If the cycling expo Sea Otter had happened, here’s the 2020 bike gear we would have covered at the show.
Every spring, the bike industry gathers at Laguna Seca raceway in Monterey, California, for Sea Otter. Well, every year other than 2020.
Part outdoor trade show, part consumer demo, and part bike festival, Sea Otter hosts new gear launches, and the bike industry connects with consumers and industry friends. The best athletes in the world compete in the first races of the season, the whole area is overflowing with campers and music and people riding bikes, and everyone gets a little dehydrated.
Live reporting from Sea Otter is always a highlight of the year, but this year Sea Otter didn’t happen. The good news is that it didn’t stop bike brands from sharing their latest and greatest. Here’s a peek at a few of our favorite new things for mountain bikers, gravel riders, and bike commuters.
Most riders have a single mountain bike. Regardless of the trail, you run what you brung. If the 142mm travel Pivot Switchblade is what you bring, you’ll find you have an adept partner for tackling an astounding variety of riding. Pivot categorizes this bike as “beyond all-mountain,” which comfortably encompasses all-mountain and enduro in my testing.
Keys to the revamped Switchblade are straight tubes and a vertical trunnion-mounted (upside-down) shock that lets Pivot spec a longer dropper post and build a more compact frame overall. Longer, lower, slacker geometry with longer chainstays, which navigate the thin line separating stability and playfulness, prime this bike for efficient climbing and agile descending.
A custom FOX DPX2 shock helps the bike better absorb small, high-speed impacts, like washboard or loose gravel. The shock feels supple at first, then supportive with increasing control as you get deeper into travel.
It’s available from XS-XL, with size-specific carbon layups and adjusted tube diameters for every size. And Pivot recently teamed up with Topeak to produce the Phoenix Dock Tool System, a line of tools and tube-holders that mount to the downtube water bottle cage bosses. They fit the Switchblade and most other bikes.
The Pivot Switchblade starts at $5,500.
The first bike-mounted lock, the Lobster Lock bolts to your downtube water bottle cage braze-ons. Folding arms scissor out like lobster claws to lock your frame and front wheel any time you need to pop into a shop or make a quick trip to the market.
The 3-pound lock is more secure than a cable or zip-tie lock, though not recommended for overnight. It’s ideal for commuters, college students, and anyone with errands to run.
It won’t scratch your frame, you don’t have to haul it in a pack, and you won’t leave home without it. The Lobster Lock costs $75.
Mountain biking just got better. Much of how a mountain bike feels is determined by its suspension. FOX’s redesigned 36, 40, and all-new 38 forks are stiffer, more tunable, lighter weight, and offer better alignment than ever before. The result? More fun and control on the trail.
FOX redesigned every part and piece of these forks, including the chassis, lower leg bleeders, air/oil channels, floating axle, and shape. These forks are now arched for better headtube clearance and have shorter rakes to match modern bike design.
Don’t worry if this sounds like gibberish. Just know you can double down on your enduro riding with the new 36g fork. The extra-stout 38, designed for long-travel bikes, will take your descents to the next level, and the World Cup-focused 40 will shave time on DH courses.
FOX’s new forks are available for both 27.5- and 29-inch wheels. The 36 comes in 150mm and 160mm travel in Factory, Performance Elite, and E-Bike models. Their weight range starts at 1,965 g, and prices range from $849 to $1,099.
If you’ve always wanted ENVE wheels but couldn’t afford them, now’s your moment. ENVE’s new made-in-the-USA Foundation Collection wheels hit the market at $1,000 less than other ENVE offerings — a goal of the brand for several years.
ENVE said it achieved this through manufacturing efficiencies and trickle-down technology. And it claims the features and benefits exceed those of competitors’ wheels (at similar or higher price points).
The Collection includes ENVE 45 and ENVE 65 road wheels and the all-mountain AM30. ENVE won’t discontinue its more expensive wheels but compares the new workhorse wheels to drivetrain technologies like Ultegra, XT, Force, and Record — all a little more durable than the fanciest option.
Foundation wheels cost $1,600, come with lifetime incident protection and a 5-year warranty, and have molded spokes and valve stem holes, anti-pinch flat assistance, and aerodynamic efficiency and stability (road and tri).
Made for pedaling, Pearl Izumi’s Summit Knee Guards ($85) are the best-vented, truly protective lightweight kneepads I’ve worn. Four-way-stretch CORDURA gives maximum pedaling comfort. They’re long — mid-thigh to mid-calf — but made of mesh, which proved cool and comfortable even on all-day rides.
Silicone grippers at the top and bottom hold these in place. The flexible D3O protective pad won’t interfere with pedaling. In fact, you’ll probably forget it’s there until you hit the ground and it hardens to protect your knee. The Summit provides CE level 1 protection with minimal bulk.
Opt for Pearl Izumi’s new Elevate Knee Guard ($125), which uses a heavier kneepad with side protection for enduro and trail rides.
Women’s cycling gear often seems like an afterthought. This summer, Troy Lee introduced three new collections of women’s mountain bike clothing, Lillium, Luxe, and Mischief, that are anything but. I’ve been testing three pairs of shorts and two tops from the collections for the past 2 months, and I can’t decide which collection I like the most.
The wicking, quick-dry, fitted-but-not-tight Lilium tees have translucent, burned-out patterns that are subtly eye-catching but still badass. Stretchy fabrics in all the shorts give them a shaped fit, and they have pockets big enough for cellphones. That might not sound like a big deal, but so many women’s MTB shorts are all about looking good, not riding well.
A soft yoga waistband on the Luxe shorts is just as awesome as the double snap on the more DH-focused Mischief, and all the shorts are long enough to wear with kneepads. Hallelujah! By creating three collections that are as functional as they are flattering, Troy Lee is helping women be our best selves on bikes on every front.
Sick of spending beer money on new mountain bike tires, Versus’ founders decided to make their own and sell directly to consumers.
The wire bead (gravity casing) or foldable bead (all-mountain casing) 60TPI tires look a lot like the ever-popular Maxxis Minions, with accordion-fold side knobs to mold to terrain, and super-soft rubber over a tightly woven underlayer to resist punctures and air loss. Ramped and siped knobs give extra grip and are oriented to minimize rolling resistance.
Versus Tires are available in a 29-inch version only for now; 27.5-inch tires coming this fall. The tires cost $120-130 for each set and $230-255 for two sets.
Lezyne Tubeless Drive Minipump
When you flat on a ride, not only do you have to sort out what went wrong, but also how to fix it. Lezyne’s light and durable CNC-machined aluminum 3-in-1 Tubeless Minipump puts most of the fix-a-flat tools you need at your fingertips (if you ride tubeless tires).
The high-volume pump will inflate your tire to 30 psi. But it also has a hidden CO2 inflator with a 20g cartridge to top off your pressure in seconds — rather than minutes of pumping. If you’ve got a hole that’s bigger than your tubeless sealant can handle, don’t stress. The pump hides five tire plugs in the integrated storage compartment.
The 6.7-inch pump attaches to your valve with a hose, so there’s less chance of bending the valve while pumping. And the knurled grip barrel makes it easy to grip even with sweaty hands. The pump will retail for $79.
A new take on how to protect riders from rotational force-induced injuries in a crash, Giro’s ball-and-socket mountain bike helmet, powered by MIPS, uses a skull cap that moves 360 degrees on a full-head frame.
That’s paired with a tried-and-true MIPS liner for more protection than ever before in a helmet that looks like any other normal, low-bulk mountain bike helmet.
The shell uses progressive layering with dual-density foam to better manage both high- and low-speed impacts. And 16 vents make this helmet as cool as Giro’s high-end Synthe MIPS road helmet.
Also inside the helmet is a polycarbonate arch that Giro says is virtually unbreakable. That’s what allowed designers to mold massive intake vents into the Manifest Spherical ($260) without compromising structural integrity.
Calling all commuters: If you haven’t embraced e-bikes because they’re heavy, cumbersome, awkward, and impossible to carry up a flight of stairs, you’re in luck. Specialized just released a full-power commuter e-bike with an 80- to 120-mile range that weighs 33 pounds and has hidden batteries inside its normal-looking tubes.
“SL” stands for “super light,” as well as “super legit,” according to the product manager. On the road, it rides like a standard commuter steed. But when your legs get tired, it gives you a boost.
The bike frame has a power switch and light that let you know the charge level. Everything else is controlled via Specialized’s Mission Control app, which lets you program power modes and a whole lot more.
The line comes in various builds, all with front light and a computer mount, and, in the up-specced versions, a rack, taillight, fenders, and a Future Shock head shock.
Specialized’s Optional Range Extender, a water bottle-shaped battery that boosts this bike’s range from 80 to 120-plus miles, rounds out the build. The Turbo Vado SL starts at $3,350.