A wild 2020 is fast coming to an end. And while my year and plans were shaken up, there’s been plenty of great bike tech to report on and test out. Based in the center of Europe, I was lucky enough to attend more product launches the rest of the Bikerumor crew this year.
But it was still fewer than normal, and the reduced travel has me rethinking how I can test more product on local singletrack & trail centers, maximizing time at home and content production.
Plus, the news cycle never really slowed down. Without big trade shows to bunch them up, I was as busy as ever delivering the constant stream of product releases to you, our readers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made us all rethink so much of our lives, both work and personal. For us at Bikerumor, it’s led to a hybrid approach to our Editor’s Choice list for 2020. Usually, we stick to products we’ve physically tested. But this year, I’ve included a few items that caught my attention from afar, and that I hope to get hands-on with in the new year.
As always, let’s lead off with the experiences that earned my attention…
I’m fully committed to off-road riding, even as I spend plenty of time on dropbars. With a technical riding background, I enjoy pushing the limits of whatever tires I’m rolling. Again this year, I’ve spent about equal time on gravel bikes & trail bikes – with cyclocross, all-road, and even a couple racy road bikes thrown in there too.
Riding closer to home, I’ve hit most of the bikeparks along the Bohemian borders this summer, and ridden a new personal best for longest & furthest day off-road on a bikepacking bike this summer solstice – 19.5 hours elapsed ride time, 257km & 4454m of climbing as part of the Apidura Parallels initiative. Ouch. But also, hell yeah!
Beyond that one long day, here’s what stood out in 2020 for me. Stay tuned for the rest of our team’s favorites…
EDITOR’S CHOICE: s24o in my own backyard. I started this year with plans to head out on for 10 bikepacking trips across 12 months. And while that fell through, I still managed to squeeze in a number of trips. Between a couple solo trips out and a couple socially distant duos, 2020 became a resurgent year for me and the Sub 24hr Overnighter.
Bikepacking adventure doesn’t have to mean disappearing for weeks on end into the wilds of some faraway land. Packing for an overnighter can be super easy, and a chance for a quick mental reset.
It’s also a super low-risk way to test out your gear, or fine tune setup for a longer trip. My favorite s24o of 2020 was driving an hour to meet a friend midway between where we live, then riding up into the mountain to wild camp, drink beer & roast sausages over a campfire in the rain.
HONORABLE MENTION: Family singletrack riding. Riding easy local single track with my wife and two small kids has been a ton of fun – a great way to spend family time together without being crazy cooped up at home, plus keeping everyone active.
My wife and I love technical trail to lift-served enduro riding. But just outside of town, we’ve had a blast figuring out what type of trails our 6-year-old son & 10-year-old daughter are growing to love. Verdict: son likes smooth trails, daughter prefers jumps & berms. Yikes!
EDITOR’S CHOICE – Privateer 141: While I mix a lot of really technical trail riding with the occasional trip to the bikepark, I never really feel like I can justify owning a real enduro bike. I just spend too much time on flowy singletrack, pedal up tons of climbs, and ride out of my door to get to the trails.
So when I first heard that the EWS-ready 161 was going to get a shorter travel little trail brother, I was sold on the idea. I rode the Privateer 141 hard this summer – on every local trail I could find, then took it to almost every one of our regular bikeparks. It’s enduro origins are obvious, and it could easily tackle everything I threw at it. It’s bullet-proof alloy, and at a reasonable (but still not cheap) price. I’d love to have a frameset to see how light I could build it for really long, pedal-ly trail days…
HONORABLE MENTION – Vitus Escarpe 29er: I actually rode a lot this year in the Vitus Mythique 29 VRX that I gave an honorable mention to last year. And while that super affordable bike is hard to argue with, this year I’m lusting over its carbon big brother Escarpe that shares the same 140mm of rear wheel travel, but bumps up to 150mm up front, and with slightly slacker geometry. The Mythique gets a budget Marzocchi fork, but the Escarpe has me longing for more top-tier tunable suspension.
HONORABLE MENTION – Merida Ninety-Six Trail: This is kinda what I think of as the other end of my ideal mountain bike spectrum. Essentially a superlight carbon marathon XC bike, stretched out a bit with a 120mm fork to balance 100mm of rear wheel travel. Only one build from Merida gets that sweet spot suspension setup I would want – the Ninety-Six 8000. But I can only imagine how fast the trails would feel on a 11.57kg short travel trail bike that still gets 2.3″ Maxxis Minion tires!
GRAVEL & CYCLOCROSS BIKES
EDITOR’S CHOICE – 3T Exploro RaceMax: This summer saw the debut of a major update for the origin of the aero gravel race bike – 3T’s new Exploro RaceMax. By more carefully refining what tire and rim combos gravel racers are really using, the wide-tire off-road crowd gets a more capable, and faster gravel bike.
The new RaceMax just feels more refined all-around. And while aero speed isn’t a top priority for many gravel riders, this new bike is also more capable on technical off-road tracks, and can still be totally loaded down with gear for full-on adventure bikepacking racing, too!
EDITOR’S CHOICE – Bianchi Zolder Pro: There aren’t many new cyclocross bikes to talk about this year. CX has always been the performance “Hybrid”… a “Cross” between road & mountain, if you will? And obvious to anyone awake the last couple years, almost all new cross-type bikes have been renamed & redesigned for “Gravel”.
But proper cyclocross bikes still have their place, and we spotted this latest update to the Bianchi Zolder Pro just a week ago under Wout van Aert. It’s looking better than ever (even available in black with those same gradient graphics). And it’s certainly race-ready!
HONORABLE MENTION – Bombtrack Hook EXT Ti: I’m a sucker for the dull gray shine and supple ride of a titanium bike off-road. And since the latest Bombtrack Hook EXT Ti is available only as a frameset, it just fuels the machinations in my head of how I would want to build it up (maybe with super light carbon 29er MTB rims, DT 180 EXP hubs, a mullet SRAM Force Eagle wireless group & Darimo carbon cockpit?). Big tire clearance, plenty of mounting points, 1x or 2x, electronic or mechanical-ready, with a T47 BB, and 27.2mm seatpost… it sounds pretty nice.
EDITOR’S CHOICE – Merida Reacto: Probably the raciest aero road bike that I rode in 2020, this new Merida Reacto is surprisingly versatile and much more comfortable than the prior version, even though its profile hasn’t really changed much.
The big visual update was 2020’s trend – completely internal cable routing through an integrated cockpit and special upper headset bearing setup. The result is a cleaner-looking build overall with reduced drag figures.
Now fitting 30mm tires, this aero road bike maintained grip over Prague’s tough cobblestones, while feeling like a rocket ship on any straight section of road. And that Bahrain McLaren Team edition paint job is possibly the best-looking Merida finish in my recent memory.
HONORABLE MENTION – Sour Clueless: Fast & light carbon road bikes are one thing, but I have a soft spot for no-frills steel all-road versatility. With subtly shaped & butted steel tubing, this Sour Clueless all-road bike is compatible with full-coverage fenders for year-round riding, and up to 40mm tire clearance to push it far beyond smooth tarmac.
I rode the Clueless throughout last winter on & off-road, and it was a hard bike to have to return. With affordable frame-only, frameset & several complete bike options, plus custom colors, this is an excellent modern all-road bike that will have you chanting ‘steel is real’ all over again!
HONORABLE MENTION – Canyon Aeroad CFR: It had been one of the worst-kept secrets of 2020 after leaked by Mathieu van der Poel & Zwift almost a year ago. But when it finally arrived this autumn, we were pretty impressed to see such deep aero tubes come in at just 915g for the new Canyon Aeroad CFR frame. More aero, lighter, and with a wildly adjustable integrated Aerocockpit, this new Aeroad is going to be on many people’s wish lists. But with the cheapest complete Canyon Factory Racing builds starting at $9000/7500€, it’s definitely at the high end of this direct-to-consumer brand’s catalog.
EDITOR’S CHOICE – Scott Addict RC eRide: It the world of e-bikes, you can pick one of two alternate paths – more power, or a lighter, more natural ride. I tend to lean towards the “give me a tiny extra boost” approach.
And with a new claim of “world’s lightest e-road bike” this Scott Addict RC eRide is right up my alley at less than 11kg/24lb. Using a light eBikemotion X35 rear hub motor and a small 250Wh battery hidden in the down tube, you could easily miss that the Addict RC eRide is actually an e-bike.
Just as the e-bike powertrain is low-key, the power assist is subtle too. But it helped me up some good climbs in the Dolomites after I’d already had a long day riding earlier, and with an external water bottle style battery pack you can extend its range further. Do I need a superlight road (all-road) e-bike? Probably not, but I bet I’d end up riding more than I think! (Did I mention that it fits 30mm tires?)
EDITOR’S CHOICE – Campagnolo Ekar 1×13: This is definitely my favorite new drivetrain technology of 2020. I love the feel of Campagnolo’s hydraulic disc braking, offering the perfect balance of power & modulation for riding dropbars and skinny-ish tires over any terrain… and they brake quietly!
I also really appreciate the simplicity (and the lack of charging batteries) of mechanical groupsets… and this one now even adds a clutched rear derailleur. Plus, Campy levers feel like they just offer the best ergonomics in my hands. Campagnolo Ekar also happens to be lightweight, not exorbitantly priced, and offers a nice, wide 467% gearing range with smooth steps. The only reason I haven’t converted is that 13-speeds means all new chains, cassettes & wheels (or, at least freehubs)… and I’m still happy riding Campy Chorus 2×12… for now.
HONORABLE MENTION – Budget Mullet Hacks: Namely, these two affordable mechanical gravel Eagle setups by Parallel Handbuilt or Ratio Tech. Like I said, mechanical groups are great, especially if we are talking gravel adventure when proprietary drivetrain chargers are often unavailable far off the beaten track.
Parallel Handbuilt is a Dutch shop that taught us this year how to hack SRAM 11-speed 1x derailleurs to work with Eagle 11sp in our home workshops. UK tinkerers Ratio Tech took it a step further by making a DIY shift kit that replaces the gear inside your SRAM 11-speed 1x shifters to work with Eagle 12sp rear derailleurs, extending your range even further. Let the affordable home hacking begin!
EDITOR’S CHOICE (ROAD) – Pirelli P Zero Race TLR 30mm: Road tires keep getting better and wider now that the premium road tubeless category is seeing some standards. These 30mm wide Pirelli P Zero Race TLR tires are a perfect example, with enough anti-puncture protection to stand up to any regular road riding (and a dose of all-road in my experience).
They are supple, light, and feel fast out on the road. There’s even a lighter, race-ready SL version for those looking to drop even more grams and further reduce rolling-resistance. And Pirelli has even been very helpful in communicating to buyers what tubeless pressure ranges are going to give you the best balance of comfort & performance with your new tires, specific to how wide your rims actually are. Finally… thank you!
EDITOR’S CHOICE (GRAVEL) – Tufo Thundero: So, these new Czech-made tubeless gravel tires are new enough that I haven’t even written about them yet. But with two 700c x 40mm options – this more aggressive Thundero & a tighter-spaced Speedero – Tufo has crafted some relatively light ~440g gravel tires that are fast rolling, comfortable, grippy, and super affordable. Meant to ride hardpack terrain, they are a happy medium type tire that has carried me quickly on both road and trail – with an easy tubeless setup that has been totally trouble-free.
EDITOR’S CHOICE (CYCLOCROSS) – FMB handmade clinchers: Without a complete amateur cyclocross season this year, I didn’t ever really get into my pre-holidays habit of gluing up new tubulars. Which worked out well, because now FMB offers their proven CX profiles (which I’ve raced through some brutal conditions in the past) in a new handmade-in-France clincher construction that promises much of their storied tubular suppleness, with the simplicity of clinchers & latex tubes.
EDITOR’S CHOICE (MOUNTAIN) – Pirelli Scorpion Trail S & R: Pirelli was on fire this year making bike tires, and these new Scorpions exceeded my expectations. After reclassifying a more logical XC, Trail & Enduro naming scheme this summer, I’ve been riding both Trail & Enduro casings of the S Soft front & R Rear tire combos over singletrack, rock gardens, muddy trails & bike parks – spending the most time on the lighter Trail pair.
These new tires have offered confident grip & control that I probably only ever knew riding Minions, with the added feeling of less rolling resistance. And even with their lighter ProWall casing, the Trail tires have held out without any issues over our rockiest, gnarliest trails.
ELECTRONICS & GADGETS
EDITOR’S CHOICE – DJI Mavic Mini 2 drone: DJI just unveiled a new version of their <250g Mavic Mini 2 action cam drone. I bought the previous generation last winter, and have been getting a new perspective on my adventures ever since.
The Mini lacks the more advanced automated piloting of more expensive drones. But this tiny thing fits in a jersey pocket, and still shoots incredible video and still photos. Interestingly, outside of the new bump to 4K, the original still packs much of the same intelligent feature and preset flight automations, too…for less coin.
HONORABLE MENTION – BYB Telemetry suspension analysis: After years seeing suspension telemetry tracked and optimized by only the top elite mountain bike teams, the Italian MTB tinkerers at BYB Telemetry are back with a smarter version 2.0 of their professional-level DIY suspension analysis & tuning system. The new setup is more capable than ever, with more sensor tracking, easier to use apps, and the same accessible pricing. I look forward to trying it out in the new year to see how I can optimize my suspension setups for XC, All-Mountain & Enduro riding!
EDITOR’S CHOICE – Muc-Off Stealth Tubeless Puncture Plug: Since Tyler already added the steerer-hidden Granite Stash RCX multi-tool to his Editor’s Choice that I was going to add, I’ll go into the ends of my bars instead. Muc-Off’s new hidden-in-the-handlebar Stealth Tubeless Puncture Plug kit is another great way to make sure you always have the repair tools you need close.
A two-part system of needle on one side and fully scary serrated trimming knife on the other, the machined alloy Muc-Off Stealth Plug setup fits into most open mountain, gravel, or road bare ends… and thankfully cuts off that extra long tubeless tire worm once you fix your flat.
HONORABLE MENTION – Unior Mobile Workshop: Aaaah, to imagine this complete mobile bicycle repair shop in my van. A boy can dream, right? Obviously, I don’t need this setup. I write about bikes for a living, I don’t fix them for a living (anymore). Anyway, a made-in-Europe custom van setup full of made-in-Europe tools is totally lust-worthy. And maybe I could justify one mobile tool box for my old van, or at least some storage solutions and maybe a good workstand to use on the go?
HONORABLE MENTION – Unior Pro Kit: Yes, this is an empty tool box. More practical than a whole van is something more portable (and more within budget). The whole thing full of Unior tools sells for something like 900-1000€. But if you are looking at a portable tool setup, like me you probably already have most of the tools you would need, and likely certain special gadgets from other toolmakers that you prefer.
So Unior’s ~215-250€ Pro Kit provides a solid, secure, and waterproof way to organize everything and make it easy to travel with. This year, my mobile tool setup has traveled with me more than ever since my trips were closer to home, even working its way into some friend’s bike rooms to help get their gravel bikes & grocery-getters back on the road.
GEAR & ACCESSORIES
EDITOR’S CHOICE – GebioMized Sleak saddle: Because it’s pressure mapped to my butt. It cannot be overstated how important it is to get a good fitting saddle to enjoy long days on the bike. This past winter I got a custom pressure map analysis by GebioMized to optimize how I sit on the bike. The result was picking the best saddle for my body and my bike fit, and this GebioMized Sleak 145 delivers on its claim of ‘next level fit’. Simple & straightforward, it has been comfortable over my longest-ever rides, with an empirically-proven 20% reduction in both peak & mean pressure on my sit bones.
HONORABLE MENTION – Apidura Packables: This tiny little waterproof musette & its matching lightweight backpack seem so simple that I wondered what they expected to do differently. But while bikepacking with loaded packs on my bike, and even carrying my laptop back-and-forth to the office – the compact Apidura Packable bags have truly delivered the goods.
They pack down so small that there’s no excuse to ever leave them behind. Then, they made mid-adventure grocery stops easier to manage, kept my dinner dry for the last 20km in the rain, and finished the night stuffed with a jacket as a makeshift pillow.
HONORABLE MENTION – DT Swiss D 232 One: This short travel dropper post debuted in the lead up to the now-slightly-delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The new DT Swiss D 232 One carbon dropper seatpost delivers a short 60mm of drop at just 369g. Just enough drop to take the edge off your XC hardtail or full-suspension bike (or sloping geometry gravel bike, maybe) on the technical descents, it is mechanically simple and won’t weigh you down. There’s also a more affordable all-alloy version that’s less than 50g heavier.
EDITOR’S CHOICE – Rapha Pro Team Gore-Tex jacket: In team pink Shakedry, no less. I got an exclusive preview of the latest Rapha Pro Team Gore-Tex rain jacket, with its game-changing bright-colored Shakedry. May this be the end of all-black rainwear. Bright Rapha / EF Education First team pink might not be your style. But there’s no denying that when the weather turns foul, wet & foggy, I am much more visible in this thing than the old black version!
HONORABLE MENTION – Velocio Micromodal jersey & trail tees: Velocio has a number of short & long sleeve Micromodal jerseys and riding t-shirt tops made with a unique beech tree-based Micromodal Carbon fabric that is incredibly moisture-wicking, super soft, and anti-microbial. They all have an ultra-stretchy fit that is super comfortable with loose, casual cuts that look good and stay in place on everything from road to gravel to mountain bikes. Depending on the season you can pick up riding shorts or pants to complete the look, with all I have tried so far being ultra comfy.
EDITOR’S CHOICE – Limar Air Pro MIPS Ai: Limar just added lightweight MIPS protection to their top Air Pro road racing helmet. Look closely inside and you’ll find a new MIPS Ai system that is lighter and more vented than any yellow plastic liner that came before it. I’ve ridden a few times with the new Limar Air Pro MIPS, and the extra protection totally disappears without compromising the fit, ventilation, or weight of the flagship semi-aero, fully vented road helmet.
HONORABLE MENTION – Urge Deltar lightweight full face: I already had Urge’s last budget Drift full-face, which is a great deal. But this new Deltar is essentially the same price while shedding more than 100g, improving coverage at the back of the head, and getting upgraded ventilation. Plus, the new Urge Deltar is made up of 85% recycled content, and has cooler graphics.
EDITOR’S CHOICE – PEdALED by Fizik Jary Terra Powerstrap X4 gravel shoes: I’ve been riding the standard edition Fizik Terra Powerstrap X4 gravel shoes for more than a year now, and they are an excellent blend of light simplicity, good fit, walkability & pedaling efficiency. So the gravel crossover collaboration between PEdALED & Fizik just makes these special edition Jary Terra Powerstrap X4 shoes even better.
HONORABLE MENTION – Shimano 25th Anniversary SPD shred sandals: You know you want them. I have a pair of the regular edition Shimano SPD sandals, and they are surprisingly awesome. Sure I haven’t ridden them with white tube socks yet, but I’ve been tempted. The 25th Anniversary edition SPD sandals are what I really want though. Those who’ve ridden them will attest to their comfort, fast-drying, and the feel of the wind whipping through your toes. Those who think they are an abomination will never experience the joys of not caring what other people think!
OFF THE BIKE
EDITOR’S CHOICE – Alpkit Soloist lightweight tent: This ultra-affordable, lightweight Alpkit Soloist backpacking & bikepacking tent was the catalyst for my sub-24 hour overnighters project this year. COVID may have limited my camp count, but I still packed it up five times or so, and rode out to sleep in nature. At just £120 / 134€, it’s a killer deal on a 1,200g double-wall, 3-season tent. And it easily stuffs into my saddle pack, along with a compact sleeping bag & inflatable mat. I’m headed out with it again tomorrow, and will kick my bikepacking feature series back into gear over the holidays. It’s time to start moving forward again towards a new year!
THREE SMALL THINGS
BioLite HeadLamp 200: This rechargeable USB headlamp cranks out 200 lumens of light to illuminate your bikepacking campsite, or even back up your riding lights. No more disposable batteries for me, this tiny BioLite HeadLamp fits securely to my helmet, or comfortably on my forehead, and weighs <50g. I’ve even fixed a few bikes in the dark with it this year.
Opinel No. 6 pocket knives: Everybody needs a pocket knife out on the bikepacking trail or stuck sheltering at home with projects to do. My go-to favorite is the secure twist-locking Opinel N°06. These simple French-made knives are crazy affordable and make a handy tool for all kinds of tasks. The newer N°06 Bushwhacker at top with a Sandvik stainless steel blade, beech wood handle & leather loop handle is just 11€. The much older N°06 Carbon with carbon steel blade that I broke off inappropriately using it to pry on something many years ago is still just 9€.
SockGuy TurboWool merino socks: Because it’s winter now and everyone needs new merino socks, always! I personally love Rapha Merino Winter Socks and anything from the SmartWool PhD family. But SockGuy never fails to deliver with wild new sock designs. And their TurboWool merino blend socks strike a nice 3-season blend of warmth, with a mixed synthetic/natural fiber construction that may not be the mostcushy & soft, but it’s tough enough to last a few years of actual wear & tear.
As I look back over new tech every year, the best memories again were just riding in new places with old friends. Fortunately, we still made it happen this year, just with a much smaller, tighter-knit cast of characters. The best of this new gear still makes it easier and more fun to share those experiences, just as it does when riding solo.
Now looking forward, let’s look towards more open, safe riding in the new year. And maybe scrawl out an IOU for a riding buddy you’ve missed in 2020, and start thinking about how you can plan a trip together once this mess blows over.
With that, I’ll wish you good riding wherever you can find it. My local weather forecast predicts the last hints of autumn before freezing winter temps return, so I’m packing to head out into the woods and get one last December s24o in before the permafrost sets in!
Merry Kerstperiode to all, and take a moment to think if a week of Festive 500 training might send out 2020 on a high note. You can even do it inside this year if you have to!
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 performance and/or technological 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.