There are lighter helmets on the market, but it’s tough to beat the Variant’s list of features at any price point. Cam lock adjustment straps and a clever fit system make it easy to dial in a perfect fit. The sturdy adjustable visor is more useful than you’d expect; it’s there to shield your eyes when you need it, but easily adjusts up when you want to see all the way down the trail.
Club Ride’s apparel looks and feels just as good climbing up a trail as it does hanging out at the brewpub after a ride. Constructed from wicking RideDryWear material, the Roxbury features ventilated mesh underarms and a zippered back media pocket.
Dakine’s Drafter packs a 100 ounce reservoir to keep you hydrated on long rides. Not only is there a ton of space (700 cu. in.) to carry all your gear, there are plenty of ways to carry it with a myriad of pockets, helmet and armor straps, and a padded media pocket so your phone won’t get wrecked even if you do. This pack really does come with all the bells and whistles—or, whistles at least, as there’s a rescue whistle built right into the pack.
When it comes to gloves, less is more. Thick padding on the palm can encourage numb fingers and stiff armor creates painful hotspots. The Fox Dirtpaw Race glove is a no-frills model that keeps your hands cool with good ventilation, comfortable with a lightly padded suede palm and stretchy neoprene knuckles, and in control with sticky silicone striped fingertips.
Good lights put an end to post-work races against the sun and open up a whole new world of possibility where even the most mundane trail ride feels like a special event. You can spend a lot of money on fancy lights, but all you really need is a compact helmet light that puts out at least 1,000 lumens. The 1,400-lumen Gemini Duo is an excellent design and good value, but Gemini’s well-reputed customer service is what makes this light the one to buy.
The Lezyne RAP 14 is a beautifully designed multitool, cleanly integrating all of the tools you’d typically need for minor trailside repairs into a small, lightweight package that feels good in the hand. What sets this tool apart from others is a tiny LED flashlight that makes finding the patch kit at the bottom of your pack so much easier.
A rugged tread gives Pearl Izumi’s Enduro traction during those times when the climb is too steep or the obstacle too big. This shoe has a ratcheting buckle system to maintain a secure fit, while the shoe’s quick-drying and breathable uppers will make sure stream crossings don’t put a damper on the ride.
Good riding shorts have a litany of functions, like protecting legs from trailside underbrush, ventilating quads on hot days, keeping them dry on wet days, cushioning your soft bits, schlepping your energy bar or shades, fitting well enough to be forgotten. Royal Racing’s Signature Short ably performs all of these roles while looking darn good.
It doesn’t matter whether you ride trails in Florida or Montana, you need to be ready for quick changes in weather. The North Face Verto Jacket is a wind- and water-resistant hooded jacket that packs down to the size of a tennis ball and weighs less than two energy bars, making it easy to carry on any trip.
The mini-pump is often what makes the difference between a quick flat fix and an epic repair. Some pumps are too small, some too large, and most pumps clamp directly on the valve stem making it hard to pump vigorously without breaking the stem. Topeak’s Mini Morph is just the right size and comes with a hose to allow for floor pump-style operation.