Josh managed to smuggle me in among friends who might appreciate them, or—more importantly—start importing them. The road was long, hard, and expensive (I gave four straps away) but they are now available in the UK through Wizard Works.
In one of my many fits of strap enthusiasm (this time in Germany) I showed the Austere strap to Tine of Gramm Tourpacking in Berlin, who immediately pointed out that they’re the same as her straps… but they don’t slip at all… and they’re super strong…. and they’re super light… etc., etc,. When it came to determining which strap was in fact superior, I wouldn’t back down and neither would Tine, so we got slightly scientific about it. To my horror, Tine whipped out a pair of scissors and chopped the buckle off the Austere strap that I had just given her so that we could weigh the two buckles precisely.
It turned out that there was about a 0.5-gram difference between the US-made Austere buckle and the Gramm buckle, which is made in Sweden for Gramm by ARNO. ARNO buckles don’t slip and are ISO-tested. They can hold my weight and even though they might not be as strong as the Austere Mfg. buckles, they’re strong enough. The Gramm/ARNO buckles are made predominantly from pressed and folded steel which is plated and painted so they’re not anywhere near as nicely finished as the CNC machined aluminum buckles on Austere’s straps, and they’re more susceptible to corrosion. A couple things the Gramm options does have going for them is that they also have cool embroidered straps and cost a lot less. Sadly for me, they are just as hard to get onto the island.
I’ve been using both straps this year and I’ve even been using them to extend each other. I love the Austere straps; they are a serious piece of hardware that can’t be compared to other straps in terms of their quality and longevity. I also love the Gramm straps because in practice they work just as well.
A little-known Czech company, Posedla, reached out and asked if I’d like to review their new Joyseat, the first (and, to my knowledge, only) fully custom, 3D-printed cycling saddle. Naturally, I agreed with some enthusiasm. To start off, I filled out a long and fairly detailed questionnaire with some biometric data to input amongst other questions. Soon after that, I received a block of foam in the post; the “smiling butt kit”. It was covered in bar codes, and a grid and came with a detailed instructional video, showing me how to make an impression of my butt on the foam before taking several photos of the foam in specific light, from very specific angles to send back.
A few weeks later I received my Joyseat, a saddle made for my weight, riding style, and normal ride duration, and critically 3D-printed to fit my butt using a butt model from the butt imprint. I was won over by how surreal the process was, how much more considered use of 3D printing this product represents as compared to most other printed products, and most importantly how immediately right it felt riding a saddle the exact shape of my actual butt. Full review coming in 2024…
Ballern is a German word with five meanings:
- To drive a car fast but recklessly
- To ride a bike like a total asshole/hero
- To dance like an absolute maniac in a club while also relentlessly boshing all the drugs with no regard for the future
- To fire a machine gun randomly with no target
- A minimal and lightweight silver soldered stainless steel front or rear bag support
My preference for this year is overwhelmingly the latter.
The Olight Obulb is a little light that doesn’t really have a purpose. There are a few versions available with brightness and functionality varying from just a light to “first you have to download the app.” I’ve tried them all and the most inexpensive is the best. It’s the lightest and has all the functionality you need for everything (that a light with no clear purpose can offer). I bought three to start with to use as lighting in my van at night, as the battery lasts forever, they charge on a USB in the van and it was cheaper than wiring lighting and less twee than lanterns.
Since I acquired my small collection of little lights, they’ve been used much more than I’d expected for everything; camping, lighting inside and outside the van, the house, seeing the turntable in a dark club, on set, and as a baby’s bath toy (underrated features include: they’re shockproof, submersible, and float, as well as sticking to our cast iron bathtub with integrated magnets).
Albion’s mission statement and tagline are “Stay outside for longer”. Last year Albion sent me some bits to try out for a review, and since then they’ve become not only what I always wear on a bike, but they have also permeated into my life as just being my normal clothes. From the best thought-out cargo bibs to an ultra-light packable three-jacket layering system for on and off the bike (that has seen me through the best and worst of British weather), everything Albion makes is my favorite. This year I have stayed outside for longer so that’s a win!
I’m disorganized AF, ride tubeless, and get punctures, so the Dynaplug covert is a no-brainer. Dynaplug makes the only tubeless repair tools worth using because they are based around plugs made of a patented material that self-amalgamates the tire material to make a permanent air-tight repair. That means you can repair a tire with Dynaplugs and it will hold air without any sealant, as compared to jamming in a piece of material designed to reduce the hole size enough for sealant to hold air as a temporary fix.
All of which means nothing if you forget the tool in a bag or a frame bag on a different bike. But thanks to the Covert bar-end plug, I now at worst accidentally have four plugs in my handlebars most of the time as a failsafe if I forget to bring a Dynaplug tool with me.
Perhaps the worst thing about 2023 was reviewing the best bike I’ve ever ridden, only to have to give it back again…. I’m angling pretty hard to get a leg over the Supernaut version for 2024… has a hint ever been made more subtly? In case you missed it, read my full review of the GR3 from earlier this year to see why I rode it like I stole it, and actually considered doing so.
It’s just a notebook. But it’s bound really nicely, and is super flexible and durable. Also, it’s made with a patented featherweight blue paper which is super thin and doesn’t allow ink to bleed through. That means for a tiny book it has significantly more pages and is lighter and lasts longer than you’d expect. Sure I can tap notes into my phone, which I always have with me, but the truth is I very rarely need to read my notes when I physically write them in a book.
The act of writing makes them something visual and sensory that I can memorize pretty effectively. It’s also great for lists because when I get to the boring bits in the list that I don’t want to do, I’m not already looking at my horribly distracting phone. I’m frugal and write small, which is in the spirit of a minimal notebook, but I’ve had the same book since 2020. I’m about halfway through.
Before 2017 I only shot film, then a full-frame Sony, then an APS C Fujifilm, then Fujifilm GFX, and that’s still what I use for the most part because it’s incredible, although I have a bunch of other film cameras I still shoot for fun. Becoming a father for the first time this year, I began sneezing appallingly loudly, bought some eyeglasses that become darker in the sun, purchased a tiny digital camera with a zoom and show strangers unsolicited pictures of my child while bragging about their current developmental phase at any given opportunity.
It’s always best to shoot in large format, but it’s better to shoot a Leica than a mobile phone. I carry it everywhere, and I no longer ride with a 2.5 kg medium-format camera on my back. Mostly I use it with manual focus M mount lenses, and in that way it’s brought back a lot of the joy of shooting for no reason. It feels like a bridge between my digital and analog process.
So… I’m riding this German-made single-pivot steel mountain bike with loads of travel at the moment. I have to make a six-hour round trip in a car to go anywhere where I can meaningfully ride it, so I decided to start riding it meaninglessly. It’s changed the way I think about bikes and how I use them. It’s a new type of riding for me that’s brought me closer to friends old and new. I’m bad at it and have to learn, which makes it incredibly exciting and rewarding each time I get out for a decent ride. I’ll be reviewing this Sour SRD in more detail soon…
This is an amazing backpack. It’s rated to be submerged for 30 minutes in salt water, despite having a MASSIVE zip that runs the whole length of the bag. It is relatively tough while being super light, which Ortlieb achieves at a reasonable pricepoint by using seam-welded construction and proprietary fabrics and hardware. It’s also super comfortable with adjustable contact points on a super minimal stainless wire frame. I had the 25-liter and then bought the 35-liter version after breaking the zip on the other bag by significantly overfilling it.
To round things out, give a listen to these silly playlists I made earlier this year for Bespoked.