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

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

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

7iDP Flex Knee Main Features

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

Initial Impressions

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

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

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

On The Trail

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things That Could Be Improved

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

Long Term Durability

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

What’s The Bottom Line?

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

More information at www.7protection.com.


About The Reviewer

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

This product has no reviews yet.

Added a product review for Easton Heist 27.5 Complete Wheel 7/19/2015 4:50 AM
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Tested: Easton Heist 27.5 Wheelset

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

Earlier this year, Easton launched a new MTB rim. Available in 3 different widths, the aluminum ARC rim was made to cater to a wide range of riding styles and conditions. Shortly thereafter, Easton featured the ARC rim on the all-new Heist wheelset, a competitively priced set of hoops aimed at anything "from XC to aggressive all-mountain" - with particular focus on the latter category. The Heist is also suitable for Enduro racing, although Easton feels its flagship Haven wheelset may be the go-to choice for many riders there. We've been rocking a pair of these new wheels for almost 3 months now, and we're here to let you know how we've been getting along.

Easton Heist 30 Wheelset Highlights

  • WHEEL SIZE: 27.5” or 29"
  • WHEELSET WEIGHT (27.5"): 1650g / 1750g / 1790g
  • WHEELSET WEIGHT (29"): 1730g / 1840g / 1880g
  • FINISH: BRUSHED BLACK ANODIZE / VINYL DECALS
  • TYPE: TUBELESS READY CLINCHER
  • RIM MATERIAL: WELDED ALUMINUM
  • RIM DEPTH: 20mm
  • INTERNAL RIM WIDTH: 24mm / 27mm / 30mm
  • EXTERNAL RIM WIDTH: 28mm / 31mm / 34mm
  • SPOKES: DOUBLE-BUTTED BLACK
  • FRONT SPOKE PATTERN: 3x
  • REAR SPOKE PATTERN: 3x
  • NIPPLE TYPE: SILVER BRASS
  • BRAKE INTERFACE: 6-BOLT DISC
  • FRONT HUB TYPE: X5, 9x100QR or 15x100
  • REAR HUB TYPE: X5, 10x135QR or 12x142 REAR
  • MSRP: USD $700 / EUR €650 / UK £449.98

Easton X5 Hub Highlights

  • HUB SHELL MATERIAL (F/R): ALUMINUM
  • AXLE MATERIAL (F/R): ALLOY
  • AXLE TYPE (front): 15X100 THRU-AXLE OR 9X100 QR (STEEL KNURL RINGS ON QR ENDCAPS)
  • AXLE TYPE (rear): 12X142 THRU-AXLE OR 10X135 QR (STEEL KNURL RINGS ON QR ENDCAPS)
  • AXLE DIAMETER (front): 17MM
  • AXLE DIAMETER (rear): 15MM
  • WEIGHT (front) 135G (15X100)
  • WEIGHT (rear) 285G (12X142 SHIMANO)

Rims have been getting wider over the last couple of years or so, but rather than go all in at the wider-is-better table, Easton offers the new wheelset in 3 different configurations from 24- to 30-mm internal width. The objective here is to allow the rider to match up the rim width to his or her tire size and riding style, among other. Although if you are riding a 26" bike you are out of luck, as the Heist is only offered in 27.5" and 29". No word as yet on whether Easton is planning a Boost compatible version.

Wanting to test the new wheelset at the more aggressive end of the scale, we took delivery of a pair of the 30-mm internal width version. The Heist wheel delivers an understated but purposeful look out of the box, with subtle graphics and straight-pull spokes. Different colored decals are available should you want to spice up your bike a bit as well.

The Heist arrives tubeless ready from the factory, with rim strip and valve already pre-installed and ready to go.

As previously mentioned, the Heist wheel uses the ARC rim released earlier this year, although instead of the standard ARC's 32 spoke holes, the version featured on the Heist offers 28. Other than that, the vinyl graphics are the only difference. The rims are laced to the all-new X5 hubs using straight-pull, double-butted spokes. Our set weighed in at 1829-grams (with XD-driver, rimstrip, and valve), 39-grams above the advertised target weight of the 30-mm version.

The Heist wheel is delivered with a set of replacement end-caps to make swapping between axle standards easy, and 5 spare spokes are also included in the box. A welcome design feature, the spokes are all of the same length for the whole wheelset. The Heist keeps it real with a traditional spoke nipple interface, not as sexy as the threaded eyelet on Easton's premium Haven wheel but also probably easier to find replacement parts for out in the bush.

The X5 hub is completely new, although it builds on Easton's previous hub designs. The front hub has been optimized for 15x100 with larger bearings than previously, and the endcaps can be swapped without tools. The rear hub features a classic 3-pawl freehub design with a 21-tooth, reinforced drive ring for 17º engagement. The rear hub also features larger hub shell load bearings than Easton's M1 hub. The non-drive side cap can be swapped without tools, while the drive side cap requires a 17-mm wrench and 12-mm hex to remove. Bearing preload is set at the factory and is non-adjustable, which should hopefully spell the end of the bearing issues that plagued Easton's hub a couple of generations ago.

On The Trail

We paired up the Heists with the Maxxis High Roller 2 tire with a 2.4" casing. Even though we ran the non-tubeless version of the tires, they were (very!) easy to mount tubeless with a simple floor pump and some sealant, and have been trouble free so far in terms of holding air. The extra width of the rim provides a good base for bigger tires, and gives them a notably squarer profile - most visible when comparing the sidewall shape.

The Heist was drag-free out of the box, spinning easily and rolling well, and it has remained so for the duration of this test. We have now been riding this wheelset for 3 months straight, mainly on rough trails with some lift-assisted DH runs thrown in for good measure, and we have been very impressed with how the wheel has stood up to the abuse. Less-than-graceful landings and unfortunate line choices have put this wheelset in harm's way more than once, and while we wouldn't go so far as to say that you can get away with a season of park riding with the Heists, we will say that in terms of durability these wheels have so far outperformed several other wheelsets we have tested, some of which sport significantly higher price tags. We did manage to put the slightest wobble on the rear wheel, but it was easily corrected with a few twists of a spoke key. For the rest, they still look and feel great.

On the trail, the Heist offers in our opinion just the right combination of stiffness and comfort. The real stand-out feature however is the extra rim-width offered by the 30-mm version we rode. The extra width squares up the tire to create a bigger contact patch on the ground, and it also allows you to run lower tire pressure - all of which adds up to more grip and better stability. The wheel provides a very confident feel when leaning into turns, and it deals with off-camber roots and rocks very well too. We were worried the wider, flatter tire profile might start to "float" over loose rocks and sandy chutes as opposed to dig in and look for grip, but we found much the opposite - yet more stability and confidence in these conditions too. Our test took place mainly in the dry, so we can't comment on what the wider tire profile might do in outright muddy conditions, but that is mainly down to tire choice anyway. And of course, another very useful aspect of the new Heist wheel is the availability of 3 different rim widths, which allows you to select the one best suited to your tires, riding style and terrain.

Tubeless performance has been great, the wheels have held air even with non-tubeless tires (running sealant), and we have not had them burp on us even at significantly lower pressures. If we would typically settle on 28 psi front/30 psi rear for most conditions, the Heist/High Roller 2 tubeless combo easily let us get away with 23-25. The bike will still be rideable at even lower pressure than that, but you will increasingly find yourself at the mercy of rim dings and an overall squirmier feel.

Things That Could Be Improved

The rear hub offers an average-at-best 17-degrees of engagement, and while this is in line with some competitive offerings in this wheel category, it is the only point we feel could benefit from improvement. At $700 USD, there are some good options out there, and although Easton has packed some impressive features into the Heist, quicker engagement would add a star and push it really close to the top of its class. As it stands, the 17-degree engagement won't hold you back, but we would certainly welcome a double-time engagement option even if it added $50 to the price...especially since the rest of the wheel punches well above its weight.

We could also cite the lack of a 26" version as a point to improve, along with the lack of a 20-mm through axle, but in reality, the all-mountain and trail bike market has moved on. Easton would have way more reason to invest in a Boost version than in 26" rims or 20-mm axles.

Long Term Durability

Both hubs roll extremely well, and have so far been completely free of any play. 3 months may be a bit short to conclusively prove that Easton's hub woes are behind them, but we're off to a very good start. Easton addressed prior known weaknesses head on when they designed this new X5 hub, which also bodes well for longevity. As for the rest of the wheel, we've been very impressed with how the Heists have dealt with abuse, and the way they hold tension and stay true points to a quality build that should be good for many happy miles of trails. The finish of the rims is very durable, and the sturdy vinyl decals still look good even with a few scratches on them.

What's The Bottom Line?

There is a lot of choice in the current wheel market. Easton's new Heist follows the wide-rim trend but also gives you the opportunity to match your rim width to your riding style, tire size, and riding conditions, a definite plus in our books. The single spoke-length design and the straight-pull hubs give the Heist a premium touch, and the understated but aesthetically pleasing graphics complement any build. Furthermore, the wheel rolls well, holds a line, and has impressed us with its capacity to withstand abuse. Improved rear hub engagement would give the Heist a snappier feel on the trail, but as it stands, Easton has put out an exciting and durable new option for those wanting to get into the wide-rim, all-mountain wheel game.

More information at www.eastoncycling.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 Birzman Travel Tool Box 7/13/2015 4:43 AM
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Tested: Birzman Travel Tool Box

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

Tools can literally make or break your wrenching experience. Having the right tool for the job at hand can easily mean the difference between heading out on your next ride and heading to the shop with stripped bolts, leaking brake lines, and a red face. Most serious riders probably have a decent collection of essential tools in their garage/man cave/backseat, but more often than not, it will be a hodgepodge selection of tools acquired over the years as and when the need arose. Birzman knows the pain of not having the right selection available at the right time, and have put together two different packages intended to provide a portable yet complete solution for the workshop or the road. Following our earlier review of the extensive Studio Kit, we laid our hands on the more streamlined Travel Tool Box, to see if it would prove enough to satisfy our mobile wrenching needs.

Birzman Travel Tool Box Highlights

Includes 20 pieces selected from the Birzman portfolio of high performance tools in a heavy-duty, PE plastic case featuring a blow molded tool pallet to protect and organize tools.

Tools included:

  • Torx® Key Set, T10/ T15/ T20/ T25/ T27/ T30/ T40/ T45/ T50
  • Hex Key Set, 1.5/2/2.5/3/4/5/6/8/10mm
  • Chain Wear Indicator, 0.75% to 1%
  • Patch Kit 
  • Tire Lever Set 
  • Shimano® Cartridge B.B. Tool 
  • Shimano® HG Cassette  
  • Shimano® MF Freewheel 
  • Universal Crank Puller, For ISIS® Drive and Octalink® crank arms
  • Cable Cutter 
  • Hollowtech® II B.B. Tool 
  • Socket Wrench, For 1/2" drive hex bit sockets
  • Crank Arm Installation Tool 
  • Spoke Wrench, 12G/13G/14G/15G /Shimano® 4.3/4.4
  • Chain Rivet Extractor, 1/8", 3/32", 9,10 and 11 speed
  • Pedal Wrench, 15mm pedal wrench
  • Chain Whip, 8/9/10/11 speed
  • Flathead 5.5 
  • Crosshead #2 
  • Combination Wrench, 8/10mm
  • MSRP: $243.00

Initial Impressions

Upon pulling the box out of the box, we were met with a neatly organized set of tools that looked like they mean business. The sturdy travel box is divided into 2 halves, each with a blow molded insert that provides a specific place for each tool. A removable neoprene divider provides extra padding between the 2 sides when the box is closed. The overall dimensions are very sleek, think mini-sized briefcase and you’re in the ballpark.

The tool selection is meant to ensure you are equipped to work on most areas of the bike when out and about. There is a full complement of individual hex/Allen and Torx wrenches, held in 2 separate organizers, as well as tools for working on your transmission, your cranks, your wheels, tires, and cables. Notably absent are a pliers and some form of dead blow hammer – more on that later.

Individual inspection revealed all the tools to have a quality feel to them, in addition to being nicely finished off in terms of aesthetics. What would the story be in the shop and on the trail?

In The Shop/On The Trail

The idea behind a travel tool box is mobility, and on this point, Birzman delivers. The sleek case will fit under many car seats, and it is also sturdy enough to survive banging around in a trunk or being strapped to the side of your truck bed. The tools are held in place securely for transport, but are easy to access and remove when you need them.

Individually, most of the tools are pleasant to work with. When given a choice in a workshop environment, we always prefer big, comfortable T-handle wrenches, but for field work, the more compact versions included in this travel box kit work well. The ball end of the hex wrenches is very rounded, which is great for awkward angles but can make it difficult to get good grip on stubborn bolts. The square side features a set of grooves cut into the material, which provides a little extra grip and prevents the wrench from slipping out and potentially damaging the bolt head. These grooves also help when the bolt head is filled with dirt.

In no particular order, here are our observations on some of the other tools:

  • The chain breaker tool large and very comfortable to use, and the clever spring loaded retention plate helps hold the chain in place when pressing a link back together.
  • The big wrenches (socket, pedal wrench, chain whip) feature comfortable handles and sturdy construction. The chain whip will only work on the largest sprocket on an 11-speed cassette, not an issue per se just something worth pointing out (due to the thickness of the chainlinks used).
  • The tire levers work well, although the wide and shallow tip sometimes makes it a bit harder to find purchase on a tight casing. It’s good for avoiding pinching the inner tube though.
  • The included patch kit works well, and has ended up in our riding pack for trailside emergencies during rides.
  • Cranks and freehub tools are provided for Shimano standards. It’s a fair enough choice given the penetration of these standards in the market place, but a lot of bikes these days will feature other brands of cranks and wheels, which can make some of the included options redundant (cough cartridge BB cough).

Things That Could Be Improved

Our main gripe with the Birzman Travel Box has to do with the selection of tools included. A travel box should focus on essentials, but still offer peace of mind when chucking it in the back of your car. Without wanting to appear greedy, in our opinion Birzman missed a couple of tricks here:

  • There are no pliers. A pair of radio pliers (cutting, crimping) can come in handy for many emergency repairs, and it should be considered an absolutely essential item. Birzman could easily make room for it in the kit by for example including a reversible screwdriver instead of the 2 big ones currently featured (they are both nice to work with BTW, just not needed very often on actual bikes…).
  • An adjustable wrench is a fairly hefty item, but since it can be used for anything from opening a fork to truing a brake rotor, it fits in the “essential” category in our opinion.
  • There is no hammer. We’re not suggesting a full-blown shop item be included, but there are smart ways to provide this essential piece of equipment: for example, a screw-on head for one of the big wrench handles would be a great solution. It could be stored where that cartridge BB tool is now…
  • The spoke wrench can present issues with worn nipples, because the grip area of each slot is not very tall. The tool is reasonably comfortable to work with, but less sharp edges and a bigger purchase area would make it better.
  • We’d like to see a small space be provided in the box for extra tools or spares. We realize this tool kit was built to be small, but at the same time, some of the tools included take up a lot of space. For example, the socket wrench and pedal wrench could be combined, by putting one tool on each side of a common handle. It might not be quite as elegant as the stand-alone tool, but that would be an acceptable compromise for a travel kit since it would free up a lot of space in the box. Some of the BB tools could be stored more efficiently as well, all of which could free up some real estate for a “personal area”. Somewhere big enough to hold a spare cable, some brake pads, a few nuts and bolts, and one or two specific extra tools of the user’s choosing – proprietary pedal or crank tools, for example.
  • Price is always a touchy subject, and $240 may seem like a lot for a minimalist travel tool kit. $12 per tool is reasonable however (that’s not counting the Allen/Torx wrenches individually but each complete set as one tool), especially for bike-specific quality tools like these.

Long Term Durability

The case has put up with a couple of months of abuse just fine, as have the tools themselves. Whilst we have not subjected the wrenches to full-time workshop duty, some of the tools have seen a lot of action and they are none the worse for wear. Based on what we’ve seen so far, we have no reason to believe that you won’t get years of loyal service out of this kit.

What’s The Bottom Line?

The Birzman Travel Tool Box provides a good answer for those looking for a minimalist kit that can deal with many types of repairs in a DIY workshop environment or on the road. You will need to complete it with a few more items, which may leave some grumbling about the $240 price tag, but overall, the Travel Tool Box offers good value for money and quality tools that are easy to work with.

More information at www.birzman.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 Victory Gloves 6/19/2015 3:39 AM
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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.