2017 is almost done! It's been another amazing year filled with fun riding, fantastic trips and loads of incredible bikes and equipment. So when it came to picking out my best gear of the year, I tried to remember what bits I used the most and which things I hated having to send back.
These are the standouts for me.
Kali Interceptor helmet
In 2016, it was a Troy Lee Designs A1 lid that spent more time than any other on my head, but this year that privilege went to Kali's Interceptor.
It's low profile, well vented, has a visor that stays put and a fit that's easy to adjust with a quick spin of the Boa dial. It fits my head so comfortably that it's all too easy to forget I'm wearing it.
Kali ups the protection its helmets provide by placing specially designed viscoelastic padding, which it calls a Low-Density Layer, throughout the helmet's interior. The little green blocks topped with circles look like a Lego bricks and Kali says they reduce rotational impact forces by up to 25% and low-G, linear impact forces by up to 30%
The helmet pictured above even got crash tested during the summer after a seemingly innocent tumble left me with an aching head for a couple days.
The Interceptor simply does everything a helmet should do very well.
Tasco Double Digit gloves
For me, gloves are one of the more challenging pieces of kit to get right because I have long digits. I find the fingers on most gloves a little too short and the thumbs much too short. But if I try a mega size, say XXXL, then although the digit length might be okay, the rest of the glove is way oversized.
Even though they're not perfect, Tasco's Double Digit MTB gloves come pretty close. So much so, that no matter what bike I was riding, I would almost always reach for these blue, mismatched gloves before jumping aboard. The Double Digit gloves come with matching socks, in a package that Tasco refers to as a 'mini-kit'.
The socks are nice, too, but as far as I'm concerned they're just socks – I'm not that bothered about having accessories that are matched up and colour coordinated. But the gloves are so great that they've come with me on every type of ride this year, from road spins to lift-served downhill days.
Norco Range C7.1
I liked the Range C7.1 more or less straight away. But then I started letting it run. And fiddling about with it. And soon my affection for it had turned into more of an obsession. I wasn't obsessed with the bike as much as I was obsessed with what I could do with it.
I chased fast riders around XC loops on it. I tried to stay on the wheel of pro riders at a bike park with it. I hucked myself off new drops and launched across new, scary gaps aboard this bike. And probably the biggest surprise to me was that I cleaned a climb that, years ago, I had labeled 'unrideable' due to its steep, loose and unrelenting technicality. But the Range scaled it.
Kudos to Norco for the updated carbon frame and to Fox for its oh-so-nice Factory Float 36 and X2 bits. It was fiddling with the knobs and dials on those suspension units that peaked my interest in what I could get away with on the Range.
Predictably, I was bummed to send the Range C7.1 home. Especially as I haven't been able to scale that climb since it departed.
Reynolds Blacklabel Enduro 27.5in wheels
There are no two ways about it, wheels have a hard life under me. I'm not super heavy at 84kg, but I'm pretty gangly so I'm able to load and leverage a lot of pressure through bikes and components.
That said, I've been amazed with Reynolds' Blacklabel Enduro 27.5in wheels. Not only have they survived way too many ugly lines and bottoming-out hits, but they still look and perform like new.
In fact, there's not even a loose spoke or a wobble to be found. They're not cheap, but I am extremely impressed with how they ride and how tough they are.
And they're not just strong, they also boast a very nice ride quality. They're definitely on the stiffer side of carbon wheels, but for their intended application of enduro racing, that fits well in my opinion. Also, I'm a big fan of the Industry 9 hubs (although I wish they were quieter), I love the CenterLock disc attachment and I'll gladly take stealth black over any gaudy, look-at-me color scheme every day of the week – except when it comes to tyre levers…
Pedro's tyre levers
Going hand in hand with the Reynolds wheels, above, Pedro's colourful tyre levers are hands down my favorites when it's time to separate rubber from rim. They're tough, reliable and work well with virtually every rim and tyre. In the garage, on the road, out in the woods… 99% of the time, I have a Pedro's lever with me.
When it comes to Pedro's levers, if I lose one I don't research alternatives, I don't try something new, I go straight out and buy some more. Maybe in a different colour, but that's it.