Added reply in a thread Faster, Higher, Stronger - Share Your Best Tips 12/4/2015 6:30 AM

I use a wide variety of setups depending on what we're working on (i.e. short vs. long radius, off-camber vs. flat, traction vs. slippery). The most basic terms of what we're trying to achieve is: B - braking before entry A - angulate the bike, not body ... more »

Added reply in a thread Faster, Higher, Stronger - Share Your Best Tips 12/3/2015 4:51 PM

If I'm investing time in my skills I'll do one of two things: - Pump track motos - Cornering drills using cones In my experience, doing these two things on a weekly basis in the off-season can produce significant gains, even in outstanding riders.

Added reply in a thread Are You Riding the Right Bike? 11/28/2015 7:28 AM

For me it comes down to how I'm riding, more than what I'm riding. Mostly when it comes to trail bikes however - DH tracks can be ridden on XC bikes and vise versa, but it's not too enjoyable. i.e. this season I had a Kona Hei Hei and a Process 153DL. ... more »

Added a new photo album 7iDP Transition Base Suit 11/2/2015 6:41 AM
C138_7idp_transition_body_suit_311015_ajbarlas_7424

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Added a product review for 7iDP Transition SS Base Suit 11/1/2015 8:00 PM
C138_b_transition_ss_f

Tested: 7iDP Transition Short Sleeve Base Suit

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Joel Harwood // Photos by AJ Barlas

7iDP's brand name represents the foundation of the company: 7 original colleagues creating intelligent design protection. 7iDP believes that protection in mountain biking had become stagnant and brand-driven, rather than driven by design and rider needs. After two-years of development, 7iDP released the Transition Short Sleeve Base Suit with input from the Rocky Mountain – Urge Rally Team, recent Rampage winner Kurt Sorge, in addition to engineers, designers, and testers. For the last few months, we made poor choices, hucked and rode with little regard for safety in the name of testing this piece of protection.

Transition Short Sleeve Base Suit Highlights

  • 4-way stretch, highly durable 90% polyester / 10% spandex mix material
  • Polyester, spandex and 4-way mesh compression fit
  • Double layer polygon foam for increased air flow and reduced weight
  • Removable rear spine protector
  • Removable modular shoulder pads
  • Chest and back customization for neck brace integration
  • Designed beyond CE EN1621 standard for maximal protection
  • Color: Black
  • Sizes: S, M, L and XL
  • MSRP: $169.99 USD

Initial Impressions

The Transition Suit is meant to fit as a base layer under the jersey, so it appears small at first glance. Closer inspection reveals quality stitching and breathable material wherever possible, with more durable material where necessary. While most companies have chosen to predominantly use adaptive foam as padding, 7iDP remains steadfast in their commitment to exceeding CE standards – meaning that they choose to use a combination of their patented Curv plastic and traditional foam.

Another unique feature of the Transition Suit is the modular system for the back plate and the removable padding to better accommodate popular neck braces.

On The Trail

Fit on the Transition Short Sleeve Base Suit is true to size. The top slides on without requiring zippers or buckles, yet it fits snugly. We found that the pads were placed accurately and comfortably, without restricting movement or pinching. The armor never moved while riding. In our commitment to product reviews, we even chose to tomahawk off trail on one occasion with zero issues – no damage to our body or the armor. The weave on the fabric is tight and it seems 7iDP leaned towards function and durability over ventilation. Throughout the testing process, the Transition Short Sleeve Base Suit was comfortable, moved with the body and never became a distraction due to heat or discomfort.

Things That Could Be Improved

We can always argue that breathability could be improved with a product like this. Sure, we were warmer while wearing the Transition Suit, but we had no regrets when we hit the deck. We would have liked the chest pad to extend slightly further down the chest in order to protect another rib or two. This is subjective given the variety of bodies the suit was designed to fit, but for us, a little added length would add protection and wouldn’t interfere with movement.

Long Term Durability

When we received the Transition Short Sleeve Base Suit we were immediately concerned that the suit would slowly stretch and become more likely to shift while riding. After a number of sessions, we found that it would stretch ever so slightly, but after a quick wash it returned to normal. Also, one of the 4-way stretch panels developed a very small hole somewhere along the line, likely from a crash or getting caught up on our pants. Five-minutes and a needle with thread prevented it from becoming a legitimate issue.

What’s The Bottom Line?

7iDP has definitely done their homework with the Transition Suit. The ability to customize for a neck brace and desired level of protection was great. The ability to shape-shift is unique, and we even heard that some enduro riders were using the spine protector sleeve to hold a hydration bladder. There are flimsier, lighter-weight options and more protective bulky alternatives – the balance between CE-certified protection, comfort and customization is a first, especially at a competitive cost. Some riders will argue that they’ll never wear upper body armor because it’s too hot, bulky and restrictive. We’ll just rebut that they haven’t tried the 7iDP Transition Short Sleeve Base Suit.

Visit www.7protection.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

Joel Harwood has been playing in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia for the last nine years. He spends his summer months coaching DH race groms in the Whistler Bike Park, and guiding XC riders all over BC. He dabbles in all types of racing, but is happiest while blasting his trail bike down trails that include rock slabs, natural doubles, and west coast tech. On the big bike he tends to look for little transitions and manuals that allow him to keep things pointed downhill, rather than swapping from line to line. Attention to detail, time in the saddle, and an aggressive riding style make Joel a rider that demands the most from his products. Joel's ramblings can also be found at www.straightshotblog.com.

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Added a comment about product review Tested: 2015 Troy Lee Designs Ace Short & Jersey 8/6/2015 5:18 PM
C50_photo_1382538210

I wore size medium. I found the length to be just about right at 5'11" and they had plenty of stretch for my larger than average thighs. Elastics on the ends too so they never slipped. I would recommend them.

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Added a product review for Troy Lee Designs Ace Riding Jersey 7/29/2015 9:40 PM
C138_tld_ace_jersey_alpine_ice_blue

Tested: 2015 Troy Lee Designs Ace Short & Jersey

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Joel Harwood // Photos by Chris Christie

Troy Lee Designs’ Ace kit caters to riders looking for a high performing, lightweight, more pedal-friendly option without having to rock a skin suit. Advertised as premium, high performance gear for gritty XC riders, the updated Ace series features lightweight, wicking materials and all of the technical features we’ve come to expect from TLD. Can the kit handle daily abuse and frequent mistreatment, or is it meant purely for dainty XC rides? We spent a few months doing our best to find out.

Troy Lee Designs Ace Short Highlights

  • 4-way stretch, highly durable 90% polyester / 10% spandex mix material
  • Close to body performance fit
  • Full waist and hip height adjustment with bonded rubber adjusters
  • Permanent inner thigh ventilation via welded intake and exit vents
  • Welded, vented rear pocket with air mesh padding
  • Welded seams enable close to body fit without chafing
  • Includes premium removable chamois liner short
  • Laser cut side stash pocket perfect for easy access
  • Pedal friendly side pockets with welded side pocket and mesh pocket bag
  • Premium single snap fly closure
  • YKK brand zippers
  • Colors: Solid black, elite cyan (tested), elite red
  • Sizes: 28-38 (even sizes only)
  • MSRP: $165 USD

Troy Lee Designs Ace Jersey Highlights

  • Performance fit cycling jersey with 10" front zipper
  • Breathable, moisture wicking 50+ UPF material
  • 3 rear open pockets and 1 zip stash pocket
  • Reflective detailing on drop tail
  • Colors: Alpine ice blue (tested), alpine fire orange, elite red, elite concrete
  • Sizes: S-2XL
  • MSRP: $68 USD

Initial Impressions

Much of Troy Lee Designs’ 2015 lineup features striking color options. The elite cyan short and alpine ice blue jersey are bold enough to get noticed, but not so much so that they’re an eyesore. Closer inspection reveals that TLD didn’t take any shortcuts with quality either – attention to detail, finish, and materials are all top shelf. The checkered design on the short is subtle at first glance, as the TLD logo on each thigh panel attracts most of the attention. The Ace short features an adjustable waist, a padded rear pocket, a Velcro and buttoned fly and permanent ventilation on the inner thighs.

The welded seams are of the highest quality – no inconsistencies, wrinkles or weaknesses. The short feels extremely light and includes a removable chamois. The jersey is equally as stylish with horizontal stripes and relatively subtle branding. Jersey cut is meant to be close to the body, has a built in zipper in the front, and a drop tail. Three rear pockets on the jersey can stash all of your gear, in addition to a central zippered pocket. The material is thin, without feeling fragile. Sizing is accurate and consistent with other TLD products. One should note however that the Ace series features a performance fit and sits much closer to the body than the enduro oriented Ruckus and Skyline products.

On The Trail

TLD did their homework with the Ace short. The streamlined fit is spot on, and the materials are extremely lightweight and flexible. The short is perfect for trail riding – it doesn't move, flop or pinch anywhere while seated or standing and there are zero instances where the short tried to snag the saddle. The short length is appropriate; it sits mid-knee while standing, and slightly above while seated. Long enough to avoid a gap between kneepads and short enough that it never becomes an obstruction.

On long rides the thin material and permanent ventilation were much appreciated as was the high quality chamois, a major feature that companies overlook far too often. The streamlined nature of the Ace short might have one believe that storage options would be limited, however we found that there were more than enough options for carrying a phone, multi-tool and CO2 without worry. The tighter fit also meant that anything you might store in the short is held in place and doesn't shift while riding.

The Ace jersey doesn’t pack as many features as the short; however the performance is just as solid. The material is thin and breathes very well – without a doubt the coolest jersey in the TLD lineup. The open pockets and single zippered pocket on the jersey meant that we could stash all of our necessities without needing a pack. Also of note is that we never found the rear pockets irritating when we did run a pack for longer missions.

We found the collar to be as comfortable as anything we’ve ever tried, with or without the use of the front zipper. As mentioned, the cut of the Ace lineup is tighter, which we found very comfortable. The jersey moves with the body, rather than around it and never felt constricting due to the highly flexible fabric and well-designed cut. No room for armor here though.

Things That Could Be Improved

Similar to the Ruckus short, the elastic band holding the velcro waist-adjuster tabs was exposed if the Ace short was tightened down significantly. In reality, this was only an issue in theory, as the short fit us well and because we only had to make micro adjustments the elastic bands were never exposed.

The right hip pocket access is a little bit tricky due to the minimalist opening. Some riders might find this a hassle, but we still found this storage option was great for CO2 or a snack.

We would have liked to see the addition of a rubber or silicone gripper strip on the rear seam in order to keep the jersey from riding up. This was never an issue unless we were carrying a spare bottle, however in that scenario a full bottle would bounce around more than it might have with additional traction that rubber could provide.

Long Term Durability

After a solid beating the Ace kit remains unscathed. All of the seams and welds have held together perfectly. Although we didn’t cheese grater ourselves across any rock slabs, we were pleased that the jersey and short were resistant to snags and abrasions, in spite of the thin materials used. Blatant disregard for washing instructions hasn’t bothered them either – numerous wash cycles later and they’re going strong. We have no reason to believe that the Ace series will fail prematurely.

What’s The Bottom Line?

Striking a balance between all-out performance and style is tricky. The outstanding cut, material selection and features of Troy Lee's Ace series are bang on, meeting the performance needs of a racer but without having you look like a goon at the après. Whether you consider yourself XC, all-mountain or enduro, this kit has you covered.

More information at www.troyleedesigns.com.


About The Reviewer

Joel Harwood has been playing in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia for the last 8 years. He spends his summer months coaching DH race groms in the Whistler Bike Park, and guiding XC riders all over BC. He dabbles in all types of racing, but is happiest while blasting his trail bike down trails that include rock slabs, natural doubles, and west coast tech. On the big bike he tends to look for little transitions and manuals that allow him to keep things pointed downhill, rather than swapping from line to line. Attention to detail, time in the saddle, and an aggressive riding style make Joel a rider that demands the most from his products. Joel's ramblings can also be found at Straightshot.

This product has no reviews yet

Added a product review for Troy Lee Designs Ace Riding Short 7/29/2015 9:35 PM
C138_15_tld_ace_shorts_elite_red

Tested: 2015 Troy Lee Designs Ace Short & Jersey

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Joel Harwood // Photos by Chris Christie

Troy Lee Designs’ Ace kit caters to riders looking for a high performing, lightweight, more pedal-friendly option without having to rock a skin suit. Advertised as premium, high performance gear for gritty XC riders, the updated Ace series features lightweight, wicking materials and all of the technical features we’ve come to expect from TLD. Can the kit handle daily abuse and frequent mistreatment, or is it meant purely for dainty XC rides? We spent a few months doing our best to find out.

Troy Lee Designs Ace Short Highlights

  • 4-way stretch, highly durable 90% polyester / 10% spandex mix material
  • Close to body performance fit
  • Full waist and hip height adjustment with bonded rubber adjusters
  • Permanent inner thigh ventilation via welded intake and exit vents
  • Welded, vented rear pocket with air mesh padding
  • Welded seams enable close to body fit without chafing
  • Includes premium removable chamois liner short
  • Laser cut side stash pocket perfect for easy access
  • Pedal friendly side pockets with welded side pocket and mesh pocket bag
  • Premium single snap fly closure
  • YKK brand zippers
  • Colors: Solid black, elite cyan (tested), elite red
  • Sizes: 28-38 (even sizes only)
  • MSRP: $165 USD

Troy Lee Designs Ace Jersey Highlights

  • Performance fit cycling jersey with 10" front zipper
  • Breathable, moisture wicking 50+ UPF material
  • 3 rear open pockets and 1 zip stash pocket
  • Reflective detailing on drop tail
  • Colors: Alpine ice blue (tested), alpine fire orange, elite red, elite concrete
  • Sizes: S-2XL
  • MSRP: $68 USD

Initial Impressions

Much of Troy Lee Designs’ 2015 lineup features striking color options. The elite cyan short and alpine ice blue jersey are bold enough to get noticed, but not so much so that they’re an eyesore. Closer inspection reveals that TLD didn’t take any shortcuts with quality either – attention to detail, finish, and materials are all top shelf. The checkered design on the short is subtle at first glance, as the TLD logo on each thigh panel attracts most of the attention. The Ace short features an adjustable waist, a padded rear pocket, a Velcro and buttoned fly and permanent ventilation on the inner thighs.

The welded seams are of the highest quality – no inconsistencies, wrinkles or weaknesses. The short feels extremely light and includes a removable chamois. The jersey is equally as stylish with horizontal stripes and relatively subtle branding. Jersey cut is meant to be close to the body, has a built in zipper in the front, and a drop tail. Three rear pockets on the jersey can stash all of your gear, in addition to a central zippered pocket. The material is thin, without feeling fragile. Sizing is accurate and consistent with other TLD products. One should note however that the Ace series features a performance fit and sits much closer to the body than the enduro oriented Ruckus and Skyline products.

On The Trail

TLD did their homework with the Ace short. The streamlined fit is spot on, and the materials are extremely lightweight and flexible. The short is perfect for trail riding – it doesn't move, flop or pinch anywhere while seated or standing and there are zero instances where the short tried to snag the saddle. The short length is appropriate; it sits mid-knee while standing, and slightly above while seated. Long enough to avoid a gap between kneepads and short enough that it never becomes an obstruction.

On long rides the thin material and permanent ventilation were much appreciated as was the high quality chamois, a major feature that companies overlook far too often. The streamlined nature of the Ace short might have one believe that storage options would be limited, however we found that there were more than enough options for carrying a phone, multi-tool and CO2 without worry. The tighter fit also meant that anything you might store in the short is held in place and doesn't shift while riding.

The Ace jersey doesn’t pack as many features as the short; however the performance is just as solid. The material is thin and breathes very well – without a doubt the coolest jersey in the TLD lineup. The open pockets and single zippered pocket on the jersey meant that we could stash all of our necessities without needing a pack. Also of note is that we never found the rear pockets irritating when we did run a pack for longer missions.

We found the collar to be as comfortable as anything we’ve ever tried, with or without the use of the front zipper. As mentioned, the cut of the Ace lineup is tighter, which we found very comfortable. The jersey moves with the body, rather than around it and never felt constricting due to the highly flexible fabric and well-designed cut. No room for armor here though.

Things That Could Be Improved

Similar to the Ruckus short, the elastic band holding the velcro waist-adjuster tabs was exposed if the Ace short was tightened down significantly. In reality, this was only an issue in theory, as the short fit us well and because we only had to make micro adjustments the elastic bands were never exposed.

The right hip pocket access is a little bit tricky due to the minimalist opening. Some riders might find this a hassle, but we still found this storage option was great for CO2 or a snack.

We would have liked to see the addition of a rubber or silicone gripper strip on the rear seam in order to keep the jersey from riding up. This was never an issue unless we were carrying a spare bottle, however in that scenario a full bottle would bounce around more than it might have with additional traction that rubber could provide.

Long Term Durability

After a solid beating the Ace kit remains unscathed. All of the seams and welds have held together perfectly. Although we didn’t cheese grater ourselves across any rock slabs, we were pleased that the jersey and short were resistant to snags and abrasions, in spite of the thin materials used. Blatant disregard for washing instructions hasn’t bothered them either – numerous wash cycles later and they’re going strong. We have no reason to believe that the Ace series will fail prematurely.

What’s The Bottom Line?

Striking a balance between all-out performance and style is tricky. The outstanding cut, material selection and features of Troy Lee's Ace series are bang on, meeting the performance needs of a racer but without having you look like a goon at the après. Whether you consider yourself XC, all-mountain or enduro, this kit has you covered.

More information at www.troyleedesigns.com.


About The Reviewer

Joel Harwood has been playing in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia for the last 8 years. He spends his summer months coaching DH race groms in the Whistler Bike Park, and guiding XC riders all over BC. He dabbles in all types of racing, but is happiest while blasting his trail bike down trails that include rock slabs, natural doubles, and west coast tech. On the big bike he tends to look for little transitions and manuals that allow him to keep things pointed downhill, rather than swapping from line to line. Attention to detail, time in the saddle, and an aggressive riding style make Joel a rider that demands the most from his products. Joel's ramblings can also be found at Straightshot.

This product has no reviews yet

Added a comment about slideshow Lay of the Land - Enduro World Series 3, Tweedlove, Scotland 5/30/2015 6:59 AM
C138_day2a

Everybody races the same track, plus fitness is a factor at the top of any sport. Professionals shouldn't be complaining in the media, but some always seem to when races don't suit their strengths. Looks bad on them, not the course.

I thought there was a discipline of racing that had fall line, sub 5-minute, single stage only...

0 1 1

This slideshow has 4 comments.

Added a comment about product review Tested: Fi’zi:k M3B Uomo 5/17/2015 8:43 AM
C50_photo_1382538210

We didn't experience any issues throughout the test and we're still happily JRA.

0 0 0

This product_review has 3 comments.

Added a product review for fi'zi:k M3B Uomo Shoe 5/7/2015 1:11 PM
C138_fizi_k_m3b_uomo

Tested: Fi’zi:k M3B Uomo

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Joel Harwood // Photos by AJ Barlas

According to their mission statement, "Fi’zi:k is a racing brand." A quick glance through the product lineup validates that statement. Every saddle, component, and shoe is built with a specific discipline and performance in mind. While many of Fi'zi:k's competitors blur the lines between riding styles, Fi’zi:k’s M3B Uomo is pointedly XC in terms of aesthetics and features. Mountain biking isn’t necessarily as compartmentalized as marketing gurus would have you believe, however, so we decided to strap a pair on for everyday shredding, occasional racing, and frequent skidding.

M3B Uomo Highlights

  • BOA IP1 closure system for performance fit
  • UD carbon fiber outsole with a removable skid plate
  • Fi’zi:k cycling specific insole
  • Microtex lazer perforated uppers, anti-scratch leather
  • Weight: 350g per shoe (size 43)
  • Sizes: 39-48
  • MSRP: $275 USD

Initial Impressions

The M3B Uomo is definitely an XC shoe. Zero compromises have been made to blur riding genres. One quick glance and the intention of the M3B Uomo is clear – trail riding performance.

Straight out of the box they’re comfortable. The stiffness of the outsole is immediately obvious, but not so much that walking is awkward. The use of the IP1 BOA closure system provides a performance-oriented fit and ensures that there is no dead space within the shoe. The perforated uppers are well ventilated and contour the foot snugly. Fit is true to size, although the toe box might be on the narrow side for those with wide feet. Cleat adjustment is adequate, although riders hoping to run the cleats in the same spot as their DH shoes will likely be let down. Cleats are recessed deep enough that pedal contact won’t be an issue.

The general style of the M3B Uomo is uncluttered and elegant. The solid black uppers are notably less busy than most other XC shoes, with fewer seams, colors, and knickknacks that could be susceptible to damage. Subtle Fi’zi:k branding on the toe and heel isn’t overwhelming, nor is the red outsole. Most XC shoes seem to be all about flash and flair, so the simple and classy styling of the M3B Uomo is refreshing.

On The Trail

The first thing that impressed us was how the stiffness of the outsole helps transfer energy to the pedals. While they might not be your favorite shoe for hiking around in the woods, there is no debate about pedaling performance: the M3B Uomo is a better tool. In spite of the stiffness, they were comfortable enough for long days and short hike-a-bikes.The interface between the outsole and the Crankbrothers Candy pedals we used for the test was solid. The absence of any gap between the two made for a solid, confident feel. Clipping in and out was easy, which surprisingly isn’t always the case depending on the pedal-shoe combination.

The IP1 BOA closure is a fantastic addition to any shoe. Our initial experience with the BOA system had us worried that it might be susceptible to damage, but after a few different pairs of shoes we are convinced that the BOA is a better closure than ratchets or velcro. Adjustability was easy at the trailhead or on the fly.

Aggressive riding didn’t bother the M3B Uomo. The cleat placement was just far enough to the rear of the shoe to prevent our calf muscles from getting worked and the shoe left us confident in just about every situation. The XC outsole means they require more accuracy when re-clipping on the fly, but it wasn’t a nuisance or liability when getting rowdy.

The perforated leather uppers provided outstanding breathability. There is no use comparing them to all-mountain shoes, they’re simply better in this regard. Compared to XC race shoes, they’re extremely breathable and as good as anything we’ve tried. All of the perforations mean that water has an entry point and they’re not as water resistant as some shoes, but this is a worthwhile compromise for a performance oriented shoe.

Things That Could Be Improved

The fit of the M3B Uomo was outstanding; nevertheless we question whether the Velcro strap on the forefoot is a necessity, as it didn’t seem to add to the fit of the shoe. We also wonder if it could potentially be replaced by just extending the BOA system.

Be warned, the outsole of the shoe provides little traction for hiking. Not that the Uomo was meant to excel here, but we found it less confidence inspiring than certain other XC shoes we’ve used.

At 350 grams per shoe they're certainly light enough for long days and racing, however shaving grams is the name of the game and some of the competition have managed to outperform the M3B Uomo in this regard.

Long Term Durability

As always, we did our best to put the M3B Uomo through the wringer. Plenty of JRA abuse and they still look and perform like new. The BOA system has shown no wear, the soles remain relatively unscathed, and the uppers are free of major scuff marks. Unfortunately, we did manage to put a ¼” slice in the leather at some point. The odd location had us scratching our heads and we can’t remember any crashes or bushwhacks where it was likely to have happened. It hasn't grown, and otherwise the shoe handled all of the abuse we put it through.

What's The Bottom Line?

Enduro products are all the rage these days and while all-mountain shoes have found a solid balance between pedaling and hiking, XC shoes are simply a better tool when it comes to putting power to the pedals. The fashion might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but when it comes to function, the M3B Uomo has you covered. Whether you’re wearing lycra or baggies, the Fi’zi:k M3B Uomo oozes Italian style and backs it up with world-class performance.

Visit www.fizik.it for more details.


About The Reviewer

Joel Harwood has been playing in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia for the last 8 years. He spends his summer months coaching DH race groms in the Whistler Bike Park, and guiding XC riders all over BC. He dabbles in all types of racing, but is happiest while blasting his trail bike down trails that include rock slabs, natural doubles, and west coast tech. On the big bike he tends to look for little transitions and manuals that allow him to keep things pointed downhill, rather than swapping from line to line. Attention to detail, time in the saddle, and an aggressive riding style make Joel a rider that demands the most from his products. Joel's ramblings can also be found at Straightshot.

This product has no reviews yet

Added reply in a thread 2015 Racing Rumours - MTB Musical Chairs 4/23/2015 6:01 AM

It'd be a bummer if the MTB division goes too. Some great products recently and they've provided a huge amount of support to up and coming racers in BC.

Added a comment about video The Scariest 55-Seconds of Your Life! The Ultimate Lourdes Carnage Clip 4/11/2015 1:59 PM
C138x104

Jackson's was nasty. Those boys are pushing it.

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    23797 willsoffe http://p.vitalmtb.com/photos/users/23797/avatar/c50_Will_Soffe_Profile.jpg?1366580482 http://www.vitalmtb.com/community/willsoffe,23797/all 04/21/13 1 24

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Added a product review for Easton Haven 35 Stem 4/5/2015 6:02 AM
C138_easton_haven_35mm_stem

Tested: Easton Haven 35 Handlebar and Stem

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Joel Harwood // Photos by AJ Barlas

Getting comfortable on a bike is a tricky one. It can easily be argued that one of, if not the most important factors is cockpit setup. Stem and bar combinations are just about limitless when one considers length, rise, width, and sweep. Recent advancements in carbon fiber technology and as of late, an increase in handlebar diameter have made the choices that much more convoluted. The general trend in the mountain bike industry is shorter stems and wider bars, but the 31.8mm clamp diameter is less than ideal according to some manufacturers. The creation of 35mm diameter handlebars has not only allowed for bar widths to increase, but for stiffness, weight, and compliance to be refined further too. Easton has always been at the sharp end of the pack when it comes to product development and recently overhauled their all-mountain Haven lineup with a 35mm clamp. Is it worth the upgrade or just another standard? Read on to get our impressions.

Haven 35 Stem Highlights

  • Finish: black
  • Weight: 138-g (50-mm)
  • Rise: 0⁰
  • Clamp diameter: 35-mm
  • Steerer: 1 1/8”
  • Available lengths (mm): 32, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90
  • Material: CNC machined aluminum
  • MSRP: $100 USD

Haven 35 Carbon Bar Highlights

  • Finish: matte UD carbon
  • Weight: 188-g
  • Width: 750-mm
  • Bend: 9⁰, 5⁰ upsweep
  • Rise (mm): 20 or 40
  • Clamp diameter: 35-mm
  • Material: EC90 carbon
  • MSRP: $160 USD

Initial Impressions

At Vital we get to geek out on bikes just about every day of the year. One of the biggest disappointments is when a bike arrives with a long stem and narrow bars. Thankfully, Easton has answered the call. Haven stems begin at just 32mm in length and while the Haven bar is only 750mm wide, its bigger brother the Havoc comes in at a full 800mm.

Hot damn is it light. The Haven 35 cockpit weighs in at 326 grams for bar and stem. With the use of the 35mm clamp, Easton has not only dropped a few grams from the setup, but they’ve also increased strength. Good news considering the amount of force going through the front end of a mountain bike.

Aesthetics are no doubt subjective. The matte carbon finish of the Haven 35 bar is easy on the eyes. Likewise with the gloss finish on the stem. Both the bar and stem have subtle Easton branding. Whether you’re after stealth or flashy, the new Haven lineup has you covered. Four colors are available.

It's important to note that the faceplate is directional. When installing, tighten the top bolts first to torque, which will bottom the stem and faceplate out. This makes it easier to install and also makes the stem stronger, something Easton calls Top-Lock Technology. (Note: There should be no gap between top of the faceplate and stem as shown in the photos above.)

The Haven 35 carbon bar ends are labeled for riders looking to trim them down. There is plenty of room for controls to be run well inside of the grips, even if the bar has been cut. The bend and sweep on the handlebar aren’t a departure from what Easton has done in the past, but we’re happy about that. We feel that the Haven 35 has bend, upsweep and rise nailed.

On The Trail

Since we ran the Haven 35 primarily on a wagon-wheeler, we opted for the 20-mm rise option to keep the front end low. The stem had identical dimensions to the one it replaced at 50-mm, while the bars were slightly narrower. We’re pretty fussy about bike setup and worried about bar width at first, but we forgot about it quickly and we were up to our usual shenanigans within a few pedal strokes.

Stems are one of those components that we like to set and forget. Once we had our stack height where it needed to be and the bolts torqued appropriately, we didn’t need to address the stem once. The Haven 35 stem is much the same as the previous version, which is just fine with us. It was plenty stiff, creak free, and looked good. Full points.

The real difference with the new 35mm Haven series is with the handlebars. They feature Easton’s trademarked TaperWall technology, which allows them to add material in some areas for stiffness and use less material where compliance is the goal. Sure it’s light, but we are more concerned with ride quality and the Haven 35 carbon was a noticeable improvement in back to back testing versus a 31.8mm carbon bar. The bar is stiff enough that we felt no flex, yet compliant enough that perceived trail chatter was reduced. The improved performance was most obvious in off-camber sections. The Haven 35 carbon handlebars were much the same as the stem. Set and forget.

Easton was also kind enough to toss in a pair of their carbon friendly lock-on grips. It’s worth noting that Easton uniquely covered the screws and flanges with rubber which improves grip for riders who overlap the edges of their bars. They provided plenty of grip both wet and dry, even when we chose to ride without gloves.

At the end of the day, we admit that unless you’re testing products back to back for the sake of comparison, it’s pretty tough to tell the difference between 31.8-mm and 35-mm setups. No question that in the lab there is a clear winner and given the choice we would go 35-mm, but we see the wider diameter as a refinement rather than a revolution.

Things That Could Be Improved

Even though the Haven lineup is geared towards the trail riding crowd we were a little bit disappointed that the Haven 35 bar is only 750-mm wide. We mentioned that the loss of width didn’t put us off, but we’d go wider given the option. If the bar is strong enough, why not make it a full 800-mm and let the consumer decide where to trim it? Even though it’s a minor difference and still an increase over the previous Haven bar, it could be a deal breaker for prospective buyers. We suspect Easton went this route since they have the Havoc 35 carbon too.

Long Term Durability

Easton’s impact and fatigue testing videos look far more abusive than anything that we’ve managed to do throughout the test. Nevertheless we did our best to use and abuse Easton’s Haven 35 cockpit, but we had zero success. We are certain that we’ll break ourselves long before we break this particular cockpit.

What's The Bottom Line?

No doubt that $260 USD for a bar and stem is a pretty penny, but when many trail bikes are north of $5K why shouldn’t they come with ‘the perfect handlebar’? The new Haven 35 cockpit is nearly flawless, especially if you preferred bar width is 750-mm or less. It is a definite improvement over the previous generation of Haven products and over 31.8-mm in general. Beyond our little gripe about width, the Haven 35 front end performed soundly, weighed shockingly little, and looked great.

More information at: www.eastoncycling.com.


About The Reviewer

Joel Harwood has been playing in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia for the last 9 years. He spends his summer months coaching DH race groms in the Whistler Bike Park, and guiding XC riders all over BC. He dabbles in all types of racing, but is happiest while blasting his trail bike down trails that include rock slabs, natural doubles, and west coast tech. On the big bike he tends to look for little transitions and manuals that allow him to keep things pointed downhill, rather than swapping from line to line. Attention to detail, time in the saddle, and an aggressive riding style make Joel a rider that demands the most from his products. Joel's ramblings can also be found at www.straightshotblog.com.

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Added a product review for Easton Haven 35 Carbon Handlebar 4/5/2015 6:00 AM
C138_easton_haven_35_carbon_high_rise_green

Tested: Easton Haven 35 Handlebar and Stem

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Joel Harwood // Photos by AJ Barlas

Getting comfortable on a bike is a tricky one. It can easily be argued that one of, if not the most important factors is cockpit setup. Stem and bar combinations are just about limitless when one considers length, rise, width, and sweep. Recent advancements in carbon fiber technology and as of late, an increase in handlebar diameter have made the choices that much more convoluted. The general trend in the mountain bike industry is shorter stems and wider bars, but the 31.8mm clamp diameter is less than ideal according to some manufacturers. The creation of 35mm diameter handlebars has not only allowed for bar widths to increase, but for stiffness, weight, and compliance to be refined further too. Easton has always been at the sharp end of the pack when it comes to product development and recently overhauled their all-mountain Haven lineup with a 35mm clamp. Is it worth the upgrade or just another standard? Read on to get our impressions.

Haven 35 Stem Highlights

  • Finish: black
  • Weight: 138-g (50-mm)
  • Rise: 0⁰
  • Clamp diameter: 35-mm
  • Steerer: 1 1/8”
  • Available lengths (mm): 32, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90
  • Material: CNC machined aluminum
  • MSRP: $100 USD

Haven 35 Carbon Bar Highlights

  • Finish: matte UD carbon
  • Weight: 188-g
  • Width: 750-mm
  • Bend: 9⁰, 5⁰ upsweep
  • Rise (mm): 20 or 40
  • Clamp diameter: 35-mm
  • Material: EC90 carbon
  • MSRP: $160 USD

Initial Impressions

At Vital we get to geek out on bikes just about every day of the year. One of the biggest disappointments is when a bike arrives with a long stem and narrow bars. Thankfully, Easton has answered the call. Haven stems begin at just 32mm in length and while the Haven bar is only 750mm wide, its bigger brother the Havoc comes in at a full 800mm.

Hot damn is it light. The Haven 35 cockpit weighs in at 326 grams for bar and stem. With the use of the 35mm clamp, Easton has not only dropped a few grams from the setup, but they’ve also increased strength. Good news considering the amount of force going through the front end of a mountain bike.

Aesthetics are no doubt subjective. The matte carbon finish of the Haven 35 bar is easy on the eyes. Likewise with the gloss finish on the stem. Both the bar and stem have subtle Easton branding. Whether you’re after stealth or flashy, the new Haven lineup has you covered. Four colors are available.

It's important to note that the faceplate is directional. When installing, tighten the top bolts first to torque, which will bottom the stem and faceplate out. This makes it easier to install and also makes the stem stronger, something Easton calls Top-Lock Technology. (Note: There should be no gap between top of the faceplate and stem as shown in the photos above.)

The Haven 35 carbon bar ends are labeled for riders looking to trim them down. There is plenty of room for controls to be run well inside of the grips, even if the bar has been cut. The bend and sweep on the handlebar aren’t a departure from what Easton has done in the past, but we’re happy about that. We feel that the Haven 35 has bend, upsweep and rise nailed.

On The Trail

Since we ran the Haven 35 primarily on a wagon-wheeler, we opted for the 20-mm rise option to keep the front end low. The stem had identical dimensions to the one it replaced at 50-mm, while the bars were slightly narrower. We’re pretty fussy about bike setup and worried about bar width at first, but we forgot about it quickly and we were up to our usual shenanigans within a few pedal strokes.

Stems are one of those components that we like to set and forget. Once we had our stack height where it needed to be and the bolts torqued appropriately, we didn’t need to address the stem once. The Haven 35 stem is much the same as the previous version, which is just fine with us. It was plenty stiff, creak free, and looked good. Full points.

The real difference with the new 35mm Haven series is with the handlebars. They feature Easton’s trademarked TaperWall technology, which allows them to add material in some areas for stiffness and use less material where compliance is the goal. Sure it’s light, but we are more concerned with ride quality and the Haven 35 carbon was a noticeable improvement in back to back testing versus a 31.8mm carbon bar. The bar is stiff enough that we felt no flex, yet compliant enough that perceived trail chatter was reduced. The improved performance was most obvious in off-camber sections. The Haven 35 carbon handlebars were much the same as the stem. Set and forget.

Easton was also kind enough to toss in a pair of their carbon friendly lock-on grips. It’s worth noting that Easton uniquely covered the screws and flanges with rubber which improves grip for riders who overlap the edges of their bars. They provided plenty of grip both wet and dry, even when we chose to ride without gloves.

At the end of the day, we admit that unless you’re testing products back to back for the sake of comparison, it’s pretty tough to tell the difference between 31.8-mm and 35-mm setups. No question that in the lab there is a clear winner and given the choice we would go 35-mm, but we see the wider diameter as a refinement rather than a revolution.

Things That Could Be Improved

Even though the Haven lineup is geared towards the trail riding crowd we were a little bit disappointed that the Haven 35 bar is only 750-mm wide. We mentioned that the loss of width didn’t put us off, but we’d go wider given the option. If the bar is strong enough, why not make it a full 800-mm and let the consumer decide where to trim it? Even though it’s a minor difference and still an increase over the previous Haven bar, it could be a deal breaker for prospective buyers. We suspect Easton went this route since they have the Havoc 35 carbon too.

Long Term Durability

Easton’s impact and fatigue testing videos look far more abusive than anything that we’ve managed to do throughout the test. Nevertheless we did our best to use and abuse Easton’s Haven 35 cockpit, but we had zero success. We are certain that we’ll break ourselves long before we break this particular cockpit.

What's The Bottom Line?

No doubt that $260 USD for a bar and stem is a pretty penny, but when many trail bikes are north of $5K why shouldn’t they come with ‘the perfect handlebar’? The new Haven 35 cockpit is nearly flawless, especially if you preferred bar width is 750-mm or less. It is a definite improvement over the previous generation of Haven products and over 31.8-mm in general. Beyond our little gripe about width, the Haven 35 front end performed soundly, weighed shockingly little, and looked great.

More information at: www.eastoncycling.com.


About The Reviewer

Joel Harwood has been playing in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia for the last 9 years. He spends his summer months coaching DH race groms in the Whistler Bike Park, and guiding XC riders all over BC. He dabbles in all types of racing, but is happiest while blasting his trail bike down trails that include rock slabs, natural doubles, and west coast tech. On the big bike he tends to look for little transitions and manuals that allow him to keep things pointed downhill, rather than swapping from line to line. Attention to detail, time in the saddle, and an aggressive riding style make Joel a rider that demands the most from his products. Joel's ramblings can also be found at www.straightshotblog.com.

This product has no reviews yet

Added a comment about product review Tested: Five Ten Kestrel Clipless Shoe 3/4/2015 10:53 PM
C50_photo_1382538210

I don't have a pair of Impact VXi shoes in the garage at the moment, but they have just as much as the Maltese Falcon LT. You can also see from my cleat position in the photo that I have tons of room to move further back.

Even folks that want to run the pedal nearly in the middle of their foot should have enough range.

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This product_review has 11 comments.

Liked a comment on the item Tested: Five Ten Kestrel Clipless Shoe 3/3/2015 2:58 PM

Ed Masters shreds in crocs. They might be onto something…

Added a product review for Five Ten Kestrel Clipless Shoe 3/3/2015 1:31 AM
C138_5211_kestrel_1

Tested: Five Ten Kestrel Clipless Shoe

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Joel Harwood // Photos by AJ Barlas

Five Ten was founded by rock climber Charles Cole. In 1985, Cole created the Stealth S1 rubber compound, which quickly became the gold standard within the climbing community due to its tenacious grip and durability. In the early 2000’s racers like Kovarik and Hill were dominating DH and helped to make Five Ten the go-to shoe among flat pedal riders. When Greg Minnaar came on board, he asked for a SPD-compatible shoe with the advantages of stealth rubber. The Impact Clipless VXi and the Maltese Falcon LT are their most recent shoes that have not only won the hearts of the DH community, but the trail riders too. We’ve been hoping for an even more pedal friendly shoe for a while now, and Five Ten let them out of the bag at Crankworx last summer.

Five Ten Kestrel Highlights

  • BOA closure system for performance fit
  • Dual Compound Outsole
  • Stealth Mi6 rubber on heel and toe for great grip and shock absorption
  • Stealth C4 rubber where pedal contacts shoe to increase power transfer
  • Ortholite sock liner
  • Carbon infused shank for increased sole stiffness
  • Uppers are polyester synthetic and textile
  • Synthetic toe for splash resistance
  • Perforated upper and tongue for breathability
  • Rubber toe bumper
  • Weight: 403g per shoe (Size 9 US)
  • MSRP: $180 USD

Initial Impressions

At first glance it is clear that the folks at Five Ten took a new approach with the Kestrel. Compared to the Maltese Falcon, Hellcat, and Impact VXi clipless, this shoe was built with all day epics and efficiency in mind. The Kestel upper is more streamlined than other Five Ten models, although still more robust than a typical cross-country race shoe. The heel and toe areas feature synthetic materials and rubber for durability and water resistance, while the tongue and uppermost portion are ventilated for heat management. The sole of the shoe is pre-cut for cleats and allows for plenty of adjustment with ample cleat room regardless of brand. The Mi6 and C4 rubber are seamlessly bonded.

The most notable feature is the BOA closure system. The system is comprised of steel lace, nylon guides, and a mechanical reel located on the outside of each shoe. It is meant to provide a more precise fit, eliminate pressure points, improve adjustability, and reduce weight. The BOA may be a first for Five Ten, but it has been successfully utilized in a wide variety of applications, including cycling shoes. Functionality aside, it also adds to the sleek aesthetics of the Kestrel.

The general style of the Kestrel parallels that of the Impact VXi and Maltese Falcon Race. Black, grey, and red highlights are stylish without being over the top bright. Style is subjective, but we dig the look of the Kestrel.

To help you position the Kestrel in the Five Ten range, here is a comparison chart of the different clipless models on offer:

On The Trail

This ‘winter’ the Pacific Northwest has seen mild temperatures and a healthy dose of rainfall. The shortage of good skiing (unless you enjoy boilerplate and avalanche debris) has meant plenty of riding and in the worst conditions imaginable, perfect for product testing.

Shoe fit is accurate and consistent with other Five Ten models. We were a little concerned about sizing at first as the BOA system and performance fit prevented us slipping them as easily as others, but once we had our feet in we were reassured that not only was the sizing accurate, but that the Kestrel contours the foot better than just about anything else available.

The BOA can be easily adjusted to personal taste. On our first ride it took a few attempts to get things dialed, due mainly to our inexperience with the system. Once we found the sweet spot, the advantages of the BOA became more and more apparent. The steel cable and nylon guides spread the load evenly across the foot without any pressure points. The system allowed us to tighten and adjust the shoe very precisely for a snug fit – no energy is wasted by gaps within the shoe. Traditional laces will always attract riders looking for a certain style of shoe, but in our opinion the BOA simply performs better.

For a number of weeks now the Kestrel has suffered through wet conditions. Although it isn't 100% waterproof, the Kestrel sheds water easily. The thin uppers absorb very little water, they dry out quickly and mud can easily be wiped off. We haven’t experienced sweltering temperatures, but breathability is improved over the Maltese Falcon LT, which we happily use during the summer months.

The Kestrel is Five Ten’s stiffest shoe to date. The carbon infused shank definitely improves power transfer, yet the sole hasn’t been made so stiff that pedal feel is lost. We like the Maltese Falcon LT, but we were hoping for a little more stiffness which the Kestrel has in spades. Too stiff? We don’t think so. The compromise between the improved pedaling efficiency and flat pedal security is bang on.

Part of the reason Five Ten chose to use a dual compound sole was to improve the interaction between clipless pedals and the Kestrel. The Stealth C4 rubber is meant to make clipping in and out easier, in addition to improving energy transfer to the pedals. The ease with which we could clip in and out was indeed slightly improved depending on the pedal tested. Small cages had more than enough contact with the sole of the shoe, but the Kestrel truly shone when paired with larger bodied pedals. In particular, we had great success with Shimano XT Trail and Crankbrothers Mallet 3 pedals. The Mi6 rubber on the heel and toe ensured that we still had the grip we’ve come to love when things get wild or when hiking.

We did our best to avoid crash testing the Kestrel, but a few roosted rocks found their way to our instep throughout the test. While the tongue has less padding than the Impact VXi, it has enough that the stray rocks didn’t bother us more than usual. Protection is on par with most all-mountain shoes and better than pure XC shoes. We feel that the trail-oriented Kestrel has struck a good balance between minimalism and protection.

Things That Could Be Improved

After a few months of abuse, we are having a tough time finding fault with the Kestrel. It really is that good. Folks with a high instep may find that the BOA doesn’t allow enough slack to slip into the shoe without some effort, but we’re just nitpicking. The inner nylon guides are showing slight signs of wear from rubbing the cranks occasionally. After a year or two of riding, it is likely that this might weaken the guide to the point where it might fail.

Long Term Durability

We had our reservations about the BOA system and the mechanical reel being susceptible to damage. No such luck however, even with a few direct encounters with deadfall and rocks throughout the test. The uppers show no sign of the abuse they suffered, regardless of our maltreatment. The soles have held up well throughout the test, with little visible evidence of where the pedal pins directly meet the Stealth C4 rubber. Full marks here.

What's The Bottom Line?

Five Ten has produced another winner with the Kestrel. It retains what we’ve come to love about Five Ten, but it features a few upgrades that meet a trail rider’s needs better than ever. It is the ideal shoe for any trail rider, enduro racer, or beer leaguer. It isn’t cheap, but you get what you pay for with the Kestrel. Stiff? Relatively light? Durable? Functional? Stylish? All of the above.

Visit fiveten.com/products/bike for more details.


About The Reviewer

Joel Harwood has been playing in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia for the last 9 years. He spends his summer months coaching DH race groms in the Whistler Bike Park, and guiding XC riders all over BC. He dabbles in all types of racing, but is happiest while blasting his trail bike down trails that include rock slabs, natural doubles, and west coast tech. On the big bike he tends to look for little transitions and manuals that allow him to keep things pointed downhill, rather than swapping from line to line. Attention to detail, time in the saddle, and an aggressive riding style make Joel a rider that demands the most from his products. Joel's ramblings can also be found at www.straightshotblog.com.

This product has no reviews yet

Added a comment about product review Tested: Commencal Meta AM V4 2/16/2015 7:15 AM
C50_photo_1382538210

It climbs efficiently while seated and also while standing. Compared to other 150mm+ bikes it is above average.

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This product_review has 11 comments.

Added a comment about product review Tested: Commencal Meta AM V4 2/7/2015 12:46 PM
C50_photo_1382538210

Many of my preferred local trails are tight and technical too. I personally never felt that it was too much in terms of wheelbase, chainstay length, or reach. I would feel cramped if I were on a medium. In your position I personally prefer larger frames. Worst case scenario I shorten up the cockpit with a stem swap.

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This product_review has 11 comments.