Editor’s Note: Our 2015 Editor Choice Awards are out now in Dirt Rag Issue #188. But those items aren’t the only things we were impressed with this year. Here is a list of honorable mentions from our tech editor, Eric.
Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt BC Edition – $6,400
It hurt me not to give this bike my top pick. It is excellent in every sense of the word. As the bike of our recent One Bike Challenge (read all about that adventure), it handled bikepacking, downhill runs and a 100-mile race with more poise than I did. To top it off, it is one of the best handling, shorter-travel trail bikes I’ve had the pleasure of riding. If it has a weakness, it’s that there is just a single, $6,400 model. I’d love to see an aluminum frame version as well; the proletariat needs bikes like this, too.
Five Ten Guide Tennies – $130
To be clear, the Guide Tennies are not mountain bike shoes. They are what is known as “approach shoes,” which are a cross between a hiking shoe and a climbing shoe. They use 5.10’s well-known and well-loved Stealth rubber, which is as famous for sticking to crags as it is for sticking to pedals. I’ve ended up using these for a little bit of everything including a good bit of home remodeling, as evidenced by the layer of drywall dust and primer drips.
The sole can leave dark scuffs, and the solid rubber toe area is great for edging, not so much for scrambling up muddy hills. With a more lugged sole, these could be the bikepacking/adventure shoes I’ve been looking for. Still, the Guide Tennies have been a comfortable and versitile surprise and have relegated my 5.10 FreeRiders to the back of the closest for flat pedal use.
Acre Traverse – $165
Admittedly, these shorts look plain and the price tag is steep for a short that doesn’t include a liner. But this is a case of understated excellence.
Acre is the mountain bike arm of Mission Workshop, which is all about non-flashy performance gear that is mainly focused on the urban rider. The Acre lineup is small, with just seven pieces, and the Traverse is the only available short.
Much like a modern trail bike, the Traverse is capable of handling a wide range of riding, from multi-day bikepacking trips to laps at the bike park. The stretch nylon material is comfortable in a wide range of weather conditions and the short slits at the bottom of the leg openings allow these to settle neatly over kneepads while still keeping a nice silhouette when going without protection. A pair of zippered leg pockets work fine for cellphone storage but anything much heavier can get floppy when pedaling. A simple belt and taller waist in the rear keep the plumber’s crack at bay.
The shorts are crafted in the U.S.A. of American-made material, for those that find that important (you should). Said material sheds most trail detritus and has stood up to multiple rides without washing.
It is hard to explain just why these shorts are so good. They fit just right. They are just the right weight. They are sturdy but not too heavy. They don’t ride up or fall down. In a drawer full of expensive mountain bike baggy shorts, these are always, always, always the first to be pulled out for a ride. Acre cut the fluff and left just the good stuff.