Iwan's Gear of the Year 2016

In review of 2016, Iwan Kemp looks at the best bikes and gear that he rode last year.

XC Bike of the Year


Scalpel Si Carbon 3

 

When the new Scalpelwas announced it was clear that Cannondale wasn't trying to play it safe or please the masses. They set out to develop and build the fastest possible XCO / XCM / XCX racing machine and they did a mighty fine job.

 

Posted Image

 

That it is fast is undisputed, but more importantly is the ease with which it handles its new-found speed.

 

Read the full Scalpel Si review here.

 

Notable mentions


Silverback Sesta

 

You can always trust the underdogs to take on the big boys. I think it's safe to say that Silverback have established themselves as an honest player in the bike market. With bikes spanning most genres, they certainly have grown up since their humble beginnings. The Sesta is living proof.

 

Silverback Sesta.jpg

 

The Sesta is a great bike that can run with the big boys while leaving you with some change.

 

The long wait for the Sesta has been worth it. Silverback have created a polished dual suspension carbon race bike.

 

Read the full Silverback Sesta review here.

 

Pyga Stage

 

One of earlier XC / Marathon bikes with contemporary geometry. Long, low, and slack with great pedalling manners. I only had it for a couple of days (Admin reviewed this one), but that was enough for it to show its true colors.

 

Posted Image

 

The Pyga Stage offers a delicate balance of race focussed performance and more progressive trail capabilities. All in all a highly versatile package which can see you comfortably through a marathon stage race and still keep you smiling on a weekend trail ride with mates.

 

Read the full Puga Stage review here.

 

Trail Bike of the Year


Evil The Following

 

Many times throughout the year I found myself looking at images of Evil's The Following. It is arguably one of the best-suited bikes for local conditions and more than enough bike for most riders. With its bang up to date geometry, great pedalling manners, and rider-friendly handling, The Following deserves its time on our trails.

 

Posted Image

 

I would argue that it is light enough for any of our stage races, yet capable enough to huck all but the blackest of black routes on local soil. Having returned it after our review period, I got to ride it again later in the year and immediately felt comfortable. It was a bit like finding your favourite pair of jeans at the back of your cupboard. It just felt right. Fast, good looking, capable, and fun. What's not to like?

 

With all that said, what sums it up best for me is the fact that after all the bikes we rode this year, including all the excellent bikes we rode in 2015, this is the one I would like to have parked in my garage the most.

 

I would happily dive in head first myself and say that as far as Trail / All Mountain bikes go, this is one of the best I've slung a leg over and one of the most well-rounded 29er bikes I've ridden yet.

 

Read the full Evil The Following review here.

 

Notable Mentions


Scott Spark 940

 

I only recently got to spend some time on Scott's new Spark and even though it sits closer to a pure trail bike, it certainly is capable and fun once dialled in.

 

Posted Image

 

The Spark is as fun as many bikes with much more travel but retains the efficiency of a short travel bike. The Spark is a great example of just how good the combination of modern mountain bike suspension and geometry is today.

 

Read the full Scott Spark review here.

 

Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt 750 MSL

 

Let's hear it for 27.5" bikes! Looking back now, I think it's safe to say that the Thunderbolt would not have scored as high on my fun-o-meter if I had ridden the The Following before it, but that's not quite fair to the Rocky. It is a super fun bike that wants to pushed hard all day long and will reward you for it. The Following and Spark are perhaps better all-rounders thanks to the bigger wheels and the rolling they bring. Having said that, if your focus is more on fun than distance, the Thunderbolt will do just fine.

 

Posted Image

 

If it was a car the Thunderbolt would be a pocket rocket - punching above its weight class and bringing sport car performance to an everyday car. The GTI of mountain bikes.

 

Read the full Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt review here.

 

Products of the Year

 

SRAM Eagle Drivetrain

 

They gave us the Pike, they gave us the Reverb dropper post, and then 1x11 drivetrains. Then they launched the 12 speed Eagle drivetrains and with it a broad enough spread in gear ratios to put the final nail in the 2x drivetrain's coffin.

 

Shifting is everything one would expect from a top of the range groupset, and with the option to buy an upgrade kit only, there are few reasons not to go 12-speed when the time comes to replace your current groupset.

 

Posted Image

 

For those looking to upgrade to 1x or to replace their current worn XX1 or X01 11-speed groupsets, with the greater range of gears offering a true benefit out on the trails, it would only make sense to go Eagle.

 

Read our first ride review of SRAM Eagle here.

 

Specialized Power Saddle

 

The Power saddle has ruined most other saddles for me. Before the fateful day that I tried a Power saddle for the first time, my sitting area was happy with most saddles. I've always preferred low-profile saddles with a slight raise towards the rear and a cut-out or relieve channel running down the middle. The Specialized Power ticked all those boxes, but managed to throw in a stubby nose and a fit and feel like a glove.
Since then a Power saddle has been fitted to my hardtail all mountain bike, trail 29er, and road bike. I can't bear riding without one.

 

Posted Image

 

The Power Pro offered great support and comfort on all the bikes it was tested on regardless of position and has become my saddle of choice.

 

Read the full Specialized Power Saddle review here.

 

Oakley Jawbreaker sunglasses

 

I love these. I love the fit, the tech, the quality and most of all how they disappear once on your face. Coverage is great with excellent field of view and ventilation. No corners were cut and no compromises made in the design and manufacture of these.

 

Posted Image

 

Fit, features, comfort and the quality of the optics are all outstanding, cementing Oakley's reputation as a premium manufacturer.

 

Read the full Oakley Jawbreaker review here.

 

Other notable mentions are ODI's Rogue Grips and DVO's Diamond fork.

 

I will remember 2016 for ...


Capable 29ers


The year 29ers decided to rather go big than go home. Evil's The Wreckoning & The Following, Santa Cruz Hightower(full review to follow soon) and Pyga Stage Max all showed that 29ers have arrived in a big way. Thanks to boost and the advent of 1x drivetrains, bike designers and manufacturers have found ways to make chainstays shorter and shorter and crank the fun factor of these once called wagon wheelers to eleven.

 

Posted Image

 

I'm not sure what the future holds for all the different wheel sizes and how each will finally be pitched but what I do know is you no longer need a smaller wheel size to play in the twisties.

 

E-bikes


For me, 2016 will also be the year of the Specialized S-Works Turbo Levo FSR 6Fattie. The way it rides (like a mountain bike), the integration of the motor, battery and other bits that make this an e-bike. The app that lets you "tune" the "e" in the e-bike sets it apart from other offerings currently on the market. With the Levo range, Specialized gave us a pedal assist bike that can be fussed about for just how good a mountain bike it is when out on the trails.

 

Posted Image

 

In the Levo, Specialized have not only built an e-bike. They have taken their time to re-think and develop the platform to deliver a product that takes full advantage of available technology. With the advent of apps and the smartphone computer in your pocket, it makes complete sense to go the full monty, instead of simply strapping a motor to a bike.




17 Comments

nickc, Jan 04 2017 06:17

Always enjoy reading your reviews Iwan !!!

cpelser, Jan 04 2017 07:03

Reading this I just get jealous! Awesome :P

Grease_Monkey, Jan 04 2017 08:33

I wish my job was to play with all these nice toys!! Haha good review!

shaper, Jan 04 2017 08:48

Tough Job!!

Simon123, Jan 04 2017 11:36

Jawbreakers "disappearing" on your face?  

 

No man, you gotta have got those for free to say that.

Iwan Kemp, Jan 04 2017 04:48

Jawbreakers "disappearing" on your face?  

 

No man, you gotta have got those for free to say that.

 

From the inside out, yes. Not so much outside in!

Patchelicious, Jan 04 2017 05:54

From the inside out, yes. Not so much outside in!


Wearing Jawbreakers is like living in a house that's only painted in the inside.

LOOK695, Jan 04 2017 05:59

And nothing for us roadies๐Ÿ˜•๐Ÿ‘Ž

Iwan Kemp, Jan 04 2017 06:02

And nothing for us roadies

 

There will be at the end of this year. Thing is even though I rode and reviewed some roadie stuff there weren't enough per "category" to justify a pick. 

 

To note: Power saddle and Oakley's did make the list

Patchelicious, Jan 04 2017 06:09

And nothing for us roadies๐Ÿ˜•๐Ÿ‘Ž

Iwan obviously works for the PPA

'Dale, Jan 04 2017 07:00

Jawbreakers = sweisbrille ๐Ÿ˜ˆ

(Deon), Jan 04 2017 08:07

Iwan obviously works for the PPA

oh, that's low..

Duane_Bosch, Jan 05 2017 01:40

Get the Pure Savage boys to to some roadie reviews.

Iwan Kemp, Jan 06 2017 11:19

Jawbreakers = sweisbrille

 

saganspeedcraft-583x768.jpg

Boerklong, Jan 06 2017 11:21

Iwan obviously works for the PPA

Eina

Captain Fastbastard Mayhem, Jan 06 2017 11:34

Iwan obviously works for the PPA

Pie Purveyors Anonymous. 

Iwan Kemp, Jan 06 2017 11:46

Pie Purveyors Anonymous. 

 

homerpie.png