2010 is now a memory, and looking back, it was an interesting year, filled with lots of change, and a few great adventures. Looking back over the last year and the gear I was running, I sat down to think of all the gear I have accumulated and use on a regular basis. As a gearhead, these are some of my favorite products that I couldn’t have done without, or would buy all over again as they really enhanced my experience on the bike. A few are just solid items that I’m stoked on.
In no special order but with heaps of personal bias, here they are:
1. Trek Remedy
At the top of my list is the chassis I’ve been rolling on for the last season. There are a lot of great choices today in the all-arounder category but after trying this bike out I was pretty stoked on how versatile this frame was.
I spent a good amount of time on my DH bike last year and got lots of sweet shuttle time in, but in the end, the overall majority of my ride time was spent on the all around aspect of my quiver, the Trek Remedy. Before this bike and the Trek ABP suspension came along, I wouldn’t have seen myself riding a Trek again for mountain biking. But then it did- with its 150mm of rear wheel travel, light weight frame incorporating all the newest manufacturing technology, it brought plenty of converts back to the Trek camp by being one of the most solid around performers out there. There is something to be said about a capable bike, that with a simple change to heavier wheels and tires, work as a gravity sled in a pinch. I wasn’t planning to include this bike on my list as this bike is going on almost two seasons of use, but I rode the crap out of this bike this year and it deserves a mention on anything I did in 2010. From hard and fast paced rides in southern California with XC hammer heads,to pedaling up self shuttles and stomping drops at Post Canyon, to sessioning a sweet step up in Grand Junction, Colorado, I’ve done it all on this machine.
It has been a while since I’ve owned a bike for more than one season, but I never had anything to really complain about with this ride. Sure some bikes in the all mountain category feel more efficient while pedaling, but those bikes can’t match the downhill performance of this rig without a coil shock. My only major change on this bike has been changing out the higher volume XV air can to a smaller air can on the RP23 shock at the recommendation of Push Industries. Having the suspension ramp up on the end stroke on big drops and harsh landings kept me from bottoming out my suspension constantly, which made a big difference for the types of riding I did on this bike this year. I’m seriously over the white color and ready to part with it for that reason alone, (I have no idea how I ended up with three white bikes last year – I hate white) but it has nothing to do with this bike’s performance. I sometimes wish it had a bit more of a pedal platform, but as a do it all machine, it has never let me down. This bike deserves an entire post dedicated to it. (I’m working on one)
2. MRP Mini-G Chain guide
Whether or not you believe you’ll be running 2×9, 1×9, 2×10, or 1×10 drive train in the future, triple rings look to be dropping away, and I’m glad for that- less stuff just works better. I remember when road bikes began coming spec’d with triple rings and how shifting performance on these bikes simply couldn’t match the road double. As a mechanic at a shop, it became a pain in the ass as road bike customers that were used to clean and crisp shifts (with doubles) expected the same performance out of their new expanded gear ranges, although they began cross-chaining on chain lines that were straight wack. Sorry dudes. Personally I haven’t been ran a triple on my trail bike for several seasons, and after receiving an MRP Mini-G guide as a test unit, embraced 1×9 full time on my trail bike. The Mini-G/ G2 chain guide design is my favorite guide to date, and somehow I’ve managed to climb most hills keeping the walking to a minimum. Ironically, I used to run a 1×9 on a Mountain Cycle San Andreas back in the day- the only difference is we called this slightly heavier 6″ travel bike a DH bike back then. Today we have 6″ travel single crown forks with 20mm axles and lightweight 6″ travel frames like my Trek Remedy and it’s called an all mountain bike. Either way, I love it- I’m able to attack trails with legit jumps without worry about my chain popping off. After a season I have yet to experience any issues with this guide.
I have always hated front derailleurs anyway.
Of course, since I’m trying to ride everything with less gearing, I’m becoming more and more obsessed with dropping weight on my all mountain ride.
3. Gravity Dropper Turbo + iBeam + SDG Formula saddle
If you haven’t already picked up an adjustable height seat post and you consider yourself an all mountain rider, or just an aggressive trail rider, you are just cheating yourself. After disc brakes and suspension, having a seat that moves out of the way with the click of a switch is the biggest upgrade in terms of enhancing the fun on the trail. I raise and lower my seat constantly on rides, and have been an advocate of the Gravity Dropper system since it became available. The only drawback is it is probably the ugliest adjustable height post available. I upgraded to the Turbo model this year and not only does it look better, but it works faster. With the classic model, to raise the post, you have to push down on it while pressing the lever. The Turbo model eliminates the need for this and works fast. More importantly, I can now lower the post at least an inch more than the Classic, which has been key for big freeride days or impromptu dirt jump sessions on the all mountain bike.
It is true what they say about adjustable posts though- they aren’t as reliable as we’d all like them to be, and they are require a good deal of maintenance. I don’t care though- while I’d jump to replace it with a product that was even more reliable and with more of a drop, until then, the Turbo with the iBeam is the shit. I just wish it had 5″ of drop. That additional inch would be sweet for getting the seat slammed for bigger jumps.
Other products are becoming available that look to give the Gravity Dropper a run for its money, but Gravity Dropper is only one of two brands that offer iBeam compatibility.
As a rider that chronically destroys conventional seat rails, I’m a huge fan of iBeam saddles. The drawback to the iBeam system has been the lack of comfort, but SDG’s Formula MT saddle is their most comfy saddle to date. I simply love this saddle, and only wish I had more than one. The combination of the Turbo and a comfortable saddle that won’t break easily is a huge winner for me. As a major bonus, the Formula MT has a great shape for pinching between the knees, and is the only XC saddle I’ve owned that I can easily do no-handers on. It is by far my favorite all around saddle to date.
4. Giro Remedy Carbon full face helmet
I’ve never owned a carbon fiber full face helmet before I received a Remedy as a test sample. Although I have several other practically new full face helmets I like quite a bit, they ended up living in their boxes this year. Initially I had doubts on the plastic buckles- I’ve become accustomed to D-rings on full face helmets, especially after riding motorcycles a lot. However, I found myself taking my helmet off quite a bit more because it was so quick and easy to do so, and now wish my other T.H.E., 661, and Troy Lee featured this as well. The clean graphics on this helmet went with everything I have, and since it was so much lighter than my other helmets, it became my go-to helmet as my favorite lid. That is until it gave its life up for me a few months ago, during a crash that left me with my shoulder wrenched from its socket. I didn’t even realize the helmet had taken damage until some time later when I gave it a thorough inspection and saw that it was done.
It doesn’t get better than this for protective gear. The only drawback is the additional replacement cost of the carbon model. I’m missing this helmet already. The sad thing is I’m having trouble letting go- I should retire this helmet, but I’m still using it at the BMX park.
5. Easton Havoc DH Wheels
I received these wheels as a sample as well, and they were very welcome. The wheels they replaced on my DH bike simply weren’t up to the task they were given- I was consistantly having spoke breakage issues due to the massive stopping power of my bad-ass Saint Brakes. The 2x, 15g. and butted non-drive side spokes were failing at the spoke nipple, necessitating replacement of all the non-drive side spokes. First in the front wheel and then the rear. I began carrying spare spokes on rides, and while in Whistler, had to stop after several runs to replace spokes. Rebuilding the wheels resolved the problem, but replacing them with the Havocs left me with peace of mind. Not only are the Havocs great looking wheels, but they’ve taken a ton of abuse and I’ve barely had to true them. A season later they are still running strong.
They only had one issue; when my rear wheel developed play, I got lazy in addressing the issue. In fact, I spent several days in Whistler at the bike park riding the rear wheel this way. This was completely pilot error- once I actually pulled the wheel and cassette off, I found that adjusting the hub to be extremely easy. So far they are still tight, but I fear that I may have ovalized the alloy locknuts. Bummer. So far they are staying tight though, and these wheels are still going strong. Even better, with 2011 Easton product available, you can currently scoop this wheel set up for up to half price its original MSRP.
6. Shimano DX SH-MP66 BMX SPD shoes
This year marked the year I returned to SPDs on my all mountain bike. I’m still a huge fan of my platform pedals, but the reality is that I’m actually considerably faster clipped in on most trails. Flat pedal fans, deal with it. Platforms will always be more fun, but on long rides with lots of hard pedaling at a fast pace, being clipped in for me means I’m able to push a harder gear and keep it going. And since I’ve been running 1×9 all season, being clipped in means I’ve been able to climb some stuff I never thought I would even want to try. If the trail has tons of jumps, I’ll switch back to my flats, but since we’ve relocated back to the Bay Area, that hasn’t been a problem. Sniff.
I’ve had issues with high performance MTB shoes due to a foot injury a few years ago. Long story short, my foot shattered in to pieces, and didn’t heal as good as new, making stiff shoes extremely unpleasant to wear. Fortunately BMX style SPDs aren’t as stiff, and still work well for me. I happen to like the look of most of the skate style shoes better than the ballerina look of most MTB race shoes anyway.
Back to the shoes. I’ve been running some tired 661 BMX style clip in shoes for years, and these are not very good looking shoes. I even had photos of me wearing these shoes show up in print (in 2009’s Fisher Bikes Catalog if you are asking) I have been trying to Pro-form the black Shimano DX SPD shoes off and on for the last three seasons, and these suckers are always out of stock. I missed out on the Black version and was waiting for the white ones to be discontinued and replaced by something better. I shouldn’t have bothered. They’re black again for 2011, but are some of the most stupid looking shoes I’ve seen to date. At least the white ones started going on sale. Although I’m completely over white gear, at least they were cheap, and I scooped some up. Turns out the while shoes are much easier to clean than I had expected. The material doesn’t absorb mud, and is simple to clean with a wet sponge. The white is even growing on me- turns out I like the look after all. Even more important, they are super comfortable and work really well.
7. Fox Flux Helmet
Choosing a helmet for trail riding used to come down to fit before style. Fortunately this doesn’t look to be an issue any more, with plenty of new helmet offerings aimed at the all mountain/ enduro riding crowd. However, if it wasn’t for the first generation of all mountain specific helmets, the Fox Flux and the Giro Xen, we might all still be riding roadie helmets. Or more realistically, heavier dirt jump lids. The Flux fits my head better than most XC type lids and I ended up testing mine this year with a solid blow to a tree.
I’m still bummed. I babied this helmet the entire time I had it and carried it in a helmet pod. Other than the huge dent in it it looked brand new. Even worse, the blue camo color way is no longer available and I ended up replacing it was a color I’m not as stoked on. That said, $100 is way cheaper than an MRI or worse.
8. Lock-on Grips
These days there are plenty of models out to choose from. Back in the day we used safety wire to keep our grips from moving in wet weather and it was a pain in the ass. Once log on grips became available, changing out your bar mounted components was that much easier. We all have our favorites, but to date my consistent favorite has been the ODI Intense models. Putting new grips on a bike makes it feel new again, and I’m about ready for a new set. This year I’ve been eying this model from Diety.
Every bike other than my 20″, which I rarely ride anymore , has bolt on grips on them.
9. Feedback Sports Pro-Elite Bike Stand
I’m not sure if this product should be included in this list since its a test product we received fairly recently. However, having used quite a few stands in the past, this model is above and beyond most of the available models on the market. I’ve been using a fold up Park stand for years, and this stand just blows it away. The tripod design is super stable and it can clamp your bike even when there’s just a bit of clearance. A full write up is in the works, but several big name teams use this stand. I’ve seen a few out there that are super beat down but are still in service. That my friends, is a good sign of durability.
10. Sticky Rubber shoes
I still love my sticky rubber shoes. I don’t think the ones I have are the prettiest, but riding platform pedals, especially in the wet, wouldn’t be the same without them. 2011 looks to have more selection in this category, and I can’t wait to try some new ones out.
What’s on your list for favorite gear from this year? I didn’t include disc brakes or suspension as at this point they’re a given on contemporary mountain bikes, and I didn’t have one brand or item that stood out as head and shoulders above the rest. Sound off in the comments below.