Editor’s Choice Awards 2020 – Andi’s Pick

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First published in Singletrack Magazine Issue 134.

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.

Andi – Social Media Chief and Technical Guru

This year has been different, difficult and demanding, but overall for riding it has been very rewarding. I’ve managed to ride more than I would if I had to drive an hour to the office each day. I’ve discovered some simply amazing trails accessible from my doorstep, and made a bunch of great new riding mates. Sure I’ve missed the travel and the racing, but I’ve more than made up for it in other ways.

YT IZZO

Just ahead of lockdown I was sent a bike that would entirely change my mind about short travel lightweight bikes. After a year of riding the 170mm travel Commencal META, and a winter of patrolling the Peaks on my… Patrol E-Six e-MTB, the last thing on my mind was a full carbon lightweight trail bike with just 130mm of travel, but when the YT IZZO arrived I was smitten.

At first I was shocked by how light it was. With a full carbon frame, carbon bar, and DT Swiss carbon wheels shod in lightweight cross-country tyres, it felt like a pure featherweight compared to my eMTB with Fox 38 and downhill tyres.

It was hardly surprising that I found the YT to be a fast climber, but it did open my eyes when I realised that it felt just like climbing on my e-bike and that I would cover ground at a similar pace. Better than an e-bike though, the IZZO will get you to the top of as many climbs as you like without the dreaded ‘range anxiety’.

What did surprise me was how capable this 130mm travel bike was in the technical stuff. No, it isn’t as fast as an enduro bike, but it’s really engaging and fun. You can ride extremely challenging terrain and feel the rush that you and your skill cleared it, and then you can ride a tame trail centre and never feel over-biked.

The spritely YT IZZO made such a mark on me that I purchased my very own. I went up to a large size, swapped out a few parts and completed 67km on my first ride.

Bontrager DropLock

My IZZO was shipped with a SRAM TwistLoc remote to control the lockout of the rear shock and, while I hadn’t had any issues with the system on our test bike, the control on my personal bike refused to remain in place. With the correct torque and carbon paste applied, the SRAM TwistLoc would still move. I did what any sane person would do and added slightly more torque which rounded the head of the extremely tiny bolt. Thankfully I had a similar sized bolt and replaced it, but nothing I could do would stop the TwistLoc moving.

With the option of either ordering another TwistLoc and perhaps suffering the same problems or finding an alternative, I chose the latter. A quick search brought up the Bontrager DropLock, a dual lever control that activates the lockout of a rear shock, with a second lever for controlling the dropper. Best of all, the Trek store in Manchester’s Piccadilly had them in stock so it meant just a quick trip to the city to sort it out.

The DropLock isn’t a cheap item – it cost £100, and I don’t suggest for one moment that it should be so expensive, but it is made entirely of metal, has real-sized bolts with real-sized heads, and it was a doddle to fit and it doesn’t move. A replacement SRAM unit would have been roughly the same cost, is made of plastic and has very tiny bolts. An expensive component, but I’m very happy with the direction I went – plus I can now use any brand of grip that I want as I don’t need a special TwistLoc compatible model.

SR Suntour TriAir 3CR

When we consider upgrades for our bikes we tend to think of new brakes, better tyres, lighter wheels, drivetrain upgrades or a new fork. Weirdly though, the rear shocks on our bikes tend to get overlooked, yet they play a huge role in how our bikes ride. A good rear shock can reduce fatigue and improve pedalling performance, a great shock will add speed, sensitivity and tuning, a truly amazing shock will do all of this while costing a small fortune, or will it?

Earlier this year I was given the opportunity to test the SR Suntour TriAir 3CR rear shock, and to say I was impressed would be an understatement. As the name suggests the TriAir is an air shock with a positive and negative air chamber along with an IFP which can also be adjusted via an air shock.

In addition to these tuning options, riders can install volume spacers to either side of the air shock, fine-tune rebound via the external rebound knob and set 3 levels of compression using a simple lever. During my time with the TriAir I was impressed by its coil-like performance, small bump sensitivity and amazing platform. Best of all though is the price, with an RRP of around £333 (hunt around and you will get it for less) the TriAir is a top-notch shock for a fraction of other rear shock upgrades. 

Troy Lee Resist Trousers

It’s raining, it’s pouring and the trails are far from boring. With our dusty summer tracks now turning to slick, rooty steeps, it’s time to keep dry with quality waterproof kit, and I’m so far very happy with the new Troy Lee Designs Resist weatherproof trouser.

Like most of Troy Lee’s kit, the Resist Pants are a great looking pair of trousers, but more importantly, they’re perfect for riding in the rain and slimy conditions. The material is a Bluesign® 10k waterproof stretch material which somehow, magically, prevents water from leaking in, but has enough stretch to keep them comfortable on the move. The material comes with a Teflon EcoElite™ finish that helps water to bead up and roll off, but also stops mud and grit sticking firmly to them.

Like all good waterproofs, the Resists have fully taped seams and Troy Lee has incorporated a couple of zipped vents for cooling, pockets for your keys and phone and a ratchet waist adjustment to dial them in. Riding pants are no longer the confines of the downhill only moto crowd, and waterproof pants aren’t just for commuters. Comfortable, practical, and flattering, I’m looking forward to a winter of riding that doesn’t fill the washing machine with layers of muddy clothes after every ride.


Comments (19)

    YT bikes, on paper, seem almost too good to be true. They look amazing, are well-reviewed, have an extensive social media presence, and are priced competitively. Until you try ordering one. YT took my cash up front in August for a Dirt Love, available in October, and by late December still couldn’t supply it. While the lads at the YT Mill in Guildford worked hard to get a response out of Germany on my behalf, I got the overwhelming impression that YT couldn’t care less once they had a customer hooked. There was just no acknowledgement of the stories being echoed by many chasing orders and warranty issues across Instagram, Facebook and forums. Just posts about shiny new bikes and sick edits of team riders shredding the brand in exotic places. In the end, I got a refund, and spent my money elsewhere instead. I’ll never go anywhere near or recommend YT Industries again.

    Buy British bike’s.. I would not entertain anything from Europe!!..

    What’s the problem with European bikes then?

    @danfay120 The UK is part of Europe….. We left the EU not Europe….

    British bike’s, like orange or bird, both have fantastic customer service!!. The more we spend money on our home grown and better products like hope, burgtec, unite etc.. Then the better in my book. Had a mate that bought a carbon cube stereo, it cracked!!!.. What a great time he had getting a warranty claim in.. Another mate with a orbea rallon, British weather Spanish bike.. Bearings!!! What a joke!!. You won’t change my mind, just say in!!.

    @danfay120 you are confusing British brands with British made. Orange DOES make its full suspension bikes here but the hardtails, kids bikes and carbon road bikes are made in Taiwan. All of Birds’, excellent, bikes are designed in the UK but manufactured in Taiwan. Your mate’s Cube also made in Taiwan…. Pretty sure Burgtec kit is designed in the UK but nor made here.
    Customer service is another matter, but it has nothing to do with where a bike is manufactured or where a brand is from. I’ve had amazing customer service from companies and brands from all over the world. I’ve also had really bad customer service. It just depends on the company and how it is set up and ran.
    I’m not interested in changing your mind, I’m happy that you love UK brands so much, I just feel sorry for you that your view is so limited.
    Would love to see a pic of your completely made in the UK bike BTW. What forks, drivetrain and tyres are you running?
    Also, why do you want me to say “in” ?

    Not interested in clever comments either!!!.. As producing products here, the more we invest in British companies the more likely they can make there products here!!.. And yes I know frames are made in Taiwan, this needs to change!!!.. Non of your comments change the woeful customer service from inferior European bike’s so sorry

    I don’t think Andi was trying to make “clever comments”, what he is saying is true. For us all to only “buy British” involves a huge extra cost – for a hobby. I’ve had many Taiwan made frames that have been brilliant, also had some “buy British” frames that weren’t.
    Sounds like Dan’s mates bought the wrong frames, why buy a Spanish designed bike and then whinge it doesn’t work in the UK slop? Sweeping emotive statements based on small sample sizes tend to be unhelpful.

    @danfay120 the problem with British manufactured products is that they are instantly going to be more expensive than a Taiwan manufactured item due to various factors but a large part is the labour cost, it is a lot lower in Taiwan than here.

    Just wondering if you would be so ferverently patriotic on this front if your next bike would cost you ~£1000 more than a Taiwanese made bike, just because it had been made in Britain?

    ‘nferior European bike’s’

    We’ve go a real one here.

    Good choices! I’m partial to an IZZO.

    Given that you chose the pants for riding in UK rain and probably accompanying sloppy conditions, I was wondering how your IZZO gets on with mud and slop. What tyres are you running and how’s the clearance? Also, given the carbon frame, is there down tube protection.

    Yes, I should probably read your review…

    I have had a few YTs but sold it all up. Starling fs and shand shug otw wooohoooo!

    @bonni I have Vee Tire Snap Trail on the rear (29 x 2.35) and a prototype VeeTire on the front. Clearance isn’t an issue with those tyres even in the mud. Not had any issues with it at all. A fun bike and always surprises me just how capable it is. I seem to remember a little protection around the BB, but I’ll have to give it a clean and double-check. It’s caked in mud and loam at the moment

    Yes I’ve always been happy to pay more for British products!!. And that’s where the problem starts, nobody wants to help British engineering then moan we don’t make anything!!!..

    It would be nice to see a company like orange start producing carbon or alu linkage driven bikes on these shores. Marketed correctly with a good warranty and you can charge a premium. Never liked the way hopes brakes feel, if they were more on/off id be happy to buy their stuff.

    I had high hopes for the YTuntil I saw press fit BB. Never want to even try.

    Yes that would be be good!!… But orange bike’s are well sorted as they are, I have a alpine6 and crush and love both!!

    Horses for courses though @danfay. I rode exclusively Orange for years, final one being an Alpine which I loved. However then test rode a YT Capra and the difference in performance on the rough stuff was night and day. Hadn’t realised how much suspension jacking under heavy braking was unsettling the Orange. Ordered that day. Was nothing to do with price or country of origin. Same story with Hope brakes vs Shimano 4 pots, ran the former for years before lightbulbing on ‘ah, this is what powerful, consistent brakes feel like.’ (Where as I run Hope hubs, headsets etc because they are fantastic quality.) I’m happy to buy British, but not at the expense of performance for my particular needs.

    Personally I think YT are a great bunch of guys. Worldwide issues with getting frames etc at the moment. My latest carbon hardtail went from September last year to March this year but I managed to grab a frame and get my LBS to do a build for me. Included a few Hope parts for good measure and they had them available tough times at the moment all round.

    danfay120 really butchers the english language though. Points for that.

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