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Max Wilman’s Gear of the Year 2020

Jumps, pumps and rock 'n' roll

Max Wilman’s Gear of the Year 2020

My top picks this year are focused on a couple of items that took me back to my teenage years, when mountain biking was a new and exciting development in my life. Plus, I’ve also included something I consider a must-have for tubeless riders.

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Most of my rides in 2020 took me through some of the most rock-strewn and rooty matted places possible. And because I’ve been riding a hardtail year round, it’s meant I have to be fairly loose with my tyre pressures, to get as much comfort and grip as possible.

DMR Sect jump bike

  • Price: £799 / AU$1,200

My favourite ride in 2020 has been DMR’s Sect dirt jump bike.

I bought it during the early UK lockdown so that I could mix up my riding and get my air-time dialled. Super-steep jumps can be quite daunting on a big bike, but the size and geometry of the Sect really put me at ease, giving me the confidence to try things I might avoid doing on bigger bikes.

Riding this bike also brought me nostalgic joy. It reminded me of my grom years riding singlespeed jump bikes for miles with my mates around the parks, streets and basically anywhere we fancied.

The frame is made from chromoly steel and, as a complete build weighs in, at a hefty 13.5kg – that’s almost the same as my long-term test bike, the Saracen Zenith Elite.

While this is pretty heavy for something so small, it’s tough and can take quite a beating. It’s fitted with Kenda Small Block tyres, which are perfect for clay jumps or gravel pump tracks.

The Fork is the RST Dirt 100 with rebound adjuster and the brakes are Tektro M275 hydraulics front and rear with 160mm rotors.

The bike has brought me so much joy this year, taking it to pump tacks, skate parks and dirt-jump spots around Hampshire. It’s an easy pick for my gear of the year.

Bontrager TLR Flash Charger tubeless pump

  • Price: £100 / US$130 / AU$260 / €127

Another piece of kit well worth a mention is the Bontrager TLR Flash Charger.

I’ve always had pretty weak and over-sensitive track pumps in the past, and if I ever wanted to fit or change a tubeless setup I would usually head over to my parents’ house, where my dad has an air compressor hooked up in his garage – always handy when fitting tubeless tyres.

However, this year I thought I’d fork out for a decent tubeless pump. After a few tubeless changes, I’m pleased to say the Flash Charger has impressed me. It’s compatible with both Schrader and Presta valves, and the cylinder has a very handy dial on the top, which you can see clearly when using the pump.

It can take a maximum pressure of up to 160psi and uses a red plastic lever to release the air between the pump and air chamber (which makes you feel like some sort of NASA rocket scientist when activating it for a tubeless setup). It also has a bleed valve button located at the front of the cylinder so you can be more precise when letting air out of a tyre.

It is, of course, much more portable than an air compressor and most importantly it won’t have the law knocking at your door due to noise complaints from your neighbours.

Arbily G5 TWS wireless earphones

  • Price: £37

Listening to music while you ride will always divide opinion.

Some people find it distracting, while others – myself included – find having the right tune on while you are huffing and puffing (or taking a particularly spicy trail), can help hone your focus and confidence.

Obviously, I’m not saying you should go riding with both earphones in and turned up to maximum volume. You need to hear traffic, as well as what the bike’s doing and, of course, other trail users. But I personally like to have one earphone in at a medium to low volume so I can still hear my surroundings.

There are bone-conducting available headphones that keep your ears clear so you can hear your surroundings, but they’re not cheap. So wireless Bluetooth earphones are a good alternative if you’re on a budget.

Earlier this year, I bought Arbily’s G5 TWS wireless earphones and they’ve worked a treat. The play-time is up to five hours depending on volume, and the transmission distance is 33ft.

The earphones come in a hard plastic case, which also keeps them changed on the go. Charging the case takes two hours, and from there it will keep the earphones charged up to 11 times.

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They also have a soft rubber hook that stops the earphones from falling out mid-ride – they’ve only dropped out once since I’ve owned them, but otherwise they’ve proved to be extremely effective.