Gear of the year 2018: Tom Marvin’s picks

Five things that stood out this year

With the end of 2018 swiftly approaching, here are five mountain bike bits and bobs that caught my eye this past year.


Best MTB bikes and gear

Commencal Meta AM 29

Race proven, the Meta AM 29 is fast
Nico Brizin / Commencal

I’ve always loved riding Commencal’s bikes, whether it be the smaller-wheeled Meta V4.2 TR that won the Trail Bike of the Year award a few years ago, or the Meta Power e-MTB that came out in 2017.

This year, at long last, Commencal has brought out a pair of 29in wheel versions of the V4.2: the AM and TR. And at a moment not too soon, as the world seems to have fully embraced bigger wheels as one of the best ways to go flat-out fast off-road.

I’m not going to lie, riding with Ravanel and Chausson was a definite highlight, but the bike itself certainly helped with my attempts to keep up as they popped and played around, and I rode at 110 percent just to keep them in view.

The geometry is good, the suspension just right and the kit pretty much killer for the money. Am I over-excited that the ‘Brit Edition’ of the slightly shorter TR version is on its way to BikeRadar towers for testing? Absolutely.

Troy Lee Designs Stage helmet

The Troy Lee Stage changed my view on full-face lids for trail riding

I’ll put my hand up and admit that I’ve always been, er, ‘unsure’ about the aesthetic of wearing a full-face helmet on a trail bike, and that the latest generation of convertible full-face lids haven’t really caught my eye either.

I’m not saying that the Stage is noticeably better looking than the others, but I wore it recently on an Intense bike launch and perhaps I’m now a convert.

There are big vents all over the helmet, and crucially in areas which I think contribute to it feeling far less claustrophobic than I find the majority of full-face lids: the front of the chin and near the ears. These combine to give a very light and airy feel to the helmet.

Will I wear it more often now? Yeah, more than likely, after all, if I’m wearing the helmet, I’m not looking at it…

Shimano XTR

Shimano’s XTR won’t be cheap, but the tech will trickle down

Sorry, this is yet another high-end product that I thought was excellent this year. I’m going to justify it though, because within a couple of years what you see on XTR will be down at the more affordable SLX and XT level, so you may as well get to know what’s coming.

It’s 12-speed, obviously (though there is an 11-speed option too), and the range of the cassette goes from 10-51t (though there are smaller-range options too). The jumps between sprockets are nice and uniform and the shifting ramps across the gears work whether you’re shifting up or down the cassette. In all honesty, the shifting is excellent.

Yes, it uses a new freehub driver body, but did you really expect Shimano to use the XD driver from SRAM?. The hubs seem great on first impressions and there will be more options available at a later date.

We have two sets of XTR on test, so rest assured that we’ll give you the full low-down on how it performs in the longer term once we’ve had a winter of testing!

Clif Nut Butter bars

Clif bars, packed full of nutty, buttery goodness
Ben Delaney / Immediate Media

I simply can’t get enough of peanut butter. Toast, banana pancakes, porridge, chicken satay and oatcakes are all valuable means of transporting peanut butter from jar to stomach. And, this year, Clif Bar entered the fray with its nut butter based energy bars.

Oh how my waistline groaned.

Along with a Chocolate and Hazelnut butter bar, there are two energy/cake bars packed with peanut butter — a plain and a chocolate one. First to guess my favourite gets a gold star.

They pack in 6–7g of protein per bar and are organic (did I mention they’re also totally delicious?).

1-2-1 coaching

Katy Curd coaching — the best £100 I spent this year
Andrew Richardson

This isn’t something you can take home with you, but there aren’t many things you can spend £100 on that make you an instantly better, faster rider.

I spent my own money on a course with Katy Curd (former 4X World Champ no less) to try and get my jumping game improved. Within three hours of coaching I was hitting bigger jumps, and getting higher than I’ve ever done before.

In the following months, I’ve become more confident and competent getting my wheels further in the air.

While buying something tangible is ‘nice’, bang for the buck I reckon coaching is some of the best money you can spend on your mountain biking life.

Here’s Katy with some pro-tips on jumping