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Added a product review for 2015 Specialized Enduro Elite 650B 3/10/2015 1:44 AM
C138_2015_specialized_enduro_elite_650b

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.

This product has no reviews yet.

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.

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.

This product has no reviews yet.

Added a product review for 2015 Santa Cruz Nomad Carbon X01 27.5 2/26/2015 6:35 PM
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2015 Test Sessions: Santa Cruz Nomad Carbon X01

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

The 2015 Santa Cruz Nomad is built to be an absolute beast. Now in its third generation, it is longer, slacker, lighter, has updated VPP suspension, and even sports more travel than the previous model. 27.5-inch wheels round out the package, as well as a parts pack that's ready to rock. With all the hype around this bike it was high time to officially weigh in on the Nomad during the Vital MTB Test Sessions.

Highlights

  • Carbon CC frame
  • 27.5-inch wheels
  • 165mm (6.5-inches) of rear wheel travel // 160mm (6.3-inches) front
  • Tapered head tube
  • 65-degree head angle
  • 74.2-degree effective seat tube angle
  • 340mm (13.4-inch) measured bottom bracket height
  • 433mm (17.0-inch) chainstays
  • Threaded bottom bracket
  • 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured complete weight (size L, no pedals): 28-pounds, 6-ounces (12.9kg)
  • $6969 MSRP as tested

At the heart of the new bike is a closely guarded carbon construction process that Santa Cruz prides itself on. Their fantastic plastic frames have incredibly smooth insides, while many other brands have rough patches and inconsistencies which can result in a weaker frame and unnecessary weight. The "Carbon CC" frame is more refined from what they were even able to do a couple years ago as the technology is advancing at such a fast rate. Santa Cruz also offers a more affordable "Carbon C" version.

Looking inside the frame also reveals the most dialed internal cable routing system in existence. Santa Cruz uses small carbon tubes to make routing internal cables incredibly easy, which also eliminates the chance of cables rattling. Both stealth and external dropper post cable routing options exist as well.

The frame uses the tried and true VPP suspension design to deliver 165mm of travel. You'll notice that the lower link has been recessed on this model with a pivot above the bottom bracket, protecting the link from rock strikes and allowing the designers to really shorten up the chainstay length (the 1X drivetrain specific frame helped, too). Both links are forged, the collet-style axle pivots are easy to access, and the use of angular contact bearings helps stiffen the rear end.

Completely new geometry is another big highlight, and as always the Nomad continues to be geared towards the descents. There are no geometry adjustments, but the 65-degree head angle should suit the bike's target rider well and make for no excuses on the way down. A 340mm bottom bracket height, long wheelbase, increased reach measurements, and compact 433mm chainstays round out the package. Those wanting to get really wild can throw up to a 180mm travel fork up front.

Extra details include a threaded bottom bracket, 12x142mm rear axle, ISCG 05 tabs, and some of the best molded rubber chainstay, seat stay, and downtube guards in the industry. Mud clearance with the stock 2.3-inch Maxxis tires is acceptable with about 1cm of room for the muck. There's room for a water bottle inside the front triangle as well, though it's a tight fit so you may have to use a small bottle with some cages.

Complete Carbon CC Nomad builds start at $6,599 for the X01 option and $8,299 for XX1. Upgrades to the suspension and wheels are available from the factory, with the most expensive build running $10,669 for ENVE wheels, a FOX 36 Float RC2 fork, and RockShox Vivid Air R2C shock. Our X01 build with an upgraded shock and fork ran $6969. If you're looking to save a few bucks and aren't afraid of a few grams, the Carbon C model with X1 starts at $5,599. Or you can build it from the ground up starting with the Carbon CC frame and RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 Debonair shock for $2,999.

We were able to test the murdered out flat black Nomad, though if you prefer some color you can choose the Miami Vice tribute magenta and baby blue version.

On The Trail

As luck would have it, one of our testers actually bought a Nomad before our test and has ridden it everywhere between Colorado and California. Resort riding, shuttling, and some all day adventures were just part of the weekly routine. During Test Sessions in San Luis Obispo, California, we were able to try different suspension components and experiment on more trails to complete the experience.

The build kit on our test bike provided 800mm wide Santa Cruz carbon bars, a short 50mm RaceFace Turbine stem, and plenty of seatpost adjustment up and down to accommodate a wide range of riders. Check the reach and top tube numbers in the specs, and make sure you can work with the new sizing as it's longer than Santa Cruz bikes of the past. Our 5'10" tall tester loved the 438mm reach and 610mm effective top tube on the size Large frame. Meanwhile our 5'8" tall tester is usually between Medium and Large frame sizes, and the Medium was a better for him.

We experimented with rear shock sag settings from 30-40% while seated (30-35% is suggested), noting quite a range of performance through those different pressures. After settling on a fairly standard ~20% sag on the FOX 36 fork with the bike weighted evenly, we felt slightly rearward in our orientation, but this lent itself well to downhill use.

The bike's geometry encourages the bike to go fast, and regardless of a good or poor suspension setup the geometry will still take care of you, to a point, which really highlights how far frames have come. We would have killed to have controlled suspension and a 65-degree head angle on a DH bike just a handful of years ago, but now it's standard in a package where you have great pedaling performance to get up the hill as well. The slack head angle, relatively low bottom bracket height, and long front center all make for a bike that's made for hauling down any trail where speed is readily available, and it can come very close to DH bike speeds in rough terrain. It's really incredible how well the bike worked at the limits of our bravery and mental speed limits, a sign of a truly confidence inspiring ride.

On a casual ride, though, the Nomad might not be the best thing. At slower speeds or while you're not fully on the gas the ride can be a bit boring. Why? Because the Nomad is so capable you don't have to pick super precise lines or worry about the little stuff in your path. The trail can disappear beneath you, but that's the trade off for all the stability it offers. Sometimes we like the nature of picking lines, the challenge of keeping our feet on the pedals, or the excitement of finally nailing a tricky section we've had fits with before - the Nomad makes all of these things almost too easy. If you don't want to feel the rough stuff, then by all means bring this gun to the fight.

It responds well and does what it's told, but we wouldn't call it nimble or playful in the tradition sense. It will change lines, but be ready to muscle the bike around a bit due to its length and suspension feel. Then again, if your definition of play is to pull up hard and gap massive sections of the trail, then sure, it's "playful." It's also easy to get over the back of the bike and feel ready for anything that requires a quick front end lift.

A huge part of the Nomad's capability comes from the suspension. There were no situations where the bike didn't work well in rough terrain. The RockShox Vivid Air shock upgrade is borderline cheating, resulting in tons of control and consistency. The frame stiffness is also top notch. Really compressing the bike into corners yields a confidence that's sometimes a scarce commodity on San Luis Obispo's rockiest trails.

Due to the relatively linear mid-stroke that's typical of VPP designs, the Nomad uses a lot of travel a lot of the time. It's regressive through the sag point, then progressive after that. This allows you to sit into the travel, both aiding in smoothing out the trail and also giving the feeling of a muted ride. Despite using a lot of travel, it's still fairly difficult to bottom out. There is a pronounced ramp up at the end of the stroke which helps immensely on big landings or impacts. That's a very good thing, because odds are that you'll be moving at a high rate of speed when you do use all the travel. Small bumps disappear under the VPP suspension and Vivid Air, and the Nomad is one of the most stable we have ridden on trail chatter. The amount of travel and the quality of the Vivid's damping seem very well matched. We dare say that the capability of the Nomad would not be fully exploited with less of a shock, though the alternate RockShox Monarch Plus Debonair has proven to be a good all-around performer as well. Due to the overall progressive nature of the leverage curve it will also work very well with a coil shock.

On trails that were rocky or had ledges, the Nomad would stay very composed. It wouldn't ever kick us forward, try to spring us off, or surprise us, which is an improvement over the previous versions.

We can see how it would be easy to think of the Nomad as a purely descending machine - it does that job better than many. What really surprised us, though, is what a capable climber it is. The seat angle is very steep, giving you an upright seated riding position that feels more over the pedals than the off the back feel when standing. Owners of the previous generation Nomads will really notice this change, and it makes climbing much better than we anticipated. The fact that the Vivid Air did not have any external climb switches or settings was just fine by us given the added anti-squat that's built into the suspension design.

We were often tempted into questionable lines, and on occasion we would have to sprint into them. Santa Cruz's refinement of the VPP suspension is put to excellent use here, with the Nomad feeling very neutral during all out efforts. This is no doubt caused by the system's use of chain torque to keep the bike around the sag point, instead of extending the swingarm like some other designs. When climbing, the neutral feeling never made it seem like we were flying up the hills, but we always arrived at the top with few hassles. Other than the random pedal spike due to the low bottom bracket, the only other issue while climbing concerned the front end. There will always be a trade off for this type of steed, and in this case it's difficulty maneuvering up steep, tight turns. With a front end so far away and so slack, we really had to lean the bike over to change direction, or else it would feel like we were driving a bus at times.

Build Kit

Our X01 edition test bike came equipped with quality parts from FOX, RockShox, Maxxis, DT Swiss, WTB, RaceFace, Shimano, SRAM, e*thirteen, and Santa Cruz. At nearly $7,000 it's a bit of a let down to not see a top of the line component group, but the bulk of the money goes towards great frame quality and suspension more than anything else - components very necessary for a great ride.

As mentioned previously, our test bike had two upgrades to the stock build, including the FOX 36 Float RC2 fork and RockShox Vivid Air R2C shock. Were they worth it? We think so. The behavior of the 36 coupled with the Vivid Air on the rear made encouraged us to make otherwise questionable decisions, and the adjustability of the compression and rebound in both the front and rear of the bike made for a highly tunable ride. We can't overemphasize how much we appreciate not having extra knobs and levers on the bars, and instead of on/off switches, tuning adjustments that actually make a difference. The 36 had very smooth action and compression control, as well a stout chassis that pairs well with the frame. We also like the Vivid Air's ability to tune the beginning and ending of the rebound circuits independently. These adjustments could be overkill for some people, or some terrain, but for the Nomad it all seemed to fit and align with the purpose of going through rough terrain quickly.

On the tire side of things, the 2.3-inch Maxxis High Roller II treads aided in the bike's stable, capable feel. They roll surprisingly well for the size, and we had no issues with flats thanks to the Tubeless Ready design and EXO casing. While we'd prefer a little more predictability when really leaning the bike over in flat turns (especially once the side knobs start to peel away after a few weeks of use), braking is great and traction while climbing is good, so all in all they're solid performers.

The wheels were entirely capable, and we like the fact that normal spokes, rims, and very reliable hubs were all in place for easy service. The decently wide profile of the WTB Asym i23 rims gave the tires a good seat, and the solid engagement on the DT Swiss 350 hubs was just as we have come to expect. In the several months one of our testers has had with the same wheels there have been a few dents here and there, but nothing too bad considering the WTB rim is one of the lightest available for its width.

Shimano's XT brakes handled stopping duties with dual 180mm rotors, and it's reassuring to not write much more about them other than they were exactly as we have come to know. They're reliable, fade free on all but the longest descents, and easy to adjust. We do wish they would fit on the bar better with some of SRAM's product offerings, however. The dropper post, shifter, and brake levers coming from different companies made for a cluttered bar clamp area with reduced customization options.

Coupled with RaceFace Turbine Cinch cranks and their 32-tooth Narrow/Wide chainring, we didn't have any issues with the SRAM X1/X01 drivetrain. The addition of a E13 XCX top guide means the occasional chain drop is no longer a concern. The whole system works very quietly thanks to to the clutched rear derailleur and excellent swingarm protection that comes standard.

Finally, Santa Cruz includes a 150mm travel RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post that worked perfectly well. The extra 25mm of travel allows you to move the bike around even more on those really steep descents and jumpy trails.

Long Term Durability

Considering the fact that this bike should be purchased for the purpose of going downhill quickly, we would only worry about the relatively lightweight rims. They will hold up fine for a while, but they are not the perfect match strength wise for how capable the rest of the bike is. Other than that, the frame features an easy to use grease port on the lower link, as well as double sealed pivots for better bearing life. It's easy to take care of all areas that could be stressed with heavy use. The company backs the frame with a five year frame warranty and lifetime on the pivots.

What's The Bottom Line?

There is no Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde here, the latest edition of the Santa Cruz Nomad is 95% Hyde. We have not ridden a more capable bike with this amount of travel. If your motto is "go fast, have fun, safety third," this could very well be your calling. Only its surprising ability to climb well makes us believe it really was intended to go up and down. Just remember, this is not a bike for the lazy, as it can morph crazy trail sections into rideable terrain under a motivated rider, but at the same time your average trail might end up feeling a bit more boring than you ever intended.

Visit www.santacruzbicycles.com for more details.

Bonus Gallery: 21 photos of the 2015 Santa Cruz Nomad Carbon X01 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 1 review.

Added a product review for 2015 Orange Alpine 160 RS 2/25/2015 8:05 AM
C138_2015_orange_alpine_160_rs_bike

2015 Test Sessions: Orange Alpine 160 RS

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Reviewed by Dylan Stucki and AJ Barlas // Photos by Lear Miller

For 2015, Orange moves to the 27.5-inch wheel size and slightly more aggressive geometry on their Alpine 160 RS. Still sporting the trusty single pivot suspension design that has taken them through many years of mountain bike history, the Alpine 160 RS aims to contend with the industry’s finest enduro rigs. Vital MTB's Test Sessions was the perfect opportunity to evaluate the merits of the handmade British bomber.

Highlights

  • Aluminum frame
  • 27.5-inch wheels
  • 160mm (6.3-inches) of front and rear wheel travel
  • Tapered head tube
  • 65-degree head angle
  • 74-degree effective seat tube angle
  • 344mm (13.6-inch) measured bottom bracket height
  • 439mm (17.3-inch) chainstays
  • 73mm threaded bottom bracket
  • 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured complete weight (size L, no pedals): 31-pounds, 9-ounces (14.3kg)
  • £4130 MSRP as tested (approximately $6,300 USD)

Born from craftsmen at their Halifax factory, Orange has always been known for robust and moto-esque single pivot designs. Although the single pivot is far from new, it has certainly held its own as a reliable suspension design and capable performer. Just look to Greg Minnaar (2001), Steve Peat (2002, 2004), and Tracey Hannah's (2006) Downhill World Championships for indisputable proof. The Alpine 160 RS builds off that legacy with 160mm of travel and geometry numbers that rival those used to win downhill races not long ago.

A quick glance at the spec sheet and you'll see it's a true modern enduro machine with a proper 65-degree head angle, 465mm reach on the size Large frame, and 640mm effective top tube. It was among the slacker and longer bikes of the 19 in our Test Sessions round up. Orange has always pushed the long front center concept, and the Alpine 160 RS goes even further to provide more stable handling at speed.

Visually, one might argue that the 6061-T6 monocoque/Reynolds custom butted aluminum frame is a little stuck in its glory days with the basic design and bulky rear swing arm, but there's certainly something good to be said for simplicity and the reliable traits that can result. Surprisingly, though, a visual inspection of the welds raised a few eyebrows with many bead inconsistencies along the downtube.

Orange hits the major notes on the features list pretty well, including 27.5-inch wheels, a threaded bottom bracket for creak-free performance, tapered headtube, ISCG tabs, ample mud clearance, and stealth-style dropper post routing. Aside from the dropper, cable routing runs along the outside of the downtube which makes for easy service and a rattle free ride. With single chainring drivetrain systems absolutely taking off, Orange makes a confident vote for the 1X setup by making it an integral piece on the RS build, however the frame includes an E2 type front derailleur mount if it's needed. There's no water bottle mount, so plan to figure out an alternate hydration transportation method.

The Alpine 160 is offered with "RS" and "AM" build kits, both of which are customizable from the factory. We spent our miles getting used to the RS, which is geared more for the descents and starts at £3800 (~$5,875 USD). The AM model has increased usability with a 2X drivetrain at £3000 (~$4,335 USD). Frame and shock packages start at £1700 (~$2,625 USD). A whopping 13 frame colors are available, as well as S, M, L, and XL sizes.

On The Trail

The Orange was put to good used on the trails of West Cuesta Ridge and Madonna Mountain in San Luis Obispo, California, where a great mix of long climbs, high speed chunder, big rocks, tight switchbacks, and ripping turns made for some of the better zones to test bikes.

Orange recommends 25-30% sag, so we began with 28% on the RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 shock. The RockShox Pike RCT3 SoloAir fork was also set to the recommended pressure for our body weights. Visual indicators and/or charts on both made the process painless.

With 800mm wide Kore Torsion bars and a 35mm length Kore Repute stem, the cockpit components provided a setup ready for some good old fashioned aggressive fun. The bars can always be cut to fit, if needed. Our 6'3" tester ran the stock stem length, while our taller 6'5" tester opted for a 50mm to keep things consistent between bikes and gain a little extra length.

The updated geometry of the Alpine 160 made for a well rounded fit well suited to the enduro and all-mountain genre. The top tube and reach provided plenty of room to move around comfortably, and combined with a 65-degree head angle the bike handled well on the steeps and at speed. The 439mm chainstays kept things lively and maneuverable, allowing for quick changes of direction, and getting the front end up was never an issue. The 344mm bottom bracket height fit the build perfectly, being low enough to keep the center of gravity down, but still high enough to provide ample clearance through the rough bits.

While the bike's geometry added to the confidence inspiring feel, once we got fully up to speed and really started charging hard, the rear end seemed stubborn, not wanting to stay planted with an almost springy, uncontrolled feel. Adjusting the sag down to ~35% greatly improved cornering and traction in this scenario, and finite rebound adjustments made incremental improvements as well. Even so, the bike still wanted to skip around, lacking that super stable feel of many of its competitors. This was amplified with the front wheel off the ground when charging through rock gardens while the rear end seemed to wander and deflect.

Although the ideal rear suspension feel was never achieved, perhaps due to a lack of truly adjustable compression adjustments, the Monarch Plus provided decent small bump compliance at all times despite not having the DebonAir can. The shock also ramped up nicely through the stroke, providing good support in g-outs and big compressions that the perfectly linear leverage curve of the single pivot design doesn't naturally provide. Ripping fast, smooth turns was another notable highlight.

While the single pivot design does see some brake squat, the pivot placement keeps things in check without any truly odd braking characteristics.

The frame is fitted with a nice and steep 74-degree effective seat tube angle, making the climbing position more optimal than many other bikes in the enduro/all-mountain category. This improves the 31.6-pound bike's willingness on climbs without needing to integrate travel or geometry adjustments that can hamper performance on the descent. Both suspension components feature pedal-friendly compression modes that aid in getting back to the top of the fun, though the bike pedaled efficiently even with the rear shock wide open.

Build Kit

Orange keeps an eye on true performance gains versus value with the Alpine 160 RS, selecting components they know work well from a variety of companies. Select upgrades are available for those wanting a boost here or there. We opted for just two of the more popular upgrade packages, which included Stans wheels, Maxxis tires, and an improved gear range on the rear cassette.

The top end Rockshox Pike RCT3 Solo Air fork performed flawlessly with a sufficient level of adjustability, that renowned smooth-as-butter small bump feel, and a solid chassis to push against. Hard chargers will be pleased with the ability to add Bottomless Token volume spacers for greater bottom out support.

The 2.3-inch, triple compound Maxxis Minion DHF EXO and High Roller II EXO tires were a nice change from the standard Continental Trail King spec, and really allowed us to get the most out of this bike on loose and rocky terrain. Paired with the Stans No Tubes ZTR Flow EX rims featuring a 25.5mm internal width, the tires had a robust profile, solid footprint, and secure tubeless connection. The rims were laced to Hope Pro II Evo hubs which we've found to be very reliable. After several days of abuse the wheels were still in good shape.

The drivetrain was fitted with a Shimano Zee rear derailleur, 10-speed Shimano XT cassette, and Hope’s 40-tooth REX cog to give the bike a bit more range. Unfortunately there was an insufficient amount of B-tension available on the derailleur, and the chain was very loose in the bottom of the cassette as a result. This led to the bike being incredibly noisy on fast descents (as did the lack of a chainstay pad), and shifting was sub-par due to the maxed out B-tension lifting the derailleur too far off the cogs. The Zee setup seems to work well paired with an 11 to 36-tooth cassette based on past experience, however the 40-tooth add-on seems to push the derailleur beyond its ideal limit.

Orange smartly includes a MRP AMG chainguide to help the somewhat small 30-tooth Raceface Narrow/Wide chainring do its job while also providing some bash protection.

Shimano's XT brakes lived up to their popularity, and we'll once again praise them for their reliable, sure-footed stopping performance. The bike has 203 and 180mm rotors which help provide plenty of power.

The build was topped off with a RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post that also worked flawlessly.

Long Term Durability

The Alpine 160 held its own in the rocky terrain of San Luis Obispo, leaving little concern for long term durability issues. Orange backs the frame and pivot bearings with a five year warranty, and maintenance is as easy as can be due to the design.

The only real concern lies in the 40-tooth cog upgrade. With excessive chain slap and maxed out adjustments, the potential for wear in the drivetrain area increases significantly.

What's The Bottom Line?

It’s always nice to compare apples to Oranges, and with the Alpine 160 RS being among the few true single pivot designs still available it was interesting to evaluate its merits against the industry's more intricate designs. What the frame lacks in complexity it makes up for in durability and simplicity, which can really appeal to some riders.

Given our experience, we think the Alpine 160 RS is best for riders who prefer the playful feel of a quick and snappy rear end paired with the stability offered by a lengthy front center. If loose, rocky terrain is your jam, the bike may not be the best weapon because it lacks a composed, comfortable feel when things get truly hairy. In this case the well chosen spec and geometry only go so far, and some bikes with more advanced suspension designs provide increased capability and a more well rounded feel at the same cost.

Visit www.orangebikes.co.uk for more details.

Bonus Gallery: 20 photos of the 2015 Orange Alpine 160 RS up close and in action


About The Reviewers

Dylan Stucki - When he's not busy popping no-handed wheelies or shot-gunning beers you're likely to find Dylan comfortably inside the top ten at Big Mountain Enduro races. Since he's a big guy and charges hard he breaks a lot of stuff. He's naturally a perceptive and particular rider who picks up on even the smallest details.

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.

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 1 review.

Added a product review for 2015 Mondraker Foxy Carbon RR 2/8/2015 9:31 PM
C138_2015_mondraker_foxy_carbon_rr_bike

2015 Test Sessions: Mondraker Foxy Carbon RR

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Reviewed by AJ Barlas and Dylan Stucki // Photos by Lear Miller

After three years of development, Mondraker's first foray into a bike with fantastic plastic has arrived in the form of the Foxy Carbon, a 140mm travel trail machine. The Foxy comes in a lightweight package and features the now dominant 27.5-inch wheel size. Mondraker bikes are renowned for having some of the most unique geometry, and the new ride is no exception. We got to know the modern looking Spanish creation during the 2015 Vital MTB Test Sessions.

Highlights

  • Carbon frame
  • 27.5-inch wheels
  • 140mm (5.5-inches) of rear wheel travel // 140mm (5.5-inches) front travel
  • Tapered head tube
  • 67.5-degree head angle
  • 75-degree effective seat tube angle
  • 343mm (13.5-inch) measured bottom bracket height
  • 430mm (16.9-inch) chainstays
  • PF92 bottom bracket
  • 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured complete weight (size XL, no pedals): 27-pounds, 13-oz (12.6kg)
  • MSRP 5999 EUR

As with many manufacturers that offer a new carbon model, doing so typically results in a far more streamlined, sleeker look. Such is the case with the Foxy. The new bike is sexier than its aluminum sister, thanks in part to the replacement of the unconventional hunchback top tube with something more slender, while still maintaining their distinctive bracing near the headtube. Mondraker says the bike's modern and aggressive styling was influenced by contemporary auto design trends, among others, and we've got to admit that this thing looks good. The company varies the fiber type, quantity, layout, and epoxy resin based on the different demands for each part of the frame.

Mondraker was the first brand to really push the drastically longer front end (top tube and reach), which they call Forward Geometry. What are the benefits of such a setup? Steering precision, control, handling, confidence, and stability at speed over difficult terrain are just a few of the items claimed to improve. Pushing the front end out also gives the perception of having a slacker head angle, and encourages you to get your weight forward.

They offset the frame's elongated geometry by using a short stem to place the contact points in approximately the same location as a bike with conventional geometry. In the case of our size XL Foxy test bike, the massive 518mm reach measurement was a considerable 38mm longer than the next closest XL bike at Test Sessions, and used a stubby 30mm length stem to reign things back in a portion of that distance.

It also utilizes Mondraker's Zero Suspension system, a proprietary design that falls under the virtual pivot banner. The rear shock is compressed by rotating links on both ends. It's said to provide a great pedaling platform, little in the way of brake squat, and a smoother ride in the rough - all attributes we'd evaluate on the trail. Another interesting feature on the Foxy is the use of FOX’s CTD lever with a splitter, which allows you to switch between Climb, Trail, and Descend damping modes on the front and rear suspension simultaneously. This adds two more cables to the front of the bike, which unfortunately also makes for a very cluttered setup.

The bike is very quiet, with no internal cable rattle thanks to a well designed internal routing system that tensions the cables inside the downtube. The RockShox Reverb seatpost is routed up through the seat tube for that Stealth look. Frame protection is offered by a rubber guard on the chainstay to prevent chainslap. The downtube gets a guard as well, but it's minimal in comparison to the length of the downtube and may not prevent many stray rocks from marring up the beauty.

Additional details include a press fit bottom bracket, ISCG tabs, a bottle mount inside the front triangle, ample mud clearance, and a nice fender/mud guard on the otherwise exposed shock.

There are four Foxy Carbon models ranging from 3699-6999 EUR. We tested the second tier Foxy Carbon RR model that runs 5999 EUR (approximately $6,800 US, though the brand does not sell in the USA at this time). You can also pick up a frame and shock package for 2999 EUR. They're offered in sizes Small, Medium, Large, and XL.

On The Trail

So, where does one ride a bike like this? What types of trails is best suited to? We experimented on a variety of terrain surrounding San Luis Obispo, California. From smooth and fast ribbons of dirt with high speed berms, jumps, and meandering climbs to rock gardens and tight switchbacks, we rode a big selection of trail types for good measure.

With the high speeds possible on the majority of the trails we rode, the bike often felt very stable - a result of its length, which takes some time to get used to. The long reach requires you to get very aggressive and up over the front in order to push the bike into turns. Don't get over the front enough and you'll feel detached from the bike and fight to keep front end traction. If you can maintain a minimum speed that's quite quick, the bike will shine on descents and instill confidence. Just don't get sloppy. Keeping it up to speed is a challenge you'd better be willing to accept, because it's the only rewarding way the bike likes to be ridden. That stability and control at speed comes with shortcomings.

Regardless of your technique, the length makes it sluggish in tight situations, and it can be a challenge to maneuver quickly. The extra length also made it difficult to manual and play with the front end of the bike, despite the reasonably snug 430mm chainstays. Jumping the bike was also very awkward, as the added length seemed to make it want to kick up the rear end through the transition, adding a bucking sensation at times.

We are all for trying new things, and perhaps with much more time on the bike we would grow fond of its size. The Forward Geometry concept is intriguing, but when pushed to the extreme we felt that it's simply too much for the trail bike application. Despite the short 30mm stem, the long front end was uncomfortable with a reach of 40-60mm longer than most bikes of the same size in this category. The majority of bikes come equipped with a 50mm stem these days, so even with the 20mm savings on the stem length, you're still looking at something with contact points 20-40mm further out than what you're likely accustomed to. We agree with having a long reach and short stems, but the XL Foxy Carbon felt flat out too long for our 6'3" and 6'5" testers. As very tall riders who often struggle to find bikes that actually fit us, that's not something we thought we'd ever say.

Geometry aside, we owe some praise to the Zero Suspension system as it's a very well rounded design. With the rear 200x57mm FOX Float CTD Factory shock set to 25% sag and the FOX 34 Float CTD Factory fork set to 20%, the suspension felt balanced and performed well. We never felt any harsh bottom outs, despite actually doing so on numerous occasions. The progressive nature of the design and the speed burst it can provide was really noticeable when pushing the bike hard into short, quick corners - an attribute that caught us by surprise the first time we gave 'er. There was no discernible hang up on square edges or skipping about on chatter, with the bike remaining quite planted when our form and speed were up to par.

We seldom used the dual CTD adjustment lever as there simply wasn't a need for it. The Foxy exhibits very little pedal activated bob even when wide open, and accelerates up hills quite well. We wouldn't go as far as describing it as spritely, but it moves faster than many 140mm travel bikes do. Even on straightforward, buff climbing trails we saw little point in the lever, but for the times we really wanted to smash the pedals, the Climb and Trail modes did provide a noticeably stiffer platform. Leaving it wide open allows the rear end to track better, however, and also leaves the bike ready for the next descent, so we'd prefer to see the bike without the complication and clutter of the remote.

The Foxy's weight didn't its climbing abilities either, coming in as one of the lightest Test Sessions bikes at 27.8-pounds.

Build Kit

Mondraker's Foxy Carbon RR build consists of components from Onoff, FOX, RockShox, Maxxis, Crankbrothers, Formula, and SRAM, which for the most part were solid.

Right off the bat, most riders will ditch the stock 740mm wide Onoff Stoic Carbon bars. Considering how the bike needs to be ridden, some extra width is a good bet.

The 140mm travel FOX 34 Float CTD Factory fork features an updated cartridge for 2015, and once setup to a suitable pressure (likely higher than recommended) it performed well, with buttery smooth action and good support throughout. Tracking was good, and for the trails the bike will likely see the fork is a great match.

As we've come to expect, RockShox's Reverb Stealth dropper post performed well. Because there is no front derailleur, we flipped the remote lever to be under the left side of the bars as it's in a better position. Even with the dual CTD lever to contend with, both levers were still easy to use when required.

Crankbrothers Cobalt 3 tubeless wheels filled the rolling department, and actually felt quite nice, albeit a bit softer than what our testers prefer. The wheels stayed true and tracked well. They're pretty narrow, though, resulting in a rather rounded profile to the high volume tires.

The 2.4-inch Maxxis Ardent tires roll fast, but we were left wanting a little more cornering bite when getting up over the front end - something the bike requires to muscle its long front center around bends.

Formula's CR3 brakes were the only component that gave us any major grief. Aside from providing relatively poor stopping performance, the rear brake piston seized on several occasions, essentially locking the brake. Getting it to recede back into the caliper was more of a guessing game than anything, but rotating the rear wheel with the brake held would eventually release it. Should you decide to upgrade the dual 180mm rotors, know that the rear brake uses a relatively uncommon adapter.

The SRAM X01 drivetrain with X1 cranks worked without a hitch, providing a smooth, quiet, and friction free drivetrain experience with no chain drops. Clearance between the chainstay and the front ring is incredibly tight, so much so that we would be surprised if a 34 tooth chainring could fit. Potential clearance issue aside, our test bike was severely under geared with the stock 30 tooth ring. This made getting up to the speeds needed to really enjoy the bike more difficult, and we found ourselves spun out often.

Long Term Durability

The brakes are the only part that we had issues with. We'd suggest replacing them. There were no concerns with the frame or other components, however, and we don't see why the bike wouldn't hold up to years of abuse. Mondraker backs the frame with a generous lifetime warranty.

What's The Bottom Line?

Thanks to Mondraker's Forward Geometry and bottomless feel of the Zero Suspension system, the new Foxy Carbon RR is a more capable bike than the 140mm travel designation would typically indicate. It needs to be ridden at speed to enjoy the ride, and requires a very demanding, over the front riding style that may be difficult for riders to maintain during long days in the saddle.

We found the recommended size to be surprisingly and uncomfortably long (even for our 6'5" tall tester), but the bike has potential to be a good, go-mostly anywhere trail rig under the right rider. The predictable, progressive, and well designed suspension allows it to climb and descend equally well. Those who prefer an easily maneuverable bike will want to look elsewhere, or at the very least consider sizing down. For practical use, there is an upper limit to the long front end/short stem geometry concept, and in our opinion the Foxy is at the far end of the spectrum.

Visit www.mondraker.com for more details.

Bonus Gallery: 22 photos of the 2015 Mondraker Foxy Carbon RR up close and in action


About The Reviewers

Dylan Stucki - When he's not busy popping no-handed wheelies or shot-gunning beers you're likely to find Dylan comfortably inside the top ten at Big Mountain Enduro races. Since he's a big guy and charges hard he breaks a lot of stuff. He's naturally a perceptive and particular rider who picks up on even the smallest details.

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.

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 1 review.

Added a product review for Canfield Brothers Balance Frame 2/5/2015 4:49 PM
C138_canfield_brothers_balance_black_blue

2015 Test Sessions: Canfield Balance

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

For 2015, the Canfield Brothers are bringing you the culmination of their last 10 years of trail bikes. The Balance is a 160mm slayer designed to do it all, integrating ideas from both their downhill and former 180mm travel "The One" bikes. With a build and suspension design oriented to provide maximum fun, we couldn't wait to throw a leg over it at the Vital MTB Test Sessions. The beautifully welded aluminum frame can run 26 or 27.5-inch wheels, and looks to be a beast when pointed down. A Cane Creek DBair CS shock and slack head angle point towards the gravity end of the all-mountain spectrum, but the really interesting part of the Balance lies between those cool red anodized links.

Highlights

  • Aluminum frame
  • 27.5 (tested) or 26-inch wheels
  • 160mm (6.3-inches) of rear wheel travel
  • Tapered head tube
  • 66-degree head angle (160mm fork, 27.5, external headset)
  • 74.2-degree effective seat tube angle
  • 346mm (13.6-inch) measured bottom bracket height
  • 425mm (16.7-inch) chainstays
  • 73mm threaded bottom bracket
  • 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured complete weight (size L, no pedals): 32-pounds, 7-oz (14.7kg)
  • $2,100 MSRP (frame + shock)

The Canfield family has truly embraced 1X drivetrain systems that come as standard equipment on so many bikes this year. We see that as a good thing, so long as you don't want two front chainrings for climbing. Optimizing a frame for a single front ring allows frame designers to be free from the constraints of chain torque from different locations. The Balance is optimized for a 30 or 32 tooth chainring, which is what most riders will run on a do-everything bike with 27.5-inch wheels. Those red links joining the rear swingarm to the mainframe work together to change the virtual pivot location as the frame cycles through its travel. The virtual pivot is designed to move not up and down, but instead across the arc of the front chainring. By designing the parallel link "Formula" suspension this way, the Balance promises efficient, neutral pedaling while still retaining the bump-absorbing heart of a shredding machine. Shock accessibility is very good, and it should be considering all the available adjustments on the 200x57mm Cane Creek DBair CS.

In the looks department, the Balance is striking. From the skull adorned, beefy hydroformed headtube area to the remarkably intricate details that pop when you look closely, this 6061 aluminum frame is a work of art, balancing brawn and beauty while showing just how well the Brothers have mastered their craft. Out of our 19 bike Test Sessions fleet, the Balance is the one we were all clamoring for when we were setting out for our roughest trail days.

There a no geometry adjustments on the Balance, aside from the ability to run 26 or 27.5 wheels. In reality, almost all 27.5 frames can do this. If a bike is made to have clearance for 27.5-inch wheels, 26-inch wheels only drop about a half-inch from the bottom bracket height. A slightly lighter weight, slightly lower ride height, and a slightly more playful ride will likely result from that change. We stuck with 27.5 for this test, as we believe that is what most riders will stay with when purchasing new rides for the year. This setup yielded a 346mm (13.6-inch) bottom bracket height. Mud clearance out back was tight though, with just ~6mm of room for the muck with 2.35-inch Maxxis tires, likely as a result of the compact 425mm (16.7-inch) chainstays.

Additional details include a no-nonsense 73mm threaded bottom bracket, ISCG tabs, direct front derailleur mount, tapered headtube, 160mm post brake mount, large Enduro Max bearings at the pivots, a replaceable axle nut, and a bottle mount under the downtube. Cables route externally on top of downtube, eliminating the dreaded cable rattle and protecting them from stray rocks or mishaps. Canfield provides stealth-style internal routing for the dropper post, as well as the option to run one externally.

The Balance is sold as a frame and shock package for $2,100, and fork/wheel/crank/pedal packages are available to help with the build. The main frame comes in anodized black or brushed aluminum, and there are six link colors to choose from to customize the look of your ride. Small, Medium, Large and X-Large frames are made, and the claimed frame weight is 7.5-pounds without a shock.

On The Trail

The Canfield Balance was taken on numerous outings to the rockiest trails on West Cuesta Ridge in San Luis Obispo, California, and then to the coastline trails and a jump zone near Morro Bay.

Although our test rig was set up with a good mix of parts, we are going to focus more on the frame as that's how it's sold. Canfield can certainly recommend parts based on their experience, but the frame + shock combo can be built up with whatever parts you choose.

Initial setup is pretty easy, provided you follow the recommended settings for the Cane Creek shock. The myriad of adjustments can seem overwhelming, leading some riders to do nothing and just hoping for the best. Luckily for new Balance owners, Canfield and Cane Creek have two baseline recommendations. Knowing our propensity for the more gravity fed side of trails, they suggested we try their "Park" setting first. With more low-speed rebound control and minimal low-speed compression, the Balance was set to take big hits and make the most of the trail ahead. We also believed that this would be a perfect setting to see how good the claimed pedaling efficiency really was. For our 175-pound test riders we settled on a generous 38% (20mm) sag, as suggested by Canfield. The other recommended starting point is what they call their "All-Mountain" setting, which provides a firmer, more pedal-efficient bike with 33% (17mm) sag and increased low-speed compression.

The Balance sports a frame tailor made for fast fun. A 66-degree head angle paired with short chainstays encourages speed, but usually allows for a playful demeanor. The size Large frame's 438mm reach was comfortable for our 5'10" tall tester, but on the edge of our 5'8" tester's preference even with a 50mm stem. This caused Steve some trouble when trying to weight the front end, and he had to change his riding to get lower and more forward than normal. With frame sizes all over the board depending on the brand, some riders at 5'9" will prefer a Medium, and some riders at 5'8" will prefer Larges. While we usually prefer to ride longer Mediums or shorter Larges, we'd caution against thinking the Canfield's 607mm effective top tube would mean a "short" bike for the Large size designation. Even though the top tube isn't super long, the reach feels longer than other bikes in our usual size range.

Compared to some other bikes with slack actual seat tube angles, the Canfield didn't feel too stretched out while seated for either tester. We also didn't feel like we were behind the bottom bracket when pedaling, much of which can be attributed to those short stays. This gives the relatively big bike a sportier, more climb-friendly feel.

Once pointed downhill, the Balance showed us how important suspension setup is on this frame. At first we felt the bike kicking on successive hits, throwing our weight forward. It felt as if the rear suspension wasn't working to its full potential, especially considering Canfield bikes' reputations for vertical axle paths and bump eating prowess. Cornering felt decent on smooth terrain, and big hit absorption was also very good. On successive hits though, like through rough rock gardens, the Balance was certainly off. This is as it should be with the settings we were handed, though, as the "Park" mode seemed best suited to bike park use. We tried it and listened to what we were told, but on rough trails with successive rocky hits we needed more rebound speed and less high-speed compression. The Balance came alive after our changes, and would keep up with the terrain coming at it. The ability to tune low-speed rebound kept the bike from feeling too springy at the top of the travel, and the lighter high-speed compression setting allowed the back wheel to move out of the way of bumps quicker. We tend to gravitate toward more low-speed compression in general, and that made an improvement to the Balance's ride as well.


Some of our changes also focused on the RockShox Pike fork. What felt like a good initial setup needed to be changed to a few more clicks of low-speed compression and two-fewer clicks of rebound damping for our shorter tester. This kept the front end higher up in the travel and provided more support so he could lean on the front end more for traction. After all these changes, which really only amounted to a few discussions and stops, the Balance felt more like what we thought it could be. It was a high-speed machine that jumped well when compressed, but also felt glued to the ground when we wanted to keep contact with the dirt. No doubt that the initial suppleness helped with this, as well as the ramp at the end of the stroke caused by the air shock spring and the Balance's own gently progressive leverage curve. Big or small, if we wanted to get airborne, we could.

When we were going through fields of baby heads and really rough terrain, the Balance would keep its speed really well. We didn't always place the wheels perfectly, and we didn't always pump at exactly the right time, but the frame's suspension and axle path did a great job of getting up and over any obstacle in our way.

Once we had the suspension set up well for fast, rocky terrain, one of the few complaints we had was on a few big landings. Any double can be made into a single if you go fast enough, and we experienced this first hand. While the suspension was good on big compressions generated by us, if we were really pushing the limit of drops or jumps, the bike's suspension would go through travel pretty quickly. This is the tradeoff we experienced due to easing up on the compression settings we mentioned earlier. If you do go to the park with this, crank up the high-speed compression a bit more than what we had, and consider adding a volume reducer inside the shock. We don't see this as too much of a bad thing. The Balance is what it is - 160mm of travel that's great at gobbling up bumps, and even good suspension characteristics when under power. The small trade off of an occasional bottom out at the limit seems completely acceptable.

Overall, the Balance was very good when pointed downhill, but this frame is definitely capable of lots more than just descending steeps well. The suspension was very consistent on flat terrain when we would encounter chattery or rough sections. Pedaling would keep the suspension from moving too much, but felt far from locked out. It was a good kind of firm, not the kind that would inhibit bump absorption while pedaling into ledges or techy terrain. Big-footed riders may experience some slight heel rub on the relatively wide swing arm.

We wouldn't say that it was easy to change lines, but the bike would move in a hurry given enough body english. Some of the bike's weight was a part of that. We don't want to harp on the weight too much, but it is worth explaining. The 7.5-pound frame without shock turns into a 8.6-pound frame + shock combo. That's not light, but with many frame + shock combos coming between 6.5 and 7.5-pounds, it isn't a huge penalty either. We've never ridden bikes that are great at 30 but bad at 31-pounds. On the flip side, taking a pound of weight from a 29-pound bike that is mediocre will not turn it into a star.

The 32.4-pound complete bike weight is mostly because of the parts, which are entirely up to the rider. Even so, no matter how much we try to justify the Canfield's weight, there was no argument that made our quads feel better up some of the big hills we rode. It felt heavy, but not sluggish. The Balance took effort to go forward, but it was not wasted effort thanks to the suspension design's efficiency. While jumping, it also felt lighter than its build would indicate. Manualing was fun and also masked the waistline number. Powering up technical terrain was far better than one might assume at first. The rear wheel felt so glued to the ground that given enough power, the bike could motor up just about anything. The above average bottom bracket height also aided to its climbing ability. We wouldn't spike cranks nearly as much on familiar climbs as we have with bikes that were closer to the 13-inch bottom bracket mark.

We didn't end up using the climb mode much on the Cane Creek rear shock, even though the DBair CS has a cool way of dealing with climbing. Instead of locking out the rear end on a compression circuit, it calms the rebound and adds a little bit of low-speed compression so that a rider doesn't feel much bobbing. It made a difference in the climbing performance, but it wasn't that necessary, which is more of a highlight of the Canfield's great pedaling performance than anything else. The bike doesn't need many switches or performance additives, and the bar is acceptably adorned with only a dropper post cable, two brakes and a shifter cable - refreshing in a day when excessive items on a spec sheet can be all too common.

Build Kit

As mentioned earlier, components will be entirely up to each rider, so we'll focus on the bits that are unique to Canfield.

Canfield makes hubs that provide the option of running a 9-tooth small cog and then a good range after that. Considering the bike was designed around a 30 or 32-tooth chainring, the Balance seems like a perfect candidate for their hub. With a small chainring up front and a 9-36 tooth cassette, many riders will be able to climb majority of hills and still have a high enough gear to put down power at speed. Our bike was equipped with a standard 11-36 tooth 10-speed setup. It got the job done just fine, but we were oh so eager to see what Canfield's own gearing setup would be like.

We weren't left out completely from Canfield's line up of components though. Our wheels, crankset, hubs and pedals all sported Canfield's name. All worked just as they should have, with no hiccups out of any of the parts. Given the nature of the Balance, we wouldn't change much at all. Engagement on the wheels was decent, and the pedals did their job as well as they could have. Combined with the bottom bracket height, the Crampon pedals' thin profile worked wonders in avoiding rocks during our testing period.

If pressed, we would could be convinced to add a lower roller to the chainguide. There were a few noises from the chain moving around on the standard style chainring, but it never fell off with just a top guide. Adding a roller could put a stop to some of the chain rattle and add to the feeling of indestructibility the Balance imparts on the rider. Also consider adding some mastic tape to the inside of the seat stay to silence the little bit of remaining chainslap.

For a bike as lively and plush as the Balance, some riders may prefer the full on performance of a coil shock. The bike is already heavy, so that isn't going to change much. The increased suppleness wouldn't hinder much on the way up, as the suspension is so good at mitigating bob via the design. On the way down, the coil would provide even more control and a smoother ride over the majority of hits. It might even save a few dollars off the end bill.

Long Term Durability

The Balance gives us no reason to worry in the long run. The large, consistent welds are among the best we've ever seen on a production bike, and the frame has multiple places that are braced and gusseted for added strength. Aside from a few checks to the suspension bolts (which we wish had the torque specs printed on them), we see no reason why the Balance can't be in your stable for a very long time.

What's The Bottom Line?

The Balance is unique in a way that is almost hard to describe. In a world where many bikes claim to be jacks of all trades, the Canfield stands apart thanks to its superb technical climbing performance, especially among those that prefer to rally on the way down. Even so, given its comfort in berms, large jumps, rough sections, and at speed, don't be surprised when it feels like you're riding a bike with more travel.

For bikes like this, we feel inclined to forgive faults (the Balance is not made to be the lightest bike out there), and praise attributes (ride quality aside, even the smallest details on the frame are beautiful). It's hard to place Canfield's latest creation in a specific group with competitors. This bike is for those out for laughs, hollers, and good sessions with friends, and holds true to its mini-DH roots. The Balance seems to just be for those who want a Balance, and that isn't a bad thing at all.

Visit www.canfieldbrothers.com for more details.

Bonus Gallery: 23 photos of the 2015 Canfield Balance 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 1 review.

Added a product review for 2015 Specialized Women's Rumor Expert EVO 29 2/3/2015 6:41 PM
C138_2015_specialized_womens_rumor_expert_evo_29

2015 Test Sessions: Specialized Rumor Expert EVO 29

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

The sun is rising over the the gorgeous green hills in San Luis Obispo, the Vital MTB Test Sessions house smells of espresso and bacon, and it's time to test out another bike. Oh yes. For us lady testers, Specialized sent their Rumor Expert EVO 29er - a bike they boldly claim is the "ultimate women's full-suspension trail bike." We imagine if Batgirl rode mountain bikes, she would probably be on something dark like this murdered out M5 alloy bike with big ol' 29-inch wagon wheels, 120mm travel in the front and rear, and a design specially for women with an ultra-low standover and lady-specific parts. With our coffee cups empty and the trails calling our name, it's time to take on this panther bike and see how she purrs.

Highlights

  • Aluminum frame
  • 29-inch wheels
  • 120mm (4.72-inches) of front and rear wheel travel
  • Tapered head tube
  • 68.4-degree head angle
  • 73-degree effective seat tube angle
  • 327mm (12.9-inch) measured bottom bracket height
  • 450mm (17.7-inch) chainstays
  • PF30 bottom bracket
  • 142+ rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured complete weight (size M, no pedals): 27-pounds, 8-oz (12.5kg)
  • $5,000 MSRP

With its matte black paint job and parts to match, the Rumor Expert EVO stands out in a crowd of bright and flashy color schemes. At first glance this doesn’t scream "women’s specific" design, however, the frame was designed from the ground up with some nifty tweaks. Specialized uses a women’s tubeset, which is basically lighter tubing, helping bring the weight down to a respectable 27.5-pounds. The two piece top tube allows for better standover clearance even with those 29-inch wheels. You'll also notice a funny little black bumper under the down tube - because Specialized had to shrink a 29er frame to fit smaller ladies, they had to put the rubber stop there to protect the frame from the fork when it spins.

Specialized offers the Rumor in two types - standard and EVO. Those riding rougher trails will appreciate the slacker head angle paired with 10mm more travel on the EVO sister. Additional EVO upgrades include a RockShox Pike fork, 20mm wider bars, a SRAM X01 drivetrain, and a grippier front tire.

Bonus features include a rear FOX shock equipped with Autosag, plenty of mud clearance, a chainstay guard to keep it quiet, and Specialized's unique SWAT (Storage, Water, Air, and Tools) system chain tool under the top cap on the steerer tube and multi-tool on the bottle cage. We think these are some neat and certainly convenient innovations. The only thing that really stands out as a potential negative is the lack of stealth-style internal dropper post routing for that super clean look, and the exposed downtube routing for the rest of the cables due to the potential of rock strikes.

Specialized makes the Rumor line in Small, Medium, and Large sizes to fit a big range of riders. Prices are $2,000, $2,700, $4,000 for the standard models or $5,000 for the EVO edition, which is what we had the joy of testing.

On The Trail

San Luis Obispo isn't just a place to go visit the beach, watch the sunset, or go wine tasting. It served as the ultimate testing grounds for us to check out the Rumor Expert EVO 29er on a variety of trails. The riding options among the pastoral green hills ranged from fast and flowy to rough and rocky, and we rode them all over several days. Some rain leading into our testing period also meant the trails were prime for riding.

While setting up the Rumor, we struggled to get the Autosag feature on the FOX Float CTD Factory shock to work. For both of us, it was giving us something close to just 10% sag. It's a really cool concept though, where (in theory) you can just inflate the shock really high, sit on the bike, and depress a little button to end up with a good setup. We ended up setting sag the old school way to 30%. The fork was an easy setup. We just followed the handy-dandy sticker on the RockShox Pike RC 29 to put in the appropriate air pressure.

Amanda ran the stock cockpit components and felt comfortable with it. Courtney swapped the 700mm Specialized XC handlebars for something in the 750mm range and the 70mm stem for a 50mm. Both of us were happy with the Specialized Women's Enduro XL lock-on grips, and both pleasantly surprised by how comfortable we were on the Women's Myth saddle. Maybe it's called Myth because it would sound like a myth if someone told you they got on a bike with a stock saddle that was actually comfortable?

At 5'6" and 5'7", neither of us felt stretched out or scrunched up while seated, and our overall body position felt neutral and comfortable, indicating a good top tube fit on the size Medium test bike. It was easy to move around in the saddle for technical climbs, too. Standing, the reach felt stable and roomy, especially with the shorter stem installed.

As you would expect of a 29er, the front end felt tall and a little more upright than the 27.5-inch bikes we've been riding often. This made for comfortable cruising, but was definitely odd to adjust to at first. At times we felt like the front end wanted to pop up on steeper climbs, and the high sensation made slow maneuvers and cornering a little awkward. After lowering the stem and bars as low as they could go, climbing and cornering felt much better. The high front end feel is amplified by the super low bottom bracket, which puts your feet lower than normal, but this helps the bike stay planted and carve turns better.

Traveling downhill Amanda adapted to the 29er feeling quickly and was surprised she felt as confident on it as she did. Courtney took a bit longer to warm up to the different ride. She didn't feel as confident on this bike while riding it on some really rough trails, and at first it felt like she was just pinballing around. On smoother and less technical trail sections, the bike came alive for both of us. It could be ridden casually just spinning along or, for more fun, ridden aggressively and really getting after it. It did well being maneuvered through open turns, and laying it over to make it down a switchback just took a smidge more effort than on a smaller bike. The slacker head angle on the EVO model felt good for all around use.

To our surprise it felt pretty decent going off jumps, something we can't say about most 29ers. The suspension didn't get all buck-wild off lips, was smooth yet supportive while pumping transitions, and rolled away confidently. On rougher stuff the suspension coupled with big wheels and a meaty front tire took big bumps well and smaller bumps were no contest. We routinely used a good amount of travel, but rarely bottomed. Specialized chalks this up to their custom women's suspension tune, which uses a more linear spring rate than comparable men's models.

Those looking to descend with the most confidence will want to consider upgrading to a dropper seatpost with more adjustment. With just 100mm of travel on the Specialized Command Post BlackLite (or even less on the size Small), it's sometimes tough to get your weight back and low when you really need to. You'll need longer legs to make this switch though, as our 5'7" tester already had to have the seatpost completely slammed. Anyone with less than a 30-inch inseam may not be able to get even the stock saddle low enough. So, while the low standover is awesome, it'd be great to reduce the seat tube length some more as well.

When it came time to get to the top of another hill, the Rumor didn't drag ass. We were glad it was wisely spec'd with a 30-tooth chainring to power the big 29-inch wheels. Only on extended steep climbs were we wishing we could lasso the rider ahead to help tow us up. It climbed about equally as well in Descend, Trail, and Climb modes on the rear shock. There was nearly no notable difference felt in its already minimal pedal bob, but the legs could feel a slight difference in efficiency and the sitting bones felt their perch get more firm. The seat angle was good for both of us to feel like we were getting good power on the pedals. When out of the saddle for beast-mode climbing or sprinting, there was also little bob to contend with.

Rolling down the trail, pedaling up it, maneuvering through cattle gates, or loading up into the truck, our perceived weight of this 27.5-pound bike was that it was decently light. With its smooth welds, matte black finish, quiet ride, and light feel on the trail, we had to do a double take to confirm this was indeed an alloy bike. It wasn't quite going to blow away in the next wind gust, but it was definitely no haus.

Build Kit

Coming in at $5k, the build on the Rumor is certainly competitive, just as you'd expect. This bike doesn’t skimp on the details for the ladies such as a lower standover height, low profile lock-on grips, a women’s specific saddle, and frame size specific cranks to optimize pedaling efficiency.

The SoloAir RockShox Pike RC is certainly a popular fork among our test bikes this year and with good reason. It is supple off the top to mute the smaller bumps, yet supportive enough to handle the big stuff too. Even at just 120mm of travel we didn’t feel like we blew through the travel when jumping or landing drops. The fork brings a lot of comfort to this ride.

FOX's Float CTD shock with Autosag was developed specifically for "quick and simple adjustment that guarantees the perfect setting for optimal suspension performance." This would absolutely make setup easier but unfortunately we couldn’t benefit because it didn’t work on our test bike. In addition to the Climb, Trail, and Descend modes, this shock comes with the ability to further fine tune the suspension with three "Trail Adjust"modes. While cool, on the trail we felt as though just the three CTD adjustment modes would be sufficient without the complication of the additional three “Trail Adjust” modes.

The idea of having a 1x11 drivetrain on a 29er can be kind of intimidating. However, we found the 30-tooth chainring and 10-42 tooth cassette on the SRAM X01 drivetrain sufficient to keep the big wheels turning. The simplicity is worth it. Even through there is no guide (or ISCG tabs), we didn’t experience a single dropped chain and the bike was essentially silent except for some occasional noise from the rear of the bike when going over some rougher trail. To silence that noise all you'd have to do is add some tape to the seatstay. To further maximize pedaling efficiency, Specialized switches up their crank length based on frame size.

Also helping with efficiency of the bike are those 29-inch wheels. The Roval Control wheels on the Rumor are comprised of standard alloy rims with spokes that you can find at your local bike shop. Nothing major to write home about, but stiff enough and the hub actuation was just fine.

The tubeless 2.3-inch Butcher Control front tire matched with a 2.1-inch Ground Control rear gave us plenty of traction while climbing, through corners, and while braking. The narrower rear tire helps keeps things rolling faster, which we appreciate.

Shimano's XT disc brakes have adequate stopping power and good modulation. We like that these brakes have a knob on the levers to make reach adjustments for smaller hands a snap.

It is rare to find a bike without a dropper post these days, thankfully. The Rumor comes with Specialized’s own Command Post BlackLite with three height position options. Unfortunately, the post was one of the few items we had issues with. First off, this post rebounds with near violent vigor. Try one out (we recommend off the bike at first), and you will see what we mean. At least it isn't actually painful when it tags you in the booty (sorry boys). While the rebound speed is somewhat adjustable using a shock pump, even at low pressures it returns very quickly, plus it loses all resistance when going down which can feel a little odd. The thumb activated lever is only made for the left side of the bike, but we do like that if the bike is turned upside down, like when changing a flat tire, that the lever isn't being rested on. After a few days of riding we experienced the cable shifting through the sort stretch of internal routing. This created tension which prevented the post from extending fully, which made us wish it was one internally routed through the seat tube instead. This would prevent wear and tear on the cable from snags or even being pinched in a bike stand. Our last gripe with the seat post is the fact that it only has three positions. We sometimes found ourselves between the stopping points and this would cause the post to revert to the lower position.

Rounding out the spec of this bike are a few women’s specific details. While one of us switched out the bars and stem to our own, we do appreciate the Rumor holding true to its EVO geometry by coming with slightly wider bars and a shorter stem than non-EVO versions. Lock-on grips that fit women’s smaller hands cap off the bars. Saddles are such a personal thing but we found that the Body Geometry Myth Comp saddle didn’t leave us sore or numb after our long days on the bike.

Long Term Durability

It looks like this bike is going to be pretty solid in terms of the components. The Autosag didn’t work on our test bike, however that didn’t impact the shock's on trail performance. The only other thing we could see as a potential issue is the external routing of the seat post. It is possible that it could be damaged either by snagging or getting pinched in a stand. Specialized backs the Rumor with a nice lifetime warranty, and five years on suspension related equipment.

What's The Bottom Line?

The 2015 Specialized Rumor Expert EVO 29 is a good bike that we would recommend to women riders of any skill level. With big wheel efficiency, quality suspension, and good geometry, this bike will go many miles over varied terrain while keeping its rider happy. We appreciated the bike's willingness to get to the top of the mountain, then its responsiveness and stability which made for a ripping ride down. Only over the nastiest of terrain did we feel uncomfortable, but everything else was a cake walk and we had fun on the vast majority of trails. Our only warning would be to keep an eye on that seat post length if your legs are on the shorter side. With a fair price point of $5,000, you get a great list of components that truly do work well for the female rider.

Visit www.specialized.com for more details.

Bonus Gallery: 22 photos of the 2015 Specialized Rumor Expert EVO 29 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.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for 2015 Cannondale Jekyll 27.5 Carbon Team 1/29/2015 3:18 AM
C138_2015_cannondale_jekyll_27.5_carbon_team_bike

2015 Test Sessions: Cannondale Jekyll Carbon Team

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Reviewed by Dylan Stucki and AJ Barlas // Photos by Lear Miller

After taking a win at the notoriously rough Mammoth ProGRT downhill course under Marco Osborne, the new Cannondale Jekyll is proving to be a head turner with a complete geometry revamp, updated rear shock tune, 27.5-inch wheels, more travel, and the unique carbon Lefty SuperMax PBR fork. Do the revisions add up to a better Jekyll? We hit the trails during the 2015 Vital MTB Test Sessions to find out.

Highlights

  • Carbon frame
  • 27.5-inch wheels
  • 95mm or 160mm (3.74 or 6.3-inches) of rear wheel travel // 160mm (6.3-inches) front travel
  • 1.5 Si head tube
  • 67-degree head angle
  • 75.1-degree (S), 74.9-degree (M), 74.8-degree (L), 74.7-degree (XL, tested) effective seat tube angle
  • 351mm (13.8-inch) measured bottom bracket height
  • 440mm (17.3-inch) chainstays
  • BB30 PressFit bottom bracket
  • 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured complete weight (size XL, no pedals): 28-pounds, 3-oz (12.8kg)
  • $7,580 MSRP

The most notable update to the Jekyll for 2015 is the geometry. Heavily influenced by the first ever Enduro World Champion, Jerome Clementz, the Jekyll gets a longer top tube, slacker head angle, and steeper seat angle.

Cannondale keeps the pull-style, dual-position FOX DYAD RT2 shock for 2015. It features a Jekyll-specific tune to provide a "plusher ride" than in years past, including a redesigned piston to enable better oil flow for improved mid-to-high speed compression damping. The shock can be changed from 160mm to 95mm travel with the flip of a handlebar switch. To really envision what's going on, it's best to think of the DYAD RT2 as two separate shocks combined into one. Depending on the handlebar remote setting, the oil displaced by the center pull chamber will go into one or both sides.

In "Flow" mode the bike gets the full 160mm of travel and utilizes both positive air chambers and its own damping circuit. Doing so yields a high-volume air shock and more linear feel.

In "Elevate" mode the bike gets just 95mm of travel. This occurs because the shock is trying to pump all of the available oil into just one chamber and there simply isn't enough volume. As a result the sag point changes and the spring rate becomes more progressive. This steepens the bike's sagged head and seat tube angles, picks the bottom bracket up a bit, and provides a firmer pedaling platform.

The two modes have different compression and rebound damping characteristics. Setup is a bit more involved than a traditional air shock due to the adjustable positive and negative air springs, separate low-speed rebound adjustment for each travel setting, and the need for a special high-pressure pump. High-speed rebound and compression are factory-tuned.

Out back, the swingarm and linkage are secured with large 15mm thru-axles combined with widely spaced bearings and a collet sleeve bearing preload system. The lower pivot axle is clamped by bolts on both sides. Finally, they double-stack bearings in each rear pivot to increase resistance to twisting loads.

The new 160mm travel Lefty SuperMax 2.0 PBR fork is a surprisingly stout addition to the lineup. The unique dual-crown, single-leg inverted design features a 36mm stanchion, oversized 46mm carbon chassis, 1.5-inch steerer, Push Button platform lockout, and integrated crowns and bump stop. The hidden top portion of the stanchion is square-shaped, which prevents the two tubes from rotating relative to each other and is key to retaining torsional stiffness. The stanchion slides on four sets of needle bearings rather than bushings, reportedly reducing stiction when loaded. This design requires a proprietary hub and tapered axle. Seeking a bike that could provide stability at high speeds but also handle as well as one with steeper angles at lower speeds, they chose to kick the head angle out a degree and increase the fork’s offset measurement to 50mm from the typical 42-45mm. Internally, the fork also sees a new piston to increase oil flow for better small bump and high-speed performance. Low-speed compression damping is unchanged from the prior model.

Cable routing is mostly external, with the derailleur, brake, and dropper post housing following the underside of the downtube - a path vulnerable to rock strikes. The RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post goes into the base of the seat tube, and the rear shock cable routes internally through the side of the headtube. The cables and frame are protected around the bottom bracket area, but never say never. Additional frame guards include a rubber chainstay pad and metal guard to prevent damage from dropped chains.

Additional features include the option for a direct mount front derailleur, ISCG03 tabs for those wanting a chainguide, press fit BB30 bottom bracket, room for a water bottle in the front triangle, and ~12mm of mud clearance around the stock 2.35-inch Schwalbe rear tire.

The Jekyll 27.5 is offered in two carbon models priced at $6,170 and $7,580, as well as two aluminum models at $3,250 and $3,900. Want just the carbon frame and shock? That'll run you $3,500. We tested the top-tier Carbon Team model.

On The Trail

We rode the Jekyll in a variety of terrain in the mountains surrounding San Luis Obispo, California, ranging from wide open speed fests to loose, unpredictable chunk and rocky switchbacks.

Initial setup was relatively straightforward, but required a bit more attention than normal due to the unique suspension. The shock's setup chart is stickered on the frame and there are two sag meters which help speed things up. With suggested pressures over 300psi for most riders, you'll definitely need the supplied high-pressure pump for adjustments, so don't leave home without it. The Lefty was a bit more mysterious in terms of setup, but after a few on-the-trail adjustments to the air pressure we were good to go.

Cannondale's choice in cockpit components has improved for 2015 with a 50mm long FSA Gravity Light stem, but the 740mm wide Cannondale C1 Carbon bars are still too narrow for many riders. At 6'3" and 6'5" tall, we preferred an 800mm wide bar on our size XL test bike.

The old Jekyll had a 68-degree head tube angle and a suggested rear sag point of 40%, while the new Jekyll sits at 67-degrees and rear sag is just 30% - making the angles close to equivalent while on the trail. Even so, compared to the previous model, the added length in the top tube, chainstay, and slacker head angle combined made the Jekyll more stable on high-speed, wide open sections. We found the 484mm reach and 650mm effective top tube length very accommodating to our height, which is much less common than us tall guys would hope. The longer wheelbase helped keep the bike planted, rather than accentuating playfulness like the older model did well.

The new bike's head angle is still a degree or two steeper than many other 160mm enduro bikes, which shows Cannondale's priority towards an agile ride while still granting some composure when things get steep, though not as much as the most aggressive class leaders. Combined with the increased fork offset, the bike was very manageable as things slowed down, and we were able to maintain balance and navigate tight switchbacks well.

While handling was quick and precise, it took a little longer to inspire confidence than comparable bikes and didn’t seem to hold traction super well. The suspension felt stiff at the recommended 30% sag point with more of a race setup than an everyday comfortable feel. Small bump compliance and rear wheel traction left something to be desired, though small air pressure adjustments improved the ride slightly. The single pivot design firms up under braking, which further accentuates things. The shock provides good bottom-out support combined with a slightly progressive leverage curve.

We found that the bike rides very high in its travel, and sometimes uncomfortably so at the suggested 30% sag. Though still relatively tall, when we measured the bottom bracket height it was 13mm lower than the claimed 364mm.

The Jekyll really showed its prowess over other enduro/all-mountain bikes on smooth ascents. It quickly transformed into an XC-esque machine with both suspension climbing features engaged, which was also excellent for sprinting. The bike relies heavily on the dual-mode shock in order to achieve this, though, as the suspension design provides only a mild pedal platform with little anti-squat when used with the stock 30-tooth chainring and 1X drivetrain. Turning the shock to the 95mm Elevate setting stiffened up the rear end a lot, which, depending on the terrain, also took away from climbing traction and comfort. It performed more like a lockout than a shorter travel option, and may be less preferable than the 160mm Flow mode on rough climbs. Those seeking a more pedal-friendly ride without the use of the suspension modes will be best off with a 2X drivetrain, as smaller chainrings provide more anti-squat on this design.

Changing travel modes may seem awkward at first until you realize how to best use the adjustment lever, and after that it becomes natural and surprisingly quick to do. Pushing with your thumb puts the bike in the shorter travel mode, and depressing the silver button at the end of lever returns it to the longer travel position. It’s easiest to rock your hand over and use the side of your pointer finger to return to the longer travel mode rather than once again reaching up with your thumb.

Build Kit

Aside from the out of place spoke guard and reflectors, the Jekyll Carbon Team features a build kit that's certainly in the upper-mid to high-range with a total weight of 28.2-pounds. Components include parts from Cannondale, WTB, DT Swiss, Schwalbe, Magura, SRAM, and RockShox.

Of particular interest was the SuperMax Lefty fork. Despite having only one leg, the fork was deceptively stiff on the trail, backing up Cannondale’s claims. On rocky descents the front end sometimes felt as though it was deflecting more than normal, but you could push into it with authority and the response was impressive. The Push Button climbing platform was also easy to use. While intriguing, we ultimately found it to be a bit less adjustable, supple, and active than some of the more popular traditional forks on the market.

The WTB Team Issue i23 rims took some abuse over the course of testing, but held their own with just a little wobble in the rear. The tubeless ready rims are paired with a DT Swiss 350 rear hub and Cannondale Lefty front hub.

Schwalbe's 2.35-inch Hans Dampf Snakeskin Trailstar tires provide lots of volume and good bite at a reasonable weight, though they do slow things down a bit in the rolling department. We've found that the corner knobs also tend to tear prematurely.

Magura's MT7 brakes with dual 180mm Storm SL rotors performed quite well, though hard charging riders may want a larger rotor up front for more power. Swapping controls to accommodate riders who prefer their brakes to be setup "euro style" can be a little awkward as the lines aren't long enough due to cable routing on the Lefty. Rearranging the cable guides provided just enough slack.

The drivetrain includes Cannondale HollowGram Si cranks with a 30-tooth SRAM XX1 chainring, XX1 derailleur and cassette. Those planning to race the bike will want to consider an upper chainguide for added security. Adding some mastic tape to the inside of the seatstay will also help silence chainslap completely.

Finally, the RockShox Reverb Stealth provided a quick and easy way to adjust seat height at a moment's notice. We'd like to see Cannondale use a lever mounted under the left side of the bar rather than on top of it for the best ergonomics.

Long Term Durability

Our primary durability concern is the use of a proprietary shock. The shock developed an odd "chirp" sound in the top of the travel, and rebound at the end of the stroke slowed down significantly as time went on. After starting the setup process over from the beginning, it was only a matter of a few hours before the issues resurfaced. Enduro and all-mountain bikes take a lot of abuse and wear, and our experience with the proprietary rear suspension made us feel as though the Jekyll could possibly be in the shop more often than other bikes. Replacement shock availability is also something to consider, especially in race scenarios.

Cannondale backs the frame with an impressive lifetime warranty.

What's The Bottom Line?

The 2015 Cannondale Jekyll 27.5 Carbon Team is a nice update to the previous model, and the changes result in a more planted ride at speed with better geometry. The build kit is pretty much race-ready, too. Smooth uphill and sprinting performance stood out in the special climbing mode, but when pointed downhill it often seemed to operate like a bike with 20mm less travel, sometimes riding uncomfortably high and lacking the supple suspension other bikes in its class offer. The bike's results under very skilled professional riders are nothing short of impressive, though, so clearly in the right hands it has potential for greatness.

Visit www.cannondale.com for more details.

Bonus Gallery: 20 photos of the 2015 Cannondale Jekyll Carbon Team up close and in action


About The Reviewers

Dylan Stucki - When he's not busy popping no-handed wheelies or shot-gunning beers you're likely to find Dylan comfortably inside the top ten at Big Mountain Enduro races. Since he's a big guy and charges hard he breaks a lot of stuff. He's naturally a perceptive and particular rider who picks up on even the smallest details.

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.

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 2 reviews.

Added a product review for 2015 Transition Patrol 1 1/26/2015 10:45 PM
C138_2015_transition_patrol_1

2015 Test Sessions: Transition Patrol 1

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

Giddy up boys and girls! An entire new line of Transition bikes is here for 2015 featuring the GiddyUp suspension design. The complete overhaul to their frames and suspension system includes a Horst Link (not to be confused with a four-legged animal who neighs), which is now available to use by a wider number of companies. Transition was among the first brands to jump on the opportunity. Interested to how they pulled it off and what improvements they might have made, we tested the 155mm travel Patrol 1 during the 2015 Vital MTB Test Sessions.

Highlights

  • Aluminum frame
  • 27.5-inch wheels
  • 155mm (6.1-inches) of rear wheel travel // 160mm (6.3-inches) front travel
  • Tapered head tube
  • 65-degree head angle
  • 76-degree (S), 75.4-degree (M, tested), 74.9-degree (L), 74.5-degree (XL) effective seat tube angle
  • 337mm (13.3-inch) measured bottom bracket height
  • 430mm (17.0-inch) chainstays
  • 73mm threaded bottom bracket shell
  • 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured complete weight (size Medium, no pedals): 29-pounds, 9-oz (13.4kg)
  • $5,999 MSRP

Transition says the Patrol is meant to "give you the control of a downhill bike perfectly balanced with a lively and jumpy personality for a comfortable, efficient and fun ride in almost any trail condition." How'd they pull it off? The bike uses some pretty aggressive geometry coupled with suspension that's supple as can be yet progressive to provide some pop. The new design has improved anti-squat over their old bikes, significantly less brake squat, and a progressive leverage curve. The shock is also easily accessible should you feel the need to flip any levers.

Additional features on the aluminum frame include a 73mm threaded bottom bracket, ISCG05 tabs, plenty of room for a bottle inside the front triangle, a tapered headtube, zero stack headset, 160mm post mount rear brake, Syntace X12 rear axle, E2 low direct front derailleur mount, and integrated rubber chainstay protection.

For those that ride in the grime, mud clearance is pretty good with ~1cm of room at the tightest point with the stock 2.35-inch Schwalbe tire. They say you can fit up to a 2.5-inch tire out back should you prefer some big meats for dicey conditions or a day at the bike park.

Cable routing is almost entirely internal, which is actually a surprise given the company's no non-sense approach everywhere else. Though maintenance can be a pain, it does look good we suppose. The rear derailleur and rear brake go through the downtube and exit just in front of the bottom bracket before reaching their destination. The rear brake line is slightly exposed to stray rocks on the bottom of brake-side chainstay. Dropper post routing also follows the downtube before exiting momentarily and heading up into the seat tube for that stealth look.

Three build kits are available at $3,499, $4,899, and $5,999. We tested the top of the line Patrol 1 model. For those wanting to build one from the ground up, it's also available as a frameset and shock combo at $1,999. Claimed weight for a size Medium frame with shock is 7.85-pounds.

On The Trail

We rode the Transition Patrol on West Cuesta Ridge and in Montana De Oro State Park near San Luis Obispo, California. The trails included very rocky, fast descents that really tax a bike's rear suspension as you flow in-between trees over never-ending boulder fields. We also got some time in on rolling hills and faster, flowier terrain with several tight turns to see how the bike maneuvers when it counts. A jump trail rounded things out.

Transition recommends 35% (22mm) seated sag on the 216x63mm RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 Debonair shock. This is the point at which they've designed the bike to have the best anti-squat properties. It comes stock with two volume reducers already in the rear shock, though more can be added for seriously hard charging riders. We appreciate that Transition publishes a handy guide discussing how to get the most out of their rear suspension design.

We were also pleased to see that the cockpit includes a 50mm long Race Face Atlas 35 stem and 800mm wide Race Face SixC 35 Carbon bars that can be easily cut down to suit any rider's preference. Considering the bike we tested is a size Medium, the 432mm reach dimension is actually quite long, comparable to many other brand's size Larges. This will make those accustomed to shorter bikes feel much better when things get wild or fast. The average length 583mm effective top tube has a familiar feel for a size Medium while pedaling seated.

You'll see Lars Sternberg doing his best to compete with the fastest in the world at the Enduro World Series aboard the Patrol, which clearly shows the bike's intended purpose. The Patrol is the most aggressive bike in Transition's refreshed lineup, and is geared toward the Enduro racer and professional fun havers. It has a slack 65-degree head angle, 337mm bottom bracket height, and 430mm chainstays that combine to create a ride that's ready to rally. The rather short 419mm seat tube adds a nice perk in that you can get the seat far out of the way, but may be a bit too short for some long-legged riders. At 5'10" one of our testers was near the upper limit of the 125mm RockShox Reverb. Transition specs a longer 150mm dropper on the bigger sizes.

Pointed downhill the Patrol will bring a smile to your face. It excels in situations that coincide with its geometry, including those that are fast and rough. Surprisingly it's quite agile on the jumps as well, and we had no issues throwing it around in the air or through tight turns. Stability is quite good at all times, allowing you to precisely pick your way down the trail. We did occasionally experience some harsh feedback in the rear end while riding at speed through really rough, continuous baby-head rock sections, but it remained in control and pointed straight ahead at all times. Lifting the front end is easy to do, and we found ourselves manualing and popping off the little bonus lines on the sides of the trail more often as a result. This bike definitely encourages playful riding and rewards a dynamic riding style.

Transition tuned the rear suspension in a way that benefits a rider who likes to push into the bike, yielding a surefooted and immediate response. Running the shock at 35% sag allows the bike to use a good portion of its travel over small hits, getting the rear wheel up and out of the way quickly, but the progressive design still does very well on larger hits. Though we used full travel pretty often, we never once felt a harsh bottom out, indicating a nice ramp up at the end of the stroke. We rode the bike almost exclusively in the wide open compression setting outside of our experiments to see how it impacted the ride.

At 29.6-pounds the Patrol certainly isn't the lightest bike, but it's actually quite reasonable when you consider the full aluminum frame and real-deal, large volume Schwalbe tires that are made to withstand and perform in rough conditions. The weight is noticeable when pedaling up, but the bike does have a lighter feel when pointed downhill. It's pretty quick to respond to firm pedal inputs and rolling speed is decent, though the beefy front Magic Mary tire slows things down a bit.

Climbing the bike is less terrible than climbing a slacked out 160mm bike with large tires should be. Those looking for a boost will want to switch the shock into a firmer compression mode, but leaving it open will yield gobs of rear wheel traction over rough and techy climbs. Body position is quite good with a 75.4-degree effective seat angle. When standing up or hopping through technical climbs, the length is sometimes apparent and a little awkward as you push it out and over slow maneuvers.

Build Kit

The build kit on the Patrol shows the Pro-level experience that Transition's Product Mangers have in the field. Notable standouts include bars with actual rise and a wide width, a fast rolling rear tire matched to a meaty front tire, and pre-installed volume spacers in the suspension. The build includes components from Race Face, RockShox, SRAM, Anvil, Schwalbe, DT Swiss, and Stan's No Tubes.

Up front it uses a RockShox Pike RCT3 fork. After a few years of standout performance, it goes without saying that we were pleased with the fork. It helps provide a very balanced ride, mimicking the smooth feel of the rear suspension off the top and ramping up nicely at the end, especially with a Bottomless Token or two inside.

You're more likely to find the mega wide and super beefy 2.35-inch Schwalbe Magic Mary front tire spec'd on a downhill bike than a trail/all-mountain/enduro bike. It's very well suited to loose and wet conditions, much like those you'd find in Transition's hometown of Bellingham, Washington. The huge knobs sometimes lack a little bit of bite on rocks and loose over hardpack terrain, however, and the weight of the front tire is very apparent when you pick up the bike. Out back the've included the polar opposite 2.35-inch Schwalbe Rock Razor to help keep things moving along decently quickly. It offers good cornering bite, but may struggle with braking in some conditions. We appreciate that they chose the softer Trailstar compound up front and more durable Pacestar out back.

The wheels are a combo of the well-regarded and lightweight Stan's No Tubes Flow EX rims and reliable DT Swiss 350 hubs. This will make future tubeless tire swaps a breeze. The DT Swiss hubs offered good engagement, and are upgradable to have more points if you'd like something quicker. After a few days of rocky abuse the wheels still ran true with no dings or flat spots, but prepare to re-build a few if you're a big, hard charging rider as the rims can be a little soft.

Shimano's XT brakes were as dialed as ever, offering plenty of useable power with dual 180mm rotors and good modulation.

The drivetrain uses a combination of Race Face and SRAM components. We've spoken well of the new Race Face SixC Cinch cranks before. They're incredibly light, surprisingly strong, offer good stiffness, and are easy to maintain when combined with the threaded bottom bracket. The Narrow/Wide chainring also does a good job of keeping the chain on, and we experienced no dropped chains. Those seeking to race (or just avoid any awkward near death moments) will want to add a chainguide for added security using the frame's ISCG05 mounts. The 32-tooth chainring provides a good range of gears paired with SRAM's massive 10-42 tooth cassette. Increasing the chainring size will yield less anti-squat, so be aware that'll impact pedaling performance a bit if you swap it out.

Shifting was dialed, just as you'd expect from SRAM's top of the line XX1 shifter and derailleur. The inclusion of these high-end parts was one of the only choices that had us scratching our heads, as SRAM's more affordably priced X01 and X1 drivetrains provide very comparable performance at less cost. But hey, why not go a little baller sometimes?

The silent nature of the XX1 drivetrain does make other noises more evident, including cable rattle inside the frame. While Transition's cable guide design does a decent job of quieting things down by tensioning the housing as it enters the frame, the addition of tape in select locations could quiet it down a bit more. Also consider adding a bit of mastic tape to the inside edge of the seat stay to fully silence chainslap.

Long Term Durability

We see no issues with the Patrol's design or components at this time. It certainly seems as though it's in it for the long haul. Everything is user serviceable, including the collet style pivot hardware that's made to stay snug while being easy to remove for bearing changes and the like. Transition backs the frame with a two year warranty.

What's The Bottom Line?

If a buddy asked us how it rides, we'd likely say that the new Patrol 1 is one of the best Transition bikes yet. The updates to the suspension design, wisely chosen components, dialed appearance, and overall attention to detail coincide with the brand's continued growth and real-world experience. This particular model is best suited to dynamic riders looking to mob down hills at speed, perhaps in an enduro race scenario. It excels in fast terrain with occasional chunder thrown in, jumps very well, and offers good support for those times when you just want to pull up and send it.

As always, Transition's value for the price is good, leaving us very little to not like about the new steed. Even so, $5,999 is no small amount of money to kick down for a new bike, especially with some nice carbon options at comparable prices, which is why we think the more reasonably priced Patrol 2 model is the best bang for your buck on this bike.

What we liked most is how the Patrol never did anything wrong, which is much less common than you'd think in today's bike market. The full aluminum frame and dialed spec list show just how in tune Transition is with what makes a bike ride well under a demanding rider, overlooking some of the industry's current trends in favor of what actually works best. From our perspective the Patrol represents the best of the "less is more" belief. While Transition's refinement of proven concepts yields nothing super fancy, the back to basics approach works damn well and keeps a smile on your face - and that's precisely why we ride bikes.

Visit www.transitionbikes.com for more details.

Bonus Gallery: 19 photos of the Transition Patrol 1 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 1 review.

Added a product review for 2015 Trek Slash 9.8 Carbon 27.5 1/23/2015 12:17 PM
C138_trek_slash_9.8_27.5

2015 Test Sessions: Trek Slash 9.8 Carbon 27.5

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Reviewed by Dylan Stucki and AJ Barlas // Photos by Lear Miller

After much anticipation, the Trek Slash goes carbon for 2015. The 160mm travel bike underwent a major redesign last year, gaining 27.5-inch wheels, noticeably better pedaling performance, and even more capable geometry. This all-mountain/enduro ripper was just waiting to unleash its fury on the trails at the 2015 Vital MTB Test Sessions.

Highlights

  • OCLV Mountain Carbon frame with aluminum chainstay
  • 27.5-inch wheels
  • 160mm (6.3-inches) of rear wheel travel // 130/160mm (5.1/6.3-inches) front travel
  • E2 tapered headtube
  • 65 or 65.6-degree head angle
  • 66.5 or 67.1-degree actual seat tube angle
  • 350 or 359mm (13.8 or 14.1-inch) bottom bracket height
  • 435 or 433mm (17.1 or 17.05-inch) chainstays
  • BB95 bottom bracket
  • 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured complete weight (size 21.5-inch, no pedals): 28-pounds, 9-oz (12.96kg)
  • $6,089.99 MSRP

After a few legacy aluminum versions of this frame, a bit of carbon is just what the Slash needed. The OCLV Mountain Carbon tubing has a similar look to Trek's Remedy and Fuel EX lines, really slimming the profile of the bike and making it smooth and stealthy. Trek does their best to protect the frame with integrated rubber guards on the downtube, chainstay, and outside of the seat stays.

Out back, the Slash relies on Trek's proven Full Floater suspension design coupled with a magnesium EVO link and Active Braking Pivot (ABP) centered on the 142x12mm rear axle. The RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 DebonAir shock is possibly one of the most exciting specs on this bike for 2015. Formerly held prisoner to FOX made Dual Rate Control Valve (DRCV) shocks, Trek owners are finally getting what they wished for. While the more common shock is a welcome upgrade, know that it's still a very uncommon 209.5x60.3mm size should you wish to use something different.

The Slash received some updates with the addition of 27.5-inch wheels for 2014 including a slacker head angle and a longer front center. After proving the geometry with the 2014 aluminum version, the carbon version features the exact same numbers. The bike has Trek's Mino Link geometry adjustment system located in the seat stay. In the “high” position the bike has an impressively slack 65.6-degree headtube angle and 14.1-inch bottom bracket height. Flipping the chip to the “low” position brings the head angle down to an even slacker 65-degrees and lowers the bb height to 13.8-inches.

Additional frame features include a tapered headtube, press fit bottom bracket, ISCG tabs, a rear disc brake post mount, optional direct front derailleur mount, 1cm mud clearance with the stock 2.35-inch tires, and room for a water bottle inside the front triangle. Semi-internal routing for the rear derailleur and seatpost add to the clean look, and are made in a way that eliminates cable rattle.

Trek makes the bike in a whopping five sizes (designated 15.5, 17.5, 18.5, 19.5, and 21.5) and four models, two of which are carbon and two are aluminum. In the carbon variety, the 9.9 model has a full carbon frame, while the 9.8 still has an aluminum chainstay. Our Slash 9.8 test bike is the more reasonably priced carbon model at $6,090. Prices for all models range from $3,620 to $8,880.

On The Trail

The trails in San Luis Obispo, California were the perfect application to test the Slash. With a great mix of long drawn out climbs, short punchy climbs, tight ripping turns, some jumps, and full on chunder, the Slash got everything thrown at it.

Before we could hit the trail, the first thing that needed to be switched up was the bar and stem. The 70mm stem and 750mm wide Bontrager Pro Carbon bars with 15mm rise don't quite match the bike’s capability, especially for our 6'2" and 6'5" testers on a size 21.5 frame. As a result, stem lengths of the 50-55mm variety and bars ranging between 780-800mm were added to the mix in order to give the Slash a setup more conducive to what the bike is capable of. The 480mm reach felt generous and just about perfect while standing, and the 645mm effective top tube was comfortable while seated. Not too long, but also not too short, giving the Slash the best of both worlds.

While the geometry is versatile, it's no doubt geared towards annihilating descents. The two geometry settings - high/slack and low/slacker - allow for terrain dependent tuning. It requires about five minutes of your time to rotate the Mino Link flip chips to the high bottom bracket mode. This feature would come in handy if the terrain you're riding requires more pedal clearance, is flatter, or has a lot of steep climbing. Regardless of which setting you choose, with a head angle in the 65-degree range the Slash is ready to tackle roughest trails out there, and we appreciate the fact that you have a truly slack mode if it's needed. The carbon frame yields a stiffer, yet quieter and lighter ride, giving the bike a more playful feel than its aluminum predecessor that optimizes the fun factor while damping the feel of chattery trail noise.

Because sag percentages are clearly marked, the RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 Debonair shock made for easy work while setting up the rear end. With the compression setting fully open, the Slash shows it true colors, and the Debonair really allowed the bike to take off through the gnar. At 30-38% sag the shock held itself up in the travel with a buttery smooth feel off the top and seemingly bottomless travel when combined with the bike's progressive suspension design. The shock didn’t pack out and it was quick to react in fast, choppy terrain. Small bump performance was admirable with the Debonair can and the bike seemed to float over the tops of most rocky sections. When things got truly rough, the Slash monster-trucked through feeling very planted and holding its line well, and at no point did we ever feel in over our heads which says volumes about the way it handles. It's still agile enough to fine tune line choice and playful enough to turn up the fun meter. The front wheel just begged to be lifted, and riding manuals through rocky areas was just as fun and smooth as with two wheels.

With the concentric Active Braking Pivot and brake mount on the seat stay, braking may be a bit different than what you are used to. We noticed the lack of brake squat, with the bike remaining up in its rear suspension under heavy braking as opposed to dipping back in its travel a little. While the rear end was able to remain more active over bumps, this would occasionally translate to a slightly imbalanced feeling with a weight bias toward the front end. We initially experienced some traction loss at the rear tire when leading into tight corners following high speed straights, before adjusting our riding style to be a bit more rearward while braking hard.

While the geometry may be very aggressive in many respects, don’t be fooled by the slack head angle. The Slash features a reasonable effective seat tube angle, and depending on the desired front end setup, it actually pedaled very well when it came time to climb back up. Switching to the high geometry mode improves overall handling with less front end pushing and a better feel on all but the steepest downs. The geometry was thoughtfully put together, providing a balanced work-to-play relationship. The Debonair and carbon frame really give the Slash a well-rounded feel without compromising the bike's ability to smash rock gardens.

Based on past experience with an older (pre-2014) version of the same bike, the updated Slash has much improved pedaling performance thanks to additional anti-squat built into the design. Flipping the shock into a firmer compression setting on the uphill felt more at home than legacy version which performed very sluggish on climbs. That said, we feel like the shock’s platform settings still could yield more of a noticeable difference - likely a result of the increased negative air spring volume that makes it so supple off the top. There’s a decent amount of suspension movement while getting up to speed.

Since its carbon fiber diet, the bike has made another big gain in its perceived weight while coasting down the trail. Compared to many 160mm travel bikes it felt agile and light while throwing it around in corners and the air. The actual weight of 28.6-pounds is about average for a size 21.5 (XL) bike with a carbon frame. In comparison, the previous 2014 aluminum Slash 9 we tested weighed 28.75-pounds. A chunk of the weight on the new bike can be attributed to the new Bontrager Maverick Pro wheels, which have a much wider internal rim width and as a result are a bit heavier. The added rotational weight reduced acceleration speed from a slow start.

Build Kit

With the exception of a few minor changes, the build kit on the Slash 9.8 Carbon packs a lot of great performing parts at a good value. The build includes a mix of RockShox, Shimano, and in-house Bontrager components.

As mentioned previously, a bike of this nature would be better suited with a shorter stem around 50mm and handlebars in the 780 to 800mm range.

The front end is equipped with a Dual Position 130/160mm travel RockShox Pike RC fork, which unfortunately just does not have quite the same feel as the standard Pike RCT3 deep in heavy hits. After playing with the travel adjust on a variety of climbing terrain, we did find that the resulting geometry change was nice for some of the steeper bits, but certainly not worth the performance loss on the downs in our eyes.

Bontrager's Maverick Pro Wheels come with Tubeless Ready rim strips installed, saving you some time and hassle. They're 28mm wide internally, which provides great sidewall support for the otherwise somewhat flimsy 2.35-inch Bontrager XR4 Expert tires. Combined with the wide rims the XR4 Expert tires performed well with good grip in most terrain, but we wanted more aggressive cornering knobs up front than what this tire provides. We also flatted more times on the XR4, both front and rear, than any of the other 18 bikes in our test fleet - further evidence that the treads aren’t up to snuff with what the bike is capable of. The rims took a beating as well, falling out of true with a handful of flat spots after just a few rides. The wheels do not have Bontrager's Rapid Drive hubs, and as a result engagement is average.

As with most Trek bikes, the lever on the 142x12mm axle protrudes quite far from the frame due to the ABP design, and is prone to rock strikes when squeezing through tight sections in the trail.

One detail that caused a minor headache while setting up the controls was that the left hand RockShox Reverb lever, when mounted above the bars, does not play well with Shimano XT brake levers. Ideally this bike would be equipped with a right hand Reverb lever installed under the left side.

Shimano's XT hydraulic disc brakes performed admirably with a 203mm rotor up front and 180mm out back. They provided lots of usable power and great control, and we experienced no fade, pumping, or other odd issues.

SRAM's X1 drivetrain provides great 1X performance at a reduced cost with a great gear range, good durability, and a quiet, friction-free ride. There's no rubber guard on the inside of the seat stay, so consider adding a little mastic tape or something similar to really silence the ride.

Long Term Durability

Over the long term, the Slash seems it would be solid, and even though this is the first carbon version of this specific model, the frame didn’t show any sign of weakness during the test. After a number of punctures, however, the Bontrager XR4 tires seemed like they may be the first item to go, and we'd suggest opting for something with better flat protection. Trek backs the frame with three year warranty.

What's The Bottom Line?

The 2015 Trek Slash 9.8 Carbon is one of the most well-rounded bikes in its travel range, though it clearly excels in the roughest terrain you can find. For the price, the carbon frame, and mid-to-high end spec make it a great value. The Slash feels at home on a wide variety of trails, whether it's monster trucking steep, rocky descents with confidence, or dicing through faster trails with a nimble, fun, and playful feel.

Visit www.trekbikes.com for more details.

Bonus Gallery: 21 photos of the 2015 Trek Slash 9.8 27.5 up close and in action


About The Reviewers

Dylan Stucki - When he's not busy popping no-handed wheelies or shot-gunning beers you're likely to find Dylan comfortably inside the top ten at Big Mountain Enduro races. Since he's a big guy and charges hard he breaks a lot of stuff. He's naturally a perceptive and particular rider who picks up on even the smallest details.

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.

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 1 review.

Added a product review for 2015 Banshee Phantom Race 1/20/2015 10:51 PM
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Tested: 2015 Banshee Phantom

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Brandon Turman // Action Photos by Courtney Steen

The Banshee Phantom is a 105mm travel 29er. We wouldn't blame you for immediately thinking "cross-country" when you first hear those kinds of numbers. We did. But no, the new Phantom is decidedly not an XC bike, but instead a special blend of XC/trail/all-mountain/enduro magic. It brings together the efficiency and precision of a short travel ride, the capability of a slack head angle, big wheels to get your roll on, and well-chosen components that let you get away with murder. We spent a few months getting acquainted with the new bike (and new concept) in the mountains of British Columbia and Arizona.

Highlights

  • Hydroformed 7005 aluminum frame
  • 29-inch wheels
  • 105mm (4.1-inches) of rear wheel travel // 120mm (4.7-inches) front travel recommended
  • Tapered headtube
  • 67.5 / 68 / 68.5-degree head angle
  • 74 / 74.5 / 75-degree effective seat tube angle
  • 335 / 342 / 348mm (13.2 / 13.45 / 13.7-inch) bottom bracket height
  • 445 / 442 / 440mm (17.5 / 17.4 / 17.3-inch) chainstays
  • 73mm threaded bottom bracket
  • 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle (convertible to 135x10mm and 150x12mm)
  • Measured complete weight (size Medium, no pedals): 29.6-pounds (13.4kg)
  • MSRP $4,930

At the heart of the full aluminum frame is the KS-Link suspension system, which is also used on the Banshee Prime, Rune, Spitfire, and Darkside. The Virtual Pivot suspension platform uses two one-piece forged linkages and a one-piece rear triangle for a stiff, light, and compact package. Banshee uses unique internally ribbed stays to further increase rear end stiffness. Oversized and fully sealed bearings throughout help ensure durability and decrease maintenance. The shock is actuated by the seat stays, which is said to yield a more plush and active ride due to minimal DU bushing rotation. A 120mm travel fork comes stock with the ability to bump up to a max of 140mm.

Interchangeable dropouts allow the use of just about any rear axle standard you can imagine, though it comes equipped with the most common 12x142mm option. Three geometry adjustments are available by flipping or swapping out the oval shaped "flip chips" contained within the dropouts.

Additional features include a tapered head tube with zero stack headset, 2.4-inches of rear tire clearance, a threaded bottom bracket, ISCG 2005 tabs, and a direct front derailleur mount. Cable routing is almost entirely external, save the option to run a stealth-style dropper post. Although not ideal, we're pleased to see a bottle mount on the underside of the downtube.

The Phantom is available with three build kits or as a frame/shock package only. We tested the Race build which retails for $4,930 US. Frames run $1,800 with a Monarch RT3 shock or $2,050 with the new Cane Creek DBinline. Medium, Large, and XL sizes are available. There's no size Small unfortunately, likely due to lower demand.

On The Trail

Our time on the Phantom included several rides in the rocky, rooty mountains surrounding the Whistler Valley, as well as hundreds of miles in Arizona, including the high speed fun in Flagstaff, swoopy turns and flowing hills of Prescott, and unique ledgy terrain of Sedona. It even saw a few laps down Whistler Bike Park just for good measure.

Banshee's choice in cockpit components is spot on for the bike's intended user. It comes with a reliable 50mm Race Face Turbine stem, wide 785mm Race Face Atlas bars, and comfortable Half Nelson lock-on grips. The size Medium frame with a healthy 420mm reach measurement hit the mark for our 5'10" test rider. There's a big jump up to the size Large frame at 450mm, so consider your size choice carefully. The 585mm effective top tube length provided a roomy, comfortable ride while seated.

After a bit of time using the long/low geometry setting and smashing far too many roots and rocks in Whistler, we decided it best to switch to the middle setting. This provided an extra quarter inch of bottom bracket height at 13.45-inches, and steepened the seat and head angles half a degree to 74.5 and 68-degrees, respectively - striking a good compromise for BC and Sedona style terrain. Because the bike is so adjustable and can be run with up to a 140mm fork, an alternative setup to gain some cranks clearance while still retaining all the fun would be to drop it to the low/slack mode and install a bigger 130/140mm fork, picking up the bottom bracket slightly and landing you in the 67-degree head angle territory. We didn't test this option, but it's worth considering.

So, how does it ride? What surprised us from the get-go was that even though you only have 105mm of rear travel, it's pretty impressive what you can get away with on this thing. This is in large part due to carefully chosen geometry, big wheels, and rally-ready components.

Pointed downhill the Phantom is an absolute blast when ridden attentively. It's very precise, and as a result requires a more demanding riding style. Perhaps the biggest benefit of less travel is a much faster ride when you really start to push into and work with the trail rather than just smashing everything in sight like many of us have grown accustomed to. Riding with this mentality and technique makes the bike a joy to ride. Have some fun with it. Hit those lines well, pump the terrain, pick up over the nasty stuff, and (surprise!) you'll likely be railing along faster than your friends on their super squishy rides. The rider that enjoys knowing where their wheels are, placing their bike in nooks and crannies, finding sneaky new options on trails, and jumping through the rocks will love this bike the most. It really excels in tight, jumpy, slightly bumpy trails where you truly don't need a lot of travel. Guess what? That includes far more trails than you'd think.

Sure, should you misplace the wheels there's a chance you'll get a little buck wild, but know that the bike won't dump you on your ass even in this case. The only time it gets hung up is when the rear wheel encounters a truly large square edge. In general it's quite stable due to the well-tuned suspension, good geometry, large wheel size, and reliable tires. While the damping characteristics of the DBinline shock shine, what can introduce some instability is how little travel is in the rear. It's pretty easy to reach the bottom of the rear shock on consistently rocky or ledgy terrain with repetitive big hits, and that's when the rear end can start to feel a little overwhelmed. Meanwhile the 120mm RockShox Pike RCT3 fork goes relatively unfazed and keeps things in check and pointed straight when you really need it. The bike is not as confidence inspiring as the recent surge of long travel 150-160mm 29ers, but the fact that you have a solid fork up front paired with great tires adds a lot to the bike's willingness to try just about anything.

As is the case with most 29ers, it naturally excelled at average size square edge hits and maintaining speed over most terrain. G-outs and drops rely more on the rider to absorb the blow, but we feel as though this only adds to the bike's ride qualities, helping you to accelerate where bigger bikes tend to bog down. Just get the fork, shock, and tire pressures dialed in and you're good to go.

We tested this bike with both a Cane Creek DBinline and a RockShox Monarch RT3 shock. Both were initially set to the suggested 25% (11mm) sag. With the Monarch it felt harsh off the top and the bike had a bit of an uncontrolled pogo stick feel, lacking any real sense of control. Switching to the DBinline was an eye-opener. With one large volume spacer installed and the high/low-speed compression dials set to the suggested base tune, small bump performance was noticeably better and the bike began to track much better. In short, the DBinline is the shock you want on this bike, so opt for the $250 upgrade as it's well worth it. We experimented with various settings, ultimately settling on 35% (15.5mm) sag with a touch less high/low-speed compression than suggested. We preferred the feel of more sag, resulting in better small bump performance and control in most situations. It's very easy to add more volume spacers to the DBinline for bottom out support, though the stock setup with one spacer worked pretty well. The bike's leverage ratio is just slightly progressive overall, so some ramp from the air spring near bottom out helps.

Here's the base shock tune, for reference:

Would our ideal ride have a few more millimeters of travel? Possibly, but at what point do you cut yourself off as a bike designer? It's the short travel advantage that makes the Phantom so good during 98% of the typical trail ride, and adding more travel would only dilute its best trait in order to boost performance during the other 2%.

One of our favorite things about the Phantom is how well it corners. Many 29ers feel tall and awkward in all but high-speed, sweeping corners, but this just isn't the case with the Banshee. That low 13-inch range bottom bracket height, relatively snug chainstays compared to most 29ers, stiff rear end, and good tires add up to a ride that is noticeably better in tight turns. This makes changing lines at a moment's notice easier to do, as well as picking your way through tight terrain. Wheelies are relatively easy, as is getting the front end over technical features, but when it comes to manualing it does require a pretty firm yank at the bars.

At 29.6-pounds the bike is a bit heavy on the scale, but it feels lighter on the trail. Though it lacks a super firm platform feel at 35% sag when laying down the power - a result of less anti-squat as you get further into the travel - sprinting is still quite good. When you only have a little travel any bike is bound to get up and go quickly. Sedona's terrain really highlighted this, with its never-ending quick ups/downs/tight turns that require you to be on the gas hard and often to maintain speed. The slight heft is in the right places and actually adds to the stability of the bike in rough situations outside of sprints, helping to prevent the dreaded skittery feel that lighter bikes often have. The only area we could see Banshee saving some substantial weight without compromising the ride is moving to a fixed dropout design, but that would come at the expense of losing the adjustable geometry feature.

With the Cane Creek DBinline, you gain their "Climb Switch" technology. The Climb Switch is unique in that it adds both low-speed compression and low-speed rebound damping by switching on one easy to use lever. This slows all chassis motion down and prevents any sense of bucking while ascending technical/bumpy terrain, in addition to keeping the rear tire on the ground longer. With this feature activated we were able to conquer many tricky uphill sections we've struggled with previously. The bike's 29-inch wheels, meaty tires, precise feeling at the bars, and quick pedal response also add to the climbing experience, and seated climbs presented no issue with body position.

Build Kit

As we've mentioned many times throughout this review, the components really help this bike excel in (or survive) many situations. Banshee's Race build places priority on all out performance where it counts while maintaining a reasonable price point. The RockShox Pike RCT3 fork, Cane Creek DBinline shock, and Maxxis High Roller II tires are examples of this, with some savings in the wheel, brake, and drivetrain departments.

While the 2.35-inch Maxxis High Roller II tires do come at a slight rolling speed penalty, we're partial to their inclusion front and rear thanks to the excellent braking and traction they provide in most conditions. As we've seen on other long term test bikes, unfortunately these tires often succumb to cracking/tearing around the base of each side knob. The knobs really started to cut in after a half dozen rides or so. Once this happens, the side knobs bend over very easily while turning hard or riding off-camber terrain with good traction, and the squirmy effect this has can be quite noticeable at times.

The Phantom comes with Kore Durox rims laced to Novatec hubs. We found the combo to be plenty stiff with a good internal rim width and decent engagement. We did put a handful of dents in the rear wheel, however. On the plus side, we didn't experience a single flat tire, even while running tubes. Both wheels continue to run true with good tension. We'd love to see these come pre-taped for tubeless use.

SRAM's new Guide R brakes complement the package well. We had plenty of power, good modulation, and the brakes have a better lever feel than the previous Avid option. The only issue we ran into was rotor size. Given the speeds you can reach and terrain the bike is willing to carry you down, it simply needs a larger rotor than the stock 160mm in the rear. Matching it to the 180mm that's up front would be great.

The Phantom uses a smart combination of Race Face Evolve cranks, a 30-tooth Race Face Narrow/Wide chainring, and SRAM's X1 rear derailleur and cassette. This saves on dollars while providing comparable performance and possibly better durability. We love the X1 system for its simplicity, the clutch mechanism that quiets the bike, and overall smooth operation. Some minor shifting issues took a little time to work out, but never really had an impact on how the bike rode. We experienced two dropped chains, and would recommend an upper guide for better chain security for those concerned about it. The 30-tooth ring works well with the anti-squat characteristics of the suspension design, and provides a wide range of gears when combined with the 10-42 tooth cassette, but does top out pretty quickly.

Finally, you'll want to add a dropper post as the Race build does not include one. A 125mm RockShox Reverb Stealth worked well for us, and really enables you to use the bike to its full potential.

Long Term Durability

After a few months of use we've seen no potential concerns, and we anticipate the Phantom lasting for a long time. Gone are the days of worn bushings and creaky linkages. Just be sure to follow the suggested service schedule, and consider adding padding to the chain/seat stays to prevent chainslap. You'll also likely need to clean the dropout interface a few times a year to prevent creaking. Banshee backs the frame with a two year warranty and lifetime crash replacement assistance.

What's The Bottom Line?

The 2015 Banshee Phantom is made for the rider who favors precision over monster trucking. This bike has an interesting blend of short travel, capable geometry, and robust components that give it some character and allow it to tackle terrain that would typically be above a 105mm travel 29er's head. It's a winning combination for the rider that likes to get rowdy on the descents while still enjoying a sense of efficiency everywhere else. Ultimately it made us re-think our desire for increasingly bigger and burlier bikes. A skilled rider can get away with less travel, have just as good a time on the descents, and be faster on all the sections in-between while aboard the Phantom.

Visit www.bansheebikes.com for more details.

Bonus Gallery: 21 photos of the Banshee Phantom up close and in action


About The Reviewer

Brandon Turman 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 to really mash on the pedals and open it up when pointed downhill. His perfect trail has a good mix of flow, tech, and balls-to-the-wall speed. He loves little transfers, rollers, and the occasional gap that gives him that momentary stomach in your throat kind of feeling. Toss in some rocky bits with the option to double over them or risk pinch flatting and you've got a winner in his book. In 14 years of riding he worked his way through the Collegiate downhill ranks to the Pro level. After finishing up his mechanical engineering degree, his riding focus turned to dirt sculpting and jumping with the occasional slopestyle contest thrown in for fun. Nowadays he's Vital MTB's resident product guy, putting in saddle time on nearly every new platform and innovation the bike industry has to offer.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for 2015 Pivot Mach 6 Carbon X01 1/18/2015 2:15 PM
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2015 Test Sessions: Pivot Mach 6 Carbon X01

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

Pivot's Mach 6 Carbon has existed for a few years now, a veritable eternity in the world of changing designs and all-new products. It does, however, build off the success of the already refined Mach 5.7 and Firebird, blending the best qualities of each into one do-it-all machine. It certainly looks like it checks all the boxes, so lets mull over the details and hit the trail to see if the Mach 6 is indeed worthy of the name. We spent some time getting acquainted with it during the 2015 Vital MTB Test Sessions.

Highlights

  • Carbon frame
  • 27.5-inch wheels
  • 155mm (6.1-inches) of rear wheel travel // 160mm (6.3-inches) front travel
  • Tapered headtube
  • 66-degree head angle (XS, S, M) // 66.25-degree (L) // 66.5-degree (XL)
  • 72.3-degree effective seat tube angle
  • 341mm (13.4-inch) measured bottom bracket height
  • 430mm (16.9-inch) chainstays
  • Press Fit 92 bottom bracket
  • 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured complete weight (size Large, no pedals): 27-pounds, 14-oz (12.64kg)
  • MSRP $6,199 + $399 for optional KS dropper post

Six inches of travel, dw-link suspension, 27.5-inch wheels, a slack head angle, relatively short chainstays, and gadgets galore - Pivot's flagship doesn't disappoint in the feature department. At the heart of the frame, the dw-link suspension promises a good deal of anti-squat when you put the power down, neutral braking, and supple bump eating the rest of the time. Dave Weagle's system has been around for a long time now, and we appreciate having a design that has been tuned and re-tuned over the years. This bike sees a new upper linkage design that provides additional control over the suspension curve. Pivot also claims that the "variable wheel travel path provides incredible square edge bump absorption and control on technical descents."

On the flip side of refinement, 27.5-inch wheels grace almost every new bike available now. In a few short years they went from oddities to the top item on most riders' wish lists. We see no problem with this, as they handle everything pretty well. Rolling? Better than bikes from a few years ago. Strength? Better than the what the XC camp rides.

Aside from the carbon frame, which utilizes "an exclusive hollow box, high-compression internal mandrel technology" to result in the claimed "best stiffness to weight ratio in its class," there is some internal cable routing, rubberized leather chainstay/seat stay/down tube protectors, post mount disc brake tabs, a press fit bottom bracket, ISCG tabs, bottle mount, aggressive looks, and the option to run multiple chainrings and a direct mount front derailleur if you so choose. We tend to not change up bikes after we find what we like, so the lack of adjustable geometry does not bother us on the Mach 6. Slack angles and relatively short chainstays are a recipe for good times. The tucked-in linkage design provides a satisfactory 1cm of mud clearance at the tightest point with the stock tire.

Cable routing is very direct, but there are a few odd qualities to it. Pivot provides internal routing for the dropper post, putting them in the same company as so many others now. The other internal routing is a mere foot long section of rear derailleur cable. The cable exits the top tube at the upper shock mount. Both it and the external rear brake cable bend out toward the rider around the seat tube when the suspension is compressed. They don't really get it in the way, but a more well thought out cable system could be a benefit. On the plus side, it lacks the dreaded cable rattle that plagues so many bikes today. We're also not fans of the excessive amount of branding that adorns an otherwise clean looking frame.

Pivot offers the Mach 6 Carbon in XS-XL sizes with a whopping eight build kit configurations ranging from the great value Shimano SLX/XT combo to an ultra pricey option adorned with XTR components. Our SRAM X01 equipped test bike fell right in the middle of the range at $6,199, plus a $399 add-on for the very necessary KS Lev Integra dropper post.

On The Trail

The rowdy, rock-strewn trails off of West Cuesta Ridge in San Luis Obispo, California started off our test days, followed by the high-speed corners of Morning Glory, and finally jumps and berms in the Eucs Project.

The Mach 6 felt comfortable to us as we pedaled from the trailhead. The cockpit is acceptable, with a 755mm bar that is just wide enough and 60mm stem that's just short enough. Sag was easy to measure on the rear shock with Pivot's custom sag indicator, and the fork's adjustments were equally as easy to work with. We settled on Pivot's recommended 20mm of sag and 'Trail 1' setting on the rear FOX Float X CTD shock to begin. Note that the Float X rebound knob is extremely close to the forward shock mount, making quick rebound adjustments impossible without a small twig or tiny allen key.

On the fit side of the equation, the Mach 6 is a bit odd. While our test bike was listed as a Large, the frame felt surprisingly comfortable for our 5'8" tester who typically rides Medium bikes. The reason for this is partly due to the actual seat tube angle. The listed 72.3-degree seat tube angle can be deceiving (it's the effective seat tube angle at a seat height that may not match your own), with the actual seat tube angle resting at a very slack ~67.5-degrees. This may have been required due to the frame and suspension design. As is always the case, the higher you raise the seat the further back the seat gets, but the extreme angle on the Mach 6 makes for an average to short top tube length with a little seatpost extension and a long top tube if you have long legs and need more seatpost exposed. Because of this it's really important to know your body's proportions. If you have long arms and legs this bike might be great while seated. Short arms and legs? Also works. But… if your legs are long and you have a shorter reach the Mach 6 may give you some trouble, and the same goes for shorter legs and longer arms.

Because you stand while descending it's also important to consider the 414mm reach measurement, which is very short for a size Large frame - this left our 5'10" tester wanting a longer front end while descending at speed, but our 5'8" tester enjoyed it when the going got rough. The XL frame reach is also short at just 425mm reach. While not ideal, our recommendation for those who prefer a longer reach is to get the biggest frame you can while considering the seat tube length, then use your fore/aft saddle position to adjust as needed.

The rest of the geometry did make for a fun ride in most terrain. We appreciate how Pivot didn't go crazy with the head angle. It's slack at 66.25-degrees, but not so slack that the bike only responds to speeds above 20mph. The head angle makes climbing acceptable, tight twisty singletrack enjoyable, and really rough stuff more engaging instead of a muted experience. The front end was easy to get up with 430mm chain stays, changing lines was easy to do, and it was precise at speed. Regardless of the short reach, the bike was planted, the suspension worked well, and there wasn't a ton of racket coming from any component. The suspension would stick to the ground and add stability, which was a pleasant surprise compared to other lightweight bikes that can feel sketchy when opened up.

We initially started riding in the Trail 1 shock damping setting, which provided a controlled ride that worked well in most situations and was responsive to very small rider inputs. It lacked great small bump sensitivity though, and because the bike is already pretty progressive, doing without the Trail platform and switching to Descend yielded a better ride in our eyes. Descend mode also let the suspension compress just a little bit more, so it was easier to compress the bike to the point in the suspension when you can really jump it or move it around. This might seem counterintuitive for some, but Trail 1 provided what we felt was a firm initial stroke that we had push through often. Small bumps in Descend mode were perceivable only to the point of knowing what our tires were doing.

Once we found what we liked, the Pivot was very good to us in many situations. The suspension felt really planted in corners, and we could move the bike around when we needed to. The trail was not lost under the bike, it could be felt, and small adjustments to your riding can really make the Mach 6 live up to its name. The suspension and wheel path was also good enough that it didn't pack up and allowed riders to keep mowing down the hill whether it was rough and rutted or necessitated some rider induced air. Jumps were good, but we want to caution against building this up as a lightweight park bike. Some cased jumps and over-cleared sections used up a lot of travel. The bottom-out wasn't harsh, but this frame is not as progressive as others that could be more suitable for that application.

At 27.9-pounds it isn't just light on the scale, but also felt light and snappy while pedaling. The dw-link suspension has a large amount of anti-squat built in. This makes pedaling feel as if it has an immediate effect on the bike, but we are torn on if this is a good thing on a bike like this - it really depends on where and how you ride. While pedaling lightly over different types of terrain the suspension was largely unaffected. Any moderate to powerful efforts on the pedals resulted in exactly what the frame was designed to do, and the rear end would stiffen up when we pedaled over rough terrain. This was unwelcome when we encountered sections that were rough leading up to ledges, where the stiffness while pedaling was throwing us around a bit before a compression. Additionally, when smooth pedaling over terrain with bumps here or there, the effect of suspension movement created some dead spots in our pedal stroke. The pedaling feel is one that you'll have to ride to experience. Some will love it while others would prefer something different.

Geometry wise, the Pivot's stretched out seated climbing position allows for lots of movement fore and aft while tackling tough climbs. There were no downsides climbing the Mach 6, other than the possibility of taller riders having a tough time keeping the front end on the ground due to the seat angle. Overall, the Mach 6 sports a stiff frame that climbs well, with a unique behavior of how and when it stiffens up under power.

Build Kit

Before all the descending, climbing, and fun we had on the Pivot, we of course had a chance to drool over the whole setup. None of the most important parts on the X01 build can be called out for being money saving items, yet the front fork, wheels, rear suspension and drivetrain all provide great value for almost any budget. They all looked the part too for a bike meant for rallying. Only one component stood out visually on such a ripping build - the stem looked diminutive compared to many other components. While nothing happened while riding, we have become accustomed to beefier handlebar and steerer tube interfaces. If you need a longer or shorter stem than stock, a different brand might provide a more beefy (and comforting) look than what Pivot's in-house component provides. Honestly, we were relieved to gripe about "just" a stem.

FOX's new 36 provided consistent damping and very good terrain control. The damping adjustment range is very large and volume spacers can be added to the air spring if needed. The stiffness of the fork's chassis matches the awesome frame stiffness, and the only disconnect front to rear was in the damping. The 36 provided smooth damping, whether light or firm. The FOX Float X rear shock was smooth the whole way through in Descend mode, but less consistent in Trail and Climb modes.

The wheels were a very unique and welcomed addition the build kit. DT's 1700 series no doubt kept the weight low and provided a quick accelerating package. They use relatively normal spokes compared to many high end wheels, which allows for easier fixes should the time come. DT's hub bodies are also very reliable. After some hard hits the wheels still ran true at the conclusion of our test, with just a few dings to the rear rim.

Wrapping the wheels were Maxxis Highroller II tires. The casings were acceptable for the Pivot's intention, keeping a good balance between weight and durability. We liked the decision to run the 3C rubber as well, with both soft and firm sections. Rolling resistance was decent, cornering suited us just fine, and braking was great. If we were to race this bike in North American enduros we'd only opt to change to a slightly faster rolling rear tire. Going overseas to some burlier courses? Keep the back and go for a burlier front. The Highroller II is a jack of all trades, but does have shortcomings at both extremes.

In charge of the stopping duties were Shimano's tried and trued XT brakes with 180/160mm rotors. Once bedded in they provided consistent fade free performance. The power was good and modulation top notch. Shimano's reach adjustments are the easiest to use out of almost any brake out there, and there is also a pad contact/free stroke adjustment. We couldn't get the engagement to bite as soon as we wanted, but that trade off allowed for easy adjustment and clearance of the caliper/rotor interface.

We've ridden many bikes with SRAM XX1/X01 drivetrains and most of them are flawless. Every drivetrain will have a hiccup here or there, but with Pivot's combination of parts we had more hiccups than usual. A Race Face narrow/wide chainring provides front end security, and the cassette/derailleur combo is handled by the X01 system. We experience some ghost shifts which could be due to the suspension design or cable routing, the latter of which which made the derailleur cable bend around the seat tube when the suspension is compressed.

Despite the couple issues we had with shifting, the Pivot was surprisingly quiet. The smooth suspension and integrated swingarm guards no doubt aided in this, but credit must be given to the clutch on the SRAM X01 system. That, along with the chainring, prevented any dropped chains during our testing and let us concentrate on the trail ahead instead of any clanking noises underneath us. It'd be easy to install a chainguide using the ISCG tabs or front derailleur mount if your riding style or terrain warrants it.

Long Term Durability

Pivot's Mach 6 is stout, stiff, and showed no weak points in the durability arena. Of course, the stem could be swapped out, but that is mostly cosmetic as we never experienced any problems. Aluminum rims gets dented here and there, so the DT wheelset doesn't present a problem either. Pivot prints torque specs on the suspension pivots to allow for proper care of the frame's most vital moving parts. They back the frame with a three year warranty.

What's The Bottom Line?

With a dialed carbon frame, good suspension, and great components, $6,600 is indeed not a bad price for the Pivot Mach 6. It's arguable that nothing will return more bang for your buck past this price point and build kit. A few grams here and there might be your only savings.

If we were to pick a 6-inch bike that would be a weapon for corners, medium hits, and the type of terrain you're likely to encounter on the majority of your trail rides, the Mach 6 would be high up on our list. The few hiccups that we see in Pivot's torque delivery can also be seen as positives for many people, depending on terrain and riding style.

Are you looking for a bike that can do everything pretty well? The Mach 6 is worth checking out. Ensure that the slack seat tube angle and short reach measurement won't be an issue for you, play with the suspension to find what works best given your terrain, and the Mach 6 may indeed take you to new speeds on your next ride.

Visit www.pivotcycles.com for more details.

Bonus Gallery: 21 photos of the 2015 Pivot Mach 6 Carbon up close and in action


About The Reviewer

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 1 review.

Added a product review for 2015 Juliana Furtado Carbon CC XX1 1/15/2015 2:50 PM
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2015 Test Sessions: Juliana Furtado Carbon CC XX1

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

This being the pilot year for women's Vital MTB Test Sessions reviews it seemed appropriate to check out a bike from Juliana, a brand focused solely on women's cycling. The 125mm travel Juliana Furtado, twin sister to the Santa Cruz 5010, includes a women's specific saddle, narrower bars, and a few other touches that make it better suited to the ladies. Using the latest VPP suspension technology atop 27.5-inch wheels, this bike is touted as a snappy, agile ride that descends well and climbs with the efficiency of an XC bike. Sounds like she's more than just a pretty face, right? We hit the trails to find out.

Highlights

  • Carbon CC frame
  • 27.5-inch wheels
  • 125mm (4.9-inches) of rear wheel travel // 130mm (5.1-inches) front travel
  • Tapered headtube
  • 68-degree head angle
  • 73-degree seat tube angle
  • 332mm (13.1-inch) measured bottom bracket height
  • 435mm (17.1-inch) chainstays
  • 73mm threaded bottom bracket with ISCG tabs
  • 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured complete weight (size Medium, no pedals): 25-pounds (11.3kg)
  • MSRP $8,199 plus optional $2,000 ENVE upgrade

This great looking bike is offered in two different carbon qualities. The slightly lower grade frames are designated "Carbon C" and the higher grade is a "Carbon CC." The high end Carbon CC construction method requires less material while still achieving high strength numbers. Our complete build weighed just 25-pounds and was the lightest of the 19 bikes in our Test Sessions lineup.

Our test bike came spec'd so nicely we couldn't help but sing (in our head) "I'm so fancy" when looking at it. With the full carbon frame, Race Face Next SL carbon cranks, Juliana carbon bars, ENVE carbon wheels, Shimano XTR brakes, and SRAM XX1 drivetrain, this featherweight bike was a nice treat, especially when loading the truck. Though light on the scale, it won't be light on your bank account. The bike runs $10,199 including the optional $2,000 ENVE wheel upgrade. Don't despair if this is out of your price range as other complete carbon Furtado builds start as low as $3,599. The Small, Medium, Large size range covers riders from 5'1" to 6'1" tall.

We really admired the attention to detail and how clean this bike looks. The "Hella Yella" color is matched throughout, molded rubber guards help protect the frame, internal seatpost cable routing keeps things tidy, external brake and derailleur routing make maintenance easier, and the threaded bottom bracket ensures that the bike will stay quiet. Nobody likes a creaky ride. There are also two bottle mounts for those that prefer to ride without a pack.

On The Trail

Our time testing the Furtado was spent in San Luis Obispo, California, which isn't just a place where you can spend your weekends at the beach, but also home to a huge variety of mountain bike trails. The riding options among the pastoral green hills ranged from fast and flowy to rough and rocky. A few days of rain leading into our testing period also meant the trails were going to be prime for riding.

Before heading out the door we had some setup to do. We adjusted the FOX Float CTD Factory shock to the recommended 30% seated sag and the RockShox Pike RCT3 Solo Air fork for its recommended air pressures based on rider weight. Both Vital test riders swapped out the Juliana Mountain Saddle for their own personal saddles, though Courtney did ride a day on it to see how it faired. A saddle's fit is a very personal thing, and the booty knows what it likes. Courtney swapped out the 720mm bars for something slightly wider at 750mm before heading out.

Courtney felt pretty good at 5'7" tall with a longer torso and shorter legs on our size Medium test bike. The top tube length was comfortable when reaching from the saddle to the bars. The shorter reach than she is used to took a little bit of readapting to find her balance point out of the saddle. Be sure to consider the seat tube measurement if you have shorter legs or are at the lower end of the suggested size range, as the 432mm seat tube left her just a few millimeters of wiggle room for the 125mm dropper post. If your inseam is less than 30-inches, you might struggle with getting the post low enough for pedaling. Juliana wisely specs a shorter 100mm travel dropper on the size Small frame. Courtney also had just enough standover height. Amanda felt like she was reaching a little on the Furtado's top tube length at 5'6" tall with a shorter torso and longer legs, even with a short 50mm stem installed.

The comfortable 68-degree head tube angle prevented the dreaded dive-over-the-bars feeling when heading down some steeper sections, and when climbing it didn't feel like pushing a shopping cart uphill. Decently compact 435mm chainstays, a 1114mm wheelbase, and low 332mm bottom bracket height help strike a good balance of stability and playfulness in the geometry.

The Furtado felt decently capable while descending. On wide open and smoother trails it was stable, balanced in the air, reacted the way we wanted it to, and was quick while pumping which made for a super fun ride for the proactive rider. It wanted to rail corners and it wanted to have decisive rider input.

More rowdy descents showed a different side of the bike's personality, though, and we slowed up more than we probably would have on a larger travel bike. It tracked well through the super rough stuff and never surprised us in a bad way in spite of this. The suspension felt plenty supportive when rolling off drops and jumps. The times when we felt a bit buck-wild and pinballed around we were on some pretty rough and loose sections where you would probably want a bigger bike if it were part of your regular riding terrain.

Courtney felt the bike rode well at 30% sag with the FOX CTD shock set to Descend mode. Amanda let out a little more air from the shock, bringing it down to about 35% sag, which she thought felt better and mostly rode in Trail mode. In Descend mode she thought it was tough to balance front to back on the bike and wanted something to push against in the suspension, which at times felt a little muted and dull.

On the climbs the Furtado did okay, though not as well as we expected the 25-pound super bike to do. It lands somewhere in the middle as far as efficiency is concerned - not as quick as a billy goat or as sluggish as a waterbed. Things improved some by flipping the CTD switch to a firmer mode, which was easy to do given the shock's position. Courtney would switch it to Trail mode for extended climbs and Amanda would go all the way to Climb. In either case the increased damping support helped quiet bike movement while putting power down.

The geometry also asked for a little more effort from us on the climbs. Both of us, short and long-legged, were a bit further back off the bike than we feel is ideal. Even with the saddle all the way forward our legs had to reach forward more than preferred, and as a result we were struggling more than we could have been. At times it felt like extra efforts were needed to keep the front end down on inclines that weren't even all that steep. Lowering the bars and stem as far as they go helped a bit.

There were a number of inclines where we wished we had more of a bail out gear than the 32-tooth chainring would get us. We kept checking the shifter, hoping for another gear like checking an empty wine bottle hoping there is still a splash more hiding inside. No luck. The ENVE rims did help make for some easier efforts to make wheels go around though, especially on slight inclines and flats.

Build Kit

Other than the awesome Hella Yella paint color, Juliana also included a few parts with the ladies in mind. For our lady hands they include a pair of grips with soft rubber padding. These came on 720mm wide Juliana carbon bars with a 60mm stem. We are stoked to see decently wide bars for women and a shorter stem coming stock. It is a combination that really does add stability, though some may still prefer something a bit wider. Also special for women, the Juliana Mountain Saddle has an ergonomic center channel to avoid pressure points and the width has been adjusted to provide more support than a typical saddle.

The RockShox Reverb seatpost with a luxurious 125mm of travel is another accessory we applaud. We like to get the saddle out of the way when descending so we can get low in corners and move around as needed. However, we did have a "well-this-just-won't-do" response to the Reverb remote being clamped to the shifter on the right side of the bars. The 1x11 drivetrain leaves plenty of open real estate on the left side just calling out for some love, and it's much easier to use over there. You'll need a new bar clamp to make the switch.

The RockShox Pike fork was a fun ride. It was smooth off the top, sucked up smaller bumps incredibly well, and sailed over medium hits that might have caught up other suspension setups. It took a minute to get used to and trust that it wasn't actually diving because there is so little stiction and it goes into its travel so easily. It felt pretty good with the recommended settings, though Amanda softened it up a little extra which made the bike feel more balanced to her. It took the hits that we sent it over well and was supportive in corners.

ENVE's M60 carbon rims felt a bit more solid than aluminum when plowing over rocks. They also seemed more quiet as there weren't the pings you typically get from alloy, and we do like the improved acceleration due to lower weight. We also like the fast hub engagement - our track stands have never been so good.

The Maxxis HighRoller II tire up front and Ardent in the rear was a good combination. The HighRoller II gave us solid traction up front for pushing or cruising through corners and the Ardent helped improved rolling speed a bit.

Surprisingly, Shimano's new XTR M9020 brakes were a problem child. Their lever pull was very inconsistent as they pumped up over a super short period of use. It appeared that they needed a bleed, badly. We tried doing a partial bleed through the lever and got some bubbles out, but it didn't remedy to problem entirely. They seemed to have good grab, though. Unfortunately this translated to excess skidding as there was zero room for modulation when they pumped up (sorry IMBA). One the plus side, the ergonomics and length of the brake levers felt great. The bike is equipped with 180 and 160mm rotors.

We enjoy the simplicity of a 1X drivetrain and SRAM's XX1 system worked really well. It keeps the cockpit clean and reduces the number of cables running around everywhere. Shifting was quick, responsive, and smooth. The bike was also nearly silent while riding with chain noise and cable rattling pretty much eliminated. The Race Face narrow/wide ring up front and a clutch derailleur in back helped the chain stay on through all our rides.

Long Term Durability

With the exception of the brakes, all the parts on the Juliana Furtado seemed to be working as they should. There was some cable rub here and there on the frame though. Cable rub patches will definitely be needed to keep the frame looking pristine. We noted we had decent mud clearance but mud would get balled up a bit in the lower link of the frame, which could present an issue if you ride in the wet often. There is a grease gun included with the frame so the pivots can be serviced, and using this will certainly keep things running smoothly. Juliana backs the frame with a five year warranty, pivots for lifetime, and will help with the cost some in the event of a bad crash.

What's The Bottom Line?

The Juliana Furtado is a really enjoyable ride through moderate tech and and on fast, flowy trails. It's best suited to those who like to ride proactively and fancy that low and quick slalom feel. It'll make it through really rough sections alright, but you'll likely have some white knuckles on the other side. The need for such decisive rider input makes it a bike that's best suited to experienced riders.

Geometry leaves a little to be desired for climbing and the overall dimensions may be a very close fit for some women - possibly a result of being a direct crossover from a men's frame - so we recommend trying one before buying.

The price point is very high on this bike with all its glitz and glam, but luckily you can get comparable performance from some of the less expensive builds. If smoother trails are your jam and you like pumping your bike and playing with the terrain, the Furtado could be a great ride for you.

Visit www.julianabicycles.com for more details.

Bonus Gallery: 19 photos of the 2015 Juliana Furtado Carbon 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.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for 2015 Intense Spider 275 Pro 1/13/2015 12:00 AM
C138_flo_red_spider275_pro_1

2015 Test Sessions: Intense Spider 275 Pro

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Reviewed by AJ Barlas and Dylan Stucki // Photos by Lear Miller

When the original VPP-equipped Intense Cycles Spider debuted in 2003 it was a bred for the cross country racer with speed and weight as top priority. Over the next decade it morphed into a marathon style trail bike with a penchant for pounding out the miles, and eventually a 29-inch option was born. Today the Temecula, California based brand is proud to release their latest in the long line of handcrafted Spider frames. The new Spider 275 maintains an adjustable 115/130mm of rear travel while becoming even more capable with updated geometry, revised suspension pivot placement, and 27.5-inch wheels.

After over one year in research and development, Intense was so excited to show us what they had been working on that Jeff Steber himself welded up the brand new frame for our 2015 Test Sessions just days before testing began. The bright orange bike arrived decked out with the latest and greatest components and ready to rip. We took it to the trails of Montaña De Oro and Madonna Mountain in San Luis Obispo, California to see just what it's capable of.

Highlights

  • Aluminum frame
  • 27.5-inch wheels
  • 115/130mm (4.5/5.1-inches) of rear wheel travel // 130mm (5.1-inches) front travel
  • Tapered headtube
  • 67-degree head angle
  • 75.5-degree effective seat tube angle
  • 337mm (13.25-inch) measured bottom bracket height
  • 419mm (16.5-inch) chainstays
  • 73mm threaded bottom bracket
  • 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured complete weight (size Large, no pedals): 29-pounds, 7-ounces (13.35kg)
  • MSRP $5,999

Like all Intense bikes, it rides on the popular VPP suspension system that they've shared with Santa Cruz for several years. The system is highlighted by two short counter-rotating forged links, angular contact bearings, and replaceable grease zerks for easy maintenance. Travel is adjustable thanks to two shock mounting positions, with the upper shock mounting hole providing the full 130mm of travel. It's designed around a 130mm travel fork.

The Spider 275 is the first Intense with the lower pivot placement up above the bottom bracket, attached to their new "iBox" machined bottom bracket assembly, effectively allowing them to make the rear end shorter. The result is a super compact 419mm (16.5-inch) chainstay length. Surprisingly there's still decent mud clearance, with a hair less than 1cm of room for mud at the tightest point. Riders looking to add a front derailleur will still be able to so with the increasingly popular direct mount attachment, but note that 3X systems are not compatible due to limited clearance. Our test bike sported a 1x11 SRAM drivetrain.

The updated pivot placement also allowed designers to steepen the effective seat angle. It now comes in at 75.5-degrees. This resulted in a relatively short top tube length of 622mm (24.5-inches) in relation to the healthy reach of 467mm (18.4-inches) on our size Large tester.

Aesthetically we think the new pivot placement looks better as well. Intense puts some emphasis on their bikes looking great, so it makes sense to see this move and thought process behind it.

Cable and brake routing on the new bike is the tried and true external variety, making any changes to the cables easier than the internal alternative. The KS LEV Integra dropper post does get the cleaner stealth-style treatment, though the cable doesn't jump into the frame until reaching the seat tube. It has a rubber gasket to help keep water and dirt at bay. Cable routing is fitted to the top of the downtube, keeping them out of harms way from any flying rocks or potential incidents resulting from hacking up a storm on the trail.

The oversize double-butted and hydroformed aluminum frame also sports molded downtube and chainstay protection, a threaded bottom bracket, ISCG 05 mounts, 160mm IS rear brake mount, a water bottle mount inside the front triangle, integrated dropouts, and remarkably low standover. Claimed weight for a size Medium frame is 7.6-pounds, versus just 6-pounds for the previous 26-inch aluminum model.

The bike is available in Pro ($5,999), Expert ($5,650), and Foundation ($2,999) build kits as well as a frame only option ($2,199). We tested the cream of the crop Pro build. Colors include Flo Red and Silver Flake.

On The Trail

We began testing with the Spider 275 on the smooth, flowy trails of Montaña De Oro. These trails are generally straight-forward with the occasional rocky crop, but they do allow for some high speeds and a good bit of berm slapping which the Spider welcomed with open arms. We'd later ride the rock-strewn slopes of Madonna Mountain to really push it into some taxing situations.

Setup was a breeze thanks to the sag indicators on the 200x50mm RockShox Monarch RT3 shock. Set to the recommended 30% sag while seated in the 130mm travel setting it worked well for us, resulting in a balanced, consistent feel with the RockShox Revelation fork. The bar and stem were swapped out for something a little shorter (from 70mm down to 50mm) and wider (750mm up to 800mm) due to personal preference. At 6'3" and 6'5" tall we also pushed the seat back on the rails in order to lengthen the top tube a hair for seated climbs. With a seat tube angle as steep as the Spider's we were still in a great position to get up over the bottom bracket.

As we'd find out in the rougher bits of trail, the Spider 275's updated geometry is pretty well suited to aggressive use, but there is a limit to what it will handle in stride. At 67-degrees, the head angle is now is 2-3 degrees slacker than the previous 26-inch Spider, providing some relief when things get rough while maintaining a quick feel at the bars. The wheelbase, which comes in at 1,178mm (46.4-inches) on the Large, is long enough to give some stability in most situations. Despite these numbers we found it slightly unstable and rough feeling at high speeds with a little chunk thrown in. The short chainstays no doubt had a role in this, while the narrow 2.25-inch Maxxis Ardent tires didn't help.

Even so, the bike was a lot of fun to ride when the trails got twisty or involved any quick direction changes. It has a nimble yet planted personality that makes it predictable and inspires confidence when smacking through consecutive corners. The front end is also easy to pick up and throw around, leaving you with a bike that asks to be played with rather than pointing it straight through the rough.

Here it is in action under Intense Pro riders Luca Cometti and Bernat Guardia:

The rear suspension provided a comfortable ride on a range of terrain, doing a good job of smoothing out small bumps while also handling bigger hits and g-outs well without a harsh bottom-out. It did get a little hung up on square edges, especially while climbing, which is something we've experienced on other VPP bikes in the past - a result of the design relying on chain tension to aid with the exceptional pedal platform.

Even with the shock wide open the bike is spritely on climbs, quick to accelerate when stomping on the pedals, and encourages you to get out of the saddle often. It's a shame that it toys with your feet when under strain through chunky square edges, because otherwise it's dialed in the pedaling department. Is the pedal feedback something to be concerned with? That really depends on your priorities. For us the bike's playful attitude in the twisty stuff and smooth acceleration outweighed the pedal feedback we experienced.

Heel clearance when pedaling isn't great. Our testers' ankles clipped the seat stays on both sides on several occasions. Sometimes while climbing, others while descending as the suspension was moving through its travel. The rear derailleur housing guide on the outside of the seat stay also causes more contact than necessary.

Coming in at 29.4-pounds for a size Large, the Spider 275 Pro is no lightweight by today's standards, but its energetic attitude helps with its perceived weight on the trail. Nevertheless, it leaves you wondering, "What if?" Surely there will be a fantastic plastic version of the bike in the future, and given our experience with the aluminum version it will take off like an absolute rocket.

Build Kit

Intense built the Spider 275 Pro with predominantly SRAM gear with exception to the brakes, where they opted for Shimano's proven XT offering. It's clear that the build attempts to balance all-out performance with low component weights and speed. The only parts we felt the need to immediately change were the bar and stem, but the stock cockpit options weren't too far from our ideal setup.

Up front the 130mm travel RockShox Revelation RCT3 fork with 32mm stanchions did a decent job once tuned to our liking. Our final air pressures were close to recommended, while the compression damping required a little adjusting with both the low and high speed set to about 1/4 of the way in from open. For the type of riding that the Spider is intended for this fork will be fine for most, but the bike begs to be ridden harder, making us wonder what a slightly longer travel fork with a more robust 34mm stanchion would offer (think 140mm Pike or similar). The Revelation gets the job done, though isn't anything to shout about.

The narrow 2.25-inch Maxxis Ardent tires offered great rolling speed on fast trails and would be a decent choice for racing cross-country, but when it comes to general trail riding we would like to see a little more tread up front and perhaps a larger version of the Ardent on the rear. Something with more bite would allow you to really get over the front end when pushing into corners and across off-camber terrain.

The wheel department is taken care of by Stan's No Tubes Arch EX wheels, a fitting set of hoops for the bike's intended purpose, though a bit on the soft side. Aside from upgrading the front tire, a wheelset change could help the bike become more planted at speed. The stock wheels have a good amount of flex and a very narrow rim that's just 21mm internally. The rear wheel showed signs of abuse after just a few rides.

Brake performance was as expected from Shimano's XT line with great modulation, consistent power, and enough bite to get you out of most situations. The bike comes with 180/160mm rotors.

In a similar fashion, SRAM's X01 drivetrain did its job well with light, accurate shifts and smooth operation. The Spider was setup without a chainguide and we had no issues with dropped chains, but there are ISCG tabs should one be of preference. The included chainstay guard is a little on the short side and the bike is missing any seat stay protection, allowing the chain to make a slight amount of noise when it contacts the frame.

Long Term Durability

Our initial impressions bode well for the Spider 275. Beyond the wheels showing their softer side relatively quickly, we don't seen any potential issues that could result in a shorter lifespan for the bike so long as it is ridden as a playful short travel trail bike. The components are all solid and should last a good amount of time if looked after appropriately.

The new lower link placement up above the bottom bracket helps keep it further out of harms way than the previous VPP design, and should hold up better in muddy and loose terrain. New serviceable pivot points feature collet bolts. Pivot/bearing service is suggested every 2,000 miles or 6 months, whichever comes first. Intense backs the frame with a three year warranty.

What's The Bottom Line?

As a short travel trail bike the new Intense Spider 275 Pro is a lot of fun to ride. Its agility and snappy acceleration make it enjoyable to rip around and the components help make it a no nonsense ride. If the trails you frequent involve predominantly high-speed, rocky terrain, then consider the experience we had with some slight instability in the rough. If you're looking for something playful for those twisty trails, the Spider 275 checks all the right boxes. The continued evolution of the Spider is towards an increasingly capable ride, and this latest generation has shed its spandex-clad XC ways for better all-around trail manners.

Visit www.intensecycles.com for more info. The bike will be available in March 2015.

Bonus Gallery: 29 photos of the 2015 Intense Spider 275 Pro up close and in action


About The Reviewers

Dylan Stucki - When he's not busy popping no-handed wheelies or shot-gunning beers you're likely to find Dylan comfortably inside the top ten at Big Mountain Enduro races. Since he's a big guy and charges hard he breaks a lot of stuff. He's naturally a perceptive and particular rider who picks up on even the smallest details.

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.

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 1 review.

Added a product review for 2015 Canyon Strive CF 9.0 Race 1/9/2015 4:22 PM
C138_2015_canyon_strive_cf_9.0_race

2015 Test Sessions: Canyon Strive CF 9.0 Race

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Reviewed by AJ Barlas and Dylan Stucki // Photos by Lear Miller

At the end of the 2013 race season there was quite a bit of curiosity around what Fabien Barel's prototype bike had hiding under a strange looking cover on the rear shock. All would be revealed in early 2014 when Canyon released the new Strive, including details of their new "Shape Shifter" technology. With the push of a lever the system changes the bike's geometry and travel between "DH" and "XC" modes. It's an interesting concept and one we looked forward to trying out during the 2015 Vital MTB Test Sessions in San Luis Obispo, California.

Highlights

  • Carbon frame
  • 27.5-inch wheels
  • 130 or 160mm (5.1 or 6.3-inches) of rear wheel travel // 160mm (6.3-inches) front travel
  • Tapered headtube
  • 66-degree (+1.5-degree) head angle
  • 73.5-degree (+1.5-degree) seat tube angle
  • 338mm (13.38-inches) measured bottom bracket height
  • 423mm (16.65-inches) chainstays
  • SRAM X-Type bottom bracket
  • 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured complete weight (size Race Large, no pedals): 28-pounds, 3-ounces (12.81kg)
  • MSRP 4299€

Making a bike that climbs like an XC rig and descends like a DH sled has been the goal of pretty much every manufacturer with a 160mm bike in their catalogue. The inherent problem with this eternal equation is that traveling uphill requires a fundamentally different tool than when you head back down said hill. It's not only about weight, nor is it only about geometry - it's about a total package that is put together in the optimal way to tackle the task at hand.

Many companies have tried to come up with solutions that involve the on-the-fly tuning of the shock and fork, changes in shock travel, or even changes in fundamental geometry. But to this day none have really managed to find a solution that actually adjusts all these aspects in an uncomplicated and non-proprietary manner. Canyon's new Strive looks like a pretty big step in the right direction.

The Strive's use of Shape Shifter technology is definitely the bike's key feature. A rider can compress the rear suspension while pushing the bar-mounted lever and ride at a lower, slacker stance. Pushing the button again while slightly unweighting the bike will result in the bike landing at a taller, steeper stance. The difference between the two modes in terms of static numbers is a 19mm change in bottom bracket height, a shift of 1.5-degrees at the seat and head angles, and 30mm less travel. Here it is in action:

Canyon's sizing system is interesting for the Strive. They offer Standard and Race versions with different geometry numbers intended to allow you to pick a bike to suit your style. Regular geometry is for "those seeking agility" and Race geometry is for "those looking for more stability at speed." Comparing the numbers, the Race versions gain about 26mm in the reach and top tube department. The chainstays on both bikes are identical at a very short 423mm. It’s a little confusing for sure, but with everything else being the same it really is a matter of knowing which front center length works best for you.

Additional details on the carbon frame include a threaded bottom bracket, ISCG tabs, internal cable routing, and bottle mounts inside the front triangle. Mud clearance is good with about 1cm of room for the muck.

The Strive CF is offered in five models. The 9.0 Race that we tested falls right in the middle of the bunch. Aluminum framed versions are available as well.

On The Trail

Prior to hitting the dirt we discovered that setting up the bike can be a little finicky, as the Shape Shifter device needs to be precisely adjusted in order for it to operate properly. Once we set the bolts at the top of the link to the correct torque spec, adjusted the cable, and inflated the Shape Shifter to the specified range it was game one. As shipped from the factory we struggled to get it to change modes.

Geometry for this model is what one might expect from an Enduro race machine. In DH mode the numbers resemble those of some downhill bikes from five years ago and altogether make for a confidence inspiring ride. The head angle is in line with a number of bikes in this category at 66-degrees, as is the 73.5-degree seat angle. Static bottom bracket height is a very reasonable 338mm with a BB drop of 12mm. The chainstays are short at 423mm. At 468mm and 648mm respectively, the reach and top tube lengths on the size Race Large frame is at the upper end of size Large bikes, allowing riders upwards of 6-feet tall to ride it comfortably.

The Strive was taken straight to the loose, rocky, chunky terrain of West Cuesta Ridge and Madonna Mountain in San Luis Obispo. On the climb up we activated the Shape Shifter switch and were pleasantly surprised at how obvious it was that changes had been made. When in XC mode the bike props the rider further up over the front end, which is great for steeper or more technical climbs. When in the DH setting the bike still climbed up the initial fire road remarkably well, scooting along when we put power down.

Pointed downhill the Strive gets on with business. It tracks very well, whether in loose baby heads, loose turns or high speed straightaways. The shorter rear end and reasonably tall stack height make it easy to lift the front end while also allowing for some comfort in steeper terrain. All of the above also helped make the bike agile when direction changes were required, whether at speed or not.

The suspension feel on the Canyon is controlled and planted, riding higher in its travel than some bikes tested when set to the suggested 30% seated sag. While the bike is capable of pointing through a line, it is up to the rider to be on their game to pull through any situations that may result in being a little out of control. This is a race bike through and through and has been developed as such. Take control and it is a weapon, but get lazy or make a big mistake and you will have to pull out of it or face the consequences. Run at 35% sag the bike was more forgiving and allowed a more point-and-shoot approach, yet still rode exceptionally well.

We found that the firmness in the suspension also translated into being a relatively good climber even when in DH mode. Sure, the head angle is a little slacker, but the 73.5-degree seat angle is more than suitable for getting the rider up over the cranks for efficient power transfer. Combined with a suitable top tube length it allows the rider to get up over the bars to take control of the front end of the bike while keeping the front on the ground.

When the Shape Shifter lever is depressed and the rider unweights, the bike feels as though it stands up as it enters XC mode. This position makes for a more aggressive climbing position and adds some good clearance to the pedals if striking rocks or roots is a concern. We never noticed any discernible feedback through the pedals in either position, and the rear tire stayed glued to the ground providing exceptional traction.

On rolling trails we found that descending sections with the bike set to the XC mode was a bit awkward, with the tall stance and now 67.5-degree head angle making it less stable. The firm suspension in XC mode definitely contributes the instability as well, taking away the planted feel that the bike has otherwise. Because the bike climbs better in DH mode than it descends in XC mode, we wound up spending more time with it in the low and slack mode, which made it a lot of fun to ride. Changing between XC and DH modes has little impact on the bike's anti-squat properties.

Not only do you get shorter travel in the XC mode, you also get a lower leverage ratio, effectively making the suspension stiffer without adjusting the air pressure of the shock itself. In DH mode you get a higher leverage ratio, making the suspension more supple while still ramping up towards the end of travel thanks to the progressive characteristics of the air shock. The fact that sag as a percentage also changes between the two modes is testament to the change in leverage ratio, and again, this provides a neat solution to the issue of building a dual-personality bike.

It's worth noting that the Shape Shifter system is not a quick or natural adjustment, which makes it difficult to change modes on the fly. We feel like it works better for long, sustained climbs rather than as a mid-trail shift. Perhaps it's something that would become quicker once the movement becomes second nature, but with the bike's ability to climb as well as it does in DH mode we think the majority of people will be more than happy to run it in that mode most of the time.

Our test bike was surprisingly noisy, not from the usual cable rattling or chainslap though, but from some annoying creaks that we had trouble amending in the main rocker link area. We lubed up each pivot to no avail, leaving us to wonder if it was the cable noodle for the Shape Shifter making contact with the innards of the rocker. There was wear on the noodle, signaling that there was indeed some form of rubbing going on.

Build Kit

The Strive CF 9.0 Race is decked out with one of the best off the shelf kits we've seen. It comes with trusty Maxxis rubbers, quality Ergon GE1 grips and comfortable SM3 Pro Carbon seat, and a set of Renthal Fatbars and Apex stem. This model runs with SRAM all over, from the great quality Rail 50 wheels, to the Guide RSC brakes, X01 drivetrain and Reverb Stealth dropper. It even came with a quality E-Thirteen upper chainguide.

The RockShox Pike RCT3 fork performed how everyone has come to expect. Combined with the Monarch Plus RC3 Debonair rear shock the bike was very well balanced bike and exceptionally easy to setup. The rear shock does require a lot of pressure thanks to the bike's higher leverage ratio (we had to run between 230 and 250psi in order to achieve proper sag).

SRAM's new Guide RSC brakes are a big improvement over previous Avid models, providing a very consistent feel at the lever and plenty of power and modulation. They're well suited to the bike and will no doubt challenge Shimano in the stopping department, provided they stay this way for a good period of time. The addition of a 200mm rotor up front to the 180mm rear was also a welcomed addition to the bike.

The Rockshox Reverb dropper post performed flawlessly with the Stealth style cable routing kept it clean and uncluttered.

Maxxis EXO treads provided a great mix of brawn and traction with loads of confidence when battling down rock strewn sections of trail. Even when landing on some nasty rocks after a few questionable lines choices keeping air in the tires was no problem for this trusty set of rubber. The tire profile on the SRAM Rail 50 wheels is good with the High Roller 2. The Minion DHR2 is a little rounder in profile, but worked well out back regardless.

We were stoked to have a good cockpit on the Strive, with a solid set of 780mm Renthal Fatbars up front, clamped into Renthal's new 40mm Apex stem. The combination made for great steering and no odd delays thanks to excess flex.

Ergon's GE1 grips have a great shape and worked well for us, even when riding without gloves. The choice to run the rubber of the grip out to the end of the bars and only provide a clamp in the inside is something that we will undoubtedly see a lot more of, and was something we were thankful for. It does change the position of the hand on the end of the bar, which requires a little adjusting of the grip to combat it. There is also a little flex out there thanks to the soft ends, but once used to them it isn't an issue.

The bike's suspension was designed to work best with a 1x11 system. Canyon fitted the bike with a 34-tooth chainring, allowing us to have all the gears required rather than spending all our time in the lower end of the cassette. This may not suit all riders and is easy to change if so, but it was something we were glad to see. Consider adding some protection to the inside of the seat stay to eliminate chain slap.

Long Term Durability

There's a potential for extra service time thanks to the addition of a gas spring in the Shape Shifter system. We're also curious of what would happen on trail if the system were to leak and no shock pump was available. The noise we had coming from a relatively new bike was also a minor concern. Aside from simply liking our bikes quiet, the fact that it was making this sort of noise early on indicates that the pivots needed to be pulled apart and greased well ahead of the suggested service schedule, or that the Shape Shifter's extra parts were causing some issues. Canyon backs the bike with a two year warranty should any real issues develop.

What's The Bottom Line?

The Canyon Strive CF 9.0 Race is a bike that rallies, remains stable in the air, climbs like a mountain goat, and rewards precise and assertive rider inputs. It's a fun, fast, and aggressive ride. Keep your game up though, because should you slip you'll find you need to pull yourself out of the situation. We don't see this as a negative, but those seeking a bike that will bail you out of any mistake may want to look elsewhere.

Considering Canyon has developed a way to use a standard shock, the ability to adjust the Strive's ride qualities at the flip of a lever is next level. While the bike is designed well enough to be run in the low DH setting all the time, the added versatility is a nice feature for those that want it and does make climbing a little easier. More moving bits may be a concern for some, however.

Because they're consumer-direct, Canyon is able to offer very competitive price points for all the builds. The components on the CF 9.0 Race are all top shelf, and as a complete package it's a great ride.

Visit www.canyon.com for more info.

Bonus Gallery: 22 photos of the Canyon Strive CF 9.0 Race up close and in action


About The Testers

Dylan Stucki - When he's not busy popping no-handed wheelies or shot-gunning beers you're likely to find Dylan comfortably inside the top ten at Big Mountain Enduro races. Since he's a big guy and charges hard he breaks a lot of stuff. He's naturally a perceptive and particular rider who picks up on even the smallest details.

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.

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 1 review.

Added a product review for 2015 Cube Stereo 160 Super HPC SL 27.5 1/7/2015 3:26 PM
C138_2015_cube_stereo_160_super_hpc_sl_27.5

2015 Test Sessions: Cube Stereo 160 Super HPC SL

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

Cube's Stereo was one of the first bikes available with 27.5-inch wheels. The early adopter immediately stood out from the others by offering a full carbon frame, 160mm of travel, and aggressive angles in a visually appealing package. Previously unavailable in the USA due to a suspension patent held by Specialized, the Horst link equipped Stereo will soon be accessible to anyone with a $4,199 $4,999 US price tag that'll make you look twice. As a result, we were finally able to get our hands on a bright green Super HPC SL model for the 2015 Vital MTB Test Sessions. Does the bike live up to its bold looks? We dropped into the gnar of San Luis Obispo, California to find out.

Highlights

  • Carbon frame
  • 27.5-inch wheels
  • 160mm (6.3-inches) of rear wheel travel // 160mm (6.3-inches) front travel
  • Tapered headtube
  • 66.5-degree head angle
  • 74.6-degree seat tube angle
  • 330mm (13-inch) measured bottom bracket height
  • 441.5mm (17.4-inch) chainstays
  • Press fit bottom bracket
  • 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured complete weight (size 18", no pedals): 27-pounds, 9-ounces (12.5kg)
  • $4,199 MSRP$4,999 MSRP

Cube takes pride in their "Advanced Twin Mold" carbon construction process said to maintain close manufacturing tolerances while avoiding the use of excess material. All frames with the "Super HPC" designation use high-quality carbon fibers and resins to achieve required strength numbers and low frame weights. They avoid the use of bonded alloy pieces wherever possible, instead choosing to create bearing seats out of carbon. We appreciate the downtube guard that extends a long way up the underside of the frame, offering protection where many others don't.

The suspension design is a typical four bar Horst link layout with a carbon rocker that actuates the easy to access rear shock. It leaves plenty of space inside the front triangle for mounting a bottle or carrying a spare tube.

Cable routing is a mix of carefully considered internal and external paths. The rear brake is entirely external for easy service, and the dropper post is partially external before entering the frame at the base of the seat tube for the same reason. Both shifter cables route through the front triangle, but unlike most frames the Stereo uses cable stops at the entrance and exit points, leaving just the cable and no housing inside the frame. This lightens the build by a few grams, and more importantly ensures things are rattle-free because the cables are tensioned inside the frame. The cable tension also helps to seal the frame from debris and water.

Additional details include a direct mount front derailleur, Syntace X12 through axle system with direct mount rear derailleur, post mount disc brakes, and press fit bottom bracket. Unfortunately the frame lacks ISCG tabs, but it is still possible to install an upper chain guide using the front derailleur mount should you make a 1X drivetrain conversion. Mud clearance on the seat stay bridge is quite minimal, with a tad less than 1cm of space for build up.

Cube offers the Stereo 160 in four aluminum and three carbon models, including one with a beefier 180mm FOX 36 fork used by the Cube Action Team. Vital's Super HPC SL test bike slotted right in the middle of the carbon options.

On The Trail

Our time aboard the Stereo 160 was spent bashing rocks and cruising through manzanita trees on West Cuesta Ridge and Madonna Mountain in San Luis Obispo. The bike saw a mix of terrain including never ending rock fields, loose pumice, steep ascents, twisty singletrack, and some flow trail action. Trails included some West Cuesta Ridge action, Morning Glory, Eucs, Elevator, and Rock Garden on Madonna Mountain.

Cube's cockpit is spot on with a 50mm length stem and 760mm wide, 35mm diameter Race Face Next SL carbon bars which strike a good balance between control and maneuverability for the average size human. On the size 18" frame our 5'8" and 5'10" testers felt as though the bike gave a nice upright position while seated with a relatively steep 74.6-degree seat angle for a 160mm bike. Shock sag was initially set to the recommended 30% while seated.

The 423mm reach of the 18" frame felt plenty roomy without being too stretched out. 6-foot plus riders may run into an issue however, as even the largest 22" frame has a reach measurement of just 434mm which will likely feel cramped. Cube chose to keep the bottom bracket height the same when making the switch from 26 to 27.5-inch wheels, resulting in a measured 330mm height that is quite low. In combination with with the rear suspension characteristics the cranks contacted the ground on occasion. On the flip side, this does help the bike corner quite well in tight situations along with the 441.5mm stays and moderate 66.5-degree head angle.

Pointed downhill the Cube Stereo is perfectly capable. The ride is very quick handling with a somewhat bouncy, fun, and playful demeanor. We found that it encourages you to double all the little bonus gaps on the trail. The bike is easy to wheelie, manual, and pop over obstacles. It's not what we'd call a calm ride, but it's an engaging one that some riders may enjoy. Braking is quiet and controlled and the rear wheel feels planted and active.

When trail conditions get really chunky at high speeds, the bike occasionally feels a bit unruly due to the linear rear suspension feel. Small bump performance is pretty dialed at 30% sag, but square edges can sometimes feel a bit harsh due to the fact that it tends to push through the travel quickly. Sustained chatter is just okay. The bike seems to float over most bumps, however when they are in quick succession following a big hit it sometimes has trouble recovering fully and will get stuck down between bumps. This can often times make it feel as though the bike is getting away from you. It lacks a super stable, safe feel when going all out in the rough.

The interesting thing about the ride is that it can go as fast as you want, but to get to top speed we ended up changing our riding style. While we prefer to be centered on a bike in order to jump obstacles or move the bike around, the Stereo needs a different riding style to make it work well. Once we gave up on trying to jump things (compressing the linear suspension was a lot of work anyway) and just plowed over the trail off the back of the bike, it really worked well. Letting our legs do the majority of the work resulted in a more planted ride than what we got when centered. You can even see this riding style in some of Cube’s elite riders like Nico Lau. When ridden this way the linear feeling in the fork was not too much of an issue, though we did have to up the rear shock pressure to a firmer 25% sag point that let us push the suspension harder than what we initially started with.

On g-outs, drops, and jumps, the bike bottoms often due to the fact that it's so linear. We'd encourage any hard charging riders to install a larger shock volume spacer in place of the stock 0.6 cubic-inch spacer. As is, the low-speed damping tuned into the shock provides pretty good pop on jump faces, but doesn't provide sufficient support during large hits or in fast, bermed corners. The bottom out has a very distinct "thud" feel and is quite audible when it occurs. It's necessary to play a game of juggling pressure and damping adjustments (via the three-step FOX Float CTD adjustment with additional Trail Adjust feature) to find the perfect balance between the two extremes. At 30% sag it gets through the travel quite quickly, while at 25% it loses a bit of small bump compliance. We think the ideal solution is adding a larger volume spacer with around 30% sag or even increasing the base compression tune in the shock.

At 27.6-pounds the bike feels light as you bound from side to side of the trail. The suspension’s active feel also contributes to this as it makes the bike feel even lighter than it is. It rolls quite well and maintains speed with the best of them, aided by the fast rear Schwalbe Rock Razor tire. When you sprint it's pretty quick to respond.

Pointed uphill it doesn't pedal the best in the large ring. The anti-squat properties are much better in the small 24-tooth ring offered by the 2X system. With a narrow wide ring in the 32-36 tooth range it'd be just okay, though the suspension would still be a bit mushy while pedaling hard. Switching to Trail mode during sustained climbs helps quite a bit.

Build Kit

Aside from looking the part, the Stereo 160 has a well chosen build kit that is extremely high end considering the bike's price. Highlights include components from FOX, Race Face, Shimano, DT Swiss, Schwalbe, SDG, RockShox, and some in-house Cube items, all color coordinated to match the frame.

One issue we ran into during setup was that we couldn't put the RockShox Reverb lever on the left side of the bars. The included lever mount is simply not compatible with Shimano's brake lever and shifter combo. It would be possible if you replaced the Reverb lever with a top left mount, however this would run an additional charge. The post itself worked flawlessly with 125mm of travel for on-the-fly fun.

The FOX 34 was among the smoothest FOX forks we've ever tried, pointing to continued improvements to the 34 line for 2015. It was very plush and active with no noticeable stiction, though like the rear end we found it using a lot of travel quickly in Descend mode. Surprisingly, switching to Trail mode didn't add much damping, even when adjusted to the firmest Trail setting. We ended up adding an additional 5-10psi over what FOX recommends for our weight. Even so, the performance of the front end mirrored what was happening out back well, providing a balanced feel.

Schwalbe's 2.35-inch Hans Dampf tire up front offers good volume with a stable feel. The rear 2.35-inch Rock Razor tire may struggle with braking in loose over hard, but the increased rolling speed almost makes up for it. Traction during some rides was unreal due to hero dirt conditions, but when we rode the bike in drier conditions the tires would skate around more than we wanted. Cube wisely specs the bike with the softer TrailStar compound up front and more durable PaceStar out back.

The Cube System EM 3.7 Wheels are made by DT Swiss. They came setup tubeless and have a decently wide profile. They're a pretty standard straight pull wheelset with average engagement, and come with the base model ratchet system installed. After some rather large rock hits they still ran true. We expect rear wheel durability to be pretty good on this bike considering how quickly the suspension allows it get up and out of the way.

As we've come to expect, Shimano's XT brakes were as dialed as ever with 180mm Centerlock rotors front and rear. Cube chose to spec the cheaper brake pads that lack the cooling fins, and while this may not be the best decision for extended descents, it actually makes the bike a touch quieter as the finned pads tend to rattle a bit.

The 2X Shimano XT drivetrain shifted well with no skips, and surprisingly held on during rough descents. It has 24/38 gearing up front with an 11-36 tooth cassette, providing a slightly wider range than any 1X system will. As expected with any 2X drivetrain, there is a good deal more noise due to chain slap and the front derailleur - the clutch helps, as does descending in the big ring. We also suggest adding some type of paint protection on the inside of the seat stay. The bike comes with a neoprene protector on the chainstay.

Long Term Durability

The primary durability concern is the result of the tendency for the bike to bottom in harsh terrain. This could lead to bent shock bolts and high stresses throughout the frame. As mentioned previously, installing a larger volume spacer in the shock could help alleviate the issue. Cube backs the bike with a two year warranty.

What's The Bottom Line?

The Cube Stereo 160 is a fun, fast, active, jumpy ride that turns even mundane trails into a playground. Hard charging riders will want to make some slight modifications to the stock rear suspension setup. It does very well on most terrain, but can feel taxed in the roughest portions of the trail due to the linear suspension characteristics. Considering the impressive $4,199 $4,999 (updated) price tag for the full carbon frame, good suspension, and reliable component list, this bike is a great value that is worth spending the time on to dial things in perfectly.

[UPDATE: Cube provided new pricing details after this review was published. Updates have been made above to reflect the new price, and the star rating was adjusted from 4 to 3.5 stars as price/value is an important factor in our ratings.]

Visit www.cube.eu for more info.

Bonus Gallery: 18 photos of the Cube Stereo 160 up close and in action


About The Testers

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 1 review.

Added a product review for Novatec Dirtride Wheelset 11/12/2014 2:05 PM
C138_dirtride32

Tested: Novatec Dirtride Wheelset

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Brandon Turman // Action photos by Courtney Steen

When it comes to a good dirt jump wheelset, riders are often looking for a few key things: Are they strong? Are the individual components easily replaceable? Are they affordable? Do they match my ride? Will they slip in the rear dropout? Built using the same rims that Kyle Strait and Cam Zink rely on while hucking massive cliffs at Rampage, the Novatec Dirtride wheelset is clearly designed to take some serious abuse. I mounted up a pair to see how they'd fair during a summer of use at the Whistler dirt jumps and skatepark.

Dirtride Wheelset Highlights

  • Designed for dirt jump, slopestyle, street, and skatepark use
  • 31mm external rim width, 25mm internal width, 22mm depth
  • Black micropeen rim finish
  • Tubeless ready
  • 20/15mm front hub, 10x135mm rear hub with bolt-on axle
  • Anti-bite guard reinforced steel rib integrated into alloy cassette
  • 4-degree engagement
  • Replaceable Japanese made sealed bearings
  • 6 bolt ISO disc mounts
  • 14mm brass nipples
  • 32 stainless 14 gauge spokes per wheel (also available in 36 spoke version)
  • 3X lacing pattern
  • Hand built
  • Includes alloy sprocket and spacers
  • Weight: 935g front // 1,145g rear // 2,080g total (4.6-pounds)
  • MSRP: $679 USD

Initial Impressions

I've taco'd a fair number of wheels in the past, so I was pleased to see just how burly the Dirtrides are out of the box. Novatec used the same proven rim found on Novatec's Demon models (a downhill wheelset) combined with straight gauge spokes, brass nipples, and a solid bolt-on rear axle - all things that point to great durability.

They come in 32 hole or 36 hole spoke counts. I tested the 32 hole option. The relatively wide rims are drilled for use with Presta valves. While many dirt jumpers and street riders run Schrader tubes for emergency gas station air compressor fill ups, making the hole bigger is easy to do. At the same time, some may enjoy the convenience of running Presta valves/tubes on all of their bikes, and others may take advantage of the tubeless ready rim profile (a nice to have but not really practical for dirt jump or park use). The sleeved rims do not have eyelets, and the black micropeen finish is clean looking and doesn't scratch easily.

Novatec's polished red hubs really pop, which adds to the visual appeal. Out back you're limited to just one cog, clearly indicating which type of bike the Dirtride wheels are best suited to. Novatec provides two spacers to dial in your chainline. On my Banshee Amp dirt jump frame the center position worked best. The room saved by restricting the number of gears allows the hub flanges to be widened, which creates a stiffer and stronger rear wheel. It uses a BMX cassette lock-ring, so unfortunately that standard Shimano cassette tool you have won't work. A large pair of pliers works to tighten the lock-ring in a pinch. It appears that you'd be able to get away with a cog as small as 11-teeth.

The rear hub uses a hardened 10x135mm steel axle with threaded axle bolts that can be tightened using an 8mm allen key or a wrench. It's a very sturdy, heavy axle. Should the rear hub ever come loose, it's a simple matter of finding some cone wrenches to snug it up. The 20mm front hub is available without the 6-bolt disc mount for those seeking the ultra sleek no front brake look.

All of the 14 gauge spokes are black, save the two silver ones surrounding the valve hole which makes it easier to locate. They're a traditional j-bend spoke design which means they'll be easy to replace, and all of the spokes are either 255 or 257mm long. 14mm brass nipples provide plenty of surface to wrench on if they need to be trued as well as a few extra threads of spoke engagement.

Unfortunately all of these things come at a weight penalty, and at a combined 2,080 grams they're certainly on the heavier end of the spectrum.

Mounting up tires was a simple and painless process, and the beads set without any hassle. Time to session the jumps...

At The Jumps & In The Park

There was a point in time when all I did was build and ride dirt jumps, and during that time my ninja skills and flow were at an all-time high. Those days have passed, though, and I'll admit that I'm much more likely to case a few landings or hang up on the coping at the skatepark these days. That is to say, now that I'm more of a hack (and a heavier one at that), I'm a pretty good candidate for testing wheels.

I spent this summer up in Whistler, a place where it's possible to ride the bike park all day, bang out a trail ride, and still have time to squeeze in a solid session at the dirt jumps, pumptrack, or skatepark that are conveniently located next to one another. I'd estimate that these wheels have seen about 40 days of use.

During that time I've had a grand total of zero issues with slipping in the dropouts or my chain coming loose, even though I don't run tensioners and tend to land sideways more often than not. This is a testament to the stout axle design. There is a knurled washer on each side that helps to keep things squared up, and the ability to really crank down on the steel axle with an 8mm allen key or a wrench is awesome. It sticks out pretty far though, so if you're throwing tailwhips watch your ankles as the back end comes around.

The rear hub is pretty quiet. Hearing nothing but my tires on the ground is a neat experience and I prefer a silent bike. Hub engagement is very quick, which is nice when you go to put in a 1/4 crank for balance on the rear wheel before dropping back in to a quarter pipe, for example.

Wheel stiffness has been a non-issue. This is really apparent when you're railing a berm and trying to conserve every ounce of speed so you can make that next double. They came laced up tight and have remained that way.

Having recently switched from a steel dirt jump frame to an aluminum one, the stiffer ride qualities of the aluminum frame took me some time to get used to and I initially felt as though I was getting jarred around over small bumps. Shortly after the frame switch I mounted up Novatec's Dirtride wheels. The relatively wide 25mm internal width seemed to add some extra stability to typically thin dirt jump tires, which alleviated some of that jarring feel even at the same high tire pressures.

Things That Could Be Improved

Perhaps the biggest thing that could be improved is weight. These aren't light wheels. In this case it's a clear tradeoff between durability and a few hundred extra grams. If you're the type of rider that blows up wheels constantly or simply can't afford to rebuild wheels every few months these are a great option. If, on the other hand, you're a smooth rider or enjoy spin tricks, you may want to look some of Novatec's lighter wheelsets. In my case they actually added a little in-air stability to my ride. I'm still able to get the bike sideways with ease, and spinning pretty much anything other than a backflip has always been out of the question for me anyways.

The BMX cassette lock-ring is a minor hassle, simply because most mountain bikers won't own the correct tool.

Finally, while it's a bit petty and comes down to personal preference, the large "Dirtride" logos on the rims look like they were made in Microsoft Clipart, and the part numbers on the hubs could be printed in a way that blends in better.

Long Term Durability

As of today the hubs are nice and tight, and the spokes are still tensioned well with no major dents/dings in the rims and just 2-3mm of side-to-side deflection. The sleeved rim joint also appears to be holding up well. The use of traditional J-bend spokes means they'll be easy to replace if needed. I also appreciate brass nipples as they tend to not seize up as quickly as the aluminum alternative. The micropeen black finish still looks great with very few scratches, as do the heat cured graphics.

What's The Bottom Line?

All in all, the Novatec Dirtride wheels have proven to be solid and reliable for dirt jump and skatepark use. At $649 a set they're one and done for your hardtail or slopestyle needs, easy to mount up, and should last for several years. After a summer of abuse we have no major complaints. Just be aware that they're on the heftier side. They're simple, strong, look decent, and come at a fair price which is exactly what we're looking for in this type of wheelset.

Visit www.novatecusa.net for more details.


About The Reviewer

Brandon Turman 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 to really mash on the pedals and open it up when pointed downhill. His perfect trail has a good mix of flow, tech, and balls-to-the-wall speed. He loves little transfers, rollers, and the occasional gap that gives him that momentary stomach in your throat kind of feeling. Toss in some rocky bits with the option to double over them or risk pinch flatting and you've got a winner in his book. In 14 years of riding he worked his way through the Collegiate downhill ranks to the Pro level. After finishing up his mechanical engineering degree, his riding focus turned to dirt sculpting and jumping with the occasional slopestyle contest thrown in for fun. Nowadays he's Vital MTB's resident product guy, putting in saddle time on nearly every new platform and innovation the bike industry has to offer.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for BOS Dizzy Fork 11/5/2014 3:58 PM
C138_bos_dizzy_fork

Tested: 2015 BOS Dizzy Fork

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Brandon Turman // Action photos by Courtney Steen

BOS is a company whose suspension products have an almost Ferrari-like reputation - high-end, foreign, and ahead of the curve in many ways (and expensive). With a good history in the gravity racing scene and a no nonsense, performance first approach to marketing and design, the French brand is now looking to bring their experience and know how to the cross country scene. The new Dizzy fork was designed to "combine the plushest, most controlled travel available with superior pedaling prowess for the ultimate XC race fork." We've spent the better part of two months pounding out miles in the mountains of British Columbia and Arizona to see if it's up to the task.

BOS Dizzy Highlights

  • 100/120mm travel options for 29-inch and 120/140mm for 27.5-inch wheels
  • Air sprung
  • Closed cartridge design
  • External rebound and S-M-H compression adjustments
  • Tapered steerer
  • 15mm QR through axle
  • 32mm Al 7075 stanchions with BOS extra low friction coating
  • AL 7075 crown
  • Magnesium lowers
  • Anodized parts
  • 160mm post mount disc brake tabs (180mm max rotor size)
  • 45mm offset and axle-to-crown length of 505/525mm on 29-inch models
  • High quality seals and bushings
  • Contains BOS high performance and eco-friendly Bio Oil
  • Claimed weight: 1,580g (3.48-pounds)
  • Measured weight: 1,644g (3.62-pounds, 29-inch fork with 120mm travel and uncut steerer)
  • MSRP: $1,080 USD

As it should be for any high end XC race fork, it's clear that low weight was a major design goal. From the slimmed down magnesium lowers to the 32mm aluminum stanchions and 15mm quick-release through axle, grams have been shaved on every part of the Dizzy. At a measured 1,644g it's in the same class as the RockShox SID (claimed 1,440 to 1,588g) and the new inverted RockShox RS1 (claimed 1,666g), while besting the FOX 32 Float 29 by a few hundred grams (claimed 1,796g). While weight was certainly a big consideration, what of actual suspension performance?

The Dizzy contains an all-new damping cartridge that's also loaded into the highly regarded BOS Deville AM fork. Externally it offers a simple three position S-M-H (Soft, Medium, Hard) compression adjustment: "Soft provides the plushest travel for rough, flat terrain. Medium will take care of most situations, providing a good platform for pedaling efficiency while retaining the ability to absorb bigger hits. Hard eliminates pedal-induced fork movement, enabling you to lay the power down on fire roads or smooth singletrack."

Rather than simply adjusting low-speed compression as many quick adjustments on forks do, switching between the three modes adjusts both the low and high speed rate curves. You can see in the effect in the graph above.

Soft provides very light hydraulic support. Medium is the best compromise between comfort, chassis support, and grip. Hard considerably stiffens the fork in an effort to limit suspension oscillations during pedaling.

Compression is adjustable within the Medium setting, letting you tune the feel according to your preferences and trail conditions. There is a pre-set notch that can be repositioned by removing the compression dial. You can set it anywhere between the Soft and Hard positions.

How does the compression adjustment work? When you turn the compression dial, you operate a longitudinal translation of the compression needle shaft (a). That makes the needle go inside the piston support to adjust low speed compression. At the same time, the compression needle shaft (a) activates the high speed spring seat (b). This compresses the high speed spring (c) and changes the force on the shims to adjust high speed compression.

Interestingly, the air/oil tank is not pressurized. BOS has another system inside to prevent cavitation but they weren't willing to disclose details. They did indicate that it makes service easier, though it still needs to be performed by a BOS service center.

The air spring side uses a combination of an air and coil negative spring. The coil spring acts on the first 3mm of travel to remove the preload at the beginning of the stroke and avoid topping out during rebound. The air negative is always active, and allows the fork to be smooth regardless of the fork's air pressure.

Setup & Initial Impressions

As expected, installation went well with no issues. Cutting the steerer tube took more effort than usual, but we see that as a good thing. Mounting the 180mm front disc brake required the use of 20mm post mount adapter. The cable is held in place with a zip tie. There's also plenty of clearance with a large (for XC) 2.3-inch Maxxis High Roller II tire.

BOS introduced a new quick release through axle design with the Dizzy. An angular adjustment on the axle nut ensures that the lever closes in the right position. At the lever end the combination of a cone expander and large lever blade make installation and removal of the axle very easy. The axle itself is machined with a taper in the center to reduce weight.

Recommended pressure settings are as follows:

After airing up the fork it's necessary to cycle it three or four times to distribute air between the positive and negative chambers. You'll then need to recheck pressure to be precise. At 175-pounds we initially aired up to 165psi, which yielded just 16% sag in Soft mode while standing on the pedals in the attack position. The fork felt quite firm at this pressure. In the same setup guide, BOS also recommends ~17% sag for non-technical trails/climbs and ~21% for rough terrain.We dropped the pressure to 150psi (21% sag) given our typically chunder-filled ride plans, which brought us to what felt like a much more reasonable, active feel for our weight.

Cycling the fork for the first time were very impressed with how smooth it was, with no noticeable stiction or dead spots through the entire range of travel. We experimented a bit by pumping the fork up to the maximum 200psi, and even at high pressures the initial feel was still impressive, indicating that the negative spring is designed well.

The compression dial was easy to adjust while seated thanks to a generously sized lever, and changing between the settings yielded three very different feelings. It's possible to adjust the dial anywhere between the three settings on the fly if you choose. The rebound knob is located at the bottom of right leg and is neatly tucked away. Adjusting the rebound dial doesn't make much of an audible noise, but the detents do have a pretty distinct feel.

On The Trail

As most know, we're not of the usual XC breed here at Vital. We have roots in downhill racing, prioritize performance over weight, and will happily run tires with some real meat on them versus the fastest rolling treads on the block. Heck, we don't even own a single pair of spandex shorts. That said, we do know a thing or two about good suspension, how to get down a hill fast, and we can stomp on pedals long enough to know if a setup is efficient or not.

The 120mm fork was tested on a 2015 Banshee Phantom, a 105mm travel aggressive XC/trail 29er that has more in common with an enduro race machine than a flyweight XC race rig. The bike's relatively slack 68-degree head angle and rowdy disposition provided a great platform to really push the fork into some taxing situations. We replaced the Phantom's lowered 120mm RockShox Pike with the Dizzy, dropping 280g and a few millimeters of axle-to-crown height in the process.

Test rides included several trails in the Whistler Valley (rooty and steep) as well as Flagstaff (rocky and fast), Prescott (typical smooth and fast XC race conditions), and Sedona, Arizona (extremely rocky).

We spent a handful of days dialing in air pressure. After floating around the 135-150psi mark, we can't imagine ever riding at the race recommended 165psi (save perhaps a fire road short track race). When fully open it would be very rare to use even close to full travel. Wanting to actually take advantage of the three compressions settings and full range of travel, we found it ran best about 20psi below the chart's suggestion. When outright pedaling performance is the foremost priority and you're really stomping on the gas, simply flip to the Hard compression setting for all the efficiency you could want.

For general use the fork feels best in the pre-set Medium position. Beyond a 1/4 turn it has a distinct platform feel. Part of what lets you get away with lower pressure is the fork's magic ability to stay high in the travel while feeling completely plush. We never feel as though we were diving through the travel in the Medium setting, and it provides ample front end traction at the same time. The fork ramps nicely with a controlled bottom out.

In the Hard setting it's close to a lockout, but does offer more give in a smoother, less notchy fashion than most XC race forks. While some may be quick to balk at the lack of a true lockout, we're of the opinion that a fork should be able to move regardless of the setting. This removes the overly jarring feel of unexpected bumps and helps keep you on course, especially when you're flat out or near exhaustion.

On slower, jagged and flat terrain, the Soft compression setting does a good job of reducing vibration and arm fatigue as it flutters along the surface.

While most XC forks have us shouting about stiffness concerns, it seems a non-issue with the Dizzy. There's very slight binding under big torsional loads, but it still glides into the lowers and remains notch free even then.

Things That Could Be Improved

If you take a quick glance at any bike on the starting line at a World Cup XC event or high level Pro national race, you're very likely to see at least one remote lockout on the bars. To our knowledge BOS does not offer it for the Dizzy.

The detent on the compression adjuster could be more noticeable, especially for those times during a race when you're lucky to throw a hand down and make the adjustment.

The air valve is recessed quite far under the air cap, and it can be difficult to thread on some air pumps.

While awesome from a functional standpoint, the large size of the quick release through axle lever seems out of place on a fork where weight was a priority.

We've heard that some Specialized bikes may be incompatible with early Dizzy forks due to the length of the tapered portion of the steerer. BOS is addressing this in later production runs.

Long Term Durability

After two months of submitting the fork to conditions that typically exceed those intended for a XC race fork, we have nothing but good things to say with regards to durability. It's creak free, isn't leaking, and feels just as buttery as day one. It's also backed by a one year warranty should any issues arise.

Know that because the Dizzy uses a closed damper, oil changes must be done at a BOS MTB service center. They recommend an oil change once or twice per year, which isn't much considering there are just 15cc of oil in the lowers of each fork leg. BOS says full service is needed once a year for racers and once every two years for recreational riders. These are very relaxed service intervals.

Speaking of service, BOS is opening a new Las Vegas, Nevada BOS sales/service center in late November, 2014. They expect to have full stock in early December, and will offer a risk free trial program in the USA on the Deville and Dizzy range. In the meantime you can reach them at info@bosmtb.com.

What's The Bottom Line?

In a race scene where every gram is heavily considered, the BOS Dizzy fork competes head to head with the best. What sets it apart is not the weight, however, but actual suspension performance that will impress even the most demanding riders. Every detail is well thought out, meets precise tolerances, and yields velvety smooth operation across the board. Easy to activate efficiency is available for those looking for it, and for the XC racer who truly gets after it on the descents (and maybe even drops the saddle a bit), know that this fork provides the same level of downhill performance as BOS's longer travel forks, which says a lot. Performance was so good, in fact, that we'd be quick to recommend the fork for trail riders looking to drop weight while maintaining a high level of bump-eating ability.

Visit www.bosmtb.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

Brandon Turman 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 to really mash on the pedals and open it up when pointed downhill. His perfect trail has a good mix of flow, tech, and balls-to-the-wall speed. He loves little transfers, rollers, and the occasional gap that gives him that momentary stomach in your throat kind of feeling. Toss in some rocky bits with the option to double over them or risk pinch flatting and you've got a winner in his book. In 14 years of riding he worked his way through the Collegiate downhill ranks to the Pro level. After finishing up his mechanical engineering degree, his riding focus turned to dirt sculpting and jumping with the occasional slopestyle contest thrown in for fun. Nowadays he's Vital MTB's resident product guy, putting in saddle time on nearly every new platform and innovation the bike industry has to offer.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Birzman Maha Apogee MTB Floor Pump 10/30/2014 10:27 PM
C138_birzman_maha_apogee_mtb_pump

Tested: Birzman Maha Apogee MTB Floor Pump

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Brandon Turman

As we've written before, Birzman tools combine good looks, clean design, and clever innovation that make working on your bike a more pleasurable experience. The statement certainly applies to their high-end hand tools, but what of their new Maha Apogee floor pumps? Could the already relatively simple task of pumping up a tire be made even easier? Let's take a look at Birzman's answer to that question.

Maha Apogee MTB Pump Highlights

  • MTB specific high volume track pump design
  • Pump tilts towards the user providing unparalleled ergonomic comfort
  • Stable aluminum alloy base with high polished premium finish
  • Varnished wooden twin handle optimizes grip and comfort
  • CNC'd and super stiff pump barrel for durability/performance
  • 120psi max with Presta/Schrader compatibility
  • Precision MTB specific pressure gauge is easy to read during use
  • Equipped with new L-Shaped Snap-It Apogee adapter (Controlled Air Discharge)
  • MSRP $100

In The Shop

Like many Birzman tools, the high-polish finish of the CNC machined pump barrel will attract your attention from across the room. Combined with the varnished wood handle, it looks like a showpiece, but it's highly functional at the same time.

The pump's "MTB" designation indicates that it's specifically made for mountain bike use. How so? It has a large barrel designed to drive more air faster with a maximum pressure of 120psi. In practice we found it fills tires very quickly. On a high volume 2.35 x 29-inch tire, each full pump yields an increase of just over 1psi, meaning you'll need relatively few pumps to fill a tire to the typical 25-35psi range. Some pumps seem to take forever to fill a tire - this isn't one of them. Compared to the Pedros pump it replaced in our shop, it yielded a savings of about 15 pumps per tire. Multiply that by two or more tires and the time savings begin to add up, especially when the sun is setting and you want nothing more than to shred some glorious dirt turns with your riding buddies.

The added volume also helps when seating beads on fresh tubeless tire installs, which we were able to do with ease on several tire and rim combos. It's nice when you don't have to track down an air compressor.

Construction details are all well thought out, the pump feels stout, and the action smooth. Birzman actually slants the barrel by 5-degrees to help direct the downward force from your hands into the pump. This makes it a bit more stable, too.

Perhaps the coolest feature is the new "Snap-It Apogee" pump valve that allows you to quickly switch between Presta and Schrader tire valves. The previous design required that you unthread the Snap-It valve for Schrader use, but that's no longer the case. Now you simply slide the gold-colored collar so the preferred valve type can be read and go about your business. For Presta valves you push the head onto the valve and slide the collar forward, locking it into place. For Schrader you thread the head onto the valve. Both methods create a very secure, leak free connection that has never blown off or pulled out a valve core upon removal. Just be sure to push the head on firmly for Presta valves.

A new "Air-Lock" feature also allows the floor pump to be used on air-sprung suspension forks. If you pull the collar back after pumping you activate an "Air Lock" feature that effectively turns it into a zero-loss system. Why can the pump only be used on forks? Rear shocks are typically run at pressures that exceed 120psi, and they also have a much smaller air spring volume than forks. The pump can fill a fork in just two or three pumps, model dependent. If you've ever filled a fork from empty using a shock pump, you know how long it can take. As you might imagine, this brute force approach isn't super precise, so we can't see ourselves regularly using it to fine tune suspension settings. In the all-too-common situation where no one has a shock pump it'd be quite handy though.

On tires, fine pressure adjustments can be made after inflation by depressing the small black button at the back of the Snap-It valve. We verified the accuracy of the pump's pressure gauge using a few handheld gauges, which showed an almost negligible 0.5psi variation. The size of the gauge makes it easy to read while standing.

Things That Could Be Improved

As pressure increases into the 100psi+ range, the effort required to push the handle down increases substantially. You'll notice this while pumping up suspension or road tires. For this reason riders with both road and mountain bikes may consider opting for the road model. The balance between high volume and high pressure is certainly skewed toward the volume side on the MTB version.

While we've found it to be great in almost every scenario, the Snap-It valve requires a few millimeters more exposed valve stem than several traditional valve designs. If you have deep carbon rims this may occasionally present a problem.

Those looking for a compact pump well suited to all-around use should look to Birzman's Tiny Tanker or Maha Apogee MTB II pump instead. The overall size of the base on the Maha Apogee MTB pump is quite large, so it's not really suited to kicking around the trunk of your car. If your pump lives at home, game on. You'll be pleased with how stable the base is.

There is a small bracket on the base to hold the valve and hose in place. It's a little too easy to dislodge, though, which can be a small frustration.

Finally, two of three rubber bumpers on the bottom of the base have gone missing in a little over one month of use.

What's The Bottom Line?

We found that the Birzman Maha Apogee MTB floor pump truly does make the mundane task of tire inflation easier. The combination of a clever valve design, high volume barrel, good ergonomics, and a stable base make pumping faster, allowing you to hit the trails sooner. The new Air Lock feature and compatibility with most air sprung forks may save you from missing a ride, too. That's progress. Good looks are just icing on the cake.

Visit www.birzman.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

Brandon Turman 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 to really mash on the pedals and open it up when pointed downhill. His perfect trail has a good mix of flow, tech, and balls-to-the-wall speed. He loves little transfers, rollers, and the occasional gap that gives him that momentary stomach in your throat kind of feeling. Toss in some rocky bits with the option to double over them or risk pinch flatting and you've got a winner in his book. In 14 years of riding he worked his way through the Collegiate downhill ranks to the Pro level. After finishing up his mechanical engineering degree, his riding focus turned to dirt sculpting and jumping with the occasional slopestyle contest thrown in for fun. Nowadays he's Vital MTB's resident product guy, putting in saddle time on nearly every new platform and innovation the bike industry has to offer.

This product has 1 review.