Given how much gear we get through on BikeRadar, it’s a proud endorsement of any product if it gets used by our writing team on a regular basis. Here’s the gear and kit favoured by tech writer and experimental physicist Set Stott.
Seb is a geeky technical writer for BikeRadar, as well as MBUK and What Mountain Bike magazines. Years of racing downhill, cross-country and enduro have honed a fast and aggressive riding style, so he can really put gear to the test on the trails, too.
1. 7 IDP Transition knee pads
Simply put, these are my favourite kneepads. That’s because they offer the best balance of protection and comfort for my needs. They pass the basic EN safety standard for kneepads (pads which don’t are hardly worth wearing in my opinion), and the knee cover offers a good deal of protection across the knee cap and down the upper shin.
The concave shape of the knee pad and high thigh gripper (which sits above the tapering part of the thigh) help the pads stay in place securely in a crash. At the same time, they’re super comfy and unobtrusive when pedalling, while staying relatively cool on hot days. At 272g a pair, they’re pretty light too.
When I first put them on, the stiff, concave knee cover felt a little uncomfortable when standing up, but they’re perfectly shaped for riding with knees slightly bent. After a few washes, they’ve softened up a bit anyway. Now, many washes later, they’re some of the comfiest pads I’ve tested.
They’ve stood up to this abuse well too – there’s little sign of wear, and the shape and fit remain spot on. After several crashes, they’ve proven to offer decent protection for such a lightweight and comfy pad. This makes them my kneepad of choice for trail and enduro style riding.
- £60 / $70
2. Specialized 2FO ClipLite / ClipLite Lace shoes
Despite all the shoes I’ve tested, I keep coming back to the 2FO ClipLite. They’re light at 435g per size 43 shoe, and plenty stiff when putting power to the pedals. In my experience, they’re very comfy too, with no pressure points or hot spots, even on long descents.
What I like most about these shoes, though, is the outsole – it’s not too grippy. That makes it easier to locate and engage the pedals, especially with my pedal of choice, Crank Brothers Mallets.
Unlike most lightweight trail-focussed shoes, the cleat pocket extends a long way towards the heel, allowing me to get the cleats far enough back for confident descending.
They’re not the best for scrambling up muddy slopes, they can be a little sweaty on really hot days, and they are quite pricey. On the other hand, our sets have stood up to regular use very well indeed. The only problem I’ve had is with the Boa dials snapping off in a crash (which I tend to do regularly).
If that concerns you, the ClipLite Lace is £40 cheaper and does away with finicky Boa dials altogether. They perform much the same on and off the bike, except that dialling in the fit is a bit more of a faff.
- £140 (ClipLite) / $180 / AU$ 230
3. Schwalbe Magic Mary SuperGravity / Snakeskin tyres
Whatever the conditions, you know you can count on a Magic Mary up front. If it won’t grip, most likely nothing else will. The tread is widely spaced and super aggressive, clawing up traction in even the loosest of conditions. It will clog up more easily than a full-on mud tyre, such as Maxxis’ Shorty, but the knobs are well supported and siped, so it works brilliantly on hard, rocky terrain.
It’s also huge. As advertised, it measures up at exactly 2.35” wide at normal riding pressures – while many 2.5” Maxxis tyres are closer to 2.25”. That gives it almost plus-tyre levels of rough-terrain speed-sustain and traction. The SuperGravity version’s stiff sidewalls allow it to be run at really low pressures without squirming, feeling super secure in dicey ground.
Meanwhile the lighter SnakeSkin carcass offers superb comfort and suppleness over chattery terrain. It rolls much faster, too. Of course, this version is less secure and more puncture prone.
Schwalbe’s new Addix rubber mixes are still relatively unproven, especially when it comes to wet weather grip and longevity, but the old Trailstar compound strikes a great balance between tactile traction, rolling speed and wear rate.
It’s no fast-roller, so it’s really a front-only option for most applications. It’s not the draggiest though; the rolling speed is not too bad considering the grip on offer. I think it comes up a bit too square on rims with 30mm or more internal width, resulting in grabby, unpredictable cornering manners at high lean angles.
This is where Maxxis’ WT tyres have an edge (by which I mean the lack of an edge). Still, for more traditional rim widths, which I still think have their place, the Magic Mary is a superb choice for aggressive riding.
- £65 / $98 / AU$ 100
4. SportCount Digital Lap Timer
Some sort of timer is essential for testing bikes and products properly, allowing me to compare against the clock. Strava is great for boring your friends with your heroics, but it’s just not accurate enough (apart from that time I got a KOM on spooky woods – then it was totally accurate, obviously).
There are a lot of Moto-derived timers out there, but none of them fit elegantly on the bike, they take up too much real estate on the handlebars and are a faff to fit. This little swimming timer is designed to fit on your finger, but slots easily onto the bar by the grip.
It’s small, light and easy to swap between different test bikes. It’s not cheap for a little stopwatch, but it gets the job done and, crucially, is much easier to press in a hurry than a traditional wrist watch.
- £38 / $35
5. Specialized Power Expert saddle
I’ve always got on with Specialized’s Henge MTB saddle (which start from £30, by the way), but after spotting Specialized enduro pro Curtis Keene using this unusual road/TT saddle, I was persuaded to give it a try myself.
The obvious cut-out is claimed to preserve blood flow to where it’s needed, in both men and women, to prevent the dreaded post-ride numbness. Without wanting to get too anatomical, it does seem to work. With all your weight supported on your sit-bones, it’s also a very comfy place to sit for long days of pedalling.
What I like most about this saddle is the forwards position it gives you. It’s designed to work with an aggressive aero position; this lends it perfectly to the similarly hunched-forward posture adopted when clambering up steep off-road pitches. This position has you perching uncomfortably on the nose of most saddles.
The Power effectively steepens your seat angle by providing a more forwards position. Steeper seat angles make climbing easier – simple as that. Even with the super steep 77-degree effective seat angle on my Pole Evolink 140 long-term bike, I’m still slamming my seat all the way forward to make it even better at going uphill. The Power saddle puts my hips even further forward, exaggerating this advantage.
At 143mm it’s quite wide, so you may be a bit more aware of its presence when descending. It’s not cheap too, with prices starting at £95. But if you prize comfort, especially when tackling steep climbs, it’s definitely worth considering.
- £95 / $130
6. Mudhugger Shorty front mudguard
When conditions are moist, I usually reach for one of these. The Shorty is a mid-sized front mudguard which offers useful extra protection over any of the slew of cheap folding fenders on the market, without being as heavy and finicky to fit as bigger ones such as the brand’s “Race” Mudguard or the industrial Powa DFender. It makes a fair bit of difference to the amount of slop which lands on your face and eyewear, while protecting your fork seals from the worst of the spray.
I don’t like how it uses disposable (rather than re-useable) zip-ties, especially when chopping and changing between test bikes, but at least it’s a cinch to fit. If it’s really wet I’d sooner have something with a little more coverage, but the Shorty is a good fit-and-forget compromise for most rides.