As 2021 comes to a close, it's time once again to take a look back at the products that stood out above the rest. The Pinkbike Awards, which are decided by a panel of editors, are on the way, but in the meantime, you'll also be able to read about our personal favorites and some of the items that left a positive impression on each of us. The concept was borrowed from our colleagues over at CyclingTips - you can read their lists here.
Flight Attendant and the Future
It'd be much easier, and definitely more agreeable, for me to type out some virtuous reasons
why I don't want electronics on my mountain bike. Maybe I'd preach that I just like to pedal my $13,000 carbon fiber e-machine with a clunky motor and suspension that has more dials than a nuclear submarine while tracking the ride on my iPhone via GPS satellites to just, like, you know, get away from it all, man. I mean, nothing beats leaving modern conveniences behind for a peaceful e-ride in the bosom of Mother Nature, right? Or maybe that my bike, which currently requires absolutely zero maintenance and always runs perfectly, would be instantly sullied by a 25-gram battery that needs to be recharged every few weeks.
But part of my job is to think about what might happen in the future, which is where gets interesting, especially when talking about RockShox's automatically-adjusting Flight Attendant suspension system. By improving pedaling performance with added compression damping, but also defaulting to a fully open-mode when the trail points down, Flight Attendant delivers even more versatility to enduro and long-travel trail bikes that were already becoming crazy well-rounded. And sure, that might not matter to a lot of riders in a lot of places where efficiency isn't even on their minds, especially if they're on 170mm bikes, but it's still a factor for many other people.
Flight Attendant forks and shocks are essentially normal units but with the Control and Motor Modules attached to them. That means they can be serviced on as per usual, be it some quick love in the garage or deeper maintenance.
I can't help myself from wondering what an enduro race bike designed with Flight Attendant in mind would perform like. I'm convinced that a big part of the Grim Donut's speed is how little anti-squat the bike uses, allowing it to have what feels like an ungodly amount of traction. Pop? Not so much, but strap in for a wild ride. Now just imagine that a bike can descend that well but also pedal like an efficient, 130mm trail bike? It's early days, but it might be possible.
There are some electronics that make zero sense to me, just like there are a bunch of normal components that make no sense to me, and I could do without the dumb apps and blinking lights, but it's shortsighted to take a sanctimonious stand against batteries. Especially if you ride e-bikes. Flight Attendant was one of my favorites of 2021 not just how it performs now, but what it could do for us in a few years' time. Price:
TBD / Currently OE-onlyMore information: Video: Flight Attendant - RockShox's Self-Adjusting Computer-Controlled Suspension
A Bunch of Short-Travel Bikes
Put your hand up if you've heard, and especially if you've said, ''I'd hit this if I was on a big bike!
'' Yeah, same here. But with bikes like Rocky Mountain's new Element
, Trek's Top Fuel
, as well as the Epic EVO
, and a handful of others, that excuse just isn't going to fly anymore. There are a bunch of reasons for this that I'm sure you already know but that I'm going to list out regardless to make this blurb a bit longer; better suspension (if you have less, it better be good), wheels and tires (lighter, wider, stronger), longer drop seatposts (more party), better manufacturing, and something called ''geometry
'' that's apparently a factor as well.
Two completely different approaches, but both the Blur TR and Element are overly capable in their own ways.
I've been riding short-travel bikes like an idiot for a long, long time, and all I know is that I'm having fewer crashes but going faster, taking more chances, and there's definitely way more laughter. The only bummer about all this is that the reason for downcountry existing at all - ''I'd hit this if I was on a big bike!
'' - isn't true anymore. Does anyone have some new excuses?Price:
A lot of moneyMore information: Video: Top Fuel vs Element vs Jet9 vs Trance 29 vs Blur TR vs Lux Trail - Field Test Roundtable
We Are One
I haven't pedaled the Arrival more than a few hundred feet, but I don't need to in order to be a fan of the Canadian company and the stuff they make... which they actually
make in-house in Kamloops, BC. Don't get me wrong as there's certainly nothing wrong with sourcing parts and labor elsewhere - that's a different conversation - but it's also very cool to see a local-ish (they're just a few hours up the road) company start from scratch and end up manufacturing their own carbon fiber frames.
The Canadian-made carbon frame is gorgeous.
Henry and Matt's conclusion from the summer Field Test was that it's a fun, efficient bike that also happens to be quite the looker. There aren't many out there and they're not exactly inexpensive, but the Arrival sounds like it's an impressive all-around 150mm-travel machine, and you can bet that We Are One is already thinking about what's next. Would you like to see their next bike have more or less travel? Price:
$8,899 USD (as tested)More information: Field Test: 2022 We Are One Arrival - Efficient & Effective
Less Expensive Bikes
There's always a lot of talk about how expensive our sport is, but sometimes I feel like that's a bit misdirected and probably influenced by how many pricey bikes get reviewed by us and other websites. Yes, bikes and gear can cost an outrageous amount of money, and you'll have no problem spending ten grand if that's what you want to do. There's also no getting around the fact that mountain biking requires, at minimum, a mountain bike, and mountain bikes are just toys that cost money. They're not essential and not everyone will be able to own a mountain bike, but everyone can't own a jet ski either... But our last Value Field Trip reminded me, yet again, that you certainly don't have to spend a lot of money to have a lot of fun.
There are more capable and far more expensive bikes than the Stoic and Bossnut, but that doesn't matter if you just want to go mountain biking.
What is good, though, is that you can probably get a mountain bike for far less money than you'd think by only reading our silly reviews of five-digit hyper-bikes. Once I climbed down from my high horse, I realized that you can find yourself a brand new ride for around $1,000 USD that's literally far better and more capable than what we were riding only five years ago. Okay, maybe seven or eight years, but my point is that it doesn't matter. That's still a lot of money, but you could spend even less by digging into the buy&sell and picking up an older 26" wheeled bike and knowing how to do your own repairs. I'm pretty sure that mountain biking was fun before dropper posts were everywhere, it was fun before we could afford rear-suspension, and it was still fun when our cantilever brakes tried in vain to clamp down on skinny aluminum rims with 2" wide tires.
Mountain biking doesn't have to be expensive. If you really want to do it, find yourself an older, inexpensive bike, then turn off the internet and stop consuming media from Pinkbike; stop reading reviews of $1,500 forks, $700 derailleurs, and computer-controlled suspension that some idiot keeps going on about, stop wondering if wider rims and $130 tires will make you faster, and forget about the latest geometry and dropper posts with three-feet of travel. That stuff is great if you can afford it, but don't let your lack of funds keep you from enjoying riding a bike - any old bike - in the forest.
You can spend a lot of money to go mountain biking if you want, or you can spend a lot less and still really enjoy it. Price:
$500 and upMore information: Video: Welcome to the 2021 Pinkbike Value Bikes Field Trip
The Grim Donut 2
I'm sitting on my shop couch while writing this, feet up on a stool and with Bob Seger playing softly in the background while a wild-looking bike hangs from the repair stand. It's comically long, liable to tip over at anything below 20kph, and pedals worse than an old Rotec with a blown shock. But it's real and we (with help from Pivot
) made it even though it was never supposed to work. Now it looks like a kinda-production-ready thing using a dual-link layout that pedals like absolute shit. Thankfully, we also have a set of links designed by an actual engineer to fix that and that'll also let us do some back-to-back testing to see if the Donut's lack of anti-squat was a factor in its speed.
The latest Donut even holds a water bottle and, in an industry-first, there's an optional 'Climb Switch' feature that promises to erase those annoying uphills from your short-term memory.
Stay tuned for more Donut in 2022. Price:
Your dignity on every single climbMore information: Spotted: New Grim Donut Prototype?