This year, Pinkbike's editors decided to take a page from the CyclingTips playbook and put together “10 Things I Loved” lists of our own. Think of it as a more personalized version of the Pinkbike Awards, a place to recognize the bikes and equipment that left a lasting impression over the last 12 months.
I'm sure Mike Levy's list will probably have all sorts of linkage forks and ultralight carbon wheels, and but mine's skewed a little more towards products that are practical and functional. My favorite products are ones that fade to the background and just work, ride after ride after ride. I'm constantly switching bikes and components, so it's nice to have a selection of gear and apparel on hand that I know I don't need to worry about.
Occam Design's Apex Strap
Occam Designs' Apex strap is one of those items I didn't know I needed until it showed up. Sure, you can strap a tube and tire lever to your bike with a ski strap, or even use electrical tape if you're a heathen, but just look at this thing.
It's only 28 grams thanks to the use of a light and strong material originally developed for sailboat racing, and uses a BOA dial to cinch everything down. Combine it with one of the lightweight tubes out there from the likes of Tubolito or Schwalbe and you've barely added any weight to your bike while still being fully prepared to fix a flat. It's also super easy to move from one bike to another, another one of the reasons that earned it a place on this list.Price:
$34.99 USDMore information: occamdesigns.com
Commencal Meta TR
I've mentioned it numerous times already, but I might as well mention it again: Commencal's Meta TR is a damn good bike. With 140mm of travel and a 160mm fork there's not much it can't handle, whether that's hitting a big jump line or blasting down a chunky descent. Sure, it's not exactly light, but that stout aluminum frame is part of what gives it such a ready-for-anything demeanor.
The geometry is fully modern – the size large has a 490mm reach, a 64.5-degree head angle, and a 78-degree seat tube angle. It's a big bike, but the short chainstays keep it snappy and ready to manual or slap a berm at a moment's notice. Could it be used to race an enduro or two? You bet. Bike park laps? I wouldn't think twice. Long rides with lots of vertical? Sure, as long as the descents were worth it.
Lately I've been using the Meta TR as a test bed for various suspension components, which has given me plenty of opportunities to appreciate the 8mm hardware that holds the rear shock on. Most riders won't spend as much time switching out shocks as I have, but it is nice to not need to worry about fiddling with tiny bolts that want to strip out if you look at them wrong. MSRP as shown:
$4,799 USDMore information: commencal.com
Shimano ME702 Shoes
I typically ride four or five days a week all year round, which means a comfortable, reliable pair of shoes is a must. I switch back and forth between clips and flats depending on what needs to be tested, but Shimano's ME702 shoes have become my go-to SPD-compatible option lately, replacing my trusty AM7's
after nearly 3 seasons of loyal service.
It's the overall fit that keeps me going back to Shimano's shoes, especially the fact that most of them have a fairly low sole height, which keeps my foot nice and close to the pedal. With the ME702's, the lace cover adds an extra layer of protection from the rain and puddles I'm constantly encountering, as does the neoprene ankle gaiter. The speed lace system and ratchet strap are easy to operate even with frozen, muddy fingers, and the deep lugs on the sole help keep me from falling flat on my face during tricky hike-a-bikes.
Looks are at the bottom of my priority list when it comes to mountain biking shoes – give me a good fit and function over anything else – but it's hard to go wrong with all black, and I'm a fan of semi-futuristic aesthetic of these shoes.Price:
$200 USDMore information: bike.shimano.com
EXT Era Fork
Okay, so the EXT Era fork might be something of an outlier on this list of practical, fairly reasonably priced items, but I enjoyed its performance so much that I simply couldn't leave it out. It felt better out of the box than any fork I've been on in recent memory, with an impossibly supple initial stroke and plenty of mid-stroke support to keep it from diving too deep into its travel. I'm always on the hunt for products that provide an advantage in wet, slippery conditions, and the Era fits the bill perfectly.
There are two positive air chambers chambers, which makes it possible to individually adjust the feel of the fork at the beginning of its travel and towards the end without needing any volume spacers. There's also a unique crown shape that's intended to help prevent the dreaded CSU creak, and so far it hasn't emitted the slightest unwanted crackle or pop. After putting in a bunch of miles on the Era I sent it up north where the testing process will continue - I wanted a few other test riders to be able to experience just how special this fork was before issuing a final verdict. Price:
1480 EuroMore information: extremeshox.com
Giro Source Helmet
Giro's Source helmet isn't the absolute lightest or fanciest helmet in their lineup, but it still ended up being my favorite new half shell helmet this year. It's extremely comfortable, relatively light, and is equipped with a MIPS liner to hopefully help reduce some of the rotational impact forces that occur during a crash.
My all-time favorite helmet honors still go to the Specialized Ambush, but the Source offers a similar exceptional fit at a lower pricepoint. The ratcheting dial at the back is super easy to use for fine tuning the fit, and there's plenty of ventilation for hot summer rides.
The Source has worked well with all the sunglasses I've used it with, and the adjustable visor makes it easy to find the perfect position – I prefer setting it somewhere in the middle, right between 'cool' and 'kook.' It might be lacking things like an integrated camera mount, or rubber inlays on the back for goggle straps, but I don't really think those features are necessary anyways. Teletubby camera mounting has fallen out of fashion, and most goggles stay in place just fine without any grippy bits on the helmet. Price:
$120 USDMore information: giro.com
Thule Rail 0 Hip Pack
These days, the only reason I wear a backpack on a ride is to carry a saw
for clearing blowdown after a storm. Otherwise, I wear a hip pack, and this year it was Thule's new Rail 0 that accompanied me on most of my rides.
The two side pockets make it easy to keep a snack and a multitool close by, and the dedicated outer phone pocket is a clever touch – no more digging through half-eaten Clif Bars and random tools in order to get your phone out to capture a pretty sunset or a Friday Fail. I prefer carrying a mini-pump instead of relying on a CO2 cartridge, and the Rail 0 can accommodate Specialized's Air Tool Mini pump with room to spare for a windbreaker or more food for those extra-long rides.
I'm also a fan of the waist belt design – it's just the right width, with a good range of adjustment, and once it's cinched down the pack stays securely in place no matter how rough the trail. For anyone out there who's still on the fence about trying a hip pack, this is a good place to start.Price:
$44.95 USDMore information: thule.com
DT Swiss XM 1700 Wheelset
I had three different test bikes show up equipped with DT's XM1700 wheel in 2020, and in all instances the results were the same – they were well tensioned and true from the start, and remained that way throughout the test period, free of any dents or unwanted wobbles. The use of DT's Competition spokes and Pro Lock nipples plays a part in that reliability – those are the parts that I'd choose if I was building up a wheelset from scratch.
A workhorse aluminum wheelset like this may not set hearts aflutter the same way an exotic, super light carbon wheelset might, but the XM 1700's price, weight, and performance ratio is tough to beat. That 350 hub just keeps on ticking, and the proven XM 481 rim is sturdy enough for all sorts of hard riding. That 30mm internal width works perfectly with today's 2.4 – 2.6” tires, and getting everything setup tubeless is a breeze.
For riders who are extra tough on their rims, DT also offers the EX 1700 wheelset, which uses the beefier EX 511 rim. MSRP:
$885.90 USDMore information: dtswiss.com
The Power Broker by Robert A. Caro
Hard as it may be to believe, I do more than just mountain bike and write about mountain biking, and reading is one of those things. It's my escape from electronic screens, something that I need even more than ever these days.
I'm not exactly sure how I stumbled upon this book, which was published in 1974, but once I started I couldn't stop working my way through it. It's the best biography I've ever read, the story of how Robert Moses basically controlled New York City during the mid-20th century as an un-elected official. It's full of tales of corruption, the ruthless use of power, and provides a fascinating look into the forces that shaped New York City into what it is today. Caro's depiction of Moses is incredibly well written, and it's well worth taking the time dig into this hefty tome. Price:
Your local library or independent book store.
Ergon SM Enduro Saddle
I know, saddles aren't exactly the most exciting mountain bike product out there, but Ergon's SM Enduro is deserving of some extra recognition. The shape is excellent, free of any hard edges, with a nice flat portion that provides a comfy perch for those sit bones to rest, along with a generous pressure-relieve depression in the center. I've been on the no-chamois program for the last few years, and the SM Enduro is a saddle I know I can trust to keep my backside comfortable no matter how long the ride.
There are two different widths to choose from, and three different rail options, including an oil slick and a titanium version. Price:
$79.95 - $179.95 USDMore information: ergonbike.com
Nukeproof Sam Hill Horizon Pedals
I spent time testing over a dozen different flat pedals
earlier this year, and it was the Nukeproof Horizon pedals that ended up being my favorites. They're slightly concave, with a wide but not ridiculous platform, and the lack of center pins helps give them a very secure feel underfoot.
There isn't one really one specific detail that makes them stand out from other options on the market - instead, it's the way that Nukeproof have hit the mark in multiple categories that made these my pick. As I mentioned in the review, this is my Goldilocks pedal, the one that strikes the perfect balance of grip and shape. I can re-position my feet when necessary, but there's plenty of traction to keep them from getting bounced out of place on rough sections of trail. The overall shape, the pin profile, and the fact that they're still spinning smoothly after months of use earned them a spot on this list.Price:
$119.99 USDMore information: nukeproof.com
I probably missed some.
Some showing up with bushing play already...
No way man. Currently riding a 2021 Transition Scout and its the best bike I’ve ever ridden. Way better than a bunch of 29ers I’ve had.
I made some up for some of my son's Boy Scout buddies. They had Spesh HTs with boat anchor skinny, rusted coil forks. I bought em some $120 27.5 air forks with new 27.5 front wheels and gave those bikes (and kids) a new lease on life.
I'm sure there are a bunch more but that's for starters
My only comment with the strap type tube/gear systems is that you leave your tube exposed to the elements/outside "forces". I would say that about one third the time - a long term tube will have a hole in it once you actually need it. Plastic tubes as you have shown could be even worse. I stopped carrying plastic tubes on rides simply because -when the group has run out of tubes and you have the 50 dollar plastic one in your bag - do you really want to give it to a buddy?
My two cents on a great list.
ALSO, nice to see Shimano ME702 Shoes on the list. It's beyond me why more mountain bikers don't wear low tops/3/4 top mountain bike shoes. Shimano had a stint there when they weren't making any, or just winter versions and I had to buy Mavics which have been fine. Can't stand getting my ankles torn up by spiky pedals, rocks, sticks, stickers, etc.
Why all the unprotected ankles...???
b) those "plastic tubes" are hands down the best value in biking for reducing weight on your bike, $50 to cut nearly half a pound off your bike is stupid cheap
So somehow you're a cheap a$$ who also can't spot a good deal... noice
Sidenote, the Hotlaps is handy, but the single velcro strap sucked. I added 2 more small straps and it stayed solid as a rock.
May have to try one of those. Thanks.
This is true especially when you factor in that most of us are in a whole new league when it comes to body fat ratios. I should skip the beer rather than use a plastic tube. When you lean folks carry the plastic tube it makes a difference. I my case it just does not make sense.....
Obviously thats too pedestrian for the kind of people who spend 35$ on a strap to hold their 50$ tube, but maybe there is some kind of bike specific sock that costs 25$ which they could use.
Or one that you can wear on your back that wait for it... ALSO HOLDS WATER!!
Maybe a combo dropper post/pump? Make use of the down strke.
We could also hide the bike cables in the frame because bike mechanics are generally too happy.........
That's my value MTB product of the year.
Now I'm going to make a wish: Commelcal Meta tr VS Commencal Meta am. Same spec, longterm review in a shoot-out style! That would be awesome!
As a movie it's probably not going to blow your mind or anything, but it's got a murder's row cast and if you're into old-timey film noir movies where the hero has fatal flaws and wanders around dark streets getting punched in the face and double crossed while following shadowy figures who are connected to powerful people....then this may be your bag, baby. Grab a drink!
Completely underestimated their grips at first so maybe I’m gonna get my butt measured and hope the saddle is equally eye-opening
I've got a Shimano Pro Stealth on order, but the Specialized Mimic is also very popular.
This is an interesting point, I’ve been chasing a saddle with long rails towards the back to help a slack STA, the Fizik Thar fits the bill in that regard, but a bit narrow at 125mm. Are there any others around?
Don’t know how this idea isn’t more commonplace, older long travel bikes with 73-74 degree STA could be brought right up to 76 degrees roughly with the Fizik Thar
I also dig those Shimano shoes, bit sizing is a little funny for the big guys. I tried 49s and 50s, and the 50s where like clown shoes, half an inch of space between my toe and the end of the shoe, and I could cinch the main strap down the stops with plenty of wiggle room. The 49s... A little short, a little snug. I feel like a 49.5 would be perfect, but I've got 3 other shoes in 50, including one Shimano, that fit great.
I bought one of those Sentinels after your review. I love the bike and other brands are still playing catchup geo-wise.
But this Meta is very interesting. In polished alu its just one of the most beautiful frames Ive ever seen.
But Lost is now a distributor????
Yes, the Lost is an official US dealer
I typically ride 4 or 5 times a year since I moved to Bellingham....... Bellingham London
I love Commencal bikes since my last bike, but Pinkbike and Mike convinced me a little more... thanks! ;-)
I can ride 100km untrained on any of my bikes; i will hurt everywhere but my ass.
Over the last few months, I've gone completely chamois-free. At first, I just would try it on the 1.5 hour rides from my front door. Then longer rides. Now it's not even a thought. But yeah, as Kaz said, the right saddle is key. I have a Chromag Trailmaster that works pretty well. I got an SQLab 611 searching for that ergo gold and that thing was a torture device for me. Back to the Trailmaster. It's more than tolerable for most rides, gets a little uncomfortable after 3-4 hours, but that was the same with a chamois too. It's def more about the ass-to-saddle interface than a chamois.
1. Vee SnowshoeXL fat bike tire. It isn't a top of the line tire but was reasonable, repalced Jumbo Jim as a rear tire jsut didn;t find the JJ gave enoug bite in the back.
2. Cheap $20 1200 lumen bar lights of Amazon. My buddies razz me about them but they have lasted 2 winters give me 2 hrs of run time and the piece of mind of always having 2 new ones at the house ( and one in my pocket as a spare). I have a set of hope lights but can't even get a new battery for $80...
3. Maxis rekon 27.5+ tires 2.8s. I am trying to drop the weight of my bad habit a bit and so going from 3.0 nobby nicks to these dropped some weight and I have been pleased with the ride of these less bulky + tires. They took almost a full jug of stan's to seal and sweet sealant but like the ride. I am actually sad the 27.5+ trend has died, I really like the bike with + tires spring and fall ( wet and slipery) and switch it to a 29 wheelset in the summer. Gives me almost 2 different bikes.
4. ENVE's new aluminum stem. ENVE gave me this for posting a somewhat humerous comment on their PB launch add article. Installed it on my Surly ICT to replace a chromag stem. The finish and look of this is very nice. Something a dentist who jsut opened a new practive and has all their school dept to pay off can be proud of until they can get the carbon version in a few years. Nice bling factor on my fatbike...can't lie.
5. Sunrace 11-46 casette. This replaced a shimano xt 11-46. Not on a bike I ride as much anymore but the few rime out I noticed no difference in weight of shifting performance.
6. Garmin edge 830. I bought it off kijiji for almost half the new price. Was looking for a 530 but this one came up and the guy was willing to accept my lowball offer. Bought it more to have a good gps for backcountry skiing but have enjoyed it on the bike in the fall. Not as intuative as I had hoped it would be but after a few weeks have it figured out. Trailforks integration is a bit clunky but usefull. If at new trails will be great, dont bother here on my local trails. I like the touchscreen althoufh most reviews say to go with the 530.
7. Fizik terra x5 boas shoes. once you go Boa their is no going back. I had the previuos model of these and lucky found them on sale this past winter. Good upgrades with the boa slightly higher and the toe piece more solid. They should last longer. I've boken 2 boas in the past 4 years and boa rush ships replacements for free. No worse then breakein a shoelace really and I always have a spare in the toolbox. The fit they give is great and I dont think I can go back to laces + ratchet strap.
8. blackspire oval chainring. Got this off PB for about 50% or retail it was BNIB. Always wanted to try it. Like it but dont love it. Wont pay a premium for one but will miss it a bit if Ineed to replace it with a round one.
9. I;ve run out of stuff I can identify....Big S helmet I really like...dont recall model, It fits and I use it.
10. A few pairs of gloves but once again they fit and I use them ...
Man my list is boring, I guess I am not doing my part to keep the bike industry going!
1. some cheap $20 fake raceface chesters off amazon, these were a massive upgrade from the crappy stock pedals my first bike came with, and they have held up for the last 3 seasons
2. an e13 trs+ bashguard, this thing looks great and has saved me like 30 times, not a single crack, but looking back i probably would have gone for a no chain guide option because I had to buy more bolts and spacers to get it to line up right
3. ODI LONGNECKS the reason they are in caps are because they are just so good, who needs lock ons anyway? these are so so so soft and they can stretch out so so much tbh the best grips i've ever ridden
4. Fox speedframe mips besides the price, this helmet is great, super comfy, and has saved my ass more than once, however it did suffer its final blow when some kid fell over onto it, he was fine but the helmet wasnt
5. my nukeproof scout 2020, this bike continues to impress me everyday, $1,100 gets you nice strong rims, beautiful cockpit, a comfy seat, a deore/e13 drivetrain and a frame with pretty great geometry. only con was the fork, but for $1100 a recons alright
6. My beautiful airdrop fade, this was my dream bike since it came out and after recently buying it and building it up, I can tell you that this thing feels likea bmx, but one that is ridiculously stable in the air, as well as on the ground, everything on it is perfect and I landed my first no foot can on it last month
7. kona wah wah 2 composite, I run these on all my bikes now for good reason, huge platform for tricks, ridiculous grip, and the bearings are insanely reliable
8. Title carbon dj wheelset, these are insanely expensive, but I got them used off a good friend for a steal, so im happy but these havent wobbled an inch since I got them, and they are so insanely light for doing 360s that the first time I tried one I overotated and the profile hubs on them are just crazy
9. conti cross king, super fast rolling dj tire without sacrificing any sort of grip in the slightest, and prob the best ive ever ridden
10. 2018 pike dj, i dont think ive maintained it once (im planning on doing that this weekend dont hate) and it hasnt given me any problems, super stiff when you want that and easy on the wrists when you want that, overall its prob better than the fox 831 that my friend let me try
thats literally everything ive ever bought for mtb besides things like stems and bars and seats and cranks (my wallet is crying)
TR price went up $200. Stop reading books.