Wil tests and reviews 12 top mountain bike accessories for your new (or old) ride
New to cycling? Just got yourself a spangly new mountain bike? Or maybe you’ve been riding for years, but prefer to spend your time actually riding and hanging out with your mates rather than trawling the internet for all the latest gear news and reviews?
Whatever the case, this list is curated just for you. The list contains 12 different mountain bike accessories designed to strap onto your mountain bike – some of the products are designed to hold things, others are there for protection – both for you and your bike.
I’ve been using most of these products on and off for the past year or so, and consequently, I’m pretty across what they do well and not so well. As always though, if you’ve got any questions about any of these, shoot ’em into the comments section below and I’ll do my best to answer them for you.
1 : Syncros Trail Fender
- Price: £14.99
- From: Scott Sports
Most minimalist fork mudguards are based upon the original Marsh Guard concept, whereby a plastic cover is cable-tied underneath the fork arch to help shield your downtube and eyes from flying spray off the front wheel. The Syncros Trail Fender takes a slightly different approach.
Using two small torx bolts, the Trail Fender bolts into the rear of the fork arch, with no need for zip ties whatsoever. Because of this design, it is only currently compatible with Fox forks – specifically the 34 and 36 series forks. There is also a newer model that is specially designed for the 34 Step-Cast fork.
In use, the Trail Fender works well at keeping the spray at bay. It is on the shorter side compared to some of the really big fenders (like those from RRP and Mucky Nutz), and it also lacks lateral coverage around the fork seals. I haven’t really found this to be a problem though. Sure, in super gloopy conditions, you do get more mud hitting the seals, but there’s also more room for it all to fall through, reducing the likelihood of a full-blown jam.
Function aside, it’s a very tidy piece of kit, and I like the zip tie-free aesthetic.
2 : K-Edge 1x Mountain Chain Guide
Chainguides tend to be fading away these days, thanks to clutched derailleurs and new generation 1x chainrings that are designed to keep the chain tighter in the first place. Despite these new technologies though, it’s still possible to lose a chain.
The effects of a dropped chain can vary from being a bit annoying, to causing damaging to your frame. It can even result in a broken chain, which nobody wants.
To provide a little extra security on your 1x drivetrain, an upper guide like this K-Edge model is a neat and otherwise unobtrusive solution.
Weighing in at just 60g, the K-Edge 1x Mountain Chain Guide is a lightweight upper guide that is designed to watch over the chain at the top of the chainring. Made in the US out of beautifully CNC machined 6061-T6 aluminum, the 1x guide features stainless steel hardware and comes in two versions: an ISCG 05 model (tested), and one that bolts onto an upper direct mount tab (where a front mech would usually go).
Installing this guide is a cinch, and it’s easy to adjust the vertical position depending on the size of your chainring. There was no rubbing or need for adding weird shims – I just bolted it on and rode. The only issue is that the main cage mounting bolts are quite long, which may cause clearance issues. The bolts are a standard M4x0.7 size though, so sourcing shorter bolts isn’t difficult.
3 : K-Edge Adjustable Lezyne Stem Mount
Also from K-Edge is this nifty adjustable stem mount, which is designed to offer a centralised location for your GPS computer. The mount fits to your steerer tube, replacing a 5mm headset spacer in the process. It has a hinge in the middle, which allows you to tilt the angle of the mount.
K-Edge makes a variety of these brackets to fit Garmin, Wahoo, Cateye, Sigma and Lezyne GPS head units. Like the rest of the product range, this fella is also made in the US from CNC machined alloy.
To accommodate different GPS head units (which inconveniently all use different mounting systems), K-Edge uses a slim built-in modular chip system that means one mount can be modified to accept different head units. As you can see, the Lezyne one in the above photo is quite thick, so the head unit ends up sticking up quite far. This is something to watch for when flipping the bike upside down to remote a wheel.
Otherwise it’s a very neat and stable bracket, which helps you to ditch the usual O-ring mounting method.
4 : Fidlock Magnetic Bottle
- Price: £29.99 (more bottles £9.99)
- From: Fidlock
I’ve been using this Fidlock water bottle for ages now, but I still get asked about it in video comments sections since it’s often attached to various test bikes. It’s a 600ml plastic water bottle, but unlike almost every other bottle you’d fit to your bike, this one doesn’t use a cage.
Made by Fidlock – which also manufacturers magnetic buckles for many helmet brands like Bell, Lazer and Bontrager – this bottle attaches to your bike with the power of magnets, making it very easy to clip on and off.
The bottle comes with a black plastic magnetic cradle that bolts directly onto the frame via the usual twin bolt holes you’d fit a cage to. On this cradle are two round stubs with magnets inside them. On the underside of the bottle, there are two corresponding pockets that when held close to the cradle, will suddenly suck down and latch onto the stubs. To remove the bottle, you just twist the bottle to the right and it unclips. You can reverse this if you’re a southpaw.
Along with its compact 600ml volume, this makes it great for tight spaces on smaller frames and those with bulky suspension designs.
Despite earlier concerns, I’ve never had the bottle pop off on its own – it is plenty secure. There is a little wobble in the mount, and that can cause some noise and vibration on rough trails. It can also be tricky to locate those magnetic stubs when you’re trying to refit the bottle while riding – something I noticed more when I was in a racing situation.
Is it better than a normal bottle and cage? Not really, since it does the same thing. But it sure is neat, and I do love magnets.
5 : Fix It Sticks
- Price: $24.99 USD
- From: Fix It Sticks
While we’re at the bottle cage, I’ll mention the little Fix It Sticks tool kit I have mounted on the same bottle cage bolts. This is another product I get asked about quite a bit, since the bronze colour stands out quite a bit – especially on the Acid Trance shown here.
If you’re not familiar with Fix It Sticks, these are designed as a compact two-part tool that is made up of two ‘Sticks’ that combine to create a T-handle tool. This style of tool is generally preferred by bike shop mechanics, since it offers leverage advantages over a standard flip-out multi-tool.
I really like how the Fix It Sticks fit together, while offering a good amount of length to reach into awkward spaces. The model shown here is a fixed version – so you can’t change the bits around. However, the stock T25 and 4, 5 & 6mm bits are ideal for a wide variety of jobs, and with the included mounting cradle, I like how they’re always on the bike. In particular, having the 6mm is super handy on the Giant Trance 29, since it has bolt-up axles front and rear.
Fix It Sticks does make versions with swappable bits, and it also makes proper multi-tool kits too. If you haven’t already read my review of the Fix It Sticks Mountain Kit, you can check that out here.
6 : Bike Bag Dude Top Tube Mini Garage
- Price: $100 AUD (approx £54.88)
- From: Bike Bag Dude
I’ve already reviewed the Top Tube Mini Garage pack from Bike Bag Dude, but I’ve included it in this list because I’ve continued to use it long after.
It’s a bit of a hybrid bag – somewhere between what you’d see on a touring rig and a triathlon bike. But I’ve found it translates to mountain biking really well, particularly on modern full suspension bikes where limited rear tyre clearance means running a saddle bag is risky.
Made from high quality fabrics along with a thick water-resistant zipper, the Mini Garage will take a spare tube, a multi-tool, a CO2 cylinder and head, tubeless plugs, snacks, a tyre gauge, and various spares. And with three adjustable Velcro straps, it’s easy to fit onto most bikes I’ve been testing lately. What I like about that in particular is that it’s easy to swap from bike to bike, so you don’t have to remember to have all those essentials in your backpack.
7 : Bontrager Flare R City Rear Bike Light
- Price: £29.99 / $39.99 AUD
- From: Trek Bikes
We don’t really review commuter style light accessories here at Singletrack. Normally it’s the super-dooper high powered helmet and handlebar lights that we’re testing for proper off-road night riding. But you still need a rear light, especially if you’re riding on bitumen to and from the trail head.
I got a set of these Bontrager Flare City lights a while ago, and I’ve been really impressed with them since. This is the rear one, which is called the Flare R. You can buy it on its own, or in the combo pack with the matching Ion 100 R front light.
The single LED pumps out 35 Lumens in a compact package that straps onto your seatpost or frame tube via a silicone rubber band. You can leave the bracket on the bike, and unclip the head unit to recharge it via a Micro USB cable.
There are four modes – Day Steady, Day Flash, Night Steady and Night Flash. You’ll get between 3-20 hours of runtime depending on the mode. The best thing about this light, aside from being well visible for its tiny size, is that it has an in-built ambient light sensor that will automatically adjust the brightness depending on whether you’re riding during the day, the night or on dusk.
8 : Rather Be Riding Moto-X Mudguard
- Price: £10.99
- From: Rather Be Riding
Another mudguard I’ve been using lately is from Cannock Chase-based Rather Be Riding. This is the MotoX front mudguard (or fender if that’s how you swing), and it has a much broader range of coverage compared to the Syncros Trail Fender shown above.
The extra length and width at both the front and the back of the guard simply blocks more of the spray, making this extra effective in particularly foul conditions.
The guard itself is made in Cannock Chase, and uses a robust construction that reinforces the sides so there’s less chance of it being bent out of shape. And with the curved profile, it does a stellar job of keeping mud (and dust!) away from the fork stanchions – something that the Syncros fender doesn’t do at all.
Rather Be Riding also offers a custom option for teams and bike shops who are looking for something more unique for their ride.
9 : Specialized Zee Cage II Right
- Price: £15 / $30 AUD
- From: Specialized
On certain full suspension bikes with compact frame designs, a regular bottle cage just won’t cut it. In this case, you’ll need a side-entry cage, which allows you to fit the water bottle by pressing it in from an angle on the side.
This Zee Cage II from Specialized is my favourite option so far. It’s got a nice and wide entry point, and plenty of flex through the cage that makes it easy to jam the bottle in even while you’re pedalling along. Despite this, it is hella secure – there is no wobble at all, and you could ride your bike upside down and the bottle still wouldn’t come out.
The model I’ve got is the ‘Right’ option, which sees the bottle entering and exiting from the right side of the mount. You can also get a
wrong Left option, and there are also carbon versions for the more exotically inclined. Specialized also offers this cage with a multi-tool that bolts on underneath, though unfortunately that option isn’t available in the UK or Australia.
10 : Specialized SWAT Conceal Carry MTB Tool
- Price: £90 / $130 AUD
- From: specialized.com
What is available though is this SWAT Conceal Carry MTB Tool. This little multi-tool is designed to occupy the hollow space inside your fork’s alloy steerer tube. It replaces the traditional star nut, and uses a threaded compression assembly that preloads your headset bearings.
At the top of the SWAT CC tool is a swivelling top cap that opens up to reveal a mini tool inside.
You’ve got six tools on there, which should cover most of the jobs you’d typically run into on a mountain bike ride. And because the tool is so handy to access, it makes all those jobs just a little bit easier. Lurking deeper within the SWAT CC tool is an integrated chain breaker, as well as magnetic storage for a chain quick link. This means these tools are always with you on every ride, giving you one less thing to forget when you reach the trail centre carpark.
You can see how it all goes together in my review of the SWAT Conceal Carry MTB Tool right here.
11 : Bontrager Elite Micro Seat Pack
- Price: £14.99 / $29.99 AUD
- From: Trek Bikes
Saddle bags used to be quintessential mountain bike accessories, but they’ve somewhat fallen out of fashion, mostly because dropper posts and long travel bikes don’t play well with them. That said, you can still use them on hardtails and short-travel bikes.
Like the top tube bag shown above, I’m a fan of how saddle bags keep everything contained in one spot that’s easy to swap from bike to bike. And unlike those strap-on solutions, a saddle or top tube bag is much more impervious to mud, dust and general trail filth, while giving you easier access to the contents.
Pretty much every accessory brand offers a saddle bag, but I really like the Elite Micro Seat Pack from Bontrager. It only has one big Velcro strap that mounts through the saddle rails, and this strap allows you to compress the bag quite tightly so it tucks right up into the saddle shell.
It’ll hold a spare lightweight tube (they take up less room than a regular inner tube), along with tyre levers, a CO2 cartridge and head, tube patches, and a valve core tool.
Again, it’s nice to have all these basic every-ride essentials in the one location that’s easy to swap from bike to bike. And if I’m off for a longer day out, then I’ll add in more tools, spares and food into my hydration pack.
12 : SRAM Carbon Crank Boots
- Price: £9 / $14.99 AUD
- From: SRAM
This one only occurred to me recently when I received a test bike with carbon cranks that didn’t have rubber boots already attached to them. SRAM supplies them with its aftermarket cranks (like the X01 Eagle shown above), but they don’t always come standard on complete bikes.
Made from injection moulded plastic, these little boots slip onto the end of your crank arms, and are designed to prevent chipping of the carbon fibre, which can happen when you grind them across rocks and various trail debris.
Race Face also makes crank boots (in a variety of snazzy colours I might add), and they’re not just for carbon boots either. I reckon any set of cranks – carbon, alloy or titanium – is worth protecting against general wear and tear.
So there’s my list of 12 various mountain bike accessories for carrying and protecting stuff on your bike.
But what about you folks? What essentials would you normally carry on your bike? Have you got any nifty gadgets that we should know about? Let us know and pop your suggestions into the comments section below!
|Tested:||by Wil Barrett for 3-12 months|