Here at off-road.cc, we take great pleasure and pride in thoroughly testing all manners of products from the wonderful world of off-road cycling. Whether it's gravel and adventure orientated components and accessories or full-on enduro mountain bike apparel.
Over the years, we've had skilled and experienced riders test and review for the off-road.cc title. With unbiased and open minds, we put each product through its paces, assessing its qualities against the brand's intentions, all with the purpose of communicating our findings to our readers. Why do we do all of this? Because we want to provide helpful and informative buying guidance before you part with your hard-earned cash; let's face it, riding bikes isn't exactly the cheapest of indulgences!
So without further adieu, and this has been a long-time coming, for 2022, we're kicking off ORCC Recommends. Each quarter, our talented team of testers will submit the best products they've reviewed during the previous 3-months, which may include anything from tools to helmets, from bikes to quirky, innovative gadgets. The team has reflected on 2021 and submitted their top recommendations from the year to get started.
ENVE Handlebar Tape
2021 Enve Handlebar Tape 1.jpeg, by Patrick Joscelyne
"Quite simply the best handlebar tape I have ever used."
Having a comfortable setup on your gravel bike goes a long way to help you enjoy your ride, and for Patrick, ENVE's Handlebar Tape does just that. While it may sound quite expensive at £35, ENVE has developed a handlebar tape that provides grip, comfort, and stretch with a silicone backing strip that provides vibration damping.
At 250cm long with a thickness of 3mm, ENVE's tape weighs a light 112g and comes with fairly basic, branded rubber plugs, which stood up well throughout the testing period.
JACK The Bike Rack
"A brilliant front rack that will work with almost any bike."
If you're looking for a faff-free, tool-free luggage transport system for your bike, then we recommend you check out JACK the Bike Rack.
Constructed from a strong 304 steel rod, the JACK rack is preloaded under the stem and around the steerer using the supplied size adaptor for your handlebars, a triple stitched yellow strap, and a black webbing retention strap. The JACK rack can safely carry up to 5kg of weight when installed and is stable off-road on gravel, on bikepacking adventures, and you can even use it to go to work.
Rapha Women's Trail Shorts
"An excellent pair of trail shorts in an understated design."
2021 saw Rapha launch their first dedicated trail collection for men and women. Included in its summer range, Rapha's women's trail shorts are well designed from durable fabrics, flattering shapes, and performance-inspired features. For the brand's first foray into this area, initial reservations were well and truly squashed after the first ride.
KS Lev Si 150mm Dropper Post
KS LEV-Si 150mm dropper post review 2021 6.jpg, by Jim Clarkson
"There is plenty to recommend and almost nothing to complain about with this dropper post."
After getting familiar with the KS LEV-Si dropper post, Jim could find little to fault. With a positive action, reasonable weight and drop, the KS LEV-Si is well recommended and ideal for riders looking for a fairly economical, no-frills, reliable dropper post. Factor in how simple it is to pull apart in the home workshop, and this post is a tough contender at this price point.
Redshift Shockstop PRO stem
2021_Redshift_ShockStop_Pro_Main.jpg, by Matt Page
"The Redshift ShockStop PRO stem is an absolute revelation in terms of the performance on offer..."
Matt Page's feats of record-breaking endurance have no doubt taught him a thing or two about comfort. The Redshift ShockStop PRO stem uses customisable elastomer inserts to dampen vibration felt through the bars. A relatively small difference in weight, compared to a non-suspension stem, transforms the ride, taking the edge off bigger hits and smoothing out general riding off-road.
Fidlock TWIST 450 + Base
"An incredibly secure, low profile and easy to use bottle storage system."
If you want to test the security of a bike-mounted bottle, there's no better way than on the trails, which is exactly where Liam conducted his review. With its magnetic bottle and base, the Fidlock TWIST 450 + Bike Base is seriously difficult to knock. It's an easy-to-use system that's incredibly secure and much less invasive to the look of your bike than a traditional bottle cage.
Schwalbe G-One R
"A fast and supple tyre that grips incredibly well in a wide range of surfaces."
With such a vast range of gravel-orientated tyres entering the market, isolating the best one for you and your riding style can be tricky. So when a brand claims both durability and versatility, it's worth the Matt Page treatment. Schwalbe's G-One R ticked all of our boxes. Matt declares this tyre as race-ready, and given the choice of any tyre to race on, he'd choose this one, regardless of trail surface or weather - which says a lot.
Scribe Carbon Gravel Wide++
2021_Scribe_Carbon_Wide++_Gravel-1.JPG, by Matt Page
"Incredible performance at a very competitive price."
If you're looking for a lightweight gravel wheelset, then we recommend that you take a look at Scribe's Carbon Wide++ 700 Disc set. Matt's review comments on just how light these wheels are, an incredible 1,360g, and that Scribe has delivered a wheelset that is seriously impressive both in performance and value. At £870, this package is almost unbeatable.
Smith Engage MIPS
"Excellent value, comfortable and good looks - pretty much perfect."
Once renowned for high-tech helmets accompanied by a high-tech price point, SMITH has pulled it out of the more affordable bag with the Engage. Worn and reviewed by our Lakes-based mountain biker, Jim Clarkson, the Engage helmet with MIPS "is quite simply one of the best priced, comfiest helmets" he's tested. It's got solid, modern looks and has lasted well. It's got good coverage of the head, it feels light when riding, the airflow is effective, and it's a great value at £95.
Fox Speedframe Pro
"Buy if you're looking for a trail lid that's safe, secure and lasts."
Jessica was really impressed by its capabilities, having ridden hundreds of kilometres in all conditions and terrains whilst wearing the Fox Speedframe Pro. Not only is it comfortable for any duration, but it fits well and feels secure, thanks to MIPS protection and a generous amount of size and fit adjustability.
Troy Lee Designs A3 MIPS
"Its supreme comfort and excellent sweat management have got me reaching for it more frequently than any other helmet."
Entering at the higher price point of open-face lids, Troy Lee Designs A3 helmet was a winner with Liam. Featuring MIPS technology, Fidlock buckles and well-considered features, there was an awful lot to like about the Troy Lee Designs A3. It retains the brand's reputation as the King of Cool, and it's outstandingly comfortable. Each feature on the hat is super useful, too, justifying the hefty price tag.
76 Projects No Clog Valves
"A total must-have for any tubeless tyre setup."
Once you get past the slight faff of the initial setup, these valves perform exactly as promised. They make tyre inflation much quicker and easier at a price that's incredibly competitive to traditional tubeless valves. According to Liam, the 76 Projects HI FLOW 'No Clog' Tubeless Valves spell the death of Presta.
Canyon Spectral 29 CF
"Its ride is capable, fun, and seriously addictive."
The Canyon Spectral quickly became famed for its versatility and appropriateness for UK trail riding. Thanks to its excellent suspension, it inspires heaps of confidence with its unapologetically modern geometry and lively ride - with various build options to suit all budgets and desires. In fact, Liam enjoyed this bike so much that he bought one for himself.
Pipedream Full Moxie
PipeDream Cycles The Full Moxie 2021 long term review driveside.jpg, by Jim Clarkson
"One heck of a great ride, solidly built, steel full-suspension frame."
Jim highly rated the Full Moxie steel frame with its single pivot design, easily serviceable bearings, full-length internal cabling, and weatherproofing. The sturdy construction and gravity-orientated geometry result in a frame that can just about handle anything. As Jim concludes, "it's a well-executed, great riding trail bike with a gravity focus."
While we intend to showcase our most recommended products across all disciplines off-road, the past 18-months have wreaked havoc on the cycling industry's supply chain. This has caused delays and no-shows for some anticipated products that we would have loved to review. Although, things appear to be getting back to a more normal state, so we hope the availability of bikes, accessories and apparel will become more available as time goes on.
So, that's a wrap for the 2021 off-road.cc recommends, but it's certainly not the last as this kickstarts our quarterly recommends feature. So, stay tuned as we'll be back with the next lot of our favourite and most recommended products at the end of the quarter.
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