What We’re Stoked About
Niner’s Air 9 hardtail has been a go-to for entry-level and budget-minded riders for years, and the 2018 edition continues that tradition. Now armed with a 120mm travel fork, the geometry follows the industry trend of shorter chainstays (427mm) and slacker headtube (68-degree) angles, and adds Boost 148mm hub spacing to give you the option of running 29”×2.4” or 27.5”×3” tires. Prices range from $1,700 for the SRAM NX1-equipped 1-Star, $2,600 2-Star, and $3,300 3-Star, the latter two with the SRAM Eagle drivetrain. Look for it in shops soon.
You’re Gonna Want It
Lauf’s unique suspension forks have been turning heads since they showed up on these shores about two years ago. The True Grit is their first full gravel bike, boasting a sleek carbon frame, a slightly revamped Grit 30mm travel fork and a low-and-slack riding position for stability. The frame is optimized for 1x drivetrains—there’s interior cable routing leading to the rear derailleur and brakes—but Lauf does offer 2x builds with SRAM eTap. If you opt for the 1x, you’ll get a Beer or Gear bottle opener instead of the front derailleur. The bike can handle up to 45mm tires and comes standard with Maxxis Rambler 40mm rubber paired with either American Classic tubeless ready AM28 or Race wheels. The only thing we were bummed about was the seeming lack of rack mounts, but then this is a bike meant for racing, not touring.
The build for the entry-level Weekend Warrior bike weighs in at 19.6 pounds and will set you back $3,290 with the current pre-order. The Race Edition comes in at 17.2 pounds and $4,490, and the top-of-the-line, 17.4 pound Wireless Race Edition runs $5,790, pre-sale. Both offer premium paint colors for $400 more. Bikes should be available between November and January 2018.
If you’re looking for a bikepacking-specific rig, Trek’s new 1120—really a somewhat tweaked, fully rigid aluminum Stache—might be the ticket. The drivetrain is a 1x Race Face Aeffect crank paired with Shimano SLX M7000 shifters and rear derailleur, while SRAM Level T hydraulic disc brakes provide the stopping power. The chain stays have been lengthened to 440mm, adding stability. The 29-inch Bontrager Chupacabra 3-inch tires also help on that front, as well as giving plush comfort for long days in the saddle. A Bontrager Drop Line 125 dropper post and two proprietary racks (as well as mounts for a multitude of others), complete the $2,500 package. It should be hitting local shops in the near future.
Until recently, rock gardens have been my nemesis—a painful, often bloody nemesis. G-Form made their Elite Knee ($100) and Elbow Guards ($90) for riders like me, who find mountain biking to be a full-contact sport. Both pairs of guards offer thick foam padding protecting a huge surface area. I didn’t hit the deck at full speed during my time testing the pads, but the spills I did take were relatively pain- and scrape-free. The reinforced grippers on the top and bottom of the sleeve hold it in place, even under intense pedaling, while the mesh underside adds breathability on hot days. Fair warning—they’re still going to be pretty hot. They’re also machine washable, so you don’t have to worry about them stinking up your vehicle or gear bag.