The latest issue of MBR is out now, and it’s our special 25th anniversary issue! Packed full of inspiring ideas and routes to help you find new places to get out and ride. Here’s what you’ll find inside MBR April 2022.
On the Cover
Bernard Kerr, pre-season stunting in the Surrey Hills, Photographer: Roo Fowler
25 years of trails
This month we’re a quarter of a century old. For a sport as young as ours makes us pretty darned ancient then, or as we’d rather put it, experienced – well honed in bringing you the best places to ride, the bikes and kit to do it on, and the stories behind the sport. During those 25 years we’ve seen mountain biking take shape, grow up and become what it is today: the best thing you can do with your clothes on.
So for this special issue we’re taking a look back through the annals of mountain biking, through the lens of mbr itself. There’s no better resource, no other publication or website (1997, websites were for dotcom bubbles) that can do this.
The first of our three features is a story of trail progression, how times changed and tow path pottering gave way to bike park descending. And conversely, how times didn’t change: that riding a natural classic like Snowdon or Helvellyn still holds the same allure as it did in the Britpop era…
25 years of bikes and tech
Feature two is about the machines and equipment we ride on. You name it, mbr tried it: the Univega full-suspension bike, RockShox’s original RS1, the Marzocchi Z1 Bomber, Gary Fisher’s 29ers in 2003 and a Trek Session at Whistler Bike Park, the Specialized Enduro FSR, the Honda RM01 gearbox bike, Cannondale’s Fulcrum, The Orange 222 and Patriot. (Draws breath.) And on to the noughties trail bikes, like the Orange Five, Commencal Meta and Lapierre Zesty, the Frankenstein machines of Cesar Rojo and Fabien Barel, new bikes from strange German brands YT and Canyon, the long-low-slack mob, 29ers, then 27.5in, then back to 29in. And now e-bikes, soft e-bikes, and more e-bikes.
There have been constants, but not the bikes themselves: the constant drive to innovate and make better products. And while it’s true you can certainly pay far more for a bike than you could 25 years ago, you don’t have to – budget bikes are better and actually cheaper than they were in 1997, taking inflation into account. Just imagine where we’ll be in another 25 years.
25 years of riders and racing
The last piece of the puzzle: racing. Mountain biking was born a sport. Competition has been at the forefront of what mountain biking is since 1997, faster always the focus, the clock the unflinching enemy. Economics and fashion may have propelled the mountain bike forward over the years, but the core element that has allowed it to weather the storm and survive to be the passion that we all enjoy today is the fact that it is, first and foremost, a competitive sport. Read the story of mountain bike racing told through some of its biggest names and most iconic moments.
Bikes and Gear
The latest Ghost is the E-Riot Trail Pro, a Bosch-powered e-bike with 140mm travel Factory-level suspension and full Shimano XT groupset: it’s fun, fast and pacey and also great value. Plus we try the Voodoo Bizango Pro, Halfords’ range-topping hardtail that comes with an incredible RockShox 35 Gold fork, Shimano 12-speed drivetrain and grippy Maxxis tyres – not bad for less than £1,000.
Real world testing continues, on the Focus Jam 6.9 trail bike, Giant Reign E+ 1 e-bike, Kona Process 134 Supreme short travel trail bike, Nukeproof Scout 290 Pro hardtail, and Specialized Turbo Keneo SL Comp low-power eeb.
It must be winter, this month we’re all searching for the best mud protection and stopping power: on test is the preposterously priced and monikerred 7Mesh Thunder Pant, SKS Mudrocker mudguard, Evoc Two Wheel Bag, Fox 36/38 XL Mud Guard and Zefal Z Shock Pump. Plus we take an in depth look at the Code RSC, the best brake in the SRAM stable if you’re looking for gravity or e-bike deceleration.
Tested: Protection vests
It’s a modern day arms race. Mountain bikes get better, so we all ride faster and better too, on chunkier terrain. Protection has improved too though, there are plenty of slick, lightweight and low-profile options to keep you safe: on test are six vests, ranging from those with slender back panels to more wraparound torso and chest protection, and even arm and shoulder armour.
Bike test: Integrated down tube storage bikes
Like a glovebox for your bike, down tube storage can stash your riding essentials like tools, food, or clothing, leaving your back unencumbered and your body free to roam. Reviewed this month we’ve got the Specialized Stumpjumper, the bike that started it all; the cool and composed Trek Slash; and a newcomer from Focus, the Jam. Find out which bike blows the back doors off.
- Bikes in this Issue
- Focus Jam 6.9
- Focus Jam 8.9
- Ghost E-Riot Trail Pro
- Giant Reign E+ 1
- Kona Process 134 Supreme
- Nukeproof Scout 290 Pro
- Specialized Stumpjumper 1997
- Specialized Stumpjumper Evo Expert
- Specialized Turbo Keneo SL Comp
- Trek Slash 9.8 XT
- Voodoo Bizango Pro
Fit and Fast
In Bulletproof Training this month we tackle the lower back, a real trouble spot for riders both off-road and on it. Fitness guru to the stars Jonny from Fit4Racing tells us how to strengthen yours and make core and back strength pivotal to your riding.
Skills: Safe progression
Mountain biking is all about progression, there’s no ultimate goal and no “completed it” moment. This month skills guru Andy Barlow works on how to progress your technique as you make progress on more demanding trails – how to be aware of the mistakes that you will most likely make, and how to be conscious of what to do to correct them.
Buzz – 25 Years of mbr
We literally blow the dust of the mbr archive this month to take you back in time, to the first year of mbr – find out the hot topics of the Spicegirls era, the bikes we were testing, the trails we were riding, which Loaded model improbably featured in the grouptests, and why we reviewed everything from razor blades to exotic fruit.
My best trail
MTB photographer Tommy Wilkinson takes us to New Zealand’s longest piece of singletrack, the 53-mile Old Ghost Road.