Just as the mountain bike industry isn’t opposed to creating a new standard or two, we know that cyclists aren't shy about in voicing their opinions on certain topics. Mountain bike tech is racing forward and there are plenty of new (and old) products, trends and kit out there that has a real marmite effect, we take a look at the top five topics that get us going in the office and on the trails.
1. Clips Vs Flats
Pedals can be a personal choice - whether you like being attached to your bike or would rather use a foot out, flat out approach can all come down to a few factors. Things like the type of riding you do, the weather conditions and even if you are new to the sport all come into play. Flat pedals are classically the domain of the free rider, those that like stylishly hanging a foot down mid lazy whip and those downhillers that like to get a foot out and drift around every corner.
That’s not the only corner they hide in though, here at off.road.cc we like to use flats in the winter, they are great for a confidence boost in wet and muddy conditions as you are safe in the knowledge you can quickly dab a foot in sticky situations and be able to get straight back on the pedals. We’ll also be seen on flats at the pump or BMX track, learning to jump on flat pedals is a must, there are great skills to be had when you learn not to rely on being clipped in to pull the bike up, in or move it around.
The realm of the clip pedal is firmly placed where more pedalling is needed, be it long or short bursts, uphill, downhill or on the flat and give or take some of the staff here's knee issues, we generally ride most of the time clipped in. Advocates of riding clipped in will say clips are faster and this might well be true as power can be delivered smoothly, being clipped in certainly makes pedalling more efficient and we find keeps fatigue at bay that little bit longer. Whatever you choose, nobody is wrong and it’s a pretty good skill to be able to swap and change as the conditions or the discipline dictates.
2. Wheel Size
Big versus the new small, keeping this to just 27.5” vs 29er (as we all know 26 ain’t dead, right?) there can be some division on the trail about wheel size. Some riders like the nimble, playfulness of the smaller 27.5” wheel and some like the steamrolling capability of the 29er. We’ve all got that mate that claims to be faster aboard a 29er, we’ve also all got friends that stoically will not be swayed by bigger wheels keeping it smaller, but sometimes fatter, on the 650B hoops.
29ers are undeniably fast, being used in all disciplines from cross country to downhill with seconds seemingly gained in some cases for the latter. In relation to the former, they are certainly faster too, with a big rollover capability, smoothing out the terrain and lessening fatigue. We reckon it takes a certain type of rider to ride big wheels fast downhill though, navigating technical terrain on a 29er needs some forward planning and aggressive riding to make the bike shine. Whilst the wheels help you eat up most chunder in your pathway, minor mistakes can see you thrown off course and slowed down in the meantime. For all day pedals and short travel trail bikes we are sold on big wheels – have you made the switch?
Have you had a go yet? Chances are if you haven’t you might be still in the ‘dislike’ camp, but swing a leg over one of these motorised beasts and we’ll be happy to bet you change your mind and move to the ‘want’ camp!
Not only are e-bikes great for levelling the playing field, they are also perfect for helping less able riders enjoy the sport, and who wouldn’t want to see more people mountain biking? We’ve seen and heard of a number of riders that, when not in the fullness of their health, have managed to grab an e-bike and still head out with their mates unhindered, it does great things not just for the body but the mind and soul too.
Yes, they are a little cumbersome and heavy and yes, they can cost an absolute bomb, but we for one are pretty excited to see the developments within the e-bike category. There are already a good number of bikes that half-decent geometry and handling suited to all types of trail and enduro riding, take this Mondraker e-Crafty, pictured above for example. This is a test bike of ours so we'll rack up a few miles on it and let you know the score.
4. Bum bags
The bum bag, or the fanny pack is another much-contested topic, maybe just blighted because of its looks alone, this little pack can actually be pretty useful. There are a fair few bum bags available right now and you can choose from a larger variety that holds a water bladder as well as super small minimalist options which barely hold more than a phone and your car key. We quite like a fanny pack for short rides that never leave us too far from home or the car but still don a big pack for days out.
For the haters out there we can agree – they do look a little 80’s but they are also a damn sight more streamlined than a regular pack, they do away with sweaty backs and tend to move about less when going downhill too. We have however been on remote hillsides with mates that have either run out of water or have needed a tool from the 'shed pack' we are carrying on our backs because they wrongly assumed this was a ‘fanny pack kinda ride’. Nul points.
5. SRAM vs Shimano
Saving the biggie until last – SRAM vs Shimano, we find riders usually stand firmly by one company, only making the move to the other brand in the case of a brand new bike or a catastrophic fail of a piece of kit. Some like the clean and precise lever throw of SRAM gears and some like the shape and feel of Shimano brake levers, whatever the reason these two brands are still storming ahead, seemingly out of reach of competitors.
There’s no doubting the lure of the range of a SRAM Eagle cassette but we also like the lower price that usually comes with Shimano gear. Out on a ride, there is plenty of banter about who’s kit works the best, lasts the longest and is the lightest, like for like.
There's a great deal to separate the two brands too, the braking and shifting characteristics of each are quite different. The direction each brand has taken are also pretty different with Shimano choosing to work on its electronic mountain bike shifting first whilst SRAM have been pushing 1x12 drivetrains with their kit having ditched the front mech entirely. Whichever floats your boat at the moment, as long as it keeps you ticking along on the trails, it can't be too far wrong!
What have we missed that you regularly debate on the trails? What love it or hate it bits of kit polarise opinions in your riding group? Let us know in the comments below....
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