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Added a product review for VP Components VP-VX Adventure Race Clipless Pedal 6/24/2014 9:21 PM
C138_vpvx7000

Tested: VP VX Adventure Race Clipless Pedal

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Nick Zuzelski

VP Components has grown their VX pedal product line with the new Adventure Race pedal. Aimed at the enduro and gravity crowd, a larger platform offers more support and a larger landing pad for your foot when you clip out and need to get back on the pedals and put down some power as fast as possible. The increased platform is said to match up better with today's gravity and trail shoe designs using a SPD compatible binding design. After throwing these on the trail bike for a few months and getting a fair share of riding, racing and abuse in, we might not ever take them off!

VX VP Adventure Race Highlights

  • Weight - 460g/pair
  • SPD compatible (cleats and hardware included)
  • Aluminum body with full platform for max stability
  • Adjustable release tension
  • Roller and double sealed cartridge bearings
  • Forged, heat treated, CNC machined chromoly steel axle
  • Heat treated steel VX bindings
  • MSRP: $130 USD

Initial Impressions

Setup was easy and painless. After installing the pedals on the bike, I installed the cleats in my trusty Five Ten Hellcats using the provided metal spacer plate initially. After my first ride, I removed the plate and now just have the cleats installed directly against the plastic sole of the shoe for the best feeling setup.

I have been a long time user (when I am not on flats) of the Crankbrothers Mallet series of pedals, and I noticed the differences right away. A consistent engagement/disengagement into and out of the pedal keeps you certain of whether you are clipped in or out. A reassuring mechanical click and your cleat is secured, and a twist of the foot provides a repeatable and consistent release. No guessing games here.

On The Trail

After a few rides, clipping in has never been more easy and consistent. Relying on pure muscle memory, it has become truly second-nature. I have found myself unclipping in tight loose corners and stabbing my foot back in easier than I have ever experienced with any other pedals. The pedal's platform size has been comfortable and left nothing to be desired as far as more foot support goes. Compared to the Crankbrothers Mallet, I also felt like I had more of a predictable pedal surface when I was unclipped and riding on the trail. This might be due to the fact that there is no rotating mechanism in the center of the platform that can roll your foot forward or backwards.

Pedal strikes seem to have decreased thanks to the cleverly shaped profile and perfectly sized platform - not overly big, just right. I can now lay my bike on its side and no pedal contact is made with the ground, with less material showing to snag rocks, roots and ruts in those tight, narrow lines. Even after some enduro race stages that had me pedaling like a mad man through some rocky chunder and smacking the pedals, these are still holding up very well and show no signs of giving up yet.

Things That Could Be Improved

As of now, the pedals have performed great with no negatives to report. A possible material option/upgrade for lighter overall weight could be made available, although this might affect the strength and durability. At 460 grams per pair, these are on the heavier side of the clipless pedal equation, but only by a litte bit.

Long Term Durability

The pedal bearings are just as smooth as they were on day one and the pedals have not needed service nor adjustments. When the day comes that they need some love, the VX's are user-serviceable and VP offers rebuild kits. The provided cleats are also holding up well after hiking rocky transition sections and climbing around Moab and the rocky east coast.

What's The Bottom Line?

VP's VX Adventure Race pedal has exceeded my expectations. This is now my pedal of choice when I want to be clipped in, which seems to be more and more these days after this overwhelmingly positive experience.

For more information, head on over to: www.vpcomponents.com.


About The Reviewer

Nick Zuzelski began riding motocross at a young age, a sport that would eventually lead him to the world of downhill. As a Colorado native, racing downhill, dual slalom, or a chill dirt jump session was never far away, and he eventually worked his way up the ranks to the Pro level. Now residing in Eastern Pennsylvania, he recently changed it up from the Rocky Mountain dust to East Coast loam, world class dirt jumps, and rocks... lots of rocks. If a trail has fast flow and some fun gaps, he is grinning ear to ear and getting after it. Living by the assumption that basically everything feels better with a short stem and wide bars, you can count on him keeping it real with a laid back attitude and flat pedals most of the time. Mechanical Engineer by trade, rider by heart, he enjoys riding it, finding out how it works, and making it better.

This product has 1 review

Added a product review for Fly Racing Freestone Helmet 6/3/2014 9:34 PM
C138_hi_viz

Tested: Fly Racing Freestone Helmet

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Nick Zuzelski

With today's all-capable, aggressive trail bikes, it is becoming more common to leave the DH bike back at home while getting our adrenaline fix on similar terrain at high speeds with these shorter travel steeds and open face helmets. For your head, this means you should probably be looking to maximize the amount of protection offered by your trail lid, as a simple XC helmet may easily be overwhelmed in case of a big crash. Fly Racing has recently entered the MTB game and have now brought the Freestone helmet to the table. Lightweight and breathable, with a long list of features like extended rear profile cranial protection and patented ConeHead Foam Technology to save your dome in case things go bad, the Freestone is set to be a contender as your next favorite trail helmet.

Freestone Helmet Highlights

  • ConeHead Technology crumple foam for impact absorption and energy dissipation featuring dual density foam
  • Deep rear EPS profile for extended crash protection
  • Adjustable moto inspired visor
  • One handed dial fit adjustment
  • 19 vents
  • Ventilated comfort liner with built in bug screen
  • 5 colors, 3 sizes
  • Cushy EVA impact foam on sides and back for comfort and protection.
  • 6 piece shell construction for a unique style and bold look
  • Safety compliance: EN1078-1997 + A1-2005 standards
  • Weight: 317g (Med/Large)
  • MSRP: $109.95 USD

Initial Impressions

Pulling the Blue/Hi-Viz version of the Freestone out of the box, the design, finish and overall looks were solid - this helmet is poppin' fresh. After throwing it on my head, the medium size fit nicely and seemed true to size compared to other brands. I reached for the rear adjustable dial fit knob and gave it a few clicks to perfectly snug the helmet around my head. After testing a pre-production version of this helmet last fall, the fit and padding on the production unit was more refined and very comfortable. It was also nice to have the adjustable visor to get that perfect angle for max trail swagger.

On The Trail

The Freestone has proven to be comfortable from the very first test fitting to the back-end of 5 hour trail epics. Through many rides with the Freestone, the venting and liner kept my head cool and comfortable, even in the heat of southern Utah and the muggy East Coast. As a good proof point of this I often found myself just keeping the helmet on my head during breaks as it doesn't make me feel I am going to overheat or sweat to death.

The extended rear profile that protects the lower rear part of your skull and the ConeHead Technology of the Freestone both add an element of peace of mind; you know that you are wearing something that has been engineered to protect you that little bit extra if you should take that bad tumble. Fortunately, I have not had the chance to test the crashworthiness of this helmet, but on the evidence of the finish and the amount of R&D put into it, I feel it would surely do its job as well as could be expected of an open face piece of head protection.

While riding with a hydration pack, I do notice occasional contact between the extended rear profile of the helmet and top of the pack, especially while standing during rough sections of trail since your head is tilted back more during this position. While no major interference was caused, there did seem to be the occasional need to push back the helmet as it tips forward over time. This slight contact seems to also sometimes bump the helmet's dial fit adjustment and cause it to loosen, and I sometimes find myself re-adjusting the dial on climbs or during breaks to get that proper secure fit back. This only occurs while riding with a pack, and will of course depend on your riding position and the profile of your pack.

Things That Could Be Improved

As mentioned above, the Freestone's dial fit adjustment knob could probably use more resistance to keep the fit more secure in the event that it makes contact with your hydration pack.

Long Term Durability

So far, the Freestone has stood up to all the riding, traveling and abuse I can throw at it. The liner is removable and washable and seems to be holding up well. I would suggest hand washing the liner as sometimes the washing machine can be a little rough on these. In all, this helmet should be in it for the long haul.

What's The Bottom Line?

Fly has come out swinging with their new Freestone. Packed full of features and style, the Freestone keeps you cool on the trail and protected when things go bad - and the price is right too. If you are in the market for a new trail helmet that raises the bar on the standard open face protection, the Freestone should be on your short list.

Visit www.flyracing.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

Nick Zuzelski began riding motocross at a young age, a sport that would eventually lead him to the world of downhill. As a Colorado native, racing downhill, dual slalom, or a chill dirt jump session was never far away, and he eventually worked his way up the ranks to the Pro level. Now residing in Eastern Pennsylvania, he recently changed it up from the Rocky Mountain dust to East Coast loam, world class dirt jumps, and rocks... lots of rocks. If a trail has fast flow and some fun gaps, he is grinning ear to ear and getting after it. Living by the assumption that basically everything feels better with a short stem and wide bars, you can count on him keeping it real with a laid back attitude and flat pedals most of the time. Mechanical Engineer by trade, rider by heart, he enjoys riding it, finding out how it works, and making it better.

This product has 1 review

Added a product review for Loaded Precision AMX Signature CroMo Flat Pedal 11/18/2013 9:24 PM
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Tested: Loaded Precision AMX Signature CroMo Flat Pedal

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Nick Zuzelski

There are two crucial points of control you have with your bike - your hands, and your feet. Loose either by accident and it's usually not pretty. If you are one of the many riders out there running flats, you know that flat pedal design has recently evolved towards a thinner, sleeker, and wider platform with plenty of pins to keep your feet glued on at all times. Loaded Precision's latest offering, the new AMX Signature pedals, fall into this category and our feet were excited to take them on a date to see what kind of trouble the two of them could get into.

AMX Signature CroMo Pedal Highlights

  • Material: Alloy Body, CroMo Spindle
  • Platform Size: 100mm(W) x 110mm(L) x 12.9mm(H)
  • Bearings: 6x Sealed Bearings
  • Colors: Black, Gray, Silver, Gold, Red, Green Blue
  • Narrow Q factor design
  • Price: $139.99
  • Weight: 326g (without pins)

Initial Impressions

Loaded offers these pedals in enough colors to keep the custom color themed bike freaks happy. Being a bit more low key, I ran the anodized black set to keep things on the stealthy side. I have been a flat pedal rider for a long time and have a stack of platforms in the garage that have seen their days on the trails. I was initially surprised by the low weight of the AMX's as I unpacked them and that sent me off to rummage through my collection - lo and behold, these are now the lightest ones I have. (Editor's note: there is a titanium axle version available for those who want to go even lighter).

The thin profile (12.9mm thick) and large platform are very noticeable when you first see the pedal on your cranks. The rectangular platform shape gives these pedals a simple but pleasing look. Some of the newer pedals out there seem to look more like a spaceship, but Loaded kept it classy with this design. Sporting 10 pins per side, things in the grip department also seemed solid. The time had come to go find out how all this would translate to performance where it matters.

On The Trail

After throwing these on my bike and lacing up the trusty Five Tens, I hit the trail. I immediately felt comfortable with the support and feel of the larger platform. This is not only due to the size and shape of the platform itself, but also the pin placement. The 10 pins per side are all located along the perimeter of the platform, which provides a pronounced concave feel and also gives a lot of grip. Most flats I have ridden feature a few pins in the center of the pedal. That was definitely not a feature I missed as I quickly got used to the more concave feel of these perimeter pins and the grip and controlled adjustability this configuration gives your feet while riding.

The thinner profile as well as the narrower Q factor of the AMX pedals were more noticeable than I would have thought. The slight clearance gained by the thinner pedal seemed to help avoid rock strikes during technical rides. The narrower Q factor was also noticeable, not in regards to pedaling feel, but again in regards to avoiding rock strikes. These pedals don't stick out to the sides (laterally) as much as most pedals, which meant I didn't tend to hang up as frequently in technical sections where rocks can easily grab/scrape/smash the sides of your pedals. Always a plus in my book when you get through the rough stuff with as little contact as possible.

Loaded's AMX Signature Pedal moves the outer platform point inboard approximately 0.5-inches compared to the Shimano Saint pedals. That's a total of 1-inch narrower and has led to a noticeable decrease in rock contact on sniper lines.

Things That Could Be Improved

This is a common beef with almost all pedals out there these days, but it is still a noteworthy issue: removal of damaged pins. Since the pins on the these pedals are threaded through the platform from the opposite side, any damaged pins must be threaded back through the platform material to be removed. If you have ever tried this with severely damaged pins you know the pain. Even if you cut the pin flush using a Dremel, you can still ruin the threads in the platform if the pin is really mangled.

Another downside is that no extra pins are sent with the pedals, which means you'll be scrambling to order replacements when you start breaking them. At $139.99 for a pair of pedals, a few spare pins wouldn't seem entirely out of place.

Long Term Durability

It's been a few months, and so far, these pedals have held up remarkably well. The bearings are still smooth and have not developed any play or slop. Scratching and wear from various impacts are as to be expected, but it is also worth pointing out again that these pedals have seen a bit less abuse thanks to their low profile and narrow Q-factor.

What's The Bottom Line?

If you are in the market for new thin flat pedals, the AMX Signatures should make your shortlist. Pricing-wise, you can find cheaper pedals, and you can find more expensive pedals, but in terms of features and performance, these definitely offer value for money. With ample real estate and featuring perimeter pin placement for a great feeling pedal, your feet will be the last thing you think about the next time you go charging through a rough section.

Visit www.loadedusa.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

Nick Zuzelski began riding motocross at a young age, a sport that would eventually lead him to the world of downhill. As a Colorado native, racing downhill, dual slalom, or a chill dirt jump session were never far away, and he eventually worked his way up the ranks to the Pro level. Now residing in Eastern Pennsylvania, he recently changed it up from Rocky Mountain dust to East Coast loam, world class dirt jumps, and rocks... lots of rocks. If a trail has fast flow and some fun gaps, he is grinning ear to ear and getting after it. Living by the assumption that basically everything feels better with a short stem and wide bars, you can count on him keeping it real with a laid back attitude and flat pedals most of the time. Mechanical Engineer by trade, rider by heart, he enjoys riding it, finding out how it works, and making it better.

This product has 2 reviews

Added a product review for Zoic Antidote Riding Shorts 7/6/2013 6:53 AM
C138_antidoteplaid_whitesquare_left

Tested: Zoic Guru Jersey and Antidote Shorts

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Nick Zuzelski

San Diego-based clothing company Zoic has been in the industry for nearly 20 years. Boasting a grassroots, organic brand, the company has some new threads to show off for 2013, and recently sent over one of their new kits to get some ride time on.

Antidote Shorts Highlights

  • Detachable RPL Essential Liner with ZO-Tech chamois pad
  • Outer shell constructed of abrasion resistant nylon
  • Stretch fabric inseam panels
  • Integrated Air Flow mesh ventilation panels across the back and down legs, as well as zippered inseam ventilation
  • Microfiber sunglass wipe secured with elastic strap inside pocket
  • Locking zippers stay shut while you ride
  • Taped seams provide an ultra smooth, non-chafing, durable surface
  • Tagless labels eliminate itching and irritation
  • 14" inseam
  • Sizes S, M, L, XL, XXL, and XXXL
  • Seven color options
  • MSRP $99 to $109

Antidote Shorts On The Trail

The first thing I look for when deciding on riding shorts is the inseam fit. Too short and they might as well go in the trash. Featuring a comfortable inseam length and relaxed fit, you don't feel like you are running a pair of Larry Bird's retro basketball shorts. These passed the test with a proper all-mountain cut and fit. The leg openings were big enough to accommodate knee pads when the day's riding called for extra protection, but didn't seem overly baggy. I have been riding the Antidotes for a few months now, and they have proven to be an excellent short.

Staying cool was definitely on the top of the list when the Antidotes were designed. Featuring seven vented panel sections (the two inner thigh vents are opened with a zipper), the shorts are very breathable in warm weather riding. The durable but thin abrasion resistant nylon material feels light and breathable as well.

The waist band uses two Velcro adjusters on the left and right hip and has an elastic stretch section on the back of the waist, so dialing in that perfect fit was easy. This kept the shorts in place and stopped them from slipping down during rides. The removable chamois is extremely comfortable as well, and can be snapped into the shorts using the two small fabric loops on the waist. The chamois also features breathable construction with an all-mesh fabric design furthering the breathability of the short/chamois design.

The Antidote shorts have four pockets - two standard left and right top access pockets on the upper thigh and two zippered side pockets (one has a headphone cord slit if you are running your music).

Guru Jersey Highlights

  • Loose fit with full length sleeves
  • Mock V-neck with elastic piping at front
  • Two "Gunslinger" side pockets with flat finish zippers
  • Right pocket features internal headphone cable slit
  • Zip tech pocket on left sleeve also has headphone cable slit
  • Tagless neck label
  • 100% recycled polyester
  • Sizes S, M, L, and XL
  • Four color options
  • MSRP $64

Guru Jersey On The Trail

Featuring long sleeves, this is an easy choice on the cooler days - but don't count the Guru out of warm weather riding altogether. Featuring large vented panels under both arms and light breathable fabric, this jersey does noticeably better in the cooling department than your standard full length jersey. I found the sizing to be more of a "fitted" feel, which was welcomed after the larger beer gut cuts some companies are pumping out these days. In fact, for my taller, thin build, I can't think of a jersey with a better fit. Take note clothing companies! The sleeves are perfect length and run down to my gloves or pull up mid forearm and stay put with the elastic cuff when you want to stay cooler.

Two pockets are located under the arms by the ribs with small zippers. I never have used them to date, but are there should you feel the need to stash some small items like lenses, food, etc.

What's The Bottom Line?

Honestly, Zoic wasn't even on my radar when I got the chance to test this kit. It took a few rides with the new threads to realize that they were giving my previous go-to riding gear a run for their money. If you are looking for a comfortable, functional pair of shorts and a jersey, check out the Zoic Antidotes and Guru - you might be surprised how they become one of your favorites.

For more info, check out www.zoic.com.


About The Reviewer

Nick Zuzelski began riding motocross at a young age, a sport that would eventually lead him to the world of downhill. As a Colorado native, racing downhill, dual slalom, or a chill dirt jump session was never far away, and he eventually worked his way up the ranks to the Pro level. Now residing in Eastern Pennsylvania, he recently changed it up from the Rocky Mountain dust to East Coast loam, world class dirt jumps, and rocks... lots of rocks. If a trail has fast flow and some fun gaps, he is grinning ear to ear and getting after it. Living by the assumption that basically everything feels better with a short stem and wide bars, you can count on him keeping it real with a laid back attitude and flat pedals most of the time. Mechanical Engineer by trade, rider by heart, he enjoys riding it, finding out how it works, and making it better.

This product has 1 review

Added a product review for Zoic Guru Riding Jersey 7/6/2013 6:39 AM
C138_guru_blue_right

Tested: Zoic Guru Jersey and Antidote Shorts

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Nick Zuzelski

San Diego-based clothing company Zoic has been in the industry for nearly 20 years. Boasting a grassroots, organic brand, the company has some new threads to show off for 2013, and recently sent over one of their new kits to get some ride time on.

Antidote Shorts Highlights

  • Detachable RPL Essential Liner with ZO-Tech chamois pad
  • Outer shell constructed of abrasion resistant nylon
  • Stretch fabric inseam panels
  • Integrated Air Flow mesh ventilation panels across the back and down legs, as well as zippered inseam ventilation
  • Microfiber sunglass wipe secured with elastic strap inside pocket
  • Locking zippers stay shut while you ride
  • Taped seams provide an ultra smooth, non-chafing, durable surface
  • Tagless labels eliminate itching and irritation
  • 14" inseam
  • Sizes S, M, L, XL, XXL, and XXXL
  • Seven color options
  • MSRP $99 to $109

Antidote Shorts On The Trail

The first thing I look for when deciding on riding shorts is the inseam fit. Too short and they might as well go in the trash. Featuring a comfortable inseam length and relaxed fit, you don't feel like you are running a pair of Larry Bird's retro basketball shorts. These passed the test with a proper all-mountain cut and fit. The leg openings were big enough to accommodate knee pads when the day's riding called for extra protection, but didn't seem overly baggy. I have been riding the Antidotes for a few months now, and they have proven to be an excellent short.

Staying cool was definitely on the top of the list when the Antidotes were designed. Featuring seven vented panel sections (the two inner thigh vents are opened with a zipper), the shorts are very breathable in warm weather riding. The durable but thin abrasion resistant nylon material feels light and breathable as well.

The waist band uses two Velcro adjusters on the left and right hip and has an elastic stretch section on the back of the waist, so dialing in that perfect fit was easy. This kept the shorts in place and stopped them from slipping down during rides. The removable chamois is extremely comfortable as well, and can be snapped into the shorts using the two small fabric loops on the waist. The chamois also features breathable construction with an all-mesh fabric design furthering the breathability of the short/chamois design.

The Antidote shorts have four pockets - two standard left and right top access pockets on the upper thigh and two zippered side pockets (one has a headphone cord slit if you are running your music).

Guru Jersey Highlights

  • Loose fit with full length sleeves
  • Mock V-neck with elastic piping at front
  • Two "Gunslinger" side pockets with flat finish zippers
  • Right pocket features internal headphone cable slit
  • Zip tech pocket on left sleeve also has headphone cable slit
  • Tagless neck label
  • 100% recycled polyester
  • Sizes S, M, L, and XL
  • Four color options
  • MSRP $64

Guru Jersey On The Trail

Featuring long sleeves, this is an easy choice on the cooler days - but don't count the Guru out of warm weather riding altogether. Featuring large vented panels under both arms and light breathable fabric, this jersey does noticeably better in the cooling department than your standard full length jersey. I found the sizing to be more of a "fitted" feel, which was welcomed after the larger beer gut cuts some companies are pumping out these days. In fact, for my taller, thin build, I can't think of a jersey with a better fit. Take note clothing companies! The sleeves are perfect length and run down to my gloves or pull up mid forearm and stay put with the elastic cuff when you want to stay cooler.

Two pockets are located under the arms by the ribs with small zippers. I never have used them to date, but are there should you feel the need to stash some small items like lenses, food, etc.

What's The Bottom Line?

Honestly, Zoic wasn't even on my radar when I got the chance to test this kit. It took a few rides with the new threads to realize that they were giving my previous go-to riding gear a run for their money. If you are looking for a comfortable, functional pair of shorts and a jersey, check out the Zoic Antidotes and Guru - you might be surprised how they become one of your favorites.

For more info, check out www.zoic.com.


About The Reviewer

Nick Zuzelski began riding motocross at a young age, a sport that would eventually lead him to the world of downhill. As a Colorado native, racing downhill, dual slalom, or a chill dirt jump session was never far away, and he eventually worked his way up the ranks to the Pro level. Now residing in Eastern Pennsylvania, he recently changed it up from the Rocky Mountain dust to East Coast loam, world class dirt jumps, and rocks... lots of rocks. If a trail has fast flow and some fun gaps, he is grinning ear to ear and getting after it. Living by the assumption that basically everything feels better with a short stem and wide bars, you can count on him keeping it real with a laid back attitude and flat pedals most of the time. Mechanical Engineer by trade, rider by heart, he enjoys riding it, finding out how it works, and making it better.

This product has 1 review

Added a comment about product review Tested: Shimano Zee Disc Brakes - Affordable Power 5/19/2013 12:18 PM
C50_91001400_1272558654

I have been riding the new XT brakes on my trail bike the past few months, and they are going to be pretty similar to the new SLXs you are asking about. The Zee's are quad piston DH brakes designed for DH and freeride, while the SLX/XT brakes are for trail and XC and feature dual pistons. I would personally recommend the XT/SLX brakes for your trail riding as the Zee brakes are probably overkill on your trail bike.

0 0 0

This product_review has 3 comments.

Added a product review for Race Face Charge Leg Guards 5/13/2013 6:08 PM
C138_race_face_charge_leg_guards

Tested: Race Face Charge Leg and Arm Guards

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Nick Zuzelski

A common dilemma facing many riders is the pad situation when throwing a leg over their all-mountain bike. Who wants to run heavy, bulky downhill pads while they grind to the top of a fun descent? Then again, who wants to deal with cut up knees/elbows if things get a little too crazy on the way down? As a solution to the dilemma, Race Face has introduced the Charge Leg and Charge Arm Guards. They took a very minimalist approach with the guards by offering a thin layer of defense while maintaining maximum comfort and flexibility.

Charge Guard Highlights

  • Stretch mesh sleeve with second skin, minimal fit with targeted coverage
  • Foam panel impact zone with stretch Kevlar cover for shred proof durability
  • Silicone gripper along inner top opening ensures 'stay-put' fit
  • Silicone patch on shin of leg guard eliminates slippage
  • Flatlock comfort seam finish
  • Sizes XS through XXL, ensuring a perfect fit for everyone
  • Black color only
  • MSRP $53.99 (Legs) and $36.99 (Arms)

On The Trail

Using the Race Face fit chart as a guide, my leg and arm measurements landed right in between two sizes. Given that these are meant to fit snuggly and stretch over the knee and elbow, I decided to size down. This ended up being a good choice since these guards are designed to stay in place using the tension of the material, so getting a size too big would basically render the guards much less useful. The smaller option seemed to fit like a glove with more of a compression sleeve type of fit.

Once on, the overall comfort was very noticeable. Flexibility was still 100%, the material felt great, and I could hardly tell that there was any stitching internally.

As advertised, "second skin" is the best way to describe the padding - they're quite minimalist, especially when compared to your usual knee and elbow pads. The Leg Guards feature an approximately 1/8-inch thin foam insert that covers your knee and extends down to your mid to upper shin, providing quite a bit of coverage. The mesh extends a few inches up to your lower quad (almost to your riding chamois). The Arm Guards feature the same thin insert around your elbow area. Both guards have a durable Kevlar material over the top of the padded area, and it seems like it's made for the long haul. The surrounding mesh material breathes quite well, although you are still going to be warmer than if you were riding without them. Nevertheless, these are a big step closer to all-day comfort compared to your typical downhill pads. They rarely bunch behind the knee, and if they do it doesn't cut off circulation unlike many alternatives currently on the market.With the help of the silicon anti-slip treatment around the openings, they've stayed in place and I haven't had any issues with the guards slipping down.

While very thin, the guards do seem to take the edge off. Although I've had no proper rag dolling or huge get offs while wearing these guards yet (and hope to keep it that way), there were a few instances where having the Charge Guards on helped - mostly little impacts on pedals, branches, handlebars, etc. That "second skin" seemed to give enough of an extra buffer to prevent any minor injuries. That said, don't count on them to prevent major injuries should things go really wrong - they simply aren't thick enough, nor did Race Face intend for them to take any big hits. For someone that previously rarely wanted to wear pads of any variety while on my trail bike, though, they fit the bill well.

As an added benefit, I've found these to be awesome when temperatures drop. On colder days I find myself purposely grabbing the Charge Guards for more warmth on the legs. They are extremely comfortable while pedaling and offer more warmth to those tendons and ligaments when the temperatures outside are less than ideal.

What's The Bottom Line?

If you're looking for a little bit of protection on your trail and all-mountain rides, the Race Face Charge Guards are a great solution. They fit well, are comfortable, breathe well, don't restrict movement, and stay put - all necessary qualities for a good set of knee guards made to pedal in. They also offer a little extra warmth on cold days. We all push it just a bit too hard sometimes and the Charge Guards will help keep you from getting scratched up.

For more details, visit www.raceface.com.


About The Reviewer

Nick Zuzelski began riding motocross at a young age, a sport that would eventually lead him to the world of downhill. As a Colorado native, racing downhill, dual slalom, or a chill dirt jump session was never far away, and he eventually worked his way up the ranks to the Pro level. Now residing in Eastern Pennsylvania, he recently changed it up from the Rocky Mountain dust to East Coast loam, world class dirt jumps, and rocks... lots of rocks. If a trail has fast flow and some fun gaps, he is grinning ear to ear and getting after it. Living by the assumption that basically everything feels better with a short stem and wide bars, you can count on him keeping it real with a laid back attitude and flat pedals most of the time. Mechanical Engineer by trade, rider by heart, he enjoys riding it, finding out how it works, and making it better.

This product has 2 reviews

Added a product review for Shimano M640 Zee Hydraulic Disc Brakes 5/13/2013 9:57 AM
C138_shimano_zee_brakes

Tested: Shimano Zee Disc Brakes - Affordable Power

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Nick Zuzelski

Arguably the biggest star of Shimano's Zee lineup is the brake, which offers riders many of the same technology advancements and features of their big brother Saint. Luckily for us, Zee brakes come at a pretty substantial cost savings of about $140 per pair over Saint.

Zee Brake Highlights

  • Servo wave lever pivot
  • Shorty levers
  • High rigidity ceramic pistons for heat insulation
  • Anti-slip dimpled lever blade
  • Radiation fin pad with new metallic compound to improve control and consistency
  • Super stiff high-power 3-layer brake hose for a more consistent lever feel
  • One-way bleed for easy and clean servicing
  • 4-piston caliper
  • 160/180/203mm rotor options
  • Approximately 320g per brake
  • MSRP $249.99 per brake

Coupled with Shimano's ICE Tech finned 203mm rotors (sold separately), these 4-piston brakes have everything going for them as far as heat dissipating technology and raw stopping power goes - something every downhill enthusiast can appreciate while pinned at race pace down a steep course. One quick glance at the unique pads with radiation cooling fins is evidence enough that great measures were taken to reduce a brake's worst enemy - performance killing heat.

Initial Impressions

Provided you don't ride a downhill tandem, there is plenty of hose length provided on the pre-bled setup for any bike frame. Rather than run a spaghetti mess of cables in front of my bars, I immediately trimmed the lines shorter for aesthetics. Shimano provides extra hardware for this with every brake so there are no excuses not to. I was able to get away without bleeding the brakes by being very careful. If desired, Shimano's new bleed process is a piece of cake.

Installation of the levers was a breeze and did not require removal of the grips since the clamp hinges open for quick install/removal of the lever. The rotors also mounted up very quickly using Shimano's Center Lock design on the Zee hubs - a design I am growing very fond of after doing a fair bit of airline travel, forcing me to do frequent teardowns/rebuilds of my bike. Time is money my friends, and simple things like this streamline otherwise tedious processes.

After mounting up the brakes, and grabbing hold of the bars, I was immediately impressed by the new compact levers. They feel great with one finger, offer a comfortable lever bend, hold your finger tip securely, and pull in smoothly to pad contact. Squeezing the brake tightly with one finger, there is no lever contact with the thumb or other fingers. The perch also appeared to be stiff with no noticeable flex when pulling hard, likely because the lever is so short. After adjusting the reach (note that there's no tool-free reach adjustment on these, so bust out your trusty allen wrench) it was all systems go and time for some abuse.

On The Trail

Before the first run I broke in the new pads. After just a few full stops could feel the incredible power and modulation building. Once on the trail, it quickly became clear how light and effortless the one-fingered activation of the brakes was. Given how quickly they activated when compared to the brakes was previously running, I actually needed a bit of mental readjusting to feel completely comfortable with the new characteristics. That said, it was a change I was happy to learn. After a few more runs and with speeds picking up, braking once again became second nature and I was pumped on the added power the Zee brakes offered. I could get LOTS of power, fast, which is crucial given the last second nature of downhill riding and racing.

Halfway down the rocky trail I was shuttling was a fairly slick, muddy section with a few corners and key braking points. It was a perfect place to truly test how well these babies modulated. To my surprise, I was easily able to keep my traction and control my bike through the grease. They aren't what I'd call "touchy," and instead offer plenty of usable power without causing the bike to break loose.

Being extremely picky about my bike set up, I was expecting to have to adjust the lever reach at least once throughout the day. Much to my surprise, no adjustment was needed - in fact I have barely adjusted them in the several months since. That said, it still would be nice to have a tool-free reach adjustment offered on these just in case. After dozens of days of ride time, the brakes are still running strong and haven't needed a bleed or any service since I first installed them. I also haven't felt the need for the added free-stroke adjustment found on the pricier Saint brakes.

In dry conditions, rotor noise is pretty much non-existent. In the wet, a very slight howl sometimes happens at slow speeds, but only for a split second - likely long enough to clean the water from the rotor. Shimano chalks this achievement up to improved pad compounds.

Speaking of pads, Shimano brought a number of improvements from their Saint brake to Zee in the name of better heat management, including an optional finned pad upgrade. The technology improvements havebeen noticeable on the trail and brake fade has not been an issue, even at the bottom of a long, steep trail that's notorious for burning up brakes. Pad wear has also slowed down as the resulting temperature decrease is easier on the materials, so expect to enjoy less frequent pad purchases.

The finned pads occasionally make a very slight but audible jiggling noise on smooth trails. Pulling the brake levers a small amount stops the noise. Some riders will notice this, others won't. To me it isn't much of a bother.

What's The Bottom Line?

Power and modulation often times don't go together in the same sentence. Shimano's Zee brakes certainly don't adhere that statement, instead offering both power and modulation in a very usable package. I really appreciate that Shimano was able to bring the cutting edge technology found in the high-end Saint brakes down to a price point that doesn't put a major hurt on your wallet. The new Zee brakes have proven to be a strong performer and they'll be staying on my ride for some time to come.

For more about the race-ready Zee lineup, cruise over to www.crusheveryline.com.


About The Reviewer

Nick Zuzelski began riding motocross at a young age, a sport that would eventually lead him to the world of downhill. As a Colorado native, racing downhill, dual slalom, or a chill dirt jump session was never far away, and he eventually worked his way up the ranks to the Pro level. Now residing in Eastern Pennsylvania, he recently changed it up from the Rocky Mountain dust to East Coast loam, world class dirt jumps, and rocks... lots of rocks.If a trail has fast flow and some fun gaps, he is grinning ear to ear and getting after it. Living by the assumption that basically everything feels better with a short stem and wide bars, you can count on him keeping it real with a laid back attitude and flat pedals most of the time. Mechanical Engineer by trade, rider by heart, he enjoys riding it, finding out how it works, and making it better.

This product has 2 reviews

Added a product review for Easton EC70 Trail 26-inch Wheelset 2/28/2013 9:42 AM
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Tested: Easton EC70 Trail Wheelset - Carbon for the Masses

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Nick Zuzelski

Carbon wheels are all the rage as of the past few seasons, but with their high cost, it's still a commodity seen more often on factory pro level bikes and in the wish lists of your everyday rider. Easton kept that in mind while creating the all new EC70 Trail Wheelset, trying to come up with a new price point offering for the trail riding enthusiast. I've been putting these wheels through some all-mountain abuse the past few months and it's time to fill you in on how they've performed.

EC70 Trail Highlights

The EC70s roll on Easton's proven M1 hubs. Featuring 24 straight-pull double-butted spokes per wheel, the wheels feel amazingly light when you grab them out of the box - scary light. Tipping the scales at a claimed 1,355 grams for the set, your trail bike will most likely be on a diet with these. The carbon rims feature a 20mm inner width, and carry a taller "squared" profile from a cross sectional view. Coming in a stealth, all-black look with a matte black carbon finish on the rims, the color scheme keeps things simple but oh-so sexy. Easton's attention to detail and quality is very apparent when you come in close for a better look at the wheels. The front hub is adaptable to run 9x100QR or 15mm axles while the rear is adaptable to 10x135QR or 12x135/142mm configurations.

The EC70 wheels are made without using Easton's Armored Ballistics Composite (ABC) that is used on their other carbon offerings, such as the Carbon Havens. From what I was told, ABC is specifically designed to withstand sharp impacts. Actually, it's designed to withstand bullets. Doing without the ABC material allows a significant price break on the EC70 wheels, but they still offer rim strength on the same level as the competition, according to Easton.

Wheelset Specs

  • Finish: Matte Ud Carbon Rim, Black Ano Hub
  • Wheelset Weight: 1355g
  • Type: Clincher - Non Ust
  • Rim Material: EC70 Carbon
  • Rim Width: 20mm Internal / 25.5mm External
  • Spokes: 24 Straight Pull - Double Butted Black Laced 3X
  • Nipple Type: Easton Alloy
  • Hub Types: M1 / 6 Bolt Disc
  • Front Axle Size: 9x100QR, 15x100
  • Rear Axle Size: 10x135QR, 12x135/142
  • Bearing Type: Sealed Cartridge
  • MSRP: $1800

On The Trail

After mounting up a set of 2.35-inch Schwalbe Hans Dampfs on my carbon Nomad, I immediately started putting these wheels through the paces on some more aggressive terrain. Coming from a DH racing background and weighing 185-pounds, I tend to ride a little more aggressively than the standard XC lycra clad welterweight, so I was interested to see how these wheels would hold up to some of my punishment.

I had an immediate dislike for the front hub's incompatibility with a 20mm front axle. With almost all the bases covered for common trail bike hub formats, the inability to run a 20mm axle was a pretty big letdown for me, especially since I'm still running a FOX 36 fork due to stiffness preferences. With a rather expensive custom 20 to 15mm adapter in place, down the trail I went...

The first thing you can notice with these wheels is the near silent rear hub with very precise engagement. If you are running a clutched rear derailleur, you are going to have one hell of a quiet whip. Freehub engagement has been completely free of skipping and popping, and the sealed bearings are still silky smooth after all the mud, dust, and water I can throw at them.

Another attribute I noticed was a faster/easier acceleration on the trail thanks to the lack of rotating mass. While slight, the light feeling really seemed to make the bike feel snappier while pedaling out of corners and sprinting. Always a plus in my book.

After getting some miles in, I decided to convert these wheels to tubeless using a conversion kit. Unfortunately the wheels aren't tubeless compatible out of the box. Regardless, the conversion was easy and I have not had any issues since. The tire beads are seating nicely and I haven't had to worry about tubes since - no more pinch flats = more time for shredding.

I ride lots of rocky and rooty terrain on the East Coast, a place where a strong wheel can shine and a weak one will consistently knock you offline due to excessive lateral flex. Simply put, my bike stayed in the path I chose (no matter how terrible of a line choice). They kept me tracking straight with no noticeable excess flex while navigating through the chunder. The carbon rims offer a solid and quiet ride quality while charging through the rough stuff, and it's quite noticeable - giving a feeling of a more damped and "plastic" rim than a ringing and pinging aluminum hoop. The rims have stayed amazingly true and held up great while trail riding.

In the spirit of "all-mountain" riding, which includes riding my Nomad a little recklessly, I put the wheels through more of a torture test than most would. Why not ride for a bit at the local freeride trails? I eventually tempted fate and smashed the rear wheel on a sizable double with a fairly sharp (and rock-solid) dirt case point. After casing that hard I was expecting to look down and see a taco-ed wheel ripping apart my drivetrain, but instead the rim had cracked, showed a small line of broken fibers, and was still almost perfectly true. Rather than risk a full wheel blow up by continuing to jump, I called the day short and rode back to the truck. Reflecting on past experiences, I can say that an equivalent aluminum rim would have had me carrying my bike back rather than riding. No wheelset will allow for every mistake, so it comes down to your comfort level and a basic risk analysis if you take your trail wheels to the jumps.

After mounting a replacement EC70 on the rear, the fun and outstanding performance has continued on the trails and these will undoubtedly last me through plenty of seasons of shredding. Personally, a line has been drawn for the need to throw on my more beefy freeride wheelset for the rowdy jumping days - or just grab the downhill bike.

What's The Bottom Line?

Coming in at their low weight to high strength ratio, the Easton EC70 Trail wheelset would be a great upgrade for your bike if you're in the market for performance at a slightly lower price point. The $1800 price tag might still keep some riders on a ramen noodle diet for a few years, but if you are serious about performance and want to reap the benefits of carbon while saving a few bucks, this could be a great wheelset for you.

For complete specs and more details, visit www.eastoncycling.com.

This product has 1 review

Added a product review for Shimano Zee RD-M640 Rear Derailleur 2/13/2013 6:43 PM
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Tested: Shimano Zee Derailleur - Become a Trail Ninja

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Nick Zuzelski

In the craze of clutched rear derailleur technology coming out these days, Shimano's newest offering is targeted to fit the market of gravity riders looking for performance while keeping some hard earned money in their pocket. Enter Zee.

Zee RD-M640 Highlights

  • 10-Speed Only
  • Short Cage
  • Weight: 250 grams
  • MSRP: $109.99

The Zee rear derailleur features Shimano's Shadow Plus technology. Translation: The rear derailleur is strategically mounted and tucked in with a low profile design, decreasing the vulnerability of hits or impacts, and thanks to an innovative clutch, you aren't going to hear much chainslap noise while blitzing through rocks and braking bumps. The clutch is fully serviceable and adjustable so you can keep things maintained and running smoothly after some use and abuse throughout the season.

New to the whole clutched derailleur technology? Shimano has integrated a one-way clutch mechanism into the derailleur knuckle. This provides significantly increased resistance when the chain pulls on the cage, preventing excessive chain slack, which was previously the cause of the dreaded chain slap and poor retention.

All of Shimano's clutched derailleurs have an "on" and "off" mode, activated by a small gold switch. The only time we saw a need to put the switch in "off" mode was during wheel removal and chain installation to allow the derailleur to swing forward with less force.

Shimano offers two models of the Zee - A "DH spec" that fits up to a 28 tooth cassette, and a "Freeride spec" that fits up to a 36 tooth cassette. This is accomplished using a different sized b-link that can be purchased independently for converting your rear derailleur between modes.

On The Trail

We have been running both the DH spec on a downhill bike and the Freeride spec on a 1x10 trail bike. Both setups are holding up following some muddy, rocky abuse.

One area we have really enjoyed has been the benefits seen on the trail bike. The option to have both a clutched rear derailleur AND a short cage able to handle a wide range 11-36 cassette? Yes please.

Combined with the Zee shifter, shifting performance is crisp, precise and snappy quick. The derailleur has been a set-and-forget endeavor and has been free of any ghost shifting and skipping after a proper flogging on the trails for a few months.

One of the reasons we are seeing such great long term durability and continued performance in this derailleur can be greatly contributed to the extremely low profile of the Shadow Technology. The main derailleur body is much less exposed and seems to hide from rocks, stumps, and shuttling abuse that destroys more conventional designs.

Zee's clutch has virtually eliminated chain slap. Since installation, our test bikes have been silent slayers. No more ugly excessive tape or old tubes/tires/who knows what needed to keep your frame quiet and unscathed. Win. But wait… this has developed an unforeseen yet small downside - we have routinely scared the $#% out of hikers and slower descenders when running in Zee stealth mode. Sometimes it is nice to have a little noise to let people know that you're coming up behind them. I think we'll survive though.

If you have yet to throw your leg over a bike with a clutched rear derailleur, you better believe the hype - this new breakthrough is making bikes so quiet and dialed that you will never want to be without a clutched setup again. It's that good.

While the clutch is fully serviceable and adjustable, we haven't had the need to adjust any factory settings. They're working great, but it is nice to know that some adjustability is available if needed.

What's The Bottom Line?

Given the impressive features, performance, and durability we've experienced, it's hard to call the Shimano Zee rear derailleur a compromise. Coming in at half the cost of the Saint equivalent, this is a very good choice for budget-minded riders looking for solid shifting performance with Shimano's proven Shadow Plus technology.

Visit www.crusheveryline.com for more details.

This product has 3 reviews

Added a comment about photo 2013 Giant Glory Bottomed Out at World Champs 8/31/2012 8:26 AM
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I have never seen a stock 2013 Glory bottomed out. Check that off the list today

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This photo has 6 comments.

Added a comment about video VIDEO - 2012 Whip Off World Champs 8/14/2012 9:07 PM
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Best part of my day - watching this. Brendan gets so nice with it

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This video has 19 comments.

Added a product review for SixSixOne Recon Gloves 7/26/2012 3:25 PM
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Tested: SixSixOne Recon Gloves

Rating:

The Good: Breathability // Comfort // Thin palm

The Bad: Short wrist closure // Lack of protection

Overall:

Product Highlights

  • Dimple mesh upper for precise fit

  • Micro fiber sweat wipe

  • Silicon printed finger tips

  • $29.95 MSRP

Riding Impressions

Breathability and comfort - this all-mountain glove was designed with these two things in mind. Featuring full-mesh-backed fingers and backhand, these gloves stay cool while riding. The thin but durable palm leather offers good grip, precise lever feel, and doesn't bunch. Both the index and middle fingers feature silicon gripper coating for increased control and grip on levers. While not offering much tree-punching protection, the Recon Gloves offer much more than a bare hand in the grip and protection department.

The one real shortcoming of these gloves is the rubber wrist closure. As seen above, it is far too short to adequately secure the glove around an average-sized wrist, which means that it sometimes comes undone while riding.

What's The Bottom Line?

A comfortable, well breathing glove without all the bulkiness and thick padding so many other gloves are guilty of. The SixSixOne Recon Gloves are simple, thin and perfect for the medium to light duty rides. Save a minor issue with the rubber wrist closure, I'm a big fan of these.

This product has 1 review

Added a product review for SixSixOne Evo Carbon Camber Full Face Helmet 7/25/2012 12:15 PM
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Tested: SixSixOne Evo Carbon Camber Helmet

Rating:

The Good: Lightweight // No goggle interference issues // Meets or exceeds several safety standards // Reasonably priced

The Bad: Shape limits helmet cam mounting options

Overall:

Product Highlights

  • 3k Carbon Fiber Construction

  • Removable, washable liner
  • Inner channeling links intake ports to aid ventilation
  • 
Weighs 2.1 pounds

  • $299.95 MSRP

Riding Impressions


For 2012, SixSixOne introduced an all-new lightweight downhill specific helmet. With a great, comfortable fit, light weight and good styling, the Evo Carbon is a continuation of SixSixOne's progressive helmet design.

Large vents located under the visor and at the back of the helmet encourage airflow and keep your head cool during riding. Goggle fit and peripheral vision wasn't an issue with the well designed eye opening.

The only small conflict with the helmet is with GoPro mounting - It is slightly hindered due to a small fin/ridge that runs front to back on the top of the helmet, but a small modification to the GoPro helmet mount (cutting/removing a small strip of the 3M tape to provide relief for the small ridge) proved easy and is still giving a strong mount thus far.

What's The Bottom Line?

Looking for a lightweight, downhill specific helmet? Put this helmet on the top of your list if performance, comfort and quality are in your helmet search criteria. During the seven months I've been using the helmet, I've had zero issues and it still looks great after countless rides.

This product has 2 reviews

Added a product review for SixSixOne Rage Knee Guard 7/24/2012 4:12 PM
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Tested: SixSixOne Rage Knee Pads

Rating:

The Good: Flexible // Breathable // Secure // Thin profile

The Bad: Offers slightly less protection than its predecessor

Overall:

Product Highlights


  • Perforated neoprene construction with stretch mesh back
  • 
Stretch Kevlar® knee cover with abrasion resistant graphics
  • 
Pre-curved ergonomic internal hard cap protector
  • 
$59.95 MSRP


Riding Impressions


The Rage kneepad was introduced as a new item in SixSixOne's 2012 lineup. This knee pad shares a lot of similarities with the classic Kyle Strait Knee Pads, but with a few variations. Think of this new knee pad to be the slightly slimmer, less beefy, better vented version to its hugely popular alternate.

For comparison, the Rage is on shown here on my right knee, and the most recent version of the Kyle Straits are on my left knee.

There is a much larger opening at the back of the knee for increased air movement and flexibility while pedaling. Unlike the Kyle Straits, the new Rage pads do not bunch behind the knee when seated. While still utilizing a similar flexible plastic knee cup to the Kyle Straits, it feels as if there is less foam padding over the entirety of this model. With less foam padding it slightly decreases the bulkiness, but also decreases the pad's protective qualities as a serious DH knee pad. For the dirt jump crowd, these should fit and breath better under jeans, while still keeping your knees from getting thrashed when you take a fall. I have also been using these pads during more aggressive all-mountain rides and am enjoying the increased breathability and flexibility for pedaling and climbing.

What's The Bottom Line?

If you're looking for better breathing and less bulky knee protection, the Rage has you covered. I've found it to be perfect for all-mountain, dirt jumping and light-duty downhill shuttle days.

This product has 3 reviews

Added a comment about video Wham-O Wheelie Bar TV Commercial from 1966 1/18/2011 10:05 PM
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Will this fit up with a SC Jackal? I am looking to do a little exhibition riding and this would be great. hahaha

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This video has 4 comments.

Added a comment about feature 2011 SixSixOne Gear, Head-To-Toe 12/16/2010 10:35 AM
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I don't know what is better...seeing Turn-man back on the bike and riding or the super sweet Tron flak jacket. It is like two birds with one stone, halloween costume and riding protection!

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This feature has 7 comments.

Added a comment about feature Dispatch: Steve Wentz Reports from the Copa Cannondale in Chile 12/1/2010 9:40 PM
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I hope that wentz super huck turns up on youtube soon. I will be checking daily, haha

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This feature has 14 comments.

Added a comment about video Gee Atherton on the 1:04 11/19/2010 2:22 PM
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Still loving the corner railage as seen in the Bryceland video. Those hairpin lefthanders are just being violated! yeah!

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This video has 9 comments.

Added a comment about news blog Vital MTB Welcomes Brandon Turman to the Team 11/19/2010 8:08 AM
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Yeahhh son! BT is gonna straight kill it for Vital, watch out for him on a moto too! Roost! Vital just got that much more legit with The TurnMan on board!

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This news blog has 20 comments.