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Added a product review for 2015 Intense M16 Pro Build 7/1/2015 9:24 PM
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Tested: Intense M16

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Matt Puzel

Right as lift season started, we were lucky enough to get our hands on Intense's latest addition to the M-Series Downhill Race machines, the M16. In the evolution of arguably the most iconic line of Downhill bikes, the new M16 sees a few changes over the previous flagship M9. Most obvious is the introduction of 27.5” wheels, in addition to some minor tweaking of the suspension and geometry. Gone is the adjustable wheelbase and head-angle of the M9, but Intense kept the travel and progression options in place allowing either 8.5 or 9.5 inches of VPP travel and a high and low setting for progression. Curious to see if the new M16 delivered? We've spent the last few months bashing the bike down multiple bike parks and local trails and have the full 411 for you below.

Intense M16 Highlights

  • 27.5-inch wheel size
  • 215 or 240mm (8.5 or 9.5-inches) of adjustable rear travel
  • Two levels of adjustable shock progression
  • Virtual Pivot Point (VPP) suspension
  • Hydroformed aluminum construction
  • 9.5 x 3.0-inch Cane Creek Double Barrel coil shock
  • 157mm rear hub spacing
  • Comes with 12x157 locking collet axle
  • Threaded bottom bracket with ISCG 05 tabs
  • Tapered headtube
  • Serviceable pivot points featuring collet bolts and grease ports
  • Molded FLK-GRD protection
  • External cable routing
  • Integrated fork bump stops/cable guides
  • Intense Red and Black colors
  • Made in the USA
  • Weight: 11.5-pounds (Large frame with shock)
  • MSRP $3,399 frame with shock

Initial Impressions

This bike is built: super burly looks and incredibly stiff are two of the first things we took from our introduction to the Intense M16. It's a stout bike, for sure. Our Pro Build equipped M16 weighed in at 38.19lbs, and while that may not be the lightest DH bike in the world, Intense left a few places we could have saved additional weight without spending much money. Going tubeless (which the wheels are pretty much setup for already) and swapping a few parts would easily put the M16 in the low to mid 37-pound range, if that kind of thing matters to you. Details like integrated fork bumpers // cable guides, rear fender and downtube // chainstay guards show Intense is paying attention to the small things, too.

We chose a large M16 for our 6'1” tester, which has a reach of 436mm. After adjusting the bar-roll and seat height to our liking, the cockpit length and overall feel was pretty spot-on, putting us nicely centered and inside the bike rather than on-top.

One thing we did notice during the initial parking lot fitting was the bike's turning radius, which is rather limited due to the integrated fork bumpers // cable guides. Whether or not that would be an issue on the trial is something we discuss a bit further down.

Since we've had this bike for quite some time now, we've been able to test it in a variety of settings and on multiple types of trails. From bike park flow trails to straight-up raw, steep and rowdy DH tracks. How did it stack up? Time to find out...

On The Trail

We started our test with the M16 in the 8.5” and higher-progression setting, which is how Intense set the bike up for us. After the proper spring-rate was found to yield roughly 33% sag, we set up the shock using Cane Creek's recommended M16 base-tune settings for the Double Barrel.

For the RockShox BoXXer World Cup, we set the pressure to give us a tiny bit over 20% sag, which is at the low end of what RockShox's recommends. Rebound was set to taste, and compression was set about one-third of the way in as the starting point (7-clicks from open). In the end, we only added a few clicks of compression to both the shock and fork and stuck with those settings for the duration of the test. We also slowed down the rebound (both high and low) on the Double Barrel a bit as we were getting bucked off jumps and harsh landings. Both situations were remedied after we made this adjustment.

Right off the bat we were comfortable on the M16, charging lines and jumps pretty much at speed by the end of day one. The bike handles in the rough particularly well, gobbling up the bigger hits nicely and still able to pop off the little things and play with line choice if you want. When changing the leverage to the less progressive setting, the bike lost some of that lively-ness and pop, and therefor we much preferred the higher setting. Being extremely forgiving in the rough, it's fair to say the M16 isn't picky about line choice and allows for a point and shoot style of riding. Small bumps, chatter and square-edge hits alike, the M16 stayed glued to the ground.

Further adding to that point and shoot mentality is the height of the bottom-bracket. Intense went with a 14.375” bottom bracket height for the M16, which is non-adjustable and a fair bit higher than we'd expect on a modern DH bike. We did appreciate the added clearance on trails where line choice is crucial to avoid pedal and bash-guard strikes, but it wouldn't hurt to offer some kind of adjustment for those who prefer a slammed ride. After a few months on the bike, our bash-guard had only seen a couple gouges and the ends of our cranks show substantially less damage than we typically inflict on a DH bike.

It's clear the M16 likes to be ridden fast and aggressively, and when things slowed down or got tight the bike really let us know to keep up the pace. As we mentioned above, the less than ideal turning radius of the M16 really came into play in these situations. We hit steering lock on a few trails with slow, tight corners which forced a foot out to prevent going down. We did notice some M16 riders chose to remedy this by removing the integrated bumpers in favor of standard, fork mounted ones. Since we never had any at our disposal, we hung in there with the integrated ones.

In more typical cornering situations, the bike handled extremely well, even with that higher than average BB. The bike kept up in its travel and tracked chattery corners well. Despite its plow-like tendencies, the M16 also pedals surprisingly well. Getting the bike up to speed is fast and it responded quickly to pedaling out of corners and other speed robbing sections.

The M16 was also extremely quiet, as long as we kept up in terms of maintenance. Our test bike did start making some noise from the pivots after a couple weeks of riding, but a quick application of fresh grease via the zerk fittings shut it right up. There's nothing better than a quiet DH bike.


Build Kit

  • Frame Material: Hydroformed alloy
  • Fork: RockShox BoXXer World Cup
  • Shock: Cane Creek Double Barrel Coil (9.5x3.0)
  • Chainguide: E13 LG1
  • Rear Derailleur: SRAM X01 DH 7-speed
  • Shifter: SRAM X01 DH 7-speed
  • Crankset: SRAM X01 DH, 36T
  • Cassette: SRAM X01 DH 7-speed
  • Chain: SRAM XX1 11-speed
  • Brakes: Shimano Saint
  • Headset: Cane Creek 40
  • Bars: Renthal Fatbar 20mm x 780mm
  • Stem: Renthal Integra 45mm/50mm
  • Grips: Intense Dual Density Lock-On
  • Front Hub: NO TUBES 3.30 HD, 32h 110x20mm
  • Rear Hub: NO TUBES 3.30 HD, 32h 157x12mm w/ XD Driver
  • Rims: NO TUBES Rapid 30 Team 27.5”
  • Spokes: Sapim
  • Tires: Maxxis Minion DHF 27.5x2.5
  • Seatpost: Thomson Elite 31.6mm
  • Saddle: WTB Volt Team
  • Weight: 38.18lbs (Large frame without pedals, tubed)
  • MSRP: $7,999

Intense did a stellar job of putting together a well balanced and properly sped'c build with a mix of quality parts from SRAM, Shimano, RockShox, Cane Creek, Renthal, Thomson, NO TUBES, and Maxxis. If we were to have built up a custom bike ourselves the build wouldn't be too far off from this, at all.

The RockShox BoXXer World Cup and Cane Creek Double Barrel worked well together, both recovering from successive hits quickly and giving us no real surprise moments while riding. With the BoXXer World Cup being air-sprung with an adjustable rate via RockShox's Bottomless Tokens, we were really able to dial the fork in to our exact preferences, keeping the beginning stroke nice and supple with a good, progressive ramp towards the end of travel which kept the front end tracking and prevented harsh bottom-outs and excessive wallowing.

The Maxxis Minion DHF tires have been a long-time favorite of Downhill riders and make us happy every time we see them come stock on a bike. Awesome cornering traction with a predictable and controllable break-away point. The Shimano Saint brakes with Ice-Tech pads provided solid braking and never faded or over-heated despite some long, brake-dragging descents. Shifting was handled by SRAM's X01 DH 7-speed drivetrain, which really aided in keeping the M16 DEAD SILENT in the chatter. A smooth shifting and quite bike always makes for a better ride, plus finding the right gear is made easy with proper increments on the 7-speed cassette.

The NO TUBES Rapid 30 Team rims and 3.30 HD hubs are OEM only wheels. With 30-points of engagement and a 21mm internal width, they were adequate for DH riding but we would have liked to see a wider rim and faster engaging hub. They were good in terms of stiffness and so far they've taken all the abuse we've thrown at them, requiring only some minor truing and re-tensioning after resort days.

In regards to the Renthal bars, Intense grips and WTB saddle, everything felt in place and dialed in the cockpit. Overall, a very solid build from Intense.

Things That Could Be Improved?

As we mentioned above, the turning radius of the M16 is a bit limiting. While this only came into play a couple times out on the trail, it is worth mentioning. Removing some of the mounting material for the integrated bumpers or even using thinner bumpers would remedy this. The other option is to remove the bumpers all together and run RockShox or FOX's standard ones. Besides that, we found no other real flaws in the execution of the M16.

Long Term Durability

After 100's of laps on-board the M16, the bike shows no signs of quitting. After routinely checking all the pivots after every ride and adding some fresh grease to keep it running smooth and quiet, the bike has required little else in terms of maintenance. All the parts spec'd seem to be holding up well. While the wheels have required some attention, this is pretty normal for a bike that's being ridden often and we can attest to their durability after having to ride down a couple runs on a flat: tire nuked, rim was fine. Everything is still running strong and begging for more.

What's The Bottom Line?

If you're a long-time M-Series fan, the M16 really picks up where the M9 left off and you won't be disappointed. The addition of the 27.5 wheels, slightly refined geometry and kinematics makes for a bike that loves going fast over the nastiest of terrain. The adjustable travel and progression coupled with the high range of adjustability offered by the Cane Creek Double Barrel shock make for fame capable of being dialed-in for a wide range of riders with only one limiting factor: the rider must enjoy going fast. Despite being a bit heavy when compared to some of the low 30-pound bikes we're seeing these days, the M16 still gets up to speed fast and rides a lot lighter than we'd expected. The bike runs extremely quiet and the well thought-out parts spec let the rider focus on the trail, and not the machine underneath them, making for one fast ride which is what building Downhill Race bike is all about.

For more information, visit intensecycles.com


About The Reviewer

Fred Robinson, a.k.a. "Derf-Doge," 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 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.

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Added a product review for Xpedo JEK Flat Pedal 6/23/2015 5:11 PM
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Tested: Xpedo JEK Flat Pedals

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review By Fred Robinson // Photos by Matt Puzel

We all know pedals are one of the most important choices when it comes to dialing in a bike exactly how you want it, and likely bike manufactures know this too which is why hardly any complete high-end bikes come pre-equipped with pedals; it's a highly personal choice. Xpedo clearly understands this and offers over 10 different configurations of the flat pedal with some pretty straight-forward designs as well as some completely out of the box designs. We got the chance to test Xpedo's JEK pedal, which is one of their more “standard” looking pedal designs currently offered. Slated as an all-around pedal with a 100x100x17mm platform, let's see where the JEK pedals really shine, and perhaps where they don't.

Features

  • Weight: 390g
  • Body: 6061 CNC Aluminum
  • Spindle: CroMo
  • Bearings: 1 Cartridge
  • Bushings: 1 DU
  • Pins: 16 Replaceable DAX pins per pedal
  • Size: 100x100x17mm
  • Colors: Black, Blue, Red, Polished Silver, Oil Slick (Limited Edition)
  • MSRP: $79.99 USD

Initial Impressions

The JEK pedals we tested were the limited edition “Oil Slick” color, which definitely stands out right away. The finish is pretty damn cool looking, okay... really damn cool looking. The pedal body is a one-piece machined 6061 alloy platform with cutaways and a slight concave shape which gives the pedal a nice, solid feel. Despite the platform being a tad smaller than some other pedals out there, the pin-placement is spot on and there was plenty of grip when we paired them with some proper flat-pedal shoes.

The pedals spin on a CroMo axle with a single cartridge bearing and DU bushing, providing a smooth, controlled spin with no slop or excessive rotation. The pins can be removed from either side of the pedal, should you mangle them. On the business side of the pin you can remove them with a small box-wrench or adjustable wrench, but if that side of the pin is damaged you can remove it from the back with a 2mm hex-wrench; definitely a clutch feature if you're prone to hitting rocks with your pedals.

On The Trail

The Xpedo JEK pedals are intended for Trail, Freeride, Downhill, Urban, and Dirt Jumping and we tested them accordingly, but for the majority of our test they were either on our Trail bike or Downhill bike. As mentioned above, the pin-placement coupled with the slightly concave shape of these pedals really gave a positive and planted feel in terms of grip. For Trail, DJ and Urban riding, the pedal feel is pretty spot on with a solid grip but still allows you to move and adjust your foot accordingly without getting hung up. One thing to note is this isn't a super low-profile pedal and while it's not tall by most standards, if you're used to riding mega-thin pedals you will feel the difference, particularly when riding Downhill where a low center-of-gravity and extra stability really counts.

In regards to the platform size, the JEK pedals are said to be 100x100, but in actuality the contact patch is closer to 90mm front to back and 95mm wide. The 17mm thickness measurement is correct though. Even though these pedals do measure slightly smaller than advertised, we found the size adequate for DJ/Urban pedals.

Unfortunately, we got these pedals way past our “rainy season,” if you can even call it that, so we can't comment on the mud clearing abilities of these pedals.

Things That Could Be Improved

Since these pedals are intended for a wide variety of riding, there's always going to be some compromise, because what makes for a good DJ/Urban pedal is different than what makes for a good Trail/DH pedal. With that said, we feel the JEK pedals fall closer to the DJ/Urban side of things in terms of what this pedal is good at due to the platform size and thickness, plus the ease of adjusting your foot while still maintaining good grip. If this were to be a dedicated DH/Trail pedal, we'd have liked to see a thinner profile and wider platform. In other words, had this pedal not been designated as a somewhat “do-it-all” pedal and just a DJ/Urban pedal, we'd have zero criticisms, but it does fall a bit short in terms of an ideal pedal for the Downhill bike.

Long Term Durability

Since these pedals spent most of their time with us aboard our Trail and Downhill bikes, they did see a fair amount of abuse with rock-strikes and harsh landings. The pedal bodies have held up well with only minor scrapes and scratches, no bent axles or severely damaged cages. The pins have survived the hits nicely too and have resisted bending or shearing off completely. The pedals still spin smoothly and the axle has zero signs of play. So far so good in terms of durability for the JEK pedals.

What's The Bottom Line?

Despite the few downfalls we found with these pedals in regards to size and thickness when it comes to an ideal pedal for Downhill and Trail riding, they did seem to be up to the task in terms of durability for these disciplines. That said, if we were looking to buy ourselves some dedicated gravity pedals, we would likely look for a pedal with a thinner profile and wider platform such as the Xpedo Spry Pedal. But, if you're looking for a standout pedal in both the looks and feel department for your DJ/Urban/Skatepark ride, the Xpedo JEK's will definitely deliver, as that's where they feel most at home.

For more information check out xpedo.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. After giving up on racing he 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.

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Added a product review for Source Fuse 12L Hydration Pack 6/17/2015 6:47 PM
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Tested: SOURCE Fuse 12L Hydration Pack

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson

SOURCE Hydration might not be the first name you think of when it's time to buy a new hydration pack, but with what we've seen from SOURCE so far, that will likely be changing in the near future. Recently we've had the chance to test a slew of products from SOURCE Hydration, with the latest being the Fuse 12L Hydration Pack. With a large 12L cargo carrying capacity and 3L bladder, the Fuse Pack is intended for short hikes and rides, but in our opinion a pack this size is ample for longer days in the saddle. With a minimalist approach in terms of construction yet still packed with plenty of storage compartments, dividers and unique features, let's see how this lightweight and large volume pack stacks up.

SOURCE Fuse 12L Highlights

  • Lightweight Fabrics
  • Padded shoulder straps
  • Adjustable sternum belt with integrated whistle
  • Padded and vented porous foam back system
  • Lightweight buckles
  • Essentials compartment with internal Storeganizer™, key holder, pen pockets
  • Velcro sealed phone pouch
  • Insulated hydration compartment
  • Raincover included
  • Carrying handle
  • Cargo Volume - 12L
  • Hydration Volume - 3L Widepac (included with pack)
  • MSRP: $60

SOURCE Hydration Features

  • Widepac™ hydration system
  • Helix™ bite valve - Comfortable valve with safety shut-off mode
  • Co-Ex tube
  • Triple layer taste and odor free film
  • Glass Like™ Film Technology
  • Grunge-Guard™ Technology
  • Taste Free™ System
  • Easy Care & Low Maintenance

Initial Impressions

Despite the Fuse's hefty 15L carrying capacity, the pack is fairly flimsy and shapeless when empty. This isn't a bad thing by any means though; we could have just said the pack is “lightweight and minimal,” but that would undercut how truly light and minimal the pack really is. Once loaded with gear and water, the pack conforms to your back nicely and isn't rigid or bulky making fitment and adjustment extremely easy. The shoulder straps, sternum belt and waist belt are all adjustable and the excess straps are easily tucked away with elastic bands to prevent them from flapping around or catching on objects while riding.

The bladder features SOURCE's unique Widepac Hydration System and Quick Connect Adapter which allows you to remove the drinking tube making pulling the bladder, filling and adding ice easy. The bladder's overall construction is exceptional with a thick-skinned, leak-proof and flexible material which is taste free, easy to use and conforms nicely to your back despite what you're carrying in the pack.

In terms of storage, the pack features three main pockets, each with dividers inside allowing you to organize and separate gear to your preference. With the large 12L cargo capacity, there was ample room to carry all we needed for longer rides without over-stuffing the pack keeping the fit snug and comfortable.

On The Trail

For such a large cargo volume, the flimsy and shapeless nature of this pack really allows it to settle into a comfortable and secure fit making it an afterthought while riding. We were able to keep the straps nice and snug in order to keep the pack in place when things got rowdy and their lightweight mesh construction kept things cool and comfortable, even on warmer days. The sternum strap height is also adjustable to dial in the ideal fit for your body and also has a built-in whistle located on the buckle should you ever need it in case of emergency.

The insulated bladder compartment which sits closest to your back kept the water from getting warm despite being right up against our body. The Helix bite valve was easy and natural to use, simply unlock the valve by twisting it open then bite and drink. Placement of the valve is up to you as SOURCE provides multiple loops and securing options. SOURCE spent a lot of time on developing anti-bacterial and non-leaching plastics in order to keep your water taste and grime free and despite our best efforts to foul up this bladder, the water has always tasted fresh and there are no signs of green fuzz or gross slime accumulating. And yes, to test this we left the pack half filled with water in our car for two weeks. Gross, maybe... but science isn't always pretty.

We were able to pack quite a bit in the Fuse Hydration Pack, enough gear for three hour-plus rides without worrying about running out of water or snacks. Even when packed with nutrition and liquids, there was ample room for kneepads, a multi-tool, hand-pump, CO2, tube, tire-lever, keys, phone, glasses and other miscellaneous gear without feeling over-stuffed and bulky. Should you want to carry a helmet on the pack there are two side straps which make securing it to the back of the pack easy and without occupying additional storage area. Every external zipper has a nylon loop with a rubber coating, making access to pockets easy. The backing of the pack has a flow channel keeping the pack from resting on your spine to aid in keeping your back cool. One problem we've seen on some high-volume packs is helmet interference on steep descents when your head is back in order to keep your eyes on the trail. This was never an issue, despite all the gear we packed.

Things That Could Be Improved

SOURCE covered pretty much everything you could want in a hydration pack as far as functionality, comfort and durability are concerned. The color and graphics of the Fuse Pack we tested might not be everyone's thing, but it comes in a black-on-black option as well as orange and yellow if you desire something else. Perhaps one improvement that SOURCE could make is adding more external straps in order better secure loose gear inside the pack as it tended to shift around when not fully packed. Adding a couple straps to cinch down on the pockets would easily remedy this issue. Beyond that, we found very little to complain about with the Fuse Pack.

Long Term Durability

We've been testing the Fuse SOURCE Pack for nearly 6 months now and it shows ZERO signs of wear. We've crashed with the pack multiple times with no resulting tears or damage. The fabric the pack is constructed of doesn't hold dust and dirt, keeping it almost as clean as it was the day we pulled it out of the box. All zippers and buckles have remained problem free as well and the bladder never required the standard clean, hang and dry after every use (but it's not a bad idea). The rubber drinking tube has yet to discolor which is a good sign no chemicals are leaching into your water and the bladder // bite-valve have both remained taste free, despite our unsanitary habits. All signs point to this pack lasting us a very long time.

What's The Bottom Line?

For a full sized, long-ride hydration pack, we'd be stretched to find a better pack out there than the SOURCE Fuse. Minimal, functional, lightweight and well constructed: what more would you want in a pack? We found the pack carried plenty of water and gear for long days out on the trail while being light enough and out of the way should you use it for a short ride that requires more water than just a bottle can hold. Despite how much we jammed into the pack, it stayed comfortable and secure no matter what type of ride we were on. In terms of price, the Fuse comes in at substantially less other packs similarly spec'd at only $60 MSRP. Light, durable and inexpensive; it's not often you find something that checks all three boxes, but SOURCE managed to with the Fuse Pack Hydration.

For more information visit SOURCE Hydration


About The Reviewer

Fred Robinson, a.k.a. "Derf-Dog," 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 also enjoys tasty whiskey and long walks on the beach.


This product has no reviews yet.

Added a product review for Easton Haven Carbon 27.5 Wheels 5/27/2015 3:36 PM
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Tested: Easton Haven Carbon 27.5 Wheelset

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Fred Robinson and Dan Summers

For 2015, Easton Cycling came in swinging with their new Haven Carbon 27.5 wheelset. Aimed directly at the Enduro crowd, the new carbon wheels share quite a few similarities to their alloy counterpart, also dubbed Haven. The carbon rims save you a whopping 220g over the alloy version and boost the stiffness slightly. But with all that saved weight, where do the new wheels stack up in terms of durability? Pure race wheelset, or something weekend warriors will want on their trail bike? Read on to find out.

Haven Carbon 27.5 Highlights

  • Wheel Size: 27.5-inch (650b)
  • Wheelset Weight: 1,500g (3-pounds, 4.9-ounces)
  • Finish: Matte Carbon / Water Transfer Graphics
  • Type: UST Tubeless Carbon Clincher
  • Rim: Armored Ballistic Composite, 21mm Depth x 21mm Internal Width x 26mm External Width
  • Spokes: Sapim Straight-Pull / Double-Butted
  • Spoke Pattern: 24 / 3X
  • Nipples: Easton UST Alloy
  • Front Hub Type: M1 / 15X100 (Convertible 20mm x 110mm, Parts Sold Separately)
  • Rear Hub Type: M1 / 12X135/142 (Convertible to 10mm x 135QR, Parts Sold Separately)
  • MSRP: $2,200 US

Initial Impressions

First off, the Easton Haven wheelset looks killer, to say the least. Raw carbon hoops with subtle black graphics on the matte finish rims, straight-pull black spokes, black nipples and polished black hubs... damn fine. For those of you who like stealth, subdued looks that are both sharp and clean, these wheels will have you drooling.

Out of the box the bearings felt smooth and properly preloaded, spoke tension was even all around, and both wheels were completely true. Easton tensions their wheels by hand using both a tension-meter and what Easton calls their “proprietary acoustic tensioning and truing method.” Translation: they “pluck” each spoke which produces a tone, and if the tones between each spoke are identical in pitch then the tension of each spoke is also identical. It's safe to assume that whomever built our wheels wasn't tone deaf, though we didn't pull out our guitar tuner to double-check.

The internal width of the Haven rim is only 21mm wide, but it provided a nice tire profile when paired with 2.3-inch Maxxis tires.The rear hub offers 30-points of engagement, which is middle-of-the-road compared to other high-end offerings. In terms of rear hub noise, the engagement is audible but not mega-loud like some hubs, nor super quiet.

One standout feature on the Easton Havens is use of a proprietary dual-threaded nipple system which thread into the eyelets. This eliminates the need for a second hole in the tire bed. Instead of dropping nipples through the outside of the rim (the tire bed), you thread them directly into the eyelets much like a Mavic UST setup, but without the extra hardware/inserts. This makes for an extremely easy tubeless setup with no need for a rim strip, tape or even fluid (if you dare). We simply mounted our tire, threw in some sealant (we're not that daring) and inflated with a floor pump; no tape, no strips, no compressor, no hassle.

On The Trail

At only 1,500 grams for the wheelset, spin-up during acceleration felt extremely fast. Direction changes, cornering and jumping with these wheels really upped the bike's agility and nimbleness due to how light they are. The relatively low engagement of the rear hub wasn't a huge deal on the trail and never negatively impacted our rides, even on off-beat, technical climbs, though this number is one of the least appealing aspects of the wheels.

In terms of stiffness, the Havens were solid. While not as stiff are some heavier wheelsets we've ridden, we feel the balance of weight to strength is pretty spot-on for wheels in this weight category. We were a bit concerned with the low spoke-count paired with the low weight of the wheelset, but we can say they've held up well to our abuse. We did have a minor issue which knocked the rear wheel out of true on a hard rock strike, but we were easily able to pull the wheel back into true once we got the it home and into a stand. That said, the wheels have held up exceptionally well over a few months of use. We even pinch flatted at 30PSI while tubeless which spelled the end of our tire, but the rim shook it off with nothing more than a small chip in the clear coat. Pretty impressive for a 1,500 gram wheelset.

Long Term Durability

This is the main category where the Havens surprised us. As we mentioned above, we were concerned with durability in really rough terrain due to the low weight of the wheels paired with their 24-spoke count. To our surprise, they've held up great and only required some minor truing. The hub bearings have remained smooth and drag-free during our test, and the hubs themselves remain play-free without needing adjustment. These wheels seem to be in it for the long haul, and if something were to happen, Easton has you covered with a two-year, no-questions-asked warranty.

Things That Could Be Improved

The only area we could see some improvement on is the relatively low points of engagement in the rear hub. While this never really hindered us in terms of performance, it just seems that on a premium set of wheels, Easton could have managed at least the industry-standard of 36-points, if not more, providing a more crisp, precise feel at the pedals.

What's The Bottom Line?

The Easton Haven Carbon wheels are most definitely a premium wheelset, and you get that in terms of the overall package. They are extremely light-weight, extremely durable, and there's no compromise between form and function. That said, the price definitely reflects that; at $2,200 they are on the higher side of the market. When you put them up against the aluminum Haven counterpart, the two biggest differences you see are price and weight at $1,200 less and 220 grams more. While that is a substantial savings in weight over the alloy version, it comes at over double the price. If you're a serious racer or just seeking a reliable, light, and sharp-looking carbon wheelset, Easton has you covered with the Haven Carbon 27.5 wheels. If you're looking for a more utilitarian setup that shares quite a few similarities to these wheels, but are okay with added rotational weight, the alloy Haven wheelset is a great alternative.

Visit Easton Cycling 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.

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Added a product review for 2015 Ghost Riot 7 LC 5/11/2015 9:27 PM
C138_riot_7_lc

Tested: 2015 Ghost Riot 7 LC

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Luca Cometti

With the Big-S FSR patent recently expiring, more and more four-bar style bikes from brands all over the world have started making their way to American soil. Ghost Bikes is one of those brands. With a long history in Germany and all over Europe, Ghost has been designing and selling bikes for over 20 years and offer a huge fleet with more than 150 different models. We were given the opportunity to test the Ghost Riot 7 LC - a 130mm travel 27.5 trail bike with a carbon frame and their unique Riot-link suspension design. Let's see if the Riot 7 LC holds true to its motto: “One bike. All the mountain.”

Highlights

  • Carbon frame
  • 27.5-inch wheels
  • 130mm (5.1-inches) of front and rear wheel travel
  • 4-bar Riot-link suspension - full-floating shock compressed on both sides
  • Tapered head tube
  • 68-degree head angle
  • 74-degree effective seat tube angle
  • 12mm (0.5-inch) bottom bracket drop
  • 430mm (16.9-inch) chainstays
  • Press Fit bottom bracket
  • Internal cable routing
  • 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured complete weight (size Large, no pedals): 27.2-pounds (12.3kg)
  • Sizes: XS/S/M/L/XL
  • MSRP: $5,699

The Riot features some uniquely designed carbon tubing. The angular headtube and contrasting narrow and wide tubes throughout the frame really make the bike stand out in the looks department. Sleek and clean lines everywhere give the bike a traditional, yet refined look that's actually quite appealing. Internal cable routing contributes to the bike's clean look, as does the tubing around the bottom-bracket which somewhat conceals the lower linkage. Integrated frame protection on both the bottom bracket/downtube and the drive-side chainstay are nice touches as well.

Another thing to note on this bike is how easy the shock's adjustments are to reach, which makes setting the bike up and trail-side tinkering that much easier. There's also plenty room for a water bottle cage inside the front triangle.

On The Trail

We tested the Riot on a variety of trails in Southern California, from XC loops with fun, mellow descents to full-on gravity oriented trails with rough terrain, technical bits, drops and jumps. We were surprised in some situations, and a bit outgunned in others.

First, we should discuss setup. Setting up the cockpit was more of a compromise in terms of positioning controls than what we would have liked, but in the end we found a setup that was usable. The Riot comes spec'd with Ghost's own 60mm AS-GH3 stem and 31.8mm Low Rizer Super Light bar, which is 720mm narrow. The bike has a very healthy amount of reach (465mm for the size Large), which helps prevent the cockpit from feeling cramped, but we would have liked to have seen a wider bar in the 750mm range.

We set the bike up with close to 30% rear sag and 20% up front. The Riot has a very progressive end-stroke, so running close to DH amounts of sag on a trail bike seemed doable. The extreme ramp in progression is achieved by what Ghost calls the Riot-link. Basically, the bike is a modified four-bar with a full-floating shock. The shock is compressed only by the main rocker on top for the first 80% of the rear wheel's travel. Once the bike is down to its last 20% of travel, the Riot-link begins to compress the shock from the other side which decreases the leverage rapidly to help prevent bottoming.

How did this all translate to real-world feel? Well, we can say the rear wheel remained active while climbing and over mid-sized hits and chatter. When hard landings occurred the suspension resisted bottoming out very well. In fact, we never fully bottomed the rear shock, even at 30% sag. On a typical ride we'd still have 10mm of shock stroke unused, though on rough descents with larger impacts we'd get close to full travel but never feel the bottom in a harsh way. Despite the linear mid-stroke, the bike never felt like it was blowing through travel - likely a result of the relatively low volume air can.

On mellow, less technical or gnarly descents the bike was a blast to ride. But when things got serious, we got a little scared. To say it bluntly, this is not an aggressive Enduro bike or a mini-DH bike, it's a “more capable” XC bike. Faced with steep, rough terrain, the bike was a bit sketchy and required a lot of control and precise line choice. While we never had a big off while pushing the bike to its limits, the fun factor of gnarly sections just wasn't there. If that's your thing, you're better off with a heavier hitting bike, like the Ghost Riot LT with 20mm increased fork travel or the Cagua enduro bike.

That said, on less technical descents the bike excelled. We could really rally at speed and felt confident enough to pick the front end up to change lines and play around. The stiffness of the frame made corners fun to pop out of and the responsiveness to pedal input made sprinting out of turns and speed robbing sections that much more fun. A 68-degree head angle means it handles quite quickly, which makes tighter, flowier terrain quite fun to ride.

Despite the fact that this bike doesn't handle gnarlier stuff quite as well as other 130mm trail bikes, there were a few times the Riot surprised us. Jumping this bike is extremely fun - it popped off lips well, and felt stable and solid when landing jumps and small to medium sized drops. Even on hard landings the bike maintained composure well. Pumping through successive turns and rollers resulted in a good boost of speed.

Another area the suspension and geometry shined was while climbing. Never once did we feel the need to switch the shock into "Climb" mode, and left it in the "Trail" setting for the majority of our test. This resulted in no bob when climbing, gave a bit more support in corners, and still reacted to small bumps and large hits without complaint. Regardless of the terrain, the rear wheel stayed planted and tracked well, even on steeper, rougher climbs. The 74-degree seat angle puts you in a nice upright position for pedaling.

Build Kit

Ghost is close to having a killer bike on their hands with the Riot 7 LC, but fell short in a few areas. Stiffer suspension, wider bars and maybe a slightly shorter stem would have really helped boost our confidence when trail conditions got sketchy. When things pointed down, the bike just felt a tad nervous which made us ride cautiously.

The 130mm FOX 32 Float FIT Performance CTD fork and Float CTD BV LV shock have seen their fair amount of criticism in the past, but worked surprisingly well with the Riot frame. The only place the suspension fell short was in the fork - we just wish it was a bit stiffer. A FOX 34 might have been a better choice for this bike given its intended purpose.

The Riot comes spec'd with the newly redesigned 2.25-inch Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires, which are actually a big improvement over the 2014 Nobby Nics. Cornering, climbing and braking traction was good, and they still rolled plenty fast for a somewhat aggressive tire. Those seeking to make the bike a bit more stable should consider a slightly higher volume tire.

Easton's Vice XLT wheels handled hard acceleration and braking well and were reasonably stiff for a relative narrow rim. The bike came with tubes pre-installed, but with UST rims and tubeless ready tires converting the bike to tubeless would save even more weight and reduce flatting concerns.

Shimano's 2x10 XT group is always a great mid-level choice for a bike. Shifting performance was precise and positive at all times. We frequently dropped chains, however, especially on rougher descents. Braking performance with the dual 180mm rotors was awesome - never overly grabby with plenty of power and zero fade, even on longer descents.

One detail we weren't super stoked on was the mix of Shimano and RockShox controls, with the odd-man-out being the RockShox Reverb remote. It just doesn't seem to have a good place to sit on the bars no matter where we put it. The best we could do was remove the gear indicators on the shifters in order to slide the post's trigger inward as much as possible. Ideally we would have liked to put the trigger under the bars, but it just wasn't possible with a 2X drivetrain and front shifter.

Long Term Durability

We've been on the Ghost Riot for over two months now, pushing its limits in terms of terrain and aggressive riding. So far everything has held up well and shows no signs of premature failure.

What's The Bottom Line?

Despite the fact that the Ghost Riot isn't a full-blown descent crusher, it does have a lot of characteristics that make it a fun bike for a wide range of users. It climbs extremely well and resists harsh landings on drops and jumps like a bigger bike. It's incredibly responsive to rider input, handles tight corners well and is a total blast to ride on tamer trails. It's all a matter of preference, are you looking for a bike you can blast the downhills and still pedal up with some extra effort, or a bike that can climb extremely well and still handle most descents? If the latter, the Ghost Riot 7 LC is a good bike to consider as it's basically a beefed up XC bike and has a way of making your mellow, lunchtime loop way more fun than it is on a bigger bike.

Visit ghost-bikes.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.

This product has no reviews yet.

Added a product review for Source Ultimate Hydration System 4/23/2015 5:41 PM
C138_ultimate_hydration_system

Tested: Source Ultimate Hydration System

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson

Source has been in the hydration game for over 25 years and is sold worldwide in more than 25 countries. Based in Israel, all of Source's products are made in-house by a team of over 200 workers with a percentage of their net-profit going towards local environmental activities. With their recent push towards a more complete line of mountain bike specific products, we got a chance to check out their Ultimate Hydration System: a stand-alone reservoir with some unique accessories intended to fit not only in Source's own packs, but any other hydration pack you may already own. Read on to see what sets this system apart from the others.

Source Ultimate Hydration System Highlights

  • 2-liter (70-ounce) or 3-liter (100-ounce) Widepac Reservoir
  • Helix Valve
  • Dirt Shield
  • Universal Tube Adapter (UTA)
  • Magnetic Clip
  • Weave Covered Tube
  • Glass Like Film Technology
  • Taste Free System
  • Grunge-Guard Technology
  • MSRP $55

Initial impressions

A reservoir we can fill without having to remove it from the pack? Whaaat? Source figured out a way to eliminate one of the more annoying aspects of using a hydration pack, and if you've ever tried to fill your reservoir with the pack dangling by the floor, you know the struggle is real. The Universal Tube Adapter, or UTA, is what makes this possible. It's a pretty simple contraption that snaps onto the end of the drinking tube and allows you to fill the reservoir via the drinking side using either a faucet or water bottle.

Should you want to pull the reservoir out of the pack, the drinking tube easily detaches with a Quick Connect Adapter and the Widepac Closure System makes filling and adding ice easy. This is actually the easiest reservoir to fill that we've tested with its wide opening and slide on closure design.

Besides the cool features, the Ultimate Hydration System looks to be constructed of quality materials with a thick-skinned, well-sealed reservoir, a woven UV-protected tube cover and an ergonomic, easy to use bite-valve.

We tested the Ultimate Hydration System using Source's own Fuze Pack, but the sleek reservoir will work in any comparably sized pack.

On The Trail

As mentioned above, this is one of the easiest and fastest reservoirs to fill and the UTA system adds an extra convenience not found on any other system. Source includes a Magnetic Clip with the Ultimate Hydration System so you can mount the bite valve pretty much anywhere you want, from your own shirt to the shoulder straps or the adjustable sternum strap. The magnet proved to be strong and kept the valve in place even over rough terrain while still being effortless to mount and unmount between drinks.

The Helix Valve is easy to use and has never leaked during a ride or in storage. The mouthpiece is a cylindrical style bite valve with three positions: fully closed, half-open and full-open depending on how much liquid you want to flow through it. Simply bite down on the valve to open it up. When you stop biting the rubber coating on the valve automatically closes itself to prevent dripping, though you'll need to twist it again to fully seal the system.

Number one in a good hydration system is always taste. If your reservoir makes your water taste like plastic or anything funky, it's probably not a reservoir worth keeping. Source uses what they call Glass-Like Film and Grunge-Guard Technologies to keep your water tasting fresh and clean. We've had this reservoir for about two months now and have only cleaned it once, solely for the purpose of being able to talk about it. Before that, the pack pretty much stayed filled and in the back of our car between rides and never required cleaning. Probably not the safest practice, but definitely a worst-case scenario test and the reservoir passed it with flying colors. No build-up, no fuzzy creatures growing inside or plastic tasting water at all, despite some 90-degree plus days spent in the trunk. When we finally did clean it, it was as simple as just rinsing-out the reservoir and hanging it upside-down to dry. Should you want to, the opening is wide enough to reach in there with a brush, too.

Another cool feature of the system is the Dirt Shield, which snaps over the Helix Valve to keep it free of dirt and other crud that can find its way on the valve. This is especially useful when tossing your pack in the car or in the dirt during a trail-side breather or beer. Have you ever forgotten to close the bite valve on your reservoir and had it leak all over your car? We have too, and an unintended second function of the Dirt Shield is to help keep that from happening. Even when we piled our riding gear on top of the valve or sat on it by accident, no leakage: bonus points to Source!

Long Term Durability

So far all is good with the Ultimate Hydration System. No plastic flavor has started to develop due to materials braking-down and everything has held up well with no signs of leakage or anything. It's looking like we'll be able to hold on to this thing for a long time to come.

Things That Could Be Improved

No real complaints here. The Ultimate Hydration System does its job and does it well. Some will remark that the amount of water flow through the bite valve is less than other systems, but if anything it helps us pace our water consumption better for those long rides.

What's The Bottom Line?

Source went above and beyond when it comes to something as simple as a hydration reservoir, and it's highlighted by some unique features you didn't even know you wanted. The UTA quick fill system actually turns out to be pretty handy in hurried situations. Enduro racers will find it especially useful when refuel stop times are limited. Combine that with a truly taste-free and practically zero-maintenance system and you have an excellent reservoir that will drop into pretty much any hydration pack out there. Kudos to Source for innovating on an often over-looked part of hydration packs.

Visit www.sourceoutdoor.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.

This product has no reviews yet.

Added a product review for 2015 Santa Cruz V10 Carbon CC 3/18/2015 6:50 PM
C138_2015_santa_cruz_v10_carbon_cc_x01_white_red

Tested: Santa Cruz V10CC

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

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

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

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

Santa Cruz V10 CC Highlights

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

Initial Impressions

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

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

On The Trail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Build Kit

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things That Could Be Improved

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

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

Long Term Durability

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

What's The Bottom Line?

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

For more information, head on over to www.santacruzbicycles.com.


About The Reviewer

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

This product has no reviews yet.

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

Tested: 7iDP Covert Knee Pad

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

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

7iDP Covert Knee Pad Highlights

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

Initial impressions

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

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

On The Trail

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

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

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

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

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

Things That Could Be Improved

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

Long Term Durability

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

What's The Bottom Line?

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

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


About The Reviewer

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

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Spank Spike 800 Race Vibrocore Alloy Riser Handlebar 11/24/2014 8:28 PM
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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 3 reviews.

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
C138_bontrager_g2

Tested: Bontrager G2 Team Issue Tires

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Ian Collins

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

G2 Team Issue Tire Highlights

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

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

On The Trail

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

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

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

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

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

Long Term Durability

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

What's The Bottom Line?

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

For more details on Bontrager's ever growing tire lineup, visit www.bontrager.com.


About The Reviewer

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

This product has 1 review.