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Added a product review for Royal 2015 Victory Gloves 6/19/2015 3:39 AM
C138_victory_blk_ylw_wht

Tested: 2015 Royal Victory Glove

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

Royal has had a Victory glove in its line-up for quite some time, but 2015 saw a complete overhaul of the model that resulted in a lighter, thinner glove, in keeping with the overall product line direction we’ve seen from Royal of late. Based on good experiences with previous generations of Royal gloves, we were eager to put this latest offering to the test, which is exactly what we did. Read on to find out how we got on.

Main Features

  • Sublimated Cool-span back of hand fabric
  • Pre-curved ride friendly “crease free” tailored shape
  • All over raised TPR protective design
  • Vented neoprene embossed cuff
  • Hook and loop closure cuff tab
  • Micro-Fiber “Wipe” thumb panel
  • Perforated “Stretch” AX palm with extended cuff tab
  • Available in BLACK/YELLOW/WHITE, BLUE/YELLOW/WHITE or RED/BLUE/WHITE
  • Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL
  • MSRP: $34.95

Initial Impressions

Royal has simplified its glove range for 2015, leaving the Victory as the top of the line offering intended for every kind of riding from trail to DH. Royal’s stated focus with its entire glove line up is on dexterity, weight, and comfort, and this is obvious in the Victory glove. Despite its aggressive intentions, it remains a thin and well-ventilated glove, devoid of the heavier fabrics and extra reinforcements often found on gloves in this category.

Don’t mistake thin and comfortable for minimalistic however, as this is far from the case with the Victory. The design is elaborate, with a pre-curved shape made for biking. It is not as curved as the Quantum glove we tested last year, but it is nevertheless first and foremost designed to conform to the shape of the grip. Additionally, the glove features a snot/sweat wipe, a padded neoprene wrist area that helps keep the glove snug on the hand, a small hook-and-loop closure to facilitate getting into and out of the glove, as well as a perforated palm area to help with ventilation. All in all, a comprehensive design worthy of a glove in this price bracket.

The back of the glove features a lightweight mesh fabric for extra breathability. The graphics on the back of the hand are of the raised TPR variety, intended to add a degree of protection from wayward branches and other close encounters of the painful kind. The “fourchettes” (the area on the side of and between each finger) are made of Lycra, which extends forwards around the fingertip. Time to figure out what all this translates to on the trail then!

On The Trail

The Victory is easy to put on thanks to the hook-and-loop cuff closure. Right off the bat, the glove was comfortable, and offered a great fit on the hand. The fingers are just the right length, and the rest of the glove is snug without being too tight. The pre-curved shape helps avoid any bunching up of excess material in the palm area, a sure-fire way to ruin your riding experience.

A good way to check how well your gloves work on the bike is whether or not they end up riding up on the hand throughout the ride, specifically from the wrist towards the palm area. The Victory remains in place no matter how hard you tug on your bars, mainly thanks to the small but solid cuff closure, as well as that neoprene upper cuff area.

In terms of protection, the Victory’s palm area is a notch above the thinnest glove from Royal. We’ve done our best to torture it, but it’s kept on coming back for more with nary a scratch to show for all our riding, digging, and dirt sampling. The rest of the glove offers fairly minimal protection, especially the back of the hand which won’t really keep you out of harm’s way if you enjoy the occasional bout of bushwhacking.

As has been the case with several gloves from Royal recently, there are no silicone grippers on the brake fingers. No need for concern though, as we never found ourselves wanting in this department, including during the wet rides. A final point concerning the all-important sweat-wiper – it’s a feature we never want to be without, and the Victory’s faux-suede pad does a great job. Comfortable and effective, but not too thick so as to resemble a huge sponge stuck to your thumb.

Things That Could Be Improved

Our only gripe with the Victory glove is the relatively exposed fingertip area. Royal’s Quantum glove offers a wraparound design where the palm material extends right along each finger and up around the fingertip, which adds durability in this exposed area. On the Victory, the Lycra fourchettes continue around the fingertip, which is a solution that is notably less resistant to abrasion of course. We’d welcome the wraparound design on the Victory as well.

Long Term Durability

Overall, the Victory has stood up very well to about 2.5 months of solid abuse. We’ve worn the glove non-stop for week-long riding adventures, trail rides, park days, and the occasional spot of digging. Rain or shine, the Victory has been our go-to glove for the duration of this test, and it has come through with flying colors. The palm area looks great still, and the rest of the glove is also holding up fine so far, despite being ridden hard and put away wet (and muddy!) on more than one occasion.

We’ve noticed the first signs of stretching on the top of the thumb area, and we suspect this is where the glove will eventually fail, but this is not all that uncommon in many glove designs.

There is always a trade-off between comfort and resilience, and let’s face it – buying new gloves mid-season isn’t unheard of. So far however, we’ve been impressed with the Victory glove, and it likely has months of life in it still. Which is convenient, because we certainly plan to keep using it.

What’s The Bottom Line?

The Victory glove was designed to cater to most kinds of riding with particular focus on dexterity, comfort and light weight. It ticks all those boxes in a feature-rich package that comes in at a competitive price, and the MTB-specific cut makes it a stand-out performer in our books. If you’re willing to trade ultimate protection for a little more comfort and breathability in a glove that is still ready for DH abuse, put the Victory on your short list.

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 Sombrio Disciple Jersey 5/24/2015 8:25 AM
C138_sombrio_disciple_jersey_big_air_black

Tested: Sombrio Pinner Short and Disciple Jersey

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

Sombrio has been a staple of the all mountain and freeride scene for many years, but despite the popularity of the gear, the brand ran into financial trouble a couple of seasons ago. Now back in business under new ownership and set to pick up where they left off, Sombrio kit is once again on the shelves. Drawn in by the black and pink get up reportedly designed for Darren Berrecloth himself, we wasted no time putting it to the test. Read on to see how we got on.

Sombrio Pinner Short Highlights

  • Ultra durable 4-way stretch fabric with DWR finish and soft inner face
  • Durable anti stink, wicking & abrasion resistant pocket liners
  • Sturdy seam construction & bar tack stitching throughout stress zones
  • Seamless crotch panel design
  • Locking zip fly with hollow pop snap & VELCRO secure
  • Mesh lined zippered thigh vents
  • Front & back zippered pockets + one with lift pass retention cord
  • Adjustable waistband retention system
  • MSRP: $120 USD

Sombrio Disciple ¾ Jersey Highlights

  • Silk screen graphics | SHUTTLE print
  • Multi panel 3/4 sleeve design
  • Wicking finish
  • Drop back hem
  • MSRP: $60 USD

Initial Impressions

When we first laid eyes on the new gear, we knew we had to have that black and pink jersey. Such a departure from the stylistic MTB norm had to be celebrated, and if The Claw rocks it, so will we. The kit showed up looking every bit as fresh as we had hoped for, the “silk screen graphics” are sharp and really pop off the fabric. The short is distinctly stealthier, but then it would have to be, there are only so many colors that will mix with that pink. Note that there are 2 other color options available for the jersey, and 1 other choice for the short should you feel less adventurous.

The Pinner short and Disciple jersey are heavy duty items intended for aggressive riders who like to spend long days in the woods digging, riding, and hanging out. Born on the North Shore, the materials chosen for both short and jersey are of the sturdy variety, and the DWR coating on the short speaks to wet climate design origins. There is no shortage of features on the short either, with 3 zippered cargo pockets, 2 zippered vents, Velcro-reinforced button fly closure, elastic waist adjusters, and even a lift pass leash hidden in one of the front pockets. The short lacks a liner, instead the material employed features a soft, almost fleece-like inner face.

Like any self-respecting freeride jersey, the Disciple features a ¾ sleeve cut, with colored accents at the extremities. Flat lock stitching is used throughout to avoid chafing, but the jersey lacks any kind of extras like pockets or a goggle wipe. Both the short and the jersey inspired us with attention to detail and a high level of finish, and with that said, it was about time to go out and get it dirty.

On The Trail

The Pinner short runs slightly big, and because of the 4-way stretch material, it will also accommodate any post-ride culinary extravaganzas you might feel entitled to after spending your day playing in the mountains. With regards to sizing, the short runs big - we had to cinch it down a bit using the waist adjusters, and this tester typically fits snugly in a size L. The Disciple jersey is spot on both in size and in regards to the cut, with just enough room for armor if you want it, and an extended hem in the rear to insure against any outbreaks of builder’s bum.

Both the short and the jersey are very comfortable on the skin. The short doesn’t feature any kind of liner, so a padded chamois is a smart addition for longer days in the saddle. The jersey is made from a fairly tightly woven fabric, which is super soft on the skin, and also wicks away moisture fairly well. Testing in 35 degrees Celsius quickly found the limits of this kit, but then again, when the mercury hits the stratosphere, you should already be heading to the beach anyway.

The ¾ sleeve cut of the jersey is a great feature. It leaves your hands feeling free, but it still covers your arms and protects against the shrubbery. It may take a little getting used to the first time you try one on, but we’ve been fans of this design for a long time, and the Disciple jersey delivers. Additionally, it’s cut just like we like it, slightly roomy but tight enough around the mid-section to not flap around – helped in this regard by the strategically aligned 2-way stretch fabric.

The short is coated with DWR which helps it shed water very efficiently. The fabric doesn’t soak up much moisture, which means it won’t cling to your legs when wet, and it also dries up quickly to be ready for your next ride. We’ve exerted ourselves plenty in the Pinner short, and it comes out of each wash cycle looking fresh and clean – the same is true of the jersey.

There are plenty of storage options available in the short. The 3 zippered cargo pockets are roomy, and will allow you to stash away quite a few items. Because of the stretchy quality of the fabric, pocketed items are held securely in place without bouncing around. There is no dedicated media pocket, but riding with a phone in either of the front pockets didn’t bother us. The zippered vents are also a welcome addition on hot days.

Things That Could Be Improved

The Pinner short is well-built and it is up for whatever abuse you can dish out. It is comfortable, but we found the cut to be less than ideal in regards to the waist and crotch area.

In our opinion, the inseam should be made longer and the waist lower. As it currently stands, the short tends to ride a bit low, which leaves it too baggy and exposes it to snagging on the saddle (mainly when mounting or dismounting the bike). If you are at the upper end of each sizing bracket or if you have proportionally shorter inseam you may have less of an issue than this tester did. At $120 MSRP, we should also point out that a number of other options out there will include a padded liner of some description.

The Disciple jersey is not the best choice for really hot days, but it was made for the rigors of the North Shore so this is fully in line with the design brief. At $60, some might ask for extra features like a goggle wipe, but all in all, the jersey is a quality item and it certainly delivers value for money.

Long Term Durability

We’ve been riding with the Pinner Short and the Disciple jersey for close to 2 months, with plenty of long days in the saddle and some extracurricular digging activities thrown in for good measure. There are absolutely no signs of premature wear, neither with regards to the stitching nor the fabrics. Both items still look very fresh and the colors are still vivid. The materials chosen are sturdy, and we would definitely expect this kit to be able to withstand a hard season of riding and to come back asking for more.

What’s The Bottom Line?

If your idea of a good time involves riding hard, digging trail, and hanging out with your buddies no matter what the conditions, the Pinner Short and Disciple jersey are well worthy of your attention. Both items are comfortable, functional, and look great. The cut of the short is perfectible, so make sure it is right for your body shape, but other than that, the only question that remains is whether or not you are man enough to rock the pink?

More information at www.sombriocartel.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 Sombrio Pinner Short 5/24/2015 8:24 AM
C138_sombrio_pinner_short_big_air

Tested: Sombrio Pinner Short and Disciple Jersey

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Sombrio has been a staple of the all mountain and freeride scene for many years, but despite the popularity of the gear, the brand ran into financial trouble a couple of seasons ago. Now back in business under new ownership and set to pick up where they left off, Sombrio kit is once again on the shelves. Drawn in by the black and pink get up reportedly designed for Darren Berrecloth himself, we wasted no time putting it to the test. Read on to see how we got on.

Sombrio Pinner Short Highlights

  • Ultra durable 4-way stretch fabric with DWR finish and soft inner face
  • Durable anti stink, wicking & abrasion resistant pocket liners
  • Sturdy seam construction & bar tack stitching throughout stress zones
  • Seamless crotch panel design
  • Locking zip fly with hollow pop snap & VELCRO secure
  • Mesh lined zippered thigh vents
  • Front & back zippered pockets + one with lift pass retention cord
  • Adjustable waistband retention system
  • MSRP: $120 USD

Sombrio Disciple ¾ Jersey Highlights

  • Silk screen graphics | SHUTTLE print
  • Multi panel 3/4 sleeve design
  • Wicking finish
  • Drop back hem
  • MSRP: $60 USD

Initial Impressions

When we first laid eyes on the new gear, we knew we had to have that black and pink jersey. Such a departure from the stylistic MTB norm had to be celebrated, and if The Claw rocks it, so will we. The kit showed up looking every bit as fresh as we had hoped for, the “silk screen graphics” are sharp and really pop off the fabric. The short is distinctly stealthier, but then it would have to be, there are only so many colors that will mix with that pink. Note that there are 2 other color options available for the jersey, and 1 other choice for the short should you feel less adventurous.

The Pinner short and Disciple jersey are heavy duty items intended for aggressive riders who like to spend long days in the woods digging, riding, and hanging out. Born on the North Shore, the materials chosen for both short and jersey are of the sturdy variety, and the DWR coating on the short speaks to wet climate design origins. There is no shortage of features on the short either, with 3 zippered cargo pockets, 2 zippered vents, Velcro-reinforced button fly closure, elastic waist adjusters, and even a lift pass leash hidden in one of the front pockets. The short lacks a liner, instead the material employed features a soft, almost fleece-like inner face.

Like any self-respecting freeride jersey, the Disciple features a ¾ sleeve cut, with colored accents at the extremities. Flat lock stitching is used throughout to avoid chafing, but the jersey lacks any kind of extras like pockets or a goggle wipe. Both the short and the jersey inspired us with attention to detail and a high level of finish, and with that said, it was about time to go out and get it dirty.

On The Trail

The Pinner short runs slightly big, and because of the 4-way stretch material, it will also accommodate any post-ride culinary extravaganzas you might feel entitled to after spending your day playing in the mountains. With regards to sizing, the short runs big - we had to cinch it down a bit using the waist adjusters, and this tester typically fits snugly in a size L. The Disciple jersey is spot on both in size and in regards to the cut, with just enough room for armor if you want it, and an extended hem in the rear to insure against any outbreaks of builder’s bum.

Both the short and the jersey are very comfortable on the skin. The short doesn’t feature any kind of liner, so a padded chamois is a smart addition for longer days in the saddle. The jersey is made from a fairly tightly woven fabric, which is super soft on the skin, and also wicks away moisture fairly well. Testing in 35 degrees Celsius quickly found the limits of this kit, but then again, when the mercury hits the stratosphere, you should already be heading to the beach anyway.

The ¾ sleeve cut of the jersey is a great feature. It leaves your hands feeling free, but it still covers your arms and protects against the shrubbery. It may take a little getting used to the first time you try one on, but we’ve been fans of this design for a long time, and the Disciple jersey delivers. Additionally, it’s cut just like we like it, slightly roomy but tight enough around the mid-section to not flap around – helped in this regard by the strategically aligned 2-way stretch fabric.

The short is coated with DWR which helps it shed water very efficiently. The fabric doesn’t soak up much moisture, which means it won’t cling to your legs when wet, and it also dries up quickly to be ready for your next ride. We’ve exerted ourselves plenty in the Pinner short, and it comes out of each wash cycle looking fresh and clean – the same is true of the jersey.

There are plenty of storage options available in the short. The 3 zippered cargo pockets are roomy, and will allow you to stash away quite a few items. Because of the stretchy quality of the fabric, pocketed items are held securely in place without bouncing around. There is no dedicated media pocket, but riding with a phone in either of the front pockets didn’t bother us. The zippered vents are also a welcome addition on hot days.

Things That Could Be Improved

The Pinner short is well-built and it is up for whatever abuse you can dish out. It is comfortable, but we found the cut to be less than ideal in regards to the waist and crotch area.

In our opinion, the inseam should be made longer and the waist lower. As it currently stands, the short tends to ride a bit low, which leaves it too baggy and exposes it to snagging on the saddle (mainly when mounting or dismounting the bike). If you are at the upper end of each sizing bracket or if you have proportionally shorter inseam you may have less of an issue than this tester did. At $120 MSRP, we should also point out that a number of other options out there will include a padded liner of some description.

The Disciple jersey is not the best choice for really hot days, but it was made for the rigors of the North Shore so this is fully in line with the design brief. At $60, some might ask for extra features like a goggle wipe, but all in all, the jersey is a quality item and it certainly delivers value for money.

Long Term Durability

We’ve been riding with the Pinner Short and the Disciple jersey for close to 2 months, with plenty of long days in the saddle and some extracurricular digging activities thrown in for good measure. There are absolutely no signs of premature wear, neither with regards to the stitching nor the fabrics. Both items still look very fresh and the colors are still vivid. The materials chosen are sturdy, and we would definitely expect this kit to be able to withstand a hard season of riding and to come back asking for more.

What’s The Bottom Line?

If your idea of a good time involves riding hard, digging trail, and hanging out with your buddies no matter what the conditions, the Pinner Short and Disciple jersey are well worthy of your attention. Both items are comfortable, functional, and look great. The cut of the short is perfectible, so make sure it is right for your body shape, but other than that, the only question that remains is whether or not you are man enough to rock the pink?

More information at www.sombriocartel.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 2015 Drift Short 5/21/2015 12:03 AM
C138_drift_short_grn_f

Tested: Royal Racing Drift Shorts and 3/4 Jersey – A Royal Line

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

Royal Racing is going on 10 years in business now, and as we took delivery of some 2015 test kit, we had a rummage through the closet for a trip down memory lane. Looking through our pile of old riding clothes, Royal has always remained true to its roots – making functional and stylish kit for those who ask a lot of their gear. Racer heads or freeriders, outgoing color lovers or stealthy operators have always been able to find something to suit their tastes and needs in the catalogue. The quality has always been right up there, and the cuts and fabrics have continued to evolve over the years as well, which brings us to present day and the 2015 Drift Short and ¾ Jersey that we have been tooling around in recently. The latest in a Royal line, one might say…

Royal Racing 2015 Drift Short Highlights

  • DWR coated ripstop fabric
  • Waterproof internal rear panel
  • Waterproof audio pocket with cable routing
  • Screen printed graphics
  • Wicking internal mesh liner
  • 2 Hand Pockets
  • Clip and webbing waist adjusters for a secure fit and easy adjustment
  • 2 velcro closure cargo pockets
  • Full laser perforated front panel for full ventilation
  • Rear stretch yoke
  • Available in LIME/GRAPHITE, GRAPHITE/ORANGE or BLACK/BLUE
  • S, M, L, XL, XXL (Black/Blue Only)
  • MSRP: $89.95

Royal Racing 2015 Drift ¾ Jersey Highlights

  • Polyester antibacterial fabric
  • Sublimated Graphics
  • All Ride fit
  • 3/4 sleeve
  • Woven flag label
  • Available in ORANGE/GRAPHITE/BLACK, BLACK/BLUE/GRAPHITE or BLACK/LIME/GRAPHITE
  • S/M/L/XL/XXL(Black/Blue/Graphite Only)
  • MSRP: $49.95

Initial Impressions

The Drift kit had us at the green…at first glance of the new short and jersey we were pretty stoked on the design job. Vivid enough to be rad, but a far cry from the MX pajamas look, the Drift kit was made for people who enjoy a good day messing around out in the woods, the big mountains, and the bike park and it shows in the styling. Royal labels it as one for the gravity crowd.

Diving straight into the details, the Drift short packs an impressive list of features. 2 hand pockets, 2 velcro cargo pockets, a waterproof phone pocket, a waterproof panel in the rear, elastic fit panel, laser perforated air holes, snap buttons with an extra, burrito-proof hook closure, and buckled waist adjusters. This short was meant for big days out, and Royal made sure it would be up to that task. Gone are the days when feature-packed used to mean bulky however, as the Drift short is made from lightweight materials and feels quite minimalistic for such a sturdy item. And best of all, not only did Royal manage to shed some weight, they managed to significantly lower their prices for 2015 as well – at $89.95 MSRP (US) the Drift short looks like particularly good value in the current market.

The Drift jersey features the obligatory freeride ¾ sleeve cut, and is made from traditional polyester with a special antibacterial treatment. The graphics are mainly sublimated (a laser print technique that fuses ink particles with the fabric), with subtle screen-printed highlights on the upper chest area and at the back of the shoulder. There is an elastic panel sewn into the rear of the neck for extra comfort, but other than that, the jersey lacks any kind of extras such as pockets or a goggle wipe.

The attention to detail on both the short and jersey is exemplary, and we were impressed with the quality of the materials and the workmanship on display. Time to let our inner freerider out!

On The Trail

Royal’s cuts have really come a long way, and we’ve been very impressed with the last few year’s collections in regards to fit. The 2015 Drift short takes it up another notch, and we’ll go straight on record to state that this is pretty much the blueprint for how a mountain bike short should be cut. The ripstop, water-resistant nylon used for the outer shell is not at all elastic, which means that the cut has to be spot on – and it is. Long enough to properly cover the knee, never restrictive, never too baggy, the short stays out of the way of the saddle and stays snug around the waist – the only gaps you’ll see are those on the trail ahead of you.

Note that the lack of elasticity in the short means you need to get the sizing right – you can only cinch it down if you need to adjust it, not stretch it out. Fortunately, the short runs true to size, and the measurement charts provided online are accurate.

The jersey is fairly loose in the cut, but not in a flappy kind of way. It gives you room to run armor if that’s your jam, or just room to move around freely if not. The fabric is very comfortable on the skin, and while it does get a bit smelly after your exertions, it’s far from the worst offender out there in this regard. We’re long standing fans of the ¾ sleeve cut, it may take a little getting used at first but it is both comfortable and practical in use.

The short is water-resistant (and actually waterproof in the rear), but remains well-ventilated thanks to the myriad of laser cut holes on the front panels. Of course, you’ll get a bit wet in a full-on downpour, but your posterior will remain dry, and the rest of the short dries out very quickly. Additionally, the nylon fabric doesn’t retain moisture, so it never feels heavy nor does it cling to the skin. The mesh liner is also particularly comfortable. On the flip side, we’ve tested the Drift kit in very warm conditions as well, and we were surprised by how breathable it is for such a heavy-duty piece of equipment.

In regards to storage, if the Drift short doesn’t have enough pockets for you, you need to revise your packing strategy. The cargo pockets are very roomy, as are the hand pockets. The phone/media player pocket is a great addition, not only is it waterproof (which also means sweat proof) but it sits in a spot where your phone doesn’t get in the way of pedaling. All in all, pack mules should be very happy with the Drift short.

Things That Could Be Improved

We have no complaints on the Drift short. It’s light yet sturdy, the cut is perfect, and has all the features you could want in a short for big days out. You could argue that a slightly elastic waist would make it easier to fit everybody, but that really only means you need to make extra sure you buy the right size. You could also wish for a padded chamois liner to be included, but most shorts in this category don’t, and frankly, at $89.95, we don’t feel particularly justified in requesting it.

The Drift jersey could be cut ever so slightly closer to the body. It’s perfect around the shoulders and arms, but the waist could be taken in just a tad. And to nitpick, a goggle wipe would be nice, although that is far from an indispensable feature.

Long Term Durability

We’ve had about a month and a half to test the 2015 Drift kit, and so far, it’s full marks in the durability department. There are no signs of early wear and tear, the colors have survived many wash cycles and still look bright. The short sheds mud particularly well. All the stitching is holding up, and despite initial concerns about snagging the ventilation holes cut out of the front of the short, we have no issues to report in that area either. These holes are laser cut, which seals the edges, and additionally, the ripstop material used will resist should you manage to snag a hole on something. The holes are very small, so it would take a bit of bad luck to manage to get them hung up on something, and Royal has been producing shorts with this feature since 2012 without any issues.

What’s The Bottom Line?

The Drift Short and Jersey are made for the big days out and aggressive riding, but advances in materials and construction techniques mean that such items no longer need to be heavy or bulky. The Drift kit is sturdy, looks great, and functions perfectly on the bike. With a significant price drop for 2015 as well, the Drift Short and Jersey slot right in at the very top of their class.

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 2015 Drift Jersey 5/21/2015 12:02 AM
C138_drift_jersey_grn_blk_f

Tested: Royal Racing Drift Shorts and 3/4 Jersey – A Royal Line

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

Royal Racing is going on 10 years in business now, and as we took delivery of some 2015 test kit, we had a rummage through the closet for a trip down memory lane. Looking through our pile of old riding clothes, Royal has always remained true to its roots – making functional and stylish kit for those who ask a lot of their gear. Racer heads or freeriders, outgoing color lovers or stealthy operators have always been able to find something to suit their tastes and needs in the catalogue. The quality has always been right up there, and the cuts and fabrics have continued to evolve over the years as well, which brings us to present day and the 2015 Drift Short and ¾ Jersey that we have been tooling around in recently. The latest in a Royal line, one might say…

Royal Racing 2015 Drift Short Highlights

  • DWR coated ripstop fabric
  • Waterproof internal rear panel
  • Waterproof audio pocket with cable routing
  • Screen printed graphics
  • Wicking internal mesh liner
  • 2 Hand Pockets
  • Clip and webbing waist adjusters for a secure fit and easy adjustment
  • 2 velcro closure cargo pockets
  • Full laser perforated front panel for full ventilation
  • Rear stretch yoke
  • Available in LIME/GRAPHITE, GRAPHITE/ORANGE or BLACK/BLUE
  • S, M, L, XL, XXL (Black/Blue Only)
  • MSRP: $89.95

Royal Racing 2015 Drift ¾ Jersey Highlights

  • Polyester antibacterial fabric
  • Sublimated Graphics
  • All Ride fit
  • 3/4 sleeve
  • Woven flag label
  • Available in ORANGE/GRAPHITE/BLACK, BLACK/BLUE/GRAPHITE or BLACK/LIME/GRAPHITE
  • S/M/L/XL/XXL(Black/Blue/Graphite Only)
  • MSRP: $49.95

Initial Impressions

The Drift kit had us at the green…at first glance of the new short and jersey we were pretty stoked on the design job. Vivid enough to be rad, but a far cry from the MX pajamas look, the Drift kit was made for people who enjoy a good day messing around out in the woods, the big mountains, and the bike park and it shows in the styling. Royal labels it as one for the gravity crowd.

Diving straight into the details, the Drift short packs an impressive list of features. 2 hand pockets, 2 velcro cargo pockets, a waterproof phone pocket, a waterproof panel in the rear, elastic fit panel, laser perforated air holes, snap buttons with an extra, burrito-proof hook closure, and buckled waist adjusters. This short was meant for big days out, and Royal made sure it would be up to that task. Gone are the days when feature-packed used to mean bulky however, as the Drift short is made from lightweight materials and feels quite minimalistic for such a sturdy item. And best of all, not only did Royal manage to shed some weight, they managed to significantly lower their prices for 2015 as well – at $89.95 MSRP (US) the Drift short looks like particularly good value in the current market.

The Drift jersey features the obligatory freeride ¾ sleeve cut, and is made from traditional polyester with a special antibacterial treatment. The graphics are mainly sublimated (a laser print technique that fuses ink particles with the fabric), with subtle screen-printed highlights on the upper chest area and at the back of the shoulder. There is an elastic panel sewn into the rear of the neck for extra comfort, but other than that, the jersey lacks any kind of extras such as pockets or a goggle wipe.

The attention to detail on both the short and jersey is exemplary, and we were impressed with the quality of the materials and the workmanship on display. Time to let our inner freerider out!

On The Trail

Royal’s cuts have really come a long way, and we’ve been very impressed with the last few year’s collections in regards to fit. The 2015 Drift short takes it up another notch, and we’ll go straight on record to state that this is pretty much the blueprint for how a mountain bike short should be cut. The ripstop, water-resistant nylon used for the outer shell is not at all elastic, which means that the cut has to be spot on – and it is. Long enough to properly cover the knee, never restrictive, never too baggy, the short stays out of the way of the saddle and stays snug around the waist – the only gaps you’ll see are those on the trail ahead of you.

Note that the lack of elasticity in the short means you need to get the sizing right – you can only cinch it down if you need to adjust it, not stretch it out. Fortunately, the short runs true to size, and the measurement charts provided online are accurate.

The jersey is fairly loose in the cut, but not in a flappy kind of way. It gives you room to run armor if that’s your jam, or just room to move around freely if not. The fabric is very comfortable on the skin, and while it does get a bit smelly after your exertions, it’s far from the worst offender out there in this regard. We’re long standing fans of the ¾ sleeve cut, it may take a little getting used at first but it is both comfortable and practical in use.

The short is water-resistant (and actually waterproof in the rear), but remains well-ventilated thanks to the myriad of laser cut holes on the front panels. Of course, you’ll get a bit wet in a full-on downpour, but your posterior will remain dry, and the rest of the short dries out very quickly. Additionally, the nylon fabric doesn’t retain moisture, so it never feels heavy nor does it cling to the skin. The mesh liner is also particularly comfortable. On the flip side, we’ve tested the Drift kit in very warm conditions as well, and we were surprised by how breathable it is for such a heavy-duty piece of equipment.

In regards to storage, if the Drift short doesn’t have enough pockets for you, you need to revise your packing strategy. The cargo pockets are very roomy, as are the hand pockets. The phone/media player pocket is a great addition, not only is it waterproof (which also means sweat proof) but it sits in a spot where your phone doesn’t get in the way of pedaling. All in all, pack mules should be very happy with the Drift short.

Things That Could Be Improved

We have no complaints on the Drift short. It’s light yet sturdy, the cut is perfect, and has all the features you could want in a short for big days out. You could argue that a slightly elastic waist would make it easier to fit everybody, but that really only means you need to make extra sure you buy the right size. You could also wish for a padded chamois liner to be included, but most shorts in this category don’t, and frankly, at $89.95, we don’t feel particularly justified in requesting it.

The Drift jersey could be cut ever so slightly closer to the body. It’s perfect around the shoulders and arms, but the waist could be taken in just a tad. And to nitpick, a goggle wipe would be nice, although that is far from an indispensable feature.

Long Term Durability

We’ve had about a month and a half to test the 2015 Drift kit, and so far, it’s full marks in the durability department. There are no signs of early wear and tear, the colors have survived many wash cycles and still look bright. The short sheds mud particularly well. All the stitching is holding up, and despite initial concerns about snagging the ventilation holes cut out of the front of the short, we have no issues to report in that area either. These holes are laser cut, which seals the edges, and additionally, the ripstop material used will resist should you manage to snag a hole on something. The holes are very small, so it would take a bit of bad luck to manage to get them hung up on something, and Royal has been producing shorts with this feature since 2012 without any issues.

What’s The Bottom Line?

The Drift Short and Jersey are made for the big days out and aggressive riding, but advances in materials and construction techniques mean that such items no longer need to be heavy or bulky. The Drift kit is sturdy, looks great, and functions perfectly on the bike. With a significant price drop for 2015 as well, the Drift Short and Jersey slot right in at the very top of their class.

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 Five Ten Freerider Contact Shoe 5/1/2015 3:12 AM
C138_5213_freerider_contact_2

Tested: Five Ten Freerider Contact

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

Five Ten’s Stealth rubber is legendary among flat pedal riders, and with good reason. To this day, it remains what is widely considered to be the stickiest, grippiest sole option available short of clipping in. For a few years however, the only shoes available with this magic compound were slightly heavy and bulky items, often lacking a bit in finish and in the general level of construction of the shoe (if you’ve ever glued the outsole back onto your Impacts you know what we mean). Fast forward to present day, and there’s a multitude of options on offer from Five Ten, many of which are much more elaborate in terms of design. We’ve been testing the all-new Freerider Contact over the winter months, and we’re here to tell you how we got along.

Five Ten Freerider Contact Highlights

  • Synthetic / Polyester textile with laces, stiff midsole, added toe protection, and contact outsole
  • Stealth Mi6 rubber sole
  • Sizes: 4-12, 13, 14 US Sizes
  • Colors: Black/Lime Punch or Grey/Blue
  • Weight: 0 lb 13.6 oz (385 g) (size 9 US)
  • MSRP: $120.00

Initial Impressions

The Freerider Contact is aimed squarely at the “all mountain flat pedal” rider (it is an evolution of the Freerider VXi which was introduced a couple of years ago). It is far less bulky than the Impact (Five Ten’s heavy-hitting DH shoe), and it also features a sole which lacks any kind of tread pattern on the pedal contact patch. This deliberate de-tuning of the grip was done to allow the rider to reposition the foot on the pedal without having to completely lift the foot off.

In terms of the shoe itself, the Freerider Contact is much lighter than the previous generations of Five Tens, and generally of a more streamlined design. It features materials that should help with water repellency, and the tongue has been made thinner so as to not absorb as much moisture when that initial layer of defense falters. The slimmed down design also means that the shoe looks a lot more like an everyday item, and won’t turn heads when you show up at the post-ride watering hole.

As for protection, we are still talking about a fairly sturdy shoe here, but there is no doubt that your feet will be more exposed with the Freerider Contact than with a full-on DH shoe, a direct result of making it lighter and thinner in many places. The toe box is reinforced, and we were glad to see that it is now stitched around the edges as opposed to just glued on – as previously alluded to, this has been the Achilles heel (or toe?) of previous generations of Stealth soles. Overall, the craftsmanship and general quality on display here point to significant improvements in the manufacturing processes at Five Ten – perhaps a natural effect of the Adidas take over from a few years ago, or just the fruit of experience. Either way, we were excited to hit the trails to see if this general impression of quality would translate to a better riding experience as well.

On The Trail

That flat contact patch on the sole had us a little worried at first. It looks about as slick as an eel, but the first few pedal strokes down the trail quickly made it obvious that slick is not exactly a term you can ever use in the same sentence as Stealth rubber. If your pedals have any kind of pins left on them, they will stick like glue to this stuff, flat patch or no flat patch.

The shoe is comfortable, although it falls a bit short in the arch support department. It also has more room in the toebox than the Impacts, for reference. The shoe is fairly stiff, which helps with power transfer when you’re hammering the pedals, and in general, it offers a very positive feeling on the bike. The grip is excellent, and the shoe holds the foot fairly snugly without creating any compression points. As for being able to reposition your foot without lifting it off the pedal, let’s just say that if there is an improvement compared to a fully treaded sole, it’s marginal at best. These things still stick to the pedals like crazy with even just the slightest pressure.

We’ve had a wet winter, so we were able to test the Freerider Contact in the worst possible conditions. The shoe is not waterproof (it’s not meant to be either), and when it gets really soggy out there, it will still absorb water. However, it does so to a much lesser degree than the old style Impacts or Freeriders. And, it’s possible to dry it out overnight, even after it was properly soaked, a huge improvement for those who like to be able to ride every day, any day.

We had the opportunity to test the Freerider Contact back to back against the old style Impacts over the course of 4 days of DH/Enduro riding in Spain. The main take away from those 4 days is that if you disregard the extra protection offered by the Impacts, there is little to set the two models apart in terms of grip and overall downhill pointing riding experience. The Freerider is less snug, so you have to do the laces up a bit tighter if you want that super-secure feeling on the pedals, but other than that, you really have to hammer through some very rough sections to be able to say that the Freerider will break traction before the Impacts.

When it comes to pedaling, the new Freerider is a big improvement over the Impact, mostly due to the lower weight but also because it heats up less. The sole is also thinner, which gives more direct contact with the pedal. The sole is not XC stiff, but it is far from a noodle, and we never found ourselves wanting in the power transfer department. As for protection, we’ve jammed our feet into places they were never meant to go, and we’ve come away mostly unscathed. We rammed a dead branch into the top of the shoe, which nearly cut a lace in two, but the tongue held up fine.

The flat patch sole makes itself known occasionally when you’re off the bike. Hiking with the Freerider Contact is comfortable enough, we even wore them for the whole week of shooting the World Cup in Lourdes with great success, but beware wet rocks or slippery mud. The lack of a tread pattern just under the ball of the foot will catch you out if you trust it at the wrong time. On dry rock however, the Stealth rubber will turn you into Spiderman, knobs or no knobs.

Things That Could Be Improved

We love the lighter weight and the slimmer profile of the new Freerider for all kinds of riding. Yes, they protect less than a full-on DH shoe, but they are also much more efficient to pedal around, and they are more comfortable for full days out too. The only gripe we have in this area is that the cuff around the opening of the shoe doesn’t sit up snug against the foot, and because of this, the shoe tends to collect up debris as you ride or hike. This could easily be remedied by making the cuff a bit ticker and more “spongy”, although the trade-off here would probably be a shoe that breathes less well. We’d take that second option though.

We’d love to see this shoe made slightly more water repellent. It may be too much to ask for, retaining breathability and repelling water, but we’d again take a trade-off here. As it stands, the Freerider Contact functions as a wet weather shoe, but you’d probably want to look to the new Impact (with a full hydrophobic upper) if you constantly ride in heavy rain and mud. The Freeriders also developed a bit of a pungent smell after being repeatedly dunked in muddy water for a couple of months.

Lastly, the same shoe with a fully treaded sole option would be rad – not for grip on the bike, but off it.

Long Term Durability

We’ve ridden the Freerider Contact for just shy of 4 months now in some pretty adverse conditions at times, and we have nothing but good things to say in the durability department so far. Lots of riding, lots of mud, lots of rough hiking, and there are only the smallest signs of the outsoles starting to separate. There are no loose threads, tears, or other defects to report at this point. The Stealth rubber is starting to show some wear in the areas of the pedal pins, but there is a lot of life left in them yet. If you ride 2-3 times per week, you should easily get a full season out of the Freerider Contact if not more.

What’s The Bottom Line?

Five Ten have always led the field when it comes to grip, and with the Freerider Contact, they have now also produced a shoe with the general level of construction to match. It is light, comfortable, as grippy as you could possibly want, and it manages heat and moisture better than previous generations of Five Ten shoes. Unless you spend a lot of your time hike-a-biking in wet conditions, this is close to the perfect flat pedal shoe for all your all mountain adventures.

More information at www.fiveten.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 Specialized Boomslang Flat Pedal 3/19/2015 1:12 PM
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Tested: Specialized Boomslang Flat Pedal

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

Specialized has been making flat pedals for some time, but it’s fair to say that they’ve sometimes been lacking a little flair. The same does not hold true of their latest creation, the Boomslang. Taking its name and maybe the inspiration for its shape from a tree snake with a nasty bite, the Boomslang promises venomous grip for your feet, and untold horrors for the shins that dare defy it. Boomslang also happens to be the nickname of Jason Chamberlain, one of the most senior wizards at Specialized and the father of these pedals. Be that as it may, we’ve been rocking a pair for a couple of months, and we’re here to tell you how we’ve been getting along.

Specialized Boomslang Highlights

  • Body material: Aluminum
  • Dimensions: 10mm x 110mm x 108mm
  • Bearing type: Needle and ball bearings
  • 9/16" spindle, low profile, patent pending spindle design
  • 11 undercut pins
  • Colors: Black
  • Weight: 438 grams (verified)
  • Pedal body carries 4 hidden pins for replacement of broken pins
  • MSRP: $180.00 USD

Initial Impressions

Straight out of the box, the Boomslang means business. The pedal body is heavily machined and sports a very elaborate design. Specialized were looking for a way to make the thinnest possible pedal that would still make use of bearings throughout, and they came up with a smart way to access the outboard needle bearing via a “trap door” in the middle of the pedal. This helps in keeping the pedal as thin as possible without resorting to laying bare the axle in the middle or having to run super thin bushings instead of bearings. This rotating "trap door" is held in place by two traction pins, pretty clever use of available resources and real estate.

The result is a body that is only 10-mm thick in the middle, while retaining a classic spindle design and 2 sets of bearings per pedal, and without any kind of lump in the middle of the pedal body often found on other super thin designs. The pedal shape is slightly concave, with the pedal body growing gradually thicker towards the edges.

The platform measures in at what is more or less becoming the norm for wide flat pedals, at 110-mm x 108-mm. It features chamfered leading edges to help it slide over rocks or other obstacles, and Specialized has left a reassuring amount of material in crucial areas around the pedal's edges to make sure it can take the hits. The pins screw in from behind, and are designed to snap at the base to make sure they don’t damage the pedal body in case of violent encounters with immovable objects. A clever touch is the inclusion of 4 spare pins on the inside of each pedal, ready to take the place of any fallen comrades in the line of fire.

The inboard bearing is very narrow, and as a result there is not much of a bump on the pedal next to the crank arm. This leaves ample room to move your feet around and place them where you want to. Overall, the design is purposeful, and with the pedal coming in at 438 grams for the pair, looks to offer a good compromise between weight and strength (it is not the lightest pedal out there by any stretch).

On The Trail

Fitting the pedals was uneventful, and we wasted no time seeing how they would perform on the trail. Right off the bat the pedals felt great, offering loads of grip and good support for the feet. The pedal is very thin, which adds a lot of stability and helps prevent the feet from wanting to roll off the pedal when things get rough. We also find that thin pedals help with pedaling efficiency, for much the same reason - your foot is "in" the pedal as opposed to "on" it. The pedal body is on par with most other "flat and wide" pedals out there in terms of size, although we noted that the pins are placed a bit back from the edges, reducing the effective size of the platform a bit. With a size 12 shoe (46 EUR), we had just enough room to put our feet where we wanted them, without feeling like the foot was over the edge. Sure, the pedal could be made slightly bigger, but this size is a near spot-on compromise for most kinds of riding, making sure you have enough room but not so bulky so as to cause the pedal to hang up on obstacles unnecessarily.

We’ve had a soggy winter, and we’ve been able to put the Boomslang to the test in the worst possible conditions. Paired with a good shoe, they’ve offered perfect grip no matter what the weather has thrown at us, testament to the good placement and overall grippiness of the pins. Mud clearance is excellent, and the pedal is easy to clean. The concave shape of the pedal body allows the foot to “sink into” the pedal a bit, although the Boomslang features 2 pins in the middle of the platform which means this effect is not as pronounced as on some other pedals we’ve ridden. Nevertheless, we quickly forgot about pedals when riding, always a good sign.

2 months into the test, perhaps the standout aspect of the Boomslang is the complete lack of play or slop in the pedal. Whether side to side or along the axle, the pedal feels as tight as on day one. It spins freely, and without any play. In our experience, this is unusual enough to be highlighted. Many pedals will develop a bit of slop fairly quickly, usually not to the point where it’s bothersome, but this has not been the case with the Boomslangs so far. Specialized pointed out that the spindle design actually compresses the inboard bearing when you screw the pedal into the crank arm, which contributes to keeping them slop free once they are on the bike. Whatever the reason(s), they spin freely and feel very solid under foot – full marks here so far.

The profile of the Boomslang is very low, and the pronounced chamfer of the leading edges really helps them glide over stuff as opposed to hang up. We’ve taken a bunch of rock strikes so far, including a few jarring hits of the kind that throw you off your line (or your bike!), and the Boomslang has taken it all in stride. All in all, riding with the Boomslangs has been a positive experience and we’re in no hurry to remove them from the bike.

Things That Could Be Improved

Let’s start with the price. $180 USD MSRP is at the top end of the “regular” pedal market, unless we’re talking about Ti-axles and extra-light editions. You can find quality pedals with more or less comparable performance for less. However, after 2 months of testing, all signs point to the Boomslang being a particularly sturdy piece of equipment that will go the distance without performance degradation, and in that respect, it’s worth a premium. We’ve beat up on our pair, and they are materially the same as when we got them, scuffs and all. And at just 10-mm thin, they are definitely among the thinnest available, which also adds value to the equation here.

The Boomslang is not the lightest pedal out there, most competitive offerings will come it at around 50-grams less for the pair. We’ll trade those 50-grams for reliability any day though, so we won’t hold it against the Boomslang here.

Servicing the Boomslang requires a special tool. It’s a simple pin-spanner type of tool, which will of course be available at any Specialized service center, or to order from a dealer should you wish to get one for yourself. Axle/bearing rebuild kits and replacement pins are available too.

It’s not a big deal nor is it an expensive tool, and the bearing assembly is one of the factors contributing to the slim profile of the pedal. In that respect we find it reasonable to require a specific tool to service it. We’d find it reasonable were it to be included in the box, too…

The “trap door” access to the outboard bearing is one of the reasons the pedal can be made so thin. However, the trap door closes with a traction pin, and this makes it harder for those who want to configure the pedal without pins in the middle. Yes, it’s elegant to have the pin on double duty here, but maybe a few shorter pins could also be provided in the box to allow for better pin configurability (it's not hard to dig up a regular bolt of the right dimensions to sort this out yourself).

Finally, it would be nice if the Boomslang could come in a couple of different colors. Black is definitely the new black and stealthy builds are all the rage, but many of us still love a touch of color on our pedals.

Long Term Durability

As we’ve already previously alluded to, the Boomslang pedal has so far impressed with its resilience. There are marks on the body here and there, and a couple of pins are a bit bent, but the pedal spins as free and feels as tight as on day one. We’ll again point out that there is no play in the pedals at all so far – great marks here for Specialized. Furthermore, given the amount of “extra” material Specialized left around the edges of the pedal, we’d expect the pedal body to be able to take lots of abuse and keep going. The low profile will contribute to this aspect of longevity as well.

What’s The Bottom Line?

Specialized put much thought and some clever ideas into the Boomslang. The result is an innovative flat pedal that offers a very low profile, remarkable grip, yet does not appear to cut corners when it comes to reliability. It has so far proven itself to us in all conditions, and if you don’t mind paying a bit of a premium, it is definitely worthy of inclusion on your shortlist.

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.

This product has no reviews yet.

Added a product review for Troy Lee Designs 2015 Ruckus Riding Jersey 2/23/2015 2:11 AM
C138_15tld_ruckus_jersey_ops_desert_front

Tested: 2015 Troy Lee Designs Ruckus Short and Jersey

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

Troy Lee’s Ruckus kit has been part of the catalogue for a good few years already. Billed as the do-it-all, all mountain option, it is meant to be lightweight and breathable enough for all-day adventure, yet sturdy enough to get rowdy in. TLD’s full 2015 apparel line actually launched earlier today, but we managed to lay our hands on some early samples, so we’re here to tell you how the stuff performs already. Read on to find out!

Troy Lee Designs Ruckus Short Highlights

  • 2 way stretch, 92% polyester / 8% spandex
  • Includes premium removable chamois liner short
  • Full waist / hip height adjustment via bonded rubber adjusters
  • Zipped front pocket
  • Inner thigh ventilation via hidden inseam zippers
  • Premium single snap fly closure
  • Rear pocket with air-mesh padding
  • Zipped pedal friendly cell phone pocket
  • Open access pocket with content security panel
  • Ergonomic MTB specific cut and fit
  • MSRP: $135 USD

Troy Lee Designs Ruckus Jersey Highlights

  • 2 way stretch, 100% polyester
  • Microfiber sunglass wipe at bottom hem
  • Breathable polyester mesh side panels
  • Easy entry Lycra neck collar
  • Side stash pocket with YKK zipper
  • 3/4 length raglan sleeves
  • Drop tail length rear
  • MSRP: $52 USD

Initial Impressions

TLD apparel is mostly known for its bold, in-your-face styling, and the 2015 Ruckus kit is no exception. Available in either “TLD OPS” or “REKON” graphics, the red and white REKON jersey we took delivery of definitely knows how make an entrance. The 100% sublimated design features huge TLD lettering on the front, and a clean white backpanel (the REKON jersey is available in 3 other color combos as well). The “TWILL” short is a bit more subtle, with a more uniform color scheme dominating a pretty sweet pinstripe pattern.

Closer inspection of both jersey and short revealed high quality materials, excellent craftsmanship and lots of attention to detail. The short is adjustable at the waist, has a breathable inner liner, a zippered and buttoned fly, and seems to have been put together with great care – no loose threads on display here. The short also comes with a removable chamois liner.

The jersey material is of the shiny variety, and feels thin to the touch. In terms of design, TLD have included a small stash pocket and new for 2015, a sunglass/goggle wipe sewn into the hem. The jersey has ¾-length sleeves, and a “drop tail” in the rear, to make sure the only gaps left anywhere to be seen are the doubles on the trail.

Sizing proved to run true to measurements. We found the short ever so slightly roomier compared to the 2013 version, for reference, so keep that in mind if you are between sizes. And with that, we were ready to hit the trails to see how the Ruckus kit would stack up to a little action.

On The Trail

The fit of the Ruckus short is spot on. This product has evolved over the years into quite a refined piece of apparel. The short is made from relatively lightweight and flexible materials, which leaves it feeling much more like a trail or all mountain short than a pure gravity item. The fit is perfect for riding, the short doesn’t move around excessively when you do, nor does it want to snag the saddle. The elastic panels sewn into the short make sure it stays snug and secure around the waist, even when you are at your most acrobatic.

The length of the short is just right, long enough to cover your kneepads and make sure you never have to face the ridicule of the dreaded knee gap – keeping it on polite terms here. The adjustability is good, and the short is very comfortable in use. The included chamois liner is ergonomically shaped, quite thin but gets the job done including for long days in the saddle. The side panels work to provide a little extra airflow, and the thigh vents are easy to use when things really heat up.

There are several storage options provided in the short for carrying essentials. 2 main cargo pockets, one of which features a zipper, one phone pocket more to the rear of the thigh (also zippered), and a small pocket at the rear of the waistband for credit cards or similar items. All of the pockets are tight, and hold contents securely against the body to avoid stuff moving around as you ride.

The material used for the jersey is thin, but the weave is tight. As a result, the jersey is warmer than you’d think in use. It wicks away sweat fairly well, although it is not the coolest jersey we’ve tried. On the flip side, for longer adventures and/or taller peaks, the wind protection provided by the Ruckus jersey was certainly appreciated. The small storage pocket is not something we find incredibly useful on a jersey, anything bulky you keep here will make itself felt when you move around, but if you absolutely hate riding with a pack and run out of other places to store your stuff, it will hold an energy bar or two for example. The new for the year sunglass wipe on the other hand is a very welcome addition to the Ruckus jersey, and it works well too.

We really enjoyed the cut of the Ruckus jersey, we’re big fans of ¾ sleeves and in general terms the Ruckus sits just right. Loose enough to be comfortable, close enough to avoid excessive bagginess or snagging. TLD have used 2-way stretch for the most part, and a 4-way stretch panel at the back of the neck that really improves the comfort in this sensitive area (and makes the jersey easy to pull on/remove). The jersey will fit over most body armor if that’s your jam, but check if you are between sizes as you may want to size up to accommodate bulkier pieces of protection. Much like with the materials chosen, the fit of the Ruckus tends more towards the all mountain side than pure gravity. Overall, the features provided on the Ruckus jersey are particularly good value given the reasonable price tag.

Things That Could Be Improved

The waist adjustment could have been better executed on the Ruckus short. If you need to really tighten the short down at the waist, the rubber tabs pull clear of the sheaths housing them to leave part of the elastic band exposed – not very tidy. The solution could have been to use a longer rubber tab or to make the sheath longer. TLD pointed out that the adjustment is meant for fine tuning, and if you choose your size with care, you should not need to cinch it down this much.

With regards to pricing, at $52 MSRP the Ruckus jersey is particularly good value for money, for an item of this quality. As for the short, it is always easy to state that something should cost less. $135 is the not cheapest short out there (nor in TLD’s own catalog), but it is also not the most expensive by any stretch. Throw in the removable chamois liner, a feature-rich design, and great performance on the trail and we think the Ruckus short delivers excellent value as well.

Long Term Durability

We’ve been putting in the miles with the Ruckus kit during some pretty adverse winter weather, and neither the short nor the jersey look much the worse for it. Everything has held together perfectly, and we were particularly pleased to see that the jersey appears more resistant to snags and running threads than certain previous iterations of the Ruckus line. Even after a few months of ride-wash-repeat cycles, both items still look fresh – even the white is still pretty much just that, white. A few unintentional dirt encounters have not left much of mark, and we are also under the impression that the material/weave used here is less prone to that pungent post-ride smell so common to polyester jerseys. Based on past experience, the Ruckus line should last you several seasons, and at this point we have no reason to think the 2015 version would be any different.

What’s The Bottom Line?

Much as we now have trail bikes that can deal with anything from all-day epics to near full-on DH, we also want kit that will keep us going through all that, and of course, it should look the part too. Troy Lee’s new Ruckus delivers on all counts, and adds the unmistakable TLD personality to the mix. For full on shuttle/park riding with frequent crashing on the menu, you’d be better off with the heavier-duty Sprint or Moto line, but throw in a bit of pedaling and the Ruckus is an excellent choice for your go-to kit.

More information at www.troyleedesigns.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 1 review.

Added a product review for Troy Lee Designs 2015 Ruckus Riding Short 2/23/2015 2:08 AM
C138_15tld_ruckus_short_ops_desert_front

Tested: 2015 Troy Lee Designs Ruckus Short and Jersey

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

Troy Lee’s Ruckus kit has been part of the catalogue for a good few years already. Billed as the do-it-all, all mountain option, it is meant to be lightweight and breathable enough for all-day adventure, yet sturdy enough to get rowdy in. TLD’s full 2015 apparel line actually launched earlier today, but we managed to lay our hands on some early samples, so we’re here to tell you how the stuff performs already. Read on to find out!

Troy Lee Designs Ruckus Short Highlights

  • 2 way stretch, 92% polyester / 8% spandex
  • Includes premium removable chamois liner short
  • Full waist / hip height adjustment via bonded rubber adjusters
  • Zipped front pocket
  • Inner thigh ventilation via hidden inseam zippers
  • Premium single snap fly closure
  • Rear pocket with air-mesh padding
  • Zipped pedal friendly cell phone pocket
  • Open access pocket with content security panel
  • Ergonomic MTB specific cut and fit
  • MSRP: $135 USD

Troy Lee Designs Ruckus Jersey Highlights

  • 2 way stretch, 100% polyester
  • Microfiber sunglass wipe at bottom hem
  • Breathable polyester mesh side panels
  • Easy entry Lycra neck collar
  • Side stash pocket with YKK zipper
  • 3/4 length raglan sleeves
  • Drop tail length rear
  • MSRP: $52 USD

Initial Impressions

TLD apparel is mostly known for its bold, in-your-face styling, and the 2015 Ruckus kit is no exception. Available in either “TLD OPS” or “REKON” graphics, the red and white REKON jersey we took delivery of definitely knows how make an entrance. The 100% sublimated design features huge TLD lettering on the front, and a clean white backpanel (the REKON jersey is available in 3 other color combos as well). The “TWILL” short is a bit more subtle, with a more uniform color scheme dominating a pretty sweet pinstripe pattern.

Closer inspection of both jersey and short revealed high quality materials, excellent craftsmanship and lots of attention to detail. The short is adjustable at the waist, has a breathable inner liner, a zippered and buttoned fly, and seems to have been put together with great care – no loose threads on display here. The short also comes with a removable chamois liner.

The jersey material is of the shiny variety, and feels thin to the touch. In terms of design, TLD have included a small stash pocket and new for 2015, a sunglass/goggle wipe sewn into the hem. The jersey has ¾-length sleeves, and a “drop tail” in the rear, to make sure the only gaps left anywhere to be seen are the doubles on the trail.

Sizing proved to run true to measurements. We found the short ever so slightly roomier compared to the 2013 version, for reference, so keep that in mind if you are between sizes. And with that, we were ready to hit the trails to see how the Ruckus kit would stack up to a little action.

On The Trail

The fit of the Ruckus short is spot on. This product has evolved over the years into quite a refined piece of apparel. The short is made from relatively lightweight and flexible materials, which leaves it feeling much more like a trail or all mountain short than a pure gravity item. The fit is perfect for riding, the short doesn’t move around excessively when you do, nor does it want to snag the saddle. The elastic panels sewn into the short make sure it stays snug and secure around the waist, even when you are at your most acrobatic.

The length of the short is just right, long enough to cover your kneepads and make sure you never have to face the ridicule of the dreaded knee gap – keeping it on polite terms here. The adjustability is good, and the short is very comfortable in use. The included chamois liner is ergonomically shaped, quite thin but gets the job done including for long days in the saddle. The side panels work to provide a little extra airflow, and the thigh vents are easy to use when things really heat up.

There are several storage options provided in the short for carrying essentials. 2 main cargo pockets, one of which features a zipper, one phone pocket more to the rear of the thigh (also zippered), and a small pocket at the rear of the waistband for credit cards or similar items. All of the pockets are tight, and hold contents securely against the body to avoid stuff moving around as you ride.

The material used for the jersey is thin, but the weave is tight. As a result, the jersey is warmer than you’d think in use. It wicks away sweat fairly well, although it is not the coolest jersey we’ve tried. On the flip side, for longer adventures and/or taller peaks, the wind protection provided by the Ruckus jersey was certainly appreciated. The small storage pocket is not something we find incredibly useful on a jersey, anything bulky you keep here will make itself felt when you move around, but if you absolutely hate riding with a pack and run out of other places to store your stuff, it will hold an energy bar or two for example. The new for the year sunglass wipe on the other hand is a very welcome addition to the Ruckus jersey, and it works well too.

We really enjoyed the cut of the Ruckus jersey, we’re big fans of ¾ sleeves and in general terms the Ruckus sits just right. Loose enough to be comfortable, close enough to avoid excessive bagginess or snagging. TLD have used 2-way stretch for the most part, and a 4-way stretch panel at the back of the neck that really improves the comfort in this sensitive area (and makes the jersey easy to pull on/remove). The jersey will fit over most body armor if that’s your jam, but check if you are between sizes as you may want to size up to accommodate bulkier pieces of protection. Much like with the materials chosen, the fit of the Ruckus tends more towards the all mountain side than pure gravity. Overall, the features provided on the Ruckus jersey are particularly good value given the reasonable price tag.

Things That Could Be Improved

The waist adjustment could have been better executed on the Ruckus short. If you need to really tighten the short down at the waist, the rubber tabs pull clear of the sheaths housing them to leave part of the elastic band exposed – not very tidy. The solution could have been to use a longer rubber tab or to make the sheath longer. TLD pointed out that the adjustment is meant for fine tuning, and if you choose your size with care, you should not need to cinch it down this much.

With regards to pricing, at $52 MSRP the Ruckus jersey is particularly good value for money, for an item of this quality. As for the short, it is always easy to state that something should cost less. $135 is the not cheapest short out there (nor in TLD’s own catalog), but it is also not the most expensive by any stretch. Throw in the removable chamois liner, a feature-rich design, and great performance on the trail and we think the Ruckus short delivers excellent value as well.

Long Term Durability

We’ve been putting in the miles with the Ruckus kit during some pretty adverse winter weather, and neither the short nor the jersey look much the worse for it. Everything has held together perfectly, and we were particularly pleased to see that the jersey appears more resistant to snags and running threads than certain previous iterations of the Ruckus line. Even after a few months of ride-wash-repeat cycles, both items still look fresh – even the white is still pretty much just that, white. A few unintentional dirt encounters have not left much of mark, and we are also under the impression that the material/weave used here is less prone to that pungent post-ride smell so common to polyester jerseys. Based on past experience, the Ruckus line should last you several seasons, and at this point we have no reason to think the 2015 version would be any different.

What’s The Bottom Line?

Much as we now have trail bikes that can deal with anything from all-day epics to near full-on DH, we also want kit that will keep us going through all that, and of course, it should look the part too. Troy Lee’s new Ruckus delivers on all counts, and adds the unmistakable TLD personality to the mix. For full on shuttle/park riding with frequent crashing on the menu, you’d be better off with the heavier-duty Sprint or Moto line, but throw in a bit of pedaling and the Ruckus is an excellent choice for your go-to kit.

More information at www.troyleedesigns.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 1 review.

Added a product review for Hope Technology Crank 1/24/2015 11:13 PM
C138_product

First Ride: Hope Technology Crank

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

After what seemed like almost an eternity and plenty of teasing along the way, Hope’s new crank has finally made production. Forged and CNCed in-house like pretty much all of Hope's goods, the crank sports an unusual spline interface that attracted plenty of attention at the recent launch. Eager to dive under the hood and to start some proper testing, we’ve bolted up a pair to find out what’s what. We will have a longer-term update to this review at a later date, but for now, here are our in-depth observations on the product and our first ride impressions.

Hope Technology Crank Highlights

  • Forged and CNC machined 7000 series aluminum alloy crank arms
  • Length: 165, 170 and 175-mm
  • Q-Factor: 167-mm
  • Axle Diameter: 30-mm
  • 3-piece construction with expanding spline crank arm/axle interface (pat pending)
  • Versatile Spline mount compatible with 26T to 36T spiderless chainrings, 104BCD, and double 64/104BCD
  • Compatible with 68/73 and 83-mm BB shells
  • Colours: Initially black, with red, blue, silver, gunsmoke and purple following in March
  • Weight: 641g (arms, axle and 34t spiderless ring)
  • MSRP:
    • Arms, Axle and Spider: £245/€300/$429.50
    • Arms and Axle: £215/€265/$375
    • Spider: £40/€50/$70
    • Spiderless Retainer Chainring: £55/€68/$95

Initial Impressions and Installation

If anything defines Hope’s identity, it’s CNCed aluminum. Ever since investing in their first CNC machine in 1992, this is how most of Hope’s products are made. The design of the new crank is very much still “industrial”, for lack of a better term, but the product is at the same time very refined and it looks distinctly modern. Hope doesn’t go for a fully polished look, so they leave some of the machining marks apparent, but this does nothing to detract from the overall impression of quality and workmanship – and it lends the product its very distinctive Hope identity.

In regards to the production of the new crank, Hope does not cut the crank arms from a solid block of aluminum, rather they developed a 2-step process whereby they are initially cold forged to give them their basic structure, and only then finished off in the CNC machine. This allows Hope to create a strong yet lightweight crank arm (rated for all types of riding up to DH). The arms are mated to a 30-mm spindle.

So what took them so long? Well Hope are not ones to rush anything, and aside from spending time developing the forging, profiling, and machining, they also focused on the crank arm to axle interface. To overcome issues that can sometimes occur when traditional splined axle interfaces become worn, Hope designed a splined axle that expands from the inside to ensure a snug and secure fit with the crank arm. They were also testing a polygon-shaped interface, but ultimately decided on this new splined axle because they felt it was better suited to their manufacturing process and that the performance was better when combined with an aluminium axle.

We took delivery of the new crank as well as a Hope PF46 BB and their Slick Guide chain device. After the weigh-in, we were ready to rumble.

Hope’s BB offers an advantage over some simpler pressfit BBs, in that it features an aluminum joining tube that helps hold the pressfit cups more securely in place. Hope’s reason for developing this system is mainly to combat the creaks that can sometimes develop in pressfit bottom brackets.

The BB design also means a special tool is required to fit it, one which includes a hexagon-shaped key for tightening down the joining tube. The BB is delivered with only one bearing installed (to allow access to tighten the joining tube), so once you’re done pressing in the cups and tightening down the joining tube, you also have to press in the remaining bearing. Shops that service Hope parts will already own this tool, if for some reason you should wish to acquire it yourself, it is readily available and retails for GBP 45.

The crank itself is delivered with the specific tools you need to install and remove it. First up, you get a splined tool that allows you to install and remove the collar holding the spider or a spiderless chainring (the other end fits a traditional threaded BB tool, or a large wrench). A second tool is first used to pull the crank arm onto the spindle, and then to tighten the expander nut, while the crankset extractor hooks onto the preload collar which does double duty as a self-extractor when removing the crank. Manipulating cranks can feel a bit like open heart surgery on a bike, which is probably why the crank extractor’s other end is made to help open the bottle of anesthetic…

The installation procedure seems slightly complicated at first but the instructions were easy to follow, and trying our hand at removing and reinstalling the crank a couple of times showed that it quickly becomes routine and does not take a lot of time.

In use, the system appears very robust, and the use of a preload collar to adjust the crank to the BB bearings is a blessing – long gone are the days of messing with shims and the headache of trial and error. Install the crank arm, tighten down the preload collar with your fingers until it sits snugly against the bearing (not too tight or it will damaged the bearing over time), then lock it in place with an Allen key and you’re good to go.

Hope’s Slick Guide chain device is a top-block only chain guide designed to work with 1x transmissions. It was easy to install and adjust, as was the Hope Retainer chain ring (a narrow-wide profile chain ring designed to help with chain retention). And with that, we were ready to hit the trails!

On The Trail

We’ve only been able to ride the cranks for a couple of weeks, so we will provide a follow up review after more time on the trails. Meanwhile, our first impressions are of a solid and functional product. Everything from the installation procedure to the first rides point to a crank that has been well designed and manufactured with attention to detail and quality. Tolerances seem spot on, and all the parts play nice with the rest of the bike.

We’ve had the crank out on a few muddy trail rides and a few sessions at the local jump spot so far. We have not had to make any adjustments at this point, the cranks are free of play and there are no creaks or squeaks to report.

The crank feels very solid under foot, with absolutely no discernable flex nor any kind of mushiness. Stomp on the pedals and the bike goes. The BB spins freely, and the chain device does its job without rubbing on the chain. There is a slight rumble from the Retainer ring when the chain is on the largest sprockets out back, because of the angle at which the chain then arrives at the chain ring. Other than that, the drive train is blissfully silent at this point. As previously mentioned, we will report back with our findings in regards to longevity after we put some more miles of trail behind us.

Things That Could Be Improved

There is somewhat of an elephant in the room, and as is often the case, that elephant is the price tag. Hope’s products are usually never the cheapest option, and in the case of this new crank, they are right up there with the most expensive. A quick comparison of what’s available from other manufacturers reveals that one of the current class leaders, the Race Face Turbine Cinch can be acquired for just over half of the Hope crank’s MSRP, which is priced in line with some carbon offerings or the most expensive aluminum options currently on the market. Of course, we hardly expect any product to actually command MSRP for long, but Hope’s products typically don’t offer as deep discounts as many others will over time. We do feel that the product offers significant value, and if it lives up to Hope’s usual longevity standards, it will be a good investment for the long haul – but that does little to alleviate the sticker shock we observed at the launch. Time will tell if the initial MSRP is set to drop.

Long Term Durability

We will return to this section once we put enough trail time in to properly address it. At the moment, we can only point out that many aspects of the design of this new crank are a direct result of trying to build a durable product, and from what we have seen of it so far, we would be surprised if were to uncover any significant weaknesses down the line. Watch this space…

What’s The Bottom Line?

There is no shortage of good crank options in the market today. From the excellent value to the very high-end, 600-gram crank arms that are ready for DH abuse are readily available, and you can go even lighter with exotic materials. The all-important crank-arm-to-spindle interface can easily become the Achilles heel of any crank, and Hope has taken the time to come up with a system that is slightly more complicated to manipulate than many others but which appears to offer a good solution where strength and longevity are concerned. We’ll need more time to provide a more definitive verdict, but in the meantime, if you are willing to pay the premium that Hope are asking, you should not be disappointed with the features, specs, and performance of the new Hope crank. And undeniably, like many other products of Hope Mill, it has that little extra something about it…

For more information visit www.hopetech.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 1 review.

Added a product review for Hope Technology Tech 3 E4 Hydraulic Disc Brake Set 11/11/2014 5:20 AM
C138_tech3_e4_caliper_b_587x692

Tested: Hope Technology Tech 3 E4 Hydraulic Brakes

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

Looking through the history books of mountain bike technology, Hope Technology features prominently and with good reason. They made their first commercially available mountain bike disc brake in 1992, and by the mid-nineties they were seeing massive success with their C2 hydros. Even more ubiquitous than their brakes, the company is also known for its hubs, a staple of many a wheelbuilder’s arsenal, not to mention a multitude of CNCed goodies ranging from seat collar clamps to headsets. “Proudly made in Barnoldswick, UK” reflects Hope’s heritage and its continued commitment to in-house production, which today takes place in a modern facility where 55 CNC machines run 24/7 pumping out anodized alu bits for distribution in over 40 countries. We laid our hands on the latest brakes to come out of Hope Mill, and the least you could say is that we were curious to see what they have to offer. Read on if you are too…

Hope Technology Tech 3 E4 Brakes Highlights

  • Rigid CNC'd one piece caliper made from T6 aluminum alloy
  • 4x16mm phenolic pistons
  • Ergonomic lever design to fit around other handle bar items
  • The Tech 3 lever is directly compatible with Shimano I-Spec shifters, separate Sram Direct Mount also available
  • Tool less bite point and reach adjustment
  • Post mount 9.74 caliper with adapters to suit all mount options
  • Top entry pad fitting
  • Anodized for durability
  • Available to fit 160, 183 and 203mm front and rear rotors
  • Weight from: 266g (standard hose), 300g (braided hose)
  • MSRP: approx. $280 USD (per side, including rotors and mounts)

Initial Impressions

If anything defines Hope’s identity, it’s CNCed aluminum. Ever since investing in their first CNC machine in 1992, this is how most of Hope’s products are made. Pulling the latest generation E4 brakes out of their box, you can’t help but be impressed by the workmanship on display. The design is still “industrial”, for lack of a better term, but the whole package is streamlined and looks distinctly modern. We tested the E4s with Hope’s floating “saw” rotor, which adds even more purposefulness to the look, as well as resistance to warping (a design inherited from the motorcycle world).

The E4s feature 4 pistons per caliper, with the caliper itself CNCed from a solid block of aluminum. Hope says it is more difficult to manufacture this way but it improves the stiffness of the caliper, and thus the feel of the brakes at the lever. Hope brakes have been made this way for many years already, but as previously mentioned, the overall technology has come a long way. The general design as well as the CNC work has created a brake that is fully up to date yet distinctly Hope’s own.

The E4 is Hope’s enduro-specific offering. It shares the Tech 3 lever with the V4, its bigger brother, but instead of 2 staggered pairs of pistons of different diameter like on the V4, the E4 makes do with 4 identical pistons per caliper. You save about 80 grams per side with the E4, while retaining most of the power of the V4. The pads (sintered or organic are available) are loaded from the top.

Mounting up the E4s for the first time was straightforward. The initial wrenching session was a pleasure, quality hardware and perfect machining and tolerances made for a smooth experience in the workshop. We used a SRAM-compatible add-on from Hope to mount our shifter directly to the brake lever (Shimano I-Spec shifters will mount directly with no need for the add-on), and Hope-supplied postmount adapters to accommodate the 203mm discs. Hope recommends aligning the calipers directly to the disc (with the help of markings on the calipers themselves), and then letting the self-centering design take care of aligning the pistons accordingly, as opposed to the “squeeze the lever then tighten down the bolts” method. We had a couple of somewhat lazy pistons out of the box, but with a little TLC and gentle prodding, it all aligned nicely. We were ready to hit the trails.

On The Trail

Hope’s Tech 3 lever shape and adjustability are perfect. The lever blade feels very natural to squeeze, and the huge range of adjustability on offer both with regards to the bite point as well as the reach means that no matter how you prefer to run your brakes or what size your hands are, the E4s will accommodate you. Both bite point and reach are completely mechanical adjustments, all the action takes place between the lever blade and the piston. There are no moving parts involved in adjustments inside the actual lever body. There is also no direct connection between the lever blade and the piston, which helps to avoid damaging the piston and main lever body in case of a crash. The initial feeling at the lever was solid, there is not much softness to the system even with the standard hoses we ran for the test (Hope also offers braided hose options for all their brakes). No mushiness here.

They very first outing with the E4s was a bit of an anticlimax. Coming off tests of several other brakes in the same category, the Hopes exhibit a completely different feel at the lever. There is absolutely no grabbiness, and the power delivery comes in a very linear fashion. Hardwired to anticipate quick power delivery at a light touch of the lever, we often found ourselves not applying enough pressure at the start of the lever blade’s travel (the lever’s return spring is also quite firm which further contributes to this phenomena). The best way to describe the difference is that the Hopes feel less powerful at the start of the travel, but more powerful as you get into the stroke. With many other brakes, a lot of power comes on early, but they then require a lot of force on the lever to get the last bit of power out of them. The Hopes build up power gradually, and the action is in the pressure on the lever as opposed to the travel – once at the bite point, they really don’t move much more, instead they react to pressure on the lever blade. This threw us off for the first couple of rides, but once we got used to it and “reprogrammed” our fingers, these brakes started to really shine. There is a lot of power on tap here, but above all, it’s this modulation that makes the E4s stand out. No more pulling to the grip looking for that last bit of power, just squeeze harder and you WILL stop. Coupled with remarkable consistency, riding with the E4s has become second-nature to the point that many other brakes now seem unnecessarily sharp and not very comfortable in use. And, with so much braking power in reserve, our hands seem a little bit less prone to fatigue during long runs.

The second stand-out feature of these brakes is the design. They are very easy to work on, and crucially, to bleed. Bleeding Hope brakes is an open reservoir process that uses a one-way bleed port on the caliper to flush the system from the top down, and it produced a perfect bleed on our first try. An added benefit is that no syringes or other special tools are required. The only thing you have to watch out for is the orientation of the rear caliper, on most frames it will require standing the bike up or removing the caliper to make sure the bleed port is on top. Plain sailing from there on, and our bleed has proven absolutely reliable over a couple of months of riding. And as everybody knows, as long as you know you can stop, you can go...

Working on the E4s in general is a pleasure, the machining is top notch and the tolerances are tight. Brake levers and calipers are easily rebuildable, and there are a lot of good how-to videos on the Hope website for all the DIYers out there. As previously mentioned, Hope recommends keeping the caliper perfectly aligned with the disc, and then working on carefully aligning the pistons and the pads to let them center themselves. This works best if you regularly clean and lubricate the pistons, which is also easy to do. Sometimes a piston would get a bit lazy and not retract fully, which led to a bit of brake rub at the end of prolonged sections of braking. Other than that, the brakes do not exhibit brake fade, nor did we feel any real pump at the lever as the brakes heat up. Very consistent in use. They are not very noisy, a little bit of a high-pitched squeal under light braking sometimes (mainly with dirty pads), and a bit more vocal in the wet, par for the course.

We’ve been riding in dry conditions mostly during this test, and the pad wear on the organic pads seems good. Lots of life left in the first pair after two months of fairly intensive riding (non lift-assisted). The pads load from the top of the caliper which makes replacing them easy to do when the time comes.

Things That Could Be Improved

Hope’s floating disc features a central spider that is a bit thicker than a regular disc. As a result, it runs very close to the brake mount adapter, to the point that it can rub in spots. This rubbing is not audible, but it wears the color off the spider with time as dust and sand is pulled between the surfaces. Hope is aware of the issue. On their own hubs, they have 1 extra millimeter of offset added to the disc mount to accommodate the thicker floating disc spider. For us, running an e*thirteen TRS+ wheel and a Rockshox Pike saw a slight amount of rub. Running the non-floating version of the disc eliminates the issue of course.

Getting all 4 pistons to work in perfect harmony can be a bit finicky at times, the pads run close to the disc and need to be perfectly aligned to run drag-free. Regularly cleaning the pistons helps with this, to make sure they are all sliding in and out smoothly. It is a simple process, squeezing the lever with the pads out (insert a suitable spacer to ensure the pistons don’t fall out) and then cleaning and lubing the exposed piston area with a little brake fluid. Forcing individual pistons in and out by holding the others in place with a pair of pliers as you squeeze the lever can also help free up a stubborn piston.

The Tech 3 lever design is not ambidextrous, so if you have a bike that requires frequent swapping of brakes from side to side, these may not be the best choice (although if you take care, you can swap the hoses over easily without having to bleed the brakes again).

Finally, the lever blade features a series of small holes drilled into it, to provide additional grip. This works fine with gloves on, but the holes feel a bit rough on the skin when riding gloveless. Kiwis beware.

In terms of weight, these are not the absolute lightest brakes in this category, but that’s counting grams and we would never trade the reliability or feel of our stoppers for a few grams.

Long Term Durability

2 months is not a lot of time when it comes to brakes, and not enough to form a definitive opinion on long term durability. What we can say is that so far, everything is perfect. Pad wear is good, and the performance of the brakes is consistent from ride to ride. Apart from the rubbing on the spider of the floating brake rotor, the finish on the levers and calipers looks new. Taking into account how easy these brakes are to service and rebuild if needed we would expect to get years of riding from the E4s.

What’s The Bottom Line?

There are a lot of options out there when it comes to brakes, but Hope’s E4 stands out in more ways than one. Visually, these brakes have an identity all their own. The industrial design has become refined without losing its character. Functionally, Hope nails it. The brakes are easy to work on, offer great power, consistency and reliability in use, and they add a dimension to the way they modulate braking power which is certainly different to anything else we have tried – and for the better. There are a few other brakes that offer even more outright stopping power (Hope’s own DH-specific V4 is one of those), but the way Hope delivers the power in the E4 is a great benefit on the trail. Add to that the huge range of the reach and bitepoint adjustments, and the E4s emerge as a very serious contender for anybody looking to stop on a dime.

More information at www.hopetech.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 1 review.

Added a product review for Ion Avic Riding Short 11/4/2014 2:14 PM
C138_47502_5710_ion_bikeshort_avic_saffron_f

Tested: ION Avic Short and Helium ¾ Jersey

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

ION popped up on our radar in 2013, when we discovered that the watersports apparel company had arrived in mountain biking with a full complement of bike-specific wear and protection and a style all their own. More than just a source of inspiration, the MTB offering draws on materials and construction used in the watersports line, the end result an eye-catching design that we were eager to put to the test. The Scrub range is designed for all types of riding and long days in the saddle, and with that being right up our alley, we set out to see what the fuss (and those colors!) were all about. Read on to find out more.

ION Avic Short Highlights

  • 88% Nylon / 12% Spandex Double Weave with durable water repellency treatment
  • Loose Fit: Comfy fit, loose cut
  • 4way stretch fabric
  • Sanitized® – ION’s Anti smell treatment
  • Phone Neo: Integrated water-repellent smartphone/MP3 pocket
  • Boardshorts closure with lace ports, triple seams, bonded details, 2 zipper front pockets, reflective details
  • Chamois/liner not included
  • Sizes: 30/S, 32/M, 34/L, 36/XL, 38/XXL
  • Colors: blue danube, saffron, dark shadow
  • MSRP: EUR 139.00 (Europe)

ION Helium ¾ Jersey Highlights

  • Front body: 85% Polyester, 15% Cotton drirelease® with Freshguard®
  • Back body and sleeves: 100% Polyester (Sanitized® with active biocidal substance: zinc pyrithione)
  • Loose Fit: Comfy fit, loose cut
  • Clear Optics: integrated lens cleaning fabric in hem
  • Ticket pocket: 1 lift pass pocket on hip
  • Reflective details
  • Sizes: 46/XS, 48/S, 50/M, 52/L, 54/XL, 56/XXL (unisex style)
  • Colors: fiesta red, insignia blue
  • MSRP: EUR 79.90 (Europe)

Initial Impressions

Walking up to ION’s booth at Eurobike in 2013, we wondered if maybe we had somehow taken a wrong turn and ended up at Eurosurf 2013 instead. Boardshorts galore, and lots of color – but no, this was actually the mountain bike range in all its glory. Intrigued, we took another look, and beyond the in-your-face styling, we discovered a very serious, passionate, and innovative company. ION has carved out a solid market share in the watersports world (specifically kitesurfing, wakeboarding and windsurfing), but with the company owner an avid biker, it was only a matter of time before they turned their attention to two-wheeled fun as well. And rather than take the me-too approach, they looked at what could be brought over from the aquatic arena, and as it turns out, there’s more than you’d think there. For example, what happens if you make a boardshort for biking? The Avic short (part of the 2015 Scrub range) is pretty much just that.

As you’ve no doubt noticed if you’ve paid any attention to the pro riders on the ION roster (Antoine Bizet, Sam Pilgrim, Thomas Genon, and others), this brand is all about color. But before you get too hung up on the loud side, know that there are much more subdued versions of all ION models available. As such, you could get the Avic short in grey and the Helium jersey in a quiet blue, if you wanted to blend in more than a Picasso in a piano store. We’re not afraid to go all in however, so we went for the yellow short and the jersey in “fiesta red”, and it’s definitely a party. But more than just a splash of color, what really caught our eye upon the first inspection was the obvious attention to detail and the seemingly very high level of quality on display throughout. There’s a ton of little features like a wipe for sunglasses and a hidden liftpass pocket on the jersey, and liberal use of interlocking and overlapping stitching and welded seams had us looking forward to a comfortable experience.

The standout feature on the jersey is the use of a cotton/polyester mix for the front panel. Soft to the touch and with a distinct non-jersey look to it, it had us wondering how it would behave on the trail once we got a bit hot under the collar. The “drirelease” fabric promised “4x faster drying” but would it stay comfortable when drenched in sweat?

On the topic of moisture, pulling on the shorts for the first time has you feeling ready for the beach. The material is close to that of a boardshort, and the lace and Velcro closure a not-very-subtle reminder of ION’s aquatic heritage. The cargo pockets seem well-placed, and specific features like the internal neoprene phone pocket are a welcome sight for anybody who likes to carry stuff on their body rather than in a big pack. The adjustments work well, and overall the Scrub outfit offered a tailored fit in size Large for this tester’s 6’0 and 200 lbs. All that was left to do now was hit the trails…

On The Trail

Even before we climbed on the bike, it was obvious that this outfit was going to be comfortable. The drirelease front panel of the jersey is soft to the touch, and the fit struck the right balance of loose and functional. The shorts are light and non-restrictive and managed to basically make us forget about them after 2 minutes on the first trail. The pockets hold a phone and a pair of keys in the right place, the 4-way stretch accommodating most shapes and providing a snug hold to avoid your belongings doing the dreaded slap dance on your thighs when pedaling.

The short is just the right length, it covers the knee without any excessive flapping. The adjustments employed are solid when riding, both the laces and the velcro straps on the side. No excessive movement, nothing comes undone, and nothing snags. Fit and forget. If you are of the freeriding pursuasion, know that a couple of the pros asked for a lace dock to avoid those pesky barspin lace snags (we don't have such problems to deal with).

The big question we had about the jersey was whether or not the drirelease stuff would actually work. Well, much to our surprise, it not only works but it is way more comfortable than your standard issue polyester jersey, even when drenched in sweat. We rode in near 100-degree heat and 80% humidity with this outfit, and it was probably our most comfortable experience in such conditions thus far. The fabric doesn’t get excessively heavy when it’s wet, nor does it cling to the skin. And not only does the stuff dry out super quickly, it is also less smelly than many of our other jerseys, so you can keep it on for that post-ride refreshing beverage (if you are ready for the odd look or two from the other guests).

Things That Could Be Improved

We’re big fans of ¾ length sleeves, but we find they work best when the cuff is a bit loose. ION has chosen a slightly tighter cuff for the Helium ¾ jersey, which feels a little odd at first. It’s entirely functional, we just prefer the feel of a loose cuff (since the ¾ length keeps it away from your hands anyway). If you run elbow pads, you'd be better off with either the short or the long sleeve version.

The asking price for both jersey and short is at the top-end of the market. 139 EUR (~$175 USD) for the short specifically is quite a lot to ask for, compared to what you can get for around the $100 USD mark elsewhere. At a minimum, the 139 EUR should include a quality chamois liner (it doesn’t). We do feel there are enough features and innovation here to warrant a premium, especially with regards to the jersey and the use of the drirelease material, how much such features are worth to you is personal. (Note that ION are currently not selling in the US, but has plans to start doing so in the near future).

As for the look, it probably won’t be to everybody’s liking. However, if loud is not your jam, as we previously pointed out there are quieter versions and colorways available too. And with a lot of street and casual wear on offer, you can coordinate your look from the bike park to the bar which is always a plus (and don’t forget to throw in a Sam Pilgrim/Antoine Bizet tank top for those big mountain days).

Long Term Durability

The durability of both the new Avic short and the Helium jersey has been exceptional. It’s rare that kit actually looks like new after MANY wash cycles, but this is the case with the ION gear. We haven’t ridden in pouring rain, but we’ve worn this stuff in the desert for full days out, in the woods freeriding, we’ve crashed, we’ve dug, and generally had quite a good time in this outfit. It is super easy to wash and comes out the other side looking like you just bought it. This mirrors our experience with a 2013 outfit that we still ride in as well, proving that ION know their business when it comes to durability and quality. That’s good, because we seem to keep reaching for their gear when getting ready for rides.

What’s The Bottom Line?

They say you should walk the walk before you talk the talk. As loud as they are, ION back up their bold styling with true performance on the bike. Innovative use of materials and a lot of thought put into the cut and design of the Scrub range has created gear that stands out from the crowd in more than one way. From super-bold to more subdued versions, ION gear will raise a few eyebrows on the trails and definitely make you very popular with the photographers. But whether you go fully flashy or chose to tone it down a bit, know that you’re getting a lot more than just a fancy graphics package and some surf-inspired gimmicks. This stuff works, and really well too.

More information at www.ion-products.com/bike/.


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 1 review.

Added a product review for Ion Helium 3/4 Riding Jersey 11/4/2014 2:12 PM
C138_47500_5013_ion_tee_ls_34_helium_red_f

Tested: ION Avic Short and Helium ¾ Jersey

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

ION popped up on our radar in 2013, when we discovered that the watersports apparel company had arrived in mountain biking with a full complement of bike-specific wear and protection and a style all their own. More than just a source of inspiration, the MTB offering draws on materials and construction used in the watersports line, the end result an eye-catching design that we were eager to put to the test. The Scrub range is designed for all types of riding and long days in the saddle, and with that being right up our alley, we set out to see what the fuss (and those colors!) were all about. Read on to find out more.

ION Avic Short Highlights

  • 88% Nylon / 12% Spandex Double Weave with durable water repellency treatment
  • Loose Fit: Comfy fit, loose cut
  • 4way stretch fabric
  • Sanitized® – ION’s Anti smell treatment
  • Phone Neo: Integrated water-repellent smartphone/MP3 pocket
  • Boardshorts closure with lace ports, triple seams, bonded details, 2 zipper front pockets, reflective details
  • Chamois/liner not included
  • Sizes: 30/S, 32/M, 34/L, 36/XL, 38/XXL
  • Colors: blue danube, saffron, dark shadow
  • MSRP: EUR 139.00 (Europe)

ION Helium ¾ Jersey Highlights

  • Front body: 85% Polyester, 15% Cotton drirelease® with Freshguard®
  • Back body and sleeves: 100% Polyester (Sanitized® with active biocidal substance: zinc pyrithione)
  • Loose Fit: Comfy fit, loose cut
  • Clear Optics: integrated lens cleaning fabric in hem
  • Ticket pocket: 1 lift pass pocket on hip
  • Reflective details
  • Sizes: 46/XS, 48/S, 50/M, 52/L, 54/XL, 56/XXL (unisex style)
  • Colors: fiesta red, insignia blue
  • MSRP: EUR 79.90 (Europe)

Initial Impressions

Walking up to ION’s booth at Eurobike in 2013, we wondered if maybe we had somehow taken a wrong turn and ended up at Eurosurf 2013 instead. Boardshorts galore, and lots of color – but no, this was actually the mountain bike range in all its glory. Intrigued, we took another look, and beyond the in-your-face styling, we discovered a very serious, passionate, and innovative company. ION has carved out a solid market share in the watersports world (specifically kitesurfing, wakeboarding and windsurfing), but with the company owner an avid biker, it was only a matter of time before they turned their attention to two-wheeled fun as well. And rather than take the me-too approach, they looked at what could be brought over from the aquatic arena, and as it turns out, there’s more than you’d think there. For example, what happens if you make a boardshort for biking? The Avic short (part of the 2015 Scrub range) is pretty much just that.

As you’ve no doubt noticed if you’ve paid any attention to the pro riders on the ION roster (Antoine Bizet, Sam Pilgrim, Thomas Genon, and others), this brand is all about color. But before you get too hung up on the loud side, know that there are much more subdued versions of all ION models available. As such, you could get the Avic short in grey and the Helium jersey in a quiet blue, if you wanted to blend in more than a Picasso in a piano store. We’re not afraid to go all in however, so we went for the yellow short and the jersey in “fiesta red”, and it’s definitely a party. But more than just a splash of color, what really caught our eye upon the first inspection was the obvious attention to detail and the seemingly very high level of quality on display throughout. There’s a ton of little features like a wipe for sunglasses and a hidden liftpass pocket on the jersey, and liberal use of interlocking and overlapping stitching and welded seams had us looking forward to a comfortable experience.

The standout feature on the jersey is the use of a cotton/polyester mix for the front panel. Soft to the touch and with a distinct non-jersey look to it, it had us wondering how it would behave on the trail once we got a bit hot under the collar. The “drirelease” fabric promised “4x faster drying” but would it stay comfortable when drenched in sweat?

On the topic of moisture, pulling on the shorts for the first time has you feeling ready for the beach. The material is close to that of a boardshort, and the lace and Velcro closure a not-very-subtle reminder of ION’s aquatic heritage. The cargo pockets seem well-placed, and specific features like the internal neoprene phone pocket are a welcome sight for anybody who likes to carry stuff on their body rather than in a big pack. The adjustments work well, and overall the Scrub outfit offered a tailored fit in size Large for this tester’s 6’0 and 200 lbs. All that was left to do now was hit the trails…

On The Trail

Even before we climbed on the bike, it was obvious that this outfit was going to be comfortable. The drirelease front panel of the jersey is soft to the touch, and the fit struck the right balance of loose and functional. The shorts are light and non-restrictive and managed to basically make us forget about them after 2 minutes on the first trail. The pockets hold a phone and a pair of keys in the right place, the 4-way stretch accommodating most shapes and providing a snug hold to avoid your belongings doing the dreaded slap dance on your thighs when pedaling.

The short is just the right length, it covers the knee without any excessive flapping. The adjustments employed are solid when riding, both the laces and the velcro straps on the side. No excessive movement, nothing comes undone, and nothing snags. Fit and forget. If you are of the freeriding pursuasion, know that a couple of the pros asked for a lace dock to avoid those pesky barspin lace snags (we don't have such problems to deal with).

The big question we had about the jersey was whether or not the drirelease stuff would actually work. Well, much to our surprise, it not only works but it is way more comfortable than your standard issue polyester jersey, even when drenched in sweat. We rode in near 100-degree heat and 80% humidity with this outfit, and it was probably our most comfortable experience in such conditions thus far. The fabric doesn’t get excessively heavy when it’s wet, nor does it cling to the skin. And not only does the stuff dry out super quickly, it is also less smelly than many of our other jerseys, so you can keep it on for that post-ride refreshing beverage (if you are ready for the odd look or two from the other guests).

Things That Could Be Improved

We’re big fans of ¾ length sleeves, but we find they work best when the cuff is a bit loose. ION has chosen a slightly tighter cuff for the Helium ¾ jersey, which feels a little odd at first. It’s entirely functional, we just prefer the feel of a loose cuff (since the ¾ length keeps it away from your hands anyway). If you run elbow pads, you'd be better off with either the short or the long sleeve version.

The asking price for both jersey and short is at the top-end of the market. 139 EUR (~$175 USD) for the short specifically is quite a lot to ask for, compared to what you can get for around the $100 USD mark elsewhere. At a minimum, the 139 EUR should include a quality chamois liner (it doesn’t). We do feel there are enough features and innovation here to warrant a premium, especially with regards to the jersey and the use of the drirelease material, how much such features are worth to you is personal. (Note that ION are currently not selling in the US, but has plans to start doing so in the near future).

As for the look, it probably won’t be to everybody’s liking. However, if loud is not your jam, as we previously pointed out there are quieter versions and colorways available too. And with a lot of street and casual wear on offer, you can coordinate your look from the bike park to the bar which is always a plus (and don’t forget to throw in a Sam Pilgrim/Antoine Bizet tank top for those big mountain days).

Long Term Durability

The durability of both the new Avic short and the Helium jersey has been exceptional. It’s rare that kit actually looks like new after MANY wash cycles, but this is the case with the ION gear. We haven’t ridden in pouring rain, but we’ve worn this stuff in the desert for full days out, in the woods freeriding, we’ve crashed, we’ve dug, and generally had quite a good time in this outfit. It is super easy to wash and comes out the other side looking like you just bought it. This mirrors our experience with a 2013 outfit that we still ride in as well, proving that ION know their business when it comes to durability and quality. That’s good, because we seem to keep reaching for their gear when getting ready for rides.

What’s The Bottom Line?

They say you should walk the walk before you talk the talk. As loud as they are, ION back up their bold styling with true performance on the bike. Innovative use of materials and a lot of thought put into the cut and design of the Scrub range has created gear that stands out from the crowd in more than one way. From super-bold to more subdued versions, ION gear will raise a few eyebrows on the trails and definitely make you very popular with the photographers. But whether you go fully flashy or chose to tone it down a bit, know that you’re getting a lot more than just a fancy graphics package and some surf-inspired gimmicks. This stuff works, and really well too.

More information at www.ion-products.com/bike/.


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 1 review.

Added a product review for Race Face Atlas 35 Stem 11/3/2014 6:52 AM
C138_1_atlas_stem_35mm_black_front

Tested: Race Face Sixc 35 20-mm Rise Carbon Bar and Atlas 35 Stem

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Carbon this and carbon that. It wasn’t long ago that a. carbon wasn’t available for your bike unless you were Donald Trump, and b. nobody in their right mind would trust the stuff on critical parts anyway. Fast forward to today, and the fantastic plastic is everywhere. From the frame to the wheels, your bike can drop weight faster than a bimbo in beach season thanks to this light weight and highly tunable magic material. Race Face is among the companies pushing the carbon boundaries, their Sixc and Next SL cranks a benchmark in the drivetrain market for example. Naturally we were curious to test their latest carbon handlebar offering in the 35-mm standard, so that is just what we did. Read on to find out how we got along.

Race Face Sixc 35 20-mm Rise Handlebar Highlights

  • Bar Width: 800-mm
  • Rise: 20-mm
  • Bend: 8°
  • Upsweep: 5°
  • Weight: 210-grams
  • Material: UD Carbon
  • MSRP: $159.99 USD

Race Face Atlas 35 Stem Highlights

  • Made from 6061-T6 aluminum
  • Four bolt bar clamp
  • Interlocking U-Shaped Handlebar Clamp Geometry
  • Faceplate eliminates stress risers
  • Opposing bolts on steer tube clamp provides extreme clamping power while reducing stress on the steer tube
  • Laser etched logos
  • Length: 35-mm, 50-mm, 65-mm
  • Rise: 0
  • Clamp diameter: 35-mm
  • Steer tube diameter: 1⅛"
  • Stack height: 40-mm
  • Weight: 141-grams (35-mm), 160-grams (50-mm), 181-grams (65-mm)
  • Color: Black
  • MSRP: $99.99 USD

Initial Impressions

The Sixc 20-mm riser we tested is now available in 4 colors with graphics updated to match the new Sixc cranks, but the bar we received for this test featured the previous graphics. Note that this bar is also available in 10-mm and 35-mm rise versions, although these will all feature the grey/silver on black combo as the only color way available. Regardless of colors, the Sixc 35 bar is impressive in person. The matte finish and subtle decals have an understated yet very classy look to them, and the 8 degrees back/5 degrees up is a classic set of numbers that we were happy to come across again.

For this test, the Sixc bar replaced a Race Face Atlas 35 (aluminum) bar, as such we were able to keep the Race Face Atlas 35 stem that was already on the bike. Of course, if you are new to the 35-mm clamp game, you’ll need to replace your stem as well if you want to run these new bars. The Atlas stem is beautifully made, with a compact yet elegant design. It is not among the absolute featherweights in the category, but then again, it’s designed for any kind of riding you can imagine so it places a certain premium on durability. The opposite lock design of the steer tube bolts and the full face plate give it a look that means business.

The Sixc 35 handlebar features cut lines to help you trim the width down should the 800-mm on offer be too much. Note that the Sixc can’t be cut down beyond 750-mm, doing so would put the controls in areas lacking specific reinforcement to deal with the clamping forces (750-mm is pretty much as narrow as a bar should ever be these days anyway if you ask us). Cutting our bar down to 780-mm was uneventful. There are no markings to help you set up and align your controls, but the graphics in the middle of the bar help make sure it is centered in the stem.

The Sixc bar was a perfect fit for the Atlas stem, and grips and controls went on with minimal fuss. We immediately noticed that the matte finish seemed to offer a lot of grip, everything felt solid without having to ham down on any bolts. The Atlas stem features a solid face plate which is designed to increase clamping force while eliminating stress risers. The supplied hardware is also of high quality, and left us feeling confident about our new cockpit. And so, after fine tuning the bar’s roll in the stem and aligning brake levers, shifter, and dropper post remote, it was time to hit the trails.

On The Trail

We’ve had good experiences with 8 degrees back/5 degrees up in the past, but we also know that these numbers don’t always mean the same thing from one manufacturer to the next. Be that as it may, the Sixc 35 was immediately comfortable. One of those bars you feel like you’ve been running your whole life (or wish you had!)

The 35-mm standard is sometimes a bit confusing. When it was originally introduced, it was claimed to allow for stiffer and lighter bars and a more solid bar/stem interface. Early iterations of 35-mm bars could be too stiff, especially when made from carbon. Race Face has introduced what it calls “Optimized Carbon Technology”, which means it’s made from a specific composite and reinforced in the areas under the controls and the stem. All that is done to ensure the bar is stiff where it needs to be, but not so much as to be harsh under the hands. At 210-grams for 800-mm wide, the bar is plenty light too (dropping almost 100 grams compared to its aluminum counterpart, the Atlas bar).

On the trail, the Sixc 35 has been very comfortable as well as confidence-inspiring. As previously mentioned, the matte finish offers excellent purchase for controls as well as the stem, and the whole cockpit remained completely slip-free for the duration of the test. Whether it’s down to “Optimized Carbon Technology” voodoo or just to the acronym-free overall design in general, we never felt as though the Sixc caused excess hand or arm fatigue – in fact quite the opposite. Even when combined with Race Face’s own super thin “Half Nelson” grips, our hands were always up for one more run.

Things That Could Be Improved

Adding subtle graphics to help with aligning levers and shifters on the bar would make life easier without taking away from the clean look too much. Having said that, a tape measure and a little care and attention is all that’s really needed to set up your cockpit once and for all, so this is really nitpicking on our behalf.

In regards to pricing, $159.99 for a carbon bar is a competitive price point. Of course, you can get into the 35-mm handlebar game for much less than that if you decide to stick to aluminum, but the Sixc offers enough weight reduction and comfort in use to warrant the premium.

With regards to the stem, it did its job without any fuss, and never left any doubt with regards to longevity or solidity. Pricing-wise, it’s in the upper tier of the market, but can be found online for less – and it’s a quality component and not an area we’d recommend skimping on anyway.

Long Term Durability

The finish of the Sixc 35 bar appears to be of very high quality. After a couple of months of riding and a few minor tumbles, there is not much wear and tear to show for it (we have thankfully managed to avoid losing the bike over a cliff so far...). The Atlas stem has a few scuffs on it and the bolts are losing color here and there, but overall it still looks fresh. Additionally, the fact that the whole cockpit has remained creak-free and solid is further testament to the workmanship on offer here, both regarding the bar and the Atlas stem. We certainly expect to get a lot more riding out of this cockpit (although we have a slight itch to update to the green version…)

What’s The Bottom Line?

We’ve been wary of jumping on the 35-mm bandwagon for the sake of it, as we didn’t have many complaints about our old 31.8-mm bars over the years. Whether the new standard has anything to do with it, or it’s just good engineering in general, the fact is that the Sixc 35 bar is an impressive piece of kit. Very light for such a wide bar, it is also very comfortable and seemingly very durable. If you’ve been wanting to try your hand at carbon and fancy giving the 35-mm train a ride, take a long hard look at the Sixc 35 bar and the Atlas 35 stem. We’re in no hurry to remove this cockpit from our bike.

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.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Race Face Sixc 35 20mm Rise Carbon Handlebar 11/3/2014 6:50 AM
C138_1_sixc35_20mm_bar_silver

Tested: Race Face Sixc 35 20-mm Rise Carbon Bar and Atlas 35 Stem

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Carbon this and carbon that. It wasn’t long ago that a. carbon wasn’t available for your bike unless you were Donald Trump, and b. nobody in their right mind would trust the stuff on critical parts anyway. Fast forward to today, and the fantastic plastic is everywhere. From the frame to the wheels, your bike can drop weight faster than a bimbo in beach season thanks to this light weight and highly tunable magic material. Race Face is among the companies pushing the carbon boundaries, their Sixc and Next SL cranks a benchmark in the drivetrain market for example. Naturally we were curious to test their latest carbon handlebar offering in the 35-mm standard, so that is just what we did. Read on to find out how we got along.

Race Face Sixc 35 20-mm Rise Handlebar Highlights

  • Bar Width: 800-mm
  • Rise: 20-mm
  • Bend: 8°
  • Upsweep: 5°
  • Weight: 210-grams
  • Material: UD Carbon
  • MSRP: $159.99 USD

Race Face Atlas 35 Stem Highlights

  • Made from 6061-T6 aluminum
  • Four bolt bar clamp
  • Interlocking U-Shaped Handlebar Clamp Geometry
  • Faceplate eliminates stress risers
  • Opposing bolts on steer tube clamp provides extreme clamping power while reducing stress on the steer tube
  • Laser etched logos
  • Length: 35-mm, 50-mm, 65-mm
  • Rise: 0
  • Clamp diameter: 35-mm
  • Steer tube diameter: 1⅛"
  • Stack height: 40-mm
  • Weight: 141-grams (35-mm), 160-grams (50-mm), 181-grams (65-mm)
  • Color: Black
  • MSRP: $99.99 USD

Initial Impressions

The Sixc 20-mm riser we tested is now available in 4 colors with graphics updated to match the new Sixc cranks, but the bar we received for this test featured the previous graphics. Note that this bar is also available in 10-mm and 35-mm rise versions, although these will all feature the grey/silver on black combo as the only color way available. Regardless of colors, the Sixc 35 bar is impressive in person. The matte finish and subtle decals have an understated yet very classy look to them, and the 8 degrees back/5 degrees up is a classic set of numbers that we were happy to come across again.

For this test, the Sixc bar replaced a Race Face Atlas 35 (aluminum) bar, as such we were able to keep the Race Face Atlas 35 stem that was already on the bike. Of course, if you are new to the 35-mm clamp game, you’ll need to replace your stem as well if you want to run these new bars. The Atlas stem is beautifully made, with a compact yet elegant design. It is not among the absolute featherweights in the category, but then again, it’s designed for any kind of riding you can imagine so it places a certain premium on durability. The opposite lock design of the steer tube bolts and the full face plate give it a look that means business.

The Sixc 35 handlebar features cut lines to help you trim the width down should the 800-mm on offer be too much. Note that the Sixc can’t be cut down beyond 750-mm, doing so would put the controls in areas lacking specific reinforcement to deal with the clamping forces (750-mm is pretty much as narrow as a bar should ever be these days anyway if you ask us). Cutting our bar down to 780-mm was uneventful. There are no markings to help you set up and align your controls, but the graphics in the middle of the bar help make sure it is centered in the stem.

The Sixc bar was a perfect fit for the Atlas stem, and grips and controls went on with minimal fuss. We immediately noticed that the matte finish seemed to offer a lot of grip, everything felt solid without having to ham down on any bolts. The Atlas stem features a solid face plate which is designed to increase clamping force while eliminating stress risers. The supplied hardware is also of high quality, and left us feeling confident about our new cockpit. And so, after fine tuning the bar’s roll in the stem and aligning brake levers, shifter, and dropper post remote, it was time to hit the trails.

On The Trail

We’ve had good experiences with 8 degrees back/5 degrees up in the past, but we also know that these numbers don’t always mean the same thing from one manufacturer to the next. Be that as it may, the Sixc 35 was immediately comfortable. One of those bars you feel like you’ve been running your whole life (or wish you had!)

The 35-mm standard is sometimes a bit confusing. When it was originally introduced, it was claimed to allow for stiffer and lighter bars and a more solid bar/stem interface. Early iterations of 35-mm bars could be too stiff, especially when made from carbon. Race Face has introduced what it calls “Optimized Carbon Technology”, which means it’s made from a specific composite and reinforced in the areas under the controls and the stem. All that is done to ensure the bar is stiff where it needs to be, but not so much as to be harsh under the hands. At 210-grams for 800-mm wide, the bar is plenty light too (dropping almost 100 grams compared to its aluminum counterpart, the Atlas bar).

On the trail, the Sixc 35 has been very comfortable as well as confidence-inspiring. As previously mentioned, the matte finish offers excellent purchase for controls as well as the stem, and the whole cockpit remained completely slip-free for the duration of the test. Whether it’s down to “Optimized Carbon Technology” voodoo or just to the acronym-free overall design in general, we never felt as though the Sixc caused excess hand or arm fatigue – in fact quite the opposite. Even when combined with Race Face’s own super thin “Half Nelson” grips, our hands were always up for one more run.

Things That Could Be Improved

Adding subtle graphics to help with aligning levers and shifters on the bar would make life easier without taking away from the clean look too much. Having said that, a tape measure and a little care and attention is all that’s really needed to set up your cockpit once and for all, so this is really nitpicking on our behalf.

In regards to pricing, $159.99 for a carbon bar is a competitive price point. Of course, you can get into the 35-mm handlebar game for much less than that if you decide to stick to aluminum, but the Sixc offers enough weight reduction and comfort in use to warrant the premium.

With regards to the stem, it did its job without any fuss, and never left any doubt with regards to longevity or solidity. Pricing-wise, it’s in the upper tier of the market, but can be found online for less – and it’s a quality component and not an area we’d recommend skimping on anyway.

Long Term Durability

The finish of the Sixc 35 bar appears to be of very high quality. After a couple of months of riding and a few minor tumbles, there is not much wear and tear to show for it (we have thankfully managed to avoid losing the bike over a cliff so far...). The Atlas stem has a few scuffs on it and the bolts are losing color here and there, but overall it still looks fresh. Additionally, the fact that the whole cockpit has remained creak-free and solid is further testament to the workmanship on offer here, both regarding the bar and the Atlas stem. We certainly expect to get a lot more riding out of this cockpit (although we have a slight itch to update to the green version…)

What’s The Bottom Line?

We’ve been wary of jumping on the 35-mm bandwagon for the sake of it, as we didn’t have many complaints about our old 31.8-mm bars over the years. Whether the new standard has anything to do with it, or it’s just good engineering in general, the fact is that the Sixc 35 bar is an impressive piece of kit. Very light for such a wide bar, it is also very comfortable and seemingly very durable. If you’ve been wanting to try your hand at carbon and fancy giving the 35-mm train a ride, take a long hard look at the Sixc 35 bar and the Atlas 35 stem. We’re in no hurry to remove this cockpit from our bike.

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.

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Joystick Binary Carbon 35 Handlebar 10/14/2014 2:46 PM
C138_joystick_binary_carbon_35_handlebar

Tested: Joystick Binary Carbon 35 Handlebar and Digger Stem

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Joystick started up in BC in late 2011 as a small initiative focused on making quality components. Almost 3 years later, the company has a fairly impressive line of bars, stems, saddles and grips available, all developed with the input from a number of high-profile riders who ride for and with the brand. We were able to lay our hands on some of the newest 35-mm standard bars and stems they make, and we wasted little time putting them to the test to see how they stack up out on the trail. After the 8-bit alloy DH stem and bars we tested earlier, now it’s time for us to weigh in on the carbon Binary 35 and Digger stem.

Joystick Binary Carbon 35 Handlebar Highlights

  • Bar Width: 760mm
  • Rise: 20mm
  • Bend: 9°
  • Upsweep: 6°
  • Weight: 194g
  • Material: Binary Carbon
  • MSRP: $169.99 USD

Joystick Digger Stem Highlights

  • Fully CNC machined
  • Controlled clamping system reduces stress risers
  • 50mm length
  • 35mm clamp
  • Weight: 150 g
  • MSRP: $120 USD

Initial Impressions

Riders from BC and beyond will no doubt have done a double take upon hearing the “Digger” name associated with a component. Todd "Digger" Fiander is a legendary trail builder who has been digging trails on the North Shore for over 30 years. Joystick partnered with Todd to create the Digger line, a significant part of the proceeds from which will go to Digger and his quest for building and maintaining trails. Sharing is caring!

Out of the box, the Binary bar and Digger stem both give an impression of quality. Material, machining, and graphics all seem to be the result of attention to detail and proper workmanship. Much like the 8-bit alloy bar previously tested, the Binary handlebar is soberly understated and discrete in stealthy black. The Digger stem is a beautiful piece of work with an innovative clamp design, meant to help distribute pressure on the handlebar more evenly, and also make set-up easier.

The handlebar features a number of markings to help you install and align your controls, as well as cut lines at the ends should you want less than the 760-mm on offer. There is a rough surface material applied to the central part of the handlebar to help with avoiding any slipping.

Installation was smooth, and the tight tolerances we observed definitely instill confidence. The hardware supplied is quality, and the design of the stem takes the guesswork out of tightening down the bolts. Tighten down the top bolts until the plate is flush, then do up the bottom bolts to torque spec.

The Binary Carbon bar features a 9 degrees back and 6 degrees up sweep, and based on our positive experience with the 8-bit Alloy bar, we were looking forward to seeing if results here would be similar. All we had to do now was hit the trail!

On The Trail

6 and 9 are classic handlebar measurements, and although we’ve sometimes found 6 degrees of upsweep to be a bit much on some bars the Joystick bar was instantly comfortable. Finding the right angle was easy, and we immediately felt confident at the helm.

The Binary bar is stiff and solid. It is not necessarily rough on your hands, but it definitely is on the stiffer side. Perhaps it’s because it’s “only” 760-mm wide (funny how quickly that got to be “only” 760 already!), but we felt less compliance here than on the wider 8-bit Alloy bars. As for the 35-mm standard, it would seem that it allows companies to actually reduce the weights of their bars even further, but other than that, we can’t say we’ve noticed a real effect on how they feel, even after testing multiple offerings from different vendors. 195-grams for an enduro-ready bar is certainly impressive, and without any apparent drawbacks to the 35-mm standard beyond having to also replace your old stem to run the fatter bar, we have no qualms about it on the Joystick here.

Initially, we tightened down our controls as we would on an alloy bar (i.e. snug but not more so they can twist in case of a crash), but that proved to be not quite enough on the carbon version. A little bit more pressure was needed on the brake levers and shifters to ensure they wouldn’t twist while riding, due to the slightly more slippery surface of the carbon here. Once we figured that out, everything was solid, and remained so for the entire test. The cockpit is completely free of creaks and cracks, testament to fine tolerances and good design. We are certainly fans of the way Joystick designed the clamping plate on the Digger stem, it really is very easy to install and on the evidence, definitely holds the bars in place without issue.

Things That Could Be Improved

Without it being to the point of causing suffering, the Binary bar is just a little on the stiff side for our taste. It is very confidence-inspiring and as solid as you could want when you have to manhandle the bike, but it could perhaps be a tiny bit more compliant. As for the graphics, some will love the stealthy (but classy) look, others may bemoan the lack of a more colorful option.

In regards to pricing, $169.99 for carbon bars is a fairly competitive price point, and although $120 for the stem is not the cheapest option out there we feel there is enough innovation in the design to warrant the premium. Additionally, you can feel good about your purchase knowing that part of the proceeds go straight back into creating more awesome trails for people to enjoy!

Long Term Durability

The Binary bar and Digger stem have been going strong for a couple of months now, on a bike that sees a lot of riders on it, and neither have much of a mark to show for it. The graphics are solid as is the general finish of both products. Joystick didn’t mess around when they put together their pro-rider stable, and if these heavy-hitters are happy to send it with their goods, then the rest of us can feel pretty confident about it too. We have no reason to believe in anything less than many more happy rides ahead at this point.

What’s The Bottom Line?

If you are into giving the new 35-mm standard a try, there are already quite a few options out there. Joystick has come through with a solid and good-looking cockpit in the Binary 35 bar and the Digger stem. The stem is beautifully made and brings real innovation to the clamping system. The bar offers comfortable angles and good reliability, meaning that it can stay on your bike for seasons to come, and if 760-mm is wide enough for you, we have no reservations about recommending this combo for your cockpit shopping list. Note that Joystick also makes an 800-mm wide carbon bar (the “Analog 35”), which just might address our slight issue with the stiffness of the Binary 35.

More information at www.ridejoystick.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 1 review.

Added a product review for Joystick Digger Stem 10/14/2014 2:19 PM
C138_joystick_digger_stem_50mm

Tested: Joystick Binary Carbon 35 Handlebar and Digger Stem

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Joystick started up in BC in late 2011 as a small initiative focused on making quality components. Almost 3 years later, the company has a fairly impressive line of bars, stems, saddles and grips available, all developed with the input from a number of high-profile riders who ride for and with the brand. We were able to lay our hands on some of the newest 35-mm standard bars and stems they make, and we wasted little time putting them to the test to see how they stack up out on the trail. After the 8-bit alloy DH stem and bars we tested earlier, now it’s time for us to weigh in on the carbon Binary 35 and Digger stem.

Joystick Binary Carbon 35 Handlebar Highlights

  • Bar Width: 760mm
  • Rise: 20mm
  • Bend: 9°
  • Upsweep: 6°
  • Weight: 194g
  • Material: Binary Carbon
  • MSRP: $169.99 USD

Joystick Digger Stem Highlights

  • Fully CNC machined
  • Controlled clamping system reduces stress risers
  • 50mm length
  • 35mm clamp
  • Weight: 150 g
  • MSRP: $120 USD

Initial Impressions

Riders from BC and beyond will no doubt have done a double take upon hearing the “Digger” name associated with a component. Todd "Digger" Fiander is a legendary trail builder who has been digging trails on the North Shore for over 30 years. Joystick partnered with Todd to create the Digger line, a significant part of the proceeds from which will go to Digger and his quest for building and maintaining trails. Sharing is caring!

Out of the box, the Binary bar and Digger stem both give an impression of quality. Material, machining, and graphics all seem to be the result of attention to detail and proper workmanship. Much like the 8-bit alloy bar previously tested, the Binary handlebar is soberly understated and discrete in stealthy black. The Digger stem is a beautiful piece of work with an innovative clamp design, meant to help distribute pressure on the handlebar more evenly, and also make set-up easier.

The handlebar features a number of markings to help you install and align your controls, as well as cut lines at the ends should you want less than the 760-mm on offer. There is a rough surface material applied to the central part of the handlebar to help with avoiding any slipping.

Installation was smooth, and the tight tolerances we observed definitely instill confidence. The hardware supplied is quality, and the design of the stem takes the guesswork out of tightening down the bolts. Tighten down the top bolts until the plate is flush, then do up the bottom bolts to torque spec.

The Binary Carbon bar features a 9 degrees back and 6 degrees up sweep, and based on our positive experience with the 8-bit Alloy bar, we were looking forward to seeing if results here would be similar. All we had to do now was hit the trail!

On The Trail

6 and 9 are classic handlebar measurements, and although we’ve sometimes found 6 degrees of upsweep to be a bit much on some bars the Joystick bar was instantly comfortable. Finding the right angle was easy, and we immediately felt confident at the helm.

The Binary bar is stiff and solid. It is not necessarily rough on your hands, but it definitely is on the stiffer side. Perhaps it’s because it’s “only” 760-mm wide (funny how quickly that got to be “only” 760 already!), but we felt less compliance here than on the wider 8-bit Alloy bars. As for the 35-mm standard, it would seem that it allows companies to actually reduce the weights of their bars even further, but other than that, we can’t say we’ve noticed a real effect on how they feel, even after testing multiple offerings from different vendors. 195-grams for an enduro-ready bar is certainly impressive, and without any apparent drawbacks to the 35-mm standard beyond having to also replace your old stem to run the fatter bar, we have no qualms about it on the Joystick here.

Initially, we tightened down our controls as we would on an alloy bar (i.e. snug but not more so they can twist in case of a crash), but that proved to be not quite enough on the carbon version. A little bit more pressure was needed on the brake levers and shifters to ensure they wouldn’t twist while riding, due to the slightly more slippery surface of the carbon here. Once we figured that out, everything was solid, and remained so for the entire test. The cockpit is completely free of creaks and cracks, testament to fine tolerances and good design. We are certainly fans of the way Joystick designed the clamping plate on the Digger stem, it really is very easy to install and on the evidence, definitely holds the bars in place without issue.

Things That Could Be Improved

Without it being to the point of causing suffering, the Binary bar is just a little on the stiff side for our taste. It is very confidence-inspiring and as solid as you could want when you have to manhandle the bike, but it could perhaps be a tiny bit more compliant. As for the graphics, some will love the stealthy (but classy) look, others may bemoan the lack of a more colorful option.

In regards to pricing, $169.99 for carbon bars is a fairly competitive price point, and although $120 for the stem is not the cheapest option out there we feel there is enough innovation in the design to warrant the premium. Additionally, you can feel good about your purchase knowing that part of the proceeds go straight back into creating more awesome trails for people to enjoy!

Long Term Durability

The Binary bar and Digger stem have been going strong for a couple of months now, on a bike that sees a lot of riders on it, and neither have much of a mark to show for it. The graphics are solid as is the general finish of both products. Joystick didn’t mess around when they put together their pro-rider stable, and if these heavy-hitters are happy to send it with their goods, then the rest of us can feel pretty confident about it too. We have no reason to believe in anything less than many more happy rides ahead at this point.

What’s The Bottom Line?

If you are into giving the new 35-mm standard a try, there are already quite a few options out there. Joystick has come through with a solid and good-looking cockpit in the Binary 35 bar and the Digger stem. The stem is beautifully made and brings real innovation to the clamping system. The bar offers comfortable angles and good reliability, meaning that it can stay on your bike for seasons to come, and if 760-mm is wide enough for you, we have no reservations about recommending this combo for your cockpit shopping list. Note that Joystick also makes an 800-mm wide carbon bar (the “Analog 35”), which just might address our slight issue with the stiffness of the Binary 35.

More information at www.ridejoystick.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 1 review.

Added a product review for 2015 YT Capra Comp 1 Bike 10/13/2014 1:06 AM
C138_2015_yt_capra_comp_1_bike

Tested: 2014 YT Industries Capra Comp 1

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

YT’s Capra made quite a splash when it was released earlier this year. With 160-170mm of travel, a carbon frame, and a price tag usually found hanging from bikes half as well spec'd, the only question mark that remained on paper was whether or not YT had overcooked the numbers for everyday trail use. Once the tires hit the dirt, that question was seemingly answered with a resounding "no," as the initial ride reports and reviews all pointed to a bike that was at ease both up and down the hill. In fact, after attending the launch of the bike, we called it a “game changer,” running the risk of ridicule in the wake of employing such a clichéd expression. We felt then that a bike that weighs 29-pounds (13kg) with a 65.5-degree head angle and lots of travel solves the classic “climb like a goat, descend like a bat out of hell” equation in a way that was realistically not possible just a few short years earlier.

Well, to find out if the Capra truly deserved the game changer title, we’ve spent nearly three months riding one. The honeymoon in Bali is over, time to see how this fine specimen would adapt to the station wagon and the snotty screaming kids.

YT Industries Capra Comp 1 Highlights

  • High-modulus carbon frame, V4L suspension linkage, 165mm (6.5-inches) travel
  • 65.5 degrees HA, 75 degrees seat tube angle, -7.5mm BB drop, 430mm CS
  • RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 High Volume rear shock
  • Rock Shox Pike RCT3, Solo Air fork
  • Sram X01 11-speed rear derailleur and shifter
  • Avid Elixir 7 Trail brakes (4 pot), 200mm discs front and rear
  • Race Face Turbine cranks with 32-tooth ring, 170mm, RaceFace Turbine X-Type PF30 BB
  • e*thirteen TRS+ wheels, XD driver, 27.5-inches
  • Continental Trail King 2.4 ProTection tires, 27.5 x 2.4-inches (front and rear)
  • Race Face Atlas 35mm stem, 50mm length andRace Face Atlas 35mm handlebar, 35mm rise, 770mm wide
  • Rock Shox Reverb stealth dropper post, Ø31,6mm, 150 mm travel
  • Sizes: Small, Medium, Large
  • Weight: 29.1-pounds (13.2kg) without pedals, claimed
  • MSRP: EUR 3,499 (Europe), excluding packing and shipping

Initial Impressions

There are an impressive number of bikes that claim to climb and descend with the greatest of ease. Typically, choosing one involves figuring out which part of the up/down equilibrium you favor, and then of course, finding a bike that suits your particular riding style and preferences within that group. Well, with a Latin name that translates to “mountain goat,” the Capra is not shy of announcing its intentions right out of the box: this is clearly a bike made for having fun. The Comp 1 we rode delivers 165mm of travel in the rear, with a 160mm Pike up front. The top-of-the-line Pro version pumps out 170mm of travel front and rear, thanks to suspension components from BOS (Kirk rear shock and Deville fork). There is also a Comp 2 which comes with a 2x drivetrain. Except for the colors, the frames are otherwise identical across all the versions.

YT ships its bikes directly to its customers preassembled (the brand does not work with a traditional distributor/shop model), and after putting on the handlebars and the wheels, we were ready to start inspecting their handiwork. With everything seemingly properly put together and curves in all the right places, the Capra passed the garage and parking lot tests with flying colors. One look at the aggressive and distinctly modern frame design, the slack head angle, and the beefy tires had us reaching for the full face. Very Enduro.

Poring over the specs, it becomes obvious that YT sweats the small stuff. A 150mm Reverb dropper post makes sure you can get your saddle well and truly out of the way when the rowdiness rolls on. 170mm crank arms give a little extra pedal clearance (especially welcome given the relatively low BB height), while the 770mm wide, 35mm rise bars should be wide enough for almost everybody. The bike comes with protective stickers already applied to the downtube, chain and seat stays, as well as around areas exposed to cable rub. The frame is carbon with the exception of the chain stays which are made from aluminum, a choice YT says they made because this is a part that is exposed to a lot of rock hits, particularly around the bridge area, and aluminum is still more resistant to direct impact than carbon.

A mix of internal and external cable routing keeps everything tidy, SRAM’s MatchMaker clamps make sure your handlebars are clean and uncluttered, and the color coordinated logoed saddle is a nice extra touch – if you love upgrades, you’ll have a hard time figuring out where to start on the Capra, such is the level of spec and finishing kit on display. All we were left to do was hit the trails…

On The Trail

With the Capra slated to be our only bike for about two and a half months, it was going to see a lot of variety. We took it up and down a lot of mountains (there’s a word for that kind of stuff), around XC trails, and even off some sweet jumps. With it being summer and all, our Capra is still blissfully unaware of the existence of the stuff they call mud, but other than that, it pretty much saw it all.

The Capra is definitely ready to rip straight from the factory. Other than replacing the stock tubes with ones that run sealant and throwing a pair of pedals on the bike, all we had to do was figure out our suspension settings (note that the wheels and tires are tubeless ready, but the bike is delivered without tubeless rim strips/valves). We dropped one “Bottomless Token” into the Pike to start with, just to provide a little extra ramp up out front. Starting out at 20-25% sag on the Monarch Plus in the rear, we found the bike too harsh, and we quickly discovered one of the defining traits of the Capra: the very progressive suspension leverage ratio of its Horst-link rear triangle. It ramps up from a very supple 3.3/1 in the early part of the travel, to a ready-for-anything 2.0/1 at the end of the 165mm.

This means it will sink to the sag point very easily, but will then hold you up through the mid-stroke and ramp up strongly at the end to deal with the biggest hits, especially when combined with an air shock. We found that this made it possible to ride the bike at relatively low pressures without ever feeling out of control, which gives a lot of small bump compliance and good grip without a wallowing feel. Even at 35% sag, the bike is ready to deal with bigger features (for reference, we settled around 150psi for a 200-pound rider for 30-32% sag).

Up front, the Pike requires no introduction, and little by way of superlatives. It has become a dominant force in trail/enduro forks over the last year, and with good reason. We left ours with one Bottomless Token in it for the duration of the test, and we were consistently able to run it at the lower spectrum of the recommended pressure for our weight too. 70-75 psi, not more than 4-5 clicks of low speed compression from fully open, a couple of clicks of rebound damping, and set-and-forget it was. Soft on the small stuff without diving badly under braking. You can definitely run higher pressures both front and rear for a more “classic” feel, but part of the fun of this bike is a plush “mini-DH” sensation without much of a pedaling or big hit penalty to it. Fun times indeed.

In terms of efficiency, a couple of factors combine to make this bike a good companion for longer days out: a 75-degree seat tube angle and a good amount of anti-squat built into the suspension. There is little discernible pedal-induced bobbing, and the bike excels at technical climbing (except with regards to the low bottom bracket which makes it prone to pedal strikes). The bike offers excellent grip when you lay down the power. On rocky, rooty climbs, the suspension remains very active over the bumps, but the power you put into the chain translates well to torque on the rear wheel. The Monarch Plus offers three levels of compression damping available at the flick of a switch, but we never really felt the need to play with it much. The bike moves out with an overriding feeling of ease. Standing sprints will yield a fair amount of suspension movement under the rider’s weight, but with 160mm of plush travel that is to be expected. You can certainly quiet it all down with the firmest of the three settings on both shock and fork if you need to.

YT’s official guiding light when making bikes is the fun factor. They will first and foremost make sure that the bikes they make are fun to ride, and then work on the rest of the characteristics as needed. There is little doubt that they succeeded with the Capra here. We felt instantly at home on the bike, in balance, and ready to attack the trail. Our size large was a perfect fit for our 6-foot (1m84)and 200-pound (90kg) test rider. With only three sizes on offer, a rider up to 6-foot 4-inches or so would still be okay on the Capra, but after that, the lack of an XL starts to become an issue. We should also point out that the Capra keeps the reach at 445mm for the size L, which is comfortable for a range of riding styles, and makes the bike playful. It is not up there with the super long TT/reach geometries that have been popping up of late (Mondraker, GT, and Orbea bikes jump to mind).

The slack head angle and long front-center provide a lot of stability, while the short 430mm chain stays make sure the bike stays lively and easy to move around. The size large Capra feels notably bigger than a size large Wicked (YT’s current aluminum trail/enduro bike), a combination of a few millimeters more on reach and stack, and 20mm longer wheelbase on the Capra. Unless you’re actually coming off a proper DH bike, the Capra will feel like it can take on any DH fun you care to point it at, with one stand-out difference: the weight. When a bike drops to this weight, the effect on handling and feel is undeniable - the dropped pounds so much more significant than removing some stuff from your riding pack, for example. The Capra is in the category of bikes that feel shockingly easy to throw over your tailgate, and very easy to move around when riding too, even when you dominate the "hack" category. This lack of heft translates to quick acceleration and good climbing, too, especially when paired with the excellent efficiency of the rear suspension.

Don’t associate lack of weight with flex, however – the Capra is no wet noodle. It is not among the absolute stiffest bikes we’ve ridden, but rather it strikes a great balance between stiffness and forgiveness and has a certain tautness to it that begs you to push it. A compliant yet dynamic ride is how we’d describe it, in part probably due to the properties of the carbon layup used to construct the frame. It is also very quiet on the trail.

Jumping the Capra is devoid of all drama, and once again we required little time to start to feel very familiar with the bike. Short stays means less risk of getting bucked off lips, and we we soon found ourselves happily pumping the jumps and enjoying the airtime onboard the Capra. Landings are soaked up with poise, even at the previously mentioned low shock pressures.

The Capra remains neutral in turns, and the the balanced riding position lets you really move your weight around as you attack the trail. Lean it over and it responds immediately, without feeling skittish. It certainly doesn't feel unwieldy at any time, although the 1,200mm wheelbase on the large will make itself known around the tight stuff.

A final word on the suspension performance: neither the fork nor the shock lock out completely, and in the case of the shock, there are only three levels of compression damping to choose from. None of this feels like an issue on the Capra. The design of the frame coupled with the Pike’s excellent out of the box characteristics left us riding more and fiddling with knobs a lot less.

Build Kit

The Comp 1 is the second-highest build level available on the Capra, based around the RockShox Pike RCT3/Monarch Plus hi-volume suspension package. Compared to the BOS-equipped Pro model, the Comp 1 saves 500 EUR and adds 300 grams of weight without really cutting any corners.

The SRAM X01 / Race Face Turbine drivetrain was flawless for the duration of the test. We’ve known this drivetrain to not drop a chain even without a chainguide, and here YT have added an ISCG05-mounted upper guide from e*thirteen for extra peace of mind. There is a removable front derailleur mount delivered with the Capra should you ever wish to convert the bike to a classic 2x drivetrain as well. The PF30 bottom bracket from Race Face is spinning as smooth as on day one, and the whole system is completely slop-free at this point.

The Race Face cockpit is excellent. Strong and creak-free, the 35mm clamp Atlas bar and stem combo feature comfortable angles and just the right width. The Race Face grips only have one lockring, and while they were entirely slip-free for the duration of the test, the soft outer edges and simple bar-end plugs are prone to wear when the bike is thrown around.

The YT-branded SDG Duster saddle is on the firmer side, but comfortable enough for all-day rides. It still looks very fresh, but it has developed a bit of a creak when you weight and un-weight it, especially if you are moving backwards or forwards in the saddle.

The Avid Elixir Trail 7 4-pot brakes performed admirably well throughout the test, with proper power, good modulation, and no signs of excessive brake fade nor any problems with the bleed. The reach adjust offers good range, and while we might point out the lack of bite point adjust, it never really bothered us while riding.

The RockShox Reverb has delivered excellent performance throughout the test. We salute YT’s choice of the 150mm travel version, as this extended range means you can really get comfortable both for pedaling and for shredding without ever having to modify the seat post height in the frame.

The fork and the frame both feature tool-less quick release systems, and they were both perfect during the test. The fork has a 15mm Maxle which threads into the lowers and is then secured with a QR-style clamp. The rear features a DT-Swiss made 142/12mm through-axle that screws directly into the dropout. We particularly appreciate the simple solution for adjusting the angle of the lever of the rear axle (more so than on the Maxle up front, which is slightly fiddly).

The Continental Trail King 2.4 tires are massive, although they deliver a good balance between weight and protection. Very fast rolling for a tire this size, we found them useful in a wide range of conditions, but not the most confidence inspiring in steep and loose terrain. They have a certain vagueness to them when leaning them over, likely due to their size, profile, and relatively small knobs. All in all, an appropriate stock choice, but one that riders can easily modify to suit their style and riding conditions.

The e*thirteen TRS wheels have proven worthy of abuse. At 1,867 grams for the pair, they are not the lightest trail/enduro wheels out there, but with good stiffness and quick engagement in the rear hub they feel snappy on the trail, and have stood up well to rocks, roots, and assorted sideways landings. The traditional j-spoke build is not very sexy by today’s standards, but has the undeniable advantage of being easy to true and easy to repair in any shop. These wheels also have a particularly loud freehub, which you are going to either love or hate…

Things That Could Be Improved

Our bike came out of one of the first batches, and it had a couple of design issues with the seat stay and the mech hanger that could lead to the hanger causing superficial damage to the seat stay. YT has since remedied the issue, and has replaced the hangers or even whole seat stays for those early customers who suffered issues. Bikes from later batches do not have this problem.

With the huge stock tires, mud clearance will probably be an issue. It can be partially remedied by running a smaller volume tire in the rear, but ultimately the design of the chain stay bridge limits the amount of muck this frame can deal with.

The lack of an XL in the line up is clearly an issue for taller riders at this point.

Finally, the cables were left a little bit too long for our taste, but we are nit-picking now.

Long Term Durability

The Capra has stood up exceptionally well to the abuse we’ve been able to dish out thus far. Beyond the slightly squeaky saddle, there are no creaks, rattles, or other annoying noises to report. Nothing is loose, nothing is broken. Hubs and cranks spin smoothly, the rims are still running mostly true and spoke tension is good, shifting is still crisp, and the suspension has if anything become better after breaking in. The Reverb dropper post is without issues to date, as are the brakes.

The frame itself appears reasonably resistant to scuffing. There are a couple of marks of course, notably the seat stay graphics have a few scratches in them, but overall the finish is still deep and glossy like the day we received it. For what it’s worth, the frame is very easy to clean.

None of the components of the build stand out as particularly fragile, nor do they have a history of excessive failures to our knowledge. All in all, the signs point to many more fun days ahead with the Capra, but in the worst case scenario know that YT backs it with a four year warranty.

What’s The Bottom Line?

When we first got to sling a leg over the Capra we called it a game changer. After nearly three months of proper thrashing, we stand by our call. The Capra delivers a hugely capable ride in a package that is up for anything from XC loops to freeride sessions, and it does so at a price point that defies most competition. It’s the kind of bike that always puts a grin on your face, even when grinding out the climbs. Point it down any track and it’s a weapon. We are not saying that other bikes don’t come close, what we are saying is that if it’s tons of fun you’re after, the Capra manages to pull together so many desirable traits in one bike that it truly represents a meaningful step forwards. While we've given top ratings to other bikes, none of those can be yours for 3,500 EUR new.

Visit www.yt-industries.com for more details.


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 2 reviews.

Added a product review for Magura MT7 Disc Brakes 9/22/2014 3:33 AM
C138_magura_mt7_disc_brakes

Tested: Magura MT7 Disc Brakes

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

Magura has been making brakes for a very long time – the company’s roots go back 120 years, and much of their experience has to do with brakes for two-wheeled applications. They also have almost 10 years’ experience of making disc brakes for mountain bikes, their original Gustav brake long a reference among gravity riders in regards to braking power. For 2014, Magura has completely renewed its entire line up of mountain bike brakes, and we laid our hands on the 4-piston MT7 to see what they have managed to come up with.

Magura MT7 Highlights

  • Carbotecture® SL brake lever housing and aluminum handlebar clamp
  • Ergonomic, 1- or 2-finger brake lever
  • Direct Postmount
  • Toolless adjustment of lever reach and bite point
  • Forged 4-piston brake caliper with banjo
  • magnetiXchange brake pistons for easy brake pad replacement
  • Weight: 355 g
  • Compatible with all MAGURA Storm and Storm SL discs
  • 5-year leakproof warranty for brake levers and cylinders after providing the original proof of purchase.
  • MSRP: $319.99 USD (per side, excluding rotors and mounts)

Initial Impressions

The MT7s do not make a subtle entrance. Between the unique, 4-pad design and the yellow piston covers on the calipers, they announce their arrival with convincing confidence. Pulling them out of the box reveals them to be much lighter than their hefty appearance would suggest, although at 375 grams per side, they are of course intended to serve the gravity crowd primarily. Magura makes lighter brakes if you don’t need all-out DH stopping power. Closer inspection of the MT7 pointed towards excellent workmanship and attention to detail throughout.

Taking a cue from Magura’s line of motorcycle brakes, the MT7s feature 4 pads per caliper. Magura says this allows one pair of pads to stay cooler than the other, which is meant to improve efficiency on longer runs. This design also allows them add a third bridge to the caliper design, which should help improve caliper stiffness.

The master cylinder body is made from Magura’s “Carbotecture SL”, a carbon-reinforced injection-molded resin (the lever blade itself is forged aluminum on the MT7). Magura claims the Carbotecture material not only allows them to save weight, but also to improve the finish on the internal surfaces of the master cylinder. Featherlight to the touch, we were curious to see how it would perform on the trail.

Fitting the brakes to the bike was entirely uneventful. Good hardware and fine tolerances, and we had drag-free brakes right out of the workstand. We were able to use a matchmaker clamp from an Avid brake to mount up our SRAM shifter too, which saved us from ordering one up from Magura (who does supply them as well of course). Squeezing the lever for the first time revealed a somewhat mushy sensation, and the feeling of lightness in materials persisted in the shop floor test. What would the story be on the trails?

On The Trail

Let’s get this one out of the way immediately: that feeling of lightness and softness at the lever is not mushiness. It is modulation. After the lever hits the bite point, power builds up incredibly quickly, but not in a jerky kind of way. What we initially thought was maybe flex in the lever assembly or soft hoses is in fact part of the brake force delivery already, with the MT7s providing oodles of power in a very controllable fashion. In fact, they are so powerful that you COULD probably mount these to your BMW motorbike in a pinch and ride home…

Magura’s website says the brake lever shape is a two-finger design, but unless you have the finger strength of a two-year-old, you’d be well-advised to never let but one finger anywhere near the MT7s. In terms of outright power, the MT7 is right up there with the most powerful brakes we have ever tried. They slow you down in a very decisive manner even with very little finger pressure. We’ll just stress again that the power delivery is smooth, and it is very easy to feel what the wheels and brakes are doing at all time – real world modulation that you get used to (=spoiled by) very quickly.

The MT7s are not particularly noisy. In the dry and dusty conditions we tested them in, they have a bit of a “grinding” noise to them, but they are squeal-free. The pads are held away from the rotors by magnetic force (instead of the classic spring clip between the pads), an elegant solution that also makes pad replacement very simple.

Whether or not the 4-pad design is to credit for it, the MT7s seem to manage heat very well. We hardly ever noticed any kind of lever pump or pressure buildup in the system, even through prolonged periods of braking. The consistent delivery of power was always there.

Things That Could Be Improved

The design of the lever leaves a couple of points to be improved upon: the range of adjustability in the lever is not appropriately positioned relative to the handlebars/grips, and the bite point adjust solution is finicky and did not stand the test of time for us.

The tool-less MT7 lever offers reach adjustment via a screw that contacts the main cam, and an eccentric axle/cam modifies the starting point of the lever’s travel. We found that while there is a relatively wide range of adjustability in regards to the reach, we were unable to get the levers close to the bars. If you have small hands or just prefer to run your brake levers close to your grips, this will be an issue with the MT7s. We spoke to Magura about this problem, and we were sent the tool-required lever blade parts as a replacement. The tool-required lever blade’s reach adjust screw retracts further into the blade body than the tool-less version does, which should in theory have helped address our concern. Unfortunately, there is another part of the lever blade that actually comes into contact with the main lever cam once you retract the reach-adjust screw fully, which left us with just a slight improvement in reach adjustability over the tool-less version when all was said and done. What we think Magura needs to do is simply take the lever blade back to the drawing board, just by reshaping the bend or making more room inside the blade for the reach adjust screw and the main cam, the problem would go away. Note that following feedback from testers and media, Magura will provide US customers with the choice between the tool-less and the tool-required lever blades at the time of ordering.

The bite point adjust system is not particularly well-executed either. As previously mentioned, the system is built around an eccentric cam that modifies the starting point of the lever’s travel. The effective range of adjustability on offer is very small, and one of the cams wore out very quickly during our test, leaving us with a lever that would snap forward and away from the bars quite easily. We replaced the bite point adjust version of the cam with the standard, non-adjustable one, and the levers have been solid since. The system chosen here seems a bit finicky, perhaps unnecessarily so, but it could be made to work with the use of a different material for the bite point adjust cam itself.

Long Term Durability

Apart from the issue with the bite point adjuster mentioned in the previous section, the MT7s have been dead solid for the couple of months we have been riding them. No abnormal pad wear, no creaks, no leaks, no change in feeling at the levers. The finish is holding up really well too, both on the levers and the calipers. Magura has done work to improve the smoothness of internal surfaces, notably with regards to the edges of the bleed port for example, which should improve the lifespan of the piston seals.

What’s The Bottom Line?

With the MT7 Magura has produced what is one of the most powerful brakes on the market at present. And not content with providing enough power to stop a car, they have managed to build a brake that modulates really well too. Magura needed to step its braking game up, and it has done exactly that with the MT7. This first iteration is let down by a poorly executed reach and bite point adjust system, which leaves the lever too far from the grips if you have small hands, but other than that, if it’s power, modulation, and solid performance you are after, the MT7s are worthy of your short list for sure. They are priced at the higher end of the market, on par with some of the most expensive options out there, but we feel there is enough performance and design improvements on offer here to warrant a premium, as a basic premise. How much of a premium you are willing to pay is your decision alone. At this point, the design of the lever blade and the adjustability features need to be improved for these to earn their true star-rating.

We also want to point out that Magura makes the MT5, which is a slightly heavier version (+25 grams per side) of the MT7, with slightly less power on tap - but a much better range of reach adjust in the lever design. The MT5 is also $120 cheaper per side, which should make it an outstanding value for money option.

More information at www.magura.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 1 review.

Added a product review for Joystick 8-Bit Alloy Handlebar 9/9/2014 3:23 AM
C138_joystick_8_bit_alloy_handlebar_38mm_black

Tested: Joystick 8-Bit Alloy Handlebar and Stem

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

Joystick started up in BC in late 2011 as a small initiative focused on making quality components. Almost 3 years later, the company has a fairly impressive line of bars, stems, saddles and grips available, all developed with the input from a number of high-profile riders who ride for and with the brand. We were able to lay our hands on some of the newest 35-mm standard bars and stems they make, and we wasted little time putting them to the test to see how they stack up out on the trail. First up, the 8-bit alloy DH stem and bars.

Joystick 8-Bit Alloy Handlebar Highlights

  • Bar Width: 800mm
  • Rise: 20mm or 38mm
  • Bend: 9°
  • Upsweep: 6°
  • Weight: 308 g
  • Material: 8-Bit Alloy
  • MSRP: $89 USD

Joystick 8-Bit Integrated Stem Highlights

  • Fully CNC machined
  • Controlled clamping system reduces stress risers and eliminates added hardware
  • Two length settings (45mm and 50mm)
  • Compatible with all current triple clamp fork standards
  • Weight: 120 g
  • MSRP: $120 USD

Initial Impressions

Out of the box, the bar and stem both give an impression of quality. Material, machining, and graphics all seem to be the result of attention to detail and proper workmanship. The handlebar is soberly understated and discrete in stealthy black (it is also available in a somewhat more colorful gunmetal finish). The stem is a sleek job that nevertheless appears strong in all the right places. It is also innovative in that it uses one pair of the baseplate bolts to secure the top plate as well, thus reducing the number of bolts typically found in a direct mount stem. This top plate design is also meant to provide a larger clamping area that helps distribute pressure on the handlebar more evenly, and takes the guesswork out of set-up.

The handlebar features a number of markings to help you install and align your controls, as well as cut lines at the ends should you want less than the full 800-mm on offer. Trimming the bars to our standard 780-mm was uneventful.

Installation was smooth with everything fitting together nicely. The hardware supplied felt solid under the wrenches, and the mounting holes of the stem aligned perfectly with the top crown of the fork. The mounting holes were also a perfect match for the diameter of the bolts supplied, and once torqued down, there was absolutely no undue movement or slop present in the cockpit. The stem also really looks the business, if we may slip that somewhat personal observation in here.

The 8-Bit Alloy bar features a 9 degrees back and 6 degrees up sweep, and we were curious to see what this would translate to on the trail. Handlebar fit is a highly personal thing, and what feels good for one rider might not suit the next – all we had to do to find out for ourselves was grab the bike and go ride!

On The Trail

Finding a comfortable angle for the 8-Bit bar was easy. 9 and 6 is a fairly common combo, and although we can sometimes find 6 degrees upsweep on some bars to be too much, the Joystick bar was instantly comfortable. We ran the stem in the 45mm setting which together with the 20-mm rise bars had our grips exactly where we wanted them.

The 8-bit bar is designed with a certain amount of flex to ensure it remains comfortable for long days out. Not harsh but definitely not mushy, it was easy on our hands and always left us feeling in control. Bigger trail features were handled with ease, and we always felt properly connected to the bike with the Joystick cockpit. The 35-mm standard is a bit of a curious one, after testing multiple bars with the bigger clamp diameter, we can’t say we’ve noticed a real effect on how they feel – but we have also yet to find any real drawbacks (beyond having to replace your stem to run one).

We never had any issues with slippage. The Joystick bar and stem combo remained tight for the duration of the test (the better part of two months of intensive riding), and grips, brakes, and shifters all sat exactly where we wanted them too. The cockpit has so far been completely free of creaks and cracks, testament to fine tolerances and good design. We are fans of the way Joystick designed the integrated top plate, it really is very easy to install and on the evidence, works extremely well to hold your bars without having to go nuts on the bolts. Nuts and bolts, nuts and bolts…

Things That Could Be Improved

Looking long and hard at the 8-Bit Alloy bars and stem, there is not a lot to complain about here. The graphics on the bars are perhaps a bit bland, and a couple more color options are always nice, especially to cater to the after-market crowd. Having said that, if your jam is stealth, these should be right up your alley.

In regards to pricing, $90 for the bars and $120 for the stem is not the cheapest aluminum option out there – but in terms of value for money, we definitely think you get what you pay for here.

Long Term Durability

We’ve seen nothing to suggest this bar and stem combo won’t go the distance. The graphics have held up really well to abuse (better than some), and the reassuring absence of slippage or creaks tells us the overall design is working as it should. With the amount of heavy hitters on Joystick’s pro rider roster, we’re pretty sure any shortcomings would have come to the fore in the nastiest of ways possible, had they not done their homework…

What’s The Bottom Line?

Your bar and stem may seem like boring parts of your bike compared to say suspension and gears, but it’s one of those things you absolutely need to get right. The cockpit provides one of the most important contact points between the rider and the bike, and additionally, any failure here could easily have catastrophic consequences. Joystick scores highly on both fronts with the 8-Bit Alloy bar and stem – comfortable and secure, this combo feels good on the bike and should go the distance too. If it’s color you want you’ll have to look elsewhere, but if stealthy black or gunmetal will do it for you, then put these two parts on your cockpit shopping list.

More information at www.ridejoystick.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 1 review.