Last year my Editor’s Choice intro started by highlighting what a tough year it had been for everyone, with a global pandemic in full swing and supply shortages frustrating the bike industry (let alone just about everything else). Well, 2021 brought me a personal challenge to deal with; a broken wrist. I’ve been lucky through many years of action sports and this was my first significant fracture, but it wasn’t a simple break and it kept me off the bike from spring until fall.
Due to that, I didn’t get as many product reviews done as I normally would so my 2021 Editor’s Choice article is a bit shorter than usual. I did still get a chance to test a few bikes, components, clothing, and gear, so here’s what impressed me most throughout the year.
I grew up riding BMX bikes, but jumped to MTB when I moved to a small town near Whistler, British Columbia. I’m lucky to be surrounded by amazing singletrack trails rife with steep chutes, huge rock slabs, and rooty sections that keep me on my toes. It’s not only an extremely fun place to ride, but it’s also ideal terrain for testing trail/enduro bikes and components.
It’s been six years since I joined Bikerumor, and I can’t tell you how much I have learned since day one. Even in that short time, bikes have evolved quite a bit and I’m more excited than ever to see what new products and designs will come next. I’m also a picky consumer so I’m happy to give a shout-out to brands that make quality goods!
Last year I had an easy choice for my best experience, and that was an amazing trip to Rancho Cacachilas down in the Baja peninsula of Mexico. I lucked out big time and got home from this trip within days of the Covid-19 pandemic effectively shutting down non-essential travel. Since I’ve had the chance to check out several new riding destinations by writing for Bikerumor, I finally have developed some wanderlust!
At this point I know if you’re determined (and willing to pay some extra fees) you can get pretty much anywhere, but I’m pining for the day we can travel normally again. At home, I love riding big rock slabs, so two places I’d really like to go are Moab, Utah, as I’ve never had the chance to ride the rocks there, and Sedona, Arizona. I got a teaser of a trip to Sedona once, where we got skunked from actually riding anything in Sedona due to a rare snowfall! I must go back and get the rocky goods!
Editor’s Choice: Rocky Mountain Altitude Powerplay
Finally, I got to borrow and review an eMTB. And no, I’m not just giving this bike my Editor’s Choice because I now fully understand the joy of feeling superhuman, I really think Rocky Mountain has one of the better offerings on the eMTB market. By the specs alone, the Altitude Powerplay is hard to beat: with a 720Wh battery, 108Nm of torque from the updated Dyname 4.0 motor, and four assist levels, you’ve got plenty of power and range to play with. When it’s time to descend, the bike’s 170mm fork and 160mm of rear travel can handle anything.
I’ve been riding the Altitude Powerplay Carbon 70 for a few weeks now, and there is a full review in the works! In short, I do find the motor’s power delivery smooth and predictable, it runs pretty quietly, and there’s no shortage of boost. The battery holds a lot of juice, and I’ve had zero technical issues with the bike. Aside from the electrical stuff, the Altitude is a solid modern enduro bike with great (and adjustable) geo, and it stepped up to 29” wheels for 2022.
Honorable Mention: Rocky Mountain Instinct
Full disclosure, the only bikes I did full reviews on this year were these two Rocky Mountains… But I have to hand it to RMB on the Instinct: It’s a top consideration in the ‘quiver-killer’ category. When you want one bike to do it all, it’s hard to argue with a 140/150mm niner (Note – XS frames ride on 27.5″ wheels and Smalls get both options). It doesn’t hurt when that bike is light, pedals well, and offers tunable suspension and geometry.
Between the Ride 9 chip, 10mm chainstay adjustment, and rear shock tuning there’s a surprising range within the Instinct. You can have an aggressive all-day pedalling machine, casual trail bike, or a long, slack mini-enduro shredder just by playing with a few nuts and bolts. If you don’t have the budget for a fleet of bicycles, that kind of adjustability is probably something you’ll be looking for.
Editor’s Choice: Ergon SMC Core Men’s Saddle
Comfort is king, and I feel like royalty sitting on Ergon’s SMC Core saddle. What I like most about it is how wide and flat it feels, yet it’s not a large seat (Note – I am riding the smaller of two available sizes). The back area under my sit bones feels generously wide and fairly flat, which seems to jive well with me. I don’t like wide noses, and the SMC Core’s isn’t the narrowest out there but thankfully proved slim enough for me. The saddle’s high-tech dual-layer construction and padding are very comfortable, and very quickly the SMC Core became my new favorite MTB seat. Oh, and yes, there’s a women’s version too.
Clothing and Apparel
Editor’s Choice: POC Devour Sunglasses
The Devours are supposed to be the ‘best of both worlds’ halfway point between goggles and sunglasses, and POC nailed it. The Devour sunglasses offer excellent coverage and wind protection, yet they don’t build up any heat and resist condensation really well. POC includes two lenses with each pair – whatever you choose plus a clear lens, and having two easily switchable options is great. If their sheer size or price tag doesn’t scare you away, they are undeniably awesome to ride in!
Honorable Mention: Pearl iZUMi Prospect Tech Sweatshirt
I’m a beer-loving man, so I dig the idea of nice gear that can go from the trail to the pub. Earlier this year Pearl iZUMi dropped their fall MTB collection, which included the men’s Prospect Tech Sweatshirt. I’ve been wearing one for the last month or so, ‘testing’ it at evening socials (and actually testing it on the trails).
Their grid fabric is nifty stuff; It keeps you very warm but is susceptible to wind. With a well-vented jacket on top, this makes the sweater an ideal freezing point midlayer. It’s warm for a mid, but with good vents, it’ll drop heat quickly enough to keep you from overheating. I have seen signs of abrasions on my sweater already, but hopefully, it stands up over time.
One Random Thing
Honorable Mention: Six Six One Wrist Wrap Pro
If there was one product that had the most impact on my season, it would be Six Six One’s Wrist Wrap Pro. I got hooked up with the Wrist Wrap Pro to help recover from a twice-broken radius, and it definitely helped me progress from tentative road rides to properly shredding trails. It is a fairly simple brace, supported with Velcro straps and foam plates, but I found it sufficient to get through my recovery without moving to anything more high-tech.
Despite my injury, I managed to get a bunch of great rides in this spring and fall, so 2021 wasn’t a total loss. I’m stoked I’m finally getting a chance to ride an eMTB for the long term (I’ve thrown a leg over a few in the past, but never had one long enough to really dial it in), and hopefully, I can get on one or two different models next year. I’d also love to ride an enduro bike with a high-pivot suspension platform, as that seems to be sweeping across the long-travel market these days.
Mostly I’m just hoping for a full season with no broken bones next year – Happy trails!