It's that time of year again, where we look back to honour the most outstanding athletes, innovators, products, and achievements of the year. 2017 was an important year for mountain biking, with some major business and product paradigm shifts underway, as well as some of the most impressive athletic performances in recent memory.
Only products we actually used this year are eligible to be nominated for the 2017 Pinkbike Awards. The nominees are hotly debated by our senior editorial team to arrive at consensus. We will roll out the nominees first, before announcing the category winners later this month.
As always, we want to know what you think—what are your top picks for the year?
Component of the Year NomineesWithin the realm of human-powered sports, mountain biking is as gear-heavy as they get. Selecting a handful of nominees from the galaxy of new drivetrain items, wheels, brakes and cockpit accessories that debut each year can be a daunting process. This year, however, the reverse was true. Three standout components earned a clear thumbs up after a short, but heated debate among Pinkbike's tech menagerie. You may be surprised that each candidate also qualified as a good value.
E*thirteen's TRS Race 9 by 46 tooth cassette offers 11-speed owners a wider gearing range than SRAM's 12-speed Eagle for a fraction of the cost. If that wasn't good enough, e*thirteen backs it with a five-year warranty. Next up is TRP, a name most would not expect to read here. The brake maker learned a lot after they paired up with a certain Aaron Gwin. That experience eventually trickled down to become TRP's four-piston Quadium - a sharp looking stopper that edged out the sport's heavy hitters for its outstanding modulation. Our third pick was also the industry's choice: SRAM owned the 2017 trailbike market with the debut of its affordable, exactly-what-I-want, 12-speed GX Eagle group. The ramifications of GX Eagle will be felt for years to come.
Why it's Nominated:
Many riders had just come on board with 11-speed one-by transmissions when SRAM sprung its wide-range, 12-speed Eagle group on the industry at large. There was no arguing that Eagle's 500-percent gearing spread was a necessary improvement. Most, if not all of the early naysayers quickly became Eagle converts. SRAM Eagle's unilateral takeover of the trailbike market left thousands of unfortunate 11-speed owners hungry for Eagle's lower climbing gear and extra top speed. Count yourself among them? E*thirteen's TRS Race cassette handily addresses SRAM's injustice with a whopping 511-percent gearing range that operates with your existing SRAM or Shimano 11-speed derailleur and shift lever.
TRS Race cassettes retail for $349 USD. That is a big chunk of change for most, but (depending upon the quality of your existing components) you'd pay $250 to $1000 more than that to step up to 12-speed. E*thirteen's TRS Race cassette is lightweight - only 303 grams - and it comes with a spline tool and assembly grease, so you can install it at home. Maintaining the TRS cassette is made simpler by e*thirteen's two-piece design which allows its owner to replace the faster wearing cogs separately. In action, the gearing steps seem more consistent from top to bottom than SRAM Eagle, which makes it easy to forget that the TRS Race is "only" an 11-speed cassette. From the review:
Why it's Nominated:
TRP is OEM brake maker Tektro's elite-level brand and, after teaming up with Aaron Gwin, TRP fulfilled that role with its Quadiem four-piston system. Billed as a downhill and all-mountain brake, the G-Spec Quadiem has already proven itself in World Cup DH competition under Gwin. It should not be surprising, then, that Pinkbike's review was also complimentary. Tops on our list was the modulation, which reviewer Mike Levy insists is better than any DH brake he has experienced. Consistency was a close second.
G-Spec Quadiem brakes retail for $199 per side and weigh 317 grams (front) without a rotor. Powered by mineral oil, the sturdy, two-piece finned caliper houses steel/ceramic pistons and sports one-piece pads that are interchangeable with Shimano XT and XTR. Standard pads are semi-metallic with reduced stopping, compared to TRP's powerful $19.95 metallic option that we recommend. Levers are comfortable, slightly longer and larger than Shimano Zee, with Gwin-inspired traction dimples and an indexed reach adjustment. Finally, G-Spec brakes are finished with a mirror polish, so even the most casual observer will take notice. From the review:
Why it's Nominated:
Three years of pushback from enthusiast-level riders against the proliferation of ten thousand dollar trail bikes fell largely upon deaf ears. Bike and parts makers were competing to produce the ultimate enduro bike, and the shortest path was to bolt the most expensive components onto the lightest frames. Enter SRAM GX Eagle. Less than half the cost of SRAM's elite-level 12-speed ensembles, with performance that nearly matched them. Whether it was a brilliant move on SRAM's part, or serendipity, GX Eagle crashed the party at exactly the right moment. The message was clear: "Keep the gold chain, we'll take the 12-speed." Bike makers who caught on used GX Eagle, combined with creative component choices, to offer true high-performance trail bikes at realistic prices in 2017.
SRAM priced GX Eagle at $495 USD in the aftermarket (much less for OEM customers).The street price for XX1 Eagle is $1500. That leaves a cool $1000 to upgrade the bike's suspension or wheels, both of which would pay greater performance dividends. There is no escaping that there is a weight penalty to GX. The cassette alone weighs 448 grams, but upgrades elsewhere on the bike made possible by the more affordable transmission can make up for its added heft. GX Eagle's success has already inspired suspension and wheel makers to follow suit. Insiders say that the MSRP of a top performing all-mountain trail bike has already dropped $2000. The dominoes are just beginning to fall. From the first ride:
Three strong contenders for Pinkbike's Component of the Year Award. Each nominee addresses issues shared by a great number of fellow mountain bike riders. All represent significant performance benefits, while offering a more affordable alternative. We already have a pretty good idea which component will be the winner, but before we cast our final votes, we'd like to hear from you.