4li2k73z Share your Vital activity on Facebook (More info)
close
Added a product review for 2015 Santa Cruz V10 Carbon CC 3/18/2015 6:50 PM
C138_2015_santa_cruz_v10_carbon_cc_x01_white_red

Tested: Santa Cruz V10CC

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Fred Robinson and Matt Puzel/Brandon Turman (action)

With the 2014 World Cup overall title in the bag and only half a second away from winning World Champs, had Josh Bryceland just SLOWED DOWN before that final jump, the new Santa Cruz V10 already has a reputation that speaks pretty loudly for itself. So what else could we find to say about it? Plenty. Check out how well, or sometimes maybe not so well, we got on with the brand new Santa Cruz V10CC.

For 2015 Santa Cruz introduces the 6th generation of it's highly successful V10 platform. While maintaining the look and lines of the previous year's V10, the new version is a further refinement of the bike and has seen a few big updates in regards to wheel-size, front-end length and rear travel. Based on feedback from the Santa Cruz Syndicate, the V10 lost the adjustable travel options in favor of a single, 8.5-inch setting and now offers adjustable geometry with high and low options. Between the two settings a few numbers change: at 63.5-degrees the head-angle is half a degree slacker in the low setting, the bottom bracket drops a quarter-inch from 14.17” to 13.92” and the reach sees about a fifth of an inch reduction in the low setting. Chain-stay length stays consistent regardless of which setting the rider chooses. Wheel size was also updated to 27.5-inch, which Santa Cruz had been testing on the bike since around early 2013 eventually leading to the new bike being unveiled partway through the 2014 World Cup season.

Also new for 2015 is the option of two different carbon V10 frames, the V10CC and the V10C. Santa Cruz uses two different types of carbon for these two different models. For the V10C, a less expensive carbon is employed to lower the overall cost of the bike. While stiffness and strength remain the same between the two frames, the benefit of the V10CC is a weight-savings of 280g, which is over half a pound for the non-metric minded.

Santa Cruz V10 CC Highlights

  • Full carbon frame and swingarm
  • Carbon C and Carbon CC frame options
  • 216mm (8.5") VPP suspension
  • 27.5-inch wheels
  • Adjustable geometry with HIGH & LOW settings
  • Double-sealed pivots for long bearing life
  • Dual grease ports on lower link for easy maintenance
  • Integrated fork bumpers with cable guide
  • Molded clip-on chainstay and upright protector
  • Full carbon dropouts and disk mounts
  • Angular contact bearings maximize stiffness
  • Collet axle pivots lock in place without pinch bolts
  • Molded rubber swingarm and downtube protection
  • 157mm rear axle spacing
  • Threaded BB for creak-free riding and easy installation
  • ISCG-05 tabs for chainguide compatibility
  • Sizes: S, M, L, XL (with rumors of a XXL in the works)

Initial Impressions

Santa Cruz put us on the V10CC X01 build, complete with ENVE wheels and a SRAM X01 DH 7-spd drive train. Santa Cruz really spared no expense when putting this bike together and everywhere you look is a high-end component. From the FOX suspension, ENVE hoops, Race Face SIXC carbon bars and cranks, DT 240 hubs... right down to the Thomson Elite seatpost, no corners were cut. But if you want a build of this caliber it doesn't come cheap. This beaut' goes for $10,799 and is one of the most expensive complete downhill bikes available.

When deciding on what size frame to go with, our decision was based mostly on reach. Although Santa Cruz lengthened the front-end for 2015, we still found ourselves favoring the reach numbers of the XL as opposed to a large (what we normally find suitable for this 6'1” tester) at 445.9mm in low and 450.8mm in high. While setting up the bike and getting all our contact points and controls where we like them, it was confirmed the cockpit length was what we expected and put us right where we like to be in terms of body position. Although the cockpit sizing was what we're used to, one thing that stood out immediately was how long the bike felt. This was confirmed when we checked the numbers. Sure enough, the reach of the XL V10 is comparable to the reach of some other size large frames on the market, while the wheel-base is in the range of some other XL bikes. This comes with a few handling characteristics that we'll get into later.

On The Trail

Right off the bat we noticed how well the V10CC reacts to rider input. Santa Cruz did a good job of picking parts that offer excellent stiffness with little weight penalty. The ENVE rims, FOX 40 Float, Race Face SIXC carbon bits and the V10CC frame itself all really help make this bike stiff, light and extremely responsive. That stiffness is really felt while all-out sprinting, in the rocks and in corners, contributing to a super responsive feeling in general.

Even though the bike rolls on bigger wheels, it's still quick to get up to speed. When pedaling out of corners or mashing across the flats no effort is wasted and the bike picks up very well. While we're on the topic of suspension, the combination of the 27.5 wheels with the VPP linkage makes for excellent small bump and chatter handling. Cornering traction was also great. The big wheels, Maxxis Minion DHRII tires, and the FOX suspension offer plenty of support and grip allowing the bike to really rail wide-open turns like no other bike we've ridden.

It should be noted we are running the bike slightly over-sprung with only 24% sag where as Santa Cruz recommends the bike be run between 28.6 and 35.8%. This is mostly down to rider preference.

Our FOX DHX RC4 settings from full closed:
Air Assist full open at 135PSI // Rebound 7-clicks // HCS 8-clicks // LSC 7-clicks

FOX 40 Float Fit settings from full closed:
Spring: 85PSI // Rebound 9-clicks // HSC 16-clicks // LSC 10-clicks

Accessing the shock, the adjustment knobs, and the mounting bolts on the V10 frame is easy.

The bike tracks exceedingly well in the rough. Despite the big wheels, quick line adjustments were easy and the bike responded quickly and predictably to rider input. The light weight of the bike undoubtedly played a role in this as well. While the bike never deflected nor displayed any weird behavior in the rough, we did notice when speeds picked up through extremely nasty sections that the bike was a bit harsh and although square-edge hits didn't feel like they really slowed the bike down, the roughness of the trail was definitely transmitted to the rider more than with some other bikes we've ridden. That said, the V10CC's excellent response to rider input and predictable handling makes the bike one of the fastest downhill bikes we've laid our hands on so far in terms of going all-out over abusive terrain.

We tested the V10CC mostly in the low setting for a couple of reasons. While the high setting should (at least on paper) make the bike feel a bit more playful with a steeper head-angle, there wasn't a huge difference on the purely DH oriented trails we mostly rode the bike on. The high setting would be ideal for a bike park but unfortunately we tested the V10 during winter. Where we did notice a difference between the two settings was in fast corners and mega-steep terrain, and in those situations we preferred the lower BB height and slacker HA of the lower setting.

Now there are a couple trade-off's in the low setting worth mentioning and this is where the wheel-base and the associated handling characteristics we alluded to earlier come in. The V10 is long, actually the longest DH bike we've ridden to date. In that low setting you only gain about 1-mm of wheel-base length, which isn't a big deal at all, but the one place this bike suffers in is through tight corners and when you slack the bike out another half a degree (low setting), tight corner handling suffers even more. Either way, in either high or low, the V10 takes some muscling around in the tighter corners due to the long wheel-base and this was really the only place we found the bike fighting against us a bit. On the flip side, the long wheel-base really works on your side when things get faster. In wide-open, high-speed sections of trail the V10 was one of the most balanced and stable bikes we've ever ridden, its rider-in-the-center feeling letting us open it up more than we were willing to with any other bike. Speed is clearly what the bike was built for. And when things got steep we were still able to push the bike plenty as we could get over the back of the bike while keeping enough weight on that front wheel to keep it pointed where we wanted.

Build Kit

  • Size: XL
  • Frame Material: Carbon CC
  • Fork: Fox 40 Float 27.5 FIT RC2 Kashima
  • Shock: Fox DHX RC4 Kashima
  • Chainguide: E13 LG1
  • Rear Derailleur: SRAM X01 DH 7-speed
  • Shifter: SRAM X01 DH 7-speed
  • Crankset: Raceface SIXC Carbon 165mm 36t
  • Cassette: SRAM X01 DH 7-speed
  • Chain: SRAM XX1 11-speed
  • Brakes: SRAM Guide RSC w/ Avid G2CS Rotors, 203mm front 200mm rear
  • Headset: Cane Creek 40
  • Bars: Raceface SIXC Carbon 35, 800mm wide
  • Stem: Easton Havoc 35 direct mount adjustable between 45 and 50mm
  • Grips: Santa Cruz Palmdale lock-on
  • Front Hub: DT Swiss 240 110x20
  • Rear Hub: DT Swiss 240 157x12
  • Rims: ENVE M90 Ten
  • Spokes: DT Swiss Competition 2.0
  • Tires: Maxxis Minion DHRII, DH casing, 27.5x2.4
  • Seatpost: Thomson Elite
  • Saddle: WTB Silverado
  • Weight: 33.49lbs w/o pedals (tested)

In terms of shifting, SRAM's X01 DH drivetrain always ran smooth and it works exactly like a proper drivetrain should. With usable steps between each gear, less shifts were needed to find the proper gear for whatever situation we were in. Even in rough bits, the shifting was always precise and never jumped gears nor did we ever drop a chain thanks to the E13 LG1 chainguide and Race Face 36t narrow-wide chainring.

As mentioned early the V10CC was very quick to get up to pace. Corner exit speed was good and changing direction was easy. A lot of this comes down to the ENVE M90 Ten rims, which weigh only 563g (rim only) each. Despite their light weight, the M90 Ten's are very stiff laterally and have held up extremely well for the duration of this test. They've taken a couple good hits that had us cringing and convinced we were going to find a crack, but when the time came to check them over we were surprised to find them tip-top; they held true and round even under our 235lbs tester.

“Slow down you must, go fast you will.” - Yoda or Sam Hill

In terms of braking, SRAM had us covered with the Guide RSC brakes providing plenty of stopping power that is easy to control. With the V10, you got to be smart with that power though and laying off the brakes did seem to free up that rear-end a bit when the bike was starting to feel harsh in those fast rough sections we mentioned earlier.

In the control department of the V10CC build we tested, Santa Cruz decided to go with the 800-mm Race Face SIXC 35 bars and Santa Cruz Palmdale lock-on grips. While bar-length, rise and sweep are highly personal preferences, our tester was happy with the overall feel of the setup and the added stiffness and vibration damping characteristics of a carbon bar are definitely a plus in our book.

Things That Could Be Improved

Our only geometry gripe with the V10 was that wheel-base to reach ratio. While the Syndicate guys will certainly benefit from such extreme numbers, it would be a huge plus for many average riders if Santa Cruz could develop some kind of adjustable length system similar to a couple other bikes on the market.

Price too will be a bit of an obstacle for Santa Cruz with their lowest offering, the V10C still costing buyers $5,699 while other manufacturers now offer similarly spec'd carbon bikes in the $4500 range.

Long Term Durability

With a bit over 2 months on the V10CC we've seen zero signs of weakness. Should the angular contact bearings Santa Cruz uses need attention they've included grease ports to keep you running smooth, but during the time we had the bike there was never a need. We periodically checked the frame for loose pivot hardware but we came up empty-handed each time, a testament to those Collet pivot locks. With a 5-year frame warranty, lifetime bearing warranty, and a lifetime crash replacement program, even if you do manage to break this bike, Santa Cruz has you covered.

What's The Bottom Line?

The Santa Cruz V10CC with the X01 DH build with ENVE wheels is truly one of the nicest spec'd and fastest bikes we've ever ridden, hands down. Confidence inspiring in pretty much every situation, the bike is a blast to ride and we don't want to give it back. Best suited for race-minded riders with an aggressive riding style, the V10 is a purebred race-bike through and through. With complete bikes ranging from $6,599 to the $10,799 package we tested, the V10 is definitely a bit more expensive than other bikes out there, but for that price you get an extremely refined ride with an undeniable pedigree that can't be ignored. Whether or not that's enough for you to pull the trigger is entirely personal, but we can say with confidence that the V10CC hauls the mail and delivers in record time.

For more information, head on over to www.santacruzbicycles.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 no reviews yet

Added a product blog First Ride: 2015 Norco Aurum 650B 3/16/2015 3:03 AM

Killer B was all the buzz for the 2015 Norco Aurum launch. With big updates like a carbon front triangle and the Aurum now joining Norco's fleet of Killer B bikes (650, we had the opportunity to spend two days on the new steed to see what it's all about.

Norco's main goals in designing the 650B Aurum...more

This blog post has 3 comments

Added a blog post Tested: Scott Gambler 3/8/2015 4:27 PM

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Fred Robinson

****

When someone like Ben Walker (AKA: The Most Interesting Man in Mountain Biking) is involved in the design of a bike and riders like Brendan Fairclough are there to help test and further develop it, you can pretty much assume that the bike is going to...more

This blog post has no comments yet

Added a new photo album Gambler 3/8/2015 4:05 PM
C138_testedgambler
  • C48_testedgambler

This photo album has no comments yet

Added a blog post 3/8/2015 3:52 PM

This blog post has no comments yet

Added a blog post 3/8/2015 3:49 PM

This blog post has no comments yet

Added a blog post 3/5/2015 1:15 PM

This blog post has no comments yet

Updated photo album Shooting 2/20/2015 7:36 PM
C138_image
  • C48_image
  • C48_dsc0587
  • C48_dsc0634

This photo album has no comments yet

Added a new photo album Shooting 2/20/2015 7:32 PM
C138_image
  • C48_image
  • C48_dsc0587
  • C48_dsc0634

This photo album has no comments yet

Added a comment about product review Tested: 7iDP Covert Knee Pad 2/12/2015 12:00 AM
C50_imag1110

Good call, when measuring 6 inch above and below the center of the kneecap, my legs measure 19 inches above and 16 inches below and the large was spot on for me. Riders within 1 inch either way should be happy with a large too.

0 0 0

This product_review has 5 comments.

Added a product review for 7iDP Covert Knee Pad 1/30/2015 5:38 PM
C138_k_covert_f_vital

Tested: 7iDP Covert Knee Pad

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Fred Robinson and Brandon Turman

7iDP may be a newer name when it comes to protection in the mountain biking world, but with over 65 years of combined experience in MTB protection design and product management, it should come as no surprise that they are gaining more and more notoriety as one of the leading brands that consistently nails their products. Excited to get another chance to put a 7iDP product through the wringer, we laid our hands on the Covert Knee, a kneepad that offers customizable levels of protection in a low weight, form fitting package. Read on to see how we got along.

7iDP Covert Knee Pad Highlights

  • Removable foam inserts and knee cap for washing
  • Low weight, high strength flexible 1mm cap for superior fit and pedal motion
  • Double layer custom foam to increase air flow and reduce weight
  • Compression fit, designed to be packable
  • A combination of Poly/Spandex and 4 way stretch mesh to provide good fit and ventilation
  • Designed beyond CE EN 1621/1 standard to ensure maximum protection
  • Sizes – S/M/L/XL
  • MSRP:$89.95 USD

Initial impressions

Curious about the “customizable” levels of protection, the first thing we did when we received the Covert Kneepads was pull them apart. This examination revealed a rather clever construction of foam/plastic padding that allows you to combine or remove different pads within the poly/spandex mesh sleeve to suit the day's riding plans (more on this later).

Overall construction of the whole package looked top notch, with solid stitching and a high level of finish quality. The spandex panel shapes that make up the back and sides of these pads seemed appropriate for holding the pad in place during a crash while allowing an unrestricted pedalling motion. And on the topic of pedalling, it was high time we got some done.

On The Trail

The important question for any product in general, and protection in particular, is how well does it perform on the trail? We're happy to report back with nothing but positive things to say here. When we first put the pads on, they did sit off the kneecap a bit which felt kinda funny, but once we hopped on the bike it became obvious that this was intentional. 7iDP calls it “X Profile Cap Design”, a pre-bent X-shaped kneepad which is supposed to facilitate fluid pedaling action and help keep the pad in place when you hit the ground.

It seems as though 7iDP did their research and the pads do indeed feel fine while pedaling, even on those long mile days. They never slid down or hiked up our legs, and the few times we did crash in the Covert pads they stayed in place and did their job.

The close fit kept the pads from chafing and despite the fact that 7iDP didn't cut out any excess material around the back making these a “full-sleeve” pad, they weren't overly hot, breathed well and dried out pretty quickly.

In our opinion though, the standout feature of these pads is the ability to customize the level of protection they offer. Within the kneepad sleeve there are two interlocking foam pads and a plastic knee cap. You can choose to run all three layers for the maximum level the Covert Knee offers for the nastier trails, or you can go the minimalistic route for easier trails and run only the one foam pad that is at the bottom of the stack.

You can also mix and match within the stack if you choose to. Say you want a less bulky pad but still want that hard plastic knee cap, just remove the middle foam pad and run the cap directly on the foam base. A pretty unique feature that we found ourself messing with often depending on what trail we were riding.

Things That Could Be Improved

We dug deep to nitpick these pads and pretty much came up empty-handed. We can't even complain about the price as they fall more or less inline with most other high-end offerings out there. They do lack some protection on the side of the knee, but they're not full-on DH pads and the balance of flexibility, comfort and protection on offer here is pretty much spot-on for the intended usage. We want to complain, we really do, but we really got nothing.

Long Term Durability

With only a few minor diggers behind us we can't comment too much on the Covert Knee's ability to handle multiple big crashes, but the times we did hit the dirt the pads did their job protecting us and after dusting them off, they looked just as good as the did before we went down. Despite the snug compression-type fit and pulling them on and off even when sweaty or wet, the threads holding the pads together didn't pop or break, something that's common in less expensive gear of the compression type. All in all, the Covert Knee appears to be in it for the long haul.

What's The Bottom Line?

7iDP set out to create a compact, compression-fit knee pad that can pack away easily while still providing adequate protection for more aggressive riding, something enduro racers and trail riders will definitely appreciate. The Covert Knee provides adjustable levels of protection so you never have to run more than you need and in every configuration it still allows for an unrestricted pedaling motion in a comfortable package. To quote a friend of ours we lent these pads to for a ride, “they're F'n awesome.” To paraphrase said friend, 7iDP nailed it.

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 Spank Spike 800 Race Vibrocore Alloy Riser Handlebar 11/24/2014 8:28 PM
C138_spank_spike_800_race_vibrocore_alloy_riser_bars

Tested: Spank Spike 800 Race Vibrocore Handlebar

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Matt Puzel

This year Spank Industries introduced the Spike 800 Race Handlebar, and one of the models features a new technology that aims to help alleviate arm pump and hand fatigue. Long, rough and fast tracks are often accompanied by arm pump, which, if you’ve ever experienced it, can feel crippling and definitely hold you back when it comes to riding at pace. Beyond just slowing you down, arm pump and hand fatigue can also be dangerous, especially if it gets bad enough to prevent you from keeping a good grip on your bars or from grabbing your brakes.

Spank's new technology, dubbed “Vibrocore,” was created to help reduce both these problems by damping the high-frequency vibrations that can travel through traditional aluminum bars. This is achieved by injecting the bar with low-density foam to form a vibration-absorbing core in order to reduce the amplitude of those vibrations by the time they reach your hands. Curious to see what this would translate to in the real world, we bolted up a bar and headed out on the trails to find out.

Spank Spike 800 Race Vibrocore Handlebar Highlights

  • Length: 800mm
  • Rise: 15 or 30mm
  • Upsweep: 4 degrees
  • Backsweep: 8 degrees
  • Diameter: 31.8mm
  • Weight: 335-grams
  • Material: Super-6 MGR Alloy
  • Construction: CNC Bent / Dual XGT Tapers
  • Adjustability: New Longer Impact Ends allow for up to 60mm adjustment, between 740 to 800mm
  • MSRP: $99 USD

So how does it work? Spank breaks it down in this description of the technology:

"The theory behind Spank’s Vibrocore impulse and fatigue damping system is simple. First, it's important to understand that like all forms of energy, the vibrational energy that is transmitted through your bars to your hands is made up of waves, which can be measured in amplitude and frequency. The more dense a material, the higher its ability to transmit these energy waves. Alloys have a very high density, and in turn transmit vibrational energy very effectively. Vibrocore is a complex, low density material which fills the core of the handlebar, reducing the frequency, amplitude, and duration of energy waves traveling through the handlebar.

Not only does the low density of the Vibrocore impede the transfer of energy, but as energy waves cross material boundaries from high density to low density within the bar, they are refracted and reflected (basically bounced in different directions), reducing their ability to build on one another (resonate) or sustain vibrational frequencies. Where competitors have been forced to design unwanted flexibility into their bars, Spank’s Vibrocore system also acts to reinforce the handlebar from the inside, making it stronger and stiffer, resulting in a more responsive performance and improved sensitivity. The result is a handlebar that feels incredibly strong and rigid, and acts to reduce impulse and vibrational fatigue."

Initial Impressions

Knowing we were getting a foam-filled handlebar that was a full 800mm wide, we weren’t quite sure what to expect weight-wise with the Spike 800 Race. To our surprise, it didn’t feel exceptionally heavy or out of the ordinary in any way. With the Vibrocore Foam Injection only adding 20 to 25 grams to the regular Spike 800, the Vibrocore version comes in at a very respectable 335-grams. The Vibrocore version of the Spike 800 also gets its own visual identity, with bold, loud, but not obnoxious graphics.In addition to the vibrant graphics, the finish of the Spike 800 handlebars is a somewhat matte black which helps those shiny colors pop a bit, a subtle but nice touch to further enhance the overall look of the bars. In general, the finish of the Spike bar was at the high level we have come to expect from Spank.

Reducing vibrations is something that the motocross community has been dealing with for a number of years, but the common technique of adding lead weight to the handlebar extremities obviously won't really fly on a mountain bike. Spank claims that a good way to deal with vibrations is to leverage refraction instead. Refraction changes the direction of any wave when it passes through materials with different density, and in this case, the hard foam core injected in the bar offers exactly that - a second body of very different density in contact with the main aluminum tube. Externally there are no clues of course, as the Vibrocore "magic" all happens inside, but the bar does have a different sound to it when you tap it. What would the story be on the trail?

In regards to installation, the Spike 800 installs like any other alloy bar, remove the faceplate of the stem, position the bar to whatever roll angle you prefer, torque the faceplate bolts back to spec and position all your controls. Trail time!

On The Trail

Coming directly off the Renthal Fatbar, perhaps one of the stiffest bar on the market, we noticed a few things right off the bat. The Spike 800 is still a pretty stiff bar, but our hands didn’t feel too beat up after long lift/shuttle days on the hill. The on-trail feel wasn’t vastly different to a traditional bar, but our hands were telling us something else was going on at the end of the day.

Our local hill features a few runs that average 7 to 10-minutes top to bottom. We noticed that only towards the end of the day did we start to feel a little arm pump, which is an improvement on our usual condition. Now, although the testing didn't take place in Whistler, with the only difference in our setup being the Spike 800 Race Vibrocore Handlebar, it does seem like the foam filling really helps.

In regards to the overall geometry, at 800mm this bar is wide. If you find yourself wanting to narrow things up a bit, Spike has some pre-labeled lengths etched on the bar telling you where to cut, and it can actually be reduced all the way down to 740mm. We opted to keep ours at full length for this test. The up- and back-sweep numbers felt good to us at 4 and 8-degrees, respectively. We rode the 30mm rise option which was perfect for our set-up, but know that a 15mm rise version is also available to allow you to tune in your handlebar height the way you prefer it.

Long Term Durability

With no major crashes or tree-hugging incidents whilst testing the Spike 800, we can’t comment on durability beyond saying the bar held up fine under one of our bigger test riders. What we can say towards long term durability regarding any handlebar though, is we replace them often, because if we actually pushed a bar to the end of its life, we’d be putting our own life in danger.

Things That Could Be Improved

There can always be improvements in our industry, but we can’t think of any for this product… I guess that’s why we’re not all product engineers. Maybe some color options can be made available in the future, and at some point, Spank might consider jumping on the 35mm diameter trend, if nothing else to make sure they have a compatible bar for people already invested in the new standard. Then again, Spank's founder, Gavin Vos, first introduced the 31.8mm standard to the industry years ago.

What’s The Bottom Line?

At 800mm wide and 335-grams, these bars are heavier than most high-end carbon options but they come in at just about half the price. Moreover, at just $99, you still get some of that carbon bar “feel” at the cost of an alloy handlebar. Price and weight aside, the highlight in our experience was the Vibrocore feature. Hand fatigue and arm pump can a big bummer for some, especially on bike trips where you’re putting in long days, one after the other. Being able to reduce fatigue and arm pump could be huge for the riders who have to deal with it. For those who don’t have to deal with those issues, the carbon “feel” of this bar for the price of an alloy bar alone makes it a cockpit option definitely worth checking out.

For more information, stay tuned to www.spank-ind.com.

Buy Spank Spike 800 Race Vibrocore Handlebar from Jenson USA

Buy Spank Spike 800 Race Vibrocore Handlebar from Chain Reaction Cycles


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 Biknd Jetpack Bike Travel Bag 10/25/2014 9:33 AM
C138_biknd_jetpack

Tested: Biknd Jetpack Travel Bag

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Brandon Turman

Most people will agree, it's always a bit of a hassle to fly with your bike. Back in the day I used to break my bike down into two separate wheel boxes, which involved separating the front and rear triangle and pretty much dismantling the entire bike; the whole ordeal made me dread having to fly with my bike. Enter Biknd's Jetpack, built to simplify your life and make air travel safer for your bike. With another Whistler trip in the works, we took the opportunity to see if flying with your bike could actually be turned into a more enjoyable experience.


Jetpack Highlights

  • Robust air protection, heavy duty plastic and foam materials
  • Accessible 360° opening
  • Authorized by TSA for air travel
  • Folds easily for convenient storage
  • Compatible with mountain bikes (also compatible with triathlon bikes with integrated seat-posts)
  • Hard rigid base
  • Weight: 8kg/17.6-pounds
  • MSRP: $449.95 USD

Initial Impressions

The Jetpack arrives pretty compactly packed for how big it is. Since the sides are foldable it shrinks down to about 15'x15'x50' for storage when it's not being used. The Jetpack uses a rigid beam down the inside-bottom of the bag to which you fix your front and rear axles as well as inflatable padding on each side of your bike to keep it from being crushed, squished or otherwise damaged in transit. While unfolding the pack we noticed a handy little pouch that can be velcro'd to the beam and contains a set of allen wrenches with plenty of extra room to hold whatever small tools you want to bring along. The side flaps, padding and general materials that compose the pack look and feel rugged, sturdy and ready for the meanest of baggage handlers.

On The Plane

When it comes time to actually pack the bike, you have to start by setting up the Jetpack bike case itself. The Jetpack comes with multiple rear and front axle mounting inserts which cover pretty much every available bike setup we can think of. Since we were packing our DH bike we used the 20mm front and 12x150 rear setup. Installation was a breeze as the inserts just press in by hand.

To get the bike ready, we had to remove both wheels, the pedals, and our stem/handlebar assembly. Leaving the rotors on you attach the wheels to the side flaps which sandwiches them between an air pad on the outside and a foam pad that will keep your frame and wheels from damaging each other. Then you remove the whole bar/stem assembly and fix it to your frame with a velcro pad and strap. This doesn't require you to undo any of your cables or alter your bar setup at all; pretty handy for those who are particular with their setup and don't want to mess with handlebar rotation and lever angles and such.

For this test we used a size large Scott Gambler. This bike is long and slack and in order for the axles to line up with the Jetpack's axle mounts we had to let the air out of the fork to shorten the wheelbase. Having an air-sprung fork we would have done this regardless, but if you have a long wheelbase and a coil-sprung fork, you should note that you may have to remove your fork's spring.

Once we mounted the frame in the box with all the tools and other odds and ends we wanted to bring, we stuffed the remaining space with our riding clothes, pads and shoes and the whole package came in at about 70-pounds (our Gambler weighs in at about 37-pounds).

On the clock, packing the bike the first time around took close to an hour, but after we figured out what goes where and how to do it best we got our time down to 23 minutes, not too shabby. Travel fees varied depending on which airline we chose, the highest being $150 each way and lowest being $50.

The Jetpack comes with wheels on one side and a handle on the other to aid in dragging it around the airport and to your hotel. A very necessary and useful feature which avoids having to rent luggage carts and/or manhandle this box around.

Long Term Durability

After four flights now, our bike and the Jetpack have both come away completely unscathed from the rigors of air travel, which says a lot if you've ever seen how some of the baggage handlers toss your luggage around and how many cardboard bike boxes have been destroyed by those dudes. Our bike fared the same each time we flew with it, which is to say we found it exactly how we left it (with the addition of the “TSA snooped your gear” note).

Things That Could Be Improved

The Jetpack does what it's supposed to do, we have no complaints nor general improvements we can think of. Although at $449.95 the Jetpack is on par with most of its real competition pricing wise, it is still a hefty sum of money for a piece of luggage and that might send some riders searching for a cheaper alternative (of which there are quite a few).

What's The Bottom Line?

Packing is as simple as removing your wheels, pedals, bars, and possibly your fork's spring if you have a long bike. After you figure out how everything you want to bring fits, it only takes about a half-hour to get it all together. Frequent bike flyers will appreciate the ease and convenience, plus the peace of mind which takes the sting out of the price tag a little. Overall, we are definitely impressed with the Jetpack and despite the crying baby in our row and the dude in front of us with his seat at full recline, we're zen and in the zone knowing that at least our bike is stowed safely below.

Visit www.Biknd.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 Spy Optic Omen MX Goggles 10/10/2014 9:51 PM
C138_spy_optic_omen_mx_goggles_happy_20th_anniversary_frame_happy_bronze_with_silver_mirror_lens

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
C50_imag1110

Remi THIRION 3:22.13
Rachel ATHERTON 3:49.50

0 0 0

This feature has 564 comments.

Added a comment about product review Tested: Seven iDP Control Knee 9/3/2014 5:52 PM
C50_imag1110

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.

0 0 0

This product_review has 3 comments.

Added bike check Scott Gambler Raw 8/30/2014 2:10 PM
C138_dsc5307
Added a product review for 7iDP Control Knee Pad 8/30/2014 12:29 PM
C138_k_control_f

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 3 reviews

Added a product review for Guerrilla Gravity Gravity 1 Wheelset 5/8/2014 1:03 AM
C138_guerrilla_gravity_gravity_1_wheelset

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