My Top 10 Cycling Things of 2023…

Here’s a round up of my top bikes, cycling kit, projects, rides and coffee stops of this year!

First up we have…

Century Gravel Ride

The most ‘epic’ day out on a bike of 2023 was my first 100 mile Gravel Bike ride. I’d been doing quite a lot of long distance running events in the Spring and fancied a longer ride to put my bike legs to the test.

I fuelled up with plenty of carbs and electrolytes for breakfast, with plenty more at the ready in my two 750ml Torq bottles. I then met Andy at the entrance to the Leeds to Liverpool Canal around 6.45am and we headed off on our gravel venture. Back in June, the weather and trail conditions were ideal.

Once we reached Wigan we made our way off the canal and through plenty of gravel tracks till we arrived at Carr Mill Dam then pedalled on to Speke in Liverpool along the Trans Pennine Trail. We stopped for a much needed coffee and bite to eat around midday. Then it was back on to canal tracks till we reached Eccleston and into Preston to Avenham park via the quiet country lanes and tracks.

The ride was a great day out and I’m sure I’ll be trying a few more long distance gravel rides in 2024!

Visiting Ridley Bikes

An incredible factory with friendly faces and gorgeous gravel tracks…

My visit to Ridley Bikes in October was a fantastic trip. We were given a warm welcome upon arrival and enjoyed a delicious cup of coffee in their ‘handlebar’. Then it was into the factory to see how their expert craftsmanship processes take place from start to finish. The attention to detail was clear to see and I have to admit I do rather fancy purchasing a Ridley sometime in the future…

We also enjoyed the gravel tracks and trails nearby. I had the pleasure of testing out the stunning Kanzo Adventure Gravel Bike. The experience of cycling in Belgium was very pleasant and I was amazed just how many cycle paths and lanes there were!

Shokz Headphones

What a game changer! One of my best purchases this year has been these high quality, open ear headphones.

Shokz headphones have allowed me to ride to my favourite music whilst still being aware of my surroundings. They are handy to easily throw on before a ride and the simple button controls mean I can pause my tracks without having to stop and reach for my phone. I’ve also tried these headphones in the gym and pool and they have been perfect. Just note, only the OpenSwim ones are fully waterproof for swimming…

My Merlin Malt G2X Gravel Bike

A fantastic all rounder bike for gravel, commutes and winter riding…

The Merlin Malt G2X has been an incredible winter bike for 2023. It’s remained reliable for all my rides and my go-to bike for this time of year. I like the fact it holds up so well on all terrains, allowing me to hop on and off the road at my desire. I think an alloy gravel bike such as this one makes an ideal winter bike and saves wear and tear on your ‘best bike’.

Coffee Stops

No long weekend ride is complete without a coffee stop…

Making time for a coffee stop pre, mid or post ride is a great way to catch up with a friend or relax on your own. I’ve found coffee stops a great way to break up a ride and ensure I have enough fuel in my system to get me home. It’s also been a nice way of chatting to new people you meet out on a ride. If you don’t already you might want to consider adding a coffee stop the odd longer ride. And of course, if you don’t like coffee there’s always tea! My favourite stop this year was along the Trans Pennine Trail at Dunham Apples and The Apple Barn!

Torq Nutrition

From their tasty flapjacks to energy packed gels, Torq has been with me on every adventure of 2023!

I have found Torq‘s nutrition products to always give the boost I need. I have definitely tried and tested them this year… For both running 100 miles at Chester 100 Ultra Race and Cycling 100 on the gravel bike, they have not let me down! They’ll continue to be my go-to fuel choice for any endurance event I have on my calendar.

Canal Towpaths

I seem to have spent a lot of time riding on canals this year…

Perhaps one of the perfect places for relaxing ride. Provided you time the conditions and business right… I’ve had plenty of pleasant rides along the canal this year. Just be sure the route is dry enough and not a slip and slide! Riding alongside the water is very relaxing, especially during a sunset!

Oakley Sunglasses

Comfortable, non fogging, sleek and stylish!?

I’ve been using a pair of Oakleys throughout 2023 and they have ticked all the boxes when it comes to a decent pair of cycling sunglasses. They have remained super comfy for all-day rides and unlike some other brands they do not fog up at all when you make a quick stop. I have no doubt they will see me through many years of cycling as they are built to last!

The Orro Venturi Road Bike

What a beast!

This year I did all my spring and summer road rides on the Orro Venturi. Having previously been on a gravel or mountain bike for most of my rides, the Venturi was a great swap. I put many miles in on this beautiful bike and it was just a joy to ride. I’d recommend an Orro to anyone, they have the trusty 105 spec all the way up to Dura Ace Di2!

The bike was perfect straight out of the box, with no adjustments or upgrades needed for me. Even a couple of my mates decided to pick up one and they were not disappointed! One of my favourite rides on the Venturi was an early summer morning ‘pre-work’ one around Eccleston and Tarleton’s country lanes with a friend of mine (finishing with a coffee and big breakfast of course).

Giving the good old 26er some upgrades…

I had a blast upgrading this Merlin Malt 2 26″ Hardtail bike!

This ‘weekend cruiser/commuter’ bike was sat in my garage needing some love and TLC. First up I decided to get it serviced and then give it a ‘Spring Refresh’. With new bars, grips, 1X Chainring, Billy Bonkers Tyres and a bling top cap it was ready to roll! It’s become my weekend cruiser bike at the moment and is perfect for a nice ‘chill ride’ with a mate. I’d recommend anyone to give their old 26er a new lease of life rather than it sitting gathering dust. For more info on this project click here.

So that rounds up my favourite Cycling bits of 2023! Let us know what some of your favourite bikes, rides, projects or kit has been this year in the comments!


  • Alex Cowie

    Outdoor Leadership and Coaching BA (Hons) Keen cyclist, runner, and outdoor enthusiast. I have been cycling since I was very young and always had a love for the outdoors. I have completed many long distance events including ultra marathons such as the Chester 100, Berkeley Marathons UK and Gravel Century rides.

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