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Added a comment about photo Dave Ziegman 1/8/2014 4:46 PM
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DZ you can't win races on the ground!

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Added a comment about video RockShox Game of Bike - Aaron Chase vs. Kirt Vories 12/20/2013 11:20 AM
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Best B.I.K.E game to date!

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Added a comment about feature Blue Ribbon Banter: Sugar, Spice and Everything Nice 12/16/2013 2:45 PM
Added a comment about product review Tested: 2014 Intense 951 EVO - Real. Big. American. 11/5/2013 7:43 AM
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Easily offended, I see. We're talking about a hand crafted aluminum bike here not carbon, Dirtstar. Ignorant? Negative.
Since your comment has little to do with my review - I'd like to quiz your knowledge. How many MTB manufacturers continue to produce bikes in the USA and who are they? Next question (true or false) Did production of mountain bike frames in Taiwan begin as a result of an American capitalist traveling overseas with a Tom Ritchie handcrafted frame with the intent to knock it off for dirt cheap? Are the environmental standards in Taiwan the same as in the USA?

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Liked a comment on the item Tested: 2014 Intense 951 EVO - Real. Big. American. 11/5/2013 7:17 AM

So calling an American an American is a racist slander now? Relax. . . oh and for the record the...

Added a comment about product review Tested: 2014 Intense 951 EVO - Real. Big. American. 11/5/2013 7:15 AM
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Tommi, my pleasure. I can relate on small jumps, there isn't much of a difference there. In fact, small jumps felt smaller. When the gaps reach about 20-feet the timing felt different (I felt like I had to stretch for jumps that are typically brainless to clear) Also, getting the bike into a table top or whip required more effort which is to be expected - you're moving more wheel. Now that I'm used to the 951 EVO, I really like the way it jumps. It's very stable and whips are really smooth and fluid rather than fast and snappy. Does that satisfy your question?

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Added a new video Intense 951 EVO Testing 11/2/2013 10:39 AM
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Griz drops into where the trail ends and Chute de Griz begins. An encouraging voicemail pumps up the jam.

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Added a product review for 2014 Intense 951 EVO 10/27/2013 10:19 AM
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Tested: 2014 Intense 951 EVO - Real. Big. American.

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Sean “Griz” McClendon

Originally introduced in late 2009, the 26-inch Intense Cycles 951 went from experiment to success story with its World Cup influenced geometry, lean chassis and active suspension performance. Unlike the grounded feel of the M6, the 951 spent less time on the dirt and more in the air. The common consensus was the 951 was not a World Cup race bike, rather a fun park bike that could be pressed into race duty at National caliber tracks like Port Angeles. Then we saw the 2013 world elite DH race season close with contenders testing and even racing on 27.5-inch wheels, announcing the arrival of Big Wheels for downhill. Intense Cycles stayed true to their gravity roots by being the first manufacturer to produce a full DH/gravity specific bike with 27.5-inch wheels. Meet their monster truck mode launch platform - the 951 EVO, a reworked, reborn version of the original 951.

I had the privilege to race for Intense on a 951 towards the end of 2009 and for the duration of the 2010 season. Up to the point where I “grizdit” (crashed) at National Champs, I loved the original 951 since it suited my riding style at the time. We built them as light as 37-pounds with heavy damping in the rear shock to counter the progressive shock rate. Then came the occasion where I found my limitations on that set-up after entering a high-speed double with too much zing. I learned the hard way big jumps bite hard if you rush them. Is the 951 EVO better than the original that nearly did me in? Well, every cowboy has to mount the bull that bucked him and I did my best to beat the snot out of this one again. Here’s the long and short of it.

951 EVO Highlights

  • 27.5 wheels
  • Fixed 8.5-inches travel
  • Aluminum frame hand built in the USA
  • 62.5-degree head angle
  • 13.75-inch bottom bracket height (same as original)
  • 17.5-inch chainstays (3mm longer than original)
  • Longer top tube (0.5-inch longer than original)
  • 48-inch wheelbase (medium)
  • Fixed 12x150mm dropouts
  • Improved linkages
  • Improved suspension performance
  • Integrated fork bumpers
  • Available sizes: Small, Medium (tested), Large
  • 38.7lbs (with air Fox 40 and Envy Carbon wheels)
  • MSRP $2,999 Frame/CCDB Shock, $6,399 complete (with DT Swiss wheels not Enve)

First off, the 951 EVO is made for 27.5-inch wheels. Times are changing. The head angle went from 64-degrees back to 62.5, which is officially the slackest bike I’ve ever ridden. Moving away from the original linkage that had two travel settings, rear wheel travel is now set at 8.5-inches attached to a new, stronger linkage. Also, the rear suspension curve is less progressive than the original, which reduces harshness near full compression, but we’ll touch more on this aspect later.

The chainstays were stretched by 3mm to accommodate the larger wheel and in the process the chainstay yoke became a little longer and a lot stronger. Intense also took this opportunity to move away from the G3 dropout system to a non-adjustable 150x12mm dropout.

Every one of these changes in the bike has had a beneficial effect; most notably the chassis is stiffer thanks to the redesigned swingarm and stronger linkages. One of my favorite additions to the bike is the integrated fork bumpers. It’s the little things that add up to a big difference.

On The Trail

Catching the end of summer into fall around SoCal means the shuttle trails are blown out, turns are tricky to link together and Snow Summit is full of holes providing ideal testing conditions for the big wheels. I also caught a little air in Utah and really got to know how the 951 EVO jumps in Pine Valley.

New rollover possibilities matched with the slackest head angle I’ve ever experienced opened lines through chunk I would not consider on smaller wheels. The steeper the trail gets, the better the bike feels. Overall the feel of the bike is different, mainly due to the big wheels, which was to be expected. Flat corners felt surprisingly better than anticipated, however the bike felt best when pointed down the hill. The new feel is very different at first, then becomes fun as you get used to it. It took a few hours to re-acquire that second-nature sensation as well as develop a new eye for what terrain is possible to use. The new bike provides less pop than the precursor but fluidly gets off the ground and ploughs chunk like a trophy truck - all in all, a very reasonable compromise. Playful in new ways almost not comparable to the original, the 951 EVO is a lot more stable.

Griz drops into where the trail ends and Chute de Griz begins. An encouraging voicemail pumps up the jam. Credit: Kris Cram

This machine requires committed “attack” technique from the rider. There is an adjustment period that comes with adapting to the larger wheels in long travel and slack geometry guise because the riding fundamentals engage new demands from the body. The larger wheels raise the axle height yet the unaffected bottom bracket height effectively drops your feet even lower into the bike. I quickly felt comfortable with all riding fundamentals except for jumping, and I noticed it was critical to keep my weight low, booty popped and neck stretched out toward the front axle. Think tiger style. Those of you that like to ride over the front of your bike will feel at home inside the 951 EVO. Hanging off the back only complicates things here.

Changing lines is a new world of opportunities. If the situation conspires against you and you get off line, the bigger wheels tend to offer a larger margin for error. Holding tight, off-camber lines felt superior to doing the same on 26-inch wheels. I hate to say it.

Jumping took a few weeks to figure out as the larger wheels fly with a distinct gyro effect and demand faster entrance speed than a 26 for a similar effect. Given what happened the last time I came in too hot to a jump on a 951, it was scary to adjust to this new entrance speed. Maverick post jetwash type scary. Once acclimatized, the EVO flies like an eagle.

Cornering with the EVO demands commitment from the rider. You need to lead with the head while smoothly displacing body weight to carry momentum. Regularly pressing into the front wheel for traction and flow is the trick. With more rubber on the ground, breaking loose becomes more of a sound effect than a balancing act thanks to the larger contact patch. It feels like the bike is on rails.

At 38.7-pounds and with bigger wheels, acceleration is undeniably slower, but once you’re up to pace it takes less to crank up the intensity with next level stability at speed. This is the nature of the larger wheels – they’re a little slower off the start but they sure do get along with momentum.

Pedaling efficiency remains impressive, and you can basically pedal over anything provided your pedals clear. When you stand up and sprint, the bike settles into the travel providing a firm platform to put the ponies down on. If there happens to be bumps in the way of your sprint, suspension remains active which combined with big wheel rollover ability means your cadence is hardly interrupted.

Suspension Performance

This is what we wanted to feel back in 2010. Those of us that rode the original 951 may recall the rear suspension packing up in chatter with a random spike - especially in the 8-inch travel setting. With a set 8.5-inches of travel and a more linear suspension curve, the 951 EVO gobbles rocks steadily without overly compromising the boost-a-bility we know and love on the original 951. Handling chunk, hucks-to-chunk and hucks-to-flat is significantly improved from the original 951. You can now go off and ride the cabbage all you want. In the bike park, I also noticed drastically less hand fatigue from the really bumpy-ass runs.

Bottom outs did happen but I hardly noticed them. The Cane Creek Double Barrel matched with the Fox 40 really does a great job of offering support in g-outs, absorbing big hits and riding high in the travel when it’s rough. With the Dorado up front, the bike would wallow under intense forces and felt tall in the corners. Hanging up on square edges was never an issue.

Intense chose the right shock for the job with the Cane Creek Double Barrel. At 180-pounds (geared up) with a 550-pound spring, here are the shock settings I worked into from wide open: High Speed Compression: 4-full turns in, Low Speed Compression: 25-clicks (big jump setting) and 18-clicks (trail setting), High Speed Rebound: 2.5 full turns, Low Speed Rebound 18-clicks. For reference, Cane Creek's base settings are listed below. Accessing the shock for tuning with the Cane Creek specific tool is convenient and easy to do under the top tube.

Build Kit

Testing began with a Manitou Dorado, a 0.5-degree Cane Creek Angleset that relaxed the head angle to 62-degrees and Sun Ringle Rims. Set up this way the bike was very twitchy. There is simply nothing in SoCal that caters to such an aggressive set up. When we swapped over to the Fox 40 and a zero stack headset, moving the bike from side to side improved and the wiggle was replaced with rigidity and deflection became rare. Riding the Fox 40 and Enve carbon wheels further improved stiffness and confirmed that the chassis is stiffer, with better linkages and a stout swingarm. The Fox 40 and Cane Creek Double Barrel complement the 951 EVO very well. There will also be more competitive fork options soon, so if this build doesn’t stoke you out 100% Intense offers a frame-only option which comes with the CCDB. From there the sky is the limit.

Intense offers a near identical build kit to theone we rode, except for the Enve wheels which are replaced by a DT Swiss option. We found the Shimano Zee brakes, drivetrain and cranks offer top of the line performance at a fair price. Shifting is crisp, the cranks are short and stiff and stopping power is abundant with nice modulation. The bee's knees! Noise pollution is also significantly reduced thanks to the clutch-equipped Zee derailleur. During testing, I swapped out the Gravity bars and stem for a lower, more narrow profile to fit my ape index with a longer stem. Sounds like a backward step in the evolution chart, right? Well, anything past 780mm bars and I reach the end of my rope trying to lay the bike over for a turn. Simple ergonomics, bro. In total, retail pricing on the complete bike is at the “you get what you pay for” level.

Things That Could Be Improved

Be sure to thoroughly protect your chainstays as well as your downtube. Although chain clatter is reduced thanks to the deraileur, our test bike was a little bare on the driveside chainstay causing some noise. Aside from that, in essence everything that needed to be improved on the 951 has been addressed in the 951 EVO. The new swingarm has fixed dropouts, a beefier chainstay yoke designed to accommodate the larger wheel and a stronger gusset at the seatstays resulting in a crisp, rigid feel. A fair trade for G3 dropout adjustability.

Long Term Durability

With the limited ride time provided, this is difficult to accurately forecast. The original 951 would typically fail at the swingarm and the root of this problem has been addressed. When the bike came to me it had a few dents in the swingarm, but I never felt a lack of confidence while riding the 951 EVO. The chassis is undeniably stiffer and the only piece of the bike that needs to be replaced at present is the rubber fork bumper.

What’s The Bottom Line?

With its big wheels, new balance points, improved handling, rigid chassis and cost-effective build kit, the 951 EVO is an awesome park bike and a factory amateur race bike. The new geometry and big wheels will inspire you to ride like a World Cup downhiller, but this isn’t exactly a World Cup race bike. If you’re trying to tear up the regional scene, by all means the 951 EVO can hurt some feelings. Non-competitive bike park enthusiasts looking for a stable, confidence-inspiring machine ought to consider a test ride. The steeper the trail gets, the better the geometry feels. The deeper the holes get, the more the bigger wheels reward you with energy-efficient momentum. Jumping requires different timing and more energy to move the bike around in the air, which eventually becomes familiar and feels comfortable in flight. Personally, I love the geometry and the fluid movements it takes to make the 951 EVO work. Made in the USA means you get what you pay for. All of the employees at Intense have shoes, are American and sometimes get pizza for lunch on the house.

For more details, visit www.intensecycles.com.


About The Reviewer

Sean "Griz" McClendon is back, ladies and gentlemen. Following a major crash during the 2010 USA National Championship Pro downhill race, he put in the hours and fought his way back to health and the fun that is two wheels. Griz has ridden for a number of the USA's top teams throughout his racing career, testing prototype frames and components along the way. Motivated by the mantra "whips don't lie," you'll often find him perfecting his high-flying sideways aerial maneuvers while living the #pinelife. Check out www.grizlives.com for some of his home-grown inspiration.

This product has 1 review

Liked a comment on the item EPIC FAIL CHATEL, FRANCE 2013 9/30/2013 1:20 PM

Don't miss the Lars and Pedro edition, courtesy of Bryn Atkinson:

Added a comment about video RAW: Leogang, Austria World Cup DH Finals 9/25/2013 9:43 AM
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ooooh baby i like it raw!

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Liked a comment on the item Kyle Strait and Cam Zink in 'Fresh Tracks' - BFGoodrich Playground Earth All-Terrain Relay Adventure 5 9/4/2013 12:15 PM

tsage your magical....
ha
naw that was sick tho!

Added a comment about slideshow First Look: 2014 Giant Trance Advanced 27.5 8/1/2013 9:43 AM
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Unfortunately I forgot my tape measure, however I can confirm the BB height is in a nice place. The Trance SX stands slightly taller with a 160mm fork but felt really stable in corners (thanks to the sturdy front end) so the difference in BB height wasn't noticeable. The Trance Advanced 0 was the weapon of choice for our long rides - neither bike gave me anything to complain about and to be honest I've never been so attracted to a 140mm trail bike. PS, I was once a total skeptic of 27.5!

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Added a new slideshow First Look: 2014 Giant Trance Advanced 27.5 7/31/2013 9:38 PM
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Added a product review for Smith Fuel v.2 Sweat-X Goggles 7/8/2013 2:06 PM
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Tested: Smith Optics Fuel v.2 Sweat-X Goggles

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Sean "Griz" McClendon // Photos by Taylor Sage and Ian Collins

When the team of riders using a product rips, it's usually a product that speaks for itself. Smith’s mountain bike team is off-the-hook, so the Fuel v.2 Goggles came with high expectations.

Goggles are an essential tool in mountain biking. What are we looking for in a goggle? We’re looking for a light, comfy feel, broad field of vision with no distortion, a lens that doesn’t fog up, and something that will match well with the rest of our kit. Let’s dive into the Smith Fuel v.2 with Sweat-X foam and determine the results...

Fuel v.2 Sweat-X Highlights

  • Sweat-X three-layer foam
  • Ergonomic outrigger positioning system
  • Anti-fog lexan lens with tear off post mounts
  • Roll-offs included
  • Goggle bag included
  • Silicone backed strap
  • Lifetime warranty
  • MSRP $65

Initial Impressions

Opening the box of goggles feels like opening a care package. Smith includes a clean goggle bag and a roll-off kit with the goggle, making them suited to any riding condition you could encounter. We like the simple and clean style of the white/black offset color-way, which compliments a black helmet well.

Comfort and field of vision are make-or-break initial impressions, and you can tell Smith did their homework. The Sweat-X three-layer foam combined with the outrigger positioning system allows the goggle to sit comfortably on your face, which is nice. Field of vision is ample and obviously improved upon from the original Fuel frame. The strap system is simple to adjust and supported with a silicone strip for consistent grip on your helmet. At $65, out of the box, we'd be hard pressed to ask for more.

On The Trail

Testing days ranged from muggy heat to lip-chapping dry heat, so we broke a sweat quickly to discover the Sweat-X foam wicks sweat very well. The lens didn’t fog up in dry SoCal or muggy Brazil – #grizil for you digitally fluent viewers. The anti-fog treatment works, and using the goggle bag consistently to clean the lens proved the anti-fog lexan lens to be durable. We never used the roll-offs, but are ready for a muddy day when it comes. The lens is also ready for tear-offs.

Most notably, the Fuel v.2 is comfortable, light and offers a great field of view. At times we forgot we were even wearing goggles.

Things That Could Be Improved

Anything that can improve this goggle is already available as an accessory. That said, we did find the roll-off system to be a little awkward to set up for the first time. Perhaps Smith could produce a tech tip with Brendan Fairclough - he has a cool technique with fishing line that dials the roll-off system for race use.

What’s The Bottom Line?

At $65 and made in the USA, the Smith Fuel v.2 Sweat-X package is a great deal. Complete with a tidy bag and a roll-off kit, the the goggles are both stylish and functional. The lexan lens doesn’t fog up, the frame is light and comfortable, Smith's three-layer Sweat-X foam wicks away sweat excellently, the field of view is fantastic, and strap adjustment is simple. On top of that, these goggles will most likely last multiple years. For those reasons, they're winners in our book.

For more details, cruise over to www.smithoptics.com.


About The Reviewer

Sean "Griz" McClendon is back, ladies and gentlemen. Following a major crash during the 2010 USA National Championship Pro downhill race, he put in the hours and fought his way back to health and the fun that is two wheels. Griz has ridden for a number of the USA's top teams throughout his racing career, testing prototype frames and components along the way. Motivated by the mantra "whips don't lie," you'll often find him perfecting his high-flying sideways aerial maneuvers while living the #pinelife.

This product has 1 review

Added a product review for Profile Racing Elite MTB Hubs 6/25/2013 1:00 PM
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Tested: Profile Elite MTB Hubs

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Sean "Griz" McClendon // Action photos by Ian Collins

Profile Racing’s humble roots began in 1968, as a race car chassis shop based in New Jersey. Fast forward a few years and the company made the transition to BMX when the founder's children got hooked on racing. In 1979 the brand created their tried and true three-piece BMX cranks, which continue to set the standard for the industry 'til this day. In the mid-1990s, Profile Racing got its start in mountain biking, offering hubs, cranks and even chainrings. More recently, they introduced the Profile Elite MTB hubs, building off the proven performance found in their BMX line.

Regardless of wheel size, riders equipped with Profile Elite hubs are often regarded as "bad dudes." Why is that, you ask? Because it sounds like a swarm of killer bees is making sweet love to a rattlesnake whenever a pimp rolling on Profile Elite hubs zips through a line. Naturally, riders capable of handling the attention from others are attracted to riding Profile Elite hubs. Consequently, haters are going to hate. Not afraid to mount up a pair, we took to the hills to see what all the buzz was about.

Elite MTB Hub Highlights

  • QR, 10x135mm bolt-on, 12x135mm, 12x142mm, and 150x12 rear hubs
  • QR, 10mm bolt-on, 15mm, and 20mm front hubs
  • 6-pawl, 204-point engagement freehub
  • Tall, 59mm flange diameter
  • 6-bolt ISO disc mount (non-disc front hubs also available)
  • 32/36 hole
  • 9/10-speed cassette body
  • Weights: 150mm rear - 352 grams, 20mm front - 189 grams
  • Available in black, blood red, purple, blue, polished, gold, aqua, and green
  • MSRP: 150mm rear - $449.95, front - $206.95

Initial Impressions

"Gordon Bombay! Man, I hate the Mighty Ducks," said our internal dialogue upon opening the highly anticipated Profile Racing box. Purple combined with the distinct buzz from the Profile Elite Hub was sure to bring attention. Good thing we can handle it.

Twisting the cassette body rang like music to our ears. Inside the freehub, six pawls are arranged in three pairs, with each pair offset slightly. Each pair engages the 68-tooth ring in turn, giving a total of 204-points of engagement (that's just 1.76-degrees of rotation between clicks). Engagement feels incredibly crisp in your hands with no delay.

We laced up our hubs to DT Swiss FR600 rims with DT Swiss spokes and gold nipples in an effort to disassociate from the Mighty Ducks and associate with Kobe and the Lakers. The flanges are tall and centered providing the foundation for a laterally stiff wheel. Sliding a well-greased rear axle into the hub felt like precision, and the front hub feels as snug as the rear. Any machinist would drool over the precise tolerance and post-anodization engraving that brands this manufacturing masterpiece. Bringing it all together, the "Made in USA" aspect wound us up to get out on the trail.

On The Trail

All of the sudden, our Giant Glory test sled felt like she was gliding. Right away we noticed how smooth the bearings roll in the Profile Elite Hubs, and coasting speed seemed to increase.

With 204-point engagement, getting power through the pedals to the rear wheel is immediate, and the only delay we noticed came from our chain tensioning ever so slightly with each pedal stroke. It's a pretty odd sensation at first, but you quickly begin to appreciate the ability to get power to the ground fast, especially on a downhill bike where pedal strokes have to be well-calculated to avoid spiking rocks. For comparison, most rear hubs have just 24-points of engagement, meaning you have to ratchet the hub up to 15-degrees before power is actually being transferred. With the Profile Elite Hubs, having that crisp delivery of power is confidence inspiring while maximizing energy efficiency. Talk about a win/win situation.

The distinct buzz from the Profile Elite Rear Hub is loud (very loud), which is a characteristic that is either loved or hated. We love it. "That hub sounds crazy" is the most common response with the occasional "that sound would drive me crazy." Nevertheless, tuning into the distinct buzz gave us a newfound connection with rear wheel speed. Advanced riders with flow will enjoy developing new techniques. For example, utilizing a nose press to increase rear wheel speed with a half-crank or full-crank while the rear wheel is off the ground – as the tire returns to the ground an added burst of acceleration occurs. If your buddy was there to film it, you’ll get a sweet shot that sounds cool and kicks up dust or whatever soils you’re working with. We found this technique to increase flow through cresting sections of trail and occasionally exiting corners.

Lateral wheel stiffness is impressive thanks to the tall, centered flanges and short spoke length. We were unable to get the hubs to fail, malfunction or worse. Every ride ended with a grin. In fact, the dust seals do an incredible job of sealing bearings from the elements keeping the ride smooth. Those in the know understand what a pleasure Profile hubs are to ride.

Things That Could Be Improved

The retail price tag may be unattractive to the baller-on-a-budget. That said, a quick test ride would twist your arm and probably convince you to boost the American economy. With high-end complete wheelset prices hovering in the $900+ dollar range, they're still competitive, however, even when laced up to some nice rims. Also, these aren’t the lightest hubs around, but they feel strong, look the business, and the performance is nothing of impressive.

Long Term Durability

Simply bomb proof. That's that. In several months of testing we've had zero issues.

Built with pride and precision in Florida and backed by a 30-day manufacture's defect warranty, if they’re not perfect you’ll know right away and Profile stands to make it right. If for some reason they break, Profile extends a crash replacement program with discounted rates on parts. Also, the hubs are assembled with specific tools – like a bearing press – that most of us don’t have, so Profile recommends sending parts to them for a rebuild if and when needed.

What’s The Bottom Line?

A level of prestige accompanies any product that is made in the USA, and Profile Racing's Elite MTB Hubs are no different. Considering alumni riders like Aaron Chase, Kyle Strait, and Chris Powell - mountain bikers with a background in BMX or riders that take pride in their equipment will thoroughly enjoy the Profile Racing hub experience. They’re not the lightest hubs around, but they offer a great strength-to-weight ratio, incredible engagement, and durability that's proven to be second to none in our tests. If you’re required to ride downhill trails with a bell on your bike, you’ll have additional forewarning with the distinct buzz of killer bees on your side. Are they expensive? Yes. Will they last a long time? From what we've seen, that's a definite yes, which is why we have no qualms backing them with a 5-star rating.

Visit www.profileracing.com for more info.


About The Reviewer

Sean "Griz" McClendon is back, ladies and gentlemen. Following a major crash during the 2010 USA National Championship Pro downhill race, he put in the hours and fought his way back to health and the fun that is two wheels. Griz has ridden for a number of the USA's top teams throughout his racing career, testing prototype frames and components along the way. Motivated by the mantra "whips don't lie," you'll often find him perfecting his high-flying sideways aerial maneuvers while living the #pinelife.

This product has 2 reviews

Added a comment about product review Tested: Atlas Crank Brace - Protect Your Neck! 5/30/2013 11:09 AM
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G.R. I did not test the brace with body armor.

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Added a product review for Atlas Crank Neck Brace 5/28/2013 6:27 PM
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Tested: Atlas Crank Brace - Protect Your Neck!

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Sean "Griz" McClendon // Action photos by Ian Collins

Designed and developed in Canada by Brady Sharron and his father Rick, the Atlas line of neck braces launched in Spring 2012. Built for the rider looking to protect their neck, Atlas offers six variations of their neck brace including the cycling specific Crank brace. We’ve noticed top MX racers Ryan Villopoto, Jake Weimer, and Jeremy McGrath using Atlas braces and that got us excited to test the Crank brace. At $330 it offers a wide range of adjustability and is of a competitive weight. Let’s put the Atlas Crank brace to the test...

A Word On Neck Braces

Neck braces have been a topic of controversy and remain a product used based on personal preference. They’re available to those that want them and advocated by many. Naysayers often complain that neck braces are cumbersome can lead to secondary injuries to collarbones and the sternum in the event of a crash. Atlas designed their line of braces with secondary injury prevention in relation to neck protection in mind. Another element to neck brace comfort and function is choice of helmet. Not all full-face helmets compliment neck braces well. There are many variables around neck braces but the intention remains simple – protect the rider from catastrophic neck injury. Even Wu-Tang knows it’s essential to protect your neck and they don’t even ride.

Outside of neck braces, the other option for neck protection is developed via sport specific conditioning and intuition. I survived a near fatal get-off at US National Champs in 2010 where my head and spine were spared thanks to instinct and professional conditioning. The bottom line is, neck braces are available to those that want them.

Crank Neck Brace Highlights

  • Available in 3 sizes Small, Medium (tested) and Large
  • 3-axis adjustability (chest size, neck length, and width)
  • Removable shoulder pads for custom fit
  • Dual pivoting back supports (foldable for storage)
  • 6061-T6 aluminum hardware
  • Easy on/off
  • Custom graphics available
  • Emergency Removal System (ERS)
  • Chest suspension
  • Full chest strap and under arm cross straps included
  • MSRP $329.99

Clockwise: Dual pivoting back supports; Adjustable 6061-T6 aluminum rear support mounts; Optional shoulder padding installed; Optional shoulder padding removed

Initial Impressions

We opened a box containing a complete package including a nice drawstring bag where the brace can be stored. The graphics are clean and to the point. With multiple mounting options, removable shoulder pads, and spare aluminum back support hardware, the Crank brace is very customizable.

We were impressed with the simple task of sliding the brace on and off our neck with its light feel. All you do is insert your head through the brace and it comfortably rests on your chest and shoulder blades away from the sternum and spine. There are no clumsy clasps or buckles to deal with.

The contact points of the brace inspire confidence that secondary injuries in the event of a crash have been well thought-out, and the large pads help disperse loads over a larger part of the body, reducing pressure points.

This brace won’t be gaining weight in the rain either. The padding is durable, comfortable and weatherproof material.

The Crank with the under arm cross straps - one above the jersey and one below it.

On The Trail

After a couple runs with no straps, we adjusted the fit by removing the optional shoulder pads. We also decided to try the full chest strap to keep the brace stable. This was the most straight forward mounting option, although the cross straps under the arms are more popular and can be hidden under the jersey. There’s no question the cross strap method is the most streamlined mounting option, however we settled with the familiar full chest option due to the simplicity. With the brace now sitting lower and with stability from the full strap, our Fox Rampage helmet had the range of motion it wanted and we felt minimally restricted.

Utilizing the Fox Rampage Pro Carbon helmet through the duration of testing, we noticed most commonly the chin of the helmet would naturally bump the brace under heavy compressions. We got used to this and it never caused any real problems. Clearance was great in the back and to the sides at all times, even on the steeps, and the Crank brace was noticeably less cumbersome than any previous neck brace experience.

Thankfully we were unable to perform any crash tests. Clean riding remains the best method for injury prevention. Even so, Atlas's own test methods are quite extensive and replicate several real world crash scenarios. They claim to be the only manufacturer performing real world style tests, and also utilize some very expensive, very accurate test equipment.

In the event of a crash, the Emergency Removal System is quite easy to use should medical personnel need to remove the brace without disturbing the head. You simply remove the pin through the front axle nut, remove front axle nut, and finally pull the brace apart horizontally in two parts. Simple.

What’s The Bottom Line?

The Crank brace has been designed with lower profile MTB specific full-face helmets in mind. It is the lowest profile rigid frame neck brace on the market, so if you test one and don’t like the fit you probably won’t like any neck brace. Providing critical protection with excellent cost benefit, the Atlas Crank brace is comfortable, customizable and is a solid product overall. For riders that have been considering neck protection and riders that currently use neck protection, the Atlas Crank brace is worth looking into. After all, it's critical to protect your neck.

For more details, visit www.atlasbrace.com.

Distribution of Atlas braces in the Americas is handled by Matrix Concepts. Eddie Cole leads Matrix and has rich industry background as the Founder and former President of Answer Products, Protaper, Manitou, SIXSIXONE, Tag Metals, Sunline and Filtron. Entering 2013, the family operated company is penetrating the mountain bike market with multiple products targeting your garage and race-pit, but Matrix also sells and distributes the Atlas Crank neck brace in America, Central and South America.


About The Reviewer

Sean "Griz" McClendon is back, ladies and gentlemen. Following a major crash during the 2010 USA National Championship Pro downhill race, he put in the hours and fought his way back to health and the fun that is two wheels. Griz has ridden for a number of the USA's top teams throughout his racing career, testing prototype frames and components along the way. Motivated by the mantra "whips don't lie," you'll often find him perfecting his high-flying sideways aerial maneuvers while living the #pinelife.

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Added a comment about video VIDEO: Snow Summit's New Miracle Mile Trail 5/24/2013 9:35 PM
C138x104

AmCup round 1. Sign me up.

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