Much like everybody else, 2021 has been a rollercoaster of a year. With some annual riding destinations off the list (France, Switzerland & Italy), I’ve focussed my energy on more gravel riding and the occasional return to some mountain biking. I also found myself screaming at the TV during the Olympics and World Cup races. Wow, what a year for XC mountain biking!
- How to make your gravel bike more comfortable
As publisher of off.road.cc, I don’t get huge amounts of kit to test, but I‘ll put my hand up when a product really interests me. I mostly ride gravel, rough roads, byways and towpaths around Wiltshire and Dorset, so anything that helps me improve my ride, I’m keen to try out.
My highlights from this year are a mixture of products and articles that the team have produced this year.
76 Projects A.S.S. Slider
This product is so simple but delivers a fantastic improvement for anybody who has used a top tube bag and found it either slipping to the left or fouling with the stem and spacers every time you turn the bars.
The A.S.S. (Anti Strap System) Slider offers a way of fitting a top tube bag to your frame whether it has bosses or not. A 3M super-tough sticky patch is provided for those without bosses, and once the Male slider is stuck or bolted on, I barely noticed it. The female slider is bolted to the bottom of your bag (a little bit of DIY might be required), and they simply slide together, creating a solid mount for your top tube bag without the risk of marking your paint with rubbing straps or, indeed the bag itself.
76 Projects A.S.S. Clip
The A.S.S. Clip is even simpler at holding the top tube bag upright and still when you turn the bars. The Clip replaces the strap at the front of your top tube bag and mates with a specially grooved 10mm spacer fitted to your steerer for a clean snap click fit. And hey presto, no more bag wobble and no stem interference. Simple, easy to fit, and good value, what more do you want?
ENVE Handlebar Tape
2021 Enve Handlebar Tape 3.jpeg, by Patrick Joscelyne
ENVE’s Handlebar tape really has been a game-changer for me. I’ve suffered from hand and arm pain from various issues over the years, and this easy-to-fit handlebar tape has reduced the discomfort to the point when I am no longer even thinking about it. The dampening properties of the backing gel provide a reduction in trail buzz, whilst the tape is extremely grippy due to the cleverly embossed ENVE logos, and it feels fantastic in the wet. Without a doubt, one of the easiest and quickest ways to improve the front-end comfort on your bike I’ve found. Black or grey, please, we’ll leave the white for the trip to Lake Como.
JACK the Bike Rack
JACK the Bike Rack just squeezed into this year’s reviews and is well worth mentioning. JACK is a steel rack that hangs from your handlebars (31.8mm or 25.4mm) and, without touching a toolbox, can be strapped tight to the stem and steerer with two straps. It can carry up to 5Kg of stuff; literally, anything you can fit between your drops or under your flat bar is a goer. It comes with 2 bungee cords with sailing fasteners to hold your stuff to the flat 1000D heavy-duty nylon platform. It takes seconds to fit or remove and works with most bikes. It costs £60 and doesn’t mark your bike in any way. Thank you, JACK!
Scott’s launch of a new Spark-RC and 900 using the BOLD CYCLES design DNA has undoubtedly produced one of the sexiest XC and Trail mountain bikes for a decade. I mean, just look at that bike; it’s incredible. With no shock on display, its smooth lines are fresh and exciting, and just asking you to hammer the trails on it. The shock is hidden inside the base of the seat tube and the downtube area of the frame. All adjustments are available under the downtube, so you lose nothing, especially with the remote mounted on your bars. The Spark RC has gone straight to the top of my lust list for full suspension. If that isn’t enough travel for you, then check out the BOLD LINKIN for 135-150mm. Such a shame it didn’t win on its first outing with Nino.
Olympic and World Success
tom pidcock gold medal team gb great britain mountain bike tokyo 2020 olympics.jpg, by Alex Whitehead
And finally, the best feel-good moment of the year (well, actually two of them) came from Tom Piddock’s performance at the Tokyo Olympics and Evie Richards at the Worlds. We have never seen this level of success in XC mountain biking before, and it was an absolute joy to watch; and I’m still getting a smile remembering how much I was screaming at the TV during these events.
evie richards team gb great britain mountain bike tokyo 2020 olympics bike jump.JPG, by mattpage
However, it was Matt’s article that brought me back to my feet in his discussion about what happens next to cross-country mountain biking in the UK. With two such incredible champions, surely there must now be the uptake in the sport and the necessary funding to help bring on future stars of the sport. Great work Tom and Evie now over to you, the reader, to give it a go and see what it’s all about.
I'm looking forward to doing more events outdoors again next year, either on my gravel bike or I might even try a few XC races myself – it’s been a while.
Seasons greeting to you all!