Editor’s Dozen: Logan and VA’s Favorite Gear of 2023 (Summer)

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After a half-year of day rides and bikepacking trips in Oaxaca, Colorado, and the Eastern US, Logan and Virginia shine some light on a few standout pieces of gear. Here are a dozen products that have become their summer favorites, including a brilliant new stem, purple cogs, lightweight sandals, a solution for slipping seat posts, and more…

This year has treated us well so far. We spent the beginning of 2023 rambling about the Oaxacan backcountry on the San José del Pacifico and several other rides in the area. After that, we stuck around our home in the southern Appalachians riding familiar turf in the spring, then went to Colorado to scout and work on a new route we’re excited to unveil soon. Along the way, we tested a lot of new gear.

For this installment of the #editors-dozen series, we selected 12 items that have already seen a ton of use in 2023, becoming our newfound favorites in the process. Some of these items were resurrected from the parts bin and others are relatively new to the market this year. Each is in a mini-review format with a quick writeup, photo gallery, and impressions. Note that all of these were picked because we’re really enjoying them, so the pros unsurprisingly outweigh the cons across the board.

Rogue Panda Bismarck Bottle Bucket (V2)

112 grams / Made in Arizona, USA / $65 at Rogue Panda

I reviewed the Bismarck a few years ago, but last year, Rogue Panda gave this handy little bag a makeover. It still has the same features: a built-in lightweight bottle cage, useful mesh pockets, and a front “balloon” pocket. They made two excellent changes, however. The previous Bismarck had a left and a right version, each with the mesh pockets reversed and a lower strap oriented accordingly. The new Bismarck has just one option and can be reversed and used on either side of the bike by changing the lower strap mount. Also, instead of having a single strap that fixes the bag to the handlebars, the latest version has two, providing a space in between them that can accommodate a handlebar strap from another bag, such as a harness or roll, making it friendlier for use with other bags. Lastly, Rogue Panda changed the fork crown strap to use a Voilé Nano Strap instead of fixed webbing. This not only helps preserve the finish on the fork, but it’s also easier to use.

  • Rogue Panda Bismarck Bottle Bucket V2
  • Rogue Panda Bismarck Bottle Bucket V2
  • Rogue Panda Bismarck Bottle Bucket V2
  • Rogue Panda Bismarck Bottle Bucket V2
  • Rogue Panda Bismarck Bottle Bucket V2

There’s a reason why the Rogue Panda Bismarck Bottle Bucket is the first item in this Editor’s Dozen list: it gets moved to whatever bike I’m riding, and besides my One Up pump, it’s the only piece of gear I use on every trail ride and bikepacking trip. It’s unlike anything else on the market, and its primary purpose is to keep a water bottle in an easy-to-access location. However, it’s also particularly handy because it has four super useful stash pockets that are perfect for chapstick, snacks, trash, and other items that are best stowed within reach. Note that there’s a newer version of the Bismarck that uses Voiles for the handlebar straps. I’m betting it’s even better than this one, which I didn’t think could be improved upon.

Hope Seat Post Clamp

~20 grams / Made in U.K. / $28 at REI

I’ve managed to have three steel hardtails that developed the dreaded “slipping seat post” condition over the last couple of years, a tragic affliction where the seat post slowly slides down as you’re riding, no matter how tightly it’s clamped. Unfortunately, this isn’t always easily remedied. Common solutions include cleaning and greasing the clamp bolt or applying carbon paste to the seat post. Most recently, this manifested itself out of nowhere on my Pipedream S5 when using a standard Wolf Tooth seat post clamp. I tried cleaning out the seat tube and clamp bolt, greasing the bolt, and retightening. That didn’t work. Then I tried using carbon paste, but it still slipped.

Hope Seat Post Clamp
  • Hope Seat Post Clamp
  • Hope Seat Post Clamp

A mechanic friend recommended switching to a Thomson seat post clamp, which he claimed remedied this issue for him on a couple of occasions. The local shop didn’t have one in stock, so I opened up my spares drawer and found a Hope Seat Post Clamp. Inspecting it closely, I realized it was deeper than most others. It also has a unique bolt and triangular nut that appears to be designed to provide an even clamping force at the rear. After installing it and tightening accordingly, there was no more slippage, and I’ve since put a ton of miles on the S5 while training for a race and riding in it. I’m now using the Hope collar on two other bikes and am completely sold.

The Hope Seat Post Clamp is made from 2014 T6 Aluminium and Brass and comes in a variety of diameters (28.6, 30, 31.8, 34.9, 36.4 and 38.5mm) and colors (Black, Silver, Red, Blue, Purple, and Orange).

Smith Photochromic Glasses (Wildcat)

Made in China / ~$190 at AMZN

Eye protection is a necessary summertime accessory here in the Southeastern United States, whether it’s bright or not. Bugs and gnats can play hell on eyeballs and even ruin a perfectly good afternoon ride when pedaling through the woods, especially near water. Sunglasses work well to protect your peepers on a sunny day. However, if you’re riding in the deep dark woods during the afternoon around dusk, or on a cloudy day, light changes and visibility can become an issue. In the past I’ve used sunglasses with interchangeable lenses, switching them mid-ride, or I’ve just removed the sunglasses completely and put them on my helmet when visibility diminishes. Recently, I saw the light when a friend was sporting a pair of glasses with lenses that adjust their tint depending the light level. Shortly thereafter, I picked up a pair of Smith Wildcat glasses with photochromic lenses.

  • Smith Photochromic glasses
  • Smith Photochromic glasses
Smith Photochromic Lenses
Neil wearing his beloved Smith Shift Mag glasses with Photochromic lenses

I’ve been super impressed with these glasses. They’re comfortable, and the lenses are fantastic. They don’t get as dark as my beloved Frogskins, but they get dark enough for most of the riding I do. Smith claims a variable 20-85% range, but they appear almost completely clear when it’s getting dark outside. Better yet, these lenses some of the best I’ve used on the trail and don’t obscure features and terrain like other glasses I’ve used. They also maintain that clarity when they get dirty or it’s misting or drizzling, which is quite impressive.

Randi Jo Portage Hip Pack

362 grams / Made in Oregon, USA / $130 at Randi Jo Fabrications

Randi Jo Fabrications has been stitching high-quality cycling accessories from a small shop in Elkton, Oregon, for years. In fact, way back in our Pedaling Nowhere days a decade ago, we had a custom run of her lovely Bartender stem bags made. Nowadays, Randi Jo and Eric make everything from handmade cycling caps to shop aprons to waxed canvas bike bags. This past spring, we were excited to see Randi Jo release her take on a bum bag with the new Portage Hip Pack. We’ve been testing one for a couple months and love it.

Randi jo Fabrications Hip Pack

In true Randi Jo fashion, the Portage Hip Pack is elegantly minimal with a classic aesthetic. The Portage body is made from 10.10oz waxed canvas and it has a thinner 6.25oz waxed canvas roll top with a single snap to keep things from flying out if it’s not secured with the strap and Fidloc magnetic buckle. The bag has a diamond ripstop-coated lining throughout. There are two flat zippered pockets: one on the inside front and one on the exterior that has an expandable inverted pleated pocket. The bag uses 1/8″ closed cell foam on the body to help it keep its shape. Additionally, the waist strap can be tucked into the space behind the two-layer back, and a daisy-chain enables it to double as a small handlebar bag.

  • Randi jo Fabrications Hip Pack
  • Randi jo Fabrications Hip Pack
  • Randi jo Fabrications Hip Pack
  • Randi jo Fabrications Hip Pack
  • Randi jo Fabrications Hip Pack

The waist strap is simple too, with unpadded two-layer waxed canvas wings and two adjustment points. The strap system was designed with photography in mind using a ladder lock compression buckle on the right side of the strap. This enables it to be quickly loosened to swing the pack to the front for fast access. Then it can easily swivel back and be cinched down using the tail of the strap. Similarly, the magnetic Fidlock buckle and roll-top closure make accessing contents quick and easy. My only complaint is that the strap is a little short when the bag doesn’t have too much stuff in it, and it’s hard to get tight. That’s far from being a deal-breaker, however.

It’s a really nice design that’s worked very well with my Fuji X100V. We also used it on a recent scouting trip in Colorado to haul an extra lens, swapping out a 24-70 f/2.8 and a 70-200 f/4. It had plenty of room to spare and can easily carry a full-frame mirrorless camera with a decent size lens.

Tailwind Endurance Fuel

Made in Colorado, USA / $40 at Macha Mandarin

Aside for the occasional need to pack in as many calories as possible into small spaces, I’ve never been one for bars, gels, or other athletic nutritional snake oil. For big day rides, I usually toss a peanut butter sandwich in my frame bag or some trail pizza and a beer. Bikepacking usually involves similar fare or foods that are more tasty and rewarding than they are nutritious. However, I started training for a race earlier this spring and circled back to Tailwind Endurance Fuel, an engineered hydration mix made for big endurance efforts.

I first heard about Tailwind Endurance Fuel a few years ago when a friend described it with the words “Colorado magic powder.” That seemed like a lofty tagline for this made-in-Colorado product, but Virginia and I tried the Green Tea formula (now called Macha) and found it offered a nice caffeine boost during a long ride. Fast forward a few years, and I was talking with a friend who engineers his own hydration mix for ultra-running races and discussing how to not cramp up or get dehydrated during a really difficult ride. After hearing about his mixture of sodium and minerals, I knew I was on the right track with Tailwind and decided to make it part of my nutrition plan during training rides and during the event.

Tailwind Endurance Fuel

The Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventure Race (PMBAR) is a grueling day on the bike that usually involves about 70-80 miles and 10,000-12,000 feet of climbing on mostly rugged singletrack. My parter and I were doing it on singlespeeds. I knew that riding in this particular race would be tough, especially if we were to try and compete. Staying hydrated and avoiding cramping were my two biggest concerns. That being said, one issue I have when putting in a hard endurance effort is the inability to eat.

  • Tailwind Endurance Fuel
  • Tailwind Endurance Fuel Review

Aside from providing essential cramp-preventing nutrients like sodium, potassium, and magnesium, the beauty of Tailwind Endurance Fuel is that it also provides some caloric value—two scoops of the stuff contains about 200 calories. I rotated it between regular water bottles and finished each mixed bottle in about three or four gulping sessions. In the end, I didn’t have any serious cramping during the event but had a really hard time eating. I ultimately used about 1,200 calories worth of Tailwind during the race and tried to scarf down a couple of bars, a bag of potato chips, and a few other snacks intermittently. In hindsight, I would have left the majority of food at home and used Tailwind almost exclusively had I known. I alternated between the caffeinated Macha formula and my favorite, Tangerine. If you’re looking for a hydration solution for your next race or big ride, I highly recommend this stuff. It seems very well balanced, keeps the cramps at bay, and maintains the engine.

Quoc Lala Slide

287 grams (pair/size 42) / Made in TBD / £39 at Quoc

Multi-function Bedrocks are nice and all, but I’m not a full-time convert to toe-thong Jesus sandals just yet. I prefer off-bike comfort slip-ons, which my friend Jess Daddio affectionally calls “old-man sliders.” My latest footwear in this genre are made by UK-based QUOC, who are better known for their gravel shoes. As Lucas put it in the press release, the Quoc Lala Slides were “created to bring minimalist elegance and casual comfort to the humble shower slide, the QUOC Lala Slide is a good-looking, lightweight flip-flop constructed with an anatomically designed footbed that boasts excellent cushioning and airflow, extra-thick microfiber straps, and an anti-slip outdoor tread.” The Lala Slide is the QUOC’s first offering in their new “Athleisure” category.

Quoc Lala Slide
  • Quoc Lala Slide
  • Quoc Lala Slide

I’ve found myself wearing the Lala Slides daily since they arrived a few months ago, both with socks and without. They aren’t the most sure-stay-on sandals I’ve used—as in, I can’t jog in them without one flying off mid-stride—but they sure are comfy. I’ve also pedaled a little in them and there’s not really any signs of wear and tear. A pair of QUOC’s Lala Slides weigh 287 grams in size EU42 and will set you back $50 USD (€45 EUR/£39 GBP). They come in whole sizes from EU38-47 in Amber, Dusty Pink, Black, and Sand.

Oversized tire plugs

Made in TBD / $20 at Backcountry

Several of us got flats while out riding the San José del Pacifico route back in February. That wasn’t surprising considering the route takes in an array of goathead-littered dirt roads and cacti-spine-infested sandy tracks. In fact, when I got home from that trip and removed my tires, the inside of them almost resembled something out of the Hellraiser movie franchise, with a variety of thorns poking through. It was on that ride that I came to appreciate oversized tire plugs.

Oversized Tire Plugs

Long story short, I got a bad 2-3mm tear somewhere on the latter half of the route. I tried to plug it with a double serving of normal-sized “bacon strip” plugs. That lasted for all of 30 minutes before blowing out. A second try yielded the same result. Fortunately, one of my compadres had a Lezyne oversized plug pill. One plug did the trick, and I continued to use that tire for the duration of the route and a couple hundred subsequent miles of day rides and overnighters. Pro tip: instead of plugging it so the “tails” are poking out, insert the plug all the way into the tire, then pull it partway out so the bend of the “U” is sticking out and remove the plug fork. This creates a bulbous knob and the two tails get glued into place with sealant inside the tire. This creates a better long-term seal.

Profile Racing Helm Stem

202 grams (60mm) / Made in Florida, USA / $121 at Profile Racing

I’ve been a PAUL Boxcar stem diehard for years, mainly for their classic machined aesthetic, sturdy clamp area, and the fact that they’re made in the USA. But like most stems, the Boxcar requires a little thought when you’re clamping down the handlebars, particularly if you’re running carbon bars. Like most stems, you need to clamp the faceplate bolts at an angle to ensure proper clamping force on the bars. A mechanic and friend of mine recently recommended the Helm, a stem made by a relatively small company based in St. Petersburg, Florida called Profile Racing. Profile is best known for their high-quality BMX hubs and drivetrain components, but they also make quite a few MTB parts, including the Helm Stem.

Profile Designs Helm Stem
  • Profile Designs Helm Stem
  • Profile Designs Helm Stem
  • Profile Designs Helm Stem

Aside from a really sharp-looking, moto-inspired aesthetic, the Helm has a couple of characteristics that stand out among a sea of stem options. First and foremost, it has a moto-style clamp, meaning you tighten down the top two bolts fully and then torque the bottom two to clamp the bars. This distributes the clamping force evenly and requires zero concentration or technique. Additionally, the Helm is CNC-machined from 7075 Billet Aluminum and finished with radius and chamfered edges for a smooth finish, leaving no sharp edges to stress the bar material. I’m really digging this stem, and it’s nice to see another beautiful MUSA option that’s available in a variety of sizes for both 31.8 and 35mm bars. The Helm comes in 32mm,40mm, 50mm, and 60mm lengths in Black, Silver, Matte Black, Red, Blue, Gold, Green, Aqua, and Purple.

Knipex Pliers Wrench

Made in Germany / $59 at AMZN

I don’t have a bench vice in my shop at the moment, or any place to put one for that matter. A friend recommended that I pick up a the Knipex Pliers Wrench to fill in for some light duties that may usually benefit from a vice. I did so, and I’m happy to report that they’ve been a godsend for a few tasks, including hub end-cap removal, shock hardware installation, and other assignments where a precise and even clamping force is needed.

Knipex Pliers

The Knipex Pliers Wrench is excellent for gripping, pressing, or bending things and has a high leverage ratio with parallel jaws that are adjustable to variable precise spans. They’re available in several sizes including the 10” iteration shown here and larger 12 and 16” versions. The 10” version is a great tool to have in any shop.


37 grams (with AirTag) / Made in China / $16 at AMZN

After Neil’s review of the Apple Airtag last year—and after having a bike lost by Air Canada for an entire month—I knew an Airtag was necessary the next time I flew with a bike. Before heading to Oaxaca for part of the winter, I did some digging for a good AirTag hiding method and found the AirBell.

  • AirBell
  • AirBell

The beauty of the AirBell is that the AirTag is hidden in plain sight. Even when boxed up, the GPS chip isn’t buried beneath metal and plastic, which helps ensure that it maintains the ability to be picked up and tracked by other iPhones. It worked like a charm. We had an overnight layover on the way to Mexico in Dallas, Texas. And all the while, we knew exactly where our bikes were. It was also nice having additional peace of mind in Oaxaca, just in case of bike theft, not to mention a bell for saying hello to passersby.

More New Shop Tools

Wolf Tooth Pack Wrench: $115 at Wolf Tooth | Park Tool GG-1: $27 at Backcountry | NEIKO Caliper: $20 at AMZN

Three more shop tools make the list for our summer 2023 Editor’s Dozen. First up, the Wolf Tooth Pack Wrench and Inserts Kit has come in handy. It’s an aluminum wrench with magnets that hold the nickel-plated steel inserts in place. The bits include a Cinch and ISIS Spline Wrench Insert, a Cassette Lock Ring Wrench Insert, an 8mm Hex Wrench Insert, and a 16mm Hex Wrench Insert. I haven’t really used the latter two, but the the wrench has splines for bottom brackets and centerlock rotors, which I use all the time, as well as the cassette lock ring tool. I’ve found both of them work much better than my standard BB/spline tool and cassette tool, providing a surer connection and comfortable grip. The wrench and bits are all CNC machined in the USA.

Shop Tools, editors dozen

Second and third are two relatively new tools for me. I replaced an old set of plastic measuring calipers with this well-reviewed, stainless 6” model. They seem super nice for $25. Lastly, the Park tool GG-1 grease gun was an excellent addition to the shop. I actually bought a year ago, and it’s been sitting in a drawer. A buddy of mine found it when looking for a tool and got it up and running. I quickly learned that it’s far better than squeezing grease out of a tube. This is the way.

Endless Kick Ass Cogs (and Singlespeeding)

Made in NC, USA / $50 at Endless Bikes

If you’ve built or converted a bike to a hangdown-free, type-2 torture device, chances are you’ve run across Endless Bikes. Endless has had loyal following among single-speeders since 2008, back when owner Shanna Powell bought the company for $1. Now Shanna has developed an array of products under the brand, including narrow-wide chainrings, the Fibonacci Cassette Spacer Kit, and of course, Kick Ass Single Speed Cogs. The cogs are made in North Carolina from high strength 7075-T6 alloy and are a full 1/4” thick (6.35mm) at the splines. That wider footprint ensures that they don’t damage your HG free hub body the way narrower cogs can. They come in 14t, 15t, 16t, 17t, 18t, 19t, 20t, 21t, 22t, 23t, 24t, 25t and are anodized in your choice of Black, Blue, Gold, Lime Green, Orange, Pink, Purple, Red, Silver, or Turquoise.

  • Endless Bikes Singlespeed Cogs
  • Endless Bikes Singlespeed Cogs

It had been over a decade since I regularly rode a singlespeed, but I was talked into riding PMBAR—the race mentioned under the Tailwind entry above—this spring. I converted my Pipedream S5 using a Kick Ass Cog and the Endless Fibonacci Cassette Spacer Kit and was off to the races. I’ve been (re)addicted ever since…

Further Reading

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