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Added a product review for Specialized Mountain Bib Liner with SWAT 7/17/2014 12:54 AM
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Tested: Specialized Bib Liner with SWAT

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by A.J. Barlas // Photography Jon Anthony

One of the best aspects of mountain biking is creativity. It can be found in how a rider will approach a section of trail, how a builder will interpret and utilize the terrain they are crafting in, all the way down to how an individual will dress. Some choose to wear what they feel comfortable in, while others will wear what they think they are supposed to (and then there's the #sh*tmtberswear).

When Specialized released their SWAT range of gear there was a definite split in the armchair critics, but a surprisingly large number of riders were actually excited about the prospect of being able to carry extra water, food, or spares without having to don a pack. Yes, there were those who cried, "why not just ride with a pack?", and the rest that piped "why not just wear a jersey with the pockets on the outside?", and both are valid arguments if that's what you prefer, but thanks to brands like Specialized riders have more options to choose from.

We first lay eyes on SWAT apparel when riding with a friend in Santa Cruz late last year and could not wait to try the system out. With the ability to carry extra items without the dreaded "sweaty pack-back" or squeezing into lycra, it seemed like a no brainer. After riding in the bib version of the under layer for upwards of 8 weeks now, we've formed some thoughts around this 'new' system.

Specialized Mountain Bib with SWAT Highlights

  • VaporRize Moisture Transfer Mesh Fabrics
  • Fold-Over Leg Cuff
  • Body Geometry Mountain Chamois
  • 10" Inseam - Size Medium
  • Five SWAT Integrated Pockets
  • Patent-Pending Construction
  • Sizing: S, M, L, XL, XXL
  • MSRP $88

Initial Impressions

The SWAT bib in this review came with the Atlas Trail Short (review to come) and we were impressed with each once we got them out of the packaging. The bib is made of a material that felt very light and at a glance seemed like it would breathe remarkably well, even on hotter days. Once on it was comfortable, with no odd catch points or areas that stood out as potential problem spots for chafing.

The chamois is very comfortable without feeling like wearing a big baby diaper. The folded over leg cuff was also a great addition and something other bibs we've recently worn did not have - a welcome feature. The bib tested was a medium and although the sizing chart on the Specialized website indicates a large or xl for this testers height, the waist on the medium is ideal (#ectomorphdilemmas). Despite this sizing oddity, the bib fits perfectly with no discomfort experienced (unlike other bibs in the closet), even after multiple 5hr rides in the garment.

On The Trail

The first couple of rides were done with a large (24oz) water bottle in the middle back pocket of the bib - something that was coincidentally forced upon us, due to a new bike and no water cage. For the first few minutes of the initial outing the bulge of the bottle was noticeable, but once warmed up and on the move it was no longer noticed unless focusing on it. The true test was whether it would stay in place and to our surprise, it did. The bottle and any other gear that is placed in the SWAT bib pockets, whether on the front of the legs or on the back, is held in place so well you can eventually forget it's there, until you need to grab for it.

A swinging load is common with backpacks, no matter how well they fit. With the SWAT bib, even when stuffing the various pockets full, we noticed that the cargo you carry does not move around. Generally we have been utilizing the pockets on the thighs for small bars, or shot block type fuels, while the back pockets have been utilized for everything from a water bottle to a well wrapped burrito. Car keys are another item that can be placed securely in the thigh pockets, but be aware that falling on a key can do some pretty good damage to the leg beneath it. If it's a risk you're willing to take, or need to, the SWAT bib provides a secure and capable way of doing so.

When it comes to accessing the gear in the pockets, we noticed this was best done when stopped. Fishing around for things while in strange and somewhat awkward positions with your arms doesn't go over too well while moving. It's not that it can't be done, it's just quicker to stop, or to grab your stuff when you're on a break. As a result this bib is not the best choice for XC racers, unless you utilize the pockets for some nice-to-haves rather than things you will be wanting to access regularly during the event.

The bib breathes really well, even on the hot days. The last ride these were tested in involved 35ºC heat, no breeze and a good number of hours in the saddle. We'd be lying to say there was no sweat and that we wouldn't have been a little cooler had we not been wearing a bib, but the fact of the matter is it was cooler than the more common full blown lycra bib and had we worn a pack, well, ol' sweat back would have ruled over the ride. Without a doubt, the SWAT bib was more comfortable in these conditions than donning a pack.

Long Term Durability

There have been no issues with the SWAT bib tested. No loose threads, no stretching out of shape, and it even holds back the pheromones keeping the bib from getting too scented and your riding buddies from getting to know you a little too well. Once washed the bib looks as good as the day we received it and it is every bit as comfortable on the trail.

Things That Could Be Improved

It would be nice if it was easier to access the back pockets while moving on the bike, though this would likely result in less secure storage. We did notice that when wearing slightly baggier tops, the air whisping by as you descend picks up the back of the jersey and leaves you showing off your underwear. Other than those two minor niggles, Specialized have done a great job of bringing an alternative to the riding pack for riders looking to carry supplies while out on longer rides.

What's The Bottom Line?

Specialized aren't the only brand producing an undergarment to store extra gear in, but they've certainly produced a quality option for anyone interested. Whine all you want about riders not dressing how you would, we're up for giving almost anything a try and if someone has a different idea of what works for them, go for it - it's likely they aren't the only ones. This is the case with the SWAT gear and we're happy that it's available. Not all riders want or like to carry a pack, and wearing tight lycra isn't for everyone either. The SWAT bib is a great piece of apparel for anyone looking to carry some extras on their person without being overly concerned with what the norm has dictated up until now. If you're open to change and looking for a different way to carry some gear, dislike packs or lycra, we highly recommend you take a look at the SWAT range.

For more visit www.specialized.com


About The Reviewer

AJ Barlas started riding as most do, bashing about dirt mounds and popping off street curbs. Not much has changed, really. These days the dirt mounds have become mountains and the street curbs, while still getting sessioned, are more often features on the trail. He began as a shop monkey racing downhill since day zero, only to go 'backwards' and start riding and racing BMX later on. He then came full circle once moving to Whistler. AJ loves riding everything from 8 hour mountain pass epics (bonking) to lap after lap in the park and 20 minute pumptrack sessions at sunset. Driven by his passion for biking and exposing people to the great equipment we ride, AJ started and maintains the Straightshot MTB blog. So long as wheels are involved, and preferably dirt (the drier and dustier the better), life is good.

This product has 1 review

Liked a comment on the item Prototype Ibis 27.5 Bike Spotted at EWS 7/12/2014 10:49 AM

http://www.mtbcult.it/tecnica/ews-la-thuile-ecco-il-prototipo-ibis-da-enduro/

Liked a comment on the item Value DH Project Component Winners Announced: Building the Best DH Bike for Your $$$ 7/11/2014 8:23 AM

I was a little surprised at some of the frontrunners for this build.

Added a product review for Enve Composites M90 Ten Wheels 6/29/2014 1:48 PM
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Tested: ENVE M90 Ten Wheels

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

By A.J. Barlas // Photography A.J. Barlas & Brandon Turman

There is no shortage of wheels for mountain bikers to choose from and we've tested a number of them over the past couple of years - some we've been pleased with while others have been less than ideal.A large number of these are focusing on the trail/AM segment of the sport, but what about DH? Designing a wheel that meets the rigors of today's downhill riding, while remaining light enough to keep the weight conscious happy is a tricky situation. Throw price into the equation and you complicate it even more. Light, strong, cheap; pick any two is an old golden rule of the bike industry, and although we've tested wheels that claim to tick all three of those boxes, ENVE's no-holds-barred approach promises to deliver the ultimate experience when price doesn't matter. To find out if their new M90 Ten wheels are indeed the Ferrari of downhill mountain bike wheels, we've been putting them through the wringer in Whistler Bike Park and beyond.

ENVE M90 Highlights

  • 26" and 27.5" (650b) wheel sizes
  • Rim weight: 26" = 487g // 27.5" = 509g
  • Internal width: 25mm
  • External width: 34mm
  • Rim height: 34mm
  • Available in 32 hole configuration
  • Full wheel built on DT240 hubs: 1,707g (in 26")
  • MSRP $2,718 (DT 240 20/150 built wheelset, as tested)

Initial Impressions

As with the M70 wheels we recently tested, when these arrived we were a little excited. We'd never really had a pair of them in our hands, only pawing at them on other people's bikes and more often than not, those were of the trail bike variety. The M90 rims felt light but solid, and we proceeded to mount a set of Maxxis Shorty tires to them and get out on the trails as quickly as humanly possible. The Shortys, despite not being a tubeless specific tire, seated easily on the rim. The beads are tight on the M90 wheels, just like the M70 wheels were, mostly thanks to the hookless technology incorporated and tighter tolerances afforded as a result. Initial rides on the loamy trails near home found the wheels to give the bike more zest, adding life in the corners and on the rougher sections of trail. It wasn't until we hit the bike park though that the wheels really began to shine, and shine they did.

ENVE's wheels are a top shelf product, make no mistake about it. The proprietary processes in place for development and the technology being utilized throughout the range is all about providing the rider with the best possible wheel on the market. The M-Series wheels pushed to further improve the rider experience with a focus on a wheel that gives a little as it mows over terrain, filtering trail feedback and further increasing impact resistance. An alloy wheel will do this at the spoke interface, which creates a lot of stress on the spokes and often results in breaks, or more time spent adjusting spoke tension. ENVE have designed the layup and the wall of their M-Series wheels to provide this give and it is a quality noticed as soon as you bomb down a section of rougher trail.

In addition to this technology, ENVE utilize a specially designed conical shape spoke face, allowing the nipples to pull at the same angle at which the spokes meet the rim. This method creates a stronger, more reliable interface and also allows ENVE to use less material in this area, saving more valuable rotational weight. They are also one of a few that remove the internal layup bladders from their wheels, removing more weight and avoiding issues with spoke installation down the line. All of ENVE's recent technologies and processes have resulted in a wider, lighter, stronger wheel, but how does that translate to the trail?

On The Trail

Within a quarter of a run down the Whistler Bike Park, the light weight and lateral stiffness of the wheels became incredibly evident, throwing us down the hill out of each corner and springing out of rough sections of trail - it was as if some adjustments had been made to the suspension, but nothing had changed there at all, the tires were the same as what was on the bike previously as well. Many might think that a stiff carbon wheel means you will get pinged off lines and feel the abruptness of the added stiffness when rolling through sections of trail, but ENVE have gone to great lengths to improve the way the wheels 'give' when hitting terrain features straight on, while retaining the lateral stiffness qualities in order to better support riders through corners. Did they achieve it, heck yeah! The wheels track well in all terrain, with even lighter riders being able to control where the bike goes and keep it there.

The lateral stiffness combined with the light weight of the wheelset really adds to the slingshot feeling out of corners—the harder you load these bad boys up, the faster you will be slung down the next section of trail, so long as you're ready and getting on with it. Our first run of the year was down Ninja Cougar, a trail known for some incredible berms with some serious g's and the benefits of the wheel under pressure were made very apparent. From here the wheels have been down everything from the full Oriental Express, Afternoon Delight and Tech Noir, to the Canadian Open, plenty of classic old school with Joyride and Schleyer, and everything in-between. They have not disappointed anywhere.

In rough terrain expect to hear a slightly different and at first disconcerting sound when the tires bottom to the rim. On more than one occasion the sounds from the carbon hoops had us frightened for what we might discover the next time we stopped to take a look, but to this point, nothing. Not a lick of damage on hits that would have resulted in substantial flat spots on a good quality alloy rim. We haven't been shy with these wheels, rallying them down the nastier, rockier trails on offer, and on more than a few occasions letting the bike (wheels) take the brunt of impact as our tired and weary bodies hung on for the ride. These experiences have left us quite impressed as to the impact resistance and durability of the M90 wheels.

Long Term Durability

After beating on the M90s in the Whistler Bike Park and some local trails around home for a good amount of time we're baffled by the lack of maintenance required, "lack of" here translating to zero! Other than a few scuffs on the walls of the rims and on the stickers, the wheels are as good as the day we received them. We can't wait to see how they last out a whole summer of abuse, but if the Santa Cruz Syndicate did indeed run the same set on their DH bikes during their first race season as reported, then it's fairly safe to assume that bar a ridiculous accident, these will last a lot longer under us. It is also worth mentioning that the ENVE's come with a five year warranty, so if you do bust 'em, you should be covered for some time.

Things That Could Be Improved

We mentioned a couple of things that initially had us question them on the M70 review (mainly the internal spoke nipples that necessitate removing tires and rim strip to adjust spoke tension), but the rationale from ENVE coupled with having zero issues meant these concerns were moot. The M90s are no different and after having taken more of a hiding than other wheels tested and needing zero work thus far, we're really impressed.

Some will no doubt have issues with the pricing, but some things simply cost more, like a Ferrari or a Mercedes AMG, and like these, the attention to detail from ENVE is impeccable and as a result, the product very desirable. In more relative terms, a DVO or BOS fork is going to cost you more than the SR Suntour or X-Fusion equivalent. To our point earlier, if it is out and out best-in-class performance you are after, then you unfortunately cannot have all three; light, strong, and cheap. In terms of bang for your buck, the ENVE M90 wheels are as light and as strong as they come, and they offer a genuinely unique ride experience.

What's The Bottom Line?

The ENVE M90 wheels are an exciting bit of bike technology to ride. To be honest, we're surprised that we have not had a single issue with them after weeks of rat bagging them down the Whistler Bike park and through our local trails. They inspire confidence on the trail and add more life to the bike than we expected to notice. Despite there being no problems with them to date, we're still a little on the nervous side whenever we do hear the tires bottom to the rim. With more time on the wheels, we hope to only further our confidence in their abilities. If money is not an object when your happiness is involved and you're after the finer details from a wheel, I highly recommend you get after a set of these wheels to adorn your downhill sled. They will knock your socks off from the moment you drop into that first, aggressive run.

For more details, visit www.enve.com.


About The Reviewer

AJ Barlasstarted riding as most do, bashing about dirt mounds and popping off street curbs. Not much has changed, really. These days the dirt mounds have become mountains and the street curbs, while still getting sessioned, are more often features on the trail. He began as a shop monkey racing downhill since day zero, only to go 'backwards' and start riding and racing BMX later on. He then came full circle once moving to Whistler. AJ loves riding everything from 8 hour mountain pass epics (bonking) to lap after lap in the park and 20 minute pumptrack sessions at sunset. Driven by his passion for biking and exposing people to the great equipment we ride, AJ started and maintains the Straightshot MTB blog. So long as wheels are involved, and preferably dirt (the drier and dustier the better), life is good.

This product has 1 review

Added a comment about feature Quick Poll: What Stem Length Do You Use? 6/24/2014 8:50 AM
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50mm on DH
50–60mm on XC
40mm on trail/AM bike, thanks to the longer reach of it (yep, its longer than the XL Turner DHR… 0.o )

0 0 0

This feature has 16 comments.

Liked a comment on the item Quick Poll: What Stem Length Do You Use? 6/24/2014 8:46 AM

All product managers take note!

Liked a comment on the item Quick Poll: What Stem Length Do You Use? 6/24/2014 8:46 AM

I don't think I've run more than a 60mm stem in 4+ years, even on my XC hardtail. I have box full of useless 80+mm stems and occasionally I find a good use for one, like this:
 photo FootAssistAerator.jpg

Liked a bike check Norco Sight 6/24/2014 8:44 AM
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Added a comment about product review Tested: Maxxis Shorty Tire 6/17/2014 8:59 PM
Liked a comment on the item Tested: Maxxis Shorty Tire 6/17/2014 8:59 PM

Me, circa 2009/2010: hey Maxxis, you should release a shorter version of a mud spike, since many racers cut their spikes and there is really nothing in between an intermediate tire and a deep mud tire.

Maxxis: Nu uh. not gonna happen.

2014: surprise! hahaha...... oh jeeze

Added a product review for Maxxis Shorty Tire 6/14/2014 12:36 PM
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Tested: Maxxis Shorty Tire

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by A.J. Barlas // Photography Jon Anthony & A.J. Barlas

Inside of most mountain bikers is a little kid that loves dirt bikes. Some of these little inside kids even get lucky enough to ride one, while others watch in amazement, taking some of what they see into their riding approach - at the very least letting out the occasional 'braaap' while ripping a fun trail.

We definitely have this little kid in us, from the attempted whips and scrubs all the way through to the sound effects out in the woods. So when the new Maxxis Shorty tire showed up the little guy started 'brapping' with enthusiasm thanks to what was apparently a slimmed-down moto tread that we now held in our hands.

The Shorty is a brand new tread design from the folks at Maxxis that features an aggressive, square block knob pattern throughout, 2-ply downhill casing and Maxxis' 3C MaxGrip compound. It's designed with loam, medium mud, or deep soft dust in mind, and with each of those being a favourite of ours to rally through, we eagerly mounted up a pair and set out to see just how moto things could get.

Maxxis Shorty Highlights

  • Available in 26" x 2.40" (61-559 ETRTO - European Measurement)
  • Wire bead
  • 3C MAXX GRIP Compound
  • High-Volume, Dual-Ply Downhill with Butyl Insert, Black, 60 TPI, 65 Max PSI sidewalls
  • 2 lb 10.9 oz (1.2 kg)
  • MSRP: $87 USD

Initial Impressions

The Shorty features a lot of the usual Maxxis downhill tire traits; solid two ply construction with a great, soft tread and a 'channel' between the center and cornering knobs (though not as clear here as in some of their other offerings). The big square blocks are soft and there is a substantial amount of space between them, allowing the tire to shed any material that may cling to a regular tread. They are aggressive and just looking at them had us giggling like school girls. With too much excitement to contain, we began setting them up on our downhill bike.

The Shorty's mounted quite easily with tubes, though not so easily tubeless with difficulties obtaining a good seal. No biggie here though, given that the tires we tested were not tubeless specific. We were able to set them up tubeless on a different set of wheels later in the test, with no issues. With the tires mounted and the downhill bike now looking like a total monster, we headed out to the trails.

On The Trail

With the Shorty's cut spike tread designed for deep loam, slight mud and even deep dusty conditions, we decided to build a new, short loamer line to really test them out. The trail was totally raw, with just the bare essentials removed from the surface, leaving behind a thick layer of duff and moss. A series of lips into hardly supported corners, some flat corners and a completely off-camber corner gave us a little of everything to see how they would perform.

Given the loam conditions we could have had a good time on just about any tire, but the ability to rail in it would without a doubt be compromised with a lesser tread. From the first run, the Shorty was nothing but inspiring, gripping like velcro in the damp loam, leaving a trail of roost slinging high into the treeline as we fell down the hillside and Jon, who was shooting photos, screaming with excitement as the dirt flew. When the trail wore in the tire continued to grip, and we pushed it more and more in an effort to see how much it could handle. Flat corners began to show large roots, but they went unnoticed other than while hiking back up, as the soft tread of the Shorty took it all in its stride.

We spent a good amount of time in a variety of conditions on the freshly built trail, from damp, to wet and then bone dry, as well as on older trails in close proximity to the new line - the Shorty performed exceptionally well in all these situations. In an attempt to really round out the test, and despite them not being specifically designed for loose over hardpack, we spent the remainder of the test blasting them around the Whistler Bike Park.

Initial rides in the park resulted in similar impressions as the soft rubber compound produced amazing traction on the damp rock slabs of the park. Conditions in the park were damp during these first few days, producing hero dirt conditions and as a result, plenty of grip on most tires. What we did notice was that the cut spike knobs of the Shorty were short enough that the tire wasn't too squirmy under these distinctly heroic conditions.

Since those early days the conditions in Whistler have significantly dried out, resulting in the classic "Whistler Bowling Alley's" return. The fine dust over hardpack conditions shone a light on the tire's first weakness, with the big square blocks unable to grip the surface in the same way as those with more siping do. The Shorty's still rode well, but left us a little more on our toes with them losing traction and breaking into some unexpected drifts.The soft rubber combined with the large square blocks also resulted in some noticeably slower acceleration in these hardpack conditions, but we were admittedly well out of the tire's intended use by now.

The tires have also really begun to show signs of wear after roughly 40 laps in the park, especially once the conditions dried out. There are some interesting elements to the wear, with what appears to be the knobs tearing directionally down the tire. A lot of tires will start to show wear after this amount of riding in Whistler, though in our experience, not quite as much as these have at this point. There is still loads of life in them, but the tearing we are experiencing is something we've not seen so consistently in a tire before. We wonder if they were to be ridden exclusively in the conditions they're designed for, if they would wear in this same fashion.

The tears in the treads blocks go almost to the base of the tread and continue around the tire.

Long Term Durability

In the conditions that the Maxxis Shorty was designed to excel in, they should last a rider a good amount of time, possibly even a couple of seasons depending on the amount of use outside of their intended purpose. If, however, you're a fit-and-forget rider who plans to put tires on the bike and then 'run what you brung' including on hardpack surfaces, expect to see them wear down a little quicker than say, a Maxxis Minion would.

Things That Could Be Improved

We haven't experienced a lot of issues with the Shorty's and have thoroughly enjoyed riding them. However, it would be great to have a tubeless ready version available and we would love to run a set in a lighter version on our trail bike through the winter. Perhaps these options aren't too far off…

The sidewalls are covered in sealant that is released when cornering hard.

What's The Bottom Line?

For its intended purpose and conditions the Maxxis Shorty is a no brainer, allowing riders to get away with murder on the trail and ride out of some ridiculous lines with confidence. They're not the greatest in loose over hardpack, but this is not what they were intended for in the first place. If you're a park rider in Whistler or have similarly loose dust and hardpack conditions, there are more suitable options out there, but if you ride loam, muck or softer dirt, or if you race and need a cut spike, we highly recommend these tires for your collection. They will inspire confidence and see you push loose corners to new speeds and induce loads of sound-effects on your way down the trail!

For more on the Maxxis Shorty be sure to check out www.maxxis.com.


About The Reviewer

AJ Barlas started riding as most do, bashing about dirt mounds and popping off street curbs. Not much has changed, really. These days the dirt mounds have become mountains and the street curbs, while still getting sessioned, are more often features on the trail. He began as a shop monkey racing downhill since day zero, only to go 'backwards' and start riding and racing BMX later on. He then came full circle once moving to Whistler. AJ loves riding everything from 8 hour mountain pass epics (bonking) to lap after lap in the park and 20 minute pumptrack sessions at sunset. Driven by his passion for biking and exposing people to the great equipment we ride, AJ started and maintains the Straightshot MTB blog. So long as wheels are involved, and preferably dirt (the drier and dustier the better), life is good.

This product has 1 review

Added a comment about feature 7 Things the Fort William World Cup Taught Me 6/9/2014 8:59 PM
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Exactly what I was gunna say. Perfect!

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This feature has 15 comments.

Liked a comment on the item 7 Things the Fort William World Cup Taught Me 6/9/2014 8:59 PM

"If Rob Warner ever leaves MTB, I'm outta here too."

You and the rest of the mob. A lot of folks have said the same and I understand why. What an awesome character.

Added a comment about product review Tested: ENVE M70 Thirty Wheels 6/5/2014 1:37 PM
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Its a metaphor for 'it was exciting', which is often how I am when a new product arrives, but for something with the illustrious brand behind it that ENVE has, it was a little more-so. The fact that I mention clearly, through no use of metaphors, that I didn't know if I would really notice a difference in the ride—"adding to the ride in a way we honestly weren't even convinced we would notice…" should indicate my open intentions when testing the product—as I always am. If something sucks, I'll say so.

There were a number of attributes that I thought were going to bug me and kept in mind throughout testing, but they became less than a non-issue. Anything else that I had questions on, I asked the team at ENVE for information on and drew my own decisions from the responses, as I always do. Tight tire fit was one of those, though is a result of the hookless tech and in the end results in an incredible seal. I should have made mention of that, my bad.

Many other carbon offerings are commonly being made out of country, in a mass factory produced environment. There is more guarantee in the QC behind the ENVE products thanks to their in house processes and the patented technologies they have developed. This attention to detail is all noticeable in the ride and the end product. Add all this up and you're looking to pay more for the product (think Intense cycles a number of years ago, though now the rest of the industry is charging their prices, or more). The AMG Mercedes I want is extraordinarily expensive, but do I complain? No. I accept it as a dream, while I drool over it when I see others driving one, it doesn't make it any less quality of a product, its simply known to cost more for the craftmanship and attention to the details. Maybe one day…

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Liked a comment on the item Tested: ENVE M70 Thirty Wheels 6/5/2014 1:23 PM

I used to work there. First thing I did after leaving was take those gawdy stickers off. My bike looks so much better now that it's not a billboard. I had to shake my head all year as they were prototyping rims and none of them were increasing in width. With the strength to weight...more

Liked a comment on the item Tested: ENVE M70 Thirty Wheels 6/4/2014 8:46 AM

I didn't realize you have to remove the tire and rim strip to true these. I have owned carbon wheels, the rear needed occasional truing just like all wheels. I understand why they deigned them this way, but having to removed the tire and for many people, tubeless tape, isn't very...more

Added a product review for Enve Composites M70 Thirty Wheels 6/2/2014 12:04 AM
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Tested: ENVE M70 Thirty Wheels

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by A.J. Barlas // Photography Jon Anthony & A.J. Barlas

Technology in mountain biking has been progressing at an alarming rate the last 5 or so years. 10 years ago carbon on a mountain bike was often thought of as a scary, testing-fate kind of scenario to enter into, but now it's all over the place and if you aren't riding a plastic frame many won't even look twice at your rig. When carbon hoops first came to market, the one name that really caught many riders' attention was ENVE Composites. Under the Santa Cruz Syndicate's riders, on their downhill race bikes no less, we really began to take notice of the material's potential capabilities.

Fast forward a number of years and there are a lot more options for carbon hoops on mountain bikes, and a lot more people (at least in Whistler and the surrounding areas) running rims made from the fantastic plastic. ENVE has also grown a lot in that time, releasing the second iteration of their carbon hoops earlier this year, with a large number of options to cater to any rider in what is touted as a more robust, refined version of their very desirable wheels. We've been rallying the M70 Thirty version since it was released - do these bad boys live up to the hype?

ENVE M70 Highlights

  • 26", 27.5" (650b) and 29" wheel sizes
  • Rim weight: 26" = 433g / 27.5" = 453g / 29" = 481g
  • Internal width: 25mm
  • External width: 32mm
  • Rim height: 34mm
  • Available in 32 and 28 hole configurations
  • Full wheel built on DT240 hubs: 1,560g (in 26")
  • MSRP: $2,718 (DT 240, 650b, 15/142 builtwheel set, as tested)

Initial Impressions

We received a pair of M70 wheels for review in their 650b, 32 hole incarnation, and when they arrived it was certainly better than Christmas! These are the mountain bike version of the BBS wheels on that sweet sports car you're dreaming of - total luxury and function combined. There is a reason they are so lusted over; the finish is top tier, from the internal spoke nipples and the hookless technology to the clean rim bed on the inners of the rim, everything is well executed giving a very purposeful and clean appearance to the wheelset. When you pick them up the first thing you are likely to notice is how light they are, especially for such a burly wheel. The M70 is built to take a hiding, but weighs far less than a wheel built for this intent should ever be allowed. ENVE makes 4 versions of this new wheel, ranging from the 90% Descend/10% Climb heavy duty bomber to the 50/50 AM/trail option - the 70/30 we tested is the second most burly option on offer, yet it weighs in at traditional trail/XC wheel weight.

The wheels come with a cool little zip 'pouch' that houses the tubeless valve stems, if you choose to run tubeless (would anyone not with these?) and a roll of rim tape, specifically matched to the internal width of the associated wheel. We grabbed a fresh set of treads - a Maxxis Minion DHF EXO and a High Roller 2 EXO for the rear and after taping up the rims, proceeded to mount the new tires. Having changed many tires over the years and being of the mindset that you shouldn't need a tool to put tires on, I continued to fight with the tires until my thumbs were bruised, and still lost. These are tight! Perhaps my tape job wasn't as dialed as it could have been, or I should have popped the valve up out of the rim bed for that tiny bit of extra space? In either case I was forced to resort to the tire levers. Once armed with levers the battle continued, but it was clear that the tires were going to lose, and after a couple minutes the first tire was mounted! Seating the tires was easy with a floor pump, with such tight tolerance between rim and tire leaving little room for air to escape, and they popped in completely at around 40psi. The internal rim width of 25mm resulted in a nicely shaped tire, perfect for plenty of traction on the trail - only yourself to blame if you lose that front end with these bad boys.

On The Trail

Many may have heard that the best place to save weight is at the wheel. Not being one to run thin, flimsy tires, this often means looking at better wheelsets, but in the past that wasn't all that feasible either, unless you were prepared to ride on a pair of wet noodles. These days there are a lot of good options for strong wheels that come at a reasonable weight, but the M70 wheels are in their own league. They feel as stout, if not more, than a number of downhill wheels ridden in the past, but save hundreds of grams on even more recent trail bike wheelsets. This amounted to great acceleration once the hammer went down on the first climb and when getting on it down flatter sections of trail, but also makes it easier to move the bike around on the trail. It wasn't until we stopped pussyfooting about though that we were really treated to the full extent of the M70's abilities on the trail. Coming into one of the best corners in Squamish, the bike was prepared and loaded up in the corner with everything we had - but were never ready for what happened next. The lateral stiffness in the wheels resulted in the bike being spat out in such an unexpected manner that we ended up running off the trail, and all without any hint of breaking a bead (with 22psi in the rear). A few more rides in and getting familiar with how the wheel feels when placed under full pressure, this is something we don't want to go without.

Another key benefit noticed in the M70s was through rough, chundery sections of trail. The wheels take it all in their stride, extending beyond the propulsion normally experienced off every little backside of trail encountered. This helps incredibly with acceleration through the trail and the more aggressive you get, the more they give back. The ride is smoother, more compliant and more precise than anything else we have experienced from a wheelset, leading you to believe in getting away with more than you probably should try, but often do… hucks and all.

Long Term Durability

We've had absolutely no structural issues with the M70 wheel set, they've been flawless! The most important elements are the ride they provide and the strength and durability, which are all covered by the truckload! As mentioned above, there has been no need to tension any spokes yet and they do nothing but continue to exceed our expectations as we push them harder and further on every ride.

We've heard quite a number of rocks bounce off these hoops but have noticed little more than a bit of damage to the stickers, which are thin at best, so expect this to happen. The main point is that there is no damage to the rims yet with multiple fairly solid rock strikes in recent weeks as the trails have been drying out. The DT hubs that our test set were built on have been solid as well and make for easy maintenance with DT's simple and well thought out internals. We have had issues with bearings dying in DT's earlier than expected recently, but they are fairly simple to replace and besides, the hoops are what you really care about, right?Nevertheless, these wheels exhibit no problems in this department.

Things That Could Be Improved

Not that we've had any issues with spoke tension thus far (which is a really good sign), but if we did, having to take everything apart to twist a spoke half a turn here and a quarter there would be a royal pain! Carbon hoops tend not to have issues with running out of true, but I would imagine that at some point the spokes will need tensioning. You would think that having the ability to give a couple of tweaks to the spokes while the wheel is on the bike, or without taking the tire and rim strip out would be advantageous.

The spoke nipple being internal actually has some sound rationale, with a smaller hole being stronger than a larger one (spoke hole as oppose to nipple) and ENVE adopting a patented technology to create the holes for the spokes and the valve stem. This process sees ENVE mold the holes into the rim during construction rather than drilling through the fibers of the rim after it is built, resulting in completely intact fibers around the rim and in turn adding to the wheel's durability. The potential awkwardness of the internal nipples for many will no doubt be outweighed by the durability and strength afforded by this construction process - they have been for us so far.

A final point - it sounds kind of lame, but when you throw down $2,700 US for a wheelset, you want everything to be dialed, everything. The stickers on the wheels are cheap and thin, tearing and ripping with ease and after 8 weeks use, our rear wheel especially has started to look a little ragged. It's unfortunate they're starting to look this way after such a short period of time and while nothing will stop every bit of damage, a more robust sticker or a different method of getting the graphics on there would keep your expensive wheels looking tight for longer. We can only imagine the thin vinyl is to help keep the weight down, which to be fair, is a far more important selling point.

What's The Bottom Line?

ENVE wheels are lusted over for a reason, they're simply amazing on the trail, adding to the ride in a way we honestly weren't even convinced we would notice. They have added subtleties to the way the bike handles that only increase the experience on the trail, making every ride more fun than the last as you push to see what else can be gotten away with. The M70 wheels are burly, so if you're on a trail bike and are at all nervous about carbon hoops, these may well be the best and most confidence inspiring route to go. They are by no means a budget item, but what's more and more apparent in this day of technology is that you get what you pay for.

For more information visit www.enve.com.


About The Reviewer

AJ Barlas started riding as most do, bashing about dirt mounds and popping off street curbs. Not much has changed, really. These days the dirt mounds have become mountains and the street curbs, while still getting sessioned, are more often features on the trail. He began as a shop monkey racing downhill since day zero, only to go 'backwards' and start riding and racing BMX later on. He then came full circle once moving to Whistler. AJ loves riding everything from 8 hour mountain pass epics (bonking) to lap after lap in the park and 20 minute pumptrack sessions at sunset. Driven by his passion for biking and exposing people to the great equipment we ride, AJ started and maintains the Straightshot MTB blog. So long as wheels are involved, and preferably dirt (the drier and dustier the better), life is good.

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Added a comment about photo Steve Peat's Cairns Anti-Mud Defense 4/25/2014 7:49 PM
C138_peatybike

Its not so much about keeping mud off the seatpost, Mccarver and more about keeping the bike light. The back of the seatpost is directly inline with the rear tire, which will be… you guessed it, slinging sticky mud at it. This will keep the bike closer to normal weight and leave Peaty with more energy. This isn't his first rodeo..

This photo has 10 comments.

Liked a comment on the item Steve Peat's Cairns Anti-Mud Defense 4/25/2014 7:45 PM

since it's not solid, the theory is that it shakes the mud off so it won't build up

Liked a comment on the item Norco's Carbon DH Bike Prototype 4/24/2014 6:10 PM

Clean fork bumper,cable guide, and downtube protector combo.