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Ian Collins's Product Reviews

Added a product review for VP Components VP-Harrier Flat Pedal 6/4/2014 8:38 PM
C138_harrier1

Tested: VP Harrier Flat Pedal

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Ian Collins // Photos by Ian Collins and Fred Robinson (action)

VP has been quietly cranking away in the pedal market with various designs at every price point for quite some time now. Despite their efforts, it's fair to say that they have yet to carve out a niche for themselves in the race to deliver a truly iconic place to rest your feet. Recently, they released the Harrier – a fully redesigned flat pedal that contrasts dramatically in both aesthetics and mechanical execution with past offerings from VP. A few months ago, I got my feet on a set and I went about giving them a proper flogging to see what they were made of.

VP Harrier Flat Pedal Highlights

  • Cold-forged one-piece CNC aluminum body
  • Double LSL bearings
  • Forged Cromoly axle, heat treated
  • Forged steel pins, heat treated and replaceable
  • Colors: Black, Red, Silver
  • Size: 120 x 109 x 18 mm
  • Weight: 0 lb 12.8 oz (362 g)
  • MSRP: $120.00 USD

Initial Impressions

When I first pulled the Harriers out of the box I was beyond floored by how big they are, but I was also quite impressed by their nice low profile at only 12mm thin. Three massive cut outs indicate that mud clearance will be a non issue, and 10 well spaced-out, rather tall pins garnish each pedal in logical areas. 6 of the 10 pins thread in from the underside, which should make them easy/possible to replace even if they end up bent out of shape.

The hardware and axle are all nicely finished and the pedals are quite light, especially considering how massive they are. 362 grams is quite light for a pair of pedals this big that don't rely on a plastic frame or titanium spindles to get the weight down. The only feature that caught my eye as potentially problematic was how short the spindle is relative to the width of the pedal – with all the leverage the pedal has on the axle, that spindle better be well engineered.

Heat treated and forged Cro-Moly is a solid, dependable choice for the spindle though, and all in all the initial inspection of the Harriers revealed a pretty sweet looking pair of pedals both on paper and in the flesh. Let's see how they fared on the trail.

On The Trail

As expected the Harriers were super grippy right out of the gate. I had no issues with any of the pins getting bashed apart or snapping off too easily. That's a good start, and even if some pins went south, it would be easy to change them as noted previously.

Now for a couple of unique and notable aspects of the pedal: the lack of an inboard bulge near the crank was warmly welcomed. I have owned a few pairs of flat pedals that “featured” this bulge to house a larger bearing, and while we can argue whether or not it adds to a pedal's durability, it has a rather annoying feel when your shoe is resting on it. Instead, VP chose to utilize a teflon thrust bearing in lieu of a sealed cartridge bearing on the Harrier. This allows them to not only avoid the nuisance of having a bulge on the pedal, but also because a teflon bearing is lower in profile, they were able to make the axle larger and stronger as well...all while maintaining a low profile. One thing worth noting is that there is a normal, very small amount of play that comes along with this type of setup. After a ride or two this play became apparent, but throughout our testing it did not further worsen nor become problematic. When we asked VP about this, they suggested it's best to replace most of the wearable parts after a year of heavy riding, and they offer a $24 rebuild kit to keep the pedals running smooth. My experience with other premium pedals has often involved yearly rebuilds so I can't knock VP for suggesting that.

In terms of how the Harriers feel, aside from the pure traction standpoint, the biggest factor was size. I can't emphasize it enough. At size 11, I don't have huge feet, but I do feel that most flat pedals out there are undersized. When I initially saw how far these stuck out on my bike, I was concerned that clearance would be an issue, but once I rode them a few times, the fretting was put to rest. As someone who always feels like every flat pedal I've used was too small these were a welcome change. Many offerings I've used in the past have been solid, but often after blasting through mid sized chatter, my feet would shift to unfavorable positions. However, when this happened with the VP's I still felt the support from the body of the pedal, likely because there is just more material under my feet.

Lastly, the pedal profile was strictly middle of the road. Neither concave nor convex, the Harriers are dead flat but still feel great underfoot. Some manufacturers claim that the balls of your feet will settle into a concave pedal nicely, and while that may be true, it's not something that stood out as highly beneficial in my experience with other pedals in the past.

Things That Could Be Improved

To be quite frank the most important part of a pedal is feel, and the Harriers check out. If I had to quip about something it would be the slight amount of play, although there is one important distinction that needs to be made when mentioning this: there is no lateral play and the integrity of the pedal isn't compromised. It moves ever so slightly axially, which is not even detectable when riding. Aside from this issue, these are a perfect set of pedals.

Long Term Durability

When it comes to rock strikes and resisting abuse to pins, the Harriers are tough as nails. Their chamfered outer edges encourage rocks and other trailside obstacles to graze past the pedals without causing too much damage or even having the opportunity to grab ahold of something.

As far as the axle and bits the cage rotates on, we're a bit on the fence. In theory VP's execution makes sense, and in practice we've experienced no negative attributes thus far. The fact that the Harriers are fully rebuildable for a mere $24 plus some household tools and a brief gander at a web tutorial on the process instills further confidence and have us feeling like these pedals are in it for the long haul.

What's The Bottom Line?

If you're a size 8, this may not be the pedal for you. If you're someone like Mick Pascal and you have size 13+ clodhoppers, look no further - your prayers have absolutely been answered. If you're somewhere in the middle, you will dig these pedals and they will likely treat you well for a few seasons of proper use. In terms of price, the Harriers strike a solid balance between the average, budget flat pedal, and the top of the line sometimes wildly overpriced offerings out there. In terms of feel, I've owned and ridden dozens of flat pedals ranging from utilitarian to boutique, and these are hands down the best pair I have rested my feet on so far. The price to weight to feel ratio is tough to beat.

Visit www.vp-usa.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

Ian Collins grew up racing mountain bikes on the East Coast before moving to California in search of the never ending riding season. Although he's generally a fan of slick and steep riding conditions, Ian has gotten acclimated out west and loves its speed. Also an avid surfer, what's most important to him in a trail is flow. Known for being meticulous and borderline obsessive about bike setup, he aids in product development for local frame builder Turner Bikes when he's not out on a photo mission.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Troy Lee Designs D3 Carbon Full Face Helmet 5/8/2014 10:32 PM
C138_d3_helmet_speed_cf_orange

Tested: Troy Lee Designs D3 Carbon Full Face Helmet

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Ian Collins // Photos by Ian Collins and Fred Robinson

The Troy Lee Designs Daytona series of helmets (that’s the "D" in D3) was originally developed back when mountain bikers wore skin suits and obsessed over ensuring that their 150mm 30-degree rise Ringle stem had the exact same color purple anodizing as their Cook Bros Racing cranks. The Daytona, D2, and D3 have had a few things in common - carbon shells, nicely sculpted vents, badass clean lines, and rad visors. Looks and functionality aside, TLD has also strived to be a class leader in safety over the years.

It almost goes without saying that the D3 helmet is the gold standard in gravity riding and racing - perhaps that’s what makes it the most popular gravity helmet. Since its inception it has been used by several racers and teams that aren't even affiliated with TLD, and in many cases are endorsed by other helmet manufacturers. These demanding athletes don't settle, so they repaint or cover up graphics with their own stickers and ride what keeps them safe and comfortable. We can't be fooled though, we know what they’re are actually wearing.

So what it is about the D3 that draws almost everyone to it? Let’s take an in-depth look at the features and on trail performance.

D3 Carbon Helmet Highlights

  • Aerospace carbon/composite shell construction
  • Dual density shock pad system
  • Exceeds bicycle and snow safety certifications: CPSC 1203, CE EN1077, CE EN1078, ASTM F1952, ASTM F2032, ASTM F2040
  • 20 high-flow intake and exhaust ports with injection-molded intake system and EPS channeling
  • Removable/replaceable/washable CoolMax and Dri-Lex padding
  • Adjustable visor with machined titanium hardware
  • Titanium D-ring chin strap
  • Quick-release cheek pads
  • Includes two visors
  • Includes helmet bag
  • Colors: Speed CF Orange, Finish Line CF Yellow, Gwin Replica CF Black, and Pinstripe II CF Black
  • Six sizes ranging from XS-XXL
  • MSRP $450

Initial Impressions

When you first pull the D3 out of its nice, softly lined travel bag, you'll definitely notice its weight - or rather the lack of it. At around 1,100 grams it's pretty light for the level of protection it offers. Aside from the obvious bold graphics and pops of color, your eyes will be drawn to the little things that speak volumes about TLD’s attention to detail. Finely machined screws that mount the visor and D-ring chin strap closures are both made of titanium.

As one takes a pulled back glance at the helmet, its aerodynamic-looking design and the overall intention it has for moving air become very apparent. This lid is designed to move fast and breathe well. It features a total of 20 vents – 14 up front and 6 out back - most of which are covered in a metal screening that prevents mud from entering the helmet. The sleek rubber molding nicely caps off the carbon shell and assimilates with the graphics all while protecting parts of the helmet that would typically be prone to getting banged up. The sum of these parts all lead up to a very nice package.

On The Trail

After putting the D3 on, the first thing a rider will notice is the plush padding and secure fit. Offered in six sizes from XS-XXL, it fits any head from 20.5 to 25.6-inches in circumference. The helmet fits comfortably, feels solid, and really hugs your head nicely – not to the point that you feel like you're in a sensory deprivation chamber though. It still lets in noises so you can hear your buddies telling you how slow you are, or more importantly, in the event of something catastrophic you won't be unaware because you're deafened by layers of padding and bulk. It's just right with no excessive movement yet it's not overly restrictive either.

As you move around in the D3, those with neck braces will notice and appreciate that the back of the lid is dramatically sculpted to work with all manufacturers offerings without limiting how much you can tilt your head up to look down the trail. The previous TLD D2 helmet wasn't particularly stellar in this department, and was a bit restrictive when worn with a neck brace. You will also love how well the D3 accepts just about every pair of goggles known to man and fits quite nicely with them. The plastic molding that accepts the goggles is tailor-made to ensure that they nestle nicely into place.

Once moving down the trail, as expected the helmet does exactly what it's supposed to. It breathes and ventilates well, doesn't move around under medium successive hits, or even big jarring ones such as fast G-outs. The nicely sized and shaped visor keeps the sun and elements out of your eyes and eyewear, the chin strap doesn't chafe, and the pads feel great. No strange howling noises come from the vents. To top things off, it looks cool and makes even gapers look as "factory" as can be.

Most importantly, it does a great job of protecting the most vital part of your body. In both small and large get-offs, the dual density shock pad system helps protect and absorb impact while transferring minimal shock to the rider's head. As a person who quite often finds himself off the bike unexpectedly, I can say the D3 does an excellent job of protecting and preventing trauma in a variety of unfortunate situations.

Things That Could Be Improved

While this helmet is virtually devoid of flaws, there is one small quip worth mentioning. In the picture below you can see the helmet's pad liner in two different states.

Attached to one liner there is a not-so-plush strip of black plastic that rests on the rider's forehead, and on the other it has been removed. Many users of the D3 complained that the helmet had a tendency to pinch the forehead in two different places just above the eyebrows. After snipping the plastic strip off and re-installing the liner the problem was gone. I was initially concerned that removal of this strip may cause the liner to unravel, but worry not, it's attached by its own independent set of threads. Some will prefer to have the strip installed as it feels more secure. As we all know, heads come in all shapes and sizes, so the fact that it’s easily removable is a nice customization option.

Long Term Durability

This happens to be my second D3 helmet. I spent two plus years on the last one, and the only difference is that this one has a louder set of graphics reminiscent of a custom lid Chris Kovarik had mocked up back in the day. In terms of durability and ease of use this helmet is top notch. TLD has all the bases covered. The pads are easily removable and washable, yet don't breakdown after repeated washings. The helmet cleans up nicely even after being ridden in adverse conditions, and as I stated before, the rubber moldings help protect the lid from getting banged up after being tossed around during day-to-day use. After multiple slide-outs and silly inconsequential crashes the surface coating remained tough and continued to shine. While the visor did crack after a handful of small falls, TLD thought ahead by including a spare visor that perfectly matches the helmet. In the event of a big crash, TLD offers a solid crash replacement policy that will save you a few bucks.

What's The Bottom Line?

If you're in the market for a new helmet and accept nothing but the best to protect your brilliant brain, then look no further. If you want the looks, ventilation, and protection but want to save a few bucks and don't mind an extra few grams, consider one of the composite models for about $75 less. Regardless of which D3 model you choose to ride, you won't be disappointed by it in any way. The smooth lines, killer style, and thoughtful consideration for safety make the D3 one of the best mountain bike helmets your money can buy.

Visit www.troyleedesigns.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

Ian Collins grew up racing mountain bikes on the East Coast before moving to California in search of the never ending riding season. Although he's generally a fan of slick and steep riding conditions, Ian has gotten acclimated out west and loves its speed. Also an avid surfer, what's most important to him in a trail is flow. Known for being meticulous and borderline obsessive about bike setup, he aids in product development for local frame builder Turner Bikes when he's not out on a photo mission.

This product has 9 reviews.

Added a product review for Galfer Disc Brake Pads 4/24/2014 11:20 PM
C138_1854_disc_brake_pad

Tested: Galfer Disc Brake Pads and Wave Rotor

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Ian Collins

Galfer has been making high quality brake rotors for motorsports since the 1990's, specializing in making some really high end brake components for superbikes. By really high end we're talking about $1,000 for a pair of brake rotors. That'll put things in perspective for us mountain bikers whining about spending $50 on an average rotor. Anyhow, for whatever reason, they've decided to enter the mountain bike market and to bring their expertise with them. On paper, this is exciting news, given how much effort they've put into designing and developing brake rotors and pads that offer real performance benefits.

I received three different brake pad compounds to test for my brakes – Standard, Pro and Advanced. In addition, I got to test out one set of rotors (160mm/180mm). I use Avid X0 Trail brakes on both my DH bike and my trail bike, so I was able to try out the Galfer pads on both bikes, while the rotors went on my trail bike. It's worth mentioning ahead of time that on all of my Avid brakes I take the stock organic compound pads out and replace them with the much stronger and much more durable metallic compound pads.

Galfer Disc Brake Rotor Highlights

  • Made of Galfer’s proprietary High Carbon 420 SS / 8 composite
  • Laser cut (not stamped like most others)
  • Double disc ground – parallel grinding to assure perfect parallel flatness
  • Patented inner and outer Wave® design minimizes heat transfer, equalizes dissipation and evens out pad wear
  • Heat-treated to each specific application (to assure warp resistance)
  • Each Galfer design is CAD-CAM and tested with a stress analysis program, as well as dyno/real life tested.
  • KBA and TUV approved
  • Compatible brakes: all
  • Mounting style: 6-bolt only (no Centerlock option at present)
  • Available sizes: 140, 160, 180, 203-mm
  • Weights: 100 grams (160mm), 120 grams (180mm)
  • MSRP: $32.25 (160/180mm)

Galfer Disc Brake Pad Highlights

  • Intended use: Standard (1053) for everyday riding // Pro (1554) for racing and/or more aggressive riding
  • Pad compound/material: Standard (1053): Carbon composite with Semi-metallic fibers // Pro (1554): Carbon Kevlar composite with semi-metallic fibers
  • Compatible brakes: all
  • MSRP: Standard (1053): $13.00, Pro (1554): $25.00

Initial Impressions

The rotors are clean and at 12 grams lighter (for the pair) they are about on par weight wise with the stock Avid rotors. They seem logical and well made. The wavy rotor isn't too wild looking and the laser cut-outs look nicely shaped and well placed. Overall, nothing overly "special" to note here.

As for the pads, they are also pretty straight forward. They are nicely packaged, and each compound is color coded with paint on the back of the pad itself. There is a guide on the cardstock in the packaging which indicates strong/weak points for each individual compound based on a rating system that includes four variables : Braking Power, Mud and Dirt Performance, Fade Resistance, and Durability.

Since I sometimes find myself wanting a bit more power on my DH bike, I put the “Pro” pads on my DH bike. These are rated to offer the most bite, at the expense of not lasting quite as long. My trail bike sees pretty standard riding, so I opted to run the “Standard” pads on that bike initially. Let's see how we all got along.

On The Trail

On the trail, the Galfer rotors and pads performed well. The break in time was on par with standard Avid offerings. The Standard and Advanced pads took one to two runs to bed in properly, and they were a bit noisy until they did, while the Pro pads needed only about half a run before they were fully operational. The Pro pads were also quiet from the get go.

In terms of performance, overall there wasn't a huge amount of discerning characteristics between any of the three compounds on offer. They perform as well as or ever so slightly better than a stock Avid rotor paired with standard metallic pads. They are quiet and consistent in all conditions, including the wet. In a sense, this was almost a disappointment, given all the research and experience that went into the development, manufacturing process, and materials of these Galfer pads and rotors. On the other hand, it's also easy to get it wrong, and Avid's XO Trail brake is a good standard to measure up to.

On my DH bike with the “Pro” pads I did notice a slight improvement in power over the metallic sintered Avid pads, and as expected they did wear a bit on the fast side, but certainly not at a rate that would bar them from being a viable contender.

Things That Could Be Improved

There are no major shortcomings to report, and the Galfer pads and rotors are a great alternative to your stock brake parts.

Long Term Durability

Braking parts are expected to just shut up and do their thankless job. These held up great and wore at a totally normal rate. None of the three compounds seemed to wear down exceptionally slowly, or unacceptably fast. I also had a few little rock pings with the rotors and they didn't indicate any particular weaknesses nor did the rotors seem overly susceptible to getting bent out of line too easily. They held their own just fine and stayed as straight as any other rotor I've used in the past.

What's The Bottom Line?

If you're in the market for new brake pads and/or rotors and want to experiment with something a little off the beaten path from a reputable high performance company, then give Galfer a shot. In my opinion they are better than your run of the mill organic pad and on par or slightly better than your average metallic pad. Same with the rotors, no huge performance gain, but just a good solid product. And since they are competitively priced as well, why not give them a try?

Visit www.galferusa.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

Ian Collins grew up racing mountain bikes on the East Coast before moving to California in search of the never ending riding season. Although he's generally a fan of slick and steep riding conditions, Ian has gotten acclimated out west and loves its speed. Also an avid surfer, what's most important to him in a trail is flow. Known for being meticulous and borderline obsessive about bike setup, he aids in product development for local frame builder Turner Bikes when he's not out on a photo mission.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Galfer Bicycle Wave Brake Rotor 4/24/2014 11:20 PM
C138_galfer_bicycle_wave_brake_rotor

Tested: Galfer Disc Brake Pads and Wave Rotor

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Ian Collins

Galfer has been making high quality brake rotors for motorsports since the 1990's, specializing in making some really high end brake components for superbikes. By really high end we're talking about $1,000 for a pair of brake rotors. That'll put things in perspective for us mountain bikers whining about spending $50 on an average rotor. Anyhow, for whatever reason, they've decided to enter the mountain bike market and to bring their expertise with them. On paper, this is exciting news, given how much effort they've put into designing and developing brake rotors and pads that offer real performance benefits.

I received 3 different brake pad compounds to test for my brakes – Standard, Pro and Advanced. In addition, I got to test out one set of rotors (160mm/180mm). I use Avid X0 Trail brakes on both my DH bike and my trail bike, so I was able to try out the Galfer pads on both bikes, while the rotors went on my trail bike. It's worth mentioning ahead of time that on all of my Avid brakes I take the stock organic compound pads out and replace them with the much stronger and much more durable metallic compound pads.

Galfer Disc Brake Pads and Rotor Highlights

Galfer Rotor:

  • Made of Galfer’s proprietary High Carbon 420 SS / 8 composite
  • Laser cut (not stamped like most others)
  • Double disc ground – parallel grinding to assure perfect parallel flatness
  • Patented inner and outer Wave® design minimizes heat transfer, equalizes dissipation and evens out pad wear
  • Heat-treated to each specific application (to assure warp resistance)
  • Each Galfer design is CAD-CAM and tested with a stress analysis program, as well as dyno / real life tested prior to being offered on the market.
  • KBA and TUV approved
  • Compatible brakes: all
  • Mounting style: 6-bolt only (no Centerlock option at present)
  • Available sizes: 140, 160, 180, 203-mm
  • Weights: 100 grams (160mm), 120 grams (180mm)
  • MSRP: $32.25 (160/180mm)

Galfer Brake Pads:

  • Intended use: Standard (1053) for everyday riding, Pro (1554) for racing and/or more aggressive riding
  • Pad compound/material: Standard (1053): Carbon composite with Semi-metallic fibers, Pro (1554): Carbon Kevlar composite with semi-metallic fibers
  • Compatible brakes: all
  • MSRP: Standard (1053): $13.00, Pro (1554): $25.00

Initial Impressions

The rotors are clean and at 12 grams lighter (for the pair) they are about on par weight wise with the stock Avid rotors. They seem logical and well made. The wavy rotor isn't too wild looking and the laser cut-outs look nicely shaped and well placed. Overall, nothing overly "special" to note here.

As for the pads, they are also pretty straight forward. They are nicely packaged, and each compound is color coded with paint on the back of the pad itself. There is a guide on the cardstock in the packaging which indicates strong/weak points for each individual compound based on a rating system that includes four variables : Braking Power, Mud and Dirt Performance, Fade Resistance, and Durability.

Since I sometimes find myself wanting a bit more power on my DH bike, I put the “Advanced” pads on my DH bike. These are rated to offer the most bite, at the expense of not lasting quite as long. My trail bike sees pretty standard riding, so I opted to run the “Standard” pads on that bike initially. Let's see how we all got along.

On The Trail

On the trail, the Galfer rotors and pads performed well. The break in time was on par with standard Avid offerings. The Standard and Pro pads took 1-2 runs to bed in properly, and they were a bit noisy until they did, while the Advanced pads needed only about half a run before they were fully operational. The Advanced pads were also quiet from the get go. In terms of performance, overall there wasn't a huge amount of discerning characteristics between any of the 3 compounds on offer. They perform as well as or ever so slightly better than a stock Avid rotor paired with standard metallic pads. They are quiet and consistent in all conditions, including the wet. In a sense, this was almost a disappointment, given all the research and experience that went into the development, manufacturing process, and materials of these Galfer pads and rotors. On the other hand, it's also easy to get it wrong, and Avid's XO Trail brake is a good standard to measure up to.

On my DH bike with the “Advanced” pads I did notice a slight improvement in power over the metallic sintered Avid pads, and as expected they did wear a bit on the fast side, but certainly not at a rate that would bar them from being a viable contender (note however that the Advanced compound is not available in the US).

Things That Could Be Improved

There are no major shortcomings to report, the Galfer pads and rotors are a great alternative to your stock brake parts.

Long Term Durability

Braking parts are expected to just shut up and do their thankless job. These held up great and wore at a totally normal rate. None of the 3 compounds seemed to wear down exceptionally slowly, or unacceptably fast. I also had a few little rock pings with the rotors and they didn't indicate any particular weaknesses nor did the rotors seem overly susceptible to getting bent out of line too easily. They held their own just fine and stayed as straight as any other rotor I've used in the past.

What's The Bottom Line?

If you're in the market for new brake pads and/or rotors and want to experiment with something a little off the beaten path from a reputable high performance company, then give Galfer a shot. In my opinion they are better than your run of the mill organic pad and on par or slightly better than your average metallic pad. Same with the rotors, no huge performance gain, but just a good solid product. And since they are competitively priced as well, why not give them a try?

Visit www.galferusa.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

Ian Collins grew up racing mountain bikes on the East Coast before moving to California in search of the never ending riding season. Although he's generally a fan of slick and steep riding conditions, Ian has gotten acclimated out west and loves its speed. Also an avid surfer, what's most important to him in a trail is flow. Known for being meticulous and borderline obsessive about bike setup, he aids in product development for local frame builder Turner Bikes when he's not out on a photo mission.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Troy Lee Designs A1 Helmet 4/21/2014 2:36 PM
C138_a1_helmet_turbo_matte_gray

Tested: Troy Lee Designs A1 Helmet

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Ian Collins // Action photos by Fred Robinson

Troy Lee Designs entered the MTB helmet game back in 1993 with an all-mountain helmet made by Shoei featuring a removable chin guard. After some time they quickly became the go to manufacturer for full face gravity helmets. With sculpted shapes and strikingly clean lines, the TLD D2 and D3 were far and away the most popular helmets of their time. Aesthetically speaking TLD lids have always had people talking. Bold and brash paint schemes typically made for some mixed feelings... consumers either loved or hated the style. Be that as it may, they looked fast, felt great and protected riders well, and in turn TLD helmets quickly became a mainstay amongst the gravity crowd.

For whatever reason, aside from a D2 with the jaw protection sawed off, Troy Lee didn't jump into the high performance half lid market until last year. But with Enduro on the rise and trail bikes becoming evermore capable of pushing the limits, inevitably TLD saw a market, and after three years of development, the A1 was born. It became wildly popular immediately after its launch, but in typical TLD fashion everyone was “talking” about its bold styling and slightly steep price tag. The first iteration featured the cyclops graphic, eyeballs and lightning bolts marking a brash entrance into a new category for TLD.

After some demand for a more low key offering, the boys in Corona aptly responded with the "A1 Drone"- a matte gray version with subdued graphics and a very competitive $139 price tag. This year the A1 is back with even more offerings in terms of colorways. Let's see how the latest one treated my dome.

A1 Helmet Highlights

  • Reinforced polycarbonate shell in-molded with the EPS liner extends down the sides and back of the head for maximum protection and durability
  • 8 pressurized intake passages draw in cool air for maximum ventilation
  • 8 rear vacuum vortex outlets help exhaust and draw heat from head
  • Triple position adjustable retention system allows customized fit for various eyewear, head shape and riding styles
  • Single piece, ultra plush, removable and washable comfort liner made of anti-microbial moisture wicking material for a dry, comfortable feel
  • Full spectrum adjustable moto inspired visor with anodized aluminum hardware
  • Race inspired styling
  • MSRP $139, $165 and $185

Initial Impressions

When you first pull the A1 out of the box you'll notice the little things. Before even revealing the helmet, the sticker kit and the helmet bag are a nice touch. While most typically wouldn't think it's even a factor, even the helmet bag was well thought out. The underside is mesh so you can bag the helmet and it'll still air out pretty well. Sounds like it's silly to even mention, but it's a nice touch and keeps your helmet from getting banged up in the back of your car or truck on the ride home while it dries.

Getting down to the nitty gritty, the vents are good-sized and well positioned to ensure that air flows front to back as you ride. The hardware that mounts the visor is machined aluminum, making it easy to tighten and loosen without having to use a screwdriver. Fit is top notch, this thing really cradles your head and feels secure. The adjustable rear harness has a circular dial that's easy to tighten and loosen even with sweaty gloves on, and the precise clicks are a nice touch. The A1 also has three different sets of vertical attachment points for the harness so it fits all sorts of oddly shaped domes like the one I've been cursed with. Other nice touches are how securely the visor sits, and the girthy rubber bands that hold the larger sized flat straps in place.

This lid offers a bit more coverage all around than the average light duty trail helmet, yet isn't quite as bulky and cumbersome as some of the other "enduro specific" offerings out there – a nice happy medium for the average trail ride. When I first put it on I immediately felt the extra material towards the back of my head, and that's a good thing. Overall no complaints on the design side so far.

On The Trail

I got my first A1 at TLD's media launch in Laguna last year so I've already had quite a bit of time in it. Aside from graphics, this year's models are no different.

On long climbs it manages sweat quite well and I've noticed that it never ends up dripping in my eyes unlike my last lid. This might not seem like a big deal, but those little details are refreshing. Maybe it's the way the pads are shaped or designed but the moisture seems to run towards my temples and down the back of my head. The last helmet I had always seemed to funnel the sweat right into my eyes and/or all over my glasses.

On descents the air flow I felt was refreshing. It may sound like I'm drinking the Kool-Aid, but at really high speeds you can feel air pulling up on the top of your head. This is partially due to the large deep internal channels that are carved out on the inside of the helmet to keep air moving through it. Some riders have had mixed feelings about the lack of a major front vent around the forehead, insinuating that the helmet runs a little warm. While the A1 could maybe stand to gain a bit from adding a vent there, personally I found the helmet to run pretty cool, especially given how much protection it offers.

Because I flew off of a cliff in Laguna Beach with a 30-pound camera bag on my back and landed on my head, I can personally vouch for how well the helmet holds up to crashing. It certainly won't collapse or come apart under a serious hit. I was glad it did its job.

While I realize that every head is different and helmets are a very personal piece of equipment, the fit was excellent for me. The straps and retention system hug your head without making it feel constricted even in the roughest terrain when your head is slapping around. The red rubber pad on the inside of the retention system plays a key roll in preventing any excess movement just by adding an extra element of grip and padding.

With overall superb construction and all of the details covered I have a hard time finding any major flaws in this lid.

Things That Could Be Improved

If I had to really dig and find something to complain about I can say that the retention system can get in the way of the arms of glasses a bit. Part of this is because it wraps nicely around the ear area giving it a secure fit. I've found with my personal glasses (SPY Screws) the arms are a bit pinched under the retention system, but when I place them outside of it the glasses seem a bit unsettled. After some fussing around I loosened the adjustment at the back of my head and wore the plastic cradle on the loose-ish side. To my surprise the helmet still felt secure, yet the arms of the glasses no longer dug in. Depending on the glasses you choose to run this could be an issue. A small matter in the grand scheme of things. Especially when you consider that this is one of a few half lids on the market that works with goggles in case you want to really get Enduro.

Lastly, the dork in me would love to see some sort of GoPro mount, but the wannabe-cool-guy in me is glad it isn't there to upset all the smooth clean lines.

Long Term Durability

Like any helmet, the A1 will develop some small surface scratches here and there with use, but nothing beyond cosmetic nicks and dings. The pads are easy to take out and wash but don't deteriorate after a few washes, so overall this thing is in it for the long haul. Personally, I've never met anyone who wouldn't replace their helmet every other year or so anyway.

Last year I had a pretty huge crash on my first A1 and sent it in for inspection and a replacement. If you also happen to clap your dome, TLD offers a great crash replacement program to ensure riders aren't putting themselves at risk by riding with compromised helmets just to save a few bucks. Overall the A1 is a worthy investment that will treat you well for the duration of its lifespan.

What's The Bottom Line?

From the good looks to the thoughtful design considerations and beyond, it's clear that Troy Lee Designs took their time in perfecting the A1. Some may quip about the price being a bit steep, or maybe the looks being a bit loud, but TLD now offers the A1 helmet at various price points with all sorts of paint schemes to fit every wallet and taste. The previously mentioned Drone model features toned down graphics and comes in at $139, which I think is a very reasonable price for such an exceptionally well-made, comfortable, and safe helmet.

Visit www.troyleedesigns.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

Ian Collins grew up racing mountain bikes on the East Coast before moving to California in search of the never ending riding season. Although he's generally a fan of slick and steep riding conditions, Ian has gotten acclimated out west and loves its speed. Also an avid surfer, what's most important to him in a trail is flow. Known for being meticulous and borderline obsessive about bike setup, he aids in product development for local frame builder Turner Bikes when he's not out on a photo mission.

This product has 2 reviews.

Added a product review for Easton Haven 27.5" Wheels 3/24/2014 11:10 PM
C138_easton_haven_27

Tested: Easton Haven 27.5 Wheels

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Ian Collins

A few years back when Easton dove into the proprietary wheelset market they came in pretty strong. With a carbon rim boasting a lifetime warranty, and a sleek, sexy overall package at competitive prices they definitely barged into the game and made a name for themselves straight away. There were a few small hiccups initially such as bearing play in early hub iterations as well as some isolated incidents with hub shells stripping out where the rotor attaches. Easton addressed the issues diplomatically and have moved towards a foolproof system that now appears to be free of any glaring flaws. A couple of months ago the Haven 27.5 wheelset landed in my hands and made its way on to my bike. I was excited to give these new wheels a good lashing to see how they would now stand up to a little real-world use and abuse.

Haven 27.5 Wheel Highlights

  • Finish: Black brushed, water transfer graphics
  • Wheelset weight: 1650gr
  • Type: Clincher / UST
  • Rim material: Easton aluminum
  • Internal rim width: 21mm
  • External rim width: 26mm
  • Spokes: Sapim 2.0/1.7/2.0 black
  • Front spoke pattern: no
  • Rear spoke pattern: 24-3x
  • Front hub type: m1 / 6-bolt disc type only
  • Front axle size: 15x100
  • Rear hub type: m1 / 6-bolt disc type only
  • Rear axle size: 12x135/142
  • MSRP $500 (per side)

Initial Impressions

Before the wheels even showed up I was already enchanted by their sleek looks. All black, with most of the rims in a matte finish except the high sheen lettering giving some subtle contrast. The hubs are nicely anodized and the machining was very clean. The hardware gracing them also appeared sturdy and the bearings smooth, with the freehub offering relatively quick engagement (3 pawls/30 points/12 degrees). Although I haven't had to use it yet, the adjustable bearing tension was a nice feature that could certainly prove useful down the road.

At 1,650-grams the Havens are pretty light for a 27.5-inch aluminum wheel set. Featuring a 26-mm external width, the rims seemed to be a touch on the narrow side for a mid to heavy duty trail rim, but time would tell if this would be an issue or not. I flicked the spokes a bit like a guitar string and was surprised at how high the spoke tension was. On Easton's website they mention that these are built with a “proprietary acoustic tensioning and truing method”. I had no issues installing and inflating my tires with a little sealant and a floor pump. After a second gander at how good these looked on my already all black bike, it was time to put them to the test.

On The Trail

Shaving 130-grams off my previous wheelset, the first thing I noticed was that the Havens felt light and nimble and that acceleration was effortless. The engagement is not as instant as some boutique offerings, but quick enough that it wasn't a hindrance or even something that I was ever conscious of. On offbeat technical climbs the engagement maintained a very positive, confidence inspiring feel. When it came time to put the hammer down through the turns, the Haven's were also pretty darn good although not a game changer by any means.

These wheels are fairly stiff, especially for 27.5-inch aluminum wheel with a really low spoke count (24 per wheel). In stark contrast I will say the carbon wheelsets I've ridden thus far have all felt a bit stiffer and snappier, but they ring in at over double the price. Through the rough bits I never felt any excessive deflection with the Havens, nor did I suffer any rim damage. In fact, I did flat a couple of times, which is a rare occurrence for me. This was a good indicator of how hard the rim itself is. On one ride where I flatted twice, I ended up limping out and riding a good seven miles both uphill and downhill at a modest clip over rough terrain with a flat tire. When I got back to my truck, my tire was nuked, but the rim was still free of flat spots or dents and remained as true as could be despite being a bit scratched up. In fact after a couple months of use, I still haven't had to re-tension these and they're almost perfectly straight. Pretty impressive.

Things That Could Be Improved

To be quite frank, it's hard to find fault in these wheels. At $1,000 for the set they are a bit pricey, and these days anyone who's a little bit resourceful can read some reviews and put together a nice custom wheel set for a considerably low price, but it would be tough to do so and come in at this weight in the 27.5-inch size. They didn't blow my mind with their stiffness, but they're way less costly than a carbon wheel set and considering how lightweight they are, I think they feel damn good overall. Basically, there is no major weak point that I can belly ache about.

Long Term Durability

In the few months time spent on the Havens there was no obvious issue that seemed indicative of any potential shortcomings down the line. The fault-prone hubs that penalized past models are long gone, and their replacements are far better designed. The rims are rock hard and resisted flat spots and dents better than most in their class. The wheel as a whole proved to be quite sturdy and didn't need tensioning, nor did it want to stray out of true at all. Time will tell how these hold up after a few years of riding, but Easton does back them with a two year warranty. Besides, by the time most people would be doing any real damage to these wheels we'll all be switching over to 28.25-inch wheels anyway.

What’s The Bottom Line?

The Easton Haven 27.5 wheelset comes in at reasonably competitive price and weight without cutting any corners. Add the great overall trail feel and the Havens are winners. If you ride smooth to moderately rowdy trails on anything from a 120- to 160-mm bike, these are definitely worth considering. Since they are a bit on the pricey and light-weight side, I probably wouldn't recommend them for heavy duty Enduro racing under a brawny rider. For just about any other intents and purposes on your average trail bike these will definitely leave you glowing. The beautiful aesthetics and solid warranty are just the icing on the cake.

Visit www.eastoncycling.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

Ian Collins grew up racing mountain bikes on the East Coast before moving to California in search of the never ending riding season. Although he's generally a fan of slick and steep riding conditions, Ian has gotten acclimated out west and loves its speed. Also an avid surfer, what's most important to him in a trail is flow. Known for being meticulous and borderline obsessive about bike setup, he aids in product development for local frame builder Turner Bikes when he's not out on a photo mission.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for X-Fusion RV1 HLR Fork 2/20/2014 8:51 PM
C138_x_fusion_rv1_hlr_fork

Tested: X-Fusion RV1 HLR Fork

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Ian Collins // Photos by Fred Robinson and Ian Collins

Over the last decade or so downhillers haven't exactly had an excess of stellar options when it comes to forks. There were the two solid options that everyone knows about; the RockShox BoXXer and the FOX 40. Marzocchi and Manitou have won a few hearts over the years and despite some struggles they've remained alternative contenders as well. It's only in the past couple of years that the competition has really started to heat up with the arrival of companies like BOS, DVO and even SR Suntour. Under the Pivot Factory Race Team, X-Fusion has spent the time, money and effort to develop another viable contender: the RV1 HLR. Short for Race Version 1, the RV1 is X-Fusion's long-awaited first downhill fork. I was lucky enough to spend the last couple of months on one - let's see how it fared...

RV1 HLR Highlights

  • Wheel Size: 26 or 27.5-inch
  • Travel: 200mm (internally adjustable 180-200mm)
  • Stanchions: 36mm Aluminum
  • Spring: Coil
  • Damper: Twin Tube HLR Cartridge
  • Adjustments: High and Low Speed Compression, Rebound
  • Steerer: 1 1/8-inch
  • Axle: Bolt-On 20mm
  • Features: Neutra Valves, Fork Guards
  • Colors: Matte Black, Smoked Chrome
  • Axle to Crown: 569 or 579mm at 200mm of travel
  • Offset: 42 or 46mm
  • Max Rotor Size: 203mm
  • Weight: 6.1-pounds / 2,767-grams (claimed)
  • MSRP: $1,299

Initial Impressions

Out of the box, the first thing I noticed was the clean design and solid machine work on the adjustment knobs and the end caps that protect them. Removing the lower cap on the drive side reveals the high and low speed compression knobs, and the rebound knob is always accessible at the top of the same side. Rotating the knobs was nice and smooth. The detents on the low speed compression adjuster were slightly faint, but still audible. Not a big deal considering how much easier they were to turn compared to other offerings.

After further inspection I began to appreciate the finish on the fork. The carbon guards that protect the lowers are light, smooth and quite an interesting idea given the tendency for DH forks to get beat up. The graphics on them are quite garish in my opinion, but I'm sure some will appreciate the artwork. Also worth mentioning are the clip on fork bumpers, made to be easy to pop on and off (more on this later).

The next feature that caught my eye was the Neutra Valve on the backside of each fork leg. X-Fusion was kind enough to include a pair of “motion pro” micro bleeders. Common in the motocross world, these nifty little things allow the rider to relieve and neutralize internal air pressure caused by elevation and temperature changes with the push of a button. Doing so helps the fork perform as stiction free as possible, removing any excess pressure on the seals. I'm a sea level beach rat, but a great deal of the downhill riding I do in SoCal is up near 6-7,000 feet so these were a welcome addition on my bike.

After pulling the fork apart to cut the steerer and fit it to my bike, I noticed that everything lined up correctly! Yes, unlike some other $1,300+ forks I have owned in the past, the stanchions slid smoothly through both sets of crowns, and when I cycled the damping side there was no initial binding through the bushings. This is the first step in designing a buttery fork with ample traction and smooth action.

Before cutting the steerer I weighed the fork. It deviated quite a bit from X-Fusion's claimed weight of 6.1-pounds, coming in at a devilish 6.66-pounds on my scale. This isn't heavy by any means, but it's worth pointing out the rather large spread between claimed and actual weights.

Installing the wheel was a breeze, the 20mm axle threads into the non drive side and has a single pinch bolt that secures it on the drive side, beautifully simple.

Once I got the fork bolted up I began twisting some knobs and cycling the suspension. I quickly realized that the stock medium spring wasn't going to cut it for my 175-pound beer and burrito fueled frame. This wasn't a huge surprise as with many coil sprung forks I've found myself sitting between medium and firm spring offerings. I dropped the firm spring in (an easy thing to do) and measured my sag, which was sitting just over 20% and right where I typically like it. The fork will come with only the stock medium spring, but the other spring rates are readily available. When I asked X-Fusion why the extra springs weren't included, they said by not including all 5 of them it helped them bring the fork in at a much lower price, as well as creating far less waste. When you really stop and think, it would be a bit ridiculous to have each consumer just toss 4 springs aside. Fair enough.

On The Trail

After a few initial laps it was clear that this is a competent fork and that X-Fusion is onto something. The traction this fork offers through chassis stiffness and its damping characteristics is quite good. Stiffness in turns, under braking, and through rough off-camber sections struck a perfect balance that kept me tracking straight with little extra effort. I personally find a BoXXer to be slightly too flexy and a FOX 40 too stiff with a bit more deflection than I like. The RV1's chassis feels like it’s happily in the middle.

Even with the firm spring installed and the low-speed compression nearly maxed, the fork still seemed to dive a bit and support wasn't quite what I was used to, so I decided to throw in the extra-firm spring. While it alleviated the diving I was now a bit over-sprung, and the fork would beat me up and blew me off the trail on occasion. As a solution, X-Fusion sent out a 5 and 10mm preload spacer. The bigger spacer did the trick and put me right where I needed to be as far as ride height is concerned. It allowed me to use a few less clicks of low-speed compression as well.

The RV1 uses X-Fusion's twin-tube HLR damper with a high-flow piston. In this tube-in-a-tube damper cartridge, oil flows down through the compression damping circuits into the outer tube. During rebound, the oil flows back through the cartridge and through the rebound circuit. This configuration separates lubrication oil from damping oil, which is said to yield less cavitation and help improve damping consistency. The range offered by the damping adjusters is really wide, which should suit a variety of rider weights and riding styles. In fact X-Fusion has run a dyno on all the competitors' forks, and claims to have the widest range in adjustment available.

The suspension action is smooth, stiction-free, and supple off the top, which keeps your front wheel planted. I never experienced any sort of stiction or binding while burying the front wheel in a turn. The RV1's action stayed smooth regardless of where it was being pointed. Small bump performance was top notch, and the fork did a really good job of taking the edge off chatter and staying planted in the loose bits. The performance was consistent even on longer runs on burlier tracks. Big hits were handled well without using excessive travel or spiking, and I didn't have any bone-crunching metal to metal bottom-outs. One area where the fork truly shined was charging at speed through successive mid-sized obstacles like large baby head rocks and whoops. The fork seemed to have endless travel and really impressed me in this type of terrain at higher speeds.

On the flip side, in typical give and take fashion, I felt like the fork could have gained from a bit more mid-speed support and had a tendency to not feel quite as poppy and lively as I would prefer. While high and low-speed compression damping had great range in adjustment and were easy to fine tune, I felt like the fork was a bit lost in the middle. During late braking at speed, rolling through big holes, and going up the faces of jumps the fork just seemed to get a bit too deep into its travel. It wasn't really bad, but it was noticeable and slightly unsettling during aggressive riding. When I asked X-Fusion about tuning such things out, they mentioned that the cartridge is fully tunable and a custom re-valve option will be available for $120. Again, not a big deal, but it was one of those factors that was hard to dial in with stock settings. With that said, after getting things dialed in and a fair amount of breaking in, I must say that this fork is a viable contender overall at its price point.

Things That Could Be Improved

It's difficult to find anything major to complain about with this fork. My one gripe is the way the spring rates are designated. At 175-pounds I've never before had to dabble with an "extra-firm" spring. Maybe if I was World Cup fast, but I am far from it. While I did find a good balance with a firm spring and 10mm of preload, the best solution would have been the proper spring rate, somewhere in between the firm and extra-firm. An external preload adjuster would also be nice, but that would add some weight. 5 and 10mm preload spacers will be available to consumers to help fine tune the spring rate, but even so, running pre-load isn't ideal because the fork then requires more initial force to compress the spring. This translates to a little more feedback in the hands when the fork hits bumps at full extension.

Also, one has to wonder if a 210+ pound pinner would require a special spring ordered at an additional cost. When all is said and done, perhaps X-Fusion should reconsider their spring rates. For the most part, this fork will work just fine for a wide array of riders of all shapes, sizes and ability levels after a little setup experimentation.

The other minor gripe was that the pesky fork bumpers slip constantly. I did get them to stay put by applying gaffer's tape over the stanchions where they sit, but this isn’t the cleanest solution. Again, a small matter in the grand scheme of things when talking about a downhill fork.

Long Term Durability

I've only had this fork for a few months, but during that time I’ve ridden it a good number of days. Time will tell how it holds up over the long run and in various weather conditions. At this point the chassis is solid and the adjusters appear well made so I don't see anything major failing any time soon. So far, not one drop of oil has weeped from the dust wipers and the bushings have not developed any play. From what I can tell the RV1 should be in it for the long haul. X-Fusion backs the fork with a two year warranty.

What's The Bottom Line?

If you're looking for a solid alternative to the traditional downhill fork offerings, the X-Fusion RV1 HLR may be your fork. The closest option in terms of price and quality would be a RockShox BoXXer R2C2. Coming off of that fork I can say that the X-Fusion RV1 HLR outperforms it by a nudge. It isn't a stretch to say that this could be the most bang for the buck you will get from the current crop of offerings. The fork is well priced and reliable. The chassis is stiff and well made. The adjustments and internals are smooth as could be. It offers a stellar range of damping and tuning options, but nothing excessive that will befuddle the end user. If you want a relatively simple yet surprisingly good fork for a reasonable price, there is no major reason not to give this fork a chance. You might be really surprised.

Visit www.xfusionshox.com for more details.



About The Reviewer

Ian Collins grew up racing mountain bikes on the East Coast before moving to California in search of the never ending riding season. Although he's generally a fan of slick and steep riding conditions, Ian has gotten acclimated out west and loves its speed. Also an avid surfer, what's most important to him in a trail is flow. Known for being meticulous and borderline obsessive about bike setup, he aids in product development for local frame builder Turner Bikes when he's not out on a photo mission.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Crank Brothers Iodine 3 Wheelset 2/12/2014 9:25 AM
C138_crank_brothers_iodine_3_27

Tested: Crank Brothers Iodine 3 Wheels

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Ian Collins // Photos by Fred Robinson and Ian Collins

When it comes to wheels we all know that Crank Brothers have had a big hole to crawl out of, and they are the first to admit it. When they tried to reinvent the wheel a few years ago and introduced a radically different proprietary wheelset, things didn't really go as planned. The first iterations had some serious issues with the internal workings of the hubs, and the initial implementation of the unorthodox spoke design wasn't quite right. Crank Brothers dealt with the hiccups and the criticism, but rather than abandon hope they continued to have faith in their design and persevered. With the 2010 wheelset revision they saw freehub warranty issues go from 17% to less than 1%, a huge improvement.

For 2014 the goal was not solely to work out the remaining bugs but also to continue improving on the successful elements of the wheelset. Reducing weight and price while increasing strength and reliability were all on the menu. The most notable improvement in this revision is the rim's profile. It sees a 2mm increase in width, with a lower sidewall height, and a deeper overall rim depth. All of these changes make for a stronger rim and a stiffer wheelset. Another element that was tweaked slightly was the bead hook. With the ever increasing popularity of tubeless setups, it's nice to have a rim that's built for the application and less apt to burp. The wheelset I tested is the Iodine 3 in the 27.5-inch size. It's mid-duty, mid-price and mid-weight, and it's time to let you know how it coped with four months of abuse.

Iodine 3 Highlights

  • Rim material: 6061-t6, smooth weld joint
  • Shot peen finish with black + silver anodizing
  • Width (internal/external): 23mm/27.2mm
  • Depth: 19.5mm
  • Spokes: Sapim stainless steel,7075-t6 aluminum nipples
  • Front hub: Iodine, 6061-t6
  • Bearings: sealed cartridge 6805 (x2)
  • Front hub end caps: 15mm (installed), 20mm (included)
  • Rear hub: Iodine, 6061-t6
  • Bearings: sealed cartridge 6903 (x2), 6902 (x2)
  • Rear end caps: 12x142mm (installed), 10x135mm (included)
  • Freehub: 3-pawl, 21T, alloy
  • XD freehub compatible, available separately
  • Weight: 1780g (27.5in), 1850g (29in)
  • MSRP: $900 USD

Initial Impressions

After having the wheels meticulously bolted up by the Crank Brothers crew at the 2014 media launch, I gave them a thorough once over on my bike. What first caught my eye were the elongated aluminum “nipples.” These act as nipples but essentially make up half the spoke. The fact that they are wider in gauge than a traditional spoke also told me they might be a bit stiffer.

Also worth mentioning is that on each wheel the spokes and nipples are the same length side to side all the way around, and that due to the design you can change a spoke/nipple on the fly without taking off the tire, the brake rotor or even the cassette. Since the spokes and nipples are half the length of a traditional spoke they also fit in a riding pack quite nicely. Pretty darn cool if you ask me. Another nice touch aesthetically is the shot-peened rim. I like the look better than anodizing, and it adds to the surface durability.

On The Trail

After the first few sections of trail I immediately noticed two things, and they summarize my overall feeling on the wheelset quite well. First off, they were stiff. REALLY stiff. The only other trail wheelset that ever felt this snappy to me was made out of carbon. While those carbon hoops took the edge off and were a bit more resilient, they were also three times the price. That being said, while $900 isn't a “cheap” wheelset they retain the stiffness and solid feel that some much more expensive wheels have. I think this can be attributed to the huge aluminum nipples and the rather burly rim.

The second thing I noticed was the not-so-instant engagement. This was my only serious complaint. In order to address previous issues, Crank Brothers says they exchanged precise engagement in the name of better durability. The hub uses a 3 pawl system with 21-points of engagement - that's a click every 17.1-degrees. Previously the Iodine 3 wheelset had 24-points of engagement.

After some time the wheels did need one minor re-tension, but they never had any issues with going way out of true, and the rims were very tough. I had a handful of occasions where the rims bottomed hard enough on rocks that I could hear it, but the wheels were left unscathed with no dents or flat spots.

Overall these had a solid trail feel. They accelerated quickly, were noticeably stiffer than a traditional wheel, and held their own in terms of durability for the four months I spent on them. When I swapped out tires it was easy to get them to re-inflate tubeless with just a simple floor pump, and they weren't excruciatingly painful to remove or install. That was refreshing to say the least.

Things That Could Be Improved

As I mentioned before, the only major drawback to these wheels was that they didn't have a quick and positive-feeling engagement mechanism. Although these days $900 is considered a normal price for a mid-range wheelset, personally I think that price tag should award the consumer with a less pedestrian-feeling rear hub. Maybe it's me, but on technical climbs I really appreciate the feel of near instant power transmission. It's not a deal breaker, but it is something that could be improved upon.

My only other small quip was the slightly odd disassembly procedure of the rear hub. In order to take the XD freehub body required for the XX1 system off, one must first disassemble the rear hub. The axle is reverse threaded and requires a 12mm allen key. It took me a of couple days to find a 12mm allen socket locally, and while that isn't a huge deal there are definitely simpler ways to design a hub.

Long Term Durability

In the time I spent on these wheels I was very pleased with them overall, and there wasn't anything glaringly indicative of any major shortcomings that could surface down the road, or should I say trail? In fact I think it's safe to say that they are stiffer and possibly tougher than the average traditionally built wheel. Time will tell. Providing that there is validity in Crank Brothers' claim that the hubs are virtually free of issues now, I see no reason why these shouldn't be in it for the long haul.

Crank Brothers includes a spare spoke, nipple, and washer with all of their wheels should you happen to break something and need a replacement. They also back the wheels with an attractive two year warranty.

What's The Bottom Line?

If you're looking for something off the beaten path and a bit less traditional, then this could be your wheelset. For $900 I think the freehub could be a bit more refined, but given the radically different (and inherently more costly) approach to the spokes, nipples, and rims, it's understandable that something has to give. While Crank Brothers have received heaps of criticism for their flawed wheelsets of the past, I have to commend them for having the guts to stay the course, and continuing to improve on a wheelset born out of a radically different overall approach. They have reached the goal of a competitive wheel from the weight, stiffness, and durability standpoints. Is it a game changer? No, but it is different. Is it a solid, refined wheelset that will get the job done? Absolutely.

Visit www.crankbrothers.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

Ian Collins grew up racing mountain bikes on the East Coast before moving to California in search of the never ending riding season. Although he's generally a fan of slick and steep riding conditions, Ian has gotten acclimated out west and loves its speed. Also an avid surfer, what's most important to him in a trail is flow. Known for being meticulous and borderline obsessive about bike setup, he aids in product development for local frame builder Turner Bikes when he's not out on a photo mission.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Canfield Brothers DH Wheelset 12/1/2013 5:38 PM
C138_canfield_brothers_wheelset_details_1

Tested: Canfield Brothers DH Wheelset

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Ian Collins // Photos by Ian Collins and Fred Robinson

When it comes to wheels on my downhill bike, I'd have to say I'm a bit of a creature of habit. For the last decade or so I haven't really strayed from my tried and true Hadley hub/Mavic 721 rim combo. Whether I ran them tubed or ghetto tubeless they've treated me well and as long as I don't put off the occasional hub rebuild or truing I usually get a few years out of them. I like utilitarian things. But when I got a chance to test out the new Canfield DH wheelset I was pretty excited just to try something new on my bike. At only $550 and 2100 grams they land at around the same weight of my old wheels, but at half the price. Curious to see what that would translate to in terms of real-life performance, I was eager to get these out on the trails.

Canfield Brothers DH Wheelset Highlights

  • 150x12mm rear hub/20mm front hub
  • High quality, low maintenance hubs with sealed cartridge bearings
  • Rear hub features a durable 3 pawl design
  • Dynamal alloy 26″ DH rims
  • 30mm outer/25mm inner width rims
  • Schrader/American valve drilling
  • Front – 930 grams
  • Rear – 1170 grams
  • Set – 2100 grams
  • 9t Microdrive option available
  • MSRP: $450 USD

Initial Impressions

When I first pulled the wheelset out of the box I was impressed by how nice the hubs looked. They're nicely finished, machined to save weight, and feature smooth bearings and relatively fast engagement. The gold end caps are certainly a nice touch too. Note that this wheelset can be purchased with a Canfield 9t microdrive hub as well, which can allow you to run a smaller chain ring and/or increase the range of your cassette. To the best of our knowledge this is the only commercially available 9t option on the market today (note that the 9t option requires the use of a Shimano Capreo 9-speed cassette, or Canfield's own 9t 10-speed Conversion Cogs). Additionally, if you like what you see here but need other rim sizes or hub options, the same technology is also available throughout the whole range of wheelsets on offer from the bros.

The rims are made from Dynamal alloy. This rare alloy blend is normally found in aeronautic applications, as it can be used to make stronger and lighter components without the usual consequence of reduced fatigue life and resistance to permanent deformation (also known as yield strength). It is not the first time we've seen it used in bicycle rims, and previous experience shows that the material really does perform as advertised. The shot-peened finish employed by Canfield Brothers on the rims is refreshing and also provides additional surface toughness.

To get a competitive complete wheelset down to such a low price there are a few things that have to be sacrificed. The rims are pinned together but not welded and machined down. The latter is a process that is costly but which can toughen up a rim. They also don't have eyelets where the nipples drop into the rims, another small feature that can increase durability. I am not implying that rims without eyelets can't hold up, but more finely finished rims are usually outfitted with eyelets. It is certainly not a deal-breaker but should be pointed out.

I noticed the width and profile of the rim immediately. At 30mm wide I think they're just right. I've never been a fan of super wide rims, but I also am slightly irked by the fact that narrower rims tend to give DH tires a weird profile, and allow them to squirm and roll off a bit easier.

As a final observation before hitting the trails, double butted spokes and tall brass nipples were a solid choice to round out a DH wheelset with in my opinion. The wheels I've built in the past with straight gauge spokes didn't seem any stronger, but were heavier, and the wheels I've built with alloy nipples as opposed to brass just didn't hold up. With all that said, time to go riding.

On The Trail

My time with these wheels on the trail leaves me without anything out of the ordinary or for that matter unexpected to report. The Canfield DH wheels just straight up did their job at a great price and a competitive weight. I ran them ghetto tubeless with Maxxis Minions and was loving them. I did like the feel of my tires on these more than on my old rims, and the rim itself was tough and resistant to denting.

After a handful of rides I re-tensioned the spokes as one would expect, and I found the wheels were still true and every bit as solid as on day one.

To complete my ride impressions, the engagement offered by the rear hub was fast enough, but not mind blowing. Overall, these wheels had a nice solid feel to them and I never felt like they held me back in any way shape or form.

Things That Could Be Improved

While I really didn't find any flaws in the performance of these wheels and I feel like they carry out their intended function well, I have to be the nit-picking perfectionist for a bit and mention one small thing. The rims are drilled for schraeder valves. While this isn't a huge deal, nowadays many people like to use a super light rim tape and a set of presta valves to set their wheels up tubeless. Once a rim is drilled for schraeder this is no longer an option. I personally prefer the rubber to rubber seal and snugger interface that ghetto tubeless provides when utilizing a cut tube for a rim strip. However, some of the gram counting riders out there may value saving a nominal amount of weight more than decreasing the risk of burping their tires.

Long Term Durability

I haven't had a substantial amount of time on these wheels yet, so time will tell how the hubs hold up. So far, so good. As for the rims, they seem to be very tough. I had a couple of close encounters which resulted in loud rock to metal rim impact and they held their own just fine. I didn't have any huge crashes, but I did have enough minor get-offs and failed berm bashings that it would have been quite evident if these weren't in it for the long haul. On the contrary, they have held up great so far.

What's The Bottom Line?

If you're looking for a no-frills downhill wheelset for your current rig or you're building a new one and want to save a few bucks without cutting corners, these have your name on them. The rims are damn tough, the hubs are smooth with nice engagement, and it is an altogether solid wheelset which comes in at a competitive weight. In a word, simply utilitarian - just the way I like it.

For more details, visit canfieldbrothers.com.


About The Reviewer

Ian Collins grew up racing mountain bikes on the East Coast before moving to California in search of the never ending riding season. Although he's generally a fan of slick and steep riding conditions, Ian has gotten acclimated out west and loves its speed. Also an avid surfer, what's most important to him in a trail is flow. Known for being meticulous and borderline obsessive about bike setup, he aids in product development for local frame builder Turner Bikes when he's not out on a photo mission.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Scott Grenade Pro II Knee Guards 9/12/2013 10:28 AM
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Tested: Scott Grenade Pro II Knee Guards

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Ian Collins

After three massive (bones visible) holes in the same square inch of my right knee over the last decade, I became a bit wary of most of the run-of-the-mill kneepads I've tried. Last year I saw some pictures of the Scott Grenade Pro II Knee Gaurds and they looked promising. Nothing way out of the ordinary, but a few refinements, techy features and a moderately higher price tag of $139.95 gave it a greater luster than most of the pedestrian offerings. Over the winter I got to check them out in person while trying to keep Brendog in sight during some shuttles in SoCal. I asked him about them and he claimed they're the best he's ever worn... He even claimed they don't slip on his pasty chicken legs while maching through the woods. After an endorsement like that I had to see what all the fuss was about.

Grenade Pro II Knee Guard Highlights

  • Features D3O material
  • PU molded anti abrasion front panel
  • Perforated neoprene construction
  • Ergonomic positioned straps
  • Localized side padding
  • Meets Level 1 according to the new EN 1621-1 standard
  • Sizes Small, Medium, and Large
  • MSRP $139.95

Initial Impressions

As I anxiously pulled these out of the retail packaging I was initially surprised at how light and soft they were. The inside was buttery and they felt light and airy. They were also a little more trim than your average full-on DH knee pad, which is mostly attributed to their use of D3O in lieu of a heavy plastic cup. D3O is a high tech material that is soft and flexible most of the time, but hardens on impact to spread out the blow.

When I first put them on, I struggled ever so slightly and was worried they'd be too tight, then I realized they are just cut very trim and pre-articulated. Once the pads are on they are so secure that I could honestly cut the straps off and run them that way - I simply attach the velcro with no tension at all. They felt like they were custom made for me. Everything in its right place.

You certainly get what you pay for, and Scott used nothing but top notch materials here. Right away another key point I noticed was the placement and layout of the padding. Since the D3O is a soft, moldable material, Scott was able to extend the main pad that protects the knee cap and also cover that exposed, sensitive bone just below it as well. Most pads utilize a hard plastic cup that stops under the knee cap, but don't really protect this bone. Additionally, the protection on the sides is far more logically placed as they thoroughly cover the bonier parts of the knee. This was refreshing compared to other offerings that left me scratching my head and wondering why padding was in particular places, but not in others.

On The Trail

My first day breaking these in was spent knocking out some downhill runs at Big Bear, California. While they offer substantial coverage, they aren't bulky. The Grenades fit better under DH pants better than anything I've ridden to date. It wasn't until the end of the day I realized that I never once had to re adjust them or pull them up. This is something I haven't experienced before. I'm that neurotic person who freaks out when everything isn't in it's right place. I attribute this to one subtle but important feature: the lower strap is cut low in the front but angles way up high where it anchors on the back of the knee. Whether I wore pants or shorts these bad boys just didn't budge while riding. At all.

Crashes aren't something you hope for when testing products, but I guess it's part of the game. I didn't have any massive get offs since these pads have found their way into my hands, but I did have a few awkward slip ups and some high speed slide outs. Everything checks out - they kept me safe and didn't slide down on impact. Though it's hard to gauge, they certainly felt softer on impact than the traditional offerings I've used before.

I initially planned to review these as a DH specific pad, but I've been wearing them constantly on both the DH and the trail bike with great results. They articulate nicely and breathe pretty well. Although I didn't feel any airflow, I really don't want to. I liked that the back mesh patch seals things up while leaving some room for ventilation, unlike pads with big gaping holes where your knee bends. Despite the lack of openings they stay pretty cool, and the material wicks and absorbs moisture better than anything else I've used. They also dry out REALLY fast.As an added benefit, when I did go down no debris got inside of them.

Things That Could Be Improved

It's tough to find fault in these aside from the relatively price tag. Digging deep, I guess I could mention that they're a bit tough to get on and off, but there's duality in that. It's the snug, ergonomic fit that prevents them from slipping, but it doesn't inhibit movement, make them hot, or restrict blood flow.

Also, I initially thought the rubberized outer bit seemed unnecessary and may grab at shorts/pants, but I was wrong, it didn't affect performance and I presume it's there for durability's sake. I didn't crash directly onto any deadly fixed rocks (knock on wood, but it's only a matter of time), but I could see the rubber part grabbing more than sliding on impact. This could, in theory, make them move.

Long Term Durability

Speaking of the long haul, they're doing well so far, and don't seem like they will fall apart any time soon. The D3O bits are removable via a small slit inside the pad so they don't take on water while being washed. This part is important as they probably won't dry as quickly and could get mold or mildew inside of them. I would just be sure to take them out before chucking them in the laundry.

No threads are unravelling and no materials are deteriorating, so I think this is a product that most riders could get a couple of years out of.

What's The Bottom Line?

If you're in the market for a full on DH knee pad, the Scott Grenade Pro II is a cut above the norm and you'll be stoked on how low profile they are. If you're in the market for a trail pad it will be a bit more heavy duty than some of the skimpy offerings, but it won't feel like it's overkill. This is far and away the best set of kneepads I've ever worn. The price tag could cause a bit of grumbling, but to me, aside from a helmet and a neck brace, kneepads are the most important form of protection when riding rugged terrain. These babies are cheaper than surgery and stitches, and they serve double duty for both DH and trail. I find no flaws in their fit or design, so in my book they fully deserve a 5-star rating, even with the relatively high price tag.

For more details, cruise over to www.scott-sports.com.


About The Reviewer

Ian Collins grew up racing mountain bikes on the East Coast before moving to California in search of the never ending riding season. Although he's generally a fan of slick and steep riding conditions, Ian has gotten acclimated out west and loves its speed. Also an avid surfer, what's most important to him in a trail is flow. Known for being meticulous and borderline obsessive about bike setup, he aids in product development for local frame builder Turner Bikes when he's not out on a photo mission.

This product has 1 review.