Value Product of the Year Nominees
A good value means something a bit different to every person, and many times, it's a matter of personal preference and priority. In our eyes, a value product needs to be not only affordable but also functional. It needs to allow someone to do more for less. It's durable and reliable. It may not be the lightest or most cutting edge, but it has to become an afterthought on the trail without feeling like a frivolous expenditure.
MicroSHIFT's Advent drivetrain, SRAM's Universal Derailleur Hanger, and Marzocchi's Z2 fork all hit the mark in their own unique way. The Advent drivetrain may be only nine speeds but it functions flawlessly, has a good gear range, and is one of the most affordable options for a drivetrain available. SRAM's UDH costs a mere $15 and aims to streamline derailleur hanger options between manufacturers. The Marzocchi Z2 brings the classic Marzocchi feel of a smooth semi-open-bath damper along with reliability and affordability for $500. There are a number of other value products out there and manufacturers seem to finally be realizing that now, more than ever, making mountain biking affordable means making products that have excellent performance without a premium price.
Why it's nominated
Taiwanese brand MicroSHIFT's 9-speed Advent drivetrain costs $125 USD for the derailleur, shifter, cassette, and chain. Avent was developed to be functional, durable, and inexpensive. According to the team at MicroSHIFT, the goal with Advent was to give consumers an option that worked well enough it was an afterthought while riding while still being pricepoint conscious.
The drivetrain is chain agnostic, meaning it is compatible with all standard 9-speed chains. There's a clutch system on the derailleur that uses a ratchet and pawl system, just like most hubs, as opposed to using a friction sleeve, but it's every bit as functional, and can be disengaged for removing the wheel.
The Advent drivetrain fills a previously open spot and meets a need; it's affordable and functional. It is a few dollar tiers below either of the main competitors' most functional entry-level drivetrains and every bit as, if not more, durable. From the review:
Why it's nominated
There is a huge catalog of derailleur hangers out there, and along with varying by brand, they can even be different from one model year to the next. That means it can be confusing, frustrating, and at times, expensive, to find a part that fits perfectly. SRAM introduced their Universal Derailleur Hanger (UDH) in an attempt to curb some of that chaos. The UDH costs $15 and is already being used on a number of bikes.
Rather than lock down the technology and patent it or require license fees for brands to produce it, as is common with new products, SRAM have made the UDH open source with no licensing fees. While it will take time for the UDH to have universal adoption, it is a great step in the direction of making at least one part of the bike uniform.
The hanger is designed to rotate backward if the derailleur is smashed into something to protect the derailleur and hanger. Sure, current derailleurs also pivot backward themselves, but in the future that may not be necessary. There's also ramped fin that extends above the hanger, intended to help guide the chain back onto the cassette if it's bounced off one of the smaller cogs towards the frame. The UDH works with all current derailleurs, and SRAM isn't forcing brands to come on board with the new standard.From the first look:
Why it's nominated
As RC wrote in his review, "The new Bomber Z2 is positioned as an aggressive trail rider's fork. Marzocchi's design team took full advantage of Fox's industry standard for reliability, using the seals, bushings and chassis technology of the Float 34. From there, however, they took a turn from their parent company, weeding out over-complicated damping and adjustment features that could be replaced with simpler, more robust and user-friendly options. The idea was to both modernize and maximize the Z2's performance, and deliver it at a more realistic MSRP than today's super-forks are asking."
The concept paid off, and the result is a fork that's easy to set up, and that performs well above its $499 asking price. Value-priced bikes are often hampered by sub-par suspension, but with the Z2 that's not going to be the case. It's a fork that can go toe-to-toe with options that cost twice as much, with well-controlled damping and enough stiffness to satisfy today's aggressive trail riders. From the Review: