Our Most Popular Mountain Biking Stories of the Year

These are the Singletracks mountain bike stories readers clicked on the most in 2021.

Every day the team at Singletracks works to bring readers articles, stories, reviews, and if you must say it… content, that readers enjoy. It’s not an easy job — not that we’re complaining. But, with so many different channels and news outlets at our fingertips every day, drafting up something that’s intriguing and readable isn’t easy. Fortunately, we love mountain biking and we love writing and we’re up to the challenge.

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These stories aren’t necessarily the ones you loved the most, or the ones that mattered the most, but they are the reviews, news, and features that readers clicked on the most in 2021. We’ve got a smattering of reviews, tech insights, and cultural commentary which depict our most widely read articles of the year. If you missed any, give them another chance. If you have a favorite, let us know, and drop a comment with what you want to see more or less of for 2022. Happy New Years!

The $499 Schwinn Axum Costs Less Than a Decent Fork, and Includes a Dropper Post [Review]

A quality mountain bike priced at $500 might seem like a pipe dream, but Schwinn delivered a decent bike for the money, complete with a dropper post, mechanical disc brakes, and wide-ish handlebars. Singletracks Editor-in-Chief Jeff Barber reviewed the Axum and found out how much value the historic brand could pack into this department store bike.

Toyota isn’t Doing Itself any Favors with Mountain Bikers Right Now

Mountain bikers and Toyota go hand in hand, and what good are friends if we can’t occasionally roast each other a little? We examined Toyota’s social media and marketing gaffe in this short “news” piece and had a little fun at their expense.

Mountain Bikes Are More Capable Than Ever Before, and 2 Innovations Deserve Much of the Credit

EWS Pietra 2020

What would you say the most game-changing innovations in mountain bike technology have been in recent history? Geometry and dropper posts have been crucial in letting all of us explore our speed just a little bit more. We probed the industry to dig deeper.

Are MTB Crank Arms Too Long? Here’s Why They Might Be Slowing Us Down

Traditionally the thinking around 175mm crank arms was that more leverage meant more power, and on a road bike that may be true. But for most mountain bikers, a shorter crank length means fewer pedal strikes and easier acceleration. Both can make a huge difference on technical terrain. Writer Richard Shoop talked with crank arm manufacturers and bike fitters to find out if longer crank arms are necessary for mountain bikers and why 170mm or even 165mm crank arms might better suit us.

Calling All E-bike Riding Friends: Please Don’t Climb DH Tracks

E-bikes can turn the most technical of climbs into a fun challenge, but if those technical climbs are actually built with downhill riding in mind, it can make for a dangerous situation. Singletracks Tech Editor Gerow calls on e-bikers to consider the climb for safety’s sake.

I Thought I Aged Out of Riding Hardtails a Decade Ago. Then the Bikes Got So Much Better

Uncomfortable and limiting mountain bike geometry can be felt much more succinctly on older hardtails, and that may have led to some riders swearing them off. Good news: They’re better these days.

Using an Apple Air Tag to Track a Stolen Bike

Apple’s Air Tags, released this year, open up all sorts of tracking possibilities. Air Tags can be tethered to a set of keys or a dog collar to find them quickly. In theory they could also be shoved in a steerer tube to track a bike in the event it’s stolen. We decided to test the idea for ourselves.

When is a Mountain Bike ‘Too Old’ to Justify Buying?

Ahh, the question that is often as old as the bike itself. Mountain bikes are expensive, no matter how you dice it up and sometimes there’s no way around that fat price tag. Is saving a chunk of money on an older bike worth it? Not always…

What I Learned Riding a High Pivot Bike This Summer

High pivots were undoubtedly one of the biggest trends in mountain bike tech this year. We were fortunate to spend some time on a couple of high pivot bikes and features editor Matt Miller shared his experience with the latest in suspension design.

A Shift in Practice on the Belt-Driven, Derailleur-less Zerode Taniwha

Earlier this year, Matt also spent some time on the gearbox-equipped Zerode Taniwha to get a feel for what it’s like to ride a bike without a derailleur. It’s hard to say if gearboxes are the future, but there are some clear advantages over external drivetrains.

Against the Grain: An Argument in Favor of Over Biking

While the zeitgeist has steered more people toward shorter-travel bikes, Gerow discusses the merits and advantages of over-biking.

Lessons Learned Racing a Top of the Line Mountain Bike From the 1990s… In 2021

Well, it might be apparent by now that Singletracks readers like hearing about old mountain bike tech, especially in the context of today’s bikes. This time, we catch up with Nic Sims to hear what happened when he raced this 1994 carbon Specialized Epic Ultimate twenty-something years later.

The Mountain Bikes Heading to the Tokyo Olympics

We were treated to an excellent edition of the Summer Olympics, despite looming coronavirus concerns, and the XCO race was one for the books. We previewed a few of the Olympic-worthy bikes ahead of the race and checked out a few unique paint jobs.

MTB Lube Theory: Which Oil or Grease Goes Where? We Asked a World Cup Mechanic

This piece is a deep dive on grease and oil because that’s what keeps our bikes going. Wet lube, dry lube, or wax, it can all get pretty confusing. So we spoke with Kate Courtney’s right-hand mechanic and found out what he recommends for a frictionless winning recipe.

My Old Hardtail Mountain Bike Was Turned into a Meme, and I LOL’d

A familiar bike turned up on a mountain bike meme circulating across the interwebs, and the message might be quite poignant. Have we made mountain biking way easier for ourselves? If you were to ask the commenters under this meme, the answer would be a resounding “yes!”

The MTB Trails That Helped Popularize Copper Harbor Have Been Shut Down. However, Relief May Be in Sight

Copper Harbor, Michigan has been one of the country’s most esteemed mountain bike destinations for years, but the county has taken issue with some of the trails that gave rise to the destination. We dug in to find out more about the liability concerns that prompted the closures, and how the trails club has been shut out of their assessment on the trails all while trying to keep the trails an attractive place to ride.

Getting Old Sucks. Rowan Minnion Has Tips for Making MTB Rides Better With Age

As mountain bikers dedicated to fun times on two wheels, we all need to take a more deliberate approach to riding when we age. We spoke with Rowan Minnion, an exercise physiologist for some recommendations on what we can do to be our best year after year.

Can You Just Start a Bike Park? 2 Guys in Colorado are Trying

This story has only picked up steam in Colorado’s Front Range since we reported on it early this year. Jason Evans and Phil Bouchard are planning to build a lift-served bike park in Conifer, a small mountain town outside of Denver. Neighboring residents are adamantly opposed and argue it would change the character of the neighborhood for the worse.

Expect the Unexpected on the Palisade Plunge, Colorado’s Newest Epic Trail

The Palisade Plunge is the newest point-to-point, shuttled, epic trail in the US. Different folks have different expectations about what the trail holds. We got an early ride on the Plunge and spoke to COPMOBA about what it took to make the dream a reality.