As we kick off 2023 with new year’s resolutions, Dry January, and snow-packed or muddy singletrack, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the gear that genuinely improved my time on the trails in 2022

MTBR Gear of the Year 2022

RockShox Pike Ultimate
Bicycle Bicycles--Equipment and supplies Tire Wheel Bicycle wheel rim

RockShox’ heavy-hitting ZEB and Lyrik suspension forks have garnered the lion’s share of attention in recent years, but in 2022, it was the shorter-travel Pike Ultimate that topped my list of suspension upgrades. Available in 120, 130, and 140mm versions, the Pike is aimed squarely at short-travel trail bikes.

The Pike Ultimate benefits from trickle-down tech carried forward from its longer-travel brethren, such as an updated 35mm chassis with pressure relief valves, a new Charger 3 damper, DebonAir+ Air Spring, and high-frequency-fighting ButterCups dampers in the lower legs.

The Pike Ultimate is light, stiff, and the damping, especially during successive high-velocity impacts, is a cut above the competition. This fork keeps bikes like the Santa Cruz Tallboy, Ibis Ripley, and similar rigs from feeling undergunned on rough terrain. Fox, you have some catching up to do in 2023, because the Pike is the fork to beat.

Check RockShox Pike Ultimate price at Competitive Cyclist

Polartec Alpha Direct Insulation
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Winter came to Colorado just in time for me to start testing some of the latest winter cycling apparel.

Polartec’s Alpha Direct insulation is the hot new fabric technology everyone is rushing to incorporate into their cold-weather garments. Without diving too deeply into the details, Alpha Direct is a furry fabric that uses thousands of small fibers to regulate body heat and disperse moisture.

I’ve tested cycling vests, jackets and mid-layers with Alpha Direct insulation from 7Mesh, Giro, POC and Specialized (shown above is Specialized's Trail-Series Alpha Jacket), and they all performed exceptionally well. Alpha Direct insulation is soft, quick-drying, and works over a wide range of temperatures (20°f - 55°f is the range I tested in.) This fabric has an uncanny ability to keep the wearer warm without overheating and without excess bulk.

Check Specialized Trail-Series Alpha Jacket price at Backcountry

Rapha Fast & Light Shorts and Trail Lightweight Pants
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Rapha made waves with its entry into the mountain bike apparel scene last summer. The level of detail and refinement in its mountain bike clothing should be no surprise to those familiar with the brand.

Two of Rapha’s 2022 launches became fast favorites of mine. For summer rides, the Fast & Light Shorts have become my baggies of choice. When the temperature drops below 60°, I reach for the Trail Lightweight Pants.

Both of these bits of kit are constructed from a combination of lightweight four-way stretch and abrasion-resistant nylon fabrics and feature rear-facing zippered pockets. They have tailored fits that leave just enough room for kneepads. Speaking of kneepads, Rapha’s Trail Kneepads are also a personal favorite.

Check Rapha Trail Lightweight Pants price at REI

Check Rapha Trail Lightweight Pants price at Rapha

Check Rapha Fast & Light Trail Shorts price at REI

Check Rapha Fast & Light Trail Shorts price at Rapha

Reserve 30|HD Wheelset
Tire Bicycle tire Automotive tire Synthetic rubber Nature
At the start of 2022, Reserve wheels divided the 30 line of rims (“30” designating 30mm internal width) into HD and SL versions. The 30|HD rims are similar in terms of lateral rigidity to the 30|30, but offer improved vertical compliance thanks to the updated rim profile with a wider and lower 21mm cross-section.

Like other Reserve mountain wheels, the 30|HD rim also features reinforced spoke holes that strengthen the rims without adding excess weight to the rest of the rim and an asymmetric profile that evenly distributes spoke tension. The 1,878g weight is on par with similar carbon wheelsets designed for aggressive trail riding and enduro racing.

On the trail, the 30|HD is stout, standing up to my misplaced landings and shrugging off square-edged impacts. Unlike many burley enduro wheelsets from a few years ago, these hoops don’t ride harshly and do a commendable job of damping trail chatter.

Check Reserve 30|HD wheelset price at Competitive Cyclist

Silky Saws
Plant Wood Tree Knife Terrestrial plant

As much of the world reopened in 2022, in-person media camps once again filled my calendar. Most swag from these events isn’t much to write home about—a branded T-shirt, stainless steel pint glass, or other small items to be given away or donated after the event.

Two brands got it right in 2022 by sending gear editors away with parting gifts that keep on giving. After all, what better way to show your commitment to mountain biking than saws to assist with trail maintenance?

I can’t write enough good things about how useful Silky Saws are for mountain bikers. The Silky Big Boy makes short work of larger fallen limbs. I’ve used it to clear limbs and tree trunks up to 14” in diameter in a matter of minutes. The more compact Gomboy is an excellent just-in-case saw to keep in your pack if you find a few downed branches.

Check Silky Bigboy saw price at REI

Check Silky Gomboy saw price at REI

PNW Loam Lever Gen 2
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If you're a frequent MTBR reader, you know that we're fans of PNW Components for its user-friendly and refreshingly affordable products. Many mountain bikers, myself included, operate our dropper posts as much, if not more, than our shift levers, so it stands to reason that this left-sided lever should be more than an afterthought.

The Loam Lever Gen 2 improved on the original design with a larger, silicone-covered thumb pad and more adjustability in terms of handlebar positioning with three mounting positions, giving riders 14mm of mounting adjustment compared to the original Loam Lever’s 6mm of lateral adjustment.

As with the first-gen Loam Lever, this lever features a CNC’d aluminum body, sealed cartridge bearing, and stainless steel hardware, and is backed by PNW's lifetime warranty against manufacturer's defects.

Check PNW Loam Lever Gen 2 price at PNW

Trek Fuel EXe
Tire Wheel Bicycle Bicycles--Equipment and supplies Crankset
This is the first time an e-bike has made my Gear of the Year list. The Fuel EXe is impressive on machine many levels. First and foremost, the suspension performance and geometry are outstanding. Like the unassisted 2023 Fuel EX, the Fuel EXe is an outstanding all-arounder.

At the core of this e-bike is the TQ HPR50 motor. This drive unit is incredibly compact, which makes the Fuel EXe almost indistinguishable from its analog brethren. In a normal cadence range, the HPR50 motor is nearly silent.

As I noted in my review, in addition to being silent, the HPR50 motor feels frictionless while pedaling. The assistance comes on with a subtlety that makes it feel like you are a younger, fitter version of yourself with a tailwind at your back.

Check Fuel EXe price at Trek Bikes

Feedback Sports Pro Mechanic HD Repair Stand
Wood Plant Grass Tints and shades Office supplies

Feedback Sports makes great bike repair stands. I have a Pro Elite model that has been in daily use for five years and continues to be flawless. That said, there are times where I’ve wished for something more substantial that bridges the gap between a light and portable and a burlier shop-grade model. If you’re wrenching on 30+ pound enduro bikes or 50+ pound e-bikes the limitations of the Pro Elite become apparent—it will still get the job done, but there’s room for improvement.

That’s where the new HD model comes in. Feedback claims the oversized design of this heavy-duty repair stand is 145 percent stiffer than the Pro Elite, with a max weight capacity of 100 pounds, compared to the Elite’s 85-pound weight limit.

The difference in stiffness is noticeable when working on heavier mountain and e-bikes. My favorite feature? The magnetic tool holder built into the arm of the clamp.

Check Pro HD Repair Stand price at Feedback Sports

Maxxis Dissector / Rekon Tire Combo
Tire Wheel Automotive tire Tread Synthetic rubber

Many of last season’s bike launches focused on fast and light trail bikes, such as the redesigned Santa Cruz Tallboy. As a result, a lot of bikes I rode came equipped with Maxxis’ Dissector and Rekon tires mounted to the front and back, respectively.

In 2022, Maxxis launched the redesigned Forekaster as a dedicated downcountry tire to compete with similar offerings from Vittoria and others (stay tuned for a review), but I found the Dissector/Rekon combo suited my Front Range needs quite well on any bike with less than 140mm of travel.

The Dissector has abundant edge grip and enough space between knows to deal with loose and rocky terrain, while the Rekon is fast rolling, predictable through turns and breaks seems to break grip at just the right point through turns.

Check Maxxis Dissector price at Competitive Cyclist

Check Maxxis Rekon price at Competitive Cyclist

Wolf Tooth Resolve Dropper Post
Tire Bicycle Wheel Bicycles--Equipment and supplies Bicycle wheel
This launch caught me a bit by surprise. Wolf Tooth is best known for chainrings and lightweight tools. I didn’t think a dropper seatpost was in the cards, but I was mistaken.

The Resolve uses a self-bleeding cartridge to purge air and prevent sagging. It works similarly to Bike Yoke’s dropper posts. However, unlike the popular Bike Yoke Revive V2, the Resolve purges air each time the post is lowered without needing to toggle a bleed lever.

It’s one of a handful of droppers I can run in a 200mm length thanks to its short insertion length and limited stack height. (Wolf Tooth also makes it easy to calculate your max seatpost length here.)

I’m still in the early days of testing, but thus far, it has performed flawlessly. The Resolve is also one of the few droppers that are completely serviceable at home. Check out the Wolf Tooth Right to Repair program for more info.

Check Wolf Tooth Resolve dropper post price at Competitive Cyclist

Let’s hear your thoughts: What were the best mountain bike products you rode in 2022?