Phew, what a year. 2011 has been busy!
We’ve seen more new bikes and components being released than ever before, with release dates getting earlier all the time. The mountain bike market is in a really healthy place at the moment, with lots of new people getting into the sport all the time.
Of course the big debate this year has been about wheel size, and the question of whether 29ers will firmly establish themselves as an alternative, or even wipe out 26in wheeled bikes.There’s more and more carbon, on frames, bars and saddles, and at lower prices than we’ve ever known.
It’s the year when 10-speed and 2×10 drivetrains started becoming super popular, and all-mountain bikes are coming specced with adjustable height dropper posts nearly as standard. There’s some insane prices being asked of the top-end kit, but the trickle down process means there’s some real bargains to be had lower down the ladder.
Before we dive into 2012, here’s my roundup of the best products of the past year, starting with the first ever Bikemagic Bike of the Year award.
Bikemagic’s Bike of the Year 2011
I’ve ridden some excellent bikes this year, from affordable hardtails to top of the line high-tech full suspension bikes, and quite a few 29ers as well.
There’s one bike that stood out though, one that I used as a benchmark when testing other bikes. It’s the bike that I had the most fun riding, and that one word is what I look for most in a bike. I ride bikes for fun, and any that allows me to entertain myself on the trails gets my thumbs up.
So, with that in mind, there can only be one contender. the winner of the first ever Bikemagic Bike of the Year 2011 award is the Trek Remedy 9.7.
This bike blew me away with its beautifully made full carbon fibre frame and awesome suspension performance. The angles are sorted making for a bike that is easy to chuck around, point where you want, it really engages you and allows you to exploit the full potential. Despite the many acronyms the frame carries, it’s a simple design at heart and this shows when you ride it, it just gets on with its job allowing you to scream down the trails at warp speed with a smile as wide as you like.
It’s so much fun to ride, making it one of the few bikes I actually missed when it finally went back – so far no bike has replaced it in the bike shed, or in my heart.
Read the full Remedy review here.
Nearly the Bikemagic Bike of the Year
The other bike that has blown me away this year, and is worth a mention as a Nearly the Bikemagic Bike of the Year, is the Santa Cruz Highball 29er.
I had been sitting on the fence a little where 29ers are concerned; no bike had done much for me. After a short blast on the Highball, I was hooked. It was a scream to ride.
Fast, exhilarating, engaging, flickable, all the things I look for in a hardtail. Ideally I would be making space in my garage for both the Remedy and Highball, possibly the only two mountain bikes you would ever need.
Full review of the Highball this way.
Products I Couldn’t Live Without award
In the Products I Couldn’t Live Without category, I really wouldn’t be anywhere without the following kit. No one clear winner here, just a selection of some of the best kit that has been with me throughout the year, and not let me down.
Specialized S-Works shoes
Simply the most comfortable shoes out there, with a super stiff carbon sole that flatters and the twin Boa dials make it super easy to adjust the shoes to the perfect fit, even on the move. Read the full review.
Shimano XTR groupset
How would Shimano answer SRAM’s competition to its position on the throne? With the astonishingly good XTR, that’s how. Looks bling as you like and its performance, from the excellent brakes to the lightning quick gear shifts, is second to none. XTR rear mech review.
Lezyne Alloy Drive mini pump
I find it hard to use any other mini pump these days. The Lezyne has never let me down, and makes inflating tyres a doddle, which is handy when it’s lashing it down and you just want to get home.
Giro Xar helmet
Continuing to offer the most comfortable and best ventilated helmets, the company faced the tricky task of replacing the Xen (to be honest they didn’t really need to replace it did they) but do it they did, and succeeded. The new retention system is worth upgrading for alone. Here’s myreview.
Osprey Viper hydration pack
I’ve been really impressed with Osprey’s mountain bike packs since they launched a few short years ago, and the Viper is my pick of the bunch. It’s not the biggest but the 10-litre capacity is just perfect for a couple of hours in the hills, it’s comfortable on the back and all the little details, like the magnetic hose, make it easy to live with. Full Viper review here.