As 2021 comes to a close, I've been thinking back to the products that I appreciated most this year. While I'm a sucker for high-end bikes and components, I also appreciate a good value and 2021 was a great year for trickle-down tech. Here's a look back at the best bikes and gear I rode this year.

Ibis Ripley AF
Bicycle Tire Wheel Bicycles--Equipment and supplies Bicycle frame
When I tested the Ibis Ripley AF at the start of 2021, I wrote that it might just be the best entry-level trail bike on the market. I still stand behind this statement. It's an efficient pedaler and confident descender that combines the best elements of the carbon version into an affordable package. The Ripley AF is a great option for riders who are hard on their gear and wary of carbon.

Related: Ibis Ripley AF review

I've recommended the Ripley to dozens of novice riders looking to graduate from budget hardtails to their first full-suspension mountain bikes. Prices have inflated since it launched, but I still don't think there's a better option for the money.

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Vittoria Syerra Tires
Bicycle Wheel Bicycles--Equipment and supplies Tire Crankset
As we end 2021, the downcountry trend shows no signs of slowing down. Frankly, I don't want it to. I've had more fun riding these light and playful short-travel bikes than any other genre in recent memory.

Related: Vittoria Launches Syerra Downcountry Tire

Vittoria's purpose-built downcountry tires strike a great balance of grip, efficiency and durability. Even if you're not a fan of the term "downcountry" there's a lot to appreciate about the Syerra. The 29x2.4-inch size is great for everyday riding. It's an excellent training tire for cross-country racers and if Vittoria ever comes out with a slightly narrower, 2.2-inch version in a lighter casing it will be a phenomenal race tread.

I'm still testing a pair for long-term review and they're going strong.

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POC Devour Sunglasses
Glasses Helmet Bicycles--Equipment and supplies Bicycle helmet Vision care
POC's Devour Sunglasses have been my go-to riding shades this year. They may look goofy for casual use (which isn't the point), but they're great for mountain bikers who want the full coverage of goggles with better ventilation and less bulk. They have an absolutely massive field of view and feature an interchangeable lens.

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Rapha Trail Pant
Bicycle Bicycles--Equipment and supplies Tire Wheel Bicycle frame

Rapha jumped headfirst into mountain bike apparel this year and they seem to be doing a lot of things right. Construction quality is excellent, pricing high but not exorbitant as one might expect from the premium roadie brand, and best of all, Rapha includes fabric patches for when (not if) you take a tumble and need to repair your torn shorts, jersey or pants. This last feature is one that every other cycling apparel company should learn from and follow suit.

The Windblock Jersey is a personal favorite as is the new Trail Pant. The Trail Pant is slim but not restrictive with just the right amount of stretch and a DWR finish that comes in handy during stream crossings and light showers. In my opinion, too many mountain bike pants get the pockets wrong. They either include standard hand pockets, which are great for casual, off-the-bike use, but poorly positioned for carrying anything while riding, or they forego standard pockets for zippered trail rear-facing trail pockets that are great for carrying a snack or smartphone but not ideal for casual use, Rapha includes both.
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Fox Mainframe Helmet
Bicycle helmet Helmet Sports equipment Peripheral Input device
I've come to view helmets as disposable items that I replace every season. Regardless of whether I've crashed or not, I know that sun, sweat and transport take their toll on the EPS foam lining. With that in mind, I've really come to appreciate budget-friendly helmets that don't skimp on protective features. The Fox Mainframe ticks off all the boxes for me: great fit, good ventilation, and a MIPS liner for well under $100.

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What about you? What were the best mountain bike products you used in 2021?