Ring in the holiday season with the best bike travel gear for road and trail. This year's guide highlights our testers' favorites from 2016 as well as new products we've spent time on this fall. Browse the categories to find the perfect gift for yourself, but first check out our top picks from the year.
Here are the requisite disclosures: I bought this bike from Trek with my own money but at a sweetheart of a deal they offered because of my job. Has that colored my opinion of this thing? Who cares. Who cares about the weird wheel size (29+, really?), who cares about the lack of suspension, the MUCH too tall 32x36 low gear, or the entirely lackluster Sun Ringlé wheels. Notice there are no question marks on those last two sentences. That’s because I don’t care who cares — this is quite simply the best bike I’ve ridden in years.
For pure bikepacking, the main triangle is a little small, but if you’re willing to travel light in exchange for a bike that’s a grin a minute, I’d take this sea foam screamer over just about anything else. Beyond the 29+ wheel size (the industry seems to have mostly agreed on 27.5+ as the “plus” platform of choice), there are some quirks: the rear hub uses the new 148mm “Boost” standard, but the front is old-school 100mm spacing, which means any wheel upgrade is going to demand a new fork or a custom build. And for any kind of a load — heck, for any kind of hill — the gearing is too high. But $100 for a new chainring and a 40- or 42-tooth rear cog would fix that problem. My only real gripe is the BB92 pressfit bottom bracket: I’d much prefer a standard threaded. It’s been trouble free so far, but these things can be creak factories.
Those parts, though — along with the kind of components you get for $1,700 — add up to something more. This bike is a laugh riot. It’s steep, like the mountain bikes I used to ride in the ’90s. There is enough traction thanks to those three-inch Bontrager Chupacabras to make previously unclimbable hills a no-brainer and cause new lines to magically appear on descents. The traction is so immense that I’ve found my riding style evolving to take advantage, with more time spent at low RPMs out of the saddle simply because … I can.
I was a skeptic. I’d ridden fat bikes, skinny bikes, and more tires than I care to remember on road and trail. And because of that insane amount of options, I’m always loath to embrace the concept of a “quiver killer” bike, a single steed for everything. I’m embarrassed to tell you how many bikes hang in my garage, but for the riding I do around western Montana, if that garage caught fire tomorrow I’d run in to save the cheapest one among them. I love this bike. –AS
Note: This exact spec is no longer available; the current Stache 5 has a suspension fork and goes for $1,790 — still a screamin’ deal.
Shifting a mountain-bike drivetrain with dropbar shifters isn’t always easy. Bar-end shifters help but aren’t as convenient as brake/shift levers. SRAM makes things easier, but if you’re a Shimano fan, pairing 10- or 11-speed road shifters with mountain-bike derailers has been virtually impossible. Lindarets’ Tanpan — made in collaboration with Wolf Tooth — is a fantastic workaround. The Tanpan uses a pulley system to change the shift actuation rate, allowing a rider to successfully mate Shimano road shifters to a mountain drivetrain. After more than a thousand miles using one, the Tanpan has delivered consistent shifting despite river crossings, mud, and dust. If you’re looking for lower gearing on your touring bike, or you want to try a 1x system on your gravel bike, the Tanpan may be just what you’re looking for. –NL
Bikepacking bags were originally produced by industrious cyclists who paid attention in home economics class. These bags enabled riders to tackle more technical riding and save weight in the process. With more bag makers entering the fray each year, it was a welcome sight when Ortlieb did so. The German brand brings thoughtful design and perfect execution to all its waterproof bags, and its bikepacking series is no exception. We tested the Seat Pack, Handle-Bar Pack, and Accessory Pack over a week on the Great Divide, and they handled the heat, cold, rain, and even July snow in Montana with ease. The attachments for all the bags are stable and stay tight even during off-road riding. All are completely waterproof, which brings real peace of mind to the traveling cyclist who relies upon the contents of his or her bags to stay safe during inclement weather. While certainly not the only player in the bikepacking bag game, Ortlieb definitely delivers a blow to established brands in this segment. –NL
Year after year, I’ve been impressed with Garmin’s Edge GPS cycling computers, and one of the latest additions to the Edge series is the Explore 820. Don’t be fooled by its size: the 2.3-inch high-resolution touch-screen display is easy to view and, like many of their past touch-screen models, can be used in the rain and with gloves. Aside from loading, tracking, and sharing rides, the 820 is packed with some of Garmin’s latest features. This includes GroupTrack, which allows you to keep tabs on the location of your riding partners in case you get split up. It’s also compatible with Garmin Varia devices, such as Varia Smart Lights and Rearview Radar. Keeping in line with their focus on safety features, the Edge Explore 820 also comes loaded with incident detection, which, as the name suggests, detects accidents using an internal accelerometer. In the event of an incident, it will send your map location to an emergency contact of your choosing. –JT
Silca, the legendary Italian pump brand that nearly went extinct in 2012, is fortunately still kicking, and from the looks of its new lineup, I’m glad it is.
As a person of Italian descent, I often make fun of the peninsula’s products. So many of them are designed with beauty as the foremost consideration and functionality second (or maybe third of fourth!). This is not the case with the SuperPista. It is constructed of all metal parts and functions beautifully. The valve accommodates both Presta and Schrader valves, the pumping action is very smooth (55 strokes to fill a Geax Evolution 29er to 35 psi), and it is incredibly stable when in use. And, yes, the pump is a thing of beauty!
Believe it or not, the SuperPista is not the most expensive floor pump in Silca’s lineup, but I can’t imagine the higher-priced Ultimate version offers much more value. Of course cost, price, worth, and value are terms that the purchaser of any good must calculate for themselves. The SuperPista is an item to be appreciated regardless of whether any other floor pump can serve the same function at a lower cost, the same way a Bentley can be appreciated regardless of whether a Subaru serves essentially the same purpose. Okay, enough Econ 101. The rest I’ll leave to you. But if you do buy one, I’d bet that it’ll be working perfectly fine 20 years hence. Long an Italian family business, Silca is now an American company and the pumps are manufactured in Indiana! –MD
|Alex Strickland is the editor-in-chief of Adventure Cyclist and held out running tubeless long enough to become very adept at changing flat tires.||Nick Legan is a former pro mechanic and shop owner and is the technical editor of Adventure Cyclist.||Cassie Nelson is the lead designer for Adventure Cyclist — and the only one of the bunch whose style can be trusted.||Mike Deme is the executive editor of Adventure Cyclist and knows how to change the oil in a Rohloff.||Dan Meyer is a former Marine Corps mechanic, we think that's all that needs to be said. (He's also the new products coordinator for Adventure Cyclist.)|