Things changed in 2023, gear shifting became automatic, 90s fleeces returned and my fave ride wasn’t an e-bike (who’da thunk it?!)


1. Forbidden Druid V2 X0

If I’m wondering how to hang onto a test bike, and not return it, that’s a very good sign. Even better if that happens within the first two corners. Particularly as ‘excellent’ has become the new ‘competent’ on most machines I test now, with the bar always creeping higher each year.

Forbidden Druid V2 X0

Forbidden has improved the Druid with version 2, the suspension is better and the frame comfier

Riding V2 of Forbidden’s Druid as a long termer for several months has proved it isn’t just a tweak on the old bike though. It introduces a totally new ‘inverted 4-bar’ aspect to their already radical high pivot ‘Trifecta’ suspension system and builds in a really subtly dialled frame feel too. Add refined geometry to match the less elastic feel of the rear centre and the new Druid really does feel like sorcery, on everything from senders to steep jank or singletrack sprints.

2. 7Mesh Chilco Thermal Anorak

7Mesh Chilco Thermal Anorak men's mountain bike jersey

The Chilco manages to keep you warm, dry and comfy, all without being truly waterproof

At the risk of sounding like Jeremy Clarkson talking about electric cars, eco consciousness might manage to save the planet, but the move away from non PFC DWR treatments has made decent waterproof fabrics almost extinct. Of all the fancy fabrics I’ve been plugging through during a ‘great for testing, grim for riding’ year of weather, only Rab’s new Cinder jacket and trousers have put up a decent fight against wet days. 

7mesh’s new WTV fleece is a brilliant example of the managed moisture mammals that are inheriting the world of the ‘keep you dry dinosaurs’ though. Whether I’ve used it in the casual Cache pullover guise, the tighter ‘Seton’ gear or just a hat or neck tube, its ability to adapt to every weather condition and stay comfortable is crazy. I don’t know anyone else who’s tried WTV and not immediately joined the cult of Canadian smart fleece either.

3. SRAM Eagle Powertrain

SRAM Powertrain

Powertrain aint for people like you and me, who know how to shift, it’s an insurance policy for new riders

Before everyone goes crazy, I am fully aware that Shimano launched its e-bike auto shift system before SRAM. It even had one for shopping bikes two decades ago if you want to play that game. I also acknowledge that most people reading this know how and when to shift gears to get a smooth change. 

But SRAM Powertrain is not a product for you. It’s SRAM’s insurance policy for all the new riders brought in by the promise of easy pedalling on an e-bike. Sadly they were then left with a mangled chain, torn off rear mech or grinding everywhere at 20 RPM because they didn’t know the ‘special, secret rules’ of reading the terrain, timing shifts, and backing off the pedal pressure when you’re shifting. 

Now we just need to see if it appears on more bikes than the current curiously motley crew that it was launched with. But surely as it’s basically a Brose motor, a Powertrain Levo / Kenevo update can’t be far away?