My 2021 Top Ten List!

It looks like 2015 was the last time I did a “Top Ten List” so it seems like high time to do another one to celebrate some things I think are rad at this moment.

#1 – Riding Local

Staying close to home and riding our local trails makes a ton of sense as the pandemic refuses to go away. Getting exercise outdoors is great. Being able to safely meet up with friends and catch up is also great. I’m glad the island has so many fun options close to where we live.

#2 – Riding to the Trails

Riding local trails means it’s not too hard to get on the bike at home and cruise to the trails without firing up a vehicle. I get more bike time and I get a warm up/cool down period rather than shredding from the trailhead and back to a vehicle. I can easily get to a few different trail networks with 1hr or less of pleasant pedaling. I don’t ride to the trails 100% of the time, but I try to do it most of the time.

#3 – Hardtails!

Okay I have to admit it I went kind of hardtail crazy the last few years. I really didn’t expect to, but they are so much fun to ride and I feel like I am giving up so little to my FS bike that it’s hard not to grab the hardtail when it’s time to shred. I’m not saying they are better than FS, but they are a hoot and since I am not a racer fun is the name of the game.

#4 – Moving to a new area with sweet trails…

The trails in the Victoria, BC area are top notch, but I rode them A LOT the last 10 years. No matter how great some trails are there comes a point where getting something fresh to ride is really nice. 2021 was that time for me as we moved up Vancouver Island to the Comox Valley. Not only are there a ton of new trails to ride, but the different geography/climate up here means they feel quite different. I’ve been enjoying getting to know the area better the last few months and with so many different riding areas to explore it’s going to be another decade before I start to want a new set of trails!

#5 – Chubby Tires + Inserts + Hardtails

I’m glad that “normal” mountain bike tires finally plumped up properly. I’ve been enjoying the 2.6″ width on my shreddy trail bikes. Lots of volume and they still perform well when pushed hard. I was an insert skeptic when they first came out, but I have really enjoyed having one in the rear wheel on my hardtail. It means I can ride the rigid rear end very aggressively and not worry about flats or rim damage. That really closes the gap between a FS bike and a hardtail on my local trails.

#6 – Die Strava!! Die!!

I did the Strava thing for a few years. It seemed mildly amusing at first, but over time I noticed my way of looking at rides was changing. Then I thought back to all the riding I did pre-Strava and none of the things Strava tracked really mattered to how much I enjoyed my rides. So I stopped the virtual phone racing thing and my enjoyment levels are higher with no downside. I’ve also scaled back my general social media use and found only positives from that change as well.

#7 – Mountain Bike Fenders

Fenders on road/touring bikes have made sense to me for a long time. I tried various MTB fenders over the years, but they never worked well and often needed a lot of attention which was annoying. Then I found Mudhuggers which changed my winter riding in a big way. I could install them and then forget about them for weeks at a time. They kept me and the expensive bits of my bike far far cleaner. Ending a long winter ride with dry clean shorts is wonderful.

#8 – Frame Bags and Bottles

It’s been a while since I ditched my hydration pack. Riding pack-free is so nice I could never go back. I’m really happy that there are a ton of great bike frame bags and bottles/cages that allow me to carry my gear on just about any bike. Often space is tight so I need a bag shaped a certain way or a bottle/cage that is slightly lower or slightly higher on the mounts. I can almost always hunt around and find a great option.

#9 – Single Speed

I’ve been riding SS for a few years on pavement and gravel. It’s a lot of fun and so simple to live with since maintenance is pretty minimal. I finally tried SS on a trail mountain bike this year. I was a bit worried it might be too hard or I’d walk too much, but as it has turned out it’s a blast and I have only been walking very occasionally. I’m glad I gave it a shot on dirt.

#10 – High Rise Bars

Maybe it’s an old guy thing, but I am wanting my bars a lot higher the last few years. Whether it’s working with older forks that have been cut down or bikes with low Stack having a high rise bar [say 50mm-80mm rise] is a fast and easy way to make a big change in my riding position. Personally I also prefer the look of a high rise bar to a low rise bar plus a lot more spacers.

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