Author: Guy Kesteven, from Sedona, AZ

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DiamondBack Apex
£799 4.5

DiamondBack might not currently have the profile of other high value brands such as Giant, Saracen, GT and Mongoose, but bikes like the new Apex look set to put them firmly on the map.

Saracen Zen 2

Saracen Zen 2
£750 4

Saracen's Zen hardtails have been impressing us for years now, bringing true hardcore hardtail performance to an affordable price point way before anyone else. The Zen 2 is the most evolved trail hooligan yet, but only if you swap the tyres...

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Giant XTC SX
£750 4

For as long as Giant has been making their XTC hardtails, we've been hanging out high marks for high quality performance. A welcome move to UK spec rather than global kit makes them a more complete ready-togo package than ever.

Norco Sasquatch

Norco Sasquatch
£750 4

Think Canadian mountain biking and you think elevated North Shore stunts, massive huck drops and other deranged escapades. No surprise then, that the 'Shore hardtail' series from Norco are designed to survive the worst unscathed.

Gary Fisher Tassajara

Gary Fisher Tassajara
£700 4

While the Tass's disc seems relatively conventional, subtle tubing tweaks and Genesis geometry mean it still feels totally fresh, with fast rolling tyres and good value componentry completing a lively ride.

Full on winter protection  but if it isn t cold you ll roast

Endura Fusion
£85 3.5

Unsurprisingly, the new jacket from the Scots at Endura is a seriously warm heavyweight. As well as a fleecey lining, the front has deep double back flaps and a draught flap behind the zip.

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Howies Cross Jacket
£125 3.5

The Cross is Howies' first softshell jacket, using the latest fabric from Scholler. Despite the softshell tag, the fabric is pretty rough and synthetic feeling on the outside, but a cosy bonded fleece inner face does its best to keep you warm and dry.

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Freestyle Ride 461
£99 4

It's no surprise that Freestyle makes great gear for UK riding because it's based and designed in England. The Ride 461 uses a Gore Windstopper fabric with a velvety mesh wicking layer laminated onto the inside for decent breathability.

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Cannondale Roam
£60 3

If you like your reflective piping, then Cannondale's Roam is covered in it without effecting generally stylish 'normal' looks - and it's also available in a women's version.

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Fox Stormvent
£40 3.5

Fox has a real knack of making even its budget gear look great, and this shell turns on the style on or off the bike.

Specialized Buzzsaw

Specialized Buzzsaw
£80 4

Basically a simpler,cheaper version of the 120SL, the Buzzsaw uses a more conventional leather and mesh lace up design,but it's still a tough boot.Again,the Body Geometry fit is glove-like from the start,with all the initial lumps and bumps melting away.

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Northwave Gran Canion GTX
£100 3.5

Northwave's trail boot is a non-winter boot with a full Gore Tex waterproof lining, which makes it stand out right away. It's made on a classic long and narrow Italian shape, which will immediately rule it out for some.

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