The latest issue of Australian Mountain Bike has arrived, and we would be lying if we said it was just another one of the same. Ever since we printed Issue #181, our every day lives have continued to change. Mountain biking isn't in a bubble, and there has been an impact on where we can ride, who we can ride with, and of course the cancellation or postponement of so many mountain bike events.

The flipside of that is that cycling is booming, with lots of new bikes being sold or old bikes being repaired. You might have even noticed that there are more riders on your local trails.

So, Issue #182 is a little different. It spans some pre-pandemic stories, including Kristina Vackova's recount of the YakRu enduro in Nepal. Kristina was the winner of our Local Shooter category in the 2019 AMB Photography Awards presented by Shimano. That's her shot of Geoff Kabush on the cover as well.

We also hear from Toby Shingleton on how he prepares for his favourite mountain bike holidays each year - Trans NZ. Being fit enough for your holiday might sound silly, but when you are riding some of the best trails in New Zealand's South Island blind, you want to make sure you're ready to get the most out of it.

The National Championships in Bright took place once we had laready sent our last issue to print. Although all the news from XC and DH went online right after the champions were crowned, we've had Chris Panozzo and Sebastian Jayne put together a recap on the racing, with photography by Nick Wayood. It's a good read, with a good mix of facts and opinion to keep you entertained.

Big news for May is that the 2020 Australian Mountain Bike Photography Awards presented by Shimano are now live! This competition is open to professional and amateur photographers alike. And rest assured we get entries taken on smart phones, action cameras and DSLRs each year. We aren't fussed on the equipment you use, we just want to see creativity, and images that we'll connect with and get us stoked on mountain biking. Shimano Australia have put $5000 cash up for prizes and a full XTR M9100 12-speed group set and a Deore XT M8100 12-speed group set as well. So why not take a look and put an entry together?

With a shift in location and a huge expansion in late 2019, visiting Cyclinic in Brisbane was just a matter of time. As one of a handful of suspension service specialists in Australia, we dropped into Cyclinic to see how they mixed a high-end workshop with an inviting retail space. Plus we got some #protips on suspensions from the head of midstroke mastery, Aiden Lefmann. 

Whether you're staying indoors to stay warm, stay healthy, or because the trails are slop - Colin Levitch put a piece together looking at some popular trainers to use your bike on, and dug into the details of some training apps, like Zwift, TrainerRoad and The Sufferfest. And if you are battling with the dark and rain this winter, Colin looks at some clothing and lights that are well-suited to the demands of mountain biking in winter.

Things we played with tested

There's no need to beat around the bush, we have had some really cool items to test for our new issue.

The Forbidden Bike Co. Druid would be the bike that grabbed a lot of attention. Our tester Ryan loved having this bike delivered to his workshop, and he was blown away by how the 130mm travel high pivot trail bike handled the raw chunk that he favours.

After testing the Merida eOne-Forty 8000 earlier this year, the eOne-Forty LTD slid in for a test. Using the same suspension platform and Shimano STEPS pedal-assist system, the LTD model has an all alloy frame and slightly more basic suspension and parts package - but the same general intent.

We also set Tim Bardsley-Smith loose on a Felt Redemtion eMTB. It's a burly model with all-mountain geometry, and that's the exact sort of eMTB that Tim usually rides and loves. With a solid build and reliable Shimano XT spec and STEPS E8000 build, it was ready to rock.

This issue we also introduced a new long-term test bike. In this case it's a Norco Optic C3. With 140mm up front, 125mm in the back and long modern geometry, the Optic design ticks a lot of boxes for what many riders look for in a modern trail bike. We had to send the C2 we had in October back a lot sooner than we would have liked, so now we have the chance to spend quite a few months on the platform, and use it for some sweet upgrades and product tests.

We also tested the Hutchinson Python 2 tyres, which dig in like no other XC tyre in corners, the wallet and trail friendly Marzocchi Bomber Z2, Zipp MTB wheels, PRO Tharsis 3Five cockpit and a bunch more. 

Jared Rando takes you through how to ride steep gullies in his latest Skills feature, we learnt about eating for immunity in our Nutrition area, and Joe and Chris explain how to use a Stan's DART system for fast and easy tubeless repair.

There's a whole bunch more in the issue, including a new subscription comp where you might win 1 of 10 pairs of Maxxis tan wall tyres! When you subscribe you also save a few dollars per issue, and your magazine will arrive right into your mailbox, without needing to check when the next issue is on sale. A subscription is also one of the best gifts out there, as it lasts all year! Or even two.