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Added a comment to titic999's bike check 8/22/2014 7:24 AM
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This brand is pretty popular among the locals here in Taiwan (one of the riding spots in Kaohsiung is in the background). May be mistaken but I believe it is the house-brand for A-Pro, one of the larger factories on the island who produce frames for several name-brands. What are often referred to as 'catalog frames' are often examples of a factory's engineering and manufacturing capabilities for the purpose of attracting
new clients.

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Added a product review for Race Face SixC Cinch Crank 8/12/2014 7:40 AM
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Tested: Race Face SixC Cinch Crank

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Lee Trumpore

It wasn't long ago that carbon crank arms were only found on the bikes of the gram-counting XC crowd who had money to burn. But just as carbon frames are becoming commonplace under the world's most abusive DH racers, it's fast becoming the material of choice for the rest of their components as well. Race Face is the latest major brand to throw their hat into the DH/All Mountain/Enduro crank ring, and at 540 grams the redesigned SixC Cinch cranks are still light enough for the XC crowd, but now stiff and sturdy enough to put up with the abuse of DH racing.

Race Face SixC Cinch Crank Highlights

  • Completely redesigned for 2015.
  • The crank arms are completely hollow with all unnecessary material being removed from the centre core - no internal aluminum spine. Hand laid up and manufactured in Canada with US sourced carbon.
  • Industry standard 30mm spline interface CNC machined from a newly commercialized aluminum super alloy that is 20% stronger than 7050 alloy (the alloy commonly used in this application).
  • Removable spider option of the Cinch interface system offers the ability to convert between existing chainring standards while remaining flexible to future developments.
  • The interchangeable spindle option of the Cinch Interface system allows you to use the same crankset with 68/73mm and 83mm frames.
  • Intended use: AM/Enduro/DH
  • SIZE: 165, 170, 175mm
  • BB: BSA30 ( 68/73 & 83 ), BB92/BB107 press-fit, PF30/PF30-83
  • WEIGHT:
    • 540g ( 36T DM, 165mm, 83mm spindle, w/o BB )
    • 580g ( 36T on spider, 165mm, 83mm spindle, w/o BB )
    • 695g ( 24/36/Bash, 175mm, 68/73mm spindle, w/o BB )
  • RING CONFIGURATION:
    • Direct mount N/W Single Ring ( 26/28/30/32/34/36 )
    • 2x with Bash - 22/36/Bash, 24/36/bash
    • 2x no bash - 22/36, 24/36, 24/38
    • N/W Single Ring/Bash
    • N/W Single Ring
  • COLOR:Matte Carbon
  • MSRP:
    • Sixc Cinch Cranks with Direct Mount N/W Single ring ( no BB )  - $499.99
    • Sixc Cinch Crank 2x ( no BB ) - $599.99
    • Sixc Cinch Crankarms ( no rings/BB ) - $459.99
    • Cinch 30 BB - $59.99

Initial Impressions

At $500 my first impression is that these cranks certainly aren't cheap. But when you consider that they are made in Canada with US sourced carbon, and that the finish quality is simply outstanding, the high price tag comes a bit more into focus. Out of the box the SixC Cinch cranks look amazing with a clean, raw carbon layup and flawless aluminum machine work. The large diameter crank arms seem like they're just asking to be stomped on while the direct mount narrow-wide ring gives the whole package a nice minimalistic feel.

If it seems like I'm getting a bit carried away with aesthetics it's because these cranks simply look the business, and in a market saturated with expensive component choice that's no small detail. Beyond appearances what is immediately most apparent is the weight, specifically the lack of it. With a 30 tooth ring mine tipped the scales at a bit over 500 grams, or about 1/3 of a pound less than the high end aluminum cranks they replaced.

On the Trail

I had no issues with installation (aside from the BB sleeve which I'll touch on later) and had everything out of the box and onto the bike in under 15 minutes. The pre-greased bolt and spline interfaces and the thread lock on the BB threads were appreciated attention to detail, and really something that should be expected on any component at this price point.

Under foot the SixC cranks feel much like their appearance suggests. There is no perceptible flex, just stiff responsive power transfer through the pedals. Though it may be just in my head, I'm convinced that I can notice how worn my seasons old shoes have become far more on these cranks than when I get on my other trail bike.

Passing the parking lot sprint test is one thing, but the true measure of any crankset, especially a carbon one, is how well it performs out on the trail. After a month of regular riding I've not needed to adjust or service the SixC cranks once. A quick check before writing the review and the BB cups, crank bolt, and spider are as tight as they were on the first ride. I've had issues in the past with other cranks that use a similar threaded bearing preload design, specifically with it slowly rotating loose and allowing the crank arms to develop a bit of play. Race Face opted to machine their preload collar out of aluminum and use a pinch bolt to hold it in place (as opposed to the spring-loaded plastic of similar designs found elsewhere), and this has created a system much less prone to coming loose. Another small detail worth mentioning are the holes drilled into the collar that allow it to be rotated with the end of a small allen key. Anyone who's tried to rotate a preload collar after a few months of grime has built up on the tight threads will appreciate this addition.

I don't have any prior experience with the Race Face narrow-wide chainring so I can't offer any long-term assessment. However, I've yet to drop a chain and even after a few run-ins with rocks and one off trail excursion into a tree it's still running straight and true.

Things That Could Be Improved

The fit, finish, performance, and appearance of the Race Face SixC Cinch crankset have all been nothing short of fantastic. Tolerances are tight, small details are accounted for, and setup was a breeze.... well almost. It may have just been my frame, but the internal plastic sleeve/seal between the two BB cups put noticeable pressure on the spindle once everything was tightened down. Unthreading the cups a bit solved the problem, but I'm not sure running a slightly loosened BB is wise long term solution. I probably could have trimmed a few mm off the edges but instead I opted to remove the sleeve completely (which I usually do anyway, in this case for the sake of testing I installed everything according to the instructions). It's not something I consider to be a big deal, and I actually find it easier to clean and service my BB bearings without the plastic sleeves installed. It's something to take note of when installing these cranks on your own bike so you don't mistake the resistance for overly preloaded bearings or a misaligned spindle. There's also a very good chance this was an isolated issue.

Long Term Durability

Cranks are among the most abused components on our bikes, and often the only one to make direct contact with the ground on a regular basis. So far the included guards have done a nice job fending off blows from rocks and other trail obstacles leaving the crank arms themselves looking relatively unscathed. The not uncommon problems of bolts, spiders, and BB's coming loose over time have not presented themselves at all with the SixC and given the fairly exacting tolerances I don't foresee these being problematic in the future either. As for the carbon question, that comes down to your own comfort level with the material but given its current success in other DH applications I certainly don't have any concerns.

What's The Bottom Line?

Light, strong, stiff, and handmade in Canada the Race Face SixC cranks certainly lived up to expectations on my all-mountain bike. Though still not exactly cheap, with the quality finish, attention to detail, light weight and performance on offer here you can be sure you are getting what you pay for. Real long-term durability is the true test of any cranks, but so far the SixC's have been rock solid and free of any real issues. If tough carbon cranks are on your upgrade short-list, these surely need to be towards the top.

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


About The Reviewer

Lee Trumpore has been riding bikes for more than 20 years on just about every material and technology the bike industry has come up with. In more than a decade of professional DH racing, Lee won a Collegiate National Championship and was a mainstay at major North American races as well as occasionally snagging a last page result in the World Cup series. Testing prototype components and suspension setups was common during his racing days. He has a smooth, light style on the bike even while holding it wide open. An East Coast native, his favorite trails are fast and flowing technical descents with as many corners as possible and just enough moisture to keep things interesting. Nowadays, rather than racing the clock, he'd rather enjoy a rad descent after a hard pedal to the top. A closet nerd with a Master's degree in education policy Lee currently lives in Taipei, Taiwan where he splits his time teaching mathematics to the next generation of computer geniuses and behind the lens as a photo mercenary for Vital MTB and other industry clients.

This product has 1 review

Added a comment about photo Contrail World Champs, Crankworx L2A 7/4/2014 5:18 AM
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Bernard Kerr

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Added a product review for Source Race 15L Hydration Pack 6/25/2014 10:15 AM
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Tested: Source Race 15L Hydration Pack

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Lee Trumpore

Hydration packs have come a long way in the past few years, with more and more features being added to what was once just a simple method of carrying extra water on a ride. With many riders (and an increasing number of bike designs) forgoing traditional water bottles the need for just the right pack has become more important than ever. The Source Race 15L is aimed at riders looking to maximize water capacity and accessory space in a minimalist design. We filled it up and hit the trails to see what it is really made of.

Source Race 15L Highlights

  • 15 liter storage capacity
  • Light weight, minimalist design
  • Expandable main compartment
  • Insulated hydration compartment
  • Covered tube with Helix bite-valve
  • Docking station
  • Padded shoulder straps and adjustable sternum belt
  • Essential accessory storage with internal organizers
  • Taste free, 3 liter hydration bladder
  • MSRP: $121 USD

Initial Impressions

It was immediately apparent how much smaller the Source Race 15L is than all the other packs I regularly ride with. But despite the small size it's certainly not lacking for space to store clothing, tools, keys, food or other essentials. Every internal compartment is subdivided into smaller pockets and pouches to keep the contents organized and separated. The light weight construction is top notch with attention to detail that the end user will appreciate.

On The Trail

This is not a pack for someone who wants to carry their whole shop and an extra wardrobe on their back. For an afternoon of riding in the hills around my house there was plenty of room for a spare tube and pump, essential tools, snacks, and a raincoat with the 3 liter hydration bladder filled up to the max. It was too small, however to pack my DSLR camera with anything more than the shortest lens I own. While this is not necessarily a bad thing at all, it speaks to the point of choosing the right pack for where you ride and what you need to carry.

Immediately obvious on the trail was how much more comfortable this pack was to ride with than some of the larger, bulkier bags in my collection. The narrow, slim design stays put without having to over-tighten the straps and the smaller footprint left my back a whole lot less sweaty. The carrying capacity of the Source Race 15L is impressive for a pack of any size. I didn't even come close to maximizing all the accessory pockets even with enough spare parts and tools for a worst-case mechanical scenario. Taipei is pretty warm so I never needed to carry much more than a thin raincoat, though with the option to expand the main compartment you should have no problem carrying extra gear should your own rides feature much more variable weather.

The hydration hose tucked nicely out of the way and attached to its own docking station, which in addition to keeping it from swinging around prevents the valve from getting covered in grime. Anyone who has spent any time riding in the Alps, or other trail systems that cross farmland will appreciate this feature tremendously. Nothing can ruin a clean, tasteless, odor free hydration bladder quicker than a field of cow paddies on a rainy day.

The taste-free bladder is made of a medium weight, fairly thick material that so far has shown no signs of cracking or leaking and its full-width opening allows for easy filling, drying and cleaning. After a few months of use in hot, humid Taipei there are no signs of foreign growth in either the bladder or the detachable hose. For more information on the bladder you can catch our full review of Source's hydration systems HERE.

Things That Could Be Improved

The fit of the Source Race 15L is fantastic, however I managed to max out the adjustability of the waist belt to get it snug. If I was any thinner this would have been a real problem. Having 2-sided, limitless adjustment would be an easy fix to this potential problem. If you're a 32-inch waist or above then you won't even notice.

The pack has an expandable compartment for carrying a helmet, however it's not really meant for a full-face. I was able to fit one with some creative strapping, but if you're someone who like to carry both (say for some enduro events) this this might be something to consider.

Long Term Durability

Good packs don't come cheap, and they certainly aren't an item you want to be replacing every year. A few months isn't much in the lifespan of mountain bike equipment, but so far there are no signs of abnormal wear. The bladder, hose, and valve can all be easily separated and purchased individually. The lifetime warranty gives added peace of mind.

What's The Bottom Line?

The Source Spinner Race 15L is a fantastic pack for those looking to carry their essentials (and a bit more) in a minimal, highly functional pack. If you're someone who avoids hydration packs at all cost due to their heft, then it might be worth giving this one a try. Aside from the times I want to take my full size camera with me I've never found myself wanting a bigger bag or more storage. With a place for everything, comfortable fit, and a contamination resistant and taste-free bladder system there aren't too many reasons not to choose the Spinner Race 15L. Unless of course you need something bigger, in which case Source also has you covered.

For more information, check out www.sourceoutdoor.com.


About The Reviewer

Lee Trumpore has been riding bikes for more than 20 years on just about every material and technology the bike industry has come up with. In more than a decade of professional DH racing, Lee won a Collegiate National Championship and was a mainstay at major North American races as well as occasionally snagging a last page result in the World Cup series. Testing prototype components and suspension setups was common during his racing days. He has a smooth, light style on the bike even while holding it wide open. An East Coast native, his favorite trails are fast and flowing technical descents with as many corners as possible and just enough moisture to keep things interesting. Nowadays, rather than racing the clock, he'd rather enjoy a rad descent after a hard pedal to the top. A closet nerd with a Master's degree in education policy Lee currently lives in Taipei, Taiwan where he splits his time teaching mathematics to the next generation of computer geniuses and behind the lens as a photo mercenary for Vital MTB and other industry clients.

This product has 1 review

Updated photo album misc 6/17/2014 12:26 PM
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Liked a comment on the item 7 Things the Leogang World Cup Taught Me 6/17/2014 6:57 AM

Just one comment about the tracks and those who think 'pros should stop whining':

It's not the World Cup Bike Park, is it? No? It's called the World Cup Downhill? By damn then, the tracks should be legit downhill tracks.

Added a comment about video Gwin's On Fire with No Tire 6/16/2014 1:00 AM
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Love how he was totally going for the last jump too

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This video has 15 comments.

Added a comment about feature Vital Power Rankings - Leogang, Austria World Cup - The 15 Fastest Racers Going In 6/12/2014 8:13 AM
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I'd hazard a guess he'll lose .6-1 second on the fastest pedal split, so what remains to be seen is if they've left enough rough corners and roots in the track (whatever few are still remaining) to give him something to work with. Otherwise it's going to be the top 10 going almost the same speed down 80% of the track unless it rains.

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Added a comment about feature Vital Power Rankings - Leogang, Austria World Cup - The 15 Fastest Racers Going In 6/12/2014 7:48 AM
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I'm calling Bruni top 3. After watching him thump everyone at the Leogang iXS round last year and almost win the WC round there a few months later it seems like a track he gets along with. But lots can change in a year (probably not the track though, it likely still sucks).

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Added a comment about feature Brandon Semenuk's Rad Company - A Review 6/11/2014 9:57 AM
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Best soundtrack I've heard in a long time.

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Liked a comment on the item Vital RAW - Fort William World Cup Rock Skipping 6/6/2014 7:20 PM

:21. WTH Ratty! So sick.

Liked a comment on the item Vital Power Rankings - Fort William, Scotland World Cup - The 15 Fastest Racers Going In 6/5/2014 1:53 AM

my bribe comment is a joke and "just for fun".

Added a comment about photo Bikes Then and Now: 2001-2002, Andrew Neethling on a GT I-Drive DHi 5/23/2014 2:45 AM
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I remember thinking the same thing about that bike. It was almost silent, which in 2001 was almost unheard of.

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Added a comment about photo Eddie Masters' New Rig, Fort William British Downhill Series 2014 5/13/2014 8:05 PM
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The Marae II?

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Added a product review for Spank Oozy Trail295 Bead Bite Wheels 5/8/2014 8:46 PM
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Tested: Spank Oozy Trail295 Bead Bite Wheels

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Lee Trumpore // Photos by Lee Trumpore, Damian Breach, and Brandon Turman

I was a huge fan of the Spank Oozy Evo 26 wheels I tested last season, and after a year and a half of riding they are still going strong and straight. My biggest complaint with that model was the difficulty in mounting and removing tires and their relatively narrow 21mm internal width, especially given the trend towards ever wider tires for all-mountain riding and enduro racing. The Oozy Trail295 Bead Bite wheels seek to address both of these issues while building on the strengths of the previous model. Starting at just 1670 grams, these race-ready wheels retail for just $599 and are available in 26, 27.5, and 29-inch sizes.

Oozy Trail295 Bead Bite Wheel Highlights

  • Oozy Trail295 Bead Bite Dynamal Alloy Rims

  • 29.5mm Outer Width

  • 25mm Inner Width
  • 28H Straight-Pull
  • 9/10-Speed 12mm x 142mm Rear Hub with Included QR Adapter

  • 15mm Front Hub with Included 20mm Adapter

  • Super-Lite CNC Optimized Alloy Freehub Body
  • 27-Point, 3-Pawl Engagement
  • Japanese Bearing Upgrade in Hubs

  • Oversized SSL (Single Spoke Length) Flange Design
  • 6 Bolt Disc Mount
  • Hand Built and Trued with 3-Cross Lacing
  • 
Sandvik T302 Triple Butted 2.2/1.8/2.0 SP Spokes

  • Alloy Nipples
  • Tubeless Ready
  • Colors: Black Only
  • Weight: 1,670g (26") // 1,700g (27.5/650b) // 1,800g (29")
  • MSRP: $599

The Oozy Trail295 wheels are the first to make use of Spank’s new “Bead Bite” technology. See the tiny ridges inside the rim where the tire would sit? This is one of those "Why didn't I think of that?" improvements to the tried and true bicycle rim design. The six 0.2mm ridges per side (three on each face) provide additional sealing surface area for tubeless tires, and are said to essentially "lock" the tire bead in place. The ridges are made during a three-channel extrusion process, which makes them finer at each step.

Compared to the 21mm internal width Oozy Evo rims, the new Oozy Trail295 rims benefit from an additional 4mm of width at 25mm internally. The hubs are nearly identical, but Spank now includes front 20mm and rear QR adapters in the box.

Spank uses a unique Dynamal alloy that is claimed to be 20% stronger than 6061 aluminum to build their Oozy rims, while their patented OohBah profile is designed to add increased structural strength and stiffness while allowing for much thinner walls. The inner channel of most rims curves down to match to general outer profile of the rim, but the OohBah profile curves up. The corrugated profile adds additional rigidity much the same way a corrugated sheet metal roof can be walked across while flat sheet metal can be bent by hand. Proprietary forging and drilling profiles allow the rim to be constructed without point-loading the spoke nipples and thus eliminating the need for heavier eyelets. Combined with straight-pull stainless steel spokes, this equation should add up to a light, stiff, strong and durable wheel.

Initial Impressions

Spank has come a long way from just cranking out colorful components for the dirt jumping crowd, with pedals, bars, and stems that rival the best offerings on the market. They also produce high end rims for several other major brands.

Out of the box, the new Trail295 wheels didn’t disappoint. Straight and true with evenly tensioned spokes, they feel like a set of wheels that has passed through quite a few human hands during production. Attention to detail is top notch with under paint decals (no stickers to peel up), end caps that stay firmly in place without the axle installed, one single straight-pull spoke length used throughout the entire wheelset, and no special tools required for tensioning spokes or servicing the hubs. At first glance Spank has produced a promising wheel without trying to reinvent it. To top things off, the tires mounted easily without levers!

On The Trail

I’ve been on a few versions of these wheels for quite some time now (full disclosure: I help with testing of early Spank prototypes), and have ridden the 650b/27.5-inch version for about six months and the 26-inch version for the past two. They’ve been through countless days of shuttling, raced xc, downhill, and endured an epic week-long journey into Taiwan’s central mountain including the first mountain bike ascent/descent of East Asia’s second highest peak.

While I’ve not spent much time on carbon rims, I’ve yet to find an aluminum wheelset that has proven stiffer, stronger, or more durable than these at any price point. At equal weights the difference between various wheels and rims comes down to width, stiffness, and frequency of maintenance, with the latter being the biggest deal breaker for me. The additional width of the rims much improves the stability of the 2.3 to 2.5-inch tires, as well as making them much easier to mount both with and without a tube. Switching between my 650b/27.5 and 26-inch bike I can’t discern any noticeable difference in wheel flex, nor has the extra diameter led to a premature loss in spoke tension.

Spank has their own data supporting their new Bead Bite technology, but I prefer the more real world assessment. What good is a data point when I’m on the side of the trail with flat tire? At 22-25psi I have had no issues with tire burping or leaking with three different sets of tires in the course of several months. While there is no definite way of knowing if this is the direct result of the Bead Bite, I certainly don’t have any real world data to the contrary.

Put simply, the Oozy Trail295 wheels perform on the trail exactly how I like, essentially by not reminding me that they are there at all.

Things That Could Be Improved

With the introduction of Bead Bite, Spank certainly tried to address half of the ongoing battle with tubeless systems, but my experience with inflation has been a bit more variable. Five of the six tires I mounted sealed right up with an air compressor, while one took a bit more coaxing (none inflated with a hand pump). I never had issues with leaking on any tires, just initial inflation with one of them. Given the variation in bead diameter and size between tire manufacturers (and from one model to another), this isn’t altogether that surprising, and perhaps it’s a tradeoff for not breaking tires levers like I did on the Oozy Evo wheels. Even so, I’d like to see a bit more consistency across the board.

If it sounds like I’m grasping a bit, I am. Truth be told there is very little to complain about, and these are among the best wheels I’ve owned at any price point.

Long Term Durability

I have various Spank wheels from this test and others that I’ve ridden anywhere from two months to a year-and-a-half. The only durability issue I’ve had so far was an occasionally creaky bearing on the rear hub of the oldest wheelset (and these were pre-production units). Given my past experience and the fact that these are essentially the same as the Oozy Evo 26 wheels with an upgraded rim, the Oozy Trail295 wheels have given me no cause for concern.

What’s The Bottom Line?

It has taken a while for all-mountain and enduro branding to catch up with the needs of actual all-mountain riding and enduro racing, with many wheels being the former without meeting the latter. Such is not the case with Spank’s new Oozy Trail295 wheels. With a 25mm inner rim width, weights ranging from 1,670-1,800 grams per pair, and price of just $599, these wheels meet all the needs on paper, and on the trail performance is among the best the market has to offer. Don’t be fooled by the low price, the lack of carbon or color coordinated stickers - these are the real deal. They’re light, affordable, use a unique Bead Bite system that really works, and have proven to be very durable.

Visit www.spank-ind.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

Lee Trumpore has been riding bikes for more than 20 years on just about every material and technology the bike industry has come up with. In more than a decade of professional DH racing, Lee won a Collegiate National Championship and was a mainstay at major North American races as well as occasionally snagging a last page result in the World Cup series. Testing prototype components and suspension setups was common during his racing days. He has a smooth, light style on the bike even while holding it wide open. An East Coast native, his favorite trails are fast and flowing technical descents with as many corners as possible and just enough moisture to keep things interesting. Nowadays, rather than racing the clock, he'd rather enjoy a rad descent after a hard pedal to the top. A closet nerd with a Master's degree in education policy Lee currently lives in Taipei, Taiwan where he splits his time teaching mathematics to the next generation of computer geniuses and behind the lens as a photo mercenary for Vital MTB and other industry clients.

This product has 1 review

Added a product review for iXS Asper Backcountry Short 4/30/2014 7:36 PM
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Tested: iXS Backcountry Riding Apparel

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Lee Trumpore

Still a relatively new name in North America, iXS has been making some of the best knee pads and protection on the market for several years. More recently they have also turned their attention to an ever expanding line of casual clothing and riding gear. Their Backcountry line is positioned in the middle (between Trail and DH Race) and aimed squarely at the trail riding enthusiast or Enduro racer. Key features include durable yet breathable fabrics, light weight, and comfort on any ride regardless of the conditions.

iXS OSS Backcountry Jersey Highlights

  • Regular fit
  • Mesh inserts
  • Breathable
  • Humidity transporting
  • Quick dry
  • Integrated lens wipe
  • Multi security stitched seams for strength
  • MP3 zip pocket with ear phone guides
  • MSRP $59

iXS Regent Backcountry Jacket Highlights

  • Crossover / casual jacket
  • Mesh-lined
  • Humidity transporting
  • Breathable
  • Water-repellant
  • Wind resistant
  • 2 zip pockets
  • MSRP $129

iXS Asper Backcountry Short Highlights

  • regular fit
  • stretch inserts
  • zip AirVent system
  • waist band fasteners
  • mesh-lined
  • breathable
  • humidity transporting
  • multi security stitch seams
  • 2 zippered hand pockets and 2 side pockets
  • MSRP $119

Initial Impressions

Attention to design and detail is immediately apparent on the Backcountry line, and clearly iXS has done their homework in regard to what ‘all-mountain/Enduro’ means rather than simply rebranding an existing DH product with a different name. For the short, the material chosen is a middle ground between heavy, protective DH shorts and ultra-light weight XC oriented shorts. The fit was instantly comfortable (if not a bit big in the waist) and it felt robust enough to handle a couple crashes or off track run-ins with the underbrush without getting shredded. I have some lightweight all-mountain shorts by a few other manufacturers that are almost paper thin and these have always left me feeling a bit exposed in terms of protection. In addition to the well thought out choice of materials, construction across the line is top-notch, with attention to small details apparent on the jersey, jacket, and short.

The slightly muted color scheme also works well for more casual activities, especially in respect to the jacket. If I had one complaint at this point it’s that the size medium short seemed just a touch big in the waist compared to the fit of the other pieces. Or maybe I’m just a touch too skinny.

On The Trail

Spring time weather in Taiwan is a mixed bag of warm, wet, cold, windy, and just plain hot and humid often all within the span of a few hours. Add a bit of elevation to the mix and it even snows. Both the jersey and short were breathable but not to the point of being cold which made them an obvious choice for days when I knew riding conditions would be a bit more variable. I had initial concerns that the slimmer fit of the jersey and lack of a zipper would be a bit too insulating but I never found myself wishing for anything lighter.

On all 3 pieces the cut is on the slimmer side of baggy and should accommodate most body types well. I particularly liked the short for being just long enough to reach my knees without fully covering them. It may seem like a small point but a few hours of pedaling with fabric constantly rubbing back and forth can get annoying.

I didn’t use the Regent jacket nearly as often as the short and jersey, not because there was anything wrong with it but more because its crossover design lent itself more to being a pre-ride/early ride warm up jacket. I found myself wearing it at higher elevations then packing it away for most of the ride as things warmed up. For the occasional passing storm I found it to be both warm and water resistant to a point, but on any truly rainy ride I would opt for something more waterproof.

Aside from fabric and fit, what really sets the Backcountry gear apart is iXS’s attention to small details. The short has a robust velcro waist adjustment that maintains its grip even after numerous washings, and just in case that’s not enough there are belt loops. This latter feature seems less popular these days as short designs become lighter and more minimal, but for those of us that are often between sizes (me, it always seems) it can be a real deal breaker.

I’ve complained in the past that the pockets on some shorts seem to be an afterthought, with no attention paid to what riders actually store in those pockets and what they feel like when riding. Kudos to iXS for taking the time to get it right. I had no problem riding with a iPhone, keys, and a wallet without constantly being slapped on the leg to remind me they were there. Anyone who rides with music will appreciate the integrated mp3 pocket and headphone guide, while the integrated lens cloth also does a fine job keeping camera lenses clean. Sometimes that feature alone was reason enough for me to grab the iXS OSS out of a pile of similarly brightly colored polyester jerseys in my closet.

Things That Could Be Improved

While I really like the cut of the short, I do feel like the waist is sized a bit on the large side. The addition of adjustable straps and belt loops made this less of an issue than it might otherwise have been.

The concept of a functional/casual crossover jacket is good in theory (and a great idea when packing for trips with limited space) but it could have been executed a little better. The fabric itself does a nice job repelling light rain and moisture, however the cloth cuffs at the sleeves and waist do an equally efficient job of soaking it up. Don’t get me wrong, it is still an excellent jacket to ride in but living somewhere with higher than average rainfall means it falls a bit more in the casual category for me. If rain isn’t a particular issue for you then by all means disregard this critique, but if it is consider upgrading to something like the iXS Sinister jacket instead.

In all cases I wish there were more color options besides black and red.

Long Term Durability

As my go-to choice for the past few months I have had no issues with premature wear or failure of the jersey, short, or jacket. The colors are still vibrant after repeated wash cycles and the velcro closures are still as secure as they were on day one. While some materials tend to harbor stains after several rides in the mud, the Backcountry fabric is fairly close-knit and keeps dirt from penetrating too deeply. Even the backside of the short looks no worse for wear despite several days riding in pretty abysmal conditions. Two months hardly makes a riding season, but so far I have no reason to believe durability will be an issue with any of the Backcountry apparel.

What’s The Bottom Line?

If you are looking for riding gear that’s considerably lighter than traditional rip-stop cordura moto shorts, or less baggy than a moto jersey without going full XC then the iXS Backcountry line deserves your attention. Through the use of appropriately cut fabrics, attention to detail, and high functionality iXS has designed a gear line that truly seeks to meet the specialized needs of all-mountain trail riders and Enduro racers, or to use a more dated term ‘mountain bikers.’

Visit www.ixs-sportsdivision.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

Lee Trumpore has been riding bikes for more than 20 years on just about every material and technology the bike industry has come up with. In more than a decade of professional DH racing, testing prototype components and suspension setups was common. He has a smooth, light style on the bike even while holding it wide open. An East Coast native, his favorite trails are fast and flowing technical descents with as many corners as possible and just enough moisture to keep things interesting. Nowadays, rather than racing the clock, he'd rather enjoy a rad descent after a hard pedal to the top. A closet nerd with a Master's degree in education policy Lee currently lives in Taipei, Taiwan where he splits his time teaching mathematics to the next generation of computer geniuses and behind the lens as a photo mercenary for Vital MTB and other industry clients.

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