Bike Test Editor, Alan Muldoon, picks his top bikes and products of 2023.
I’ve been the Bike Test Editor here at mbr for over 20 years, and I’ve been reviewing mountain bikes professionally for another ten, so it’s fair to say I’m very fussy. I’ve ridden so many bikes and tried so many bits of kit that it really takes something special to stand out from the crowd. 2023 has been a tumultuous one for the bike industry, with excess stock and reduced demand hitting brands in the bottom line. Which should have slowed down the development of updated models and new tech. But looking back, we’ve actually seen a lot of innovation in the industry. Partly because you can’t just put the brakes on R&D and expect it to come to an emergency stop. Like an oil tanker, it takes ages to slow down the production cycle. But also, leading brands can’t afford to take their foot off the gas because they’ll simply be overtaken by their competitors.
In 2023 we saw the introduction of SRAM’s latest T-Type Transmission, followed later in the year by the brand’s Powertrain system, which integrated the motor and battery into a harmonic unit. We’ve had the new lightweight Bosch SX motor with modular battery system and headline-grabbing 600w peak power output. Classified revealed its two-speed internal hub gear, and Pinion revealed the exciting new Motor Gearbox Unit, combining power and drivetrain into a single black box.
We’ve had more new high-pivot bikes than you can shake an idler pulley at. There have been rail designs with even more dramatic rearward axle paths, and a host of manufacturers live developing new downhill bikes in plain sight of the World’s DH fans.
In some ways it feels like 2013 all over again, when 1×11 first came out, wheel sizes had a growth spurt, and Forward Geometry got us all realising we had been riding around on bikes that were too small. Are we in the midst of another sea change? One driven by motor technology, batteries, and electronics? It certainly feels like it.
Anyway, I digress; this article is meant to highlight the best products I’ve ridden this year, and in no particular order, here they are:
1. Fox Union Flat pedal shoe £130
We get so many flat pedal shoes through the doors here at mbr, and 99% of them end up being really disappointing. The Fox Union Flat show was the exception that proves the rule. It’s a great shoe: the sizing is accurate; the grip is really good; and the sole seems to last, so it’s not like you’re buying a disposable shoe. They clean up really easily and they’re quite water resistant. The fact that the whole mbr team is still wearing them shoes six months down the line proves they deserve a spot on the list of best flat pedal shoes. They’re also on sale at the moment, so if you’re looking for a new pair of shoes, these are definitely the ones to get.
2. Vitus E-Mythique LT from £3,299
When most brands launch their top-end e-bike model it ends up being £10k-£14k. But the most expensive E-Mythique is £4,399. It’s a different league. But you still get a full power motor, a full size battery, amazing suspension, great geometry, good handling. Vitus has absolutely nailed it. And it set out to make the best budget e-bike it could, rather than start with an unlimited budget and see how much they could cut to build an entry-level version. Even at £3,299 you get the same Bafang motor with 550w peak power and 95Nm of peak torque, along with the same 630Wh battery, so you don’t have to compromise on the important bits. It’s an unreal e-bike at a price that keeps it real.
3. Burgtec Mk4 Composite flat pedal £44.99
My final product ties in with my first choice. They’re the Burgtec Mk4 Composite pedal, they’re £45, and they’re just bombproof. The grip is really good, the pins don’t fall out – I used them when testing downhill bikes in Morzine in the summer and they did a great job. They don’t bend – they tend to glance off rocks and stumps, and if you’re going to smash a pedal, better it be a £40 one than a £100 set. You can even use a posi-drive screwdriver to make a hole in the body and use this to pump them with fresh grease, which keeps them spinning smoothly and gets rid of any axle slop or play. So if you want one of the best sets of flat pedals, with good grip, that are really durable, these blew me away.