Alex Evans' Gear of the Year 2021 - BikeRadar

2021-12-24 08:52:13 By : Mr. Frank Liang

The products that make my time on the bike more easy, comfortable and efficient – and just as importantly, more fun.

This competition is now closed

Although it’s a little morbid to say so, with the countdown clock ticking ever closer to the inevitable, time only becomes more precious. As each year passes and I get older, certain ways of approaching riding seem to further cement themselves in my mind, and manifest in my day-to-day activities and practices.

This has helped me focus on the products that make my time on the bike easier, more comfortable and more efficient – and just as importantly, more fun.

Although the products in this year’s Gear of the Year are no more philosophical than in my 2019 and 2020 editions, they have been refined to unilaterally improve my life out on the bike.

I promise I’ll stop going on about this bike at some point in the future, but only when I find one that’s as good.

Although electric mountain bikes are universally capable of making hour-long lunchtime mash-ups with 1,000m of climbing and descending a vivid reality, at the time of writing this and my extensive Turbo Levo review, no other ebike made it as much fun, or as fast as this one.

Thanks to its suspension, geometry, chassis, components and motor, the Turbo Levo is immensely capable across the vast swathes of terrain on my home trails, also used for the UK’s round of the Enduro World Series.

I was so impressed with the bike’s performance that I said it was “the best bike I’ve ridden to date, full stop”. Now, that statement intentionally included all non-motorised bikes, too, so it would have been amiss of me to not include it in this edition of Gear of the Year.

I agree wholeheartedly that the £13,000 price tag is mind-blowing and takes it out of stocking filler territory, but its performance had me in awe.

If you’re in the market for what I consider to be the best electric mountain bike to date, look no further.

We only get one head and brain.

Mountain biking is dangerous (but fun).

Risk limitation and mitigation is a sensible practice, if we want to continue mountain biking.

Given the consequences of ignoring this message are bleak, the principle of protecting your head isn’t new, and no less sensible than when the first person decided to don a polystyrene hat when they were on their bike.

The Bell Super DH Spherical is one of the safest convertible lids on the market, meeting the ASTM F1952 downhill standard when the chin bar is installed. It also uses the MIPS Spherical system that’s claimed to help protect against rotational impacts.

Its removable chin bar also increases its versatility. Slow, hot climbs can be tackled with it in open-face mode, before re-attaching it for gnarly descents.

On top of that, it’s comfortable, well-fitting and looks great, mimicking the styling of Bell’s Full-9 DH lid.

I wear the Super DH on almost every (trail and enduro-focused) ride and religiously attach the chin bar before descents.

Technical editor-in-chief Rob Weaver agrees, awarding the lid 4.5 stars when he reviewed it in 2018.

Yes, it’s expensive at just under £300, but you can’t put a price on your brain.

Although I only got my feet into these shoes fairly recently, and published a four-star review at the start of November, they’ve got to be one of the best products launched for flat-pedal riders, period.

Grip is spot on, blending the outright traction of the Impact Pros with the slightly more on-pedal adjustability of the Trailcross XT.

The Gore-Tex membrane means they’re submersion-proof (up to the membrane’s limit on the ankle), and their fit is secure but not overly tight.

On a British winter ride, having dry, warm feet is revolutionary and can extend a ride beyond the first puddle or stream crossing, with vastly improved comfort and enjoyment.

They’re not faultless – their price and reliance on the rest of your setup to remain waterproof marginally tainting their performance – but they’re damn close.

Arguably though, these shoes are a milestone product for flat-pedal riders and are worthy of featuring in my Gear of the Year.

Although I waxed lyrical about the Patagonia Black Hole Waist Pack 5L when I tested it, and my review still stands, like the sands of time, preferences and needs move on.

The EVOC Hip Pack Race 3l took over as my go-to bum bag earlier this year, when I started taking even more snacks on my rides and was struggling for space in the Patagonia.

The need for more space stuck, and this pack has now travelled over 5,000 off-road kilometres around my waist in 2021, proving its worth.

Inside, there are two compartments. The larger of the two has space for my tyre and shock pumps, snacks, plus a jacket, spare gloves and my phone. The second section has three individual elasticated pockets that are perfect for a slim Tubolito tube, a puncture repair kit and tubeless tyre plugs, and a multi-tool, with more space for tyre levers and extras.

There are two further zipped hip pockets, and straps to attach the chin bar of my Bell Super DH lid on the climbs. And there’s an elasticated section that’s large and tight enough to securely transport a 750ml water bottle.

Although this model has been discontinued, the current model Hip Pack Pro 3 is equally good, and tops our picks as the best hip pack currently available.

Alex Evans is BikeRadar's mountain bike technical editor. He started racing downhill at the tender age of 11 before going on to compete across Europe. Alex moved to Morzine in the French Alps at 19 to pursue a career as a bike bum and clocked up an enormous amount of riding. Riding those famous tracks day in, day out for eight years, he broke more bikes than he can remember. Alex then moved back to the UK and put his vast knowledge of mountain biking to good use by landing a job working for MBUK magazine as features editor. Since working for MBUK, Alex's focus has moved to bike tech. He's one of BikeRadar's lead testers, knows how to push bikes and products to the limit, and wants to search out the equipment that represents the best value for money. Alex is also a regular on the BikeRadar Youtube channel and BikeRadar podcast.

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