Some of these features simply cannot be overrated
Some innovations are beyond desirable, they’re pretty much essential. Here’s a rundown of our Top 10 underrated mountain bike features.
Some of these underrated features aren’t entirely neglected. Indeed, some are frequently praised. But we think that a lot of riders – and bike reviewers – have become blase about them. Some of these features simply cannot be overrated, they are that significant.
Anyhoo, in no particular order, here’s our list of The Underhyped…
1. Bottle mounts
We’re coming out swinging with this classic. Even though we frequently get comments and letters saying that we’re overstating the importance of bikes having bottle mounts… we’re not. We know of several people who have very-nearly-purchased an otherwise great bike only to pull out at that last second because they can’t put a water bottle on the bike. Sure, Geometron are correct in stating that it’s the bottle designers who should adapt to fit modern full suspension frames, not the other way around. But… we are where we are and we want bottles right now.
Endless kudos to Specialized for this. Having a small cupboard in your down tube was roundly mocked in some quarters when Spesh came out with their SWAT box. Who’s laughing now? Even their biggest rival – Trek – has paid tribute to Specialized SWAT with their BITS down tube cupboard. There are other companies who sorta did it at the same time (maybe earlier) as Spesh but Specialized nailed it. Now that there doesn’t appear to be any patent on down tube cupboards, we can no doubt expect to see them appearing on more and more brands’ bikes.
3. Tyre clearance
This is the one thing we can be thankful to Plus bikes for. Remember Plus bikes? You know, those cartoony bikes with flimsy oversized tyres that crumpled as soon as you looked at them. The fact that pretty much all modern mountainibkes can run 2.5-2.6in wide-stance tyres, and still have thumb-sized space around them, is a great thing.
Let’s ignore all the overhyped need-to-learn-on-a-hardtail rhubarb, the best thing about hardtails is that it’s the best way of a having a lighter bike that can still ride tech stuff. Want a sub-30lbs mountain bike that can still hack it on all the fun stuff and doesn’t cost over five grand? Hardtail it, mate. That, and they are loads easier to clean than a full susser after a tpyical UK winter ride.
I almost didn’t put this in this list because it seems too obvious but then I recalled several recent instances where riders I know had ended up buying a bike because of its ‘great value’ spec even though the geometry was sorely lacking. Seriously, NEVER buy a bike that doesn’t have good geometry. Never ever.
To paraphrase something that Keith Bontrager once said about steel back in the nineties, if someone had just come out with aluminium today we’d laud it as the best material ever. Relatively cheap, stiff, comfy, strong, safe, adaptable, rust-proof… alloy is the Prodigal Son of mountain bike materials that is possibly about to return to prominence over the next couple of seasons.
7. Setting up suspension
We perhaps shouldn’t really say this but… there is no ‘correct’ suspension set-up. There’s not even a ‘correct’ amount of sag to run. There can certainly be incorrect suspension set-ups (soft and over-damped is the most common one). But there is more than one ‘correct’ set up. It depends what you want out of your bike. Speed? Control? Comfort? Pump? Pop? Hoovering? They are all ‘correct’ set ups for different riders/terrain/moods. The key thing is to actually bother to tweak your suspension. Don’t just leave it as it left the shop. Don’t just set it up once and leave it forever. You secretly have more than one version of your mountain bike. Don’t buy yet another bike. Twiddle your rebound. Break out the shock pump. YouTube what volume spacers are. Unleash your multi-bike.
8. Big rotors
203mm rotors front and rear. Never a bad thing. The minimal extra weight is well worth the reward of less fatigue, more control, more confidence, more brake pad life (because you no longer drag your brakes as much).
9. Cartridge bearing rear shock mount
Trunnion mount is a big improvement over traditional DU bushing shock mount eyelets for sure but trumping everything is rear shocks that sport cartridge bearings in their mounts. Case in point being the new Nukeproof Reactor bikes. Never has a modest 130mm of travel felt so free-moving and swallowy. Also check out EXT coil shocks for bearing-ed loveliness.
10. Lower end Shimano
While Shimano have faltered a bit of late in the higher end tiers of groupsets – where they were seemingly left for dead by SRAM Eagle’s dominance – their more entry level drivetrains and brakes have always been reliably good. Is Deore M6000 the best bang-for-buck performance groupset Shimano have ever made? Very probably.