Editors’ Choice: Best MTB Gear of 2013

The 2013 model year is quickly winding down, and all the companies at Interbike 2013 were displaying the latest and greatest products about to hit showroom floors for 2014. A couple of weeks ago we announced the Top MTB Gear of 2013, as rated by you, our members, in the mountain bike gear database.

Now it’s our turn: we’ve called on our blog team members to choose the best mountain bike gear of the year. Read on for all of our editors’ choices:

Best Hardtail: Salsa Beargrease

This was a hard choice.  Ultimately, I didn’t pick the bike I wanted most. Instead, I chose a bike that represents an evolution in a niche: the Salsa Beargrease.  The Beargrease may not be the first carbon fatbike, but it is the first widely-available carbon fatbike thanks to QBP’s distribution system.  It, and others like it, are a new direction for fatbikes–not just fat anymore, but now fat and fast at the same time.  Living in Georgia, I don’t think I want or need a fatbike, regardless of material, but this is certainly one bike I’d love to throw a leg over! -dgaddis

Best All Mountain Bike: Yeti SB-66c

 

26in wheels may be on the way out for cross-country applications, yet many people still appreciate their maneuverability and quickness on technical trails. Although not new this year, the Yeti SB-66c remains my favorite trail/all mountain platform. It’s quick, efficient, and capable of taking hit after hit without losing traction. It’s not the plushest six-incher out there, but you can’t beat it on a climb or for holding a line on the descent. -skibum

Best 29er: Ibis Ripley

Just the thought of a 29er version of the Ibis Mojo is making me salivate. Six years in the making, this 120mm full-suspension carbon wonder bike combines sexy lines and incredible performance into one of the best-looking and best-riding bikes you might ever see. -mtbgreg1

Best Downhill Bike: Norco Aurum

Despite my beloved Santa Cruz V10C, I have to say that at nearly half the cost, the Norco Aurum is a rock-solid DH bike. It was hands-down my favorite bike to ride this year: a great looking bike, from both an engineering and an aesthetic aspect, and chock-full of go-fast goodies. Add in the fact the Dorado and Cane Creek DB, my favorite suspension products, come stock on this bike, and it’s a true winner. -syd

Best Brakes: Shimano XT

Shimano’s XT brakes offer powerful stopping performance, top-notch modulation, superb adjustment, and best of all: they’re quiet. They’ll perform for hundreds (if not thousands) of miles without complaining, but when it does come time to replace the pads, maintenance is problem-free and often doesn’t even require a bleed. Plus, they just look dang sexy in silver. -mtbgreg1

Best Drivetrain: SRAM XX1

I admit it, I have drivetrain jealousy issues. Ever since I test rode the XX1 drivetrain at Interbike last year, I’ve been lusting after one of these 11-speed drivetrains. Of course it’s just not about the gears, it’s also the other things this magic drivetrain can do: no more chain drops or chain slap, plus a clutch-style derailleur to make rear tire changes easier. And before you chuckle, this truly is a magic drivetrain, because it’s perfect for both XC and gravity riders alike. Wow.

Everything about the XX1 is new-and-improved, which is also kind of a problem. It’s impossible to upgrade without swapping your entire drivetrain out (including the rear hub and chain!). -jeff

Best Fork: RockShox PIKE

Seeing that the new PIKE fork from RockShox keeps the same name as the classic fork offering, the all-new PIKE is a game changer as far as what we can expect a trail fork to be. I can’t deny the fact that the PIKE works as well as all the marketing materials claim… this time, they’re not stretching it. The PIKE has a stiff chassis, great bump compliance, and tracks the ground as a good fork should. The best part: it can be found for under $1000 (MSRP). -syd

Best Shock: Cane Creek DBAir

The CaneCreek DBAir is still hands-down my favorite rear shock, and it’s now available with choice of extra volume can, updated tool-free controls, and a climb switch! A super-low weight and superior wheel control set this shock apart. The only down side is that some people may need a Vehicle Dynamicist to set it up. -syd

Best Saddle: Selle Italia SLR XC Flow

You’ve probably heard it a million times–choosing the right mountain bike saddle is all about personal comfort–and that’s true. Selle Italia claims the SLR is the “#1 saddle of pro racing cyclists” and “the most demanded by professional cyclists,” so if you want to be pro, the SLR XC Flow is a pretty safe choice.

I’ve been running this saddle for almost four years now, and it’s held up remarkably well despite its feather weight (the latest model is just 175g and features titanium rails). I love it as a cross country saddle, and Selle Italia even recommends it for freeriding, too. The reinforced edges haven’t torn or frayed in the slightest, and the white finish has only slightly faded to resemble a light coffee drinker’s teeth. Grab another espresso and ride with the SLR XC Flow saddle! -jeff

Best Seatpost: RockShox Reverb Stealth

The RockShox Reverb Stealth was such a revolutionary product that most of the time a dropper post line is routed inside of a frame, it is now referred to as “stealth” routing. This revolutionary product doesn’t show any signs of being knocked off of the dropper post podium anytime soon, either, with refinements every year and a variety of different sizes and drop amounts available. -mtbgreg1

Best Handlebars/Stem: Easton Havoc 35 carbon bar and direct-mount Stem

Once you get your hands on this bar, you can’t imagine going back to anything else. Let’s face it: with laser-control, a bar that takes the sting out of any hit, and a bar/stem combination that weighs less than other bars by themselves, Easton has a true winner. -syd

Best Tire: Surly Knard 29×3

If a 29er tire and a fatbike tire had a few too many post ride beers, and one thing led to another…. the Knard 29×3 would be the result. Not a new tire size, Surly dubbed it “29+”.  It fits on standard 700c/29er rim diameters, but at 3″ wide it’s much larger than anything before it.  Surly isn’t the only company making bikes around it, either: many custom builders, including Engin, have embraced this new tire as well. I’d like to try one on the front of my rigid singlespeed. -dgaddis

Best Wheelset: Specialized Roval Control 29 Carbon

Specialized’s Roval wheel brand has done good things for MTB wheels.  Many of the newer generation of affordable carbon rims can thank the big red S for all the R&D they’ve put into wheels the last several years–it’s helped advance the technology and lower the costs for everyone.  The Control 29 Carbon wheels are significant because they don’t have a bead hook. The hook is the hardest part of the rim to mold, so by removing it you save weight and manufacturing cost.  The tight fit between the bead shelf and tires, along with the stronger tubeless-ready beads in most modern MTB tires keep the tires on the rim.  Thanks to the lower manufacturing cost, these wheels retail for only $1,200.  Will we see hooks disappear on more rims in the future?  It’ll be interesting to find out. -dgaddis

Best Pedals: Crank Brothers Eggbeaters

I’m just going to say it: Crank Brothers Eggbeaters are the best pedals ever, not just for 2013. SPD fans are going to hate, and all three Time ATAC users are silently raging, but be that as it may, you just can’t beat the simplicity, light weight, mud shedding, and serviceability of a good pair of Eggbeaters.

-maddslacker

Best Shoes: Mavic Scree

The Scree shoes from Mavic are listed as an “All Mountain” shoe. They aren’t light, but they are incredibly comfortable and durable, and they provide excellent support for all-day epic rides. Their hiking boot-shape and generously-lugged sole are perfect for hike-a-bike or mid-ride sightseeing on foot. Watch for a full review, coming soon. -maddslacker

Best Full Face Helmet: Bell Full 9

With a great fit and light weight, I have to say this helmet rocks. I truly love the added safety you get with the Eject system (that for some reason, other people forget to talk about). The added Eject (sold separately) just adds to the list of items I need to see in future designs from other people. -syd

Best Cross Country Helmet: Giro Xara

Through hail storms, dusty summer rides, and more, this helmet has protected my head from everything except the sun. The ventilation is great for summer riding and the micro-adjustable fit of the Roc Loc 5 system will be perfect this winter when I need to add a skull cap for some extra warmth. For a similar men’s helmet, check out the Giro Xar. -mtbikerchick

Best Hydration Pack: Dakine AMP

The Dakine AMP 12L is the best organized, most comfortable, and most secure pack I’ve ever encountered. You truly forget it’s on your back, no matter how gnarly the terrain. It’s big enough for anything short of an all-day epic, yet light enough for those quick sprints, and the design keeps the main compartment completely clear of your back for maximum ventilation. -skibum

Best Women’s Gear: Osprey Verve Hydration Pack 

In one week in Park City we took on two different rides of 4+ hours, and having a pack that would hold 3 liters of water, several snacks, a rain jacket, and more, was crucial. The Osprey Verve was up to the task. The padded mesh shoulder straps kept the pack comfortable during even the longest ride, and being able to adjust those straps meant that during rocky downhills the pack stayed firmly in place.

-mtbikerchick

Your Turn: Which products were your favorites in 2013? (And if you haven’t reviewed them yet, be sure to do it before the year is over!)

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