One Up Carbon Bar
Dialing back the discomfort of the 35-millimeter clamp diameter is not as easy as it sounds. The larger diameter builds stiffness, but the precise handling that’s gained is typically offset by a rather tooth-rattling ride quality. However, OneUp seems to have cracked the code. If you look closely you’ll notice that at the bends, the bar goes from round to oval. This helps allow the bar to flex vertically while remaining torsionally very stiff, giving the OneUp bars a ride quality like no other. On paper, that translates into 21 percent more vertical compliance and a 28-per- cent increase in steering stiffness—numbers you can certainly feel on the trail. At 800mm wide, they provide control to charge through the most technical terrain with confidence, and have you come out the other side with less fatigue than you would with a most other offerings. With the gold-standard 8 degrees backsweep and 5 de- grees up, it’s easy to feel comfortable from the first ride. Available with either 20mm or 35mm rise, these unique bars are right at home on anything from lightweight trail bikes to the beefiest enduro rigs.—Anthony Smith
Shimano XT 4-Piston Brakes
Mountain bike disc brakes are fussy little buggers, and while Shimano has made some of the most reliable brakes on the market, they’ve had problems, too. Even the newest XT four pistons aren’t perfect. The bleeding method is archaic compared SRAM’s, with a near 100 percent chance of the bleed hose popping off and spraying hydraulic fluid everywhere. Sometimes, you’ll get a brake that just doesn’t seem to want to pull consistently no matter what you try, and the finned pads rattle like mad until you go in and stretch the crap out of the pad springs. On top of all this, the power delivery isn’t ideal. Shimano brakes are grabby and power modulation can be tough. But, when you get a dialed set and give yourself some time to get used to them, all the little nitpicks instantly disappear because they’re so impressive. These things boast incredible power—way more than SRAM’s Code, a purpose-built downhill racing brake—and they resist heat fade better than pretty much anything else out there. On brake-boiling descents, the XTs will outperform Codes every single time. They’re easier to set up, bleed, adjust, and maintain than Magura’s MT7, which, from a pure braking-performance standpoint, might be preferred if the other attributes of the brakes weren’t so annoying. A good set of XTs are consistent, strong, quiet, and reliable, and in normal years, easy to get your hands on. This year, not so much. But on the whole, these have been our favorite brakes to pull throughout the past year.—Ryan Palmer
RockShox SID Suspension
SID is one of the most storied names in XC suspension, but it’s historically been at home on race courses and atop podiums, and well, that’s pretty much it. Then last year, along came the updated trio, the SID Ultimate fork, the SL fork and the new SIDLuxe shock, and it turned out to be the sneaker suspension for short-travel bikes (and not necessarily the kind only meant to go fast between the tape). The short-stroke shock is simple, with two compression settings, open or closed, but it’s light, ramps up quickly and is incredibly smooth for such a pinner offering. Pair it with the 120-millimeter-travel, 35mm-stanchion SID Ultimate fork, and you’ve got a crazy-light suspension set-up that feels way less harsh and way more supportive than what you might expect from a weight-conscious XC shock and fork. It’s no surprise that two of our favorite short-travel bikes of the past year, the Revel Ranger and the Transition Spur, both run on SID suspension. They’re both lively and poppy and incredibly capable descenders, especially for the chassis they’re built on, and this is in no small part because of their SID bits. Choosing XC suspension when you don’t race might seem like a pointless sacrifice in trail performance for the weight-savings reaped, but SID makes it feel like a no-compromise trade-off.—Nicole Formosa
RockShox Reverb AXS Dropper
After SRAM released its AXS wireless group in early 2019, one part of the electronic system swiftly rose to the top as a staff favorite and has stayed there ever since. While we may not all agree on the merits of electronic versus mechanical shifting, the RockShox Reverb AXS silenced any skeptics about the technology’s application for dropper seatposts. No cables, no hoses, no routing and the fastest engagement outside of an episode of “90 Day Fiancé.” You’ll pay for these benefits with a slight weight penalty, but for how fast and smooth this thing actuates, an extra 100 or so grams is worth it. Some of us have been riding the same seatpost for nearly two years now and it con- tinues to prove its placement on this list. The battery charge lasts for months, depending on the number of rides and thumb taps per ride. If you do let it run into the red and only realize that moments before you’re leaving the garage, even a few minutes of recharge provides enough juice for the day’s ride. The only downsides of the Reverb AXS are the fact that, currently, the longest-travel option is 170mm, and the cost, which at $800, is a tough pill to swallow, but not one you’re likely to regret. If a splurge is in the budget, we can’t endorse this upgrade enough.—N.F.
Specialized Power Saddle
Some of the products that made our list would have been impossible to imagine just a few years ago. SID suspension, and M8120 brakes are marvels of technology. The Specialized Power Comp saddle, on the other hand, is a bike seat. It’s just wider and shorter. Women’s-specific saddles have been that way for years. Make one without the turquoise pinstripe, and you’ve got the Power … right? Apparently not. How’s this for a marvel of technology: transcutaneous monitoring. Fancy, eh? Try sneaking that into your next Slack message. TCM is at least part of why we love the Power saddle. The short, flat nose and cartoonishly large cutout resulted from research on the effects that a saddle’s shape has on blood flow. Monitored, how else, but transcutaneously. The benefits of the shorter and wider shape were consistent across genders as well as riding disciplines. Originally built for aggressive road and tri positions, the Power concept naturally benefits those of us who spend most of our saddle time going uphill. It makes long rides more comfortable, and its seating position is farther forward than traditional saddles, effectively steepening the seat tube angle. This saddle doesn’t help us crush descents, but it does help us get up to them. Anything that makes climbing easier is a marvel of technology.—Travis Engel
Maxxis Assegai Tire
A product working fabulously well in conditions exactly opposite to what it was designed for could either be a very good or a very bad sign. In the case of Maxxis’ Assegai tire, it’s the former—and helps prove just how exceptional Greg Minnaar’s signature really is. Conceived as a dry-condition tire that would be at home on blown-out downhill tracks, it really does shine in its intended loose and sketchy terrain. We’ve ridden it on such trails across the parched American west and beyond, and have constantly been reassured (as well as more than occasionally saved) by the Assegai’s predictable, strong-cornering bite and tall, punchy center knobs that could find braking traction on a beach. We love that you don’t have to lay the bike way over to get turning grip, thanks to a much smaller transition zone between the center and side knobs. Basically, the Assegai serves up gobs of traction at any angle, especially when you get it with our favorite Maxx Grip rubber compound, which is offered in a few different casing thicknesses in both 27.5- and 29-inch diameters. It also, as hinted, manages to serve up traction on far wetter, rootier and slicker trail surfaces than what normally exists in Minnaar’s native South Africa, making it, in our opinion, an even better all-rounder than the classic DHF. Dare we call it the G.O.A.T.?—Satchel Cronk
Crankbrothers Synthesis Wheels
We waited almost an entire year after these wheels came out to review them. The fact that they brandished the Crankbrothers name made us skeptical. We actually know product managers at bike brands who’ve ridden them and agree that they are the best wheels out there, but still won’t spec them on their bikes because public opinion of Crankbrothers’ wheels is, let’s say, not strong. Which is entirely too bad, because these wheels feel incredible. We should say rims, since that’s really where the magic happens, and since rims are available for custom wheel builds. Crankbrothers hired a couple carbon wheel pioneers and gave them their own R&D lab in Utah in order to develop the Synthesis wheels. Part of what makes them so good is that they’re front and rear specific, with different hole counts, rim widths, and carbon layups to make the front more compliant, and the rear stiffer. The shape of the rim profile is flatter than most, allowing the rims to naturally flex vertically to dissipate energy from the trail, and giving the rider outstanding traction and control. The result is the most perfect mix of compliance, responsiveness, stiffness, weight, and durability we’ve seen in a wheel to date—and this is the first rim we’ve ridden that we can say outperforms aluminum rims on every metric. Oh, and you can’t beat the lifetime no-fault warranty either.—R.P.
Photos: Anthony Smith