All the Right Stuff for Mountain Biking
By Douglas Gantenbein
If there's one essential piece of bicycle equipment, it's a helmet. Kids even like wearing Bell Sports's cool-looking Jumpstart Pro ($30). This youth-size helmet has 12 vents and great-looking finishes like black Graffiti and purple Shooting Stars. Younger children will benefit from Specialized's Bike Bug Youth ($35), which has extended coverage and cute bug graphics. For adults, Giro's Air Blast RL ($60) is an excellent all-around skull shield for road or trail riding. It has nine vents to keep you cool, a good fit thanks to Giro's head-hugging Roc
Loc system, and a removable visor. Protect both your head and your dignity with Specialized's Sub 6 ($65). Not only is it the lightest SNELL-approved (a head-injury rating) hardshell helmet on the market, it also thankfully comes in plain blue or white.
There also are zippered storage pockets on each side, and D-rings for a shoulder strap. Fit it to Blackburn's Mtn. Rack ($40), a sturdy, easy-to-mount luggage rack that fits mountain and road bikes. For a handlebar-mounted bag, Overland's Touring Bag ($70) has a clear plastic map pocket for keeping on course and
side pockets for sunglasses or sunscreen. Taking a longer trip? One of the best sets of bike luggage is Performance's HP series. Available in large size for a rear rack ($80 per pair) or compact for front or rear mounting ($70 per pair). These sturdy bags are made of Cordura ripstop and have big mesh side pockets for things you want kept handy,
internal pockets for organization, and an easy-mount system for securing them to your bike. The large model also has a zippered rear pocket. Trailers are becoming increasingly popular for bike tours. Burley's d'Lite trailer ($380) hauls youngsters or extra gear and folds for storage. For luggage only, the Yak from
B.O.B ($229) hauls up to 70 pounds. Its single-wheel design is more maneuverable than double-wheel trailers, and also works on singletracks. To carry your littlest traveler, the three-wheel Baby Jogger II ($248-268) in the 16- or 20-inch wheel size, can be converted into a bike trailer with a trailer-conversion kit
Adding a few packs to your bike turns it into a perfect touring vehicle for extended trips from your cabin or camp. One of the handiest is Jandd Mountaineering's Rac Pac II ($60). It secures to any rear luggage rack and holds up to eight cans of soft drinks or mineral water. The top expands for awkward loads like long loaves of French bread.
Few activities known to humankind have generated as many add-ons, accessories, and widgets as bicycling. Many are even useful, while a few fall into the order of must-have. For many people, one of the latter is a backpack-type hydration system. One of the best is Camelbak's M.U.L.E. ($73), which combines a big, insulated 2.7-liter fluid back
and easy-uptake bite valve with a pump pocket and several zippered and mesh pockets for carrying keys, your wallet and other necessities. Another good design is the Gregory Arroyo ($83), which has four side compression straps as well as a main compartment that can hold a cycling jacket and tools. For a no-frills way to carry liquids, Cascade Designs Quack Pack ($44) comes with a two-liter bottle in a simple backpack style. For the bike, a cycling computer keeps track of your speed and mileage. Cat Eye's Mity 2 ($24) is a rugged, compact computer with an easy-to-read display that gives you average speed, top speed, elapsed time, trip mileage and total mileage.
Should you have a flat, the Mt. Zefal Graph Mini Pump ($24) has an easy-to-pump design and a built-in pressure gauge so you get the correct inflation instead of just a guess. Park Tool's Mini Tool Kit ($30) has tire patches, tire levers, wrenches and a chain tool, and folds up to fit into a seat bag. For safety, outfit
your bikes with a VistaLite VL300X rear light ($15) that has five LEDs and is visible to 2,000 feet. To light your way and to alert approaching traffic, Specialized's PreView Xe ($18) is one of the brighter low-priced headlights on the market. It runs on four AA batteries.
One of the best bikes for kids is Specialized's Rockhopper 24 ($250). It has serious bike features such as 18-speed gearing and comes in frame sizes for both boys and girls. For even younger cyclists who can manage changing gears, Schwinn's Thrasher 2.4 ($209) is a mini-mountain bike with six speeds, a durable steel
frame, and good stopping power with its cantilever brakes. For very young children, a simple, inexpensive bike is the Schwinn Tiger (for boys) and Tigress (for girls; $110), which has a rear coaster brake and handlebars that adjust as your youngster grows. For adults, Marin's Bear Valley
($649) comes fully equipped with Shimano's smooth-shifting STX component group and a Rock Shox Quadra 5 to absorb life's ruts and bumps. Another solid mid-price bike is Diamondback's Topanga SE ($530), which has a mix of Shimano components, a Rock Shox Quadra 5 fork, and a comfortable Avenir saddle. If you don't need the extra weight and expense of a
suspension, take a look at Cannondale's M500 ($596). It has a light, hand-made frame, a mix of Shimano components with grip-shifters, and sure-stopping Dia-Compe brakes. Another alternative is the hybrid bike, which combines the low gears and easy maneuvering of a mountain bike with a more upright position. Trek's 750
($560) is a fine around-town/camp/cabin cruiser, with easy-to-use grip-shifts and a comfortable frame.
For some bikers, a T-shirt and a loose pair of shorts are fine. But once you've ridden with "real" bike clothes, you'll see how much more comfortable they are. And safer, too, if you wear a garment made with IllumiNITE, a new highly reflective material that's also windproof and highly water-resistant. Performance's IllumiNITE Jacket ($100) has
mesh side panels for ventilation and two zippered front pockets. It's also available as a vest ($70). In warm weather, no adult with a sense of humor should be without a Looney Tunes jersey from Giordana ($70). These come with a variety of cartoon characters, including Yosemite Sam, Roadrunner, and Wile E. Coyote. For comfort in the saddle, Bellwether's Double Short ($69) combines biking-short features like a Microsuede chamois pad with Cordura outers that wear like iron and look like ordinary shorts. For a sleeker look, there's no better bicycling short than Pearl Izumi's Stretch Ultrasensor Shorts ($75). These are made with fast-drying polyester and have a superb
Younger riders will find Cannondale's Junior Jams ($25) appealing. These cotton flannel jams have a knee-length cut and are designed to fit well during cycling. Match the shorts with Cannondale's Kids Jersey ($45) which are made of quick-drying and comfortable Polartec Bipolar. Finally, a top-flight all-around
bike shoe for both roads and trails is Nike's Pedali Combo ($85), which is compatible with any SPD-type pedal.
|Performance's IllumiNITE Jacket
|W H E R E T O F I N D I T
|Baby Jogger: 800-241-1848; Bell Sports: 800-456-2355; Bellwether: 800-321-6198; Blackburn: 800-456-2355; B.O.B.: 805-541-2554; Burley: 800-311-5294; Camelbak: 800-767-8725; Cannondale: 800-245-3872; Cascade Designs: 206-583-0583; Cat Eye: 800-522-8393; Diamondback: 805-484-4450; Giro Sport Design:
800-969-4476; Giordana: 800-729-4482; Gregory: 800-477-3420; Jandd Mountaineering: 800-727-7172; Marin: 800-222-7557; Nike: 800-344-6453; Overland: 800-487-8851; Pearl Izumi: 800-877-7080; Performance: 800-727-2453; Schwinn: 303-473-9609; Specialized: 408-779-6229; Trek: 800-369-8735; VistaLite: 800-456-2355; Zefal: 800-727-2453
Photographs by Jennifer Moller