To whom it may concern, here are my Best Bits of 2011…
Bike Of The Year:
Rocky Mountain Slayer
Not like a Slayer of old and all the better for it. No longer is it a sluggish-but-undergunned ‘gravity’ bike. A very sorted bike with nice angles, sorted riding position, lowish weight, discreet suspension action, pointy and poppy. A very un-tiring to ride bike. This bike enables and promotes long, long days of exploring trails… and your limits.
Route Of The Year:
Exmoor – Countisbury and Watersmeet
My new favourite area (sorry Shropshire!). Great, varied trails. Lovely scenery. Beaches. Steepness. Juicy woodland clefts. Loadsa dirt. Minimal dull rocky stuff. I’ll be heading down there again next year ASAP.
Products Of The Year:
The little things can make all the difference. These socks are just ‘right’. The right length, the right thickness, the right stretchiness, the right colourways (yes, COLOURWAYS). Super comfy without dulling the ride feel.
Hipstamatic iPhone app
Faux retro-style square-format picture maker for your Smartphone. Fun. Occasionally great results.
DMR Vault pedals
Loads of hype out there about these pedals. All of it deserved. ‘Basically’ they’re just ‘right’. Thin but with a slight – and crucial – concave. Huge platform. Not too many pins. Grippy but not overly ‘stuck on’. Great balance of feel/feedback and support/comfort.
FiveTen Freerider shoes
FiveTens have fallen out of favour with some and I agree that their Impact shoes have faults (too clumpy, vague feeling, ‘stuck on’) but the slimmer, thinner soled Freeriders are spot-on for my tastes. Paired with a suitable pedal (DMR Vaults obvs.) they too have a great balance of feel/feedback and support/comfort. They takes ages to dry out when wet but their performance makes up for it.
Specialized Storm 2.3 tyre
Mud spikes are amazing. Every mountainbiker should try them at some point in their lives. They unleash a whole new arena of riding into Wintertime. They open up a new world of filth riding. Brilliant. Well worth the money. Especially these fantastic offerings from Specialized that are a bit cheaper than most AND better performing than most. Casing: 60 TPI, Dual Ply. Compound: Base 70a / Top 42a.
Shimano SH-M315 shoes
Offensively expensive. Simply the best.
Hope Race X2 disc brakes
There are brakes that outperform these in one specific aspect (power, feel, weight, price, setup, maintenance or looks) but the Race X2’s are there-or-thereabouts in EVERY category. The best all-round disc brake I’ve ever used.
Wheels Manufacturing Gimp Multi-tool with Emergency Derailleur Hanger
Combined with a separate Park Tools CT-5 chaintool this multitool is pretty much all you’ll ever need in your Camelbak. Allen keys, screwdriver, Torx keys The key thing you get with this multitool is a spare universal derailleur hanger for emergencies when you’ve bust your rear mech hanger. No nonsense. Just good stuff.
Sun Ringle Charger Pro wheelset
These wheels have been on a few bikes throughout the year. QR, 20mm, 15mm, Thru-12 – the lot. They come with all the bits to convert to any axle standard. No special tools required. They come tubeless-ready (Stans stuff). As wheels they’ve not skipped a beat or required any fettling/fixing. They’re pretty lightweight for a harder-riding wheelset (1700g ish). Reliable. Adaptable. Affordable (just).
Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference pastrami
The perfect sandwich filling. Ideally on a bagel.
No doubt I’ll think of a few more ‘Best Bits’ over the next few days now. If I do, I’ll stick ’em in the comments section below.
Some of my favourite records released or reissued this year…
‘Skying’ by The Horrors
‘Flesh’ by Jeff & Jane Hudson
‘Exmilitary’ by Death Grips
‘Escort’ by Escort
‘LiveLoveA$AP’ by ASAP Rocky
‘The Dissolve’ by Boxcutter