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The Essentials

Nokian Tyres, the official tire partner of Mountain, brought their custom bike for us to “test.”

Nokian WR G4 SUV 

The Claim: “Specially designed for North American roads, the Nokian WR G4 SUV effectively combines high-performance all-season handling and reliable winter grip.”

Field Test: The crew at Mountain magazine have been Nokian believers for decades—mostly for their famed winter tires which we’ve run studded on full size pickups, sports sedans, and an old $500 Saab 900 I wish I still had. Because I live in Montana, where blizzards interrupt picnics and field sports well into May, I figured I’d try the brand’s all weather treads on the family SUV. We drove them on all manner of “American” roads—well worse “Western” roads—on dirt, gravel, busted up pavement, and smooth tarmac; in other words what we call mixed surfaces on the gravel bike. It rained, snowed, sleeted and got hot along the way.  

Verdict: The only time I ever got debilitatingly stuck in my life was when a mountain snowstorm caught me in the high country with worn summer tires. These grippy but fast rolling (and blissfully quiet compared to the studded snows) Nokians’ boost my confidence all year, but especially the shoulder seasons (April/May and October/November) when the weather can deliver anything. Credit for that goes to—as near as I can tell—an entirely unique asymmetrical tread pattern that simultaneously boosts traction while actively ejecting slush and snow outboard.  Pricing depends on tire size.  —Marc Peruzzi


Sierra Nevada shipped out enough beer for a younger crowd without kids, but we did our best to crush their crushables—especially the light, crisp, summery, Sierraveza which is styled after Mexican lagers, but offers just a hint of hops so you know it’s a California cerveza. 


Stio is a longtime Mountain partner famous for its winter apparel, but they kitted us out in their new mountain biking kits and shells. We were especially keen on the Hagen Trail Shirt (on sale now for $95), the OPR Short ($111), and the Second Light Windshell ($119). 

Honey Stinger always comes through with Organic Waffles (gluten rich and gluten free) and Organic Energy Chews, but this year they also sent their Organic Almond Butter Dark Chocolate Bars ($26.40 per dozen), but only the editor knows that since he ate them all before he got to Bend. 


Chamois Butt’r sent us their new Coconut Anti-Chafe cream ($18). It’s made with organic ingredients and somehow it’s even smoother and silkier than their original Butt’r. The new ingredients are also naturally antiseptic and proven not to irritate sensitive skin. We also dug the brand’s Skin Wash ($16), which is cleaner, lighter, and fresher than any similar product we’ve tried to date. Spray some on a towel back at the car post ride and you can stave off that shower till you get a burrito in your system. 


Tubolito Tubo-MTB 

It’s a bike tube, but it’s not fabricated from butyl or latex—it’s a weird thermoplastic elastomer originally developed for the tech industry. We run tubeless tires too, but in a pack, the Tubo-MTB 29er saves two-thirds of the space compared to a butyl equivalent and it cuts 100 grams. And that’s for Tubolito’s standard tube shown here, which the company claims is many times more puncture resistant than a standard tube as well. Tubolito’s S-Tubo version, which was designed only as a spare and which you store in a wee plastic bag, cuts still more size and weight. On long rides this reviewer now packs two Tublolito’s in the little frame bag shown here. $35


Ergon GE1 Evo Factory Handlebar Grips

They aren’t new to us, because, along with new tires, Ergon’s factory grips have been the upgrade of choice to any bike we’re running. The ergonomic part is more subdued than the brand’s original grips, but still effective. Our hands just naturally find a comfortable position and just the right amount of give on the outboard edges offers cushioning without a mushy feel. A single inboard bolt keeps them secure in all conditions. And the sticky rubber is far more durable than we initially expected—we’ve run one set for two years and they’re still perfectly fresh. $40


Hestra Bike Long Sr 

From our favorite maker of ski gloves comes a trail glove with breathable mesh on the back, synthetic suede palms, and touch screen material on the index and thumb. The oh-so-soft terry cloth on the outer thumb made these a favorite among our testers. $40 


Dakine Hot Laps Gripper Bag 

Anybody that’s ever raced a bike knows how free you feel when you aren’t carrying a hydration pack. Start mountain biking without one and it’s hard to go back. But how to pull it off? Put a bottle and a pump on your frame, a second bottle in your jersey, and tuck your tubes (see Tubolito review) and tools in Dakine’s Gripper Bag. Because you attach it to the frame, not the saddle, it doesn’t interfere with your dropper post, and it stays cleaner too. Empty it weighs about two ounces and it’s easy to find a good spot for it on most bikes. $22


Topeak Ratchet Rocket Lite NTX+ 

If one rider carries this kit on a group ride, everyone else can leave their multi tools at home. A tiny ratchet comes with a socket that adjusts to specific torque settings, and an eleven-piece collection of hex, torx, and phillips bits. Also includes a chain tool. It’s perfect for your travel kit too. $80


Pro Mini-Tool 15 

Once upon a time multi-tools sucked. Now there are a ton of great options. We like this 15-function alloy and chrome tool by Pro (a Shimano company) because it’s simple, tough, lightweight and small. Because its a late model tool, it features torx bits too. $35

Truck ZR glove

Durable yet supple goat skin leather with no seams in the palm eliminates pressure points; breathable mesh keeps hands cool. We found them equally suitable for big climbs and short enduro outings. But we really love the price. $24


Shimano XC7 Shoe 

Fast trail riders that don’t come off their bike much for hike-a-bike sections still benefit from lightweight and stiff XC shoes. But there’s no need to suffer from an overly narrow fit anymore. Shimano’s XC7 features a welcome roomy forefoot and instep, but from there back the Boa lace system locks the foot and ankle in place. One notch down from the brand’s World Cup shoe, you’ll be amazed at how much power is going to the pedal. $225


Pearl Izumi X-PROJECT ELITE Shoe 

They only weigh 6 grams more than Pearl’s P.R.O. version X-Project shoe, but they cost $75 less, feature more subdued styling, beefier uppers, and (our take) still more walkable soles. We have nine months in our test pair and they show no signs of failing. They’re lightweight enough to race in (376 grams), but they don’t fit like race shoes of old—the forefoot is roomy like a modern ski boot or running shoe. $275


Pearl Izumi X-ALP FLOW

With the advent of lappable flow and enduro trails, we’re seeing more folks running flat pedals these days. It’s inarguable they boost confidence. The flat pedal X-Alps take that a step further. Sticky siped rubber under the forefoot grips exceedingly well, and Pearl got the balance between walkalbilty and stiffness right. “I love the traction you get from the deep lugs in the toe and heel,” said a tester. $100


Northwave Clan Flat Pedal Shoe

The Italian shoemaker collaborated with French tire manufacturer Michelin to develop a sole with a tacky compound that offers an almost magnetic stick to wet pedals, and a tread pattern that grips well when walking on slick terrain. $150 


Dakine Syncline 12L Hydration Pack

A three liter lumbar reservoir keeps the water-weight low in the pack while providing room for tools, rain jacket, and slammie sandie up top for easy access. We also like the Syncline’s fleece-lined pouch for sunglasses, carrying straps for armor, loops to attach a helmet, bite valve shutoff, and a magnetic quick release on the hydration tube. $120

Poc Tectal Helmet

Built for the hard-charging trail and non-full-face helmet enduro crowd, Poc’s Tectal is loaded with safety features like aramid bridges (to keep the helmet intact in a crash) and a “unibody” shell design (to do more of the same). We like the generous coverage, especially at the nape of the neck, and the ample airflow at any speed. $190. 


Patagonia Nine Trails Pack 14L

Part of Patagonia’s new trail riding lineup, the Nine Trails pack is spacious enough for big backcountry tours and well organized enough for quick repairs. We found the shoulder straps comfortable and the ride secure—it doesn’t sway like many 2-liter hydration packs. $140

Smith Forefront 2 Helmet

The updated Forefront features still more Koroyd (that honeycomb polymer you’ve seen in skis) that in this case boosts protection. (Our take is that it offers some concussion cushioning that pure expanded polystyrene helmets do not.) Like most modern “all-mountain” lids, (it’s fine for trail and enduro riding) the new Forefront better integrates with goggles, and, naturally from Smith, the brand’s eyewear, like the new Attack MTB interchange system also show here. $190


Evoc Hip Pack Pro 3L

To make hip packs work for climbing you need to loosen them so they don’t impinge your breathing. But for descending you want to snug them up tight. All that happens with the pull of a string on the 3 liter Hip Pack Pro. We also like that you can run two bottles on the sides, or opt to run a 1.5 liter bladder. $115


Giro Montaro MIPS Helmet

This helmet has range. We found that it offers as much cooling airflow as an XC race helmet, but its styling covers the trail to enduro worlds. It’s also goggle compatible thanks to ingenius strap gripping molding around the rear vents, and comfortable, which wasn’t always the case with MIPS (that inner harness designed to shear in a crash) equipped helmets. $150


Sweet Protection Dissenter MIPS Helmet 

Sweet bills the Dissenter MIPS as a value play, which is nice because it’s fully featured and includes the MIPS system which shears in a rotating crash, theoretically slowing the deceleration of the brain. It’s also relatively lightweight (330 grams) and pretty damn stylish. $150


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