This is Dirt Rag’s second year doing an official “Editor’s Choice.” With editorial staff of all shapes and sizes, spread out all over the country, we can’t just pick one product per category and call it the best.
Also notice our timing. While we could do this in the early spring, how much ride time do you think those early season awards are based on, if any at all? Waiting until the end of the year allows us to consider all the products we’ve used.
And finally, notice not all these products have been reviewed (some we’ve shelled out our own money for), nor are they all from our advertisers. We’re doing our best to be honest with our selections here, and each one is deserving of its award on its own merits. While you can buy us a beer, you can’t buy our editors.
Electronic shifting? I can hear the purists and singlespeeders scoffing, pointing and cursing my name, but the unequivocal fact is this drivetrain works with absolute perfection. It’s been a few years since I’ve had a double chainring on a personal bike, yet with top-notch shifting from the auto Syncro Shift I barely notice it’s not a single—it’s that smooth, with no front shifter to fiddle with.
With almost a year of abuse, through the tail end of winter, a wet spring and a dusty summer I have never adjusted, tweaked or fiddled with it once. That’s the biggest takeaway: truly maintenance-free performance without frayed cables, corroded housing, water freezing the line or worrying about funky routing hampering shifting. Battery life is also longer than claimed, so I hardly think about that either.
Shimano Di2 XTR isn’t in everyone’s wheelhouse and it’s not meant to be, but the concept and performance is groundbreaking. Because of that it gets my choice and is certainly here to stay.
More info: bike.shimano.com
Price: Varies, but serious $$$. If you have to ask…
Tech EditorOther than good tires, a dropper post is the best upgrade you can make to your bike. The Fall Line is the best dropper I’ve used in 2015, and as long as it remains reliable it’ll be the best I’ve ever used.
The Fall Line is cutting-edge because its design is the first mechanically locking dropper with infinite adjustment. It also has a sweet remote that can be run horizontally or vertically on either side of the bar. And two offset choices: 0 mm or 25 mm along with internal routing with tool-free cable removal for packing or sharing the post between various bikes. And it never, ever needs to be bled.
All that, plus it’s made in Canada and costs less than most high-end droppers on the market. I hope 9point8 sells a million of these things.
More info: 9point8.ca
Contributing EditorAside from some early misadventures, I’ve ridden Time clipless pedals for what seems like an eternity. Sure, SPDs are great and they’ve been around forever, but once you commit to a pedal system and pick up a few pairs, it sure is hard to switch.
I signed on to review these SPD-cleat-compatible trail pedals from VP and switched over some cleats. With both the stock VP cleats and some old Shimano ones they have a positive engagement and a crisp, quality feeling when unclipping. I’ve moved them from bike to bike for the most part of the year, and they’ve never loosened, squeaked or complained one bit. The large platform is just the ticket for a secure feeling underfoot, as more of your shoe is in contact with the pedal.
I may not be ready to toss all my Time pedals in the recycling bin, but the VP VX Adventure Race pedals are good enough to find a permanent spot on one of my bikes and a pair of SPD cleats on my favorite shoes.
More info: vp-usa.com
Former Art DirectorStrength, weight and price. That’s the trifecta, and it’s been said that you can only have two of the three. So with a $2,850 base price it should be no surprise which two are finishing first and second.
While the hubs and spokes are machined by I9 in North Carolina, the carbon rims are made by Reynolds Cycling, of Utah. Rim profiles and layups are designed to maximize lateral stiffness but maintain controlled vertical deflection. The 32 spoke holes are angled to minimize stress and promote long-term durability. The hookless bead walls allow for a slightly increased internal rim width. At 24 mm they aren’t super wide, but the bead walls are formed using a continuous fiber wrap around the top of the wall, which increases strength and impact resistance. Without a bead hook, it’s counterintuitive how secure and burp-free the tire is. Setup was easy, and I’ve had no issues.
This wheelset is ’spensive, but I9 hubs are my favorite. They’re precisely machined with a 120-point, three-degree engagement. They’re compatible with everything, and there are several colors for a custom look, but which will cost you an additional upcharge. I even like the freehub sound. There’s no need for a bell on the crowded weekend trails.
More info: industrynine.net
General Manager and Photographer
SRAM has earned significant market share and popularity with its single-ring drivetrains for good reason. These drivetrains offer enough gearing range for most situations, greatly simplify bike setup and perform incredibly well.
Last year, Dirt Rag Editor-in-Chief Mike Cushionbury awarded SRAM’s X01 drivetrain his Editor’s Choice honors because it offered similar performance to the flagship XX1 group at a reduced cost. With GX1, SRAM has again significantly cut the price of entry to 1×11 ownership.
Sure, the GX 1×11 group gains a little weight, but it retains all of the performance benefits from its pricier siblings. Shifting might be ever so slightly less crisp than XX1 or X01, but I wouldn’t bet on being able to discern a difference if blindfolded. If I were building a bike or planning to buy a new one, I’d be targeting GX 1×11 for certain. This is the pinnacle of the current performance-to-value ratio right now.
More info: sram.com