BEST OF 2020
Best of 2020 - Pete Roggeman's List
As much as we're a website that is about all things mountain biking, with gear playing a very important role, it would feel hollow if my best of list was confined to hardware, especially this time around. In a year where we all learned to take a harder look at ourselves and not always like what we found, it seems important to remember that it really isn't all about shiny gear. At the same time, you can't spend your whole day watching CNN repeat the same grisly videos of ill-informed jerks trying to subvert their government and trash their capitol; a little escapism is an important way to be able to face each day. So, it ain't all about the gear. But bikes did help this year go down a lot better for this one, and there's no denying the fact that the right gear is very useful for that.
No matter how divided we all can be, whether it's conspiracy theorists that want to lash out at bike companies for devising Boost, or conspiracy theorists twisting themselves into pretzels to explain staging a coup in the name of democracy to protest the legitimate results of an election, one thing I think we can all agree on is that the best thing about 2020 is that it's over, even as tragic vestiges of it remain. We're not done with Covid or Trump just yet, but when things feel really dark, it's usually the perspective you get from history that reminds us that humanity is resilient. Paradoxically, 2020 sucked but it also made me feel extremely fortunate. Most people had it far worse than my family and me, so if anything, I'm a very thankful person right now. I learned a few things about myself, about people, and about life, and that would not have happened without some of the past year's extraordinary events.
And as much as it's going to sound corny - maybe even contrived - this is not the first time that the bicycle has helped me find perspective.
Bikes will Prevail
Oh 2020, what a year you were. Former riders everywhere literally dusted off their ancient bikes and sent local shops scrambling to find the tires, chains, and other spare parts needed to resurrect the relics being brought forth from the back corner of garages. Shops sold out of things they couldn't formerly give away. Used bike prices hit heights they may never reach again. Brands cleared out warehouses full of product that normally would have been sent to a discount reatailer. People rediscovered their bikes for all the reasons you and I already know they're so great. Whatever the reason, more people than ever went out into the world on two wheels, and in the long run, we'll be better for it. For the rest of us, what a great reminder that on top of the reasons we already love bikes, they also can be a physical and mental salve when we need it most. It was touch 'n go for a few weeks there when our local trails might have been shut down, but otherwise, riding helped me stay sane.
It's the People, Stupid
I'm not going to be able to avoid politics - or at least history - in the rest of this article. During his 1992 campaign, Clinton's staff adopted the phrase "it's the economy, stupid" to remind themselves to focus on the economy - one of their main campaign platforms. The business world likes to adapt it to 'it's the people, stupid'. Funny enough, the other two priorities of Clinton's campaign were: "Change vs. more of the same" and "Don't forget health care." Funny how those still resonate, huh? History, remember history.
Anyway, let's bring this one home. As much as riding both provided a physical outlet and helped my mental health, it was also the only way to safely socialize for much of the year. I'd like to think I've always been thankful to have such great riding buddies, but this year those knuckleheads really delivered. My closest riding buddies may be a lot like yours: the text messages roll in the night before or the morning of a planned ride (for us, that's theoretically every day), and the energy devoted to logistics and planning is usually vastly overwhelmed by the shit talk and harassment. In our own way, that's how we express affection, even though an outsider would wonder how we can stand each other's company.
There are rituals to the way things go down on our rides, but that doesn't mean they all follow a pattern. In any event, the combination of friendship, social ritual, and a mutual desire to both cajole and encourage each other always sends me home full of endorphins and good feelings. So, to my riding pals - both the ones I ride with most of the time to the ones I only get to ride with occasionally - thank you, you know who you are, you're all knuckleheads, and you're the best.
One exception to 'It's the People'
After months and...well, years of persuasive campaigning, my wife finally convinced me the time was right to adopt a four-legged buddy. In hindsight, I'm only glad we waited so long because Gordie turned out to be such a great dog. We got him two days before BC shut down due to Covid in March, and he has been a fantastic companion on hikes, rides, and at home. I always loved having a dog along on a ride, but I especially enjoy my solo rides with him. Adopting a dog was a best of 2020 move that'll be a best of contender for years to come.
Put your hand up if new trails popped up in your area during the pandemic. On the North Shore, in Squamish, Whistler, and further away, reports rolled in all spring and summer of great new trails being built. Whether they were experienced builders that suddenly had more time on their calloused hands or neophytes trying their hand at it, we were treated to a whole bunch of great new work. And trail associations did some great work, as always, though trail day groups were not permitted a lot of the time. Needless to say, buy your damn trail membership and support your local association in every and any way you can. If the events of 2020 didn't remind you of how much their efforts are important and worthy of your support, I'm not sure anything will. Join. Contribute. Support.
One of the unique things about our business is the change to go to new places to ride bikes - often in conjunction with a brand's bike launch. For obvious reasons, those didn't happen this year. However this gave the opportunity to brands to be a little more creative. A very small group of us headed out to Chillliwack this fall (before out of area travel was restricted) to preview Santa Cruz's new Bullit. It was a short, midweek excursion that saw us hit a few classic trails as well as one that was new to most of us. The weather cooperated, the trails were outstanding, and we had one particularly memorable encounter with some very friendly and enthusiastic locals. In other words, in a year when nothing seemed quite the same, it was nice to be reminded that you can still get that feeling of riding new-to-you trails with great people, and that you don't need a long trip or different culture to experience new things.
Fox Launch D3O Knee Guard
This one snuck up on me a bit, but it's a multi-part realization. As others, including Cam, already wrote, properly good riding pants from a variety of brands were prevalent this year. At risk of piling on to an already tall dog pile, my faves were the NF Berzerker...but I think we've covered how great they are already, so let me get on to the main point here, which is that if you're going to ride in pants, your knee pads had better stay in place properly, because it's a hassle to have to reposition them when you have pants on. After years of climbing with knee pads around my ankles, then realizing I hated that feeling, I found a few pairs of knee pads that are comfortable to pedal in 100% of the time, and don't move around much over the course of the ride. This year, that has been the Fox Launch D30 Knee Guards. It took a little while to get used to putting them on before my riding pants, but now I love having them on but hidden, always in place and ready. I've had several crashes while wearing them and both my knees and the Fox Launches are none the worse for wear (thanks, D30!) and the fit has been both comfortable and breathable.
Without a knee pad that fits you as well as these do, I don't think you can enjoy riding pants to their fullest, so thanks to the Fox Launch D30, both my knees and my pants have been sorted all year.
The last part I love is that they're reasonably priced at $99 CAD. You may want something burlier for full-on DH racing, or something thinner for looong trail rides, but I've used these for everything in 2020, and never found them wanting.
The review is coming. I promise. But - spoiler alert - I love this bike. Hell, I loved the prior version, before Transition updated the look to be more angular and aggressive, added 10mm more travel to it, and I bumped up to an XL from a Large. It fits me perfectly, and even when I'm suffering on a long climb, I am in the perfect pedaling position. As much as it can be ridden like a straight-lining battle axe, I can also push it from one side to the other, especially with a touch of speed to help counter its inertia. If I hadn't spent so much time aboard an Enduro in 2020 on some of the Shore's wickedest lines, I'd be writing about how the Sentinel can do just about anything and everything. Not to say it can't - just that I was spoiled to be able to call on the Enduro for the heaviest duty riding of the year.
More on that in the review, but the Sentinel is a super versatile and capable trail/AM bike that definitely belongs on my best of 2020 list.