I'm pretty sure we are nearing "peak reach". Maybe it's because I live in winch and plummet land but I look at those as my two states. The longer and slacker help with the decent and the steeper seat tube helps with the climb. As long as the two states don't overlap too much then the world is a happy place.
My recent bikes have all been SRAM and Rockshox just out of coincidence. The last bike I ordered with XT and Fox. Similar level component spec so I could compare/contrast them. It was really the only way I thought I could speak intelligently about the differences.
If anyone cares I think that the XT shifting works better than the GX. I know they aren't exactly the same level spec. I would have to say that the Lyrik and Reverb have been better than the 36 and Transfer. I think Shimano is also winner the brake comparison but it's hard to say with them being at different stages of pad/disk life. That's my thoughts after 6 months or so of back to back riding. The differences are all minimal really.
Many in my group wear convertible helmets or lighter weight full face helmets. More and more all the time, although for the trend followers I would agree that when everybody fancied themselves an EWS racer they were fashion for a while. Speaking for myself, normally I do the first big climb with the chin guard off and then put it on for the first big decent. Unless it's super hot I tend to leave the bar on after that. It's a Super DH that I have and if it fits your head I'd recommend it as a good choice.
Great news about the local manufacturing. I can also say that I crash damaged a rim recently and the staff at We are One were the best to deal with. They totally took care of me. I will always speak positively about them. They made me a fan.
I must admit that I like to ride close on a faster buddy's wheel down hill. That being said it's good if you develop that relationship a bit first. The same goes for when someone is following me close. If its a person I am comfortable with then fine but if not then it wigs me out a bit. One time I had a guy riding right behind me that I didn't know well and he skidded all the time. I kept thinking he was going to hit me so I let him in front and he wasn't actually that fast when he had to lead.
The good thing about stopping once in a while is that it lets the Natural order sort it's self out. In my experience if one person thinks they are holding another up then they offer the faster rider the next spot up the line.