Editor’s Note: Every year, we compile our favorite items from the prior 12 months of riding and testing and present them as our picks for the best items to give and to get. It’s our version of an Editor’s Choice awards, without all the hoopla. Each of us has our own riding style, and Steve’s is definitely more gravity oriented and dirt focused. Based in Pemberton, B.C., Canada, he’s spittin’ distance from the legendary Whistler Bike Park and all that BC has to offer. It’s no wonder he left out the road bike and e-bikes from his list. If that sounds like you, enjoy…
Another year has flown by, and for many of us the riding season is nearing its end as winter sets in. Fortunately with the dark and cold weather comes the holidays, giving us a chance to score some bike-related gifts (or bestow them upon others)!
This year I was really impressed with some 2018 all-mountain bikes I rode, and as usual a ton of cool new clothing, gear and accessories were introduced. My wish list highlights some of the stuff that stood out to me as clever, handy or best-in-class, so read on to check out my top picks for 2017…
While I do enjoy challenging myself, I’m not a very competitive rider. I’m just out there to have fun, so when I heard the BC Bike Race organizers were adding a more casual ‘Bike Ride’ version of their week-long singletrack tour, it sounded great to me.
Even though the BC Bike Race isn’t really competitive for most participants, the course is timed and you can’t deviate from it. On the BC Bike Ride North guests are presented with recommended routes: From there you can decide how fast and far you wish to ride, or even sit out for a rest day. With no clock running, riders can also session a trail feature or re-ride a particularly fun loop.
Basically, this is an easy way to explore the best BC mountain bike trails while being fully supported. Between rides, guests visit six destinations with all transportation and campsite setup taken care of by race staff. Finally, your growling belly will be filled with locally sourced meals and craft beers each night. You can’t win anything on this trip, but I don’t see how you could lose!
I recently reviewed the 2018 Rocky Mountain Pipeline, and this bike showed me the benefits of mid-fat wheels. In my area (Pemberton, B.C.) we have a great mix of terrain with big rock slabs, steep chutes, and rough technical trails. Add to that our generally loose, dusty conditions throughout the summer and you’ve got plenty of reason to want maximum traction. The Pipeline’s plus-sized wheels allowed me to glide up climbs, then tackle big features and loose surfaces more comfortably than ever on the descents.
Aside from the wheels, I liked how you can tune the suspension with Rocky Mountain’s Ride 9 chip, and I found the frame fit me quite comfortably. Best of all, the Pipeline’s 29.2lbs complete weight easily compensates for any extra rotational heft. This bike is a great tool for pushing your technical skills further, and that’s what keeps riding fun for me.
At this point, I have no intention of adding a hardtail trail bike to my fleet… but if I did I know exactly which one it would be. This year Whistler’s Chromag released a titanium version of their popular Surface hardtail, and I’d bet a lot of locals were checking their finances immediately. The Surface Ti features the same proven geo as the chromoly Surface, which was designed to devour technical trails with 29” (or 27.5+) wheels and a 150mm fork.
I’d really like it if Santa brought me the complete bike, which is built with a SRAM X01 Eagle drivetrain, a Rockshox Pike RC 2-position fork, Guide RSC brakes and a 170mm Reverb Stealth dropper post. I recently built myself a commuter out of an outdated, cheaply acquired ti MTB frame, so I’ve had a taste of the ride qualities but I don’t plan on building it into a trail bike. I would be greatly tempted, however, to ride a titanium hardtail with the enduro-worthy geometry and components found on the Surface Ti.
While on one hand I hope things stop changing for a few years (hold your horses, Phil!), I’d say SRAM’s creation of the Eagle 12-speed drivetrain was a worthy endeavour. I’ve ridden 1×10, 1×11 and 1×12 equipped bikes and while overall range was acceptable for all, the Eagle has the widest spread. Perhaps more importantly, it allows you to play with finer gear increments and achieve the ideal cadence for whatever you’re riding.
Compared to my personal 1×10 bike, I found myself shifting around more during climbs with the 1×12 systems. Where I would normally languish in an easy gear the Eagle cassette tempts me to move up a notch, which ultimately made me climb a little bit faster. I was also pleased to find the mid-priced GX components worked very well, and at about $500 for a complete group, you don’t have to spend top dollar to get a high-performance drivetrain.
These days my old BMX doesn’t see enough action, but it does come out for the occasional skatepark, pumptrack or dirt jump session. It’s going to need some new treads, so I started thinking about Kevlar tires to drop a little weight off the ol’ bike. I then found Maxxis’ Grifters, which are a freestyle tire yet weigh a claimed 550g apiece (20×2.3” tire with a folding Kevlar bead). Now if you saw my era-specific BMX I’d have to admit I could probably save more weight by updating just about any component on it, but it’s a timepiece now! Also, the tires are a minor expense and at this rate they’ll last forever.
As soon as I laid eyes on the Fox Proframe full face helmet, I wanted one. My first few DH lids were heavy and hot, so I’ve been browsing for cooler and lighter weight options for a few seasons. I didn’t want to cough up the dough for a carbon shell, but then I saw the Proframe and it was immediately put on my wish list.
Despite the lack of carbon fiber the Proframe is still the lightest full face helmet I have seen so far, weighing just 750g for a size medium. It’s massively vented design allows you to breathe easy and keep cool on the trails, and I think it looks pretty good too. Most importantly, the Proframe is fully DH-certified with a multi-density EPS liner and the MIPS system to keep you as protected as possible. Last but not least, the retail price is pretty reasonable (and much cheaper than carbon) at $250 USD or less.
Whether you’re on a road trip, you’ve promised someone a ride or you truly enjoy the challenge of riding in nasty conditions, getting wet, muddy and cold is inevitable if you ride MTB. One thing no-one had to offer before Endura’s MT500+ overshoes came along was additional foot protection for flat pedal riders. This is a product I’d definitely like to try out in wet and muddy conditions, and on colder rides.
The MT500+ overshoes feature a nylon-faced neoprene body with rubber soles sewn on. The soles have large holes under the ball and heel of the foot so your pedal pins can contact your actual shoes, and there are lugs on the toe section for off-bike traction too. The overshoes were designed with wider flat-pedal shoes in mind, so there’s a full rear zipper for easy entry plus heel pulls and a Velcro closure to keep them in position. While they’re clearly aimed at flat pedal riders, the MT500+ overshoes also work just fine with MTB clipless pedals.
Three Small Things:
Back in my BMX days, I remember seeing riders with wristwatches strapped to their stems or handlebars. Nowadays we have plenty of options for riding with technology, but I think the most stylish and useful accessory is the Moskito. The Moskito smartwatch/cycle computer is a Swiss-made watch head that can be attached to your stem’s top cap or a handlebar mount, and swapped onto a wristband with a simple twist.
Between its three modes the Moskito can tell you the time, date, your current speed, average speed, distance, and hours ridden. There’s also a stopwatch function, message notifications and customizable personal challenges. After your ride, you can upload the data to Strava or Garmin devices. The only thing that’s not small about the Moskito is the price tag- Starting at $575 USD, I’m not likely to buy myself one but it sure would be a welcome gift!
I do make an effort to keep my bikes well maintained, but I don’t yet own anything fancy in terms of bicycle-specific cleaners, brushes or other tools. Muc-Off’s 8-in-1 Bicycle Cleaning Kit looks like a good set to work with, and it carries all its pieces in a handy storage tub. The kit includes Muc-Off’s Nano Tech Bike Cleaner, a microcell sponge, four various brushes and a can of Bike Spray. Of course, this kit is suitable for all types of bikes so every steed in my stable would benefit from a little extra post-ride attention. Best of all, at $69 it’s not going to clean out my bank account!
Recently I discovered how awesome pizza stones are, so what better way to up my pie game than by dicing up slices with the Park PZT-2 tool? It looks like a penny farthing, and it’s made by Park so you know it’s good quality. The PZT-2 model is larger and stronger than the original, and has a stainless steel cutting wheel which apparently “cuts through even the toughest terrain.” At about $15 it’s a small investment on something kinda funny, which is fully functional as well.