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Added a comment about feature First Look: Santa Cruz Nomad - Completely Redesigned for 2014 4/2/2014 8:17 PM
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I'll be the first to admit I don't really care how a bike pedals up hills. That said, I think this thing pedals quite capably. I will say, that my flat pedals combined with the low BB ensure I am a bit pickier when climbing tech stuff. Climbing rocky notches and that have become a thinking man's game for me now (not my strong suit). Whatever shortcomings it may have in that regard are quickly forgotten once the bike points down the track. It's simply amazingly fun to ride.

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Added a comment about feature First Look: Santa Cruz Nomad - Completely Redesigned for 2014 4/1/2014 4:25 PM
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I was lucky enough to get one of the early new Nomads and I can tell you that with a 160mm Pike and Minion DHF exo 2.35 tires, the head angle measure out to 66. I'm assuming 65 is measurement for a 180mm fork.

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Added a product review for Hutchinson Squale Tire 11/28/2013 9:24 PM
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Tested: Hutchinson Squale Tire

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Matt Thompson

Hutchinson's Squale tire is offered in a couple of different configurations. A 2.3-inch which was originally co-designed by ten-time DH World Champion Nicolas Vouilloz, and a 2.5-inch version which has been subsequently modified by the Hutchinson UR Team lead by Mick Hannah (the latter is also available in 2.6-inch width). With such a storied pedigree, and sporting relatively low weight, we were excited to lay our hands on the 2.3-inch version of this tire with the intent of testing it on both the DH and XC rigs. Would it be up to the task at hand?

Squale Highlights

  • Co-designed by Nicholas Vouilloz and the Hutchinson UR race team
  • Specific Race Riposte compound couples performance and durability
  • Hardskin reinforced casings to reduce pinch flats.
  • 66 TPI (on 2.3)
  • Steel bead
  • Weight: 800 grams (+/- 7%) (2.3/26-inch)
  • MSRP: ~$80 USD (EUR 57)

Looking over the Squale in more detail, we note the reinforced casing "on the tread and sidewalls to prevent against cuts on rough terrain" and the Race Riposte rubber compound which Hutchinson claims offers "excellent grip and resilience." The Squale we tested (2.3-inches wide for 26-inch wheels) weighed in at 780 grams which is a competitive weight for an Enduro tire and certainly very light for a DH tire. It can be purchased in the $80 range.

Initial Impressions

Initial impressions of this tire were mixed, a recurring theme as I went through the review process. Usually I prefer a tire with a pronounced channel between rolling and shoulder knobs, and the Squale almost fit the bill save for an alternately placed transition knob that left me wondering how it would corner. The Squale also boasts aggressively ramped center knobs offering hope that it would roll quite well, despite the ample space between knobs. Overall, the impressive knob shape and pattern looked like they would provide most of the things I look for in a tire - sharp cornering and braking edges with decent rolling characteristics. Mounting the tires proved Hutchinson's measuring methods to be in line with of most other tire manufacturers, as the 2.3 looked impressive in its girth, with a nice profile. Time then to put these tires in the dirt...

On The Trail

Initially I set up the Squale on the back of my downhill bike as I prefer a bigger tire up front and I had my reservations about this tire's ability to withstand descents here in the Rockies. Simply put, the casing just didn't seem up to the task of everyday Colorado downhill riding. My concerns were well founded as I sustained two flats in the first five runs while riding typical terrain. Consistent with a tire in the 800-gram range, I came to the conclusion that I could not use it for downhill on my home terrain. Not a surprise, but worth mentioning since the tire is labeled for Enduro AND downhill use.

At this point it's worth discussing Hutchinson's recommend pressure for this tire and how it just doesn't conform to how I prefer my tires to perform. For a rider of my considerable, er…, heft, Hutchinson recommends running 43.5+psi, and this is where I started. However, it was readily apparent to me that the tire wasn't providing enough trail feel with this high pressure. Running it at 35psi provided a comparable feel to other tire brands I frequently use.

Next, I mounted the Squales up on my endu…, er, all-mount…, uh, regular mountain bike to see how they'd perform, and this is where these tires really found a home for me. My initial fears about a vague cornering feel due to the transition knob were completely unfounded. Simply put, this tire turns awesome! It provides very good grip while leaned over and allows for super fun, controllable drifting. When it steps out, it doesn't do anything squirrely, like many other tires out there. These tires make turning really fun for a hack like me.

Mounted in the rear, the tire does not provide good climbing performance with regards to grip. Unsurprisingly, the aggressively ramped center knobs do not offer much in the way of traction on the loose, rocky climbs common out here. On the flip side, the Squale's rolling resistance is impressively low despite the somewhat wide spacing between some of the center knobs. Braking proved to be top notch on these bad boys, as the sharp, horizontal bars down the middle of the tire really provide great control under hard stopping efforts. I even had to readjust some of my braking points compared to the tires I usually use. Worth mentioning, as well, is the tire's above average mud-clearing capacity and performance in the wet.

Things That Could Be Improved

This area is tough for me. As a mostly-descending-but-still-really-fitness-based race tire (not that I'm an expert in that area), I think this tire would be perfect, but as a downhill tire, the casing simply doesn't offer enough protection from flats. I even flatted this tire once on my XC bike on a normal impact. As an XC tire, the center knobs don't offer enough drive in loose conditions to warrant everyday use for me.

Long Term Durability

I was not overly impressed with how this tire wore during the test. The braking edges are incredibly sharp and offer very high performance, but they really seemed to wear fast on this tire. Other than that, I have no major concerns about long term durability.

What's The Bottom Line?

I really like this tire, but it's not without issues. It turns and slows down like a dream. I'd love to try it more on the DH bike, but the 2.3 is not big enough for me to use on the front for most of the tracks I ride and the casing just isn't robust enough to hold air on rough Colorado tracks (the bigger and heavier 2.5 version may prove up to the task here). As it sits, it's a really fun XC tire that rolls fairly well for the amount of grip it provides going downhill. It does not climb loose terrain well at all, so consider what the climbs look like on the trails you frequent before you get it for everyday use. I would think this tire could work really well for Enduro racing on certain types of terrain, if that's your thing.

For more details, visit www.hutchinsontires.com.


About The Reviewer

Matt Thompson - Humble enough not to claim his Master's Downhill World Champ status when we asked him what his accomplishments were, Matt has over 20 years on a bike and likes to go fast. Really fast. At 210-pounds of trail building muscle, he can put the hurt on a bike in little to no time.

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Added a product review for Softride Hang 5 Rack 10/30/2013 7:03 PM
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Tested: Softride Hang5 Hitch Rack

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Matt Thompson // Photos by Dave Trumpore

Back in Spring 2013, as we were getting ready to start a season of downhilling once again, I was excited to get my hands on the Hang5 from Softride. Although I've got an open-bed truck, I was looking forward to mounting up this hitch rack in an effort to minimize the damage shuttling can sometimes inflict on one's vehicle. Instead of hanging bikes over the tailgate and dealing with pads/blankets/cardboard/etc, the Hang5 provides a solution that keeps the bikes away from the truck. If your dirtbag friends rely on you to provide a shuttle vehicle for them, you will appreciate the fact that you can prevent their steeds from scratching your rig.

Softride Hang5 Highlights

  • Capacity to carry five mountain bikes
  • Capacity to carry three road bikes (dropbars) or up to four with reconfiguration
  • Capability to carry some kids' bikes (20-inch wheels and up)
  • Heavy gauge powder-coated steel construction
  • Rear vehicle access with original parallelogram design
  • Replaceable hanger grips
  • Not intended for bikes weighing more than 50-pounds (each)
  • Not intended for Time Trial TT bars or clip on aero bars
  • MSRP: $650

On The Road

Although at 100-pounds the Hang5 is quite heavy, assembly of this rack was quick, intuitive and easy. It came with a great set of instructions, seemingly fine quality hardware, and durable coating on the bulk pieces. Once one is accustomed to how it works, bikes mount up relatively easily, securely and quickly to the Hang5. This is key when shuttling. As a parent and someone without a ton of time to waste, I need to be efficient with my time on the hill. That means getting to the ride spot and shredding, not spending all day getting bikes on and off some ill-conceived shuttle system or rack. I quickly came to appreciate how fast the turnaround time was at the bottom of the hill with the Hang5. I also appreciated its unique construction that allows it to swing back, even when fully loaded, to grant access to the truck bed (or a trunk). A nifty and practical feature.

Most handlebars mount up quickly on the Hang5's soft, replaceable hanger grips. Although these grips seems to wear rather quickly, I appreciated the fact that they are replaceable. Riders who run really low bars or those who run their fork legs well up in the crowns will find it difficult to mount their bikes on the Hang5 the way it's intended. When mounting bikes with single crown forks and with varying stem lengths, users will also find it necessary to sometimes juggle/rearrange bikes in order to prevent bikes from touching. Not a big deal to me, really.

Once on the road, it's refreshing to look in the mirror and feel good about how your bikes are riding. There isn't too much swinging or swaying, and the bikes look and feel secure on even the bumpiest of shuttle roads. There's nothing worse than taking a new bike to get some early season runs in and watching it get scratched and scraped in the back of someone's truck. Thankfully, the Hang5 negates this problem.

Things That Could Be Improved

The way the Hang5 is constructed means no bike can be mounted in the middle position without taking the seat and seatpost off. Not a problem if you're shuttling with someone who's got a quick release seat collar, but a real issue if you're not. Furthermore, as previously mentioned, it's heavy. We wouldn't be making such a big deal out of its 100-pounds if it meant rock solid performance and dependability - but more on that shortly.

We should also note that the Hang5 does not work well for some bar/stem/crown combos. Notably low bars or bikes running the crowns low would cause issues, so check that before you commit. Finally, the Hang5 sticks out quite far from the truck, especially with bikes on it, often making parking difficult.

Long Term Durability

On the durability front, everything was going well for upwards of the first 20 or so days of use. Multiple days up the local shuttle spot and a few 100-mile plus trips on the highway resulted in no issues. In July, we mounted up the rack and headed to the Pacific Northwest for our annual pilgrimage. 24 hours of driving later we arrived at our temporary home, another successful trip with the rack completed. Upon further inspection, we noticed that the upper main bar had begun bending slightly on both sides. Although barely visible to the unsuspecting eye, it was bending, if ever so slightly. Not a big deal, but it was a good reminder to me that just like a bike, the rack may occasionally need some TLC and maintenance. I broke out the tools and set to completing a bolt check. Although it was disappointing and a bit alarming to note the bending of the main hang bar, it was quite refreshing to see that none of the hardware had come loose at all.

Here's where the story gets interesting. The first time the rack was loaded with five DH bikes (light race bikes, not 45-pound beasts), it broke. While shuttling on a smooth logging road in the Pacific North West, two of the four bolts that hold the top plate to the main base rack assembly sheared in half. We heard the commotion and stopped before anything bad happened or the other two bolts sheared.

After contemplating our options, we replaced the sheared bolts and rigged up a reinforcement system utilizing two tie-downs, two caribiners, and a cable lock that worked quite well for the rest of our trip, although it made it difficult to access gear from the back of the truck.

Softride is aware of this issue, and they have modified the design of the Hang5 in response. The 2014 model of the rack features a 14% thicker top plate that has also been further reinforced with additional welds to prevent this failure going forward. Incidentally, it is easy to tell - the number "5" stamped on the bottom of the top plates indicates whether it is a 2014 model. All racks currently shipping include this redesigned plate.

Customers who purchased the original series rack can get the upgraded top plate through the dealer they bought the rack from originally or from Softride directly at no additional expense. It ships as part of an upgrade kit that also includes a reinforced set of fasteners. Call Softride at 888-258-7286 (US) or talk to your local dealer if you have a rack that is eligible for the upgrade.

What's The Bottom Line?

Based on the performance we saw up until the failure, the Hang5 presents a viable and interesting solution to carrying multiple bikes on your vehicle. It is heavy and certainly has some limitations in terms of what types of bikes it can (easily) carry, and the price tag may make you think twice, but all in all it is a practical solution that offers many benefits and functions very well in its intended application. Operating under the assumption that the steps taken by Softride to remedy the failure we experienced address the issue conclusively, we give it 3.5 stars.

For more details, visit www.softride.com.


About The Reviewer

Matt Thompson - Humble enough not to claim his Master's Downhill World Champ status when we asked him what his accomplishments were, Matt has over 20 years on a bike and likes to go fast. Really fast. At 210-pounds of trail building muscle, he can put the hurt on a bike in little to no time.

This product has 1 review

Added a product review for Bontrager G5 Team Issue Tire 9/11/2013 9:12 AM
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Tested: Bontrager G5 Team Issue DH Tire

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Matt Thomson // Photos by Dave Trumpore

Downhill tires. Not too complicated, right? Well, there are a few things to consider when purchasing a new set of DH meats - let's roll through them quickly, shall we?

  • Does it hold air when ridden in rocky terrain (not some bike parked-out groomer that looks like the felt on a billiard table)?
  • Is the rubber suitable for riding over roots and rocks when it gets wet?
  • How does it corner?
  • How does it brake?
  • How does it roll?
  • Does it clear mud well?
  • How durable is it?
  • Affordability

Bontrager's new G5 tire is a fine addition to their lineup. I've been riding on a set for a couple months now and have ridden them to destruction with the intent of answering the questions listed out above. These are my impressions of this capable offering.

G5 Team Issue Tire Highlights

  • Big-volume downhill tire intended for very aggressive riding over loose, rocky and wet trails
  • 2-ply casing
  • Condition-specific compound assures maximum control
  • Inflated tread profile provides numerous biting edges at any lean angle
  • Tie bars provide increased braking traction
  • Wide central groove delivers predictable slide
  • Siping and angled edges provide additional traction over obstacles while improving braking
  • Wire bead
  • Weight: approx 1300 grams
  • US MSRP: $74.99

On The Trail

The G5 provides flat protection on-par with, or better than its competition. Although I rode these tires in lots of different locations and conditions, my benchmark for flat protection is the Angel Fire bike park. I ran them front and rear in that sharp, rocky gnar at 30psi front and 31-32psi rear without getting a single flat tire. I also have to mention that I only got one small ding on a rear rim in 2 days of riding them at Angel Fire. Check this item off the list.

The rubber on the G5 is fantastic. It provides ample grip over wet roots and rocks and inspires confidence in these types of conditions.

Cornering on these tires is a pleasure. They provide a predictable feel at all speeds and beg to be ridden harder. Unlike many other offerings, I never felt any nervousness when transitioning from a straight line to cornering angles. Like any properly designed DH tire, the G5 has a nice channel to allow the shoulder knob to dig in and provide grip when turning. Getting this tire to break loose took a little more effort than some other tires designed for firmer trail conditions, but when it does come free, I experienced a very controllable feel. Two thumbs up for the turns.

Braking on this tire far outperforms the Minion DHF, Bontrager G4, and Specialized Butcher gang. The G5 has big center blocks with lots of braking edge to deal with slowing you down.The G5 also sheds mud/debris very well. The more open nature of its design allows it to happily fling shit everywhere, with aplomb.

Finally, we should point out that pricing on the G5 is comparable with other offerings in its class.

Long Term Durability

In my experience with just one set of tires, I would consider the durability of the G5 to be above average for a tire with this soft a rubber compound. You pay a price in durability for all this traction when you buy a tire that will perform in all conditions, but the G5 performs admirably in the durability department. Unlike some other tires in this category, I didn't experience any shearing of the corner knobs once they started to wear out. They continued to provide a predictable feel. I tore no lugs off the tires at any point.

Things That Could Be Improved

I feel the G5 does not roll quite as fast as the DHF, G4, Butcher contingent. I wouldn't call it a hindrance, and I didn't perform any pseudo-scientific tests aside from back-to-back riding, but it just felt a little slower on the flat than some of the other tires I've tested. Definitely not a deal breaker, but something to consider if you're riding in less steep terrain. Luckily Bontager has you covered in that regard with the G4. At the time of testing, the G5 Team Issue was only available in 2.35, and while it is certainly not too small for any type of riding, a 2.5 would probably suit bigger riders and/or rougher courses a bit better. EDIT: this aspect was improved upon quickly - the G5 is now available in 2.5 as well.

What's The Bottom Line?

In summary, Bontrager bills the G5 as a "loose conditions" tire and it certainly performs excellently in these conditions. It's worth mentioning that the G5 does admirably well on hardpack too, never seeming out of step. It's a great DH tire in almost every way. The 2.35 we tested is up for serious abuse and will suit any application - or look into the 2.5 if you're a heavier rider or if the courses you ride are really rough. Thumbs way up, Bontrager. Nice work on the G5.

For more info, visit www.bontrager.com.


About The Reviewer

Matt Thompson - Humble enough not to claim his Master's Downhill World Champ status when we asked him what his accomplishments were, Matt has over 20 years on a bike and likes to go fast. Really fast. At 210-pounds of trail building muscle, he can put the hurt on a bike in little to no time.

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Added a comment about feature A Masters World Championship Report from Matt Thompson 9/2/2013 9:32 AM
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Although I did stiffen up my suspension for this track, in retrospect, I might have gone even a little stiffer. Don't think it would have helped with my confidence though, just with skipping across the bumps.

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This feature has 12 comments.

Added a comment about video 17 Questions: Dave Ziegman 5/22/2013 10:27 PM
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Fucking A!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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This video has 10 comments.

Updated bike check ballr's Santa Cruz Bronson 5/16/2013 6:42 AM
Added bike check Pro Bike Check: Matt Thompson's Santa Cruz V10c 5/15/2013 4:42 PM
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Added a comment about video Carl Hulick Goes Klunking 4/15/2013 8:57 AM
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This made my day.

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This video has 15 comments.

Added reply in a thread The UCI - The Empire Strikes Back? 4/10/2013 7:15 AM

(Editor's Note, Matt is the current UCI Masters World Downhill Champion) Here was my April 6 reply to the email USAC sent me last week out lining their position on the rule: Please. You guys are a joke. I won Masters World Champs last year in Brazil ... more »

Added a comment about photo Brad McDonald Wallride at Super Session 4/6/2013 2:11 PM
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Hell yeah! Talk about a rider owned company!

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Liked a comment on the item Meet the Testers from 2013 Vital MTB Test Sessions 2/12/2013 10:33 AM

maybe that was supposed to be 175 KG?

Added a comment about news blog Aaron Gwin on His New Specialized S-Works Demo 8 2/10/2013 5:34 PM
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Look closely, y'all. Elixir 9 up top and Code caliper at the bottom. Popular, effective combo for those who can't get on with the shortish Code lever.

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Added a comment about feature 2013 Manizales Urban DH Race Photos and Videos 1/14/2013 5:33 PM
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lol. Griz wants to see boys signing fuzzy assholes.

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This feature has 6 comments.

Added a comment about feature MTB Bucket List, 5 Places to Ride at Least Once in Your Life According to Mike Ferrentino 12/11/2012 10:53 AM
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I can confirm this statement about Mills Peak. Pretty damned fun trail.

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This feature has 22 comments.

Added a comment to Mihai's bike check 12/7/2012 8:14 PM
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starva es teh gayzor.

Charp lookeen biiiike, mang.

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