Over the last year, our writers have tested a bucketful of bikes, a barn load of clothing and gear, and attended a bookcase full of cycling events. Which of these, though, have tickled their fancies enough to warrant the bestowing of a coveted Singletrack Editors’ Choice Award?
Amanda – Art Director
I entered 2019 on a steel hardtail with a modest amount of travel and a mash of components that if I wasn’t a beggar, I wouldn’t have chosen. But it saw me through winter and it filled in the blanks in my skill set that I had failed to learn early on, having jumped straight onto a full suspension. Time spent rattling a Ragley Piglet through the steep rocky trails of Calderdale has upped my confidence and control (most of the time…). Enjoying rides more and managing longer ones has led me to perfect my kit for ultimate comfort and convenience, and make better decisions when it comes to ride locations. I’ve explored more, I’ve left my comfort zone, and I’ve said ‘yes’ a lot.
This might get edited out, but I’m going to say it anyway – I was so disappointed when I fell in love with a Santa Cruz. I didn’t want to; I wanted to continue my frugal ways, carry on loving my cheap steel hardtail. But I rode this and the inevitable happened. To date I haven’t ridden a bike that has had such a positive impact on both my riding and my general attitude towards riding. I get excited about every descent, there’s none of the previous ‘err I might give that a miss’ or ‘I’ll sweep, I’m not feeling great’. I just want to get stuck in.
The Maverick is super stable; the VPP suspension keeps you pinned to the ground when you need it, making pumping speed out of the trail easy. Once you’re going, there’s hardly any rolling resistance and you can pick up even more speed. It’s really quiet, which I find adds confidence because I’m not listening to any creaking or rattling.
This bike makes me feel invincible without giving me a false sense of security. It’s forgiving of my poor line choices; it keeps me on track when I’m riding out of my comfort zone, and it’s so playful I have found myself giggling my way down trails that I’ve previously dragged the brakes down.
Nukeproof Nirvana Jacket
This jacket caught me completely off guard. I got it in summer, during the hottest week of the year to be precise. It stayed folded up neatly in its packet, patiently waited to ‘wow’ me, and made its debut on a day I hadn’t planned on needing a jacket. I had a quick poke around to see the pocket and cuff situation (the two key factors for choosing a jacket in my case). Big stealth pockets. Half elasticated cuffs that cover the top of your hands neatly. I decided that a bold colour statement was about due since I only ever wear black riding kit, whipped it on and to be honest… have barely taken it off since.
For someone who likes to layer their kit, it’s the perfect jacket for windproofing and waterproofing, and the fact it packs down into the chest pocket and leaves a handy carabiner hanging out is the icing on the cake. No excuses for not carrying an emergency layer around.
Now for my embarrassing confession. I calculated that I hadn’t washed this jacket for FOUR months, bearing in mind I wear it all the time. And if I’m not wearing it, it’s still with me, often strapped to the top of my hip pack being showered in canal water. But at a glance it looks close to new – the mud rinses off so easily in the rain, the colour hides grub pretty well, and it mysteriously doesn’t crease.
I’ve washed it, now, and it’s hanging on the back of my chair as I type this despite the fact I’m not riding a bike today. It’s my everything jacket.
FINDRA Caddon Merino Cowl Neck Top
2019 was the year I learned the art of layering, having spent several years struggling with temperature regulation on rides. Perfecting the layers has been trial and error, but one item that seems to always be a welcome addition is this merino top from FINDRA.
The sleeves are long enough to cover most of my hands, even though I have quite long arms. There’s a thumb hole to make this more comfortable and also so you can put your gloves on over them. Despite having worn this daily for the past few months, there is no sign of wear around the hole.
The cowl neck is really long with a drawstring, so in general it’s just gathered up keeping you warm but if you want to pull it up over your nose on an icy cold descent you can – it’s like a built-in buff.
The seamless cut is long in the body with a dropped back hem, and the merino material just never smells. I have sweated in this. I have worn it as a base layer. I have worn it next to a bonfire, and I have shamefully gone weeks without washing it – at worst it has only smelt dusty.
Some things you only start to appreciate when you’ve put a lot of time in with a product. Mine could still pass as new, there’s no fading or bobbling. It dries so quickly after washing, or being worn in the rain, that I don’t feel like I need a backup option and I doubt I would choose any similar item over this because it’s just perfect for what I use it for – which is everything.
Five Ten Mountain Bike Sleuth Shoes
I bought these with the intention of wearing them as my everyday trainers and being able to jump on a bike at short notice because I’m very good at forgetting to bring half my kit with me. Unfortunately they’re a bit too good as riding shoes so to avoid wearing them out too soon, I’m still shuffling around in a worn-out pair of Vans.
I have quite narrow feet, so I find a lot of riding shoes too bulky. I also have my feet nipping the cranks most of the time, due to a combination of my pedal choice (Chromag Contact) and a high instep making my feet feel more stable having contact with the cranks on descents. These shoes are as comfy as a worn-in pair of Vans classics, while being such a good fit your feet don’t move around at all. They look good, which shouldn’t matter but let’s be honest… it does. And they dry out quicker than my Five Ten Freeriders ever did.
I was quite surprised at how grippy they are. The soles have a smaller pattern than my previous Five Tens, which could make it harder for your pins to find their way in but it seems they actually just grab on to your pedals with very little shuffling.
My only complaint would have to be the length of the laces. I could turn these into gladiator sandals if I wanted, or I could just put shorter laces in…