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Added a product review for Alex Rims EVO 2.3 Rim 5/27/2014 10:19 PM
C138_alex_rims_evo_2.3

Tested: Alex Rims EVO 2.3 Rim

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Steve Wentz

Alex Rims have probably been on your bike before, possibly hidden under another name. Alex has been manufacturing all sorts of hoops for over 20 years, but only recently have I noticed them making a big push with aftermarket rim options. One of the most recent releases is the EVO 2.3 rim, a 23-mm internal width, 455-gram beauty that promises light weight and strength as well. That's a claim that just about every rim in the 450-gram range makes, so lets see if it really holds true for the aluminum EVO 2.3. The rim is made from a proprietary 8,000 series aluminum alloy, said to be near scandium weight but closer to standard 6,000 or 7,000 series pricing.

Alex Rims EVO 2.3 Rim Highlights

  • Intended for trail, all-mountain, and Enduro race use
  • 26", 27.5" and 29" sizes
  • Proprietary 8,000 series aluminum alloy
  • 455-gram weight in the 27.5" size
  • 23-mm internal width
  • Aluminum eyelets
  • Tubeless ready
  • Sleeved joint
  • MSRP: $44.99 USD

Initial Impressions

It should be noted that the EVO 2.3 is available as a rim only. Our test was performed using Novatec hubs, brass nipples, and straight gauge spokes to complete the build. Because the rims were laced up before I received them, there are some things that I'm not quite able to comment on. One of those would be the initial impression of building a wheel with this rim. Some rims are notoriously good and straight right away, and some have a wobble that a builder needs to fix. You wheel builders out there know this well. So while I can't say how it started, the rim was perfectly true and balanced once it got to me. Our wheelset wasn't super light, but surprisingly not a lead balloon either. The rims themselves are competitive in the weight game, especially given their price.

The rim is intended to be a jack of all trades, and is listed as Tubeless Ready. Note that this doesn't mean they include a rim strip or tubeless valve. Alex does sell a kit for the conversion that runs ~$10 per rim. I had a Stan's rim strip in my tool box, and put that in to try it out.

Tubeless was no problem on the Maxxis, Bontrager, and Michelin tires that I swapped between. One problem I did have with the stock (non-tubeless) rim strip occurred when I used it with Maxxis and Michelin tires. The stock rim strip is pretty rough (unlike previous Sun Ringle and Novatec wheelsets I've tested) and seemed to hold the bead of the tire down in a few places. I had to pump up the tires to 70-psi to finally seat them properly. This is not so much of a problem as it is a heads up, as I'd rather a tire be a bit too tight than too loose. I used a little squirt of Simple Green at the rim/tire contact point to help the tire find its home at the edge of the 23-mm internal rim width.

On The Trail

I really enjoyed the feel of this wheelset on my local trails. It is stout, and really inspires confidence. Truth be told, I believe this is more of a matter of wheel build than anything else. The best rim in the world will suffer with flexible spokes and narrow hub flanges. Likewise, a mediocre rim will shine if built by a master wheel builder with good components. This rim was built with straight 2.0mm spokes and wide hub flanges on Novatec hubs, a recipe for a solid, strong wheel. However, just because the rim was secondary in my mind to what was to thank for a very strong, durable wheel, doesn't mean it is without merit. With high spoke tensions, I've seen many a rim suffer cracks and deformation around the eyelets. None of that occurred with the EVO 2.3 rim.

I rode the wheels with 2 sets of tires, a burly set (Michelin Advanced Rock'R front 2.35 at 30 PSI /Michelin Advanced Grip'R rear 2.35 at 32 PSI), and a lightweight set (Maxxis Minion DHF 2.3 with EXO casing at 33 PSI /Bontrager XR3 2.2 with kinda skinny 635 gram casing at 35 PSI). The wheels were ridden around the Truckee/Tahoe area on trails that ranged from fast and smooth to rocky and technical. There were even some early season bike park laps put in at Northstar's notoriously rocky trails. I would try to rail the downhill portions as much as I could, on any trail ride, and that includes my favorite type of riding, hucking my 175-pounds over rock gaps. I came up short a few times when using the Michelin tires on Northstar's tough terrain, but both the burlier casings and early season loam cushioned many of the impacts to some degree. The Michelin tires have close to DH casings, so it wasn't the ugliest of rock case circumstances, but I did get slowed down a bit. The rims showed no signs of damage and have remained essentially dent and ding free to this day.

Long Term Durability

While I didn't expose any glaring shortcomings while riding the wheelset, I wouldn't say it is perfect. I wish the eyelets were brass, and ideally slightly offset. Aluminum has a penchant for cracking under high loads, and isn't as good as brass for a high friction surface. If a wheel is built to be bulletproof, like this one was, there shouldn't be much tweaking needed, and the friction concern I have with aluminum eyelets shouldn't be too much of a problem. The bigger deal to me is the fact that the eyelets are all straight. I'm sure this keeps some manufacturing costs down, but it puts some extra stress at the spoke/nipple area because every spoke has a slight kink when it goes to either side of the wheel.

High tension applications can cause uneven torque on the rim's eyelets and also on the spoke right at the point where it comes out of the nipple. Using a nipple that has a rounded head (like DT's Prolock Prohead or Sapim's Polyax) that allows for some tilt could ease some pressure off the spokes given the EVO 2.3's straight eyelet drilling. Finally, at this price point, I don't expect a welded seam. I believe the EVO's sleeved rim joint works well, and can eliminate some of the separations I've seen with pinned rims. More overlap is a good thing in my mind, and a great way to make a good seam without breaking the bank.

Things That Could Be Improved

Most of this was covered in the long term durability section, but I'll cover it again briefly. If the spoke eyelets were brass, the very slight addition of weight would be a very worthwhile trade-off in my book. Making the spoke eyelets slightly offset can help ease spoke stress as well. I'd also go for a lower profile rim strip, or at least a smooth one to allow tires to slide into place more easily. That's nitpicking really, and those areas of improvement will almost always add up to more cost, ultimately leaving it up to the rider to decide if other offerings are worth the extra investment.

What's The Bottom Line?

The Alex EVO 2.3 is a good rim at a very good price. I'd call the rim average in general, but because the $44.99 retail price is on the lower end of the spectrum and we didn't have any issues, it gets a slightly above average rating. It was really nice to see a pretty strong, decently light rim check almost all my boxes. They are still on my bike, and I look forward to the rims rolling for a good while longer.

Visit www.alexrims.comfor more details.


About The Reviewer

Steve Wentz has always done things and ridden his own way, and he's really happy about that. He grew up in the middle of Southern California and had to build his own trails to ride when he was too young to drive. To make a long story short, that's what he's still doing today, minus the California part. Now he tries to do that everywhere. He has been to every continent except for Antarctica, and has either raced, built trail or been able to ride all over. He loves seeing the world, for better or worse. He has been through ghettos where children beg for pennies, and that really gives perspective to our world where a pair of soft rubber tires costs $150. That being said, he's skidded on those soft rubber tires on so many race courses and trails he can't even count anymore, and he loves it. He'll always ride if he can, and race if he wants, but now he tries to do it with an eye on the course and also an eye to what is practical, what is worth supporting, and what he thinks can benefit the sport as a whole.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Enve Composites Direct Mount Stem 3/11/2014 5:19 PM
C138_enve_direct_mount_stem

Tested: Enve Direct Mount Carbon Stem

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Steve Wentz

I love chocolate chip cookies. The butter, the sugar, the chocolate chips, I don't know how it could get any better. I think one thing I really appreciate is the fact that the best ones tend to be homemade. There is a certain amount of care and love that goes into the best homemade cookies, and that is something that is rarely up for sale. Like those favorite cookies of mine, Enve's new direct mount stem is made in the good ol' US of A. Specifically, it is made in their factory in Ogden, Utah. Luckily for well to do cyclists, Enve's new labor of love is up for sale, and I was fortunate enough to get to try out this homemade masterpiece. It looks good, it is really light, and Enve's strength claims are reassuring. Lets see how it performs in the real world.

Carbon Direct Mount Stem Highlights

  • Material: Full carbon
  • Weight: 117 grams (50mm), 112 grams (60mm)
  • Rise: 20mm (50mm length), 15mm (60mm length)
  • Clamp: 31.8mm
  • MSRP: $340

It seems to me that on paper the biggest highlight is the scant 117 gram weight. It is the lightest direct mount available to my knowledge, and around 50 grams lighter than many competitors. That's a bit over a tenth of a pound, the importance of that weight savings is of course up to you. Enve put this carbon direct mount stem up against other competitors, and it compares favorably strength wise, but without lots of the girth. On their machines, they tested leading bars on the stem, and every bar failed before anything would happen to the stem. The stem is available in 50mm or 60mm lengths. Interestingly, the 60mm weighs less than the 50mm, because the tighter confines of the 50mm means different manufacturing processes have to be used in both.

As mentioned before, this stem is made in the US. That to me is one of the most important highlights. I like knowing I'm supporting US jobs. I happen to make my living as a small business owner, and I try to buy things locally whenever I can, even if it is at a slightly higher price point. That being said, I'm far from a hippie, as I have literally burnt tons of dinosaurs driving all over to ride my bike. But I still think every little bit helps, and we all choose our battles. The largest battle of all with this stem will of course be the price. At $340, I can't say for sure if it is sensible to pay triple what many other quality stems cost in order to save a few grams and support US manufacturing. Enough about the numbers though, I feel it is high time to mount up this beauty and see how it handles in the dirt.

Initial Impressions

The first impression of course is taking the stem out of the box. The no-nonsense cardboard packaging is subtle, simple, and really underscores the marvel that awaits inside. Taking the stem out of the box, it is very apparent that it is light. It is really, really light. I liked the fact that it also looks robust. I'm not a huge fan of direct mount stems that have multiple pieces connected to a faceplate. I've had one bolt come loose before which set off a chain reaction of everything loosening up. That is NOT COOL. While my teeth aren't perfect, I want to keep them, and I don't want to even think about anything going wrong with the front end of my bike. The 50mm Enve stem I tested actually looks slightly similar to the previous stem I had on my bike, the Truvativ Holzfeller. That's a good thing in my mind, because I never had an issue before, and that same robust look instilled a sense of confidence right away. A small bonus point for Enve is the fact that their stem clears steer tube spacers very well. Some stems come so close to the steer tube that they require the use of very thin spacers. Bravo to Enve for leaving a little bit of clearance in this area.

Upon installation, the Enve showed its only flaws. I put the stem on the top clamp of my fork, and put the bolts in. The rearward bolts were no problem but the front pair would not go into the stem. It seemed as though there was a half a millimeter or so of clearance lacking. Before I pushed them in I inspected the bolts, as I thought maybe the faceplate and direct mount bolts were switched, making the tight tolerances an issue. Once I ruled this out, I pushed the bolts a little bit harder, and they went through the stem and were ready for install. Unfortunately, during this process the bolts chipped away a little bit of the paint that was on top of the stem. To tighten the bolts I took out my torque wrench which like many others, uses sockets which attach to 4mm and 5mm allen heads. I set the correct torque (which is conveniently indicated on the stem) and proceeded to tighten the bolts slowly. Here I again encountered a slight issue on the forward pair of bolts. I had to be really careful to orient the torque wrench toward the rear of the bike, because there is so little clearance in the hole that the bolts go through. That robust look of the stem unfortunately made it a royal pain to install bolts using a torque wrench, which in my opinion is the only way to go with a carbon stem. I nicked the side of the stem with the socket 5mm attachment while tightening it to torque, and that created a small paint chip as well.

On the positive side, aside from the good steer tube clearance, the Enve stem also features a grippy texture on the bar clamp area. When I had the bar snug and even before it was torque spec tight, it still felt very solid. I had no worries once installed that the bar would ever slip.

On The Trail

I eventually made it to dirt after all that time spent double-guessing myself. What can be said about a stem's performance? I rode Enve's stem first with my usual Truvativ Holzfeller bar, so I could accurately compare apples to apples and isolate the stem as something new. I've got to say that I couldn't tell a difference in performance with my usual setup. It was as stiff as the last stem I had and there was never a bar slip during the entire testing period. Through mud, snow, rain, dust, no issues. I tried to wrench it in corners, I tried to (and did) over-clear jumps, I screwed up a lot of stuff to try to get a hiccup out of the carbon stem - but it was all for naught, as the stem never flinched.

I double checked the torque specs once and everything had stayed snug. Of course the Enve stem is lighter that my last setup, but I couldn't really tell I was going faster. I also tried the stem with Enve's new Minnaar bar for the ultimate in cockpit envy, and that did provide a bit more damping on the chatter bumps. I have to attribute that to a carbon bar more than the bar/stem combo though.

In the end, this seemingly mundane trail performance from Enve's stem is rather remarkable. For a lot less weight relative to competitors, Enve made a stem that does everything on trail that is needed. It stayed tight, held everything it should have, and never had me doubting its ability to keep me on the trail.

Things That Could Be Improved

If the bolts that came with the stem would have had just a slightly smaller diameter head, the stem would not have had to suffer from slight nicks in the finish. Also, with a little more room for proper torque wrenches, there would not be any marks in the finish from installation. Using 4mm bolts for the faceplate whilst the direct mount bolts are 5mm is another negative in my mind, I'd rather have the same bolt heads for both parts of the stem. Finally, the graphics did not line up perfectly. While all of these issues are essentially cosmetic, I would guess they are very important for riders looking to have the best possible equipment on their bikes, certainly at the price Enve asks for this stem.

Long Term Durability

I have no worries about long term durability. Everything on the stem from a carbon standpoint seems to be unaffected by the slight paint chips. For that reason, I don't see anything in the future that would cause a problem. Were your bike to take a massive tumble and have a chunk taken out of the stem by a rock, then I'd see a very good reason to replace it. However, that could be said of any stem, so I wouldn't fault Enve for that.

What's The Bottom Line?

The issue of the bolts cracking the paint ever so slightly upon installation is a very superficial problem. The issue of my torque wrench and socket adapters not fitting the stem perfectly could be a fluke. I strongly believe my gripe about having 4mm and 5mm bolts on the same stem could be over the top. The added fact that the graphics don't match up perfectly is another questionable complaint. That being said, whenever you make the most expensive product on the market by far, it had better be perfect. It was on the trail. I just wish it was perfect all around. I see no issue with the stem from a performance standpoint. It is a borderline engineering marvel. The only question left to answer is a matter of worth. What is it worth to have a made in the USA stem that is the lightest and one of the strongest? I surely can't answer that for you. Personally, I'll save the gram counting for someone else. Why? Because I eat cookies.

Visit www.enve.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

Steve Wentz has always done things and ridden his own way, and he's really happy about that. He grew up in the middle of Southern California and had to build his own trails to ride when he was too young to drive. To make a long story short, that's what he's still doing today, minus the California part. Now he tries to do that everywhere. He has been to every continent except for Antarctica, and has either raced, built trail or been able to ride all over. He loves seeing the world, for better or worse. He has been through ghettos where children beg for pennies, and that really gives perspective to our world where a pair of soft rubber tires costs $150. That being said, he's skidded on those soft rubber tires on so many race courses and trails he can't even count anymore, and he loves it. He'll always ride if he can, and race if he wants, but now he tries to do it with an eye on the course and also an eye to what is practical, what is worth supporting, and what he thinks can benefit the sport as a whole.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Sun Ringle Charger Pro SL Wheels 7/13/2013 11:33 AM
C138_sunringle_charger_pro_sl_wheels

Tested: Sun Ringle Charger Pro SL Wheelset

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Steve Wentz

You have probably all heard this before, and you will keep hearing it. Great wheels are like magic for your bike. They can make you accelerate better, hold a tough line and they will hopefully also last for a good long while. When the Charger Pro SL wheels from Sun Ringle showed up looking like just the ticket, we were eager to find out if they were up to the task, so into the grinder they went.

Charger Pro SL Wheelset Highlights

  • Stan’s NoTubes™ BST Technology (w/Rim Tape)
  • 27-mm Rim Width
  • 26″/27.5″/29"
  • Premium, Cartridge Bearing, Straight-Pull Hubs
  • Quick Release, QR15, 20-mm Thru-Axle Front Axle Options
  • Quick Release, 135×12, 142×12 Rear Axle Options
  • Wheelsmith Bladed Spokes
  • Wheelsmith Alloy Nipples
  • 24/28/28 spokes (26"/27.5"/29")
  • Cro-Moly Skewers
  • 26″-1550g, 27.5″-1650g, 29"-1700g (based on the lightest possible configuration)
  • MSRP: USD $899.00

I was looking forward to making my bike a little bit lighter, and the Pro SL's were the ticket for that. That ticket is not cheap though, as Sun Ringle's top of the line wheelset retails for $899.00. My Santa Cruz had wheels that were a couple hundred grams heavier on it before the Pro SL's arrived, and out of the box the 1550-gram weight felt downright airy. I rode a regular 26-inch steed for this test, but Sun Ringle offers these in 27.5- and 29-inch versions as well. In addition to the wheel size options, the Pro SL wheelset comes with axle adapters to fit almost any bike out there. 20-mm through axle, QR15 and quick release options were all included, which is nice with all the fork options out there. For the rear, regular quick release, 142x12 and 135x12 axle options were included. The axle options are nice, convenient, and nearly a prerequisite to any wheelset these days, and I was happy to not have to go hunting once I was ready to mount the wheels (15QR/142x12 combo was used for my bike). The wheels also come with four replacement spokes and nipples, which were put to good use after some mishaps I had (more on that later).

The Pro SL's are built with 24 spokes on each wheel (28 spokes are used for the 27.5/29 inch options), with straight pull bladed spokes lacing the cartridge bearing hubs to 27-mm wide rims. The rims have tubeless rim strips installed from the get go, and tubeless valves included with the other spare parts. Even nicer than the valves were two small containers of Stan's sealant for each wheel should you decide to go tubeless. The freehub is surprisingly absent from Sun Ringle's spec sheet, but it worked well and I had no issues throughout my time with the wheels.

On The Trail

Better acceleration, holding a tough line, longevity; desirable traits for sure, but I really like that last attribute. I like wheels that I don't have to touch, because I mess around with suspension and other things enough to make me not want to do regular bike maintenance. Due to the fact that I often neglect wheels, I often think mine are great, great, great, and then somehow they end up dead. I often let wheels get out of tension because I get lazy and think that since they are rolling well today they will be rolling well tomorrow as well. One of those tomorrows often ends up with me walking my bike a long while. Don't get into this habit. It is dangerous and not called for. Check your wheels, stem bolts, seatpost and cranks and you should at least not have anything catastrophic happen on your ride. This isn't about maintenance though, we've got to get back to wheels.

I mounted my cassette, rotors, tires and I was ready to go. There were no issues during installation and I'm happy to report that I even inflated the tubeless rear setup with a floor pump, no compressor needed. I've flatted quite a few rear tires while rocking tubeless because of burping, so I figured I'd try this right away to see if I could get it to budge.

On the trail my bike felt noticeably lighter right away, and I really liked the acceleration the wheels provided. I've run nice and light wheels before, but the Charger Pro SL's are really on the lighter end of the spectrum. However I don't think that the acceleration came just from the weight. My only gripe from the 'regular' Charger wheelset I used two years ago was a lack of stiffness. That has all changed with the Pro SL's. The wheels are incredibly stiff laterally, and every bit of energy used seems go to into forward motion. Cornering felt solid, climbing was great, and I went months without a hiccup. All of these good attributes also made me forget about my worry of burping tires. It never happened, and I've been on the same 2.3 rear tubeless tire my whole time with the wheels. If I were to search for a complaint, it would be the strictly run-of-the-mill engagement of the rear hub. This is a VERY nice wheelset, and everything about it is bordering on best in class unless of course you are considering carbon. The freehub lacks the engagement of a good Hadley, King, Novatec or Industry Nine wheelset however. To some people, this matters a lot. To me, not so much because I'd rather have fewer pawls and make them solid, dependable and not liable to cause me any headaches.

I checked the tension after a month and the wheels were straight, true and only had one small crimp in a rear sidewall from a rock. This is more durable than other wheelsets I've had, and I'd be inclined to think it is thanks to Sun Ringle's high spoke tension on the Charger Pro SL setup. The spoke tension stayed right where it should, and kept the wheels feeling light, stiff and solid throughout my entire time on them. In the end I was pleasantly surprised with the durability of this wheelset. I knew they should feel light, I had heard about the increase in stiffness, but the durability is what really surprised me.

Things That Could Be Improved

If anything could be improved on the Charger Pro SL wheelset I'd point out the hub engagement. I wouldn't complain about this for lower price points, but at $900, there is a lot of good competition. Also, I'd rather not have anything proprietary. I know that many shops now have more straight pull spoke options available, but the buck doesn't stop there. The hubs are proprietary and the rim is as well. If you run low pressure and murder the sidewall, then you can't just rebuild the hubs with an off the shelf rim and spokes. This is a big if, because the wheels have been perfect so far, but is something worth considering.

Long Term Durability

I mentioned being pleasantly surprised by how durable these wheels are. However, they are not indestructible, as I found out one day when I pulled my bike out of my car to discover I had broken a spoke in the front wheel. This did not happen while riding, but just from the bike being in the car and having a hydration pack and my helmet thrown on top of it. It was my own fault for sure, but being packed in a car is also a very normal thing to have happen to a wheel.

I would usually not be worried about a single broken spoke, but with a 24-spoke wheel this is a big deal. Having one spoke missing made such a difference that I couldn't spin the wheel through my fork. I couldn't ride, because I didn't have the spare spokes with me. I returned home and went to replace the spoke. I detensioned the wheel and replaced the spoke, everything came back into true and back to proper tension. It all worked out in the end, but broken spokes and nipples are issues that can arise more with higher and higher spoke tensions. Again, my only bad experience happened when not riding, and after a quick repair that I could do myself everything was all good.

What's The Bottom Line?

Aside from the one broken spoke that was my own fault, the Sun Ringle Charger Pro SL wheels have been perfect. They accelerate, hold a line, they don't need attention and they look pretty good too. I'd expect nothing less from a wheelset that retails for $900. And therein lies my only reason for not giving these wheels a higher rating. It pains me to give this fantastic wheelset only three and a half stars, but I've got to rate these wheels as exactly what I expected - not above. Those 3.5 stars are very bright, and I'd love to rate the wheels higher, but it comes down to the competition. For $900 you can build almost any wheelset you want. You can also buy almost any pre-built wheelset you want as well. Want a custom built bladed spoke Chris King wheelset? It will cost you about the same. Want an off the shelf Mavic or SRAM wheelset? It will be about the same. Want a fantastic custom Hope Pro II hubset with bladed spokes and top of the line aluminum rims? It will cost you lots less. Those wheels are not suggestions, they are merely noted for comparison's sake. With so many good options out there, you, the rider, have lots to think about. The Sun Ringle Charger Pro SL wheelset is great, works well, and will complement any trail bike out there. The next time you are in the market for some awesome hoops, don't count them out.

For more details, visit www.sun-ringle.com.


About The Reviewer

Steve Wentz has always done things and ridden his own way, and he's really happy about that. He grew up in the middle of Southern California and had to build his own trails to ride when he was too young to drive. To make a long story short, that's what he's still doing today, minus the California part. Now he tries to do that everywhere. He has been to every continent except for Antarctica, and has either raced, built trail or been able to ride all over. He loves seeing the world, for better or worse. He has been through ghettos where children beg for pennies, and that really gives perspective to our world where a pair of soft rubber tires costs $150. That being said, he's skidded on those soft rubber tires on so many race courses and trails he can't even count anymore, and he loves it. He'll always ride if he can, and race if he wants, but now he tries to do it with an eye on the course and also an eye to what is practical, what is worth supporting, and what he thinks can benefit the sport as a whole.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for DMR Brendog Vault Pedals 5/18/2013 11:04 PM
C138_dmr_brendog_vault_pedal

Tested: DMR Brendog Vault Pedals

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Steve Wentz

You must know someone like this... a twenty or thirty something woman who just loooooves her shoe collection? She’s got the red ones, the black platforms, the animal print whatevers that look like they belong in the red light district, and 20 others. I really don’t see the need for all those shoes. Logic would say you can only ever wear one pair at a time, and in my mind more than the basics would just be clutter and overindulgence. In the end, we’ve all got our vices. I happen to love flat pedals.

My addiction to nice flat pedals got to be so bad that at one point a couple friends and I became the importers of a pedal that did not have US distribution. Looking back, it would have been much easier to just buy some pedals online and pay $20 shipping from the UK than to spend thousands of dollars on a minimum distribution order. I don’t even like selling stuff. But hey, at least my closet isn’t full of shoes.

So yes, some of us are crazy about our flats. I can also honestly say it is a bad thing at times. Clips can be more efficient, and they have no doubt helped me ride faster through sections of a race track. I’ve also bounced off of flats right when it was a bad time to do so. To a lot of people, that is the end of the discussion, they just can’t stay on the bike. On the racing front, aside from Rennie and Hill’s wins years ago, I don’t remember a flat pedal rider winning the World Cup Overall. I’m certain it hasn’t happened in a while, and I think it will be a LONG time until it happens again.

So why ride a product that pretty much guarantees that you’ll use more energy than the competition, just to stay on your bike? For me, the main reason is pretty simple. I’ve always been a fan of fun on my bike. When racing or riding, I like manuals, jumps, turns, getting sideways and goofing off. Flats remind me that I’m playing, and to not take this riding thing too seriously. As for the smaller reasons, there are a couple. I like the bike reacting to the movements of my feet. It may sound crazy to hear me say I feel disconnected when I’m clipped in, but that is exactly how I feel. If I twist my feet or body and that movement is just taken up in the ‘float’ of a pedal system, then I feel like my inputs are not making a difference. I also like being able to walk around when I get off my bike and not sound like a tap dancer. Not having to worry if I remembered my clip in shoes for a ride is nice too. In the end I’ll give up a second or two in order to never have a mindset of ‘work’ when I’m on my bike. I may be doomed forever with flats, but that’s alright, I accept it.

So now what flats to use? Light? Thin? Strong? Grippy? Lots of companies have good products out there, and all of them have their strengths and weaknesses. I’ve never been able to get over the bulges in the center of lots of super thin pedals. I’ll usually put lots of weight on the ball of my foot, which happens to be exactly where the tallest, smoothest part is on most of those thin pedals. I also fear what will happen when I inevitably do smash something that is marketed as ‘light’ first and foremost on a rock. In the end I want something grippy and strong.

Curiosity got the better of me with DMR’s newest offering, the Brendan Fairclough Signature Edition Vault pedals. DMR says Brendan helped with the design of their Vault pedal, and they gave him this signature black Brendog edition as a thank you. I took interest initially because they are described first and foremost as strong. For any pedal that costs $152, they better be. Upon further inspection, they look very grippy, and are even 17mm thin for those number crunchers out there. 400 grams is a very respectable weight as well. That said, how'd would they perform?

Brendog Vault Pedal Highlights

  • Extruded 6061 Aluminium body and 4140 Cro-mo Steel axles (9/16")
  • 17mm concave foot bed measuring approximately 105mm*115mm
  • High load DU bushing and cartridge bearing
  • 11 pins per pedal - flip the pins to fine-tune grip
  • Aggressive ‘moto’ pins also included
  • 400 grams per pair
  • Matte black color
  • MSRP $152

Initial Impressions

Out of the box the pedals are impressive. Murdered out in flat black, the Brendogs look ready for business. I was so happy to discover that my initial difficulty in removing them from their box was due to the long pins that come stock on the pedals. Bravo to DMR for putting the right pins in for the job. If shorter pins are your cup of tea for dirt jumping, there are enough smaller pins to redo both pedals. There are also a couple spare long pins should you smash the existing ones. Surprisingly, the long pins need an allen wrench for install, and the smaller pins need a proprietary star type wrench. Both wrenches are provided, but it would have been nice to just have one tool for the job.

On The Trail

Lots of bikes, lots of trails, jumping, DH and XC later, I have not killed the Brendogs. I’ve tried, much to the risk of my own health, but the pedals are still ticking minus few chunks missing due to rock strikes. I haven't hit them on rocks many times, though, because they are relatively thin, and the hits that do take place deflect off very well. I would hear the awful sound, that might have put me over the bars on a fatter pedal, but the Brendogs skimmed over everything so far. I’m suspecting so much of that deflection (in a good way) comes from the shape of the pedal.

After doing everything I could to beat them up, the Brendogs are still ready to party.

As you look at the pedal, the wider part is at the front. The Brendogs taper down much thinner at the rear, which translates into less surface area to hit/catch/catapult you when that part of the pedal is facing down and closer to rocks. This is where my only real gripe with the pedals lies. Yeah they skirt rock hits pretty well, and when they do hit, like I said, it has always been a non-issue. However, those positives come at the unfortunate expense of stability. There isn’t a lot of room for your foot to move on DMR’s top of the line offering. Fairly consistently, when riding through a few really rough sections my feet would move, like on any other design. The difference though is that moving off of center on the Brendogs makes me feel way too nervous. When I would weight the outside of my foot after it had moved some, I was putting lots of weight off of the pedal because of where the pedal disappears. Given the crazed, last second nature of DH riding, this simple characteristic made them less confidence inspiring than I would have hoped. If you look at lots of other successful pedals that are actual pedals, they almost all have a wide area for your foot. Easton Flatboys got it right a long time ago. Twentysix, Burgtec and Point1 are in a similarly high price range and provide lots of room for your foot to move around. There are a few at a relatively lower price point that have a stable, large platform like a Truvativ Holzfeller.

I’ve left out some, forgotten others, but the point is that there is a lot of competition with flats these days. With that competition comes a need to make a really good pedal to even compete. DMR has undoubtedly made a really good pedal. Unfortunately this isn’t the best all around pedal I’ve ever used. My only gripe comes when riding DH atop the Brendogs. In the end I just can’t get along with them through the roughest terrain. The grip is good, borderline great when the long pins are installed, the shape deflects impacts, and they are light and have definitely lived up to their claims of strength. But on the gravity side it just comes down to needing more stability and needing more area to move around. Watching the top guys ride, like Hill, Brook, Brendan and others, their feet can be all over the place, and they go for it regardless. I need a little more help compared to them, so I’ve just got to be a little more specific with my pedal choices. To get that confidence I love when riding DH, I’ve got to go wider.

What's The Bottom Line?

In the end, the DMR Brendogs are great. They look good, they are strong, and there are lots of pin options that come standard. The attention to detail looks way better than most and they show no signs of giving up. I’d be proud to have them on my trail bike or dirt jumper. The Brendogs should fit (and exceed) any flat pedal rider’s needs in those applications. But, I’d keep looking if you are searching for the ultimate DH pedal. Like I said before, it isn’t the best at everything, and truthfully nothing is. One tool for the job just doesn’t cut it for me in this instance. I’m sure those girls with closets full of shoes would understand.

For more info, hit up www.dmrbikes.com.


About The Reviewer

Steve Wentz has always done things and ridden his own way, and he's really happy about that. He grew up in the middle of Southern California and had to build his own trails to ride when he was too young to drive. To make a long story short, that's what he's still doing today, minus the California part. Now he tries to do that everywhere. He has been to every continent except for Antarctica, and has either raced, built trail or been able to ride all over. He loves seeing the world, for better or worse. He has been through ghettos where children beg for pennies, and that really gives perspective to our world where a pair of soft rubber tires costs $150. That being said, he's skidded on those soft rubber tires on so many race courses and trails he can't even count anymore, and he loves it. He'll always ride if he can, and race if he wants, but now he tries to do it with an eye on the course and also an eye to what is practical, what is worth supporting, and what he thinks can benefit the sport as a whole.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Avid Elixir CR Hydraulic Disc Brake Set 3/22/2010 7:08 AM
C138_89416660_1266801193

Avid Elixir Brake Review

Rating:

The Good: Amazing power Excellent modulation and 'feel'

The Bad: The brakes spit out some brake dust, but nothing bad about performance at all

Overall: I had Stroker Ace brakes on my DH bike last year, and they were pretty good overall. I get onto these brakes and they were amazing. More power, more modulation and they are lighter. When pulling the lever, the brake gets progressively more powerful. I had to adjust to this for a few days, but now I'm spoiled. Really soft feel at the lever, and good finish work. I'm pleasantly surprised, and that doesn't happen too often with me.

This product has 4 reviews.

Added a product review for RockShox BoXXer World Cup 3/22/2010 6:51 AM
C138_91093390_1266891815

2010 World Cup

Rating:

The Good: Extremely controllable via damping Light for DH forks Exceptional bottom out resistance Air preload offers as many spring rate adjustments as you need.

The Bad: None yet, owned for a couple months only. I would say price, but it is on par with everything else.

Overall: I've ridden the 2010 40 extensively and the new Dorado a few times for comparison. The damping controls are top notch compared to everything else on the market. For the Boxxer, I try to run a bit lower pressure (air preload) and set up the damping to keep the fork from bottoming, and the range is so great that I am only half way into the compression adjustment (low speed). The low and high speed rebound offer more options than any other fork too, so after a couple days of playing with adjustments, I'm pretty set. I'll change it up if a track dictates that.

This product has 2 reviews.

Added a product review for Burgtec Penthouse Flats Mk3 Pedal with Ti Axle 3/18/2010 4:28 AM
C138_97446430_1264741141

I like my pedals like I like my women. Wide.

Rating:

The Good: Strong, stable, not disposable

The Bad: The only thing I don't like was the cost, but I've got my original set from a couple years ago. They look like they went through Afghanistan (and they could probably survive an IED) and I'm stoked they are still just like new functionally despite being beat on lots of rocks.

Overall: I guess at the end of the day I'm stoked that I've got the widest platform out there, and I see some of my buddies with the new 'lightest' thing every year. That's the thing though, they get new stuff every year and it all looks like garbage (as in disposable) to me. I just want my bike to work and my pedals have been at it since 2008. I know they are more baller than anything else out there. I guess it is like having the sleeper car that can smoke the competition. I also don't like having what everyone else has.

This product has 3 reviews.

Added a product review for 2013 Commencal Supreme DH 3/18/2010 4:18 AM
C138_supreme_dh_013

Supreme DH!

Rating:

The Good: Handling, geometry, ride quality. I also like suspension that does not blow through travel. The progressive rate this bike has keeps the pedals off the ground but still corners in a sweet spot so to speak.

The Bad: It isn't the lightest, but that's far less important to me than the handling, which is like gold.

Overall: There is lots of good with this frame, but mostly it comes down to the ride. For me it is a super good race bike in the respect that the closer I am to the limit the better it performs. It is really good on the edge (probably because of the setup I'm running, long and slack) and is reassuring in races.

This product has 1 review.