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Added a product review for 2015 Specialized Enduro Elite 650B 3/10/2015 1:44 AM
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2015 Test Sessions: Specialized Enduro Elite 650B

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by AJ Barlas and Brandon Turman // Photos by Lear Miller

At the tail end of 2013, Specialized began to make the shift from 26-inch wheels to 650B, also commonly referred to as 27.5. The move, which began within their Stumpjumper FSR series and is now migrating into the rest of their lineup, was one that the 'Big S' held off on for quite a while. Since making its way into the Enduro range, team riders like Curtis Keene have posted some of their best results in the World Enduro Series aboard the updated bike, leaving many wondering just how good it is? We threw a leg over the top end aluminum model to answer this question during the 2015 Vital MTB Test Sessions.

Highlights

  • Aluminum frame
  • 27.5-inch wheels
  • 165mm (6.5-inches) of rear wheel travel // 160mm (6.3-inches) front
  • Tapered head tube
  • 65.5-degree head angle
  • 74.6-degree effective seat tube angle
  • 349mm (13.75-inch) measured bottom bracket height
  • 422mm (16.6-inch) chainstays
  • Press Fit bottom bracket
  • 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured complete weight (size Large, no pedals): 29-pounds, 7-ounces (13.4kg)
  • MSRP: $5,000 USD

The Enduro Elite uses an M5 aluminum alloy frame and Specialized's easy to spot X-Wing design, said to boost front triangle torsional stiffness. Rear suspension duties are taken up by the FSR design, which uses a Horst-link to improve many of its ride qualities. One downside of the design is the need for a unique shock mount, which can limit aftermarket shock option. The Elite model is shipped with the smaller Cane Creek DB Inline shock that provides 165mm of travel with high/low-speed compression and rebound damping with a Climb Switch. While Specialized does provide a base tune, it's interesting to see more bikes coming equipped with something as tuneable as the Cane Creek, essentially resulting in the user being able to get the bike to handle almost any way they want. Up front it features the 160mm travel Rockshox Pike in the RC configuration.

The 650B frame features a new rear triangle, but makes use of the existing 26-inch front triangle. Specialized says they were able to achieve the geometry they were after using this configuration without compromise, and the numbers look good with a 65.5-degree headtube angle, 422mm chainstays, and 352mm bottom bracket height. Sizes Small, Medium, and Large are available.

Additional frame details include a tapered headtube, PF30 bottom bracket, ISCG tabs, a molded chainstay guard, sealed cartridge bearing pivots, and ~1cm of mud clearance at the tightest point on the rear wheel with the stock tires. Cable routing is almost entirely external, save the internal dropper post routing through the seat tube. Cables follow the underside of the downtube, and all cable mounts are very secure with no cable rattle.

Specialized also includes a water bottle cage mounted inside the front triangle, which features a convenient SWAT multi-tool holder. There's a chain tool and place to store a spare SRAM quick-link in the steerer tube as well.

Another interesting component that's worth mentioning early on is the inclusion of Roval's latest wheel offering, the Traverse Fattie. On this model it's the aluminum version of the wheel, but aside from the material the wheels feature all the same specs as their carbon bigger brothers, most notably, a 29mm inner width.

There are several Enduro 650B models ranging from $3,600 to $9,300, in both aluminum and carbon. We tested the $5,000 aluminum Elite version. To step up to a more or less comparably spec'd carbon model, check out the Expert Carbon for $6,600. Carbon frame/shock packages are also available for $4,000 if you'd like to go for a custom build.

On The Trail

We tested the Specialized Enduro Elite on the loose, rocky chunder of West Cuesta Ridge, fast flow of Montana de Oro, and boulder covered Madonna Mountain near San Luis Obispo, California.

On our initial climb we opted to leave the Cane Creek DBInline shock untouched, set to the recommended compression/rebound settings with 16-17mm sag (approximately 30%) and without the Climb Switch engaged. The FSR suspension climbed well, even in this wide open position, and while there was a little suspension movement it was very close to neutral, especially when seated and pedaling smoothly. The shock remained high in its stroke and created a platform that held well off the line thanks to the suspension's anti-squat properties. Where it was let down while sprinting wasn't by the suspension, but by the wheels and overall 29.4-pound weight of the bike.

We did of course do some ascending with the Cane Creek's Climb Switch enabled as well. This is the best shock climb adjustment that has been made in the mountain bike industry to date. Rather than simply cutting down on the amount of oil flow allowed through the compression circuits, engaging the Climb Switch increases both low-speed compression and low-speed rebound. While it lacks a distinct platform feel that some may be accustomed to, this still helps the shock remain firmer under pedaling forces, while drastically improving traction in technical, rough uphill sections of trail. The only downside to the Climb Switch on the Enduro is its position, as it can be somewhat challenging to find and flip, especially when it is most useful on a technical climb.

The stock shock settings are at a point where most riders would be completely happy with the performance of the suspension system. They also serve as a great starting point for those that want to adjust things to personal preferences. The Enduro rides lively and agile, enabling quick line changes and last minute options to pop off features, all while providing control on moderately sized hits and loose terrain. Braking is calm and controlled, with no odd qualities to it.

On sustained rough off-camber sections we found that the rear end skipped around a bit more than ideal, which could be alleviated with some minor adjustments to the stock settings. The bike also found the bottom end of its travel pretty quickly on big hits, partly due to the quite linear nature of the Enduro's suspension design. The bike relies heavily on the progressive nature of the air shock (with volume spacers) for bottom out support. Those riding long descents may want to take note of the relatively high leverage ratio (3.2-3.0), which could put the shock through a good test on long descents.

Overall, through our rides down the rock infested trails we found the rear of the bike outperformed the lower end Pike up front, keeping the back wheel planted and controlled at most times, while the front tended not to track as well. We've had similar experiences with the front end on other bikes that were equipped with the Pike RC, and feel that had the RCT3 been fitted in this situation, the bike would have been more balanced front to rear in the rough.

The geometry is aggressive, which lends itself well to getting rowdy and letting off the brakes, though it doesn't ride as planted and DH-like as some of its closest competitors, instead providing a better all-around feel than encourages playfulness and fun, rather than muting the trail. The short 422mm chainstay length is a good deal less than most bikes in this arena, which helps with tight corners, jumping, and lifting the front end. We did notice that the 650B model lacks the typical "in the bike feel" of most of Specialized's creations, a result of using the existing 26-inch front triangle which makes the bottom bracket a little high for a Specialized at 352mm.

While it can climb well, it was not without its nuances. The 74.5-degree effective seat tube angle helps in this department, though in steeper switchbacks and chunky sections it can be a struggle to keep the front end grounded, especially for tall riders who need more seatpost extension on the 69.5-degree actual seat tube angle. The short chainstays, tall-ish stack height, and a bit of an offset on the Specialized Command IR dropper post also contribute to this. The higher than normal (for Specialized) bottom bracket height makes technical climbs a bit easier thanks to better crank/pedal clearance, and the slack head angle is less of a nuisance than you'd think on the ups.

The size Large frame we tested is the largest frame available, and if a slightly larger size is desired riders are forced to up their wheel size to the 29-inch incarnation. This falls in line with Specialized's "bigger is better" saying when it comes to wheels. It's an interesting move considering that 29-inch wheels are available in size Small of other models, like the Stumpjumper, so it would seem frame size is not the sole rationale behind this sizing preference. One of our testers, standing at 6'3", found the Large Enduro 650b to be a little on the small side, making it a struggle when ascending and less stable when descending with any speed, but has little interest in jumping on a 29-inch trail bike. There will no doubt be other riders that would like the opportunity to ride an XL Enduro 650B. For our 5'10" tester, however, the size Large provided a healthy amount of reach at 443mm and stable handling when combined with a short stem.

Build Kit

The Enduro Elite comes with a range of SRAM and Specialized branded products. Like many all-mountain machines for 2015, it's equipped with SRAM's X01 1x11-speed drivetrain. The bike was fitted with a 34-tooth chainring up front, providing a good range of gear ratios. We were happy to see Specialized's lightweight and compact top chainguide, which adds that little bit of chain security for peace of mind. Despite the clutched X01 derailleur, our bike made a bit of a racket, most notably under successive larger hits. The supplied Specialized chainstay protector appears to cover the area sufficiently, though adding some mastic tape to the inside of the seat stay will help quiet things further.

The braking department was covered by SRAM's new Guide R brake, with a reach adjustment but no pad contact adjustment. The Guide brakes are a vast improvement on previous Avid incarnations. Coupled with 200mm rotor up front and 180mm out back, we had plenty of power to get stopped in a hurry. The larger rotor up front is appreciated.

Specialized's own 125mm travel Command Post IR dropper seatpost comes equipped with a new lever that mounts cleanly under the bar. It's in the perfect position for quick adjustments. The post is very reliable, but is limited to just three positions and rebounds very quickly.

As mentioned, the Pike up front was the RC version, a model that is limited to low-speed compression and rebound adjustments. We found the fork was not able to equal the control granted by the Cane Creek DBInline shock, and feel that the RCT3 would be a better match to balance the bike out. It's worth noting that at this price point on other manufacturer's bikes, the RCT3 is not out of the question.

The tires on our test bike were a little different to what is being spec'd by Specialized. We had the trustworthy Butcher tire up front in the lighter Control casing, and in the rear was a Purgatory. Specialized specs state that the bike will come equipped with the new Slaughter semi-slick tire, which will boost rolling speed while providing some good cornering knobs. The Purgatory in the rear was cleverly fitted with the burlier Grid casing, and while this adds weight, it's nice to have a little more protection in the rear for those bigger hits and sharp sniper rocks. Kudos to Specialized for thinking a little outside the box here, supplying a slightly lighter front casing compared to the rear in order to save a little weight. The Control tires do tend to get squirmy when pushing into fast corners, however, and given the speeds and terrain the bike is capable of tackling we feel that perhaps a Grid front and rear would have been a better choice.

The new tubeless ready Roval Traverse Fattie aluminum wheels have a moderately massive 29mm inner width, which really boosts cornering performance. Set this bike on edge, look through the corner and hang on! It will grip like velcro and give a consistent and confidence inspiring ride through most turns, which ultimately equates to more fun. The aluminum version isn't the most peppy of wheels, despite weighing in at a respectable 1,690g (3.7-pounds). They’re also not the stiffest or snappiest, most likely thanks to the reduced 24/28 spoke count. Combined with the bike's overall weight this resulted in just average acceleration when getting on the gas. The DT Swiss Star Ratchet drive system provides reliable, quick engagement.

Finally, the cockpit was an odd one, especially considering the intended purpose of the bike. The stem on our Large was a Specialized 75mm XC stem with a 6-degree rise - definitely an oversight both in terms of the length and the stem's functionality. Additionally, the 750mm Specialized bars are a bit narrow, especially for the size Large. We swapped out the cockpit for something in the 780x50mm variety, and suggest all other riders do the same.

Long Term Durability

The Enduro is a stout bike with a stiff frame and mostly well thought out spec, and as such we don't see many concerns for durability down the line. We're still big fans of the traditional threaded bottom bracket for durability and noise reasons, and it's likely that at some point there will be an issue with the bottom bracket for some users. The Enduro also retains its cable routing under the downtube, which is cause for concern and could result in a pinched cable or cut hydraulic line. The frame is backed by a lifetime warranty with a five year limit on "suspension attachment points and related equipment."

What's The Bottom Line?

The 2015 Specialized Enduro Elite 650B is a downright fun bike to ride. It's poppy and playful, yet the rear suspension grants the rider confidence when traction and control are required with a predictable feeling. The front end of the bike was a bit of a let down in loose terrain. While the stock rear suspension tune is a good starting point, those that want more out of their bike will likely stray away from these settings given enough time. The great thing thing is that if you are so inclined, you can absolutely do this thanks to the adjustability of the Cane Creek DB Inline shock. For most, the stock setup (with exception to the cockpit), makes for a great ride that loves to be pushed hard. If you're an energetic rider or looking for something that can take the hits while remaining maneuverable, the Enduro 650B is definitely worthy of a test ride.

Visit www.specialized.com for more details.

Bonus Gallery: 19 photos of the 2015 Specialized Enduro Elite 650B up close and in action


About The Reviewers

AJ Barlas - In 15 years on the bike AJ has developed a smooth and fluid style. Hailing from Squamish, BC, his preferred terrain is chunky, twisty trail with natural features. He's picky with equipment and has built a strong understanding of what works well and why by riding a large number of different parts and bikes.

Brandon Turman - Brandon likes to pop off the little bonus lines on the sides of the trail, get aggressive when he's in tune with a bike and talk tech. In 15 years of riding he worked his way through the Collegiate downhill ranks to the Pro level. Formerly a Mechanical Engineer, nowadays he's Vital MTB's resident product guy.

Which reviewer resembles you the most? Don't miss our Q&A with the testers for more insight about their styles and preferences.

About Test Sessions

Three years ago Vital MTB set out to bring you the most honest, unbiased reviews you'll find anywhere. That tradition continues today as we ride 2015's most exciting trail, all-mountain, and enduro bikes in San Luis Obispo, California. Reviews can be accessed 24/7 in our Product Guide. Test Sessions was made possible with the help of Foothill Cyclery. Tester gear provided by Five Ten, Race Face, Easton, Troy Lee Designs, Club Ride, Kali, Royal, Smith, Pearl Izumi, and Source.

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Added a new photo album 2015 Test Sessions: BH Lynx 6 27.5 Carbon 9.7 3/6/2015 7:34 AM
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Added a new photo album 2015 Test Sessions: Marin Attack Trail C-XT9 3/6/2015 7:30 AM
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Added a new photo album 2015 Test Sessions: Specialized Enduro Elite 650B 3/6/2015 7:22 AM
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Liked a comment on the item Tested: Five Ten Kestrel Clipless Shoe 3/5/2015 9:27 AM

Hey guys. I'll leave Joel to confirm this, but from shooting them for the review, I can confirm that the cleat range is further back than the shoes of the past. Not sure if it's positioned as far back as the new Impact, but it's certainly on par with the more recent Maltese...more

Liked a comment on the item Tested: Five Ten Kestrel Clipless Shoe 3/5/2015 9:27 AM

I don't have a pair of Impact VXi shoes in the garage at the moment, but they have just as much as the Maltese Falcon LT. You can also see from my cleat position in the photo that I have tons of room to move further back.

Even folks that want to run the pedal nearly in the...more

Added a comment about photo 2015 Fezzari Timp Peak X01 3/4/2015 6:34 PM
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Read the Timp Peak review: http://www.vitalmtb.com/product/guide/Bikes,3/Fezzari/Timp-Peak-X01,15549#product-reviews/2032

Catch several photos of it up close and in action: http://www.vitalmtb.com/photos/features/2015-Test-Sessions-Fezzari-Timp-Peak-X01,8653/2015-Fezzari-Timp-Peak-X01,87287/bturman,109

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Added a product review for 2015 Fezzari Timp Peak X01 3/4/2015 6:10 PM
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2015 Test Sessions: Fezzari Timp Peak X01

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Reviewed by Brandon Turman and Steve Wentz // Photos by Lear Miller


Introduced in 2014, the Fezzari Timp Peak is the brand's first full carbon dual suspension mountain bike. Sporting 150mm of travel, 27.5-inch wheels, and geometry that makes it a good all-arounder, the bike is best suited to trail, all-mountain, and light duty enduro race use. For many the most appealing aspect of the bike is the great value it represents - a comparable build on most competitors' full carbon frames would set you back nearly $10,000, while the Timp Peak slots in at just over $6,000 thanks to a direct to consumer sales model. Curious to see how it stacks up against the competition, we spent some quality time aboard the bike during the 2015 Vital MTB Test Sessions in San Luis Obispo, California.

Highlights

  • Carbon frame
  • 27.5-inch wheels
  • 150mm (5.9-inches) of rear wheel travel // 150mm (5.9-inches) front
  • Tapered head tube
  • 67-degree head angle
  • 72.5-degree effective seat tube angle
  • 367mm (14.4-inch) measured bottom bracket height
  • 438mm (17.2-inch) chainstays
  • Press Fit bottom bracket
  • 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured complete weight (size 18", no pedals): 25-pounds, 14-ounces (11.7kg)
  • $6,199 MSRP

At just 3.75-pounds without the shock, the Timp Peak's low frame weight coincides with the relatively skinny tube appearance of the carbon front end, rear triangle, and rocker link. Fezzari says they did their best to optimize the strength to weight ratio on this frame. This adds up to a very respectable complete build weight of 25.9-pounds. That's nearly 2-pounds lighter than any of the 15 other men's bikes in our Test Sessions lineup, at a cost thousands less than the next closest competitor.

When it comes to the carbon construction process, Fezzari utilizes 3D printing machines to create collapsible mandrels, which, according to Fezzari, allow a tighter wrapping of carbon for higher strength and lower weight. The process gives the inside of the tubes a smooth finish and better consistency over a larger number production frames. Mandrels are removed before the curing process, piece by piece. The carbon layup uses smaller sheets of carbon at junctions to make the layup more precise while decreasing carbon fiber waste. The brand says this technique is more expensive to use but creates better performance at a lower weight. A mix of carbon types are used to tune stiffness, flex, and weight in strategic locations. On the Timp Peak, an additional carbon plate is integrated into the underside of the downtube for impact resistance and frame protection, though there's no rubber guard like on many other carbon frames.

Cable routing is internal for the rear brake, rear derailleur, optional front derailleur, and stealth dropper seatpost. Rubber grommets at the cable ports help keep moisture and grime out of the frame.


The rear suspension design is a linkage driven single pivot design called FRD Tetralink, where the main pivot doubles as the lower shock mount. The compact design puts the shock in a pretty convenient position for on-the-fly adjustments while leaving plenty of space for a water bottle inside the front triangle. Just one linkage pivot point utilizes bearings, while the remaining points rely on Igus bushings. We noticed some slight binding while cycling the linkage with the shock removed, as is typical of frames with bushings.

Our test bike came equipped with SRAM's X01 drivetrain, but it's also possible to set it up with a 2X system. It uses a press fit bottom bracket and there are no ISCG mounts, but if one wanted a chain guide the direct front derailleur mount could be used for a top guide. Additional details include ~1cm of rear tire mud clearance, a tapered head tube, and 12x142mm rear axle.

What's the Timp Peak name all about? Fezzari's headquarters near Salt Lake City, Utah is surrounded by several large mountain peaks. The Timp Peak is named after Mount Timpanogos, which the bike was tested on prior to production.

The early 2015 release Timp Peak X01 model comes in at $6,199, even with carbon wheels. Fezzari has historically offered several models of this bike, so we expect additional builds will be offered in the future.


On The Trail

Our time aboard the Timp Peak was split between the wide open, jump filled trails of Montana de Oro State Park and the rocky and rougher singletrack on West Cuesta Ridge in San Luis Obispo. The two offered a good variety of terrain to see where the bike is best suited.

Every bike Fezzari sells goes through a 23-point custom setup program to ensure it's just right for you. They consider your riding style and use measurements including your height, weight, inseam, torso, and arm length to determine a good setup. Bar width, stem length, saddle position, crank length, brake reach and angle are considered in the equation. They'll even trim the stock 800mm wide RaceFace Sixc35 carbon bars to your desired width. With a 50mm RaceFace Atlas35 stem in place, the cockpit on our size 18-inch test frame (428mm reach, 584mm effective top tube) felt perfectly roomy while standing while also putting us in an upright position for seated climbs.

A single bottomless token was added to the RockShox RCT3 Solo Air Pike fork, and the rear RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 DebonAir shock seated sag was set to the recommended 30% before hitting the trails.

While the claimed 330mm (13.0-inch) bottom bracket height sounds low, when we measured it to the center of the bottom bracket it actually comes in quite tall at around 367mm (14.4-inches). In talks with Fezzari after riding the Timp Peak, we learned that the number was quoted from when the bike used a shorter shock, before reaching production. Unfortunately this discrepancy makes use question the listed geometry. Fezzari has since updated the site to read 349mm (13.75-inches). The bike's moderately slack 67-degree head tube angle lends itself to all-around use, providing a good compromise of chunk eating capability and quick handling traits. At times the handling felt so quick that we're inclined to think the bike may be a bit steeper.

Numbers aside, when pointed downhill the Timp Peak is quite fun to ride. It has a very calm and controlled disposition most of the time, which inspires you to let loose and jump around. The bike's low weight only adds to the playfulness. The ride is comfortable and confidence inspiring at slow and medium speeds.


Aided by the Monarch Debonair shock, rear suspension performance is quite good with a supple and active feel when off the brakes, which balances well with the Pike fork. The bike responds quickly to rider inputs, and changing lines at a moment's notice is easy to do. The snug 438mm chain stays add to the snappy, precise feel and encourage you to whip it around turns and pop wheelies. There's enough progression built into the system to prevent a harsh bottom out while still allowing it to use a good amount of travel often. This compromise is often difficult to master in a single pivot design.


On the brakes the suspension feel is quite different, however, as the rear brake placement on the chain stay creates an excessive amount of brake squat. This firms up the suspension greatly during heavy braking, which can cause it to feel a little harsh. As trails became truly rough and fast, requiring more braking power quickly, the suspension felt a tad overwhelmed. Most of the time it was great, but occasionally we would hit a rough section that felt a whole lot more square than it was. When slowing from high speeds we also sometimes noted a severe chatter/vibration feeling as the suspension would be forced to compress, causing a momentary loss of traction, rebound, catch traction again, and repeat until we let off the brakes. Delicate rear brake modulation was the only solution to the problem. This occurred a handful of times each ride. Subsequent re-tests of the bike by the company on their own trails haven't reproduced this result.

Because the rear brake line is secured to the rocker before entering the top tube, when the suspension compresses the brake line is forced into the top tube. The Timp Peak lacks any sort of internal guide system for the cable, so this can create a lot of internal rattling. It was not all the time, but when it did happen, we couldn't help but wonder if it was something actually wrong, or if it was just the cables acting as drumsticks inside the frame. While it's possible to add a little bit of electrical tape around the brake cable where it exits the frame near the seat tube, re-routing the brake externally or past the lower pivot would create a quieter ride.

Speaking of the routing, we wish there were two ports for cables on the left of the frame, and two on the right. Currently there are three cables that enter the frame by the headtube on the right side, and only one on the left. As sent from the factory this makes for an awkward rear brake line that has more bend than it should have and a more cluttered front end than we would want.


Sprinting, the bike reacts pretty quickly, stands up in the travel, and gains speed well. Seated climbs are just fine with the shock wide open with no drastic loss of power or suspension movement, leaving it free to absorb bumps and keep traction. The 72.5-degree seat tube angle puts you in a good position for climbs while still being easy to get the front end up over obstacles. We experienced no front end pushing in uphill switchbacks, which it snapped right around. Technical climbs were handled very well for the most part, so long as we were smooth and spun up them. The geometry helped with this, especially the high bottom bracket height.

Build Kit

As we mentioned previously, most bikes with a comparable spec run several thousands more, so you know the components are all the cream of the crop from RockShox, SRAM, Race Face, Ergon, Reynolds, and Schwalbe. The bike arrived almost fully built, requiring just 20 minutes of our time to have it assembled and ready to rip.


Up front, the RockShox Pike RCT3 Solo Air fork provided buttery smooth action, great sensitivity, a dialed chassis, and good bottom out control with one or more Bottomless Tokens installed. We'd love a little more high speed support, but as we've noted before it's a remarkable fork for the vast majority of riders. In the rear suspension department, the Monarch Plus Debonair did a commendable job masking some storied single pivot flaws, and made the relatively simple system work well in most circumstances.


New for 2015, the Timp Peak comes setup tubeless with the recently updated Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.35-inch tires (not the Maxxis Ardents mentioned on their site). Traction was quite good on both sandy and loose-over-hard terrain, but then again dirt conditions were very favorable. On drier, more gravely terrain, we did experience some front end washing when really pushing it, which was tough to recover from given the compound that came stock on the Fezzari. We'd love a softer TrailStar rubber compound installed up front, but the stock PaceStar version will last quite a bit longer, especially out back. The tires roll quickly while providing much better cornering traction than the previous version.


The 3.8-pound Reynolds 27.5AM Carbon tubeless wheels help keep the weight down where it really counts while adding to the precise feel of the bike. With our tire pressures at 28psi up front and 31psi in the rear, the Reynolds wheels didn't have an overly harsh feel that some carbon wheels do. Hub engagement was average. They still ran very true at the conclusion of our test.

SRAM's new Guide RSC brakes coupled with dual 180mm rotors provided plenty of power, good modulation, and improved feel and adjustment range over the Avid X0 Trail predecessors. We experienced no inconsistencies or fading. We feel the Timp Peak would benefit from a smaller rotor in the back, though. Less force going into the rear suspension would be a positive thing without hampering braking too much, and an already light bike would become marginally lighter.


The SRAM X01 drivetrain worked flawlessly with quick shifts and plenty of range while remaining dead silent. Hard charging riders may consider a top chain guide, as well as sizing up from the stock 30-tooth chainring. While there is a neoprene chainstay guard for chainslap, there is no guard on the inside of seat stay which could help quiet the bike a touch more.

Once again, the RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post functioned very smoothly, and Fezzari took care to spec the most ergonomic lever option possible.


If you're not sold on any one component, Fezzari will upgrade or change out parts at a very reasonable price without charging any restocking or shop fees.

Long Term Durability

Other than a few paint chips on the rocker link and the potential for the Igus bushings to require service more often than bearings, we've seen nothing that indicates a potential durability issue. All Fezzari bikes come with a 30 day money back guarantee and a three year warranty on the carbon frame, which speaks well about the confidence they have in the product. All other original components are warranted for one year.


What's The Bottom Line?

The 2015 Fezzari Timp Peak is a quick handling trail/all-mountain bike that's capable of taming a wide variety of terrain while remaining incredibly light and pedal friendly. It's well balanced for the most part, though the above average bottom bracket height gave us some trouble in corners and lacked that oh so coveted feeling of being 'in' the bike. The rest of the geometry encourages you to play, however, making even mundane trails more enjoyable. Lower the bottom bracket, solve the brake squat problem, sort the cable routing, and give us ISCG tabs and you've got an outstanding ride. While the build kit may be better, we feel Fezzari needs to dial in the details to really knock it out of the park. That said, it's a good value considering the great build kit and care that goes into each purchase. Buying direct may be a sticky point for some as you lose the shop component, but Fezzari has programs in place to make setup and warranty as smooth and seamless as possible, even for the novice rider.

Visit www.fezzari.com for more details.

Bonus Gallery: 16 photos of the 2015 Fezzari Timp Peak up close and in action


About The Reviewers

Steve Wentz - A man of many talents, Steve got his start in downhilling at a young age. He has been riding for over 18 years, 11 of which have been in the Pro ranks. Asked to describe his riding style he said, "I like to smooth out the trail myself." Today he builds some of the best trails in the world (and eats lots of M&M's).

Brandon Turman - Brandon likes to pop off the little bonus lines on the sides of the trail, get aggressive when he's in tune with a bike and talk tech. In 15 years of riding he worked his way through the Collegiate downhill ranks to the Pro level. Formerly a Mechanical Engineer, nowadays he's Vital MTB's resident product guy.

Which reviewer resembles you the most? Don't miss our Q&A with the testers for more insight about their styles and preferences.

About Test Sessions

Three years ago Vital MTB set out to bring you the most honest, unbiased reviews you'll find anywhere. That tradition continues today as we ride 2015's most exciting trail, all-mountain, and enduro bikes in San Luis Obispo, California. Reviews can be accessed 24/7 in our Product Guide. Test Sessions was made possible with the help of Foothill Cyclery. Tester gear provided by Five Ten, Race Face, Easton, Troy Lee Designs, Club Ride, Kali, Royal, Smith, Pearl Izumi, and Source.

This product has no reviews yet

bturman added a feature story Earn $100 at Jenson USA for Your Vital MTB Member Reviews 3/4/2015 2:56 PM

Every 30 days, we award the Top User Reviewer with a little prize. This month Jenson USA pitched in a $100 gift card! Vital MTB member xyian wrote a few in-depth reviews that we'd like to highlight. They helped earned him the Top Reviewer spot.

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Added reply in a thread Florian Nicolai's Nose Pivot 3/4/2015 2:20 PM

Sickest thing ever! I need to improve my euro turning skills. Dang.

Added a new photo album 2015 Test Sessions: Fezzari Timp Peak X01 3/3/2015 10:57 PM
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Added a comment about photo 2015 Liv Giant Intrigue 1 3/3/2015 9:53 PM
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Read the Intrigue review: http://www.vitalmtb.com/product/guide/Bikes,3/Giant/Womens-Intrigue-1,15056#product-reviews/2031

See photos of it up close and in action: http://www.vitalmtb.com/photos/features/2015-Test-Sessions-Liv-Intrigue-1,8648/2015-Liv-Intrigue-1,87243/bturman,109

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Added a product review for 2015 Liv Women's Intrigue 1 3/3/2015 9:47 PM
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2015 Test Sessions: Liv Intrigue 1

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Reviewed by Amanda Wentz and Courtney Steen // Photos by Lear Miller

After its debut in 2014, the Liv Intrigue is back for more with some nice upgrades. Liv claims the bike will help boost your speed and skills, and is "built specifically for women seeking maximum control and confidence on aggressive trails." Was this just some marketing talk or is there really a difference? We were in sunny San Luis Obispo, California to find out. Enduro Pro lady shredder Kelli Emmett helped with the design process, so we knew it had potential to be a ripper going into the 2015 Vital MTB Test Sessions.

Highlights

  • Aluminum frame
  • 27.5-inch wheels
  • 140mm (5.5-inches) of rear wheel travel // 120-140mm (4.7 to 5.5-inches) front
  • Tapered head tube
  • 68-degree head angle
  • 73.5-degree effective seat tube angle
  • 327mm (12.9-inch) measured bottom bracket height
  • 447mm (17.6-inch) chainstays
  • Press Fit bottom bracket
  • 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured complete weight (size M, no pedals): 27-pounds, 15-ounces (12.7kg)
  • $4,700 MSRP

Liv, a Giant Bikes brand, creates bikes with their 3F (Fit/Form/Function) guiding principle in mind. At the basic level, when designing bikes specifically for women, they consider our unique strengths and physical characteristics. How so? For starters, the Intrigue was designed from the ground up using body dimension data collected from women all over the world. According to Liv, this data has led them to finding the best angles to complement how women carry their weight and balance over their bikes. They also consider stem lengths, handlebar width, crank arm length, and saddle ergonomics into the equation. It's much more than the usual "shrink it and pink it" approach.

The Intrigue rides on an ALUXX SL-grade aluminum frame, 27.5-inch wheels, and 140mm of Maestro suspension. The dual-link suspension design creates a single floating pivot point claimed to perform consistently under pedaling power and remain fully active while braking. Additional features include internal routing for everything, a chainstay guard, ISCG tabs, Press Fit bottom bracket, room for a water bottle inside the front triangle, and lots of mud clearance. Liv has also moved back to the original OverDrive headtube (standard 1 1/8 to 1 1/2-inch tapered) to make things easier.

2015 sees a few sweet upgrades in the components department for the $4,700 Intrigue 1 model - most notably the Giant P-TRX1 Composite wheel system. Another big upgrade is in the SRAM drivetrain, which is still a 2x10 system, but instead of GripShift it now has X0 trigger shifters paired with X9 front and X0 rear derailleurs. There's also a $2,775 Intrigue 2 model featuring a Shimano Deore build, RockShox suspension, and a dropper post. XS, Small, Medium, and Large sizes are available, with the XS being one of the few bikes small enough for short women who may struggle to find a good fit.

On The Trail

We had the difficult job of testing the Intrigue 1 in some of the most beautiful scenery that California has to offer (rough job, we know). We rode several West Cuesta Ridge and Madonna Mountain trails near San Luis Obispo that really put bikes through the wringer.

As testers with two very different body types, we believe we were able to get a well-rounded perspective on this bike, especially in the fit department. We are roughly the same height, but Amanda (5'6" tall) has long legs and a short torso while Courtney (5'7" tall) is just the opposite.

The 403mm reach is average length for a Women's size Medium frame, and we found that it strikes a good balance for a range of rider heights and arm lengths. All sizes have a better than average standover height, which is great for women with shorter legs. Short seat tubes are also welcome for more adjustment and fit options.

In the cockpit area, Amanda rode the bike completely stock at first, while Courtney immediately switched out the stock Giant Contact SL 700mm bars and 80mm stem to suit her preference. This bike is intended to provide "unrivaled handing on descents," so the lack of wider bars and a short stem was a bit puzzling to us. In the end we both agreed that swapping out the bars and stem for something in the 750mm wide and 50mm length range gave us more control over the front end, both uphill and down.

The Fox Float CTD rear shock was initially set to 30% sag, falling within the suggested 25-30% range. Up front the Fox Float CTD Talas Performance fork was set to 25% sag. Once we had our bike feeling dialed we headed out to a network of trails that would give us the best variety. We had some time to settle in on a short road climb then dropped into a trail littered with some slower techy rock features. After that, we bombed through some fast, chundery, loose rocks before some jumps and a quick flowy section with a mix of berms and flat turns.

Both of us tend to favor the downhills, so we were super excited to see how it would perform on the rocky trails. Once we got past the slight distrust of the front Schwalbe Nobby Nic tire and replaced the cockpit, the Intrigue rewarded us with responsive handling and stability at speed. Popping off rocks and other trail features made the ride a blast and we were psyched the Intrigue was able to get us out of a few spots of trouble we got into. We feel like the moderately slack head angle and low bottom bracket height added to the stable feel, and allowed us to ride the bike down some rowdier terrain than most 140mm travel women's bikes would be up for. While the Intrigue would reward rider input, it didn’t necessarily need it. It would motor comfortably over trail features without making us feel like we were along for a wild ride.

We were also pleasantly surprised how well the bike handled under braking. Amanda came into a few switchbacks a bit too hot, and even with the rough ground she was able to brake quickly without losing control of the back end.

Suspension wise, we both agreed that with the CTD shock in Descend mode it tended to push through the first bit of travel quite quickly with a super plush feel, then ramp up almost too much at the bottom of the travel. Trail mode gave something more predictable to push against when jumping or changing lines, so dropping just below 30% sag and riding in Trail mode seemed to strike the best balance. Chattery sections at speed could be a bit rough at times in this setting, however.

In the last section of trail we were rewarded with some fast and flowy turns through a fantastic eucalyptus grove and around some gnarled live oaks. There were even a few jumps thrown in to mix it up. While the Intrigue didn’t necessarily want to rail through corners, it was quite stable. Manualing through puddles and over waterbars was a bit of a challenge due to the somewhat long chainstays, though these add to the stable feel at other times. Jumping was another matter though. It did make that fun, and the ramp in the suspension saved one of our testers who may have cased one of the jumps pretty solidly.

Along the road and on the trail we noticed that the 27.9-pound bike feels light on its feet. The front end feels planted on climbs, yet it is still easy to move your weight forward or back to get up and over a feature. Compared to some lighter bikes we tested, it felt more efficient, but only when we were in the Trail suspension setting. Those composite wheels also make for a bit of an easier job pedaling. We noticed that in Descend mode, the bike has a descent amount of pedal bob, especially when standing out of the saddle. During a slightly rocky climb with some waterbars we switched both the front and rear into Climb mode to see how it would perform. It turns out that Climb mode wasn’t the greatest choice for this terrain as it functions more as a full lockout that felt too harsh and unforgiving, so reserve it for smooth fire road ascents. Ultimately Trail mode also became the preferred ascend mode for both of us, as it allowed the wheels to maintain traction and added a platform for hard efforts. The Maestro suspension design makes it easy to get to the CTD adjustment lever.

A glance at the specs shows that this bike has a 73.5-degree effective seat angle, putting you into a pretty aggressive pedaling position. While the downs are the best part, what goes down must sometimes go up, and we faced some steep climbing sections which made us thankful for the seated geometry. Up front you get a Fox Float CTD Talas Performance fork which can be set to 120 or 140mm of travel on the fly. Only Courtney used the travel adjust feature, dropping the fork for climbs then turning it back to 140mm for descents which felt was more efficient. Overall the performance of the fork was something we were happy with and it was easily adjustable to fit all riding styles.

Build Kit

The 2015 Intrigue 1 comes nicely spec’d for the $4,700 price point, especially when you note the Giant P-TRX1 Composite wheels that you typically wouldn't find on a bike at this level. While we did notice increased stiffness in the wheels versus the aluminum alternative, the first difference noticed was the level of noise when blowing over rocks, or lack thereof. Where our aluminum rims would make a loud PING when we weren’t so graceful, the carbon muted mistakes quite nicely. There was also some level of damping that we could feel when rolling over smaller bumps and chatter at speed. Plus the wheels accelerated nicely and the hubs had good engagement to get us up and over tech sections. Should you want to upgrade to a 1X drivetrain, we believe they are compatible with the SRAM XD driver body design. One thing we didn’t get to test is the ease with which the wheels could be converted to tubeless, but they do come with the necessary parts from the factory.

2.25-inch Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires are spec'd both front and back. We were slightly skeptical of this choice for a front tire because they seemed relatively low profile, but we knew they would be fast rolling. Weighing in at 610g per tire they are quite light, but we found that the weight savings may come at a trade-off in sidewall thickness. According to Schwalbe this tire is supposed to have superior sidewall protection from cuts and pinches, but we had the rear tire pinch flat in terrain that we didn’t expect. Setting these up tubeless could help prevent pinch flats. On the plus side, Schwalbe made some improvements to this tire in the last year and we felt that the cornering knobs seemed a bit more robust. They did feel a bit drifty when we rode some loose over hard pack, but many tires would have felt the same way. Overall we were happy with the way they rolled and had good traction under braking.

In addition to the cockpit swap, neither of us were a fan of the foam grips. They were huge in comparison to many women’s hands and difficult to change out. We felt that lock-on grips would have been a better choice. They would have made the bike look better, and we could have more confidence that they would stay put over time. They may have saved a few grams, but the savings here seemed negligible.

This bike comes with Giant’s own internally routed Contact SL Switch-R dropper seat post which has some cool features, like the ability to adjust to any point in its travel. While hydraulic seat posts are popular, a cable actuated post like this one can be kind of cool. Let’s say you’re just riding along 15-miles from home and the cable breaks. We're guessing that a bleed kit isn’t part of your gear bag, but a spare derailleur cable is. Problem solved. Don’t have a cable? That's fine too. The post will just remain in the upright position for the duration of your ride. As much as we appreciated the way the dropper post has changed riding, we do have one beef with the Giant Contact post. The Intrigue comes with just 75mm of dropper travel, and this just isn’t enough to get the saddle out of the way on steep descents. There were a number of times the saddle would bump us in the bum on rowdy descents and would make us feel a little sketchy. The bike can tackle steep terrain, but sometimes we felt limited by the saddle all up in our business. Giant does make a 100mm dropper post, and even at the seat height needed for our shorter legged rider it looks like there would be room for that extra 25mm of adjustment. The single bolt clamp design is also a little difficult to adjust and keep tight.

The bike should have come with the SRAM Guide R brakes, but instead we had the Avid Trail 9s. We had heard good things about the Guides and were looking forward to checking them out, but the Trail 9s didn’t disappoint. The lever was comfy and it was easy to adjust the reach thanks to the knob on the outside of the lever. This is a fine adjustment that can be beneficial to the ladies with smaller hands. Modulation was quite good, and we never felt like we were locking up our wheels when we didn’t mean to. Lastly, the 160mm rotors provided sufficient stopping power. Overall they were well matched to the capabilities of the bike, but we are still looking forward to checking out the Guides.

While the range of gears provided by the SRAM 2x10 system is fantastic, we found that it dropped the chain way too much. And by too much we aren’t being overly dramatic here. Almost every bumpy downhill ended with us having to stop and put our chain back on. This costs the bike some points overall. Unfortunately this is something that also occurred on the 2014 Intrigue, and hasn’t been corrected for 2015 despite other drivetrain upgrades. On the plus side, the X0 shifting seemed precise.

Finally, the internal routing could use some serious help. The cables, particularly the seat post cable on our test bike, bounced around in the frame a lot. The frame has big ports to accept the cables, but there is no internal guide to keep them from moving around or to help with installation. The cable length is also very excessive from the factory. Trimming down the housing and making sure everything is pulled tight in the frame would help.

Long Term Durability

We've had another Intrigue in the field for quite some time, and even after almost a full year of riding it hasn’t seen much obvious wear and tear. Much of this is thanks to some clear tape on the head tube which comes with the bike to protect against cable rub. As for the components, they are solidly spec’d for this bike's intended rider so nothing stands out as a liability. Liv backs the frame with an impressive lifetime warranty plus one year on original components.

What's The Bottom Line?

We set out to see if Liv had in fact created a bike that would allow women of all sizes to feel comfortable and stable. There is a ton of merit to this claim, though it took a cockpit upgrade to achieve the feel. Overall the Intrigue 1 was able to rise to the occasion in almost all the situations we put it in. Provided you find the sweet spot in the suspension setup, it's capable of taming very rough descents without feeling like it's overkill on the rest of the ride. There are a few shortcomings to the build kit and cable routing, but these could be overcome with a few small tweaks. The geometry promotes balance, and while responsive it doesn’t always need to be told what to do. Because of this we felt that this bike would be fantastic for helping a beginner progress or a more advanced rider hone her skills, so it could be a good investment for several seasons of use.

Visit www.liv-cycling.com for more details.

Bonus Gallery: 16 photos of the 2015 Liv Intrigue 1 up close and in action


About The Reviewers

Courtney Steen - Courtney has been at it for seven years and racked up some nice race results along the way in various disciplines. Today she travels the country in a RV in search of the next best trail and writes women's reviews for Vital MTB. Her technical background helps her think critically about products and how they can be improved.

Amanda Wentz - Over the last decade Amanda has soaked up all aspects of mountain biking and continues to push herself to progress. Just last year she fell in love with the rush of racing downhill. She recently turned her passion into a career by coaching riders to navigate the sometimes painful entry into mountain biking.

Which reviewer resembles you the most? Don't miss our Q&A with the testers for more insight about their styles and preferences.

About Test Sessions

Three years ago Vital MTB set out to bring you the most honest, unbiased reviews you'll find anywhere. That tradition continues today as we ride 2015's most exciting trail, all-mountain, and enduro bikes in San Luis Obispo, California. Reviews can be accessed 24/7 in our Product Guide. Test Sessions was made possible with the help of Foothill Cyclery. Tester gear provided by Five Ten, Race Face, Easton, Troy Lee Designs, Club Ride, Kali, Royal, Smith, Pearl Izumi, and Source.

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Added reply in a thread Vital Feature Requests 3/3/2015 8:58 AM

Excellent suggestions. Thanks, Nicholast. We're aware of the arrow key issue when commenting, and plan to address it. Love the Test Sessions mockup as well!

Liked a bike check Ibis HD3 "Quicksilver" 3/2/2015 2:19 PM
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Added reply in a thread The Theory of Vital Test Sessions 2/27/2015 3:54 PM

Thanks for starting this topic, Nicholast. We'll move it to the main forum so it can get a little more attention. The nature of our reviews and how to improve them is something always at the forefront of our minds, especially around Test Sessions time. ... more »

Liked a comment on the item 2015 Test Sessions: Santa Cruz Nomad Carbon X01 2/27/2015 12:21 AM

SO many sexy bits Santa Cruz put into the development and production of these bad boys. Everyone I know who rides one has had just as positive an experience as you Vital fellers. Thanks for a tasty write up.