Editor’s note: As we welcome a new year, we’re taking a moment to look back at the bikes and products that improved our riding experience in 2019. Some products were new for the year, others are tried and true items that are still best-in-class. Here are five products that Jordan Villella fell in love with in 2019.
Jordan Villella’s 2019 Gear of the Year
My taste in cycling gear is as broad as my taste in music, but eight out of 10 times I’m gonna put something punk on – and for my mountain bike gear, I always lean toward the cross-country race crowd. 2019 was a year of monumental launches from the heavy hitters of the industry, which made this list very hard to narrow down. So this is my Gear of the Year out of everything I’ve reviewed and put through the wringer. I tried to offer a little bit of everything because we all don’t need a new bike (even though we want it) but we can always use some new tires or shoes. I hope you enjoy the list!
Canyon Lux 8.0 Pro
A cross country bike that can handle its own on backcountry trails is a rare breed. The Canyon LUX CF 8.0 ticks all the right boxes for me; killer handling, race-ready spec, competitive pricing and comes in red. Canyon upped the travel on the LUX CF 8.0 adding a 110mm, fork kicking the head tube back slightly and opened the platform for playful handling. Don’t let the 110 travel fool you; this bike is no slouch – the same frame has been seen under Matthew van der Poel crushing short tracks and World Cups all over 2019. The ride of the Lux is comfortable, and I found myself able to ride for hours at time ease. When the time comes to hammer though – the Lux can dish it out, turning every watt into forwarding motion. The spec is race-ready out of the box but is also practical – like the DT-Swiss 1500 alloy wheels and the XO Grip shift. The ride is more than a fast XC rig; it’s an all-around ripper, something that is fine on the hammer ride and fun to take to the mountains. Canyon Lux 8.0 is a rare breed of performance and value. Partner that with Canyon’s excellent customer service and that what makes the Canyon Lux my favorite mountain bike of 2019.
More info: Canyon.com
Specialized Recon Shoes
When you find the right shoes you know it, that’s my experience with Specialized Recons – they fit like a glove. The super-light construction, grippy rubber sole, and redesigned toebox made these an easy go-to for my 2019 mountain and cyclocross racing season. The sole is the stiffest carbon rating that Specialized gives and the power transfer is notable from the first effort. I put the Recons through terrible conditions this season and every time they back good as ever after a wash. The alloy Bao S3-Snap dials allow for perfect adjustment to get the right amount of tension without any hot spots. Lightweight, stylish, incredible power transfer and comfortable platform made the Recons an instant classic in my book.
More info: Specialized.com
Vittoria Mezcal III G2.0 Race
The Vittoria Mezcal tire is one I’ve raced over the past couple of years with a clear expectation on performance; fast/versatile all-rounder. The tread is at home racing short track or hitting the local lines covered in moss. For 2019 Vittoria updated casing and added some Graphine magic and turned its already fast tire into a speed demon. With 120 TPI casing, the Mezcal race floats over off-road terrain and inspires confidence in the rider. I am a sucker for a tan sidewall, but when there is more function because of the fashion – I’m stoked. These tires fly on the trails and crushed rock – perfect if you race cross country. The side walls are stiff enough to resist cutting in the rocks but soft enough to feel like added suspension on the trail. I can’t wait to see more tires from Vittoria in this race setup and compound – maybe we can see some of the cyclocross tires in this?
More info: Vittoria.com
Park Tool 10.2 work stand
A good stand is hard to find – especially if you want to travel with it and don’t want to break the bank. The Park Tool 10.2 stand is just that; dependable, easy to transport, and a pleasure to work on. The adjustable head is the same that you’ll find at most bikes shops with a rubber pad when sitting the bike by the post. The optional tool tray is easy to install and hold everything a rider would need for a quick tune or fix. For those with an aero bike or odd-shaped seat tube, the new head accepts all manner of tube shape and relieves pressure as to not crack under pressure. Tube shaping is something that I wouldn’t have paid much attention to, but Park Tool’s teardrop-shaped tubes give the stand rigidity when hammering out bottom brackets and have a fresh look. The $200 price tag is what sells me, something that seems approachable for most and will go the distance like the other Park Tool gear in my garage.
More info: ParkTool.com
SRAM Eagle AXS
2019 was a big year for electronics, and I believe SRAM stole with the release of Eagle AXS. I unabashedly a big SRAM Eagle fan, I like the gear combos and the trickle-down tech, I’ve run SRAM exclusively on my mountain bikes for years. Eagle AXS was a groundbreaking shifting and tech experience for me. SRAM AXS is a bike nerd dream, no wires, customization though the AXS App, and the unit even counts how many shifts you made on your last ride. Pair that with the 10-50 gear range and an effortless lever feel, and I’m sold. I love that platform works efficiently with SRAM Etap, and companies can take advantage of the massive gear range on gravel bikes, like the new Trek CheckPoint 7. Though the price is a bit of a deterrent, like most SRAM gear – I expect to see more affordable options later down the road.
More info: SRAM.com