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.
This year, I didn't fly anywhere with my bike, but I ended up riding almost 400 hours on some of my favourite trails in British Columbia. Being able to spend so much time riding, and some of the ten things below, made a chaotic year a bit brighter, more comfortable, and interesting.
Until Covid hit, I went to the gym a couple of times a week. I find it very motivating to see how week after week there is noticeable progress that can be made in the gym, unlike when you're out on the trails in variable conditions with different bikes, components, and gear. The first week you do a new exercise the DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) is real, but the next time you do it you can usually add weight to it or do more reps without it being any harder. I like to track the exercises I do, what weights I use, and how many reps I can eke out before failure. Adding a couple pounds to an overhead press or another push-up in a max set always feels like a win.
When gyms closed, I started off with no gear at home and quickly got bored and strained my wrist from doing too many push ups. I then purchased two kettlebells, a couple resistance bands, a slam ball, a stability ball, and a couple small dumbbells from Fitness Town, before finding a squat rack with integrated chin-up bar, 300lbs of weights and adjustable dumbbells on Facebook Marketplace for $1000. Score! Then I bought the mirror for $15 at the Squamish Rebuild It Centre which really ties everything together and helps me think about form.
One plus side of the space is that it's usually about 12°C / 54°F so I don't overheat during my workouts. The downside is that the garage also doubles as mountain bike storage so I almost always have to run the shop vac before working out so that I'm not doing sit-ups, push-ups and TGUs in the loam and pine needles that come in with the bikes.
I'm thinking of adding a TRX and maybe a bosu ball, but for now, I can do enough exercises that I don't get bored. It also helps to have a plan to follow. I've been doing the Everathlete strength program with handy follow-along videos for the past couple months, and I also really like the Dialed Health programming. Both do a good job of keeping it interesting, progressing the exercises, and throwing in mobility and foam rolling on recovery days. Turns out you can foam roll more than just your IT bands! Price:
Probably about $1400 CDN at this point (not including Wahoo Kickr or Salsa Warbird) plus memberships are $20-$25 USD / month.More information: everathlete.vhx.tv
Endur Ice Cream Socks
My brother got these for me for my birthday this year and they just make me happy every time I put them on. Plus, whenever I wear them, I usually end my ride at Alice & Brohm Ice Cream. They're also comfortable, come up just the right height, somehow wash clean after muddy rides despite their light colour, and I always get way more compliments out on the trail on them than any of my other riding gear.
If you want to meet strangers and eat lots of ice-cream, I highly recommend these. I also have a pair with donuts on them... Price:
$20 CDNMore information: endurapparel.com
Specialized Women's Trail-Series Thermal Jersey
In the summer, it's easy to throw on any old jersey and shorts before heading out on a ride, but as soon as the leaves start to change and the rainy season settles in it's a lot harder to make apparel choices. Will I be too hot on the climb? Will I be too cold on the descent? Anyone who has ridden with me also knows that I sweat a lot, which usually means I end up getting chilled on the descents after a sweaty climb in cool weather.
Before the first couple of rides where the thermometer dips below below 10°C (50°F), it always takes me three times as long to get dressed as it does in the summer. I end up second guessing myself and changing my outfit every time I check the Weather Network hourly forecast and look out the window. Or that was the case until Specialized sent me their Trail-Series Thermal Jersey.
Now, if it's anywhere between 0°C (32°F) and 10°C (50°F), I find myself gravitating to it. I have a hard time with the "Be Bold, Start Cold," motto, even though it makes a whole lot of sense. Instead, I like to put on the cozy Trail-Series Thermal Jersey with the Specialized Trail-Series Wind Jacket over top when I head out and then stuff the jacket in my hip pack for the climbs. The Polar Grid fabric wicks really well which helps keep the chills at bay, although I still like to throw on a jacket for longer descents.
The only downside I can see? I have to do laundry every time I go out these days since I don't want to wear anything else! Price:
$150 USDMore information: specialized.com
SRAM AXS Drivetrain + Dropper Post
Mike Levy spent 6 months on SRAM AXS
before I actually tried it. I got my first shifts on the electronic drivetrain this year and then rode it a lot during the XC Field Test in June since half of the bikes I was testing came with it installed. Since September, I've had it installed on my personal bike as well.
I liked how easy it was to install the wireless set up, the pleasant 'zoop, zoop' sounds that makes me think of a baby robot whenever I gear up or down, and that I have the cleanest handlebars in history with just the brake lines sticking out the front. The old AXS paddle didn't work well for me ergonomically, but the new AXS paddle stays out of the way and was easy to set up to make shifting feel natural.
I'm not going to say it works better than mechanical gears, and yes, I have run out of battery before, but there's still just something inherently cool about having electronic shifting. Also, I can see how many times I've shifted when I pair it with my Garmin Edge 530 and how much time I've spent in each gear if I so choose. Why not, right? Price:
$800 USD (dropper) + $1000 (AXS upgrade kit)More information: sram.com
Specialized Power Saddle Expert with Mimic
I'd argue that a good saddle is one of the most important touch points on your bike. If your saddle is uncomfortable, you're going to be less efficient pedalling, and you're not going to enjoy long days in the saddle very much. Sure, for the first couple rides when you switch to a new saddle you might experience some discomfort, but you don't need to suffer day after day on your saddle.
A lot of the time, what's comfortable to you might not be comfortable to me. Especially when it comes to saddles. However, a lot the people who have told me they have issues with their saddle have been happy once they switched to the Specialized Power saddle with Mimic. It's impressive how comfortable it is for so many riders I know.
Specialized launched the Power saddle with Mimic as a women's saddle but quickly found that it works well for men as well. So if you have a hard time finding a comfortable saddle, male or female, I'd recommend trying the Mimic Power. Keep in mind that there are three sizes, so make sure you get your local shop to measure your sit bones before you purchase it to make sure you get the right size. Price:
$160 USDMore information: specialized.com
Root Beer Limited Edition Heritage Collection Fox 36
The limited edition 2021 Heritage Collection "draws inspiration from the original 36 and 40 forks from 15 years ago." Okay, honestly, I had just started mountain biking then and I still hadn't discovered forks that had more than 100mm of travel yet, so I probably don't have the same nostalgia that others have about the Heritage Collection forks.
Nostalgia aside, there are other things that I like about this fork. There are air bleed buttons so that you don't have to slide a zip-tie down past your seals anymore to release the pressure that builds up in the lowers, the GRIP2 damper is fantastic, and overall the fork is buttery smooth. Even with all the adjustments, it's easy to set up the fork and Fox's recommendations are spot on.
Plus, the root beer colour with Kashima coated stanchions is a great look on any bike... Price:
$1,099 USDMore information: ridefox.com
Fox Speedframe Pro
I tried more helmets than ever in 2020, but I kept coming back to the Fox Speedframe. It's comfortable, goggle compatible with its visor's three positions, and it's easy to dial in the fit. As I mentioned above, I'm one very sweaty mountain biker and I found that the liner of this helmet does a good job of wicking the moisture away from my head so I don't get sweat dripping in my eyes. And while it keeps sweat from going in my eyes, it doesn't seem to hold in the moisture in the pads, meaning that it dries much faster than my previous go-to helmet, the Smith Forefront 2. In addition, since the liner is antimicrobial, it never seems to smell bad.
I also really like the Fidlock magnetic buckle which is just so easy to use. It also means you can do it up with one hand if you need to (this has come in handy before, but I'm struggling to remember why). Plus it has MIPS and earned Virginia Tech’s highest rating in its Bicycle Helmet Ratings program, so that's reassuring. Although I'm really hoping I don't have to test it myself. Price:
$159.95 USDMore information: foxracing.com
Camelbak Chase 8 Vest
The pack that doesn't feel like a pack. Of course, I'd rather ride without a pack as much as the next person, but I've found that I really notice the effects of dehydration when I ride more than a couple of hours on one bottle. Plus, snacks! Not everyone has snack storage in their downtube...
In the summer, I like to wear the Chase Vest with its 1.5L reservoir and two pockets on the front, but in the winter, I like to carry an extra layer and gloves with me. Plus a headlight, 100g SOL Emergency bivvy, a miniature first aid kit, and an inReach. The minimalist Chase Vest is a bit small for all my gear in the cooler months, but luckily Camelbak released a larger version of the Chase Vest with the same harness but six litres of storage, so that I can continue to have that "vest-like" feeling year-round. Price:
$125 USDMore information: camelbak.ca
Deity Lockjaw Grips
Grips made your list? Seriously? In a word, yes!
I'm pretty picky these days when it comes to grips, what with double arms breaks in 2018 and the blisters
that I got during the 2019 BC Bike Race. This year, I started riding Deity's Lockjaw grips and they quickly became my favourites. The rubber is comfortable without being mushy or oversized and they're tacky so I never feel like I'm going to slip off them.
I'm impressed with their durability as well as I've been riding them for several months now and they're only just starting to show their wear.Price:
$21.99USDMore information: deitycomponents.com
Run Fast Cook Slow Cookbooks
I got into making sourdough this year as so many others did, and made more than a few sweet treats, but my go-to recipes for daily meals were from these two cookbooks by four-time Olympian Shalane Flanagan and her friend, chef Elyse Kopecky. They have easy recipes with great taste, have great snacks to take out on the bike, use good ingredients, and overall have an amazing philosophy about food.
I also got a farm basket this summer for the first time from Four Beat Farm in Pemberton and I really enjoyed seeing how many different vegetables can be grown locally, supporting a local farm, and experimenting with different recipes when I received vegetables I'd never cooked with before. The weekly farm pick-up became a highlight of the week! Price:
$24.99 eachMore information: runfasteatslow.com