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26griz's Product Reviews

Added a product review for Five Ten Impact VXi Shoe 6/19/2014 4:42 PM
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Tested: 5.10 Impact VXi - Real Sticky-icky

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

I remember my first set of Intense sticky rubber high tops back in 2003. They were a size too big, the stealth rubber performance was second to none and I happily ran them until switching to clips for racing. Entering the bike market with their Impact high and low top shoes, 5.10 quickly became popular with the rise of Sam Hill and his mind-numbing approach to racing in the mid-2000’s.Since then, the sticky rubber specialist brand has been the rider’s choice for flat pedal footwear for nearly a decade and people are running them for hundreds of miles after they fall apart. Developed with Sam Hill and Brook Macdonald, the Impact VXi is the latest and greatest gravity shoe from 5.10. Are they bitchin? Do they stink? What’s the deal? 4 months of testing are in the bag so, let’s get this party started.

Impact VXi Highlights

  • Mi6 rubber sole
  • Weatherproofed
  • Wide toe box
  • Stiff sole
  • Jumbo arch support
  • Slim profile
  • Improved style
  • Red or Black lace options
  • Weight: 360 grams/12.7-ounces
  • Improved toe protection
  • MSRP: $150 USD

Initial Impressions

Out of the box, I could immediately feel that the shoes weighed less than any previous Impact model before trying them on. Style is also improved as 5.10 moves away from the moon boot flair, although the new toe design looks like rugged chef clogs mated with a skate shoe.

Function beats fashion with plenty of room in the toe box for a wide hoof like mine. And much like a chef’s clog, the toes are designed to protect feet from harm and we’ll get to how that performed later as I did stub a toe or two in the duration of testing. Are they comfortably comfortable? Yes – the tongue is neither too thin nor too thick and there is plenty of ankle support to match the jumbo amounts of arch support for an overall fantastic feel.

I have tall arches so I really appreciate the arch support but I can’t offer any viable feedback for all you flat footed readers out there. The insoles are amazing and a set of spare laces stoked me out too. Spare laces are killer for a survival scenario. After initial inspection, I thought these shoes were better all-around and comfier than any previous pair of 5.10’s I wore. OK then, how did they ride?

On The Trail

Let me start with the little things. I can’t stand it when my shoelaces come undone and 5.10 gets an A+ because their laces hold a tight bow even when they snag on brush. Brand new Mi6 outsole rubber initially felt too sticky and “dead feeling” for me but I can understand how some would love this feeling. I could barely feel where my foot was on the pedal even with my good foot let alone make any adjustments. I tested the Impact VXi's on Deity Skyscraper pedals with a personal pin stagger – tall pins in the front of the pedal to short pins in the back – and initially there was too much grip in addition to the sole being very stiff. During the “break in” period my feet were blowing off the pedals in harsh hits from the trail. In a perfect world where 5.10 says “Griz, you’re so bitchin’ you get unlimited shoes” I would scuff the crap out of fresh Mi6 outsole rubber and obligate one of my students to lace them up and walk 20 miles to break them in before I rode them. Well no such luxuries here but after a month of testing the Impact VXi’s wore into their “sweet spot” and I began to comprehensively enjoy their performance.

Tons of grip to the pedals with enough give to adjust as needed, comfy insoles, pleasant arch support, laces that hold a bow and they hardly stink of sweaty hoof. At this point the shoes are handling my abuse like a boss. One of my biggest irritations in life is wet feet. Water resistant? Check! SoCal actually got a couple rain storms while testing and my feet never felt soggy thanks to the water resistant material, strategic double stitching and rubber toe. Laces and the very top of the tongue absorbed moisture but I was shocked at how well these shed water and how quickly they dry out. This is a big improvement over the previous iteration of the Impact. About that toe protection mentioned earlier… Yeah, rocks still hurt when you try and kick them. It would take a steel toe to offer sufficient protection for the beating my foot took but I didn’t break any bones so it's fair to say that the VXi's offer some protection. The other alternative is to do it for Bender and start riding in motocross boots, NFG. At the end of the day these shoes get the job done in fine form.

Long Term Durability

Shoes aren’t designed to last forever but the Impact VXi’s proved to be pretty tough. The Mi6 rubber didn’t match my preference until they had a month of wear and only felt better over the following two months. You can see in the photo below how the rubber wore evenly to become one with pedal.

Eventually, chunks of rubber began to disappear and by month 4 of testing rubber started tearing and holes in the outsole began to form.

I’m still running them as is with no issues or forecast on when they’ll be toast. Keep in mind, I use really tall pedal pins where the holes formed and rubber tore so this damage is to be expected. Aside from the outsole rubber wearing pretty quickly, every other part of the shoe has stood up to my abuse exceptionally well. No stitching has come undone, they don’t smell horrendous, the insoles remain comfy and the laces still hold a tight bow. In this case, it appears the body of the shoe is going to outlast the Mi6 rubber outsole by a long shot.

What’s The Bottom Line?

If you’re a flat pedal rider, you’ll love the lighter, slimmer profile, sticky-icky, arch supporting Impact VXi. The shoes are expensive at $150 when you compare it to the competition… wait, there is no competition. So, $150 is the going rate for the lightest, most water resistant, quick drying and industry leading sticky rubber DH shoe. The improved toe box makes for a comfortable fit and offers a fair amount of protection from the hazards of downhill.Mi6 rubber is really grippy and performed amazingly well for two months for me. Eventually, after 4 months of riding 3 times per week chunks of outsole rubber went missing and holes developed. No other section of the shoes failed during testing. The Impact VXi’s are my favorite shoe by 5.10 for now.

For more information, head on over to www.fiveten.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.

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.

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 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.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for 2013 Giant Glory 0 5/11/2013 12:48 PM
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Tested: 2013 Giant Glory 0 - Credibility Confirmed

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Sean “Griz” McClendon // Photos by Ian Collins and Griz

Now in its third production variation and built around proven advice from Giant Factory Off-Road racers Danny Hart and Andrew Neethling, the 2013 Giant Glory 0 meets world-class demands with new geometry, a sharp look, and X0 components. We’ve been eager to become familiar with Giant's Maestro Suspension design and feel out the new slacked out 63.5-degree head angle. In a carbon crazed world the Glory 0 remains aluminum at 36.4-pounds out of the box. We like this accomplishment. While Hart's UCI World Championship title may not attract autographs at Supercross, it certainly brings a lot of credibility to a bike. After nearly three months aboard the Glory 0, let’s confirm credibility as we walk you through the ride.

Glory 0 Highlights

  • Aluxx SL Aluminum Frame
  • 26-inch wheels
  • 8-inch travel Maestro Suspension
  • 1.25 to 1.5-inch OverDrive tapered headtube
  • 63.5-degree head angle
  • 13.5-inch bottom bracket height
  • ISCG mounts
  • 17.5-inch chainstays
  • 150mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Weight: 36.4-pounds with pedals
  • Available in small, medium, and large (tested)
  • MSRP $6,200

"Hey, that's the bike that won Rampage!" Correct, the Giant Glory has credibility as a big mountain sled, too. For 2013 the geometry has been tuned to thrive on steep, chunky terrain as we often see on the UCI World Cup downhill circuit and Where the Trail Ends. Over the past few years, Danny Hart and his mechanics helped Giant evolve the Glory into something more suited for Danny’s attacking style. Lucky for all of us, those same geometry numbers are now available to the public.

What specifically has changed? Well, for starters, the headtube angle has been slackened from 65.5 to 63.5-degrees. The bike has been lengthened a bit, and the bottom bracket has been lowered. The changes were made to create a more stable bike at speed. Giant also integrated their unique OverDrive headset into the frame. Last but not least, a reminder of the Glory’s World Championship pedigree is emblazoned on the top tube and headtube. Considering the build kit, this bike is a great deal for privateer racers and hardcore enthusiasts with KOM dreams. 36.4-pounds at $6,200 provides an excellent cost-benefit to the competitor.

On The Trail

We got to know the Glory 0 on the steepest, fastest and roughest terrain in California, all the while gradually bringing her up to that Vet pace. Our first ride we felt like we were on a bike that could do work, and the raked head angle and low bottom bracket inspired confidence immediately and felt better with each ride. That said, this isn’t a bike you can just throw a leg over and be on your way, but rather one you’ll need to take the time to get to know. Surprisingly, coming over from a dw-link bike to the Maestro suspended Glory 0 took several hours of ride time to really feel well acquainted.

In getting to know the bike, it was clear that the race oriented geometry of the Glory 0 demands technique from the rider. Keeping the hips unlocked, weight low and evenly displaced between the axles is key. Once your technique is down pat, the Glory will carry you through rock gardens, corners, hucks, chucks and everything else you want to accomplish just as quickly as any other bike.

We were also impressed by how light the bike feels. In fact, this bike is so light it sometimes feels nimble to the point of twitchy. There’s a reason why Danny Hart can occasionally appear raggedy in his race runs (aside from his ridiculous speeds). Once we felt at home on the Glory, the light weight and incredible stiffness were really apparent. Acceleration feels effortless and abundant, and when you apply power to the pedals the bike is snappy in response with minimal energy waste. It was also pleasant noticing how well the bike accelerated from pumping. The front end is easy to lift with minimal fatigue on the body, and jumping requires no strain on the rider either. It is an effortless task to find flow on such a light bike, making the task of pumping transitions painless.

Steep chunk and falling onto hard corners feels natural with the 63.5-degree head angle, low bottom bracket, and stiff chassis inspiring confidence. Having the front axle ahead of your chin also compliments the active performance of Maestro Suspension, resulting in a stable bike that loves to carve steep lines and blast off into the lower atmosphere.

Diving into corners feels best with the full-body approach, and the relaxed head angle works out to be a great thing when you bring your chest down. We noticed it was critical to lead through corners with our head, keeping our chest low and pressure firm on the inside grip to keep the front wheel tracking in corners. With our hips unlocked, the rear end was easy to control and very playful under the outside foot in drifting situations. Overall, this bike requires the rider to stay relaxed. Extra tension only complicates the Glory riding experience.

Suspension Performance

We have a before and after story surrounding the stock RockShox suspension. Why? Mostly because our test bike came with some hours on it and the suspension felt like it needed love during every ride.

Up front, the stock 2013 BoXXer World Cup felt sticky and rode high in the travel. This caused the front wheel to push, especially in tight berms, which led to a few incidents where we had to pick ourselves up off the ground. Fresh seals, properly aligned crowns and servicing the air spring likely would have solved this symptom.

Out back, we found that the original 2013 Vivid R2C rear shock lacked a wide enough range of adjustments to compliment the Maestro Suspension platform as best as possible. Even with a (soft for us) 400-pound spring, the shock didn’t offer much small bump compliance, demanding lots from our legs and increasing fatigue. Pedaling over chatter and absorbing harsh square edges seemed to be compromised as well. Breaking loose in corners with brake bumps was constant but never unmanageable thanks to the new geometry, which gives the bike a “sled like” feel. After being advised to speed up the low speed rebound, we adjusted to 9/14 clicks on the RockShox Vivid R2C and started tracking a bit better. The rear shock felt best on a 400-pound spring with 5/6 clicks of compression, 9/14 clicks of beginning-stroke rebound, and 5/6 clicks of ending-stroke rebound. This setting gave the bike some small bump compliance and tamed down the occasionally harsh kick from the rear end on large square edge hits.

Unable to squeeze the performance we wanted out of the taxed stock setup, we made the swap to the recently released 2014 Vivid R2C and BoXXer World Cup. This immediately brought the bike to life, allowing us to really feel how the Maestro Suspension platform could perform.

This before (unmounted) and after (mounted) change made a big difference.

With fresh suspension in place, the Glory 0 finally settled in high-frequency compressions while changing direction or in a straight line. Feeling very planted with less energy being transferred into the legs, we're convinced the 97% of riders that can’t do what 3% of us can will benefit from the new RockShox rear shock. Heavy compressions felt fluffy, traction was increased and the bike had predictable pop. Pedaling efficiency greatly benefitted from the new Vivid R2C over chatter and everywhere in between, leaving no complaints in the pedal performance department. The Maestro Suspension remained exceptionally active under pedaling and braking forces. All said and done, the new suspension completely transformed the bike's performance, giving us the strong impression that the bike works best with freshly serviced parts and/or the new version of the rear shock with its added features.

Regardless of the shock that's in place, Giant's Maestro Suspension design has a near vertical wheel path until the final 25% of its travel when the wheel arcs forward toward the rider. When you reach that final 25% in rear wheel travel, the Glory ramps into a firm kick that propels the rear end and rider forward. This sequence taxes the legs and leads to fatigue, so you’ll have new motivation to put that gym membership to use. Riders with functionally strong legs will dominate this bike.

Build Kit

The stock Glory 0 build mimics the top tier Giant Factory Off-Road Team bikes, leaving little to be desired, and we get the full SRAM X0 treatment in the spec department. Avid's four-piston X0 Trail brakes have plenty of stopping power and crisp feel without feeling domineering. The SRAM X0 carbon cranks are stiff, light, and durable enough to handle the punishment of downhill. The 10-speed SRAM X0 drivetrain worked well in conjunction with the MRP G2 guide to protect the 36-tooth sprocket, but was missing one crucial thing - a clutched derailleur.

DT Swiss manages the wheel department with EX-500 wheels wrapped in 2.5-inch Schwalbe Muddy Mary rubber. These wheels come with quality DT 240 hubs and will likely last awhile if you’re lighter than 175-pounds, but think of them as race wheels and you won't be too caught off guard when they dent. We ended up testing on Maxxis, Bontrager and Specialized tires with treads better suited for our SoCal dry ice. Who can really expect tires named Muddy Mary to work well on sand paper?

Giant supplies OE bars, stem and grips, which feel surprisingly good. The bars may feel narrow to riders that are positive on the ape index. The OE stem is adjustable from 45mm-55mm in length, giving plenty of adjustability for rider preference. Due to rider preference, we ended up swapping the combo to an Answer stem, Deity Dirty 30 bars, and Sensus Swayze grips. At 5-foot 10-inches, we rode the stem at 45mm for the majority of testing, giving the cockpit a neutral feel and aiding our adaptation to the 63.5-degree head angle. Eventually, we moved the stem to 50mm and really liked the change as the bike felt more stable with our body weight more evenly displaced.

Topping things off, RockShox covers the suspension department with a BoXXer World Cup fork up front and Vivid R2C coil shock in the rear.

Things That Could Be Improved

In downhill, your brakes are like an artery - have complications and you may end up in the emergency room. With this in mind, we can’t figure out why the Glory 0 has brake and shifting cables routed in harm's way along the downtube. A stone crimped our brake line near the bottom bracket while in pursuit of Strava glory, proving the necessity for revised cable routing. The simple addition of a 3M adhesive mount on the topside of the downtube provides a quick and easy solution to the problem, allowing you to reroute the rear brake and shifter cable out of the danger zone. This fix is used by the Giant Factory Off-Road Team and Giant's own Nate Riffle.

Long Term Durability

This is always tough to predict, but luckily Giant has an encouraging track record in product durability. Aside from chips in the paint from shuttle abuse and a chain that rattled worse than a terrorist popping off an AK-47, no damage was sustained through the three month duration of our test. Right off the bat, we'd suggest wrapping the drive side chainstay. The pivots wore well but don’t be surprised if you have to Loctite the top shock bolt to keep it from self-extracting. Giant offers a limited lifetime warranty on all of their bikes, so if anything out of the ordinary ever does fail you'd likely be covered. As of the conclusion of this test, our confidence is high when it comes to the long term durability of this bike.

What’s The Bottom Line?

Did the Giant Glory 0 confirm its rainbow stripe capabilities? Yes, this bike wants to haul the mail. If you’re looking for performance on steep, rugged terrain, the Glory will giddy-up-and-go. Mimicking the Giant Factory Off-Road Team bikes, the Glory 0 is capable of handling world-class demands out of the box. The 2013 geometry adjustments really allow the bike to reach entirely new speeds. The Glory's Maestro suspension platform works well when the shock is well-serviced, remaining active when on the pedals, in a tuck, or on the brakes.

Rolling on a 36.4-pound downhill bike eases the task on the body, but be sure to stay loose. If you ride it tight expect the bike to feel a bit twitchy. A rider that can keep a relaxed state on the Glory will find that she’ll work effortlessly with you. Even a rookie will feel safe inside the cockpit of the Glory as long as they remember to unlock their hips and keep their head down.

Bottom line - backed by rainbow stripes and Rampage gold, the Giant Glory 0 is a top performer once you get to know it.

Visit www.giant-bicycles.com for more info.

Bonus Gallery: 13 photos of the Giant Glory 0 in action


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 product review for Manitou Dorado Expert Fork 3/2/2013 8:03 AM
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Tested: Manitou Dorado Expert - A Worthy Contender

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Sean “Griz” McClendon // Photos by Brandon Turman

Manitou has been in the mountain bike suspension game for over 20-years. During the last decade, Hayes Bicycle Group (now Hayes Components) acquired Manitou, and in 2010, under new ownership, Manitou launched a completely redesigned version of the Dorado. Boasting larger stanchions, an improved chassis, new internals, and a new air system, the latest design has improved across the board.

When first reintroduced, the 2010 Dorado was only available in the uber expensive carbon variety. Later in the year they released an aluminum Dorado Pro version at $1600. Now for 2013, Manitou is introducing an even more affordable Dorado Expert at $1200. While there are some slight differences between the Pro and Expert, the internals are exactly the same, making the Expert well worth a look. With its inverted design and proven TPC+ damping, we were eager to get our hands on one to put through a good thrashing.

Dorado Expert Highlights

  • 6.82-pounds (3096 grams)
  • 180 or 203mm of internally adjustable travel
  • Large volume air spring
  • Externally adjustable high-speed, TPC+, and rebound damping
  • Hydraulic bottom-out and top-out control
  • 36mm stanchion tubes
  • 1 1/8-inch aluminum steerer
  • HexLock 20mm thru-axle
  • 567 or 591mm axle-to-crown height
  • Short or tall crown options
  • MSRP $1,200 USD

Dorado Expert Vs. Pro

So what's different between the Dorado Expert and Pro? From a distance, you'd be hard pressed to tell which fork was which. For starters, the crowns and dropouts on the Expert are shot peened instead of anodized - result: a little less bling. Next, the crowns on the Expert undergo less machining, which leaves more material - result: a little more weight. Finally, the aluminum used in the outer tubes of the Expert is a lower grade, which means the walls had to be thickened slightly to achieve the same strength - result: again, more weight. All said and done, the total weight gain is 0.27 pounds (122.3 grams). For the $400 you save, you could easily purchase a titanium spring for your rear shock and save more total weight. Not bad.

As we mentioned before, the two forks are identical internally. The Dorado uses a twin tube style cartridge, which essentially means that air can't go into the damping circuits, keeping them free of gas bubbles and allowing damping to stay consistent.

Speaking of damping, there are four different types of compression damping circuits in the fork. The first is the spring-loaded, pressure dependent high-speed circuit. The second and third types both result from Manitou's TPC+ damping. There's a second piston on compression assembly that moves back and forth a little bit with a bypass to the high-speed circuit. Slow compressions don't fully engage the TPC+ circuit, and neither do small square edge hits. This keeps the fork supple. When the fork experiences a high enough velocity for a long enough stroke duration, the TPC+ circuit closes the high-speed bypass, engaging a second shim stack and making the damping firmer. Manitou calls this energy dependent. At the same time, a tapered needle in the TPC+ circuit makes it velocity dependent as well. The fourth damping circuit is position dependent and comes in the form of the hydraulic bottom out, which only responds when the fork is deep in its travel.

It all sounds complicated, and it is, but the end result is a fork that is suited to a wide variety of terrain conditions without fiddling with adjustments too much.

For 2013, both forks will be available in 26-inch, 650B, and 29-inch wheelsize options. Note that while it's possible to use the 26-inch fork with a 650B wheel, the outer legs on the 650B model will be unique to the wheelsize. The internals are the same between both the 26-inch and 650B forks.

Now then, how does it ride?

On The Trail

We ran the Dorado in the 203mm travel setting for the duration of testing. In this travel setting, the axle to crown length is 591mm – that's 20mm longer than the FOX 40 we swapped out - so the first thing we did was toss in a zero-stack lower headset cup in our Pivot Phoenix test sled. Even with the zero-stack cup, our head angle raked out to 63.5º from 64º. The next step was to get a lower rise bar. We opted for the low-rise Deity Black Label bar and Fantom stem in the 55mm setting. This combo of low-rise bar and 5mm longer stem provided a similar cockpit feel to the FOX 40 it replaced.

During installation, we noticed that Manitou was thorough in torque spec guidance and even includes a spacer in the lower crown to optimize clamp force. This is important because it ensures the clamping force around the legs isn't too tight, restricting the movement of the fork. Smart.

Manitou states the Dorado has a 20-hour break in period. During this time we ran the damper settings more open with a higher air pressure. As the damping felt juicier, we settled into an air pressure of 70psi for a geared rider weight of 175-pounds, 8/20 clicks of rebound, 10/20 clicks on the TPC+ dial, and 12/16 clicks of high-speed compression. At those settings, the Dorado has a very nice bottomless feel. Spiking is a suspension symptom we never found with the Dorado.

We found that the TPC+ damping plays a huge role in the way the fork performs in various conditions. For jumping we would ramp up the TPC+ dial to 18/20 clicks and in wet conditions we’d back the TPC+ down to 8/20 clicks for added front wheel traction and small bump compliance. Regardless of the TPC+ setting, the fork is supple, plush, and asks to be ridden intensely.

Coming from the super rigid FOX 40, it took several weeks to develop the confidence it took to start smashing the front wheel into compressions on steep terrain. Why? Because there's a noticeable bit of flex to this fork. In contrast to the FOX 40, we noticed less fatigue on the upper body – primarily the shoulders – thanks to the force deflection that comes with an inverted fork. It is no coincidence motocross bikes utilize inverted forks. A degree of flex translates into force deflection. In the Dorado’s case, this small degree of flex translates into less force into rider hands, arms and joints with increased front wheel traction – the fork handles more of the work for you.

That said, the Dorado still gave incredible feedback on off-camber lines with rocky and rooted compressions. In this scenario the last thing you want is for your front wheel to deflect and throw you off line and the Dorado still excelled in this situation. We loved how you could aim your front wheel into the nastiest technical lines with precision.

Having heard a lot of complaints from heavier, World Cup pace riders about a reported “wallowing” feel, we're of the opinion that riders under 185-pounds will experience optimum benefit from the inverted design. We’re coming from a lighter point-of-view and attest to the benefit of the Dorado’s force deflection in our GoPro footage. We left a few whips out with zero high-sides. We were straightened out every time and loved this about the Dorado. If you do weigh more than 185-pounds and aren’t riding at World Cup pace, you won’t push the fork to the point of a “wallowing” feel and will also reap the benefits of minimal front tire deflection. Logan Binggeli rode a Dorado to 3rd place at Rampage in 2012, so we also know it can perform in the most dangerous discipline in mountain biking, too.

Things That Could Be Improved

One thing that could use some attention is the axle system.

Manitou’s HexLock axle requires attention to detail, a fair bit of effort when removing the front wheel, and even more attention when installing it. The axle is not self-extracting and you'll need tools to remove it, so we recommend keeping the axle well lubricated – white lithium grease worked well and it’s cheap at your local shop - to ease the task of extraction and installation. Whatever the solution is to maintain structural integrity with a self-extracting axle would be greatly appreciated.

If you run your front brake on the right-hand side, the stock front brake cable routing guide is perfect. If you run your front brake on the left-hand side, American style, the routing leaves a bit to be desired.

Long Term Durability

In general it's a solid package, but we did have one issue early on. After riding in varied conditions for a few months, some of which were muddy, we ended up blowing the damper side dust seal. We continued to ride the fork for several more riders as oil continued to leak. Manitou was quick to respond and sent out a replacement damper leg that has performed flawlessly in 30-hours of ride time.

Could this have been a fluke? It's certainly possible. We weren’t able to cause any terminal damage to the Dorado and Manitou backs their products with an excellent service package, so keep that in mind as well.

After 90-hours of ride time we were able to get the rear brake cable to wear on the anodizing of the lower crown, but it was nothing to cry about. A little tape, vinyl or Velcro solves this issue.

Finally, one quick tip that could save you a headache - be sure to snug the small bolts on the fork guards often, or consider adding Loc-Tite to the threads for a set and forget solution.

What’s The Bottom Line?

We're impressed with the wide range of adjustments in damping, rebound control, and overall performance of the Dorado Expert. At $1200 and 6.82-pounds, the Dorado Expert has a very high price point to performance ratio for a downhill fork. With its proven TPC+ damping, the Dorado is supple through chatter, plush yet supportive through high-speed compressions, and offers Velcro-like traction that certainly stands out in technical off-camber situations. Complete with a limited warranty, impressive service package, and a detailed owner's manual, it's certainly a fork to consider, especially if you weigh less than 185-pounds.

Manitou plans on attending the 2013 Sea Otter Classic and several ProGRT events for you national racers looking for tech support. Check them out at the races or www.manitoumtb.com.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Bell Full-9 Helmet 2/2/2013 5:46 PM
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Tested: Bell Full-9 Helmet - Lovin' Yo Dome

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Sean "Griz" McClendon // Photos by Brandon Turman

Inspired by their award-winning Moto-9 and developed with Aaron Gwin, the Bell Full-9 is purpose built helmet for biking with features you'll find nowhere else on the market. At a price tag of $400, Bell caters to the penny-pincher who wants the best performance enhanced gear money can buy at food stamp pricing. With its carbon shell, magnetic cheek pads, integrated POV camera mounts, Overbrow Ventilation system and Soundtrax speaker pockets – you get more than what you pay for.

Bell Full-9 Highlights

  • ASTM F1952 DH Certified, F2032-06 BMX, CPSC, CE EN 1078
  • Carbon Fiber Shell
  • 10 Vents with 3 Brow Ports
  • Magnefusion Cheek Pads
  • Padded Chinstrap
  • Soundtrax: Built-In Speaker Pockets and Audio Cable Routing
  • Eject Helmet Removal System Compatible
  • 1-Year Warranty
  • Integrated and Removable Camera Mount forGoPro or Contour
  • Six Sizes Ranging from XS to XXL
  • Weight: 1050 Grams
  • Includes Helmet Bag
  • $400 MSRP
  • Available March 2013

Equipped with more functional features than any other purpose-built full-face bike helmet on the market, the Bell Full-9 looks cool too. Gone are the days of looking like a Ninja Turtle - or worse - with skeptical protective qualities. The Bell Full-9 won’t make you look like a squid and offers great protection incase you spike your POV capturing dome-piece into planet Earth.

On The Trail

When you first slide the Full-9 onto your melon, you’ll notice it really covers your brain from forehead to neck with complete jaw coverage. There’s a noticeable amount of freedom for your ears even with these large lobes of mine.

The Magnefusion cheek pads are so simple to remove and install that one can literally change the pads with a blindfold over their eyes. Each cheek pad has three magnets in place of a button or Velcro. In the event of a crash, the removable pads are one of two means on the Full-9 that allows emergency personnel to safety remove it without doing any damage to your spine.

To access the Soundtrax speaker pockets, you’ll have to remove the cheek pads and place your ear buds into the speaker pocket with self-explanatory cable routing that guide cables cleanly behind the cheek pad.

The helmet also has a design feature to allow the use an Eject removal bladder. In the center of the helmet under the padded liner, there is a removable foam block where the Eject removal bladder can be installed. In the case of trauma, medics can inflate the bladder and safely remove the helmet, theoretically preventing further trauma to the head and spine.

The visor can be up and out of your peripheral or it can come down to block that bright orange sun when you’re riding into it. Even with the visor pushed down as far as she goes, the adjustable range makes it so you still won’t look like a goon.

We also were able to test the Full-9 while using an Atlas neck brace and feel like this helmet is one to consider if you ride with neck protection. There is enough freedom of movement to make it more than useable on even the steepest downhill runs.

Confidence is inspired with its plush feel, protection capabilities and sharp look – I always feel like I ride better knowing I look damn good doing it and am prepared for anything that could potentially go wrong. This helmet feels like the fastest man on the planet left his stamp of approval on it. Could this be another reason why Troy Lee wanted Aaron Gwin on the team?

Things That Could Be Improved

There’s one characteristic of the helmet that some may or may not like and that’s how close the jaw guard comes to your mouth. When our breath rate speeds up, it kind of feels like you’re exhaling into a microphone.

Despite having three intake vents at the mouth guard, this helmet could breathe better – and does so if you remove the foam from the mouth vent. After removing the mouth vent foam, we noticed a lot better air flow and really couldn’t complain after doing this slight modification.

Lastly, we tested the integrated camera mount and recommend adding some material under the mount to dampen the chatter and smooth out that POV footage. Our footage was a little shaky with the stock mount and no support.

Long Term Durability

We didn’t get any crash testing in (always a plus), but this helmet is built to last as long as headfirst spikes into earth are avoided. At that rate, any helmet should be evaluated and in case you do smash your grape, Bell offers a one-year warranty on the Full-9 and a "Crash Credit" replacement program for US customers.

The finish has proven to be very durable. We haven’t scratched ours yet and we’ve seen last year’s ODI/Trek Development Team riders in seasoned Full-9 helmets that still look fresh.

What’s The Bottom Line?

Bell has been in the business of making quality helmets for a very long time. The Full-9 is hands down the best full-face bike specific helmet Bell has ever produced. With its comfortable fit providing complete protection for our cranium, our confidence was at a high and the product geek in us was satisfied with the technical features of the Full-9. We couldn’t help but feel faster knowing Aaron Gwin’s feedback was directly involved with this helmet.If you have a $100 head, buy a $100 helmet, but for those of you who value your melon, the Bell Full-9 is the best bike helmet money can buy at $400.

The Full-9 drops March 2013. Keep an eye on www.bellhelmets.com for details.

This product has 2 reviews.

Added a product review for One Industries Vapor Pants 10/1/2012 4:11 PM
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Tested: ONE Industries Vapor Pants, So Light You'll Jump For Joy

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Words by Sean “Griz” McClendon. Photos by Ian Collins.

Well-known and respected in the motocross world, ONE Industries is about to make a charge into the bike market, and they're doing it in style. We recently had the opportunity to try out the new ONE Vapor pant, a crossover from their moto line that feels like it was made for mountain biking. Made with two-way stretch polyester, a touch of leather, an adjustable waist, and a velcro-style waist closure, the Vapor pant is like no other.

Key Specs

  • Constructed of a two-way stretch poly material - The outer shell is 95% polyester and 5% leather, and the lining is 100% polyester.
  • Unrestricted movement with full-length stretch construction
  • Weigh less than one pound (!)
  • Dual side waist adjusters with aggressive hook and loop
  • Quad Fit inner liner system
  • 1000D Kordura rear saddle panel
  • Sublimated graphics

Things We Liked

There is a lot to like about the Vapor pant, most notably the stretchy material and their incredibly light weight. It feels like you’re slipping into board shorts with leather knees when you put them on. Seriously. The stretchy Quad-Fit liner and outer material is thin enough to provide excellent cooling and comfort, and the combo of the two worked well when mobility came into question. Knee pads fit great with ample flexibility under the pant thanks to a well-designed cut and material. The pants don't have any visible vents, but they're not needed as long as you’re moving, making this gear ideal for hot days on the hill. We rode in heat ranging in the high 90s and hardly noticed we had pants on.

The inseam and saddle area is durable thanks to a thicker polyester material commonly used in motocross pants. It's not loud while riding or hiking, though, which is another big plus. Stitching is solid and the overall cut is very comfortable.

The most impressive aspect of these pants is their weight. At just under one pound, they're hands down the lightest riding pants we've ever worn. How'd they make them so light? ONE worked closely with athletes like moto superstar Justin Brayton and the Atherton Family to develop a pant with a minimal panel count that still had sufficient stretch, eliminating the need for multiple materials. They also said good riddance to the heavy, bulky, and not-so-flexible molded rubber TPR patches, opting instead for a fully sublimated graphics package.

Justin Brayton has had an entire season of supercross and motocross racing on these pants, and he's keen to fill you in on the rest of the details in this video from ONE:

Things That Could Be Improved

We understand these pants were originally designed for motocross, so there are a few inherent shortcomings to be expected. First, we would have loved a pocket. Second, moto guys tuck their pants inside their boots, so the pants are cut slightly shorter than normal to prevent bunching. If you like a little extra length on your pants, sizing up will help you accomplish this.

Given how light and thin they are, durability is another area for concern. Crashing might destroy the pants, but keep in mind they inspire comfort and a desire to avoid hitting the ground. We felt too light and clean to crash in the gear, so we were not able to see how tough the pant actually is. We'll update you if and when that happens.

What’s The Bottom Line?

With comfort, ventilation and flexibility in mind, we have been really impressed with the ONE Vapor pants. At a price tag of $185, the cost will feel worthwhile the day when you are literally the coolest rider on the hill. We’ve never ridden in a motocross pant this light, comfortable and suitable for downhill before. Flexible and light materials, Velcro waist clinch and loud but cool graphics highlight the list of features we enjoy most about these unique pants.

For more about the Vapor pants, cruise over to www.oneindustries.com. Oh, and be sure to check out the Vapor jersey and gloves as well, because no kit should be mismatched.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for 2013 Pivot Phoenix DH Bike 9/27/2012 11:14 AM
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Tested: Pivot's Phoenix Downhill Bike, Playfully Stable

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Reviewed by Sean “Griz” McClendon. Photos by Ian Collins.

Life without gravity is bunk. This bike cured my depression and ended a 23-month dry spell of no downhill. I was excited to return to riding downhill on a dual compact linkage design - yes, the beloved DW-Link by means of the Phoenix DH by Pivot Cycles.

I had a premeditated idea of what this design would require from the body based on my past experience on the Iron Horse Sunday, a parking lot test on Kyle Strait’s 2011 Phoenix race bike, and hours of relearning to dirt jump on his 2011 Pivot M4X slalom race bike. It was a bittersweet day when Shaun Palmer inherited that MDW 4X. I still miss it. However, the Pivot Phoenix exceeded all expectations. Especially after we went to Whistler. With its spacious cockpit, relaxed stock head angle, low center of gravity, evenly displaced weight and balanced geometry this bike has impressed me from ride one. Sunday lovers can rejoice. The Pivot Phoenix DH is the answer you’ve been waiting for.

Meet The Phoenix

Developed in conjunction with Dave Weagle, Kyle Strait, and the Pivot/LEX team, the Phoenix is the top of the line downhill offering from Pivot Cycles. We’ve seen the Pivot Phoenix being raced on the World Cup circuit for a few years now and it’s popular amongst those who ride one. It uses the tried and true DW-link suspension system, which has a long and successful history in the racing scene. Personally, I watched as much Luke Strobel footage as I could find online to check his technique onboard the Phoenix before I actually rode it. Luke’s got the body English well figured out for this bike and I took note.

Key Specs

  • 8.15-inches (207mm) of travel
  • 1.5-inch headtube
  • 64-degree head angle with (adjustable +/- ½, 1, or 1.375-degrees with the Cane Creek Angleset)
  • 17.28-inch chainstays
  • Swappable dropouts for wheelbase adjustment
  • 13.6-inch bottom bracket height
  • Standard 83mm threaded bottom bracket shell with ISCG05 mounts
  • 150mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Complete bikes weigh in at sub 38-pounds (17kg)
  • MSRP $2999 for frame and Fox DHX RC4 Coil shock

It was an exciting day when the UPS man dropped off our test bike. Things got nerdy when we opened the box. “Those look like new Shimano Saint levers.” We pull the bike out. “Is that a clutch on the derailleur?” Looks like we get to test out a pre-released Shimano Saint group and Kashima coated 2013 Fox suspension – so juiced! Now that over 300 minutes of ride time are logged over diverse terrain - San Diego, Bellingham and Whistler Bike Park - it’s time to lay down some real talk on how she’s performed and held up.

Pivot has a sizing guide on their website to ensure a correct fit. At 5'10” I chose a large with short dropouts and it fit well. My opinion is to size up if you are within an inch of their suggested height, simply so you can develop the stance this bike requires.

Baller Build Kit

I’ve been awed with the build kit Pivot chose. The new 2013 Shimano Saint group highlighted our test build, a slight difference from the standard SRAM X0 offering from Pivot. Shifting has been crisp and quiet thanks to Shimano's Shadow Plus system. Once you ride a bike equipped with a clutched rear derailleur, you’ll be forever changed. Braking hasn’t failed and I’m sold on the modulation, lever fit and power of the new Saint. The group is tough, too - I managed to dump her on the front brake lever, and to my surprise, the lever made friends with a rock without breaking. There’s not much more to be said about the new cranks – they’re proven and still get scratched when you smash them into boulders. My least favorite part of the build is the Saint pedals. Shimano still uses tiny pins that don’t hold your feet well and you have to remove each pin and screw them back in minus the washer to get the right pin height. I ended up testing the bike with Deity Decoy aluminum pedals with Vans Gravel shoes. This combo feels fantastic and I’m sticking to it.

Gravity Light bars, stem and seatpost were included with the build and I have nothing bad to say about the group. At 800mm wide, the Gravity Light bars had a familiar bend and sweep, which was nice. My width preference is under 800mm and rather than chopping the bars, I had Deity send over a set of Dirty 30’s for me to test along with the pedals. That being said, the Gravity line of components is great. DT Swiss EX 500 rims on 350 hubs with bladed spokes made for a lightweight set of race wheels. Old Griz would have eaten those hoops up faster than a California burrito, but my new carcass is about 165-pounds soaking wet and I only managed to put one dent in the rear hoop while spokes have been tensioned twice. DT Swiss makes great product and the lighter you are, the more durable their product becomes.

Suspension Performance

Suspension so good it’ll want to make you slap yo’ mamma. Equipped with 2013 Kashima coated Fox 40 and RC4 I’ve never felt so taken care of, honestly. Once we found the right settings it was on. Speed naturally increased, high frequency chatter bumps felt smooth, high-speed compressions felt like fluff, and I could go on for days about how nice the pop felt when pumping and jumping. I found the bike liked to float on top of rough bumps when accelerating and braking with the occasional spike. A semi-steep root section on Whistler's Tech Noir trail comes to mind when I think of the bike under acceleration forces over high-frequency compressions. It was dry and I felt comfortable as I let her rip through the roots. As predicted, the bike settled into a float and a big grin followed as it felt like I was blitzing whoops like Ryan Villopoto.

Under bumpy breaking situations, the Fox 40 remained stable up front and the bike was active in the rear. The rear end would spike when I was over cooking but no way near as bad as I remember how the Sunday kicked.

Under pedal forces, no effort felt like it was being wasted and the bike sat high in its travel. She pedals efficiently and has amazing acceleration when you sprint. I managed to pass three XC dudes in spandex and made Lauren Daney dry heave on a climb out of my local spot on this bike. Big-ups, DW-link!

Tuning the rear shock is difficult on the Phoenix, but the weight displacement benefit from where the shock is located outweighs the task of reaching the controls of the Fox RC4. Pivot did what they could to provide access to the rear shock controls without compromise. Eventually, I found settings on the rear shock that worked for me. With a 400-pound spring and 125psi in the can, I adjusted my clickers in from wide open. The final settings looked like so: rebound 12/16 clicks, low-speed compression 10/18 for general use and 16/18 for jumping, high-speed compression 9/13, and bottom-out one half turn out from firm.

Pivot is quick to admit that their design is similar to the Iron Horse Sunday, but it's not the same - "The Sunday took the concept of using a position sensitive shock as a bottom out device. Phoenix DH shares a similar leverage ratio curve for the first part of the travel, and then remains slightly progressive through the end travel (the opposite of the Sunday). The Phoenix DH runs slightly higher spring rates and a curve that is more in line with what we developed for the Pivot Firebird." This difference is notable and appreciated, especially on large hits.

Unfortunately, the spring in the Fox 40 likes to rattle around and make noise. I’ve heard many complaints about the sound of the 40 but I was too busy hauling ass and having fun to let spring-chatter bother me. Noise does not affect the performance of the 40 and I’ve never felt performance this good from Fox. It was a wise decision from Pivot to spec the fork on the Phoenix.

Frame Durability

Chips in paint are inevitable and we definitely got a few from shuttle runs and shipping on the top tube. Pivot uses thick vinyl graphics that protect the down tube, top tube and chainstays. Vinyl is a wise way to decorate a downhill frame. The downtube graphic took the brunt of abuse from shuttle runs and front tire roost. Eventually they’ll need to be replaced but the graphics proved durable.

All these laps later, I’m confident this frame would never buckle underneath me. It feels that solid. Pivot still uses aluminum to make their frame. When this bike is ready to be retired many years from now, the metal can be recycled and made into something else, unlike carbon fiber.

For an aluminum frame, she’s incredibly stiff under forces. Take a close look at the construction of the frame and it's fairly obvious why it's so stiff… hint, it starts with downtube and branches into the triple-butted, hydroformed 6061-aluminum front triangle mated to a one-piece cold forged rear swing arm. My legs are still sort of weak while recovering from a big injury so I found myself carving the bike through turns in full-body fashion with my weight evenly displaced. This technique proved to generate speed but not much flex in the rear end.

Another comparison to the Sunday where the Phoenix shines bright is the pivot bolts and hardware. The linkage uses 16 and 17mm diameter main pivot hardware combines with double row EnduroMax bearings for maximum durability and frame stiffness. I had to tighten the pivot bolts one time and they’ve past every bolt check since. Around 270 minutes of ride time in, I had to tighten the lower shock bolt a quarter-turn. I’ve been happy with the hardware and confident with the dropouts.

What’s The Bottom Line?

If you’re in the market for a new downhill bike and aren’t convinced of carbon fiber, consider the Pivot Phoenix for next season. My unbiased opinion is that this bike performs so well I’d recommend it to privateers of all racing levels. When friends ask me how the bike rides, I tell them that it's playfully stable. It settles when you want her to and she’s got nice pop. The Phoenix builds light, too. Ours was around 38-pounds with room for improvement. The only weakness the Phoenix brought out was weakness in my lower body. The bike itself exceeded all expectations and has minimal downsides, if any. Bottom line, this bike does not suck and gets two thumbs up.

For further details about the Phoenix DH, hit up www.pivotcycles.com.

Itching for more? Check out the entire Pivot Phoenix DH test photo gallery.

This product has 1 review.