Christmas 2020

AJ's Gifts For Mountain Bikers

Photos AJ Barlas (Unless Noted)
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Like Andrew Major, as he so perfectly put it in his giving guide, I too can be a touch grinchy. But I don’t believe we’re a bunch of grumpy turds, not in the slightest. I can’t speak for Andrew – or others that feel the holidays can send us a bit loopy – but I’m quite sure my problem with it is the grotesque over-commercialization of it all. It’s become unbearable.

But at the end of the day, it's always fulfilling, and at times daunting, to give gifts to the important people in our lives. Hopefully, our suggestions between the weekly Gift Guides and individual editor pieces help people through the process. Whether looking for a gift to give, or something unique to ask a loved one for, here are some more suggestions for 2020.


A fresh service can make forks or shocks feel new again, and sometimes better than new.

For the Neglectful – Buy Them a Suspension Service

More than a few of my close mates are shockingly horrible about bike maintenance, particularly when it comes to suspension components. They all ride wonderfully kitted out machines but too often they talk about numerous years between services, if ever. No wonder that new bike feels sensational in the carpark, they're riding squishy black goop on borrowed time. And I'm sure they aren’t the only ones.

Fresh oil and seals can do wonders on the trail. It also has the potential to turn your loved one into a more cheerful human when returning from a ride. A few hundred bucks now will also save a couple thousand later when those unserviced, rat-bagged suspension components finally succumb to neglect. You'll no longer have to listen to them moan and complain about their bike’s performance and you'll get an upper hand when the conversation turns to expensive new suspension parts.

For Vancouver/Sea To Sky residents and others where quality service centres are close by, your proximity to quality service centres makes this easy enough that if you aren’t regularly having your suspension serviced, family/friends should be allowed to confiscate parts for their bike until you do.


Custom stickers, like these from Fox, can tie together a theme and make a bike your own. It's also a great way to freshen up your ride.

For the OCD Colour-Matcher – Fresh Decals

Who doesn’t like to make a bike their own? Tweaking the colours to a theme, like the colour of the clothes you wear, personalizes your bike. Many of the big manufacturers are now matching decals across the bike to polish the build off – these details count. But not everyone wants to run the stock colours and be the proud owner of yet another; Yeti, Santa Cruz, Norco…

But with the options available to us, relatively few bucks can go a long way to a custom theme, changing a bike from yawn to awesome. And among many stock options available, some suppliers offer custom designs, colours, or graphics in the decal. This includes reaching out to the supplier of your choice for a colour match. Many of the customization options appear owned or are at least staffed by mountain bikers and they understand the bikes, year models, and colours available.

SR Suntour Teardown Bikeroom Jeff NSMB AndrewM.JPG

Learning some mechanical basics will go a long way on the trails. In Vancouver, Jeff Bryson's courses are a great option. Check with local bike shops too, some are known to have tech nights to help local riders. Photo: Andrew Major

For The New Rider – Knowledge is Power

With mountain biking booming – helped along by the global pandemic – more green riders are hitting the trails than ever before. The growth has been accompanied by more people fumbling with busted or poorly adjusted bits, even struggling with something as mundane as a flat tire. A little can go a long way when it comes to general repairs and having a lesson with a qualified mechanic can be a great benefit.

New riders shouldn't feel sheepish about not knowing a headset from bottom bracket. Heck, there are plenty of World Cup level riders who don’t know how to bleed a brake or true a wheel. But when it comes to repairing a flat, fixing a wonky brake calliper, tweaking the gears, or adjusting the suspension, riders greatly benefit with a little know-how. It also provides peace of mind for loved ones at home awaiting their return. Your local bike shop is a good place to begin your search for basic repair courses.


Aside from tree sap and other stains, these Dirt Craft shorts from Patagonia have been a favourite for 18 months now. There's heaps of life left in them too.

For The Comfortable Undercover – Less Obnoxious Summer Riding Apparel

For decades, gravity-focused riders have been influenced by apparel from motorcross. Fox and Troy Lee Designs have provided great options but the outfits of the past have been a bit loud or 'matchy-matchy' for some. At one point, it was hard to find good riding gear that didn’t resemble pyjamas.

Recently, brands have been providing styles with clever cuts and neutral colours, or at least less flair – including Fox and TLD. But one brand that I can’t pass up now for shorts and tech-style tees to ride in is Patagonia. I reviewed their Dirt Roamer Short and Trail Bike Henley top 18 months ago and have since bought a pair of their Dirt Craft shorts and several Capilene Cool Lightweight Shirts.


Subtle branding and solid colours aren't for everyone, but it's good to have options like these now. These Capilene Lightweight shirts feel like a t-shirt and are low-key.


The backside of the shorts show no sign of wear from the abuse they've received as the most used riding short in my small collection.


The waist adjusters of the Dirt Roamer short are good but I'm a bigger fan of the hook-and-webbing adjuster on these.

I chose the Dirt Craft short purely on the pockets but the hook-and-webbing waist adjustment makes for an even more comfortable fit. Sadly Patagonia doesn’t offer them without the chamois, which was a waste for me, but for many riders that won’t be a problem. They’re not inexpensive but after two summers of riding mostly in these shorts, there’s little sign of wear. These are the short I reach for 95% of the time. I'll fish them out of the wash if both these and the Dirt Roamer are soiled, leaving other options unused in my drawer.

My wife has also fallen for their kit and this summer, in addition to the women’s short, she got hooked on a tank-top that she now swears by in the warmer months. She finds the Patagonia clothing so comfortable, she refuses to wear her old gear. For both of us, the fit, low key colours, discrete branding and simple design are perfect for riding.


The Fidlock bottle system takes a unique approach to connecting your bottle to the bike.

For The Bottle-less Bike Owner – Strap A Bottle Anywhere

Before riding a GeoMetron I avoided bikes without a front triangle mounting option. As I started down the path to a GeoMetron I discovered the frame design of the G-series bikes doesn’t leave room for bottles. They claim the layout of the suspension is optimal and that it should take precedence over a bottle cage.

Three years on, I can't imagine riding geometry smaller than a 520mm reach, regardless of stack or front centre, for several reasons, and the ride of these bikes is great. As a packless rider, this has left me to improvise. My frame is large enough to carry a jerry-rigged bottle in the front triangle but strapping a bottle cage to the bike with zip-ties isn’t pretty and the ties can cause wear.


No bottle mounts? No problem. Fidlock provide a Uni Base allows riders to strap the magnetic base almost anywhere.


The new Twist Bottle Deluxe includes a high-flow valve and a cap that closes over it. Great for the dirty season.

Fidlock has a unique mounting system that provides a cleaner, less damaging way to attach a bottle to the bike where there are no mounts. A pair of rubber straps attach to a low-profile dock that houses two magnetic tabs. On the bottle is a mounting interface that clips to the magnetic tabs of the dock, seamlessly locking the bottle to the frame.

Riders with bottle cage tabs in their frame can also use the system, removing the unsightly lines of a regular cage. The low profile magnetic tabs of the Fidlock dock makes for clean lines and everyone likes those.

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+2 Morgan Heater AJ Barlas

Been meaning to try some Patagonia shorts, on top of making well-made stuff their sustainability practices are the best in the business. If you haven't tried them, I'd highly recommend Abit Gear shorts - 2 cuts for big or skinny butts, well designed and zippered pockets, and no obnoxious logos or colors. They're designed by a guy who used to head up Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance here in the Seattle area, turns out having shorts designed by a longtime mountain biker yields great results.



Yep, I've got two pairs. They're the only ones I've found that work for people with skinny waists & big butts & thighs.


+1 Agleck7

Cool now I can finally put a strap on bottle on my DJ bike! Joking aside I really like the idea, never seen it before. Thanks!!



You could wrap it to a tree branch mid favourite lap too! :D



The raw finish on that Geometron is alluring ...



And so easy to care for! 🙂



is the cable-crossing under the damper on purpose? Why would you do that?



Moto style levers? Seems like a good place to cross over.



Yeah. My rear brake is on the left, this seems like the smartest place to cross them over.



The Patagonia Landfarer shorts became my favorites this year.  No garish logos like Fox or TLD, light and super breathable while shrugging off the occasional butt-buzz of a 29er.  No fiddly waist adjust straps.  Perfectly designed hamstring cell phone pocket.  Cargo pockets for lightweight items like gloves, chap stick, or gummies.

I like the feel of their Dirt Roamer shirts but the fit is too snug for me.  The fit on their Capilene Cool Daily is more of a traditional "relaxed" fit that works a lot better if you're not a beanpole like AJ.  They're long enough in the back to be sufficient, but if they made a MTB version that was an inch longer in the back it'd be perfect.



It’s really a shame that the fidlock bottle cage solution won’t work for the size Long geometron g16.. I will forever have to carry my own water.



You could mount it to your top tube, by the seat tube junction?


+1 AJ Barlas

Depends on the drop on your dropper post. I couldn’t fit a fidlock bottle without significantly squishing it. It did hold it tight though. I haven’t tried mounting it near the head tube though. I really didn’t want to go back to carrying my water on my back, but I tried a Camelbak waist bottle holder. It has one small zip pocket, but it’s not the most useful. However, for carrying water, it’s surprisingly comfortable.


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