Spencer Harding is up next and below, joins our team of contributors and editors in sharing a list of favorite products and albums of 2023. A few of his picks are things he’s had for a while and have withstood the test of time and extended use. Others include some new gadgets as well as one non-bike-related product for good measure. He also put together a list of album and podcast recommendations. Let’s get right into it below!
Ever since I got an air compressor for my bike shop I have avoided floorpumps like the plague. The compressor’s size prevents me from taking it on road trips or when I leave for the summer, but its utility is unmatched. One day I noticed a Ryobi inflator on sale at Home Depot for about $20 and thought, “huh, I bet I could just get a presta adaptor and use the inflator as a bike pump.” Viola! I’m never going back. I keep this thing by the front door of my hosue and throw it in the truck for trips. It does require a battery which costs much more than the tool itself. If you already have some form of power tool, you can find all kinds of adapters between brands, I originally had a Dewalt to Ryobi adaptor for this. This thing won’t seat your tubeless tires, but it makes those top-0ffs real quick and painless. Embrace your lazy side and treat yourself.
I snagged this Smith Engage helmet from my local shop when it was on sale for $60. Sixty bucks for an MIPS helmet in sweet colors that is quite comfortable. I normally have to size up to a large or even XL but the Engage fits me in a reasonable size Medium. It’s a sizing slam dunk for my oblong head. I wish the visor was 50% bigger but, besides that, I love this helmet.
I love me some paddle grips. Every time I ride a bike without them my hands inevitably wind up hurting. I love the lil’ bars ends on GP2s for touring and I can’t image mountain biking on anything besides GA3s. The aesthetics aren’t the best, but I’m all in for comfort. At this point 90% of our bikes in the house have Ergon grips, ‘nuff said.
After having used my first 3L bladder from Hydrapak for many years, it recently turned to dust. But losing that one caused me to look at what is available now and I’m stoked about the new crop of bike bag-shaped bladders. I had the lower compartment on my custom framebag from Rogue Panda for my Crust Scapebot sized for a 3L bladder from Apidura. I love it. 3L is almost as much water as I ever need to carry and only takes up about ⅓ of my framebag space. I also have a Revelate 1.5L bladder that pairs well with the brand’s new crop of framebags. Bottles are dead, long live bladders. Save space and carry more water efficiently.
When the stack height of many bikes is never enough for someone of my height, the Mone Light Bars save the day, er… my lower back, in two ways. First, they help me not hunch over too much and, being made of carbon fiber, they lighten the load on my bike. These particular handlebars have lived on a few bikes this past year, but have ended up on my Ripley AF after a CT trip that had my lower back aching. All the rise and none of the downsides of heavy steel bars. These cost a pretty penny but they’ve been worth every cent. I hear Josh is a fan of these too.
Check out my review: We Put a Light Bar on Moné Bike’s Light Bar So You Don’t Have To
For years I’ve been using ad-hock tools the TSI-1 was made for. I didn’t even realize Park Tool made this until I saw Casey from Campgandgoslow using one to fix his wheelbarrow. This thing is so great and I think it should have been made years ago. Use it to suck up your old sealant and put it right into a new tire. It’s helping me get one step closer in my quest for a no-mess tubeless setup.
I’ve already waxed poetic about my love for these clogs in my review of the Bedrocn Mountain Clogs earlier this year. After being a part of the prototyping process and thus feeling a bit more connected to them, they’ve become my go-to shoes in winter. In fact, I’m wearing them as I type this. It was such a bummer when Bedrock lost a whole shipment to shoe thieves this past fall, but now they are back in stock after a private escort back to HQ.
Read my review: Bedrock Clogs Review: For Those Squeamish of Stubbing Their Toes
From my Better Half frame bag to my Right Height bag I’m constantly impressed with Jay’s quality, innovation, and attention to detail. Doesn’t hurt that he’s in Tucson where I live as well. Jay is the best and his bags are amazing. 10/10; will most likely buy more.
Read my Reviews:
After a few years of trying to make an inflatable sleeping pad work for me, I’m back to good old rolled foam. I love throwing it down for snack stops and when I get to camp. I don’t have to worry about it popping either. I’m a side sleeper that moves around a lot during the night and my inflatable pad always moved around a ton, my pillow would slip, and it was just a mess. The foam RidgeRest stays put and keeps me cozy enough. I am more keen on the classic RidgeRest over the Zlite as the RidgeRest is a thicker and denser foam that, in my experience, lasts much longer. The hard part is packing it on a bike in a clean and cool way.
The Global Shirt has quickly become my go-to shirt for mountain biking and gravel alike. Plastic snap buttons make it a great jersey alternative as well. The little side pockets are such a great detail that I now wish were on more shirts. The only downside is that the color fades with sweat and sun, but I’m not mad at a bit of patina.
Magic the Gathering
As my life has become bikes, bikes, and then some more bikes I found I needed some hobby outside of bikes. A fateful free pile after a neighbor moved out left me with a large box of Magic cards. I figured it was about time to learn this game I’d heard so much about dating back to when I was a kid. Now I have ten decks I’ve mostly built from scratch and a lovely excuse to hang with friends at the kitchen table and do something that isn’t bikes. It has been such a great diversion from my usual outdoorsy activities. Though a digital version of the game exists I have zero interest in it. Actually holding cards and sitting with my friends is the only way I want to play. Turns out there are quite a few Planeswalkers in the bike community as well. It all comes full circle.
From picking up a reconstructed deck to spending hours looking for the right janky cards to finish my Rube Goldberg machine, I’ve really fallen in love with the game. It gets me away from my computer and phone and just enjoying friends’ company and, most importantly, doing wizard shit. I could go on and on, but I leave you with a spread of my personal commander decks pictured above.
I’m far from an audiophile like John, but I’ve been trying to dive back into the music world a bit this year. I also don’t listen to many full albums, but the ones listed below have been on heavy rotation for me this year. Enjoy!
This is a more recent discovery for me. Somewhere in the middle of Dragon Force and Between The Buried and Me. The tracks Golden Mouth of Ruin and Abandon the Linear really hit. If your calves and fingertips don’t ache to imagine the sheer shreddage in those two songs, you are lost. Crank it up and leave it there.
You Can Have the Crown became an anthem for me while guiding on the Green River this past summer. I wound up rowing a massive raft with all the groovers (poop) many times. I decided to rename my boat Shit Mountain and made guests refer to me as King Turd. Come for the silly stories and stay for the rest of the classics.
There’s no escaping my being an early aughts metalcore scene kid in LA. Somehow I never listened to Dance Gavin Dance back in the day, but I’m glad to have recently found this album to break up all the trips down memory lane. Cream of the Crop, Die Another Day, and Ember are tour de force on this record.
You are probably starting to see the instrumental metal side of this year for me. I’ve been spending more time reading and editing for the Radavist lately and having music without lyrics helps me focus, but it just has to be intense. 5-HTP, Signal Hill, and D.O.S.E have been on heavy repeat.
As the great Pubes says, “Life is f*cky sometimes” and for those days there is Julien Baker. When Tucson has one overcast day I get sad as shit immediately and put this album on. We all need to be sad boys sometimes.
I know Dakota from back in my LA warehouse days, you can even find a photo of him from my deep dive into my old medium-format photos. He would routinely pop in and play in the various permutations of bands in the friend group. I’ve been enamored with his latest release and enjoying his somber and thoughtful songs. Go listen on Bandcamp.
I’m not as good as John at this doom-metal stuff, but this album really struck a chord with me. It plays like a fantasy novel as they spin a tale throughout their albums. I don’t know what is going on, but I love it. Let the reverb soothe your soul.
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This is my album of the year, but it was released in 2018. I’m a bit late to the party. After sifting through a sea of uninspiring instrumental metal I stumbled on this album. I could listen to Tesla on repeat all damn day.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include my most heavily listened-to podcast this year, Behind the Bastards. Come learn all the f*cked up history you were never taught about the worst people in history. It’s well-researched and usually co-hosted by a comedian to make the dark humor all the darker. Want to ruin all your liberal friends’s ideas about the world? Well, then you should listen to this podcast. I highly recommend the sagas on L. Ron Hubbard and Vince McMahon. Tyler and I are still scheming how to get Robert Evans to come bikepacking with us.