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Neil’s Mountain Bike Indispensables.

Neil’s Mountain Bike Indispensables.
I’ve spent a lot of money over the years on Mountain Bike kit and components. Not all of it proved a wise investment. I bought a few turkeys in my time, so I’ve put together a little list of the things that I have found to be indispensable in recent years. I appreciate that many of them are quite high-end products but for me it is value for money that counts and everything here has proven itself over and over again for bombproof long-term reliability. 
The all important contact points:

Renthal Carbon Fatbars. These have been a revelation. I’ve used a variety of carbon bars over the last few years, starting with an Easton EC90 – 685mm – before moving on to an Easton Haven – 711mm – when I wanted something a little wider and more aggro for trail riding; both were excellent. When the Renthal’s hit the market they were an overnight sensation. I waited a few months to make sure there wasn’t any reliability issues and then took the plunge. Unwittingly I actually bought the wrong ones! I intended to buy the Carbon Fatbar-Lite which are 740mm but I mistakenly bought the 780mm wide Fatbar and I didn’t even realise this for quite some time. I’m glad that I did though. The 740mm Lite’s would be a bit more user friendly in some of the tight & twisty woodland trails but I won’t be swapping them now. Carbon is comfortable and absorbs some of the vibration from rough trail. The Fatbars are rock solid and the control advantages of the wider bar are perfect for the type of riding that I favour on rocky natural terrain. Man-made Trail Centres are a blast.
I have the 10mm rise version on my Hardtail and a 20mm riser on my Full-Suspension bike.

Renthal Carbon Fatbar 780mm

Fizik Gobi XM K:ium saddle. The most comfortable saddle I have used. It takes three or four rides to bed one in then you can’t do without it, particularly if you ride longer distances than the average 20 miler. It’s got a long nose and a nice slidey surface for those long and technical climbs. Prior to this I used the popular SDG Bel-Air and they were OK but just not quite right. Definitely worth considering if you are a bit of a marathon rider.

Rockshox Reverb dropper seatpost. There’s not much to say about droppers really. Trail riding has never been so much fun since they appeared on the market! I’ve only used Reverbs and they are ace. Hydraulic disc brakes, good suspension, and dropper seatposts, have revolutionised Mountain Biking.

Fizik Gobi saddle mounted on a Rockshox Reverb dropper seatpost.

For the times I don’t use a dropper an Easton EC90 carbon seatpost is the next best thing. I ride a lot in Nepal and the trail surfaces can be brutal on your bum! A carbon seatpost makes all the difference.

DMR Vault pedals. Awesome grip, huge platform, low profile, lots of lovely colours, and dead easy to service at home. Actually brilliant.

DMR Vault pedals and a Hope Bashguard.

ODI Ruffian Lock-On grips. These are amazing. Super-sticky grips that actually gets stickier as they wear! A pair of these will last ages and when they’re done you can buy replacement grips and re-use the locking clamps which saves money. Bonus.

The Hardware.

Shimano XT. Drivetrain and brakes. Brilliant, well engineered, reliable, affordable. 
XTR might be the flagship range but XT is my go-to.
If you can afford it or you’re racing at a level where every ounce counts go for XTR. If you live in the real world then XT is just as good, harder wearing and half the price. The only tangible difference to most of us is the weight.
And let’s be honest how many of us can notice a discernible difference in shifting between an XTR cassette and an SLX cassette? I can’t.

Superstar Components – Sintered Disc Brake Pads. Hard wearing, long lasting, dirt cheap. £23.00 for four pairs. The trick with sintered pads is to temper them before use. Fit the pads, ride up and down squeezing them on and off about 40 times to heat them up, then quench with cold water. I’m fairly sparing with the brakes and a set of these pads can last me for months at a time.

Stan’s No Tubes: rims and tubeless set up on Hope Pro2 Evo hubs. Tubeless set up is a breeze and the tyres pop in to the rims and stay there.
Moonglu built Arch EX on the 29er. I had these custom built by Moonglu, high quality build and durable, I haven’t tweeked a spoke in 18 months.
Hope factory built Flow’s on 26″. 

Hope PRO2 EVO/Stan’s Arch EX rims. Built by Moonglu.

Maxxis EXO/LUST tyres. Virtually indestructible tubeless ready tyres. ADvantage (in 26″ only) are my No1 choice for an all round trail tyre, I run them in pairs on my Hardtail; on my Full-suspension bike I run an Advantage on the rear and a 2.3 High Roller on the front. Ardent 2.2’s go on the 29er.
I haven’t split a sidewall and I’ve only had one puncture in four years!

Hope Technology: BB30 Crank (superb), Hubs, Headsets, Bottom Brackets, Retainer Chainrings, Bash Guards, and Seat Clamps.
Beautifully engineered and made to shed the worst that British weather can throw at them. You might have to change a bearing about every five years or something! I’ve got a set of wheels that are at least five years old and the bearings are still going strong.
I added a Hope single-ring crank to my race hardtail most recently. Two trips abroad totalling 14 weeks of hard riding have convinced me that it was worth every penny. 

The Software.

Alpkit Bikepacking Luggage. This stuff is great. Well constructed, useful, and plenty of options for long adventures or short rides. Seat bags, Frame bags, Bar mounted dry bags, Cockpit bags and Top tube bags. I use the The Fuel Pods all the time for carrying a spare tube and trail tools. Indispensable.
You can view my review of the range here.

Alpkit Bikepacking Luggage.

Evoc Bike Travel Bag This should be certified as indestructible.
I thought it was expensive when I bought it. I don’t think that anymore. Well in excess of 20 flights in four years. That means the baggage handlers have had well in excess of 20 opportunities to try and destroy it and my bikes. They failed. It will take full suspension and 29″ bikes and plenty of other stuff stashed in it too. It is a bit on the heavy side but Evoc have addressed that with the new model by knocking a kilo off the weight.

Specialized S3 helmet for racing. Superlight and unrivaled ventilation. It’s basically a road helmet but it has sufficient coverage and comes with a detachable visor. Funky looking helmet hair too!

Specialized S3 Helmet in use during Rumble in the Jungle 2014 – Sri Lanka.
Funky looking S3 helmet hair!

Castelli X2 endurance bib shorts. Simply the best. For anyone looking to do longer miles or endurance events then these are the shorts to buy.  I wore a pair for the whole 24 hours of The Strathpuffer in 2016 without a single issue.

Gore Bike Wear: Alp-X, Countdown and Contest socks. I don’t think I’ve ever worn a pair out. Basically anything from Gore will perform and last. Quality.

Troy Lee SE Pro gloves. Bomber. Comfortable. Durable.
I bought a pair a pair of Troy Lee 2017 XC gloves for my last overseas trip and was really impressed, I think they are actually better than the SE Pro’s.

When I first wrote this I recommended Troy Lee Skyline and Ace Shorts but my last two pairs of Skylines weren’t up to the job and fell apart in a few weeks on a trip to Nepal. Fortunately I had a friend coming out and she picked up a couple of extra pairs of Alpkit Faro Softshell Shorts for me. These have been fantastic; a really nice cut and perfectly positioned zipped pockets for mountainbiking. I hammered them over two trips totalling four months in Nepal and Sri Lanka and they are pretty much indestructible, I love them. 

Alpkit Faro Softshell Shorts, actually excellent.

Oakley Jawbone Sunglasses. Now known as Racing Jacket due to a copyright issue. Mine are over four years old and looking a bit tatty now but the lenses are still crystal clear.
The vented photochromic lenses in particular are superb.

Aqueous Cream. A simple emollient available from your local pharmacy. A fraction of the price of proprietary chamois creams and just as good (if not better than most). It costs around three pounds for a 500g tub or £1.50 for a handy 100g “travel” tube. At these prices you can also afford to slap it on with unbridled impunity.

GT85 Bike Spray By far the best thing you can spray on your bike. Use it everywhere except brake discs! WD40 doesn’t come close. You can trust me on this, I’m an engineer 😀

Squirt Chain Lube. I’ve used this stuff for quite a few years now, Summer and Winter. It’s dead good. Chains last for ages if you follow the simple instructions. I won’t use anything else.
Buy it direct in the UK from Squirt UK

It’s also worth a shout out for The Camelbak M.U.L.E. backpack and the Osprey Talon waist pack (see my review here). I’ve had both of mine for years and they have been faultless. 

Torq Fitness Bars, Gels, Energy Powder, and Recovery Powder are awesome. Their guarana based gels are the best I have used by a long way. The taste and palatability of Torq products is unmatched in my opinion.

And finally
A Banana Guard. These are dead good for keeping your ‘nana in good shape. I really don’t like squashed bananas 😛 

Best thing ever – a banana guard 🙂

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2016 Strathpuffer 24 Scotland.
Eastern Nepal 2015. 
Israel 2016

About The Author

Neil Cottam

Neil is the founder of Chase The Rainbow. He has spent a lifetime exploring the outdoors, from a childhood climbing trees and scrambling his bike around old pit heads to hiking in the Himalaya and backpacking around Europe and Asia.

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