What I use and what I think of it... to be completed
My race bike for 2013 cost £500 second-hand a year ago and consists of a very pre-owned On One Whippet carbon frame with S/H 26" Hope Hoops wheels set up singlespeed and tubeless with cheap Deore bits, coming out at around 20lb with On One rigid forks and 22lb with Fox suspension forks. I think the bike is a little big for me, which is good for climbing but makes a dropper post (shagged Gravity Dropper, £80 S/H) very useful on steep stuff. I'm currently running a Mountain King front and Racing Ralph rear and have no complaints. I have given up on different tyres for different conditions. I love this bike. It does everything. However, I have been through three bottom brackets in a year and found that you really do need the right diameter chain tug if you don't want to snap your rear axle. Twice. A bit like how the previous owner found that 29" wheels really don't fit in this frame. Still, the stays haven't snapped. Yet.
Best result: 1st, Devil's Challenge 60k
My new bike cost a lot more and is an ex-team Cube Elite 29er with shiny XTR everything that I'm terrified of breaking, including 30 gears, which is undoubtedly 10, probably 20 and quite possibly 29 too many. Weighs in at 22lb. Rocket Ron front, Racing Ralph rear. Despite its cost, it still needs cleaning, which is disappointing. Not convinced by CTD forks - I'd prefer a full lockout for standing climbs. Wheels feel fast but it's hard to tell until things dry up in the spring. Good fit for descending - don't miss the dropper post. Jury is still out on gears.
Best result: 3rd, Coed y Brenin Enduro
I also still have and sometimes use my previous "race" bikes:
In 2012 I competed on a second-hand Charge Duster steel hardtrail with Alfine 8-speed hub (now on its last legs) and useless suspension forks, 30lb.
Best result: 2nd vet, Margam Madness
In 2011 I managed somehow to race on an umpteenth-hand Trek Fuel 80 aluminium full-susser with 27 gears, useless suspension forks and presumably some hidden lead ingots given its weight of 35lb.
Best result: Bronze, Welsh XC Championships
Shoes and clothing
I've been through two pairs of Shimano MTB shoes, one cheap, one quite expensive, which both lasted just a year before splitting between the Velcro straps so only good for emergencies. Now using Specialized Sport shoes which are much lighter yet cheaper at £65 and are holding up well so far. So comfortable I've got three pairs! They let water in very easily so I'll probably gaffer tape them over winter. I had some Specialized Expert MTB shoes at twice the price but they dug into my ankles something rotten so went back.
Clothing-wise I'm Man at Lidl. Except for a nice Altura rain jacket for wet days. I need to invest in one of those see-through placcy jackets for pre-race warmth and some waterproof shorts.
I've just started using arm warmers, which makes me question my sexuality but I love 'em. Also quite partial to wearing tights in the depths of winter. All this cycling has made me very prone to freezing my bollocks off. This is getting circular.
I have some SealSkinz socks. They're not very waterproof but they're warm and vaguely waterproof sometimes, especially when they fill with water. Generally though I'm happy to get soaked to the skin.
My Lidl multi-tools have proved good value. Only "quality" tool I own is a Lezyne pedal spanner and it couldn't cope with my pedals.
Every time. Snakebite punctures do my head in. I once pinch-punctured front and rear together in the same place on both the first and the second lap of the Mawddach Goldrush race at Coed y Brenin. And I'd already patched three holes before any of that happened. That's when I decided to try tubeless.
Tubes are also hopeless on the local thorny bridleways where I do much of my riding.
Have resisted the temptation to date but they are probably a good idea. Might go on my Christmas list.
I travel light. Very light. Sometimes I regret this. Generally a tube, pump, tyre lever and 2 Allen keys (Whippet rear wheel is not q/r due to horizontal dropouts).