Cycling Gear That Kicked Ass in 2023

I added a lot of gear to the pile in 2023. Prior to separating from the kids’ mom, I didn’t spend a lot on bike stuff, and over the years, I had more and more stuff that was broken, falling apart, or barely operational anymore. Combine that with adding a new gravel bike to the fleet, and I found myself buying a lot of stuff in 2023. Here’s what was great.


I’ll make no bones about my long-term dislike of SRAM mechanical brifters on the road. I came up on down-tube shifters, have always embraced STI brifters, and the weird DoubleTap shit on SRAM’s mechanical brifters always made me a little batty. When I ordered my Ti gravel frame this year, I had planned on installing Shimano’s GRX Di2 group, but Alex of Northern Frameworks (now retired from framebuilding) talked me into the clean looks of a wireless system. I gave it a lot of thought before making a decision, and I can say without hesitation that SRAM was the right choice. The Force AXS shifting has been a dream. I like it enough where I want to upgrade my Specialized Fuse Expert to a 1×12 AXS drivetrain, and I’ll be putting an AXS group on the BMC road frame I’m currently building up for 2024. The good: simple setup, crisp shifting, reliable. The bad: out the door, three blocks away struggling to figure out why you can’t shift and realizing your battery is still in the charger on the kitchen counter.

Specialized Power with Mirror Pro Saddle

The name is on par with Microsoft’s old naming conventions: cumbersome. But, the important thing here is that this saddle is a masterpiece and worth every last penny. Not a single moment of pain on this saddle this year, and I rode it a lot. Is it pricey? Yes. Is it also comfortable? Yes. Should you get one on your bike? Also yes. In fact, there’s another one going on my BMC Roadmachine frameset this year. The good: ridiculously comfortable. The bad: $325 is a lot for a saddle.

Oura Ring

Yeah, it’s a fitness tracker, but man, the battery life is insanely good (around four days between charges), the data is good, and it did something very important — it helped me get my sleep hygiene in-order, which was huge for my training in 2023. Definitely worth owning. The only hard parts are figuring out how to pronounce the name, and dealing with all the Nuvaring jokes. The good: unobtrusive, easy to use, long battery life. The bad: expensive compared to other fitness trackers, whatever coating it is that gives it color shows scratches pretty quickly.

Oakley Prescription Eyewear

This year, I finally got back on the prescription optics bandwagon. I’m sick of contact lenses — they’re expensive for something you just throw away, they’re uncomfortable, and generally speaking, I dislike the hassle. So I had a complex prescription (bifocal/progressive) and it took some doing to figure out which models of Oakleys would work with that prescription. It had been years since I previously ordered prescription sunglasses, and now, I regret not doing it more promptly. The good: Oakley durability. The bad: Oakley prices.

Therabody Theragun PRO (5th Gen)

The Theragun isn’t a cycling-specific tool, but it is fantastic. My only complaint — that the noise freaks out our reactive dog — isn’t one that can be laid at the feet of Therabody. It’s not their fault. This was one of my best of the year because it got me through my training program and countless sessions of ride recovery. I have no doubt it’ll be a regular piece of equipment for years to come. If you suffer a lot on/after your rides, this is for you. The good: jackhammering your muscles into a soft goo. The bad: pricing compared to similar offerings.

Northern Frameworks Custom Titanium

Man, I love this thing, and I’m also a little sad that it’s the final Northern to be built. Alex has decided to hang up his torch and call it a day. I don’t blame him, really. Framebuilding is a brutal business and I can’t blame him for his choice. But man, the quality of his work is exceptional, and the framebuilding world is going to lose a lot with his absence. That said, the Northern gravel frame fits like a glove, rides like a dream, and was worth every last penny I spent on it. The good: custom geometry, that sweet, sweet titanium ride. The bad: can’t add another Northern to my stable.

Notable Mentions

  • Chris King R45D hubs. The pair that went on the gravel bike were my 4th or 5th pair, and they’re laced to a pair of Zipp 303 rims. Thus far, they’ve been absolutely bombproof, like all my other CK hubs. (Though the only pair I have left in my possession is the pair on my singlespeed mountain bike.)
  • Shokx OpenRun Pro headphones. The bone-conducting headphones are better than I expected them to be. While not perfect, having them on and being able to hear traffic around me is a game-changer, particularly when combined with the Garmin Varia. I’m a little disappointed in their battery life and their bass output, but for the price they were worth the money.

Gear I’m Looking Forward To in 2024

  • More Chris King R45D hubs. I’ve ordered a pair of these to lace to some Zipp 404 Firecrest rims for my new road bike build. I suspect that my experience with anything Chris King is going to continue to be exceptional.
  • Wahoo Element Bolt v2. My existing Element Bolt has been amazing. I love it, far more than I have loved any Garmin computer I’ve owned. So getting the upgraded version is high on my list of “hell yes, let’s do this.”

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