The Revel Rascal XT Build is a good-looking, playful machine that will back you up…
The products and bikes that made the team’s year in 2022.
We highlight our standout bikes and products from the past year. These are the bikes that we’d like to have in our sheds. These are the components and clothing that we still use long after the nominal test period has expired. Only 15 products and six bikes made the grade this year. This is the good stuff.
To make the cut, each thing must have proven itself out on the trails. They’ve got to have been reliable and ride-enhancing. We don’t do technology for technology’s sake. Nor are we overly swayed by showy, high price tags and bling materials. That said, we don’t prioritise anything solely because it’s cheaper than its rivals. Nor do we penalise a genuinely great product if it is conspicuously expensive. Performance is what matters in Editor’s Choice.
These are the 20 star performers of The Class of 2022.
- Price: £6,700.00
Benji: “Yeah, yeah, this isn’t a new-for-2022 mountain bike. The G1 has been around for a few years. It is still the best mountain bike I’ve ever had the pleasure of riding. What a lot of people don’t seem to realise or appreciate is that the team at Geometron do a lot of pedalling. They do a lot of climbing. They do a lot of traversing. Sure, they do all this to get to The Good Stuff (AKA descents), but fundamentally they are trail riders roaming the hills. The G1 is a great all-day, everywhere bike. Capable as anything downhill yep, but also just a really nice bike to ride anytime, anywhere. You don’t need to spring(!) for the EXT rear wündershock, but it’s hard to avoid its allure.”
Benno Boost E CX Cargo Bike
- Price: £4,799.00
Hannah: “This is probably the best thing I have ever bought. The wide 24 inch tyres give me decent handling on my rather rough local roads and bike paths while keeping the overall length down, and the Bosch CX motor gets me up all the hills, even when fully loaded. Being a compact long tail – rather than a full length one, or a bucket style cargo bike – means I can store and park it in most of the normal places that you’d get a large modern mountain bike. With the Benno in my life, I use my car as little as once or twice a fortnight. Even if it’s done while wrapped up in waterproofs with a weekly shop stacked on the back, pedalling is always a good thing. If you can fit a cargo bike into your life, do it.”
Ride Concepts Women’s Vice
- Price: £99.95
Hannah: “Someone told me they looked cool when I was out on a ride. Do I need more of a reason to recommend these? I do think they look pretty good – like a skateboard shoe perhaps – but they’re solid performers on the technical side of things too. The suede finish does a surprisingly good job of shrugging off splashes and isn’t bad at cleaning up after a muddy ride. The lack of seams and edges for mud to collect in seems particularly good. They are – for me – on the sweet spot of stiff and flexible. Stiff enough I can pedal without fatigue, soft enough that I can feel the pedals. The soles mate well with a variety of pedals, and have stood up well in use, with no peeling or ripping.”
7Mesh Foundation Bib Shorts
- Price: £120.00
Hannah: “I’ve had these shorts since spring 2020, and they’ve become my go-to pair for warm weather riding. Why has it taken me so long to recommend them? Well, they were comfortable from the get-go, but I couldn’t help but wonder how durable the mesh would be. I can now confidently say they’re up to the job. If you’re like me and simply must wear a liner short, but don’t want to go full Lycra in summer months, then these are lovely and cool to wear under some baggies, and the fairly thin chamois keeps your undercarriage comfortable. As a bonus, the straps feel like they’re barely there, no tugging at my shoulders or digging in. At a – literal – stretch the ‘Pull2P’ lets you have a wild wee without stripping off top layers. This does feel like it’s testing the limits of the seams – and my balance – but the feature is there if you really need it.”
MRP Hazzard Coil rear shock
- Price: £659.99
Benji: “It’s going to be hard to explain how it is that I’m choosing the MRP Hazzard as my Editor’s Choice instead of the Cane Creek Kitsuma Coil that actually won the best-in-test accolade in the previous issue. All I can say is: I just like it. I like the way it feels. I think a big aspect of this is because I’m someone who likes to use ‘lockout’ levers. The Cane Creek can be set up just-so and never touched for the rest of the ride, uphill or downhill. Set and forget. The MRP isn’t quite like that. The MRP is like me. It has an uphill mode. It has a downhill mode. I actively like flicking the switch at the start of the climb/descent. It’s like Steve McQueen changing gear in Bullitt. It’s time to crack on. And I’d still say the MRP has the edge on the Cane Creek in terms of suppleness.”
Canyon Torque 29 CF 9
- Price: £5,699.00
Hannah: “This 170mm travel carbon bike with 29er wheels turned my head this year. It’s light enough to spin up and over the hills with my friends on cross-country and trail bikes (they’re my friends, they’re being sociable – I wouldn’t race cross-country on this, obviously). It’s big enough to throw down the scariest lines I can muster the courage for, and has forgiven me some very bad choices. It feels stable enough to give confidence, but agile enough to be playful. I can ride down things, and off things, and even jump over things. It’s tempted me to go fast, and then a bit faster. It’s even made me forgive the fact that it’s carbon – though there is an alloy version.”
- Price: £3,939.00 frame and shock
Ross: “I’m lucky enough to get to ride quite a few different bikes throughout the year, and the Claymore is the one that I’d happily keep in the shed. While it looks like a long-travel, very race-focused bike on paper, it’s more versatile than the numbers on the geo sheet allude to. It climbs well and will get you up anything your legs can manage. It is happy enough to be pedalled and ridden as a trail bike, rather than just enduro-ed steep up, steep down. But, open the taps and it does show its harder hitting DNA. That high pivot suspension isn’t just hype. The Claymore hoovers up big hits, small hits, rooty tracks, rocky tracks… basically whatever you point it at. Get off the brakes and let it run and it’s an amazing experience. Good geo, good looks, good suspension. The Claymore’s got it all.”
RockShox ZEB Ultimate
- Price: £1,119.00
Ross: “Your choice of fork, especially on hard-hitting bikes, can make or break a ride (and your confidence, teeth, etc.). On a longer travel bike, chances are you’re going to be carrying more speed in rougher terrain and the first thing to smash into the rocks and roots is the front end of the bike so you want to be able to rely on your fork to take it all in its stride. That’s the new RockShox ZEB Ultimate. There are plenty of other really good, long-travel fork options on the market, but for me the ZEB is top of the tree. It’s simple to set up and offers amazing performance on both low level repeated trail chatter and big hits alike. The new damper has a more usable range for mere mortals than the previous version. Also, each click of a dial has a definite and notable effect on performance that allows you to change the ride characteristics as and when required.”
Hope Tech 4 V4 Brake
- Price: £210.00
Ross: “When Hope launched the Tech4 V4 with some bold claims on performance, and then hearing some real world feedback, I was keen to try them. And I can honestly say that these are some of, quite possibly THE, best brakes I’ve used. They’re amazingly well-machined pieces of engineering art, but they don’t just look good – they’ve got the performance to back it up. The power on offer is properly impressive. Grab a handful and it is like the clichéd ‘dropping an anchor’. But they’re not just outright power. They offer top-notch modulation to go with it. They have performed equally well across both dry and dusty and wet and sloppy conditions. Basically they’re as good a brake as you can currently get.”
Giro Source MIPS helmet
- Price: £119.99
Benji: “I don’t know about you, but what I want from a helmet is three things. Comfort. Decent ventilation. Looks good. At this point in mountain biking technology, the safety aspect of helmets is something of a given, so I am just taking actual bonce protection as read. Having said that, I do think a MIPS liner is pretty must-have these days if you can afford it. At the end of the day the simple truth is that this helmet just fits my head really well. I can’t honestly say it will fit yours. That’s bonces for you. What I can say is that the Source should definitely be at the top of your try-on list. It’s one of the very, very few helmets that I’m not in a rush to remove once the riding has finished.”
Rockrider ST 700 Rain Jacket
- Price: £69.99
Benji: “What’s not to love about this jacket? Seriously. It is the perfect UK winter jacket. It’s waterproof (STILL waterproof after months of washing machine cycles). It’s tough. It’s a great colour. The sleeves are a good length. There’s a hang tag on the inside for, you know, hanging it up. Can’t abide a jacket that can’t be hung up on a substantial loop. It has all the venting you need: two modest pit vents (the main zip on the front can do the rest if need be). One Napoleon pocket for a phone, one generous pocket on the rear for other stuff. And yes, it has a hood that goes over a helmet, because sometimes that is a flipping godsend. It costs £70!”
Thule Rail 4L hip pack
- Price: £89.99
Benji: “This Rail 4L from Thule was the first bumbag that I didn’t begrudge wearing. It remains the one and only bumbag that I reach for when I’m heading out on longer than typical rides or rides in changeable weather. Somehow it strikes the balance of being light, but stable and super comfortable. It doesn’t slip or slide around. Nor does it have to be tightened up to 11 to do so. Everything falls to hand really easily; you can operate/access its features ‘blind’ while it’s on your back. On the rare occasions I’ve used it with its bladder as a hydration system, it’s been impressively free of faff too. A really well-designed and executed item.”
Specialized Stumpjumper EVO Comp Alloy
- Price: £3,450.00
Benji: “I love it when a mainstream brand does a bike that’s better than pretty much anything else out there. I double love it when it’s made out of metal and doesn’t cost an insane amount of money. Over three grand is not small change I grant you, but it is getting on for half the price of rival boutique brands and their plastic pushbikes. I love the Stumpy EVO. It’s such an outlier for a brand as big as Specialized. You can set it up with slack AF head angle. You can raise the bottom bracket if you want to. The seat angle is acceptably steep. The reach is good. The chainstays are a nice compromise length for a trail bike. All the spec is pretty much bang on. And the suspension is amazingly good. Comfy when cruising, taut when hauling. Magic. My bike of the year really.”
Schwalbe Magic Mary and Big Betty tyres
- Price: £65.00 each
Ross: “This spring I fitted a Schwalbe Magic Mary and Big Betty combo – both in 29 x 2.4in Addix Soft – and rode them until the rear was bald and missing half its side knobs and the trails were worthy of a proper spike on the front. Good volume, great tread patterns and sticky-enough compounds make them perfect for pretty much everything – for me and where I ride at least (AKA The Woods). They roll pretty well and offer predictable surefootedness across rocks, roots, dirt and dust. And while I’ll always revert to a proper winter mud tyre in the darker months, as soon as things start to dry out I’ve now got a go-to, all-conditions tyre combo.”
Thomson Elite 35mm handlebar & DMR Defy 35mm stem
- Price: £110.00 handlebars, £60.00 stem
Benji: “Made from 7050 aluminium with a 9° back sweep, 5° up sweep and 800mm wide. A bar’s a bar, right? Wrong. Coming back to these bars on my main bike, after being on various test bikes with all kinds of seemingly very similar-to-this bars fitted, feels like pulling on a pair of favourite jeans. The sweeps suit me. The 35mm rise puts my grips at the right height when paired with 160mm fork underneath. But it’s the ride feel that is the best thing. They are significantly comfier than other bars. I think we’re almost at the point where a lot of riders are de-stiffing their bikes, not purely for old-age pensioner comfort reasons, but because a bit of flex actually improves the handling of the bike. Great to see the venerable old marque of Thomson back up front leading the way, literally.”
Benji: “The choice of 35mm length stems that offer any degree of rise is a rather short list. The DMR Defy stem is on that list. The spec sheet says that it offers 5mm of rise, but to my eyes it looks like it actually offers a few more millimetres than that. Regardless, it’s a worthwhile amount. And it means you can raise your bar height a bit without resorting to spacer(s) under the stem (that reduce your effective reach). The other nice thing about this stem is that it has a clamp height on the steerer of 27mm. That can come in handy when moving to a new frame, fork or headset.”
YT Decoy 29 Core 3
- Price: £5,699.00
Benji: “The Decoy was the first e-bike that was actually properly fun to ride as a mountain bike. Pretty much all e-bikes are great when it comes to de-trudgifying the bike ride experience. It’s hard not to grin when zipping up climbs that usually take you three or four times as long to do. But e-bikes can come unstuck when they get to the type of terrain that you actually began mountain biking for in the first place. At 23kg this is not one of the new breed of diet – or even mid – power e-bikes that weigh sub-20kg, but the Decoy handles like a much, much lighter bike. I can’t even claim to really know how or why this is – there are clearly myriad factors involved. After riding newer, supposedly ‘next generation’ e-bikes with their massive batteries or their sub-20kg weights, it’s still the YT Decoy that I’d go for, rattly EP8 motor and meagre 540Wh battery and all.”
Hope Union Clip RC pedals
- Price: £160.00
Amanda: “I probably need to work out the technicalities of why these pedals work as well as they do, but for the sake of Editor’s Choice I’m going to speak like I would to a mate on the trails. The cleats meet the pedals without me even vaguely considering my foot placement – whether that be straight out the door or when I’m all out-of-shape on steep, sloppy trails. The easy engagement is down to the front mechanism being able to move on entry, so there’s less precision needed. There’s a really satisfying click when you’re in, and only a small amount of lateral float (2mm), which might not suit all riders, but it’s enough for me. Outside of performance, there’s the reassurance that Hope Tech products are proven to be durable and serviceable. There are plenty of great colours to choose from, and I just like owning Hope Tech stuff.”
Altura Ridge Pertex Jacket
- Price: £150.00
Amanda: “From the moment I put my hands in the pockets of this jacket, I knew it could end up being a favourite. The zips are smooth and never snag on the fabric when opening, and once you’ve got your hands in these vast front pockets, you are greeted with something you just didn’t know you needed. The pockets are lined with elasticated mesh pouches that fit big modern phones, snacks, keys, whatever you like. So, a huge capacity pocket that doesn’t flob around under the weight of the contents. Arguably more important, the waterproofing is reliable. The extensive seam taping on the Pertex fabric hasn’t yet failed. It’s not a sweaty jacket that leaves you full of condensation, and the gilled vents work as a heat exhaust to support the breathable fabric. The hood fits over helmets and also toggles up tight for days off the bike. The zip-pulls are grabbable. I honestly can’t find a single fault with the waterproofing – the price is competitive for how highly functioning it is.”
SRAM GX Eagle AXS Upgrade Kit
- Price: £554.00
Benji: “I don’t know how I feel about using the term ‘game changer’ here but… it’s a close call. I’m not massively passionate about anything else electronic-y on a mountain bike. Shimano Di2 never did it for me. Fox Live Valve is not something I want on my own bike. Heck, even RockShox Flight Attendant – even the AXS Reverb dropper – are not things I miss when I don’t have them. But AXS wireless shifting is simply leagues better than anything else. It’s not about saving weight, nor having cleaner lines, nor doing away with cable maintenance (although all three of those benefits are real). It’s about an innovation that actually improves my riding experience. It reminds me of the move from clipless to flats. It feels liberating. The enjoyment levels go up. You suddenly realise how much of a distraction cable gearing was.”
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