iceman2058's Product Reviews

Added a product review for Troy Lee Designs A1 MIPS Vertigo Open Face Helmet 5/20/2016 6:09 AM
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First Look: Troy Lee Designs A1 MIPS Vertigo Helmet

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Words by Johan Hjord // Photos by Nils Hjord and Johan Hjord

Troy Lee has always been at the forefront of rider safety, especially when it comes to helmet design. Following the introduction of the company's first ever D3O-equipped kneepads earlier this year, it is time for the much acclaimed A1 half-shell helmet to get new-school tech boost, in the form of MIPS. Short for Multi-Directional Impact Protection System, MIPS adds a free-floating layer between the shell and the liner, designed to allow a degree of "float" that is meant to reduce the risk of rotational brain injury that may occur in off-axis impacts. Put simply: the helmet rotates but the head doesn't. Naturally, the new MIPS helmet line comes with a fresh set of graphics, and as per usual, they range from the sober and understated to the brash and the bold. The sample we just took delivery of falls decidedly in the latter category - join us for the first ride to see what else we think of it.

A1 MIPS Highlights

  • Reinforced polycarbonate shell in-molded with the EPS liner extends down the sides and back of the head for maximum protection and durability
  • MIPS - Multi-Directional Impact Protection System
  • 8 pressurized intake passages draw in cool air for maximum ventilation
  • 8 rear vacuum vortex outlets help exhaust and draw heat from head
  • Triple position adjustable retention system allows customized fit for various eyewear, head shape and riding styles
  • Single piece, ultra plush, removable and washable comfort liner made of anti-microbial moisture wicking material for a dry, comfortable feel
  • Full spectrum adjustable moto inspired visor with anodized aluminum hardware
  • Race inspired styling
  • Sizes: XS/S, MD/LG, XL/XXL
  • Weight: 400 grams (verified, size MD/LG)
  • Colors: Vertigo Yellow, White, Grey, Red, Black
  • MSRP: $215 USD (Vertigo), $189 USD (Drone)

Initial Impressions

We've been big fans of the A1 ever since it was first introduced 3 years ago, and pulling the all-new MIPS version out of the box just a couple of days ago now reminded us of why, once again. The helmet is very well made, and in our case, it featured particularly eye-catching graphics to boot. There are more toned-down options available in the Vertigo line, or you can go for the outright understated Drone version that is easier both on the eye and on the wallet.

The main features of this A1 remain largely unchanged from the previous version we tested, with the notable exception of MIPS. MIPS is an internal floating harness that sits between the EPS shell and the liner. It is suspended by 4 elastic bands, and it slides against soft pads that are glued to the helmet shell, giving it the range of movement necessary to let the helmet shell rotate without transmitting the rotation to the head. As with many safety features, there is some debate as to just how much protection MIPS adds in real life, but even the most cynical among us would have to admit that there are some sound ideas behind it:

The MIPS integration is well-executed on the new A1, the extra layer conforms to the shape of the vents of the shell with very little overlap or obstruction - which should bode well for airflow.

Comparing the MIPS-ed A1 to its immediate predecessor, there is no visual difference between the shells. The internal harness also remains unchanged, as do the straps and adjusters.

On The Trail

One of the standout features of the A1 is the level of comfort it offers. The internal liner is thick and soft, giving it an overall impression that is more full-face like than most other half-shells. The addition of MIPS changes nothing in this department, which is a good thing. Put on the non-MIPS and the MIPS versions back to back and there is little discernable difference between the two in terms of how they feel on your head. We've only had the new A1 out for a couple of rides so far, so it's too early to draw any conclusions in regards to heat management or overall durability of the MIPS version, but the first impressions are of a fairly seamless integration.

Wiggle the shell and you can feel the MIPS layer sliding around a bit. Your normal, non-MIPS helmet will of course do this as well, especially if you happen to have lots of hair, but the theory is that the MIPS layer slides in a controlled way and will do so even under a hard impact. The good news is, when you're just riding along, you won't know it's there. There is no extra movement or sloppiness caused by the MIPS layer, no matter how rough the trail gets. It also doesn't interfere with the integration with sunglasses, nor the overall fit of the helmet. On the scales, the inclusion of MIPS added 23 grams to our sample compared to the non-MIPS version.

The internal harness offers 3 different fixation points to account for different head shapes, and an external dial lets you adjust the circumference on the fly. The chinstrap can be adjusted for length as well as the angle and placement of the 2 individual strap portions (that sit on either side of each ear). All together, these features give the A1 a very secure fit, while the adjustable visor ensures nothing interferes with your vision down the trail. Particularly useful for picking out those enduro lines...

In Summary

Troy Lee's A1 is among the current favorites of the Vital test crew. It is comfortable, stable, and offers extra protection on the sides and back compared to the classic half-shell designs out there. The introduction of MIPS adds 23 grams to the weight of the helmet (as verified on the scales), and $50 USD to the bill, while providing extra protection from brain injuries caused by rotational forces. Whilst it is up to you to decide how much you value this feature, know that for now, we have not found any real drawbacks on the trail.

For more information and to check out the whole line of A1 helmets, head on over to www.troyleedesigns.com

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Added a product review for Royal 2016 Stage2 Jersey 4/20/2016 1:49 PM
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Tested: Royal Racing Impact Short and Stage Jersey

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Johan Hjord // Photos by Daniel Roos, Tal Rozow, and Johan Hjord

If you want to claim that something is enduro-specific, you better have thick skin – you’ll no doubt be inundated with feedback to the tune of “it’s all just mountain biking stop giving it other names to sell us stuff.” Well, if enduro racing is just mountain biking, then enduro-specific gear should be pretty interesting to mountain bikers in general, right? Lightweight, breathable, with a functional cut and plenty of features sounds pretty good to us, so when given a chance to test Royal Racing’s new Impact short and Stage jersey, we jumped on it.

Royal Racing Impact Short Highlights

  • All ride fit
  • 93% Polyester 7% Spandex
  • Light, durable and quick drying
  • 4 way stretch material
  • 2 pockets with locking custom zip pulls
  • Laser perforated ventilation
  • Screen printed graphics
  • Adjustable waist
  • Cam lock, No Rattle zippers
  • Custom zip pull
  • Sizes: S-XL
  • Colors: Navy/Lime - Charcoal/Flo Red - Electric Blue/Midori Citric Acid
  • MSRP: $104.95 USD

Royal Racing Stage Jersey Highlights

  • Enduro race cut
  • 100% Polyester
  • Active moisture management T-Dot fabric
  • Large micro mesh vents
  • Lycra edged push up cuffs
  • Sizes: S-XL, XXL Black/White Only
  • Colors: Lime Green/Navy - Flo Red/Graphite - Navy/Electric Blue
  • MSRP: $59.95 USD

Initial Impressions

We’ve gotten used to good looking, high quality gear from Royal and the 2016 harvest does not disappoint. The Impact short is brand new (sort of replacing both the Turbulence and Drift shorts from the 2015 collection), while the Stage jersey carries over with new colors. Both items fall under the Trail and Enduro categories in the catalogue.

As ever, Royal are always on the hunt for new materials and fabrics to employ for their apparel, and the all-new Impact short delivers with a polyester/spandex combo that is lightweight, durable, yet soft to the touch – almost terry-like on the inside. Designed to be able to take the abuse of all-day, everyday riding and racing, the short features a saddle-friendly cut and the perfect length to make sure you are safe from the dreaded kneepad gap (there is a less PC term that is more amusing but less suitable for all audiences).

Exploring the features of the Impact short reveals impressive attention to detail. There’s the rattle-free zippered pockets with an audio cable routing port, the laser-perforated main panels, the combo hook and snap closure, and an adjustable waistline. The short is not water-proofed, but the fabric is meant to dry quickly. All in all, a very impressive piece of apparel, at a very competitive price point (even without a short liner).

When it comes to the jersey, the simple appearance is deceiving. There are no pockets or goggle-wipes, but the overall construction has plenty of extras to show off: push-up lycra cuffs, a tight-fitting elastic collar to keep debris out, underarm vents and sublimated graphics that are rich and detailed. The cut is “flap free” to earn you those precious tenths when taking part in the stage races that gave this jersey its name, and the color scheme will work well with the Impact short tested here, or of course the corresponding Stage short should that rock your boat.

On The Trail

We gave the 2015 Drift short a big thumbs up when it came to the cut, and the 2016 Impact continues down the same road. A very saddle-friendly shape that is tight enough to not flap around but that still provides a lot of freedom of movement on the bike, coupled with a slightly softer fabric creates a short that makes itself forgotten within the first pedal strokes. Sizing is spot on, which saved us from having to resort to excessive use of the waist adapters to have the short stay put.

The pockets are the right size and are placed in a pedal-friendly spot. The pockets are not waterproof, but they will resist moisture build up from sweating – good for your phone. The laser-perforated main panels provide excellent breathability, and for those who worry about durability, we can ease your concerns: Royal has been doing laser perforated shorts for a couple of years already, and we have never had any problems.

When it comes to the jersey, Royal wanted long sleeves to help protect from rogue foliage and also to give some protection from the sun for long days out. However, they were designed to be pushed up to help you cool down, a neat touch. Overall, the jersey is very comfortable on the skin, and it provides a good combo of wind and weather protection with excellent breathability. We used it with a base layer in cold and windy conditions, or by itself in the heat of the desert, and it quickly proved to be versatile enough to be useful in both situations. We’re big fans of the just-right cut, too (but look elsewhere or size up if you intend to run big bulky armor).

The elastic cuffs and collar help keep dirt and debris out of the jersey. It was an appreciated feature for this tester, although some may find the collar a little on the tight side. Pretty much everybody should appreciate the quality and colors of the sublimated graphics on the other hand, and the price point looks pretty good too!

Things That Could Be Improved

We would have loved to see a properly water-proofed pocket on the Impact short, just to keep our phone safe from sudden downpours or excessive sweating. The Stage short does have this feature, so that’s your ticket if this is important to you. Could we ask for a padded chamois liner to be included as well? Perhaps, but that feels a bit greedy in light of all the other features Royal managed to pack in for $100. At this price point, some shorts do, while others don’t.

As for the jersey, perhaps the collar could be made slightly less tight, since it is elastic anyway. A minor gripe, but some people may take a while to get used to the feeling.

Long Term Durability

We’ve have enjoyed 2 months of fairly intense riding with the Impact short and the Stage jersey, and they are none the worse for wear. Colors are still bright after wet rides and many washcycles, and all the stitches and features are holding up fine. Royal says not to tumble dry these items, which we tested to failure (actually it was the fault of a somewhat overzealous hotel staff member who took it upon herself to wash and dry our muddy riding gear one day – she threw both items in the dryer on the hottest setting and managed to get some of the screen printed graphics on the short to melt/peel off). Provided you DON’T resort to such extreme tactics, you’ll be fine (there is no need for any tumbling anyway, both the short and the jersey dry very quickly at room temperature).

What’s The Bottom Line?

Clothes can make or break a ride, and both the Impact short and Stage jersey fall directly into the former category. With a perfect cut, the breathable and comfortable Impact delivers an impressive feature set in a short that feels great and performs accordingly both on and off the bike. The Stage jersey is a very versatile piece of gear, equally at home on the race track or just out on the trail with your buddies. Ultimately, these two items were conceived with enduro racing in mind, but that also happens to make them very well suited to mountain biking in general. After all, what’s in a name?

More information at www.royalracing.com.


About The Reviewer

Johan Hjord loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After many years spent practicing falling off cliffs with his snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Ever since, he’s mostly been riding bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many flaws as a rider. His 200-pound body weight coupled with unique skill for poor line choice and clumsy landings make him an expert on durability - if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much okay for anybody. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as "none" (when in actuality he rips!). Having found most trail features to be not to his liking, Johan uses much of his spare time building his own. Johan’s other accomplishments include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly on 11.


This product has no reviews yet.

Added a product review for Royal 2016 Impact Short Short 4/20/2016 1:47 PM
C138_impact_short_nvy_b_f_nb

Tested: Royal Racing Impact Short and Stage Jersey

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Johan Hjord // Photos by Daniel Roos, Tal Rozow, and Johan Hjord

If you want to claim that something is enduro-specific, you better have thick skin – you’ll no doubt be inundated with feedback to the tune of “it’s all just mountain biking stop giving it other names to sell us stuff.” Well, if enduro racing is just mountain biking, then enduro-specific gear should be pretty interesting to mountain bikers in general, right? Lightweight, breathable, with a functional cut and plenty of features sounds pretty good to us, so when given a chance to test Royal Racing’s new Impact short and Stage jersey, we jumped on it.

Royal Racing Impact Short Highlights

  • All ride fit
  • 93% Polyester 7% Spandex
  • Light, durable and quick drying
  • 4 way stretch material
  • 2 pockets with locking custom zip pulls
  • Laser perforated ventilation
  • Screen printed graphics
  • Adjustable waist
  • Cam lock, No Rattle zippers
  • Custom zip pull
  • Sizes: S-XL
  • Colors: Navy/Lime - Charcoal/Flo Red - Electric Blue/Midori Citric Acid
  • MSRP: $104.95 USD

Royal Racing Stage Jersey Highlights

  • Enduro race cut
  • 100% Polyester
  • Active moisture management T-Dot fabric
  • Large micro mesh vents
  • Lycra edged push up cuffs
  • Sizes: S-XL, XXL Black/White Only
  • Colors: Lime Green/Navy - Flo Red/Graphite - Navy/Electric Blue
  • MSRP: $59.95 USD

Initial Impressions

We’ve gotten used to good looking, high quality gear from Royal and the 2016 harvest does not disappoint. The Impact short is brand new (sort of replacing both the Turbulence and Drift shorts from the 2015 collection), while the Stage jersey carries over with new colors. Both items fall under the Trail and Enduro categories in the catalogue.

As ever, Royal are always on the hunt for new materials and fabrics to employ for their apparel, and the all-new Impact short delivers with a polyester/spandex combo that is lightweight, durable, yet soft to the touch – almost terry-like on the inside. Designed to be able to take the abuse of all-day, everyday riding and racing, the short features a saddle-friendly cut and the perfect length to make sure you are safe from the dreaded kneepad gap (there is a less PC term that is more amusing but less suitable for all audiences).

Exploring the features of the Impact short reveals impressive attention to detail. There’s the rattle-free zippered pockets with an audio cable routing port, the laser-perforated main panels, the combo hook and snap closure, and an adjustable waistline. The short is not water-proofed, but the fabric is meant to dry quickly. All in all, a very impressive piece of apparel, at a very competitive price point (even without a short liner).

When it comes to the jersey, the simple appearance is deceiving. There are no pockets or goggle-wipes, but the overall construction has plenty of extras to show off: push-up lycra cuffs, a tight-fitting elastic collar to keep debris out, underarm vents and sublimated graphics that are rich and detailed. The cut is “flap free” to earn you those precious tenths when taking part in the stage races that gave this jersey its name, and the color scheme will work well with the Impact short tested here, or of course the corresponding Stage short should that rock your boat.

On The Trail

We gave the 2015 Drift short a big thumbs up when it came to the cut, and the 2016 Impact continues down the same road. A very saddle-friendly shape that is tight enough to not flap around but that still provides a lot of freedom of movement on the bike, coupled with a slightly softer fabric creates a short that makes itself forgotten within the first pedal strokes. Sizing is spot on, which saved us from having to resort to excessive use of the waist adapters to have the short stay put.

The pockets are the right size and are placed in a pedal-friendly spot. The pockets are not waterproof, but they will resist moisture build up from sweating – good for your phone. The laser-perforated main panels provide excellent breathability, and for those who worry about durability, we can ease your concerns: Royal has been doing laser perforated shorts for a couple of years already, and we have never had any problems.

When it comes to the jersey, Royal wanted long sleeves to help protect from rogue foliage and also to give some protection from the sun for long days out. However, they were designed to be pushed up to help you cool down, a neat touch. Overall, the jersey is very comfortable on the skin, and it provides a good combo of wind and weather protection with excellent breathability. We used it with a base layer in cold and windy conditions, or by itself in the heat of the desert, and it quickly proved to be versatile enough to be useful in both situations. We’re big fans of the just-right cut, too (but look elsewhere or size up if you intend to run big bulky armor).

The elastic cuffs and collar help keep dirt and debris out of the jersey. It was an appreciated feature for this tester, although some may find the collar a little on the tight side. Pretty much everybody should appreciate the quality and colors of the sublimated graphics on the other hand, and the price point looks pretty good too!

Things That Could Be Improved

We would have loved to see a properly water-proofed pocket on the Impact short, just to keep our phone safe from sudden downpours or excessive sweating. The Stage short does have this feature, so that’s your ticket if this is important to you. Could we ask for a padded chamois liner to be included as well? Perhaps, but that feels a bit greedy in light of all the other features Royal managed to pack in for $100. At this price point, some shorts do, while others don’t.

As for the jersey, perhaps the collar could be made slightly less tight, since it is elastic anyway. A minor gripe, but some people may take a while to get used to the feeling.

Long Term Durability

We’ve have enjoyed 2 months of fairly intense riding with the Impact short and the Stage jersey, and they are none the worse for wear. Colors are still bright after wet rides and many washcycles, and all the stitches and features are holding up fine. Royal says not to tumble dry these items, which we tested to failure (actually it was the fault of a somewhat overzealous hotel staff member who took it upon herself to wash and dry our muddy riding gear one day – she threw both items in the dryer on the hottest setting and managed to get some of the screen printed graphics on the short to melt/peel off). Provided you DON’T resort to such extreme tactics, you’ll be fine (there is no need for any tumbling anyway, both the short and the jersey dry very quickly at room temperature).

What’s The Bottom Line?

Clothes can make or break a ride, and both the Impact short and Stage jersey fall directly into the former category. With a perfect cut, the breathable and comfortable Impact delivers an impressive feature set in a short that feels great and performs accordingly both on and off the bike. The Stage jersey is a very versatile piece of gear, equally at home on the race track or just out on the trail with your buddies. Ultimately, these two items were conceived with enduro racing in mind, but that also happens to make them very well suited to mountain biking in general. After all, what’s in a name?

More information at www.royalracing.com.


About The Reviewer

Johan Hjord loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After many years spent practicing falling off cliffs with his snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Ever since, he’s mostly been riding bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many flaws as a rider. His 200-pound body weight coupled with unique skill for poor line choice and clumsy landings make him an expert on durability - if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much okay for anybody. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as "none" (when in actuality he rips!). Having found most trail features to be not to his liking, Johan uses much of his spare time building his own. Johan’s other accomplishments include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly on 11.


This product has no reviews yet.

Added a product review for Race Face Turbine dropper Seatpost 4/18/2016 1:12 PM
C138_2015_turbine_dropper_post_2

Tested: Race Face Turbine Dropper Post

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Johan Hjord // Photos by Johan Hjord and Tal Rozow

Dropper posts have gone from novelty to near-ubiquitous accessory in just a few short years, and with good reason. Few bike upgrades bring about such a dramatic increase in the amount of fun you can have on a given piece of trail as this seemingly simple part. Being able to drop your seat out of the way with the push of a button has become as indispensable as shifting gears or using the brakes for many riders. The only cloud on the horizon has been reliability as many of the earlier models were plagued with problems ranging from excessive play to outright failure. With promise of smooth operation and an innovative locking mechanism, the Race Face Turbine was introduced to try to address these outstanding issues, and we were eager to see how close they would get. Read on to find out!

Race Face Turbine Dropper Highlights

  • Internal cable routing
  • Infinite-adjust within stroke
  • Race Face Hunter Head 2-bolt design
  • Quick Connector allows easy, tool-free disconnection
  • Left or right mount universal thumb lever remote (included)
  • Remote uses standard shifter cable and housing
  • Functions at full capacity in below-freezing conditions (i.e. suitable for Fat Bikes & winter riding)
  • 1x Front shifter style hop-up lever available in Black, Red, Blue, Green, Orange
  • Post Color: BLACK
  • Built For: XC/Trail/Enduro
  • Length:350mm, 375mm, 415mm, 440mm
  • Travel: 100mm, 125mm, 150mm
  • Lever Actuation: Mechanical
  • Head Type: Zero Offset
  • Size: 30.9mm, 31.6mm
  • Weight: 495 grams (30.9x440x150mm w/o lever)
  • MSRP: $469.99 USD
  • “Shifter-style” remote option MSRP: $59.00 USD

Initial Impressions

Easton was acquired in 2015 by Chris Tutton, majority owner of Race Face, and the resulting entity ("RFE Holdings" for Race Face Easton Holdings) was subsequently bought by Fox (the suspension company). There is of course some overlap in the product lines of Easton and Race Face, but the theme going forward is to leverage the respective strengths of each company while pooling resources and developing projects together where it makes sense to do so. The jointly developed Race Face Turbine/Easton Haven dropper post project is the first fruit of this collaboration. Weighing in at 622 grams for the 150mm 31.6 version including standard remote and cables, it certainly ticks a lot of boxes on the paper, with an MSRP in line with other high-end options on the market.

When it came to the internals of the new post, RFE went with an already proven design from 9point8, a Canadian company. Featuring an air spring and a purely mechanical locking mechanism, this cable-actuated solution is meant to offer several advantages: the rider’s weight is supported directly by the mechanical brake, which should help eliminate slippage, and the brake will continue to function even if for some reason the air spring should fail (in which case the post will of course not extend under its own power, but it can at least be locked in any position you desire to get you home). The design is also less sensitive to the outside temperature.

Pulling the post out of the box, we were met by a well-finished product. All the machining is precise, and the color uniform and deep. The box includes everything needed for installation, with a standard shifter cable and housing connecting a universal remote that can be mounted on either side of the handlebars. With Race Face offering an optional “shifter-style” remote in 6 different colors (MSRP $59), Vital green was the natural choice for a little extra bling (Easton sells the shifter-style remote too, but only in black).

The remote cable features a nifty quick release mechanism on the post side, which is meant to make life easier every time you need to remove your post, for example for moving it between bikes. And on that topic, it was time to fit the post and head out on the trail.

Installation

Installing the Turbine is fairly straight-forward, if you pay careful attention to the instructions and to what you are doing. Once you route your cable housing through the frame (which may involve various degrees of sweating, swearing, or throwing tools, depending on how your frame is put together), and make sure the cable tensioner is wound in to within 1.5 turns of the end, simply pull the cable through and align the activator tabs in the middle – tighten down the bolt and you’re done.

After you cut the excess cable, you attach the quick connector first by rotating the post while holding the smaller, protruding part of the connector static, then screw in the out part while holding the post static. That’s it. If everything went well, you should only have to use the barrel adjust on the shifter side to adjust the play at the lever to about 2mm, and you’re good to go. We got it pretty much first time around. The post features a traditional dual-bolt head design, with a nice extra touch: a rubber plug holds the lower part of the clamp in place, and rubber washers on the bolts ensure they don’t fall off when you undo the bolts.

Additionally, the bolts are long enough to allow you to install the saddle from the side without actually removing the top part of the clamp – another nice touch that makes wrenching a bit easier. We also appreciated the graduated markings on the post body to help with saddle height set-up, a useful feature if you have a bike that other people use, for example.

Both remotes are easy to install and to adjust. The shifter style quickly became our favorite, as it sits exactly in the spot your left thumb will recall finding a shifter in, if you’ve been riding for a few years. It even features a side-to-side adjustment much like the 2 holes of a shifter body, to allow you to fine tune its position relative to available real estate on the handlebar. Matchmaker/iSpec compatibility would make it even cooler, but it gets on just fine without it.

On The Trail

The instructions told us to run between 20-40 psi of main air spring pressure, but we quickly found out that is too much. The Turbine features an internal air chamber that acts as the top-out bumper, and at the recommended air spring pressure, the post would shoot up so fast that it would blow right through to the top, with a marked and fairly violent “clack”. This violent top-out would also sometimes upset the locking mechanism leaving us with a post that would slip under load (a simple “brake reset” procedure fixes the problem – essentially holding the lever fully pressed down for a few seconds then re-adjusting cable tension if need be). Once we dropped down to about 12 psi or so, the post became a pleasure to use. The action of the remote lever is light but positive, and so is the movement of the post itself.

Even at the lower air spring pressure, the post extends in a hurry (but without the harsh top-out). Unlike the RockShox Reverb, you can’t really modulate the return speed, nor does pressing the remote only half way or so really work while riding. However, the fast return is not bothersome (for reference, it is a bit slower than a first generation Specialized Command Post, and a bit faster than a first generation Reverb in the fastest setting). The post can be stopped at any point in the travel, and it sits firmly in place wherever that may be. The brake also works in both directions which means you can easily and safely pick your bike up by the saddle like you used to in the pre-dropper era. As a bonus, it will work even if the air spring loses pressure, which means you are sure to make it back home in case of troubles on the trail.

On the topic of the brake, the Turbine post is very solid to sit on – once locked, it feels like a traditional, non-adjustable seat post. We have not experienced any unwanted slippage, and the side-to-side play is equally well contained (we’d say about half the amount of a first generation Reverb, for reference).

We opted for the 150mm drop version, which is ideal for this 6’0 tester. 150mm gives you that bit of extra room to move around on the bike, as opposed to “only” 125 which sometimes has us opening the seat post clamp to drop the post a bit more for rowdier sessions. We quickly got used to the action of the post, and the bearing-mounted shifter-style remote adds even more lightness at the lever (in addition to feeling very natural under the thumb).

We rode the post in pretty much every condition except snow and freezing cold. Whilst we can’t verify the claim that the Turbine works better than other posts in those extreme conditions, we can say that it performance flawlessly from about 40 Fahrenheit (5 Celsius) to much warmer. It was also unfazed by rain, mud or dust. We have about 2.5 months on the post by now, and it is also still squeak free around the head area (a common offender on many seatposts), and the lever action feels identical to the first day.

Things That Could Be Improved

As mentioned in the previous section, the post returns a bit too fast if you run the recommended air spring pressure. Whilst it is not a problem per se, it would be better to calibrate this aspect properly in the instructions. We would also welcome a change to the overall return speed management to slow it down a bit further – as it stands, it is not violent but it is definitely on the fast side.

Long Term Durability

After 2.5 months of riding in nearly every condition, the Turbine Dropper looks and works pretty much like new. The finish is holding up fine, as is the action of both the post and the lever. There are no funny noises, no leaks, and no slippage at all. Side-to-side play is still absolutely minimal as well. If the post continues as it started out, it looks like a serious contender in the reliability stakes.

What’s The Bottom Line?

Race Face/(Easton) took their time to join the dropper post party, but it was well worth the wait. The Turbine/(Haven) addresses a few common complaints with existing dropper posts, and the light and intuitive remote is a pleasure to use on the trail. The innovative locking mechanism is all-weather reliable, and rock solid to boot. You can even pick your bike up by the saddle like in the good old days. All told, the Turbine slots right in at the very top of the dropper post market.

More information at www.raceface.com.


About The Reviewer

Johan Hjord loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After many years spent practicing falling off cliffs with his snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Ever since, he’s mostly been riding bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many flaws as a rider. His 200-pound body weight coupled with unique skill for poor line choice and clumsy landings make him an expert on durability - if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much okay for anybody. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as "none" (when in actuality he rips!). Having found most trail features to be not to his liking, Johan uses much of his spare time building his own. Johan’s other accomplishments include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly on 11.


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Added a product review for ANVL Forge Stealth Ti Alloy Saddle 3/30/2016 11:01 AM
C138_anvl_saddles_2_half_1

Tested: ANVL Forge Stealth Saddle

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Johan Hjord // Photos by Johan Hjord and Tal Rozow

Born from the Transition crew’s desire to make better bling, ANVL popped on the components scene a couple of years back and they drew a fair bit of attention with a range of seemingly well-designed parts that look good too. Curious to go beneath the appearance, we laid our hands on the new Forge Stealth saddle a couple of months ago, and we’ve been resting our weary behinds on it ever since. Read on to find out how it treated us.

ANVL Forge Stealth Ti Alloy Highlights

  • RAIL MATERIAL: Titanium
  • COVER MATERIAL: Leather + Kevlar corners
  • PADDING: Superlight EVA Foam
  • SIZE: 278mm x 138mm
  • USAGE: Elite Gravity, Enduro, XC Racing
  • WEIGHT: 214g (actual)
  • MSRP: $119.99 USD

Initial Impressions

ANVL was founded (by the Transition Bike Company) to create functional as well as aesthetically pleasing products suited for modern day mountain biking. With the company and team hailing from Bellingham, WA, that essentially means shredding hard and earning your turns are both going to be on the riding menu most of the time. The goal for the Forge saddle was to create one of the lightest and slimmest saddles available that would still be comfortable enough for long days out. Call it trail riding, call it XC, call it enduro or call it riding your bike – the Forge was made to do it all. The classic version has been around for a couple of years now, the Stealth version tested here was introduced as an update for 2016.

Weighing in at 214 grams (just below the claimed weight), the Forge Stealth Ti certainly felt light when we first picked it up. The slim profile and thin padding had us wondering how compatible the design would be with the stated objective of making a comfortable saddle for all-day adventures, but more about that later.

The construction of the Forge is based on the standard 2-rail system, with a flexible base and a custom shape designed by ANVL. There is a channel going down the length of the saddle as well as a cut-out portion in the base (also called the “hammock”) for extra relief from perineum pressure points.

The overall dimensions of the Forge are on par with “standard” trail saddles. The shape features rounded edges and tapers off both fore and aft, to allow for extra mobility on the bike. The materials inspire confidence and the saddle certainly appeared to have been put together with care and attention to detail. The understated design with just a splash of color on the logo reinforces the overall impression of quality. And to make sure you can match the Forge to your budget and performance requirements, three versions are available: standard CroMo rails, Ti rails (tested), and carbon rails (the lightest and of course the most expensive of the three).

On The Trail

With its sober finish the Forge is easy on the eye, and should complement pretty much any build. Installing the Forge was uneventful as one would pretty much always hope for in a saddle – a couple of minutes with a hex key and we were ready to hit the trails.

Having ridden a lot of different saddles recently, some of which proved harder to live with than others, the Forge saddle had us convinced pretty much from the get-go. As much as saddle fit is a personal thing, this tester was certainly stoked on the levels of comfort provided by the Forge. Soft but not mushy, with curves in all the right places, we felt instantly at home and ready to roll.

The shape of the Forge is pretty much perfect for all kinds of riding. If all you do is ride park or hit the dirt jumps, you’d probably be better off with something significantly smaller (like ANVL’s Sculpt, shown below for reference), but for anything else, the Forge does a great job.

Sculpt up top, Forge down below.

When it came to putting in the miles, the Forge proved up to the task at hand – namely giving us somewhere comfy to park our posteriors for a few good hours on end. The Forge turned out to be among the more comfortable perches this tester has ever tried, especially noteworthy considering the slim profile and relatively modest amounts of padding used. The shape of the base is spot on, and the built-in flex helps take the sting out of rougher fire roads and the like. As if to hammer this point home, the smaller, rounder and stiffer ANVL Sculpt saddle that we tested for reference was significantly less comfortable for longer rides.

Things That Could Be Improved

Nothing significant to report here. And even though we’re usually the first to call manufacturers out on their prices, at $118 MSRP the Forge Stealth Ti is well placed given its performance. You can drop a few grams with the $180 carbon railed version if you want to, or save a few dollars with the regular CroMo version.

Long Term Durability

After two months of riding in every condition, the Forge still looks and feels fresh. It shows no excessive wear and tear despite some shuttle days and the odd tumble, with Kevlar reinforced side panels providing extra peace of mind here. It is also still blissfully quiet and squeak free. At this point in time, we have no reason to believe we’ll get anything less than a few seasons of use out of the Forge. And that’s a good thing too, we’re in no hurry to get rid of it.

What’s The Bottom Line?

ANVL set out to create the lightest and slimmest saddle that could still be ridden in comfort all day. With the Forge, they succeeded. It is a quality product that not only feels great but looks good too. If you’re in the market for a saddle that won’t break the scales nor the bank, and that will add a little understated bling to your ride, the Forge should make your shortlist.

More information at www.anvlcomponents.com.


About The Reviewer

Johan Hjord loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After many years spent practicing falling off cliffs with his snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Ever since, he’s mostly been riding bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many flaws as a rider. His 200-pound body weight coupled with unique skill for poor line choice and clumsy landings make him an expert on durability - if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much okay for anybody. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as "none" (when in actuality he rips!). Having found most trail features to be not to his liking, Johan uses much of his spare time building his own. Johan’s other accomplishments include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly on 11.


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Added a product review for SRAM ROAM 60 Wheelset 2/25/2016 6:58 AM
C138_sm_roam_60_275in_front_3q_black_m

First Look: SRAM ROAM 60 Wheelset

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

SRAM entered the wheelset market a few years ago with its ROAM and RAIL families, a light-weight and high performance series of factory built wheels. Today, it adds the all-new, updated ROAM 60 wheelset to the line-up, and at least on paper, it looks like it will tick off a lot of boxes on many a rider's wish list. Weighing in at a svelte 1625 grams, the new ROAM wheel sports a 30-mm internal width (up from the 21-mm of the previous generation of this wheelset), carbon rim with a hookless bead. Laced to a 52-POE hub via 24 bladed, double-butted steel spokes, the ROAM 60 wheelset supports multiple axle standards via tool-less end-cap swap and is tubeless ready. The new ROAM 60 will go on sale in April 2016 at $1900 USD | €1982 | £1520.

SRAM ROAM 60 Highlights

Light and strong carbon rim designed for more speed, more control and more reliability

30mm wide profile, hookless, tubeless ready, carbon rim

Smooth, quick engagement with durable DOUBLE TIME™ hubs

Stealthy new graphics and customizable sticker pack (7 colors included with each wheel)

SIZE (WHEELS): 27.5”

RIM CONSTRUCTION: Carbon—Hookless

RIM—INSIDE WIDTH: 30mm

TIRE COMPATIBILITY: Clincher Tubeless Ready

BRAKE COMPATIBILITY: Disc (6-bolt)

CASSETTE COMPATIBILITY: SRAM XD™, Non XD

SPOKE TYPE: Steel Bladed—Black, Double-butted 2.0 to 1.8

BEARINGS: Sealed Cartridge

NIPPLE MATERIAL: Aluminum

RIM FINISH: UD Fiber / Bake-on Labels / Matte Clear Coat

RIM SECTION: Asymmetrical

SPOKE PATTERN: 2 Cross

PART WEIGHT: Front 750g, Rear 875g (WEIGHTS ARE IN THE LIGHTEST CONFIGURATION)

Front: Quick Release, 15x100mm and 20x110mm Thru Axle Caps, Boost option (21mm Standard and 31mm RockShox Torque Thru Axle Caps included)

Rear: Quick Release and 12x142mm Thru Axle Caps, Boost option (12x148 Thru Axle Caps)

In addition to the new wheelset, SRAM is also introducing a new hub today, dubbed the 900 (which are not on the ROAM 60 wheels, but use some similar technologies). Read on to get the details on both!

PRESS RELEASE:

Fast climbs and fast descents—from sunup till sundown. Truly made for the modern mountain biker, ROAM wheels use a special balance of low-inertia design, weight and strength to excel on a wide variety of terrain. They’re durable enough for hours in the saddle, yet light enough for race day.

WIDE IS FAST

The new ROAM 60’s careful combination of shape, width, design, and materials yields a new carbon wheelset that gives bikers the speed-enabling features they want—and the critical reliability they need. Lightweight, high-strength 30-mm carbon rims increase control and confidence in any terrain.

The precision engagement of DOUBLE TIME™ hubs ensure quick, consistent power delivery from the pedals, and a durable, smooth-rolling feel. The new ROAM 60 is the wheel for riders who want everything and don’t like to compromise.

ROAM 60

FEATURES AND BENEFITS

Light and strong carbon rim designed for more speed, more control and more reliability 30mm wide profile, hookless, tubeless ready, carbon rim Smooth, quick engagement with durable DOUBLE TIME™ hubs Stealthy new graphics and customizable sticker pack.

USAGE

TR

EN

MSRP PRICE (FRONT/REAR)

$900/1000 | €939/1043 | £720/800

STICKER PACK

The included sticker pack contains seven different colors to help riders make them their own.

TECHNOLOGIES

DOUBLE TIME™

CARBON TUNED™

WIDE ANGLE™

SOLO SPOKE™

SPEEDBALL™

SIDE SWAP™ SYMMETRICAL

XD Driver Body™

BOOST


SPECIFICATIONS

SIZE (WHEELS)

27.5”

RIM CONSTRUCTION

CARBON – HOOKLESS

RIM - INSIDE WIDTH

30mm

TIRE COMPATIBILITY

CLINCHER TUBELESS READY

BRAKE COMPATIBILITY

DISC (6-BOLT)

CASSETTE COMPATIBILITY

SRAM XD™, NON XD

AXLE TYPE (WHEELS)—REGULAR

FRONT: INCLUDES DECAL PACK, QUICK RELEASE, 15x100mm AND 20x110mm THRU AXLE CAPS

REAR: INCLUDES DECAL PACK, QUICK RELEASE AND 12x142mm THRU AXLE CAPS

AXLE TYPE (WHEELS)—BOOST

FRONT: INCLUDES DECAL PACK, 21mm STANDARD AND 31mm ROCKSHOX TORQUE THRU AXLE CAPS

REAR: INCLUDES DECAL PACK, 12x148 THRU AXLE CAPS

DRIVER MECHANISM

DOUBLE TIME™ – FOUR PAWLS

SPOKE COUNT

24

SPOKE TYPE

STEEL BLADED – BLACK, DOUBLE-BUTTED 2.0 TO 1.8

BEARINGS

SEALED CARTRIDGE

NIPPLE MATERIAL

ALUMINUM

RIM FINISH

UD FIBER / BAKE-ON LABELS / MATTE CLEAR COAT

RIM SECTION

ASYMMETRICAL

SPOKE PATTERN

2 CROSS

PART WEIGHT

FRONT 750g – REAR 875g

(WEIGHTS ARE IN THE LIGHTEST CONFIGURATION)

900 HUBS

EXTREME VERSATILITY

Whether the goal is a finish line, epic adventure or simply getting back home again, our new 900 hubs are ready for the challenge. On the inside, our smooth and durable DOUBLE TIME™ drive mechanism ensures rapid engagement for quick and confident pedal responsiveness. SPEEDBALL™ bearings provide smooth, long-lasting rotation performance. Multiple spoke-count and cassette-capability options, as well as interchangeable end caps make the 900 hubs a perfect choice for any disc-equipped road, gravel, cyclocross, cross country, trail, or enduro bike.

FEATURES AND BENEFITS

DOUBLE TIME™ mechanism offers smooth, quick and durable engagement

Versatile driver body can accept ROAD or MTB drivetrain, full spline or XD™ cassettes

Fully convertible with tool free end caps

BOOST variants

24, 28 or 32 spoke holes

USAGE

Road

CX

TT

Gravel

XC

TR

EN

TECHNOLOGIES

DOUBLE TIME™

SPEEDBALL™

SIDE SWAP™ SYMMETRICAL

SEEKER™

XD Driver Body™

BOOST

MSRP PRICE (FRONT/REAR)

$79/199 | €82/208 | £63/159

SPECIFICATIONS

ORIENTATION

FRONT, REAR

AXLE TYPE

FRONT: QR 100 CAPS (DIA. 19mm), TA 12x100, TA 15x100, TA 15x110, TA 15x110 TORQUE CAPS (DIA. 31mm), TA 20x110

REAR: QR 135, TA 12x142, TA 12x148

SPOKE HOLES

24, 28, 32

BRAKE COMPATIBILITY

DISC (6-BOLT)

CASSETTE COMPATIBILITY

SRAM XD™, SRAM/NON XD

COLOR

BLACK

DRIVER MECHANISM

DOUBLE TIME™ – FOUR PAWLS

AXLE MATERIAL

TAPERED ALUMINUM

AXLE – CONVERTIBLE

YES

DRIVER BODY MATERIAL

ALUMINUM

HUB SHELL

ALUMINUM – SEEKER™ ANGLED

FLANGES – OVERSIZED BODY

OVER LOCKNUT DIMENSION

100mm, 110mm, 135mm, 142mm, 148mm

BEARINGS

SEALED CARTRIDGE

PART WEIGHT

FRONT 150g REAR 275g

(WEIGHTS ARE IN THE LIGHTEST CONFIGURATION)

TECHNOLOGIES

DOUBLE TIME™

Ratcheting up the smarts. This straight-aligned, 4-pawl design turns the 26-tooth ratchet ring into 52 points of contact. The result: smooth 6.9-degree engagement without reducing tooth size or offsetting internal geometry—which means serious long-term durability.

26-tooth ratchet ring

26 x 2 = 52 POINTS OF ENGAGEMENT

Straight-aligned and perpendicular 2-pair, 4-pawl design

CARBON TUNED™

Strong like bull, light like carbon. Every CARBON TUNED™ rim is designed with a distinct style of riding in mind. By selectively layering woven carbon fiber at high-stress points and using unidirectional fiber throughout, SRAM creates rims that yield a remarkable level of strength and durability—while remaining lightweight and responsive.

WIDE ANGLE™

Take corners as fast as you want. SRAM wheels have a wide rim profile without significant added mass. This profile holds tire shape better, preventing tire roll and giving you superior comfort and traction around corners.

SOLO SPOKE™

With SOLO SPOKE™, you’re never wrong. SRAM wheel design eliminates the need for different spoke lengths—one size fits the entire wheel. This identical-length design means no longer wondering whether you have the right front/ rear/drive-side/nondrive-side spoke handy.

SPEEDBALL™

The only adjustment they’ll ever need was made back at the factory. Every part of the ball bearing is manufactured in the same factory—which means that each bearing bore can be precision machined to fit the bearing race exactly.

SIDE SWAP SYMMETRICAL™

Switching axles has never been easier. Threadless side caps can be installed and replaced by hand—no tools necessary. The left side cap is identical to the right one. No need to figure out where each cap is going.

SEEKER™

Get unbent. 3D forged and machined for lightweight strength, the flanges are angled towards the rim—allowing the spokes to be fully in-line when tensioned. The result: reduced spoke head breakage and better overall durability.

XD™ DRIVER BODY

XD™ is a cassette driver body design that allows the use of a 10-tooth small cog and provides an improved interface with the cassette.

BOOST

BOOST is a new wheel and drivetrain specification that provides: increased wheel stiffness and durability, better riding efficiency and bike handling precision, improved frame geometry with shorter chain stays, wider and stiffer suspension pivots, wider range of chainring options, and more clearance for bigger tires.

TORQUE CAPS

Torque Caps make the bond between hub and fork dropout stronger, with an increased surface area connecting the two. This creates a stronger, stiffer interface, giving you a more responsive front wheel and more control. So you concentrate on the most important connection, the one between your bike and the trail.

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Added a product review for FOX Float X2 Factory Rear Shock 2/5/2016 12:42 PM
C138_floatx2_shock

Tested: 2016 FOX Float X2 Shock

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Johan Hjord // Photos by Nils Hjord, Johan Hjord, and Brandon Turman

We first spotted an interesting new rear shock design from FOX’s Racing Application Development (”RAD”) program on Greg Minnaar’s World Champs bike in 2013. Fast forward to spring of 2015, and the DHX2 and Float X2 shocks were publically introduced, taking direct aim at the gravity crowd. Based on a twin-tube damper design, a first for the fox tail, the new shocks are FOX’s most adjustable offering to date. Together with the Float 36 RC2 fork we reviewed earlier this year, we laid our hands on the airsprung Float X2 and set off to find out how it performs on a hard-hitting trail bike.

2016 FOX Float X2 Highlights

  • Made for All-Mountain/Enduro/Freeride/DH use
  • Kashima coated body
  • External adjustments: low-speed compression, high-speed compression, low-speed rebound, high-speed rebound, air spring pressure.
  • Extra-Volume (EVOL) air sleeve
  • Tunable air spring via volume spacers
  • Travel options: 7.875 x 2.00, 7.875 x 2.25, 8.50 x 2.50, 8.75 x 2.75, 9.50 x 3.00, 10.50 x 3.50
  • Weight: 515 grams (8.50x2.50)
  • MSRP: $595 USD

Initial Impressions

You know how some parts show up all understated, almost timid? That’s most definitely not the case with FOX’s new Float X2 shock. With an extra-fat air can, 2 big adjusters and a matt black finish, the X2 looks nothing if not purposeful.

Of course, the X2 was essentially made for gravity applications, so the imposing looks come as no surprise. Our 8.50x2.50 tipped the scales at 515 grams, a weight penalty of 115 grams compared to the RockShox Monarch Plus it would be replacing.

The great novelty of the Float X2 (and its coil-sprung brother the DHX2) is the twin-tube damper design, a concept similar to that found on Cane Creek and Ohlins shocks. Twin tube refers to the construction of the main body of the shock, which houses one tube inside another (you’d be forgiven for thinking it has something to do with the two tubes housing the compression and rebound adjusters, but this is not where the name of the design comes from).

The purpose of the twin tube design is to provide a “recirculating” oil path, as opposed to a single-tube design where displaced oil has to travel back along the same path when the shock rebounds. This in turn is said to improve the reactivity of the shock and also helps avoid cavitation (which is when a quantity of oil vaporizes under intense pressure changes, which can in turn change the damping characteristics of the shock). A traditional "needle and port" valve provides low speed tuning, while the high-speed rebound and compression damping is independently adjusted via the "Rod Valve System" (RVS). RVS is an adjustable, spring-loaded shim stack - increasing the spring preload means you need a bigger impact to open the the circuit in question. There is also a final-stage blow-off valve on the main oil piston for those extra big hits. The following video provides a good illustration of the concept in action:

Much like the Float 36 RC2 fork we reviewed earlier this year, the X2 shows off with impeccable build quality and finish. Testing out the adjusters (3/6-mm allens required) the clicks were positive and easy to feel/hear. On the subject of the adjusters, there are more knobs to twist here than you might know what to do with at first. Fully adjustable (lots of clicks!) high and low speed compression AND rebound, adjustable air spring pressure as well as air spring progressivity thanks to a system of air can tokens. The X2 is not meant to be a plug-and-play type of product, nor is it aimed specifically at trail riders, as evidenced by the lack of any kind of external platform or lock-out switch.

A final word on the Extra Volume (EVOL) aircan. Although the X2 is a brand new shock, the EVOL aircan concept is a recent FOX development that can be found on the company’s more trail oriented shocks as well. The idea is that by increasing total air volume as well as the size of the negative air spring, the same shock can benefit from better small-bump action. This and more is what we were now eager to put to the test on the trail.

On The Trail

The Float X2 is fully adjustable externally, which means that the only thing you have to worry about when buying it for your bike is whether or not they make the right size, and getting the right hardware. The “base tune” of the shock is basically always the same, it’s up to the user to adapt the shock using the external adjustments to suit the characteristics of each particular frame. To be completely accurate here, the blow-off valve of the main piston features two shim stacks that are in fact reversible to change tune, allowing you to flip the shim stack if you need less blowoff. FOX told us pretty much everyone runs the stock configuration though. To get us going, we mounted up the shock and adjusted everything as per FOX’s recommended settings. We started out with 4 volume spacers in the aircan, which left us running 190 psi for 30% sag, with a 200-lbs rider.

Hitting the trail, the first thing that stood out was the smooth and supple action of the X2. Even compared to the “Low” tune Monarch Plus we previously had on this bike, the X2 had more of a “DH” feel to it. We won’t go as far as to compare it to the action of a coil spring, but it does get pretty close. The YT Capra we used for this test has a very progressive leverage ratio curve, which lends itself well to riding with a lot of sag. We quickly found that we could drop the initial air pressure and not experience any bottom out issues, and at around 180 psi the bike really came alive in the rough stuff.

Playing around with the volume spacers in the air can (which is a simple thing to do), we found that we could significantly affect the progressivity of the shock. With a total of 7 spacers (that number goes up to 12 if you run the 3.50 stroke version), there’s a nice and wide range available. We eventually settled on 3 for the Capra.

So what about all those adjustments then? Each adjuster has a wide tuning range (24 clicks per adjuster) going from pogostick open to fairly harsh/slow – but even if you close all 4, the shock does not lock out. The transition between low speed and high speed damping action is completely seamless on both sides, and there are also no “hot spot” clicks within the tuning range (some shocks have one or two clicks that have a disproportionately large effect on the damping action – not so with the X2). Want to run less pressure but not bottom out? Dial up the high speed compression. Want to glue the rear wheel to the ground over uneven ground? Dial up the high speed rebound. Need more support in the turns? Add a few clicks of low speed compression and away you go. The action of the X2 remains very smooth throughout the whole tuning range.

As for our settings, we ended up adding a couple of clicks of low speed compression as well as a couple of clicks of both rebound adjusters compared to the recommended settings.

The shock lacks any kind of platform or lock-out switch, and we noticed a bit more pedal bob with the X2 compared to the Monarch Plus it replaced. You can choose to add a bit of low speed compression and rebound to reduce the bobbing, but as we previously mentioned, even if you close every available adjuster the shock does still not lock out completely. We have seen shots of a “climb switch” prototype in development, and it would not be a stretch to imagine it appearing as an option on the X2 fairly soon. Judging by what we see below, we’d wager it’s a low-speed compression lockout that remains independent of the other compression settings. With any bit of luck, it will be available to retrofit the current X2 as well.

In the absence of the climb switch, we’d say we gave up a few percentage points of climbing efficiency with the X2, but it’s not more than that. On this particular bike, the advantages more than outweigh the inconvenience of slightly more weight and a little bit more pedal bob. If your frame design relies heavily on the shock’s platform setting to climb well, your best FOX bet in the meantime would be the new Float X.

A final word on damping consistency. The twin tube design was among other things specifically developed to combat cavitation and heat build-up. We have not noticed any strange behavior from the X2 even during long and intense descents. Pounding rocks for 10 minutes left us with the same damping performance at the bottom of the run as when we started it. The only caveat we’d add here is that we tested during the cooler winter months – we’ll update this review when temperatures start to climb if we notice an effect on damping performance.

Things That Could Be Improved

This is going to be a very short list. Within the given design parameters, i.e. build a fully adjustable, DH-worthy airshock, we’d have a hard time figuring out what FOX could do better here. If you are worried about the extra weight and/or need a pedaling platform switch, you’re probably not looking at the X2 in the first place. We’d welcome the addition of a climb switch to make the shock more versatile and more efficient in racing applications (cough enduro cough), but by the looks of things, FOX are ahead of us there and will have a climb switch option available soon.

Long Term Durability

We’ve been doing our best to torture the X2 for about 2.5 months now, with nothing to show for it except for the good times we had along the way. Mud, dust, and rocks have left no visible signs on the shock body itself, and the X2 performs as well today as it did when we got it. FOX recommends a full shock service (by a FOX-certified technician) after 125 hours, which is not particularly onerous for most casual riders. Note that a basic air spring service is not officially required before the 125 hours are up. We will test this assumption and more, and we’ll come back and update this review if we uncover any particular long-term issues down the line.

What’s The Bottom Line?

Smooth, coil-like performance in a highly adjustable, airsprung shock – the FOX Float X2 provides the perfect solution for those looking to drop weight from their DH bikes or add another dimension of descending prowess to their trail bikes. The tuning range is wide, but remains largely usable even at both ends of the spectrum. Finding a good base setting is well within reach of the intermediate rider willing to put in a bit of time with a pair of allen keys, while expert racers will be able to eke out every last drop of performance thanks to the multitude of tuning options available.

More information at www.ridefox.com.


About The Reviewer

Johan Hjord loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After many years spent practicing falling off cliffs with his snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Ever since, he’s mostly been riding bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many flaws as a rider. His 200-pound body weight coupled with unique skill for poor line choice and clumsy landings make him an expert on durability - if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much okay for anybody. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as "none" (when in actuality he rips!). Having found most trail features to be not to his liking, Johan uses much of his spare time building his own. Johan’s other accomplishments include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly on 11.


This product has no reviews yet.

Added a product review for FOX 2016 Float 36 FIT RC2 Suspension Fork 1/29/2016 7:06 AM
C138_fox_2016_float_36_fit_rc2_fork

Tested: 2016 FOX Float 36 RC2 Fork

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Johan Hjord // Photos by Tal Rozow and Johan Hjord

FOX’s 36 fork has in many ways always been leading the company forward, and this has certainly been true over the past few years. The 36 was the first fork in FOX’s lineup to receive the major recent updates that were then rolled out to the rest of the range for 2016, and it certainly had our attention as of the 2015 model year. For 2016, the 36 sees some further tweaks, and tweaks always leave us curious, especially when it comes to suspension products. Moreover, we wanted to really pit the 36 against the current de-facto “standard” trail bike fork to see where it might differ, and how. Bear in mind that this is not a shootout, but rather a review of the latest version of the 36 in light of its current main competitor.

2016 FOX Float 36 RC2 Highlights

  • Made for Trail/All-Mountain/Enduro/Freeride use
  • 36mm Kashima coated stanchions
  • New FLOAT air spring system
  • Tunable air spring via volume spacers
  • Refined RC2 damper with sealed FIT cartridge
  • External adjustments: Rebound (19-clicks) // Low-speed compression (22-clicks) // High-speed compression (26-clicks) // Air spring
  • 140, 150, 160, 170, and 180mm stock travel options
  • Internally adjustable travel in 10mm increments (sold separately)
  • 26, 27.5, and 29-inch models
  • Aluminum tapered (26, 27.5, 29) and straight 1 1/8-inch (26 only) steerer options
  • Convertible 15/20mm thru-axle
  • 180mm post mount disc brake tabs
  • Weights ranging from 4.38-pounds (1987 grams) – 27.5” model, claimed
  • MSRP: $1050 USD as tested

Initial Impressions

We had excellent impressions when we first tested the 2015 version of the FOX 36, and subsequent experiences with the same fork on other bikes left us equally impressed. While some might argue that comparing the FOX 36 to the RockShox Pike is actually a bit like comparing apples to oranges, we’d argue that this is still the comparison that will speak directly to the largest number of riders out there – simply because of the popularity of the Pike. Sure, the Lyrik is now back in the RockShox line-up, and on paper, it is certainly the fork that compares most directly to the 36. However, if you look at how the Pike is being specced and ridden, it is fair to say that it is the current “standard” hard-charging trail bike fork and as such, we felt it would be an appropriate reference and one that many can relate to.

We took delivery of the 27.5”, 170mm travel, RC2 version of the 36, and paired it up with FOX’s all-new Float X2 shock out back (our review of the X2 will follow shortly). Right out of the box, first impressions are convincing. The finish is rich and smooth, and the fork gives off a very sturdy vibe. One of the more significant improvements on this latest generation (2015-2016) of the 36 is the weight. Despite its menacing looks, the fork feels light – ours weighed in at 2021 grams with an uncut steerer (around the claimed 1987 grams once cut).

Examining the knobs, the impression of quality continues. The adjusters feel solid with well-defined clicks. The 36 offers hi- and lo-speed compression adjustment up top, and adjustable rebound at the bottom of the drive side leg. Additionally, the airspring’s progressivity can be tuned with volume spacers – adding or removing spacers is a 5-minute job. The fork comes with one spacer pre-installed, and a further 5 spacers of different volume in the bag of accessories.

The 36 is compatible with both 15- and 20-mm axles thanks to a clever insert system. There is no quick release available on the RC2 models, but if you opt for the FIT4 version you can have the fork delivered with a 15mm QR axle.

The 36 Float series offers adjustable travel, although the procedure here is significantly more involved than on the volume spacer side. There are 2 basic configurations, the 160-mm fork that can be adjusted down to 110-mm, and the 170/180 which can be reduced down to 130. Note that FOX does not sell a 180-mm version of the 27.5” fork, but the 170-mm version can in fact be extended to 180-mm of travel by removing a travel neg plate spacer. Also note that the airsprings are optimized around the baseline travel setting, straying too far will likely have a negative effect on performance. In other words, if it’s a 120 or 130mm fork you need, you’re probably better off with a FOX 34.

When the 36 was overhauled in 2015, a number of key improvements were made in order to reduce overall system friction. Improved Kashima coating, special 20 weight “Gold Bath” oil, and increasing the distance between the bushings in the lowers, among others. The 2016 version saw a revision to one of the damper side pistons that aims to improve rebound recovery and provide a plusher feel to the compression cycle. And with all that said, it is high time to find out what it all means on the trail…

On The Trail

The 36 is a hard-hitting fork and as such, it comes with 180-mm postmount brake tabs. If you run 203mm rotors up front, note that the jump from 160 to 183 isn’t the same as the jump from 180 to 203 (strangely enough), and the perfect adapters for the job can be hard to come by. FOX sells a 180-203 adapter kit under part number 820-09-009-KIT, which retails for $35.00 if you need it. Otherwise the best solution is to run 180 or 200-mm rotors, and use a “+20mm postmount” adapter for the latter. In our case, a little spacer was needed to align the brake caliper and the rotor perfectly, but other than that, the installation was smooth. Note that the current generation of the 36 has a lower axle to crown compared to its predecessors, which meant that replacing the 160-mm Pike on our test bike with this 170-mm 36 resulted in only an extra 7-mm on the A2C and a minimal impact on the bike’s geo. Switching to the Float X2 shock also gave us a bump in travel out back, up from 165-mm to now match the front at 170-mm.

We started the test running the 15mm axle. Performing the usual parking lot maneuvers, checking the front-end for stiffness and friction, the first impression is of a seriously solid chassis. This thing was built for charging and it shows. The second aspect that stands out early is a different, almost muted feeling to the fork, especially at low to moderate speeds over uneven surfaces. It is certainly not harsh, but it still lets you know that something is going on beneath the wheels. Riding the Pike and the 36 back to back on the same test loop, this muted feeling of the 36 persisted, even when we backed the compression damping right off.

We started off with one volume spacer and the suggested 79psi, which turned out to be a bit much for this 190-pound tester. Dropping it down towards 70, the fork would still not use all its travel except on the biggest hits. We began testing with FOX’s recommended settings on compression and rebound, which ended up being close to our day-to-day settings, with the exception of high speed compression which we backed off quite a bit. Even with just one volume spacer and relatively low air pressure, the fork is still very economical with how it uses its travel, giving up the last inch or so only when absolutely required. This translates to a lot of control and a bottomless feeling, especially when getting airborne.

As speeds pick up and the trail gets rougher, the 36 comes into its own. The word that comes to mind first when describing the way this fork performs is control. It never seems overwhelmed and the way it deals with medium sized hits and bigger chunk is extremely confidence inspiring. The chassis is exceptionally stiff which translates to improved precision, and the way the wheel tracks the ground provides a ton of grip. There is a bit of a whooshing noise going on as the fork rebounds, a good reminder that while you are enjoying the view behind the handlebars, there’s a lot of technology hard at work beneath you taking the drama out of the trail. It’s a good thing too, because the fork knows to make itself forgotten otherwise.

The 36 gives you control over both high speed and low speed compression damping in addition to rebound. As previously mentioned, the progressivity of the air spring can be tuned with volume spacers. Unlike the Pike, there is no lockout or pedal-assist mode, but when it comes to forks, that is never the first feature we look for. The adjustments on the 36 provide a very wide, usable range of settings allowing you to dial it in to suit your riding style and terrain. We experimented with additional volume spacers but eventually came back to just one. For reference, we ended up with about 5-6 clicks from fully OPEN on the high speed compression side, with low speed compression at 14-16 clicks from closed, and rebound at 10 clicks from closed. 1 token and 70 psi proved to be our sweet spot for most trails.

About halfway through the test, we converted the front axle from 15 to 20-mm. The procedure is simple, if anything removing the 4 (!) pinch bolts and the screw-in axle was almost the most time-consuming part here.

We almost wish we could say we noticed an effect on the stiffness or the performance of the fork as a result of fitting the bigger axle, but that was not the case. The truth is that a 15-mm front axle is more than stiff enough for anything you would ever consider putting a fork like this through. But having a fork that can do both is still awesome, especially if you own a DH bike and like to swap wheels now and then. One positive aspect of the pinch bolt system of the 36 is that the axle is allowed to float on one side before being locked down by the pinch bolts, which means that any hub width fluctuations will not affect the alignment of the fork lowers, which could otherwise cause some amount of bushing bind in extreme cases. On that very topic, we have not noticed any particularly significant occurrences of bushing bind on the 36, no doubt aided in this by the bigger bushing overlap and the generally low level of friction present in the fork.

To sum up our experiences with the 2016 FOX Float 36 RC2, it is clear that FOX has caught up with the leaders of the aggressive trail fork market. The new 36 is light, stiff, smooth, and offers almost complete adjustability. Back to back with the Pike, we feel that the Pike may still hold an edge in terms of how it deals with small bumps (as we previously alluded to, the 36 has a slightly more muted feel especially at cruising speed, which remains even with the compression dials backed all the way off). The tables are turned when it comes to the really rough stuff, here the 36 pulls slightly ahead with very impressive levels of control and poise. There is a slight weight difference (about 100 grams or so), and in real life also a financial penalty to the 36, it is up to you to decide if the differences between the 2 products is worth it. For this tester, the 36 took the performance of an already very capable bike up a notch further on the more serious trails, and we’ll be in no hurry to look for another fork at present. If we were, we’d probably look to the new Lyrik to provide an even closer match for the 36…

Things That Could Be Improved

For a fork that will certainly appeal to racers, finding a quick release solution for the front axle seems to be a real requirement. You can argue that if you flat in a world class enduro event your weekend is over, but every second counts when you’re still fighting for points, and grabbing your multi-tool to release 4 pinch bolts as well as the axle itself takes a lot longer than just winding out a QR. For the general public, we feel that the 15/20-mm compatibility and the slight reduction in weight is probably worth the inconvenience, as is the floating axle interface, but perhaps FOX should look into offering a race-oriented version of the RC2 with a choice of either 15 or 20-mm QR lowers.

The absence of any sag markings on the stanchions is inconvenient, as is the fact that there is no table of recommended pressures on the lowers. Sure, the 36 is essentially a high-end, pro-level fork, and you could argue that working out your settings involves more science than just looking at a rubber ring, nevertheless this is an area where FOX could make the product easier to live with.

A final word on the price. At MSRP, the 36 is not far off its main competitors, but the Pike in particular can be had for a lot less.

Long Term Durability

Previous generations of FOX forks were certainly a bit needy in terms of maintenance. The new 36 offers longer service intervals, although FOX still “unofficially” recommends a basic lower service every 50 hours. Depending on where you ride, this is pretty good practice with any fork, anyhow. Pulling the lowers to change oil and clean up the lowers is not a very demanding task on the 36, nor does it involve any special tools.

We’ve been on the 2016 version of the 36 for a good 2 months now, with no longevity issues to report at this stage. The performance of the fork remains the same, the finish has held up well to a few muddy rides, and all the adjustments remain easy to use with solid, confidence-inspiring clicks. We’ll keep a close eye on how the fork performs over the coming months, and we’ll report back towards the end of winter to let you know how it has been holding up.

What’s The Bottom Line?

Light, smooth, highly adjustable and just about as burly as you can make a single crown fork, the 2016 FOX Float 36 RC2 ticks all the boxes. It will compete on level terms with the main alternatives out there, and will really come into its own when the gnar factor increases. If it’s ultimate adjustability in a fork that packs a serious punch you’re after, look no further.

More information at www.ridefox.com.


About The Reviewer

Johan Hjord loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After many years spent practicing falling off cliffs with his snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Ever since, he’s mostly been riding bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many flaws as a rider. His 200-pound body weight coupled with unique skill for poor line choice and clumsy landings make him an expert on durability - if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much okay for anybody. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as "none" (when in actuality he rips!). Having found most trail features to be not to his liking, Johan uses much of his spare time building his own. Johan’s other accomplishments include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly on 11.


This product has no reviews yet.

Added a product review for Nukeproof Zero Stem 1/14/2016 7:23 AM
C138_stem34_1270x847

Tested: Nukeproof Warhead Carbon Handlebar and Zero Stem

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Johan Hjord // Photos by Nils Hjord and Johan Hjord

Nukeproof started life as a component maker, and although they have had great success with their line of complete bikes over the past few years, they are staying true to their roots as makers of reasonably priced, quality components. At the recent launch of the all-new Mega, we were given the opportunity to ride the latest carbon handlebars as well, and we liked them so much that we slipped a pair in our suitcase when nobody was looking. We’ve been riding ‘em ever since, and we’re here to let you know if we still like ‘em.

Nukeproof Warhead Carbon Highlights

  • Material: UD Carbon with added fiberglass
  • Sweep: 9° back-sweep, 6° up-sweep
  • Rise: 12mm / 25mm / 38mm
  • Width: 780mm
  • Clamp diameter: 31.8mm
  • Colors: Black
  • Supplied with clear protective scuff guard
  • Weight: 12mm rise = 235g / 25mm rise = 248g / 38mm rise = 260g
  • MSRP: $159.99 (USA), £99.99 (UK), 129.99 Euro

Nukeproof Zero Stem Highlights

  • Precision CNC machined from high-grade aluminum
  • Micro-fluting to help dissipate stress loads
  • Knee-friendly steerer clamp design
  • Bar clamp: 31.8mm
  • Length:50mm
  • Rise: 0 degrees
  • Colors: Black/Yellow, Black/Black, Yellow
  • Weight: 170g (including bolts)
  • MSRP: $79.99 (USA), £49.99 (UK), £64.99 Euro

Initial Impressions

Nukeproof has made a conscious effort to tone down the very distinctive styling and colors that made up the essential part of the company’s visual image over the past few years, in order to make it easier for “non-Nukeproof bike riders” to still run their components. The Warhead bars and Zero stem are both a stealthy black (although you can get the stem in the traditional Nukeproof yellow too if you so wish), with discreet graphics that give both items a quality appearance. In retail form, the bars are delivered with a clear, protective scuff-guard in the box to make sure they keep their appearance fresh, but since we nabbed ours off our test bike, we only made off with the components themselves. No harm no foul, torque to feel and all is good…

The bars feature markings to help with centering the cockpit, and a “gritty” middle section to give the stem extra purchase for a slip-free ride. The Zero stem is a chunky-looking affaire, machined from a solid billet – by appearance alone, it should certainly live up to its Nukeproof name. Nukeproof stuck with the “old” 31.8mm clamp diameter standard, after feeling like they achieved all their design goals without needing to step up to 35mm. With many claims being made regarding the 35mm standard being easier to “tune”, we were curious to see what Nukeproof’s answer to that would be. Turns out they have incorporated a fiberglass layer in the carbon layup, which they say helps make the bars a bit more compliant, as well as acting as an extra security layer in case of catastrophic failure. On that topic, Nukeproof have tested the Warhead carbon bar to almost twice the normal failure load of many aluminum bars – including their own (they cited 680kg before the bar broke, with most alloy bars snapping at 350kg in this particular test). Good news, since the last thing we ever want to worry about is having a handlebar snap mid-landing.

In terms of numbers, the Warhead bars feature the classic 9-degrees back, 6-degrees up sweep. At the request of Nukeproof’s DH racing team (Hill, Jones, Smith), a 38-mm rise version was also added to the line-up, giving you 3 options for dialing in front-end height (12-mm, 25-mm, and 38-mm). The Zero stem as you might have guessed already offers 0 degrees rise with the standard 50-mm length. Weight-wise, the Warhead tips the scales at 248 grams for the 25-mm rise version, which is about 10-20 grams above the main carbon competitors out there. The stem clocks in at 170 grams, including bolts, which is also about 10-30 grams more than many competitors. Pricing-wise, the Nukeproof cockpit is in the lower tier, which makes the slight weight penalty seem less significant.

On The Trail

Mounting up the new cockpit was straightforward, everything came together easily. The roughed-up, gritty area in the middle of the handlebars helps make sure they won’t slip in the stem, while the plentiful markings on the extremities assist with lining up your controls. We left the bars at the full 780-mm, but there are markings to help you cut should you wish to give them a trim. We finished off our new cockpit with Nukeproof’s Sam Hill Signature Series lock-on grips, and we were ready to hit the trails.

The Warhead angles felt very natural from the get-go, not a surprise given the numbers but it’s always good to make sure it all translates to the trail. And whether it’s down to the extra layer of fiberglass or just the overall design in general, we found the bars to be free of harshness and vibrations, even for long, rough runs. That was one of the stand-out aspects early on, which we confirmed during the long-term test as well. We should also add that we’re big fans of the Sam Hill grips, the half-waffle design works well but more than anything we appreciate their slight extra thickness – definitely spot-on for this tester. We also like that the outer lock-on ring incorporates the end cap.

When it comes to stems, they really only have one job. If they can hold the bars securely, they tick the basic functionality box. If in addition they can look good, not weigh too much, and not cost a fortune, then that’s so many extra bonus points. It’s hard to get excited when you’re writing about a stem, so to keep it short all we can report regarding the Zero is that it ticks all the boxes. Job done.

Things That Could Be Improved

We found that the finish of the bars scuffs up quite easily, but Nukeproof are ahead of you on that one since they include a transparent scuff guard in the box. We also found that we had to tighten our brake levers just a bit more than one some other carbon bars to keep them from slipping. Not a big problem, but perhaps something to address in a future version. No such issues with the grips however.

Long Term Durability

Apart from some scuffing of exposed areas of the handlebar (which could have been prevented had we obtained the transparent scuff guard that is included in the retail box), the Warhead bars have withstood all the abuse we could throw at them so far. As for the Zero stem, it still looks new. After a few months of testing, nothing leads us to believe that you would get anything but a few seasons of loyal service out of this pair.

What’s The Bottom Line?

Nukeproof had input from their world-class World Cup DH racing team when designing their new Warhead carbon bars, and they made the most of it. These bars are comfortable, won’t rough up your hands nor break the bank, and with more subtle graphics they are easier on the eyes too. Pair them up with the excellent Zero stem for a cockpit that looks and feels great on any bike.

More information at www.nukeproof.com.


About The Reviewer

Johan Hjord loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After many years spent practicing falling off cliffs with his snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Ever since, he’s mostly been riding bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many flaws as a rider. His 200-pound body weight coupled with unique skill for poor line choice and clumsy landings make him an expert on durability - if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much okay for anybody. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as "none" (when in actuality he rips!). Having found most trail features to be not to his liking, Johan uses much of his spare time building his own. Johan’s other accomplishments include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly on 11.

This product has no reviews yet.

Added a product review for Nukeproof Warhead Carbon Handlebar 1/14/2016 7:22 AM
C138_warhead_carbon_bar_gallery_1

Tested: Nukeproof Warhead Carbon Handlebar and Zero Stem

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Johan Hjord // Photos by Nils Hjord and Johan Hjord

Nukeproof started life as a component maker, and although they have had great success with their line of complete bikes over the past few years, they are staying true to their roots as makers of reasonably priced, quality components. At the recent launch of the all-new Mega, we were given the opportunity to ride the latest carbon handlebars as well, and we liked them so much that we slipped a pair in our suitcase when nobody was looking. We’ve been riding ‘em ever since, and we’re here to let you know if we still like ‘em.

Nukeproof Warhead Carbon Highlights

  • Material: UD Carbon with added fiberglass
  • Sweep: 9° back-sweep, 6° up-sweep
  • Rise: 12mm / 25mm / 38mm
  • Width: 780mm
  • Clamp diameter: 31.8mm
  • Colors: Black
  • Supplied with clear protective scuff guard
  • Weight: 12mm rise = 235g / 25mm rise = 248g / 38mm rise = 260g
  • MSRP: $159.99 (USA), £99.99 (UK), 129.99 Euro

Nukeproof Zero Stem Highlights

  • Precision CNC machined from high-grade aluminum
  • Micro-fluting to help dissipate stress loads
  • Knee-friendly steerer clamp design
  • Bar clamp: 31.8mm
  • Length:50mm
  • Rise: 0 degrees
  • Colors: Black/Yellow, Black/Black, Yellow
  • Weight: 170g (including bolts)
  • MSRP: $79.99 (USA), £49.99 (UK), £64.99 Euro

Initial Impressions

Nukeproof has made a conscious effort to tone down the very distinctive styling and colors that made up the essential part of the company’s visual image over the past few years, in order to make it easier for “non-Nukeproof bike riders” to still run their components. The Warhead bars and Zero stem are both a stealthy black (although you can get the stem in the traditional Nukeproof yellow too if you so wish), with discreet graphics that give both items a quality appearance. In retail form, the bars are delivered with a clear, protective scuff-guard in the box to make sure they keep their appearance fresh, but since we nabbed ours off our test bike, we only made off with the components themselves. No harm no foul, torque to feel and all is good…

The bars feature markings to help with centering the cockpit, and a “gritty” middle section to give the stem extra purchase for a slip-free ride. The Zero stem is a chunky-looking affaire, machined from a solid billet – by appearance alone, it should certainly live up to its Nukeproof name. Nukeproof stuck with the “old” 31.8mm clamp diameter standard, after feeling like they achieved all their design goals without needing to step up to 35mm. With many claims being made regarding the 35mm standard being easier to “tune”, we were curious to see what Nukeproof’s answer to that would be. Turns out they have incorporated a fiberglass layer in the carbon layup, which they say helps make the bars a bit more compliant, as well as acting as an extra security layer in case of catastrophic failure. On that topic, Nukeproof have tested the Warhead carbon bar to almost twice the normal failure load of many aluminum bars – including their own (they cited 680kg before the bar broke, with most alloy bars snapping at 350kg in this particular test). Good news, since the last thing we ever want to worry about is having a handlebar snap mid-landing. In the unlikely event you do manage to break one, Nukeproof backs the Warhead with a full lifetime warranty to the original purchaser.

In terms of numbers, the Warhead bars feature the classic 9-degrees back, 6-degrees up sweep. At the request of Nukeproof’s DH racing team (Hill, Jones, Smith), a 38-mm rise version was also added to the line-up, giving you 3 options for dialing in front-end height (12-mm, 25-mm, and 38-mm). The Zero stem as you might have guessed already offers 0 degrees rise with the standard 50-mm length. Weight-wise, the Warhead tips the scales at 248 grams for the 25-mm rise version, which is about 10-20 grams above the main carbon competitors out there. The stem clocks in at 170 grams, including bolts, which is also about 10-30 grams more than many competitors. Pricing-wise, the Nukeproof cockpit is in the lower tier, which makes the slight weight penalty seem less significant.

On The Trail

Mounting up the new cockpit was straightforward, everything came together easily. The roughed-up, gritty area in the middle of the handlebars helps make sure they won’t slip in the stem, while the plentiful markings on the extremities assist with lining up your controls. We left the bars at the full 780-mm, but there are markings to help you cut should you wish to give them a trim. We finished off our new cockpit with Nukeproof’s Sam Hill Signature Series lock-on grips, and we were ready to hit the trails.

The Warhead angles felt very natural from the get-go, not a surprise given the numbers but it’s always good to make sure it all translates to the trail. And whether it’s down to the extra layer of fiberglass or just the overall design in general, we found the bars to be free of harshness and vibrations, even for long, rough runs. That was one of the stand-out aspects early on, which we confirmed during the long-term test as well. We should also add that we’re big fans of the Sam Hill grips, the half-waffle design works well but more than anything we appreciate their slight extra thickness – definitely spot-on for this tester. We also like that the outer lock-on ring incorporates the end cap.

When it comes to stems, they really only have one job. If they can hold the bars securely, they tick the basic functionality box. If in addition they can look good, not weigh too much, and not cost a fortune, then that’s so many extra bonus points. It’s hard to get excited when you’re writing about a stem, so to keep it short all we can report regarding the Zero is that it ticks all the boxes. Job done.

Things That Could Be Improved

We found that the finish of the bars scuffs up quite easily, but Nukeproof are ahead of you on that one since they include a transparent scuff guard in the box. We also found that we had to tighten our brake levers just a bit more than one some other carbon bars to keep them from slipping. Not a big problem, but perhaps something to address in a future version. No such issues with the grips however.

Long Term Durability

Apart from some scuffing of exposed areas of the handlebar (which could have been prevented had we obtained the transparent scuff guard that is included in the retail box), the Warhead bars have withstood all the abuse we could throw at them so far. As for the Zero stem, it still looks new. After a few months of testing, nothing leads us to believe that you would get anything but a few seasons of loyal service out of this pair.

What’s The Bottom Line?

Nukeproof had input from their world-class World Cup DH racing team when designing their new Warhead carbon bars, and they made the most of it. These bars are comfortable, won’t rough up your hands nor break the bank, and with more subtle graphics they are easier on the eyes too. Pair them up with the excellent Zero stem for a cockpit that looks and feels great on any bike.

More information at www.nukeproof.com.


About The Reviewer

Johan Hjord loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After many years spent practicing falling off cliffs with his snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Ever since, he’s mostly been riding bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many flaws as a rider. His 200-pound body weight coupled with unique skill for poor line choice and clumsy landings make him an expert on durability - if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much okay for anybody. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as "none" (when in actuality he rips!). Having found most trail features to be not to his liking, Johan uses much of his spare time building his own. Johan’s other accomplishments include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly on 11.

This product has no reviews yet.

Added a product review for Hope Technology Pro 4 Front Hub 1/3/2016 11:50 PM
C138_pro4_front_std_002_587x692

First Ride: Hope Technology Pro 4 Hub

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Words like “legendary” and “classic” get thrown around a lot, but in the case of Hope’s Pro 2 hubs, they are entirely appropriate adjectives. With a combination of solid features, good looks, all-conditions reliability, reasonable pricing, ease of maintenance, and of course that distinctive Hope sound, the Pro 2 is one of the most popular aftermarket mountain bike hubs in the world. Today, the Pro 2 retires, and the Pro 4 is here to take its place. And since we managed to lay our hands on a pair a couple of months ago, we’re here to give you our impressions of the new hubs already.

Hope Pro 4 Highlights

  • Machined from forged 2014 T6 aluminum billet
  • Sealed Stainless Steel cartridge bearings
  • Standard 6 bolt disc fitting
  • Larger spoke flange to enable stiffer wheel builds
  • 24, 28, 32 and 36 hole drillings
  • Rear hub: 4-pawl ratchet with 44 tooth engagement (8.2 degrees)
  • Rear hub available in 135mm & 142mm widths, as well as 148mm Boost, DH-specific (narrow cassette), and 150/157 options
  • Rear hub conversions available for QR, 10mm bolt in, 10mm, 12mm and 142x12mm thru axles
  • Supplied with freehubs to suit 10/11spd Shimano or SRAM XD cassette, aluminum or steel freehub body options
  • Front hub available in standard 100mm width, conversions available for QR, 9mm, 12mm, 15mm, 20mm and Boost
  • 110mm Boost-specific front hub available
  • Trials and Fatbike specific hubs are also part of the Pro 4 family
  • Colors: Black, Silver, Red, Blue, Purple and Orange
  • Weight (rear 142mm): QR - 311g, 142mm - 300g, XD
  • Weight (front 100mm): QR - 187g, 9mm - 184g, 15mm - 181g, 20mm - 173g
  • MSRP: £67/€94/$110 (front) // £160/€225/$270 (135/142 rear)

Evolution, Not Revolution

The 2015 Vital Audience Survey pointed to a commanding 30% share of the “intent to purchase” custom wheel hub category for Hope, comfortably ahead of its nearest two competitors combined:

So how do you go about replacing a classic? The answer is, you do it incrementally. With enough changes to warrant a new number, the Pro 4 was designed to take everything that was good about the Pro 2 and update it to the newest standards. Before you get confused, we should point out that the Pro 3 which launched a couple of years ago was never a mountain bike hub. The latest mountain bike hub from the boys and girls in Barnoldswick was the Pro 2 EVO, which offered improved engagement and a stronger axle compared to the original Pro 2. The Pro 2 EVO family included 135, 142, and 150 rear axle spacing, and was joined last year by a Boost 148 version as well. The regular 100-mm front hub covered everything from 9-mm QR to 20-mm through-axle with just a simple swap of end-caps, and a 110-mm Boost version was released for the front as well. However, in light of the recent evolution in wheel sizes specifically, Hope felt that they needed to make a couple of other changes to really keep up. Enter the Pro 4.

Although it sports a new name (number), the Pro 4 is really an evolution of the Pro 2 EVO. It gets bigger flanges to help build stronger, stiffer wheels (even with non-Boost hubs), and the engagement improves another notch, up from 40 to 44 teeth (for 8.2 degrees of engagement). Apart from going to bigger bearings on the freehub side, the construction of the Pro 4 is otherwise very similar to that of the Pro 2 it replaces. A solid axle, a freehub body with 4 pawls that engage the drivering, and good seals to keep the elements out. Switching between different axle standards involves simply swapping out end-caps, basically a tool-less procedure.

So apart from the distinctive sound, what sets a Hope hub apart? Hope themselves say that it is all down to execution. They use very high quality bearings from dependable suppliers, and a very thorough inspection process for the hub shells, freehub bodies, and axles. This aims to make sure that all the components fit together perfectly, without putting any undue load on the bearings in the final assembly. Based on our own experience with Pro 2 hubs over the years, this attention to detail certainly seems to translate to excellent longevity and years of trouble-free riding with minimum maintenance. Time then to mount up a pair and see how the new Pro 4 would behave on the trails – but first, let’s answer the question that is on everybody’s mind, what DOES the new freehub sound like?

On The Trail

Hope sent us a complete Hope wheelset already built up to test. The Pro 4 hubs showed up in the new and rad orange color (one of six available to choose from), laced with 32 double-butted, J-bend spokes to Hope’s own “Enduro” rim, a 23-mm internal width aluminum rim weighing in at 510 grams for the 27.5” version.

The complete wheelset tipped our scales at 1978 grams (without rimstrip), a few grams less than Hope’s claimed weight. The hubs themselves weigh from 180 grams for the front and from 300 grams for the rear, these are the same numbers as those of the Pro 2 they now replace (and Hope have kept the prices the same as well, incidentally).

We converted our wheelset to tubeless immediately, which was easy enough with some 25-mm Stan’s tape and sealant. Our trusty Maxxis Highroller IIs went up with just a floor pump, and the wheels have held pressure really well ever since. Mounting up the brake rotors and cassette was similarly devoid of drama, and so we were ready to go.

First things first: the traditional Hope buzz is still there, just a little bit more “refined”, probably due to the 44t drive ring. The second aspect that stood out was how fast the wheels roll out. The freehub seals generate very little drag, and the stiff, single-piece axle coupled with quality bearings means that these hubs roll very quickly even under load. At 1978 grams, this wheelset isn’t as snappy under acceleration as a 1600-gram pair of hoops can be, but boy does it carry speed well.

The wheelset is very stiff and precise, and responds well to rider input. Despite the heavy build, it never feels harsh. At 8.2 degrees, the Pro 4 rear hub offers the kind of engagement that feels crisp under power. Sure, there are 4.5 and even 3-degree hubs out there, but in our experience, the noticeable improvement in the riding experience occurs when the engagement drops below 10. Hammering off the start line or ratcheting the cranks to get over obstacles with the Pro 4 rewards the rider with almost instant power transfer, without any noticeable drive train sponginess. With this latest improvement, we feel Hope is close to the perfect balance of rapid engagement and reliability of the freehub.

At “only” 23-mm, the Hope Enduro hoops are not keeping up with the latest wide rim trend. However, we should keep in mind that 23-mm was considered more than wide enough until not very long ago, and it is far from a handicap here. We played around a bit with tire pressures during this initial testing period, and the tubeless will easily hold for normal riding at pressures down to 20 psi, although at that point you are of course at the mercy of rockstrikes. On that topic, we have already subjected this wheelset to a fair amount of bad line choice and botched landings, and it has held up every well so far.

We’ve made sure to expose the hubs to a wide range of riding conditions already, with excellent results so far. From muddy woods to dry and rocky desert trails, the Pro 4’s have just gotten on with the job at hand. The wheels are still true, and the hubs are spinning freely. We’ll update this article in a few months’ time for a more solid report on longevity.

Pulling the hubs apart after this first month of riding revealed that the seals have indeed done their job with no visible contamination so far. Based on our experience with the Pro 2, we’d expect the Pro 4 to keep going strong for quite some time before requiring service or bearing replacement. As stated above, we’ll report back after a longer test period to check in on our how our expectations are doing at that time.

So Far, So Good!

The Pro 4 replaces the Pro 2, which as of today is no longer being produced by Hope. It brings improved engagement and wider flanges to the table, with the same high level of attention to detail in the overall construction that made the Pro 2 a staple of many a wheel builder’s arsenal. The king is dead – long live the king!

The Pro 4 is available as of today. For more information, head on over to www.hopetech.com.

Words by Johan Hjord // Photos by Tal Rozow and Johan Hjord

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Added a product review for Hope Technology Pro 4 Rear Hub 1/3/2016 11:42 PM
C138_blue_orange_purple_pro4

First Ride: Hope Technology Pro 4 Hub

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Words like “legendary” and “classic” get thrown around a lot, but in the case of Hope’s Pro 2 hubs, they are entirely appropriate adjectives. With a combination of solid features, good looks, all-conditions reliability, reasonable pricing, ease of maintenance, and of course that distinctive Hope sound, the Pro 2 is one of the most popular aftermarket mountain bike hubs in the world. Today, the Pro 2 retires, and the Pro 4 is here to take its place. And since we managed to lay our hands on a pair a couple of months ago, we’re here to give you our impressions of the new hubs already.

Hope Pro 4 Highlights

  • Machined from forged 2014 T6 aluminum billet
  • Sealed Stainless Steel cartridge bearings
  • Standard 6 bolt disc fitting
  • Larger spoke flange to enable stiffer wheel builds
  • 24, 28, 32 and 36 hole drillings
  • Rear hub: 4-pawl ratchet with 44 tooth engagement (8.2 degrees)
  • Rear hub available in 135mm & 142mm widths, as well as 148mm Boost, DH-specific (narrow cassette), and 150/157 options
  • Rear hub conversions available for QR, 10mm bolt in, 10mm, 12mm and 142x12mm thru axles
  • Supplied with freehubs to suit 10/11spd Shimano or SRAM XD cassette, aluminum or steel freehub body options
  • Front hub available in standard 100mm width, conversions available for QR, 9mm, 12mm, 15mm, 20mm and Boost
  • 110mm Boost-specific front hub available
  • Trials and Fatbike specific hubs are also part of the Pro 4 family
  • Colors: Black, Silver, Red, Blue, Purple and Orange
  • Weight (rear 142mm): QR - 311g, 142mm - 300g, XD
  • Weight (front 100mm): QR - 187g, 9mm - 184g, 15mm - 181g, 20mm - 173g
  • MSRP: £67/€94/$110 (front) // £160/€225/$270 (135/142 rear)

Evolution, Not Revolution

The 2015 Vital Audience Survey pointed to a commanding 30% share of the “intent to purchase” custom wheel hub category for Hope, comfortably ahead of its nearest two competitors combined:

So how do you go about replacing a classic? The answer is, you do it incrementally. With enough changes to warrant a new number, the Pro 4 was designed to take everything that was good about the Pro 2 and update it to the newest standards. Before you get confused, we should point out that the Pro 3 which launched a couple of years ago was never a mountain bike hub. The latest mountain bike hub from the boys and girls in Barnoldswick was the Pro 2 EVO, which offered improved engagement and a stronger axle compared to the original Pro 2. The Pro 2 EVO family included 135, 142, and 150 rear axle spacing, and was joined last year by a Boost 148 version as well. The regular 100-mm front hub covered everything from 9-mm QR to 20-mm through-axle with just a simple swap of end-caps, and a 110-mm Boost version was released for the front as well. However, in light of the recent evolution in wheel sizes specifically, Hope felt that they needed to make a couple of other changes to really keep up. Enter the Pro 4.

Although it sports a new name (number), the Pro 4 is really an evolution of the Pro 2 EVO. It gets bigger flanges to help build stronger, stiffer wheels (even with non-Boost hubs), and the engagement improves another notch, up from 40 to 44 teeth (for 8.2 degrees of engagement). Apart from going to bigger bearings on the freehub side, the construction of the Pro 4 is otherwise very similar to that of the Pro 2 it replaces. A solid axle, a freehub body with 4 pawls that engage the drivering, and good seals to keep the elements out. Switching between different axle standards involves simply swapping out end-caps, basically a tool-less procedure.

So apart from the distinctive sound, what sets a Hope hub apart? Hope themselves say that it is all down to execution. They use very high quality bearings from dependable suppliers, and a very thorough inspection process for the hub shells, freehub bodies, and axles. This aims to make sure that all the components fit together perfectly, without putting any undue load on the bearings in the final assembly. Based on our own experience with Pro 2 hubs over the years, this attention to detail certainly seems to translate to excellent longevity and years of trouble-free riding with minimum maintenance. Time then to mount up a pair and see how the new Pro 4 would behave on the trails – but first, let’s answer the question that is on everybody’s mind, what DOES the new freehub sound like?

On The Trail

Hope sent us a complete Hope wheelset already built up to test. The Pro 4 hubs showed up in the new and rad orange color (one of six available to choose from), laced with 32 double-butted, J-bend spokes to Hope’s own “Enduro” rim, a 23-mm internal width aluminum rim weighing in at 510 grams for the 27.5” version.

The complete wheelset tipped our scales at 1978 grams (without rimstrip), a few grams less than Hope’s claimed weight. The hubs themselves weigh from 180 grams for the front and from 300 grams for the rear, these are the same numbers as those of the Pro 2 they now replace (and Hope have kept the prices the same as well, incidentally).

We converted our wheelset to tubeless immediately, which was easy enough with some 25-mm Stan’s tape and sealant. Our trusty Maxxis Highroller IIs went up with just a floor pump, and the wheels have held pressure really well ever since. Mounting up the brake rotors and cassette was similarly devoid of drama, and so we were ready to go.

First things first: the traditional Hope buzz is still there, just a little bit more “refined”, probably due to the 44t drive ring. The second aspect that stood out was how fast the wheels roll out. The freehub seals generate very little drag, and the stiff, single-piece axle coupled with quality bearings means that these hubs roll very quickly even under load. At 1978 grams, this wheelset isn’t as snappy under acceleration as a 1600-gram pair of hoops can be, but boy does it carry speed well.

The wheelset is very stiff and precise, and responds well to rider input. Despite the heavy build, it never feels harsh. At 8.2 degrees, the Pro 4 rear hub offers the kind of engagement that feels crisp under power. Sure, there are 4.5 and even 3-degree hubs out there, but in our experience, the noticeable improvement in the riding experience occurs when the engagement drops below 10. Hammering off the start line or ratcheting the cranks to get over obstacles with the Pro 4 rewards the rider with almost instant power transfer, without any noticeable drive train sponginess. With this latest improvement, we feel Hope is close to the perfect balance of rapid engagement and reliability of the freehub.

At “only” 23-mm, the Hope Enduro hoops are not keeping up with the latest wide rim trend. However, we should keep in mind that 23-mm was considered more than wide enough until not very long ago, and it is far from a handicap here. We played around a bit with tire pressures during this initial testing period, and the tubeless will easily hold for normal riding at pressures down to 20 psi, although at that point you are of course at the mercy of rockstrikes. On that topic, we have already subjected this wheelset to a fair amount of bad line choice and botched landings, and it has held up every well so far.

We’ve made sure to expose the hubs to a wide range of riding conditions already, with excellent results so far. From muddy woods to dry and rocky desert trails, the Pro 4’s have just gotten on with the job at hand. The wheels are still true, and the hubs are spinning freely. We’ll update this article in a few months’ time for a more solid report on longevity.

Pulling the hubs apart after this first month of riding revealed that the seals have indeed done their job with no visible contamination so far. Based on our experience with the Pro 2, we’d expect the Pro 4 to keep going strong for quite some time before requiring service or bearing replacement. As stated above, we’ll report back after a longer test period to check in on our how our expectations are doing at that time.

So Far, So Good!

The Pro 4 replaces the Pro 2, which as of today is no longer being produced by Hope. It brings improved engagement and wider flanges to the table, with the same high level of attention to detail in the overall construction that made the Pro 2 a staple of many a wheel builder’s arsenal. The king is dead – long live the king!

The Pro 4 is available as of today. For more information, head on over to www.hopetech.com.

Words by Johan Hjord // Photos by Tal Rozow and Johan Hjord

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Added a product review for Royal 2016 Storm Short 12/15/2015 9:15 AM
C138_storm_short_blk_f

Tested: Royal Racing Storm Waterproof Short

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Johan Hjord // Photos by Nils Hjord and Johan Hjord

There is no bad weather, only bad gear. That is especially true when it comes to riding in the wet and in the cold. With their roots and development in the UK, the Royal Racing crew knows a thing or two about what it takes to keep comfortable when the heavens open up, and the Storm short is their ultimate weapon for combatting adverse atmospheric conditions. We took aim for the puddles and we’re ready to let you know if it is up to the task at hand.

Royal Racing Storm Short Highlights

  • Fully water proof, breathable and stretchy “3 layer” 10,000 MVP fabric
  • Fully tape sealed seam interior
  • X2 covered Zipped hand pockets
  • Reversed Waterproof zips throughout
  • Ratchet adjustable waist closure
  • Heat transfer logos
  • Bar tacked stress points
  • All ride fit
  • Sizes: S-XXL
  • Colors: Black
  • MSRP: $99.95 USD

Initial Impressions

If you’re going to get muddy, it’s probably smart not to be wearing your most colorful gear. Royal took note and the Storm is offered in all the Model-T Ford standard colors aka black. The short is made from a “fully waterproof and breathable” fabric, which may sound like a bit of a pipedream especially for anybody who ever had any experience with a $10 waterproof PVC shell from the local supermarket. There is sound science and modern technology behind the claim however: because water droplets are bigger than vapor particles, the pores of a fabric can be sized to only let the smaller vapor particles through. This means the fabric can stop rain water from penetrating while actually letting your sweat out. Gore-Tex is the name you most probably know this concept by, but Royal uses a different fabric supplier for the Storm.

A 10,000-mm WP rating means that the fabric can resist 10 meters of water pressure before water starts to soak through. As for breathability, a 10,000 MVP rating means 1 square meter of fabric can let 10,000 grams of moisture through in a 24-hour period. Together, these two numbers mean that the Royal Storm short should allow you to go play with bikes no matter what the weather does. Additionally, Royal uses a 3-layer version of the fabric, which adds an inner layer for extra comfort – Royal says you can wear the short directly on the skin if you so wish. For all the technology packed into the fabric, it is surprisingly thin and very light weight too.

The short features an uncluttered cut, and all the panels are taped together in addition to being sewn, to make sure water won’t leak in via the seams. There are 2 pockets featuring waterproofed zippers, the same is true for the fly. A ratchet closure lets you adjust the waist. The short is delivered without a liner.

In addition to its waterproof properties, the fabric is also coated with DWR – a “Durable Water Repellent”. This makes sure the fabric can’t absorb moisture. DWR doesn’t actually make the fabric waterproof, but it repels water off the surface which helps the garment avoid taking on moisture and weight. DWR wears off with time, but again, it is actually not responsible for waterproofing the fabric, so the garment would still function without it (and the DWR treatment can be refreshed). Time to go put all these fine intentions to the test then!

On The Trail

We’re big fans of Royal’s shorts in general. Over the last few years, the cuts have been perfected and optimized for bike riding, and the Storm short is no different. Not too loose, not too tight, and a shape that works well in the saddle. Additionally, the fabric employed for the Storm short is slightly stretchy, which gives it extra capability to follow your movements. The short is just the right length to cover your kneepads, and the hems are just roomy enough to accommodate even bulkier protection. The fabric is slightly noisier than a classic riding short, but not by much.

The sizing is slightly on the tight side at the waist, and there is not much give in this particular area. As a guesstimate, we’d say it feels about 10% tighter than the equivalent size in other Royal shorts, so take that into account if you are at the very top end of a size. If you need to cinch it down, no problem, the ratchet closure offers plenty of adjustability in that direction. Even though it doesn’t feature a stretch panel in the back, the short stays put at all times without restricting your movements.

We started testing by making sure everything works when it’s not raining, as this would give us a good idea of just how breathable the short actually is. We always run a chamois liner, but you could get away without one if that is your preference. The short is not insulated though, so unless it’s particularly warm we’d recommend the liner in any case. These first rides showed that the short does indeed breathe well. Of course, not as well as a non-waterproof, perforated short with vents would, but it also surprised us by being not too clammy even with the sun out. Perhaps more importantly, it dries up very quickly even if it gets a little steamy in the heat of the battle.

When it comes to wetter conditions, the Storm comes into its own. It absolutely lives up to its waterproof billing, and it does an awesome job of keeping you dry even in the worst downpours. Rain water tends to just slide off, thanks to the DWR coating, and whilst mud will cling on a bit more tenaciously, it cleans right off with just a garden hose and a soft sponge when you are done getting down and dirty. Because the fabric doesn’t actually absorb any moisture, the short never gets clingy, and it stays as light as when you first put it on.

We tried pretty much everything short of entering a mud wrestling contest to see if we could fault the Storm. No such luck, as it shrugged off even the nastiest winter goop we could dig up. A quick rinse, and back to business. The use of taped flatlock seams and relatively large panels of fabric helps to eliminate creases, folds, ridges and other areas for mud and grime to accumulate in. Royal says to hand wash this short, and based on our experience so far, that is all it will ever need to stay fresh.

Perhaps the biggest compliment we can give the Storm is that despite the fabric not being very stretchy, the short never makes its presence felt during riding. Whether it rains or not, the short remains light, comfortable, and keeps you feeling dry (and warm, if you layered up). A perfect winter short for any conditions, bar outright snowstorms.

Things That Could Be Improved

A tiny bit more flexibility in the waist area would help those at the top end of the sizing chart, especially during these festive times full of culinary delight. We would also like to see at least one of the two pockets be fully sealed from the inside as well as from the outside, because as it stands, the mesh pockets expose their contents to body heat and moisture.

Long Term Durability

We have not subjected the Storm short to a full winter season of riding yet, but what we have seen of it so far doesn’t point to any weaknesses in the durability department. The short is very well put together, and the materials are robust. The DWR coating will wear off after time, but the short should continue to do its job even when that happens – and the coating can always be refreshed if need be.

What’s The Bottom Line?

A waterproof and breathable short can transform your winter riding from a wet, soggy, and miserable experience to a fun day out. With the Storm, Royal delivers an all-day waterproof rated short that also breathes well enough to function on drier winter days. Comfortable and lightweight, the Storm will protect you from the elements while doing its utmost to be completely forgotten about. Shred, rinse, and repeat!

More information at www.royalracing.com.


About The Reviewer

Johan Hjord loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After many years spent practicing falling off cliffs with his snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Ever since, he’s mostly been riding bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many flaws as a rider. His 200-pound body weight coupled with unique skill for poor line choice and clumsy landings make him an expert on durability - if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much okay for anybody. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as "none" (when in actuality he rips!). Having found most trail features to be not to his liking, Johan uses much of his spare time building his own. Johan’s other accomplishments include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly on 11.


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Added a product review for Novatec Factor 327 Complete Wheel 11/27/2015 6:06 AM
C138_factor_f90

Tested: Novatec Factor 327 Wheelset

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Johan Hjord // Photos by Tal Rozow and Johan Hjord

There is no shortage of options in the current carbon wheelset market. Ranging from almost “cheap” to “more than you’d pay for a really good used bike”, we’re nearly at a point where there’s a carbon wheelset for every budget, if you take into account the direct sales brands out of China. Where does that leave us as consumers though? Carbon wheels have traditionally been one of those areas of the bike where you could spend a lot for what appears to be marginal gains in weight and performance, and with most high-end offerings still commanding a premium price tag that may well still be the case. Novatec has recently entered the fray with its Factor wheelset, a do-it-all set of hoops positioned at the top of the company’s line-up. Eager to find out what an $1800 upgrade will do for your bike, we mounted up a pair and put them to the test.

Factor 327 Highlights

  • TYPE: CARBON MTB DISC
  • INTERNAL RIM WIDTH: 23MM
  • ETRTO ERD: 569-23 511.4MM*
  • SPOKE COUNT F/R: 28/32
  • SPOKES: STAINLESS DOUBLE BUTTED
  • SPOKES: FRONT L/R (MM) L:10X251 R:10X253
  • SPOKES: REAR L/R (MM) L:12X248 R:12X246
  • LACING: FRONT/REAR F:3X/3X R:3X/3X
  • NIPPLE TYPE: BLACK / 2 RED 12MM ALLOY
  • HUBS: XD601SB / XD602SB
  • AXLE: FRONT/REAR 4-IN-1 SYSTEM BY NOVATEC
  • TUBELESS READY
  • CASS.BODY/COMPATIBILITY: AL7075 6-PAWL W/ PATENTED A.B.G. SYSTEM
  • AVAILABLE IN SHIMANO/SRAM OR XX1
  • OTHER PARTS: 4 SPARE SPOKES, STANDARD QUICK RELEASE (PAIR)
  • COLOR: BLACK ON BLACK
  • MSRP: $1800.00 USD
  • Initial Impressions

    Let’s start with some numbers, more specifically the number of dollars you have to part ways with to buy one of these wheelsets. There is no getting away from the fact that carbon manufacturing is expensive, and except for the direct-from-the-factory offerings like Nextie and Light-Bicycle, carbon wheelsets still cost a lot of money. Pulling the Factors from the box, we obviously couldn’t ignore the price tag, but at least we didn’t feel ripped off. This wheelset is beautifully finished and it was certainly built with care (there’s a spoke tension chart and a quality control report included as if to further underline this point). Also, when it comes to protecting your investment, know that Novatec offers a $200/wheel crash replacement program which includes a new rim and even the cost of the rebuild if you ship them your wheel (in the US).

    Novatec uses a high compaction carbon rim reinforced with “Matrisilk”, mated to a pair of new hubs front and rear with bladed J-bend spokes (two of which are silver instead of black and feature red nipples). The rear hub now offers 120 points of engagement, which translates to 3 degrees or “pretty damn quick” in plain English. Novatec achieved this by giving the drive ring 60 teeth, and using 6 offset pawls that engage three at a time. Each pawl also features a pair of teeth to help distribute the loads better and to ensure slip-free performance.

    The stated goal for the Factor wheelset was “to put power to the ground as quickly and efficiently as possible” – in other words, not to build the lightest wheelset out there. Our XD-driver equipped wheelset came in at 1799 grams with rimstrips, about 100 grams above Novatec’s claimed weight. Although not heavy in the traditional sense, that is still a fair bit more than the lightest competing carbon wheelsets out there, and even in line with or more than many aluminum offerings. Not necessarily what you expect to find with a carbon wheelset.

    The rims are 23-mm wide internally, which is a bit behind in today’s wider-is-better market. But let’s not forget that until just recently, 23-mm was still considered a wider rim, perfectly well suited to anything up to 2.5” tires. The rim profile is deep, and the center channel is fairly narrow. Novatec went with a classic bead hook instead of the hook-less variety starting to pop up here and there these days.

    We set our wheels up tubeless, which was not as easy as it can be on a standard aluminum profile. Notably, you need to make sure you have a long valve stem with a small rubber end to squeeze into the center channel. Tubeless rim tape also had a hard time sticking to the internal carbon surface, but it all came together nicely as soon as we added sealant. Time to hit the trails to see what it would all amount to in use.

    On The Trail

    There is something about a fresh carbon wheelset that makes you expect to fly down the trail. What we found with the Factors was not so much an improvement in out-and-out rolling performance as in stiffness and power transmission. From the very first pedal strokes, these wheels feel solid. The super quick engagement coupled with a stiff build translates to a very direct feeling on the pedals with no power loss or sponginess to report. Heading into a turn that same efficient feeling persists, with the bike reacting quickly and precisely to your steering input.

    In two and a half months on the Factors we’ve pretty much done what we could to give them a hard time, stopping short of deliberately aiming for square rocks with 12 psi in the tires. They’ve been mounted to two different bikes, and they’ve seen some really rocky and rooty terrain, and they have yet to flinch. Pressures from 25-28 psi worked great, and the Factors shrugged off the occasional rim strikes when our lines ceased to be a matter of choice, or when we were too lazy to top up our tires. We ran 2.4 Highroller 2s with EXO casing as a “happy medium” kind of tire choice, and even though we went with the non-tubeless version we had no issues getting them to seat and stay on the rim. With sealant, they held pressure well too.

    The 23-mm internal width worked well enough with our 2.4” tires. Having recently tested several 30+ mm rims we will say that a wider rim offers a lot of stability and does provide for extra grip under the right circumstances, but 23-mm is still a perfectly acceptable solution. The “just-right” stiffness of the Factors also adds to their surefootedness in rough terrain, and we found ourselves confidently charging lines and holding our off-cambers.

    The super-quick, 3-degree engagement of the rear hub spoils you in a hurry. Ratcheting your way through technical terrain feels so much better when your bike reacts pretty much instantly to pedal input. The hub also makes a nice buzzing sound, like being followed by a swarm of angry wasps in the distance. If it’s a silent ride you want, look elsewhere, but the Factors are not loud to the point of becoming overbearing.

    To summarize our riding experience with the Factors, trouble-free is the term that jumps to mind. 2.5 months is usually more than enough time for us to put quite a few flat spots in any aluminum rim, and by that time we’d certainly be reaching for a spoke key to true things up again. With the Factors, nothing to report. They spin every bit as straight and true as the day we got them, and that is easily their most impressive trait. Sure, we’d ask for them to be lighter and wider almost as a point of principle, but that would be ignoring our actual experience on the trail and the results we’ve seen so far. If they carry on as they have started, they will begin to look like a pretty good investment at some point.

    Things That Could Be Improved

    As we just alluded to, carbon rims have gotten wider and lighter over the last 12 months. It would be easy to say that the Factors have already been left behind with their 1800-grams and 23-mm internal width, but in truth, they have been very impressive both in regards to durability and performance. On the trail, they still feel like an upgrade.

    We’d like to see a slightly wider internal channel to make tubeless set-up easier. By the same token, improving the internal finish of the carbon would make tubeless tape conversions easier as well. As it currently stands, the internal surface is a bit rough and there is some kind of greasy residue that doesn’t play nice with rim tape. We’d probably even argue that at $1800 they should be taped for tubeless out of the box.

    The wheels currently use 4 different spoke lengths, which of course makes keeping spares a trickier proposition. Novatec do include 1 spare of each length with the wheelset, but that is effectively sort of like having 1 spare.

    The main seal on the freehub side drags a bit. On the flipside, it has worked surprisingly well to keep moisture and mud out of the freehub itself, and if this small amount of drag is the price to pay for that, we’ll still take it.

    The price then, you say? Well yes, $1800 is an awful lot of money to hand over for a wheelset that doesn’t automatically produce KOMs on demand, and that doesn’t drop a pound of weight from your bike. The reality is that most competing carbon wheelsets list for anything from $1500 to $2500, which actually puts the Factors on the right side of the average. We’re not including the Asian direct-sales brands in this comparison, since we lack any kind of first-hand experience with these products it would be unfair or at least non-founded to consider them equal in performance at this point. And sure, you can build a really high-quality aluminum wheelset for a lot less than $1800, but our experience with carbon wheels to date show that they give you a legitimate shot at running the same pair of wheels for a significantly longer period of time – at least if you don’t spend all your riding time bashing sharp rocks at low psi.

    Long Term Durability

    After 2.5 months of solid abuse including rock gardens and harsh landings, the Factors are inspiring confidence. They have held perfectly true, even the spoke tension seems very consistent still. The hubs are tight and the bearings spin smooth and free without play. Pulling the freehub revealed that the seals have worked to keep the grime out of the innards, and there was still plenty of grease in there too. Note that the drive ring is now held in place by notches in the hub shell, which should put a stop to the slipping drive ring issues that plagued some Novatec hubs in the past. 2.5 months is a bit short to give a final verdict on bearing service life, but we’re off to a good start here.

    The surface of the rims picked up some scratches when we got into the rocky desert riding season, but any damage is purely superficial and cosmetic if that.

    What’s The Bottom Line?

    We wanted to feel strongly about the cost vs. weight vs. width equation with the Factor 327, but the truth is that we were won over on the trail. It is a solid wheelset that feels just right in terms of overall stiffness, and it has taken a lot of abuse in stride. It is not the lightest wheelset out there, nor does it score very high on the admittedly subjective bling scale, but what it will do is do its job, and it does so extremely well. The hub offers super-fast engagement and Novatec seems to have taken steps to address any longevity concerns here as well. All in all we feel this is wheelset that will stay the course and let you get on with just riding your bike, for seasons to come. That’s worth quite a lot in our books.

    More information at www.novatecusa.net/factor.


    About The Reviewer

    Johan Hjord loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After many years spent practicing falling off cliffs with his snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Ever since, he’s mostly been riding bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many flaws as a rider. His 200-pound body weight coupled with unique skill for poor line choice and clumsy landings make him an expert on durability - if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much okay for anybody. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as "none" (when in actuality he rips!). Having found most trail features to be not to his liking, Johan uses much of his spare time building his own. Johan’s other accomplishments include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly on 11.

    This product has no reviews yet.

    Added a product review for Nukeproof Horizon Pro Sam Hill Flat Pedal 11/16/2015 7:56 AM
    C138_horizon_white_bg_1

    First Look: Nukeproof Horizon Pro Flat Pedal Sam Hill Edition

    Rating:

    The Good:

    The Bad:

    Overall:

    If we could ask anybody in the world to conceive our next flat pedal, Sam Hill would be right up there on the list. The crew at Nukeproof lucked out, because with Sam on their team that is exactly who they got to help when they set out to design the new Horizon pedal. Keep reading to see what they came up with.

    Nukeproof Horizon Pro Sam Hill Highlights

    • Body Material:Forged 6061-T6 alloy with CNC finishing.
    • Bearing Type: 2 x DU bushings & 4 x sealed cartridge bearings (per pair)
    • Spindle: CroMo or Ti
    • Pins: 20 pedals per pedal, adjustable
    • Colors: Black with polished face
    • Weight:  438 g (verified)
    • MSRP (CroMo spindle): $129.99 USD
    • MSRP (Ti spindle): $279.99 USD
    • Also available: regular Pro version, non Sam Hill edition (plain black)

    The Horizon gets its name from the fact that it appears flat at first glance, but actually presents a slight concave shape. One stated design goal was to avoid having any kind of bumps or protrusions on the face of the pedal, which was achieved by not making it super thin. Featuring the usual angled leading edges, the Horizon spins on one DU bushing and two sealed cartridge bearings per side. There is a lip seal to help keep moisture and grit out of the innards as well.

    Additionally, the Horizon Pro features adjustable pins to allow Sam to eek out every last bit of grip from his pedals. Basically, Sam wanted the longest pins possible, but since that might not always be in the best interests of Mr. Joe Average, Nukeproof included a set of washers that keep the longer edge pins in check. Remove the washers to get your Sam on (your shins may not thank you!) The six edge pins screw in from the rear, while the four middle pins go in from the top. As usual, this means these four grub screws fill up with dirt very quickly making it hard to tighten or remove them sometimes, but on the flipside, spares are incredibly easy to come by. Yin and yang.

    At 110x100x17-mm the Horizon is inline with many other offerings among the current "flat and wide" crop of flat pedals. Sure there are some slightly thinner options out there, but the completely flat face of the Horizon is a bonus, as is the fact that a slightly thicker pedal means bigger bushings and bearings, which hopefully should bode well for longevity. The Horizon weighed in at 438-grams, which is slightly above many competitors, but once again Nukeproof have favored strength over grams saved, which we probably agree with in principle. For those with deeper pockets you can drop ~75-grams for the pair with the Ti axle upgrade.

    We've had the Horizons out on quite a few rides so far, and we have been very impressed with the grip. Without even resorting to removing the washers (we're too scared!) these things grab hold of your feet and won't let go. Paired with FiveTen Stealth rubber it's like clipping in. The shape is spot on, and has pins in all the right places. We've put quite a few scuffs and dings on them already, but so far, no major issues to report beyond the scratched-up looks. The pedals spin freely enough, with just a bit of drag that appears to be caused by the rubber lip seal. We'll take that over contaminated bearings any day.

    More information at: www.nukeproof.com.

    This product has no reviews yet.

    Added a product review for 2016 Nukeproof Mega 29 Pro Bike 11/11/2015 10:04 AM
    C138_nukeproof_mega_launch_tuesday_1180

    First Look/First Ride: 2016 Nukeproof Mega 27.5 and 29

    Rating:

    The Good:

    The Bad:

    Overall:

    ​With 150-mm of travel and aggressive angles, the original, 2011 Nukeproof Mega was in many ways at the forefront of the modern trail/enduro bike evolution. It was conceived to do well at the infamous Megavalanche, and as a result, it also happened to set up well for any ride that involves going up to shred the downs, aka mountain biking. When we were asked to come check out the 2016 edition of the Mega, it wasn't hard to convince us. Add in the fact that the launch event was going to take place in Dolceacqua on the Italian Riviera, and our bags were practically packing themselves.

    The Mega 27.5 Pro may be from Northern Ireland, but it felt right at home in the Italian Alps.

    2016 Nukeproof Mega 27.5/29 Pro Highlights

    • Frame Material: 6061 Aluminium
    • 27.5" Front/Rear Travel: 160/160mm
    • 29" Front/Rear Travel: 150/150mm
    • Fork: RockShox Pike RCT3, (27.5" 160mm / 29" 150mm), SA, Black
    • Shock: RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 Debonair, (27.5" 216X63mm LL tune / 29"200X56mm, LL tune)
    • Derailleur - F: N/A
    • Derailleur - R: SRAM X-1, Black, 11 speed
    • Shifter - F: N/A
    • Shifter - R: SRAM X-1, Black, 11 Speed
    • Crankset: SRAM X1 1200, 170mm, 32T
    • Cassette: SRAM XG-1175, 10-42T
    • Chainguide: N/A
    • Chain: SRAM PC-X1
    • Wheels: SRAM Roam 40, 27.5"/29", Black/Silver,
    • Tyres - F: Schwalbe Magic Mary, Snake Skin, Trail Star, 27.5"/29"
    • Tyres - R: Schwalbe Nobby Nic, Snake Skin, Pace Star, 27.5"/29"
    • Seatpost: Rockshox Reverb Stealth, 150mm
    • Handlebars: Nukeproof Warhead 20mm Rise, 760mm, Black/Grey
    • Stem: Nukeproof Zero, 50mm, Black/Grey
    • Saddle: Nukeproof Trail Saddle, Black/Black
    • Brakes: SRAM Guide RS
    • Rotors: SRAM Centreline 180mm
    • Headset: Top ZS44-28.6-T2
    • Headset: Bottom ZS56-40-B8
    • Sizes: SM/MD/LG/XL
    • Weight: 28.6lb (27.5),28.9lb (29), size Medium
    • Availability: limited quantities in December 2015, February 2016 GA

    The Mega 29 joins the 27.5

    Initial Impressions

    We pulled into scenic Dolceacqua, nestled in a valley close to Ventimilia on the Italian Riviera, not knowing what to expect. Carbon or alu, angles, wheel size and more were questions in need of answers. The previous generation Mega included the 160-mm Mega AM as well as the 130-mm Mega TR, but what would the story be for 2016? A spectacular sunrise provided a suitable backdrop for discovering what Nukeproof had cooked up for us - and a certain Mr. Hill was on hand as well, making getting up in the morning even more worthwhile...

    No more

    The previous generation 160-mm Mega AM was a lot more popular than the TR version, so for this new generation Nukeproof did away with the shorter travel option on the smaller wheels altogether. To cater to riders looking for a slightly different experience, the 29er wheel was introduced to the Mega for the first time. However, the 29er isn't meant to replace the old TR version - with only 10-mm less travel and aggressive angles it is every bit as capable as the 27.5" version.

    Easily one of the best-looking wagon-wheelers to date, the Mega 29 proved equally inspiring on the trail.

    The second big piece of news for the 2016 Mega is the move to a Horst Link rear suspension layout. Nukeproof's bikes have traditionally always been single-pivot, linkage-driven designs, but when the designers went looking for performance improvements notably in regards to suspension performance under braking, they eventually settled on the Horst Link.

    In terms of numbers, the original Mega was very much one of the trend-setters when it comes to the slack-head-angle-steep-seat-tube game, and the new Mega evolves to stay bang up to date. 65 degrees HA for the 27,5" version, and 66 for the 29er are among the slackest trail/enduro bikes out there, and the 75.5-degree effective seat tube angle is equally steep. The reach has been stretched by about 20-mm for each size (there are still 4 sizes available), while the BB has dropped a further 7-mm below the axles to sit at -10. Chainstays have shrunk by 10-mm to a short 435-mm for the 27.5" version, while extending to 450-mm to accommodate the bigger wheels of the 29er. The longer reach and slacker head angle both conspire to create a significantly longer wheelbase than on the previous generation Mega, even with the 10-mm shorter stays of the 27.5" version.

    From then to now - the original Mega prototype from 2009-2010 helped shape modern trail bike geo.

    The overall design of the new frame is much slimmer in appearance and has lost much of the "industrial" aspect of the previous generation, which translates to actual weight loss on the scales as well. Similar to the new Pulse DH bike, the Mega gets a particularly skinny top tube, which Nukeproof says has been specifically tuned to provide the frame with a degree of "vertical compliance". Having been able to reach their weight and stiffness goals for the new Mega with aluminum, the company has no plans to introduce a carbon version currently.

    The skinny top tube adds vertical compliance to the frame says Nukeproof.

    In terms of frame features, Nukeproof opted to keep it simple with external cable routing and no adjustability options. Since they were able to achieve all their design goals with "good old" 142-mm rear spacing and a 73-mm threaded BB shell, they have also stayed away from Boost and Pressfit. The Mega offers front derailleur compatibility for those whose climbs are long and steep, although only the one entry level model is sold as such (the rest are all 1x).

    When it comes to suspension performance, the move to a Horst Link design has altered some of the characteristics of the previous Megas.A progressive leverage curve helps the suspension ramp up to deal with big hits, allowing Nukeproof to spec a Low compression tune on the Monarch shock. Anti-squat and anti-rise numbers have both been toned down significantly compared to older generations of the Mega, which frees up the suspension to work more independently of pedaling and braking forces. This is especially noticeable on rough, technical climbs. The shock's platform switch is helpful when trying to combat the slight amount of pedal bob, though we didn't feel a pressing need to use it often.

    Brown: old Mega TR 130, Green: old Mega AM 160, Blue: new Mega 27.5, Purple: new Mega 29 (click image to zoom).

    On The Trail/Riding Impressions

    Day one of riding saw us head out on an "epic" alpine day. We opted to hop aboard the 27.5" Mega first, to give us a first impression of the new bike with the wheelsize we do most of our riding on. We were hosted by www.super-natural.it who know the area like the back of their hand (having built many of the trails we rode). The first ride they laid out for us involved a shuttle followed by an almost hour-long climb, which earned us the right to thoroughly enjoy 1000s of feet of descending across everything from high alpine rock fests to loamy forest trails.

    Uplifting your bike and your spirits - we still had lots of climbing ahead of us though.

    The Mega 27.5 was easy to get along with on the climb. The upright seat tube put us in a great spot for pedaling, and bobbing was well controlled. The new Mega is an efficient climber that also reacts well when you lay down the power. The long travel and relatively modest anti-squat numbers mean it is not the most crisp sprinter out there, but it is far from sluggish and picks up the pace nicely across flatter terrain with ease.

    With views like this, we gladly carried our camera gear, and the Mega 27.5 was a great packmule. - photo Duncan Philpott/Nukeproof

    As soon as the trail points downwards, the Mega is in its element. We found it very easy to get used to, and it inspired lots of confidence right from the first runs. Small-bump compliance and grip are both excellent, and the slack head-angle and long wheelbase make for a very forgiving ride when things get rough. The Mega 27.5 happily put up with some of our usual less-than-stellar line choice, and held its composure even when we did not. It strikes a good balance between long wheelbase and short chainstays which creates a very functional compromise for all but the tightest of trails.

    The Mega 27.5 had our back - even with the big photo pack! - photo Duncan Philpott/Nukeproof

    Whether or not the "vertical compliance" Nukeproof says they have designed into the frame had something to do with it, the Mega provided a very cushioned feel when things got rougher. The progressive rear suspension ramps up to take on bigger hits, and the bike also tolerates being ridden with quite a wide range of sag values. 30-35% worked well for us and still left the last bit of travel in reserve, although we didn't come across much in terms of bigger jumps/drops to really test this out. Schwalbe's Magic Mary/Nobby Nic combo in Trailstar trim worked well across all the different surfaces we frequented, although there were quite a few punctures in the group on some of the faster, rockier trails. If this sounds like your regular ride, you'll need to consider heavier duty rubber.

    Day two and more shuttles on the agenda. We hopped on the 29er to see what the addition of bigger wheels would do to the Mega. When it comes to climbing, the immediate benefit of the bigger hoops is the ability to float over uneven surfaces, making those long rough fireroad burns much more manageable. You still need to put in the same amount of work to lift your body and bike up the hill, but you waste a lot less energy hanging up on rocks and roots.

    All the fun with extra security, the Mega 29 surprised us. - photo Duncan Philpott/Nukeproof

    Pointing the Mega 29 down the trail proved quite a revelation. It gains an extra level of sure-footedness and inspires even more confidence than the 27.5" version, with almost no penalty in terms of agility. To be clear, some of the tightest trails proved slightly more challenging to move around, but for the rest, we found ourselves getting on the gas more often and feeling more relaxed about it. The 29er equals the 27.5" version in terms of playfulness and willingness to get airborne, but it adds speed and a safety blanket that you can get used to in a hurry. 150-mm of travel and a 66-degree head angle are numbers that would not look out of place on many an aggressive 27.5" trail bike - on the 29er they are monster truck territory. With that said, the biggest compliment we can give Nukeproof here is that going from one bike to the other felt very natural, proof that wheel size alone does not a bike make.

    Speaking of monster trucks, Sam Hill joined us for the launch event. Unable to try the 29er "for religious reasons", he made everything look far too easy on the new Mega 27.5. Hitting lines blind at speed, he was as unphased by the terrain as they come. We were stoked to see him healthy and enjoying his new bike, even if they were only brief glimpses as he pulled away down the trail...

    Blink and you'll miss him.

    2016 Nukeproof Mega Pro Build Kit

    We rode the 2nd-highest tier, Pro version of the Mega in both 27.5" and 29" guise. At this level you get a full compliment of SRAM and RockShox parts, from the ubiquitous Pike RCT3 right down to the wheelsets, with Nukeproof's own component line used to round out the build.

    The RockShox Pike/Monarch Plus combo is tried and tested and performed at a high level during our two riding days. SRAM's excellent Guide RS stoppers were more than up to the task of slowing us down during long runs on steep terrain, although we think Nukeproof could spec 200-mm rotors up front, at least on the larger frame sizes. SRAM's Roam wheels proved solid, although they seemed to exhibit a certain amount of flex and sounded distinctly "twangy" on the 29er, leaving us wondering how they will fare in the long run on the big-wheeler.

    We ran the new Nukeproof Horizon Sam Hill edition pedals for both days - pretty much as much grip as we have ever experienced.

    The choice of 150-mm drop on the Reverb is to be applauded, especially on a bike that likes to get this rowdy. X1 shifting was accurate and we had no dropped chains during the two days. Nukeproof's handlebar has comfortable angles, but we would rather see the bike ship with a 780-mm version instead of 760 - you can always cut but the opposite is not true. Nukeproof's own "Trail" saddle may also end up in your parts bin fairly quickly, as it is not the most comfortable bum-perch we have come across.

    2016 Nukeproof Mega Geometry

    2016 Nukeproof Mega Pricing

    Mega 275 Build Kits

    (click image to zoom)

    Mega 29 Build Kits

    (click image to zoom)

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

    Words and photos by Johan Hjord // Action photos by Duncan Philpott

    This product has no reviews yet.

    Added a product review for 2016 Nukeproof Mega 27.5 Pro Bike 11/11/2015 10:03 AM
    C138_nukeproof_mega_launch_tuesday_1184

    First Look/First Ride: 2016 Nukeproof Mega 27.5 and 29

    Rating:

    The Good:

    The Bad:

    Overall:

    ​With 150-mm of travel and aggressive angles, the original, 2011 Nukeproof Mega was in many ways at the forefront of the modern trail/enduro bike evolution. It was conceived to do well at the infamous Megavalanche, and as a result, it also happened to set up well for any ride that involves going up to shred the downs, aka mountain biking. When we were asked to come check out the 2016 edition of the Mega, it wasn't hard to convince us. Add in the fact that the launch event was going to take place in Dolceacqua on the Italian Riviera, and our bags were practically packing themselves.

    The Mega 27.5 Pro may be from Northern Ireland, but it felt right at home in the Italian Alps.

    2016 Nukeproof Mega 27.5/29 Pro Highlights

    • Frame Material: 6061 Aluminium
    • 27.5" Front/Rear Travel: 160/160mm
    • 29" Front/Rear Travel: 150/150mm
    • Fork: RockShox Pike RCT3, (27.5" 160mm / 29" 150mm), SA, Black
    • Shock: RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 Debonair, (27.5" 216X63mm LL tune / 29"200X56mm, LL tune)
    • Derailleur - F: N/A
    • Derailleur - R: SRAM X-1, Black, 11 speed
    • Shifter - F: N/A
    • Shifter - R: SRAM X-1, Black, 11 Speed
    • Crankset: SRAM X1 1200, 170mm, 32T
    • Cassette: SRAM XG-1175, 10-42T
    • Chainguide: N/A
    • Chain: SRAM PC-X1
    • Wheels: SRAM Roam 40, 27.5"/29", Black/Silver,
    • Tyres - F: Schwalbe Magic Mary, Snake Skin, Trail Star, 27.5"/29"
    • Tyres - R: Schwalbe Nobby Nic, Snake Skin, Pace Star, 27.5"/29"
    • Seatpost: Rockshox Reverb Stealth, 150mm
    • Handlebars: Nukeproof Warhead 20mm Rise, 760mm, Black/Grey
    • Stem: Nukeproof Zero, 50mm, Black/Grey
    • Saddle: Nukeproof Trail Saddle, Black/Black
    • Brakes: SRAM Guide RS
    • Rotors: SRAM Centreline 180mm
    • Headset: Top ZS44-28.6-T2
    • Headset: Bottom ZS56-40-B8
    • Sizes: SM/MD/LG/XL
    • Weight: 28.6lb (27.5),28.9lb (29), size Medium
    • Availability: limited quantities in December 2015, February 2016 GA

    The Mega 29 joins the 27.5

    Initial Impressions

    We pulled into scenic Dolceacqua, nestled in a valley close to Ventimilia on the Italian Riviera, not knowing what to expect. Carbon or alu, angles, wheel size and more were questions in need of answers. The previous generation Mega included the 160-mm Mega AM as well as the 130-mm Mega TR, but what would the story be for 2016? A spectacular sunrise provided a suitable backdrop for discovering what Nukeproof had cooked up for us - and a certain Mr. Hill was on hand as well, making getting up in the morning even more worthwhile...

    No more

    The previous generation 160-mm Mega AM was a lot more popular than the TR version, so for this new generation Nukeproof did away with the shorter travel option on the smaller wheels altogether. To cater to riders looking for a slightly different experience, the 29er wheel was introduced to the Mega for the first time. However, the 29er isn't meant to replace the old TR version - with only 10-mm less travel and aggressive angles it is every bit as capable as the 27.5" version.

    Easily one of the best-looking wagon-wheelers to date, the Mega 29 proved equally inspiring on the trail.

    The second big piece of news for the 2016 Mega is the move to a Horst Link rear suspension layout. Nukeproof's bikes have traditionally always been single-pivot, linkage-driven designs, but when the designers went looking for performance improvements notably in regards to suspension performance under braking, they eventually settled on the Horst Link.

    In terms of numbers, the original Mega was very much one of the trend-setters when it comes to the slack-head-angle-steep-seat-tube game, and the new Mega evolves to stay bang up to date. 65 degrees HA for the 27,5" version, and 66 for the 29er are among the slackest trail/enduro bikes out there, and the 75.5-degree effective seat tube angle is equally steep. The reach has been stretched by about 20-mm for each size (there are still 4 sizes available), while the BB has dropped a further 7-mm below the axles to sit at -10. Chainstays have shrunk by 10-mm to a short 435-mm for the 27.5" version, while extending to 450-mm to accommodate the bigger wheels of the 29er. The longer reach and slacker head angle both conspire to create a significantly longer wheelbase than on the previous generation Mega, even with the 10-mm shorter stays of the 27.5" version.

    From then to now - the original Mega prototype from 2009-2010 helped shape modern trail bike geo.

    The overall design of the new frame is much slimmer in appearance and has lost much of the "industrial" aspect of the previous generation, which translates to actual weight loss on the scales as well. Similar to the new Pulse DH bike, the Mega gets a particularly skinny top tube, which Nukeproof says has been specifically tuned to provide the frame with a degree of "vertical compliance". Having been able to reach their weight and stiffness goals for the new Mega with aluminum, the company has no plans to introduce a carbon version currently.

    The skinny top tube adds vertical compliance to the frame says Nukeproof.

    In terms of frame features, Nukeproof opted to keep it simple with external cable routing and no adjustability options. Since they were able to achieve all their design goals with "good old" 142-mm rear spacing and a 73-mm threaded BB shell, they have also stayed away from Boost and Pressfit. The Mega offers front derailleur compatibility for those whose climbs are long and steep, although only the one entry level model is sold as such (the rest are all 1x).

    When it comes to suspension performance, the move to a Horst Link design has altered some of the characteristics of the previous Megas.A progressive leverage curve helps the suspension ramp up to deal with big hits, allowing Nukeproof to spec a Low compression tune on the Monarch shock. Anti-squat and anti-rise numbers have both been toned down significantly compared to older generations of the Mega, which frees up the suspension to work more independently of pedaling and braking forces. This is especially noticeable on rough, technical climbs. The shock's platform switch is helpful when trying to combat the slight amount of pedal bob, though we didn't feel a pressing need to use it often.

    Brown: old Mega TR 130, Green: old Mega AM 160, Blue: new Mega 27.5, Purple: new Mega 29 (click image to zoom).

    On The Trail/Riding Impressions

    Day one of riding saw us head out on an "epic" alpine day. We opted to hop aboard the 27.5" Mega first, to give us a first impression of the new bike with the wheelsize we do most of our riding on. We were hosted by www.super-natural.it who know the area like the back of their hand (having built many of the trails we rode). The first ride they laid out for us involved a shuttle followed by an almost hour-long climb, which earned us the right to thoroughly enjoy 1000s of feet of descending across everything from high alpine rock fests to loamy forest trails.

    Uplifting your bike and your spirits - we still had lots of climbing ahead of us though.

    The Mega 27.5 was easy to get along with on the climb. The upright seat tube put us in a great spot for pedaling, and bobbing was well controlled. The new Mega is an efficient climber that also reacts well when you lay down the power. The long travel and relatively modest anti-squat numbers mean it is not the most crisp sprinter out there, but it is far from sluggish and picks up the pace nicely across flatter terrain with ease.

    With views like this, we gladly carried our camera gear, and the Mega 27.5 was a great packmule. - photo Duncan Philpott/Nukeproof

    As soon as the trail points downwards, the Mega is in its element. We found it very easy to get used to, and it inspired lots of confidence right from the first runs. Small-bump compliance and grip are both excellent, and the slack head-angle and long wheelbase make for a very forgiving ride when things get rough. The Mega 27.5 happily put up with some of our usual less-than-stellar line choice, and held its composure even when we did not. It strikes a good balance between long wheelbase and short chainstays which creates a very functional compromise for all but the tightest of trails.

    The Mega 27.5 had our back - even with the big photo pack! - photo Duncan Philpott/Nukeproof

    Whether or not the "vertical compliance" Nukeproof says they have designed into the frame had something to do with it, the Mega provided a very cushioned feel when things got rougher. The progressive rear suspension ramps up to take on bigger hits, and the bike also tolerates being ridden with quite a wide range of sag values. 30-35% worked well for us and still left the last bit of travel in reserve, although we didn't come across much in terms of bigger jumps/drops to really test this out. Schwalbe's Magic Mary/Nobby Nic combo in Trailstar trim worked well across all the different surfaces we frequented, although there were quite a few punctures in the group on some of the faster, rockier trails. If this sounds like your regular ride, you'll need to consider heavier duty rubber.

    Day two and more shuttles on the agenda. We hopped on the 29er to see what the addition of bigger wheels would do to the Mega. When it comes to climbing, the immediate benefit of the bigger hoops is the ability to float over uneven surfaces, making those long rough fireroad burns much more manageable. You still need to put in the same amount of work to lift your body and bike up the hill, but you waste a lot less energy hanging up on rocks and roots.

    All the fun with extra security, the Mega 29 surprised us. - photo Duncan Philpott/Nukeproof

    Pointing the Mega 29 down the trail proved quite a revelation. It gains an extra level of sure-footedness and inspires even more confidence than the 27.5" version, with almost no penalty in terms of agility. To be clear, some of the tightest trails proved slightly more challenging to move around, but for the rest, we found ourselves getting on the gas more often and feeling more relaxed about it. The 29er equals the 27.5" version in terms of playfulness and willingness to get airborne, but it adds speed and a safety blanket that you can get used to in a hurry. 150-mm of travel and a 66-degree head angle are numbers that would not look out of place on many an aggressive 27.5" trail bike - on the 29er they are monster truck territory. With that said, the biggest compliment we can give Nukeproof here is that going from one bike to the other felt very natural, proof that wheel size alone does not a bike make.

    Speaking of monster trucks, Sam Hill joined us for the launch event. Unable to try the 29er "for religious reasons", he made everything look far too easy on the new Mega 27.5. Hitting lines blind at speed, he was as unphased by the terrain as they come. We were stoked to see him healthy and enjoying his new bike, even if they were only brief glimpses as he pulled away down the trail...

    Blink and you'll miss him.

    2016 Nukeproof Mega Pro Build Kit

    We rode the 2nd-highest tier, Pro version of the Mega in both 27.5" and 29" guise. At this level you get a full compliment of SRAM and RockShox parts, from the ubiquitous Pike RCT3 right down to the wheelsets, with Nukeproof's own component line used to round out the build.

    The RockShox Pike/Monarch Plus combo is tried and tested and performed at a high level during our two riding days. SRAM's excellent Guide RS stoppers were more than up to the task of slowing us down during long runs on steep terrain, although we think Nukeproof could spec 200-mm rotors up front, at least on the larger frame sizes. SRAM's Roam wheels proved solid, although they seemed to exhibit a certain amount of flex and sounded distinctly "twangy" on the 29er, leaving us wondering how they will fare in the long run on the big-wheeler.

    We ran the new Nukeproof Horizon Sam Hill edition pedals for both days - pretty much as much grip as we have ever experienced.

    The choice of 150-mm drop on the Reverb is to be applauded, especially on a bike that likes to get this rowdy. X1 shifting was accurate and we had no dropped chains during the two days. Nukeproof's handlebar has comfortable angles, but we would rather see the bike ship with a 780-mm version instead of 760 - you can always cut but the opposite is not true. Nukeproof's own "Trail" saddle may also end up in your parts bin fairly quickly, as it is not the most comfortable bum-perch we have come across.

    2016 Nukeproof Mega Geometry

    2016 Nukeproof Mega Pricing

    Mega 275 Build Kits

    (click image to zoom)

    Mega 29 Build Kits

    (click image to zoom)

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

    Words and photos by Johan Hjord // Action photos by Duncan Philpott

    This product has no reviews yet.

    Added a product review for FUNN Black Magic Flat Pedal 10/26/2015 7:43 AM
    C138_s1600_funn

    First Look: FUNN Black Magic Flat Pedal

    Rating:

    The Good:

    The Bad:

    Overall:

    It's hard to stand out in today's flat pedal market. Beyond thin and flat, pretty much anything goes, and all you have to do is stroll through the alleys of Eurobike to see what "anything" means. And as we were, FUNN's new Black Magic caught our eye not because it's trying to be the most extravagant flat pedal ever made, but rather because it is made from thermoplastic and it sports a price tag that won't scare anybody away. We grabbed a pair to see what you can do with a few recycled PET bottles these days.

    FUNN Black Magic Highlights

    • Body material: Thermoplastic derived from recycled PET bottles
    • Size: 103x98x17-mm
    • Number of pins: 16 per pedal
    • Colors: Black body, number of options for pins and end cap
    • Weight: 360-grams (claimed), 353-grams (verified) per pair
    • MSRP: $55 USD
    • Availability: Jan/Feb 2016

    The FUNN pedal is very light (at 353-g verified for the pair, they are among the lighter options out there full stop), and the body presents a fairly classic flat pedal shape. There are 8 pins per side, that screw in from the top (the pins screw into a nut on the other side, since threading the plastic is not an option here).

    We failed to grab some of the more colorful optional pins and end caps, which left us with a black on black and very ordinary looking set of platforms. The overall size is in line with many other options on today's market, and although at 17-mm you can find thinner options the Black Magic still qualifies as flat and thin. Interestingly, the body is made from recycled PET bottles, which if nothing else leaves you feeling like FUNN is at least taking a responsible approach to waste management and plastic in general.

    The pedals feature one bearing and one bushing per side. The overall shape of the pedal should make it suitable for most types of riding, and during a quick test ride we found we had just enough room to feel comfortable with a size 12 (US) shoe.

    The Black Magic is an interesting alternative for those looking to spend less. |t is not the only plastic MTB pedal option out there, but it presents a solid feature set and a classic shape that will make it a good choice for trail riding and messing about in general. For more information head on over to www.funnmtb.com.

    Text by Johan Hjord / Photos by Tal Rozow and Johan Hjord

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    Added a product review for Specialized Ambush Open Face Helmet 10/5/2015 1:40 PM
    C138_cyan

    Tested: 2015 Specialized Ambush Helmet

    Rating:

    The Good:

    The Bad:

    Overall:

    Review by Johan Hjord // Photos by Nils Hjord and Johan Hjord

    Specialized has been making helmets for a long time, but they have been slow to develop an extended coverage half-shell which has become the go-to helmet type of choice for most aggressive trail riders and/or enduro racers over the last couple of years. They took their time to get it right, and when we first laid eyes on the new Ambush lid, our first thought was that it was time well spent. Read our review to find out what some trail time would reveal.

    Specialized Ambush Highlights

    • Aramid-Reinforced Skeleton provides internal EPS support.
    • “Energy Optimized” Multi-Density EPS construction helps to manage impact energy.
    • “Mindset 360” fit system provides a secure, customizable fit with 360-degree tension adjustment, five height positions, and an integrated dial for easy, on-the-fly adjustments.
    • Micro indexing visor allows for a wide range of fast, secure on-trail adjustments, as well as convenient goggle stowage.
    • “4th Dimension Cooling System” with massive vents, internal cross-channels, and aligned exhaust ports increases airflow to keep you cool.
    • Low profile in-molded shell with smooth, snag-free exterior shape.
    • Extended coverage for added protection and durability.
    • Lightweight, quick-drying liner features a “Gutter Action Brow” that channels moisture away from eyes.
    • “Tri-Fix” web splitter for improved comfort and ease of strap adjustments.
    • Sizes: S, M, L
    • Colors: Green, Grey, White/Grey, White/Red, Orange, Cyan
    • Weight: 311-grams (size M, verified)
    • MSRP: $180.00 USD

    Initial Impressions

    Pulling the Ambush out of the box, the first aspect to make an impression was the weight, or rather the lack thereof. At just over 300 grams (weighed and verified), the Ambush is among the lightest helmets in the class. Second, it was immediately clear that Specialized sought to build a well-ventilated helmet. The Ambush features 20 large vents, many of which connect together internally to form what Specialized calls the “4th Dimension Cooling System”. That sounds decidedly space-age and probably a bit over the top, but as we were going to be testing this helmet over summer, we were eager to see if it would translate to a real-life benefit as well as something cool to print on the box.

    Continuing our inspection of the Ambush revealed a helmet that appeared to have been very well put together, and also an innovative approach to fit adjustment. Of course, the marketing guys went to town when naming it, but more importantly, the “Mindset 360” system also actually offers something new: the classic fit dial has been integrated in the helmet shell, and the internal harness adjusts itself around the whole head. The result is first of all a system that should give a snug and easy to adjust fit, but also make more room to extend the helmet’s rear coverage, since interference with the dial is no longer an issue. Interestingly, each size can now also cover a broader range (our Medium sample is recommended for heads sized 54-60cm, a range that would typically require 2 sizes to cover).

    Concluding the initial overview of the Ambush, the visor features an indexed adjustment system that offers enough range to be pushed back to accommodate your goggles between runs, as well as the “Tri-Flex” strap splitter that is meant to provide plenty of space between the straps for the ears and be very simple to adjust. Notably absent from the roll call are MIPS and any kind of POV camera mount. Some people believe that if you have hair, you probably don’t really need MIPS, but you should of course make up their own mind on that. As for the ubiquitous POV mount, there is a pretty big flat area on the top of the helmet that will accept the classic stick-on mounts, but at $180 USD MSRP it would not be a big ask to have an integrated solution.

    On The Trail

    Getting the Ambush to fit couldn’t be easier. Pop it on your head, and twist the adjustment dial until the helmet is snug. Adjust the chin strap length and you’re good to go (no need to worry about the how long the straps around the ears should be, since they are set at one length thanks to the “Tri-Fix” system). The height/position of the helmet on the head can also be adjust by sliding the top part of the internal harness in or out, with 5 positions to choose from here. Those with weird headshapes (or ponytails!) will be stoked to know that the range of this adjustment is such that you don’t have to worry about your headshape or hair pushing the helmet too far down in your face, a common issue with certain other helmets out there. In terms of aesthetics, looks are subjective and the dreaded mushroom look is always a menace to be taken seriously when it comes to mountain bike half shells, but we think the Ambush is one of the better looking options out there.

    The initial impression of lightness carries over to the trail. The helmet makes itself forgotten in a hurry, snug but never uncomfortable, secure but never constricting. The pads are relatively thin, which doesn’t give you that near full-face feeling of some other extended half-shells, but that also means the Ambush breathes a lot better. You can feel the shape of the forehead pad when you first put the helmet on, but this never translated into a pressure point for us. We’ve had plenty of long days in the saddle to test this aspect, and the Ambush was never anything but comfortable.

    A helmet is not usually worn by itself, and Specialized did a great job of making sure the Ambush will play nice with eyewear of different kinds. The shape of the helmet just around the ear provides enough room for the temples of your sunglasses, while the rear of the helmet features an area specifically designed to secure your goggles if you decide to go full enduro. As previously mentioned, the visor has a wide range of adjustability designed into it in order to let you push your googles up onto the front of the helmet out of the way for the climbs. Note that if you use particularly tall goggles, they may well push the helmet up/back on the head (depends on the shape of your head/face). We got better results with a slightly lower profile goggle.

    In terms of safety, the Ambush features an internal aramid skeleton and a multi-density EPS liner, and it is CPSC, SNELL, and CE 1078:2012 certified. We’ve thankfully managed to avoid taking any serious hits to the head while using the Ambush, so our first-hand experience falls short on this particular point. Objectively speaking however, the helmet fits securely and it really wraps around the rear part of the skull, leaving us no reason to feel anything less than well-protected with the Ambush.

    So what with all that ventilation? We received the Ambush at the start of a very hot summer, and it very quickly became our first choice when going out riding. It is quite simply one of the absolutely most well-ventilated helmet we have tested so far in this category. No, the “Gutter Action Brow” thing doesn’t actually work when your face turns into the Niagara Falls, but we have yet to come across an actual working solution to this particular problem anyway. For the rest, there’s plenty of airflow and the thin pads help your head to not feel like it’s sat in the pressure cooker waiting to boil.

    Things That Could Be Improved

    The Ambush features awesome ventilation, but the absence of any kind of internal netting means that stuff can also get in through all those vents. It’s not a major point, but when you make that many vents the question of adding a little netting to keep flora and fauna out becomes legitimate. Personally, we’ll take our chances with the bugs if it’s the price of keeping cool.

    Other than that, we’d point to the price as one aspect we think can be improved upon. Sure, it’s always easy to complain about price, but looking at what else is available in the market, the Ambush sits close to the top. The lack of a POV camera mount in the spec list becomes harder to look past as the price increases too. Having said that, if we judge the Ambush purely on performance and comfort, it’s worth every cent.

    Long Term Durability

    We’ve been using the Ambush for just about 3 months now, and it seems to be holding up very well to life on the trails and in the trunk. The finish is very resistant to scratching, and the interior of the helmet is still fairly fresh, despite having to cope with ridiculous amounts of sweating and no maintenance so far. We see no reason why you wouldn’t get multiple seasons of use out of the Ambush, especially since Specialized include a spare set of pads in the box. The EPS liner is not designed for multiple impacts however, so if you do take a serious hit to the helmet it will need to be retired.

    What’s The Bottom Line?

    Specialized took its sweet time coming up with the Ambush, but after 3 months on the trail we certainly feel it was worth the wait. The Ambush is light, comfortable, and breathes exceptionally well for a helmet in this category. The extended coverage adds protection, while the innovative adjustment system is easy to use and provides a very secure fit. Some will undoubtedly feel that the pricetag is a bit steep, especially given the lack of MIPS or a POV camera mount, but if we judge the Ambush purely on function, it’s an awesome performer and should definitely find its way onto your helmet shopping short list.

    More information at www.specialized.com.


    About The Reviewer

    Johan Hjord loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After many years spent practicing falling off cliffs with his snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Ever since, he’s mostly been riding bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many flaws as a rider. His 200-pound body weight coupled with unique skill for poor line choice and clumsy landings make him an expert on durability - if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much okay for anybody. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as "none" (when in actuality he rips!). Having found most trail features to be not to his liking, Johan uses much of his spare time building his own. Johan’s other accomplishments include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly on 11.


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    Added a product review for 7iDP Flex Knee Pad 8/20/2015 7:17 AM
    C138_yth_flex_f

    Tested: 2015 7iDP Flex Knee Pad

    Rating:

    The Good:

    The Bad:

    Overall:

    Review by Johan Hjord // Photos by Nils Hjord and Johan Hjord

    7iDP’s range of protection keeps growing, and the latest addition to the family slots right into the line-up to cater to the ever-growing group of riders looking for lighter weight, pedal-friendly pads that are still up for some abuse. How much abuse is up to you, you will never catch 7iDP overselling the capabilities of their protective gear, but it sits in the middle of their range which gives some indication of design priorities. No better place than the trail to find out what’s what though, so that’s just where we’ve been testing the Flex knee pad over the last couple of months. Read on to find out how we got along.

    7iDP Flex Knee Main Features

    • X-Profile cap for narrow profile fit
    • Low weight, high strength 1mm cap for superior fit and pedal motion
    • Double layer polygon perforated custom foam to increase air flow and reduce weight
    • Upper calf muscle supports to prevent pad from slipping
    • Center adjustment strap provides even tension above calf muscle and around top of pad
    • Fabric flex supports protect the knee in conjunction with the X-Profile knee cap
    • Custom iDP polygon neoprene is light and offers great ventilation
    • Designed beyond CE EN 1621/1 standards to ensure maximum protection
    • Sizes – S/M/L/XL
    • MSRP: $64.95

    Initial Impressions

    As with other 7iDP gear, packaging is a fairly classy affaire, and pulling the Flex pads out of the box reveals more of the same regarding the product itself. 7iDP takes R&D very seriously, and the Flex pad is an elaborate piece of kit, despite its price which is resolutely reasonable. A multitude of different materials were used to put the Flex together, and the result is a pad that looks very sleek and modern, and feels particularly light compared to other pads in this category.

    The Flex features a thin hard shell cap coupled with layers of foam, covered in a sturdy outer fabric. The cut of the pad is called “X-profile”, which gives the Flex an aggressive pre-curved shape meant to provide a snug, low-profile fit while accommodating the pedaling motion on the bike. The strap system is innovative, featuring 2-sided adjustment both on the top strap as well as the lower calf strap – this is meant to help ensure a balanced fit. Silicone grippers around the top and bottom openings help hold the pad in place as well.

    The foam padding extends to the side of the knee, not quite to the extent you would expect to find on a DH-type pad, but it’s there. The back of the pad is open in the knee area, and the 2-way stretch material employed around the back is very thin and well-ventilated. These 2 aspects help ensure maximum breathability in an area that requires little in terms of protection.

    On The Trail

    Pulling the Flex pads on for the first time revealed a snug fit. It’s not quite to the point of calling it a half-size, but definitely consider sizing up if you are typically between sizes. The second point we noticed immediately is that the fit is indeed optimized for pedaling – the pad sort of sticks out awkwardly when you stand around with straight legs or walk around the parking lot.

    The design of the 2-way adjustable straps is awesome, not because they allow for a “balanced fit” but because they provide a very wide range of adjustability, while helping to hold the pads in place AND not offering your shorts anything to snag on. Bonus points right there. Placing the calf strap above the calf muscle is also a particularly smart move, since this is the ideal location to cinch a pad down if you want to avoid it sliding down your leg.

    Our honey moon was not all rosy. The Flex pad mocked its own name by being stubbornly snug and causing some mild irritation behind the knee. It took longer than average for this pad to break in, which is perhaps ultimately not a bad thing – stick with it, and eventually you’ll be rewarded with a pad that becomes more comfortable but that doesn’t stretch to the point of becoming useless. We also found that the Flex is sensitive to how you place it on the knee. Make sure the rear opening is in the exact right spot, and that the fabric didn’t bunch up when you slipped the pads on (particularly if you were already sweating by that time), and you’re good to go.

    The X-profile cut is anything but just marketing speak. The Flex pad works really well for long days in the saddle with lots of pedaling on the menu. The pre-curved shape comes into its own once you are on the bike, and the fabrics and materials used remain comfortable on the skin as the day goes by. We noticed a small amount of rubbing noise from within the pad as the layers move against each other, but it is minimal and not a nuisance (and not unusual either).

    When it comes to getting dirty, we’ve taken full advantage of very dusty and slippery summer conditions to perform multiple advanced crash dummy tests with the Flex. Several comedy wipe-outs and one nasty high speed get-off saw the Flex sail through with full marks, keeping our knees safe despite going down straight onto the pads. Only a particularly graceful attempt at burrowing through the inside of a turn managed to eventually displace the Flex pad, leaving our knee exposed and a bit worse for wear. A pad with a hard outer shell might well have kept sliding in this scenario, instead of biting into the ground and eventually twisting out of position, but that is a choice you make when opting for more pedal-friendly protection, and not something we hold against the Flex. Quite to the contrary, as the snug profile and excellent retention features of this pad helped it hold on during several crashes where we would not have been surprised to find it around the ankle post-carnage. High marks for the Flex in this category of protection.

    With time, the Flex became very comfortable, to the point of making it our go-to pad for all kinds of riding. If you frequently hit the park or the shuttles you would certainly go for a burlier knee pad, but for all other types of fun, the Flex cuts it. And it comes in at a great price point too, especially considering how many features 7iDP have packed into it.

    Things That Could Be Improved

    The thread used to stitch the thin strip of fabric that closes off the edges of the opening at the back of the knee seems to be the culprit for the chafing we experienced early on in the test. It is less flexible than the rest of the material in this area. The opening could thus be made more flexible and comfortable without sacrificing the retention capabilities, assured by the calf strap. Design-wise, that is the only thing we would look at changing on the Flex.

    Long Term Durability

    As previous stated, we’ve developed a nasty habit of failing to keep the rubber side down recently, and as a result, the Flex has seen a lot of action. And after about 2.5 months of intensive testing, the pad is still going strong. The stitching around the edges of the rear opening has come undone in a couple of spots on one of the pads, we’d put that down to the thread used here, which is a little bit less flexible than the surrounding material. For the rest, no tears, no loosening straps, and the general state of the pads is pretty good even though they’ve been subjected to copious amounts of sweating and a distinct lack of regular washing. Crucially, the front of the pad is still in one piece, despite being used as landing gear every so often. Unless you are crashing in rock gardens or bailing at the dirt jumps daily, these pads should give you at least a season of intensive riding if not more.

    What’s The Bottom Line?

    The Flex knee pad was designed to offer proper protection in a lightweight and pedal-friendly package. 7iDP scores high marks on all counts, and we have no trouble trusting this pad to see us through long days in the saddle with plenty of drama along the way. The cut is perfect, and the innovative straps help give these pads a very secure fit. They take a little longer to break in, but they will reward you with lasting performance and comfort in the knowledge that they will be there when you need them. Add in the competitive price point, and you’re looking at a serious contender, well worthy of your attention and a place on your shortlist.

    More information at www.7protection.com.


    About The Reviewer

    Johan Hjord loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After many years spent practicing falling off cliffs with his snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Ever since, he’s mostly been riding bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many flaws as a rider. His 200-pound body weight coupled with unique skill for poor line choice and clumsy landings make him an expert on durability - if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much okay for anybody. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as "none" (when in actuality he rips!). Having found most trail features to be not to his liking, Johan uses much of his spare time building his own. Johan’s other accomplishments include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly on 11.

    This product has no reviews yet.

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