10 Things I Loved in 2023: Dario DiGiulio

Dec 12, 2023 at 11:52
by Dario DiGiulio  
Time flies when you're having fun, and suddenly the utterly sci-fi sounding year of 2024 is looming over us. That means it's time for another round of year-end lists, a chance for Pinkbike's editors to share what we've been enjoying over the last 12 months. These are our personal picks, items that we individually enjoyed, as opposed to the Pinkbike Awards, where we argue politely(ish) amongst ourselves to determine the winners.


1. Crank Brother's Mallet E Pedals

I've spent the majority of my time as a mountain biker clipping into pedals, with plenty of time just standing on them for good measure. Initially, I used Time's ATAC pedals, but eventually graduated to the ever-ubiquitous Shimano options due to accessibility and adjustable release tension. After a few years riding flats, I went back to Shimano, but never loved the lack of outer-foot support that came along with the system. Saints fixed this a bit, but the oversized pedal seemed more and more prone to damage, eventually leading me to try something different.

Enter the Crankbrothers Mallet E, my new favorite pedal. Though definitely less durable than the tank-like Shimano DX and XT pedals I love, there's something about the in and out of the Crank Bros system that I've really come to like. They also provide excellent foot support when paired with the right shoes, making for a secure yet flexible feeling connection to the bike.

Price: $179 USD
More information: crankbrothers.com

Specialized Hillbilly V3 Review

2. Specialized Tires

Not new this year, and not the first time I've mentioned how much I like them, but it's worth reiterating just how impressed I've been by the Specialized tire lineup recently. Their rubber has massively improved, now up there with the stickiest in the game. The casing feel is probably my favorite of the current options out there, particularly the Grid Gravity for any bike that's meant to go downhill fast. It might be too stiff for some, but I love the durability and relative suppleness vs. some other DH options. Tread patterns like the Hillbilly, Butcher, and Ground Control have become my benchmarks for their category, with the first of that list sitting as my go-to mixed conditions front tire for a while now.

As nice as it is to have tires that perform this well, it's equally wonderful to not have to wince every time you need to buy one. Specialized's rubber isn't cheap, per se, but their prices are consistently half to 3/4 that of equivalent products. A strong track record of durability helps this prospect out, giving you a bit more time between shop visits.

Price: $30-80 USD
More information: specialized.com


3. Big Bikes

My ride time has been pretty evenly split between trail and long-travel enduro bikes this year, with even a smattering of XC and DH thrown in for good measure. That said, there's a special joy in hopping on a big squishy bike and trucking along without a care in the world. Sure, the novelty wears off as you get used to it, but those moments of lucidity when you realize just how capable the downhill-oriented bikes of today are feel too good to forget.

Standouts have been the Frameworks Trail Bike, Trek Slash, and Specialized Status (on the right trail). I'm happy to say that I have a few more waiting in the eaves for review, so winter should be well-accompanied by plenty of travel.

Price: Usually a lot, but not always.

Fox 34 2022

4. Fox's Grip2 34 (especially the Performance Elite)

We've certainly touched on the 34 in years past - it actually took our Suspension Product of the Year spot in 2021 - but sometimes you just have to be reminded how much you like something. I had a few bikes come specced with Fox's little-heavy-hitter this year, and in every case I was simply impressed by how well it worked. Regardless of the bike, the fork felt like it lets you push harder into steeper, rougher, and looser terrain than you'd expect out of a fairly svelte package.

I mentioned the Performance Elite variant because that's really my pick for the best of both price and performance. The damper is identical to the Factory model, and I'm of the opinion that black looks better than the flash of Kashima, plus it's less expensive.

Price: $949 ($759 right now)
More information: ridefox.com

More on that bike here.

5. The Downieville Classic

I'm a very infrequent bike racer, so perhaps the love I feel for Downieville would be watered down if I were keeping up a busier calendar, but I can't help but sense that there's something special about that weekend in the Sierra. The history is rich and present, the surroundings are beautiful and unique, and the racing is hard and fun. The amalgamation of all that results in a weekend that was worth 20 hours of driving in each direction, and one that I'll try to get back to as often as possible.

As a native Northern Californian, I think there's a personal connection to the area as well, but it's the love anyone feels for a small and vibrant community. If pedaling your brains out and descending for nearly an hour sounds fun to you, perhaps it's worth a stop. Heck, you might even be surprised with how well you do.


6. YT's Pants and Shorts
I truly never thought I'd be saying this. As someone who staunchly rode in various pairs of cutoff Dickies for years, the idea that I'd prefer a purpose-built pair of mountain bike pants is anathema. That said, I've seen the light recently, and can humbly admit that there are many good options out there that contain a lot less cotton. Amongst them are my current favorites, the YT Gravity and Trail pants/shorts. The Gravity models are burly yet comfortable, with some clever features on the pants that set them apart. The Trail pieces are super lightweight and airy, with plenty of pockets for carrying bits and bobs.

Every piece in the lineup fits me well, primarily in the fact that they cut the pants and shorts with more room in the thighs, which fits the larger-than-average legs of cyclists quite well. They're not cheap, but they are less expensive than many other options out there. You can read all my thoughts on these fancy pants here.

Price: $80-130
More information: yt-industries.com


7. The Frameworks Trail Bike

Anyone who regularly rides with me has probably been subjected to my ceaseless frothing over this bike, but it's not without good reason. In a year when I had the chance to ride a wide variety of excellent bikes, something about this one has continued to impress. It's definitely still a work in progress, but the overall fit and function of the bike is what keeps me stoked. My thoughts from the First Ride have continued to hold true, even as I put it through the paces as my new daily driver / parts tester at home.

Price: $N/A
More information: First Ride: Frameworks Trail Bike


8. Logos Eudae Wheelset

I've mentioned these here and there before, be it in my Downieville bike check or comparisons to other test wheelsets that have come through this year. You'll note that any of those mentions are quite positive, and that's simply because these wheels have been nothing but impressive for a while now. They use the old Hügi-patent DT Swiss design, meaning freehubs are easy to find, the internals are durable, and the assembly is quite simple. The rims have proven to be very robust, even after a long time spend on some bikes that certainly exceed the trail category. I've hardly had to true, tension, or service the internals yet. They've basically been trouble free, save for one ill-fitting axle endcap that I had to replace, likely due to some fault of my own.

I bought these after a test for a different publication, and they've proven to be a great investment, serving as a solid benchmark wheel for trail bikes of all sorts.

More on this creation here.

9. Handmade Bikes

"Handmade" has always struck me as a bit of a misnomer, as pretty much all of the bikes we ride were made with hands in some way or another. In this case let's let it be the perfect representation of the artistry, craftsmanship, and time that goes into the one-off creations I've tried to document on the site. Many of these centered around the Made Bike Show earlier this year, but just as many were spotted on trail in Whistler or the Sierra, getting ridden hard by the people that brought that bike to life.

I've always had a fond eye for these one-off creations, but it feels like recently there has been quite the uptick in complexity, finish quality, and design professionalism in the garage projects we're seeing on the site. Maybe that's due to the access to knowledge and design programs that the internet affords, or perhaps it's simply what happens when people realize they can just build the things they want, and figure out how to do so.


10. My Job

If you allow me to be sappy, I promise I'll keep it brief. Having only started my time at PB earlier this year, I'm very much the baby of the crew, learning a lot and trying to keep up with the excellence of the rest of the team. It's been everything I hoped for and more, and I'm really looking forward to the projects and coverage we have in store for y'all.

To all of you reading this: thanks for having me, even though you didn't really have a choice in the matter. I'm so happy to be here.

Author Info:
dariodigiulio avatar

Member since Dec 25, 2016
175 articles

  • 256 1
 #10 hit me in the feels. We love you too, Double D.
  • 11 45
flag Bosschap1836r (Dec 18, 2023 at 12:25) (Below Threshold)
 Give me flats any day
  • 14 1
 Hope there isn’t fear of layoffs at pinkbike
  • 14 0
 ditto, enjoy his writing
  • 1 0
 @Murphius: but then WHO would write about the lay offs?
  • 11 3
 Enjoy your ride. #10 was the best part of pb in 2023
  • 62 0
 Really appreciate the work you did here on pinkbike. Your reviews are top notch!
  • 37 0
 we appreciate you too. at least i do...
  • 8 1
 I also think that your addition to the PB team is fully deserved, Dario, and it makes the roster better too. Just don't let it go to your head.
  • 18 0
 Great list, Dario! Stoked to see you continue to grow and put out content with the Pinkbike team.

If you’re into the specialized tires, especially the grid gravity casing, and haven’t tried the Cannibal yet, you need to, like immediately.

Regarding the mallet E’s, I ran these for years and enjoyed many things about them. I’ve since swapped over to the Hope Union GC pedals this year and they seem to have solved all my complaints about the mallets, while still retaining the feel I loved about them.

Your love of big bike makes me think you need a project/test bike with a dual crown fork, but also a dropper and 12spd drivetrain. Having a Kavenz VHP18 set up this way last season was outrageous, smashing park laps one day, followed by big climbs the next, and never worrying about being under biked is a riot. Only downside is you have much less of an excuse to not ride those spicy sections/features!
  • 2 0
 I have a set of Cannibals coming from Santa, can't wait to ride them! I have been running the butchers in grid trail all summer and they have been amazing, such a great tire. The best thing is so many people take them off new bikes to put Maxis on you can pick them up for peanuts from Facebook market place.
  • 1 0
 What kind of conditions is the Cannibal good at? I found the Butcher was great in the Alps in the summer and the Hillbilly is excellent back in the wet UK. The Cannibal has some big old knobbles, eh?
  • 2 0
 @chakaping: Personally, I think it’s a great summer tire. Works well on hard pack, loose over hard, mixed conditions kind of stuff. Most of my time on them has been at bike parks in BC, like Whistler, with a little bit of wet weather riding this fall/winter in the PNW. It does fine in the wet, but probably doesn’t penetrate the slop nearly as well as the hillbilly.

What I love most is the confidence in the corners. Those big side knobs just hook up and lock you in. There’s good feedback and just a ton of grip and support.
  • 2 0
 I got a cannibal on the front and a butcher on the rear. Can’t wait to run the cannibal on both ends. Such a good tire. The grip is insane !!!
  • 15 0
 Dario has been a great addition to the team! I miss Levy, but the Pinkbike Crew seemed well equipped to man the ship wiithput him. As for the Downieville Classic, it remains one of the few great events that the UCI has not ruined. That whole area is awesome , and is poised to become much bigger and better in the future.
  • 6 2
 Downieville Classic and some NorCal XC races are for me what mountain bike races should be. More mountains and less gravely. More gnarl and less lycra.
  • 3 0
 Regarding Downieville here’s a link to the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship; wizards of trail magic. sierratrails.org
  • 1 0
 There's a lot of great events that the UCI hasn't ruined if you aren't a pro! From endurance races to Enduro races to local XC races!
  • 16 1
 Just a general comment on everyone’s “10 Things I Loved” list — no one is mentioning buying bikes and parts at a 40 percent discount. Maybe it’s not a great indicator for the manufacturers, but I’ve been loving the great deals out there.
  • 9 0
 That probably feels a bit different for someone who is inside the industry.
  • 2 0
 80% discount in the CRC/Wiggle fire sale here in the UK - what a time to be alive (best wishes for employees obvs)
  • 1 0
 @chakaping: I hope you're buying with a good credit card, as there's a strong chance you'll see neither your parts or money again by rolling the crc dice.
  • 13 0
 I was all clipped in all the time from the age of about 19 until 42. I have never really been a great rider, but I definitely feel like flats have helped me get better at jumps, cornering and generally make the most of the trail. I haven't tried these pedals, but found that after a couple of years on flats SPDs felt awful, in terms of foot placement (which is non negotiable) and the connecting making it seem like there was nothing between me and the pedal but a 1inch pin under the ball of my foot. On hardtails I still see the value of being clipped in over rough terrain, but on an enduro bike I just don't see myself going back, which is funny cause I was a total SPD advocate for years. Maybe this was my midlife crisis, that and the small long hair.
  • 12 0
 I have to agree on the Specialized tires being outstanding. Cannibal front Butcher or Eliminator rear has been great in the drier months. HillBilly front Butcher rear is excellent in the wet. I find the Cannibal works well in the wet too but doesn't penetrate the muck as well as the HillBilly. With the price so low, I stacked 'em deep.
  • 2 0
 >> HillBilly front Butcher rear is excellent in the wet
QFT. I am very impressed with the T9 HillBilly.
  • 4 0
 Yeah I love my Butcher T9 front.
  • 4 0
 The T9 Eliminator is an excellent front tire for regular trail riding.
  • 5 0
 I love specialized tires. I buy an eight tires every time they go half off so I have a fresh pair for all both my bikes and my wife and sons bikes. They usually are 32-35 a peace. Such an amazing deal.
  • 3 0
 Butcher/Butcher…..all conditions….all the time.
  • 2 0
 Butcher and slaughter for the win!
  • 5 0
 I really like a HillBilly in the rear.... just grabs traction.
  • 2 0
 Hillbilly/hillbilly in the winter! Swap the rear to a butcher for summer riding.
  • 6 0
 @jaydawg69: oooh, that's nice to know, I'll tell my hillbilly friends.
  • 3 0
 @jaydawg69: squeal like a pig
  • 1 0
 @jaydawg69: come again???
  • 6 0
 The Frameworks trail bike (I love that it doesn't have a name) is one of the most interesting bikes I think PB has mentioned this year. That... on top of the glowing review from @dariodigiulio makes me even more excited. What is wild is, the bike isn't ground breaking in any particular way, but just seems to be really well executed and has such a romance story behind it. I am definitely looking forward to seeing how it evolves. Also, @dariodigiulio, your addition this year on PB has really added to my experience on Pinkbike, and I look forward to 2024 with the crew!
  • 11 1
 No,thank you,Dario.
  • 9 0
 Did we quietly lose chapetta too?
  • 5 0
 Love my Mallet E's, both in LS and regular flavors, but they eat cleats like they're gummy bears (and that's also how the engagement feels when they're worn out). I have to replace them after like 3-6mo.
  • 5 0
 Everyone who owns Crank Bros needs to email their customer service and ask for bulk cleat packages - 2 packs and 5 packs of cleats would erase my only gripe. I run my cleats to oblivion and still need at least 5-6 pairs a year, which gets to be expensive maintenance. At least give your dedicated riders a bulk discount!
  • 6 0
 @Lokirides: I second this motion
  • 1 0
 @Lokirides: whoa? Really?

I've got two years on mine and they are fine. Huh.
  • 5 0
 @BarryWalstead: The pedals themselves are bombproof. I have put my mallets through the wringer and they've had a couple rebuilds now. They are definitely missing chunks of aluminum from a ton of Pisgah rock strikes, but I expect them to last almost as long as the eeWings they are attached to.

The cleats are a different story. They are designed to be a wear item - this is a feature, not a bug, so that the cleats don't wear out the pedal interface. That's why CB cleats are brass and not steel. I race enduro, xc, and gravel, so I have CB pedals/cleats on several bikes and shoes. I find I need to replace the cleats minimum once in the middle of the season and again at the end of the season on all my shoes. And like I said, I wait until the cleat is pretty much just a nubbin that barely holds my foot to the pedal before I replace them.

If you've been running the same cleats for 2 years... you might want to check out what a new pair looks / feels like, or just ride more =)
  • 6 0
 I feel like Frameworks and RAAW share a similar ethos. Would love to see the Madonna V3 pitted against the Frameworks Enduro bike.
  • 4 0
 Grateful to be included here Dario, and very glad that you're enjoying the wheels! It's been cool to watch you spread your wings here this year. Looking forward to seeing what you get up to in 2024. -SJ
  • 5 0
 Only a year (almost) but easily my favorite staff writer / content producer. "You were number two. Levy was number one. He turned in his wings."
  • 6 0
 Best performed reviews of the Pinkbike team IMO. Keep it up Dario we love the content
  • 3 0
 The frameworks bike... you can pretty much set up a Nicolai Saturn 16 in medium the same as the Large frameworks, even the kinematics seem very similar on paper. No carbon rear end but 7005 aluminium, bombproof and a shit ton of adjustability.
  • 2 0
 I think the FW might fit a longer dropper if that is important to you, but will have to wait for official specs.

Nic's tool only goes to 270mm when I last asked so that's the max insertion length. Perhaps you could ask for a super short seat tube to make up for it if necessary.

I love Nicolai and would buy another. The FW is made down the road from me though so I'd love to give it a shot if they offer an XL and all the specs are on point. I'd much prefer a Vermont manufactured alloy rear triangle than the Vietnamese carbon personally but it's not all about me :-)
  • 2 0
 The Mallet DH's with the dedicated C Bros shoe is a game changer. Nothing I've tried is anything like it, including past iterations of Crank Bros. I just wish they made a 14.5. I'll put up with toe pain for the amazing feel of this system, the added Q is so good. Thank you Dario for all your work, it's great to have a taller rider on the PB team, your excellant writing is also appreciated.
  • 7 2
 I have a box of old CB pedals and i've sworn never again...
  • 4 0
 I am already having to tell myself I don't need the frameworks enduro bike and it isn't even released yet.
  • 2 1
 Specialized tires are great.....unless you get a bad one and the shoulder knobs shear off. I've been 50/50 on ones that hold up and ones that grenade on the rear wheel. Specialized WILL warranty them, but it's a PITA to deal with. So.......I keep paying the Maxxis premium to run DD Aggressors out back because I can wear the knobs down to greasy nubs and have decent rolling resistance and traction for the whole life of the tire.
  • 1 0
 i don't know, i tried the latest slash and i was pretty disappointed, it's silent going up, but the double extra pulley/idler are definetely noticeable on the way up, going down i found the bike to be slow on not too steep trails, where other big bikes still shine and go fast, it's noisy and just meh. nothing special imo
  • 2 0
 Things I hate prediction 2024

E-personal mobility finding they way to more trails
Ie one wheel type things, homemade e motos , it’s only a matter of time before scooters show up too.
  • 1 0
 No, thank YOU, actually.

I've come to really appreciate the addition of an editor who by the looks of it can see our sport for what it is and appreciate the simple joys of riding a bike instead of overthinking it all the damn time. Well done, keep it upSmile
  • 1 0
something or someone that one vehemently dislikes.
"racial hatred was anathema to her"
bête noire
a formal curse by a pope or a council of the Church, excommunicating a person or denouncing a doctrine.
"the Pope laid special emphasis on the second of these anathemas"

@dariodigiulio Just plageurized this word from you while calling in sick to work today.
  • 4 0
 I like your content, Kip Dynamite!
  • 1 0
 Definitely takes it off some sweet jumps
  • 3 0
 I certainly don't need a new bike, but that Frameworks enduro is the only one I might have to buy regardless.
  • 1 0
 Which shoes are the right shoes for the mallet E? I have the larger dh version and the old shimano am9 worked great on them… just replaced those with some giro chamber and I cannot get a setup I like.
  • 3 0
 Crankbrothers mallet shoes are the best I have used with the pedals.
  • 4 0
 @pisgahgnar: I second the CB Mallet shoes. I run Mallet DH pedals (cause they were on sale a lot cheaper than the enduros...) and the shoes are quite literally made for those pedals.
  • 4 0
 shimano shoes or mallet's fit the Enduro/DH versions awesome.
  • 1 0
 Thanks all.
  • 1 0
 @deez-nucks: Also, I tried the fox shoes. I had a horrible time trying to get them to work. It seems like fox riders use them, I do not know how.
  • 1 0
 One thing I loved in 2023: the 200mm TranzX dropper I got used for 35.-. It was supposed to be saggy, but actually it's fine. I also love the Mudhugger rear and Michelin Enduro Muds tires for the slop and snow.
  • 3 0
 Downieville ripper! We see you!!
  • 4 1
 Fox 34 perf elite, a man of good taste I see. Smile
  • 6 0
 black > kashima, agreed
  • 4 0
 @AndrewFleming: Always bet on black......
  • 2 1
 I have ridden Neko's trail bike a couple of times too and it is so good! You can push it as hard as you want to, braking is awesome on it, I can't wait to buy one.
  • 3 0
 Keeping it brief, I am happy you are here too.
  • 1 0
 If I had the Cane Creek Eewings titanium cranks like he does, I'm pretty sure they would edge out the Crank Brothers mallets for #1 spot.
  • 1 0
 Love your stories and reviews so far, man. Also agree, Mallett E is the best clip pedal I've tried so far. Has a nice locked in feel, not too floaty.
  • 2 0
 Do you ever use that roofbox to transport an extra passenger (or body) @dariodigiulio ?
  • 3 0
 Call it a 6th seat
  • 2 0
 I agree with Dario, black forks look far better than Kashima. Kashima is ugly as hell.
  • 1 0
 If you're itching for a 34... Give Manitou Mattoc pro a try. Lighter, stiffer, plusher, better in literally every way. (Yes, I have had the factory 34 with grip 2 as well)
  • 3 0
 HT pedals. Nuf sed
  • 3 1
 Lol, those are not big bikes.
  • 1 0
 @dariodigiulio Double D...hahaha, that's great! Additionally "The Jerk" is a bike I'd like to have just for the name.
  • 1 0
 @dariodigiulio I was hoping to see a toaster on this list. Maybe next year.
  • 1 0
 Got to admit that Btchn bikes Jerk makes me tingle every time I see it. Such a stunning bike
  • 1 0
 I believe him yo, I don't know why but I do.
  • 1 1
 I loved the holiday give aways, that happened forever. Until outside too over and fired everyone that is
  • 2 0
 Go Dario!
  • 1 0
 Let's meet up and froth over the frameworks trail bike
  • 1 0
 Yeah Dario! Good work
  • 1 0
 Ah, a man of taste!
  • 1 1
 Isn't the Grip2 damper only available on the factory level for the 34?
  • 1 0
 It's available OEM at least. My stumpy came with 34 performance and it says grip2 on the cap.
  • 2 2
 anyone not riding spesh tyres is either sponsored or has too much money
  • 2 0
 At least in the US the actual popular spesh tires aren't any cheaper than getting another brand from european online stores.
  • 1 0
 @CobyCobie: idk, butcher and eliminator were half off on backcountry all summer, in multiple casings and grips.
  • 1 0
 @adamstraus: I coulda sworn that the Butchers in DH casing were still 60 or 70 bucks. Wanted to try them but couldn't justify it.
  • 1 0
 Cheers Dario!
  • 1 3
 Appreciate your contributions and keep up the good work. The rest of the Pinkbike team is not excellent, but you Ed, and Seb are.
  • 1 0
 Much Love Dario!
  • 1 0
 Speed and Power
  • 1 2
 Dario. Love u. But nose up that saddle
  • 1 0
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