10 products I loved in 2021: Mike Kazimer
Kavenz VHP 16
2021 has been a full year of high pivot bikes, and I’ve spent time on new options from Cannondale, Devinci, Norco, and Forbidden. The Kavenz VHP 16 got the party started last winter, and it ended up being one of my favorite bikes of the year.
I’m a huge fan of the raw aluminum tubing and the general industrial look of this VHP – there is something very appealing about its utilitarian appearance. The fact that Kavenz offers semi-custom geometry is a nice touch, allowing riders to get a dream machine welded together with their favorite numbers.
On the trail the VHP 16 was incredibly quiet and an absolute pleasure to ride on narrow, steep trails which just happens to be my favorite type of trail. It also offered a ton of grip, which tends to be rare here in the Pacific Northwest, especially when the ground is covered in a layer of slippery mud. Overall, Kavenz did a great job with their first bike, and it will be interesting to see what they come up with next.
Price: Price: â¬ 2,495 – frame only, no shock
More information: 77-store.com/Store/Kavenz
Troy Lee Designs Skyline Pants
I know there is nothing to see in the photo above, but just imagine it’s a photo of some of the most comfortable mountain biking pants out there. TLD’s Skyline Pants are lightweight and well ventilated, making them easy to wear except on the hottest days. The fit isn’t too loose or ridiculously tight, and there’s plenty of room to accommodate knee pads.
Personally, the main reason I started wearing pants as much as possible when riding was the ease of cleaning after the race. My fall and winter outings tend to be muddy most of the time, and with pants on, there’s no need to deal with muddy knee pads or trying to clean your legs before entering.
I also want to extend an honorable mention to POC’s Consort rain suits. Yes, they are crazy expensive. And yes, the fit could be less loose in some places and more comfortable in others. But you know what? These thoughts never even crossed my mind when I was on horseback during the atmospheric riverine events which have occurred with alarming regularity this year. Instead, I was very, very happy with my drought condition and how the design of the wetsuit kept mud and gravel from making its way through the back of my pants.
Price: $ 109 USD
More information: troyleedesigns.com
As fun as it is to ride big squishy enduro bikes, it’s nice to be able to mix it up with a quick little bike every now and then. This season it was the Transition Spur who took on this role, the bike I used for my longest rides of the year and for those hot laps after work where I wanted to cover as much ground as possible before the sunset.
I built it light enough without going overboard to make sure it can go down almost as well as it goes – yes, grams could be saved by ditching the Code brakes, or going for the Stepcast version of the Fox 34, but I hate being under-braked, and the Grip2 damper in this fork works great.
After a full season of use it is still going strong and there are still plenty of muddy miles in the future this winter. I’ll probably swap the tires for something with a little more meat to deal with the slop, but otherwise there’s nothing else to change – there’s a reason this ended up on my list of favorite things.
Price: $ 3,199 USD (frame only)
More information: transitionbikes.com
It looks like there’s a small theme to this list, and that involves finding traction on steep, loose trails. For this task, the new Maxxis Shorty is one of my top choices. The revised version is more predictable on hard sections of track (think rocky slabs and roots), with plenty of grip for loose terrain, whether it’s mud or dust.
As I wrote in the review, “the Shorty kicks in when the mud gets deep enough to overwhelm the Assegai – its square knobs and more open profile allow it to continue digging after the Assegai has retreated. . ” For me, the Shorty is constantly used from October to April, then takes a break during the drier summer months. A short season means you focus less on speed and more on staying on the bike, and even that can be a challenge at times.
I love those perfect summer days as much as anyone, but I also take a little kinky fun going out in wet, nasty conditions just to see what happens. More often than not, a good time ensues despite the gloomy and gloomy weather.
Price: $ 83 to $ 100 USD
More information: maxxis.com
Silky Big Boy 2000 Folding Saw
Not only does this folding saw have one of the best model names in the industry, but it also cuts incredibly well thanks to its 14 “blade. I couldn’t find any human powered option that cuts easier or faster. , which is why the Silky usually makes its way into my bag after a big storm, just in case I run into a purge that needs to be taken care of.
I also got myself an electric chainsaw this year, the Ego Power + 18. This saw came in handy for the big stuff, but the Big Boy is the most useful because of its ease of transport and that it’s almost imperceptible when it’s in my bag.
Price: $ 75
More information: Silkysaws.com
Schwalbe Big Betty
The Big Betty returned to assert its rights in the Schwalbe lineup this year, where its solid braking performance and longevity earned it a spot on my favorites list. No, it’s not the lightest or fastest option out there, but I’m willing to overlook those features due to this beefy tire’s ability to sink in and hold when the going gets tough.
Price: $ 94 USD
More information: schwalbetires.com
2FO Roost Specialty Shoes
For years, it seemed that Five Ten’s grip on the sticky rubber market couldn’t be broken. Stealth rubber has become the benchmark against which all other flat pedal shoe sole compounds are compared, and for good reason. Recently, we’ve finally seen a few options emerge that are up to, if not stickier, than what Five Ten has to offer. For the record, I lucked out with the Five Ten shoes, it’s just that part of me that worried about what I would do if they ever left the mountain biking world. This isn’t exactly a reason for losing sleep at night, but it was still a concern that ran through my mind every now and then.
With the introduction of the Specialized 2FO Roost shoes, I’m no longer worried. The SlipNot SuperTacky rubber is actually sticky and the high hex dropouts provide plenty of traction, even on very high pinless pedals. I’m not totally convinced with the suede finish on this particular model, but they held up quite well, although I had to use a dab of Shoe Goo to patch up a delamination on one of the toes. It seems to have done the trick and allowed me to put them back into regular rotation.
I’m sure Specialized has more options in the works, and now that the sticky rubber code has been cracked, I can’t wait to see what else will be released. Fingers (or toes) crossed so that a model with a lace blanket and a slightly higher inner cuff is in the works …
Price: US $ 120
More information: specialized.com
Oh Canada, how I missed you. One of the reasons I moved to Washington was to be as close to Whistler as possible, which made the border closure in 2020 a tough pill to swallow. In early summer 2021 I started to think I had to come to terms with the concept of another summer without any A-Line or Dirt Merchant tours … but things finally started to change.
The border restriction eased and I was able to get over it to start making up for lost time. The North Shore, Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton – it was amazing to be able to find those ripple areas again in the rotation.
Hoping that things continue to return to some form of normalcy. Bentonville, AK can claim it’s the mountain biking capital of the world, but for me British Columbia is the rightful owner of that crown – I’ve never ridden anywhere else that can convince me otherwise. .
Books & Music
Last year I had Robert Caro’s The power broker on my list, and I was amazed at the number of people who contacted me to tell me that they had read, or really wanted to read this book. It turns out that reading is not totally dead, which makes me very happy. This year I continued my Caro kick and completed the first volume of his massive Lyndon B. Johnson biography, The path to power, which is also on my Recommended Reading List. Some of my other favorites from this year, in no particular order, included:
West with the night, Beryl Markham
Beyond, Stephen Walker
Hidden Valley Road, Robert Kolker
Homesickness for another world, Ottessa Moshfegh
Lunar moon, Michel Chabon
My dream job (other than the one I already have) is to be a correspondent for NPR’s All songs considered – I’d happily listen to new music all day and then discuss it on a podcast. There was no lack of good music this year in all genres. Mdou Moctar has appeared many times and recently I was kicked with 200 stab wounds. I’m usually not the greatest death metal out there, but this Ohio-based band absolutely rocks. Plus, not only do they have an amazing band name, but their albums have titles like Piles of purulent decay – I can appreciate their dedication to the genre.