BikeRadar 2021-10-18T21:26:10Z Tom Marvin <![CDATA[BikeRadar Meets Podcast | Sam Morris, MTB Guide and Founding President of European Bike Guides]]> 2021-10-18T21:26:10Z 2021-10-18T17:00:33Z

Sam Morris has been a professional mountain bike guide in the French Alps for over 20 years. In that time, guiding has gone from a summer escape for a lucky few to a full-time professional role.

Sam has built one of the most respected guiding companies in the Alps, BikeVillage, and, having become involved in efforts to professionalise the industry, he almost by accident became the Founding President of the European Bike Guides organisation – the aim of which is to have a pan-European top-level qualification for mountain bike guides.

BikeRadar Podcast | Meets MTB Guide and President of European Bike Guides Sam Morris
Taking guests to incredible places is only one small part of the job.
Paul Banyagi Mugenyi

In this podcast, technical editor Tom Marvin talks to Sam about the realities of being a mountain bike guide, the organisation, and how to become a guide yourself.

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Paul Norman <![CDATA[8 tips for road riding in the dark | How to ride confidently at night]]> 2021-10-18T14:45:20Z 2021-10-18T14:45:26Z

If you’re cycling at night, whether on lit roads in town, unlit roads or off-road, it’s important to be properly prepared.

There’s the obvious, such as lights, but there are other steps you can take to make riding at night safer and more comfortable.

We asked Matt Woodcock, training manager at Cycling UK, and Chris Bennett, head of behaviour change and engagement at Sustrans, for their advice on how to ride safely at night.

And, if you’re a mountain biker, we’ve got tips for trail riding at night too.

1. Use appropriate lights

Tips for road riding in the dark
If riding on unlit lanes, you’ll need a front light powerful enough to illuminate the road.
Russel Burton / Immediate Media

In the UK, “there’s a legal requirement during the hours of darkness [sunset to sunrise] to have a front white light and a rear red light,” says Woodcock. You can read our guide to bike light laws in the UK for more information.

The lights you need for cycling to work in town are very different from those you need to ride on unlit country lanes or off-road. If there’s decent street lighting on your route, it’s all about about making sure you’re seen by other road users, while on dark roads or pitch-black trails you the lights have to illuminate the road or trail ahead of you.

“If you’re riding along unlit country lanes, you’ll need a different lighting setup to riding in an urban setting – or you may need to have a mix of lights if you’re riding through both environments,” says Woodcock.

So, whereas a lower power blinky might work as a front light in town, you’ll need a much more powerful front light for a mountain bike ride or country lane – anything from 400 to 800 lumens on the road and even more off-road, depending on where you’re riding and how fast you’re going. In all cases, you should have a red rear light.

It’s worth having multiple lights too. If you’re riding on the road, you can use one flashing to alert other road users and a constant to light your way. It’s also easier for approaching vehicles to work out how far away a constant light is than a blinking one, so a second rear light is useful.

“Helmet-mounted lights are used by many cyclists as they not only directly illuminate your line of vision, but they’re also handy to see with if you need to carry out any bike maintenance,” says Bennett.

Off-road, a helmet light will light up turns and hazards better than a bar-mounted one because it points where you want to go, rather than where the bike is heading, and is mounted higher up. But keep it lightweight, a heavy one will be uncomfortable and may shift your helmet around as you move.

2. Ride where you can be seen

Upping your visibility on the roads at night isn’t just a question of lighting yourself up. In general, drivers are looking ahead, so you want to make sure that you’re in their field of vision.

That means riding a little way out into the road – around 70cm to 1m. That way you should also avoid the worst of the obstacles at the side of the carriageway, such as potholes and drain covers.

“When cycling at night, ride in the right position to be seen clearly. Make your intentions known to others earlier than you would in daylight,” says Cycling UK’s Woodcock.

3. Add reflectives

Tips for road riding in the dark
Reflective detailing on your clothing can help boost visibility on the road at night.
Adam Gasson / Immediate Media

“The other legal requirement is to have a white reflector (front), red reflector (rear) and pedal reflectors,” Woodcock points out.

“Studies have shown that having reflectors on your pedals, or ankles, will help you stand out more because other road users notice the elliptical movement of the pedal strokes,” he continues.

Bennett suggests you go beyond this to up your visibility. “On top of the legal requirement to have a front white light, a rear red light, plus reflectors at night, you should ensure that you’re seen from side-on,” he says.

That’s something to consider when buying bike lights – do they offer any side visibility? Reflective detailing on key parts of your kit or on a cycling backpack if you’re commuting can also help.

“Reflective gear has been shown to be seen better than hi-vis wear at night,” adds Woodcock. “Having reflective piping on your clothing, especially your gloves, will help others see you and your hand signals.”

4. Don’t dazzle oncoming vehicles

Some high-powered front lights have brighter beams than car headlights. “Be aware of the dazzle some powerful lights can cause to others, so ensure that you direct your beam of light down to the road surface to avoid blinding drivers,” says Woodcock.

Some road-specific lights – such as those that comply with Germany’s StVZO light regulations – have a beam pattern shaped to avoid dazzling other road users.

If you’ve got an off-road-ready front light, it’s a good idea to dial down its brightness or switch to a flashing mode if you have to ride on the tarmac for a while. That will conserve your battery, too.

5. Have backup lights

Tips for road riding in the dark
Running two lights enables you to have one steady and one flashing. It also gives you a backup option should your main light fail.
Oli Woodman / Immediate Media

Make sure you’ve fully charged your lights before heading off at night and select a light mode that should give you the burn time to comfortably complete your journey. Remember, claimed run times from manufacturers aren’t always accurate.

As we’ve already covered, it’s useful to have a second front and rear light, so you can run both on a lower power setting than your main lights to up battery life. That way you won’t be left in the dark if one does stop working.

Once your eyes become accustomed to the dark, it should be possible to dim your lights on less tricky terrain or where there’s street lighting, saving the brightest settings for technical trail stretches or unlit roads.

If you’re planning to do a lot of night riding, it might be worthwhile investing in a dynamo front wheel and light set, so you’re independent of battery power. A modern dynamo lighting system is very efficient and adds minimal drag.

6. Ride with caution

If you’re new to night riding or are venturing out onto unknown terrain, take it steady.

“Keep an eye out for hazards, such as slippery leaves, and where possible stick to riding on familiar road routes or else opt for better-lit paths,” says Bennett. It’s easier to hit unseen obstacles at night too.

Even if you know the route you’re riding, it will look very different at night. So don’t plan to take on anything too ambitious and don’t try to thrash it.

If you’re riding with others, leave enough space between you and the rider in front so that your light won’t cast their shadow ahead of them, making it difficult for them to see their way. Also, if you’re riding in a group, avoid dazzling the rider behind you with an overpowered rear light.

7. Wrap up

Tips for road riding in the dark
Wrap up when riding in winter – and be prepared for the temperature to drop at night.
Robert Smith/Immediate Media

You don’t need us to tell you that it’s likely to be colder at night, but make sure you’re properly prepared for the conditions. If you’re planning to ride regularly through the colder months, investing in decent winter cycling kit will make all the difference.

Even on a summer night, it can get chilly, but a ride at close to zero degrees Celsius in winter can be a very unpleasant affair if you don’t have the right kit. Swapping to full-finger winter gloves, tights and thicker socks will help keep your extremities warmer.

Mist or fog will chill you too, so it’s worth having water-resistant outer layers, even if you don’t expect rain. If rain is forecast, a quality waterproof jacket is essential.

8. Let someone know where you’re going

Let someone know where you plan to ride and how long you expect to be out for, particularly if you’re heading off-road.

There are far fewer people out at night to spot you if you have a mechanical or are injured, especially if you’re venturing off the beaten path.

You’ll also cool down quickly at night if you aren’t moving – another reason to wrap up or carry an extra layer in the event of an unexpected stop.

Alex Evans <![CDATA[Night riding: 6 tips for mountain biking at night]]> 2021-10-17T10:00:26Z 2021-10-17T10:00:00Z

The dry, dusty days of summer may be over but the change of season needn’t put a stop to your riding.

With daylight hours dwindling in the Northern Hemisphere, night riding can throw a whole new light on your local trails. Routes you know like the back of your hand in the day take on a whole new lease of life when night falls.

As night ride season takes off – often in conditions that may be cold, dark and frequently wet – there are plenty of ways to ensure the fun doesn’t have to stop.

Read on to find out how to turn the dreary depths of winter into some of your best riding months of the year.

1. Get lit

Mountain biking at night, night riding – Bikepark Wales after hours. PIC © Andy Lloyd
A powerful front light is a night riding essential.
Andy Lloyd

A decent front light is essential if you want to enjoy nicely illuminated trails, rather than spend the whole time scrabbling around in the dark.

You may be able to get away with a 400-lumen light if you know the way, aren’t looking to ride like a pro and don’t have a mate with a 5,000-lumen monster on their bar that leaves you in a perpetual shadow.

But if you’re wanting to go faster and harder, you’ll need more illumination. We’d recommend 1,500 lumens as a starting point for serious night riding off-road.

Take a look at our guide to the best mountain bike lights, for our favourite tried-and-tested options at a range of budgets. You’ll need a good rear light, too.

2. Mount up

There are a couple of options when it comes to mounting your light. The obvious choice is the handlebar, especially if it’s an all-in-one unit with the battery and lamp combined.

Alternatively, you can fix it to your helmet, but avoid this with a heavy light because it’ll cause the lid to shift around when you ride over bumps.

The other consideration is the type of trail you’re riding. If there are lots of tight turns, a bar-mounted light won’t shine around the corners, which is where you need to be looking.

A helmet-mounted light solves this issue because it shines where you look, but if there isn’t enough light to also flood the trail directly in front of you, you may struggle.

The best option is, of course, to have both head and bar-mounted lights.

3. Pick the right route

Mountain biking at night, night riding – Bikepark Wales after hours. PIC © Andy Lloyd
Trail centres are ideal for honing your night riding skills.
Andy Lloyd

If you’ve never been on a night ride before, try it out on a route you know well before adventuring into the wilds.

You’ll be surprised by how alien the trails look and feel. Subconscious cues that you use to initiate turns and features you’re familiar with will be cast into shadow and won’t appear when you expect.

Take it easy – you won’t be ‘winning’ Strava on your first outing.

Trail centres are ideal places to hone your night riding skills. The tracks are less likely to have hidden surprises such as stumps or rocks that could cause you to crash. You can always challenge yourself with more technical trails once you’ve built up your confidence.

4. Make friends

After-work rides with mates are a great way to keep the winter blues away.

Shops and cycling clubs around the country organise evening rides too, and they’re a great way to meet new and like-minded people.

With daylight hours limited in winter, if you want to ride regularly then you’ll need to get out after dark. Having riding buddies to team up with can help you get out of the door when it’s otherwise tempting to stay at home.

5. Keep your distance

Mountain biking at night, night riding – Bikepark Wales after hours. PIC © Andy Lloyd
Keep your distance from the rider in front.
Andy Lloyd

Don’t ride too close to the person in front. If your light is brighter than theirs it’ll cast a giant shadow ahead of them, making it harder for them to see the trail.

If you stop for a chinwag, don’t shine your light directly into your mates’ eyes because it’ll temporarily blind them.

Instead of keeping your light on full power for the whole ride, reduce the output on flat sections and climbs to save battery life.

Don’t run it so dim that you can’t see, though!

6. Stay safe

Riding at night can be dangerous. The likelihood of crashing is higher, you’re less visible to other trail (and road) users and you’re less likely to encounter other riders in the event of an accident.

Take a working rear light even if you’re planning on staying off-road – you never know what might happen.

A back-up front light is a good idea too and pay close attention to your main light’s battery life – you don’t want to get caught out in the middle of nowhere, unable to see or be seen.

Wait for friends if you get separated and always let someone know where you’re planning to go and how long you’re going to be out.

If you ride with a GPS cycling computer, consider using a location tracker. Some of the best cycling apps also offer similar functionality.

Make sure your bike is ready for the mud if you live in a wet climate and take everything you need for trailside repairs.

Wrap up warm, too – when it’s dark, the temperature drops. A spare layer in your riding pack could make all the difference if the weather changes or you need to make an unscheduled stop.

You can read our guide to the best waterproof mountain biking jackets for starters.

Will Jones <![CDATA[Custom bike mega gallery | The 7 best bikes from Bespoked 2021]]> 2021-10-15T21:41:24Z 2021-10-15T21:37:51Z

Bespoked is the UK’s biggest custom bike show and this year we’ve been spoilt with a beautiful mix of road, gravel and touring bikes (and a cheeky tandem or two for good measure).

Now in its 10th year, the UK’s answer to NAHBS has moved from its long-term home in Bristol to Harrogate in Yorkshire after a two-year pandemic-forced hiatus.

Here are our seven favourite bikes covering the full spectrum of weird and wonderfulness from this year’s show.

Feather Cycles time trial bike

Bespoked 2021 custom bike gallery BikeRadar
This custom steel time trial bike from Feather Cycles is very special.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

A gallery dedicated to a bike show in Yorkshire deserves to kick things off with a bike from Yorkshire.

This time trial bike from York-based Feather Cycles is both easy on the eye and a deeply emotional build.

Constructed from Columbus Spirit and Air tubing and bedecked in some seriously tasty kit.

While it’s easy to ogle at the SRAM Red eTap groupset and the Aerocoach extensions, these off the peg items pale somewhat into insignificance when you learn the paint contains the ashes of the owner’s brother, who passed away recently.
Bespoked 2021 custom bike gallery BikeRadar
This cheeky custom seatstay bridge is a real highlight of the build.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

The paint job is a homage to Joy Division – the owner’s brother’s favourite band – and the custom seatstay bridge is what he wanted to have on his own Feather Cycles bike . There are even Joy Division lyrics tucked away on the chainstays, hidden behind the disc wheel.

The rear light is switched on using an infinity symbol tucked away on the seat tube – a fitting final flourish on a hugely personal build.

Bespoked 2021 custom bike gallery BikeRadar
This bike is ridden hard and regularly by its owner.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

Unlike many show bikes, this particular bike is actually raced hard, with the owner recently taking on a 24-hour time trial challenge on board it (and crashing in the process, fortunately sustaining no damage to the bike or himself!).

Brevet Cycles l’Ephemere

Bespoked 2021 custom bike gallery BikeRadar
A classic randonneur bike in every sense.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

Our eyes were immediately caught by this truly stunning randonneur bike from Brevet Cycles.

Bespoked 2021 custom bike gallery BikeRadar
This custom pump peg holds the modified Lezne minipump in place.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

The frame is made of Reynolds 953 stainless steel and is painted in-house by the brand. Extra details that really make the bike sing include a lovely custom chain hanger on the seatstay, a custom pump peg, and a modified Lezyne mini pump that now includes a spring to keep it in place. The bike also features an internal stopper brazed within the seat tube to prevent the seatpost from severing the internally routed cables.

A neat rubber chainstay protector also prevents the chain from chipping the chainstays. A low trail fork keeps the handling responsive when riding with a load up front.

The bike rolls on 650b wheels shod with Pacenti Pari-Moto tyres.

For sunset-seeking horizon chasers, the SON Deluxe dynamo hub powers a matching SON Edelux headlight. The system lighting is controlled using a really neat custom magnetic switch that is integrated into the top cap.

The 10-speed shifting is actuated by Simplex friction shifters on the downtube, with a Rene Herse double crankset providing ample gear range for loaded riding.

The old school cantilever brakes are brought up to date with Kool-Stop pads to provide plenty of bite. Finally, a Berthoud Aspin saddle gives a cushy place to park yourself for long days in the saddle.

Clandestine off-road tourer

Bespoked 2021 custom bike gallery BikeRadar
The rugged off-road tourer from Clandestine is a true monster truck.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

Designed to be taken into the wild for extended periods of time, this blue monster from Clandestine doesn’t follow the current trend for packing light.

Instead, it’s designed to pack… everything. Wood burning stoves, warm tents, a portable kitchen sink – if you want to take it, this bike will be a willing accomplice.

Rolling on 3in wide Surly Knard tyres and Velocity Dually rims, we can’t imagine much it wouldn’t be able to handle, with ample gear range provided by a Rolhoff 14-speed hub and simple bar end grip shifters.

Bespoked 2021 custom bike gallery BikeRadar
A custom quill stem allows for quick (and extensive) handlebar height adjustments.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

As with any touring bike, getting a comfortable fit is paramount. With this in mind, the bike features a custom quill stem for easy handlebar height adjustment.

The fully custom bi-plane fork and the integrated front rack were designed to accommodate yet more bags, though the only bag on show is the lovely half-frame setup from Mack Workshop.

Bespoked 2021 custom bike gallery BikeRadar
Custom cranks is just about as custom as it comes.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

Power is transferred to the rear via a set of custom colour-matched cranks and a Profile chainring. The bottom bracket is housed in an eccentric bottom bracket shell to tension the chain. The owner also requested rear wishbones as a homage to T1 BMX’s signature design.

Constructed from a mix of T45, Reynolds 853 and Colombus Zona steel, the bike isn’t as heavy as it appears, with the majority of the weight coming from the rear hub.

A durable powder coat in a lovely shade of deep blue finishes off the build, and is very much befitting of a bike of such purpose.

Spoon Customs NASCAR inspired bike

Bespoked 2021 custom bike gallery BikeRadar
This lovely bike is inspired by a legendary NASCAR car.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

This bike from Spoon Customs – which we have featured in previous Bespoked coverage – draws on North Americas biggest motoring export, NASCAR.

Bespoked 2021 custom bike gallery BikeRadar
The quality of this paintwork is remarkable.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

Inspired by the Plymouth Superbird (‘Car 43’, to be precise), the bike’s paint is from Gun Control as done entirely by hand, including the incredible examples of ‘brandalism’ on the fork.

There are no water transfers here – just lots of masking, airbrushing and a bucket load of patience.

Bespoked 2021 custom bike gallery BikeRadar
The custom stainless steel seat mast topper is made in-house by Spoon Customs.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

Beneath the gorgeous paint lies a frame made from stainless Columbus XCR, which is paired with an ENVE carbon seat tube. This is finished with a custom stainless steel seat topper.

Bespoked 2021 custom bike gallery BikeRadar
ENVE supplied the finishing kit, wheelset and more on the bike.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

The build sees ENVE Foundation 65 wheels built by Sharp Precision matched with a full complement of ENVE finishing kit, including the bottle cages and tape.

For the car nerds among you, the wheels were, of course, shod with Goodyear tyres as a final nod to the bike’s inspiration.

Lord Nomad

Bespoked 2021 custom bike gallery BikeRadar
The bike was originally built up for Grinduro 2021.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

This is the personal bike of the owner of Lord Cycles, which is based in Cardiff.

Originally built for Grinduro it is designed for long days in the saddle over rough terrain.

The clever bag support from VAP doubles up as an integrated aero extension, offering a vital second position for long days in the saddle. Better still, it’s colour-matched to tie the system into the build.

A custom full frame bag from Straight Cut Designs holds a hydration bladder that routes the hose out beyond the bars for easy quenching of dry mouths over dusty terrain (conditions, of course, often found in South Wales)

Bespoked 2021 custom bike gallery BikeRadar
The bike even has a dropper post – perfect for the budding shredpacker.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

The bike’s wheelset sees Pura Velo rims fitted with Maxxis Ardent tyres – a setup that will ensure grip on the rough stuff without sacrificing too much in the way of outright speed on smoother terrain.

Should the need to shred take you, the bike is fitted with a dropper post while a pairing of Columbus Zona, Spirit and Life tubing mean it is light enough to “ride like a BMX”, according to the owner.

Dear Susan hand-painted fixie

Bespoked 2021 custom bike gallery BikeRadar
Ahh, Dear Susan – Bespoked wouldn’t be the same without your presence.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

Bespoked simply wouldn’t be complete without something unusual from Dear Susan, the mastermind behind the infamous ‘Pubesmobile’.

The bike is – wait for it – a brakeless fixed gear drop bar gravel bike with a suspension fork from Lauf. Quite the mouthful.

It also features custom anodised Velocity rims, bling from Hope and Paul, and a handsome Brooks sporting hand-hammered copper rivets.

Bespoked 2021 custom bike gallery BikeRadar
The lettering work on the downtube is truly lovely.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

The most delightful highlight of the build is the hand-painted logos on the down tube. These were done by a signwriter near to Dear Susan’s workshop.

Bespoked 2021 custom bike gallery BikeRadar
The bike features gold leaf detailing on the headtube.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

The highlights on the head and down tube are laid down with gold leaf, which is extraordinarily fragile has a tendency to flake off if you look at it too harshly.

The effort has paid off and it gives the bike a wonderfully deep textured look.

A reaper on the top tube will hopefully provide some rust protection to the unknown steel tubing, though for how long we can’t say with any certainty.

2008 Bilenky Tandem

Bespoked 2021 custom bike gallery BikeRadar
We fell in love with this well-abused Bilenky tandem.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

Quietly locked outside the conference centre was this gorgeous Bilenky tandem, originally made for the owner, Jon Woodroof in 2008.

Bespoked 2021 custom bike gallery BikeRadar
Fitting six S&S couplers on a bike is no mean feat.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

It features no fewer than six S&S frame couplers, which allow the frame to be broken down into smaller sections for easy travelling. The bike also features a whopping six bottle cage mounts.

Bespoked 2021 custom bike gallery BikeRadar
A lugged stem – this must be Bespoked.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

Thomson components feature heavily, though the stoker’s handlebar is attached via a gorgeous lugged Nitto stem.

The bike is specced with a Brooks saddle and bar tape for both captain and stoker, providing ample comfort for long days on the road.

Bespoked 2021 custom bike gallery BikeRadar
With 48 spokes at the rear, this wheel is a serious bit of kit.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

The wheels have a whopping 48 spokes on the rear (a high count, even for a tandem) and 40 on the front. These see Velocity Atlas rims laced to Phil Wood hubs. Both wheels are fitted with WTB Expanse 32 tyres, with stopping power provided by Paul Touring cantilever brakes and Kool-Stop pads.

Bespoked 2021 custom bike gallery BikeRadar
A drum brake provides helpful additional braking power on steep descents, as well as doubling up as a parking brake.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

Further braking is added by a drum brake, actuated by a Powershift lever hidden just behind the front bag.

The front triangle features lovely lug work and Giles Berthoud bags adorned with countless patches.

Bespoked 2021 custom bike gallery BikeRadar
We love this Woodruff family portrait in the bar bar.
Will Jones / Immediate Media

The map case, instead of holding a map, holds a portrait of the Woodroof family out on their bikes drawn by Adeline of Mercredi Cycles – a visible reminder of what it’s all about.


Paul Norman <![CDATA[Best overshoes for cycling 2021]]> 2021-10-15T14:00:21Z 2021-10-15T14:00:00Z

You’re not going to enjoy riding through the colder months in just your best cycling shoes, which are typically designed for more clement conditions, with lots of ventilation and lightweight uppers, so the best cycling overshoes will keep your feet warm and dry in the worst weather.

While a pair of winter cycling shoes are the best option if you’re a dedicated foul weather rider, a pair of overshoes is the most convenient way to add some weatherproofing and insulation to cope with cold, wet conditions. 

Read on for our top-rated picks, links to full reviews of all the overshoes we’ve tested as well as more buying advice.

Best cycling overshoes, as rated by our expert testers

  • Castelli Pioggia 3 overshoes: £55 / $59.99 / AU$102
  • Endura Freezing Point overshoes: £49.99 / $69.99
  • Gore C5 Windstopper Thermo overshoes: £59.99 / $79.99 / AU$105
  • Rapha Overshoes: £55 / $75 /  AU$95
  • Shimano S3100R NPU+ overshoes: £49.99

Castelli Pioggia 3 overshoes

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Best overshoes for cycling
Castelli’s Pioggia 3 overshoes are a smart-looking option.
Simon Bromley / Immediate Media
  • £55 / $59.99 / AU$102 as tested
  • Smooth, stretchy and good looks
  • Comfortably warm despite their lack of bulk

Finally, an overshoe that looks quite nice on, with low bulk and a stretchy, close fit. Functionality is good too, with excellent waterproofing and wind resistance, and enough insulation for comfort on winter rides in typical UK temperatures.

Castelli claims that they’re aero (they certainly look it), and they’re thin enough that you can adjust Boa dials on your shoes through them too.

Endura Freezing Point overshoes

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Best overshoes for cycling
Endura’s Freezing Points should keep the chill off your soles too.
Simon Bromley / Immediate Media
  • £49.99 / $69.99 as tested
  • Thick neoprene with a fleeced inside face
  • Sturdy base and strong stitching

Endura’s range-topping road overshoes are neoprene, with a fleecy lining for extra warmth, which extends to the base too, so the soles of your feet shouldn’t feel the chill.

Sturdy construction should ensure longevity and there are plenty of reflective points to add road presence.

Gore C5 Windstopper Thermo overshoes

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Best overshoes for cycling
These overshoes from Gore have dual-density fabric and a less bulky profile.
Simon Bromley / Immediate Media
  • £59.99 / $79.99 / AU$105 as tested
  • Low bulk, comfortable fabric construction
  • Good water resistance without neoprene

Gore uses thicker, more insulated fabric on the front of the C5 Windstopper Thermo overshoes, where most water will hit your foot, and thinner fabric at the rear, for a comfortable, lightweight feel and a less bulky profile.

These overshoes are DWR treated, with a breathable construction that keeps out water, without getting sweaty inside.

There’s also a neon yellow option, as well as the black overshoes pictured.

Rapha Overshoes

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Best overshoes for cycling
Rapha’s Overshoes are neoprene but not too bulky.
Simon Bromley / Immediate Media
  • £55 / $75 /  AU$95 as tested
  • Neoprene, but without too much bulk
  • Available in bright pink as well as all-black

Although these overshoes are neoprene, Rapha’s cut is good and there’s not too much bulk.

We found the Rapha Overshoes to be good for single-figure temperatures (Celsius) but they might be a bit too light to be comfortable in colder climes.

The optional hot pink colour adds a bit of flash to get you noticed, although you’ll need to wash these overshoes frequently to keep them looking fresh.

Shimano S3100R NPU+ overshoes

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Best overshoes for cycling
Shimano’s S3100R NPU overshoes should handle tough riding conditions.
Simon Bromley / Immediate Media
  • £49.99 as tested
  • Heavyweight neoprene will handle cold, wet conditions
  • Bright colours and reflectives help with visibility on the road

Designed to work down to -5°C, Shimano’s neoprene overshoes have a water-resistant outer, a high ankle cuff and robust base.

Their bright colour and reflectives are good for your road presence, and the cut is close enough not to feel too bulky. 

Also consider…

These overshoes scored fewer than four out of five stars in testing, but they’re still worth considering, particularly if you find a good deal.

dhb Extreme Weather overshoes

3.5 out of 5 star rating
Best overshoes for cycling
dhb’s Extreme weather overshoes are competitively priced.
Simon Bromley / Immediate Media
  • £32 / $41 / AU$52 as tested
  • A straightforward neoprene design that won’t break the bank
  • Does the basics well

Made from 3.5mm neoprene, dhb’s Extreme Weather overshoes provide plenty of insulation and are water-resistant.

They have taped seams and a Kevlar-reinforced base, along with enough reflectives to get you noticed. All this comes at a budget price.

Sportful Fiandre Bootie overshoes

3.5 out of 5 star rating
Best overshoes for cycling
Sportful’s Fiandre bootie overshoes are best suited to wet rather than cold conditions.
Simon Bromley / Immediate Media
  • £80 / $90 as tested
  • Quality Gore-Tex fabric construction for low-bulk rain resistance
  • No insulation, so best for milder conditions

High-end materials give excellent rain protection in a lightweight, if pricey, overshoe.

The absence of insulation may leave your feet a bit cold on winter rides, however. These are better suited to wet but mild conditions.

Altura Firestorm overshoes

3.0 out of 5 star rating
Best overshoes for cycling
Altura’s lightweight Firestorm overshoes.
Simon Bromley / Immediate Media
  • £40 / $56 / AU$72 as tested
  • Lightweight fabric construction
  • Cool colour with extensive reflectives down the sides

A nice change from black, Altura’s softshell overshoes come in this grey option, with reflective speckles down their sides. There is still a black version if that’s your preference.

With fleecy insides, they’re warm, but the fabric wets out quicker than some of the competition.

They’re also less stretchy than some, so sizing is important.

How to choose the best overshoes for cycling

Overshoe material

All-weather overshoes tend to follow the same basic pattern; there’s a high ankle cuff to try and prevent rain from running down your leg and into your shoe, and a bootie-style lower section that covers your shoe. That typically has a central seam on top which is taped to keep out wheel spray. Other seams will usually be taped too.

The classic material for overshoes is closed-cell neoprene rubber. It’s the same stuff used for wetsuits and provides wet weather protection while adding insulation. Unfortunately, it’s not that durable, so it’s often covered with a tougher outer fabric. At 3mm or so thick, it has quite a bulky look too, and it’s not at all breathable. 

Sometimes kit makers will use a less bulky fabric for the uppers, one that’s typically DWR (durable water repellent) coated to repel water, and includes a breathable membrane. It’s an alternative to neoprene that’s lighter and less stiff, but it can lose its water-resistance over time and, unless additional insulation is added, may not be as warm in cold weather.

Whether that matters, of course, depends on when you’re planning to use your overshoes. It doesn’t only rain in winter, of course…

Overshoe sole design

The Achilles’ heel of overshoes tends to be their sole. First, it needs to have a couple of holes in it to fit over your shoes’ cleats and heel. This inevitably lets water in, which can creep into your shoes’ uppers and through vent holes in their soles.

Also, you’re going to end up walking in your overshoes at some point, and you’ll have to put a foot down at junctions or stops, all of which subjects them to wear.

Most overshoes use a much tougher fabric on the base, sometimes including kevlar fibres, to cope with the abuse. Even so, you’re likely to find that your overshoes wear quite quickly and need replacing after a couple of winters riding.

With that in mind, cheap but functional might be better than technical and flashy if you’re budget-conscious.

Do you actually need overshoes?

Best overshoes for cycling
Proper winter cycling shoes are a great option but are probably only of interest if you’re a dedicated winter rider.
David Caudery / Immediate Media

An alternative to overshoes is to buy a pair of dedicated winter cycling shoes. They’ll have sealed soles, so water ingress from below is avoided and the upper is usually insulated, waterproof and breathable, so your feet shouldn’t get cold, wet or sweaty. 

With some winter-specific shoes, heel lift can be an issue because the ankle cuff needs to be wide enough to allow you to insert your foot into the boot. 

In the last couple of years, brands such as Mavic, Fizik and Northwave have brought out winter cycling shoes. These too have a waterproof upper and sole, and include insulation, but without a cuff the fit around the ankle is closer, leading to better pedalling dynamics and a more comfortable fit. 

If you’re planning to ride extensively in cold, wet conditions, a dedicated set of winter shoes or boots may work out cheaper than hammering your summer shoes and replacing overshoes regularly. Waterproof socks are a boon for the winter rider too.

Have you found what you’re looking for?

If you’re looking to buy more winter kit, make sure you check out our guide to the best winter gloves and the best cycling kit for riding in the rain.

And, if you’re keeping it indoors, here’s everything you need to know about indoor cycling, training apps and the best smart trainers.

Tom Marvin <![CDATA[Best hardtail mountain bikes in 2021]]> 2021-10-15T11:22:42Z 2021-10-15T11:10:18Z

The humble hardtail seems to be going through a mini-revival, with a raft of cross-country, downcountry, trail and potentially even radder rigid frames being introduced.

The advantages are clear. Where uphill speed matters, the direct connection from crank to axle, without some energy-inefficient suspension spoiling the fun, is the quickest way to get up to speed.

Riding rough-and-ready trails on a hardtail might beat you up a little more, but there’s something almost zen-like about being able to pick the smoothest line between the chunder, while pumping through rollers to generate free speed.

Hardtails might also be lighter, easier to maintain and cheaper too, because there are simply fewer moving parts to add weight, a requirement to service or that need building in the first place.

Here, we’ve put together our pick of the best hardtail mountain bikes as ridden, rated and reviewed by the BikeRadar team.

While many hardtails make their way into our best mountain bikes under £2,000 list, competing with the best trail bikes and the best cross-country bikes, the simplicity of hardtails makes them a more affordable option for many.

So, if you’re looking for a less expensive bike you can skip to the best hardtail mountain bikes for under £1,000 below.

We also have a guide on how to choose the right mountain bike for you if you are still deciding what type of mountain bike to pick.

Best hardtail mountain bikes in 2021

  • Bird Forge: £695 / $952 / €962 (frame only)
  • Canyon Stoic 4: £1,639 / $1,799 / AU$2,649 / €1,699
  • Merida Big. Trail 500: £1,350
  • Pipedream Moxie Mx3: £649 (frameset)
  • Canyon Exceed CFR Team: £6,229 / AU$9,099 / €5,799
  • Cotic BFeMax: £549 (frameset)
  • GT Zaskar LT Expert: £1,300 / €1,499
  • Radon Cragger 8: £1,847 / €1,950
  • Sonder Signal ST NX: £1,599 / $2,297 / AU$2,914 / €1,799
  • Specialized Fuse 27.5 (2021): £1,149 / $1,500 / AU$2,000
  • Vitus Sentier 29 VRX: £1,600 / $2,000 / AU$3,000 / €1,800

Best hardtail mountain bikes for under £1,000 

  • Calibre Line 29: £905
  • Carrera Fury: £600
  • Voodoo Bizango Carbon: £1,000
  • Cannondale Trail SE 4: £900 / $1,150
  • Vitus Sentier 27: £900 / $1,100 / AU$2,250 / €1,300

Bird Forge

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Best hardtail mountain bikes
This 29er frame is optimised for forks with 140 to 160mm travel and features Reynolds 853 DZB top and down tubes – arguably the two that most affect ride quality.
Andy Lloyd / Immediate Media
  • Contemporary geometry and excellent ride
  • Value for money full builds
  • £2,900 custom build in testing
  • £695 / $952 / €962 (frame only) as tested

The Bird Forge is a steel hardtail designed around 29in wheels and 140 to 160mm travel forks, and has an excellent ride quality across terrains.

Bird is known for its modern geometry, and the Forge is no exception. The frame has a 64-degree head tube angle and 77-degree seat tube angle with a long reach and low bottom bracket. We found this slack geometry inspired confidence when the trail got rough, and the short chainstays didn’t make it hard to lift the front wheel over obstacles.

Bird offers custom builds and our setup with wireless SRAM Eagle, Formula Selva R fork, SRAM G2 RSC brakes and DT Swiss rims on Hope hubs proved to be excellent value for money.

The only really niggle we had was with the Deathgrips, which made accessing the AXS upshift paddle tricky, but Bird does offer other grip options.

Canyon Stoic 4

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Best hardtail mountain bikes
The Canyon Stoic 4 is a serious contender when it comes to hardtails with downhill potential.
Andy Lloyd / Immediate Media
  • Modern geometry and well-considered spec
  • The aluminium frame can be harsh
  • £1,639 / $1,799 / AU$2,649 / €1,699 as tested

The Canyon Stoic 4 is designed for everything from technical trails to bike park sessions.

The low and long geometry gave even the best full-suss trails bikes a run for their money when descending – even if the burly aluminium frame did feel a little harsh at times. The trade-off here is that it doesn’t feel as playful as some other bikes.

Despite the gravity focus, the 75-degree seat tube angle positions your weight nicely, so winding up steep climbs never feels arduous.

Canyon has opted to spec the smaller frames with 27.5in wheels and the larger frames with 29in wheels.

This top-specced bike has a 140mm RockShox front fork, SRAM 12-speed NX Eagle drivetrain and Iridium 170mm dropper. Value for money is pretty impressive, which we’ve come to expect from direct-to-consumer brands like Canyon.

The Stoic 4 should be high on your list if you’re seeking hardtail simplicity with downhill performance.

Merida Big.Trail 500

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Best hardtail mountain bikes
Merida has chosen some top-performing parts for its spec.
Ian Linton / Immediate Media
  • Impressive downhill and a comfortable climber
  • Fairly noisy on rough terrain
  • £1,350 as tested

It might not be the first brand that comes to mind, but Merida’s Big.Trail 500 is a strong contender in the trail hardtail category.

While the geometry might not be as long and low as some other bikes, the short seat tube means you can go up a size and effectively unlock a very progressive bike.

When it comes to performance, the Big.Trail is impressive downhill with the Recon fork aiding the aluminium frame’s calm handling. The bike is also a competent climber, with the Shimano Deore 11-52t cassette providing a low enough gear to get you up steep inclines.

There are plenty of nifty features too, such as internal cabling and mounts for mudguards, and the bike will take a tapered steerer tube if you ever want to upgrade the fork.

Pick the right size, and the Big.Trail promises to be a fun and impressive bike for the money.

Pipedream Moxie Mx3

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Best hardtail mountain bikes
This latest Moxie hardtail shares its top tube with The Full Moxie, Pipedream’s full-suspension bike.
Andy Lloyd / Immediate Media
  • Versatile ride that suits long days out and blasts in the woods
  • Frameset only
  • £3,300 custom build in testing
  • £649 (frameset) as tested

The Pipedream Moxie Mx3 is made from chromoly steel tubes and adaptability is put front and centre. The bike can take 140 to 170mm travel forks and has sliding dropouts, so it can fit 650b, 650b+ or 29in wheels.

The sliding dropouts change the geometry of the bike, but in its ‘long’ setup we found the Moxie had a lovely balance between high-speed stability and agility, carving through corners. When climbing, the 77.5-degree seat tube centres your weight nicely.

The difference between the long and short settings is subtle, but we found the short setting preferable because it gives the bike a fun-loving personality.

At the time of testing, Pipedream only offered the Moxie as a frameset with no off-the-shelf builds. This means you can customise your build however you want, but we would say be prepared to play around with stem length to get the right handling.

Canyon Exceed CFR Team

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Best hardtail mountain bikes
The Canyon Exceed CFR Team is a pure cross-country machine.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
  • Classic XC feel
  • Traditional geometry
  • £6,229 / AU$9,099 / €5,799 as tested

The Exceed CFR Team is Canyon’s thoroughbred XC race bike, with a stiff and uncompromising carbon frame.

The relatively short and steep geometry puts you in an aggressive position and forces you to push all your effort through the backend. The frame is slightly longer than the previous Exceed, and feels a touch more composed as a result.

As you might expect from the price, the spec is top. It has a Shimano XTR drivetrain, wide and light DT Swiss carbon wheels, and a 100mm Fox StepCast fork.

Canyon provides its own one-piece bar and stem, which is aero but lacks adjustment, and its carbon seatpost can be a bit of a hassle to set up.

While some XC bikes might have more progressive shapes, there’s no denying the Canyon Exceed is lightweight, well-specced and dedicated to efficiency.

Cotic BFeMax

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Best hardtail mountain bikes
This steel BFeMAX 29er boasts a build that screams technical capability.
Andy Lloyd / Immediate Media
  • Steadfast over sketchy trails
  • The high bottom bracket has pros and cons
  • £3,538 custom build in testing
  • £549 (frameset) as tested

The steel BFe has long been a feature of the hardtail scene, with 26in, 650b and 29in wheel versions offered since 2005.

The custom 29er BFeMax we rode in testing has Cotic’s aggressively shaped ‘longshot’ geometry and a spec sheet that’s built around technical capability. In short, it’s a bike with gnarly intentions.

Built with meaty WTB tyres and a top-end RockShox Pike Ultimate 150mm travel fork, the bike flies down sketchy, loose trails at speed, with the slack geometry bringing stability and the Reynolds steel smoothing out the ride.

Despite the seat tube not being that steep, the long rear-end helps keeps your weight centred and makes climbing easier.

The high bottom bracket helps prevent the pedals from hitting obstacles, but we found this also means the bike is less willing to chop and change direction than some.

GT Zaskar LT Expert

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Best hardtail mountain bikes
The Zaskar LT Expert has GT’s instantly recognisable three triangle frame design.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
  • Trail-ready ride with wide tyres
  • Could do with grabbier brakes
  • £1,300 / €1,499 as tested

For the LT Expert, GT has stretched the Zaskar’s front triangle and slackened the head tube, firmly placing it in the trail bike category.

The result is a bike that can bomb through the woods with ease, providing plenty of stability on flowing descents. You can push the wide bar into the 2.5in Maxxis tyres to unlock loads of grip. The fairly low bottom bracket also aids cornering.

Uphill, the 75-degree seat tube angle centres you nicely above the bottom bracket for comfortable pedalling, but you need to pay attention to rear tyre pressure otherwise the bike can feel draggy on climbs.

The spec on the bike is decent and the 130mm RockShox 35 fork is good for this end of the market. However, a mix of SRAM and Shimano parts doesn’t create the most ergonomic cockpit.

While the brakes do a good job once bedded in, it would be nice to have more stopping power to complement this bike’s aggressive demeanour.

Radon Cragger 8

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Best hardtail mountain bikes
For the price, the Cragger’s spec isn’t far off perfect.
Ian Linton / Immediate Media
  • Excellent spec
  • Fast but not the smoothest
  • £1,847 / €1,950 as tested

Radon uses a direct-to-consumer business model and, as a result, the Cragger 8 has a spec sheet that offers excellent value for money. The 130mm DVO Sapphire fork is a boutique offering, SRAM’s GX Eagle drivetrain is a notable step up from its lower models, and the dropper post feels premium.

Things are pretty good when it comes to the frame too, with the smooth aluminium looking like carbon and the option to route cables internally or externally.

The geometry is fairly progressive with a 65-degree head angle and 74-degree seat tube, but a long seat tube and a relatively short reach make the bike feel a little confused, mixing elements from hardcore trail bikes and XC features.

Out on the trail, this translates to a fairly unrelaxed climbing position but a confident and capable feel for descents.

It might not be the smoothest ride, but the Cragger is a hard-charging bike and there’s no getting away from its value for money.

Sonder Signal ST NX

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Best hardtail mountain bikes
The Signal presents a subtle yet purposeful profile.
Andy Lloyd / Immediate Media
  • Great geometry
  • Short travel dropper
  • £1,599 / $2,297 / AU$2,914 / €1,799

The Sonder Signal ST NX is a steel hardtail that’s made to the British company’ principles of value for money and hard-charging, descent-focused bikes.

The Signal ticks all the modern aggressive trail bike boxes with a large reach, 66-degree head tube and 74-degree seat tube. Heading downhill, the bike pulls at the leash and rides across roots with ease.

This bike was never intended to be a fast climber, but it does spin comfortably uphill and is confident over technical inclines.

WTB tyres help the Signal find grip wherever possible and the 130mm RockShox Revelation RC fork is good in most circumstances. It would be nice to have a slightly longer dropper to create enough space to move your weight around in the sketchiest of situations.

Overall, the Signal has a great chassis that wouldn’t look out of place on a much pricier bike, and there is a good level of kit for the money without too much compromise.

Specialized Fuse 27.5 (2021)

4.0 out of 5 star rating