FredLikesTrikes's Product Reviews

Added a product review for Maxxis Aggressor Tire 1/20/2016 1:43 PM
C138_s1600_tyre_image_aggressor_l

Tested: Maxxis Aggressor

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Fred Robinson and Josh Job (action)

Maxxis has been setting the standard for high-performance mountain bike tires for years with gravity benchmarks like the Minion DHF, High Roller and more recently the DHR II and High Roller II. Having been the go-to tire for numerous World Cup DH riders, even when they were supported by competing brands, the sight of a "Sharpie'd" Maxxis wasn't uncommon before the rest of the tire brands caught up. Having laid down the yardstick in DH long ago, Maxxis set out to create another benchmark with their new tire, the Aggressor, which they claim to be the new standard in enduro tires. Maxxis debuted the Aggressor last March during the Taipei Cycle Show in their EXO configuration, then later at Eurobike in the more robust Double Down casing. We were eager to mount the new rubber to our six-inch steed and see if the tire stacks up to Maxxis' high pedigree.

Maxxis Aggressor Features

  • All-around performance
  • Dual-compound
  • EXO 60 casing
  • Available in DoubleDown (DD) 120 TPI dual-ply casing
  • Tubeless Ready (TR)
  • Sizing - 27.5 x 2.3-inch
  • Weight: 885g (EXO) // 1,050g (DD)
  • Intended conditions: Loose, loose over hard, medium
  • MSRP: $62 (EXO) // $80 (DD)

Initial Impressions

Currently, Maxxis only offers the Aggressor in a 27.5 x 2.3-inch configuration, and while that may be limiting to some, we found the volume adequate and similar to the 27.5 x 2.3-inch Minion DHF and 27.5 x 2.4-inch High Roller II the Aggressors would be replacing. Available in both Maxxis' 60TPI EXO and 120TPI DoubleDown casings, we decided to mount one of each on our bike, with the heavier DD tire in the rear. We chose to take advantage of the tires being Tubeless Ready and mounted them as such with the addition of some tire sealant. As usual, before we reached for the air-compressor we had to give it the ol' college try and see if we could mount the Aggressors up using only a floor-pump. To our surprise, despite utilizing a folding-bead, the tires quickly popped into place and sealed immediately without the use of soapy water or any other tricks of the trade. For reference, we mounted these up to our SRAM RAIL 40 wheelset, so results may vary depending on your rim options. Tire pressure was set to our preferred 31 PSI out back and 27 PSI in the front. With all else ready to go, it's time to get these tires to dirt.

On The Trail

Maxxis indicates that the Aggressor is best suited for loose, loose over hard and medium conditions. Since we primarily tested these tires in SoCal, 95% of the time the exact conditions Maxxis described were met. It was evident right away Maxxis knew where these tires would excel. Cornering traction, despite the loose over hard conditions, was excellent. Regardless our lean-angle, the tires held a consistent and predictable amount of grip. We've ridden tires in the past that really require a committed approach when it comes to the ideal lean-angle, and while the Aggressors loved being pushed hard into corners, Maxxis employed some well-placed knobs with lateral Sipes to help you out in that transitional area between the center line and the side knobs. Even if you don't fully commit to a flat corner or are riding a nicely banked berm, there's still a good amount of traction when you're stuck in that transitional zone. When you do finally get the bike leaned over, the Aggressor features some slightly modified but familiar-shaped side knobs that take over when you get low. Think a less aggressive DHF//DHR II side knob. Like the Minion's, the Aggressor features an alternating block and L-shaped pattern to the side knobs. But, instead of having a large Sipe all the way through the block-shaped knob and no Sipe on the L-shaped one, the Aggressor features a smaller, lateral Sipe on every knob. While worth noting the slight differences between the Minion and Aggressor side knobs, we didn't feel any loss or gain in cornering performance with the new layout and found the Aggressor to tackle hard cornering just as well.

So, how come the new Aggressor handles not-so-aggressive cornering so well? Maxxis took cues from the revamped DHR II center knob to side knob spacing and employed a similar layout for the Aggressor. Notice how each center knob falls between that empty space between the side knobs? As Kidwoo so keenly pointed out in his review of the DHR II, this open area keeps the the tire from having a rounded profile, allowing more dirt to get between the knobs which, in turn, translates to more traction. Good stuff.

Now that we've covered how well the Aggressor corners, let's dive into to its braking performance. Maxxis uses three different knobs to handle upright braking: (1) a blockly "V" shaped knob, (2) a knob that looks like a hybrid of the Batman logo and a Transformer (or something) with the center knob having a horizontal Sipe and the two "wings" having those vertical Sipes that help with banked-turn traction and (3) a generic-looking rectangular, blocky knob with two horizontal Sipes and vertical channel between them. What do all these knobs have in common? Big, flat horizontal edges that will help dig into the earth when you get hard on the brakes. Due to the Aggressor's well-thought-out center knob design, we found the tires to offer excellent braking traction, even in the dry and hard-pack conditions we tested the tires.

While we primarily tested the Aggressor tires in the dry, we were lucky enough to start getting some rain here in SoCal (thank you El Niño!) and put in a few days in the wet. While we never rode the tires in slop, the tires performed exactly how we’d expect in the damp, perfect earth that was our trails for a few lovely days - with increased cornering and braking traction and slightly more rolling resistance. In the few muddy spots we did roll through, we didn’t see any mud pack-up at all, but it’d be premature to comment much more about their shedding abilities as it was only a few patchy areas with poor drainage.

So how does the Aggressor roll? That was kind of a tough one for us to figure out, They didn't really feel incredibly sluggish nor did they roll extremely fast like a Cross Mark. We really wish there was more we could say about this, but the Aggressor really didn't stand-out either way, a testament to Maxxis' claim that the Aggressor offers excellent all-around performance.

Casing. We mentioned we chose to run the lighter EXO casing up front with the more durable DD casing out back. During our two months of testing we experienced no sidewall tears or punctures. Support, even under heavy cornering and sideways compressions, was ample and we didn't experience excessive tire-roll or burp them. Overall, even with poor line choice in rocky conditions, we found the casing adequate.

Long Term Durability

As stated previously, we found the casing of the Aggressor ample for aggressive SoCal riding in our EXO front and DD rear configuration. If you're riding somewhere extremely rocky (we're looking at you, Phoenix), we'd opt to run the DD casing exclusively. As far as tread wear, the Aggressors are holding up surprisingly well both front and rear. Neither tires show's significant knob deformation after upwards of 150 miles of trail riding. These tires look to be in it for the long-haul.

Things That Could Be Improved

With no glaring flaws nor any issues during our test, we're hard pressed to find a reason to fill out this section of our article. We were hoping the Aggressor's we received were going to feature these sweet tribal flaming sidewalls found on the proto tires we spotted at last year's Eurobike, just so we'd have something to moan about. But, unfortunately our Aggressor sidewalls didn't look like an overly-tan bodybuilder's tattooed arm from 1995. Oh well.

What's The Bottom Line?

Maxxis claims excellent all-around performance with the Aggressor and they delivered. We found the new Aggressor to excel in all three of its designated conditions in both cornering and braking situations. While it might not be the fastest rolling tire in the world, it's also not the slowest, and we don't think you'll miss the additional speed in the straights when it's so easily made up with great cornering traction on both flat and banked turns. Has Maxxis created a new standard in enduro? It's too soon to know, but they've done an incredible job at creating a benchmark of what a great all-around mountain bike tire should be.

For more details, visit maxxis.com.


About The Reviewer

Fred Robinson, a.k.a. "Maximus Derfimus," 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.

This product has no reviews yet.

Added a product review for Maxxis Agressor Tire 1/18/2016 5:20 PM
C138_tyre_image_aggressor_l

Tested: Maxxis Aggressor

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Fred Robinson and Josh Job (action)

Maxxis has been setting the standard for high-performance mountain bike tires for years with gravity benchmarks like the Minion DHF, High Roller and more recently the DHR II and High Roller II. Having been the go-to tire for numerous World Cup DH riders, even when they were supported by competing brands, the sight of a "Sharpie'd" Maxxis wasn't uncommon before the rest of the tire brands caught up. Having laid down the yardstick in DH long ago, Maxxis set out to create another benchmark with their new tire, the Aggressor, which they claim to be the new standard in enduro tires. Maxxis debuted the Aggressor last March during the Taipei Cycle Show in their EXO configuration, then later at Eurobike in the more robust Double Down casing. We were eager to mount the new rubber to our six-inch steed and see if the tire stacks up to Maxxis' high pedigree.

Maxxis Aggressor Features

  • All-around performance
  • Dual-compound
  • EXO 60 casing
  • Available in DoubleDown (DD) 120 TPI dual-ply casing
  • Tubeless Ready (TR)
  • Sizing - 27.5 x 2.3-inch
  • Weight: 885g (EXO) // 1,050g (DD)
  • Intended conditions: Loose, loose over hard, medium
  • MSRP: $62 (EXO) // $80 (DD)

Initial Impressions

Currently, Maxxis only offers the Aggressor in a 27.5 x 2.3-inch configuration, and while that may be limiting to some, we found the volume adequate and similar to the 27.5 x 2.3-inch Minion DHF and 27.5 x 2.4-inch High Roller II the Aggressors would be replacing. Available in both Maxxis' 60TPI EXO and 120TPI DoubleDown casings, we decided to mount one of each on our bike, with the heavier DD tire in the rear. We chose to take advantage of the tires being Tubeless Ready and mounted them as such with the addition of some tire sealant. As usual, before we reached for the air-compressor we had to give it the ol' college try and see if we could mount the Aggressors up using only a floor-pump. To our surprise, despite utilizing a folding-bead, the tires quickly popped into place and sealed immediately without the use of soapy water or any other tricks of the trade. For reference, we mounted these up to our SRAM RAIL 40 wheelset, so results may vary depending on your rim options. Tire pressure was set to our preferred 31 PSI out back and 27 PSI in the front. With all else ready to go, it's time to get these tires to dirt.

On The Trail

Maxxis indicates that the Aggressor is best suited for loose, loose over hard and medium conditions. Since we primarily tested these tires in SoCal, 95% of the time the exact conditions Maxxis described were met. It was evident right away Maxxis knew where these tires would excel. Cornering traction, despite the loose over hard conditions, was excellent. Regardless our lean-angle, the tires held a consistent and predictable amount of grip. We've ridden tires in the past that really require a committed approach when it comes to the ideal lean-angle, and while the Aggressors loved being pushed hard into corners, Maxxis employed some well-placed knobs with lateral Sipes to help you out in that transitional area between the center line and the side knobs. Even if you don't fully commit to a flat corner or are riding a nicely banked berm, there's still a good amount of traction when you're stuck in that transitional zone. When you do finally get the bike leaned over, the Aggressor features some slightly modified but familiar-shaped side knobs that take over when you get low. Think a less aggressive DHF//DHR II side knob. Like the Minion's, the Aggressor features an alternating block and L-shaped pattern to the side knobs. But, instead of having a large Sipe all the way through the block-shaped knob and no Sipe on the L-shaped one, the Aggressor features a smaller, lateral Sipe on every knob. While worth noting the slight differences between the Minion and Aggressor side knobs, we didn't feel any loss or gain in cornering performance with the new layout and found the Aggressor to tackle hard cornering just as well.

So, how come the new Aggressor handles not-so-aggressive cornering so well? Maxxis took cues from the revamped DHR II center knob to side knob spacing and employed a similar layout for the Aggressor. Notice how each center knob falls between that empty space between the side knobs? As Kidwoo so keenly pointed out in his review of the DHR II, this open area keeps the the tire from having a rounded profile, allowing more dirt to get between the knobs which, in turn, translates to more traction. Good stuff.

Now that we've covered how well the Aggressor corners, let's dive into to its braking performance. Maxxis uses three different knobs to handle upright braking: (1) a blockly "V" shaped knob, (2) a knob that looks like a hybrid of the Batman logo and a Transformer (or something) with the center knob having a horizontal Sipe and the two "wings" having those vertical Sipes that help with banked-turn traction and (3) a generic-looking rectangular, blocky knob with two horizontal Sipes and vertical channel between them. What do all these knobs have in common? Big, flat horizontal edges that will help dig into the earth when you get hard on the brakes. Due to the Aggressor's well-thought-out center knob design, we found the tires to offer excellent braking traction, even in the dry and hard-pack conditions we tested the tires.

While we primarily tested the Aggressor tires in the dry, we were lucky enough to start getting some rain here in SoCal (thank you El Niño!) and put in a few days in the wet. While we never rode the tires in slop, the tires performed exactly how we’d expect in the damp, perfect earth that was our trails for a few lovely days - with increased cornering and braking traction and slightly more rolling resistance. In the few muddy spots we did roll through, we didn’t see any mud pack-up at all, but it’d be premature to comment much more about their shedding abilities as it was only a few patchy areas with poor drainage.

So how does the Aggressor roll? That was kind of a tough one for us to figure out, They didn't really feel incredibly sluggish nor did they roll extremely fast like a Cross Mark. We really wish there was more we could say about this, but the Aggressor really didn't stand-out either way, a testament to Maxxis' claim that the Aggressor offers excellent all-around performance.

Casing. We mentioned we chose to run the lighter EXO casing up front with the more durable DD casing out back. During our two months of testing we experienced no sidewall tears or punctures. Support, even under heavy cornering and sideways compressions, was ample and we didn't experience excessive tire-roll or burp them. Overall, even with poor line choice in rocky conditions, we found the casing adequate.

Long Term Durability

As stated previously, we found the casing of the Aggressor ample for aggressive SoCal riding in our EXO front and DD rear configuration. If you're riding somewhere extremely rocky (we're looking at you, Phoenix), we'd opt to run the DD casing exclusively. As far as tread wear, the Aggressors are holding up surprisingly well both front and rear. Neither tires show's significant knob deformation after upwards of 150 miles of trail riding. These tires look to be in it for the long-haul.

Things That Could Be Improved

With no glaring flaws nor any issues during our test, we're hard pressed to find a reason to fill out this section of our article. We were hoping the Aggressor's we received were going to feature these sweet tribal flaming sidewalls found on the proto tires we spotted at last year's Eurobike, just so we'd have something to moan about. But, unfortunately our Aggressor sidewalls didn't look like an overly-tan bodybuilder's tattooed arm from 1995. Oh well.

What's The Bottom Line?

Maxxis claims excellent all-around performance with the Aggressor and they delivered. We found the new Aggressor to excel in all three of its designated conditions in both cornering and braking situations. While it might not be the fastest rolling tire in the world, it's also not the slowest, and we don't think you'll miss the additional speed in the straights when it's so easily made up with great cornering traction on both flat and banked turns. Has Maxxis created a new standard in enduro? It's too soon to know, but they've done an incredible job at creating a benchmark of what a great all-around mountain bike tire should be.

For more details, visit maxxis.com.


About The Reviewer

Fred Robinson, a.k.a. "Maximus Derfimus," 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.

This product has no reviews yet.

Added a product review for 2016 Intense M16C Pro Build Bike 11/17/2015 3:34 PM
C138_m16_pro_red_side

Tested: Intense M16C Pro Build

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by @luca_cometti_photo

We've all heard that the M16C is here. There hasn't been much talk of how Intense's first production carbon downhill bike actually rides beyond a couple quick articles that barely scratch the surface, like our First Look earlier this month. Well, for the past two months we've been putting the M16C though the paces and feel it's finally time to weigh in on our thoughts about the new bike. While the new carbon M16, which we'll simply refer to as the M16C from now on, shares features like adjustable travel (8.5 to 9.5 inches) and leverage-curve, as well as nearly identical geometry and spec, is the new M16C leaps and bounds ahead of the alloy M16 (M16A), or is it simply a refinement of an already-proven platform? Read on to find out.

Intense M16C Frame Features

  • World Cup-tested geometry
  • EPS-molded high modulus carbon frame
  • Compression-molded carbon fiber upper link
  • Full internal cable routing for brake and shifting cables
  • Forged lower link
  • Double sealed pivots for long bearing life
  • Dual grease ports on lower link for easy maintenance
  • Full carbon dropouts and disk mounts
  • Angular contact bearings maximize stiffness
  • Collet axle pivots lock in place without pinch bolts
  • 157x12mm spacing
  • 215-240mm of adjustable travel
  • 5 year frame warranty
  • Titanium hardware
  • Frame Weight: 6.61lbs w/o shock
  • Available in S, M, L & XL
  • MSRP - $3,699 for frame and shock

Intense M16C Geometry

Initial Impressions

Jeff Steber, Intense Cycles' founder and lead designer, isn't shy about stating that Intense puts a lot of thought and effort into not only the performance of their bikes, but also the aesthetics. And, with the move to a full-carbon front and rear triangle for the M16, it seems Steber was able to completely bring his vision of exactly what a good looking downhill bike should be to the table. The M16C is a sleeker, slimmer and more refined looking downhill bike than its alloy brother, with better flowing lines, curves and shapes. Another improvement over the M16A, at least aesthetically, is the carbon bike sees completely internal cable routing to further its clean look.

There's also a notable difference in weight when comparing the alloy and carbon M16's, with the carbon bike weighing at only 35.5lbs (16.10kg). That's an almost three-pound reduction over the similarly spec'd M16A we tested earlier this year, which is significant. To note, we tested and confirmed the weight of a large M16C with a 550lbs steel spring, tubes and no pedals. Intense claims the weight of the frame, without shock, is 6.61lbs.

Intense did a great job covering the details with lots of integrated features on the M16C. The frame features integrated fork bumpers, which double as cable guides, and molded rubber frame protection for the lower portion of the down tube and drive-side chainstay to help prevent damage from rock strikes and chain rub. The M16C also comes equipped with an integrated plastic rear fender that helps shield the rear shock from mud and debris.

After setting up the cockpit to our liking and getting our initial sag and shock setting to pass the parking lot test, it was time to put the M16C back in its natural habitat to see how it preformed.

On The Trail

As mentioned, we've been on the M16C since mid-September, the tail-end of lift season for us. We started our test at the Mammoth Mountain Bike Park and have since ridden the bike primarily on our local tracks, which range from fast, wide-open trails to steep, rocky and tech. At the bike park, while we were still getting acquainted with the M16C, one of the first things we noticed was that the bike's a bit more playful than we had initially expected. Despite what notions you may have of an eight-and-a-half-inch VPP-style bike, we found ourselves hopping over sections and playing with line choice as opposed to just plowing straight through, not that this bike is incapable of that. This was a bit puzzling at first, as we were riding the bike a bit deeper into its travel than where we'd normally setup a bike. But, at 35% sag the bike still felt plenty active and responsive. Since we were at a bit more sag than typical, we tried bumping the spring up 50-pounds to get us around 30%, but after a few days on that setup, we put the softer spring back on, much preferring how the bike rode while sitting deeper in its travel.

After we had the suspension dialed (more on that later), the bike felt lively and rewarded us with additional speed while pumping inclines and backsides. In hard cornering situations, we felt like we could really drive the bike into the berm without loosing stability, rewarding us with additional speed. Since we had the M16C setup so far into its travel, small bump tracking and traction in the chatter was excellent, even while grabbing too much rear brake. Since we brought up cornering, the M16C does have a higher than average bottom bracket, at 14.375 inches. But, due to the fact this bike sits deeper into its travel than most, we didn't find the high bottom bracket to be a disadvantage in corners or with overall stability; the bike still railed corners like the best of them.

As stated previously, Intense went completely internal with the cable routing on the M16C, which some will love and some will hate. While it does clean up the appearance of the bike nicely, some will argue that the price of having to pull and re-bleed your brake just isn't worth it. Whatever your take is, there's another side effect of internal housing that no rider would be stoked on, and that's additional noise caused by the housing rattling inside the frame's tubing. Fortunately, Intense thought of this and molded the front triangle with housing guides//tubes that run inside the down tube, not only making installation a breeze but preventing any undesired cable noise. All-in-all, the M16C runs exceptionally quiet.

So where did we find the M16C really shine? Anywhere fast, steep and rough. At Mammoth, we were really stoked with the M16C, as the trails there are raw, really rough and if you know where to look, plenty steep. But when we got the bike back home and took it to our local hill, a hill you can honestly ride a 160mm bike down just fine, it kinda felt like the wind was taken out of our sails. It wasn't until we got the bike back on a proper DH track (a track where if you showed up with your "aggressive mini-downhill" trail bike, you'd surely be out-gunned) did the M16C really come to life again. With a static 63.5-degree head angle and 49-inch wheelbase (large frame), the bike likes to be pointed down and ridden fast. And once you're pointed down, the bike rewards you with a stable feeling at high speeds, and an off-the-back, aggressive stance once things get really steep.

Intense M16C Pro Build Kit

  • Frame: M16 SL 275 Monocoque UD Carbon Frame
  • Fork: RockShox BoXXer World Cup, 200 mm
  • Shock: RockShox Vivid R2C Coil
  • Shifters: SRAM X01 DH 7-speed
  • Derailleur: SRAM X01 DH 7-speed
  • Cranks: SRAM X01 36t
  • Cassette: SRAM XG-795 10-24
  • Chain: SRAM X1
  • Chain Guide: E13 LG1
  • Bottom Bracket: BSA (threaded) 83 mm
  • Wheels: Stan's No Tubes Rapid 30
  • Tires: Maxxis Minion 2.75x2.5"
  • Saddle: WTB Volt Team
  • Seatpost: Thomson Elite 31.6 mm
  • Handlebar: Renthal Fatbar
  • Stem: Renthal Integra II DM 45 mm
  • Headset: Cane Creek 40
  • Brakeset: Shimano Saint 203 mm f/r
  • Grips: Intense Dual Density Lock-On
  • MSRP: $8,499

Despite the mix of both SRAM and Shimano controls, everything found its place nicely on the Renthal Fatbars. Overall, Intense did an excellent job of picking quality components for the M16C. When you see an OEM spec'd bike with mix of brands like Thomson, Maxxis, Renthal, SRAM, RockShox and Shimano, it's clear the manufacturer based the spec on performance and not what their OEM-spec manager could get the best pricing on. We feel the M16C Pro Build reflects that nicely.

The wheels, which are Stan's No Tubes Rapid 30's, may not be the highest-end wheelset out there, but they have proven reliable and reasonably stiff so far. We've tested quite a few bikes that come equipped with SRAM's X01DH 7-speed drivetrain and the downhill-specific transmission continues to impress up with its performance. As far as braking performance, Intense initially equipped our bike with a 203mm front rotor and 180mm rear, which we promptly swapped out for 203mm all around. A bit perplexed as to why a downhill bike would come with a 180mm rear rotor, we double-checked Intense's site and it looks like either they listened to our input, gave us an out-of-spec bike or wised up on their own and now supply the M16C with 8-inch rotors front and rear. Once rotors were sorted, the Shimano Saint brakes have delivered gobs of power that's easy to control, and we've experienced zero fade throughout the duration of our test. All things considered, Intense has yet again brought us a well-spec'd downhill machine.

In regard to the suspension and to expand on how we set it up, the bike comes equipped with a RockShox BoXXer World Cup and Vivid R2C coil shock. Setting up the air-sprung BoXXer was par for the course - sag was set to 25% and we added two additional Bottomless Tokens (for a total of three). 25% is a tad more than our tester's typical sweet-spot, but in the case of the M16C, it balanced the bike out nicely. As we mentioned in our First Look, the one major change in spec between the M16A and M16C is the use of a Vivid R2C in place of the Cane Creek Double Barrel found on the M16A. Why Intense made this switch, we're not sure, but we did feel the Vivid played better with the suspension design.

Things That Could Be Improved

One thing we noticed before we even got the bike dirty, was the M16C's limited turning radius, which was an issue we found on the M16A as well. While it has been improved with the carbon bike and we don't see the need to completely remove the integrated fork bumpers in-favor of standard, fork-mounted bumpers, it's worth noting that you will hit steering lock a few degrees before most other bikes we've tested. Unlike they M16A, we never experienced steering lock while actually riding. The only other small thing we could nit-pick is while Intense did a great job including lots of integrated frame protection, we feel like they've missed an easy opportunity to include a shuttle-guard of sorts on the upper portion of the down tube. Beyond that, we've found the M16C to be a well-thought-out downhill bike.

Long Term Durability

After two months of mostly local riding and some park days sprinkled in, the M16C has held up great. In the past, Intense had some issues with hardware staying put, but we're happy to report that this hasn't been the case with the M16 (both carbon and alloy). Despite riding the bike in some wet and muddy conditions, the rear suspension's action and bearings have stayed smooth and consistent and when they do require attention, Intense has fitted the bike with Zerk grease ports for easy maintenance. All components, including the Stan's Rapid 30 wheels, have remained problem-free.

What's The Bottom Line?

Why did we give the same 4-star rating for the M16C that we did for the M16A? Clearly the M16C is a step-up in performance with its carbon construction, lighter weight and slightly improved spec? It really just came down to the value to performance ratio, and quite honestly we feel like both bikes have their own advantages. If you're a more value-oriented rider who still appreciates a handmade-in-the-USA frame, isn't concerned with exotic materials or a slight weight penalty on the scale, the M16A offers many of the advantages the carbon version totes with a slightly lower price tag. If you're a rider who demands the absolute most out of their bike, not only in terms of flat-out performance but with looks and materials too, then the M16C is a bike you should definitely put on your short list as one to consider. Comparisons aside, Intense has continued to carry on their legacy of making the M-Series a top contender when it comes to a full-blown downhill race bike, one that loves going fast and tackling the nastiest of terrain.

For more info, visit intensecycles.com.


About The Reviewer

Fred Robinson, a.k.a. "Derf E. Lee," 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's an avid air-guitar player and Civil War reenactor.

This product has no reviews yet.

Added a product review for Deity Tyler McCaul Signature TMAC Pedal 11/11/2015 5:50 PM
C138_deity_tmac_pedals_1

Tested: Deity TMAC Pedals

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by @luca_cometti_photo

Tyler McCaul and the team at Deity Components have been cooking up something special. Having first spotted these pedals at the 2015 Sea Otter Classic and later seeing them pop up on various Deity-supported athletes' bikes, to say we were eager to get our hands on a set of them would be quite the understatement. With almost three years in development, Deity cut no corners when it came to creating a pedal both Tyler McCaul and they, themselves, were completely satisfied with. Deity even went as far as making a second mold after they weren't 100% happy with the first design. It's clear all parties involved invested quite a bit when it came to creating what they're calling "your dream pedal!" So, did they accomplish what they set out to do? It's time to put the rubber to the road, or in this case, rubber to the pedal... or should we say pedal to the metal... forget it. We tested the hell out of these things, so read on to see how they did.

Deity TMAC Pedal Features

  • The Tyler McCaul Signature Pedal
  • Extruded and machined from Deity molds and 6061 T6 aluminum
  • The largest Deity pedal to date
  • 110mm x 105mm footprint
  • Super concave, 2.5mm deep pedal profile per side
  • 14mm thin at the center
  • Symmetrical pedal profile
  • Dual sided pins with pre-applied Loctite
  • Includes extra set of back up pins
  • Load distribution system to prevent bearing blowout
  • Multi micro-sealed bearings and Deity DU bushing internals
  • Heat-treated Cr-Mo Spindle that is compatible with a standard 15mm wrench or 8mm allen
  • Available in five high-polished ano colors and also white powdercoat
  • 409 grams
  • MSRP: $168.99 (USD)

Initial Impressions

Big, concave, sexy. Who doesn't love a great looking pedal? And aesthetically, Deity pretty much checked all the boxes in that department. The graphics complement the shape and machining of the pedals well while the anodized finish makes the pedals stand out nicely without looking overly obnoxious or absurd. We also appreciate their no-gimmick approach to the TMAC as it looks like Deity hasn't tried to reinvent the flat pedal, just simply refine it.

Looks aside, Deity and TMac got aggressive in regards to the "geometry" of the new signature pedal. At a 110x105mm-footprint, this is the largest Deity pedal they have ever produced. And at a 2.5mm drop from the pedal profile to center, these are the most concave pedals we've seen.

It's worth noting that with the TMAC pedal, Deity didn't follow the current trend of "thinner is better" in relation to the overall thickness of the pedal body. The pedals measures out to 16.5mm on both the leading and trailing edges, with a center thickness of 14mm. That's a substantial increase when compared to their Bladerunner pedal, which is just 11mm thick. The TMAC's are not exactly the lightest pedal on the market, either. But at a reasonable 409 gram claimed weight, if the performance, feel and durability of the pedal is as good as Deity says it is, an extra 50 or so grams is something we can swallow.

One of the most intriguing features on the new TMAC pedal is Deity's departure from the standard offset pedal design we're all so used to. The new pedal uses a symmetrical pedal shape, claiming that the offset standard came about due to the brick-like qualities of pedals produced in the late 90's and early 2000's. Back then, in the dark ages of pedal tech, having such thick pedals required a ramped edge in order to rotate the pedal properly under the foot if the user tried placing their feet on them while they were pointed straight up and down. Now, with thinner pedals, that's no longer necessary and using a symmetrical design allows for more foot purchase, specifically on the trailing end of the pedal, which in-turn, should result in fewer slipped pedals. Deity details the shape of the new TMAC pedal in their official press release, which is definitely worth a read.

On The Trail

So, how does all that stuff we wrote about above translate to the real world? Awesomely. We were actually quite taken aback with how good the TMAC's felt under our feet. Having ridden some of the thinnest pedals available, our initial concerns with the thickness of the TMAC's quickly faded away. And, despite the preconceptions that 16.5mm-thickness number gave us, the pedal really does ride like a thin pedal in terms of how much your foot wants to roll fore and aft, likely due to their extremely concave shape. We're all familiar with the "rides like you're 'in' the bike vs. 'on' the bike" sensation. Well, we experienced a similar feeling when we first hopped on the TMAC's, which was a balanced and not on-top-of-the-rotational-axis feeling. That translated to a stable and intuitive connection with the pedals, something very important for a component that handles pretty much half of the human interface points on a DH bike.

Another concern we had with the pedal's thickness and width was unexpected pedal strikes; specifically the ones that stop you dead in your tracks before you have a chance to react. Thankfully, that hasn't happened. While obviously we can't claim that will never happen, what we can say is we rode the TMAC's on both a low-slung DH bike (13.4"//340mm bottom bracket) and a taller DH bike (14.375"//365mm BB) and we didn't feel like we were clipping pedals any more than we would have been had we been running a thinner set.

Now, the question of did we ever slip a pedal? Simply put, no. And, despite what you might have noticed in the action photos, that little bit of blood on our tester's left shin is from him being dummy and slamming his leg into the pedal as he pushed the bike up the trail. So, on that note, mind those pins. While they do an excellent job of keeping your foot in place while your foot is on the pedal, they take no prisoners should they contact your skin.

Another plus we've picked up on since riding the TMAC pedals is that due to both their size and shape, should we awkwardly or hastily put our foot on the pedal (like after dabbing a foot in the middle of a rock section or unexpectedly losing traction in a corner), there was still available grip to get us through whatever situation we were in, and we were able to ride out. Once things calmed down, we could re-position our foot and continue on our way without having to completely come off the pedal.

Long Term Durability

With only two months aboard the TMAC pedals, we have no major or minor concerns in the durability department. As mentioned earlier, we haven't made too much contact with rocks and other hard things with these pedals, despite using them at a couple bike parks and our local trails. If a problem does occur sometime down the line, we'll update this section, but as of now, nothing to report… not even a bent pin. Should something go awry, Deity has made available rebuild kids and the TMAC's are fully serviceable without the need to remove the pedals from your bike. In the event of a broken, bent or otherwise damaged pin, Deity includes a second set of pins with the purchase. Every pin can be removed from either side of the pedal. A problem that we've seen with some pedals, even right out of the box, is slight play between the axle and pedal-body interface. We're happy to report this issue has been non-existent with both pairs of TMAC pedals we've ridden. (Our original set, the one we performed the majority of this test on, were lost in travel. We're still sad.)

Things That Could Be Improved

We wish we didn't have to fill out this part of the test, because quite honestly, these pedals are stellar. But, there are two glaring things that if we don't bring up, surely someone will. Pricing - At $168.99 (USD), the TMAC pedals are pretty close to the top-end of the "regular" pedal market, and by "regular" pedal market, we mean there are no exotic materials like titanium or extra-light editions. While we don't think this is an unreasonable amount to ask for a excellent-performing and seemingly long-lasting pedal, we have to mention it. It's also fair to bring up the pedal's weight. At a claimed 409 grams, it wouldn't be difficult to find a pedal upwards of 50 grams lighter at a similar price. But, we'd argue that small weight penalty is worth it when it comes to feel with the TMACs.

What's The Bottom Line?

Deity and Tyler McCaul did their homework when it came to designing the TMAC signature pedal. As we mentioned in the opening of this article, they didn't reinvent the pedal, they simply refined it, and did so in a big way. The result: a well-thought-out pedal with outstanding grip and, you guessed it, that feel. These are hands down the best flats we've planted our feet on - truly unique, yet surprisingly familiar - and that's what a good pedal comes down to, right? It's all about the feel and the TMAC's nailed it.

For more information, visit deitycomponents.com.


About The Reviewer

Fred Robinson, a.k.a. "Derf the Impaler," 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 riding both downhill & trail, he also rides to the bar.

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Added a product review for 2016 Intense M16C Pro Build Bike 11/2/2015 2:55 PM
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First Look // First Ride: Intense M16C Pro Build

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"The next generation of M" is the official slogan for the new Intense Carbon M16, or M16C. It's clear the latest iteration of one of the most iconic lines of Downhill bikes has stayed true to the previous generations of M-Series bikes in terms of both performance and looks. While Intense has been producing carbon bikes for some time now, this is the first time we've seen a carbon Downhill bike from the SoCal manufacturer. Cutting a dramatic amount of weight when compared to the M16A, which was just released earlier this year, the new carbon sled features the same geometry and adjustability as its the M16A model, but sees a few updates with fully internal cable routing, a RockShox Vivid R2C Coil and a frame weight of only 6.61 pounds (without shock). We got to spend a few days aboard the new steed during the Mammoth Mountain Kamikaze Games in order to weigh-in with our initial thoughts on the bike. Full details and our early impressions regarding Intense's newest Downhill weapon, below.

Intense M16C Features

  • World Cup tested geometry
  • EPS molded high modulus carbon frame
  • Compression molded carbon fiber upper link
  • Full internal cable routing for brake and shifting cables
  • Forged lower link
  • Double sealed pivots for long bearing life
  • Dual grease ports on lower link for easy maintenance
  • Full carbon dropouts and disk mounts
  • Angular contact bearings maximize stiffness
  • Collet axle pivots lock in place without pinch bolts
  • 157x12-mm spacing
  • 215-240-mm of adjustable travel
  • 5 year frame warranty
  • Titanium hardware
  • Frame Weight: 6.61-lbs w/o shock
  • Available in S, M, L & XL
  • MSRP - $3,699 for frame and shock

Intense M16C Geometry

Intense M16C Pro Build Kit

  • Frame: M16 SL 275 Monocoque UD Carbon Frame
  • Fork: RockShox Boxxer World Cup, 200 mm
  • Shock: RockShox Vivid R2C Coil
  • Shifters: SRAM X01 DH 7-speed
  • Derailleur: SRAM X01 DH 7-speed
  • Cranks: SRAM X01 36t
  • Cassette: SRAM XG-795 10-24
  • Chain: SRAM X1
  • Chain Guide: E13 LG1
  • Bottom Bracket: BSA (threaded) 83 mm
  • Wheels: Stan's No Tubes Rapid 30
  • Tires: Maxxis Minion 2.75x2.5"
  • Saddle: WTB Volt Team
  • Seatpost: Thomson Elite 31.6 mm
  • Handlebar: Renthal Fatbar
  • Stem: Renthal Integra II DM 45 mm
  • Headset: Cane Creek 40
  • Brakeset: Shimano Saint 203 mm f/r
  • Grips: Intense Dual Density Lock-On
  • MSRP: $8,499

Initial Impressions

Having previously tested Intense's M16A with an almost identical build kit, we know Intense has put together a solid mix of parts. One major change Intense made with the M16C, though, is the addition of a RockShox Vivid R2C Coil in place of the Cane Creek Double Barrel, which is spec'd on the alloy bike. We're always a bit concerned when we see a mix of Shimano and SRAM controls on the bars of a new bike, due to fitment and compatibility issues when it comes to positioning them in an area with limited real-estate. Luckily, in this case, the controls are minimal with just two brake levers and a shifter and we were able to get everything just where we like it.

Something we noticed right off the bat was the turning radius of the M16C, which is a bit limited due to the integrated bumpers (something we noticed during our time on the M16A, too). It's worth noting, though, that it does feel like it has slightly more range on the carbon version versus the alloy bike, but it's still less than typical.

Since we just recently tested the M16A, it's hard not to draw comparisons between the two bikes. They share almost identical geometry and spec and utilize the same kinematics, but obviously there's going to be a difference in weight and stiffness due to carbon construction of the new M16C. The carbon frame weighs significantly less, and while the alloy bike we tested with a very close build weighed in at 38.18-lbs, the carbon counterpart slimmed down to 35.4-lbs. That's a decent diet.

We're Currently Testing The M16C

While we've only had a short amount of time on the M16C at the time of writing this, it was very apparent that this bike is a bit of a different beast than its alloy brother. It felt more responsive, first and foremost, giving us instant feedback when pumping the terrain and in corners, rewarding us with extra speed for our efforts. The rear end of the bike really seemed to liven up with the addition to the Vivid coil, allowing us to pick the bike up and hop a section of trail if we wanted, or just keep the rear end glued to the ground and tracking. Likely due to its all-carbon diet, the M16C is also quick to get up to speed and change direction, making successive back-to-back corners a blast on this thing (despite its 14.375-inch bottom bracket).

As we mentioned above, the build kit is hard to beat in terms of quality. The RockShox suspension works great with this bike and SRAM X01 DH drivetrain is pretty much unparalleled in our opinion. The wheels, while not the stiffest or fanciest pair on the planet, based on our previous experience with them, should hold up great and prove adequate for aggressive Downhill riding. The Shimano Saint brakes are a welcomed addition to any Downhill bike, as well, and stayed consistent and powerful despite dragging them all the way down Kamikaze.

Based on the time we've clocked on the new Intense M16C, all signs point towards a well-built and flat-out Downhill race machine. Stay tuned for an in-depth and detailed review of the Intense M16C, dropping later this month.

The new M16C is slated to be available later this November with retailers taking pre-orders now.

For more details, visit intensecycles.com

Words // Photos by Fred Robinson

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Added a product review for 100% Aircraft Full Face Helmet 10/30/2015 10:15 AM
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100% Releases Their New AIRCRAFT Full Face Helmet

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Carbon, lightweight, lots of vents and a sharp-looking design. It looks like 100% checked all the boxes of what makes a stellar full face. Available in three colors and five sizes, check out the newest addition to their line, the AIRCRAFT.

Press Release

The premier Downhill MTB helmet from 100% has landed. The AIRCRAFT is precision engineered with a Carbon/Kevlar composite shell providing an ultra-lightweight design. Airflow is managed through 25 channels to create the most ventilated helmet available.

Removable and washable comfort liner, emergency release cheek pads and aluminum hardware complete the package. Each helmet comes with a durable helmet bag with integrated goggle pocket.

The Aircraft comes in 4 colorways: Bi Turbo Blue, BI Turbo Red, R8 White, Raw Black and is available in 5 different sizes: X-Small, Small, Medium, Large, X-Large.

Features

  • Ultra-light design featuring aerospace Carbon/Kevlar composite shell.
  • Active cooling system maximizes airflow offering more ventilation than any other helmet.
  • Washable, antibacterial comfort liner, cheek pads and chin strap covers.
  • Emergency release cheek pads for quick, safe removal.
  • Integrated compartment accepts inflatable emergency release systems.
  • Compatible with most popular neck brace systems.
  • Titanium D-Ring buckle provides a secure fit while saving weight.
  • Engineered with 2 shell sizes and 3 EPS sizes to achieve the perfect fit.
  • Adjustable visor with machined light-weight aluminum screws.
  • Durable helmet bag with integrated goggle pocket included.
  • Accessories: replaceable visor, mouth piece, comfort-liner, cheek pads, and visor screws.

For more information, check out 100%'s blog.

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Added a product review for VEE Tire Co. Flow Rumba Tire 10/29/2015 9:59 AM
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Tested: VEE Tire Co. Flow Rumba

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Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Fred Robinson & @luca_cometti_photo (action)

Not long ago, looking for an aggressive 27.5 Downhill worthy tire was a chore, but now that the industry has fully committed to the tweener wheel standard for DH, we're starting to see more and more viable options pop up. Enter VEE Tire Co, a company that has been in the industry for over thirty years and strives to offer affordable, yet innovative products in an effort to provide you all out performance while keeping your wallet happy. We recently got the opportunity to try out VEE's newest tire, the Flow Rumba, which VEE themselves files under their "All Mountain" category of tires, but states it was designed with 80% of Downhill terrain in mind and was developed in collaboration with the Swiss Downhill Syndicate team. For you die-hard 26-inch fans, this tire is also available in a 26-inch version. That said, how does the newest addition to VEE's line of tires stack up? Read on to find out.

Flow Rumba Tire Features

  • Tackee Compound 48A
  • 2 Ply 120 TPI Casing
  • Tubeless Ready
  • Kevlar Folding Bead
  • Gravity Core and Synthesis Technology
  • Recommended Pressures: 22.5-50 PSI (1.6-3.5 bar)
  • Weight: 27.5" - 1,220-g // 26" - 1,160-g
  • MSRP: $64.90 USD (both 27.5 & 26)

Initial Impressions

Folding bead and only 2.35" wide, hmmmmm. We're not used to seeing a tire primarily slated for Downhill folded up on its own display packaging, and we're also not used to seeing a Downhill tire with its width at only 2.35". Both these things had us a bit concerned when we first received the Flow Rumba tires in the mail. But, once we mounted these tires, it became quite clear that the Flow Rumba is a meaty, aggressive and burly looking tire, and when we put them next to a Maxxis Minion 2.5 for a comparison in size, the Flow Rumba was surprisingly slightly wider, go figure. Another mention right off the bat would have to be the Flow Rumba's weight, at only 1,220-grams for a full sized DH tire, these tires are definitely on the lighter side for a gravity tire. How that will fare on the trail, we'll let you know in the next section.

On The Trail

We tested the Flow Rumba's exclusively in Southern and Central California over the past couple months, and if you've been paying attention to our weather recently, we're in an extreme drought. Our trails are hammered, dry as a bone and in some areas, straight up sand at this point. Conditions like this, of course, can push any tire past the point of traction, but as locals to the area, we've become quite aware as to which tires work and which tires are simply not worth using out here.

To be blunt, we struggled with the Flow Rumba in these conditions, specifically when cornering and fighting off-chamber sections of trail. There's a distinct fall off of traction when leaning the bike or trying to utilize the 11-o'clock and 1-o'clock positions of the tire, causing us to push through that initial slide by leaning the bike further than we normally would in order to get the side knobs to start engaging. During hard cornering, leaning the bike further than normal became something we adjusted to over time, but when slight off-chambers like ruts or shoots came up quick, it was never a natural or snap adjustment for us to lean the bike over to prevent the tire from loosing traction, making those situations unpredictable. Now, was this due to the rubber compound or the tread design? We feel it's a bit of both. We're used to a tire with sparse intermediate knobs with a distinct fall off in traction between the center and side knobs, and with some proper siping and knob trimming, we're betting we could get a bit more out of the Flow Rumbas, but, there's not much we can do about rubber compound. Despite VEE's description of using a Tackee 48A tire compound, these tires are quite hard, and, coupled with a lack of lateral siping on the side-knobs, we think VEE missed out on a few simple opportunities to improve the cornering traction of these tires.

We ended up dropping our pressure roughly 3-4 PSI from our normal setup in an effort to combat this, and while it did allow the tire to hook-up slightly better in these situations, it did so at the increased risk of pinch flats and rim pings. It's worth noting, we ran these tires tubeless and despite running lower pressures than normal, we never flatted or burped the Flow Rumbas, a testament to VEE's Gravity Core and Synthesis Technology. For a lighter weight tire, we were pretty surprised by this. We did, however, hit rim a couple times, but no damage to either the tire or the wheel occured.

Since we brought up running these tires tubeless, we will say they were extremely easy to setup. We were able to get the tires on the rims without the use of levers or soapy water, and they inflated and seated with just a floor pump. This was perhaps the easiest tubeless setup we've ever done, and we've done hundreds.

In terms of braking, the Flow Rumba's perform nicely. During our time on them we actually haven't seen much wear in the braking edge out back like we're used to seeing on a tire after a short amount of time. Due to that, the braking bite has stayed consistent and nearly as good as when the tires were completely fresh.

Another area they really shined was when getting up too speed, likely due to how light these tires are when compared to other DH tires. Now, a lighter tire can have some drawbacks, specifically when it comes to durability, sidewall stiffness and deflecting off rocks (which lighter, high-volume tires tend to do). We're happy to report that none of those problems have really surfaced with the Flow Rumbas. The sidewalls feel just as sturdy as your average dual-ply DH tire, and while we did notice a bit more sidewall flex due to running slightly lower pressure than normal, we don't feel it was an unreasonable amount due to that decreased pressure. In terms of rolling resistance, once the bike is up to speed, it tended to hold it well and never felt sluggish or speed-robbing.

Long Term Durability

The VEE Flow Rumbas are holding up fantastically. As we mentioned, we're running lower pressure than typical, and the sidewalls are showing no signs of wear due to the increased sidewall flex under heavier cornering. The tread is also holding up well, with no signs of the side-knobs tearing or premature wear from grabbing tons of brake (or skidding down the street). These tires seem like they'll last a bit longer than your typical gravity rubber.

Things That Could Be Improved

As we stated earlier, we think VEE missed a few simple opportunities that could have really improved the Flow Rumba's performance. The tread pattern itself could use a few key siping applications on the side-knobs, and with some experimentation with the center-knobs and a pair of end-cutters, there's potential to ease that transition from center to side knob traction. Beyond tread modification, one of the easiest improvements to the tire would be offering it in a softer compound, as it's almost certain plenty of gravity riders will sacrifice longevity for superior traction.

What's The Bottom Line?

We feel like VEE is close with the Flow Rumba, but just not there yet. The overall profile and design of the tire left us feeling like the tire could work, but, unfortunately just came up short of what we want out of a tire designed primarily with Downhill terrain in mind. The areas in which we found the Flow Rumba to really shine though, is in the overall weight vs. volume, the durability of the rubber and the lack of rolling resistance despite an aggressive knob pattern. That said, for the Enduro specialist, this would make for a decent front tire on their 160-mm rig, as it's relatively light for its volume and size yet still holds up well to aggressive terrain and general abuse, but for the full blown Downhill Racer, you might be better off running Downhill dedicated rubber.

For more details, visit veetireco.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 Maxima Assembly Lube 10/28/2015 2:00 PM
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Tested: Maxima Assembly Lube

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Review by Fred Robinson // Wrenching by Josh Job
Maxima have been hitting the Cycling market hard recently and both professional wrenches and home mechanics alike will attest, their products not only do what they say they'll do, but they do it well and smell great while doing so. Smell great? Yup, you read that right, every Maxima product is scented, and while that obviously doesn't play any part in how well the product performs, ask any wrench who's been cooped up in the back of a shop all day if something like how good or bad a product smells makes a difference to them, if they've experienced the pleasant perfumes of a Maxima product, we guarantee they'll say yes, it matters big time. Pretty clever on Maxima's part to do this, as it's way more likely for a mechanic to grab something that not only works well, but doesn't irritate their olfactory sense, than they are to grab the offensively odored stuff instead. So, when Maxima sent us their palate pleasing peppermint scented Assembly Lube, to say we were stoked to ditch the stinky stuff tucked away in our toolbox would be an understatement. Alright, it's clear this stuff smells good, but what exactly is it for and how well does it perform?

Before we dive into the review, we should first talk about this product's intended uses. Assembly Lube, that sounds pretty straightforward, right? That's what we thought too. Apply to metal on metal contact points, use on bolt threads to prevent galling and seizure, and put on things like your axles and what not, right? Well, yes, it can be used for all those things, but what we were actually pretty surprised to find out is that the Assembly Lube name is be a bit deceiving. When we spoke to Maxima, we found out this stuff was originally formulated for the assembly or racing engines - from MX to V8 engines found in Trophy Trucks, NASCAR cars and anything in between. As such, the lube was designed to mix with synthetic and petroleum based oils, meaning it can be used as an additive to the assembly // lubricating oil found in Mountain Bike suspension, in an effort to decrease friction and stiction. With that in mind, we tested the Assembly Lube in a number of places on our bikes, which we'll cover below.

Maxima Assembly Lube Features

  • Film forming lubricant to protect moving components and wear surfaces
  • Mixes with petroleum and synthetic oils
  • Friction reducing and anti-wear formulation
  • 2X Zinc activates at both high and low temps
  • Non-foaming formula
  • 4 oz application bottle
  • Multiple uses and applications
  • Peppermint scented
  • MSRP - $9.95 (4oz bottle)

Initial Impressions

Candy you can't eat. As we've already covered, Maxima gives all their products a distinct and pleasant smell, with the Assembly Lube's scent (and color) is that of the chewy Hot Tamales cinnamon candy. Beyond the scent of the stuff, the lube itself is has a syrupy consistency somewhere between your typical bike grease and a wet chain lube, think FOX Float Fluid or RockShox RedRum, it's right around there. Since the Assembly Lube is slated for multiple uses, we tested it as such. We applied the stuff to our headset cups, inside the lowers of an ancient RockShox Pike that we slammed to 90mm to use on a DJ bike, inside the new RockShox LYRIK, in our hubs and on our axles, bolts and binders.

Using the 4 oz application bottle is as straightforward as you'd expect, especially when you're using the lube on axles and bolts, just drizzle the Assembly Lube on your desired part and spread evenly over whatever surface you're trying to cover. We used it on the entirety of the contact areas of our axles and with bolts we used it on the threads in order to prevent them from galling or seizing in the frame. For the headset, again, as you'd expect, we used the lube on all contact areas. It should be noted that the Assembly Lube is carbon safe, and is suitable for use in installing both press fit bottom brackets and headsets.

Applying the lube to your fork bushings and freehub pawls is obviously a bit more involved. To use in the fork, first we removed the front wheel, removed the fork (although this can easily be done with the fork still mounted on the bike) and removed both foot nuts that hold the lowers to the uppers. Once we broke the seal between the fork internals and the lowers, we drained a small amount of fork oil out and replaced it with the Maxima Assembly lube. Then we reassembled and mounted the fork back up. For our freehub, since our hub uses SRAM's XD driver, which just presses in, we pulled the driver off without removing our cassette, degreased and cleaned the pawls and internals of the hub, applied the Assembly Lube fairly liberally and reinstalled the driver.

On The Trail

We've been running the Assembly Lube in all the parts mentioned above now for nearly eight weeks. As we expected, the Assembly Lube has held up well in places like our headset, axles and bolts. No seized anything, and the headset has stayed quite and smooth throughout. No surprises here.

As used in the hub, we have nothing but positive things to report. We never experienced any sticky pawls or wacky engagement issues and our hub has remained smooth and problem free. As we mentioned before, the consistency of the Assembly Lube is somewhere between a wet chain lube and normal bike grease, which made our hub audible while riding, but not super loud and distracting. So far so good.

Now, where we were most impressed with the Assembly Lube, and where you'll get the most "on the trail" benefit out of the product, in our opinion, is the use of the lube inside your suspension. As you know, we used the product in both a mega old Pike and in a brand new LYRIK. First of all, credit where credit's due, the new LYRIK already has substantially low stiction, or stick-slip (more info on that in our LYRIK First Ride feature), so we can't say we felt a huge improvement in small bump performance or decrease in stiction, but we did feel an improvement. Whether or not that was a perceived reduction in stiction or an actual one, on the trail, it's hard to tell. Now, where we did notice a dramatic decrease in stiction was in our old Pike. This ol' boy was pretty sticky, and as a baseline test, we kept the same oil in there and only added the Assembly Lube to the lowers. After we sloshed the fork around a bit there was a very noticeable difference when engaging travel, and while the stiction was never fully eliminated, it was reduced by quite a lot.

One of the most difficult things about testing bike products is often the lack of standardized testing and availability of hard numbers. Sure, we felt a slight reduction in stiction and therefor a slight increase in small bump sensitivity in the LYRIK, and we also felt a dramatic improvement in the old sticky Pike, but how much of that is quantifiable and how much of that is just a perceived notion of improvement? Well, luckily in this case we were able to get ahold of some solid numbers based on actual dyno testing provided by X Fusion Shox, who was kind enough to send us the results of their test using the Assembly Lube in their air shocks.

Here's what Mike Davis, X Fusion's R&D // Suspension Technician, had to say regarding their testing of the Assembly Lube:

With the Assembly Lube in the rear shocks we have seen a dramatic decrease of between 10 and 15% in friction at the moment of inertia when the shock is trying to switch directions. The Assembly lube seems to bond with the metal parts, stay in place, and return back to the seal after movement; whereas grease gets pushed away, and until heated, as the shock gets hot, stays away. On the bike, this translates to a more sensitive and active shock, allowing the bike to track better through rough sections and have a more lively feel. It is a noticeable difference right away when we switched to the Assembly Lube.

X Fusion's test results of the force needed to move a rear shock throughout its travel. Maxima Assembly Lube plotted in red, commonly used grease plotted in green.

So there you have it, between a 10 and 15% reduction in friction with the Assembly Lube when compared to another commonly used grease. That's pretty solid evidence that the Assembly Lube does as advertised and that our perceived improvement was indeed an actual improvement in performance.

Long Term Durability

After eight weeks using the Assembly Lube, the product has held up great and hasn't broken down, keeping all of our moving parts consistently smooth without the need to reapply often. The service intervals on all the parts we've used the lube on has remained the same without any premature breakdown or loss of consistency from the lube itself. All signs point to a long lasting and reliable product.

Things That Could Be Improved

In terms of the product itself, we see no faults that need to be improved. The one thing we can nitpick, is Maxima might be understating, or at least not making obvious, all the uses of the Assembly Lube in their own product description found on their website.

What's The Bottom Line?

If there's one thing a mechanic likes, it's a product that does what it's supposed to and has multiple uses throughout the bike. Home wrenches and race mechanics will obviously appreciate that fact too, as space is often limited and finding a lube that has quite a few applications makes available valuable real estate in your toolbox. One lube to rule them all? Surely not, but the Assembly Lube covers most of your bases, and the fact that it can be used as a suspension fluid additive on top of that is a serious bonus. For those of you demanding the most out of your suspension, the addition of the Assembly Lube to your lowers and in your shock does in fact improve the small bump performance and reduce stiction, and from what we can tell, will also improve the lifespan of your bushings and any metal on metal contact points since it adheres to these surfaces nicely. In our opinion, Maxima has an excellent product on their hands with the Assembly Lube, and in the never ending quest to combat stiction and improve suspension performance, you now have one more weapon in your arsenal... and now we're craving those damn Hot Tamales.

For more information, visit maximausa.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 2015 Intense M16 Pro Build 7/1/2015 9:24 PM
C138_intense_m16_stock_image

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
C138_xpedo_jek_flat_pedals

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
C138_source_fuze_hydration_pack_12l

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" Wheelset 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
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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.