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dhgnar's Product Reviews

Added a product review for Spank Spike 800 Race Vibrocore Alloy Riser Handlebar 11/24/2014 8:28 PM
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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
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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
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Tested: Spy Optic Omen MX Goggles

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Matt Puzel

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

Omen MX Goggle Highlights

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

Initial Impressions

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

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

On The Trail

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

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

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

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

Things That Could Be Improved

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

Long Term Durability

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

What's The Bottom Line?

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

Visit www.spyoptic.comfor more details.


About The Reviewer

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

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for 7iDP Control Knee Pad 8/30/2014 12:29 PM
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Tested: Seven iDP Control Knee

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Matt Puzel

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

Seven iDP Control Knee Highlights

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

Initial impressions

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

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

On The Trail

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

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

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

Things That Could Be Improved

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

Long Term Durability

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

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

What's The Bottom Line?

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

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


About The Reviewer

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

This product has 1 review.

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

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Ian Collins

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

Gravity 1 Wheelset Highlights

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

Initial Impressions

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

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

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

On The Trail

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

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

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

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

Long Term Durability

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

Things That Could Be Improved

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

What's The Bottom Line?

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

Visit www.ridegg.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

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

This product has 1 review.

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

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Ian Collins

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

Initial Impressions

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

Manitou Mattoc Pro Highlights

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

On The Trail

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

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

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

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

Long Term Durability

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

Things That Could Be Improved

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

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

What's The Bottom Line?

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

Visit www.manitoumtb.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

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

This product has 1 review.

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

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Ian Collins

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

Gamut Trail SXC Guide Highlights

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

Initial Impressions

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

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

On The Trail

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

Long Term Durability

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

Things That Could Be Improved

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

What's The Bottom Line?

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

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

Visit www.gamutusa.com for more information.


About The Reviewer

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

This product has 1 review.

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

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Ian Collins

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

Supra30 Rim Highlights

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

Initial Impressions

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

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

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

On The Trail

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

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

Long Term Durability

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

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

Things That Could Be Improved

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

What's The Bottom Line?

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

Visit www.alexrims.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

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

This product has 1 review.

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 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_wheel_front

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
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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
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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 product review for Look S-Track Clipless Pedals 6/24/2013 8:33 PM
C138_s_track_f

Tested: Look S-Track Clipless Pedals

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Ian Collins

When it comes to clipless mountain bike pedals, Look might not be the first brand you think of (at least it wasn't in our case), but that might change soon with the Look S-Track pedal. Look has solid reputation for their high-end, quality products, and the S-Track pedals follow suit nicely. They're versatile, adjustable, and clean-looking. Boasting a weight of 320 grams per pair, including cleats and screws, these pedals are light as well. Their sleek design is simple yet thoughtful, with composite deflectors under the cleat to minimize strike damage and hang-ups. Optional composite S-Track Cages increase the pedal surface area to get that flat pedal-like feel many of us desire.

S-Track Pedal Highlights

  • Composite body and deflectors
  • 460 mm² of surface area (870 mm² with the addition of the S-Track Cages)
  • Largest bearing surface on the market for maximum power transfer (claimed)
  • Optional removable cage design for increased flexibility (additional 74 grams per pair)
  • Patented spring-wire system functions under torsion
  • Optimum mud evacuation with the DCS (Dynamic Cleat System)
  • Chromoly spindle
  • 2 ball bearings, 1 IGUS bushing
  • ± 3-degrees float
  • 15-degree release angle
  • Weight: 142 grams per pedal
  • MSRP $109.99 (plus $49.99 for optional cages)

Perhaps Look's biggest selling point is the large "double surface area" offered by the S-Track pedals. The cleats have elastomer pads on both sides which protrude beyond the metal portion of the cleat itself, allowing the cleats and the pedal body to contact in two areas under the spring.The pedals come with three shims of various thicknesses (0.5, 1, and 2mm) that slide under the the cleat, allowing you to dial in the right amount of contact. What does this all mean? It means the Look S-Track pedals offer the most contact surface area on the market which is supposed to aid in power transfer and increase comfort.

With the addition of the S-Track carbon cages (right), the pedal contact surface-area goes up to 870 mm² from 460 mm², a huge gain.

Setting up the shim and cleat system was fairly easy, but it does take some effort and trial and error to get it just right. By the end of the first ride, we were happy with the pedal feel.

On The Trail

With the S-Tracks setup properly, it was time to put some miles on them and see how well they would fair. Unlike Shimano's SPD system, the Look S-Track pedals do not offer adjustable spring tension, and are fixed at 8nm. They do, however, offer two different cleat sizes so they can be set up to ride very loose (beginners) or extremely firm (experienced riders). With the larger cleats installed, the amount of float was reasonable, not excessive, and we found the release point to be consistent and well-defined. We had only one instance where we unclipped unexpectedly, shortly after smashing into a rock.

Compared to the Shimano's pedals the S-Track pedals (with cage) offer a more stable feel. Clipping in and out is about the same, with a little more effort to clip out on the S-Track, likely due to the platform contacting the shoe. Compared to Crankbrothers' offerings, the Look pedals have far less float and feel much more stable. There is no slop during the pedal stroke.The pedals make an audible click when clipping in, and it's obvious when you're in. Two deflectors guide the cleat over the first spring and into the second one, aiding in quick engagement. The deflectors are replaceable should you break them.

We ran the carbon cages pretty much the whole time as they offered a more positive and stable feeling connection to the bike. As far as the “increased power transfer” Look boasts about due to the increased contact area, that's not something we felt on the trail to be honest. That said, the platform offered by the carbon cages made situations where you can't clip back in less hectic, allowing you to just ride it out without sliding around on the pedal.

We have yet to use them in a muddy environment, but other reports indicate that they shed mud very well.

Long Term Durability

Putting a carbon composite cage where it's definitely going to be hit by rocks often, and hard, makes one think the cages aren't going to last very long. Surprisingly they've held up to some aggressive riding and hard hits. While we wouldn't put them on a downhill bike, they're solid enough for aggressive trail riding and enduro use. For a big guy who pretends his 4-inch trail bike is actually a mini-downhill bike, the pedals have held up well to some heavy hammering with no bent axles or other ill effects.The springs feel just as firm as they did when new, and the cleats haven't worn prematurely.

One concern revolves around the elastomer pads on the cleats that make the “double surface area” system possible. These pads are quite soft and tend to break off in chucks after only a few rides, but Look has made them easily replaceable to account for this issue. We're testing a second set to see if they differ, and will report back with our findings later.

What's The Bottom Line?

We're fans. With the addition of the optional S-Track Cages, Look pretty much hit a home run with the S-Track pedals. They're lightweight, predictable, durable, comfortable, and versatile - all key qualities of a good pair of clips.

For more details, visit www.lookcycle.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. Currently, he is a student at UCSD and a wrench at a local bike shop.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for One Industries Enemy Knee Pads 6/24/2013 8:29 PM
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Tested: One Enemy Knee Guards

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Ian Collins

While the current trend among downhillers is minimal padding and trail riders are asking for more protection, knee guards/pads have staked their claim in both disciplines and are pretty much a staple now. Aside from helmets and gloves, knee guards are very likely the next most used piece of protection. The amount of protection can vary from knee guard to knee guard, which can make it hard to find a pad suitable for your specific application. As avid trail riders and downhillers, we're always on the hunt for that perfect pair of pads. Positioning themselves somewhere in the all-mountain/Enduro/DH spectrum, One Industries recently introduced the Enemy Knee Guards. At just $45 they looked very appealing, so we took to the dirt to find out how well they work on the trail and who they're best suited to.

Enemy Knee Pad Highlights

  • Impact protection thru removable polypropelene knee insert cap and integrate EVA foam
  • Uncompromised fit with pre-curved chassis
  • Abrasion resistance and durability with Ballistic Nylon chassis contruction
  • Stays secure with adjustable elastic straps and velcro closure
  • Pre-curved perforated Neoprene
  • CE EN 1621-1
  • Rubber 50%, EVA 20%, PP 9%, Nylon 12%, Polyester 9%
  • Sizes S, M, L, XL
  • MSRP $45

Initial Impressions

A quick inspection of the One Industries Enemy Knee Guards tells you that these are for the rider seeking minimalist protection. Coverage includes your kneecap with some extension above and below it - typical of a variety of similarly minimal pads.

The padding is made up of two distinct layers - a soft foam material that composes the base-layer of the pad that runs from top to bottom, and a thin but hard outer shell made of polypropylene (plastic) that centers over your kneecap for added impact protection. To give you an idea of how big the actual padded portion of the Enemy Knee Guard is, we measured it. From the center of the knee the pad extends 4.5-inches upwards, 7-inches down, and is a total of 7-inches wide (measured at the center). The pad itself is about a half-inch thick as well. All this is wrapped in an abrasion resistant Ballistic Nylon which is sewn to the elastic straps that secure the pad to you.

One Industries recommends the following sizing:

Measuring 20-inches at the thigh and 17-inches at the calf, we opted for the size Large guards.The fit was on the snug side, so consider sizing up if you're in the upper range of the recommended sizing.

On The Trail

Fortunately for you, we actually tested the level of protection offered by these pads a few times. Unfortunately for us, that level of protection wasn't quite as high as we would have liked. The One Enemy Knee Guards offer no protection on the sides of the knee, and even the padding over the knee proved to be less than ample in a few situations. They did still offer some level of protection with direct hits, stayed in place during most crashes, and did save some skin more than once, however.

We tested the Enemy Knee Guards while downhilling, trail riding, dirt jumping and on the pump track. This gave us a pretty good feel for overall fit, breathablilty and comfort. Despite being a bit snug and stiff, the fit was fine for pretty much all situations, including some rather hot and long trail rides. Unfortunately the pads don't breath super well, which proved to be a little hot for extended pedals and hike-a-bikes. Descending is definitely where they felt best since you hardly notice them on you.

Things That Could Be Improved

One Industries is headed in the right direction with the Enemy Knee Guards, but a few things need to be improved to make them a hit. If done right, adding side protection to the equation would hardly bulk things up or stiffen the pad further. As is, the guards seemed to give us false confidence. There are other guards on the market that utilize side padding and have proven to be just as comfortable and pedal-able. Perhaps a different foam material or thicker layer of polypropylene would also increase their effectiveness.

Additionally, we're a little confused why One Industries chose to use two different types of straps - a solid one-piece lower strap and velcro upper strap. Why they didn't choose to do velcro for both straps is a mystery, and it's a bit of a disappointment to have to remove your shoes to put these pads on. This often comes into play on trail rides when you pedal up then pad-up at the top before the descent.

What's The Bottom Line?

Knee pads and protection in general is difficult to review. Users want everything out of a pair of guards - lightweight, breathable, flexible, comfortable, and at the same time protective, tough, and secure. Unfortunately no pad out there can satisfy every one of these requirements perfectly, at least that we've found. Each pair has its strong points and weak points, determining which genre they're best suited to. The Enemy Knee Guards fall somewhere in-between the aggressive riding styles, but has yet to really settle in anywhere super well. It's a bit stiff and hot for trail, and a bit under-powered for true downhill protection. They might be a good choice for the racer type who likes minimal padding. Despite being a bit underwhelming protection-wise, they did soften the blow from direct impacts.

For more details, visit www.oneindustries.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. Currently, he is a student at UCSD and a wrench at a local bike shop.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Evil Bikes Undead Frame 5/7/2013 1:42 PM
C138_13_frame_undead_142

Tested: Evil Undead - Makes Faster Easier

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Reviewed by Fred Robinson // Photos by Ian Collins // Studio shots by Fanatik Bike Co.

After riding squishy bikes made out of aluminum down bumpy hills for several years, I had no real desire to try any other frame material for my downhill bike. I was happy with aluminum - no real complaints from me. That was until the day I saw a photo of a matte-black plastic Batmobile on two wheels and instantly thought to myself "I need that in my life, right now." There was nothing wrong with my current bike, it had modern geometry, bad ass suspension, and could ride faster than I ever could, but I just wanted to try something new all of a sudden, simply because the plastic bike looked so damn sexy. So I pulled the trigger on the Evil Undead. This review is coming from your typical, semi-slow... I mean Cat 1 level rider. I don't ride for anyone, I look up to dudes like Sam Hill and Steve Peat, and I like riding my bike down bumpy hills as fast as I possibly can.

Since I wasn't ready to drop the duckets for a complete new build, I ended up doing a complete parts swap from my other bike - same fork, same bars, same wheels - same everything except what for Evil supplies with the frame, including some trick integrated goodies like an adjustable headset, a chainstay guard, fork-bumpers that double as cable-guides and a slick integrated fender. As much as I'd like all new parts, swapping components has its advantages. I'm already used to everything and can really hone-in on how the frame handles and its unique characteristics versus an all-new setup.

Undead Highlights

  • High-pressure molded unidirectional carbon frame
  • 203mm (8-inches) rear travel
  • 9.5x3.0-inch FOX RC4 Kashima rear shock
  • Adjustable bottom bracket height via flip-chip linkage
  • Adjustable head angle via keyed-in Evil headset
  • DELTA suspension system with high-load spherical Enduro bearing
  • Integrated fork bumpers that double-duty as cable guides
  • Integrated removable downtube protector and shuttle guard
  • Integrated removable carbon rear fender
  • Rubber chainstay guard
  • Metal rotor, chain-ring, and chain-slap guards
  • Tapered headtube
  • 150mm x 12mm rear thru axle with replaceable rear dropouts
  • 83mm bottom-bracket with replaceable ISCG-05 tabs
  • Frame weight (size Medium with shock): 10.06-pounds (4.6kg)
  • MSRP $3,350

The Undead utilizes Dave Weagle's DELTA System (Dave's Extra Legitimate Travel Apparatus). Similar to DW's other linkage designs, the frame has a nice balance of pedaling performance and neutral braking, but I personally feel it handles the rough slightly better than some dw-link bikes I've ridden in the past. While quite similar to the aluminum Evil Revolt in terms of geometry, sizing, and suspension design, the Undead uses Evil's original non-floating shock design and a lower center of mass due to a flipped shock orientation. Evil also upgraded the linkage to a double-shear arrangement with a high-load spherical bearing in place of the Revolt's composite bushing system.

The DELTA system was designed to provide three different stages throughout the bike's travel. First, a supple beginning stroke. Second, a mid-stroke leverage ratio intended to provide as much traction as possible. Finally, a lower leverage rate at the end that ramps up to create a bottomless feel and help prevent harsh bottom-outs. These stages are achieved by the system's dual progressive leverage curve (progressive, near linear, then progressive again).

One advantage of the DELTA system is the ability to change the geometry of the bike via the flip-chips and not affect the leverage rate or suspension feel, so you can change the geometry of your bike and not have to re-tune your shock to get it back to where you like it. You can also rotate the integrated headset for further adjustments. For my size Large frame, stock geometry options include the following:

Steep/High: BB 14.1-inches // Head Angle 64.5-degrees // Wheelbase 46.32-inches // Chainstay: 17.2-inches
Steep/Low: BB 13.83-inches // Head Angle 64.0-degrees // Wheelbase 46.42-inches // Chainstay: 17.2-inches
Slack/High: BB 13.9-inches // Head Angle 63.5-degrees // Wheelbase 46.92-inches // Chainstay: 17.2-inches
Slack/Low: BB 13.7-inches // Head Angle 62.9-degrees // Wheelbase 47.01-inches // Chainstay: 17.2-inches

My measured numbers vary slightly, but they're in the same ballpark:

Slack/Low: BB 13.6-inches // Head Angle 62.3-degrees // Wheelbase 47.0-inches // Chainstay: 17.2-inches

Unfortunately information is limited regarding the carbon construction techniques used on the Undead. What we do know is it is built using high-pressure molded unidirectional carbon, and that Evil spent a long time tracking down the best factory to build it. The use of unidirectional carbon allows Evil to fine tune different areas of the frame as far as stiffness and flex. The rear triangle has some tuned-in flex which is supposed to allow the rear wheel to track the ground better under hard cornering - something you can't achieve to the same extent with aluminum constructed frames.

The bike-geek in me loves little dorky detail oriented stuff, so I appreciate some of the finer points on the frame. First of all, integrated fork-bumpers are awesome. Back in the day I owned a Sinister R9 that had integrated fork-bumpers and I thought “Why the F do no other bikes have these?!” Well, The Undead does, and as an added bonus they double as cable guides which help keep your front end nice and clean. Also, like a lot of downhillers, carbon comes with a little bit of extra concern for typical things that can go wrong like chain-slap, over tightening stuff, bending rotors or cranks, rock strikes etc. It looks like Evil took these things into account and integrated some simple, yet effective solutions. The addition of little metal guards on the inside of the stays prevents damage to your frame if you tag your rear rotor on a rock and bend it badly. They also included an integrated shuttle guard so you can throw the bike over a tailgate even if your bud forgot his shuttle-pad. Laser-etched directions on the hardware indicate if the bolt is reverse-threaded, which geo-setting your flip-chip is set to, and even what torque value to clamp your seatpost collar to. Simple things like that really bring the frame together.

By switching to carbon, Evil knocked 3-pounds of the weight off the aluminum Revolt, bringing the Undead down to just over 10-pounds. My build came in at a respectable 39.0-pounds. I tend to build a stout bike since stiffness and durability are important to me, and my choice of componentry reflects that.

Suspension Setup

I'm using a FOX DHX RC4, the stock shock for this frame, to do my testing. Evil recommends these settings as a baseline to begin your tuning. Note that all adjustments are from full open:

Preload: 1 turn // LSC: +8 // HSC: +10 // Rebound: +8 // Bottom Out: Open // Boost Valve: 130psi // Sag: 30% or 20-25mm

One thing I feel Evil overlooked with these settings is the need for a different rebound setting for varying spring weights. Evil recommends 8 clicks of rebound from full open regardless of spring weight. This will give different sized riders different rebound speeds. At 250-pounds geared up, I'm bigger than your average downhill rider so right off the bat I knew I'd have to dial in more rebound damping than recommended to compensate for my 550-pound spring weight. I also chose to deviate from the stock shock preload settings by running a bit more than recommended since I personally prefer a slightly stiffer setup and tend to run less sag than the typical 33%. High-speed and low-speed compression started at Evil's guidelines as well as my bottom-out adjustment and boost pressure, but after a few weeks on the bike and dialing it in for my tastes I ended up adding a bit more boost pressure and low-speed compression.

My DHX RC4 settings are:

Preload: 1 turn // LSC: +11 // HSC: +10 // Rebound: +12 // Bottom-Out: Open // Boost Valve: 150psi // Sag: 28%

On The Trail

I've yet to find a major pit-fall in the base suspension setting suggested by Evil and slightly tweaked to my taste. Pedaling, after adding some LSC to the recommended settings, was on par with some of the best pedaling DH bikes on the market - there's no excessive bob and the bike accelerates quickly. Something to note when sprinting is you will feel the stiffness of the carbon main triangle. There's a weird yet subtle rigidity between the cranks and the bars you can feel that I hadn't experienced prior to riding this bike. This was actually the first thing I noticed about the frame since there's a decent sprint into the local trail where I first rode the bike.

The next thing I noticed about the Undead is how it handled in corners. There is some flex in the rear-triangle of the frame, which initially concerned me since I am a bigger guy and any noodly feeling is amplified to me because of that. But, remarkably, I didn't notice that flex in corners. What I did notice is that the rear wheel didn't break loose as quickly as when I was riding a stiffer bike on the same trails. If this is an actual advantage, I don't know, but I can say it changes your cornering approach - you can come in a little hotter and lean it a bit harder.

Another thing to note about the bike's handling is how stable it is. Recovery out of corners, off drops/jumps, and in rough sections is superb - I can't really stress the stability enough. It doesn't wallow in hard cornering when paired with proper shock setup and is hard to unsettle which allows for more control and faster riding in my experience.

I'd read the Undead got its name from the shaky history Evil has had, their struggle to stay afloat, and their resurgence since. While that's a suiting story, the name also reflects the overall suspension characteristics of the bike. It has a very active feel and rides surprisingly lively. The bike is kind of a happy medium between a plow bike and a super playful/poppy bike. It handles successive mid-level hits very well, is firm but recovers quickly from harder hits and square-edge hits, and is easy to get off the ground to pop over things. I found myself jumping sections I'd normally stay planted on but at the same time was able to hold a line and go for it in rough sections where jumping or popping off something wasn't an option. That may sound almost contradictory, a bike that loves popping off stuff but can point and shoot as well, but that's why I say a happy medium between a plow-bike and a super poppy bike as it falls right in-between both extremes.

Oh, I forgot to mention, the bike is quiet - stupid quiet, but only after a few key applications of M3 Mastic tape to some otherwise noisy areas. The chain was making a lot of noise bouncing off the metal guards on the frame. Covering them with some mastic tape quieted it right up. It's also worth mentioning that the chainstay guard alone isn't enough to protect the stays from chain slap, and the underside of the seatstays need some kind of protection too. After adding mastic tape to both these areas the bike is dead quiet.

Things That Could Be Improved

The front mounting bolt on the rear shock is sleeved steel hardware while the rear bolt is aluminum and threads directly into the frame. I'm not a fan of aluminum shock hardware, at all, nor do I think putting threads to such a bolt directly into the frame is a good idea. Time will tell if this is the Achilles' heel of the frame. It's holding up well so far and hardware problems tend to present themselves to me quickly due to my size. That said, I still think that if you're going to build-in a weak point, make it something easily replaceable. I'd have liked to see keyed-in or slotted steel hardware for both shock mounting bolts, that way if something goes wrong you can just throw new hardware in there and not run the risk of damaging something difficult to replace.

Another small criticism of the bike is the rear shock mounting bolt access. Sure, I couldn't engineer a better design, but that doesn't take away from the fact that it takes extra work to access that bolt since it's blocked by the chainstay. The only way to access this bolt, at least in my case, is to first remove the front shock mounting bolt, then remove the spring from the shock leaving the shock on the frame, then compress the rear linkage to reveal the rear shock mounting bolt, and finally remove the aluminum rear mounting bolt. If you choose to ride without the rear fender, shock removal gets one step shorter as you don't have to remove the spring anymore to access the rear shock mounting bolt. Manageable? Yes. Ideal? No.

Lastly, I have to mention the minimum seatpost insertion limit (something that is obviously essential due to the carbon construction). The frame requires a minimum of 7-inches of post, but only allows an extra half-inch before it's too long, limiting the range of your seatpost adjustment drastically. I realize you're not moving your seat up and down all the time on a DH bike like say an AM bike but it's limiting none-the-less, and I'd recommend buying a longer post than normal and taking care how much you cut it down since you have such a small range of adjustability once the post is cut.

What's The Bottom Line?

Minor grievances aside, I'm extremely satisfied with the Evil Undead. The ride quality was far above expectation, and the build quality is like a work of art - plus it just flat out rips and is a total blast to ride. The bike's overall stability gives you very centered, balanced, and in control feel, which in my experience lets you ride the bike faster, easier.

I'm looking forward to spending more time on the frame testing different dampers to see how they interact with the Undead, but for a stock shock with a one-size-fits-all baseline tune, I feel this is a more than ample platform to dial in your preferences and fine-tune the ride to your liking, giving you one bad ass machine. The versatility and adjustability of the DELTA suspension and adjustable geometry invite a wide range of riders, from the weekend-warrior to the elite guys ripping up the World Cups, and gives you the option to tweak the ride from track to track or just set and forget, get out and ride.

All in all, it is a stellar bike, something I'm sure everyone was hoping for from Evil, and they delivered with the Undead.

Keep an eye on www.evil-bikes.com for more information, or better yet, hit them up on Facebook.

Bonus Gallery: 30 photos of the Evil Undead in action and up close


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.