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Our Favorite Cycling Gear of 2019

By Bruce Lin


Another great year of riding is drawing to a close. If you're a cycling addict, you're probably already dreaming about 2020 rides and all the new gear you want to try. To cap off our year, we asked some of The Pro's Closet's most prolific riders about the best products they used in 2019.

If you're looking for cycling goodies for your wish list or a bike-related gift for a rider in your life, we hope this inspires you. This is all gear that we've put through the wringer and can't live without.

Shimano GRX drivetrain components

Gravel riders with Shimano GRX Gravel bike drivetrain group setShimano's clutched GRX derailleur helps with chain retention on rough terrain.

Gravel bikes are becoming more popular, and manufacturers have noticed. This year, Shimano released its gravel-specific GRX group to satisfy the needs of riders venturing off the pavement. Read our Gravel Bike Buyer's Guide or Beginner's Guide to Riding Gravel to learn more about riding the road less traveled. 

Emil Ellis, Master Technician
I’m super happy with my Shimano gravel set-up, especially the GRX RX800 crankset. It’s like a mountain bike crankset. I have 175mm crank arms on my Santa Cruz Stigmata for more leverage and there’s a huge new range of chainring options. I can easily swap to really small chainring for climbing hard, techy singletrack or a really big chainring for fast flat group rides. It can do it all.

Nick Martin, CEO
I’m loving the Shimano GRX RX800 Levers. The new design has far better leverage and braking power in the drops. I did White Rim in Moab on my gravel bike this fall. It was really nice for riding hard sections and doing long days on rough terrain.

Fanny Packs

Dakine Hot Laps 2L Mountain Biking Fanny pack hip bagThe Dakine Hot Laps 2L fanny pack is small and great for carrying the essentials on short mountain bike rides.

Fewer riders are wearing backpacks now that fanny packs (a.k.a. hip packs, bum bags, lumbar packs, or waist bags) are coming back into style. Fanny packs take the weight off your shoulders and put it around your waist, closer to your center of gravity. Mountain bikers who like to ride light have embraced them wholeheartedly. Even a few roadies, like our pro racer Wyatt, use small fanny packs for extra-long road rides. Read more about how our riders pack for different rides

Steve Gardner, Shipping Manager
I’m using the Evoc Hip Pack 3L. Backpacks are dead. Long live the hip pack [Whatever happened to the Steve we used to know? —Ed.] Modern hip packs allow plenty of room for essentials and leave just enough room to shove in a jacket or trail beer. On my first ride with the hip pack, I knew I wouldn't be going back.

Stephen Wilkins, Purchasing Associate
I’m using the Dakine Hot Laps 2L fanny pack. Even a small backpack feels cumbersome and never seems to stay still on my back. I could feel the weight shifting through corners and chunder but nothing was worse than having the weight push toward my head when I would jump off something. The fanny pack changed everything. It holds everything I need — phone, wallet, keys, bars, multi-tool, tire plugs, co2, and a water bottle. It keeps the weight low and out of the way.

Wyatt Gaulke, Bicycle Technician
The Fanny pack is great for big rides. You can put anything you need in it — food, phone, keys, extra clothes, beer. I don’t even use a cycling-specific pack. It’s a classic, small, 1980s neon fanny pack. It looks good.

Tire inserts

Cushcore tire insert mountain bike rim protectionA Cushcore tire insert after heavy use. It successfully protected Bruce's rim from catastrophic damage for an entire summer of hard downhill riding.

Foam tire inserts have only been around a couple of years, but they've become essential gear for mountain bikers who push the limits of their wheels and tires. Popular options like Cushcore provide additional protection against rim strikes, pinch flats, and burped tires. Many of our enduro racers used tire inserts in their race bikes. Read our Tire Insert Guide to learn more. 

Clint Hobbs, Sales Support Bicycle Technician
I finally upgraded my tires with Cushcore this year and could not be more blown away. They stopped me from rolling beads on my normal tubeless set-up and stopped me from getting pinch flats. What an amazing piece of foam!

Bruce Lin, Technical Writer
At this point, I don’t think I ever want to ride without tire inserts again. I destroyed too many brand-new tires and a few pricy carbon rims before I finally made the leap, and I’m so glad I did. Now, I can run the tire pressures I actually prefer without destroying my wheels and tires. I’m riding faster and with more confidence thanks to the protection they provide. The added damping when riding through rough stuff like rock gardens is a huge bonus. I have Cushcore XC inserts on my trail bike now too. 

Trust Performance Message fork

Trust Performance Message mountain bike suspension forkA carbon linkage fork like the Trust Message will set any bike apart from the crowd. Photo courtesy Trust Performance.

The Trust Message is one of the most exciting and polarizing mountain bike products in recent memory. It’s made of carbon and utilizes a linkage design that provides 130mm of contour travel that can replace most 110-140mm forks. Some riders may prefer a traditional suspension fork, but the Trust fork is sure to delight tech-savvy riders with eclectic taste. 

Spencer Powlison, Content Marketing Manager
It’s expensive, visually jarring, and a constant topic of trailhead conversation (and that can get old). That’s all to be expected of the Trust Message suspension fork. I didn’t realize how much I’d enjoy the way that it rides. Something as radical as an all-carbon linkage fork wouldn’t usually jive with my personality. But once I got used to its taut, racy feel, I began to corner faster, charge steep downhills more confidently, and tolerate the endless queries from other riders. Stay tuned for my full review and a history of linkage MTB forks.

Specialized Tarmac

2020 Specialized Tarmac SL6 SRAM Force AXS Road BikeThe Specialized Tarmac SL6 has been updated to be more aero and faster than ever. 

Based on our trends and data report, Specialized is the most dominant bike maker, and the Tarmac is one of its most popular models. It’s no surprise as the Tarmac has always been light, stiff, fast, and refined. Several of the road racers in our shop are currently competing aboard Specialized bikes.

Richard Scudney, Merchandising Associate
I bought a 2018 Specialized Tarmac SL6 road bike this year and it’s the best bike I’ve ever owned. Since I started riding it, I’ve been PRing like crazy and winning races. I even got second place in a TT on it. Sure, it’s not all about the bike. I’ve been training a lot, and that definitely is the main thing. But after years of riding mediocre bikes, every time I get on this bike it feels new and amazing. More than anything, it makes me want to work hard and push it to the limit.

Bike bags

Porcelain Rocket and Revelate Bikepacking Bike bagsDan with his full bikepacking set-up. Porcelain Rocket handlebar and seat bags and Revelate Designs top tube and frame bags. Photo: Justin McKinley

If you prefer to keep the weight on your bike rather than on your body, bike bags are the ultimate solution. Bike bags can range from a simple handlebar bag to carry essentials like tools and snacks, to full bikepacking setups that allow you to carry gear for multi-day camping trips.

Pete Karinen, Master Technician
My go-to is the Banjo Brothers Handlebar Bag. It’s super cheap, small, light, and it will fit everything you need for long rides. I use it for training, cruising, and when the weather’s looking questionable, I’ll even keep an extra layer in there.

Dan Hanafin, Creative Director
I have a Revelate Designs Frame Bag for my gravel bike and a full-size Salsa frame bag for my Salsa fat bike. I hardly ever ride without a frame bag anymore. It just allows me to keep the gear I need in a convenient location on my bike. When I go bikepacking, I load up with Porcelain Rocket bags. I’ve been using the new Mr. Fusion, which is hands down the best seatpack in the industry. It’s expensive, but worth the money if you’re a serious bikepacker.

Odds and ends

Great bike products don’t have to be big or bold. Sometimes it’s the little things that really make a difference in your ride. Here are some of the smaller products that we loved in 2019.

Bike Park Lift Tickets / Bike Park Season Passes

Maggie John, Customer Experience Manager
With the Trestle Bike Park season pass, I got 15+ days of riding in and an additional two comp days at Snowshoe. My riding skills definitely improved a lot in just one day of riding the park. It's nice to gain confidence descending and get lots of laps in!

Specialized Romin Saddle

Chris Blick, Bicycle Technician
I've had three or four different road bikes this year, and every time I switched, I made sure to bring the Romin saddle along for the new ride. There's not much better in life than a saddle you love.

NiteRider Pro Race 2200 Headlight

Chris Motta, Marketing Photographer
It’s got a robust build, it’s super-bright, and it holds a charge for a long time. You don't need to get a high-end model like this since NiteRider makes a ton of good lights at every price point. But this one is small, powerful, and my favorite. It’s great for getting lost deep in the wilderness or for everyday commuting.

Lezyne Floor Drive Pump

Carl Sechrist, Bicycle Technician
The Lezyne Floor Drive has wonderful build quality, great volume, a comfortable handle, and a large, easy-to-read gauge. I modified the Lezyne pump head with a Silca Presta chuck and now it's as good as a Silca at a fraction of the cost. 

Lezyne RAP - 21 CO2 multi-tool

Hayden Noel, Customer Experience Representative
It comes with a small CO2 inflator that works amazingly well and is the lightest inflator I have owned. This tool is high-quality, and it has everything you need, including a chain breaker.

Chamois Butt'r Anti-Chafe Cream

Quentin Whitfield, Customer Experience Representative
I never had issues with long days in the saddle until I moved to Colorado. The dry weather was starting to give me issues. Chamois Butt'r solved all of my unwanted extended-contact problems. If you have discomfort or you're doing big rides, I highly recommend it. Since I started using it, I can keep riding all day without a care!


What did we miss? What's the best piece of cycling gear that you used in 2019? Let us know in the comments!

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