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Added a product review for Matrix Concepts M31 Worx Toolbox 10/2/2014 8:24 AM
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Tested: Matrix Concepts M31 Worx Toolbox

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

As a rider, you often take your box of tools for granted. You get the tools as and when you need them, throw them in the box and expect them to be there when duty calls. I've worked out of many different toolboxes in my day, but my bike tools have lived in the same Craftsman box I got for Christmas the year I started riding and generally obsessing over bikes. I haven't put much thought into it since then, it works fine and has been going for more years than I care to remember. But when the opportunity arose to try a similarly sized toolbox from Matrix Concepts that apparently had some design advantages over that old Craftsman, I thought I'd give it a try.

Matrix Concepts M31 Worx Toolbox Highlights

  • Made from hi-impact plastic
  • Metal drawers with aluminum trim
  • Team graphics
  • Removable plastic inside tool tray
  • Locking drawers
  • Price: $109.95 USD

Initial Impressions

Out of the box (!) the Matrix ConceptsM31 Toolbox was lighter than expected and slightly different to the photos I had seen. A plastic body and lid with metal drawers and frame create a light yet durable box with rounded edges. I don’t know how many times I’ve stubbed my toe on my old toolbox, so this seemed like a good idea. Flashy moto-esque graphics were the next thing to jump out at me. I liked the idea of these durable decals but thank god they are removable because the graphics are not my cup of tea and toolboxes are where the stickers go - only the best ones, of course!

In The Workshop

I moved all my tools/parts over and was impressed by the space provided by the M31. The 2 drawers move smoothly under load and the main compartment is large with a removable tray and a deep lid, creating a good amount of vertical space for stacking all kinds of $h1t in the tray without preventing the lid from closing. This was gonna be a great fit for my sloppy style. I fit two small parts bins under the tray and a good deal of lubes, tools and parts on the tray itself. The drawers fit all my bike tools including the enthusiastic and well-meaning mechanic's favorite tool - a dead blow hammer. To give you a sense of scale and perspective, I included a beer in the photos. After drinking it, the magical powers of Rainier led me to peel the Matrix decals off and apply a proper sticker. Now the box was rad, and I was set.

Next on the agenda, I threw the M31 in the truck for some trips. The rounded corners are a really nice feature in the truck too, as they won't snag the already shredded seats that my dog recently modified. The box handled some abuse and stayed tight and fairly quiet despite being loaded with tools and carelessly moved around whenever I looked for my gloves/keys/beer. You will need to make sure the drawers are fully shut when you close the lid otherwise they will surprise you with sockets on your toes. This is a common issue with toolboxes and really the only semi-serious piece of criticism I've managed to come up with.

The latches are sturdy and don’t shred your fingers when you go to open them, which is nice. There is a hole for a lock but it's all plastic, so that's cute. The box is comfortable to carry from the top handle or the side handles, which is convenient. And while toolboxes typically make great seats in the parking lot this one produced some bad noises and I won't be sitting on it again - so that's a bummer.

Things That Could Be Improved

$109.95 may seem like a lot for something that just sits there but if it's like my other toolbox it’ll go 15-20 years which already makes it worth every penny. The graphics could do with a bit of toning down, but since they are removable you are free to do so and apply your own artistic collection of toolbox-worthy stickers.

Long Term Durability

The build quality is solid and I am expecting a good run with this box. It's hard to tell how the plastic will hold up over time, but if you don't insist on sitting on it, there's no reason it shouldn't provide years of loyal service.

What's The Bottom Line?

Overall the M31 was a pleasant surprise. I had little to no expectations as it's a toolbox and it has a fairly basic role to play. But the little features and overall design made this one a true upgrade for myself and that is a good test. If you can stomach the graphics and deal with the plastic, no-sit-zone construction then this is a rad box, out of the box. I opted to remove the graphics and never sit on it again which made it a rad box for myself too. And ultimately, as far as holding tools - it does great.

For more information, head on over to www.matrixracingproducts.com.


About The Reviewer

Cory Tepper is a life long MTB nerd. He’s been riding since 1994 and spent a little time in the now defunct Semi-Pro downhill category. He’ll always love street riding and pumptracks, and will occasionally scare himself on a decently sized set of dirt jumps. During the day he turns wrenches on $10,000 road bikes and documents the lesser known riders as a photographer and video guy in his free time. Tepper has a three legged dog, and he loves gas station coffee, Dominoes and Katy Perry - basically he is THE best product tester ever. Count on Tepper to keep it real.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Atomlab SL Trail 650b Wheelset 8/19/2014 10:09 AM
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Tested: Atomlab DHR SL 650B Wheelset

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Cory Tepper // Photos by Emily Peterson and Cory Tepper

As a long time fan of Atomlab I was quite stoked to see new product rolling out after some bumpy years of management changes and reduced industry presence. As a go-to rim for DH and DJ bikes the Pimplite has been in my stable for years and whilst indestructible she is not a light horse. Well, my favorite workhorse hit the gym, shed some grams and picked up an “SL” tattoo. Pulling these wheels out of the box was rad. They are light, loud and flashy, and I couldn't wait to mount them up and hit the trails.

Atomlab DHR SL 650B Wheelset Highlights


102 HUB:
  • Body: CNC machined 6061 aluminum
  • Sealed bearings
  • 102 Points of engagement in the freehub
  • Colors: Black (more colors coming soon)
  • # of holes: 32
  • 142mm, QR, and bolt-on adapters available
  • Weight: 12x135mm = 330g / 12x135mm 11spd = 328g

DHR SL RIM:
  • DH / Freeride / All Mountain
  • Welded Joint
  • Tubeless profile
  • 29.5mm wide, 25mm internal width
  • ERD: 26” = 538mm, 650B = 565mm
  • 26”x32h / 650Bx32h
  • Colors: Black, red, blue, and gold
  • Weight: 26”=427g / 650B=447g
  • Uses Torque nipples - available separately

MSRP: $694.90 (complete wheelset)
Weight: 1860 grams (complete wheelset)

Initial Impressions

Pulling the DHR's from the box, three things stood out to me immediately: One, they are pretty light. At 1860g on my scale they aren't the lightest by any means but if they were to turn out as strong as I expected from Atomlab then we would be set. Two, they are pretty loud. They feature a 102-point engagement hub which adds up to 30 more angry bees yelling “I sound faster than I am”. Three, they are flashy. I would guess the production set will be all one color but I was stoked on the red hoops laced up to black hubs that I received for this test. Flair is key when you are mid pack.

The wheels are tubeless ready and super tight for beading the Schwalbes I swapped off my stock wheel set. While slightly frustrated with seating the first tire, I was prepared with some lemon scented Pledge and a cold beer for the second, and she popped into place with a couple of convincing PINGs and POPs. Rotors and cassette were hassle free, and the loud as hell hub did begin annoying my coworkers almost immediately, which is always a bonus.

A quick check in the truing stand found the DHR's true and round with good, even spoke tension. A little hop at the rim seam but that's par for the aluminum course. In the truing stand is also where I discovered my first dislike with these wheels - Torque nipples. The idea with Torque nipples is that they are lighter and stronger than traditional brass nipples, with a wide alloy base that helps create a stronger and stiffer wheel. The connection at the spoke hole has a larger pivot range which reduces stress on the spokes. Torque nipples can be used on Atomlab rims with any manufacturer’s 14 gauge and 14 gauge butted spokes. While the design makes sense I hate anything proprietary, especially from a company with a somewhat rocky customer service history, but the use of conventional spokes, 3x lacing and the fact that they included some extra nipples and the required proprietary spoke key (albeit heavy!) eased the pain.

On The Trail

The last couple months were full of a variety of riding: shuttle days, long pedals, evening quickies, rocks, roots, epic dust and even a couple of commutes in the city. Like most new wheels they felt stiffer than I was used to, giving my whip that “new bike feeling”again. The 102 rear hub was a highlight, love or hate the noise the near instant engagement is rad. When every little pedal kick is functional and almost without dead space it makes tech climbs and pedaling out of corners way more fun than usual.

Even with all that business going on in the hub, the resistance was minimal and they rolled fast (well medium fast…650B fast…). My frustration with the tire setup was instantly forgotten after some horribly sideways landings with 25 psi resulted in nothing but tiny burps and only partial pressure loss. These rims are super secure and I had ZERO issues with running them tubeless, even with gorilla tape for rim tape and well used tires. Set it and forget it!

There are no dings, dents, flat spots, wobbles or cracks to report despite multiple attempts at destroying these wheels. No spokes, nipples, pawls or egos were brokeneither. The DHR's roll fast, make fun noises, and encourage pedaling where you normally wouldn’t. That's a good riding wheel set IMO.

Things That Could Be Improved

As mentioned, seating tubeless was slightly tricky but not something I'd hold against a wheelset - I'd rather practice my expletives during installation and keep my tires on when things get rough on the trail.

As for the proprietary nipples, while I'm not a fan of anything that's gonna be hard to come by down the line when repairs are needed, the fact that the wheels still use standard spokes and come with spares takes the sting out of this point.

Long Term Durability

My last set of Pimplites were on my DJ bike for 5 years. While only on the SL 650B version for a couple months, they seem to be inline with the durability that Atomlab is known for. The hub will require maintenance (they all do…) but it pulls apart quickly with normal shop tools and no tech doc is needed to figure out how the pawl system works.

Spoke tension and trueness have not changed, despite taking some nasty hits. It seems to me that wheels that don’t have problems in the first few hundred miles typically stay problem free. Well, with no broken spokes, smooth bearings, and all their loudness and redness intact so far, I believe these will hold up and I will definitely keep on rocking them as my primary wheel set.

What's The Bottom Line?

I had zero problems with the DHR SL 650B's and I definitely recommend them as a burly all mountain wheelset. Atomlab has done a great job of taking a classic rim and making it bigger and lighter. The 102 rear hub is rad - the pedal feedback is amazing, the noise takes some getting used to but I secretly love it. My only real concern with these wheels are the oversized nipples and ease of access to parts in the future. But simply put, they held up better than most all mountain wheelsets do for me and at about $650 they come in at real good value too.

For more, cruise on over to www.atomlab.com.


About The Reviewer

Cory Tepper is a life long MTB nerd. He’s been riding since 1994 and spent a little time in the now defunct Semi-Pro downhill category. He’ll always love street riding and pumptracks, and will occasionally scare himself on a decently sized set of dirt jumps. During the day he turns wrenches on $10,000 road bikes and documents the lesser known riders as a photographer and video guy in his free time. Tepper has a three legged dog, and he loves gas station coffee, Dominoes and Katy Perry - basically he is THE best product tester ever. Count on Tepper to keep it real.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Sun Ringle DJsingle Wheels 2/3/2014 8:40 AM
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Tested: Sun Ringle DJsingle Wheels

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Cory Tepper // Photos by Emily Peterson and Cory Tepper

At a time in the industry where companies are literally trying to re-invent the wheel, I was pleasantly surprised to pull Sun Ringle’s DJsingle wheels out of the box. Intended for the dirt jump/park/street riding crowd, they feature tried and true 3x lacing on high flange hubs with 32 good ole regular j-bend double-butted spokes. As a mechanic this is how I prefer all my wheels - no proprietary funny business, crazy lacing patterns or attempts at weight savings that sacrifice durability, like alloy nipples. The fact that these wheels are blacked out with removable understated graphics was a total bonus as well. At 2065 grams they feel solid yet light enough too say “not bad.” At $500 you wont think twice about beating them up allowing for some risk taking which is of course why dirt jump bikes are so much damn fun in the first place.

DJsingle Wheelset Highlights

  • 26-inch Inferno 31 rims
  • 31mm rim width
  • Premium cartridge bearings
  • 20mm front axle with QR15 adapters
  • 135x10mm bolt on rear axle
  • Aluminum single-speed specific freehub body with lock ring
  • Wheelsmith double-butted spokes
  • Wheelsmith brass nipples
  • 32 spokes per wheel
  • Weight: 2065 grams/set
  • MSRP $500/set

Initial Impressions and Setup

I headed into the shop and picked up some carbon free-hub spacers and a 12-tooth Chris King single speed cog. They both slid on without issue and the included lock-ring did its job nicely. I swapped my tires and rotors with no particular problems to report here either. I threw the wheels into the truing stand just to make sure, since a lot of prebuilt sets still need some truing/tensioning. These did not. Straight, tight and ready to rally out of the box. They slid easily into their respective dropouts and all that was left to do was tighten down the axles. The 3/8-inch rear bolts really allow some torque to be applied, and while the 8mm wrench seemed overkill at first it is actually rad when compared to the 5mm that seems common on other single-speed hubs. Time then to head out to see what kind of trouble we could get into!

On The Trails And In The Streets

It's January in Portland, that generally means lots of street and lots of The Lumberyard, our indoor bike park. The first thing I noticed about these wheels was their stiffness, they just felt faster than my old wheels when pumping around the Lumberyard. Sprinting into street gaps felt good too. Hub engagement is solid, without much dead space on the first stroke, not bad going for a 3 pawl setup.

The DJsingle's free-hub makes a solid noise and sounds great floating through the air and ripping around town. These wheels spent many hours under my 200-pounds coming up short on jump after jump and they haven't budged, still true and tight. This would especially impress you if you saw how I tag each landing - it’s pretty bad. I even dropped some 3 to 4-foot loading docks to flat which really hurt my knees but also didn't affect these wheels in the least. Pretty remarkable.

I also got a few afternoons in on my buddy’s pump-track but moisture content was still pretty high and didn't allow me to get a fair shot at really pushing these wheels in some corners, but I imagine the stiffness I felt while pumping thru the Lumberyard will translate to solid feedback in corners too.

I look forward to taking these wheels to some bigger dirt features but for the purpose of this review just imagine a mediocre big dude doing a lot of gross 180s, hucks to flat, manuals and coming up short on most gaps. Now that I’ve so accurately described my abilities, I realize that they actually may be the best for testing wheels. Simply put, these wheels got worked and have not only survived but not budged at all.

Long Term Durability

I spent about six weeks on these wheels, not a long time but I tend to destroy wheels pretty quickly due to my lack of steeze and smoothness. The fact that they haven't loosened up at all is a great sign for the long term. I imagine that like all wheels they will eventually come out of true, but because they are 3x laced with double butted spokes and brass nipples they should always be easy to tension back up. My only long term concern is the aluminum freehub body. With a considerable amount of torque always being applied to the same freehub area on a single speed setup some amount of gouging could occur, so I feel the use of a high quality cog with a wide footprint is imperative to longterm use on this design.

What’s The Bottom Line?

The Sun Ringle DJsingle wheelset runs just $500 and holds up under my raw anti-smootheness. They also look great, making them a no brainer in my book. These wheels are a great alternative to building up a custom wheelset for your next hard-tail and will come in cheaper and ready to shred. While I would prefer a dedicated driver with a 9/10-tooth option and wider hub flange spacing, the freehub design is holding up and does allow some chain-line adjustment or the option for a 3- or 4-speed setup on a slopestyle bike. Using an 8mm wrench to tighten the rear axle is a little inconvenient but proved itself useful for getting shit tight. Finally, such a rad wheelset could be made radder still with the addition of a non-disc front hub - because who runs a front brake?

Visit www.sun-ringle.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

Cory Tepper is a life long MTB nerd. He’s been riding since 1994 and spent a little time in the now defunct Semi-Pro downhill category. He’ll always love street riding and pumptracks, and will occasionally scare himself on a decently sized set of dirt jumps. During the day he turns wrenches on $10,000 road bikes and documents the lesser known riders as a photographer and video guy in his free time. Tepper has a three legged dog, and he loves gas station coffee, Dominoes and Katy Perry - basically he is THE best product tester ever. Count on Tepper to keep it real.

This product has 1 review.