Sometimes, a product calls to you. You slip it on, bolt it to your bike, try it out however it is intended to be used, and you know that it’s a game-changer—something that will make every ride better and more enjoyable. But that immediate connection is rare.
More often, it takes rigorous testing, comparison, and evaluation to find those products that stand out among the rest. That’s what we do here. Our team of test editors puts in the miles on the road, in the dirt, and back in the shop, to see whether the latest gear is worth it.
The good news is that a lot of it is. Helmets are safer, apparel is getting cooler (and warmer), and components are including high-tech electronics so seamlessly that it all feels more like wizardry than engineering when you’re blowing down the road at 40mph.
To find this exceptional stuff, we tested more than 1,000 pieces of gear this year. These are the ones we’re most excited about: the 50 best products of 2019.
Muc-Off Tubeless Sealant
This long-lasting sealant deserves an award for its deliciously fruity scent in addition to how well it performs. We’re digging how robustly it seals tires and quickly fills holes and tears.
―CLEVER TOOL STORAGE―
OneUp EDC Tool System
OneUp’s EDC tool kicked off the in-frame tool craze—recently adopted by Trek and Specialized, which now offer their own tools tucked into stems. But OneUp’s system, which hides in the fork’s steerer, is still the best. And the new EDC stem makes the system even easier to install.
―A BETTER BELL―
Knog Oi Luxe Bell
The cleverly designed Oi Luxe is pretty with a cheery tone. Its elegantly slim profile fits against the stem on road bikes or into the crowded spaces next to a mountain bike grip so it’s always within easy reach.
―SHORTS YOU’LL NEVER WANT TO TAKE OFF―
Mission Workshop The Apoch
We wear these off the bike as much as we do while we’re riding. They don’t sag or bunch, and the slim-fitting legs move without snagging your seat.
These shorts have a flattering fit and are unbelievably lightweight for a pair with this much durability, breathability, and four-way stretchiness.
This is what we wish every mountain bike short was: light, durable, quick to dry, stretchy, and breathable.
―SHADES YOU CAN ABUSE―
Knockaround Premium Sunglasses
Finally, decent polarized sunglasses you can afford. And at $20, you don’t have to stress too hard about scratching the lenses or leaving them behind after a few parking lot beers. They are flattering on a variety of face shapes and work for any ride, but we like them best for commuting.
―OUR FAVORITE RECOVERY TOOL―
This self-massage tool is the next best thing to a personal soigneur. It utilizes percussive vibration to gently soothe sore muscles, increase circulation, and relieve tight knots. One charge lasts over three hours, and the device packs away easily, making it great for bike trips and adventure weekends. The best part: It’s quieter than the competition, so you can truly chill out while you cool down.
―FUEL FOR LONG RIDES―
Maurten 320 Drink Mix
To thrive during hard events, you need lots of fuel. Unfortunately, eating during exercise can be a GI disaster for many athletes. Maurten solves this problem with a one-of-a-kind sports drink that’s engineered so the carbs form an easy-to-digest gel-like substance when they mix with your stomach acid. It works so well, you can take in a whopping 80 grams of carbs—320 calories’ worth in one serving—with no GI revolt. Plus the sports drink helps hydrate you, fulfilling two needs in one.
―GAME-CHANGING BIKE BAG―
Evoc Bike Travel Bag Pro 2
This bike bag is easier to pack a bike into and travel with than any other we’ve used. A rigid frame on the inside anchors the bike at the front and rear dropouts, holding it secure while you finish taking it apart (or put it back together). A hard-plastic bottom offers some protection without the weight of a full shell, and three large-diameter wheels roll smoothly through airports and parking lots. It even collapses for easy storage in rental cars and hotel rooms.
―ROAD SHOES THAT CAN MAKE YOU FLY―
Pearl Izumi Tour (men) and Sugar (women)
This is one of the best-looking and most comfortable road shoes we’ve worn. It’s a great value, comes in a huge size range, and is compatible with two- and three-bolt cleats.
Specialized Torch 3.0
You get the all-day comfort of a softer shoe with the support and stiffness of a high-performance race model, but without the high-end price.
Shimano RC9/XC9 S-Phyre
The RC9 (road) and XC9 (mountain bike) offer a combination of stiffness, fit, and support that’s not found in any other shoe. And they’re surprisingly comfortable and accommodating.
―3 MTB JERSEYS THAT LOOK AS GOOD AS THEY FEEL―
Club Ride Motive
Its exceptionally breathable fabric helps keep you cool and doesn’t feel heavy when wet. And the casual design looks good everywhere.
Yeti Turq Air LS
A fantastically cool mountain bike jersey with built-in sun protection.
Patagonia Trail Bike Henley
The most comfortable mountain bike jersey we’ve worn this year. It looks, fits, and feels like your favorite tee, but advanced fabric wicks and dries superfast.
―DO-IT-ALL GRAVEL TIRE―
The round profile and closely spaced treads make the G-One smooth and speedy on paved roads, but it’s also magically grippy, compliant, and quick on gravel and dirt. It sets up easily and performs wonderfully at low pressure, making it the best all-road rubber you can buy right now.
―AI FOR YOUR SUSPENSION―
Fox LiveValve, $3,000–$3,250
LiveValve automatically, instantaneously, and continuously stiffens and softens a mountain bike’s fork and shock damping as you ride, so the suspension is always ideally tuned to the current trail situation. With it on, bikes climb with less bounce, pedal smooth sections of trail with more efficiency, have more cornering traction, and track through rocky sections more smoothly and with less skipping. It improves a bike’s suspension performance in every situation, and all the rider needs to do is hang on.
When we tested it, the Hiplok DX stood up to bolt cutters and a hacksaw every bit as well as Kryptonite’s popular New York Mini U-Lock, and at just over 1,000 grams, it weighs half as much. Plus it’s easier to carry between stops than most U-Locks, thanks to a clever pants clip.
―MUST-HAVE TRAFFIC RADAR―
Garmin Varia RLT510 Rearview Radar
There’s nothing else like the Rearview Radar. Before you can hear a car, Garmin’s Rearview Radar senses it approaching from behind and, on a compatible Garmin device, offers an audible and visual alert of up to six individual vehicles, along with a graphical representation of where they are relative to your position. In months of testing, it proved consistent and accurate. Knowing where cars are while keeping your eyes forward makes rides more enjoyable. And as an extra level of alert to drivers, the Radar’s 65-lumen blinker changes its flashing pattern as cars get closer.
―GO-TO RECOVERY MIX―
Skratch Labs Recovery Horchata
This delicious, cinnamon-y recovery mix brings you back from the dead quicker than anything else we’ve tried. For one, it’s loaded with sugar—31 grams per serving—which means it spikes your insulin and restores glycogen stores pronto. Lactase helps you digest the milk sugar, and one billion probiotic cultures per serving promote gut health—a big bonus for endurance athletes, whose guts take a beating.
Crank Brothers Synthesis E11 Wheels
The Synthesis all-mountain rims were developed by former Enve engineer Jason Schiers and with a unique design: The front rim is wider and more compliant than the rear. This allows the front to track terrain better, while the rear more efficiently handles acceleration and braking. The ride is subtly different than on other carbon wheels, with noticeable improvements in traction and control. Plus, you get a lifetime warranty.
―AMAZING SHOULDER-SEASON SHELL―
Ornot Magic Shell
Available: End of November
This stealthy shell takes the stress out of dressing for unpredictable weather. Stretchy, comfy, insulated, and as quiet as a jersey, but also wind- and water-resistant and packable. It’s so versatile it can replace several items in your wardrobe.
―UNBEATABLE BAR TAPE―
BTP Woven Bar Tape
The antidote to blah bar tape has arrived, and it’s comfy AF. This woven tape comes in 124(!!) color combos and patterns—you’ll spend more time deliberating over options than you will actually wrapping your bars. Once you do, though, you’ll be rewarded with a super-grippy feel. The tape’s cloth is sprinkled with clear silicone dots that add texture and help your hands stay planted in the sweatiest situations.
―BRILLIANT WIRELESS COMPONENTS―
SRAM eTap AXS Components
Red eTap AXS w/brakes: $2,838–$4,158; Force eTap AXS w/brakes: $2,078–$2,678; XX1 Eagle eTap AXS drivetrain: $2,000; X01 Eagle eTap AXS drivetrain: $1,900; RockShox Reverb AXS dropper: $800
SRAM’s wireless AXS components give you nearly unlimited freedom to set up your bike however you want, from road racer, to gravel grinder, to mountain bike, to urban commuter, and all the variations in between. The road cranks can fit one or two rings (with or without a power meter), and the derailleur fits a wide range of gearing setups—from road-race high to gravel-bike low—and it has a pulley-cage damper so it can also work with 1x drivetrains. You can even match the 1×12 mountain bike derailleur with the road-oriented shifters and brake levers. All without any fussy wires to fish through the frame. And the wireless dropper? It’s a revelation (albeit a pricey one).
―SIMPLE GEAR SOLUTION―
Spurcycle Saddle Bag
Probably the simplest saddle bag on the market, it also holds more gear and is easier to pack than any bag its size we’ve used.
Kora Shola 230 Crew
This yak-wool base layer has a warmth-to-weight ratio that’s better than anything else we’ve tested. It’s exceedingly soft and comfortable, too, making it the first piece we grab when we’re layering for cool-weather rides.
―SUPREME MOUNTAIN KICKS―
Specialized S-Works Recon Shoe
Stiffer, lighter, and more durable than any other mountain bike shoe we’ve tried, they make your feet feel almost weightless.
Five Ten Kestrel Pro Lace
The Kestrel is stiff enough for long pedal sessions, comfortable enough to hike in, and gives you a secure fit with most mountain bike pedals.
Giro Syntax MIPS
For a reasonable price, you get MIPS protection, good ventilation, and a great fit.
Bontrager Quantum MIPS
This is the most impressive mountain bike helmet we’ve tested that costs about a Benjamin. It’s comfortable, has a MIPS liner, Boa’s dial-fit system, and good ventilation.
Specialized Ambush w/ANGi
This attractive trail helmet has a great safety feature: A small electronic crash sensor automatically calls for help if it detects a large impact.
―3 SADDLES YOUR BUTT WILL LOVE―
Specialized Power Saddle Mimic
The game-changing Mimic is the most comfortable women’s saddle we’ve tried. Three foam densities support and cushion, and a TPU-filled cutout helps relieve pressure but won’t allow soft tissue to squeeze through. (Guys will like it, too.)
The Aeolus saddle has a wider nose and offers more support than some other similar saddles, and the cutout adds sweet relief.
Selle Italia SLR Kit Carbonio Boost Superflow
Few products let you shave weight and improve your comfort like the 125-gram SLR Boost.
―NEAR-PERFECT COMMUTER PACK―
Timbuk2 Especial Scope Backpack
It’s not cheap, but the Especial Scope is a pack that makes every commute easier, so you’re likely to ride more often. It’s light, roomy, comfortable, expandable, and weatherproof—the practically perfect backpack of our dreams.
―BEST ROAD JERSEY―
An amazing road jersey for 100 bucks. It’s soft and comfortable with good-looking longer sleeves and has an aerodynamic fit that’s not too constrictive.
―DROP IT FASTER―
Wolf Tooth ReMote
On some rides, a dropper remote may get more use than a shift lever. Despite how much they’re used, most are “meh” at best. Wolf Tooth’s is almost perfect. Smooth action, short throw, and a natural arc with a grippy paddle place is a step above any other option. It’s compatible with all cable-actuated droppers, and integrates into clamp systems from SRAM, Shimano, Magura, and Hope.
―BEST INSULATED VEST―
Rapha Brevet Insulated Gilet
Filled with Polartec’s awesome Alpha insulation—low-bulk insulation that’s extremely warm, compressible, and doesn’t suck up much water—this vest provides incredible warmth in a light package. It’s cut slim, but has stretchy side panels for a comfortable fit, and it rolls small enough to slide in a jersey pocket.
―A WINNING CLAMP―
Feedback Sports Pro-Elite Repair Stand
The most important feature on any repair stand is its clamp. And this stand’s is the best: It’s fast, secure, and easy to operate. This Feedback is also light and folds small for easy storage and transportation. And there’s a generous height range with a stable base.
Gore C5 Windstopper Insulated Overshoes
These overshoes are like a puffy jacket for your feet—warmer than most winter shoes. They let you wear your favorite shoes even on long rides in subfreezing temps.
―SUPERCHARGER FOR YOUR FORK―
MRP Ramp Control
Drop this cartridge into a Fox or RockShox fork’s air spring to get even more performance and precise tuning of your suspension. You can adjust end-of-stroke progression—on the fly—for better big-hit control, without altering midstroke support or initial sensitivity.
Shimano made us wait years for its response to SRAM’s Eagle 1×12 drivetrain. But it’s finally here, and it’s amazing. The 1×12 drivetrain with 10-51 cassette (additional 1x and 2x gearing options are also available) offers shifting smoothness and precision that sets the bar for all cycling drivetrains—it’s better than Shimano’s Dura Ace 9100 road group, which we had considered the best-shifting group of any type ever made.
―BETTER BIB SHORTS―
Rapha Core Cargo
We’d love this short even if it didn’t have pockets, but it does and they’re so useful (and practically invisible when empty).
Pactimo Summit Raptor
These are so soft and compressive and comfortable that the best way to describe them is this: absolutely luxurious.
The Black Bibs Plus
Inexpensive bib shorts that have a good, comfortable chamois and leg grippers that work, and come in plus and tall sizes.
―SUPER-TOUGH MINI TOOL―
Prestacycle T-Handle Ratchet Deluxe
Prestacycle’s ratchet is longer and capable of bigger loads (up to 60Nm) than most similar tools. That means you can loosen stubborn crank bolts and pedals with ease. The case makes it easy to travel with, but the wrench is small enough you can slip it into a pack or bag when you’re riding.
Vittoria Corsa Control Tubeless Ready 30mm
It rolls fast and smooth like a road-racing tire but has a more durable casing that protects you when you venture off the pavement. It’s tubeless, so you can run lower pressure while gaining extra flat protection from the sealant. At 30mm, it feels floaty without making the bike handle sluggishly.
Specialized 2020 AirTool Comp
Analog pump gauges used to come in two styles: low-pressure gauges that didn’t go high enough for road tires, and high-pressure ones that weren’t sensitive enough for low-pressure mountain bike tires, where one or two PSI can make a huge difference. This pump features a remarkably useful dual-stage gauge that gives you half-psi resolution up to 30psi on one side, and high-pressure measurement up to 120psi on the other.
―LEGAL PERFORMANCE BOOSTER―
AMP Human Performance PR Lotion
This acid-buffering, performance-boosting lotion contains sodium bicarbonate, which it delivers directly to your muscles. Studies show the formula helps you produce up to 11 percent more high-intensity-fueling lactate so you can generate more power at a lower heart rate and perceived exertion. It also helps reduce soreness when you’re done. We’ve trained and raced with it and are thrilled with how well it works.