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Added a product review for 2015 Niner JET 9 RDO Limited Edition 8/5/2014 7:40 AM
C138_jet_9_rdo_limited_edition_xx1_rs1

Tested: 2015 Niner Jet 9 RDO

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Joel Harwood // Photos by AJ Barlas

At the end of March, I was offered the opportunity to race the BC Bike Race. This 7 day XC stage race is advertised as the ‘ultimate single track experience’. Being that my little bike falls on the burly end of the spectrum I wanted to get my hands on a capable, durable XC whippet to train and race on. The ideal marathon XC bike has to be light and efficient enough to allow a rider to conserve energy as much as possible, but it also needs to be confidence inspiring for whatever one might come across while on the trail.

Enter the Niner Jet 9 RDO Limited Edition.

Jet 9 RDO Highlights

  • New RDO carbon layup for no-compromise stiffness, strength and ride quality
  • RDO Full Suspension
  • 100mm of patented CVA suspension is efficient in every chainring
  • Compatible with 100 - 120mm tapered forks
  • Tuned for CVA – Fox float CTD shock with Kashima coating
  • Carbon suspension linkage and unique Niner hardware
  • 142x12mm Maxle rear spacing
  • Available in XS- XL sizes
  • Colors: Carbon/Niner Red,Niner Green,Licorice Black
  • Weight: 22.5 pounds
  • Geometry:44.2” wheelbase, 70.5⁰ head tube, 1.1” BB drop, 73.5⁰ seat tube, 16.3” reach, 24.3” stack (medium frame with 120mm fork)
  • MSRP: $9,999 USD

Initial Impressions

The Jet 9 RDO is Niner’s flagship cross country dually. RDO stands for ‘race day optimized’, but don’t let that fool you into believing that this bike is fragile or that it can’t be a great daily driver. Basically, the RDO acronym is used across all of their top shelf frames. Niner’s new Carbon Compaction System improves strength, stiffness and durability, reduces frame weight, and is used throughout the RDO lineup going forward. The business end of the Jet 9 RDO features Niner’s patented CVA suspension. This dual link design was created in order to maximize the benefits of 29” hoops and increased BB drop.

Out of the box, the attention to detail is evident. I have always found the Jet 9 RDO to be aesthetically pleasing and was impressed to learn that the frame design was actually created with strength, stiffness and damping characteristics in mind. That said, the bike looks fast sitting still. Gorgeous finish (Niner claims to have shaved grams with a new paint process), top shelf components, internal cable routing, integrated chainstay protection, and Enduro Magnetite Black sealed bearings - it is clear that Niner spared no expense when creating the Jet 9 RDO. The bike looks like it has one purpose: riding at a high rate of speed.

The frame arrived with a Float RP23 Kashima shock rather than the Float CTD shock listed on the website. I found the ideal setup was with the propedal set to 2 and sag around 15%. This setting allowed efficient climbing, with plenty of mid-stroke support when things got rough. The Rockshox RS-1 was also set up with the same amount of sag and one bottomless token installed.

On The Trail

Throughout the test period the bike was ridden primarily in Squamish, BC. Those who have ridden the area would likely agree that advanced XC descents look more like DH tracks of yesteryear and that technical climbs are littered with roots, rocks and punchy efforts. As mentioned, the bike was also used for the BC Bike Race. 7 days, approximately 310km, 10,000m of climbing and about 75% singletrack means that any bike weaknesses would be exposed. Beginning on Vancouver’s iconic North Shore, stages were also held in Cumberland, Powell River, two on the Sunshine Coast, Squamish and finally Whistler.

With a longer stem and narrow bars I was concerned that I would not be comfortable with the stock setup. While it did take some adjustment in terms of steering input, I quickly found myself pushing harder than I would have thought possible with a 100mm XC bike. The Jet 9 RDO has neutral geometry with the 120mm RS-1. Niner hasn’t gone too far in terms of the use of unique geometry numbers for the sake of it. They have found a happy medium between climbing efficiency and descending prowess.

With such low weight, 29” wheels, and climb-friendly angles I expected the bike to ascend better than any other dual suspension bike I had ridden. In this regard it did not disappoint. Fire roads, technical singletrack, seated, standing, whatever… this bike is a rocket ship when climbing. This didn’t really come as a surprise. At less than 24 pounds, it should be. It was nice to have a bike that compensated for lack of fitness. It allowed for more enjoyment while descending, and made hanging with leg-shaving fitness mutants possible.

One would also expect the Jet 9 RDO to rally through flat sections of trail. Doubles, manuals, good cornering technique and smooth line choice all resulted in free speed. Cases, skids, bunnyhucks, and poor line choice were all compensated for by efficient suspension. From a racing perspective this allowed a little bit of energy savings. From a fun-to-ride perspective this allowed more time laughing and less time gasping for air. Again, the RDO acronym and price tag would suggest that riders should expect this bike to carry momentum better than most.

What was a little surprising was how well the Niner descended. The 100mm of rear suspension is well utilized and predictable. The bike inspires confidence on all types of descending terrain. It jumps, pumps, and monster trucks as well as, or better than many XC/trail bikes, including many with markedly more travel. There were plenty of opportunities to expose any descending weaknesses. A small, mid-stage creek gap and a lap in the Whistler Bike Park on the final day were more than enough to flex, abuse, and even break a few frames. One cannot expect a XC race bike to descend with the same comfort and confidence as a 6” bike; however the Jet 9 RDO is certainly no slouch. I did manage to find my speed limit in the bike park and also on a couple of high-speed, rough, and sustained descents, but anything except the burliest of trails can be ridden confidently, and one should not hesitate to use this bike as an all-around trail shredder. The Jet 9 RDO’s descending prowess is a product of the CVA suspension, comfortable geometry, and wagon wheels. As a side note, a medium frame was used for this test. At 5’11”, a 50mm stem resulted in too tight of a cockpit. It is probable, that with a large frame, short stem, and a little more wheelbase, even less regard for body or bike would have been required.

Build Kit

The bike featured the 5-Star build “filled with top of the line components for the cycling connoisseur or athlete who refuses to compromise”.

  • Frame: Jet 9 RDO
  • Fork: Rock Shox RS-1 Solo Air 120mm
  • Shock: Fox Float RP23 Kashima
  • Wheels: Stan’s 3.30/ZTR Valor carbon, 15mm Sram XO, 142 x 12MM Rear Sram XO
  • Tires: Schwalbe Rapid Rob EVO TL 2.40/Racing Ralph EVO TL 2.25, Niner Graphic
  • Brakes & Rotors : Shimano XTR M985, 180/160mm Ice Tech
  • Brake Levers: Shimano XTR M988 Trail
  • R/ Shifter: Sram XX1
  • R/ Derailleur: Sram XX1
  • Cassette: Sram XG 1199 11sp 10-42T
  • Chain: Sram PC XX1
  • Crank Set: Sram XX1 PF30 32T
  • Bottom Bracket: Sram PF30
  • Saddle: WTB Volt Team with Ni-Cro Rails, Niner Graphic
  • Seat Post: Niner RDO Seat Post, 400MM, Red Niner Graphic
  • Handlebar: Niner Flat Top RDO, 710MM, Red Niner Graphic
  • Stem: Niner RDO Stem, 90mm, Red Niner Graphic
  • Grips: Niner Grrrips L/O

A few changes were made from the stock setup. The 32T chainring was swapped for a 34T for obvious reasons. Next, a Rock Shox Reverb seatpost was exchanged for the carbon post that comes standard in order to add descending confidence. Finally, the Schwalbe tires were exchanged for Maxxis Ikon EXO 2.2. While the Schwalbe tires rolled well and offered great traction for their intended use, the sidewalls were quite thin.

The SRAM drivetrain was fairly solid. A chain fell victim to phantom shifting, however once repaired no additional issues arose. The bottom bracket initially dragged noticeably. The bearing pre-load and spacers were somewhat finicky, and regardless of the setting there was always room for improvement. Eventually, the stock spacers were replaced which resulted in a noticeable reduction in drag.

The Shimano XTR brakes did their job without complaint. No fade or loss of power was experienced throughout the test. For hard braking efforts the small rotors weren’t as powerful as one might like, but overall braking was limited more by tire traction, not pure power. The finned brake pads rattle a little bit from time to time, however this doesn’t affect performance nor was it overly irritating.

The Rock Shox RS-1 fork lives up to the hype. While it may cost more than many used vehicles, those looking for every possible advantage on the trail need to consider the RS-1.  The stiffness, damping, and traction are all superb.

The sub-1400 gram Valor wheelset may worry aggressive riders. Previous experience with XC wheelsets has generally ended with disappointment. Not the case here. The wheels remained straight, stiff, and did not see a spoke key or truing stand regardless of the abuse from a 185 pound rider. The wheels also added to the overall stiffness of the bike, and no doubt the carbon rims helped to absorb trail chatter along the way.

Things That Could Be Improved

Cable routing options were limited on the Jet 9 RDO. The combination of internal and external routing worked well for the brakes and shifting, however the inclusion of additional cables resulted in less than ideal routing. The lack of an internal option for a dropper post was also disappointing. The assumption that few XC racers would choose to run a dropper post was quickly proven false at local XC races. The vast majority of BC Bike Race participants also had dropper posts on their bikes, including the elites. Improved internal cable routing options would be a definite asset.

Niner has done a solid job of creating in house components. The bar, stem, and seat post were great. Unfortunately, Niner’s grips failed to meet the standard set by the rest of the bike. Regardless of install technique, the grips moved and twisted until tie-wire was employed. In addition, the rubber compound used for the grips seemed too firm: once saturated by sweat or rain, they were dang slippery. The custom WTB Volt saddle with Niner graphic was comfortable, but on a $10K bike most buyers would expect titanium or carbon rails to shave a few grams.

Long Term Durability

Throughout the test period the Jet 9 RDO saw quite a bit of abuse. In addition to regular rides, it was subjected to one of the more demanding stage races in North America. Most riders would agree that once they reach the redline, their bike takes more punishment than usual. 7 consecutive days of racing, with nothing more than a 5 minute bolt check between stages and zero issues to be seen other than a couple of drivetrain quibbles. Many bikes did not survive the race and do not survive BC in general. There were no unexpected issues with durability. The Jet 9 RDO is capable of coping with frequent beatings.

What's The Bottom Line?

Throughout the test period more time was spent rat-bagging the bike on local terrain than racing. It is refreshing to see that a 100mm XC bike is capable of shredding confidently, and that six inches of travel, a 63⁰ head angle, and a 50mm stem are not mandatory for getting wild. Unless riding mega-gnar constantly, some riders might even get more out of riding a lighter, faster, more efficient bike such as the Jet 9 RDO. This rig is more than an XC race machine. Although it compensated for a certain lack of fitness admirably, it did not take away from the reason most of us ride in the first place - blasting trails. Unless you’re the local anesthesiologist or a competitive racer, it is tough to justify a $10,000 bike, but no doubt that the more affordable Jet 9 RDO options are pretty much just as rad. If you’re after a no compromise, highly efficient, and fun short travel bike, the Jet Niner RDO should be considered.

For more information, head on over to www.ninerbikes.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 www.straightshotblog.com.

This product has 1 review

Added a product review for Magura TS8 R 150 Fork 3/14/2014 12:08 PM
C138_magura_ts8_r_150_27

Tested: Magura TS8R 150 Fork

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Joel Harwood // Photos by AJ Barlas

Magura has a long and storied history in mechanical engineering, hydraulic engineering and plastics. Best known for brakes, Magura has been working their way into suspension for the last handful of years. Magura’s initial offerings such as the Thor and Wotan were not as well-received as they would have hoped for. With the feedback they received, Magura took their damping platform back to the drawing board and have produced a new cartridge designed to excel in burly terrain and under aggressive riders. A new damping system, shim tuning and volume spacers are all intended to work harmoniously in the TS8 R 150. Claims of stiffer, lighter and easier had my inner armchair engineer keen to put a new product to the test.

TS8R 150 Fork Highlights

  • 150-mm travel (internally adjustable from 120-150mm)
  • 26 or 27.5-inch wheels
  • 15-mm axle
  • Tapered steer tube
  • DLO3 cartridge (open, firm, lockout)
  • Includes volume spacer tuning kit to adjust progressivity
  • 7-inch post mount tabs
  • Axle to crown length of 538-mm
  • Weight: 3.71-pounds
  • MSRP: $849

Initial Impressions

On the surface, the TS8 R looks very similar to the Thor fork that it replaced. The most identifiable feature of Magura’s fork lowers is the Double Arch Design (DAD for short) which is said to increase torsional rigidity and steering precision. Plastic guards under the lowers protect the fork from impacts and abrasions and the dials all turn smoothly with a consistent feel. The machining, integrated housing stoppers and finish of the fork are spot on.

I have to admit that when it comes to suspension, shaving grams is not my highest priority. I usually just assume that components fall within a few grams of their claimed weight and I focus on whether the product performs as advertised rather than what it weighs. Heck, I’d add weight to my bike (gasp) if it means that performance will improve. Either way, the TS8 R was noticeably lighter than the fork it replaced.

One of the features I was most intrigued by was the use of grease instead of an oil bath for lower leg lubrication. Magura has redesigned their bushings and seals to work with their Fork Meister lubricant, rather than the more common combination of grease and oil found in the majority of forks. The Fork Meister bushing/grease combination is supposed to reduce friction while keeping things simple for do-it-yourself mechanics. I had every intention of pulling the fork apart before the first ride to inspect grease levels, but the trails beckoned and rather than tinkering I went riding.

I set the fork up with 78psi, the higher end of the recommended range for my weight and about 25% sag. I set rebound 3 clicks away from open for a fairly quick rebound speed; there are 14 clicks of adjustment and a massive range between them. Then it was time to go find out what this fork was really made of.

On The Trail

How does a 32mm stanchion feel on a point and shoot trail bike? Most folks would argue that 32mm stanchions are less than ideal on burly terrain. I’m no heavy weight, but at 190-pounds I can feel the difference between a stiff fork and a noodle. Whether or not the DAD is the difference maker I can’t be sure, but what I am sure of is that the TS8 R took a solid beating and that I didn’t experience any undesirable tucking or twisting in the front end.

Previous Magura suspension offerings were accused of a lack of compression, mid-stroke wallow and diving under braking. The TS8 R uses Magura’s DLO3 damping system. In the ‘open’ setting I found that while the fork was more supple at lower speeds, there wasn’t enough support for my taste or terrain where the fork has to take on successive hits. It didn’t bottom out excessively, but it did ride fairly deep in the stroke. I eventually settled on 80psi, 3 clicks out for rebound and the ‘firm’ setting. These settings gave me about 18% sag. According to Magura, the ‘firm’ setting is intended for aggressive riding (see: firm damping, reduced low-speed sensitivity and more trail feedback). The TS8 R in general seems to cater to riders who prefer a fork that rides higher in its travel and high speed rather than a fork that caters first and foremost to comfort.

The entire range of travel was well managed and predictable. No harsh ramping, excessive bottom-outs or clunking despite my best efforts to exceed the fork’s capability. Seated technical climbing required firm hand pressure to be maintained on the front end to keep the wheel tracking smoothly while using the ‘firm’ and ‘closed’ settings, although it wasn’t unexpected considering that I set the fork up to perform during aggressive descents rather than to be efficient while climbing.

The ‘open’, ‘firm’ and ‘closed’ options on the DLO3 damper are well executed in terms of how each setting differs in compression damping. What the DLO3 lacks is the ability to fine tune your fork without pulling it apart. Riders that want as much adjustability as possible and fine tune their settings regularly might shy away from the TS8 R because they find the fork too simple. For riders that prefer to use recommended settings rather than minutely adjusting their suspension, the DLO3 cartridge does an outstanding job out of the box.

Things That Could Be Improved

The front axle requires a T25 tool for removal. Some folks will certainly prefer a tool-free system and may gripe about the additional time it takes to remove the front wheel. I personally prefer the simplicity of the front axle and I would imagine it is slightly lighter than the tool-free competition. Worth noting regardless of which side of the fence you’re on.

Small bump compliance is not the fork’s strongest trait. While it does absorb less significant trail chatter, there are other offerings on the market that seem to do it more effectively. Even in the ‘open’ setting, I found that things could be better. There are advantages such as simplicity and ease of maintenance with the grease only concept; however it may be that it's more of a challenge to create a suspension as supple as the more traditional oil bath. Magura have definitely addressed the issues around brake dive and mid-stroke wallow, although they have reduced the low speed comfort of the TS8 R in order to do so.

Most trail bikes are in the 140-160mm range and most fork offerings are adjustable within it. Riders with 160mm of rear travel are unlikely to consider this fork until it is available with 160mm of travel.

Long Term Durability

I managed to get on my bike pretty frequently over the few months that I’ve had the fork. We had a dusty start to the New Year, we saw a foot of snow and now we are back to typical Southwestern British Columbia conditions. I haven’t been given any indication that there might be durability issues down the line with the internals or the chassis. The lowers didn’t take any significant impacts during the test, nor did I do any crash testing. Regardless, the lowers shrugged off any scuffs and look as good as the day the TS8 R came out of the box. I eventually pulled the fork apart to find that the Fork Meister grease seems to have held up well, and it is worth noting that basic maintenance is indeed a very simple affair as Magura claims. Pull the lowers, clean and inspect, replenish the grease if needed and put the fork back together again. There is no messy oil bath to deal with, which is always a plus. Suspension action remains as smooth as day one, and I haven’t heard a creak or groan from the fork. I suspect that the plastic guards on the bottom of the lowers might break if they came to suffer a significant impact, but the business end and internals of the TS8 R 150 seem in it for the long haul.

What's The Bottom Line?

The Magura TS8 R 150 lives up to the stiffer, lighter, easier claims. It is better suited to riders that ride aggressively and want a supportive fork with plenty of trail feedback, rather than a fork that is geared towards comfort and cruising laps of your local flow trail. The DLO3 cartridge is a great platform with a straightforward yet solid tuning out of the box. Extras like the simplified maintenance and inclusion of volume spacers will further help the TS8 R to gain traction both literally and figuratively. If you’re looking for a no-nonsense, reliable and predictable fork, especially at this price point, give the Magura TS8 R 150 some consideration.

For more information visit www.magura.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 www.straightshotblog.com.

This product has 1 review

Added a product review for MarshGuard Stash Fork Fender 1/13/2014 4:12 PM
C138_marshguard_stash_fork_fender

Tested: MarshGuard Fender and Stash Add-On

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Joel Harwood // Photos by AJ Barlas

Ah winter... The sun seems to set before I leave work and the trails have reached maximum saturation, with consistent rain to boot. Regardless, I have been night riding fairly consistently and making the most of winter here in the Northwest. But nothing ruins a wet weather ride like a face full of mud, or the realization that all the slop surrounding your fork bushings will require diligent removal. The tube and zip-tie fender is a nearly free and simple solution to unwanted muck on one's face, but it doesn't reduce the slop around fork stanchions nor does it last for more than a few weeks (at least in my experience). A handful of companies have caught on to the idea that there was room for improvement and just in time for monsoon season, a MarshGuard fender and Stash extension arrived at my doorstep.

MarshGuard Fender Highlights

  • Designed by World Cup DH mechanic Jason Marsh
  • Made out of tough, flexible, recycled and recyclable plastic
  • Fits all types of forks except Lefty and inverted models
  • Weight: 32g (does not include zip-ties or Stash extension)
  • MSRP $14.99 (Marshguard) // $6.99 (Stash)

Initial Impressions

With such a simple product, setup was a breeze. Four zip-ties, five minutes, good to go. Once installed, I noticed how 'clean' the MarshGuard looks compared to the ghetto tube fender, almost as though the fork is meant to have it. The plastic is thin enough that it conforms easily and mates perfectly with the arch and lowers of just about any fork.

On The Trail

I decided to begin with the MarshGuard fender only and left the Stash extension on the workbench as I wanted to test the fender with and without the extension.

Since the MarshGuard is within an inch or two of the tire, very little water and mud escapes when riding. I had no issues with water, mud or snow over a number of rides in less than ideal conditions. Also of note is the significantly reduced amount of grit build-up on the backside of the fork arch, up the steer tube, around fork bushings as well as in one's eyes.

When conditions became truly nasty, I mounted the Stash extension. It is designed to direct excess water downward, as the odd bit of muck can potentially work to the front of the fender and get into unwanted areas. I found that the addition of the Stash added to the effectiveness of the fender, but only in the nastiest of conditions (i.e. standing puddles, water bars, and heavy rain).

With or without the Stash extension, the MarshGuard does a much better job than the arch to crown ghetto fender. The added bonus is that when the trails dry up, the MarshGuard and Stash look good and can be forgotten about, so they can stay on the bike full-time ready for the next downpour.

Things That Could Be Improved

Since the Stash extension doesn't have any downside, why not create a one piece option to simplify setup even more? Some riders might also prefer additional color options (the MarshGuard is currently available in black and white) to match their forks, although I have seen the standard MarshGuard set up on a number of different bikes and it has never looked out of place.

Long Term Durability

I have had the fender mounted for two months without any issue. It has survived numerous rides, washes and careless handling without any problems. I thought that the zip-tie holes might suffer from stress and wear over time, but so far they're as good as new. I don't foresee any issues from daily riding, although the plastic could potentially be torn if one were careless with bike storage, shuttling, or ghost riding.

What's The Bottom Line?

The MarshGuard is a more effective solution than home-made DIY attempts to deal with front wheel runoff. It looks good, does a better job and it should last longer too. When the trails are dry, the only drawback to leaving the fender on is 35g, something that few, if any would notice. A simple, effective, and relatively inexpensive solution to possibly the single biggest headache that faces wet weather riders. The MarshGuard fender is definitely worth a look and for about $20 you don't have much to lose.

Check out www.MarshGuard.com for more details. If you live in the US, MarshGaurd is distributed by Art's Cyclery.


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 www.straightshotblog.com.

This product has 1 review

Added a product review for MarshGuard Fork Fender 1/13/2014 4:10 PM
C138_marshguard_fork_fender

Tested: MarshGuard Fender and Stash Add-On

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Joel Harwood // Photos by AJ Barlas

Ah winter... The sun seems to set before I leave work and the trails have reached maximum saturation, with consistent rain to boot. Regardless, I have been night riding fairly consistently and making the most of winter here in the Northwest. But nothing ruins a wet weather ride like a face full of mud, or the realization that all the slop surrounding your fork bushings will require diligent removal. The tube and zip-tie fender is a nearly free and simple solution to unwanted muck on one's face, but it doesn't reduce the slop around fork stanchions nor does it last for more than a few weeks (at least in my experience). A handful of companies have caught on to the idea that there was room for improvement and just in time for monsoon season, a MarshGuard fender and Stash extension arrived at my doorstep.

MarshGuard Fender Highlights

  • Designed by World Cup DH mechanic Jason Marsh
  • Made out of tough, flexible, recycled and recyclable plastic
  • Fits all types of forks except Lefty and inverted models
  • Weight: 32g (does not include zip-ties or Stash extension)
  • MSRP $14.99 (Marshguard) // $6.99 (Stash)

Initial Impressions

With such a simple product, setup was a breeze. Four zip-ties, five minutes, good to go. Once installed, I noticed how 'clean' the MarshGuard looks compared to the ghetto tube fender, almost as though the fork is meant to have it. The plastic is thin enough that it conforms easily and mates perfectly with the arch and lowers of just about any fork.

On The Trail

I decided to begin with the MarshGuard fender only and left the Stash extension on the workbench as I wanted to test the fender with and without the extension.

Since the MarshGuard is within an inch or two of the tire, very little water and mud escapes when riding. I had no issues with water, mud or snow over a number of rides in less than ideal conditions. Also of note is the significantly reduced amount of grit build-up on the backside of the fork arch, up the steer tube, around fork bushings as well as in one's eyes.

When conditions became truly nasty, I mounted the Stash extension. It is designed to direct excess water downward, as the odd bit of muck can potentially work to the front of the fender and get into unwanted areas. I found that the addition of the Stash added to the effectiveness of the fender, but only in the nastiest of conditions (i.e. standing puddles, water bars, and heavy rain).

With or without the Stash extension, the MarshGuard does a much better job than the arch to crown ghetto fender. The added bonus is that when the trails dry up, the MarshGuard and Stash look good and can be forgotten about, so they can stay on the bike full-time ready for the next downpour.

Things That Could Be Improved

Since the Stash extension doesn't have any downside, why not create a one piece option to simplify setup even more? Some riders might also prefer additional color options (the MarshGuard is currently available in black and white) to match their forks, although I have seen the standard MarshGuard set up on a number of different bikes and it has never looked out of place.

Long Term Durability

I have had the fender mounted for two months without any issue. It has survived numerous rides, washes and careless handling without any problems. I thought that the zip-tie holes might suffer from stress and wear over time, but so far they're as good as new. I don't foresee any issues from daily riding, although the plastic could potentially be torn if one were careless with bike storage, shuttling, or ghost riding.

What's The Bottom Line?

The MarshGuard is a more effective solution than home-made DIY attempts to deal with front wheel runoff. It looks good, does a better job and it should last longer too. When the trails are dry, the only drawback to leaving the fender on is 35g, something that few, if any would notice. A simple, effective, and relatively inexpensive solution to possibly the single biggest headache that faces wet weather riders. The MarshGuard fender is definitely worth a look and for about $20 you don't have much to lose.

Check out www.MarshGuard.com for more details. If you live in the US, MarshGaurd is distributed by Art's Cyclery.


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 www.straightshotblog.com.

This product has 1 review

Added a comment about product review Tested: Race Face Narrow/Wide Chainring 11/6/2013 3:14 PM
C50_photo_1382538210

I'm personally not too worried about hitting things with my chainring, so I went without. Not a necessity for chain retention, but a nice safety net just in case.

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This product_review has 8 comments.

Added a comment about product review Tested: Race Face Narrow/Wide Chainring 11/7/2013 10:10 AM
C50_photo_1382538210

I have an XT rear derailleur (with clutch).

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This product_review has 8 comments.

Added a comment about product review Tested: Race Face Narrow/Wide Chainring 11/6/2013 3:57 PM
C50_photo_1382538210

I would have agreed about the local terrain playing a factor, but things don't get much nastier than Coastal BC and the Whistler Bike Park. I'd say this setup is good to go anywhere.

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Added a comment about slideshow First Look: 2014 BMC Trailfox TF01 29 - The Swiss Army Knife Just Got a Bigger Blade 11/5/2013 8:20 AM
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Horses for courses. Looks good.

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Added a product review for Race Face Narrow/Wide Chainring 11/1/2013 9:36 PM
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Tested: Race Face Narrow/Wide Chainring

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Joel Harwood

Race Face started producing mountain bike components back in 1992. They originally gained notoriety for their Diabolus offering, which at that time was one of the few product lines that could withstand serious abuse. For nearly twenty years Race Face produced some of the highest quality components available. In 2011, the company faced bankruptcy and many thought Race Face products were about to become collectors' items. Nevertheless, the company made it through the rough patch and came back swinging with a number of new, refined and innovative components... with a variety of colors and graphics to boot. With the recent popularity of 1x drivetrains, component companies are all jumping on the 1x bandwagon. Race Face has entered the battle royale with their new Narrow/Wide chainring, designed to minimize dropped chains and maximize fun.

Narrow/Wide Chainring Highlights

  • Narrow wide tooth profiling ensures ultimate chain retention
  • 4mm plate thickness and I-beam construction transfers loads without flexing
  • 7075-T6 aluminum, aerospace grade strength
  • Reversible laser etched graphics
  • Compatible with 9, 10 and 11-speed
  • Available in 30 to 38-tooth options in two tooth increments
  • Available in 104 BCD (4 bolt) and direct mount configurations
  • Color options: Red, Green, Blue, Black
  • Weight: 37-57 grams depending on ring size (36T – 50g)
  • MSRP: $43.99 to $59.99 USD

Initial Impressions

Shortly after getting my hands on a new bike I also managed to acquire the 34-tooth Narrow/Wide chainring from Race Face. I mounted it to Shimano XT cranks and mated it with a slightly worn drivetrain without hassle. I had previous experience with a similar product from another brand and I had been running that one with a top guide. But I figured that it wasn't a true test unless I ran the Race Face Narrow/Wide chainring without any guide whatsoever, and I was also looking forward to hitting g-outs and rock gardens as aggressively as I could to give the test some validity.

During my parking lot test the first thing I noticed was how nude the chainring looked without at the very least a top guide. I had been running full DH guides on my XC bikes for the past number of seasons and I found myself questioning whether or not a little bit of fancy machining could suddenly render chain guides obsolete, at least from a trail bike perspective.

The laser etched graphics were understated, the green added a little bling and all in all, the product inspired confidence. As previously indicated, I ran a 34T for this test, but one of the unique and noteworthy aspects of the Narrow/Wide chainring is that you can get one as small as 30T. Previously, this was not possible on a standard 104 BCD crank spider using traditional chainring bolts, as reducing the diameter of the ring that much simply does not leave enough material between the teeth and the chainring bolt holes. By actually machining the female side of the chainring bolt thread into the ring itself (30T only), Race Face has come up with a clever way to circumvent the issue. If you do a lot of steep climbing on your single-ring 29er, this could well be exactly the solution you've been waiting for.

On The Trail

After the initial inspection and set-up were behind me, I was pumped to go looking for opportunities to cycle my rear suspension to see if all that clever stuff meant that I could donate my chainguide to the Smithsonian. Well, after approximately 600 miles of riding I managed to drop the chain exactly twice. Once when I picked up a hitchhiking tree root, and the other mid-crash when I must have loaded the bike in an awkward fashion that I dare not try to replicate on purpose. That's two dropped chains, when riding 3 or more times per week, in varied conditions, using a twisted rear derailleur.

Prior to discovering the Narrow/Wide chainring I would not have put much thought into the chainring I was running. Now that I have experienced the simplicity, reliability, and reduced drag of a guide-less Narrow/Wide chainring I'm pretty much sold on the idea of riding with just a ring up front. One less part to purchase, maintain, and potentially destroy is definitely a win.

Things That Could Be Improved

The Narrow/Wide chainring performed outstandingly throughout the entire test and I'm fairly certain that the tree root mentioned above would have jammed up a guide anyhow. The ring looked good and worked even better. I wish I had a suggestion or two for improvement, but with simple components it either works as advertised or it doesn't. The Race Face Narrow/Wide chainring works.

Long Term Durability

I had the opportunity to ride the Race Face chainring extensively and I smacked it off a few rocks along the way. Assuming that folks split their time equally between rings on 2x and 3x setups I suppose that a single ring should conceivably wear faster. I would like to have ridden the Narrow/Wide ring literally into the ground to compare lifespans with a conventional setup, for the sake of this review, but I plan on running it figuratively into the ground for the sake of my wallet. The current state of the chainring after 600 or more miles is about the same as any ring I've seen and the chain retention is still as good as the day I got it. I'm not 100% sure how a bent tooth would affect chain retention, but I would imagine that unless it was so severe that the chain couldn't grab the ring at all, it won't be an issue. The finish has held up and I have no reason to believe that reliability will suffer as time goes on.

I would also like to point out that the only reason I decided not to give this product five stars is because I haven't had the opportunity to ride it for an entire season. Assuming that chain retention remained as good as day one throughout, it is a no-brainer five star rating for me.

What’s The Bottom Line?

Now that I've had the opportunity to ride a guide-less chainring for a few months without any issues, the Race Face Narrow/Wide chainring is staying on my bike for the long haul. I rallied the ring to the best of my ability, through a variety of conditions, and my chain guide is now a paperweight. I would like to think it will still see use from time to time, but both out of sheer laziness and confidence in the chainring, it will likely sit on a shelf permanently. My drivetrain is now simpler, quieter and has less drag, and I have one less component to purchase and maintain. Though not every rider wants to push a single ring or ride without absolute 100% chain retention, as far as this tester is concerned, the front derailleur and chainguide are now obsolete on a trail bike.

Head over to www.raceface.com 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 www.straightshotblog.com.

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Added a comment about product review Tested: 2014 Trek Remedy 9 29 10/26/2013 8:43 AM
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I ran the stock setup for a couple of weeks before going single ring. I didn't find that the stock setup made a difference in terms of the pedal bob. Climb mode made a significant improvement in both setups.

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Added a comment about product review Tested: 2014 Trek Remedy 9 29 10/22/2013 4:07 PM
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Now that things are wet I swapped to winter tires.

This product_review has 8 comments.

Added a product review for 2014 Trek Remedy 9 29 10/18/2013 7:21 PM
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Tested: 2014 Trek Remedy 9 29

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Joel Harwood // Photos by AJ Barlas and Brad Martyn

The Trek Remedy 9 29 is promoted as Trek's "ultimate technical trail bike." What better place to put that statement to the test than the Coast Mountains of British Columbia?

With all of the hoopla around the word "enduro," bike manufacturers are doing their best to claim their share of the market. Truthfully, bike companies have been building enduro bikes for quite some time, but that's neither here nor there. The 2014 Remedy 9 29 is Trek's first foray into the segment using a 29-inch wheel platform.

I have to admit that I'm not very well versed in the battle of the wheel sizes. I've never even ridden a bike with 27.5-inch (650b) wheels and the 29-inch equipped bikes I had previously ridden didn't really knock my socks off. So, when I got my hands on the new Remedy 9 29, I told myself that I would give it a fair shake and adjust to the new ride.

Remedy 9 29 Highlights

  • Alpha Platinum Aluminum frame
  • 29-inch wheels
  • 140mm (5.5-inches) of rear wheel travel
  • Angleset compatible E2 tapered head tube
  • 67.5 or 68.2-degree head angle
  • 68 or 69-degree seat tube angle
  • 13.8 or 14.1-inch bottom bracket height
  • 17.5 or 17.4-inch chainstays
  • PressFit bottom bracket shell
  • 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Colors: Polished Aluminum or Trek Black
  • Weight: 30.7-pounds (13.9kg)
  • MSRP: $4,729.99 USD

The Remedy 9 29 features just about every piece of technology that Trek has going. Most notably is the FOX Dual Rate Control Valve (DRCV) shock, which is essentially Trek's way of combining the best attributes of a low and high volume air cans into one shock. Internally, two chambers work in harmony to allow solid pedaling performance and big hit sure-footedness. The bike also features Trek’s Full Floater suspension design. In this system the shock is mounted to two moving linkage points, which, according to Trek, allows the rear end to better respond to a wide variety of terrain. Finally, the Active Braking Pivot (ABP) is designed to negate the braking forces on the rear end and keeps the rear wheel tracking smoothly regardless of braking forces.

Additional details include the one piece magnesium EVO rocker link, Mino Link flip chip for geometry adjustments, internal derailleur and dropper post routing, ISCG 05 mounts, direct mount front derailleur, post mount disc brake, and an integrated down tube guard to protect from stray rock strikes.

No single feature of Trek's frame construction stands head and shoulders above the rest, however in combination they create an efficiently designed package.

On The Trail

Squamish, BC sits smack dab in the middle of Vancouver's North Shore and the Whistler Bike Park. The area boasts an impressive trail network that features everything from low-speed rock slabs and tight corners to wide-open root smashing and machine built berms. Given the variety the area has to offer, it served as the perfect place to test out this new rig. The bike was also used in the Crankworx Enduro World Series race, just for good measure.

The geometry is adjustable via the Mino Link flip chips in the seatstay, however once I got my hands on the bike I promptly swapped the geometry to the slack, low, and long setting and left it there for the duration of the test. In the "Low" setting the bike has a 67.5-degree head angle, 13.78-inch bottom bracket height, 17.52-inch chainstays, and 68-degree seat tube angle. In this position, I never had issues with the front end wandering on climbs, never struck a pedal, and I sure appreciated the added stability when things pointed downhill.

Being a long-travel 29er, the Remedy 29 seemed most in its element when the terrain got downright nasty. At speed it gobbled up whatever was in front of it and encouraged high-lines and gaps rather than quick line swaps. I was somewhat apprehensive that it wouldn't handle as well in the air as a 26-inch bike, however I found it to be quite stable. While it wasn't as playful or responsive as some rigs, I did find that the aggressive geometry, plush suspension, and 29-inch hoops allowed me to really push the bike on DH sections.

The ideal suspension setting on the FOX Float CTD (Climb, Trail Descend) suspension seemed to be the middle Trail setting, front and rear, with fairly fast rebound to keep the wheels tracking when the pace picked up. Regardless of Trail or Descend setting, the DRCV shock offers a forgiving ride. It allows for excellent small bump compliance and it handles square edge hits with tact. If I were to describe the suspension in a word, it would be "supple." The Descend setting offered marginally improved sensitivity in the DRCV shock, however I found that I blew through the travel too quickly, especially on drops and g-outs. Thankfully Trek now offers spacer kits to tune the progressivity of the rear shock, which is something I'd highly recommend looking into if you're an aggressive rider.

Regardless of my best effort to exceed the bike's capability, it handled just about everything in its stride. I was able to pack in the suspension a few times when riding through wheel eating brake bumps, but many downhill bikes suffer the same fate, never mind a trail bike. The suspension performed flawlessly most of the time so there's no massive improvement necessary, it's just worth noting.

The active suspension did make for a little more work on straightforward fitness climbs and while sprinting. Fortunately, the Climb setting of the shock stiffened things up significantly and allowed the bike to climb much more efficiently with far less pedal bob. The shock is positioned well and compression settings are easily accessible on the fly.

Pointed uphill on roads and buff climbs, the Remedy 29 felt somewhat heavier than comparable bikes I've ridden. I would also hesitate to call the bike snappy from a standstill or out of corners. It seemed to favor a smooth riding style that maintains momentum rather than one that relies on abrupt accelerations. The geometry was solid on climbs with the shock in Climb mode, but in the Trail and Descend settings I felt that the seat tube was a little on the slack side for my taste.

Regardless of a slightly sluggish feel, I was still able to push a 34-tooth chainring with a 11-36 cassette for the duration of the test. The bike showed no odd pedaling characteristics in this configuration.

Build Kit

The Remedy 9 29 features a solid mix of FOX, Bontrager, Shimano, and RockShox parts. Standouts include the FOX Factory 34mm fork with Kashima coating, Bontrager Rhythm Elite tubeless ready wheels, Shimano XT Shadow Plus drivetrain and brakes, as well as the RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post.

I did make a few changes to the build throughout the test. The first change was the bar and stem, which were swapped out in favor of a 50mm stem with 780mm handlebars. In my experience this setup allows for a more aggressive riding style than those spec'd on the bike. A single ring was also swapped in just to simplify things a bit. Finally, I changed the stock Bontrager XR3 Team Issue tires for Bontrager SE4 Team Issue 29x2.30 treads.

I found that the stock XR3 tires were not as capable as the rest of the bike. The SE4 tires offered acomparable tread pattern, but much better reliability.Both tires roll well for such an aggressive pattern. From my experience they're better suited to dry conditions, though I did ride them on damp trails in the early fall without too much fuss. The tires took quite a bit of punishment between the EWS round, bike park laps, local beer league racing and generally poor line choice. In most areas, I would happily run the SE4 tires full time.

Shimano's XT brakes were as reliable as I have come to expect and they required very little attention throughout the test. They have enough power and modulation to drop anchor when things get sketchy, without being too grabby and locking up the wheels inadvertently.

The Shimano XT drivetrain also did its job well and needed little more than the odd barrel adjustment as the shifter cable wore. In addition, Shimano's clutch system kept things running quietly. The only issue came after a brutal rock impact. Once straightened, the rear derailleur had some serious battle scars and was definitely on the stiff side. Regardless, it is still going strong and just about any rear derailleur would have ended up just as bad or worse.

Things That Could Be Improved

The business end of the Remedy 9 29 comes with a 7.75x2.125-inch FOX Float DRCV shock. While the shock worked well for me, there are very few options, if any, for riders that might be interested in non-OEM shocks.

The Bontrager Rhythm Elite wheelset managed to make it through the test, though they did complain with several small dents and pings along the way. Much like the stock tires, the wheels were unable to match the potential of the bike. The wheels are too flexy in my opinion, which detracts from the ride.

I did note that the bike seems to feel somewhat sluggish when climbing and sprinting. At 30.7-pounds it is pretty heavy for a 140mm trail bike these days. If it were less than 30 pounds, with stout wheels and tires, the Remedy 9 29 would be tough to overlook.

Trek's choice of long cage derailleur seems somewhat peculiar. I managed to hit it pretty hard during a local race and I actually thought I had broken it at the time. After wrestling with the cage for a few minutes I managed to straighten the cage, however I don't think it would have been an issue with a medium cage derailleur.

Finally, I found the cockpit to be a little cramped with a 50mm stem. While a slightly longer stem could help in this regard, a bike this capable with a long-ish stem is a mismatch in my opinion. A slightly steeper seat tube and lengthened top tube might allow riders to run a short and wide stem/bar combo and maintain a neutral position while climbing. Though adding top tube length and stretching an already relatively lengthy wheelbase might deter some riders, I feel that the steeper seat tube would help with pedaling and the added length with stability. Both, in addition to shorter/wider stock cockpit components, would create a more aggressive package out of the box.

Long Term Durability

After 600+ miles (1000km) of riding, I haven't had any issues that I found out of the ordinary. Conditions have gone from bone dry to axle deep slop. The pivots needed two minutes of attention following the Crankworx Enduro World Series race and the wheels complained a little. The seatpost, drivetrain, suspension and brakes all received typical maintenance at their respective maintenance intervals. All told, there was nothing that would indicate that the Trek would be anything other than reliable over the long haul.

What's The Bottom Line?

The "ultimate technical trail bike" is a bold claim, but the Trek Remedy 9 29 makes quite a statement. This bike takes a beating, goes anywhere, and most importantly, it put a smile on my face every time I rode it. After some initial skepticism, I have to admit that the Remedy 29 is no slouch. A long wheelbase, slack head angle, plenty of BB drop, and 140mm of well-tuned suspension all come together to create a bike that's capable of some surprising feats. Provided you're up to the task as well, that is.

The rider that will enjoy this bike the most is an intermediate to advanced rider who isn't afraid to man-handle it. A beginner or less active rider might not be able to push it hard enough to allow it to really shine.

For more details, visit www.trekbikes.com.

Bonus Gallery: 15 photos of the 2014 Trek Remedy 9 29 up close and in action


About The Reviewer

Joel Harwood has been playing in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia for the last eight 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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