2021 was an odd year for bicycles and the humans that ride them, but a few of both stood out, so we give them a nod here. These are Pete’s picks.
While 2021 wasn’t the best year for getting the usual top-quality kit passing through Wideopenmag for test, some of this kit really does manage to stand head and shoulders above the rest. Often the ingredients are broadly similar, but the way they have been mixed and baked turn them into a much nicer cake.
We’ve added a few humans into the mix for good measure.
Pete gives us his top picks from the Bikes, Components, Soft Goods, Protection, Venue, Service, Tech, Maintenance Product, Outstanding Performance and Athlete.
Vitus Escarpe 29 CRS
This bike has been with me a year and has barely put a foot wrong in that time. It has been everywhere with me from the get go and has outperformed bikes far in excess of double the asking price.
A full calendar year on the Escarpe has me yearning for slightly more adjustment in the dampers but that’s really a minor complaint. Vitus got the spec of this bike right from the get go and it shows.
Hope Union TC Pedal
It’s fair to say that pedals are very personal, and there were more than a few voices grumbling about a custom cleat but the Union TC from Hope is pretty much exactly what I wanted in a clip pedal. Occupying the ground between a Crankbrothers Mallet and a Shimano SPD system, they’re the perfect blend of always being able to clip in and out, with a solid engagement.
The axle is pretty tight, so if you’re all about watts, then they’re maybe not for you, but they stay in the position you unclipped from when new, which I am definitely a fan of.
Specialized 2FO 2.0 Clip
I’m onto my second pair of these after riding the first set into the ground over the course of two years. In reality, the originals can be saved, they just need the cleat plate inside the shoe shimmed to stay put and they’ll be grand.
They fit my short, narrow feet a dream, are stiff without being uncomfortable, comfy without being floppy, keep the trail crap at bay but also dry fast if you’ve got them wet. No shoe I have ridden before or since are a dream to spend a full 24 hours in. They’re just that good.
Fox Speedframe Pro
One of those things that is all about fit first and features second, finding a helmet you can wear all day and not notice it’s there is a real treat.
I have yet to find a helmet that ticks all the boxes for me than the Fox Speedframe Pro. Having a large, square head means a lot of helmets give me a dull headache when tightened properly. It also helps that it doesn’t look like a dumpster fire either.
Ben Lawers Nature Reserve
Having only actually ridden Nevis Range, Cwmcarn and Dyfi Bike Park for work this year, it seems unfair to rank a venue, so I’ll go with my go-to ride to get the blood up and guarantee myself a good sleep.
A sunset gallop off Beinn Ghlas rapidly approaching 11pm mid-summer never gets old. The climb is mostly pedalable if you have some trials skills and the descent has everything but dark woods and roots. There’s plenty of that closer to home, however.
Laptop and PC Doctor
Being heavily dependent on my laptop for writing things like this sentence and the lion’s share of content on Wideopenmag, having someone nearby who can tune up the machine in record time is key. If you’re based in Glasgow, Neil at Laptop and PC Doctor in Milngavie can get you sorted. He’s saved my bacon on more than one occasion.
Maybe a bit leftfield for a best of MTB but I’m struggling to think of anything else as a rider that just likes to ride.
Stellarium is great for checking when and where the sun and moon will rise or set, which is certainly applicable to bike riding, certainly when you’re on big missions in the hills.
Beyond that, you can see when the moon is going to be above the horizon for astrophotography, which means you’re not venturing out into the cold and dark unnecessarily.
Decathlon Anti-chaffe cream
Certainly not the sexiest product to talk about but having a good way of making sure your saddle doesn’t wear a fresh hole in your bum is pretty crucial.
Decathlon’s Anti-Friction cream goes a long way to reducing any unwanted rub when you’re out on a big ride, can be used on your nips and pits too if you’re out for a run, and doesn’t get affected by sweat.
Jess Stone made everyone stand up and pay attention at the closing round of the 2021 Enduro World Series in the Tweed Valley. Stage wins even with a busted finger showed how competitive she is, and she was in the mix with eventual winner Bex Baraona and runner up Hattie Harnden until the aforementioned malady.
ALN and Isabeau Cordurier
Watch the video. This one doesn’t really need any explaining.
What did it for you this year in terms of kit and riders? Let us know on our Facebook page.