Editor’s Dozen: Logan and VA’s Favorite Gear of 2024 (Summer)

After nearly six months of day rides and bikepacking trips in Oaxaca, Puebla, and the Eastern US, Logan and Virginia highlight a few standout products and experiences that have delighted them in 2024. Here are a dozen items that have become their summer favorites, including excellent new grips, a pizza oven, a prototype rack, music for the trail, new bags, and more…

It’s hard to believe, but it’s already that time of year when a few of us here on the team thumb through our notes and share gear and experiences that have stood out so far. Once again, Virginia and I kicked off 2024 in Oaxaca, tackling a few new trails and rides and some familiar ones in the high deserts of Mexico. Since then, we’ve spent the bulk of our time forest bathing in the Appalachians around our home. Throughout all these rides and rambles, we tried a bunch of new gear that we thought was worth sharing.

For this installment of the #editors-dozen series, we rounded up 12 items that have become newfound favorites in 2024. Some of these pieces aren’t new, but they’re newly appreciated, and others were unveiled to the market this calendar year. Each item is presented in a mini-review format with a brief write-up, photo gallery, and impressions. We picked these items because we genuinely enjoy them, so it’s no surprise that the pros outweigh the cons across the board.

WTB CZ Control Grips

68 grams each / Made in Taiwan / $29.95 at WTB

Ergon GA3s have been my grips of choice for several years. However, I admit that their pronounced “wings” can be a little excessive for general trail riding. They’re particularly noticeable while singlespeeding, where you’re constantly changing positions from standing to sitting; they’re designed to be rotated so the wings contours with your hands, but when you’re standing, they’re misaligned to your posture, and you don’t get the intended benefit or feel. The new WTB CZ Control might be the perfect happy medium. It features a much less pronounced, semi-ergonomic shape that’s designed to mirror how a hand interacts with the handlebar. I’ve only been using these grips for a couple of months, but I really like them so far.

WTB CZ Control Grips
  • WTB CZ Control Grips
  • WTB CZ Control Grips
  • WTB CZ Control Grips

WTB claims to have used pressure mapping technology to precisely determine where and how force is distributed on the grips. With that data, they increased the mass in specific areas, which adds support and looks like a very minimal wing. I’ve found the CZ Control to be super comfortable, and it’s been effective at preventing numbness or cramping during long rides. It also feels more body position-agnostic than other ergonomic grips I’ve used, and it offers better control than the GA3 when riding more technical singletrack. It’s quite grippy, too.

Rockgeist Armadillo

88 grams / Made in North Caroline, USA / $30 at Rockgeist

The Rockgeist Armadillo is a simple dry bag accessory made for wrapping and protecting rack-top dry bags. The Armadillo is nothing new. Miles reviewed it back on 2020, as a matter of fact. However, I’ve really been smitten this useful little accessory this year, and I use it every time I roll out with a rack and drybag setup. Recently, that’s been with either the Tumbleweed T Rack, the Ortlieb Quick Rack, or the new Mica rack I’ve been testing.

Rockgeist Armadillo Review
  • Rockgeist Armadillo Review
  • Rockgeist Armadillo Review

The Armadillo pretty straightforward. It’s made from a single laser-cut sheet of Hypalon rubber with four eyelets and two bungee cords. The hypalon sheet is stout enough to maintain its shape and protects items from the rear tire and mud, yet it’s also flexible enough to wrap around a drybag and/or multiple items and keep them in a neat bundle. It’s designed to hold dry bags that are 8-15 liters in size, but I’ve used it with smaller dry bags and a combination of other stuff. For example, in these photos, it’s shown with two fishing rods, a camping chair, and tent poles. It does a great job at keeping dirt and grime off of everything and ensuring that nothing will slip through the rack deck and rub the rear tire. Rockgeist is so confident in the durability of the Armadillo that if you manage to wear a hole in it, they’ll replace it for free.

All that said, my favorite feature of the Armadillo is the integrated elastic cords. Once the Armadillo and load are secured using two Voile straps, you can use the cords to lash down a rain jacket, layer, or as shown here, a camp hat. It makes things super easy to access, and the cords are super secure and strong.

NEMO Tensor All-Season

612 grams (Regular Wide) / Made in Taiwan / $219.95 at REI

This ain’t the NEMO Tensor’s first rodeo in our Editor’s Dozen series. In fact, the wide Tensor was in our year-end roundup for 2023. And as I explained in that writeup, I’ve tried a lot of sleeping pads and have yet to find another that lives up to the comfort, quietness, and durability of the Tensor. Earlier this year, Nemo announced that they were changing the Tensor lineup with two redesigned models, including the Tensor All-Season, as reviewed here, which replaced the Tensor Ultralight Insulated pad (the one I’ve tested and loved).

  • Nemo Tensor All-Season Review
  • Nemo Tensor All-Season Review
  • Nemo Tensor All-Season Review
  • Nemo Tensor All-Season Review
  • Nemo Tensor All-Season Review
  • Nemo Tensor All-Season Review
  • Nemo Tensor All-Season Review

The All-Season model has a boosted R-value at 5.4, as opposed to the 4.2 R-value in the Ultralight Insulated model. While camping in early spring, it was a noticeable improvement on chilly nights. It’s also a little smaller and about eight grams lighter than the previous model. I was a little nervous that they redesigned it, but so far have been impressed with the All-Season model.

Similar to the Ultralight Insulated, the All-Season has a 20D thick top fabric and a thicker and tougher 40D bottom that helps protect it against punctures and tears. Like all NEMO sleeping pads, it includes a Vortex pump sack, which makes it quick and easy to inflate. And it’s equally as quiet—if not quieter—as the old version, which is one of my favorite things about it. Nemo also tweaked the micro-adjustable Laylow multivalve. It plugs and unplugs much easier now, and I haven’t had any issues with air leakage.

Surly Singleator

~150 grams / Made in Taiwan / $50 at LBS

After (re)catching the singlespeed bug pretty hard last year, I wanted to see what a couple of my non-slider-equipped bikes were like with one gear. That included my beloved Cotic SolarisMax, which happens to have a near perfect geometry for singlespeeding, in my opinion. After seeing what folks in forums and elsewhere had to say about various chain tensioners, I opted for the Surly Singleator, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Surly Singleator Review
  • Surly Singleator Review
  • Surly Singleator Review
  • Surly Singleator Review
  • Surly Singleator Review
  • Surly Singleator Review

Installation was straightforward, with one minor hiccup: you need an 18mm cone wrench, which I didn’t have on hand. After borrowing one from my local bike shop, I set it up in the “push down” configuration. My first impression was that it was barely noticeable. I mean, it doesn’t run as smoothly as a bike without any additional chain interference, but it wasn’t loud or draggy, as I expected. I also never experienced any chain skipping or other issues. It simply does what it does and is quite acceptable. If you’re curious about singlespeeding but don’t have a bike with sliding/rotating dropouts or an eccentric bottom bracket, the Singleator is a solid choice.

Ortlieb Fuel-Pack

149 grams / Made in Germany / $75 at Ortlieb

Released a couple of years ago, the Ortlieb Fuel-Pack is a unique one-liter top tube bag designed for easy one-handed access using its distinctive magnetic closure system. It can be directly bolted onto top tube mounts or secured with the included rubberized straps. This one slipped past my radar when it came out, but the folks at Ortlieb sent the new Dark Sand version for us to try out.

Ortlieb Fuel Pack Review
  • Ortlieb Fuel Pack Review
  • Ortlieb Fuel Pack Review

Like most of Ortlieb’s bags, the Fuel-Pack is made from RF-welded, waterproof/coated nylon. What makes this bag unlike any other top tube bag I’ve tried is its boxy shape, lack of a steerer tube strap, and the fact that there are no zippers or roll-top closures, only two powerful magnets that secure the box-style lid. This unique closure allows it to be operated with one hand and theoretically self-closed under its own weight. While that last statement is largely true, it also depends on what’s inside it.

Ortlieb Fuel Pack Review

Don’t judge a book by its cover. Contrary to its tall and rather boxy shape, the Ortlieb Fuel-Pack is impressively stable and off-road friendly, especially considering it lacks a steerer tube strap. It has a built-in internal armature made from laser-cut plastic sheeting that help make that possible and allow the bag to retain its shape. The straps also use a one-piece plastic plate with rubber inserts on the feet, which help it stay in place. On one occasion, I packed it with an insulated mug, water filter, snack bars, and a phone. That was a pretty significant load for a top tube bag, and although it certainly swayed a little, it’s pretty impressive how sturdy it was, even when loaded down. Other features include an integrated cable outlet, an interior mesh pocket, and reflective logos for increased visibility.

Breeo Pizza Oven / Single Slices

Made in USA / $850 at Breeo

There’s something magical about a campfire circle… sitting around its warm glow, mesmerized by the dancing flames, connecting with friends. They are hard to resist, but since I’ve also seen the impact that campfires can have on the forests and other areas where we love to recreate, I’ve limited building fires while bikepacking. The Breeo X Series 24 smokeless fire pit has been a great fix for my campfire addiction, and I still love it. You can find more on that in my 2022 Editor’s Dozen here.

For some folks it may be a stretch to correlate the magic of a campfire to that of a great pizza, but those naysayers must have never eaten truly amazing pizza. A few years ago, Virginia started making her own sourdough (as did many folks here in the United States) and used it to make what is, in my opinion, the best pizza in our county. While her pizza was incredible when made in our gas-powered oven, we made plans to build a custom outdoor pizza oven so she could perfect her newfound hobby and keep our tiny house from overheating in the thick of summer. Just as the plans were coming together, Breeo introduced their Live-fire Pizza Oven that directly integrates with the X24. Ding ding!

Breeo Pizza Oven
  • Breeo Pizza Oven Review
  • Breeo Pizza Oven
  • Breeo Pizza Oven
  • Breeo Pizza Oven
  • Breeo Pizza Oven

We’ve had the Live-Fire Pizza Oven for a couple of months now and have had a handful of pizza-making sessions with it, including one where friends sampled four different dough recipes to see which was most successful. The Breeo gets very hot, and you can cook a pizza in just a couple of minutes, which is the way it should. But that degree of heat and the new-to-us cooking method have come with some trial and error. We’ve enjoyed figuring out what types of wood works best and how to manage the fire for high volume, multi-pizza output. We’ve just about got it dialed in and have turned out some amazing pizzas during the last couple of bakes. Our ultimate goal—which was inspired by the Pizza Gravel crew in Berlin—is to have an occasional small group ride called Single Slices, where we’ll take a singlespeed loop into the National Forest and return to our house for wood-fired pizza around the “camp” fire!

Hope Evo Crankset

560 grams (170mm arms and spindle) / Made in UK / $342 at Jenson

After moving out of my purple phase a few years ago, I’ve been on a steady hunt for silver components, seeking out shiny parts for my builds whenever possible. Oddly, there aren’t too many silver cranksets available, with the exception of the Cane Creek eeWings, some from White Industries, and offerings from smaller brands like Garbaruk and Ignite. Fortunately, Hope revamped their classic aluminum crankset to make it lighter, stiffer, more user-friendly, and available in seven colors: black, bronze, blue, red, purple, orange, and of course, silver. Better yet, the design of the Evo is distinctly Hope, featuring sleek lines, beautiful machining, and sharp edges reminiscent of the Tech 4 E4 brakes I love so much.

Hope Evo Crankset Review
  • Hope Evo Crankset Review
  • Stooge Dirt Tracker Review
  • Hope Evo Crankset Review
  • Stooge Dirt Tracker Review
  • Hope Evo Crankset Review

The Evo cranks are CNC machined in the UK from 7150 series aluminum alloy and come in four lengths: 155mm, 165mm, 170mm, and 175mm. I have the 170mm version, although I’m interested in their super-short 155mm cranks too. They have a 30mm oversize 7075 aluminum alloy axle, and chainrings come in 28-36T options that are 9, 10, 11, and 12-speed compatible, including SRAM T-Type and Shimano HG+. Aside from requiring a new tool for the chainring, the instructions are clear and installation was relatively straightforward, as is removal with a new self-extracting axle/arm interface. The components are are all beautifully crafted and generally feel solid and smooth.

Bose Ultra Open Earbuds

6 grams each (57 including case) / Made in China / $299 at AMZN

I usually don’t listen to music or anything while I ride. I like being able to hear the sounds of the forest and keep my ear out for birds and animals, which is one of my favorite things to experience in the woods. However, I occasionally want to just go spin and zone out to some music or a podcast that’s piqued my interest. Virginia has the open-ear Shokz Bone Conduction Headphones for the same reason, so I tried them on a couple of occasions. I liked the fact that you can still hear what’s going on around you, and I thought about buying some of my own, but then I heard about the new Ultra Open Earbuds from Bose, wizards of sound quality.

Bose Ultra Open Ear Buds review
  • Bose Ultra Open Ear Buds review
  • Bose Ultra Open Ear Buds review

Unlike the Shokz products that transmit sound vibrations directly to the inner ear through bones in your head and jaw, the Ultra Open Earbuds use an open-ear speaker design. These also leave the ear canal unblocked so you can hear things happening in your surroundings—to some degree—but they’re powered by a tiny dipole transducer system engineered for personal audio that stays at the ear.

As expected, the sound quality is really good with rich bass and incredible surround sound. I find they work best when there’s not a ton of ambient noise (traffic, loud gravel, or wind), but they do a good job of allowing you to hear what’s playing and some of what’s happening around you. Better yet, they’re super comfortable and almost unnoticeable on the ear. That’s pretty impressive considering that I always have issues with ear buds causing irritation after a while.

WZRD Slingshot

281 grams / Made in Canada / $130 CAD at WZRD

The Whisper of Reckoning might look familiar to some of you, as there were a few images of it in Miles’ recent Field Trip to WZRD Bikes in British Columbia. If you missed that one, click here to learn more about their bikes and business and see a full gallery and writeup from WZRD’s shop. After I saw photos of WZRD’s The Whisper of Reckoning slingshot in that piece, I knew I had to have one, so I ordered this brazed beauty from their online shop.

WZRD Sling Shot
  • WZRD Sling Shot
  • WZRD Sling Shot

The Whisper of Reckoning is handmade from 4130 Chromoly steel and features a 22.2mm handle compatible with any grip and a paracord/band design that allows the rubber band to easily be replaced if need be. According to WZRD’s owner, Emma, the design was perfected after years of slingshot prototyping and target practice. I can attest that with the right-shaped rock or small acorn, it seems super accurate and has a nice metal schhling sound when you let it fly. I’ve had a lot of fun bringing it on a few local overnighters and setting up an empty beer can for target practice.

At 281 grams, The Whisper of Reckoning isn’t light, but if fun outweighs grams for your backyard adventures, you can pick one up in your choice of five colors, including the raw clear coat version shown here. Each has WZRD’s trademark “goop” design laser cut into the arms. The Whisper of Reckoning costs $130 CAD and is available on a batch pre-order basis.

Mica Rack

Made in Canada / $TBD at Mica Cycles

I love testing and supporting products I believe in. That’s exactly the case with the forthcoming Mica rack. When Mica founder Skyler des Roches told me his idea to create an ultra-minimal rear rack that’s designed specifically to carry a dry bag on virtually any hardtail, it sounded right up my alley.

MICA Rack Review
  • Pipedream Moxie
  • Stooge Dirt Tracker Review
  • Stooge Dirt Tracker Review
  • MICA Rack Review
  • MICA Rack Review

The driving concepts behind the Mica rack are universality, wide tire clearance, and the ability carry a rack-top dry bag and attach cages to three-pack mounts on each upright. Since there are a few changes coming to the production model, I’m not going to provide too much analysis or insight on the rack at this point, other than the fact that I really like it. I’ve now tested two different prototypes, providing feedback on each, and I’m excited to see the final product. Stay tuned.

Trail Running

“Cross training is good… you should trail run,” they said. “Looks horrible; hike-a-bikes are my cross training,” I replied. I probably should have kept my trap shut and self-applied the don’t knock it until you try it mantra, because now I have to explain why I enjoy something I assumed I’d hate. Honestly, prior to this year, I would yawn and walk away when friends started chatting about trail running, but here we are. At the beginning of 2024, I gave it a shot, for one reason or another. We were living in Oaxaca for a couple of months, and I enjoyed exploring random backroads and neighborhoods up in the hills. Somehow, it became a thing that I just do now, usually a couple of times per week. And as much as I hate to admit, it’s made me stronger on the bike, too.

Ojos de Tehuacan

The Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve, located in southeastern Mexico within the arid regions of the Sierra Madre del Sur, straddles the states of Puebla and Oaxaca. Cass Gilbert helped create two distinct loops that explore this area and we got to take in the northern loop, Ojos de Tehuacán (TCBR Norte), early this year. We were blown away.

Ojos de Tehuacan
  • Ojos de Tehuacan
  • Ojos de Tehuacan

The northern loop starts and ends in small settlement of Zapotitlán, in the state of Puebla. We spent three days riding the loop and spent the entire time mesmerized by an entire new world of incredible desert flora. Of course one of the highlights of this route is the amazing Organ cacti; the area harbors one of the densest concentrations of columnar cacti in the world and is best appreciated with an initial visit to the Jardín Botánico Helia Bravo. This remarkable garden is named after Helia Bravo, an esteemed botanist and co-founder of the Mexican Cactus Society in 1918, renowned for her extensive botanical research and fieldwork. You can find some of the biggest and most impressive Elephant’s foot trees (Beaucarnea recurvata) in the area too.

  • Ojos de Tehuacan
  • Ojos de Tehuacan
  • Ojos de Tehuacan
  • Ojos de Tehuacan

Unfortunately, we recently heard that a strong dry season in central Mexico led to several forest fires in the biosphere, although we haven’t yet been able to gain much insight about whether these routes were affected. If anyone has any information on on the fires in the Tehuacan-Cuicatlan reserve, please leave a note in the conversation below.

If you’re interested in purchasing any of these products, please support your local bike shop and buy from them when possible. If you can’t, or they’re only obtainable online, we’ve provided links to manufacturers and stores where they are currently available; some of these retailers offer a meager referral fee, which helps support this platform. This has no bearing on the review or selection.

Further Reading

Make sure to dig into these related articles for more info...

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