New at off-road.cc this year is our ‘Gear of the Year Top Picks’ award, this is where we pick five pieces of mountain bike or gravel gear that we reckon is indispensable. We’ll then bestow one of these items with the soon to be coveted award for gear we ‘can’t live without’.
First up, Rachael gives us her top five items that she has tested and repeatedly used throughout the year. These pieces of kit are ones that Rach uses time and time again and ones that she reckons make her cycling life that little bit better. They have more one thing in common, they have got high marks when testing, they will probably be superbly designed, be super practical and they will be hardwearing and long lasting and reasonably priced too. Read on to hear about Rach’s top five….
Specialized Hillbilly GRID 2Bliss Ready 2.6x2.75” Tyre
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, a tyre upgrade can be the best thing you can do to your bike to alter the ride in a positive way, creating grip, damping and puncture resistance. In the case of the Hillbilly, not only is it’s a great intermediate to wet tyre for the winter slop, its also pretty handy all year round, providing tonnes of grip in loamy hero dirt and digging in well into dust too. The only place the Hillbilly is less appropriate is hard-packed dirt but I reckon it outperforms the similar Maxxis Shorty providing less squirm from the tall tread.
Not just available in 27.5" the Hillbilly is for the 29er fans out there too, and in 2.3" width if you have narrower rims. There is also a new GRID Trail carcass, which I am yet to try but it's reportedly tougher than a GRID but less so than the BLK DMND casing, think Maxxis Double Down for Specialized. The Hillbilly isn’t just a grippy tyre, it's reasonably priced too, another reason I rate it so highly.
Cushcore Pro 27.5”
I’ll admit I was sceptical before testing Cushcore having uses other tyre inserts to minimal success finding they ruined the damping in the tyre. Cushcore is totally different though with properties that provide great damping whilst protecting your rim. Ok, it does give you a weight penalty but the flip side of this is that I’m able to run 16PSI in the front tyre and 18PSI in the rear all without the tyre rolling or the rim hitting the floor. I’m pretty light at 60kg but even heavier riders will be surprised about how low they can drop the pressures whilst using Cushcore. This product his my Gear of the Year list due to the vastly increased traction I’m now benefitting from, everytime I hit an off camber line, a techy rock garden or a flat corner in the mud I appreciate the benefits, I wouldn’t go without it now when using either carbon or alloy rims, so despite the high price, it gains a spot in my top five.
Madison DTE waterproof trousers
For really foul weather I love these waterproof trousers. These have been keeping me dry in biblically wet conditions for two years now and I love having them as an option in the winter. Whilst there is perhaps some work to do in terms of styling and they can get a tad sweaty on warmer days, the Madison trousers keep you clean and dry in terms of precipitation. The range of fully waterproof trousers for females is more limited than for male riders but these are some of the best I’ve tried, hard wearing, functional and not super expensive either.
Giro Montara helmet
After trying and testing many helmets, it’s the Giro Montara that still takes the biscuit as one of the best I’ve worn. It’s simple styling, comfort and neat helmet camera/light mount feature are the things that keep making me pull it from the cupboard. Yes, there are lighter helmets, there are cheaper ones too that look just as cool but this is a good package for the enduro and trail rider that will want to quickly fit lights to the top of it in the winter.
It's not specifically a women's only helmet, there's a men's version too, look out for the very similar Montaro.
Taking the top spot in my ‘Gear of the Year’ has to be the Mudhugger FR, a robust front mudguard with huge coverage. Those of you who regularly read my bike reviews on off-road.cc will probably have noticed there is a Mudhugger fitted year in, year out. I keep it on my long term test bike all year round too, if it’s not deflecting mud from my eyes it’s keeping dust from the seals of my fork and protecting the stanchions. Complete with Velcro to attach it, the Mudhugger is only £25 another reason it makes it into my Gear of the Year, I’m all for a reasonably priced product!
The Mudhugger FR gets the top prize for being the piece of kit I ‘can’t live without’ too – Keeping muck out of your eyes when mountain biking is a year long affair in the UK, with the Mudhugger it’s a whole lot easier. If you look on their site now, you'll probably see the 2-19 updated Mudhugger FRX for sale, this is the same as the FR but with alterations to make the 'Max Extender' (long tail for even better coverage) easier to fit.
There are more 'Gear of the Year' articles coming up, there will be gear with a gravel flavour from Dave Arthur, our resident expert on all things with drop bars and then a mix of kit from our illustrious leader and editor Jon Woodhouse.
- Jon's gear of the year
- Dave's gear of the year
- Jim's gear of the year
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