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?
Andi – Social Media Chief and Technical Guru
This year I’ve been on more bike launches and riding trips than any other year, but due to injuries I still don’t feel I’ve ridden enough. Towards the start of the year I had a huge crash and split my hand open, which caused me to take some time off the bike, and recently I’ve just overcome an infection in the same hand! Hopefully this winter will be more kind to me as I’m eager to finally become a slick root, muddy rut-surfing mountain biking god.
Únic is a new clothing brand based in Andorra which specialises in producing custom-made mountain bike riding wear that anyone can order and use. There are no ludicrous minimum order quantities and you won’t be left for months while some factory finally gets around to making your clothing either. You can order a full kit, a jersey or just a pair of shorts. You have full control over the colours and can even add your name or logos to the clothing, and everything is made in the EU too. I’ve been fortunate enough to sample a few of the brand’s items and I’m thoroughly blown away with the quality, fit and feel of every garment I’ve tried, but so I don’t sound like a raging fan boy I’ve limited myself to just Únic’s shorts for my Editors’ Choice (ask me in private though and they all get a special Andi seal of approval). These shorts have a really nice fit that isn’t too loose or too fitted, for free and easy movement. Each pocket has a zip to keep the contents safe, and the right-hand pocket even features a water resistant, padded, internal phone pocket to keep it dry and protected. These shorts also have a ratchet waist adjustment for a perfect fit, and future shorts will also benefit from silicone waist bands, and an extra internal pocket for a trail tool. Very unique Únic kit.
1×12 Shimano M7100 SLX
Shimano’s 1×12 drivetrain might be late to the 12-speed party, but the time it has taken to get here has been well worth the wait. I’ve ridden all of the new 12-speed Shimano systems – XTR, XT and SLX – and while SLX doesn’t have the same positive mechanical clunk as XT and XTR, it’s still a huge improvement over the older 11-speed SLX and, so far, more durable and less delicate than SRAM’s GX Eagle drivetrain. The 12-speed SLX shifter has a much more positive and upmarket feel over the 11-speed version, which often felt cheap and a little vague, and even though my 12-speed SLX rear mech is visually battle-scarred and bent-looking, the shifting is still spot on. I’m also using the SLX hubs on my bike too, including that totally silent freehub. OK, mine is pre-production and does make a whirr from time to time, but 90% of the time my bike is totally silent. I suppose the only real issue with Shimano 12-speed is the fact you must use the new Micro Spline system for the latest cassettes, but with more brands now receiving the Shimano stamp of approval this slight annoyance will soon be forgiven. Watch out for SLX 12-speed on more bikes for 2020 – it’s a good’ un.
Commencal Meta AM 29
The first time I ever rode a Commencal Meta was about four years ago at La Fenasosa Bike Park in Spain. Since then I’ve ridden my fair share of Metas in both 27.5 and 29in – both normal pedal bikes and electric, and each and every one of them has been bloody amazing!
The current Commencal Meta AM 29 is easily the best Meta I’ve ridden, and also one of the best bikes I have ridden all year. On paper, the Meta AM 29 is a cracking value for money – a big-wheeled, big-travel enduro bike that looks a little weighty. On the trail the bike is fast, lively, playful and simply amazing to climb on, and rides much lighter than the scales would suggest. It’s a big-travel bike with race-inspired geometry, but not overly long or slack. The design ensures that the rider feels engaged and in control at all times, while the excellent suspension platform takes the sting out of the trail. While I’ve been riding the SRAM Edition Meta AM 29 fitted with high-end components, including the terrific Lyrik, for the past year, there are versions of this bike to suit every budget and the great thing is no matter which one you buy they all share the same excellent alloy frame.
Burgtec Penthouse Mk4 Composite Pedals
Who would have thought that a pair of composite pedals would bring someone so much joy?! I’ve ridden on Burgtec Penthouse Mk4 alloy pedals in the past and really rate them, but after riding the new composite versions it’s hard to think of a good reason why you would look at buying the more expensive metal pair over these. The composite Burgtec pedals cost half as much as the alloy models, they come in a ton of great colours, and because the body is a little thicker, they are also much easier to service than the metal Mk4s (you can use a regular socket to undo the axle). The design of these composite pedals apes that of the alloy version pretty well, but there are a few differences. As already mentioned, they are slightly thicker than the alloy pair, and they also have slightly less dish too, not that either of these differences actually makes a difference to performance and with 16 pins to grab your shoe you won’t be struggling for traction. If you’re worried about weight then that’s another reason why you might opt for these composite pedals. At 380g a pair they only weigh 10g more than the flagship Penthouse alloy pedal complete with Ti axle. The final cherry on top is that Burgtec says the composite body of the Penthouse is recyclable.