Best Value Product: Nominees
Emptying your piggybank to replace a trashed derailleur or toasted wheel can be a hard pill to swallow, and every so often the high cost of mountain biking makes less gear-intensive sports like running or Ultimate Frisbee seem pretty appealing. That is, until you have one of those rides where everything seems to go right - the trails are perfectly tacky, you finally clean that tricky rock garden or hit that stepdown that you've been obsessing over, and to cap it off you manage to beat your frustratingly-fit buddy in the final sprint back to the trailhead. Those rides erase any thoughts of trading in two wheels for runnning shoes, but they still don't make the sport any less expensive. For that reason, presented here are the nominees for the Best Value Product award, items that perform at a level well above their pricepoint.
Fabric Water Bottle
Fabric's clever water bottle system isn't going to make you go faster, jump higher, or ride farther, but it is a guaranteed conversation starter, even among non-cyclists. By using two studs that slide into channels molded into the bottle, Fabric's cageless design makes it look as if the bottle is stuck directly to your bike's frame. It's not quite as quick to use as a traditional bottle and cage setup, but it's close, and unless you're doing laps on a downhill course it's unlikely that the bottle will fall off. The best part? $15 USD will get you a bottle and two sets of mounts, making this one of the least expensive ways to make your bike stand out from the crowd.
Praxis Wide-Range 10-Speed Cassette
Eleven-speed drivetrains may be all the rage these days, but even though prices are starting to drop it's still quite expensive to make the upgrade, and many riders are reluctant to buy a whole new drivetrain just to get a slightly wider gear range. To address that fact, last season a number of small companies started churning out wide-range conversion kits that allowed riders to reconfigure their current 10-speed cassette and derailleur in order to gain a 40 or 42 tooth climbing gear.
Those aftermarket kits proved to be wildly popular, but this year Praxis
took things a step further and released an entire 11-40 tooth ten-speed cassette. With a retail price of $130 USD the cassette costs less than it would to buy a SRAM or Shimano cassette and a wide-range cog kit, making it one of the best values around for riders looking for an easy way to increase the gear spread of their current drivetrain. The shifting still isn't quite as perfect as it is on a standard 11-36 tooth cassette, but it's damn close, and the 40 tooth cog is a welcome addition to help tame those relentless climbs.
SR Suntour Aion Fork
With 34mm stanchions, externally adjustable low speed compression and rebound, and a low maintenance sealed cartridge design, the only thing missing from SR Suntour's air-sprung Aion fork is an exorbitantly high price. Its overall performance isn't quite at the same level as the highest end offerings from Fox or RockShox, but it's remarkably close, especially considering that the Aion's $550 USD retail price is half as much as those top tier options. It's that blend of good trail manners and a budget-friendly pricing that earn the Aion a nomination for Best Value Product, and as Mike Levy wrote in his recent review, "Those that play the name game will be missing out if they only consider the more well-known competition at this price point."
Click here for information about the judging and selection criteria for Pinkbike's Year-End Awards.