Happy New Year! The bike industry has done the countdown, popped the cork and, with Rod Stewart’s rendition of Auld Lang Syne on the hi-fi, said goodbye to 2015.
With Eurobike done and dusted, just about every bike brand has now shown us their wares for the new season. But before we begin afresh, riding whatever wheel size it is this year, we thought we’d take a look at our personal five top mountain bike ‘things’ of the past 12 months. These are just our personal picks – what would you put on your list?
Shimano XT 11-speed:
It took a long time for Shimano to come up with an 11-speed mountain bike grouppo that was a viable contender for SRAM’s plethora of 1×11 drivetrains; SRAM had already released XX1, X01 and X1 before Shimano showed us their XTR 11-speed groupset. But not only was XTR mega bucks, it also topped out at with a 40-tooth cassette, which wasn’t low enough for many people to consider going 1×11.
And then, finally, came the XT version. Not only was it a shitload more affordable, but it also comes with a 11-42 cassette, which is a nice low granny gear. The use of a standard freehub body means it’s an easier upgrade to 11-speed too. Plus it works flawlessly too.
Ok, so Tassie has been around a lot longer than the last 12 months. But it’s only in recent times, thanks to the development of new trail centres, that we’ve been happy to call it Australia’s leading mountain bike state.
In particular, the amazing Blue Derby and Hollybank MTB parks, both not far from Launceston, really put Tassie at the forefront of Australian mountain biking. We were lucky enough to spend some time at both of these trail centres last year, and they blew us away. Since our visit, Blue Derby has undergone a whole stack of new trail building too, and we’re itching to get back.
But there’s far more to Tassie’s mountain bike scene than just these centres – Hobart has killer riding too, the west coast has some of the best adventure/back country trails going, and there’s a healthy race scene too (take the Hellfire Cup or Wildside for example).
Crankworx’s first foray to the southern hemisphere was a huge success, in every regard, and Rotorua further cemented its status as one of the coolest mountain bike towns on the planet.
The courses were great, the town was totally buzzing, the locals got right behind it all and it all went smoothly! It was great to see how many Aussies made the trip over too, filling the forest trails in between the events and getting into it.
We’re bummed to hear that the Enduro World Series won’t be combined with Crankworx Rotorua next year, but apparently there will still be an enduro, just not an official part of the EWS. Given how much the riders seemed to froth on Rotorua, we’d imagine a healthy contingent of the world’d best riders will still be on hand.
Regardless, we’ll be back next year, and if you’ve been thinking about a riding holiday to Rotorua, we think it’s the perfect time to do it.
FOX 34 and 36 forks and DPS EVOL shock:
FOX got their arses handed to them when RockShox released the Pike, but they’ve responded with a furious bout of development and the new 36 and 34 forks are the result. Put simply, the Factory versions of these two forks are mind-blowingly good.
The 36 is lighter than many of the old 32 forks we used to ride, but has proper downhill race-worthy performance, and the 34 is so sublimely smooth it seems to be predicting the terrain.
While FOX have traditionally had the edge when it comes to rear shocks, they’ve been losing ground to RockShox in this arena, but the DPS EVOL shock should stem the bleeding. The new air can shape seems like such a simple change, but the improvement in small bump response in particular is so dramatic it’ll make your old shock feel like it’s filled with Selleys Space Invader.
For us, this was the standout bike of 2015 in a field of incredible contenders. We admit to having a soft spot for Yetis, but when you look raw performance alone (and ignore the stunning looks and fantastic heritage) this bike is a winner.
Yes, it costs a million bucks and can’t fit a water bottle, but as a tool for slicing and dicing the trail, they don’t get any better. Just enough travel, delivered via a suspension system that is both efficient and plush, perfectly poised geometry, low weight, great versatility – this is a bike you can race at an EWS round one day then cross country on the next. In short, it embodies the kind of do-it-all performance that the best trail bikes shoot for.
Also on the shortlist:
RedBull’s race coverage: It just keeps getting better and better. We’ve been glued to the computer too many Saturday and Sunday evenings to count this year!
Aussie young gun downhillers kicking arse: We get the feeling we’re about to see a return to that age of Aussie domination in downhill, with Andrew Crimmins, Connor Fearon and Dean Lucas all set to follow in the footsteps of Brosnan and Hill.
Cairns: Rad trails, crazy jungles and even crazier locals. The scene in Cairns just keeps on growing as it undergoes a huge revival. Bring on the 2016 World Cup!
Ibis 741 rims: These 35mm wide rims have been a revelation, transforming out trail bikes into grip seeking missiles!