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Added a comment about product review First Ride: 2015 Specialized S-Works Demo Carbon 10/15/2014 9:17 AM
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@EJThomson did you read the whole review and only remember the two "negative" points? No bike is perfect for every rider in every situation. The Low BB has an advantage in many many situations and is a trade off in others, and if you reread the article the extra length of the cranks seemed to be more of an issue than the BB. Same goes for suspension, and where it falls short in one isolated scenario (in one particular shock setting) it shined in every other situation. Super light weight, spot on geometry and predictable suspension through the majority of terrain in a place like Whistler makes me happy. If you are looking for "exactly perfect" as you put it, I'm not sure that any bike will fit the bill.

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This product_review has 25 comments.

Added reply in a thread Should the World Cup Downhill season have more races? 10/13/2014 12:26 PM

I'm with Neethling on this one. We absolutely need more high level events. 8 races out of 52 weekends is hardly enough to make a season. Look at Super cross with 14-16 events for example. Ideally I would like to see a 10 race series plus World Champs. ... more »

Added a comment about photo Battling the Sun, Fort William British Downhill Series 2014 5/13/2014 11:02 PM
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Epic section of trail there. Hopefully got an equally epic shot with all those flashes

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This photo has 2 comments.

Added a product review for FSA Afterburner Stem 5/5/2014 1:13 PM
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Tested: FSA Afterburner Handlebar and Stem

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Dave Trumpore // Photos by Dave Trumpore and Gary Perkin

FSA’s Afterburner line of mountain bike components have suited cross-country and trail riders quite well over the years, offering reliable and lightweight performance. The lineup includes handlebars and stems, which come in various rise, width, and length options. The alloy stem was recently redesigned to reduce weight, and has a new faceplate as well. Let’s see how the combo faired on trail.

Afterburner Handlebar Highlights

  • Material: AL7050/T6, Triple-Butted, Tapered and Shot-Peened
  • Clamp Size: 31.8mm
  • Width: Low Riser - 630, 685, or 740mm // Flat - 600, 620, 660, 670, or 680mm
  • Rise: Low Riser - 15mm // Flat - 0mm
  • Upsweep: Low Riser - 4° // Flat - 0°
  • Backsweep: Low Riser - 9° // Flat - 9°
  • Colors: Sand Blasted with Polished Black Anodized Finish
  • Weight: 7.6 to 9.5-ounces (215 to 270 g)
  • MSRP: $74.99 (685mm) // $89.99 (740mm)

Afterburner Stem Highlights

  • Material: 3D Forged and CNC Machined from AL6061/T6
  • Hardware: Cr-Mo Steel
  • Clamp Size: 31.8mm, 4-Bolt Cold Forged
  • Length: 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 110, 120, or 130mm
  • Rise: ±6°
  • Steer Diameter: 1 1/8-inch
  • Colors: Sandblasted Black with Polished Black Anodized
  • Weight: 5.1-ounces (144 g) for 100mm stem
  • MSRP: $69.99

Initial Impressions

It was evident that this was a pretty lightweight setup as soon as I held the bar and stem in my hands. I appreciated the proven and simple stem design with no strange shapes or hard machined edges. The Afterburner bar and stem have clean lines finished with a nice shiny polish. The bar is shot-peened at both ends.

On The Trail

As it should be, the bars and stem were a breeze to install and set up, and it only took a few minor rotation adjustments until I found that sweet spot. The stem can be mounted with a slight positive or negative 6° rise, and I stuck with the positive for the duration of the testing period. All in all everything felt natural with the up and backsweep of the bar being spot on and comfortable for both climbing and descending.

I was presently surprised to find the stem/bar interface to be quite stiff, despite its minimalist design and lightweight. While the bars may not be the stiffest thing in the world, I for one find that to be a good thing. Having never liked overly rigid aluminum bars, it was good to have something that took the edge off trail vibration without sacrificing handling. The 60mm stem felt great on the two medium sized bikes that I tested it on, and the 740mm (29-inch) bars were great in the tight and twisty stuff, but often left me wishing for a bit more width when the speed picked up.

Things That Could Be Improved

Two things really stood out that could use a bit of improvement. First, the stem's face plate does not line up with the hash marks on the handle bar, and it would be nice to be able to quickly center the bars and reference the angle they are set to. With many manufactures providing this feature I was disappointed to see it overlooked, especially with the amount that I teardown bikes to put in bike boxes and travel.

My other gripe is with the width. 760mm (30-inches) is the minimum standard for DH bikes, and with modern trail bikes being capable of tackling the roughest of terrain at speed, I just couldn't love these bars at just 740mm (29-inches). I’d much prefer to cut a 785 or 800mm bar down to size as I'll taker too wide over too narrow any day. If you do decide to cut the bars, there are no cutting guides so measure twice.

If really pressed to be picky, I would like to see the stem offered in a shorter length than 60mm as well, as the trend for bigger wheels and longer top tubes combined with shorter stems is one I quite like.

Long Term Durability

I have had the bars and stem mounted on a few different bikes for the past few months and have ridden in rain, snow, and seemingly endless dust with nothing coming loose or creaking. I have even managed a few good crashes, one severe enough to destroy a helmet with no damage to the bars and no twisting of the stem. The finish is quite good as well, and there is little to no scuffing or scratching despite being installed and uninstalled at least six times. The steel hardware is also still in great shape.

What's The Bottom Line?

In my opinion, if a bar and stem are light but manage to stay tight, stiff, and straight regardless of riding style or terrain ridden, then they are a winner. The FSA Afterburner bar and stem provided good control, no creaking came from the bolts, nothing bent, and nothing twisted. Cockpit components should be set and forget parts, and other than the relatively narrow width, there was never any reason for me to give them a second thought.

Visit www.fullspeedahead.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

Dave Trumpore’s 20-year riding career has seen him sling a leg over the best and the worst the mountain bike industry has produced during that time. From Junior Expert XC in his early racing days to Pro DH from 1998-2009, a handful of World Cup finals take pride of place on Dave’s resume. Not being the biggest guy out there he has a smooth style focused on carrying speed rather than smashing his way down the trail. He has always taken a very technical approach to bike setup, in particular with suspension and brakes. After trading number plates for a camera, Dave can now be found chasing the fastest riders on the planet when he’s not out racking up thousands of feet climbing and descending while exploring the vast high alpine trail networks of the Rocky Mountains.

This product has 1 review

Added a product review for FSA Afterburner Handlebar 5/5/2014 1:11 PM
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Tested: FSA Afterburner Handlebar and Stem

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Dave Trumpore // Photos by Dave Trumpore and Gary Perkin

FSA’s Afterburner line of mountain bike components have suited cross-country and trail riders quite well over the years, offering reliable and lightweight performance. The lineup includes handlebars and stems, which come in various rise, width, and length options. The alloy stem was recently redesigned to reduce weight, and has a new faceplate as well. Let’s see how the combo faired on trail.

Afterburner Handlebar Highlights

  • Material: AL7050/T6, Triple-Butted, Tapered and Shot-Peened
  • Clamp Size: 31.8mm
  • Width: Low Riser - 630, 685, or 740mm // Flat - 600, 620, 660, 670, or 680mm
  • Rise: Low Riser - 15mm // Flat - 0mm
  • Upsweep: Low Riser - 4° // Flat - 0°
  • Backsweep: Low Riser - 9° // Flat - 9°
  • Colors: Sand Blasted with Polished Black Anodized Finish
  • Weight: 7.6 to 9.5-ounces (215 to 270 g)
  • MSRP: $74.99 (685mm) // $89.99 (740mm)

Afterburner Stem Highlights

  • Material: 3D Forged and CNC Machined from AL6061/T6
  • Hardware: Cr-Mo Steel
  • Clamp Size: 31.8mm, 4-Bolt Cold Forged
  • Length: 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 110, 120, or 130mm
  • Rise: ±6°
  • Steer Diameter: 1 1/8-inch
  • Colors: Sandblasted Black with Polished Black Anodized
  • Weight: 5.1-ounces (144 g) for 100mm stem
  • MSRP: $69.99

Initial Impressions

It was evident that this was a pretty lightweight setup as soon as I held the bar and stem in my hands. I appreciated the proven and simple stem design with no strange shapes or hard machined edges. The Afterburner bar and stem have clean lines finished with a nice shiny polish. The bar is shot-peened at both ends.

On The Trail

As it should be, the bars and stem were a breeze to install and set up, and it only took a few minor rotation adjustments until I found that sweet spot. The stem can be mounted with a slight positive or negative 6° rise, and I stuck with the positive for the duration of the testing period. All in all everything felt natural with the up and backsweep of the bar being spot on and comfortable for both climbing and descending.

I was presently surprised to find the stem/bar interface to be quite stiff, despite its minimalist design and lightweight. While the bars may not be the stiffest thing in the world, I for one find that to be a good thing. Having never liked overly rigid aluminum bars, it was good to have something that took the edge off trail vibration without sacrificing handling. The 60mm stem felt great on the two medium sized bikes that I tested it on, and the 740mm (29-inch) bars were great in the tight and twisty stuff, but often left me wishing for a bit more width when the speed picked up.

Things That Could Be Improved

Two things really stood out that could use a bit of improvement. First, the stem's face plate does not line up with the hash marks on the handle bar, and it would be nice to be able to quickly center the bars and reference the angle they are set to. With many manufactures providing this feature I was disappointed to see it overlooked, especially with the amount that I teardown bikes to put in bike boxes and travel.

My other gripe is with the width. 760mm (30-inches) is the minimum standard for DH bikes, and with modern trail bikes being capable of tackling the roughest of terrain at speed, I just couldn't love these bars at just 740mm (29-inches). I’d much prefer to cut a 785 or 800mm bar down to size as I'll taker too wide over too narrow any day. If you do decide to cut the bars, there are no cutting guides so measure twice.

If really pressed to be picky, I would like to see the stem offered in a shorter length than 60mm as well, as the trend for bigger wheels and longer top tubes combined with shorter stems is one I quite like.

Long Term Durability

I have had the bars and stem mounted on a few different bikes for the past few months and have ridden in rain, snow, and seemingly endless dust with nothing coming loose or creaking. I have even managed a few good crashes, one severe enough to destroy a helmet with no damage to the bars and no twisting of the stem. The finish is quite good as well, and there is little to no scuffing or scratching despite being installed and uninstalled at least six times. The steel hardware is also still in great shape.

What's The Bottom Line?

In my opinion, if a bar and stem are light but manage to stay tight, stiff, and straight regardless of riding style or terrain ridden, then they are a winner. The FSA Afterburner bar and stem provided good control, no creaking came from the bolts, nothing bent, and nothing twisted. Cockpit components should be set and forget parts, and other than the relatively narrow width, there was never any reason for me to give them a second thought.

Visit www.fullspeedahead.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

Dave Trumpore’s 20-year riding career has seen him sling a leg over the best and the worst the mountain bike industry has produced during that time. From Junior Expert XC in his early racing days to Pro DH from 1998-2009, a handful of World Cup finals take pride of place on Dave’s resume. Not being the biggest guy out there he has a smooth style focused on carrying speed rather than smashing his way down the trail. He has always taken a very technical approach to bike setup, in particular with suspension and brakes. After trading number plates for a camera, Dave can now be found chasing the fastest riders on the planet when he’s not out racking up thousands of feet climbing and descending while exploring the vast high alpine trail networks of the Rocky Mountains.

This product has 1 review

Added a comment about feature It's in the Bag - A Look at the Photography Gear Sven Martin Uses at the UCI World Cup and Enduro World Series 4/7/2014 10:18 PM
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I've only had to open my bag once in about every 10 flights and it was a smooth operation. Maybe I'm just lucky.

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This feature has 22 comments.

Added a comment about feature It's in the Bag - A Look at the Photography Gear Sven Martin Uses at the UCI World Cup and Enduro World Series 4/7/2014 8:28 PM
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Shit happens and shot breaks, all the equipment are still tools for the job. I just broke my 70-200 two days before three weeks of work which stings a bit to replace on short notice. One of my fisheyes is full of dings from roost but the resulting shots were worth it. I would equate it to buying a top end DH bike and them hitting the World Cup with it. Things will wear out and break but with proper use and maintenance it will still be a winner. I've had good luck on planes as I carry lenses and bodies as carry on.

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This feature has 22 comments.

Added a comment about product review First Ride: Guerilla Gravity MEGATRAIL 3/27/2014 11:11 AM
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What @noahColorado said....

5 stars means, pretty much perfect in every way. I wasn't blown away by the suspension in the trail mode, though some of that may have been the rear shock needing a bit of tweaking, and one day/ride isn't enough to dial it in. Standover wasn't the best simply because they want to be able to fit a water bottle, which in the end is a fair trade off. Weight would be another issue as it isn't the lightest thing out there, but this is offset by price and solid construction (the saying "light, strong, cheap... pick two" comes to mind).

I did however feel the geometry and suspension in "gravity mode" are some of the best I have ridden.

Add that all up, weighing the good, the bad, and the things that could be improved and a 4 stars is pretty damn good.

Just about every single top end bike these days is amazing so it takes something really, really, really special to be considered perfect.

Cheers.

This product_review has 9 comments.

Added a product review for Guerrilla Gravity Megatrail Frame 3/25/2014 2:40 PM
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First Ride: Guerilla Gravity MEGATRAIL

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Dave Trumpore

We recently had a chance to visit the folks at Guerrilla Gravity in Denver, Colorado for a tour of the shop and to take a look at their newest trail bike project, the Megatrail. In a day and age where most manufacturing, welding, and assembly happens far overseas, it was quite refreshing to see the inner workings of a more homegrown operation right here in our backyard. Guerrilla Gravity truly keeps it local by doing all of the work in house. The only exception being the CNC bits that are contracted out, but even those are produced just down the road.

While I toured the shop, Matt Giaraffa, 1/3 of Guerrilla Gravity's ownership and the lead engineer, prepped my ride for the day. All winter long he has been designing and tweaking the Megatrail, and with most of the design finalized it was time for Vital to get an exclusive first ride.

Megatrail Highlights

  • 150mm (5.9-inches) or 160mm (6.3-inches) rear wheel travel
  • 26 or 27.5-inch wheels
  • 16.8-inch (w/ 26-inch wheels) or 17.3-inch (w/ 27.5-inch wheels) chainstay
  • 66.5 or 65.5-degree head angle
  • 13.2 or 12.7-inch bottom bracket height
  • 73.3-degree seat tube angle
  • 1.5-inch headtube
  • 12x142mm rear axle
  • 73mm threaded bottom bracket
  • Weight: 7-pounds (size Medium, with hardware but without shock)
  • Frames start at $1,925 (without shock) // Complete builds start at $3,495 with some customization options
  • 10 different powder coat paint options
  • All bikes come with the the GG Rider Program

The Guerrilla Gravity shop itself is pretty simple and straight forward, with a small retail storefront as you walk in the door and a mechanic's bench and service center towards the rear. It looks almost like any small Mom and Pop bike shop when standing in the showroom, and it isn't until you venture through the door adjacent to the repair shop that things take on a new light.

Behind closed doors is where things begin to come alive at Guerrilla Gravity. There are racks of aluminum neatly stacked and divided between 6000 and 7000 series, massive blocks of stock waiting to be machined, welding tables, jigs, presses, and frame components in various states of production. It may not be glamorous, but it's a living and breathing bicycle factory right here in the USA, which in this day and age is a rare and wonderful sight to see.

At first glance the Megatrail almost looks like its big brother, the GGDH downhill bike, that Guerrilla Gravity has been producing for some time. The idea here is to keep the designs similar to give some brand identity and to share production processes and materials to keep the cost down and the manufacturing streamlined.

The basic concept of the bike itself is pretty straightforward, and the folks at GG aren't trying to reinvent the wheel - they're just trying to do it well and affordably. The frame employs a single-pivot, linkage-driven suspension layout which has been developed together with Cane Creek for the DBair CS and optimized for air shocks in general. The tried and true linkage is mated to a conventional front triangle that gives the bike a clean and efficient look. High quality Enduro Maxx bearings are used at all pivot locations.

Upon closer inspection (and mind you this is only a prototype), the machining, finish work and welding all look top notch and it is evident that these guys know what they are doing when it comes to metal work and production. Nothing really looks out of place or cobbled together, and other than moving a brace on the swingarm forward for more tire clearance and tweaking a few cable guide positions, I was told the bike I was to ride would be pretty much identical to the production version.

On The Trail

Of course I wasn't there just to look at and talk about the Megatrail, I was there to ride it. So off we went to my favorite test loop at Hall Ranch just outside Boulder. If you are not familiar with this particular trail, I use it as a go-to for product testing due to the sheer variety of terrain found on a rather small loop. I can ride it multiple times a day while changing setups to get a good feel for what a bike is doing. With a mix of long climbs, tech climbs, twisty descents, and a mile long rough and rowdy rock garden DH, it has just about everything.

To start I set the bike in the 150mm travel Trail Mode (there is also a Gravity Mode I will get back to later) and sagged in the Cane Creek DBair CS shock. Having ridden this shock extensively the past few months I can't say enough good things about it, so I definitely gave the Megatrail two thumbs up for that spec alone. Up front the bike was sporting a 160mm travel Rockshox Pike set to 25% sag.

I chose to ride the Medium sized frame which felt spot on for my 5'9" height. The 25-inch top tube is very much on the longer side for a Medium frame, but I much prefer a little extra room coupled with a short stem over a short frame with a long stem. The setup felt quite similar to that of my personal bike, a Yeti SB66. The phrase I would use to describe the fit was "just right." The bar height, reach and weight distribution between the wheels made me feel right at home immediately.

Seeing as it's 2014, the other big choice I had to make was wheel size. The Megatrail is available in frames specific to 26 or 27.5-inch wheels (or a 27.5 front/26 rear combo), where both the front and rear triangles are specific to each wheel size in order to keep the bottom bracket and headtube heights constant. For this test I chose to ride the 27.5-inch offering exclusively. Guerrilla Gravity hand builds the wheels that come on the Megatrail, and the wheels are customizable. So, with suspension set and wheel size properly debated it was finally time to get dirty.

In Trail mode things felt fairly predictable and dare I say "normal." That's not a bad thing as there are so many awesome bikes on the market now that it really is hard to be unique or different, and to say this bike felt like the bikes I have grown accustomed to is really quite a compliment. I don't ride poor bikes.

It did have a bit of firmness in the mid-stroke that helped while hammering on the pedals, but it came at the expense of plushness when the going got rougher. There was not spiking or harshness, just a bit more feedback than I really like on some bits of trail. I will note that sprinting, climbing, and smashing on the pedals did very little to upset the suspension, and there is little to no power robbing motion.

The bikes come equipped with 1X drivetrains and a 42-tooth cassette add-on dubbed the "BFC" that provides more range than the typical single ring drivetrain at a fraction of the cost of SRAM's XX1 system. This proved to be plenty of gear for the trail.

Next up was the 160mm Gravity Mode, which I will leave to the bike's design engineer, Matt, to explain:

"When we started talking about the idea of making an aggressive trail/all mountain/enduro/ride everything bike, we started with the thought that the current crop of those bikes were making too much compromise. They either climbed well, or descended well, but not really both. Turning the gears on that idea for a while, and learning from the performance of the GG/DH, we came up the idea that this sort of bike needed an adjustment to cover the bases instead of making an "all season tire." It should have one mode that's more trail and climb friendly that makes the bike very efficient, yet still very shreddable, and a second mode that cranks the Shred Knob up to 11 for gnarly Enduro race stages, bike park laps, long routes that are mostly descending (i.e. Moab's Whole Enchilada), etc. We also wanted the physical change to be something the average rider could do in 30 seconds or less with a multi-tool, with no small pieces to lose."

"What became the hardest part of designing the Megatrail was getting the kinematics of Trail and Gravity mode to both make sense to accomplish what we wanted, while making the physical change between them a simple shock bolt swap. While it may look simple, it took a huge amount of effort to make it work without a glaring issue in one of the modes, such as weird geometry, amount of travel that didn't make sense, or leverage curves that wouldn't work well."

Trail Mode

  • 150mm travel
  • 13.2-inch BB height
  • 66.5-degree head angle
  • Leverage curve tuned with more mid-stroke support for climbing efficiency, yet still without a harsh top stroke or blowing through the travel.

Gravity Mode

  • 160mm travel
  • 12.7-inch BB height
  • 65.5-degree head angle
  • Leverage curve tuned for more bump compliance and grip to feel like a shorter travel GG/DH.

On the trail, Gravity Mode can be summarized with two words... SIMPLY AMAZING.

To be honest this is the bike I have been waiting for someone to make for years. After riding and racing DH for 10+ years I have always wished my trail bikes mimicked the low, stable, slack and fast feeling of a DH racer. While many bikes come close, very few hit the mark. However the Megatrail, with the simple turn of one bolt, becomes that bike. You don't need to make any pressure or adjustment changes to the shock when switching between settings. The sag as a percentage of travel stays the same. With a bottom bracket height that is the same as a DH bike at sag, a long top tube and a 65.5-degree head angle, the bike just begged to be ridden harder and faster.

What of the suspension? Gone was the firm mid-stroke of Trail mode, and the bike began to really come alive with grip in spades at the rear wheel and a light, stable and playful feeling even in the roughest of terrain. The Megatrail is based around the same concept as the DH bike, putting fun first with a roomy cockpit, low bottom bracket, relatively short chainstays, and a slack head angle. For me this was a win, win, win, win situation.

With the Cane Creek DBair shock mounted there was no major drawback to climbing with the bike set in Gravity mode either. The Climb Switch feature on the shock is a game changer and really allows a bike's suspension be optimized for descending with little to no compromise while climbing. If I had a different shock mounted I may go between the bike's Trail and Gravity mode depending on what riding was in store, but with the DBair I don't think I would ever take it out of Gravity Mode. Yes, it's that good.

Things That Could Be Improved

I would like to see a bit more standover on the Medium frame (something the Small has plenty of), and while I like a long top tube, anyone in the 5'8" - 5'10" range may struggle a bit with which size to pick. If you have never ridden a bike with a slightly longer top tube, shorter stays and a short stem, I say try it before you shake your head. Chances are you will realize that you have been missing out all along.

Long Term Durability

Obviously this is still a prototype, and one ride won't yield definitive answers about long term durability, but there is nothing about the design that I question. If the long term durability of Guerrilla Gravity's DH bike is any indication then there should be no troubles.

What's The Bottom Line?

I have to say I am very impressed. The folks at Guerrilla Gravity have done their homework on this one and I didn't want to give the bike back at the end of the day. While it may not feature a complicated linkage design or be covered in marketing acronyms, the Megatrail dishes up a very capable, inspiring, and well-balanced ride.

Pricing and weight are competitive, if not a bargain compared to much of the high end equipment out there these days. My $5,295 "Trail 1" build test bike came in at 30-pounds, and Guerrilla Gravity also offers a more budget-oriented "Trail 2" build that comes in lighter at 29.8-pounds with a price tag of $3,495. With several comparable bikes in the $6,000 to $10,000 price range, it's refreshing to ride something so good at an attainable price. Even more impressive is that this is achieved while designing and manufacturing 100% in downtown Denver, Colorado.

Visit www.ridegg.com for more details. The Megatrail is available for pre-order now, with limited availability starting April 1, 2014. If you're in the area, you're welcome to go visit the shop to see where the bikes are made and pedal the prototypes around.

Bonus Gallery: 39 photos of the Guerrilla Gravity Megatrail up close and in action


About The Reviewer

Dave Trumpore's 20-year riding career has seen him sling a leg over the best and the worst the mountain bike industry has produced during that time. From Junior Expert XC in his early racing days to Pro DH from 1998-2009, a handful of World Cup finals take pride of place on Dave's resume. Not being the biggest guy out there he has a smooth style focused on carrying speed rather than smashing his way down the trail. He has always taken a very technical approach to bike setup, in particular with suspension and brakes. After trading number plates for a camera, Dave can now be found chasing the fastest riders on the planet when he's not out racking up thousands of feet climbing and descending while exploring the vast high alpine trail networks of the Rocky Mountains.

This product has 3 reviews

Added a comment about slideshow Vital Capture - Dave Trumpore's Off-Season Adventures 3/19/2014 9:55 AM
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@pininator there are a few somewhere on my instagram account if ya look hard enough

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This slideshow has 12 comments.

Added a comment about slideshow Vital Capture - Dave Trumpore's Off-Season Adventures 3/19/2014 9:32 AM
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haha, @pininator we had all had one or two too many and had been messing about doing tricks on the minibike for the camera for quite some time before that shot, hence the bleeding. However, Joey had no clue he was getting covered in beer on this one and it's just one take, spur of the moment goofing around.

This slideshow has 12 comments.

Added a product review for Bell Super Helmet 3/10/2014 8:49 PM
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Tested: Bell Super Helmet

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Dave Trumpore // Photos by Gary Perkin and Dave Trumpore

The Super is Bell's flagship open face helmet aimed at trail bike enthusiasts and Enduro racers. It provides additional coverage to key points of the head compared to the typical XC helmet but seeks to do so without sacrificing weight or airflow. I stuck one on my head for four rough weeks in Chile to find out what it's made of.

Bell Super Helmet Highlights

  • CE EN1078 and CPSC Bicycle certifications
  • 25 vents with 4 Overbrow ports
  • Fusion in-mold microshell construction with internal reinforcement
  • Lightweight buckle
  • Lightweight cam-lock levers
  • Lightweight webbing
  • Speed Dial fit system
  • GoggleGuide adjustable visor system
  • Integrated/Removable GoPro camera mount
  • Colors: Red/Black, Matte Black, Bright Green, White/Silver Web, Matte Titanium, Taylor Reeve Afterparty, Blue/Green Moto, and Black/White Star
  • Sizes: S, M, L
  • Weight: 13.8-ounces (390 grams)
  • Price: $125

Initial Impressions

Out of the box it is immediately obvious that the Bell Super is significantly larger than many of the typical open face helmets on the market. There is a considerable amount of material covering the back of the head and the temples, but without a noticeable gain in weight. In fact it feels much lighter than it looks and much of that has to do with the clever layout of the massive air vents.

Fitting the helmet to my noggin was quick and easy, and I did not find myself needing to add or take away padding on the inside to achieve a secure fit. The pads are soft and comfortable giving the helmet an airy feeling while resting on top of the head. Bell's retention system provides plenty of adjustment range and feels solid which is reassuring.

A removable GoPro mount is included with the helmet. It fits securely into one of the many vents and is designed to break away during a crash, reducing the likelihood of a rotational injury.

On The Trail

I decided to give this helmet a bit of a trial by fire so to speak, as the day after it arrived I headed down to Chile for the Andes Pacifico Enduro. I can't think of a better testing ground than the brutally hot and dusty Andes mountains over four long days on rough and gnarly terrain.

In these conditions the greatest attributes of this helmet shined. Those being the light weight and the fantastic airflow. I did experience some sweat dripping down onto my face and sunglasses, but only on the slowest of climbs or long hike-a-bike sections where there was little or no air flowing. [Editor's note: In a separate test of this helmet we've found that most of your sweat is channeled to the sides of your face before dripping, which is quite nice, though a few drops do make their way through.]

Keep in mind that the temperatures were pushing 100-degrees Fahrenheit (almost 38-degrees Celsius) at the height of the day, and I found it was actually cooler to keep the helmet on than to take it off while hiking or standing about waiting for the stages to start, something I have not encountered with another helmet as of yet. Once moving, even at a casual pace, airflow is superb and the rider's head stays cool and dry.

There is definitely an added feeling of confidence from all of the extra coverage, especially around the temples and the back of the head. You almost get the sensation that you have a full face on, especially when adding goggles if that's your thing.

On the topic of goggles, they work pretty well with the Super thanks to the flatter backside. When you're not using them, simply rotate the visor up and there's enough room to keep them on your head and out of the way. Those who prefer to go visor-less can install some optional "goggle wings" that will also hold them in place when not in use.

Being a dedicated Vital tester, I couldn't do a proper helmet review without a few crash tests, and on more than one occasion I found myself in the Chilean dirt and rocks. One time in particular it was straight to the side of the head, and I was quite thankful for that added material above and around the ear.

Things That Could Be Improved

The only thing I really didn't like about the Super was its bulkiness, and while I enjoyed the added protection and surface area, I thought some of it was a bit too much. The thickness of the shell at the forehead meant it was constantly present in my field of vision, and often times I found my self reaching up to move the visor out of the way only to realize it was the front of the helmet that was in view. Additionally there is quite a bit of padding in and around the temples and this made putting sunglasses on a two hand job, or a multi-stage process. I often take my glasses off on long climbs to keep sweat off them and it was hard to get them back in place. I would also like to see some feature added to keep sunglasses secure on the helmet when not wearing them. Bell has this feature for goggles on the Super but nothing for sunglasses.

Long Term Durability

Spending four intense weeks in South America did a number on this helmet, but with a quick and easy wash of the pads the inside was just like new again. The exterior was a bit of a letdown though as the finish quickly began to show a lot of scratches and scuffs, some right through the paint. But other than these cosmetic issues I really would have no concerns about putting this helmet through the wringer all season long.

What's The Bottom Line?

The Bell Super is a great helmet for the aggressive trail rider, and does a better job than most of bridging the gap between a full face and an open face XC helmet. The added coverage at a minimal weight penalty makes you forget that it's on your head even on the longest of days, and air flow and ventilation is some of the best I have ridden. It may not be the prettiest or flashiest helmet out there, which could be good or bad depending on your taste, but for $125 you sure do get a lot of helmet - more than your money's worth. After having this helmet on my head all day almost every day for four weeks straight, I'm sold.

Visit www.bellhelmets.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

Dave Trumpore’s 20-year riding career has seen him sling a leg over the best and the worst the mountain bike industry has produced during that time. From Junior Expert XC in his early racing days to Pro DH from 1998-2009, a handful of World Cup finals take pride of place on Dave’s resume. Not being the biggest guy out there he has a smooth style focused on carrying speed rather than smashing his way down the trail. He has always taken a very technical approach to bike setup, in particular with suspension and brakes. After trading number plates for a camera, Dave can now be found chasing the fastest riders on the planet when he’s not out racking up thousands of feet climbing and descending while exploring the vast high alpine trail networks of the Rocky Mountains.

This product has 1 review

Added a product review for Michelin Wild Rock'R2 Advanced Reinforced Tire 1/21/2014 2:21 PM
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Tested: Michelin Wild Rock'R2 Tire

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Dave Trumpore

Michelin has been quiet for the last few years on the DH and Enduro front, and the Wild Rock'R2 marks their return to the serious gravity and trail bike market. Aimed at today's modern trail bikes, and more specifically Enduro racing this tire is aggressive and especially rugged. Michelin makes three versions of this tire and we tested the top of the line model that retails for $100.

Wild Rock'R2 Tire Highlights

  • 2.35" x 26" (Tested), 27.5" (650b), and 29”
  • Tubeless Ready
  • Folding Aramid Bead
  • 50A Magi’X Softer Compound Front // 64A Center, 59A Lateral Gum’X Harder Dual Compound Rear
  • Advanced Reinforced, 33 TPI Carcass Ply
  • Weight: 2 lb 3.2 oz (998 g)
  • MSRP: $100 USD

Initial Impressions

Out of the box these tires looked aggressive, there really is no other way to describe it. They resemble a DH tire, not the scaled down version that is often what is offered in the trail bike tire category. Michelin puts a lot of effort into developing different versions of their tires, and for the Wild Rock'R2 I tested, they went with their "Advanced" and "Reinforced" technologies. This translates to a mix of compounds (which varies from the front to the rear tire) and an extra ply of protection around the whole carcass of the tire. For this particular model, the result is a sub-1000g tire that should still be up for the rigors of modern day Enduro racing and aggressive trail bike riding. For reference, a similar tire from Michelin in full-on DH version weighs in a good 200-300g grams heavier.

On The Trail

I prefer a tubless settup (split tube/ghetto tubeless) and these tires were easy to mount and seated perfectly on the first try. The Wild Rock R'2 is designed for dry and loose trail conditions which is something I do battle with everyday riding on Colorado's front range, and it becomes apparent very quickly here which manufacturers have done their homework or not. Michelin definitely falls in the former category. Right away the tire rolls quite fast, and with very little if any vibration. This was quite a surprise to me given how aggressive the tire looks when mounted.

If I had to use one word to describe traction it would be predictable. Lots and lots of predictable traction. Even when leaned way over the feeling of transition to the edge of traction remains quite linear and easy to anticipate, which is a huge benefit in dry conditions. Many tires feel great as they transition to the side knobs but then begin to wander, or the contact patch begins to feel more like a rough edge that is either on or off. The Michelins always felt like they had more grip to give, and there was never a sudden or unexpected washout. You can feel the traction, and when they do slide they break away slowly and in control, searching for grip the entire time. I would attribute all of these qualities to well thought out placement of knobs, aggressive side knobs, and multiple sipes throughout that allow the knobs to move with the terrain.

Braking is good, if not very good and on par with some of the best tires out there. The braking edge is sharp and hard and you can literally hear it digging in. In dry and loose corners, when feathering the brakes and balancing between carving and drifting these are some of the best tires I have ever ridden.

Things That Could Be Improved

The Wild Rock'R2s are not the lightest tires in the world, and while they are designed with aggressive riding and Enduro racing in mind, it seems a bit overkill for your average trail bike. I would run these in a heartbeat at any gravity oriented event, but I am not sure I would want to have them mounted for my 4 to 5 hours high alpine epics.

I will note, the traction is so good that I may just tough it out on the climbs anyway. As a dry conditions tire they are phenomenal, but what about mixed trail conditions that most of us see on an average ride? Luckily it is winter here so I got to run them through the whole gamut of trail conditions. Mud, snow, ruts, dusty gravel, and loam, you name it.

They did surprisingly well in wet mud, but as the mud began to dry the tires clogged and became weighted down. In muddy ruts they were a handful as the center knobs are too shallow to dig in for steering and holding a line, and the side knobs are so aggressive that they try to climb the wall of every rut. I know it is not entirely fair to say a dry condition tire isn't great in the wet, but since many of us ride in variable terrain it must still be noted. That said on damp soil and loam they are still fantastic.

I did have one other pet peeve with these tires, and it is the fact that they fling tons of gravel all over the place. I blame all those wonderful sipes that give such great traction for this. They pick up and throw all the little stones around, and it was not uncommon to rip down some flowy drifting corners only to find my shoes now had a pile of gravel in them. You could also hear it pinging off the frame quite constantly. I really only see this as an issue if you ride on the hard pack covered in kitty litter type dirt that is common in Colorado.

Lastly there is the issue of price. At $100 these cost more than the tires on my car, and might only last a season at best. For racing only I might be okay with the price given how good they are, but as daily drivers on my trail bike, that price just might be the deal breaker.

Long Term Durability

Durability wise they fared quite well for a purpose made soft compound tire. They wore better than a DH race tire while giving the same level of grip on rocks and roots regardless of moisture, but still seem to be wearing a bit faster than your average OEM tire. Alas this is the price of performance. The sidewalls appear bomb proof and I had no problem setting them up tubeless and leaving them that way for the duration of the test. As it stands they have about 100 miles of desert and alpine riding on them and the sidewalls look like new. Having had issue with many tires in the sharp and rocky terrain here previously, the reliability of the Michelins was very good indeed compared to the competition.

What's The Bottom Line?

Overall the Wild Rock'R2 is fantastic. If you are racing Enduro, or riding your trail bike in a bike park I really can find no flaw unless the trails are super muddy. If you like to go on all day epics with a lot of climbing these may be overkill, since while they roll extremely fast for a tire of this nature, their weight can still be felt when the climbing grinds on and on. Though they wear a bit faster than the typical XC tire, I am more than alright with that given the amazing traction they provide. The sidewalls laugh at sharp rocks and other trail side snipers, and punctures were never a worry.Just be sure to wear your sunglasses before you head out to smash turns at your local trail as the Michelins love to fling the gravel everywhere. This is the only tire I have ridden in the dry that required a Marsh Guard to fend off the roost. In conclusion, it's two big thumbs up from me - these tires put a big smile on my face every time I ride them.

For more info, check out bike.michelinman.com.


About The Reviewer

Dave Trumpore’s 20-year riding career has seen him sling a leg over the best and the worst the mountain bike industry has produced during that time. From Junior Expert XC in his early racing days to Pro DH from 1998-2009, a handful of World Cup finals take pride of place on Dave’s resume. Not being the biggest guy out there he has a smooth style focused on carrying speed rather than smashing his way down the trail. He has always taken a very technical approach to bike setup, in particular with suspension and brakes. After trading number plates for a camera, Dave can now be found chasing the fastest riders on the planet when he’s not out racking up thousands of feet climbing and descending while exploring the vast high alpine trail networks of the Rocky Mountains.

This product has 2 reviews

Added a comment about feature Dave Trumpore's Top 10 Moments of 2013 12/31/2013 9:09 AM
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@Nicholast thanks for the good words. We had a similar experience on Elbert with hikers and I recall pulling over to stop on the descent when I came up on a large group trying to be courteous and not knowing what their reaction would be. One guy in the group actually gave me shit for stopping because he was trying to take a video of the riding. They were all pumped on bikes, which isn't always the case with hikers in Colorado that's for sure.

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Added a new photo album Top 10 Moments of 2013 12/30/2013 12:53 PM
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Added a comment about press release Atherton Racing is Hiring! This Could Be Your Dream Job 11/29/2013 4:18 PM
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Convert those pounds to USD and it's not terrible for a seasonal job.

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Added a product review for Cane Creek DBair CS Rear Shock 11/21/2013 11:37 AM
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Tested: 2014 Cane Creek DBair CS Rear Shock

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Dave Trumpore

Cane Creek's highly rated Double Barrel Air shock recently received a new climbing assist feature dubbed the "Climb Switch" or CS for short. After hundreds of miles putting it through its paces, it’s time for us to weigh in on the addition.

2014 DBair CS Shock Highlights

  • Weight: 509 grams (weight varies by size)
  • Damping: Twin-tube independent compression and rebound in two high-speed and four low-speed damping circuits
  • Adjustments: High speed compression, Low speed compression, High speed rebound, Low speed rebound, Air spring rate, Climb Switch on/off
  • Shaft Material: Induction-hardened 4130 steel
  • Shaft Diameter: 8mm
  • Finish: Anodized and laser-etched
  • Mounting Interface: Norglide bushing 1/2" Universal Axle
  • Can Size: Standard (All Lengths) or Extra Volume (200, 215, 222, 240)
  • Lengths:190 x 50mm (7.5” x 2.0”), 200 x 50mm (7.87” x 2.0”), 200 x 57mm (7.87 x 2.25”), 215 x 63mm (8.5” x 2.5”), 222 x 63mm (8.75” x 2.5”), 222 x 70mm (8.75” x 2.75”), 240 x 76mm (9.5” x 3.0”), 267 x 90mm (10.5” x 3.5”)
  • MSRP: $695 USD

How Does It Work?

Twin Tube Technology circulates oil continuously through the damping valving to achieve highly controllable, independent damping for both compression and rebound strokes. This unique design moves oil through externally adjustable valving instead of the main piston.

CS is a selectable climbing mode on Double Barrel shocks that allows the rider to retain the advantages of a fully-suspended bike while climbing, without unwanted suspension motion. CS is not your conventional pedal-platform as it adjusts both low speed compression and low speed rebound at the same time.

The Climb Switch changes the low speed damping of Double Barrel shocks in one simple switch, to optimize suspension dynamics during climbing. It does this by activating a set of internal ‘climbing circuits’ that are accessed when CS is engaged. Cane Creek tunes these "climbing circuits" specifically for the demands of off-road climbing to achieve improved pedaling efficiently with less unwarranted chassis movement while retaining an active suspension platform.

Initial Impressions

Having already spent a day testing the DBair CS back in July, I had a fairly good idea of what I was getting my hands on, and the top notch craftsmanship of Cane Creek products really needs no elaborating - pulling one of these shocks out of the box is always a pleasure.

As with all Cane Creek shocks it shipped valved and tuned specifically for the intended bike, in this case my 2013 Giant Reign-X. Cane Creek attempts to take much of the initial setup hassle out of the picture for the end consumer by shipping each shock with a tuning guide and a base setting card that is specific to each individual frame. They claim that each shock is set to the proper base setting from the factory for you, so in theory all you need to do is bolt it on and ride with maybe only a small amount of adjustment to taste. Of course I checked to see if my shock was indeed set to the intended settings, which it turned out to be. Time to hit the trail.

On The Trail

I spent the first day riding the shock in the factory base setting as I wanted to see if Cane Creek had done their homework when creating tunes for each individual bike. Much like I found out in July during my initial test session, the base settings are very much spot on, and I would say 90% of the riders who buy this shock would be fully satisfied if they were to just leaving everything as is. However, I am a bit picky about suspension setup, and now that I had the shock mounted on my bike and riding my trails I was really able to dive in and see exactly how much more I could squeeze out of the settings.

First up, with the climb switch turned on my bike became a totally different animal and climbing took on a completely new sensation. There was no pedal bob, no feedback, no quirky platform feeling, and best of all no change in ride height/geometry since the CS does not affect sag. Probably the most striking attribute of this shock when in climb mode is that it retains its ability to absorb bumps with a controlled compression AND rebound stroke. Where most shocks in climb mode have a breakaway point you can sense and no rebound control, the DBair CS just hammers up the roughest climbs without you even knowing it's there. Hands down this is the best climbing shock I have ever ridden, and it does an amazing job of getting my 7-inch travel/30% sag trail bike up the thousand-foot extended climbs that are all too common here in Colorado.

Coming back down, it's hardly a surprise that the Twin Tube technology does an amazing job of controlling the ride. Cane Creek has built a solid reputation around providing shocks with superior damping and the DBAir CS is no different. I did end up settling on settings just a bit outside of the base settings provided, and I do tune the shock differently for trail riding and lift serviced bike park riding.

The adjustment range is pretty vast, but single turns or a few clicks do make a big difference. In the end I liked the shock with a bit slower low speed rebound, and firmer low speed compression. I would attribute this to the fact that I found the shock on my bike really comes alive in the 30% sag range, which on the Reign-X is quite soft; and I wanted to retain chassis stability and control.

In full-on DH terrain this shock shines, and there was very little terrain where I was able to push it past its ability. There was no fade and no change of damping characteristics even on the longest of descents. If anything the shock was so good that it brought out the flaws in the front suspension. Since both wheels need proper suspension to operate more as a system than individual components when talking overall ride characteristics, stability, grip and control, the fork ended up holding me back from really pushing the shock to its potential.

There were a few occasions where I forgot to flip the Climb Switch off at the top of a climb, only to remember part way down the descent as things started to feel a bit harsh in the rough. To be honest though, there were times I forgot and did not even notice as the shock still retains all of its function with CS on. I actually find myself riding in the CS mode quite often on the more mellow trails here as I don't always need the full travel my bike provides and it actually rides better in this setting when the going isn't so rough. I also find this setting extremely useful as a photographer when often times I find myself chasing the world's fastest racers around with a 30 pound camera pack on.

Things That Could Be Improved

First and foremost I would love to see tool free adjusters. Once I had the shock set this wasn't so much of an issue, but it is still a bother to me. Every other shock out there has tool free adjustment and it is something I have simply come to expect. I would even settle for a "tool" that snaps into one of the adjusters similar to the rebound adjuster on many forks. That way I wouldn't have to break out my allen set, nor would the shock have to gain the weight and complexity of adding 4 adjustment dials.

I would also like to be able to measure sag and overall use of travel a bit easier. A graphic on the shock shaft combined with a rubber o-ring makes that part of setting up so much easier. Trying to sit on a bike to gauge sag without this is a huge pain, especially since only a few millimeters change in sag one way or the other makes a huge difference. It is also next to impossible to gauge how much travel the shock is/isn't using through different sections without a rubber o-ring, which I find quite useful when evaluating how a shock is performing. In the end I put my own o-ring on there, but for $695 I would like to see one tossed in with the owners manual.

I didn't have this issue, but I must mention that the small Climb Switch could be difficult to reach on some frames. Even on a frame where the shock is fairly centrally located, it was still quite a reach with the seat all the way up. On a bike with a very low shock position it could be an issue.

And of course then there's the price. Yes, the performance is amazing, but the cost of high end bicycle components is a bit out of hand these days. The DBair CS does make my bike far more enjoyable to ride, but I'm not sure I would trade that for something else that $695 could buy me.

Long Term Durability

I have had this shock for 4 months and ridden and raced it all over Colorado, from the Enduro World Series to Fruita and everywhere in between. I have had zero issues. The CS lever stayed tight (unlike some other shocks out there) so I never had to worry about the climb adjustment switching itself on or off in rough terrain. I also found that it holds air longer than my previous air shocks which is an added bonus.

What’s The Bottom Line?

Without a doubt I can say this shock is on par with the best out there, and a definite upgrade to any bike. On many modern 5 to 7-inch trail bikes it is hard or impossible to climb efficiently without some kind of climbing assist function, and the DBair CS provides this better than anything I have ever ridden. You get all the benefits of a climb setting without any of the drawbacks. I will say that if you are going to drop $695 on this shock and you are still riding an older and/or mid-range fork, you might want to consider an upgrade to the front end as well to really take advantage of how good the DBair's damping is.

Setup is a breeze, so don't be scared away by all those adjustments. Cane Creek has done their homework, and while this appears to be the most complex shock on the market, it is one of the only shocks that practically comes set up and custom tuned out of the box.

For more information, check out www.canecreek.com.


About The Reviewer

Dave Trumpore’s 20-year riding career has seen him sling a leg over the best and the worst the mountain bike industry has produced during that time. From Junior Expert XC in his early racing days to Pro DH from 1998-2009, a handful of World Cup finals take pride of place on Dave’s resume. Not being the biggest guy out there he has a smooth style focused on carrying speed rather than smashing his way down the trail. He has always taken a very technical approach to bike setup, in particular with suspension and brakes. After trading number plates for a camera, Dave can now be found chasing the fastest riders on the planet when he’s not out racking up thousands of feet climbing and descending while exploring the vast high alpine trail networks of the Rocky Mountains.

This product has 2 reviews