The Radavist Product Awards and Top Ten Articles of 2023

While our favorite stories are always ride and event coverage, people love flocking to The Radavist for our opinion on products. We view ourselves as the bike industry’s press corps, offering nuanced takes on hot items each year, while pushing back ever so slightly on the long arm of the industry’s marketing. This year, we cracked a lot of hard nuts but walked away with some compelling products—some of which deserve extra recognition—all while deciphering the world of bikes we know and love, and penning opinion pieces that garnered lots of eyes throughout the past twelve months.

Let’s check out The Radavist Product Awards and our Top 10 Articles of 2023 below!

Starting off, we’d like to present our editorial staff’s picks for our Product Awards. Each of these pushed the paradigm in a unique way, offering up something new, forever altering the cultural zeitgeist. We decided to break it down into popular categories, representing The Radavist’s bricolage of bike coverage, starting with…

MTB of the Year: Chromag Darco

When you think of the Canadian brand Chromag, chances are, you think: long, slack, low, and now with a rear shock. The Chromag Darco was the brand’s first production full-suspension bike and represents the potential future of the category. First, it’s all metal, and save for the aluminum chainstays, it’s all steel. Yet, the magic of the Darco is in the detailing of the Horst link suspension design, resulting in a seemingly endless feeling rear travel.

The 3D-printed steel components present the highest level of product design we’ve seen in some time and being made in Taiwan makes the Darco more affordable than other bikes in this space. In fact, the complete Darco comes in close to the cost of a REEB SST frame alone. If more people are to ride metal and more sustainable MTBs, bikes like the Darco show that it’s not only possible, but it can offer a superior experience in almost every way.

Read John’s review here:

Long, Slack and Steep Review: Is the Chromag Darco 29er the Best Steel Full Suspension Yet?

Touring Bike of the Year: Esker Hayduke LVS

Originally developed as a one-off conceptual touring bike for Esker’s co-founder and CEO, Tim Krueger, the Esker LVS finally got its time in the limelight this year with a limited, small-batch production run. You might be asking “why isn’t this the MTB of the year?” Good question! It’s because the Hayduke LVS was created as a desert touring bike! It has rack mounts, a large front triangle, a geometry tuned for off-road and singletrack touring, and yeah, it even has a proprietary rack, the Molle Rackwald. Touring bikes can come in all shapes and sizes but don’t be turned off by the 600-millimeter chainstays on the Hayduke LVS, it’s just as fun loaded as it is unloaded.

Read John’s review here:

A Titanium Chariot: Esker Cycles Hayduke LVS Longtail Review

Drop-Bar Bike of the Year: Argonaut GR3

While we’re fans of metal bikes, there’s no denying the allure of a beautifully crafted carbon fiber bike. Argonaut Cycles makes some of the finest carbon drop-bar bikes in the USA, and this year’s announcement of the GR3 was right up our alley. With a modern, off-road-tuned geometry, clearance for big tires, fluidly sculpted joints, and a wide variety of paint options, the GR3 checks a lot of boxes for lovers of carbon fiber bikes. Peter waxes poetic for 4,000 words on this beaut, so if you’re curious about how the ends justify the means, give that a read.

Read Petor’s review here:

Don’t Tell Me You Like It: An Extended Review of The Argonaut GR3 Gravel Bike

Bag of the Year: Rogue Panda Ripsey Saddle Bag

Unlike flap-top bags which are all inspired by Carradice, bikepacking saddle bags are a relatively new construct, yet they all seem to have a functional Achilles’ heel when strapped to a bike with a dropper post. So much so that we’ve noticed an uptick in riders using minimal rear racks in lieu of the once-prolific bikepacking saddle bags to avoid the interference of bag+rear tire. Yet, don’t mark these bags down for the count. After over a decade of development, Rogue Panda released its all-new Ripsey Saddle Bag.

What makes this so award-worthy? Well, for starters, it features the first-ever ultralight skid plate. So even if your bag does kiss the tire, it’s protected by a plastic skid plate. Everything from motos to 4x4s and passenger cars use skid plates to protect crucial components, and the Ripsey follows this logic. Two steel brackets sandwich your saddle rails to offer a super solid connection for the straps. There’s even Austere Manufacturing Cam Buckles to help you cinch everything down! Then, it utilizes a Dropperblock, Rogue Panda’s design that clamps to a dropper stanchion to protect it from the bag’s straps.

Yep. Rogue Panda solved the bikepacking saddle bag problem with the Ripsey.

If you haven’t checked one out yet, read Spencer’s review here: 

Just Send It: Rogue Panda’s New Ripsey and Updated Stem Bags

Runner Up: Revelate Nano Panniers

Some people like bikepacking bags, and others like touring bags. John’s gleaming review of the Revelate Nano Panniers showcased these lightweight panniers after a thrashing on the CDT in Northern New Mexico. While they aren’t waterproof, John’s been in the habit of loading his gear in waterproof compression sacks for decades. What makes the Nano so compelling is the bag’s structural straps and secure rack attachment.

Read John’s review here:

Deadfall, Cow Sh*t, and Monsoons: A Well Used Revelate Nano Panniers Review

Component of the Year: MicroShift Sword

While the world has embraced electronic shifting and proprietary dropout designs, we’re still vibing hard with Microshift’s Sword line. Don’t get us wrong, SRAM Transmission is superb. It is the most technologically advanced component groupset ever, but we’ll offer up a gentle nudge and ask if it’s necessary across all bike platforms. While SRAM requires a UDH-compatible frame, Sword slices proprietary components across the throat and bathes in its blood. Jokes aside, not all frames have a UDH and not everyone wants electronic shifting. MicroShift once again listens to the masses and delivered a bomber 10-speed drivetrain.

Check out Travis’ review here:

The Hero We Need: A microSHIFT Sword 1x Drivetrain Review

Runner Up: Hope Tech 4 V4

While the Growtac Equal brakes Morgan recently reviewed are high on our list, the Hope Tech 4 V4 hydraulic disc brakes are hands down the best-feeling disc brakes we’ve used; mechanical or hydraulic. They’re made in the UK and offer multiple points of ergonomic adjustability, excellent control, and modulation. Plus, they come in multiple colors, including a stunning silver! Four-piston brakes are controversial, with many people saying they’re overkill, but your hands will thank you after a 5,000-foot descent on rocky singletrack!

Check out Josh’s review here:

Episode IV: A New Hope Tech 4 V4 Hydraulic Disc Brake Review

Apparel of the Year: ORNOT Mission Pants

We’re inclined to think that the best “bike wear” looks great off the bike as well. Josh and John have been in love with the ORNOT Mission Pants, which if you read John’s Mission Shorts review, you’ll see why. These made-in-USA stretchy pants come in a variety of colors and sizes, perfectly fitting anyone’s on or off-the-bike palette. This year felt like the year of ORNOT and we can see why!

Runner Up: Rapha Explore Pants

Ryan Wilson is hard on gear. Not intentionally, but by nature of what he does. Living on your bike full-time in the harshest of conditions is rough on everything, increasingly so for your pants! So if Ryan sings the praises of the Rapha Explore Pants (Hailey noted her love of the Explore Shorts this year, and John also sang their praises last year), you know they’re good!



Shifting gears, we’ve had a great year for articles on the site. Some of which were announcements, others were op-eds or bike hacks, routes, and event Reportage. We looked at our total pageviews for the year and skimmed the top ten articles from our analytics. You might be surprised what made this list—even our team wasn’t expecting a few of these articles—so let’s get to it!

#1 All-City Cycles is Closing

In a lot of ways, The Radavist and All-City grew in popularity together in the alt-cycling universe. So it should come as no surprise that this sad announcement will be at the top of our list of articles this year. Stay tuned for John’s review of the Titanium Cosmic Stallion to officially close out this brand’s long-lived legacy. We’ll miss you, All-City.

#2 The Radavist is Once Again an Independent Website

2023 felt like the longest year ever for John and Cari, who spent the majority of it in negotiations trying to take over ownership of The Radavist once again. Well, we’re back to being independent, and your outpouring of support really spurred all of us to produce the best content ever, for free, in the bike industry. You can continue to support our efforts by signing up for our Group Ride subscription plan!

#3 The Dust Up: Bicycle Touring is Not Bikepacking No Matter the Bags Used or Terrain Traversed

Oh boy. John really knows how to kick the hornets’ nest of bicycle identity politics. Case in point: his passionately-penned piece pushing back on the re-marketing of bicycle touring as “bikepacking.”

#4 2023 MADE Bike Show Coverage

The framebuilder and maker segment coverage is one we own in this industry. We were the first cycling website to extensively cover these industry outliers year-round, and our 2023 MADE Bike Show coverage showcases that we don’t view this as a traffic market share like many media outlets. Rather, we’ve built this very brand upon supporting makers. We view these folks as our family; work like this comes from the heart.

Love you all, and we’ll see ya at MADE in 2024!

#5 Bike Hacks: Local Mountain Biker’s Hip-Bag Trick Has Handlebar-Bag Makers Furious

Travis’s Bike Hacks really resonate with our readership, often showing that it’s not necessarily about the products but how you use them! This simple piece brought in tons of eyes from Google, showing that people wanna know about these clever solutions!

#6 55 Zone Ahead: The Messy Story of Modern Mountain Bike Chainlines

Again, no surprise here! Travis’s deep dives into the bicycle industry’s technological shortcomings struck a chord with not only the readers of The Radavist but inquisitive Googlers alike. Some 55 mm chainlines are problematic and this article looks at how we got there…

#7 Ryan Wilson’s 8 Favorite Bike Touring Routes Around the World

Ryan’s work at The Radavist is a crowning achievement with his National Geographic-level Reportage. He covers cultures, gear, and yes, routes, all in the most stunning photo galleries on the ‘net! Having traveled throughout the Americas and Asia, Ryan’s literally been around the world with camera in hand. So when he lists out his eight favorite bike-touring routes, you know they’re gonna be good!

#8 ALUMIWARS: Beach Club Al Dente Gravel Bike Vs. Ron’s Bikes AluMAX Grav Grav Bike

Oh boy. Technically, this was a part of our 2023 MADE Bike Show coverage, but it proved to be a gem on its own. Team Dream Team/Beach Club versus Ultra Romance/Ron’s Bikes in a playful, political parody aimed at the absurdity of the 2020 US Presidential election.

Bear in mind that there are no losers in cycling. More people on bikes is always a good thing!

#9 Collect ’em All: Seven Bicycle Tools You Rarely Need but Should Have Anyway

The tinkerers came out en masse for yet another one of Travis’s articles, showcasing a collection of tools every at-home bike mechanic needs in their toolbox. Even if you’re afraid of bleeding disc brakes, these tools will help you keep your bike rolling in between bike shop check-ins.

#10 Origins and Activations: How Ronnie Romance Found Inspiration at Blue Lug Bike Shops

We love a good origin story, and the great Ultra Romance’s profile on Blue Lug’s bike shops held the last spot on this list with solid numbers. It’s easy to see why, too! Blue Lug is one of the greatest bike shops in the world and the passion for cycling there is really felt in this wonderful article!



Tune in tomorrow for our Top Ten Beautiful Bicycles of 2023 and throughout this week, our Top Ten articles!