GT Fury Team
GT isn’t alone in engineering a carbon-fiber bike for gravity-shredding duty, but they were the first, and their contention (borne out in ride testing) is that their carbon monocoque frame is much stiffer. You can feel that when you power out of a corner or lean way over the nose to get that front tire to bite, just like the pros. Yes, stiffness translates to quicker reflexes, which is why the very best pros are winning on carbon DH bikes. The frame’s armored in Kevlar, and it’s hung with some of the best components on the planet. $6,600; www.gtbicycles.com
Specialized Camber Comp Carbon 29
Larger 29-inch wheels (vs. standard-issue 26ers) blitzkrieg anything in their path. The longer contact patch works just like a monster-truck tire, rolling over obstacles rather than stalling. The Camber feels race-fast when you’re on the gas, but silken and tractable through trail detritus. We love that the gearbox features two—rather than three—front chainrings, since triples tend to jam during rapid shifts. One bummer: In an otherwise killer package, the Avid brakes don’t have the strongest bite. $3,800; www.specialized.com
Cannondale RZ 120-1
Cannondale’s $11,000 Carbon Ultimate 29er and 26-inch-wheel RZ 120-1 share one important design trait: a super stiff front end. That gifts the RZ superb steering quickness for 1/5th the money. Highlights include extra-grippy Schwalbe Rapid 2.25-inch tires; a climb-friendly, 36-tooth cassette cog; and a lockout fork. The catch: The latest trend is oversized 29-inch wheels (like the Specialized at left), as well as bikes with 27.5-inch wheels, which makes the RZ “retro,” like fat necktie knots. $2,220; www.cannondale.com
Oakley Radarlock Path Photochromic
Oakley’s latest genius shade adjusts to the light, and you get two lenses: one for brighter conditions, like desert riding, and one for predominant shade, like lots of overhead foliage. $240; www.oakley.com
Other gloves get knuckle armor, too, but the Defender is a glove as suitable for a cross-country ride as it is for downhill, with the rest of the glove made of a breathable synthetic mesh. In testing, our hands remained cool and comfy. $45; www.dakine.com
Five Ten Freerider VXi shoes
Lots of riders prefer to ride unclipped, because tossing away the bike can prevent injury during a crash. These shoes feature the stickiest rubber outsole we’ve ever tested. The shoe stuck like epoxy on the pins of our flats, and worked in the wet and mud. The upper’s also designed with more abrasion armor on the instep, to lessen painful crankarm bites. $120; fiveten.com
Camelbak Volt 13 LR
A redesigned hydration reservoir sits in its own chamber, positioned low and around the lumbar, putting the bulk of the 100 oz. water weight close to the lower back so there’s less jostling. One weakness in the system: When you run dry you’ve also deflated your lumbar support.
Check out the June 2013 issue of Red Bulletin magazine (on newsstands May 14) for more articles. To read the magazine on your iPad, download the Red Bulletin iPad app. Follow Red Bulletin on Twitter for more.