EDITOR’S HIGHLIGHTS OF 2020
OUR FAVORITE PRODUCTS & MOMENTS
Whether it’s in the midst of a trade show or standing in the garage, one of the hardest questions we get asked is, “So, what’s your favorite thing you’ve tested lately?” With a constant rotation of hot new products that would make anybody’s head spin, trying to remember all the bikes, gear and accessories we’ve tested over a whole year is a challenge to say the least. We each took some time, looked back through the memory cards, dusty corners of the garage and put together a list of the most memorable items we had the pleasure of riding in 2020.
DREW ROHDE’S TOP PICKS
FOX 38 FACTORY KASHIMA PISTACHIO FORK
Without a doubt, this particular fork is the best fork I rode all year. It took a bit of time to dial in the volume reducers and progression I needed, but once I did, the suppleness, traction and pop of this fork make it an easy pick! Fox really elevated the game with this new 38 and it’s rad to see all the other 38mm fork offerings on the market as the race to build better components to meet the demands of hard riders pushes on.
I’ve got sensitive joints in my knuckles and hands, I’ll call it old age and most likely early stages of arthritis, but finding grips that keep my hands comfortable during long days of downhilling is a challenge. I found the Ergon GE1 grips to be a great balance of comfort, performance and looks. The oil slick, jet fuel rings are sharp, the contoured pattern fits nicely in my hand and the thought behind the design left my hands feeling fresh longer.
After a bad ankle injury, I stopped riding clipped in and made the switch to high-top riding shoes for more support. Now after nearly two years I started riding clipped in once again and have been testing a few different shoes during the year. I knew I liked the Ride Concepts Transition shoes a lot as I wore them all summer for our Bike Park Tour, but it was not until I spent some time in other shoes that I realized how much more I liked the RC Transitions. The D3O insole makes a night and day difference when it comes to comfort and reducing foot fatigue. They are comfortable, have lasted 200,000 vertical feet and work without flaw. Now if I can just get them to make me a mid-high top version….
This shootout really surprised us all. Not only is it the most popular piece of content we’ve made, but it surprised all of our testers too. We went from being a bit concerned about how the bikes would perform and if we’d be crashing all over the place, like a bunch of spoiled babies, to being thoroughly impressed at what most of the bikes could handle. It was really awesome to see the smiles on our crew as we made trailside challenges a regular occurrence and spent days on end riding these sub-$2,000 bikes as hard as we could. We look forward to doing another one in 2021.
I’d never been to Killington and what a treat it was! And the fact I was lucky enough to ride what is quite possibly the best DH bike I’ve ever ridden, the Canyon Sender, certainly made the experience even better. Our Bike Park Review Tour is a massive undertaking, a ton of work but it also gives us the opportunity to ride new parks, see what they’ve got to offer and report back on whether or not we think it’s worth a visit. Killington Bike Park blew away the whole team and we had some of the best times riding this park. The berms are insane, the natural terrain is top notch and we absolutely loved the dirt. Definitely looking forward to a return trip.
COLE GREGG’S TOP PICKS
In a time of uncertainty, stress and danger from a virus you can’t see the mountain bike community is stronger than ever. Bikes shops are slammed, trail centers are packed and there are so many new riders both young and old adding to the amazing sport. Sure, getting to the parking lot and finding no spots can be annoying but it just goes to show that the industry is thriving, every time the lot has been full at my local spots, I get a smile on my face and will gladly pedal in from further away.
SPECIALIZED DEMO PANTS
This year was the first season I had some legit riding pants, I have always worn shorts except for bike parks. Picking up a pair of the Specialized Demo pants was a total game changer for the fall and late summer rides. They have been warm yet breathable, and with a few coatings of DWR have done a great job in the wet. NY no means are the waterproof, but they get the job done. I had plenty of wipe outs and still no tares. Having zippered pockets are a must for me and these are big enough to keep my iPhone XR on my pocket on shorter rides that don’t require a pack. It is not surprising that these are some of the hardest pants to come by, get your pre-orders in for next year!
This year I went in ad upgraded my Canon 5D IV to a 1DX II and oh boy was that a great decision! I am as big of a camera nerd as I am a bike nerd and am always looking for gear that can help make shoots more efficient. While it is true the gear you use does not make you a great photographer but rather it’s how you use it. While that may be true having good gear 100% helps out. Shooting mostly in the forest with low light and fast-moving subjects having good ISO performance is a must, and the 1DX II for the price is hard to beat. There have been plenty of new models released this year which drove down the price for this beast it was an easy decision.
TRP DRIVETRAIN & BRAKES
Having stepped outside the “big 2” for the first time this year I am fully converted and genuinely love my TRP TR12 Drivetrain and DH-R EVO brakes. The derailleur has functioned flawlessly since April, it’s extremely quiet through the gnarliest of terrain. The ratcheting clutch and hall lock does a great job at keeping everything sung when the going get’s rough. Sure, the lever feel is a bit harsher than the SRAM or Shimano offerings but in terms of function use it takes the W for me. The only changes I have made was loosening up the clutch very very slightly.
The DH-R EVO breaks are absolute monsters, running a 223mm up front and a 203mm rotor out back there has been no lack of power coming from these 4 piston beasts. TRP has found a great balance of modulation and bite, this has remained unchanged through my 3 sets of pads. Literally zero maintenance all year, the bit point has changed a little but not enough to warrant a bleed. While I do like the Shimano style levers more the overall package of the EVO’s takes the win for me.
While we get the chance to ride the newest bikes available to you and that is something that will never get old, having a personal bike to test parts back-to-back is something I think that holds a lot of value for editors. This was we know the only change is coming from the parts not a bike we are not totally used to. For me, that bike is a 2020 Norco Sight kitted out to be a point and smash machine. I have no denying this is a heavy build with Vibracore wheels and Cush Cores, DH casing tires and all aluminum parts with big rotors. I have put this bike through big climb days and long shuttle laps with next to no issues. With it being over forked at 170mm it is definitely not a do everything bike on paper but for me it ticks all the boxes for that one bike to do it all. From dirt jumps to rides to the grocery store I have done it all on this bike.
NIC “U-TURN” HALL’S TOP PICKS
The Smith Mainline is everything I want from a full-face helmet: DH rated chin bar, high breathability, easy to dial in fit, and comes in flat black. It can pull duty from the bike park to long pedals to steep descents. The Mainline has converted me to a full-time full-face helmet rider.
Transition gambled on a short travel “XC” bike with the Spur and brought us an absolute speed demon. The Spur pops and pumps even the smallest trail features, giving the rider speed at every opportunity and it still has the geometry to hang in the steeps and keep you blasting on the way back up. I still cannot believe what is possible with 120mm of travel on the Spur.
This is the pack that I wear every day on the bike. It has enough room for the trail essentials, an ultralight shell, and a water bottle. It is made by a local ripper in Bend, Oregon and is made of ultra-tough, water resistant material. Mine is going on three seasons and still going strong.
ROBERT JOHNSTON’S TOP PICKS
ORBEA OCCAM M10
When I think through all the bikes, I have had the pleasure of testing, the Occam still stands out as the machine I was the most excited to spend some time on. From the mellowest trail center rides to some bike park lapping, the Occam took It all in its stride, and was sure to put a smile on my face.
For sure the single bike I have spent the most time riding and the least time maintaining, the Audio has offered the typical BMX experience for me but feels much more natural with its overall bigger size and slightly more relaxed geometry. I have got it to thank for re-stoking my BMX fire, and I have no interest in going back to the smaller wheels.
MY BUDGET CAMPERVAN CONVERSION
During a global pandemic, and with my dream trip to Canada cancelled, I added a solar panel and roof box to my Transit connect and hit the road for a couple weeks Euro-tripping with some buddies. From parks in the middle of Villages to the Mediterranean coast, I slept comfortably in this thing night after night, and travelled between some of the best riding spots in Europe, having great fun on the countless hairpins on the mountain passes in between. Sure, it is a little rough around the edges on the inside, but I was not caring! What a rig.
BRIAN NILES’S TOP PICKS
RIDE CONCEPT SHOES
At first when I was handed these bright red RC shoes to wear during the Loam Wolf’s Bike Park Review Tour, I thought they maaaayyy have been a bit “loud” for my taste. However, the fit and the grip are what was important and being the cameraman, I’m constantly off the bike, in the trees, running with a gimbal, etc. Knowing that my riding isn’t as stylish as the people I’m shooting, I may as well look flashy with what I’m wearing right? These did the job.
If you are at all any kind of camera nerd, then the term RED doesn’t just mean a primary color. I patiently waited for this little nugget for over 6 months to be released, and once it was announced, I made sure my name was in the hat. Don’t be judgy because of the Komodo’s small 4×4 inch size, this little monster packs a punch and is a dream when it comes the “run and gun” style shooting that we tend to do here at The Loam Wolf.
SOURPATCH’S TOP PICKS
2021 LEATT MTB 4.0 KIT
When you look good, you feel good, and when you feel good, you ride good. That’s the feeling I get every time I dawn Leatt’s MTB 4.0 kit. This kit instantly became my favorite gear of the year. The blue, white and red colorway is a classic…unfortunately I made the mistake of wearing the kit on a muddy day and completely thrashed the white color blocks on the pants. I’ll have a review coming for this kit in a couple weeks.
Without Canyon’s support this year, we would not have been able to do our North American Bike Park Review Tour. They supplied us with their brand new Senders and a couple of Torques that supplied ample amounts of fun and enjoyment lap after lap. The Torque is a bike park killer, never felt overwhelmed…except on a couple blown out trails at Silver Mountain. While I didn’t spend any time on the Sender during the tour, I did take it out to Mt. Bachelor for a day and was blown away with how fast and planted that bike was. The Sender also happens to be one of Drew’s top picks of the year noting that, “The Canyon Sender is likely the best DH Race bike I’ve ever ridden. Speed, confidence, low weight, looks – it’s got it all and it’s damn fast to boot.” Canyon has quite the stable of bikes right now, now matter what your preference is, and we can’t wait to see what additions come in the future.
No outing would be complete without a set of kneepads, and G-Forms E-Line’s have become my go-to’s after giving them a try half way through the year. The pads are so comfortable, that they are hardly noticeable whether pedaling up hill, or attacking the descent. That unnoticeability is what makes them a staple in my gear bag. Additionally, being able to put the pads on and taking them off with out having to take my shoes off is a major plus. Highly suggest trying a pair if you can.