Wow, having the year 2020 on the horizon is almost as cool as that time we actually got to party like its 1999 (for those of us in our late 30’s and up, anyways!). As for the bike industry, it’s the time of year when we start wondering what new ideas or trends might pop up next summer, and we look back on some of the best products we’ve tested throughout 2019.
I’ve had another fun and educational year riding several new bikes and reviewing a ton of clothing and gear. Here’s my Editor’s Choice list highlighting the bikes, components, and other products and accessories that impressed me the most this year.
I started riding BMX as a kid in suburban Ontario, but when I made the move to Pemberton, B.C. 12 years ago I immediately transitioned to mountain biking. I’m lucky to be surrounded by amazing MTB trails that are chock full of technical challenges, and to have the Whistler Bike Park close at hand for shredding DH. With so much incredible off-road terrain to explore, I’m primarily focused on trail/enduro/DH riding, but I often zip around town on my commuter bikes and sometimes dust off my BMX to hit the pumptrack or dirt jumps. I’m a non-competitive guy who rides for the fun of it all!
EDITOR’S CHOICE: Riding trails in Bellingham, WA. – As Bikerumor isn’t my only employer, I don’t get around the globe quite as much as our editorial team. I am grateful to have enjoyed several fun trips to different locations, and this year the highlight for me was Bellingham, Washington. It wasn’t about the exotic location (it’s only a 5 hour drive from my house) or an awakening cultural experience (we ‘Cascadians’ have similar lifestyles) but Bellingham delivered on the most important factor- The trails were just awesome! Kona bikes showed us around Galbraith Mountain and Chuckanut, and both areas delivered a nice mix of technical rocks and roots, smooth flowy sections, plus lots of singletrack climbing. Bellingham riders know how to build really fun trails (and lots of them), so I can’t wait to go back for more.
EDITOR’S CHOICE: Rocky Mountain Slayer – I am currently riding and long-term reviewing the 2020 Rocky Mountain Slayer, and I’m giving it my ‘Editor’s Choice’ pick for its sheer fun factor. I already got the chance to ride the Slayer at its launch event, and RMB’s crew showed us how capable this big bike is on its rowdy home turf – Vancouver’s North Shore. 29” wheels and 170mm travel give the Slayer monster truck-like capabilities in really rough terrain, but it’s not a one trick pony. What sold me on the bike was the fact that it still climbs quite well, and isn’t too heavy (as long as you’re on a carbon frame). I’ve never had so much fun descending on a bike that can also climb to enduro standards.
HONORABLE MENTION: Knolly Fugitive LT – I spent a good part of my summer aboard the Fugitive LT, and came away with the impression that it’s an awesome do-everything trail bike. Knolly’s linkage provides super solid traction, which is good for all aspects of riding, and two shock positions give you the option of running a more pedally or gravity-focused setup. Knolly is up to date with geometry, and I found the Fugitive LT roomy up front and well balanced. This is a bike I wouldn’t hesitate to take to the bike park, but it can also be built into a fairly light enduro machine. If I decided to take some time to live the #vanlife, the Fugitive LT is a bike I’d consider as my road trip companion.
EDITOR’S CHOICE SUSPENSION:Trust ‘The Shout’ fork – Trust’s trailing multi-link Shout fork took me a while to get used to, but ultimately convinced me there are some undeniable benefits to a linkage fork. The bottom line is that the linkage absorbs big, hard hits better than two telescoping legs ever could. The fork’s ability to ‘round-off’ those hits with its contoured axle path is blatantly noticeable, but that’s not the only benefit – the Shout’s super soft initial stroke handles small bumps extremely well, and helps your front wheel stay glued to everything. The Shout is marginally heavier than other forks, but its performance is well worth the trade. And as weird as it looks, it’s not very difficult to set up and fine-tune.
EDITOR’S CHOICE BRAKES: Shimano XTR Trail brakes – I think there are a lot of MTB riders who would say ‘Shimano has the best brakes, SRAM has the best shifting,” and I would agree with them. The 2020 Rocky Mountain Slayer I’ve been riding came with Shimano’s XTR Trail 4-piston brakes, and they are an absolute treat to ride with. I love Shimano’s compact lever shape; they’re comfortable to pull but quite lean overall. Where I think Shimano beats SRAM is power; the XTR Trails will lock up a wheel with a pretty easy squeeze, and I don’t find them too grabby to modulate predictably. The full XTR kit also includes Ice Tech rotors and finned brake pads, so it’ll take a lot of descending to overcook these brakes.
EDITOR’S CHOICE HELMETS: Oakley DRT5 helmet – Oakley’s head form seems to be nearly perfect for my shallow, narrow skull, so the DRT5 MTB helmet I recently reviewed immediately became my new favorite lid (not so much for Zach, whose noggin is too round for it!). Aside from its comfortable, close-fitting shape, I liked the soft feel of the silicone sweat band and found the BOA Lace retention system cinches in evenly all around. I’ll probably rarely (if ever) use the sunglass Landing Zone clips, but I’ll give Oakley kudos for making sure goggles can nestle under the DRT5’s visor. It’s not the coolest or lightest helmet I have, but with a bang-on fit it feels better on my head than the rest.
EDITOR’S CHOICE BAGS: EVOC Neo 16L Protector Pack – Yes it is a large, heavy and warm pack, but I still think EVOC did a great job of making the Neo 16L Protector Pack surprisingly comfortable to ride with. Spinal protection doesn’t come without a bit of extra weight, but EVOC’s Neo 16L offers generously padded shoulder straps and a very secure fit that keeps the bag and its cargo from shifting around. With 16L of cargo space and a ton of interior pockets, this pack will carry anything a recreational rider should need, and would be a great option for guides or bike park patrollers. I didn’t crash on the Neo 16L, but its materials and construction look pretty durable so I expect this pack to last a long time.
HONORABLE MENTION BAGS: Camelbak Chase Bike Vest – On the other side of things, Camelbak’s Chase Bike Vest proved to be a great small pack option that keeps body coverage to a minimum while carrying a decent amount of stuff. The two things I really liked about the Vest were its small footprint, covering only a small area on your upper back, and the convenience of the front chest pockets; being able to grab a multi-tool, plug kit or energy bar without taking the pack off made trailside stops much quicker and easier. Carrying 1.5L of water and more cargo storage than you’d think, the Chase Bike Vest makes a great short-loop pack that I expect to use quite a bit next year.
EDITOR’S CHOICE: Yakima Skyline roof system – This year my car got the gift of a Yakima Skyline roof rack. Previously I had no issues tossing my bike in the trunk, where it was weather-protected and locked up, but I was keen to see if having a rack would make my life easier. One nice thing about most roof systems is that they can handle heavier bikes, which is why I wound up with one; I wanted to haul my DH bike to and from the Whistler Bike Park. Roof racks are convenient because they load up quickly, save you any wheel removal or disassembly, save a ton of storage space in your vehicle, and mine increased my vehicle’s capacity to two bikes and two riders. Their only downside is price – good roof systems don’t come cheap, and lock kits (which I’d recommend) typically cost extra.
EDITOR’S CHOICE SHORTS: 7mesh MK3 shorts. There’s nothing finer than your most comfortable liner! In my case that’s definitely my 7mesh MK3’s. Their suspended chamois is cushy on top but not soft to the bottom, so it’s comfortable for hours in the saddle. 7mesh has cleverly hidden the seam surrounding the chamois, and the sleek leg hems beg the question “Why do it any other way?” The MK3’s compressive fit and ergonomic cut makes for a solid fitting short, but larger riders beware – they are snug for their size. Since it gets pretty warm where I live in the summer, I prefer the non-bib version but 7mesh does offer that option.
EDITOR’S CHOICE JERSEY: Dainese AWA Zip Jersey 3. Last summer I got to test a few pieces of v, and was pleased to find their jerseys, midlayers and jackets fit me quite well. This year I received a few more items including the AWA Zip Jersey 3, which quickly became my new favorite for cool weather rides. This jersey is ideal for almost anything; it’s a great regulator whether you’re riding it alone on a breezy 14 degree day or as a base layer for shredding in sub-zero temps. The two-faced fabric has a soft, cozy inside, and the body is cut long to ensure good lower back coverage.
OFF THE BIKE
EDITOR’S CHOICE: Moots ti bottle opener. When I’m not riding, you’ll often find me with a craft beer in one hand! Of all the little swag items I’ve received, this titanium Moots bottle opener is my favorite and most useful. Not only does it open beer, the engraved message on the back ‘All metal, all the time since 1981’ also speaks to my musical tastes. The ti opener is durable of course, and light as a feather. While model is no longer available Moots does offer a newer, longer bottle opener (but it’s currently out of stock).
THREE SMALL THINGS
Fix-It Sticks. The fine folks at Kona included some branded Fix-It Sticks in our swag bags from their 2020 launch event in Bellingham, WA this summer. I’d seen Bikerumor’s articles on Fix It Sticks and thought they looked clever, so I was stoked to give them a try. I think the best benefit of the design is how every tool can be turned into a T-handle, so you can cinch bolts down good and tight at the trailside. You can actually make a T from the middle of the stick or at the end, which leaves you with a fairly long reaching tool. My Fix It Sticks came with an array of allen keys, torx and Phillips heads, plus a chainbreaker and tire levers. The only thing I’m looking to add is an 8mm allen key head, which should be easy as the tool uses standard bits. Fix It Sticks are a bit larger and heavier than a compact multi-tool, but they’re a joy to work with.
Muc-Off C3 Ceramic UV-reactive lube. Just for their nifty idea of adding UV-reactive dye, I’m tossing Muc-Off’s C3 Ceramic lubricant on my list for 2019. I couldn’t wait to oil up my chain and shine the little UV flashlight on it, and once I saw the glow I understood how helpful it can be. If you really want to ensure you’ve fully lubed your chain, this is a clear way to do it. In dim light, the UV dye shows up quite well and makes it easy to see if you’ve missed a few links. The C3 Ceramic dry lube also did a great job of keeping my chain clean even as I pushed it into sloppier than intended conditions, so rest assured this is a high-performance lubricant, not just glorified oil that glows!
Accu-Gage PR30BX tire gauge. I got my hands on an Accu-Gage PR30BX earlier this year, and it’s one of those tools that does a simple job in all the best ways possible. Bourdon tube movement ensures the Accu-Gage isn’t affected by temperature, altitude, humidity or air stream contaminants. The gauge produces a reading quickly, and its large face with 0.5psi increments (from 0 to 30psi) is easy to read precisely. My Accu-Gage has proven perfectly accurate compared to other pumps and gauges I trust, and I like how it doesn’t require batteries. The only downside to the PR30BX is that it only works with Presta valves.
Happy holidays and happy trails in 2020!
Many more great products have passed though our hands this year, but this collection highlights the best I’ve seen or ridden. Full disclosure: Each of these products have been chosen purely on their technical & performance merits for the reasons described above. Under no circumstances were any of our selections paid for by their producers. Nor was any preference or favor given to advertisers or brands who bring us on trips. Our selections are for the most part (but not exclusively) limited to products that we’ve actually spent time riding/testing in person. So a brand’s willingness to invite Bikerumor to join a launch event, or to provide product samples does make it more likely that we will have considered their products, if only because we can share our real, firsthand experiences.