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Our Favorite Gear Reviews of 2021

The coolest stuff in a year when cool stuff was hard to come by

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There was a lot of cool stuff to talk about this year, and we tried to find interesting ways to talk about all of it. Here’s a brief highlight of some of our favorite things we covered in 2021.

Beta Editors’ Choice: Knipex TwinForce Diagonal Cutters

Get rid of your old cable cutters, there’s a new boss in town.


Ryan Palmer is known for his immaculate workshop full of all the best tools. Few are more prized than his lineup of Knipex (kuh-NEE-pecks) pinchy bits. And proudly in the middle are the TwinForce cutters. When snipping SIS housing, it’s nice to keep your hands from getting sore. And when cutting derailleur cable, it’s nice when it doesn’t fray. These German beauties make any task into a treat.

Long-Term Test: Is the Forbidden Dreadnought Inefficient?

Using a power meter to get to the bottom of this high-pivot craze


The first high-pivot bike in a year full of high-pivot bikes was the Forbidden Dreadnought. It opened our eyes to what the concept was capable of, but also to its drawbacks. They make a little extra noise and cause a little extra drag. But exactly how much  drag? We put a fancy power meter crank on the Forbidden Dreadnought and a Scott Ransom. We made sure those bikes and their rider were at very similar weights and on the same tires and wheels, and put each of them through 40,000 vertical feet of climbing. The results may surprise you.

Reviewed: Plus-Sized Men’s and Women’s Baggies and Liners

Five men’s and five women’s shorts and liners designed for larger riders, put to the test for fit, function and on-trail comfort.


Bike shorts are a tricky thing to do right, especially if you don’t have the body type that’s typically selected to model those shorts. We enlisted the help of two testers, each with a physique more representative of the general public than the idealized images we’re used to seeing, and had them test a stack of men’s and women’s shorts and liners, and cover the pros and cons of each.

Electric Chainsaw Versus Electric Sawzall

Battery-powered trail work cuts two ways


Here’s one aimed at those of us in the desert climates. If you live in the deep woods, chainsaws are king. But when your trailwork battles are with endlessly encroaching chaparral, maybe there’s another way? We took two lightweight electric trimmers for a spin during the late trailcutting season in Southern California, and in the right situation, we found a clear favorite.

Operation: Reasonable Compromise

Long Travel, Light Weight, Trail Smashable – seeking the holy trinity of trailbike happiness


For years, Mike Ferrentino, author of The Eloquent Hack column, has said that so many current bikes are more than he needs. They’re for shredders and huckers, and he claims to be neither. They’re also heavy and sluggish. But they’re also fun and forgiving. So Ferrentino set out to learn if he could totally ruin one of the best all-mountain bikes on the market by making it too light. He did. The hard part was finding the happy medium: the reasonable compromise.

Shimano Drivetrain

Beta Editors’ Choice: Sensible Shifts

Handpicking the most practical drivetrains.


The days of the ‘full XT’ bike are long over, at least for now. Some components can benefit from some bling, but others are happy slumming it. In this story from our premiere print issue, we itemize the drivetrains that we’d pick if we didn’t want to compromise on quality, but wanted to have some cash left over at the end. Both SRAM and Shimano get the full treatment here.

Our Favorite Bike From the Summer Beta Tests – The Privateer 141

Our testers rarely agree on anything, but this sleeper masterpiece took a unanimous win.


We couldn’t do a year-end round-up without including a Beta Tests video. And this was the one to include. Not only is the Privateer an amazing bike, it’s an amazing bike for less than half the price of the ones our testers personally own. The small U.K. brand used smart, future-proof geometry and pragmatic spec to make a bike that, somehow, feels capable of satisfying a seasoned pro and, as its name implies, a privateer.