Spencer’s Summer 2024 Product Picks


Spencer’s Summer 2024 Product Picks

Summer has arrived in Tucson, Arizona, which means it’s Spencer‘s surface-of-the-sun season. As such, it’s no surprise that he is shifting his focus inside. Here are some summer products keeping him busy while he waits for the sun to set so he can finally ride in sub-100-degree heat.

Whenever I tell someone I live in Tucson, the first thing they say is, “Isn’t it hot there?” Yes, it’s hot here, and I like it.  The warm mornings and evenings are plenty lovely. Nonetheless, as the seasons change, we hit our “reverse winter,” or introspective season, here in the desert. As everyone else is running to sunbathe, we are hiding away. I have a massive pile of unfinished projects and video games to keep me busy all summer. So here are my picks for some products that will help me get through this hot hot summer.

WPL C24 RC Crawler $115

Years ago, I saw some people at the base of Amasa Back in Moab with some little four-wheel drive RC trucks. I thought to myself: that looks like just as much fun, if not more fun, than driving a full-size four-wheeler. I proceeded down a rabbit hole and eventually wound up on WPL’s website mostly because their C-24 models look like sweet old Toyota pickups that I’ll never be able to afford (nor would I want to maintain). I picked up their KM model and a few weeks later got a box full of a zillion parts.

I spent a few evenings carefully installing all the grub screws and assembling the frame. This model did require some soldering for the two-speed gearbox motor, but it was simple if you’re familiar with the process. I dove headfirst into a complicated frame-up build (instead of a ready-to-run) RC crawler and have had a few hiccups along the way. I fried a circuit board and have had to re-Loctite more than a few screws.

I love tinkering, and these little RC crawlers make for a fun hobby to throw in the car as a cool-down at the trailhead over bubbly waters. I’ve also loved taking it to the creek beds around Tucson for some granite creek crawling. There is a whole world of these RC cars and recently it seems to be bleeding into the bike world…

Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree DLC $40

I’ve been waist-deep in Elden Ring for most of the 2024. I’m about 70 hours into the main game currently.  I floundered with the famously difficult game for tens of hours till I found a great walkthrough that gave me some direction. Even knowing exactly where to go in the game is still relentlessly hard as this is my first experience with a “Soulsbourne” game. As summer gets into full swing, I’ll be exploring the latest DLC (downloadable content), The Shadow of the Erdtree, an expansion on Elden Ring. With ~40 hours of new content, I’m sure it will last me through the summer. Despite the crazy difficulty, I find myself continually drawn to Elden Ring for its impressive world and lore.

I can’t make it over to Mongolia like Ryan Wilson so I’ll have to make the Altus Plateau work for now.

SDG Bel Air V3 Throwback Saddle (Cow) $90

One of my latest review bikes came with the standard SDG Bel Air V3. After a few rides, I was surprised at how happy my undercarriage was with the saddle. I reached out to SDG to get one of the fun animal print saddles to swap onto the review bikes since it was technically the same as stock. I have wide hip bones, but I’ve put some large (for MTB) days on this saddle and come away pain-free. The throwback saddle is a fun way to add some style without sacrificing comfort. I gotta snag a leopard print one for my Ripley now!

Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crip $8

A friend left some of this at my house this past winter. I’m always intimidated by the possible heat of what constitutes spicy in Asian food, but my bud assured me it wasn’t that bad. He wasn’t wrong, and while there is some heat, the flavor is far more than just spicy. I’m a big rice and veggies guy most days, and Lao Gan Ma has become an indispensable all-in-one means to liven up almost any bland dish. It’s usually under five bucks at my local grocery and on jar usually lasts a week or so. I just love it.

Alpacka Raft Expedition $1725

I just did a two-week lap around UT/CO and tried to get as much boating in as possible before returning to southern AZ. Tucson doesn’t have any boatable rivers, so I always have to travel to go paddling, and having a packable raft is crucial. I snagged this Expedition model at Alpacka’s sidewalk sale a few years ago, hence the quirky color scheme sewn together from scraps of fabric. I know it’s a bit of a sticker shock to see the price of one of these rafts compared to other items on the list, but Alpacka rafts are the highest quality packrafts, made right here in Colorado, so you get what you pay for.

In the last few weeks, I floated sections of the Animas, Green, Blue, and Uncompahgre rivers. Additionally, I took a self-supported 5-day trip on Salt River this past spring in my Expedition. Living up to its name, the Expedition is just as capable of being a pack mule for multi-day trips as it is in Class IV rapids. I love how versatile the raft is and with the addition of their new HD neoprene skirt, the packraft feels like a complete package finally.

I have enjoyed getting into river trips these past few years and the accessibility of packrafting has made that journey accessible. If you are new to paddling, or if you’re interested in learning more, I highly recommend taking a class with Four Corners Guides!

Ergon GS1 EVO $35

I love paddle grips and can’t live without them anymore. The GS1 EVO is a much-needed evolution of the tried and true GP1. Moving the clamp inboard alleviates a pressure point on the outside and the new grip compound feels better in hand. Here’s to hoping the GP2 with a small bar-end gets the same treatment soon to make my paws truly jubilant.

WTB Vupline S Tires

It’s a hybrid tire and I love it. My “gravel bike” is mainly a road bike for all intents and purposes as our roads are rougher than most gravel and our gravel is rougher than most mountain bike trails. So, a 45c solid center tread tire is exactly what I want for around town. With summer is setting in, some of my mixed routes in the foothills are the only way to get some miles in before I melt. Been loving the Vulpine S tires for just such rides this summer.

ALDR Works Terrestre Handlebar Bag $95

This bag also accompanies me on the aforementioned foothills mixed surface rides. The Terrestre is simple but very well-considered with impeccable material choices. Even the nylon webbing feels like it could withstand a nuclear blast. ALDR has one of the best color palettes in the bike bag game, while this bag is just black, make sure you check out their lineup. The Terrestere will continue to be in heavy rotation for my summer rides.