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E.T.'s Product Reviews

Added a product review for OneUp Components 42T Sprocket Cassette Add-On 4/4/2014 7:50 AM
C138_oneup_components_42t_sprocket_cassette_add_on

Tested: OneUp Components 42T Cassette Add-On

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Evan Turpen

Over the last couple of years there have been major advancements in the drivetrains of our bikes (clutch derailleurs, mega-wide gear ranges, and almost derail-able chain retention techniques). Everything is simpler, lighter, smoother, and in most cases...more expensive.

The OneUp 42-tooth cassette sprocket is a simple and affordable alternative to spending the coin on one of these complete drivetrain systems (in reality there's only one at the moment). It effectively gives you that 1x11 "climb up a wall" granny gear without causing that 1x11 hole in your bank account. For this reason I was intrigued. I like when companies offer affordable alternatives that improve my bike and therefore I wanted to give it a go. So was the OneUp a magical solution for my 1x10 and my poor legs up those steep climbs? Read on to find out. My answer may surprise you...

Setup and Initial Impressions

Installation onto the freehub body was straightforward with removal of the 17-tooth cog from my Shimano XT 11 to 36-tooth 10-speed cassette. OneUp provides the 42-tooth cog with a thin steel shim which is oriented either behind the cog (Shimano) or in front of the cog (SRAM). I have Shimano so I installed the whole cassette+cog contraption with the spacer behind the 42-tooth cog.

Once my wheel was back in the bike some adjustment was necessary to get things to work. I did have to remove the small plastic piece that the B-tension threads through on my XT derailleur in order to make the pulley clear the 42-tooth cog. After removing it you get a few more turns of adjustment (which you'll need all of) and I added blue Loctite to the threads in order to keep it from rattling loose. I also had to add a couple links to my chain and I'm currently running a double KMC MissingLink setup.

On The Trail

The big positive of the OneUp system is that it does drastically improve your gear range and climbing gear for the steep ups. It also shifts very well from the 36 to the 42-tooth and vice versa. Additionally, despite my best efforts, I could not strip out my aluminum freehub body when in the 42 even under my hardest sprinting efforts uphill. I think this is due to the much wider base of the 42-tooth (roughly twice as wide as a traditional cog) and possibly my lack of high peak wattage.

Unfortunately performance further down the cassette has been compromised, and from the very first ride I was immediately unhappy with the huge jump from the 19-tooth to the 15. It is VERY noticeable as I would go from spinning out big time to bogging (cadence wise) with one shift or vice versa. I also noticed less precise/sluggish shifting as I got down to the smaller cogs on the cassette. This is due to the upper derailleur pulley now being VERY far away from the smaller cogs. Apparently this is less noticeable on certain SRAM rear derailleurs as they have an offset upper pulley resembling XX1's actuation where it follows the contour of the cassette more closely. I'm a Shimano guy and with this setup my shifting went from previously stellar to very sub-par. There's simply too much slop in this system with the pulley so far away.

In my quest to try to make things work I tracked down a 16-tooth Shimano 10-speed cog to replace the 15 so the gearing went: 21,19,16,13,11 instead of 21,19,15,13,11. OneUp also has recently started including a 16-tooth cog with their 40 and 42-tooth cogs. The more consistent jump in gears is a significant improvement, but is still not ideal. The 3-tooth gearing jump from the 19 to 16 and 16 to 13, although better, is still noticeable, especially on the flats at speed where cadence is everything. I often ride on the road for a few miles to get to the trailhead and these larger-than-usual gearing jumps nearly drove me insane.

Unfortunately the 19-tooth cog is not removable (it is anchored to the other easier cogs) as I feel it would be much better to remove both the 19 and 17 and replace these with an 18 so the full range went: 42,36,32,28,24,21,18,15,13,11 with jumps of 6,4,4,4,3,3,3,2,2 instead of the stock OneUp 6,4,4,4,3,3,4,2,2 or 6,4,4,4,3,2,3,3,2 with a 16-tooth inserted.

Messing with any of these gears further throws off the shifting performance as the cassette is not designed to shift properly with different jumps in teeth-count than what is provided from the factory. Simply put, a complete cassette designed to shift with the given wide-range cogs would have been better in my eyes, but obviously much more expensive. A bit of a double-edged sword...

Things That Could Be Improved

Most everything is listed above, but to sum things up I would much rather see an entire (from the ground up) cassette designed specifically for this wide range. Even if it costs a bit more it would be worth it if the shifting performance and predictable gear ratios were there. Also including a longer B-tension screw with the product would make setup much easier.

Long Term Durability

I do not see any issues with the 42-tooth cog itself durability wise. The rest of the cassette and chain however will see accelerated wear in my opinion. Because the B-tension adjustment has to be run so far in the chain doesn't wrap around the cogs as much as before. This means there are less teeth on your cassette engaged by the chain at any given time. Less teeth + same pedal force = higher forces per tooth on your cassette and faster wear rates. Science.

What's The Bottom Line?

I’m torn here because I like the added gear range and the shifting to/from the OneUp cog, but the negative impact it has on shifting performance and ratio jumps throughout the rest of the cassette is very tough to overlook. Any drivetrain component that overlooks proper gear ratio, shift performance further down the cassette, and derailleur design is difficult to recommend. While using a derailleur other than the Shimano XT used in this test may improve performance, it's still a tough compromise from my point of view.

I'd suggest riders seeking more range but a crisper shifting experience try OneUp's new 40-tooth ring with the 16-tooth add on before jumping to the 42. Another alternative is to keep saving those pennies for a proper SRAM XX1/X01 setup.

Following Up

OneUp had this feedback to add given my experience on the trail:

"We totally agree that our product is bit of a compromise, you sacrifice some shifting crispness in the lower end of the cassette for the huge increase in range. This might not be for everyone, but we all run it on our bikes and honestly believe the benefits outweigh the downsides for most riders.

SRAM rear derailleurs (particularly X5,X7,X9) provide more exact shifting in the lower cogs. For Shimano users, the current 10x XTR rear derailleur shifts much better than all other models.

If you're a rider who focuses on a smooth cadence, then even with the addition of our 16-tooth, OneUp might not be the product for you, and XX1 or the new XTR will a better product choice.

For most of our customers our 42-tooth finally allows them to upgrade their current 2/3X setups and reap all the awesome benefits of a narrow/wide chain ring for a fraction of the cost of XX1/X01."

Visit www.oneupcomponents.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

Evan Turpen has been racing mountain bikes for over 12 years. He raced downhill as a pro for the last 8 years with his career highlight being selected to represent the U.S. in the 2006 World Championships. More recently he can be found competing in enduro races and having a blast with it. He is an aggressive yet smooth rider who loves to flick the bike around to put it on the fastest line or to smooth out the rough sections. With an extensive knowledge of the mountain bike industry and its technologies, Evan is able to take all things in to perspective during a review. He has helped design, develop, and test products for multiple major mountain bike companies and has an attention to detail well above most. When he's not out ripping around on a bike he helps run the California Enduro Series and is also in charge of the bike park at China Peak Mountain Resort.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for SR Suntour RUX Fork 1/23/2014 2:10 PM
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Tested: SR Suntour RUX Fork - UPDATED INTERNALS

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Evan Turpen // Photos by Dave Trumpore

It's no secret that the long-travel bike market is a tough one to crack into. The numbers of product produced is much smaller than other areas of the market and the performance and quality demanded is of the highest level, because it has to be. As a result of the highly competitive market, many companies and products have come and gone, and some companies won't even dabble in it for fear of never getting a return on their investment.

SR Suntour isn’t one of these scared companies, and for 2014 they’ve made the leap into the long-travel downhill and freeride market with the release of their air sprung, 200mm travel RUX fork. Retailing at $1,200 fully-loaded with many features and adjustments, is this the fork that will successfully get SR Suntour into the big bike market?

Our first test of this fork showed it to have a lot of promise, but it was held back by overly harsh damping and stickiness off the top. Suntour took the RUX back to the shop and came back with a longer negative spring assembly and a softer compression spring, changes that Suntour says are now featured on the production version (late model year 2015). When it comes to suspension, it's often these seemingly small changes that can have a big impact on performance, so we were more than eager to throw the RUX back onto the big bike for a second go-around. Our findings are in the updated review below.

RUX Fork Highlights

  • Air sprung
  • 200mm travel
  • 38mm stanchions
  • Tool-free 20mm axle
  • Direct post mount for 203mm disc rotors
  • 26-inch wheel compatibility
  • Externally adjustable high speed compression (13 clicks), low-speed compression (9 clicks), rebound (14 clicks), and air pressure
  • Internally adjustable air volume spacers (6 positions) to adjust progression
  • Available with black or white lower legs
  • Weight: 2,921g (6.44-pounds) test fork with cut steerer
  • MSRP $1,200

Installation and Setup

The RUX has a few unique features that make installation and setup a little different than other downhill forks I’ve used in the past.

First up is the tool free 20mm axle system. Hidden within the axle is a retractable red lever for turning/tightening the axle. At first it was difficult to remove the red lever from the axle, but once it was out, a couple drops of lube had it moving in and out smoothly for the rest of this test. Once tightened down, the axle is clamped in place by a large quick release lever on the drive side of the lower legs. This is in place of a tooled pinch bolt system, saving some time and hassle.

The disc brake mount is a 203mm post type only, requiring your caliper and two bolts to hold everything aligned and properly spaced for a 203mm rotor. My Shimano ZEE brake caliper bolted up perfectly aligned with the 203mm front Shimano rotor, and I have to say it's nice to not have to use any adapters here. The vast majority of downhill riders are running a 200/203mm rotor, so this doesn't present an issue.

The 38mm stanchions also come with height markings for clamping the lower crown at the correct height, showing the safe usable range with “max” and “min” clearly defined. There is 10mm of height adjustment available and I set mine to the maximum height setting (most “choppered out”) to most closely replicate my previous FOX 40 axle-to-crown settings. Once the fork was installed, I set the air pressure to a ballpark setting by feel as well as rebound and compression and went out for a bit of a parking lot test.

Inside the fork, below the air spring top cap, up to five spacers can be used to reduce air volume in the spring and create a progressive ramp-up as you near the end of its travel. The fork was provided to me with four of the five spacers installed. This setting felt a bit too progressive for my tastes and I eventually settled on only one of the spacers installed combined with 64psi in the air spring, which is approximately 8psi over the recommended starting point for a rider of my 170-pound weight.

On The Trail

Updated Ride Impressions:

After reviewing the SR Suntour RUX fork earlier this year, I honestly could not wait to put back on a tried and true coil-sprung downhill fork. Soon after swapping out forks on my DH bike, Suntour asked for the RUX back so they could install some of the improvements and tweaks that they had been working on. Curious to see what would improve, the fork was boxed and shipped to the Madison, Wisconsin service center.

A few weeks passed and the RUX returned with the upgrades installed. Suntour said they had installed an improved longer negative spring assembly and a lighter high-speed compression spring. I was hesitant at first to believe these could magically turn this fork around, but I had to test it. I had to see if they had truly improved it. I set the air pressure, stanchion height, rebound, and compression all to the exact same settings as my finalized settings from the previous test [see below]. After doing so I had a brief parking lot test and I could instantly tell that a lot had changed... and it felt for the better.

The fork felt much more forgiving on its compression damping circuit and the air spring was an entirely different beast. I actually had to crank in the compression settings (both high and low-speed) quite a bit from the old settings until the fork had what I thought to be a desired feel. This was a big departure from the almost fully open settings on the old fork.

Once on the trail the improvements to the fork were immediately noticeable. VERY noticeable. So much so that I was smiling from ear to ear at the bottom of my first downhill run. Suntour had gotten it right. The updates created a fork that I truly enjoyed riding. It was supple yet supportive and had a very predictable feel to the air spring that was very much coil-like, but honestly felt a touch better. I used almost all the travel with a tiny bit still in reserve from its perfect feeling progression. It was light, tracked well, and was a joy to ride.

With these updates done, Suntour has created something that now seemingly performs with the best of the best, yet the reasonable $1,200 retail price makes the RUX that much more desirable.SR Suntour says these changes will make it to production, which means the new kid on the block will give the big names a run for their money. It’s that good. I'd gladly race with it mounted to the front of my bike, and I'm one picky dude. They just need to make a 650b version...

The revised RUX as ridden in this second test has received a 4.5/5 star rating, placing it among the best performing forks in this category.


Notes from SR Suntour:

"Consumers who have purchased or plan on purchasing a RUX have the option to custom tune their fork with alternative spring set ups to match their riding style and feel (pricing will be affordable but will vary depending on what changes and level of service are requested). For information contact SR Suntour’s Madison, Wisconsin service center who are happy to help get you set up properly."

Three changes have been made or will soon be made to production forks:

  • Bleed ports on the lower case starting on forks produced starting 02/19/2014 (Serial # TE00171951 and later)
  • Longer negative spring on forks produced starting 2/27/2014 (Serial # TE00208591 and later)
  • Softer compression spring starting the next production run

The compression spring (late model year 2015), lowers and longer negative spring are parts that the service center has in stock.


Original Ride Impressions:

The things I most look for in a good downhill fork are chassis stiffness/precision, adjustability, and above all else suspension performance. Weight is less of a concern of mine, although a light fork is obviously more desirable.

First and foremost, once on the trail the chassis stiffness and feel is very good. The large 38mm stanchions provide precise steering and braking at all times with no noticeable flex. There is also tons of mud clearance around the tire and fork arch (20mm at the closest point between my 2.5-inch Maxxis Minion DHF and the fork lowers). No complaints here!

The RC2 damper is highly adjustable through its external adjusters, but I found myself having to run minimal amounts of high-speed compression, low-speed compression, and rebound to get the fork feeling at its best. I usually run much firmer spring and compression settings than your average Joe so this worries me a bit. Beyond air pressure there’s not much else that can be done to soften the fork for riders preferring softer settings.

Medium to big hits are absorbed in a controlled, no-nonsense fashion by the RUX. The air spring with one air volume reducer installed provided a nice ramp up near the end of travel. I never once felt the fork bottom out hard so in hindsight I could have probably gotten away with even less progression by removing the last spacer. I'm of the opinion that using most of the available travel on your fork once/twice per run is a good thing, otherwise why have it? With fewer spacers installed, however, support under hard braking leaves some to be desired. Unfortunately when I tried to dial in more low-speed compression to combat brake dive the RUX would become too harsh at higher speed square edged hits as well as small bumps. It also felt as if the fork became a bit harsh while trying to rebound from multiple hits in succession at high speeds. This was even with an almost fully fast rebound setting.

The air spring itself has a decidedly “air” feeling to it - stiff off the top, wallowy in the mid-stroke, and rampy towards the end. It uses a positive air chamber and a simple inline dual coil negative spring. Compared to other systems on the market it is extremely simple, but unfortunately not very effective at making the fork supple at the top of its travel.

My final settings after two months of riding and tuning are listed below:

  • Air pressure: 64 psi
  • Air volume spacers: 1 installed
  • High-speed compression: 10 out
  • Low-speed compression: 7 out
  • Rebound: 11 out

Things That Could Be Improved

Air Spring: Throughout the entire test I was wishing for a much suppler feeling off the top of the stroke and more support in the mid-stroke. This could be accomplished with a redesign and tuning of the negative spring assembly. Shipping the RUX with multiple negative spring setups for tuning to different air pressures could be a good way to go too. Honestly though, I would have without a doubt much rather seen the RUX as a coil version that hit a slightly lower price-point, albeit at a slight weight gain. Suspension performance is key on long-travel bikes and a coil spring would improve the feel and performance of this fork drastically, especially given the good chassis feel. UPDATE: The revised version of the RUX that we re-tested provides an entirely different level of performance from the airspring, addressing all the points raised here. See our updated ride impressions above for full details.

Bleed Valves: There are none. Pressure builds in the fork lowers from going up in elevation or an increase in temperature. Sliding a super thin ziptie down between the stanchion and seal releases built up pressure in the fork lowers and improves the performance. It would be nice to see a button activated bleed like what comes on the new X-Fusion and FOX downhill forks. UPDATE: as of late model year 2015, the RUX will ship with bleed valves on the lowers.

RC2 Damper: The compression adjustment range needs to be shifted to the softer side. Like I found with the SR Suntour Auron fork that I tested previously, the RUX could benefit from increased low to mid-speed compression with drastically less high-speed compression. I felt it could benefit from more support with less harshness when things get really fast and rough. The rebound also should be tuned to have less deep stroke rebound to make the fork better respond to successive hits. This could be accomplished by redesigning the rebound valve to flow more oil and adding a shim element that could control this flow further depending upon the forces applied to it. UPDATE: the revised compression assembly addressed our concerns here, with the updated fork providing a supple yet supportive ride.

Long Term Durability

Everything about this fork looks, feels, and functions in a way that inspires long-term confidence, except for the air spring. Part way through the test the fork became extremely stiff off the top and a handful to ride. It turned out that the air piston had a bad seal and was allowing quite a bit of air to leak past and pressurize the lower leg. SR Suntour sent out a replacement air piston and seal assembly which we installed, bringing the fork back to its originally designed performance. Luckily the fork is extremely easy to service and maintain. With routine maintenance of the air spring, seals, and lubrication, this fork should be able to run strong for many years to come. Suntour has a helpful series of tech videos to help walk you through servicing your fork should you be up for a little DIY action.

What's The Bottom Line?

UPDATED:The RUX chassis is great, it's easily serviceable, competitive in the weight game, and offers a lot of the features found on much more expensive forks at a fraction of the price. With the updates introduced to the late model year 2015 version, the performance is now also right up there with the best. At this price point, the RUX will be a handful as far as competition is concerned, and we no longer have any qualms about running this fork as the primary fork on our DH bikes.

For additional info, visit www.srsuntour-cycling.com.


About The Reviewer

Evan Turpen has been racing mountain bikes for over 12 years. He raced downhill as a Pro for the last 8 years with his career highlight being selected to represent the U.S. in the 2006 World Championships. More recently he can be found competing in enduro races and having a blast with it. He is an aggressive yet smooth rider who loves to flick the bike around to put it on the fastest line or to smooth out the rough sections. Fast flowy trails and long technical descents (Garbanzo style) are his favorite. With an extensive knowledge of the mountain bike industry and its technologies, Evan is able to take all things in to perspective during a review. He has helped design, develop, and test products for multiple major mountain bike companies and has an attention to detail well above most. When he's not out ripping around on a bike he helps run the recently introduced California Enduro Series and is also in charge of the bike park at China Peak Mountain Resort.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Race Face Next SL Crank 12/17/2013 10:06 PM
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Tested: Race Face Next SL Crankset

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Evan Turpen // Photos by Dave Trumpore

I remember when I first got in to mountain biking 14 years ago the cranks to have were the Race Face Turbine LP square taper. They were beautifully CNC machined and anodized in a variety of colors and at the time were some of the lightest and strongest cranks on the market. I saved up for what seemed like eternity to purchase those cranks and once I finally did I couldn't help but drool over how sexy they made my bike look and feel. Fast forward to the present day and with the introduction of carbon technology and advanced alloys Race Face has released what they feel to be the next level of crank technology aptly named the Next SL. Does it live up to their claims? Is this the next level of crank technology? Read on to find out…

Race Face Next SL Crankset Highlights

  • Weight as tested: 534g (175mm length including 68/73mm threaded bottom bracket and spiderless direct mount 34 tooth Narrow/Wide chainring)
  • 170mm or 175mm length crank arms available
  • BB options: BB92, 68/73 BSA, 100mm BSA, PF30
  • Spindle Diameter: 30mm
  • Single, double, and triple front chainring options available
  • “Cinch System” interchangeable spider interface
  • MSRP $459.99 (armset) and $599.99 (2x/3x)

Setup and Initial Impressions

The Race Face Next SL crankset was easy to install. Depending upon your shell width the bottom bracket should be installed with either one or three bottom bracket spacers. My frame features a 73mm BB shell so it required one spacer between the drive side cup and the BB shell although I found that adding a spacer to the non-drive side as well helped me avoid having to max out the preload adjuster.*After the BB is installed you simply slide the non-drive crank spindle through the bottom bracket and tighten down the drive-side crank arm using a single 8mm allen. Any slop in the system is taken out using the threaded preload collar on the spindle that you then lock in place with a 2mm allen. No micro shims, no wavy washers, and no headaches with this system. Just a simple solid setup.

*Note that the use of an extra spacer on the non-drive side is a rare case, on most 73mm BB shell frames the system should be installed with just the one spacer on the drive side. In this particular case, due to slight variations in frame tolerances, the preload collar reached the end of its adjustment range when the system was installed without a spacer, hence the decision to add a spacer. On most frames, adding a spacer would cause the preload collar to be too tight even when fully backed off, which could lead to premature wear on the bearings. Contact Race Face for assistance with installation if need be.

After I had installed the cranks I installed my pedals using the provided pedal washers and optional protective rubber crank boots. The rubber crank boots help protect the ends of the cranks from rock strikes and I figured the extra 19 grams of weight for the pair (including pedal washers) was worth it. One cool feature to note was that these cranks also utilize what Race Face calls their Cinch System. Basically it allows you to have one armset that can quickly and easily be swapped between a plethora of chainring and gearing options. All held in place by just one lockring that’s torqued using a common splined bottom bracket tool. Want 3x10? 2x10? 1xWhatever? No problem. You can change it out quickly and easily with no fuss anytime down the road. A really nice feature to see.

On The Trail

After dropping nearly a pound of weight off my bike compared to my previous setup I was worried that these cranks had gone too far with weight savings and that performance would suffer, but this was not the case. I was presently surprised by the solid feel at the pedals with no noticeable decrease in stiffness over the much heavier setup I had before.

I rode these cranks in all kinds of conditions on all kinds of terrain (much of it demanding and rocky). I even rode them on the pump tracks, dirt jumps, and slopestyle lines at Valmont Bike Park. They also spent some time in the elements with the mud and freezing snow covered trails of winter in Colorado (an excellent test for bottom bracket bearings). Never once did they creak or show signs of any noticeable flex. They also never came loose. They are set and forget ultra-lightweight cranks that get the job done. Beautifully smooth bottom bracket action as well. Some of the smoothest I've ever experienced.

Things That Could Be Improved

The crankset we received was from the first production run, which was shipped without any kind of protection on the crank arms. This has led to a bit of wear on the graphics where the foot contacts the crank arm. All later production runs of the crankset feature factory-installed 3M protective tape on the crank arms to prevent this from happening. Customers who have received a crankset without the protective tape can contact Race Face to have it mailed out.

Long Term Durability

Even though these cranks are insanely light, they inspire confidence when going big. In fact if they made an 83mm BB shell option I wouldn't hesitate to race these on my downhill bike. The bottom bracket bearings are big and smooth and still spinning as effortlessly as ever with zero slop. There’s no reason I can see why these cranks wouldn't last for many years to come. They are extremely well put together with exacting tolerances and no corners cut on materials. Sure a freak accident could gouge the carbon deep enough to compromise its strength, but it would have to be a pretty major impact to do so!

What's The Bottom Line?

This is a top notch product that would be on every single bike I own, if I could afford it. If you are looking for the ultimate crankset to complete your ride and price is not a concern, this is it. It's that good.

For more details, visit www.raceface.com.


About The Reviewer

Evan Turpen has been racing mountain bikes for over 12 years. He raced downhill as a pro for the last 8 years with his career highlight being selected to represent the U.S. in the 2006 World Championships. More recently he can be found competing in Enduro races and having a blast with it. His first ever Enduro event being the 2012 Trans-Provence 7-day adventure race through France. He is an aggressive yet smooth rider who loves to flick the bike around to put it on the fastest line or to smooth out the rough sections. Fast flowy trails and long technical descents (Garbanzo style) are his favorite. Whistler and Santa Cruz are his two most favorite places to ride, but he can have fun wherever he goes. With an extensive knowledge of the mountain bike industry and its technologies, Evan is able to take all things in to perspective during a review. He has helped design, develop, and test products for multiple major mountain bike companies and has an attention to detail well above most. When he's not out ripping around on a bike he helps run the recently introduced California Enduro Series and is also in charge of the bike park at China Peak Mountain Resort.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for SR Suntour Auron Fork 11/25/2013 7:59 AM
C138_2014_sr_suntour_auron_fork

Tested: 2014 SR Suntour Auron RC2 Fork

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Evan Turpen // Photos by Dave Trumpore

Last year I had the opportunity to test my first ever SR Suntour suspension product in the form of the 32mm Epicon-X1 trail/XC fork. The fork showed a lot of promise, especially at its $599 price point, and it left me pondering the potential for future SR Suntour products as more time and energy was put into development.

When I first heard of the 34mm Auron fork I was excited to give it a try. At 150-160mm of travel it suits the bikes I enjoy riding most these days - they're much closer to their downhill ancestors than XC. Because of this I personally prefer high and low-speed compression adjustments over pre-set compression or lock-out adjustments on my fork. I feel that these downhill oriented dampers really help eek out the most performance from a bike when pushed hard, and the new Auron, with its RC2 damper, seemed like it might just do the trick. Well, after two months on all types of terrain and in all kinds of conditions it's time for you to find out how I got along with this sub 4.5-pound, $700 fork during our time together.

2014 Auron RC2 Fork Highlights

  • 27.5-inch wheel size
  • 34mm stanchions
  • 150/160mm travel (adjusted internally)
  • External rebound, low-speed compression, high-speed compression and air pressure adjustments
  • Internal travel and air volume adjustments
  • QSP (Quick Service Product) sealed hydraulic cartridge damper
  • Progressive air spring system
  • Magnesium lowers
  • Forged hollow alloy crown
  • Alloy tapered steerer 1 1/2 to 1 1/8-inch
  • Integrated brake cable guide
  • 15mm Q-LOC2 axle
  • Disc post mount for 160mm rotors
  • Weight: 2018 grams / 4.45-pounds (27.5-inch 160mm option, full-length tapered steerer with 15mm axle)
  • Available in black or white
  • MSRP $700 (RC2 Model)

Setup And Initial Impressions

Installing the Auron on my Santa Cruz Bronson was no different than any other fork I’ve installed in the past except for two small details. First off, the integrated front brake cable guide which utilizes a mount like what you’d find on an external cable routed frame. You can simply use a zip tie or the included fancy looking cable clamp that snaps into place to secure your hose. This is a nice feature, and although it's not as fancy as other forks, it's simple and effective and absolutely bombproof with no tiny threads to strip out or proprietary cable guides to lose.

The second detail worth noting was the steerer tube. I work as a mechanic at a high-end bike shop and we cut steerer tubes quite often. Never have I experienced a steerer tube this difficult to cut through! I had to check the hack saw blade to make sure it wasn’t worn out, and it turns out it had just been replaced recently. It was pretty confidence inspiring knowing that the steerer tube isn’t made out of sub-par materials. No corners cut here!

After the fork was installed it took me a little while exploring air pressure and adjustment knobs before finding a ballpark setting to start my test. The RC2 Auron uses a single schrader air valve to adjust air pressure on the top of the left side of the fork. On the top of the right side are two knobs that independently adjust both high and low-speed compression. Last, but not least, is the rebound knob located on the bottom of the right side of the fork. All adjustment knobs turn fluidly and have clearly defined clicks. Although not audibly loud, they can be distinctly felt while turning the knobs. The rebound and high/low-speed compression adjustments are very effective and have a broad range making it easy to dial in the fork for different rider weights and riding styles.

On The Trail

First impressions of this fork are that it is light, stiff, and has a very controlled feeling. Weight wise, the fork weighed in at 4.45-pounds with an uncut steerer. That shaved nearly a quarter of a pound off the front of my bike compared to the 2014 Fox Float CTD 160mm travel fork it replaced. Not bad.

Stiffness and steering is best in class for a 34mm fork with a 15mm axle in my opinion. I'm not sure what SR Suntour did to achieve this, but the front end always felt precise and I never found myself wishing for a 20mm axle. Suntour should also be commended on the execution of the Q-LOC 2 quick release system which in addition to being solid is also very fast and easy to use.

The RC2 damper does a great job of offering simple and effective adjustments to its behavior on high- and low-speed impact events respectively. I did however find myself backing off the high-speed compression adjuster much more than I would with other similar dampers. Early in the test period I found myself all the way out on the high-speed compression adjuster yet still wishing for a more forgiving ride over choppy fast terrain. On really big hits I also noticed that I was only using about 85% of the available travel which I suspected was caused by the air volume reducer creating a too progressive spring rate.

After much experimentation I eventually settled on 5psi less air pressure with approximately half of the 35mm foam air volume spacer removed. This allowed for more sensitivity off the top, decent mid-stroke support, and just enough ramp at the end to cushion the hardest of impacts. With the air spring working as well as possible I was now able to focus solely on how the fork handles the trail.

The action of the fork is smooth, but not entirely buttery. There is some stiction, which I feel might be coming from the bushings. The high/low compression and rebound adjustments are very effective, but I feel like the base tuning is off (excluding rebound). With fully closed low-speed compression and almost fully open high speed compression (2 out of a total of 12 clicks) I still found myself wishing for more low to mid-speed support with more forgiving action at really high-speed and high-frequency bumps. This is something that SR Suntour could perhaps achieve with shimstack tuning, high-speed compression spring adjustment, or the addition of a mid-valve.

To sum up my ride impressions, this fork is without a doubt targeted more at the aggressive rider who pushes hard and isn’t necessarily looking for the most forgiving and plush ride. Small bumps are at times felt through the bars more than I‘d like, most likely caused by the slight amount of stiction at the top of the stroke. Medium to large hits are where this fork shines. With proper setup the fork won’t let you down in rough, steep, and gnarly sections, but it won’t blow you away either. It simply gets the job done in a controlled manner without complaints.

Things That Could Be Improved

RC2 Damper: No matter what I did, it never felt like I could make the damper function exactly the way I prefer. I’d like to see the damper re-tuned with increased low to mid-speed compression yet drastically decreased high-speed compression. Basically I felt it could benefit from more support with less harshness when things get really fast and rough. Less rebound noise would be nice as well since it could be loud at times, especially when getting airborne.

Seals: Although much improved over the Epicon fork I tested in the past, the seals still seem to weep lubrication a little more than I’d like to see.

Air Spring: The air spring’s negative coil springs can occasionally be heard rubbing/binding slightly as the fork is compressed and extended. I personally would like to see a more refined air spring straight out of the box that is quieter and doesn’t require air volume spacer adjustments to get a proper feel, at least initially.

Air Volume Adjustment: The air volume adjustment comes in the form of a removable/cuttable yellow foam spacer under the top cap. Once you remove material from the spacer, there is no way of putting it back. It would be nice to see a system that allows for infinite adjustability through multiple removable spacers like on Suntour's RUX downhill fork. If not this, then at least ship the Auron with a few foam air volume spacers of different lengths to cover the adjustment range.

Tire Clearance: Although never an issue during the test, the clearance between the arch and tire is pretty tight. This could definitely be an issue if your riding conditions include sticky mud.

Long Term Durability

The Auron is definitely in it for the long haul. Our fork performed flawlessly with no degrading of its performance throughout the test period. In fact, the fork only seemed to get better the more it was ridden and as things broke in. No creaky crowns here! Although more time is needed to know for sure, all signs point towards a fork that will last as long as you need it to given proper maintenance and care is taken along the way.

On that note, with a stated 300-hour service life, the damping cartridge should rarely need to be serviced. The lowers, however, need to be cleaned and lubricated at 50 hours or less. Luckily this is a relatively easy 10-20 minute job. Because it's a sealed cartridge system, there is not a lot of messy oil to deal with during the quick cleaning process. The fork has felt wipers that hold oil for lubrication of the lowers/stanchions, and it's easy enough to clean them and dunk them in fresh oil before re-assembling the fork. Note that you can also add 20-30cc of synthetic oil in the lowers for additional lubrication if you so desire, which can improve how smooth the fork feels. Suntour has a helpful series of tech videos to help walk you through servicing your fork should you be up for a little DIY action.

What's The Bottom Line?

The Auron is a stiff and light 150-160mm travel trail/enduro fork that gets the job done. It’s not flashy, it’s not awe inspiring, but it wont let you down. With small changes here and there, mostly to the RC2 damper, SR Suntour could have a real winner on their hands. At the moment this would not be my pick of the crop if I was looking for the absolute best performing suspension on the market, but at $700 it is a very viable option and it will offer great value for money for many riders seeking a reliable and highly adjustable option. We'd also add that SR Suntour just recently hired Eric Carter to work on product development, and we look forward to seeing where his influence will take their products in the near future.

Check out EC giving the Suntour Auron a hard time in the video above.

For more info visitwww.srsuntour-cycling.com.


About The Reviewer

Evan Turpen has been racing mountain bikes for over 12 years. He raced downhill as a pro for the last 8 years with his career highlight being selected to represent the U.S. in the 2006 World Championships. More recently he can be found competing in enduro races and having a blast with it. His first ever enduro event being the 2012 Trans-Provence 7-day adventure race through France. He is an aggressive yet smooth rider who loves to flick the bike around to put it on the fastest line or to smooth out the rough sections. Fast flowy trails and long technical descents (Garbanzo style) are his favorite. Whistler and Santa Cruz are his two most favorite places to ride, but he can have fun wherever he goes. With an extensive knowledge of the mountain bike industry and its technologies, Evan is able to take all things in to perspective during a review. He has helped design, develop, and test products for multiple major mountain bike companies and has an attention to detail well above most. When he's not out ripping around on a bike he helps run the recently introduced California Enduro Series and is also in charge of the bike park at China Peak Mountain Resort.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for RockShox Vivid R2C Rear Shock 10/22/2013 7:57 PM
C138_rs_vivd_r2c_m_222x70_8.75x2.75.a21w

Tested: RockShox Vivid R2C Rear Shock

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Evan Turpen // Photos by Dave Trumpore

The RockShox Vivid has been a popular choice for downhill racers, freeriders, and bike park shredders since its introduction in 2008. With external beginning stroke rebound, ending stroke rebound, and low speed compression, it is one of the simpler, yet surprisingly adjustable shocks on the market. Over the years the Vivid has proven itself as a reliable performer that is a great “set and forget” item on any bike. The newest version of the Vivid aims to take this rock solid performance one step further by including some unique new features and internal trickery to eek out even more from an already great shock.

Vivid R2C Highlights

  • External beginning stroke rebound (20 clicks), ending stroke rebound (6 clicks), low speed compression (6 clicks), and spring preload
  • Available sizes: 200x57, 216x63, 222x70, 240x76, 289x67
  • Available in high, medium, or low compression tunes for different leverage ratios
  • Steel coil springs available in 50lb increments from 200lbs per inch up to 650lbs per inch
  • Weight: 468g (for a 222x70 without hardware and spring)
  • MSRP: $430 US

Initial Impressions

First and definitely most noticeable is the feature aptly named “Counter Measure”. This term refers to the redesign of the sealhead to fit a negative spring. This negative spring counteracts the initial breakaway force at the top of the stroke and is claimed to reduce this force from roughly 60 pounds per inch to nearly zero. Pretty impressive!

The shock’s external adjustments have also been rearranged to be tool free and easily accessible by hand from one side of the shock with very defined and audible clicks (the prior version required a 2.5mm allen wrench to adjust the ending stroke rebound).

Last, but not least, the “Rapid Recovery” feature is an improved rebound tune that is designed to help the wheel track the ground better during varying size, speed, and frequency of bumps. Basically it is designed to keep your shock from “packing down” over successive hits, keep you riding higher in the travel, and maximize traction and control when pushing the limits.

Read on to find out if all of these fancy new features really lived up to their claims or if the new Vivid was just bunch of marketing hype…

Setup

Installing the Vivid R2C onto our Santa Cruz V-10 was simple with zero clearance or tolerance issues. When ordering the shock we specified the mounting hardware and correct spring rate for the V10’s 8.5” travel setting (which I prefer to run). Our shock came from RockShox with the medium compression tune which was the preferred tune for the leverage ratio of the 8.5“ travel setting. Once bolted up I briefly explored the external adjusters range and easily came up with a good feeling base setting to start the test with.

On The Trail

This shock was primarily tested at the Keystone, Colorado bike park. For those not familiar with the park, it is one of the more rugged, rocky, DH style parks in Colorado with a very respectable 2,360 vertical feet of drop per run. The trails vary from smooth flowy bermy-jumpy affairs all the way to scorching fast and rocky hang-on-for-your-dear-life kind of runs. A perfect place for putting a shock through its paces.

From the first run down a couple things were immediately noticeable. First and foremost was how supple the shock was. Small to medium sized bumps seemed to almost disappear under the rear wheel of my bike. This was a very nice feeling especially at the pedals since I primarily run flats for riding downhill. It definitely helped to keep my feet on the pedals with minimum effort.

The second aspect that stuck out was that the rebound control did a very good job of adjusting its characteristics based on the type of forces being encountered. Where other shocks had me trying to find a compromise between slower rebound for g-outs, jumps, and big hits, and faster rebound for the high-speed choppy sections, the Vivid was able strike a great balance for both (although it took a while to find the best combination of beginning and ending stroke rebound). In the end, I was splitting hairs with the adjusters…something that simply wasn’t possible with a traditional single adjuster rebound.

The compression adjuster has a very effective range and it was easy to tune the shock to have more support for jumps, berms, and g-outs or less compression for the more rugged chopped up trails. Big hits were smoothly absorbed (such as drops with harsh landings) although I attribute most of this to selecting the proper spring rate and the progressive nature of the V-10’s rear suspension. Nevertheless, I never experienced a harsh bottom-out throughout the whole test period even when doing “gas to flat” type riding.

Finally, despite my best efforts, I could not get the shock to show signs of fading or inconsistent performance and I rang this thing out! Even on the longest and roughest of runs the Vivid continued to do its job without any complaints.

Things That Could Be Improved

Although the range of the compression adjuster is broad, there are only 6 clicks of adjustment making it nearly impossible to split hairs in the same way we could with the dual-flow rebound. The inclusion of a high-speed compression adjuster to further fine tune things would help bring this shock to an even higher level of performance. There were times when I felt the back end getting kicked up slightly on high-speed deep travel hits when I had the compression cranked in for more support. I’d love to be able to tune in great support and amazing high-speed performance with the adjusters. Lastly I’d like to see a bushing/reducer setup similar to Fox’s new low-friction affair to further increase the already amazing sensitivity of the Vivid.

Long Term Durability

Throughout the 2-month test period our Vivid performed flawlessly with no leaks or signs of wear. With its proven track record, user serviceability (for advanced mechanics) and good support from SRAM, we can see the Vivid performing great for many years to come.

What's The Bottom Line?

The Vivid R2C is a solid performer that is reliable and easy to set up. Although not quite adjustable to the n-th degree as some of the other shocks on the market, it is extremely difficult to find fault in its performance. It seems like no matter what you do it’s tough to have a bad ride on a bike equipped with a Vivid. It is an excellent choice for those that would rather spend more time on the trails shredding than adjusting their suspension.

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


About The Reviewer

Evan Turpen has been racing mountain bikes for over 12 years. He raced downhill as a pro for the last 8 years with his career highlight being selected to represent the U.S. in the 2006 World Championships. More recently he can be found competing in enduro races and having a blast with it. His first ever enduro event being the 2012 Trans-Provence 7-day adventure race through France. He is an aggressive yet smooth rider who loves to flick the bike around to put it on the fastest line or to smooth out the rough sections. Fast flowy trails and long technical descents (Garbanzo style) are his favorite. Whistler and Santa Cruz are his two most favorite places to ride, but he can have fun wherever he goes. With an extensive knowledge of the mountain bike industry and its technologies, Evan is able to take all things in to perspective during a review. He has helped design, develop, and test products for multiple major mountain bike companies and has an attention to detail well above most. When he's not out ripping around on a bike he helps run the recently introduced California Enduro Series and is also in charge of the bike park at China Peak Mountain Resort.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for SR Suntour Epicon-X1 LO-RC 26 Fork 5/20/2013 12:39 PM
C138_sr_suntour_epicon_x1_lo_rc_26

Tested: SR Suntour Epicon-X1 LO-RC Fork

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Evan Turpen // Photos by Brandon Turman

SR Suntour has been making a steady and consistent push into the high-performance suspension market. More recently they’ve introduced many products with a plethora of advanced adjustments and features similar to what can be found on the other leading suspension manufacturers.

Our test fork, the EPICON-X1 LO-RC, came with external low-speed compression, rebound, lockout, and air pressure adjustments, as well as internal travel and air volume adjustments. These are all features that are nice to see, especially on an all-mountain/cross-country fork that retails for $599. Additional upgrades to the EPICON-X1 platform are available in the form of an external travel adjust and remote lockout.

The 32mm chassis looks clean, refined, and fit for the task although not as flashy as the others it’s targeted to compete with. The adjustment knobs are simple and easy to turn with defined clicks and smooth operation. With all signs pointing towards a successful product, we installed the fork on our test bike and gave it a go. Read on to see if the fork held its own in this extremely competitive market.

Epicon-X1 LO-RC Highlights

  • Available in 26 or 29-inch wheel options
  • 32mm stanchions
  • 26-inch 150/140/130/120/100mm travel
  • 29-inch 120/100mm travel
  • External rebound, low-speed compression, lockout, and air pressure adjustments
  • Internal travel and air volume adjustments
  • QSP (Quick Service Product) sealed hydraulic cartridge damper
  • Progressive air spring system (can be adjusted internally more linear if desired)
  • Magnesium lowers
  • Forged hollow alloy crown
  • Alloy steerer (tapered 1.5 to 1-1/8-inch or straight 1-1/8-inch)
  • Integrated brake cable guide
  • 15mm Q-LOC axle or 9mm QR
  • Disc post mount for 160mm rotors
  • 1,785g / 3.9-pounds (26-inch 150/140mm option, full-length tapered steerer with 15mm axle)
  • Available in black or white
  • MSRP $599

Setup

Installing our Epicon-X1 fork was a mostly simple affair. We measured and cut the steerer tube, installed the star-nut and crown race, bolted up the fork, mounted the brake and routed the hose through the guide. The 15mm Q-LOC axle threw us a curve ball though in our otherwise simple setup. It can be a little bit tricky at first to install and remove (at least until you get the hang of it). The axle has a unique collet design that has to be seen to be explained. It also requires a smooth continuous bore on your hub axle. Hubs with lips or ridges inside where the 15mm axle slides through cannot be used, at least with this version of the Q-LOC system. SR Suntour noticed this issue with their design and is now shipping their forks with an updated Q-LOC2 axle. The new axle is compatible with all 15mm hubs and should allow for some of the fastest install/removal of all known thru-axle systems. Once everything was successfully installed, we simply set the air pressure, rebound, and low-speed compression to our tastes and we were pleasantly surprised by the ease of adjustments.

On The Trail

The Epicon-X1 fork has a smooth feeling right out of the box without any real break-in period to achieve this. In the stock setting the air spring has a fairly sensitive feeling off the top of the stroke, better support in the mid-stroke than most of its competitors, but a little bit too much ramp for our tastes towards the end of the stroke. Fortunately SR Suntour included a simple foam air volume spacer attached under the air cap which can simply be removed or cut down to achieve your desired levels of ramp. We experimented with the spacer fully removed and this allowed for a very linear coil like feel. We applaud SR Suntour for including this adjustment as it will most definitely allow picky riders to further dial in the fork to their tastes.

Stiffness of the chassis is actually quite good for a 32mm fork with no complaints here. The fork also functioned for the entirety of our test with no creaks developing in the crowns (a problem that plagues many 32mm forks).

The adjustment range of the QSP hydraulic cartridge is very noticeable and effective. The lockout is very firm and the lever moves smoothly from open to locked. The rebound range is good as well. We were able to easily find a setting that we were comfortable with. Sometimes we find ourselves being between adjustment “clicks” on other brands forks, but not with the Suntour. The low-speed compression also worked very well with an excellent adjustment range making it easy to find our setting.

The EPICON-X1 absorbs hits with the best of the best 32mm forks. We never experienced any harshness or “spiking” even when set to a firmer compression setting. We did, however, notice a bit of noise coming from the rebound circuit, especially when getting airborne and the fork extended from deep in the travel to full extension. Despite the noise, the rebound characteristics were very desirable with the fork recovering from successive hits well, yet remaining stable on the bigger hits, g-outs, and landings.

Things That Could Be Improved

Travel Adjust: The internal travel adjustment requires a drift punch and a careful hand to reset the travel through repositioning the negative spring assembly. Snap on spacers to reduce or extend the travel would allow for a much faster change and stick with the “Quick Service Product” theme.

Axle: Our 15mm Q-LOC axle became nearly impossible to remove at one point because the expanding collet system would hang up on the lip between the dropout and the hub. Luckily this is an issue that Suntour has already addressed and all EPICON forks now ship with the much improved Q-LOC2 axle.

Seals: Throughout our test our seals continually wept lubrication in small amounts. The seal design seemed strange in that the seals lip angled down and in where it contacted the stanchion tube. Although smooth, these seals seemed to allow excessive lubrication to escape. Surprisingly though when we took the fork apart at the conclusion of our test, the seals had done a great job of keeping dust and contamination out. We were informed by Suntour that our EPICON fork could have come with an older batch of seals that would have caused the weeping. Apparently they have made improvements to their seals, but we need time on them to confirm the improvements.

Air Volume Adjustment:The air volume adjustment comes from a removable/cut-able yellow foam spacer under the top cap. Once you remove material from the spacer, there is no way of putting it back. It would be nice to see a system that allowed for infinite adjustability through multiple removable spacers like their RUX downhill fork. If not this, than at least shipping the EPICON with a few foam air volume spacers of different lengths to cover the adjustment range.

Long Term Durability

We've been riding the EPICON-X1 fork for nearly four months now, but more time is needed to really have a definitive answer regarding long term durability. Up until this point the fork hasn't shown any structural concerns and although the seals wept more than we'd like to see, the internals remained clean, smooth, and damage free. With the EPICON so user friendly to service, we can see more people getting their hands dirty and servicing the fork themselves. With regular service intervals this fork could run smoothly for many years to come.

What's The Bottom Line?

The SR Suntour EPICON-X1 fork is so close to being great, but the few key issues we experienced left some room for improvement. Luckily most of them have been addressed, and with the upgraded Q-LOC2 axle and seals it would be an excellent choice for the money. It's sufficiently stiff, supple, predictable, offers good support, and the adjustments work well, leaving no real complaints about the damper or chassis. While it may not be flashy looking, Suntour is definitely making a push in the right direction and we like what we're seeing.

For more info, visit www.srsuntour-cycling.com.


About The Reviewer

Evan Turpen has been racing mountain bikes for over 12 years. He raced downhill as a pro for the last 8 years with his career highlight being selected to represent the U.S. in the 2006 World Championships. More recently he can be found competing in enduro races and having a blast with it. His first ever enduro event being the 2012 Trans-Provence 7-day adventure race through France. He is an aggressive yet smooth rider who loves to flick the bike around to put it on the fastest line or to smooth out the rough sections. Fast flowy trails and long technical descents (Garbanzo style) are his favorite. Whistler and Santa Cruz are his two most favorite places to ride, but he can have fun wherever he goes. With an extensive knowledge of the mountain bike industry and its technologies, Evan is able to take all things in to perspective during a review. He has helped design, develop, and test products for multiple major mountain bike companies and has an attention to detail well above most. When he's not out ripping around on a bike he helps run the recently introduced California Enduro Series and is also in charge of the bike park at China Peak Mountain Resort.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for MRP G3 Chainguide 5/8/2013 11:01 PM
C138_mrp_mega_g3_carbon

Tested: MRP G3 Chainguide - Easy Chain Management

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Reviewed by Evan Turpen // Photos by Brandon Turman

The technology and design of chainguides has come a long way over the last decade. With so many similar looking designs out there, how did MRP manage to come out with a new and unique guide with features unlike the rest? Read on to find out…

G3 Chainguide Highlights

  • Available in "Mini" 32-36 tooth and "Mega" 36-40 tooth sizing
  • Alloy or carbon backplate options
  • One-piece integrated bash guard and lower guide
  • Glass-filled nylon used for upper and lower guides, which is more resistant to deterioration from chain lubes
  • Swingset, G-Slide, and Quietring features
  • ISCG, ISCG-05, and BB mounting options (BB mount not available for carbon models)
  • Compatible with 8-11 speed drivetrains
  • Available in black or white
  • Weight: 167grams (Mini ISCG-05 model with alloy backplate)
  • MSRP $150

The G3 guide is the next evolution of the popular G2 chainguide from MRP. With unique features such as "Swingset," "G-Slide," and "Quietring," it might sound like a bunch of marketing mumbo-jumbo, but each feature has a real benefit.

"Swingset" refers to the ability to easily swing the entire lower bash guard and roller out of the way as well as the upper guide with the removal of a single 4mm bolt each. This makes installation and maintenance on your cranks, chainguide, and bottom bracket very simple.

"G-Slide" refers to MRP’s included optional slider block that allows the user the option of a sealed bearing lower pulley or sliding lower guide. This is something that is becoming increasingly more popular in guides due to its distinct advantages and it’s nice to see MRP include it as an option.

Lastly, they’ve included a "Quietring" bumper on the upper guide's tail to help keep chain noise to a minimum when the going gets rough. A very simple yet nice touch.

Installation

Installing our G3 "Mini" guide was simple and pain free. We bolted up the ISCG-05 guide before installing the cranks or chain with the top guide removed. Next we utilized the lower Swingset feature to install the cranks and properly spaced our guide with the provided spacers. At this point the upper guide simply slid on and was installed from the top. We then utilized a quick-link and routed our chain through the guide. If you don't have a quick-link or want to break your chain, that's fine - the upper and lower swingset features make installation a breeze. Once everything was installed we adjusted the angle of the guide via the 4mm ISCG mounting bolts, snugged everything up and we were ready to go!

On The Trail

We choose to start the test with the more traditional sealed bearing lower pulley installed. This allows for a very quiet and smooth movement of the chain in all gears forwards and backwards.

Once on the trail you simply can’t help but NOT notice the guide. Throughout our test there was never a dropped chain or anything to draw attention to our guide. It is very quiet. The redesigned lower bash did its job of protecting our chainring and we have the dings and scratches on the bash to prove it. Combined with our clutch derailleur and upper guide's bumper, the drivetrain worked smoothly and quietly no matter how rough the trail got.

When conditions turned south and the trails got muddy, we installed the slider block in place of our lower pulley and were pleasantly surprised to find quiet and smooth operation in all gears. There was however a very slight amount more chain noise while pedaling compared to the pulley (although lubing our chain helped to minimize this). With the G-Slide installed, the guide never clogged with mud or ceased to operate smoothly. It's a nice option for when the going gets messy.

Things That Could Be Improved

When installing the slider block we found out that the piece that the lower bolt threads into was not captive like on the upper guide. Making this piece captive would ensure that it couldn’t be lost and would simplify installing the pulley or slider.

Long Term Durability

After about 3.5 months of use, dozens of days on the downhill bike, and a few solid rock strikes, the guide is only showing one area of concern - a crack on the inside of the guide near the lower pulley.

Given the location of the crack on the upper side of the lower guide, how it occurred is a bit of a mystery to us and one we've been scratching our collective heads about. It's not in an area where rock strikes are common, but there's a small chance that a stray rock flung by the tire inflicted some unexpected damaged. The crack formed after exchanging the lower pulley for the G-Slide a few times, so there's a chance that the nylon was weakened as a result of the swaps. Whatever the cause, it certainly seems like one of those one-in-a-million things. We've continued to use the guide since the crack first formed with no noticeable performance loss.

Additionally, as a word of caution, take care when torquing the bolts. MRP's bolt heads are notorious for stripping if you get overzealous. Our's didn't strip, but we've seen others that have.

What's The Bottom Line?

The MRP G3 is an excellent, functional, user-friendly chainguide that is easy to install and does its job extremely well at a very competitive weight. It is a set and forget item that you truly might forget about, and that's a good thing. It's also a guide that can be at home on any style of bike whether it be downhill, trail, slalom, or freeride. The G3 offers a level of refinement that really benefits the end user and we like that.

Functionally, the G3 has been dependable from day one and deserves an "Excellent" 4-star rating, but the random crack forced us to dock it slightly to a "Very Good" 3.5 star rating.

For more info or to check out MRP's other chain management solutions, visit www.mrpbike.com.


About The Reviewer

Evan Turpen has been racing mountain bikes for over 12 years. He raced downhill as a pro for the last 8 years with his career highlight being selected to represent the U.S. in the 2006 World Championships. More recently he can be found competing in enduro races and having a blast with it. His first ever enduro event being the 2012 Trans-Provence 7-day adventure race through France. He is an aggressive yet smooth rider who loves to flick the bike around to put it on the fastest line or to smooth out the rough sections. Fast flowy trails and long technical descents (Garbanzo style) are his favorite. Whistler and Santa Cruz are his two most favorite places to ride, but he can have fun wherever he goes. With an extensive knowledge of the mountain bike industry and its technologies, Evan is able to take all things in to perspective during a review. He has helped design, develop, and test products for multiple major mountain bike companies and has an attention to detail well above most. When he's not out ripping around on a bike he helps run the recently introduced California Enduro Series and is also in charge of the bike park at China Peak Mountain Resort.

This product has 3 reviews.

Added a product review for Banshee Bikes Spitfire V2 Frame 5/8/2013 12:33 PM
C138_2013_banshee_spitfire_frame

Tested: 2013 Banshee Spitfire V2 - Get Aggressive

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Reviewed by Evan Turpen // Photos by Brandon Turman

For the longest time Banshee Bikes were well off my radar. In 2007 I was a professional downhill racer and at the time their products represented heavy, overbuilt, and technologically lacking machines built for the “huckers” amongst us.

That all changed in 2008, though, when they introduced the Legend MK1 downhill race bike and their unique approach to new product development. They released 50 frames to a select group of riders, racers, and engineers who all provided feedback that eventually went into the production frames. Banshee then went on to release many other beautiful and well crafted bikes such as the Rune and Spitfire. These bikes spoke to the high performance crowd. Fairly light frames, stiff back ends, good suspension performance, clean lines, and geometry numbers that aggressive riders could really appreciate. During that period, at least.

Fast forward to 2013 and Banshee has released a new version of their Spitfire, once again taking big steps in the right direction.

Everything about the Spitfire V2 is different while still maintaining the “downhiller’s XC bike” soul of the original Spitfire. The rear shock is larger, the travel has been increased from 5-inches to 5.5-inches (140mm), the reach has been lengthened, the geometry now has three adjustable positions at the dropouts instead of two at the shock, it now utilizes the ultra-supple KS-link suspension instead of the previous VF4B design (hello bearings, good riddance bushings!), and you now have the option of running 26-inch or 27.5-inch wheels with their interchangeable dropouts.

My Spitfire V2 test bike came with 26-inch wheels since that was what I was used to and requested. When selecting the frame size, at 5-foot 10-inches tall I was torn between the Medium and the Large. The Medium had a reach of 427mm and the large jumped up 25mm in length to 452mm. My current ride’s reach was near the middle of these two at 442mm. Since I didn’t want to go shorter, I went longer and choose the large black anodized frame combined with a short 35mm stem.

Spitfire V2 Frame Highlights

  • Hydroformed 7005 T6 aluminum frame
  • 26-inch or 27.5-inch (650b) wheels
  • 140mm (5.5-inches) travel
  • 7.875x2.25-inch rear shock
  • Tapered Headtube (44/56mm)
  • Adjustable 66 to 67-degree head angle
  • Adjustable 73.5 to 74.5-degree seat tube angle
  • Adjustable 13 to 13.5-inch bottom bracket height
  • Adjustable 17 to 16.8-inch chainstays
  • 73x118mm ISIS bottom bracket withISCG05 chainguide mounts
  • 142x12mm (26-inch and 27.5-inch), 135mm QR (26-inch), or 150x12mm (26-inch) dropouts
  • Full length seat tube
  • Plenty of tire clearance for a 26x2.5-inch rear tire
  • Adjustable seatpost cable guides along top tube and 30.9mm size allows for all known models
  • Low direct-mount front derailleur capable of running multiple setups from a chainguide to a dual ring with bash guard
  • Ina bearing pivots for strength and long service life
  • 2 year warranty and lifetime crash replacement
  • Weight: 7.5-pounds (Medium frame with Fox Float CTD)
  • MSRP $1,999 with Fox Float CTD shock

On The Trail

After setting up the suspension to my taste (roughly 25% rear sag versus the 28% recommended) and getting out onto the trails, the first thing I noticed is that the Spitfire is a very efficient pedaler that never required the use of the FOX Float CTD lever. I simply left it in the softest “Descend” setting and never had the urge to touch it again. My bike came equipped with a 2x10 crankset with a 26/38 gearing. In the big ring the bike pedaled with minimal suspension movement under power yet still absorbed bumps well. On super steep climbs when shifted into the 26 tooth granny ring the bike pedaled even more firmly and seemed to stand up in its travel slightly due to the increased anti-squat as a result of the suspension design. This helped the rear tire bite into the ground and find traction, as well as maintain a more forward weight bias up steep climbs. The harder the effort, the better the bike pedaled.

Once you get the Spitfire pointed downhill you really begin to see what this bike was designed for. The Banshee loves to go fast! In the lowest geometry setting, with a bottom bracket height of just 13-inches, a slack 66 degree head angle, and a longer than normal wheelbase, this bike begs you to open it up. The KS-Link suspension really is one of the smoothest feeling back-ends of any bike. It's also very stiff laterally, especially when compared to the previous design. The suspension works incredibly well on small to medium sized hits, carrying speed with the best of the best 26-inch wheeled bikes.

Braking characteristics are very neutral in that the rider’s position does not need to be changed drastically while braking. This leads to a very nice predictable transition from braking to cornering since you can remain neutral or even more toward the front than normal on the bike.

Cornering on this bike requires an aggressive, more forwards riding style with the slack angles and low bottom bracket. Once you learn this, the Spitfire drifts predictably and seems to corner best once the trails get fast. Tight switchbacks are not its strong suit, but a welcome compromise once you experience its high-speed prowess.

The Spitfire also inspires the confidence of a bike with at least 10mm more travel. So much so that you might find yourself regularly pinning it into sections best ridden on a 160mm+ travel machine. The 140mm of rear wheel travel can get slightly overwhelmed when encountering super rough sections, but you’ll make it through unscathed most every time thanks to the aggressive geometry and excellent handling. The suspension's progressive leverage curve helps as well.

Finally, when the Banshee takes to the air, it does so predictably. Big jumps and landings are no problem on the Spitfire. Actually…the bigger the better! It’s the small hops and jumps that require a little more effort compared to some of the other bikes in this travel range. This is most likely caused by the Spitfire’s glued to the ground suspension feel.

Things That Could Be Improved

Throughout my test only a few negatives popped up. The lack of a water bottle cage mount was one. The under the downtube cable routing for the front derailleur was another. All the other cables were routed beautifully out of harms way except for this one.

Also, the 13-inch bottom bracket height was a bit low for my tastes in the lowest of settings. The longer I rode the bike the more I noticed how conscious I needed to be of my pedal timing to avoid pedal strikes. Before you scold me and say to just raise the bottom bracket via the geometry adjustment, I want to remind you that it also affects the head angle. I like the head angle of the low setting, but prefer the middle to high bottom bracket height. After reviewing the geometry charts, the 650b wheels would accomplish just this and could potentially satisfy my geometry craving, but with a change to wheel size. The addition of an adjustable headset cup could also allow for the change. Either way, I spent the last half of the review riding the Spitfire in the middle geometry setting to accomplish a slightly higher (13.2-inch) bottom bracket with still a fairly slack 66.5-degree head angle. The bike still rode great.

Lastly, the increased anti-squat when pedaling in the small 26-tooth ring created a noticeable amount of pedal feedback when the suspension encountered a sizable bump. I also noticed that if the climb began to mellow out and you remained in the small ring, there could (at times) be a very strange feeling at the pedals. This was most likely caused by the suspension extending and compressing with each pedal stroke instead of remaining loaded like it did on a steep climb. In my eyes, all of this can be avoided though by selecting a 32 to 36 tooth 1x10 or 1x11 setup. If you choose this route the Banshee comes with ISCG05 chain guide mounts making it easy to bolt up your favorite chain guide.

What's The Bottom Line?

Overall the Banshee Spitfire V2 is an excellent 140mm travel trail bike well suited to aggressive riders. It’s not that a casual rider couldn’t appreciate this bike, it’s just that to really appreciate this bike you have to be someone who loves to push the limits. The faster you ride this bike, the better it rides.

With all the adjustable geometry and wheel sizes available, the Spitfire is a perfect bike for those wanting to dial-in and find their setup without jumping from bike to bike. The flexibility is nice to see and the frame’s construction and design show no signs of premature wear. The V2 evolution is an improvement in every way to the original Spitfire design, and I can see this being an excellent trail bike for many years to come.

For more info on the Banshee lineup, visit www.bansheebikes.com.

Bonus Gallery: 19 photos of the 2013 Banshee Spitfire V2 in action and up close


About The Reviewer

Evan Turpen has been racing mountain bikes for over 12 years. He raced downhill as a pro for the last 8 years with his career highlight being selected to represent the U.S. in the 2006 World Championships. More recently he can be found competing in enduro races and having a blast with it. His first ever enduro event being the 2012 Trans-Provence 7-day adventure race through France. He is an aggressive yet smooth rider who loves to flick the bike around to put it on the fastest line or to smooth out the rough sections. Fast flowy trails and long technical descents (Garbanzo style) are his favorite. Whistler and Santa Cruz are his two most favorite places to ride, but he can have fun wherever he goes. With an extensive knowledge of the mountain bike industry and its technologies, Evan is able to take all things in to perspective during a review. He has helped design, develop, and test products for multiple major mountain bike companies and has an attention to detail well above most. When he's not out ripping around on a bike he helps run the recently introduced California Enduro Series and is also in charge of the bike park at China Peak Mountain Resort.

This product has 4 reviews.

Added a product review for 2014 Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon with XX1AM27ENVE Build 4/15/2013 2:44 PM
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First Ride: Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Reviewed by Evan Turpen // Photos by Gary Perkin

When I first heard about the Santa Cruz Bronson I was skeptical. I got the impression that Santa Cruz just slapped 650B (~27.5-inch) wheels on to a Blur TRc-esque frame and tweaked the geometry and suspension slightly to get more travel and fit the new wheels. After riding the bike and hearing the development process, however, I am happy to report that my skepticism was unfounded. The Bronson is an entirely new bike from the ground up and I have to say that Santa Cruz has done a great job.

Santa Cruz Bronson Setup

I was invited to Santa Cruz new headquarters to throw a leg over the new bike. Upon arrival, I was greeted by Will Ockelton (Santa Cruz Marketing Manager) and Santa Cruz’s dynamic-demo-duo of Ariel and Abby. Since I was the first to arrive, there was adequate time to select and properly set up a Bronson for myself.

Abby walking me through the details of the Bronson.

At 5-feet 10-inches tall I can ride a medium or a large according to the Santa Cruz sizing chart. I decided upon a size large, “Tennis Yellow” Bronson set up with a shorter-than-stock 50mm stem, as I prefer longer, more stable bikes combined with shorter stems. We set sag to right around 25-percent at the rear shock and then added fork pressure to balance the bike, front to back. I set the rebound and compression to my personal preferences and was ready to go. Once the rest of the journalists and riders were set up on their bikes, the group headed out for a ride, pedaling right out the door of the new headquarters in sunny Santa Cruz, California.

Our Santa Cruz Bronson component highlights as tested with the Santa Cruz XX1 am 27 ENVE Build Kit:

  • Fox Float CTD Boost Valve with Trail Adjust and Kashima rear shock
  • Float 150 FIT CTD Trail Adjust fork
  • SRAM XX1 Drivetrain with 34t chainring
  • ethirteen XCX chainguide
  • Shimano XTR brakes w/ 180mm front 160mm rear Ice Tech rotors
  • Easton Carbon Haven handlebar, 711mm width
  • Rock Shox Reverb seatpost
  • ENVE Composites AM rims laced to DT 240S hubs with DT 14/15 spokes, alloy nipples
  • Maxxis High Roller 2 2.3-inch Tubeless Ready EXO tires
  • Claimed tested weight: 26.21-pounds
  • Price as tested, $10,624 (Bronson full bike prices start at $4,150)
  • You can personalize your Santa Cruz Bronson with the Bike Builder on the Santa Cruz website.

Setup Notes

The stock Fox Float 150 fork can be raised to 160mm travel by changing the "Shuttle Bumper" in the air spring internally. You don't have to buy another fork which is nice. Also, the Fox Float CTD rear shock tune is specific to the Bronson. They use a 7.875 x 2.25-inch stroke with a light rebound tune, medium velocity tune, 200 PSI in the Boost Valve, and a 0.6 cubic inch air volume reducer in the LV (Large Volume) air sleeve. This tune is used across the board on all the different size Bronson frames and allows for a very easy suspension setup. The rule is just body weight minus 10-pounds in air pressure in the rear shock. I'm 170lbs and the recommended 160psi was spot on for me (a rarity for their setup charts). If you are a rider over 240lbs this rule changes, so check with Santa Cruz and Fox about set up configurations.

Climbing and Pedaling the Bronson

The initial climb up to the trail network was first a paved road and bike path followed by singletrack of varying steepness and technical difficulty. On the road with the Fox Float CTD rear shock set to the softest “Descend” position, a very slight amount of movement (2-3mm) at the shock was detectable while pedaling. This movement was easily cancelled out by flipping the CTD lever to “Climb” mode.

Once the pavement turned to dirt and roots and rocks replaced the paved bike path, I set the shock to the softest “Descend” position to see how well the bike climbed. Relying solely on VPP’s anti-squat characteristics and the shock tune, even in the softest CTD setting, the bike pedaled efficiently up anything I encountered. The larger wheels and revised geometry helped maintain traction on the climbs, over roots and rocks and slippery terrain. While pedaling through bumps I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of noticeable pedal feedback.

The Bronson seems to have hit the nail on the head as far as pedaling characteristics. I spent the rest of the ride in the “Descend” position and never once felt the need to touch the lever. The 13.5-inch (measured) bottom bracket height required a slight amount of conscious effort to avoid pedal strikes over roots and rocks, but in no way seemed too low.

When the climbs got especially steep, the 73-degree seat tube angle combined with the 17.3-inch chainstay length helped maintain proper weight bias while pedaling seated. The front end only wandered slightly on steep, seated climbs when the fork encountered a sizable bump. Overall, the Bronson handled steep climbs well whether seated or standing.

Pointing the Bronson Downhill

Once we arrived at the top and dropped in to our first trail of many it became very obvious what the Bronson’s intended purpose is...it's meant to be ridden hard and fast! Cornering traction was impressive on the stock 2.3-inch Maxxis High Roller II tires, despite some rather dry trail conditions. The bike inspires confidence in the corners and rewards riders with an aggressive, more-forward riding style.

Transitioning from corner to corner was very good. The Bronson has no hiccups in its handling while changing lines last minute. It's a very playful yet stable bike. For me, there was no real learning curve with the Bronson and its 27.5-inch wheels. The speeds the bike could handle felt much higher than my comparably-traveled 26-inch wheeled bike, and the harder you push this bike, the better it works, which is a great feeling.

Josh Bryceland and the Santa Cruz Syndicate were on the ride with us. Here's Miami mowing down one of the rocky pieces of trail.

The Bronson is predictably balanced coming off jumps and very controlled upon landing. It likes spending time in the air. Riders who connect the smoothest bits of trail by launching over the rough ones will really enjoy this bike. The balance, front to back, in the suspension is some of the best I’ve felt on a trail bike. I used all 150mm of travel, front and rear, in multiple big-hitting situations (according to the travel indicator o-rings) yet never noticed it bottom-out. The suspension of the Bronson has a very controlled feeling throughout the entire stroke. According to Josh Kissner, Santa Cruz Bicycles Product Manager, this was a big focus in the development of this bike. The leverage ratio, shock tune, and air spring characteristics all work together to achieve balance and predictability in the suspension. It still has that distinct "Santa Cruz feel," only much more refined.

When the trails got steep and rough, the Bronson maintained its composure well. Braking is predictable and doesn’t require the rider to adjust their riding style to compensate. The suspension does a great job of absorbing bumps big and small. Carrying speed through the rough is exceptional for a trail bike too, which is most likely a combination of everything (geometry, suspension design, shock tuning, and wheel size). Frame stiffness is also very good with no noticeable flex.

Bronson Frame Details

Cable routing is well thought out and fully external with the option of a very clean internal stealth dropper post routing. I personally prefer external cable routing for its ease of maintenance and swapping out a cable or hose if one should break. The Bronson also keeps the cables out of harm's way by routing them on the top side of the down tube and underside of the top tube.

Nice touches on the bike are the low-slung top tube, integrated chainstay and down tube protectors, ISCG05 chain guide mount, generous shock clearance for ease of access, clean 142x12mm thru-axle, and mounts for two water bottle cages. Overall the Bronson is a very clean and refined Santa Cruz.

Save any long term durability issues (which aren't common among Santa Cruz frames), I can see it holding up for several years of abuse.

What's The Bottom Line?

Whether you’re racing competitively or just riding and having fun, the Bronson is an excellent bike that inspires you to push the limits. It’s definitely a bike I wouldn’t mind owning because of how much fun it is to ride! It truly is the Santa Cruz bike that was "20 years in the making," and represents decades of refinement and the best advancements in their craft since the company's beginning on Bronson Street.

As for the star rating, I'm going to have to go ahead and give it 5 stars, especially since my personal bike (the Specialized Stumpjumper EVO) just recently got a 5 star rating from the Vital MTB Test Sessions. I, without a doubt, like the Bronson more. It's encouraging to see progress like this from year to year.

For more information on the all-new Bronson, visit www.santacruzbicycles.com.

This product has 1 review.