Of all the bikes and gear we end up testing and reviewing, there tends to be a select few bits and pieces that always seem to stay on the bike or in the kit bag regardless of what, or where we’re riding. Whether that’s out on our local trails, on a test session at a trail centre, or for the commute to and from the office, for us there are those essential, but sometimes unassuming items that quietly get the job done day-in, day-out.
These aren’t show-stopping parts that we’ve got in specifically for a magazine group test, or for some kind of head-to-head feature we’re working on for the website – you won’t be finding reviews of disc brakes, hot new tyres, or dropper posts here. Instead, these are those essential everyday items that accompany on us on every ride to make our lives a little bit easier, but ones that still come rated very highly.
For each one of us in the editorial team, we’ve put together a short list of five trail essentials that join us on pretty much every ride. Some items we’ve had in our possession for a long time, and others are more recent additions to the kit list. Either way, all of them are the little unsung heroes of our daily mountain biking routine.
For this week’s edition, here’s my list of my current five trail essentials.
1. Alpkit Enduro Pod
- Price: £27
- From: Alpkit
The newest item in my list, the Alpkit Enduro Pod has very quickly become an essential piece of kit for both everyday riding and away-from-the-office testing. It’s a small top tube bag that’s designed to house various spare parts, tools and snacks, and it features two big velcro straps to secure it underneath your stem and around your top tube. In terms of its size and design, it’s sort of a cross between a bigger bikepacking frame bag, and something that a triathlete would use to store gels and food in for a long distance race.
For me, the Enduro Pod is able to house a spare tube, a CO2 cylinder and inflator, some tyre levers, a tyre pressure gauge, an emergency gel, a £10 note and a multi-tool. Not long ago I would have put all of that inside a saddle bag, but with today’s modern trail bikes and their long-travel dropper posts, that’s a risky proposition, as you can get some pretty serious tyre buzz when the tyre hits the saddle bag at full compression. Looking to fit those items elsewhere on the bike (I’ll generally avoid riding with a pack if I don’t have to), the Enduro Pod has become the ideal alternative. The added bonus is that it puts these things in easy reach, so for compulsive fiddlers like me, that multi-tool or pressure gauge is never far away.
As I’m often swapping between test bikes, I can simply undo two velcro straps, and refit the Enduro Pod onto a different bike within seconds, safe in the knowledge that I’ve got my basic spares with me every time.
2. Fabric 8 in 1 Multi-Tool
- Price: £17.99
- From: Fabric
Inside that Enduro Pod is one of my favourite multi-tools. It’s from UK-brand Fabric, and it’s pretty light on for functions – there are only eight bits here, so those wanting the full kit ‘n’ caboodle are better off looking at Fabric’s 16 in 1 multi-tool, or something all together much bigger and bulkier.
Generally I’m heading out for a longer ride though, I’ll take the backpack with me, which contains a more comprehensive tool kit inside. However, for most of my sub-1.5 hour test rides in t’valley, a basic little multi-tool like this is typically all I need to adjust brake levers on test bikes, or tweak a derailleur cable.
The 8 in 1 tool is super minimalist and lightweight, and with its round edges, it slides nicely into your jersey pocket, or in my case, the Enduro Pod top tube bag. The tool bits are CNC machined from steel, and include a T25 torx bit, a flat head, a Phillips head, and a bunch of Allen keys. Despite being used regularly, it hasn’t gone all loose and floppy either, which is nice.
3. Lezyne Super GPS
- Price: £130
- From: Upgrade Bikes
Having tested and reviewed the first generation Lezyne Super GPS computer, I’ve gotten along well with the new ‘Enhanced’ version. It’s the top-of-the-range GPS computer from Lezyne, so it has a load of bells and whistles, despite coming in 30 quid cheaper than its predecessor.
Admittedly I don’t use all of those bells and whistles – I’m not a big Strava user, so the Live Segement function that the Lezyne GPS offers is a bit wasted on me. Likewise, I’m not into measuring power output and cadence numbers either, and although the Super GPS is clever enough to tell you the difference in power output between your left and right leg, really all I want to know is how far I’ve ridden, how many vertical metres I’ve climbed, and what the time is. Fortunately the Super GPS certainly does that very well.
Aside from its customisable display that allows you to put what info you want on the main screens, I like that the Super GPS is recording my ride without need for a mobile phone. GPS tracking tends to suck battery life out of smartphones, and on longer rides, that can be a real problem. Rather than do that, I let the GPS track the ride for me (with its 22-hour battery life), which means I can leave my phone on low-power mode, or better yet, not ride with it at all.
Sometimes that isn’t wise though, particularly if you’re riding solo (or on work time…), and in these cases it’s a good idea to sync your phone with the GPS, and turn on alerts. If you get a call, email or text message (from an irritated boss), it’ll cleverly show up on the screen in front of you. You don’t have to use this function, but I quite like it, and especially for those rides that go just a little longer than planned.
We received this computer as a sample from Upgrade Bikes when it was first released in late 2016, and I’ve been using it almost every ride since then. That said, if I was going out to buy one of these, I reckon I’d go for the Micro GPS (£120), or the Macro GPS (£95), which shrink a few of the features to lower the price a bit (check out all the details here).
4. Knog Blinder Mob Front & Rear LED Lights
- Price: £37.99 each
- From: Silverfish
Normally when we’re testing and reviewing lights at Singletrack HQ, they’re of the uber-powerful variety designed to light up the trail on a pitch-black winter evening. However, blinky lights are arguably more important for many of us here, because many of our trails are accessed via roads, and having a bright LED light flashing away to signal your existence to other road users is very useful indeed.
Aussie brand Knog has been in the light game since the iconic Frog that appeared over a decade ago, though these days its range is much, much bigger, and includes a lot more ‘to-see’ lights as well as the ‘be-seen’ options.
The Blinder Mob lights fall into the ‘be-seen’ category, though with 80 Lumens on the front, they’re a damn bright little thing. Personally, I find them just as useful to use during daylight hours as the nighttime commute home, and encourage other riders to consider using a flashy light during the day where possible.
Using a small clip and a silicone strap, the Blinder Mob lights are easy to fit onto the handlebar and seatpost. It isn’t indestructible – I’ve broken one of these straps before, but they are replaceable. The internal lithium ion battery will get you up to something like 70-hours of run time on a flash setting, and an integrated USB port makes them easy to charge on the laptop while at work.
I’m a bit gutted about the rear light though, which was accidentally run over by a bus yesterday (long story). The reflector is a bit cut up, and the casing’s a bit twisted, but it’s still working, so I’ll keep using it. My unfortunate mishap aside, I’ve had these for about 12 months and have had zero issues with them in that time. They’re watertight (that rear one has absolutely copped it with mud!), and slim enough that they don’t catch on things.
5. Ergon IP3 Solestar Footbeds
- Price: £39.99
- From: Extra UK
I’ve been using these for almost a year now, and in that time they’ve been slipped into about a dozen different test shoes. Unfortunately for me, I don’t have particularly bulletproof knees, and often I’ll experience pain in the left one due to a lack of overall stability. As well as working on strengthening key muscles to minimise the amount my knee collapses inwards during the downwards pedal stroke, there are other factors I’ve addressed, including saddle positioning and shoes.
Helping to reduce one of the variables, I use these Ergon IP3 footbeds in whatever shoe I happen to be riding in that day/week. They’re made in Germany by Solestar – a brand that specialises in making footbeds for ski boots and cycling shoes. While Solestar makes some seriously expensive carbon fibre-enhanced footbeds, the Ergon IP3s are a more price-conscious option that is still designed to increase stability through the arch and on either side of the ball of the foot.
Most footbeds in cycling shoes tend to be cheap, cost-cutting items, and often have minimal support – if any. That isn’t a problem for all riders, but if you’re like me and suffer from knee issues, looking at what’s going on underneath your feet could be a good shout.
The firm plastic construction helps to minimise arch-collapse, and the added thickness of the footbed is noticeably more comfortable than most stock footbeds. The IP3 footbeds are also easy to slip in and out of shoes, so I’ve just got the one pair that I’ll flick from shoe to shoe. They’ve worn well given the amount I’ve used them, and the black carbon mesh fabric on the foot-facing side has proved its antibacterial claims by remaining devoid of any noticeable stink. Which I’m sure is appreciated by my peers whom I share a change room with.