Grab yourself a last-minute stocking filler for your MTB-loving family member or take a Boxing Day coffee break. MBUK’s January 2020 issue features essential advice on how to ride off-piste trails and train for the new year without hitting the gym. £500 hardtails get thrashed on test, and riding locations Cathkin Braes and Rhayader receive a visit from the team. Plus, we meet Welsh racing heroine Manon Carpenter and get wild in Norway with Olly Wilkins and Ben Deakin.


After the podiums

Welsh pinner and former DH world champion Manon Carpenter hung up her racing shoes at the end of 2017. Since then, she’s found a revived love of riding, one that relieves the stresses of daily life, rather than piling them on.

Manon Carpenter is still a shredder and has found a new love of riding since retiring from racing in 2017. Photo: Andy Lloyd

More up, more down, more mountain biking

There’s a new breed of bike beginning to appear. Are they aggressive cross-country bikes or short-travel trail bikes? American riders call them ‘downcountry’, but we think ‘rad XC’ sums them up well. Staffers Rob, Ed and Tom take out three of these bikes from Trek, Specialized and NS to see just how 'rad' they really are.

Just how rad are long-travel XC bikes (or are they short-travel trail bikes)? Rob, Tom and Ed head to the hills to find out. Photo: Russell Burton

Half-grand heroes

£500 has long been considered the entry-level price for a ‘proper’ mountain bike. But can these bikes really cut it on the trails? We put machines from VooDoo, Marin, Saracen and Vitus to the test to see if they have what it takes to give you a decent ride, and where you should spend your cash if you’re looking for your first mountain bike.

Can you get a 'real' mountain bike for £500 and, if so, where should you spend your cash? We take four entry-level bikes to the trails to find the best bargain. Photo: Russell Burton

How to venture off-piste

Trail centres are great places to ride, but there’s a ton of fun and challenge to have outside the waymarked routes. These require a refined set of skills. MTB guide Aneela McKenna explains what’s needed to take your riding outside the trail centre.

More like this
Once you've been bitten by the MTB bug, you'll want to go exploring. Aneela McKenna explains the tips and tricks you need to get away from the bike parks. Photo: Andy McCandlish

Cathkin Braes, Glasgow

Situated on the edge of Glasgow, Cathkin Braes has hosted the Commonwealth Games. This country park is now home to various short trail loops and descents. It also features one of the world’s best pump tracks. Read our report to find out what features editor Ed thought of this city-side trail centre.

Resting on the edge of Glasgow is a riding spot with sweet trails and a world-class pump track. Photo: Andy McCandlish

Products galore

This month we've got first-ride impressions of the Cotic FlareMAX Gold, Marin Rift Zone Carbon 2 and Specialized Turbo Kenevo Expert. We group-test clipless pedals (both XC-style and platform) and deliver our verdicts on six affordable GPS units. Not to mention eight pages of product reviews!

Tech ed Alex gets a handle on the Marin Rift Zone Carbon 2. Pick up the mag to find out how it (and a bunch of other kit!) performs. Photo: Andy Lloyd

Free gift

To start 2020 with a bang, our free gift to you is a 28-page gear guide, giving the lowdown on our ‘most wanted’ products for next year. Find out which kit is rated highly in the MBUK office.

Find out what the team rate as the best new gear for 2020.


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Luke MarshallTechnical writer

Luke Marshall is a technical writer for BikeRadar and MBUK magazine. He's been working for both titles since 2018 and has over 20 years of mountain biking experience. Luke is a gravity-focused rider with a history of racing downhill, previously competing in the UCI Downhill World Cup. Educated to a degree level in engineering and with a penchant for full-throttle speed, Luke is more than qualified to put every bike and product through its paces to bring you informative and independent reviews. You'll most likely find him on a trail, enduro or downhill bike riding the off-piste tracks around south Wales and the south west of England. He often makes an appearance on BikeRadar's podcast and YouTube channel.