Best Of Vital 2014 | Ten Products That Are Hard To Beat 2

2014 was a bad year to be a credit card. While we only award one Bike of the Year and one Product of the Year Shreddy, there were plenty of other offerings lining the shop shelves and the front pages of your favorite web stores, waiting in ambush for the next unsuspecting shopper to stumble in from the trail. Just in case Santa Claus was a little less generous than you might have hoped for, here are ten of this year's most proven and coveted products sure to keep you on top of your excuses-to-the-significant-other game. Dive right in, but don't say we didn't warn you!

YT Industries Capra

Few bikes have generated quite as much interest and general excitement as YT's new Capra, and rightfully so. From the First Look to the more in-depth review, we were consistently blown away by its uncanny ability to mix DH performance with uphill prowess. The very impressive build kits are also available at price points that defy competition. Early 2015 will see YT open up the US market as well, and we don't think we're sticking our necks out by stating that they should meet with much success when they finally cross the Atlantic. --

Santa Cruz Nomad 3

The Nomad is an icon of all-trail, all-mountain riding, but with the constant evolution of geometries and materials, the venerable ride found itself surrounded by new kids on the block and a whole new racing discipline to contend with. Not only did Santa Cruz come through the redesign process with flying colors, they did so while flying proud new colors too! It's magenta, not pink, by the way... The new Nomad is an incredible ride for those truly nasty trails while still making a great all-arounder. --

Specialized SWAT Apparel

A sweaty back, a flopping pack and the annoyance of feeling hindered by weight swinging from their shoulders drove Specialized product developers to create a new form of MTB apparel. Short for Storage, Water, Air, and Tools, SWAT seeks to provide innovative new ways to carry essentials on your body and bike, with the goal of eliminating the need for a bouncy, cumbersome riding pack. SWAT apparel has become a must-have item for our test team, and we use it on a regular basis. --

RockShox BoXXer World Cup Fork with Charger Damper

One of the factors that contributed to the incredible success of the Pike fork from RockShox is the Charger Damper. Ever since we first rode it, we wondered what would happen if you dropped one into a bigger fork. Well, it didn't take long for RockShox to update their trusted BoXXer to the latest damping technology (plus a new air spring), and the results were spectacular. We don't hand out five-star ratings often, but when a piece of technology is so good that it feels like cheating, we don't hesitate either. --


With the rise of the Pike and other competitive offerings, it's no secret that FOX had gone through a bit of a rough patch over the past few years. They went back to the drawing board, and the new products they came up with showed us that they are back on track and ready to take on any comers. The new 36 Float RC2 impressed with much improved small bump compliance, better damping, lighter weight, resistance to diving, and quickly had us charging the trail as hard as we'd ever want to. Competition is good and in the case of MTB suspension, every rider is a winner! --

Roval Traverse Fattie Wheels

Wide rims have seen a recent resurgence, with manufacturers citing gains in stability and the ability to run lower tire pressures as the main advantages. Roval are not shy of testing new ideas, and their own research led them to producing the 30mm internal width Roval Fattie wheels. Our early impressions are very positive, and we think Roval has found an ideal width that takes into account both wide rim advantages and current tire designs/limitations. We'll soon have a more in-depth review for you as well. --

SRAM X01 DH Drivetrain

When SRAM's XX1 drivetrain appeared a couple of years ago now, it was nothing short of a revolution, and certainly not just because it goes to 11. The X-Horizon derailleur action, the clutch, the wide-range cassette, and the alternating narrow-wide tooth profile on the chain ring add up to a transmission that is lighter, quieter, more reliable, and easier to operate. The obituary of the front derailleur was short and to the point: "so long, and good riddance." The only thing left to do was to develop a gravity-specific offering incorporating the same technologies, and that is just what SRAM did with the X01 DH group. It turned out to be everything we had hoped for and then some, simplifying the drivetrain and making shifts count when every millisecond can make a difference. --

7iDP Control Knee Pad

There's a lot of choice out there when it comes to protection, and you'd be forgiven for thinking that a pair of kneepads is just a pair of kneepads. 7iDP put a lot into their design process, and they cut no corners when it came to devising a pair of pads that would be lightweight and comfortable enough to be worn all day, but still hold up to abuse. We put them to the test and we came away very impressed. --

Spank Spike 800 Race Vibrocore Alloy Riser Handlebar

Arm pump is the age old enemy of park riders everywhere, but when you're a racer, it can also make or break a race run or sometimes even a whole career. Spank took a long hard look at the problem and figured out a clever way to use a carefully formulated foam core to absorb vibrations in the handlebar before they amplify to the point of causing the dreaded condition. Eager to figure out if somebody at Spank had been hitting the marketing cool-aid a bit too hard or if the Vibrocore bars really make a difference, we put a pair to the test. The results landed the bars on this list. --

Trek's RE:aktiv Damper

What could Formula 1 possibly bring to mountain biking? Quite a lot, if you ask Trek, Penske Racing, and FOX. Together they set out to bring the benefits of "RE:aktiv" damping to our bicycles, and according to our initial experience, they could very well be onto something here. The goal of small bump compliance coupled with low shaft-speed impact management is the holy grail of any suspension product, and RE:aktiv holds a lot of promise with a novel approach. --

Stay tuned for more Best Of 2014 features coming your way soon!


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