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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 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.

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.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for iXS Regent Backcountry Jacket 4/30/2014 7:35 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.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for iXS Backcountry Jersey 4/30/2014 7:34 PM
C138_ixs_backcountry_jersey_commod_red_blue

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.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Lowepro DryZone BP 40L Backpack 11/1/2013 3:26 AM
C138_dryzone_bp_forward.j

Tested: Lowepro DryZone BP 40L Backpack

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Lee Trumpore

Few things can ruin a photographer's day faster than water, and getting enough of it even on completely "weather-proof" sports-specific camera bodies and lenses can spell disaster and a big bill at the repair shop. Yet some of the most iconic images of our sport have been captured in some of the worst possible conditions. While photographers will always have to battle the elements while shooting, the last thing they need to worry about is the rest of their gear getting soaked. Lowepro has long made camera bags for everyone from the enthusiast to the working professional, but the new DryZone series goes a few steps beyond traditional sealing and weather protection to offer a camera bag that is truly waterproof even in the worst imaginable conditions. As a cycling photographer living primarily in a country that gets well over 100 inches of rain a year I was keen to see if the new Dryzone BP 40L could meet my own personal and professional needs.

DryZone BP 40L Highlights

  • Lightweight, waterproof fabric with an IPX-6 rating offers splash-proof protection from heavy seas; tested against high-pressure water stream from any angle
  • Roll-top, wide-mouth opening provides access to gear
  • Note: For splash-proof protection, fold 3 times (minimum) to top of stored items; clip buckles
  • Removable, fully padded, adjustable camera case with taped seams enables transfer of photo gear to other carrying options and provides redundant weather protection when placed in backpack
  • Features side-release buckles, ergonomic grab handles and zipper pulls
  • Perforated, EVA backpad and shoulder straps to provide lightweight, durable and breathable comfort; adjustable strap position for ideal fit at torso
  • Laser-cut tool loops and lash points offer attachment points for trekking poles and/or tripod
  • Color: Yellow
  • MSRP: $230

Initial Impressions

I was initially drawn to Lowepro gear because their backpacks just seem to feel 'right' when I put them on. I've stuck with their gear for a few years now because I've been impressed with the durability, the technical features, and the diverse range of products on offer. First impressions of the DryZone BP 40L were in line with what I'd expect from any Lowepro bag: Sturdy construction, light weight, attention to detail, and comfort. The outer fabric is durable enough to take a beating without being overly bulky, while taped seams on the inner bag add additional protection should water ever break the seal of the main shell. Heading into typhoon season I had little doubt that my gear would remain safe and dry long after I was soaked to the core. But the real test would be what it was like to work with, through lens changes, long hours in the saddle, and the repeated packing and unpacking that comes with each new location.

On The Trail

To be clear, the DryZone pack was not designed specifically for cyclists or cycling photographers, it was designed to be extremely waterproof in the worst possible conditions. So in a sense I was asking it to do far more than the designers had originally intended. Over the course of 8 weeks we've had 3 typhoons, countless rainstorms, and more than enough generally 'wet' days to put the bag through it's paces. Not once did I have any issue with water leaking into the bag despite my best efforts. Roost kicked up from the rear tire and a few crashes did little more than cover the bag in mud, while the outer shell, clips, and buckles continued to work as well as they did when the bag was new.

In terms of storage space I never found myself wanting more. With enough room for a full-frame DSLR, a 70-200mm lens and 2 other lenses and a flash (or an equivalent combination) I could easily carry the maximum amount of gear I would usually take with me on a ride. Most of the time I take much less leaving more room for extras like clothing, food, keys, phones, etc. Anything that didn't warrant the protection of the internal camera case could just be put on top, with more than enough room in the outer shell to store a substantial amount of gear without compromising its water sealing capabilities.

Something to keep in mind, however, is that this is a true dry-sack style bag, meaning it must be unclipped and unrolled each time you need to gain access to any of your gear. Then it needs to be re-rolled and sealed when you're done. If you are taking photos along a ride every few 100 meters this gets very tedious, very fast. If I was riding to a specific location I planned to stay at for a while then using the DryZone bag wasn't an issue. But if I were to try to use it while covering the Enduro World Series this summer for example I would have spent more time packing and unpacking my gear than actually working. This isn't a negative on the bag itself really, but more an example of using the correct tool for the job. For hiking, camping, rafting, river trekking, and some cycling the DryZone is fantastic. But for much of my work involving shooting, riding, or racing I'd grab one of my other bags simply for their ease of use as well as a few other features I'll detail later.

Long Term Durability

As has been my experience with other Lowepro products, the DryZone BP 40L is built to take abuse. Or to borrow from a relevant sailing analogy, to be 'sailed hard and put away wet.' I didn't have any issues with cracking or wear on the outer bag, the buckles are secure, and the sealing ability is still exceptional. It even came out unscathed after a battle with the jaws of a 6 month-old puppy. I had some initial concerns with the rubber latch point pulling away from the main pack over time, but thus far there are no visible signs of stress or premature failure. All told it's exactly what I would expect from a bag with the Lowepro label on it.

Things That Could Be Improved

Aside from what makes the DryZone imperfect as a cycling camera bag (which it's not designed to be anyway), there are a few small additions that I would have appreciated. While there are various loops and attachment points for lashing extra gear to the bag it would have been nice to have a dedicated tripod mount built in much like Lowepro's more traditional packs. As is, mounting a tripod (or an umbrella) is a bit of a challenge requiring additional gear and extra work to pack and unpack. It also mounts best horizontally rather than vertically which is a bit dodgy when riding in tight spaces. I'd also like to see some small zippered pouches on the exterior for things like keys, food, bug spray, or anything else that does't need to be sealed from the elements. Access to such items should be quick and easy without requiring a full unrolling and re-rolling of the main compartment. I'm completely willing to ignore the DryZone's shortcoming when forced into service as a cycling specific pack, but the addition of more integrated mounting points and easy access storage points would likely be appreciated by any end user regardless of the application.

What's The Bottom Line?

The Lowepro DryZone BP 40L is a well conceived, solidly built, completely waterproof camera bag that does exactly what it claims; namely keeps your gear dry even in the worst possible conditions (as well as underwater in my warm bathtub). It does require some compromise over traditional zipper-style bags in terms of ease of use and the speed at which you can access your gear, but if you are traveling or shooting in an environment were water is going to be the paramount concern (kayaking, river trekking, a Taipei monsoon) then this bag is absolutely worth considering. Due to its light weight and ability to pack down quite small, the DryZone is my go-to pack for most hiking trips and any time I am taking my camera gear out into open water.

For more info, hit up www.lowepro.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 product review for Race Face Ambush Short 7/20/2013 5:37 AM
C138_ambush_short_blk_back

Tested: Race Face Ambush Jersey and Shorts

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Lee Trumpore

Seemingly left for dead a few years ago, Race Face has bounced back in force with a full complement of components and riding gear. The new Ambush shorts and jersey are part of their latest offering for everyone from casual trail riders to racers looking for something a little more subtle than traditional moto-inspired gear.

Ambush Jersey Highlights

  • Repreve moisture wicking technology
  • 3/4 length sleeve
  • Flatlock stitching throughout
  • Slight drop back patterning
  • Hidden zip stash pocket located in side panel
  • Faux suede pocket bag doubles as goggle wipe
  • US MSRP: $59.99

Ambush Shorts Highlights

  • Zippered front fly with dual snap closure
  • Branded grab tab
  • Zippered side cargo pockets
  • Inner waistband adjustment system
  • Soft brushed inner waistband
  • Raised back panel for additional coverage while in riding position
  • Stretch mesh side panels
  • Zippered thigh vents
  • Double reinforced seams throughout
  • US MSRP: $113.99

Initial Impressions

Clearly designed by people who ride bikes, both the jersey and shorts just felt ‘right’ as soon as I put them on. Not too tight, not too baggy, just long enough at the knees, and with enough built in features to be different from just another piece of mountain bike clothing. My only real concerns were with the position of the pockets on the shorts and the loose fit cuff on the 3/4 length sleeves. It’s not that there was anything immediately wrong with either of them walking around my house, but it’s on the trail where flapping sleeves and awkward pocket design can be a real deal breaker.

On The Trail

Fit and cut of both the jersey and shorts are spot on both while riding and casually hanging out before and after a ride. My initial concern with the baggy sleeves flapping around on my arms was all for nothing as I never noticed the lack of an elastic cuff when riding. In fact it probably helped keep my arms a bit cooler on days when a short sleeved jersey might have been a better choice. If you ride with elbow pads you should have no problem fitting them as there is more than enough room in the cut of the sleeves. A feature I overlooked at first but really came to appreciate while covering the Enduro World Series is the built in goggle wipe along the lower seam. I never actually used it on goggles or sunglasses, but it did an exceptionally fine job cleaning off my camera lenses even after heavy and repeated use. This small feature alone has made the Ambush jersey my go-to choice for photo missions.

The Ambush shorts are packed with small features that are often overlooked. Belt loops in addition to Velcro waist band adjustment tabs were an appreciated addition, as were thigh vents that actually worked. But it’s the design of the pockets that really stood out. Like most people these days I ride with a phone in my pocket, and there are few things more annoying than having it flap around and smack my leg with every pedal stroke. I was initially skeptical because the rearward placement of the main zippered pockets meant anything stored in them would be hanging under my leg when riding. In real life I never had any issues because the cut of the pockets is quite slim. I’ve filled them with phones, tools, tubes, keys, lens caps, and stale media room sandwiches and never once was I bothered by the contents of my pockets while riding. Full length zippers assured that nothing fell out either.

The cut and comfort of the Ambush shorts had me reaching for them almost every ride. And their dirt-shedding and fast-drying characteristics had me reaching for them on hot days shooting World Cup DH racing as well. In 2 months on the road in Europe these have easily been the single most worn piece of clothing in my bag.

Things That Could Be Improved

On the jersey I go back and forth with the loose fitting 3/4 length sleeves. While I never found them annoying I’m not entirely sure I understand the reasoning behind them either. Not really something that needs improving per se, but it’s a design characteristic worth noting. Race Face points out that the 3/4 sleeve garments are part of their DH style, with ample room for body armor as one of the factors considered in the design, although they concede that the same result might be actually already have been achieved when they chose the fabric - which is quite stretchy.

The internal waist adjustment on the shorts, though a good idea in theory, lasted only a few rides and a couple washes before being totally useless as the hook-and-loop patches quickly lost all their grip. This is where I really appreciated the addition of belt loops so I could keep wearing what has otherwise become my favorite pair of riding shorts.

Long Term Durability

Other than the waist adjustment I have had no durability issues whatsoever. Just recently the Race Face logo on the side of the shorts has peeled off but that is likely my own fault for wearing them while shooting photos rolling around on the ground. Truthfully, I’ve probably given these shorts more abuse than any I’ve ever owned and they’ve stood up to everything.

What’s The Bottom Line?

Technical details combined with subtle colors and graphics make the Ambush jersey and shorts a smart choice for anyone looking for gear they can wear both on and off the trail without calling too much attention themselves. Well fitting, sturdy, and highly functional the shorts make a great choice for racers and trail riders alike. Velcro issues aside, these are among the best shorts I’ve ever owned.

For more details, hop 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, instead of 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 VitalMTB and other industry clients.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Race Face Ambush 3/4 Jersey 7/20/2013 5:36 AM
C138_ambush_jersey_blk_back

Tested: Race Face Ambush Jersey and Shorts

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Lee Trumpore

Seemingly left for dead a few years ago, Race Face has bounced back in force with a full complement of components and riding gear. The new Ambush shorts and jersey are part of their latest offering for everyone from casual trail riders to racers looking for something a little more subtle than traditional moto-inspired gear.

Ambush Jersey Highlights

  • Repreve moisture wicking technology
  • 3/4 length sleeve
  • Flatlock stitching throughout
  • Slight drop back patterning
  • Hidden zip stash pocket located in side panel
  • Faux suede pocket bag doubles as goggle wipe
  • US MSRP: $59.99

Ambush Shorts Highlights

  • Zippered front fly with dual snap closure
  • Branded grab tab
  • Zippered side cargo pockets
  • Inner waistband adjustment system
  • Soft brushed inner waistband
  • Raised back panel for additional coverage while in riding position
  • Stretch mesh side panels
  • Zippered thigh vents
  • Double reinforced seams throughout
  • US MSRP: $113.99

Initial Impressions

Clearly designed by people who ride bikes, both the jersey and shorts just felt ‘right’ as soon as I put them on. Not too tight, not too baggy, just long enough at the knees, and with enough built in features to be different from just another piece of mountain bike clothing. My only real concerns were with the position of the pockets on the shorts and the loose fit cuff on the 3/4 length sleeves. It’s not that there was anything immediately wrong with either of them walking around my house, but it’s on the trail where flapping sleeves and awkward pocket design can be a real deal breaker.

On The Trail

Fit and cut of both the jersey and shorts are spot on both while riding and casually hanging out before and after a ride. My initial concern with the baggy sleeves flapping around on my arms was all for nothing as I never noticed the lack of an elastic cuff when riding. In fact it probably helped keep my arms a bit cooler on days when a short sleeved jersey might have been a better choice. If you ride with elbow pads you should have no problem fitting them as there is more than enough room in the cut of the sleeves. A feature I overlooked at first but really came to appreciate while covering the Enduro World Series is the built in goggle wipe along the lower seam. I never actually used it on goggles or sunglasses, but it did an exceptionally fine job cleaning off my camera lenses even after heavy and repeated use. This small feature alone has made the Ambush jersey my go-to choice for photo missions.

The Ambush shorts are packed with small features that are often overlooked. Belt loops in addition to Velcro waist band adjustment tabs were an appreciated addition, as were thigh vents that actually worked. But it’s the design of the pockets that really stood out. Like most people these days I ride with a phone in my pocket, and there are few things more annoying than having it flap around and smack my leg with every pedal stroke. I was initially skeptical because the rearward placement of the main zippered pockets meant anything stored in them would be hanging under my leg when riding. In real life I never had any issues because the cut of the pockets is quite slim. I’ve filled them with phones, tools, tubes, keys, lens caps, and stale media room sandwiches and never once was I bothered by the contents of my pockets while riding. Full length zippers assured that nothing fell out either.

The cut and comfort of the Ambush shorts had me reaching for them almost every ride. And their dirt-shedding and fast-drying characteristics had me reaching for them on hot days shooting World Cup DH racing as well. In 2 months on the road in Europe these have easily been the single most worn piece of clothing in my bag.

Things That Could Be Improved

On the jersey I go back and forth with the loose fitting 3/4 length sleeves. While I never found them annoying I’m not entirely sure I understand the reasoning behind them either. Not really something that needs improving per se, but it’s a design characteristic worth noting. Race Face points out that the 3/4 sleeve garments are part of their DH style, with ample room for body armor as one of the factors considered in the design, although they concede that the same result might be actually already have been achieved when they chose the fabric - which is quite stretchy.

The internal waist adjustment on the shorts, though a good idea in theory, lasted only a few rides and a couple washes before being totally useless as the hook-and-loop patches quickly lost all their grip. This is where I really appreciated the addition of belt loops so I could keep wearing what has otherwise become my favorite pair of riding shorts.

Long Term Durability

Other than the waist adjustment I have had no durability issues whatsoever. Just recently the Race Face logo on the side of the shorts has peeled off but that is likely my own fault for wearing them while shooting photos rolling around on the ground. Truthfully, I’ve probably given these shorts more abuse than any I’ve ever owned and they’ve stood up to everything.

What’s The Bottom Line?

Technical details combined with subtle colors and graphics make the Ambush jersey and shorts a smart choice for anyone looking for gear they can wear both on and off the trail without calling too much attention themselves. Well fitting, sturdy, and highly functional the shorts make a great choice for racers and trail riders alike. Velcro issues aside, these are among the best shorts I’ve ever owned.

For more details, hop 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, instead of 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 VitalMTB and other industry clients.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for iXS Flow Knee Pads 6/27/2013 6:34 AM
C138_flow_knee_guard_front

Tested: iXS Flow Knee Pads

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Lee Trumpore

iXS has answered the call of the growing all-mountain, adventure, and enduro crowds with the new ultra-light Flow Knee Pad. Developed at the request of Hans Rey, the Flow Knee Pads take minimal protection to a whole new level weighing in at about 300 grams per pair, but still have enough padding for serious abuse.

Flow Knee Pad Highlights

  • Designed in collaboration with Hans Rey
  • Ideal for trail riding and enduro racing
  • Super lightweight and super compact design (+/- 300g pair)
  • "X-Matter" - high impact absorption, energy absorbing, open cell, slow rebound foam compound
  • 360° all-around, breathable, moisture wicking, anti-bacterial"AeroMesh" material
  • Tear resistant and stretchable Kevlar knee cover
  • "KneeGusset" integrated horse shoe formed pad to prevent rolling and to spread impact force
  • "LoopLock" fasteners for maximum security, adjustability, and quick decompression
  • Silicone cuffs for a non-slip, no creep fit
  • MSRP $70

Initial Impressions

It’s immediately obvious that the Flow Knee Pads were designed with the bare minimum in mind. Any material that was not deemed absolutely essential was removed, leaving a light, soft, and flexible pad that can be rolled up and stored almost anywhere. They're so compact, in fact, that we often travel with ours stuffed in our shoes. At first we thought they might be a bit too soft for serious impacts because the squishy padding material is highly pliable and flexible when compared to traditional rigid knee cups. However, banging the X-Matter foam on the ground elicited a loud, almost plastic sound as the material firms up considerably when struck hard. Wearing the pads and hitting them a few times with our pedal wrench, we never would have known otherwise that there wasn’t some sort of rigid material over our knees. Lightweight but packing a seemingly heavyweight punch, we felt a lot more confident taking these out on serious trails after a little experimentation.

On The Trail

There is no side or upper-leg padding on the Flow Knee Pads, and the material in these areas has been reduced to the lowest possible practical level. While they will never offer as much protection as iXS’s other pads, such as the Carve or Dagger, they are far lighter and more comfortable. So much so that they quickly became our go-to pads as the Spring and Summer temperatures pushed well into the 90’s. Even on primarily XC rides where we’d usually debate bringing pads or not, we almost always chose to wear the Flow Knee Pads.

The fit is fantastic and the light, breathable design never left us overheating or pushing them awkwardly down to my ankles like some of our bulkier pads. They stayed in place both while riding and occasionally crashing, with the latter never leaving us wishing for more pad coverage. That said, these are not DH pads, and there certainly comes a point where the available protection gets questionable.  Ultimately that’s a decision for the end user. Bump up to a traditional knee cup for added security or use the Flow Knee Pads for an almost-not-there fit at the expense of all-out protection. For us, we’ve opted for the Flows almost exclusively as the padding that is there is in the most important spot and is impressively capable of taking care of severe impact - pointy, blunt, or otherwise. We're currently on an eight week trip in the Alps covering the World Cup and Enduro World Series while getting in as much riding as possible, and these are the only pads we packed.

Things That Could Be Improved

As much as we love the fit, feel, and ventilation of the Flow Knee Pads, we found it annoying that we still have to remove our shoes to take them on and off.  For their intended purpose, the Flows are well on their way to 5-star material, but we think a pad aimed straight at the heart of the enduro/all-mountain movement really needs to be able to be taken on and off quickly while still wearing our shoes.

Long Term Durability

We’ve used these almost exclusively for three months and they really do look as good-as-knew. The seams are still tight and the LoopLock straps grip securely with no obvious signs of wear or fraying despite frequent washings. The knee cup portion of the Flow Knee Pads utilizes a slightly tougher Kevlar material that has done a good job preventing abrasions and tears despite our best efforts to destroy them while crawling around rocks on our knees taking photos between the inevitable crash or two. Despite their lightweight appearances, these pads are built to take some abuse.

What’s The Bottom Line?

If you're in the market for a minimalist knee pad with protective qualities on a similar level as traditional knee cups, but with far less bulk and weight, we’d suggest giving the iXS Flow Knee Pads a serious look. For the all-mountain warrior, aspiring Hans Rey style adventurer, hardcore enduro racer, or skinny jean dirt jumper, these pads are right on the money.

For more info, visit www.ixs-sportsdivision.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 VitalMTB and other industry clients.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for e*thirteen Guidering M 6/24/2013 3:02 PM
C138_guidering_m

Tested: e*thirteen Guidering M

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Lee Trumpore

Just one year ago, SRAM rewrote the book on mountain bike drivetrains with the introduction of their XX1 system. Almost immediately, riders started asking for aftermarket manufacturers to adopt aspects of the design in hopes of both increasing available options and reducing the rather hefty price tag. e*thirteen wasted no time answering the call with the new Guidering M, a modified chainring with alternating tooth widths designed to aid with chain retention.

Guidering M Highlights

  • Optimized for 11-speed, but 10-speed compatible
  • Maximized tooth width to maximize engagement
  • Ring chamfer facilitates secure chain engagement, even at extreme angles
  • Reduced drivetrain friction
  • Longest wearing of current dual-width chainring designs (claimed)
  • Hard coating is significantly more durable than traditional anodized finishes
  • Compatible with current e*thirteen TRS, XCX, and LG1 guides
  • Available in 28 to 38-tooth options in 2-tooth increments
  • Weight: 87 grams for 32-tooth integrated ring
  • Available September 2013 in both integrated and 104 BCD versions
  • MSRP TBA

Initial Impressions

Shortly after the Taipei show in March, e*thirteen sent over a pre-production version of a variable width 30-tooth Guidering to try out on the new TRSr crankset. Though this particular one is not a finalized version (various finishes are still being tested before production), the actual shape and function of the ring should be identical to what will be released in September. It's clear e*thirteen has been working on the actual tooth profiles for a while now, as this one appears to be in the final testing phase with nothing to outwardly suggest it isn’t an actual production item. The characteristics of the coating may change in the next few months, but expect the final version to look and perform more or less identical to this one.

Typically, when MTB media are invited to test products we're given brand new equipment installed and tuned on brand new bikes. In the real world drivetrains wear, chains stretch, and derailleur clutches and springs lose tension. This was a real world test with a five month old 10-speed chain and slightly newer SRAM X9 derailleur (at one point I even used a non-clutch X7 derailleur just to see what would happen). e*thirteen included an XCX top guide with their test kit, but I opted to leave it in the box, curious if the ring could keep the chain on without the aid of a guide. Though the Guidering M is specifically designed for 11-speed drivetrains it is compatible with 10 speed chains as well with a small loss in retention abilities. Like most people, I wasn’t about to shell out $1000+ for an 11-speed drivetrain if I could still enjoy some of the benefits on my current 10-speed one. And enjoy them I did.Mounting the ring to the TRSr cranks was a breeze, and I was quickly out the door to see how well it worked.

On The Trail

In almost three months of testing on two different bikes I have dropped the chain exactly four times. Twice while running a non-clutch derailleur for a muddy weekend of shuttle runs, once with a proper clutch derailleur while descending a steep, awkwardly spaced stone staircase in the middle of one of my local trails, and once on a rough DH trail in Madrid after a series of breaking bumps in a small boulder field. Excluding the X7 experiment, that’s two chain drops after dozens of rides in Taiwan and Europe, all while using a less-than-optimal 10-speed chain (and a fairly worn out one at that).

It’s hard to get excited about a chainring, but right now I’m pretty psyched that the XCX guide is still in the box and isn’t likely to be coming out any time soon. Sure, if I was racing I’d use it just as a failsafe measure, but for regular riding, even on my hardest trails, I don’t really seen any need to worry. Heck, I might even be a little excited.

Things That Could Be Improved

Even though performance was pretty exceptional as is, I’d love to see a 10-speed specific ring. Otherwise, the design, ease of installation, and function of the ring have been all I could ask for.

Long Term Durability

This is the area e*thirteen is currently concentrating their testing efforts before releasing the Guidering M to the public. Wear is always going to be greater with a 1x10 or 1x11 setup, and tends to vary a bit depending on the number of teeth. The advantage of running a drivetrain with minimal or no chain retention device loses its appeal quickly if the ring wears out in a few months’ time. Three months isn’t nearly long enough to appropriately measure durability, but after a few hundred miles there is no sign of premature wear, and the finish has certainly held up better than standard black anodizing. e*thirteen didn’t share what coating process was used on this particular ring, but it’s safe to assume that whatever they settle on for the final version will be at least as good if not better.

What’s The Bottom Line?

Thanks to the e*thirteen Guidering M. I don’t run a chainguide on my trail bike anymore. It's as simple as that. More so than negligible weight savings or the ‘cool’ factor of not running a guide, I really appreciate the less obvious benefits of the Guidering M. The drivetrain is quieter, easier to clean, and removal of the cranks is a snap. Also, from a broader, long-range perspective, the absence of front derailleurs or chainguides creates one less problem for frame designers to work around. At a time when trail bikes are actually getting more complex, it’s refreshing to enjoy new technology that simplifies things for a change.

For more info, keep an eye on www.bythehive.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 VitalMTB and other industry clients.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for e*thirteen TRS Race Cranks 5/28/2013 11:16 PM
C138_e_thirteen_trsr_cranks_double

Tested: e*thirteen TRSr Cranks - Refined and Reliable

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Lee Trumpore

e*thirteen has embraced the rising popularity of all-mountain bikes and enduro racing by designing components specifically for the unique needs of each. With the TRSr crankset (short for TRS Race) they’ve taken this a step further by eliminating a traditional triple-ring setup and spider in favor of a unique one piece, interchangeable one or two-ring design.

TRSr Crank Highlights

  • Spiderless chainrings shave grams and efficiently transfer power
  • Uses integrated Guidering that can be interchanged with other single or integrated shift rings
  • Exalite R forged material
  • Single ring: 28, 30, 32, 34, 36-tooth options // Double: 22/36, 24/38 options
  • Spindle: P3 Connect - oversized 30mm TiNi coated aluminum spindle
  • APS (Adaptive Preload System) eliminates need for washers and spacers
  • BB/Guidering tool included
  • 170, 175, or 180mm lengths
  • 73mm BB width*
  • Black with red spindle
  • 665 grams with 34-tooth ring and threaded BB
  • MSRP $370

*Requires separate purchase of specific 30mm e*thirteen bottom bracket

Rather than adapt an existing XC or DH crank to meet the needs of riders looking for strong, lightweight single or double-ring setup, e*thirteen engineers decided to design an entirely new crankset. The resulting TRSr is intended to be everything an enduro racer or all-mountain shredder needs with nothing they don’t. This meant eliminating the smallest ring and mounting the remaining ring (or rings) directly to the 30mm spindle rather than to a traditional 4-bolt spider found on other cranks. The result is a lightweight crank that doesn’t sacrifice strength or stiffness.

First Impressions

Finish quality and attention to detail are what I would expect from a crank costing $370, but it is the simplicity of the design, refinement, and clean lines that really stand out. There are no bolts, spacers, washers, or other bits to fiddle with. Aesthetics are a personal preference but I really like the minimalist looks of the spiderless design. Depending on how old you are it might even have a certain retro feel.

Installation took a matter of minutes, aided tremendously with the new APS system built in to the non-driveside crank arm. Previous e*thirteen cranks required a series of spacers and wave washers to properly preload the bottom bracket bearings and this often necessitated several installations and removals to get everything just right. The new design utilizes a spring loaded threaded collar that is simply rotated once the crank arm is installed and does the same job in just seconds.

On The Trail

Seven weeks of hard riding has proven these cranks to be impressively stiff under foot. Multiple impacts with rocks and a few trees has resulted only in expected cosmetic damage. Even with some DH-level abuse, they have been nothing but impressive, remaining straight, tight, and trouble free for the duration of the testing period. I also appreciated that the bottom bracket ball bearings can be removed, cleaned, and re-greased easily. Being rainy season here in Taipei, this feature certainly adds to the lifespan of one of the most abused components on my bike.

I tested a 30-tooth single Guidering setup only (the pre-production ‘M’ version) and it is still running straight and true with no signs of premature wear. Despite the lousy weather the interface has remained creak free, something that can’t always be said for traditional bolt/spider setups that can be prone to making all kinds of noises after a few proper thrashings in the muck.

Things That Could Be Improved

There isn’t much to complain about really as these cranks have proven to be every bit as good on dirt as they sound on paper. But I’m not a huge fan of the crank bolt. I put a nice dent in mine with a rock and for aesthetic reasons tried to replace it with one of several others I had lying around only to discover that none were the same thread size as the one on the TRSr. Removal of the arm also requires the use of either a traditional puller or special removal bolt supplied with the crank. Personally I’d love to see the move to a self-extracting design similar what is being used by other manufacturers. This is surely splitting hairs a bit, but I’ll take any chance I get to ditch another tool from my toolbox.

Long Term Durability

Seven weeks isn't long enough to truly evaluate wear and tear, but there has been no cause for alarm thus far. Nothing has come loose, no odd noises have developed, and the finish has held up as I’d expect given the conditions I’ve been riding in. I’m continuing to test these cranks throughout the Summer, particularly to evaluate the durability of the new Modified Guidering, and I very much expect they will continue to remain trouble free.

What's The Bottom Line?

e*thirteen has a winner with the TRSr cranks. They are stiff, strong, refined, and well thought out. On top of that, at 665g with a bottom bracket they are in the same class as Shimano XTR and other lightweight favorites. Installation couldn't be simpler and unnecessary maintenance has been, well, unnecessary. If you are a 2x10, 1x10, or 1x11 rider you really cannot go wrong with the TRSr crank. With single rings ranging from 28-36 teeth, you’re certain to be able to dial in a setup that works well regardless of your given fitness or choice of terrain.

For more info on the TRSr line, visit www.bythehive.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 VitalMTB and other industry clients.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for iXS Dagger Knee Guards 5/14/2013 12:02 AM
C138_dagger_front1

Tested: iXS Dagger Knee Guards

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Lee Trumpore

Downhill, freeride, dirt jumping, enduro, cross-country, park... you name it, iXS has a knee pad to fit your needs. With athletes like Darren Berrecloth, Hans Rey, and Kurt Sorge helping to design and test new models, you know these pads are meant to take some serious abuse.

Dagger Knee Guard Highlights

  • Designed in collaboration with Darren Berrecloth
  • Hard plastic, double injected external knee cup
  • Extended shin padding for added protection from pedal strikes and rocks, plus additional thigh padding
  • Squeezebox joint between knee and shin to provides protection while maintaining flexibility and mobility
  • NockOut shock absorbent padding around knee and extended on upper leg
  • AeroMesh antibacterial, moisture wicking material used throughout
  • Soft silicon strips and Velcro closures keep everything in place while riding and crashing
  • Tear resistant nylon layers
  • EN1621-1 certified
  • Weight: 360 grams per pair
  • MSRP $80

The Dagger was designed by iXS at the request of their freeride and gravity riders. The riders wanted more protection than offered by traditional knee pads, but without the added bulk of a full knee/shin combination. The result is a pad that borrows technology and inspiration from both designs to provide additional kneecap and lower leg protection from rocks and pedal strikes while maintaining a minimalist fit and feel.

A hard plastic cup on the outside of the Dagger assures your kneecap is safe from even the sharpest rocks, while substantial padding around and above knee provides protection from indirect and secondary impacts as well. After initial testing an additional joint called the Squezebox was added between the knee and shin to eliminate any gap in protection while maintaining flexibility. Internally, the Dagger has a relief in the soft padding around the kneecap which adds stability to the fit as well as making the pad more comfortable while pedaling. They come in specific left and right models and are slightly pre-bent to better match the contour of your leg while riding and pedaling.

Initial Impressions

To be honest, my very first impression after trying the Daggers was that I was going to be in for a very long day. Maybe it was the shock of brand new material compared to my usual well-worn and broken-in pads. Or perhaps it was the way the pre-curved pads fit while standing with straight legs, either way I was initially skeptical. However, any concerns I had quickly disappeared as soon as I headed out of my garage.

The pre-curved shape and the internal knee cup result in a knee pad that is incredibly comfortable to pedal, almost to the point where I couldn’t tell they were there. My favorite feature by far was the relieved area around the point of my kneecap. Unlike many other pads that increase pressure as you bend your knee, the Dagger design maintains several millimeters of separation throughout the pedal stroke. I spent the first day flat out starting with some cross-country followed by shuttle runs, all while shooting photos for another assignment. It was a full 10 sweaty hours before I took the pads off or even pulled them down. Despite being brand new there were no raw spots and no chaffing after wearing them for what for many would be a week’s worth of riding time.

As much as I tried to avoid it, I did manage to use the pads for their intended purpose on several occasions. This included accidentally walking into a two foot deep gutter and smashing my knee directly on the 90-degree concrete corner. Dagger 1, concrete 0. In the next few months I continued to be impressed by the protection the pads offered, but over time a few possible issues with the fit became more apparent.

Things That Could Be Improved

Keep in mind that while knees, calves, and quads come in dozens of possible sizes and configurations, knee pads unfortunately only come in three or four sizes. So while you can buy the same pair of medium Daggers I tested, you’ll likely be putting them on a very different pair of legs.

While not apparent on the first ride, I later experienced some rubbing on the lower inner seam. The culprit seems for be the stitching in that area which is noticeably less supple than I would expect, and a bit odd given that none of my other iXS pads have the same problem due to their much smoother construction in the same spot.

It could just be my legs, but perhaps borrowing some construction techniques from other pads in their line might be a good idea. As much as I loved the pre-curved shape of the pads for actual riding, they are not as comfortable while standing upright in a lift line or on extended hike-a-bike sections. The shape also makes it more difficult to pull the pads down around the ankles to help cool things off while riding the lift or pedaling between sections. Hopefully with the growing enduro trend someone will design a fully functional knee pad like the Dagger that can be taken on and off without requiring the removal of your shoes.

Long Term Durability

After two months or regular riding, crashing, and numerous photo sessions spent crawling around the jungle on my knees these pads show no signs of premature wear. There is no loose stitching or visible damage to the plastic and the Velcro is still as new. They’ve been put through the laundry with no ill effects and have remained odor free in between washings despite Taipei’s balmy, bacteria friendly climate.

What's The Bottom Line?

With the Dagger Knee Guards, iXS has created a unique knee/shin pad combo that is extremely comfortable to wear while pedaling, but without sacrificing much in terms of protection. For the flat pedal rider, or anyone whose trails tend to spit up loose rocks off the front wheel, the extra shin padding is much appreciated. While obviously not as protective as a full knee/shin combo, the Dagger is far less restrictive, lighter, and more portable.

Minor issues with some of the seams aside, these pads are a real winner and it’s easy to see why they’re already a favorite among guys like Darren Berrecloth and Kurt Sorge. For some riders these pads are likely to tick all the boxes. Others may might want to consider a slightly different option from iXS’s extensive range.

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


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 VitalMTB and other industry clients.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Spank Oozy 26AL EVO Complete Wheels 2/1/2013 9:42 AM
C138_oozy_wheelset_front_silver

Tested: Spank Oozy EVO Wheelset - Light & Affordable

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Lee Trumpore

Due to the added benefits of reduced rotational weight, wheel selection has always been given special attention by riders looking to lighten or liven up their ride. With the increasing popularity of light, aggressive, and ~160mm travel all-mountain frames, the demand for equally capable parts often finds riders in a bind trying to balance cost, weight, and durability. These bikes are capable of keeping pace with DH bikes from not so long ago, yet they are light enough to be comfortably ridden up thousands of vertical feet. This has ushered in a new generation of wheels light enough for climbing, but strong enough to take repeated downhill abuse. This luxury comes with a hefty cost from many brands, so it is was exciting to hear that Spank Industries has been developing a 1650g complete wheelset aimed at the all-mountain and enduro racing crowd for just $600.

For the past few months they have been mounted to my Banshee Rune v2 and put through their paces in all types of riding in the mountains of Taipei to see if they are truly up for the task.

Spank Oozy 26AL EVO Highlights

  • Hand laced and hand built
  • 420g Spank Oozy EVOAL 26 rim - 26mm OD, 21mm ID, 19mm height
  • Dynamal alloy construction with Spanks patented OohBah profile
  • Triple butted, straight pull Sandvik spokes (2.0/1.8/2.0) *tested with 2.0/1.6/2.0
  • 1 spoke length used throughout the complete wheelset
  • Tubeless compatible
  • Beadnip design to help prevent ‘burping’ and pinch-flatting
  • Quad bearing rear hub with 27 point, 3 pawl engagement available in 135/142/150mm spacing
  • Front available in 15mm (stock) an 20mm (end caps sold separately)
  • Powder coat black and polished silver colors
  • Available in 28 hole 3-cross lacing in 26”, 650b, and 29” diameter
  • 1650g complete (26”)
  • $600 MSRP

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. While the inner channel of most rims curves down to match to general outer profile of the rim, the OohBah’s curves up. The corrugated profile also 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.

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Spank factory to see how their wheels are made. This tour will provide some additional insight into what makes them roll:

On The Trail

I tend to judge wheel performance based more on what they don’t do, because other than carbon rims that have distinct ride characteristics, most wheels I’ve ridden all more or less function the same. With few complex moving parts, most riders make their choice based on technical specs and hope that the wheel does its job as trouble free and as long as possible. Sticking with that philosophy, I went with a set-it-and-forget-it approach: no tensioning, no truing, no special attention other than standard washing, and no lubrication other than the through-axle.

I mounted both cross-country tires and dual ply 2.35" wide Schwable Muddy Mary tires (more like a 2.7" on the Maxxis Minion scale) to confirm their fit and profile. However, actual riding was done entirely with a standard single-ply Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5" front and 2.35" rear combo with thin tubes. Pressures were in the 25 to 32 psi range. Fully suited up, I probably weigh in the neighborhood of 165+ pounds. While not the heaviest rider in the world, as a once-upon-a-time Pro downhill racer and occasional World Cup pack filler I can still put a proper beating on a set of wheels.

I used these wheels for everything from downhill racing on my all-mountain bike, standard cross-country rides, a nine mile climb to the top of Neng Gao Shan, and repeated local trail riding and shuttle runs on the steep and rocky trails around Taipei. In the course of testing I blew one rear shock and chewed through a set or rear brake pads in the belt-sander that is Taipei mud, but the wheels remained 100% trouble free. While I never specifically tested flat resistance, I experienced exactly one flat tire while jumping onto a sharp rock slab at full tilt. The single ply tires and low pressure surely deserve some of the blame for that one.After two months the hubs are as smooth and quiet as new, spokes are still evenly tensioned, there are no dents or cracks in the rims, the front wheel is arrow straight, and as the video clip below shows, the rear is just a few millimeters off (the result of a two hour shuttle run over the weekend).

Things That Could Be Improved

The BeadNip certainly does as it is intended and locks the bead solidly into the sidewall. While I don’t run tubeless, I can see this being a huge positive for anyone who has had trouble with burping in the past. The negative is that you most definitely need to use tires levers to get tires on and off. Though I was able to remount new tires a second time without the lever, I wasn’t able to get them off without one. Even after completely unseating one bead and removing the tube, I often needed to use the tire lever to get the second bead off the rim as well. As someone who has long been able to quickly mount/dismount tires easily with my fingers, this was annoying, and something to keep in mind for the aspiring enduro racer if you are one to switch treads often during an event. Not a deal breaker by any means, but certainly something to keep in mind. Spank is also aware of this being a potential issue and is working to find a more optimized balance of tire security and ease of mounting.

What's The Bottom Line?

Simply put, these wheels were everything they appeared to be on paper. Out of the box they were certainly light and extremely stiff, despite my pre-production wheels running thinner 2.0/1.6/2.0 spokes. On the trail they did nothing to draw attention to themselves by way of flex, loss of spoke tension, or unusual pinch flatting. I’d recommend them highly to anyone looking for a light, stiff, and durable all-mountain or enduro racing wheelset at a reasonable price. At $600, these wheels are a steal considering the cost of their same weight peers. Carbon might drop another 200 grams, but it'll cost you another $1000. That's a lot of Taiwan beer. They won’t be coming off my bike any time soon.

For more details, check out www.Spank-Ind.com.

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