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Added a product review for Spy Optic Omen MX Goggles 10/10/2014 9:51 PM
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Tested: Spy Optic Omen MX Goggles

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Matt Puzel

Goggles are a simple tool that are essential to a good ride; every downhiller knows this. Spy Optic knows this too, and after two decades in the game they continue to push the evolution of off-road eyewear. The new Omen MX are billed as modern goggles that offer the biggest field of view possible and fit the most popular helmets on the market. That point, in addition to Spy's Happy Lens windshield, Rise ventilation system and Quad-Layer Isotron face foam had us expecting good things from the Omens - read on to find out how they fared.

Omen MX Goggle Highlights

  • Happy Lens - designed to make it easier to quickly distinguish between wet and dry dirt, ruts, bumps and other unexpected changes in terrain
  • A free bonus lens
  • Flexible polyurethane frame
  • Features SPY's patented Rise ventilation system
  • Anti-fog, scratch resistant Lexan lens with posts
  • Free pack of tear-offs
  • Quad-Layer Isotron face foam with moisture-wicking Dri-Force fleece
  • Silicone-ribbed strap
  • 100% UV protection
  • Compatible with the most popular helmets on the planet
  • MSRP: $94.95 USD

Initial Impressions

The Omen Goggles come with your standard goggle bag, also included is a dividing pouch that stows the free second clear lens; the bag doubles as a lens cloth as well. Out of the box, the goggles are distinctly concave, so much so that the foam in the nose/bridge area bunches up a bit more than we've seen on other goggles. Whether or not this would be an issue while actually wearing the goggles was the question. The lens itself is slightly wider so the field of vision should be too, while the height of the lens looked pretty standard upon initial inspection.

Our goggles came with the Happy Lens bronze with silver mirror finish which looks pretty sharp. The Happy Lens technology is designed to block UV and short wave blue rays while letting in the beneficial long wave blue, which is supposed to promote balance in the body and foster a positive mood and alertness. Whether or not all that is true we don't really know, but what we do know is that colors look really pretty through this lens and it boosts the contrast a good amount which should be helpful on the trail. And on the topic of trails...

On The Trail

The Omen goggles fit our TLD D3 perfectly and they take full advantage of the available space in the helmet. The lens is noticeably wider when compared to other goggles we've tried which does widen your peripheral vision quite a bit. The lateral field of view was on-par when we tried them on back to back with some Smith Intake goggles we had on hand. Optically, the Happy Lens is outstanding. Colors are vivid, and the lens boosts the overall clarity and contrast making it easy to read the trail ahead.

In regards to the bridge/nose area, we found ourselves having to tighten down the strap more than we normally do to keep the bridge snug to our nose. The Omens do sit off the nose a bit more than we were used to, but cinching down that strap seemed to remedy the issue.

We used the Omen Goggles in both crazy hot/dry SoCal conditions as well as some super muggy monsoon-like humidity and heat and the lens never fogged up on us. (Un)fortunately we haven't had a chance to test them in full-on rain conditions yet so we can't comment further on their anti-fogging capabilities in the wet.

The Dry-Force fleece and face foam do their jobs and keep sweat out of your eyes, and are super soft and comfortable to boot. The strap also does a fine job of holding the goggles securely on your face and it stays in place on the helmet thanks to the silicone ribbing.

Things That Could Be Improved

The only two issues we had with the Omens were the strap and the bridge area of the goggles. In regards to the strap, this color (the Happy 20th Anniversary color), and the Blue Groove /Real Tree options have a non-elastic SPY patch sewn on which limits the overall elasticity of the strap. The result is a slightly more difficult goggle to put on, not a big deal. In regards to the bridge, it doesn't fully rest on your nose unless you HAM down on the strap a bit. That could be down to the shape of this tester's face of course, but we did hand the goggles off to a bud who reported back with the same result.

Long Term Durability

After 4 or 5 super dusty rides, where wiping your goggles off often is a must, the lens was holding up well and had no visible scratches on it. A month of use plus a few full days of park riding later, and the goggles still look great. No scratches on the lens, even after regular cleaning. The foam layers have stayed intact and the strap's elasticity is still good. All signs point to more fun ahead with the Omens.

What's The Bottom Line?

Spy's Happy Lens is clearly a superior offering. With its brilliant clarity and optical qualities we can't see ourselves going back to a standard lens ever again. The Omen goggles also offer a wide field of vision while the malleable polyurethane frame conforms well to your face and fits inside the helmet perfectly. Neither the strap nor the bridge issue we discussed previously is a deal breaker by any means and the overall performance of these goggles greatly outweighs these small gripes. Overall, we're stoked with this new offering from SPY and glad to have a new go-to face-hugger.

Visit www.spyoptic.comfor more details.


About The Reviewer

Fred Robinson, a.k.a. "Derf," has been on two wheels since he was two years old. He picked up a mountain bike in 2004 and started racing downhill in 2006. He has seen moderate success racing CAT 1 but focuses his efforts on building, maintaining and riding his local trails. He's deceptively quick for a bigger guy and likes steep, fast trails where he can hang it off the back of the bike. As a SoCal native he mostly rides trails covered with loose, traction-less turns and sharp, immovable rocks. Besides downhill, he rides trail bikes, road, and also enjoys the occasional dirt jump session. He is currently a student at UCSD and a wrench at a local bike shop.

This product has 1 review

Added a comment about feature Win a BoXXer World Cup - Vital OTB World Champs, Hafjell 9/6/2014 6:26 PM
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Remi THIRION 3:22.13
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Added a comment about product review Tested: Seven iDP Control Knee 9/3/2014 5:52 PM
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In my personal experience with pads, knee in particular, whether a pad chaffes or not has more to do with how well they fit and how long I wear them and not so much as to how much pedaling I've done on a particular day. That said, the pads didn't chaff me at all, even after some consecutive 6+ hour resort days.

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Added bike check Scott Gambler Raw 8/30/2014 2:10 PM
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Added a product review for 7iDP Control Knee Pad 8/30/2014 12:29 PM
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Tested: Seven iDP Control Knee

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Matt Puzel

The team over at Seven iDP insist “it's vital that riders understand the level of protection a pad will provide,” and when it comes to the Control Knee, they label them as a minimalistic approach to pedal friendly protection. With a description like that you would assume the pads are intended for users who enjoy going up as much as they enjoy going down and not necessarily meant for full bore gravity riding. Perhaps Seven iDP are underselling the Control series since they also offer a burlier line of pads in the Tactic series, but with the continuing trend of non-intrusive and less bulky protection in downhill, we decided to properly test the Control knee pads to see if they hold their own in both comfort and protection when compared to other “big bike" pads out there.

Seven iDP Control Knee Highlights

  • Pedal flex zone ensures pad stays in position
  • Curv® low weight, high strength 1mm cap for superior fit and pedal motion
  • Double layer polygon perforated custom foam to increaseairflowand reduce weight
  • Centre strap adjustment with left and right hook and loop fasteners ensure the perfect fit
  • Adjustment strap sits above calf to help prevent knee pad from slipping down
  • Designed beyond CE EN 1621/1 standard to ensure maximum protection
  • Weight: 180g
  • Sizes: S/M/L/XL
  • MSRP: $109.95 USD

Initial impressions

When we first slid the Control pads on and adjusted what Seven iDP calls their Center Strap System, the pads fit snug but not constricting in any way. Strap placement along with a silicon-like internal strip located at the top of the pads help them sit firmly in place without having to ham down on the straps. The flexibility of the Control's allowed us to comfortably bend our knees without any discomfort.

The overall look and profile of the Control's was also spot on. They are fairly low-profile and the "Curv" hardshell material has a raw carbon-fibre look to it, and who doesn't like the way raw carbon-fibre looks? The quality and variety of the materials used also stand out. Seven iDPseems to have combined a number of different fabrics and composites to compose the whole pad, which shows theywere pretty picky about the intended function of each area of the pads.

On The Trail

To get right to the point, we were pretty stoked on the Control Knee pads. Right off the bat they were comfortable and when compared to all the knee pads we've thrown on over the years, the only two pads that beat these guys in comfort were the old Kyle Strait 661's and the current Scott Grenade II pads, which were/are both exceptional in that category.

Protection-wise, being a minimalist type pad, we weren't hoping for full-blown-hockey-gear levels of protection, especially since we were basing our expectations on other popular minimalist style pads that are currently out there. But, we're happy to report these pads held up to a number of crashes without budging and they definitely defended well against scuffs and perhaps more serious abrasions.

The standout feature in this regard was the "Curv" hardshell material. Other minimalist style pads often rely solely on soft padding for protection and tend to slide down your legs on impact since the soft material can easily grip the ground instead of sliding over it when you go down. Much like old-school skate pads and other hardshell pads out there, the plastic, or in the Control Knee's case "Curv" material, allows these pads to slide over rocks and hardpack instead of down your legs; something those who ride in shorts will appreciate.

Things That Could Be Improved

After a couple months of using these pads, we have no major issues or complaints with the Control Knee pads beyond the slightly higher than normal price tag. At $109.95 MSRP, these pads are up there in price with only a select few other offerings on the market topping it, but our experience with the pads has been a very positive one and if they continue to hold up for another season or two, it's not an absurd price to pay.

Long Term Durability

Initially we were a bit concerned with the durability of the Curv material; it closely resembles traditional carbon-fibre which we all know can take a good initial hit, but once the carbon is compromised its strength and longevity are compromised too. Well, after taking a few spills and seeing how the material has held up, it's clear these pads can take a hit and keep going. Seven iDP claims that "Curv" combines the functional versatility of thermoplastics (think old skate pads) with the impact-resistant performance of a fibre-reinforced composite, and our experience with these pads supports that claim.

Another common problem with snug fitting pads is often the stitching, especially on tight fitting pads that are hard to remove. So far the stitching on the Control Knee's has stayed intact, despite leaving the straps tight and removing the pads in some pretty sweaty situations.

What's The Bottom Line?

Stoked. Knee protection, despite being the second-most common protective gear worn in our sport, is still hit or miss and the Control Knee is definitely a hit with us. These pads offer solid protection in a low-profile and comfortable package, and we're a fan of the added benefits of the hardshell cap. And considering how well the Pedal Flex Zone area works, the Control Knee is a good choice for both the aggressive trail rider and the downhill racer type, which leaves us pumped on only needing one set of pads in our arsenal now.

For more information, head on over to www.7protection.com.


About The Reviewer

Fred Robinson, a.k.a. "Derf," has been on two wheels since he was two years old. He picked up a mountain bike in 2004 and started racing downhill in 2006. He has seen moderate success racing CAT 1 but focuses his efforts on building, maintaining and riding his local trails. He's deceptively quick for a bigger guy and likes steep, fast trails where he can hang it off the back of the bike. As a SoCal native he mostly rides trails covered with loose, traction-less turns and sharp, immovable rocks. Besides downhill, he rides trail bikes, road, and also enjoys the occasional dirt jump session. He is currently a student at UCSD and a wrench at a local bike shop.

This product has 1 review

Added a product review for Guerrilla Gravity Gravity 1 Wheelset 5/8/2014 1:03 AM
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Tested: Gravity 1 Wheelset by Guerrilla Gravity

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Ian Collins

Guerrilla Gravity is taking a unique approach with their custom handbuilt wheelset program. Unhappy with the direction the bicycle industry pushes riders in with regards to price vs. performance, Guerrilla Gravity created a custom wheelset program that seeks both value and performance in an effort to, in their own words, “make things less cost-prohibitive for the people, but still make things they're stoked on.” In order to provide a product that satisfies both their price and performance standards, Guerrilla Gravity uses select off-the-shelf products that should, ideally, create a handbuilt wheelset that doesn't cut corners in terms of performance, weight or durability, while still providing the customer an affordable alternative that comes with that extra attention to detail that a machine-built wheel may not have. We're fans of that approach, so we got on-board a set of their Gravity 1 wheels to see how a value-minded handbuilt wheelset would hold up.

Gravity 1 Wheelset Highlights

  • Handbuilt in Colorado
  • Available in most standard dropout and brake configurations
  • Best strength-weight-price ratio available (claimed)
  • Uses off-the-shelf parts for easy replacement
  • Base level rim: WTB Frequency i25 // 32 hole // Black // 25mm internal rim width //WT69 alloy
  • Base level hubs: Shimano Zee
  • Base level spokes: Double-butted with alloy nipples
  • Tubeless ready
  • Completely customizable
  • 1,987g (tested) 1,945g (claimed)
  • MSRP: $495 (base build)

Initial Impressions

Guerrilla Gravity offers two tiers in their Gravity wheelset line, with Gravity 2 being the lower cost option starting at $405.00. The Gravity 1 wheelset we tested starts at $495 and can go upwards from there depending if you want to upgrade any of the individual parts of the wheelset. We chose to test it in its least expensive form, which translates to Shimano Zee hubs laced to WTB Frequency i25 rims using Wheelsmith double-butted spokes.

Out of the box the wheels were true and had good tension all around. They came pre-taped up and with tubeless valve stems so we quickly mounted our tires, threw in some sealant and got them ready to roll. Note that the tubeless kit runs an additional $25.

When we mentioned the attention to detail that comes with a handbuilt wheelset, we're not only talking about precision and build quality, we also mean extra little touches that tell you a human built these wheels. They're a nice package.

On The Trail

Once the cassette and brake rotors were bolted to the hubs all that remained to do was throw them into the dropouts and hit the trails. Mounting the Gravity 1 wheels on our bike was without issue.

Coming in at a very respectable weight and stiffness, acceleration and snappy cornering is definitely something we felt when riding these wheels. They came with a good amount of tension in the spokes which translated to a responsive feel with no windup or flexing felt when getting hard on the gas or the brakes.

The 25mm internal width provided a decent tire profile and sufficient sidewall support when combined with our 2.3-inch WTB Vigilante Team Issue tires.

At 10-degrees (36-points) the rear hub's engagement is pretty much in line with industry standard at this price point. It may not be as fancy as some high-end hubs out there but it feels crisp and definitely gets the job done. A Hope Pro 2 EVO hub upgrade will bump the engagement to 40-points, while adding $295 to the bill, and a Chris King hub upgrade will double the amount of engagement points to 72, but will also more than double the price of the wheelset. As far as trade-offs go, this is a classic example, but the Zee hub we rode performs well and will certainly not leave you feeling short-changed.

Long Term Durability

After a couple months on the Gravity 1 wheels we can say they've held up great. No de-tensioning of the spokes occurred after the first few rides which can be typical of a newly built wheelset - these stayed true and tight. The rims have been holding up well too and we've yet to put any dents in them running pressures around 30PSI while riding our local tracks with a few resort days thrown in for good measure.

Things That Could Be Improved

We've yet to find a major or minor flaw in the Gravity 1 wheelset. Sure, we can talk about faster hub engagement, fancier/lighter rims, and better spokes - but those are all available as upgrades when you order your Gravity 1 wheelset, should you feel the need to treat yourself. Here it is very much about getting what you pay for, and in this case, we're talking about a solid wheelset that does exactly what it says at a very competitive price.

What's The Bottom Line?

Guerrilla Gravity set out to build a solid, light-weight and affordable wheelset and they nailed it. While the Gravity 1 wheelset is a no-frills utilitarian style build, the absence of any major weaknesses lets the rider focus on the positives, and that is what's going to get people stoked on their bikes. If you have $500 burning a hole in your pocket and fancy a handbuilt wheelset, the Gravity 1 wheels would be a wise investment. They are made from high value, durable components with a solid build and are upgradable as your budget permits.

Visit www.ridegg.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

Fred Robinson, a.k.a. "Derf," has been on two wheels since he was two years old. He picked up a mountain bike in 2004 and started racing downhill in 2006. He has seen moderate success racing CAT 1 but focuses his efforts on building, maintaining and riding his local trails. He's deceptively quick for a bigger guy and likes steep, fast trails where he can hang it off the back of the bike. As a SoCal native he mostly rides trails covered with loose, traction-less turns and sharp, immovable rocks. Besides downhill, he rides trail bikes, road, and also enjoys the occasional dirt jump session. He is currently a student at UCSD and a wrench at a local bike shop.

This product has 1 review

Added a product review for Manitou Mattoc Pro Fork 5/3/2014 8:31 AM
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Tested: Manitou Mattoc Pro Fork

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Ian Collins

After a promising looking product launch from Manitou, we were anxious to get our hands on their newest offering, the Mattoc fork. Aimed at the All Mountain side of the sport, we were excited to learn that the Mattoc borrowed some tech from its big brother, the Dorado, and features the well received DH Dual Chamber Air cartridge and the HBO feature on the compression side of things. With Manitou's somewhat shaky history and relatively recent success with the re-release of the Dorado DH fork, we really had no idea where the Mattoc would stack up, but we were definitely very excited to give it a good bashing around to find out.

Initial Impressions

Being used to forks that need a significant break in period, we were surprised at how smooth the fork felt right out of the box. There was minimal stiction on the initial new fork squish test in the living room, and once we mounted it on the bike we felt zero stiction at all. It doesn't take a genius to figure out Manitou's QR15 Hexlock axle system, but we managed to let it confuse us for a minute or two. Once we figured out that it functions more like a traditional quick-release skewer than say, Fox's QR15 axle, the Hexlock system clamped up just fine and felt pretty darn stiff to boot.

Manitou Mattoc Pro Highlights

  • Weight: 1877g
  • Travel: 140, 150, 160, 170 (26” only)
  • Spring: DH Air (Dorado)
  • Bottom out: Adjustable HBO (Hydraulic Bottom Out) and Rubber Bumper
  • Steerer: 1.5” Taper
  • Crown: Forged Deep Bore Hollow
  • Crown Finish: Color Matched
  • Offset: 41mm (26”) / 44mm (27.5”)
  • Compression Damping: TPC Technology MC²-In Leg
  • Rebound Damping: Adjustable TPC Cartridge
  • Adjustments: Air, Compression (High Speed and TPC+), Hydraulic Bottom Out, Rebound
  • Stanchion Diameter: 34mm
  • Stanchion Material: 7050 Butted Aluminum
  • Available wheel sizes: 26”, 27.5”
  • Brake: Post Mount 180mm
  • Axle: QR15
  • Axle to Crown: 525 / 535 / 545 / 555 (26”) OR535 / 545 / 555 (27.5”)
  • MSRP:$860.00

On The Trail

We started our testing of the Mattoc with the LSC (low speed compression) adjustment all the way out and immediately knew this was not our ideal setup. Ramping up the LSC as the ride continued, we finally reached maximum LSC before we were satisfied with the fork's support. Worried this would result in a harsh ride, much to our surprise and the joy of our hands, this wasn't the case; the Mattoc tracked well in the stutters and never spiked nor felt harsh during rough, successive mid-sized hits.

One of the features that really shined on this fork was the HBO adjustment. HBO is a position sensitive compression adjustment that allows you to control the last 32mm of travel independently of your high and low speed settings. This allowed us to set the fork up for a wide range of trail types. From lots of climbing to chunky DH style trails with bigger hits, we were able to keep the fork's settings pretty consistent despite a variety of trail conditions. That translated to less guess work from trail to trail and less time fiddling with settings between tracks and during rides.

Manitou addressed their previous issues with a long axle to crown length due to their reverse-arch design; the Mattoc's A2C measurement is now right around all its competitors. Even so, it should be noted that on steeper climbs, the fork can wander a bit and lacks a travel adjust setting that might normally dial that out. While not a deal breaker at all given the fork's intended purpose, if it's a feature you're specifically seeking you should know it's not an option offered in the Mattoc range.

In regards to rebound, Manitou has made available multiple shim configurations if you're unhappy with the range or feel provided in the factory installed stack. We had no issues with the rebound as it was straight from Manitou after adjusting it to our preference.

Long Term Durability

Having been on the Mattoc for the past 6 weeks we haven't noticed any early signs of durability issues. The seals have held up well in a variety of riding conditions, some being far from ideal. We did notice mud and debris tends to collect where the reverse-arch meets the lowers, but as stated above, the seals/dust-wipers have continued to function properly.

Things That Could Be Improved

Our only gripe with the Mattoc is pretty minor in the big picture. Due to the reverse-arch design, traditional cable routing of the front brake line isn't possible; well, it is possible, but can pinch your line at full travel and is not recommended. It may be just an aesthetic thing and probably the OCD side of being a bike mechanic coming out, but still irks this tester to see that cable routing.

Manitou also neglected to make a 29er version of the Mattoc, so if you're on big wheels, you're out of luck if you want to run this fork. Why Manitou decided not to produce a 29er version is a mystery to us, as it seems more aggressive mid to long travel 29er bikes are gaining traction.

What's The Bottom Line?

We're happy to report that Manitou has another great fork in their lineup. Borrowing features from the DH line has helped create a great option for riders who pedal up to earn their descents. The Mattoc's adjustments allow for a wide range of terrain to be handled with minimal tinkering of the dials and keeping all the important dials externally adjustable should appeal both to users who enjoy fiddling with their set-up and those who enjoy a set and forget type of fork.

Visit www.manitoumtb.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

Fred Robinson, a.k.a. "Derf," has been on two wheels since he was two years old. He picked up a mountain bike in 2004 and started racing downhill in 2006. He has seen moderate success racing CAT 1 but focuses his efforts on building, maintaining and riding his local trails. He's deceptively quick for a bigger guy and likes steep, fast trails where he can hang it off the back of the bike. As a SoCal native he mostly rides trails covered with loose, traction-less turns and sharp, immovable rocks. Besides downhill, he rides trail bikes, road, and also enjoys the occasional dirt jump session. He is currently a student at UCSD and a wrench at a local bike shop.

This product has 1 review

Added a comment about feature Win a SRAM X01 DH Drivetrain - Vital OTB 2014 Cairns World Cup 4/25/2014 10:02 AM
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Sam Blenkinsop: 4:17.08
Rachel Atherton: 5:14.90

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Added a product review for Gamut Trail SXC Chainguide 3/17/2014 3:09 PM
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Tested: Gamut Trail SXC Chainguide

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Ian Collins

Gamut lives up to its name's definition by providing a full range of chain retention systems for almost every discipline of off road cycling. Recently, Gamut released the Trail SXC guide, which is designed around the 1X drivetrain platform that more and more riders are running these days. We first gave you a sneak peek of the Trail SXC guide back in early January, and now that we've had the chance to give it a proper go-around, it's time tell you guys how it fared.

Gamut Trail SXC Guide Highlights

  • 32 to 40 tooth chainring range
  • SRAM XX1 / X01 compatible, as well as all other 1X drivetrains
  • Polyurethane slider
  • Aluminum backplate
  • Weight: 52g for BB mount, 54g for ISCG05 (claimed)
  • MSRP: $59.99

Initial Impressions

With a claimed weight of just under two ounces (54 grams), this chain-guide felt feather light when we pulled it out of the box. A problem we've seen with other super-light guides like this was that the back-plate was so minimal it would flex and chain-drops would remain an issue, but since the Trail SXC is out of harm's way and the guide block completely encloses the chain, this shouldn't be the case with this particular guide.

Installation was simple and the guide was easily centered over our chainring using two of the provided spacers between the back-plate and ISCG tabs on each mounting bolt. Pedaling the bike in the stand provided no evidence of rubbing or any additional noise from the guide, regardless of what gear was engaged, including both the high and low extremes.

On The Trail

During our time on the Trail SXC guide it did exactly what it's supposed to do. We experienced zero chain-drops. The guide runs extremely quiet and added no drag nor irritation to our rides which is a bonus. There are few things worse than a noisy guide on a long grind of a climb. All in all, the guide performed exactly as advertised with no issues during our time on it.

Long Term Durability

The only possible issue we could think of in terms of durability were the rubber bits used to quiet down the chain-slap on the top roller, but during our time running the guide they have held up fine. Should they ever need replacing sometime down the line, they should be very cheap and super easy to swap. Even if they do wear out or tear off, that would not interfere with the effectiveness of the guide due to its enclosed design. Otherwise, the rest of the guide exhibits no major weaknesses and barring major impact with protrusions of nature, we can't see what else would fail, nor why.

Things That Could Be Improved

One thing we would have liked to have seen is mounting tabs for an optional taco-style bash guard. The added security of a top-only guide such as the Trail SXC with the optional protection of a bash guard would make this a go-to for lots of users out there looking to complete their aggressive trail bike build without the added drag/noise of a lower roller or guideblock. Then again, not everyone needs the added bash protection (Gamut does also make a version of this guide with a lower roller, called the Trail S, but it too lacks a taco).

What's The Bottom Line?

With the new 1x11 narrow/wide systems out there, guide-less chain retention has drastically improved over previous setups. Without a guide of any sort, SRAM's own X-Sync chainring technology has yielded only 2-3 legitimate chain drops during more than a year of our testing. That being said, chain-drops can obviously still happen, and in some situations one untimely incident could be the difference between first and last place. In situations like that we can see why you'd want the added security of a simple top-only guide such as the Trail SXC, which worked flawlessly during our test. At just 52 grams it's a lightweight addition that can almost guarantee you'll never drop a chain.

For the everyday trail rider, we hope to see a similar option with added bash protection in the future.

Visit www.gamutusa.com for more information.


About The Reviewer

Fred Robinson, a.k.a. "Derf," has been on two wheels since he was two years old. He picked up a mountain bike in 2004 and started racing downhill in 2006. He has seen moderate success racing CAT 1 but focuses his efforts on building, maintaining and riding his local trails. He's deceptively quick for a bigger guy and likes steep, fast trails where he can hang it off the back of the bike. As a SoCal native he mostly rides trails covered with loose, traction-less turns and sharp, immovable rocks. Besides downhill, he rides trail bikes, road, and also enjoys the occasional dirt jump session. He is currently a student at UCSD and a wrench at a local bike shop.

This product has 1 review

Added a comment about product review Tested: Alex Supra30 Rim 2/26/2014 3:09 PM
Added a comment about product review Tested: Alex Supra30 Rim 2/26/2014 3:08 PM
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I'm a long time DHF user and so far I'm liking the new Magic Mary's quite a bit. Def worth a spin if you're itching to try something new.

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Added a product review for Alex Rims Supra30 Rim 2/20/2014 10:12 PM
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Tested: Alex Supra30 Rim

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Ian Collins

We're sure you've heard of Alex Rims - they're one of the more popular OEM rim choices for a quite a few bicycle manufactures out there. But when you finally torch said rim, you're likely to purchase an aftermarket alternative to replace it, and where is Alex Rims in that market? It seems they have finally noticed a shortcoming here and have set their sights to expand further into aftermarket sales, specifically in North America and Europe. We were given the chance to lace up one of Alex's latest gravity offerings, the Supra30 rim. With an external width of 30mm and weight better than many other high-end rims that sell for almost double the price, could these be a new leader in the race day wheel game?

Supra30 Rim Highlights

  • Suggested Riding Type: Enduro, Freeride, Downhill
  • Rim Material: 6000 Series Aluminum
  • Tubeless Compatible
  • Joint Type: Welded
  • Hole Count: 32 or 36 holes
  • Inner Width: 23mm
  • Outer Width: 30mm
  • 26-inch: 559mm diameter, 538mm ERD
  • 29-inch: 622mm diameter
  • Colors: Black
  • Weight: 470-grams (26-inch, 32 hole - tested)
  • Price: $49.99

Initial Impressions

Having experienced failures with both eyeleted and non-eyeleted rims as well as both welded and pinned rims, these aspects are not the determining factors of a quality rim in our experience. Nevertheless, there's something slightly encouraging about a rim like the Supra30 that has both eyelets and a welded joint.

Our test wheels came laced to Novatec DH hubs via 32 straight gauge spokes with brass nipples. The wheel build was true as an arrow with good tension.

Prior to testing the Supra30 we were on the well-regarded and nearly indestructible Mavic EX823 rim. The EX823 has an equivalent 23mm internal width but weighs 185-grams more, meaning we'd drop a total of 370-grams (0.8-pounds) of rotational weight while maintaining a similar tire volume. The Stan's ZTR Flow EX (490-grams) and DT Swiss EX 500 (500-grams) rims that many top-level Pros use for race day weigh 20 and 30-grams more, respectively. Given the massive weight difference from our previous setup, we were interested to see how the Supra30 would hold up. Time for us to get them on the bike and get out on the trails to find out...

On The Trail

We ran these rims both tubed and “ghetto” tubeless. How easy it was to mount the tires seemed highly dependent on tire choice and whether or not a tube was being used. Maxxis tires with a tube proved a pain to install, while the same tire tubeless was fairly effortless. Schwalbe tires mounted fine both tubed and tubeless. Using Gorilla Tape and Stan's NoTubes valve stems, a tubeless setup was pretty easy to seal using only a floor pump. Tire profile was fine using both Maxxis 2.5 and 2.4-inch tires, as well as Schwalbe 2.35-inch tires.

While testing these rims we noticed a few things. For starters, they're incredibly light weight, making out of the saddle sprinting efforts easier. They don't sacrifice much, if anything, in terms of performance. Regarding stiffness, they're not quite in the same league as the Mavic EX823 or some carbon hoops, but they're not a flimsy rim by any means.

Long Term Durability

We ran these rims on two different bikes with a variety of tires at different pressures, sometimes quite a bit lower than our typical setup. After six weeks of testing and roughly 50 DH runs we feel we've given the Supra30's a good flogging. Running pressures ranging from 35 to 20psi, we pushed these rims to the edge of what we find to be the typical usable pressures for DH. The front rim dealt with the abuse without breaking stride, and the one out back only suffered one small dent from a botched line. Not bad at all for a 470-gram rim being used by a 250-pound tester. Despite a few hard impacts and one dent, no flats occurred during our time on these rims regardless of the tire pressure.

The rear wheel did require a little bit of spoke tensioning to bring it back into true after the testing period, but this was expected as it was a freshly built wheel and we were intentionally hammering it when we could. Truing the wheel was easy to do and the brass nipples turned freely in the eyeletted rims. The front wheel is as true and tensioned as it was on day one.

Things That Could Be Improved

Over the six weeks we ran the Supra 30 rims they failed to present any major flaws. While not the stiffest rims on the market nor the most durable, they proved themselves completely capable of competing with all the main alternatives.

What's The Bottom Line?

While many other super light gravity rims are considered "disposables" for race day use only, the Alex Supra30 is up to the task of everyday use, practice runs and race day. You sacrifice a bit in terms of durability when compared to some of the burlier rims out there, but you also get a somewhat more forgiving rim that will probably dent slightly before flatting and still last into next season. If you do manage to bang them up, they're also not as big an investment as some of the other rim choices out there. For all these reasons, we see the Supra30 as one of the new class leaders for those looking to build lightweight downhill race wheels.

Visit www.alexrims.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

Fred Robinson, a.k.a. "Derf," has been on two wheels since he was two years old. He picked up a mountain bike in 2004 and started racing downhill in 2006. He has seen moderate success racing CAT 1 but focuses his efforts on building, maintaining and riding his local trails. He's deceptively quick for a bigger guy and likes steep, fast trails where he can hang it off the back of the bike. As a SoCal native he mostly rides trails covered with loose, traction-less turns and sharp, immovable rocks. Besides downhill, he rides trail bikes, road, and also enjoys the occasional dirt jump session. He is currently a student at UCSD and a wrench at a local bike shop.

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Liked a bike check Very Bright Intense 951 EVO 1/30/2014 3:36 PM
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prestondh left a comment 12/20/2013 10:19 AM
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hey man, I really liked the review on the undead. Your build is sweet. I have an undead too and have been considering different shock options. I noticed in your review you mentioned you were going to try some out, have you tried any yet? I would like to hear your feedback if you have. I currently have the stock dhx rc4 (old evil revolt) and a vivid air. PUSH'd 40 up front.
Added a product review for Bontrager XR4 Team Issue Tire 12/16/2013 1:34 PM
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Tested: Bontrager XR4 Team Issue Tire

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Ian Collins

Claiming it will “out-corner any XC tire on the market,” Bontrager sounds pretty confident in their XR4 Team Issue tire. With an aggressive tread pattern on a relatively lightweight tire, it's fair to assume Bontrager is targeting the Enduro crowd with the XR4, aiming it more specifically at those who enjoy riding their trail-bike more like a mini-downhill bike than an XC bike. We put it to the test to see just how it stacks up.

XR4 Team Issue Tire Highlights

  • Bold and aggressive tread pattern
  • Excels in loose and rocky conditions
  • Tubeless ready (TLR) - Tire is ready to accept self-sealing TLR Sealant as the final step in a worry-free, tubeless setup
  • Inner Strength Casing - Lightweight sidewall protection is supple and strong
  • Unconditional Bontrager Guarantee
  • Available in 26, 27.5, and 29-inch versions
  • Weight: 582 - 790 grams
  • MSRP $69.99 USD

Initial Impressions

Upon first inspection we were happy to see that the XR4 tires were a bit meatier and more aggressive looking than some other XC/Enduro branded tires out there; and surprisingly, they weigh in at a reasonable 780 grams for the 27.5 x 2.35 - not too shabby. The XR4 is a tubeless ready (TLR) tire and we were able to mount it up as such with only a floor pump and Bontrager's TLR tire sealant. Once mounted on the bike we realized that the XR4 is a fairly wide tire, on par with our Maxxis 2.5” DH tires.

On The Trail

The large volume of these tires is one of the first things we noticed when we first tested them out on the trail. We started with our typical 35psi rear and 30psi front, but at these pressures the tire deflected off rocks too much and had poor feel as far as trail feedback went. After taking it down to 30psi rear and 27.5psi front, the XR4 felt about right for most trail conditions. At this pressure (and given our body weight), the tire would give a bit on hard, square-edge rock strikes without deflecting while still holding enough air to prevent rim strikes. This pressure also seemed like the sweet-spot for cornering (again, for our body weight); not low-pressure squirmy, yet able to hook up well in corners. Bontrager recommends 30-50psi for the XR4 in the 27.5 x 2.35 configuration depending on body weight but we found that to be a bit high. Being on the larger side for a typical mountain biker, using Bontrager's guidelines we should have been running 50psi and that would be flat out scary.

In the past, we were not huge fans of most tires with intermediate knobs between the center and shoulder knobs, and initially this was a concern in regards to cornering performance. But, once we found our ideal tire pressure, cornering traction proved to be great. These things hook up like our favorite DH tire and have a predictable break-away point that you have to actually push a bit harder to get to than we were used to. Braking traction was great too, but where these tires due suffer a bit is in the rolling resistance department. We found the XR4 to roll a bit slower than some other XC / Enduro branded tires. This is far from a deal breaker though as this tire seems to excel in most other categories.

We got to ride these tires in a variety of different conditions, from sloppy mud and snow to SoCal desert hardpack and the tire performed well throughout. It shed mud very well in conditions where we noticed our buddies tires caking up with dirt. Climbing traction was good in loose, dry conditions and despite rolling a bit slower than other offerings the tires never felt outright sluggish.

Long Term Durability

So far the XR4's are wearing great. With about three months of regular use there is hardly any noticeable wear, no torn side-knobs, and no excessive wear to the braking edge of the knobs either. In the past we've gone through quite a few single-ply tires from cuts on the sidewalls but so far the XR4 has proved resilient and durable even after charging some sharp, pointy rock sections.

Things That Could Be Improved

One gripe is the XR4's rolling performance, but given the trend of people building burlier, so-called “downhiller's trail-bikes,” there is definitely a market for the XR4 as a slower rolling but more up-for-it general trail tire.

Additionally, flat protection when running the tire with tubes leaves something to be desired. Flats seem to be too common of an occurrence set up that way. Set up tubeless, on the other hand, they have been quite reliable.

What's The Bottom Line?

Bontrager's on a roll, and this time they're using the XR4 tire to keep up their momentum. The XR4 would be a great option for the trail rider who wants a slightly burlier tire without a big weight penalty. If the somewhat higher rolling resistance is a deal breaker for you, the XR4 would make an excellent front-specific tire paired with a faster rolling tire for the rear. We were happy running it front and rear though and found the overall performance of the XR4 tire to be excellent.

For more details, visit www.bontrager.com.


About The Reviewer

Fred Robinson, a.k.a. "Derf," has been on two wheels since he was two years old. He picked up a mountain bike in 2004 and started racing downhill in 2006. He has seen moderate success racing CAT 1 but focuses his efforts on building, maintaining and riding his local trails. He's deceptively quick for a bigger guy and likes steep, fast trails where he can hang it off the back of the bike. As a SoCal native he mostly rides trails covered with loose, traction-less turns and sharp, immovable rocks. Besides downhill, he rides trail bikes, road, and also enjoys the occasional dirt jump session. He is currently a student at UCSD and a wrench at a local bike shop.

This product has 2 reviews

Added a comment about video Whistler Bike Park- Remy Metailler 12/13/2013 1:26 PM
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Added a comment about product review Tested: Magura MT8 Disc Brakes 11/19/2013 11:31 AM
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Carbon fiber can be used either way (rigid or flexy) depending on the engineer's intent. This is speculation but perhaps the engineers behind these levers built-in some inherent flex in the levers to withstand crashes.

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Added a product review for Magura MT8 Disc Brake 11/18/2013 9:10 AM
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Tested: Magura MT8 Disc Brakes

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Ian Collins

With the MT8, it's clear Magura set out to make one of the lightest, high performance brakes available. Introducing what Magura calls Carbotecture, a new carbon material produced in-house to construct the lever-body along with other weight shedding materials and design used throughout the MT8's construction, the MT8 is one of the lightest XC/Enduro brakes we've laid our hands on. Utilizing the first-ever full carbon master-cylinder, a full carbon lever-blade and aluminum hardware, the MT8 weighs in at a claimed weight of 278g (including 160mm Storm SL rotor). We decided to put these super light brakes under one of our heaviest testers to see if they can hang.

MT8 Disc Brake Highlights

  • First full carbon master cylinder
  • CARBOTECTURE SL body
  • CARBOLAY lever blade
  • CARBOLAY clamp
  • ANTI-Features (ANTI-Drag, ANIT-Heat, ANTI-Heat)
  • FEEL SAFETY-Ergonomics
  • EBT (Easy Bleed Technology)
  • RHR (Rotatable Hose Routing)
  • EPR (Easy Pad Replacer)
  • Optional Shiftmix E (Matchmaker-style perch for mounting shifters on brake clamp)
  • 5-year no-leak warranty
  • Weight: 278 g (including 160 mm Storm SL rotor)
  • MSRP: $369 per side, excluding rotor and adapter

Initial Impressions

Magura took every chance they had to shave weight off these brakes: from the aluminum hardware to the full carbon master-cylinder, Carbotecture lever body and minimalist design, these brakes are shockingly light when you pull them out of the box. Setup is on par with pretty much any modern disc-brake out there. A welcome new feature absent from their previous flagship brake, the Magura Martas, is the MT8's adjustable banjo (RHR Rotatable Hose Routing) located on the caliper which helps clean up the hose routing a bit. Once the calipers were aligned and the levers set, it was time to see how these welter-weight brakes would fare in the heavy-weight division.

On The Trail

As with any brake, the MT8's took a little bit of time to bed in and fully bite, but after the initial break-in period they offered more power than expected from such a lightweight brake. Because of our tester's size Magura recommended a 203mm rotor upfront and a 180mm rear, which provided power close to on-par with our normal setup of 180f/160r rotors. On shorter mellow descents the power was consistent but we did notice the brakes tend to heat up a bit and lose some power on longer, steeper descents. At times this would also be accompanied by a bit of noise if the brakes got hot enough. Lighter riders reported an "on/off" feeling to the MT8's, but during our testing we experienced a controlled and predictable feel. Perhaps this is because our tester is a big guy or it could also be down to the stock, organic brake pads; either way, the modulation of the MT8's felt good and provided high levels of control on the trail.

It should also be noted that the bite point stayed consistent throughout the testing period. Magura left out a contact point adjustment on the MT8 for some reason which means you may not be able to completely dial these brakes in to your exact preferences. For example, we were stuck with a bit shorter lever throw than we'd like in order to get the brakes to grab really close to the bars. Thankfully, the bite point stayed consistent at all times and the lever never pulled to the bar all of a sudden.

Long Term Durability

We only had one crash with the MT8's mounted to our bike, but it was a good one. We dug the left lever completely into the ground with no ill effects. We are always a bit worried when running light parts, but we have no evidence at this point to suggest that the MT8 is overly fragile. Pad life has been pretty good for organic pads and the original pads provided with the brakes have lasted 3 months of regular use with about ½ their life left still in them.

Things That Could Be Improved

Perhaps due to the all-carbon construction of the lever assembly there is a bit of flex in the levers. As a result, even with a good bleed the brakes do tend to feel a little bit mushy. Once you hit the defined bite point where the lever throw should end you can still flex the lever in towards the bars a bit. Also, again probably due to the all-carbon construction the levers tend to creak a bit when you pull the lever hard. This never bothered us on the trail nor did the noise seem to affect performance. Lastly, the lack of a contact point adjustment on Magura's top of the line offering is a bit underwhelming and kept us from getting the exact lever pull we wanted - at this price point we would fully expect this feature to be included.

What's The Bottom Line?

Even though the MT8's offer good power and consistency in an impressively lightweight package, we could never get past the lever feel of these brakes. The noise and flex in the lever-blade give the brakes an almost cheap feeling despite their high price tag. Performance on the other hand has been good, so beyond lever feel the MT8's deserve their flagship standing as Magura's ultra-lightweight, high performance brake.

For more details, check out www.magura.com.


About The Reviewer

Fred Robinson, a.k.a. "Derf," has been on two wheels since he was two years old. He picked up a mountain bike in 2004 and started racing downhill in 2006. He has seen moderate success racing CAT 1 but focuses his efforts on building, maintaining and riding his local trails. He's deceptively quick for a bigger guy and likes steep, fast trails where he can hang it off the back of the bike. As a SoCal native he mostly rides trails covered with loose, traction-less turns and sharp, immovable rocks. Besides downhill, he rides trail bikes, road, and also enjoys the occasional dirt jump session. He is currently a student at UCSD and a wrench at a local bike shop.

This product has 2 reviews