Sidi Defender — $220
The Defender hasn’t made it into the Marvel TV show, “The Defenders” … yet … But the colors would work for a superhero costume, and the shoe is certainly burly enough to take on the baddies. The sole has massive lugs sure to keep your cleats from acting as ice skates when hiking. The mid-top cuff is high enough to protect against brambles and over-reaching bushes, and the inside of the cuff comes up higher to protect the protruding bone that is your ankle. Sidi has put its own version of a Boa closure on the Defender for a customized fit and easy micro-adjustments when riding. Closer to the toe box the Sidi lace system gives way to a velcro strap to help avoid over tightening on your toes. The actual shoe material is call Politex and is a combination of PVC and cloth for ripping resistance. The heel-cup is also reinforced to keep you foot right where it should be, even under the pressures of ‘extreme performance,’ as Sidi puts it. I don’t know if extreme performance happens often on a bike, but it definitely happens when fighting criminals. I suspect I will see these in the next season of the “The Defenders.”
100% Racecraft Plus — $85
Does the bike industry have too many pluses? Is it possible to have too many pluses? At what point will we hit plus capacity? It hasn’t happened yet, maybe it never will. I don’t know. What I do know is that a plus means better. And the Racecraft has gotten better, in name and in practice. 100% has taken its popular non-plus model and made a few improvements. There is now an injected polycarbonate lens, which means you will be able to see better while also getting more protection. And there is not one, not two, not even three, but four layers of face foam. So much face foam results in more comfort and tons of sweat absorption. No need to worry about sweat dripping onto your lenses anymore, and we’d call that a plus.
CamelBak Skyline LR 10 — $130
CamelBak’s new pack is all about riding low. Why is that good? For starters, more of the weight sits on your hips instead of hang off your shoulders, so the pack actually feels lighter. And the bladder’s wider shape distributes that weight better. Also, the lower the weight, the lower your center of gravity and the more stable you will be. The Skyline LR 10 has been one of our favorite mid-sized packs for a couple years now, and it just got a re-design including wider hip-strap pockets, clever helmet-carry straps, and a more standard way to access the bladder, It’s still big enough for a full-day ride and it is packed with convenient features. The helmet straps can accommodate full-face helmets, and its external load straps can carry your extra body armor. Which is good, because the pack is aimed at downhill riders. The pack comes with a three liter bladder, is ventilated in the back and hip belt, has a removable tool organizer and a lined pocket for valuables. Compression straps keep everything contained, so drop that seat and ride low.
Bell 4Forty MIPS — $95
Affordable, stylish, safe. The 4Forty MIPS has features often found in much more expensive helmets, and a few Bell specific features for a more convenient ride. For us heavy sweaters, the most notable of those would be the sweat guide — a small cloth tab at the front of the helmet that is said to direct sweat away from the face. The helmet is loaded with 15 vents to help mitigate that sweat from forming, it has an adjustable visor that can fit goggles underneath, and it of course has MIPS for extra safety. If MIPS isn’t your thing though, there is a $75 option for the same helmet without the upgraded safety feature.