4li2k73z Share your Vital activity on Facebook (More info)
close
Added a product review for Gamut Trail SXC Chainguide 3/17/2014 3:09 PM
C138_gamut_trail_sxc_chainguide

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
C50_imag1110

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.

0 0 0

This product_review has 6 comments.

Added a new photo album Bikes 2/26/2014 3:03 PM
C138_gambler
  • C48_gambler

This photo album has no comments yet

Added a product review for Alex Rims Supra30 Rim 2/20/2014 10:12 PM
C138_alex_supra30_rim

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.

This product has 1 review

Liked a bike check Very Bright Intense 951 EVO 1/30/2014 3:36 PM
C138_img_4651
prestondh left a comment 12/20/2013 10:19 AM
C50
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
C138_bontrager_xr4_team_issue_tire

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
C138x104

Whoa

0 0 0

This video has 25 comments.

Added a comment about product review Tested: Magura MT8 Disc Brakes 11/19/2013 11:31 AM
C50_imag1110

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.

0 0 0

This product_review has 4 comments.

Added a product review for Magura MT8 Disc Brake 11/18/2013 9:10 AM
C138_magura_mt8_disc_brake

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

Added a product review for Bontrager Rhythm Pro TLR Disc 27.5/650b Complete Wheelset 11/18/2013 8:55 AM
C138_650b_complete_wheels

Tested: Bontrager Rhythm Pro TLR 27.5 Wheelset

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Ian Collins

Bontrager has impressed us lately with the newer crop of components we've had the chance to test. So, when asked to give the new Rhythm Pro TRL wheelset a spin, we jumped on the opportunity. Featuring carbon hoops and Rapid Drive hubs for a total weight of only 1585 grams for the 27.5 wheelset, we wondered if Bontrager's claim of “ripping technical trail ascents while handing the nastiest descents” would turn out to be too good to be true. Could such a light wheelset really handle the rigors of aggressive all-mountan and Enduro riding?

Rhythm Pro TLR Disc 27.5 Wheelset Highlights

  • OCLV Carbon
  • Rapid Drive: 7 degree engagement hub design
  • Stacked Lacing: Provides a better spoke bracing angle for a stiffer wheel
  • TLR: TubeLess Ready system allows for quick transition from traditional tubed tires to tubeless
  • OSB: Offset Spoke Bed reduces wheel dish, improving stiffness and stability
  • Interchangeable Axles: compatibility with more frames and forks
  • Construction: Carbon Rim (29mm outer, 22.5mm inner width), 3-pawl drive system, 28 front/rear DT nail head 14/15G spokes with Alpina alloy locking nipples
  • Compatibility: 6 bolt ISO disc, 135/142 OLD rear QR/15 OLD front, Shimano/SRAM 10spd, and SRAM XD 11spd (freehub sold separately)
  • Included parts: Bontrager TLR strip, TLR valve, interchangeable axle parts
  • No rider weight restrictions
  • Weight: 3 lb 7.2 oz (1585 grams)
  • MSRP: $2199.98

Initial Impressions

The Bontrager Rhythm Pros look solid right out of the box. The inner rim width is almost as wide as some DH rims out there, measuring in at 22.5mm which helps provide a nice tire profile when paired with wider 2.3-2.5 inch tires. Naturally, at a (claimed) weight of 1585g for the set they felt fairly light as well.

Moving on to the heart of the wheels, Bontrager has definitely stepped their hub game up with sharp looking, oversized hubs featuring straight-pull spoke flanges and quick engagement in the rear. Bontrager's "Rapid Drive" freehub is based on a 3-pawl, 54-tooth ratchet system that provides less than 7 degrees engagement. The freehub sits on a central bearing which has been pressed into the hub shell, while the axle is also supported by a bearing on either side. The freehub is easy to remove for service, or to replace with the optional XD-driver should you move to SRAM's XX1/X01 drive train. The wheels are laced up with DT Swiss straight-pull double-butted spokes and Alpina alloy nipples. This all adds up to one promising looking wheelset that should be ready to rumble on the trail.

Setting up the Rhythm Pro wheels was straightforward. Included with the wheelset are Bontrager's TLR (TubeLess Ready) rim-strip and TLR valve which make converting the wheels to tubeless a breeze. Whilst the wheels feature an Offset Spoke Bed (which helps reduce the dish in addition to providing a straighter spoke interface), the rim channel itself is still symmetric, so the rim strip goes in either way. We went on to mount up Bontrager's XR4 tires, which with the help of a little sealant we were able to get seated with just a floor pump; no need for a compressor. Spoke tension out of the box was good, and the wheels were as true as they come. Time to hit the trails.

On The Trail

Already coming off a stiff, light, fast engaging and so far durable wheelset, the Rhythm Pro wheels were up against some solid competition. At 7 degrees, the engagement offered by the Bontrager hub is on-par with some of the other high-end hubs out there. For example compared to Chris King hubs, the very slight decrease in engagement points was hardly noticeable at all. Beyond the on-trail advantage of a quick engaging hub, Bontrager's Rapid Drive 3-pawl system makes a nice, loud but not overbearing “bzzzzzzz” sound when coasting.

For a lightweight wheelset, the Rhythm Pros handled surprisingly well during hard cornering. They were snappy and stiff, tracked well, and behaved predictably around the breakaway point. Also, we noticed an increase in how well the bike accelerated and handled quick directional changes due to the decrease in rotational weight.

Bontrager went with DT Swiss double-butted spokes to hold together the Rhythm Pro wheelset. The combination of the stiff rim and these slightly more flexible spokes gives the wheels a nice balance. They handle rough trail sections without deflecting but they still feel solid in corners and hold a line well, including during braking or accelerating hard where winding up or flexing spokes could be an issue. The straight-pull double-butted spokes should also be less prone to breaking than traditional J-bend straight-gauge spokes.

Long Term Durability

With no rider weight restrictions and the Rhythm Pro wheelset being toted as “Enduro-specialist” by Bontrager, it's fair to assume these wheels will see some abuse by a wide range of riders. We took these wheels down some of the fastest and roughest trails we have at our disposal with every intention of trying to destroy them. So far, the Rhythm Pro's have proven strong, resilient, and have handled everything we've thrown at them with ease. We ran 32psi rear and 27psi front during testing which kept most rock pings at bay, but we were still happy to find the rims dent-free after many runs and as solid as on day one. In the end we did have to true the rear wheel once due to a bad landing that resulted in a pretty big crash off a drop, which is still a good result for a sub-1600g wheelset. In summary, these wheels are among the lighter Enduro specific wheels available and they still handed everything we put them through with poise - we have no reservations trusting these wheels to get the job done for everything except proper DH.

Things That Could Be Improved

The only real gripe we had with the Rhythm Pro wheels was when it came time to dismount the tires. While the tires went on the rims without the need for tire levers, pulling them off was next to impossible. The TLR strip Bontrager provides with the wheelset has a lip that sits behind the bead in order to lock it against the outer portion of the rim. This inner bead-lock is probably what makes it so difficult to break the seal. While this is probably a blessing for riders prone to rolling tubeless tires off the rim, it makes it extremely difficult to remove the tire in the event of a flat. It took us nearly an hour of working the tire to finally remove it. Also, one could argue that a plastic rim strip has no business showing up on a wheel at this price point - there should be a way to provide the required bead-lock shape in the rim profile itself which would then allow the rim to be sealed with standard rim tape.

What's The Bottom Line?

What goes up must come down, and the Bontrager Rhythm Pro TLR wheelset wont slow you down in either direction. These wheels have proven themselves strong, stiff and durable despite their relative light weight. Tubeless ready, with a wide profile rim and fast-engaging hub to boot, there's not too much more you can ask for from an Enduro-specific wheelset. With tire changes being the only real area of concern on the Rhythm Pro TLR, we feel it is a more than solid choice for your trail bike - if you are willing to accept the hefty price tag that still comes with carbon rim territory, that is. At the same time, it is of course always possible to build wheels based on aluminum rims and faster engaging hubs for considerably less money, some of which may end up with quite similar weight and overall performance characteristics.

For more from Bontrager, 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 1 review

Added a product review for Bontrager G2 Tire 10/6/2013 6:44 PM
C138_bontrager_g2

Tested: Bontrager G2 Team Issue Tires

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Ian Collins

When the Trek World Racing Team requested a fast, downhill specific tire for hardpack courses like Sea Otter, Bontrager answered with the G2 Team Issue tire. With an almost semi-slick profile, ramped center knobs and some meaty, somewhat familiar looking side knobs, Bontrager's aim was clearly a fast rolling tire that doesn't sacrifice cornering traction. Does it deliver? We snatched a set to find out.

G2 Team Issue Tire Highlights

  • 26x2.20-inches
  • Fast rolling, low-knob gravity tire
  • Designed to excel in hard pack conditions
  • Dual-ply casing
  • Low rolling resistance downhill compound
  • Wire bead
  • Weight: 1,100 grams
  • MSRP: $69.99

First, we'd like to applaud Bontrager for publishing accurate measurements and weights. Mounted to a Mavic EX823 rim and measured at the side-knobs and actual carcass, the tire measures exactly 2.2-inches wide. Claimed weight was also as advertised, coming in at 1,100 grams on the button. That's not often the case in the tire realm.

On The Trail

We have to admit, coming off a set of meaty downhill tires, we were reluctant to run this tire up front and in the rear right off the bat. As a result, we mounted it up as a rear tire only to start things off. Southern California seemed like an appropriate place to test them, with mostly loose over hardpack conditions during the Summer months.

When you first put these tires on, it's immediately obvious that the G2 rolls fast. Really fast. So much so that the decrease in rolling resistance is notable with just the rear swapped out. Often times one gives up traction in the name of rolling speed, but given the conditions this tire was designed for, rear braking traction is usually minimal regardless of tire type. The decrease in braking traction is actually hardly noticeable with the G2 mounted out back only, andhandling doesn't really suffer.

After building up some confidence in the G2 and learning how it behaves as a rear tire, it was time to test it as a front tire as well. When mounted on both wheels, the bike picks up speed much faster and holds it for longer - so much so that we have to brake check between jumps normally hit with no braking between lips. It's that fast. While the increased speed is certainly welcome, the bike's handling suffers as braking traction decreases significantly with the G2 up front. This is especially true in steep sections with loose silt or sand over hardpack. Both the front and rear tire loose traction with fairly light braking in these situations, which can lead to some pretty sketchy moments. That's to be expected with a nearly semi-slick design, however.

When it comes to cornering, traction up front isn't bad, although it takes some time and commitment to get used to not having transitional knobs. Once you get brave, get your weight over the front end and really lean the bike over, the G2 digs into turns well and the side knobs offer good support. Even so, we never felt fully confident in corners with it on the front of the bike.

At 2.2-inches wide, the relatively low volume tire raises concerns about pinch flats and potential rim damage. Luckily those concerns have yet to come to fruition on the trail. While the G2 seems to be a bit less forgiving than a larger volume tire, we've yet to have any issues or failures due to its size. We've pinged the rim a few times in rocky sections that a 2.4 or 2.5-inch wide tire typically has no issues in, but there has been no damage to the rims so far and we've never flatted.

Long Term Durability

With dozens of days shuttling and a handful in the bike park, the tires are holding up well. No side knobs have torn off and there isn't any excessive tread wear in the center. They seem to be on par with some of the other single/harder compound tires on the market.

What's The Bottom Line?

Fontana and Sea Otter racers rejoice, Bontrager's G2 Team Issue tire was taylor made for you. Featuring some meaty side knobs to help retain traction in the corners and a fast rolling center, it'll get you rolling quickly to the finish line. Elite level racers will truly appreciate this one on fast, hardpack tracks, and it is definitely something to add to your race day arsenal. Just be on your toes when you're cooking at Mach 10 into flat turns. The average Joe, however, will be best suited with the G2 as a rear tire paired with something a bit meatier up front. For many, the loss of braking traction and confidence in the turns when run both front and rear won't be worth the increase in rolling speed. Deep down we all love going really fast, but for the large majority of us controlling that speed is still the name of the game.

For more details on Bontrager's ever growing tire lineup, 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 1 review

Added a product review for 9point8 Pulse Stepper Seatpost 10/3/2013 9:47 AM
C138_the_pulse_stepper_seatpost

Tested: 9point8 Pulse Stepper Seatpost

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Ian Collins

With trail, all-mountain, and enduro riding progressing over the past couple of years, innovations like the dropper post have become a standard on an increasing number of bikes. With the demand high, dropper post manufactures have approached the problem of a bike designed for both climbing and descending in a number of ways. This makes your adjustable post choice a difficult one as there are quite a few viable options on the market. 9point8, a new company based in Ontario, might stir the pot a bit when the time comes to make that decision.

We were intrigued when 9point8's first product, "The Pulse," was introduced in May. Featuring a unique "Stepper" design that allows you to drop the saddle height by 5mm increments or more at a time and a brake-like remote lever, the post certainly stands out from the crowd. Several months and hundreds of test miles later, it's time for us to weigh in on their design.

The Pulse Stepper Post Highlights

  • 100mm of stroke with steps in 5mm increments, or drop the post partially or fully any time
  • Dual-function trigger allows selection of infinite-adjust mode or stepping mode
  • Cable actuated with hydraulic internals for smooth operation
  • Convertible between inline and offset configurations (with purchase of conversion kit)
  • Install / remove the trigger without removing grips or controls
  • Rotational, vertical, fore-aft, and left-right anti-backlash design
  • Independent adjustment of the seat angle and seat fore/aft position
  • Micro-adjustable seat angle
  • Sealed to keep the fluids in and the elements out
  • Available in 30.9 and 31.6mm diameters
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • Weight: 680 grams
  • MSRP: $499

Initial Impressions

The first thing we noted about the Pulse was its packaging, and that isn't something we often comment about.

It's clear 9point8 spent a considerable amount of time designing the packaging. The box itself is triangular instead of rectangular which helps reduce the amount of cardboard. The shape aids in reducing shipping area taken up in transit. The seatpost is safe and secure without the use of styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Finally, the whole package is held together by recycled rubber-bands made of old bicycle tubes. While all this obviously doesn't have anything to do with the performance of the post, it does show 9point8's commitment to reducing their environmental impact. It also shows an innovation and consideration often left out in the mountain biking world, which is something we as riders pushing to keep nature and open space trails accessible to us should appreciate.

Installation was super easy since the Pulse uses standard 4mm stainless steel cable and 4mm derailleur cable housing. There's no need to bleed the line and you can cut the housing to your desired length for a clean-looking setup. The cable attaches to the saddle clamp directly under the saddle. While that might not be the cleanest looking design, it does in-fact make installation easier, particularly when you get into internally routed posts that require a bleed. Another nice feature of the post is the independent adjustment of seat angle and fore/aft position - you can alter one without having to worry about the other.

You will notice a slight bit of side-to-side rotation with this post after you install the saddle, though this never translated to anything noticeable on the trail. No up and down or other play was felt, however. It should also be noted that you can pick the bike up by the saddle and the post will not extend as a result.

The lever mounted nicely over the Avid brakes we were running, but you if you're using brakes like Shimano or Hope that have the reservoir on top of the lever, you might have to mount the Pulse lever a little higher than we have ours. Should you have issues dialing in your post, 9point8 handily laser-etched a QR code which pulls up the product manual and installation guide on your smartphone when scanned.

On The Trail

So far the Pulse has offered solid operation of a historically poor performing component. Some standout features with the Pulse are its 5mm drop increments vs. the typical infinitely-adjustable post, a limited lifetime warranty on an often fussy component, and the ability to change the post from set-back to standard without having to buy a whole new post - a first for droppers.

Here's a quick overview of how it works, courtesy of 9point8:

The actual action of dropping the post is pretty intuitive. You can remain seated while pulling the lever in partially to drop the saddle in 5mm steps. If you don't like the idea of dropping it 5mm at a time, you can just pull the lever a bit more and use it like a traditional post. To raise the saddle, simply stand and pull the lever. It can also be raised in 5mm increments if you only need a slight boost.

If you choose to utilize what's arguably the Pulse's key selling point, the 5mm steps, you might notice some advantages not present in other posts. We'll admit, when first reading about the Pulse we had our doubts and thought it a bit gimmicky, but the 5mm drop is actually a very useful feature. Being able to repeatably position your saddle at different heights eliminates the frustration of bobbing up and down on your post trying to find the exact height you're looking for. Similar to FOX's CTD philosophy on their DOSS post, in which you have three defined post heights, you get that same functionality out of the Pulse. Instead of being limited to three you have 20 different positions that are as easy to find as selecting a gear on your cassette. To be fair, we didn't use all 20 available positions once we found a few preferred positions. Since everyone will have slightly different preferences, the small increments of adjustability is nice verses being limited to only three positions. It's nice to be able to find your exact middle post height setting by just remembering how many times to pull the lever, and technical climbing is much easier with 5 or 10mm of drop.

While you can raise the saddle using the shorter, half lever pull (also used to step the post down 5mm), we found the post to extend a tiny bit slower and with some resistance and even some noise. When you use a full lever pull, the noise isn't present and the return action is fast and smooth.

The lever itself was a worry when first checking the post out. It's shaped like a standard brake lever, but smaller, and mounts directly over your brake on whatever side of the bars you prefer. A few Vital MTB readers showed concern about having to remove your braking finger to adjust the post, but this actually never really presented itself as a problem when putting in saddle time. If you can anticipate a gear shift before a speed robbing corner, or if you remember riding older Shimano triggers which required your index finger to shift into higher gears, you'll be fine having to remove your braking finger for a quick second to adjust your post.

Long Term Durability

So far so good. After a few months of testing the post is no worse for wear. There's no weeping or leaking from the seal, it hasn't developed excess rotation, and the spring/cartridge still functions as designed. At 250-pounds, I tend to abuse dropper posts more than your average rider. So far I've yet to blow this one, and if I ever do blow it up, it sounds like 9point8 stands behind their product with the warranty offered with this post. The Pulse is also user serviceable and 9Point8 offers a rebuild kit including bushings, seals, and wipers needed to service the post.

Things That Could Be Improved

We have four minor gripes with the Pulse:

  • We wish the cable mount was stationary at either the bottom of the post for an all internal routing option, or on the lower portion of the post to avoid the cable loop out back behind the saddle.
  • A 5-inch travel option would be awesome. There were a few moments where an extra inch of drop would have been nice.
  • We're still wanting an option to change the remote lever to thumb actuation. While 9point8 said they tested both thumb and index options and feel the design they chose to be the most beneficial, it would still be nice to have thumb actuation as an option.
  • One disadvantage of the lever design is its rather thin lever blade. This was done to keep the lever as compact as possible, but after long rides it did get a bit annoying having to pull the relatively sharp lever. Perhaps designing the lever a bit more ergonomically would make it more comfortable on long rides.

Thankfully these aren't deal breakers in our opinion, but rather luxury add-ons to an already solid and well performing component.

While the improvements mentioned above may not be deal breakers, the Pulse's high price tag and weight may be. At $499 MSRP, this post might be the most expensive on the market - then again, no one else offers a lifetime warranty. It's also one of the heaviest at 680 grams.

What's The Bottom Line?

9point8's unique Pulse seatpost provides the ability to achieve a number of different, repeatable saddle heights that makes finding your preferred levels for most situations fast and precise; this is a feature that surprised us with its usefulness. The limited lifetime warranty is good peace of mind when you're spending a lot of money on what is typically a problematic component. That said, the Pulse has proven to be reliable so far. We think 9point8's take on a dropper post, or rather "stepper post," is one of the more solid contenders on the market from a functionality and durability standpoint. With an additional inch of travel, fixed cable position, revised lever, and lower weight it would receive top marks in our book.

For more information or to order The Pulse, visit www.9point8.ca.


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. Currently, he is a student at UCSD and a wrench at a local bike shop.

This product has 1 review

Added a comment about feature Win a RockShox Vivid Rear Shock - Vital OTB Leogang 9/21/2013 7:43 AM
C50_imag1110

Steve Smith 3:24.462
Rachel Atherton 3:51.042

0 0 0

This feature has 269 comments.

Added a comment about feature SPY SHOT! Prototype Specialized DH Bike 8/8/2013 10:25 PM
C50_imag1110

27.5?

0 0 0

This feature has 27 comments.

Liked a comment on the item RESULTS: Aaron Gwin, Jill Kintner Earn 2013 U.S. National Championship Downhill Victories 8/5/2013 2:27 PM

2 of the best photographers in the country covering the event is our investment. placement on the...

Liked a comment on the item RESULTS: Aaron Gwin, Jill Kintner Earn 2013 U.S. National Championship Downhill Victories 8/5/2013 2:26 PM

No excuses! I want a PONY!!!

Liked a comment on the item RESULTS: Aaron Gwin, Jill Kintner Earn 2013 U.S. National Championship Downhill Victories 8/5/2013 2:26 PM

gravity pirates, where you there?

if so you would have been aware at the complete lack of...

Added a comment about video An Afternoon with Lucas Cowan 7/9/2013 4:29 PM
C138x104

Cowman killin it!

0 0 0

This video has 3 comments.