Welcome to our long-term gear tests: the kit we’ve been using and abusing over the past few months.

SRAM X1 Mountain Bike Groupset

1. SRAM X1 Mountain Bike Groupset, from £514.45

chainreactioncycles.com

If you’re new to riding off-road, the last thing you want is to be worrying about which gear to be in when your mind is also processing the correct line down a rutted incline, where the slippery roots lie and getting your body weight positioned correctly to get maximum grip. SRAM’s new, affordable version of its single-chainring 1×11 groupset has nailed it. A choice of single front chainrings (elect to fit a 30, 32, 24, 36 or 38-tooth) combines with a 10-42 rear cassette, giving almost as big a range of gears as a standard MTB triple or double chainset, while doing away with the need for a front derailleur. The X1 chainring has alternating big/small teeth, and uses a matched chain to ensure the chain stays put. Shifters are simplicity themselves – one for up, one for down – nothing else to worry about. This also leaves room on the left-hand bar for a dropper seatpost button, or extra-strength headlight if you’re riding into the night. If you’re looking for a new off-road bike, seek out one with this system. Upgrading your components? Step this way.

Marc Abbott, contributor

Dexshell Coolvent Socks

2. Dexshell Coolvent Socks, £19.99

merlincycles.com

I hate having wet feet in winter; the horrible, cold squelch of foot in shoe, and the grim task of peeling socks off water-wrinkled feet at the end of the day. It’s not such an issue when I run, because I rarely run for more than an hour, but for mountain biking and walking when I’ll happily spend all daylight hours outdoors, soaking feet are a real downer. These waterproof socks offer a warm, dry solution. I’ve been surprised at how well they stay in place when I’d expected them to crease and ruck up, and they’ve proved sufficiently breathable that my feet haven’t soaked from the inside. The only issue is their large volume, which has prevented me from squeezing into my snug road cycling shoes, but after biking and hiking off-road I’m glad to report happy feet.

Jonathan Manning, magazine editor

SKS Shockblade II

SKS X Blade II

3. SKS Shockblade II, £16.19 evanscycles.com

X-Blade II, £17.99 evanscycles.com 

Ever get the feeling you’ll never quite fit in? That’s me in the world of mountain biking. I love the escape and remoteness of cross-country riding along forest and moorland tracks, but when it comes to mud and axle deep puddles I get all squeamish. I won’t repeat the names my biking buddies call me as I gingerly try to tiptoe around the gloop). Nor will I repeat their disdain at my love of a decent pair of mudguards. But here’s the thing – this SKS combo is dead easy to fit (and remove when it’s dry). It also stops mud splattering across my mouth and face, keeps my back clean and dry from the dirty great plumes of grime that spray up my mates’ jackets, and at the end of the ride it takes me a quarter of the time to clean the bike, which means more time for coffee and flapjack at the trail centre café. Highly recommended to off-road softies everywhere!

Jonathan Manning, magazine editor

Continental GP 4 Season

4. Continental GP 4 Season, £32.19

evanscycles.com

There’s only so many times you can arrive at work late with dirty, oily fingers, or mend a puncture by the light of a headtorch on the way home before it’s time to bite the bullet and replace your tyres. For me, three flats in a week forced me to acknowledge that my old tyres had perished and it was time for some new rubber. These Continental GP 4 Seasons have definitely improved my grip on wet and greasy roads, and 350 miles without a puncture indicates the layers of protection (there are five below the outer skin) are doing a grand job of thwarting thorns and flints. What’s more, on the rare days when the Tarmac is dry, they seem to roll smoothly without the stiffness I’ve felt from rival winter tyres.

Jonathan Manning, magazine editor

adidas energy boost 2.0 ESM shoes

5. adidas Energy Boost 2.0 ESm Shoes, £120.00

adidas.com

These shoes boast a number of innovative features which have been great to put to the test. At first glance I thought the polystyrene looking mid-soles would be too lightweight and flimsy, but partnered with the Torsion System they give a welcome cushioning and a great return bounce with every step. I like the way my feet are held snug in the seamless sock-like techfit upper, which is still very roomy and vented in the toe area. Most importantly, I’ve found the shoes enjoyable to run in and have encountered no problems during several 8-10 mile runs. Despite being somewhat different to my usual trainers, I’m more than happy to embrace these new-fangled, feet-treats. Even the initial glare of the bright pinky-orange colour has grown on me, after all it’s winter now and ’tis better to be seen then squashed!

Darren Grigas, contributor