Josh Patterson's 2020 Gear of the Year
Instead of traveling to media events, I had plenty of time to explore my local trails and take weekend trips to destinations I overlooked in the past. Despite shelter-in-place orders and a shortage of toilet paper, this was a really good year for new products—especially affordable components, like drivetrains and dropper seatposts. Here's a look at the gear that got me through 2020.
Check out more of our 2020 Gear of the Year
Affordable 12-speed drivetrains from Shimano and SRAM
A pair of product releases stole the spotlight in 2020. The award for the launching the right products at the right time went to two drivetrains that pack outsized performance into affordable packages. SRAM's Expanded Range GX Eagle and Shimano's Deore M6100 drivetrains are ideal for riders looking to cut cost without cutting corners. Both lack a few features when compared to top-end groups and they make due with more grams and less expotic materials, but each can be reliably thrashed day in and day out.
Related: SRAM GX Eagle Expanded Range Drivetrain Review
No brand wants to share a trophy, but both of these drivetrains are incredibly good. When you factor in the price, they're outstanding. SRAM has the edge in total range with its 10-52t cassette. Shimano has an advantage in shift performance under power, thanks to its Hyperglide+ technology.
Related: Shimano Deore M6100 12-speed explained
SRAM GX Eagle
More info: GX Eagle | SRAM
Price: $545 approx (will vary by build)
Shimano Deore M6100
More info: DEORE | SHIMANO BIKE COMPONENT
Price: $298 approx (will vary by build)
PNW Loam Dropper Post
PNW has quickly built a name for itself as a brand that does an impeccable job of balancing price with performance. The Loam dropper continues this tradition with a number of refinements that make it a category leader.
Related: PNW Loam Dropper Seatpost Review
Shaving grams, reducing stack height and offering adjustable travel in a seatpost that retails for hundreds of dollars less than competitors' dropper posts, many of which are heavier, longer, and don't offer adjustable travel, makes a clear and resounding argument for why the Loam should be your next dropper post.
More info: PNW Components dropper posts, handlebars, stems and bike accessories
Ergon GFR1 Grips
Contact points are all about personal preference. I prefer narrow grips without a lot of cushion. I want as much feedback from the front tire as possible to let me know when I'm about to loose grip.
Ergon's new GFR1 grips have a slim, 30mm profile and a soft, somewhat sticky rubber compound for a great hand feel and the right amount of tactile feedback (at least for me).
More info: Ergonomics for Cyclists · Ergon Bike
Fox 34 Grip 2 Fork
We're at a strange point in mountain bike design where short-travel bikes are longer and slacker than enduro rigs from two seasons ago. In my opinion, we've reached an inflection point where the geometry of these bikes has outpaced the capabilities of their suspension. Many lightweight forks lack the bushing overlap and damping that's really suited to the new breed of short travel trail bikes.
Related: Fox 34 Grip 2 Tuning Thread
The best fork I've ridden in the 120-140mm range is the Fox 34 Grip 2. Right now, I don't think it has a strong competitor. It offers the adjustability of the 36 and 38 series in a lightweight package. It also comes in orange, which looks great bolted to the front of my "Blue Steel" Ibis Ripley.
More info: Explore 34 Standard Mountain Bike Forks | FOX
There are lot of great short-travel bikes on the market today. Picking a favorite is tough, but I'll take a stab at it. The Revel Ranger is the bike I spent the most time on in 2020. There are lighter, more racey bikes in the "slightly more than XC" category. Cannondale's Scalpel SE and Specialized's Epic EVO come to mind. Despite this, the Ranger is hands-down the bike I would choose for stage races such as the Breck Epic or BC Bike Race. My rationale? I believe suffering through a mid-pack finish should be as enjoyable as possible.
Related: Revel Rolls Out "Brunch Ride" Edition Ranger
The Ranger is the type of cross-country whip I enjoy riding as an everyday bike. It's versatile enough cover most short-travel needs. Build it as an aggressive race bike with light wheels and pinner tires, or add trail tires, over-fork it, and enjoy getting in over your head. Look for a full review early next year.
REYR Gear First Cast Fly Rod
Here's a bonus item. I'll admit this one is a bit out of left-field. I used this year to renew socially-distanced hobbies. Specifically, my love of fishing. Colorado is filled with alpine lakes and mountain brooks. Having a fly rod that fits in a hydration pack or frame bag makes it easy to turn bikepacking trips into fishing expeditions.
On days where I've felt less ambitious, I've put the 6wt First Cast in the basket of my townie and cruised the bike paths in search of suburban fishing holes.
When stored, REYR First Cast fly rod measures just 17-inches long. It extends to 8.5-feet in a matter of seconds. Since the line runs through the rod, there's more friction than a traditional fly rod. This isn't the rod to reach for when casting for distance, but I couldn't care less. I've caught more trout with the REYR First Cast than the rest of my traditional (and much more expensive) fly rods combined simply because it's so convenient to use.
More info: REYR Gear
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