This feature was originally published in Singletrack Issue 116
Over the last year, our writers have tested a bucketful of bikes, a barn load of clothing and gear, and attended a bookcase full of cycling events. Which of these, though, have tickled their fancies enough to warrant the bestowing of a coveted Singletrack Editors’ Choice Award?
Rob – (Ex) Art Director
Think Wales, you think rain, hills, slate and hardcore riding. I guess that must be what Antur Stiniog translates to. Well, probably not literally, but that’s what you find when you head through the hills to this little gem in the wild Welsh landscape.
Located just outside Blaenau Ffestiniog, Antur and its main trail centre and café sits proud in the grey slate surroundings. Owned and run by main man Adrian, Antur was first established back in 2007 and since then, this top-notch uplift-serviced trail centre located in the Snowdonia National Park has grown to become a must-ride spot for riders all over the UK.
With a rough and ragged range of trails that are kept in the highest of nick, all year round, Antur is suited to gravity-hungry riders looking for a banging day out and a change of scenery from their usual trails. We spent three days of testing there back in August, where we racked up the runs on the red lines that twist and turn, batter and bruise, jump and cruise their way down the mountainside.
Hitting nearly a dozen runs each day was as hard on the hands as it was on the Transit van that took us back to the top after every run, but we loved every minute of it. Just make sure you take plenty of riding kit with you – it’s pretty exposed and you can get battered by the wind and weather. Regardless, it’s still a mega location with spectacular views, and with more-than-decent burgers and a tonne of hella riding to be done, Antur has definitely blown our minds and cemented its reputation as a ‘Must Ride’ UK trail centre.
Ross – Advertising Sales
USWE Airborne 2
I don’t like riding packs… Who does? They’re big, clumsy and get in the way. Yes, I appreciate the need for them at times – big days out in the hills and for any genuine mountain adventure they’re certainly needed for food, hip flasks, spares, jackets, etc. But 90% of my riding isn’t in the mountains or the middle of nowhere – it’s on my local hill where I can practically see my house, or it’s one descent from a pub.
Even with a lot of my day-to-day riding being so close to civilisation, I still want to be able to carry a drink and the essential mobile phone for when disaster strikes.
Enter the USWE Airborne 2. It’s basically a small 2L pack for carrying water and not much else. It’s lightweight (just 314g), with a 1.5L bladder and a small phone pocket, and that’s about it. There are hi-vis reflective patches and twin ports for the hose so it can be routed either side, but the main thing point for me is the fit. It uses USWE’s ‘No More Dancing Monkey’ harness design and sits high up on your back between your shoulder blades. Even fully laden with phone and water it’s barely noticeable when riding up or down, with the crossover harness doing a great job of keeping it in place. It actually fits that well and is that unnoticeable that I’ve not even been taking it off when sessioning local downhill tracks or digging in the woods where I’d usually abandon all but the essentials.
It’s not the biggest (although I did manage to force a gilet in it one day after mistrusting the weather forecast), nor is it overly featured (the phone pocket isn’t even waterproof), but for me it’s the perfect pack for 90% of my riding.
Andi Sykes – Social Media Guy
Longer is better. Slacker is better. More travel is better. At least, this is what we’re led to believe by the marketing hype machine right? I’ve tried to resist those trends, but I’ve found my bikes were getting super-slack with serious amounts of travel up front and that’s where I was happy. Until the Orange Four arrived in the office.
The Orange Four looks just like its bigger brother, the Alpine 6. It has the same unmistakable Orange single pivot design, the same split-stay rear triangle, but it has a steeper head tube and much, much less travel. So, it’s a cross-country bike, right? Well, it can be, but it can also be a dirt jump bike, a downhill bike, an enduro race bike, and it can even be – dare I say – a mountain bike.
I love the fact people look at the Orange Four and dismiss it simply because it has less than 160mm of travel and doesn’t have a 65° head angle. I love it because the chances are I’ll be able to keep up with riders on those big slack bikes on the downs, feel fresher on the ups and be able to clear bigger jumps with less effort.
The Orange Four is the hidden gem of the Orange range, and I’m torn, because, on one hand, I want everyone to know just how damn good this 120mm travel bike is, but on the other, I want to keep that secret to myself.
Make sure you check out all our Singletrack Editor’ Choice 2017 winners here.