Gear of the year: Tom Marvin's 2017 picks

What were Tech Ed Tom's highlights of 2017?

2017 has been one of the busiest years of mountain bike tech, with a massive range of big-name updates and a number of smaller, yet still significant product launches. I've been lucky enough to test a whole array of bikes and components, whether that be here in the UK or abroad.

Certainly, if you look at the mountain bike world, the two biggest areas of change are the seemingly un-stoppable growth in e-bikes (though how many are actually sold, we're not sure), and the continued variance in tyre width and the impacts that has on bike and component design.

Here are five things that really caught my eye in 2017.

Lauf True Grit

The True Grit is a gravel bike designed for races such as the Dirty Kanza or the Dirty Reiver
The True Grit is a gravel bike designed for races such as the Dirty Kanza or the Dirty Reiver

Lauf’s unique leaf-sprung fork has been around for a little while in various guises, though it’s in its gravel-riding form that we feel it has come in to its own.

The 30mm of travel is just enough to take the edge off bigger hits, and smooth out the high-frequency buzz that kills hands over longer rides.

The True Grit is a gravel race bike built around a slightly more subtle looking Grit fork. The geometry is almost road-bike like, and there are some neat features, such as well-thought-out cable routing, 1x only builds, a bolted on bottle opener and bento box mounts. Fortunately, it also rides really well too.

Riding the True Grit in Iceland was a highlight of my year
Riding the True Grit in Iceland was a highlight of my year

Rocky Mountain Powerplay Carbon 70

Rocky Mountain's Powerplay was perhaps one of the most surprising e-bikes of the year
Rocky Mountain's Powerplay was perhaps one of the most surprising e-bikes of the year

E-bikes are incredibly divisive, but also incredibly fun to ride. The Rocky Mountain Powerplay Carbon is unique in that it shares the geometry of their non-powered Altitude. This is because they have worked with a local motor and battery supplier, and have a system that doesn’t require longer than normal chainstays.

The bike rides really well — better than the non-powered in my opinion, thanks to the added weight low and centre in the bike. It’s confident, stable and planted, while still being agile and fun. The weight also makes the suspension feel even better.

Our favourite road/gravel products of 2017

RockShox Pike

RockShox's Pike stays right up there as one of the best trail forks on the market, in my opinion
RockShox's Pike stays right up there as one of the best trail forks on the market, in my opinion

Arguably the go-to trail fork of the moment, the latest Pike has had some subtle updates over the previous generation. 

The chassis is wider and will take 2.8-inch rubber straight in and it’s Boost width only also. There’s a new DebonAir air spring — the bigger negative chamber improving small bump sensitivity and mid-stroke support. There’s also the Charger 2 damper, which has a lighter feel (to aid use with remotes) and a wider range of adjustment.

Thanks to this, one of the best just got better.

Formula Cura

Plenty of stopping power comes from the two pistons
Plenty of stopping power comes from the two pistons

SRAM and Shimano are the biggest players in the brake market, but the Cura has impressed me this year no end.

I like the feel of the Cura’s lever — not too much resistance to pulling, but not too light either. The blade fits my hands perfectly, and I’ve managed to get the lever pull, bite point and blade position just right.

With 200mm (f) / 180mm (r) rotors there’s plenty of power too, with the feel somewhere between the bite of Shimano and the modulation of SRAM.

In three weeks of heavy alpine riding I didn’t boil the brakes, feel wandering bite points or get arm pump. They’ll be staying on my bike for the foreseeable.  

The lever shape fits my fingers fine
The lever shape fits my fingers fine

Bird Aeris AM9

The Aeris AM9 might be Bird's first 29er, but it did a hell of a job designing it
The Aeris AM9 might be Bird's first 29er, but it did a hell of a job designing it

While I'm lucky enough to be able to ride a wide range of bikes each year, there are few I'd actually go and spend my money on. The Aeris AM9 is one of those bikes though. There are three reasons for that.

One — the geometry of the bike is spot on for the riding I like to do: the reach (in the Medium Large I would buy, at six-foot) is spot on at 475mm, while the head angle is nice and slack and the seat angle steep.

Two — I like how you can pick and choose from a number of component choices at the point of purchase. The test bike we had wasn't 100 percent to my taste, but I know that for a small upcharge (or no charge, depending on what it was) I could swap, say, the tyres for ones I prefer.

Three — there's no doubt bikes are expensive, but Bird joins the likes of Canyon and YT at punting out great bikes at almost ridiculous prices. There are lots of bikes I've ridden this year I'd love to own, but few I could feasibly dip my hands in my pockets to actually pay for. This is one of them.

Look out for my review of the Aeris AM 9 soon...

Tom Marvin

Technical Editor, Tech Hub, UK
Tom's been riding for 15 years, and has always chopped and changed bikes as soon as his budget allowed. He's most at home in the big mountains, having spent nigh on 30 weeks riding the Alps, as well as having lived a stone's throw from the Scottish Highlands for four years. Tom also enjoys racing events like the Strathpuffer and the Trans Nepal.
  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Steep and super tech or fast and flowy
  • Current Bikes: Canyon Spectral, Pivot Mach 429SL, Mondraker Vantage R +
  • Dream Bike: Transition Scout
  • Beer of Choice: Gin & tonic
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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