It’s been a ‘special’ year, for sure, but the sun has continued to come up and bikes have still been ridden. We’ve perhaps not been to as many far-flung places (even in the UK) as usual, but that’s not necessarily been a bad thing and, like riders around the place, we’ve all been learning to love where we live (even more) as we’ve been exploring, both solo and with that curated selection of riding friends.
With less time spent travelling up and down the motorways, and fewer air miles being collected, we’ve often actually had more time to ride and in many cases, an even greater drive to get out and ride. Our 2020 selections of Editors’ Choice Awards have been mostly earned on home turf, where familiarity means those little differences can really shine. Here are the well-deserved winners.
Amanda – Art Director
This year has seen many changes in my personal life. I’ve worked through some physical and mental health issues, I’ve bought a house in Calderdale, and all that has resulted in me having more freedom to ride. I don’t take my location for granted – having hills out the front door is a blessing. Though travel has been restricted, I’ve had more time in the saddle than ever before and my bike handling has improved, along with my fitness. My mechanic skills have also benefitted from not being in the Singletrack office, as I’ve lost the ‘pit crew’ I so often relied on to do the jobs I couldn’t get my head around.
Nukeproof Reactor 275 RS 2020
Nukeproof is a brand that consistently delivers well-designed and well-built products that stand the test of time, UK weather and a good battering, in my experience. It supports a very well-travelled race team and takes a good deal of input from the riders when working on products, so it comes with no surprise that the bikes are built with speed and durability in mind. After spending the past eight months on the Reactor 275 RS I feel like I’ve had a good taste of what it’s like to have a pro-level bike build. I liked it.
I’ve been on the smaller wheeled Reactor, with 150mm/140mm suspension. The 27.5in model is designed to be playful and manoeuvrable. I was worried that returning to smaller wheels would take me back a step in my riding, but what it lacks in ploughing over rough trails it gains in skipping playfully through them. I really feel like I’m riding the bike instead of just being a passenger. I’m controlled, the bike is responsive, the suspension is supple yet can take big hits, and I don’t feel myself holding back like I so often do. It’s really increased my confidence.
Maintenance has been undemanding, despite me clocking over 2,000 miles of harsh terrain on this ex-demo. I’ve changed the frame bearings and it was an easy job; the paintwork is still shiny, and, thanks to details like a bash guard and chain guard, it shouldn’t look tired anytime soon. If I were in the market for a ‘forever bike’ that can handle EWS tracks without being sluggish on the climbs, this is where my money would be.
Oakley PRIZM Trail Lenses
In recent years I have become a person who relies on glasses to see. I can’t wear contacts, so this has meant investing in prescription riding glasses. The frames are great, no complaints there, and my recent lens upgrade has taken me from feeling sorry for myself to being extremely happy to put my glasses on.
The Oakley PRIZM Trail lens is designed to enhance colour and contrast to give you more detailed vision, and it does an excellent job of it. Grass and shrubs are more vibrant, giving a great contrast with rock and mud. The shape of the trail is clearer, the sharpness of rocks and the texture of the mud. I find they balance out light really well, too, which in turn helps with focusing on the trail ahead because I’m not waiting for my eyes to adjust.
One of my biggest challenges is how terrible my depth perception is. I have been known to be less than a foot off the ground when bouldering, clinging onto the holds for dear life, convinced I have several metres to fall. These lenses improve my depth perception enough for me to feel much more confident on the bike. I can’t put into words how it feels to not know the gradient of the trail ahead, apart from that it really sucks.
These lenses aren’t just great because I have terrible eyesight – they are great for anyone trail riding. It’s like you can see what the naked eye can’t. On my first ride in these glasses I burst into tears half way down Ilkley Moor, because I was simply overwhelmed with the detail and seeing what I’ve been missing all these years.
Nukeproof Horizon Sam Hill Pro Pedals
I’ve been riding mountain bikes for five years now, and it briefly crossed my mind to try being clipped-in. In time I’ve got faster, I’ve become more playful, and it has felt as though I might benefit from being pinned to my pedals.
However, with the Nukeproof Horizon flat pedals, I’ve found a happy place in-between flats and clips, where my feet are definitely not budging, my shoes don’t ever slip off the pedals, but if I need to put a foot down I can do without getting that panicky, trapped feeling I get from SPDs as I’m simply not used to them.
The latest version of the Horizon pedals, the Sam Hill Pro version, has shaved some of the platform off in the right places to reduce pedal strike. I can’t pass comment on the previous model as I haven’t used them, but I can confidently say that now I don’t worry about pedal strikes. I live in an area with plenty of deep ruts, loose rocks and natural terrain that changes from one ride to the next, so confidence in my pedals both keeping me in contact with my bike and not clipping all the new boulders that have recently flooded into the trails is ideal.
Cleikum Mill Lodge, Innerleithen
When choosing accommodation for a mountain biking trip there are a few must-haves, a few would-like-to-haves, and then personal preferences beyond that. For me I want trails out of the front door, cooking facilities, and excellent bike security. My optional extras include a hose pipe, good heating, high water pressure and somewhere nearby that sells good coffee.
Cleikum Mill Lodge is located right in the heart of Innerleithen, a stone’s throw from No1 Peebles Road café, less than a minute to the bike shop and easy walking distance from the Co-op supermarket. The door code is changed regularly, there is a lockable bike room that is big enough to store over ten bikes, all safely locked to ground anchors.
There are bike washing facilities, a washing machine, high water pressure, stacks of mountain bike magazines, well-furnished kitchens on both floors, clean and comfortable bedrooms, and generous lounge areas for getting cosy with a beer and your GoPro footage. All this, with ample parking on the road, makes it my go-to accommodation everytime I head to the Borders.
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