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

Tested: Hope Technology Tech 3 E4 Hydraulic Brakes

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

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

Hope Technology Tech 3 E4 Brakes Highlights

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

Initial Impressions

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

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

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

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

On The Trail

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

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

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

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

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

Things That Could Be Improved

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

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

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

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

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

Long Term Durability

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

What’s The Bottom Line?

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

More information at www.hopetech.com.


About The Reviewer

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

This product has 1 review.

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

Tested: ION Avic Short and Helium ¾ Jersey

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

ION Avic Short Highlights

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

ION Helium ¾ Jersey Highlights

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

Initial Impressions

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

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

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

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

On The Trail

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

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

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

Things That Could Be Improved

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

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

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

Long Term Durability

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

What’s The Bottom Line?

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

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


About The Reviewer

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

This product has 1 review.

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

Tested: ION Avic Short and Helium ¾ Jersey

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

ION Avic Short Highlights

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

ION Helium ¾ Jersey Highlights

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

Initial Impressions

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

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

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

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

On The Trail

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

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

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

Things That Could Be Improved

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

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

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

Long Term Durability

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

What’s The Bottom Line?

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

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


About The Reviewer

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

This product has 1 review.

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

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

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

Race Face Sixc 35 20-mm Rise Handlebar Highlights

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

Race Face Atlas 35 Stem Highlights

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

Initial Impressions

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

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

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

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

On The Trail

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

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

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

Things That Could Be Improved

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

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

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

Long Term Durability

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

What’s The Bottom Line?

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

More information at www.raceface.com.


About The Reviewer

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

This product has 1 review.

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

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

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

Race Face Sixc 35 20-mm Rise Handlebar Highlights

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

Race Face Atlas 35 Stem Highlights

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

Initial Impressions

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

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

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

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

On The Trail

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

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

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

Things That Could Be Improved

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

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

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

Long Term Durability

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

What’s The Bottom Line?

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

More information at www.raceface.com.


About The Reviewer

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

This product has 1 review.

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

Tested: Joystick Binary Carbon 35 Handlebar and Digger Stem

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

Joystick Binary Carbon 35 Handlebar Highlights

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

Joystick Digger Stem Highlights

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

Initial Impressions

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

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

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

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

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

On The Trail

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

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

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

Things That Could Be Improved

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

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

Long Term Durability

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

What’s The Bottom Line?

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

More information at www.ridejoystick.com.


About The Reviewer

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

This product has 1 review.

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

Tested: Joystick Binary Carbon 35 Handlebar and Digger Stem

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

Joystick Binary Carbon 35 Handlebar Highlights

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

Joystick Digger Stem Highlights

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

Initial Impressions

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

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

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

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

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

On The Trail

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

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

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

Things That Could Be Improved

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

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

Long Term Durability

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

What’s The Bottom Line?

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

More information at www.ridejoystick.com.


About The Reviewer

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

This product has 1 review.

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

Tested: 2014 YT Industries Capra Comp 1

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

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

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

YT Industries Capra Comp 1 Highlights

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

Initial Impressions

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

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

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

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

On The Trail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Build Kit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things That Could Be Improved

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

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

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

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

Long Term Durability

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

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

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

What’s The Bottom Line?

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

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


About The Reviewer

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

This product has 2 reviews.

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

Tested: Magura MT7 Disc Brakes

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

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

Magura MT7 Highlights

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

Initial Impressions

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

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

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

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

On The Trail

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

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

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

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

Things That Could Be Improved

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

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

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

Long Term Durability

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

What’s The Bottom Line?

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

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

More information at www.magura.com.


About The Reviewer

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

This product has 1 review.

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

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

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

Joystick 8-Bit Alloy Handlebar Highlights

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

Joystick 8-Bit Integrated Stem Highlights

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

Initial Impressions

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

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

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

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

On The Trail

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

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

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

Things That Could Be Improved

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

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

Long Term Durability

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

What’s The Bottom Line?

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

More information at www.ridejoystick.com.


About The Reviewer

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

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Joystick 8-Bit Integrated Stem 9/9/2014 3:21 AM
C138_joystick_8_bit_integrated_stem

Tested: Joystick 8-Bit Alloy Handlebar and Stem

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

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

Joystick 8-Bit Alloy Handlebar Highlights

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

Joystick 8-Bit Integrated Stem Highlights

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

Initial Impressions

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

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

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

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

On The Trail

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

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

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

Things That Could Be Improved

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

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

Long Term Durability

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

What’s The Bottom Line?

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

More information at www.ridejoystick.com.


About The Reviewer

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

This product has 1 review.

Added a product review for Mavic Crossmax Hydropack 15 Hydration Pack 8/14/2014 3:14 AM
C138_359854

Tested: Mavic Crossmax Hydropack 15

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

Say Mavic and most people think of rims and wheels, of the bright yellow variety more often than not. Well, over the recent years the company has also been developing a line of apparel and accessories, aimed squarely at the kind of riding the staff at Mavic themselves enjoy the most – climbing a hill and bombing down it. First introduced at Eurobike 2013, the Crossmax 15L hydration pack was developed to be the perfect companion for longer days out, and we’ve been putting it through its paces for almost 4 months now to see what gives.

Mavic Crossmax Hydropack 15 Highlights

  • Main Fabric: 420D RIPSTOP
  • Pocket for cell phone
  • Adjustable belt with pockets
  • Backlight clip
  • 15L cargo capacity
  • Tool compartment
  • Roll-out helmet flap
  • Delivered with 3L hydration bladder (made by Hydrapak)
  • 4 front zipped pockets integrated on straps
  • Separate hydration compartment
  • Padded belt with large buckle
  • Adjustable sternum strap
  • MSRP: $149.95 USD (EUR 130 in Europe)

Initial Impressions

When you first lay eyes and hands on the Crossmax pack, the initial impression is of quality. The pack is designed by Mavic from the ground up, and manufactured by Salomon, which should tell you everything you need to know about how well it was made. The looks are understated yet decidedly modern, and the attention to detail is second to none. Super-neat stitching, yellow tabs on all the main zippers, lots of different materials used in different places…no corners were cut here!

15 liters is quite a lot of cargo capacity, but the design of the pack is very compact. Furthermore, Mavic added a lot of clever little external pockets in addition to the numerous internal compartments available, to make it easy to reach stuff you need frequent access to without removing the pack. Mavic has a top level Enduro team led by Jerome Clementz, Fabien Barel and Anne-Caro Chausson and many of the requirements for the pack came directly from them. That’s a good thing, because beyond the fancy name, Enduro is really what riding a mountain bike is about for many of us – minus the stopwatch.

The Crossmax pack offers 2 main internal compartments plus a dedicated hydration compartment. The largest cargo compartment is free of internal dividers, while the secondary compartment offers internal zippered pockets and specific tool holders. There is also a soft internal pocket for carrying your cellphone, and a specific external pocket for your pump. To round off the features overview, there is a nifty helmet carrier that can adjust to anything from an XC lid to a fullface. The only thing missing is a rain cover.

To keep you cool, the backpanel of the Crossmax features raised pads and sizeable air channels, dubbed “Climaflow”. The large waist strap also features an internal mesh for breathability, while the small sternum strap is adjustable in height. To ensure that the pack and its contents stay put when the going gets rowdy, there are also cargo compression straps on the side of the pack. The Crossmax is delivered with a 3 L bladder from Hydrapak, and on that note, it’s time to fill it up and go hit the trails…

On The Trail

Packing the Crossmax is easy, with so much dedicated storage available everything has its place. Despite the seemingly compact exterior, the pack will handily swallow enough cargo to keep you going for a full day out. Tools, spares, pump, tubes, food, first aid, rain jacket will all fit with room to spare, and you can load up the small frontal pockets with energy gels or CO2 cartridges if you race. Internally, the tool holders are at the bottom of the pack, with the smaller mesh pockets found up top – keeping the center of gravity as low as possible. The tool compartment opens fully to make your mobile workshop experience comfortable.

Once on the trail, the pack is very comfortable. It is easy to adjust the fit, and the pack stays put even through your most vigorous efforts. The padded and ventilated back panel keeps your back fairly cool, although the pads do absorb a bit of moisture when it gets hot outside. The included bladder from Hydropak works well, its compact design with an internal divider keeps the water from sloshing about, and the wide opening makes filling and cleaning it easy. It is taste free and the bite valve is drip free. Note that the isolated bladder compartment will take any bladder if you happen to have a preference you’d rather stick with.

The cut of the pack is pretty much perfect. Everything feels snug, and as previously mentioned, the pack doesn’t move around as you get your enduro on. Having an energy bar or your phone available in the small pockets up front is also a nice touch on the trail.

The built-in helmet carrier is one of the better solutions we’ve come across. It holds any helmet securely, and yes, that even includes an actual fullface. If you like to carry your helmet on your pack for lengthy climbs, this feature alone is worth considering the Crossmax for (many packs claim helmet-carrying capabilities but leave much to be desired in reality).

We didn’t get to test the Crossmax in proper rain. The pack lacks a dedicated rain cover, and although it has weather-sealed zippers it is not waterproof, so prepare to invest in an external cover of some sort if you ride in the rain a lot. (Note that Mavic’s own rain jacket comes with expansion zippers in the back to allow you to wear it over the pack, a solution to the lack of a rain cover in the pack which works well enough – although we do recommend going up one size of jacket if that is the route you intend to take).

Things That Could Be Improved

The list of things to improve on the Crossmax pack is a very short list. The lack of a rain cover is of course far from a deal breaker, but for $149, it would not be too much to ask to have a simple one included. We also think the dedicated internal phone compartment should be made moistureproof and feature a bit more padding for protection.

The pack does not feature an excess of external straps, so if you need to attach lots of body armor to your pack for climbing, the Crossmax may not be the first choice. The main cargo compartment can take a pair of kneepads, and of course you can easily carry pads in the helmet carrier or attach them to the compression straps or the carrying handle as well. For the kind of riding the Crossmax was designed for, we sort of doubt you’d need much more anyway.

The included Hydropak bladder has worked well for the test, but we’d like to see it come with a clip of some sort for securing the hose while riding. The hose is a bit long, and although there is dedicated routing along the shoulder straps for it, it still dangles about a bit (cutting it down in length is an easy DIY remedy). The bite valve is also not most comfortable to use we’ve come across, but not something you can’t get used to.

Long Term Durability

We’ve ridden the Crossmax pack extensively for close to 4 months, including 2 months in blazing summer heat that left the pack drenched with sweat after each ride (yuck, right?), and it’s showing no signs of early demise. Not a single stitch has come loose, and there are no tears or scuffs to report either, despite several unscheduled incidents involving rolling around on the ground at speed. It smells a bit funky after all that sweating, but nothing a good hosing down won’t set straight. The Crossmax Hydropack is in it for the long run, and that’s a good thing!

What’s The Bottom Line?

Mavic only makes one hydration pack (in two sizes), and they have put all their riding experience into designing it just the way they want it. The result is pack that holds all the cargo you could need for a day on the bike, looks (really!) good, and is made to the highest quality standards. Lots of storage options for all your gear in a design that makes it super comfortable for everyday use, and it’s close to full marks for Mavic.

More information at www.mavic.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 Atlas Flat Pedal 5/28/2014 6:05 AM
C138_race_face_atlas_flat_pedal_pins

Tested: Race Face Atlas Flat Pedal

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

As part of its ever expanding line of components, Race Face introduced two new flat pedals for 2014, the mid-range Aeffect and the high-end Atlas. Designed on the North Shore (and manufactured in Taiwan), the Atlas is a distinctly modern flat pedal, featuring a large and thin platform with cartridge bearings throughout and bottom-loading pins, which should mean it’s ready for just about anything. We put a pair to the test to find out.

Race Face Atlas Flat Pedal Highlights

  • Thin double concave wide platform
  • Fully sealed bearing design
  • Hex-head threaded pin design to provide extra bite
  • Fore and aft angled bottom-loading pins
  • Hidden pin / grease access port
  • Body material: 6061-T6 aluminum
  • Axle material: Chromoly steel
  • Platform height: 12-14.5mm
  • Platform size: 101x114mm
  • Weight: 355g
  • Number of pins: 20 hex traction pins per pedal (10 per side)
  • Bearings: 4 fully sealed cartridge bearings per pedal
  • Colors: Black, Blue, Red, Green
  • MSRP: $179.99 USD

Initial Impressions

The Atlas pedals arrive in a rather sexy package, if such a thing exists – and that impression continues beyond the box. The pedal is beautifully finished, with deep colors and sharp graphics. The shape of the platform itself is concave in two directions, which is further accentuated by angled pins at the front and rear edge of the pedal.

The pins are bottom loading, and hexagonal in shape. They are not very long, but certainly very sharp. The pedals are delivered with a set of small washers that can be used to tune the height of each pin individually. The pins (10 per side of each pedal) are all placed along the periphery of the platform, with no pins in the middle. The pedal body itself (made of 6061-T6 aluminum) is thin and sculpted, notably with regards to the edges which are heavily chamfered in order to allow the pedal to avoid hanging up on rocks and roots as much as possible, and it also tapers off in width towards the rear of the top side (i.e. the front of the underside of the pedal). The platform itself is very open to allow mud to evacuate easily.

The Atlas features a Chromoly axle and 4 sealed cartridge bearings per side – a large bearing on the inside, and 3 small bearings at the end of the axle. This allows Race Face to keep the pedal very thin, yet it should be strong and durable enough to deal with the on-the-trail abuse that any pair of pedals has to put up with. In typical Race Face fashion, the inclusion of a spare pin that serves as access/grease port is a nice touch.

With the initial inspection behind us, and after an uneventful installation on the bike (depending on your crank arm design, you may or may not need a washer between the crank arm and the pedal, due to the design of the Atlas pedal that may cause the pedal body to end up snug to the crank arm), time to hit the trails to find out what the Atlas pedal is really made of.

On The Trail

The Atlas measures in at 101x114mm at a thickness that goes from 12mm to 14mm, numbers that sound very familiar in the flat pedal world these days. Give or take a few millimeters, that’s pretty much what most flats out there will measure in at, save the crazy wide offerings like the Twenty6 Predator. But, size isn’t everything, or so HE said. Shape is at least as important, and here, each pedal will have its own characteristics. The Atlas design is compact, even though the platform is relatively wide. The edges are rounded, and the pins placed towards the middle of the available material, which results in an effective platform that is a few millimeters narrower than the DMR Vault, for example. This never leads to an insecure or disconnected feeling, but if you are the kind of rider who likes to move their feet around on the pedals a lot, or if you frequently get your feet back on in a hurry (racing, perhaps), you might want to look for something wider. On the other hand, if you ride where it’s rocky, you’ll surely love the lower profile and the low profile leading edge. Personal preference and need is what it boils down to here (size 12 US FiveTen Impact in the pics below, for reference).

The grip on offer is excellent, whether in the dry or in an unholy muddy mess. The concave shape is spot-on, and the airy design of the pedal body means your foot always feels like it’s contacting the pedal, even when it’s covered in sticky winter goop. The lack of a middle pin is something we like, we much prefer the foot to “sink into” the middle of the pedal as opposed to sort of sit on top of it, and we've never really found that a middle pin aids traction (quite the contrary, actually). On the topic of the pins, those supplied with the Atlas are very grippy and very strong too – let them near your shins at your own risk!

The pedals spin freely from day 1, and they have a very stiff and positive feeling under the foot. With their rounded chamfered edges and thin profile, they also stay out of trouble very well, managing to avoid or skim off rocks where you might expect to otherwise hang up. This particular aspect makes these pedals well suited to trail riding and general bike mayhem, in our opinion. Slim enough to squeak by, wide enough where it matters.

Things That Could Be Improved

The Atlas pedal is well designed and well put together. The only issue we observed is a tiny amount of side-to-side play between the pedal body and the axle (when moving the pedal back and forth along the direction of the axle), an issue Race Face is aware of and says is being addressed by “ever-improving tolerances in manufacturing”. The play was present out of the box, but has not gotten any worse during testing, which points to the fact that this is indeed the cause. It is not something we were able to feel while riding either.

Long Term Durability

We’ve put the Atlas pedals through the wringer during this winter and spring, and they have held up remarkably well. After countless rockstrikes and other adventures caused by a seemingly chronic inability to pick a smooth line at times, the pedals obviously have some scuffs to show for it – but overall, the finish still looks great. The laser-etched graphics are still there, the bearings are still super smooth and free of any vertical play, and most of the pins are pretty much intact.

We’ve managed to bend the seat of one of the pins a bit, but the pedal material has not cracked nor has this caused any other problem. Judging on the performance so far, this pedal seems in it for the long haul, especially given how straightforward it is to maintain it, when that time comes:

What’s The Bottom Line?

If you are after a flat pedal with a platform that strikes a good balance between width and a stealthy profile, the Atlas should be on your list. It is superbly finished and works well for all kinds of riding in all kinds of conditions. It holds up to abuse and always feels solid, and it doesn’t hurt that it looks great too. It is certainly not the cheapest option out there, but clever design and good durability are enough to give you excellent value for your money.

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 Royal 2014 SP-247 Jersey 4/28/2014 5:38 AM
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Tested: Royal Racing SP247 Short and Jersey

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Johan Hjord // Photos by Tal Rozow

Royal’s SP247 range has been a staple of their catalog for a long time. Originally inspired by Steve Peat himself (hence the “SP” part of the name), it is a no-frills racing outfit that can also be your go-to gear for any kind of ride, any day of the year. For 2014, the jersey and short both see the traditional yearly face-lift, and with good memories of previous iterations we were eager to see what this particular vintage would bring to the table. We got decked out and headed out to find out…

Royal Racing SP247 Highlights

Short

  • Extended stretch panels for unrestricted movement
  • Increased air flow and improved fit
  • Unique ‘pedal friendly’ tailored fit
  • 300D Polyester body fabric
  • Screen printed graphics
  • 2 zipped vented hand pockets
  • 4 way stretch flex zones front and rear
  • Full moisture wicking quick dry mesh lining
  • Lower back/coccyx embossed padded panel
  • Ratchet adjustable closure waist band
  • New low profile waist
  • MSRP $69.95

Jersey

  • 100% polyester fabrics
  • Weightless sublimated no fade graphics
  • Low profile Leatt compatible sponge padded neck construction
  • Rear neck expanding panel
  • Flat no scratch rear neck label
  • Micro Lycra taped stretch cuffs
  • MSRP: $49.95

Initial Impressions

The SP247 range is aimed at riders looking for race performance with slightly more subdued styling than your average MX pajamas. That’s not to say boring though, as straight out of the nylon the 2014 jersey really pops, with vivid colors and a bright finish. Available in three different colorways, the graphics are contemporary, bold, but not garish and in your face. The finish is flawless, with no loose threads nor other apparent problems to report. The jersey may be billed as a “value” item, but that does not mean that corners were cut. It is made out of different types of polyester fabric, with nice details like a sponge-padded panel at the back of the neck which is very comfortable and also meant to function well with a neck brace. There are thin stretch cuffs to help keep the sleeves from sliding down onto the hands. The sublimated graphics (basically a sort of laser printing that fuses ink particles to the fabric) are very vivid and superb in terms of detailing – each border crisp, and each colored area uniform.

The SP247 short appears simple at first glance, but it is loaded with features. Made out of a mix of strong nylon panels and 4-way stretch panels, it features 2 zippered pockets and a ratchet buckle to adjust the waist. Available in black only, the white stretch panels and screen printed graphics add a nice touch and make sure the short is easy to match with pretty much any jersey.

Trying on the SP247 kit for the first time, the sizing was spot on. This kit falls under the “DH/Race fit” category from Royal, which translates to slightly baggier items with room for body armor, for those of the padded persuasion. However, gone are the days of the ultra-baggies (think 2007, Monster-Ts, and gigantic hucks to flat), and both the jersey and the short are more form-fitting for 2014, although definitely not figure-hugging. The jersey notably leaves room for pads in the shoulder area, but remains straight cut around the waist and hip, which makes you look all butch and also helps avoid snagging your jersey on ill-meaning branches or your own saddle as you zoom by with Steve Peat-like speed and grace.

The short is also cut fairly close to the body (slightly more so than Royal’s Race Short), although it leaves ample room for kneepads. For 2014 it features a more low profile waist, but rest assured, it remains tall in the back which together with the stretch panels should help ensure that you keep your hairy posterior out of the public eye even during more acrobatic maneuvers. The short does not come with a padded liner, instead it is doubled up with nylon mesh on the inside which helps wick away sweat to keep you comfy.

On The Trail

Royal has a lot of experience and it shows in the SP247 kit. Comfortable and functional, both the short and the jersey are easy to get along with. The jersey is made out of a particularly tight-knit fabric, which is soft to the touch but quite strong. Because of this it does also get warm fairly easily, testament to the fact that this is primarily a gravity-oriented item. We rode the kit throughout winter and spring, making sure to clock up a number of miles in anything from dry desert to muddy forests, and in all but the hottest of weather, the jersey was very comfortable. If it’s windy where you live, you’ll particularly appreciate its wind-breaking qualities too. It does wick sweat away effectively, but for really hot climates, something more ventilated is probably in order.

The SP247 kit is never restrictive. And because of the way the two items are cut, with a low back on the jersey and a high back on the short, you remain fully covered even in the heat of battle. The cut of the short is right up there with best we’ve ridden in. Although the fit of the SP247 has grown less baggy over the years, the short never feels tight nor does it ever get out of shape. We’ve worn it consistently on anything from XC epics to DH days, and it is easily one of our favorite items for all types of riding and all types of conditions (unless it gets properly wet and miserable, in which case the SP247 pant does a superb job of filling in for its little brother until the mercury rises again). Note that the SP247 kit is not weatherproofed, but it remains relatively comfortable when wet, and offers great mud shedding capabilities to boot. It also dries very quickly.

Both items are suitably rugged as one would expect from a gravity-oriented kit. Stitching is doubled or tripled, and the fabrics are of the run/rip-stop kind, so even if you do snag them on something sharp, you won’t have to write off the item because of an ever-growing hole or a running thread. We also particularly appreciated the choice of sturdy zippers for the fly and the two pockets on the short, as this is an area that can easily cause trouble down the line. The pockets themselves are of good size, bearing in mind once again that this short is primarily meant for gravity riding. They’ll easily hold a phone and keys, or a multitool and some energy bars, if that’s how you swing. They are placed towards the front and are snug when closed, which means that any cargo will be held on top of the thigh and won't dangle off the sides as you ride.

Things That Could Be Improved

There is almost nothing to complain about on the short. The screen printed white graphics tend to pick up a slight discoloration after a few wash cycles, but that’s about it. As for the jersey, we think it might benefit from a little more ventilation, especially given how dense the fabric is, but we do acknowledge that it is primarily intended for park/gravity riding where this is less of a requirement, and in normal temperatures, it works very well anywhere. The jersey doesn’t have a pocket of any kind, which may or may not be an issue for you personally – we wouldn’t expect to find one on a race/gravity-oriented jersey such as this one. It also lacks a goggle-wipe, but adding features such as this would only move the jersey into a different price category, defeating the original design goal.

Long Term Durability

The SP247 short scores highly in the durability department. After a good few months of intense use (several ride/wash cycles per week) in varying conditions, there is only the aforementioned slight discoloration of the printed graphics to show for it. No rips, no scuffs, no tears, no loose threads. The mesh liner has a bit of fuzziness going on in the area where the short meets the kneepad, because our kneepads expose a bit of hook and loop material to the short. Hardly the fault of the short, and it’s worth pointing out that the liner is far from destroyed, it is just a bit fuzzed up.

As for the jersey, what impressed us the most is how vivid the colors stay even after so many wash cycles, and the threads are holding up very well too. We have noticed that the jersey tends to develop little snag marks from branches and thorns quite easily, but these remain confined to the area of contact and do not develop further. Riding with a pack has also caused some localized scuffing (mainly under the buckle of the chest strap), but again, this is perhaps unfair treatment of a gravity jersey. Finally, while the graphics on the main panels of the jersey remain as white as the day we got it, the small sponge panel on the back of the neck has turned a bit grey after all that washing. Hardly a big issue, but worth mentioning.

What’s The Bottom Line?

Royal’s SP247 kit is billed as a no-frills, good-value, everyday item for racers and trail riders alike, and it lives up to its billing and more. Simple yet full-featured and stylish, it doesn’t cut corners to hit its very reasonable price point. The short is without a doubt a class leader, and the jersey delivers modern, balanced styling at a great price/performance ratio. Both items should last you quite a while and will have you feeling and looking good on your bike.

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 1 review.

Added a product review for Royal 2015 SP-247 Shorts 4/28/2014 2:37 AM
C138_sp_247_short_black_white_f

Tested: Royal Racing SP247 Short and Jersey

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Johan Hjord // Photos by Tal Rozow

Royal’s SP247 range has been a staple of their catalog for a long time. Originally inspired by Steve Peat himself (hence the “SP” part of the name), it is a no-frills racing outfit that can also be your go-to gear for any kind of ride, any day of the year. For 2014, the jersey and short both see the traditional yearly face-lift, and with good memories of previous iterations we were eager to see what this particular vintage would bring to the table. We got decked out and headed out to find out…

SP247 Short Highlights

  • Extended stretch panels for unrestricted movement
  • Increased air flow and improved fit
  • Unique ‘pedal friendly’ tailored fit
  • 300D Polyester body fabric
  • Screen printed graphics
  • 2 zipped vented hand pockets
  • 4 way stretch flex zones front and rear
  • Full moisture wicking quick dry mesh lining
  • Lower back/coccyx embossed padded panel
  • Ratchet adjustable closure waist band
  • New low profile waist
  • MSRP $69.95

SP247 Jersey Highlights

  • 100% polyester fabrics
  • Weightless sublimated no fade graphics
  • Low profile Leatt compatible sponge padded neck construction
  • Rear neck expanding panel
  • Flat no scratch rear neck label
  • Micro Lycra taped stretch cuffs
  • MSRP: $49.95

Initial Impressions

The SP247 range is aimed at riders looking for race performance with slightly more subdued styling than your average MX pajamas. That’s not to say boring though, as straight out of the nylon the 2014 jersey really pops, with vivid colors and a bright finish. Available in three different colorways, the graphics are contemporary, bold, but not garish and in your face. The finish is flawless, with no loose threads nor other apparent problems to report. The jersey may be billed as a “value” item, but that does not mean that corners were cut. It is made out of different types of polyester fabric, with nice details like a sponge-padded panel at the back of the neck which is very comfortable and also meant to function well with a neck brace. There are thin stretch cuffs to help keep the sleeves from sliding down onto the hands. The sublimated graphics (basically a sort of laser printing that fuses ink particles to the fabric) are very vivid and superb in terms of detailing – each border crisp, and each colored area uniform.

The SP247 short appears simple at first glance, but it is loaded with features. Made out of a mix of strong nylon panels and 4-way stretch panels, it features 2 zippered pockets and a ratchet buckle to adjust the waist. Available in black only, the white stretch panels and screen printed graphics add a nice touch and make sure the short is easy to match with pretty much any jersey.

Trying on the SP247 kit for the first time, the sizing was spot on. This kit falls under the “DH/Race fit” category from Royal, which translates to slightly baggier items with room for body armor, for those of the padded persuasion. However, gone are the days of the ultra-baggies (think 2007, Monster-Ts, and gigantic hucks to flat), and both the jersey and the short are more form-fitting for 2014, although definitely not figure-hugging. The jersey notably leaves room for pads in the shoulder area, but remains straight cut around the waist and hip, which makes you look all butch and also helps avoid snagging your jersey on ill-meaning branches or your own saddle as you zoom by with Steve Peat-like speed and grace.

The short is also cut fairly close to the body (slightly more so than Royal’s Race Short), although it leaves ample room for kneepads. For 2014 it features a more low profile waist, but rest assured, it remains tall in the back which together with the stretch panels should help ensure that you keep your hairy posterior out of the public eye even during more acrobatic maneuvers. The short does not come with a padded liner, instead it is doubled up with nylon mesh on the inside which helps wick away sweat to keep you comfy.

On The Trail

Royal has a lot of experience and it shows in the SP247 kit. Comfortable and functional, both the short and the jersey are easy to get along with. The jersey is made out of a particularly tight-knit fabric, which is soft to the touch but quite strong. Because of this it does also get warm fairly easily, testament to the fact that this is primarily a gravity-oriented item. We rode the kit throughout winter and spring, making sure to clock up a number of miles in anything from dry desert to muddy forests, and in all but the hottest of weather, the jersey was very comfortable. If it’s windy where you live, you’ll particularly appreciate its wind-breaking qualities too. It does wick sweat away effectively, but for really hot climates, something more ventilated is probably in order.

The SP247 kit is never restrictive. And because of the way the two items are cut, with a low back on the jersey and a high back on the short, you remain fully covered even in the heat of battle. The cut of the short is right up there with best we’ve ridden in. Although the fit of the SP247 has grown less baggy over the years, the short never feels tight nor does it ever get out of shape. We’ve worn it consistently on anything from XC epics to DH days, and it is easily one of our favorite items for all types of riding and all types of conditions (unless it gets properly wet and miserable, in which case the SP247 pant does a superb job of filling in for its little brother until the mercury rises again). Note that the SP247 kit is not weatherproofed, but it remains relatively comfortable when wet, and offers great mud shedding capabilities to boot. It also dries very quickly.

Both items are suitably rugged as one would expect from a gravity-oriented kit. Stitching is doubled or tripled, and the fabrics are of the run/rip-stop kind, so even if you do snag them on something sharp, you won’t have to write off the item because of an ever-growing hole or a running thread. We also particularly appreciated the choice of sturdy zippers for the fly and the two pockets on the short, as this is an area that can easily cause trouble down the line. The pockets themselves are of good size, bearing in mind once again that this short is primarily meant for gravity riding. They’ll easily hold a phone and keys, or a multitool and some energy bars, if that’s how you swing. They are placed towards the front and are snug when closed, which means that any cargo will be held on top of the thigh and won't dangle off the sides as you ride.

Things That Could Be Improved

There is almost nothing to complain about on the short. The screen printed white graphics tend to pick up a slight discoloration after a few wash cycles, but that’s about it. As for the jersey, we think it might benefit from a little more ventilation, especially given how dense the fabric is, but we do acknowledge that it is primarily intended for park/gravity riding where this is less of a requirement, and in normal temperatures, it works very well anywhere. The jersey doesn’t have a pocket of any kind, which may or may not be an issue for you personally – we wouldn’t expect to find one on a race/gravity-oriented jersey such as this one. It also lacks a goggle-wipe, but adding features such as this would only move the jersey into a different price category, defeating the original design goal.

Long Term Durability

The SP247 short scores highly in the durability department. After a good few months of intense use (several ride/wash cycles per week) in varying conditions, there is only the aforementioned slight discoloration of the printed graphics to show for it. No rips, no scuffs, no tears, no loose threads. The mesh liner has a bit of fuzziness going on in the area where the short meets the kneepad, because our kneepads expose a bit of hook and loop material to the short. Hardly the fault of the short, and it’s worth pointing out that the liner is far from destroyed, it is just a bit fuzzed up.

As for the jersey, what impressed us the most is how vivid the colors stay even after so many wash cycles, and the threads are holding up very well too. We have noticed that the jersey tends to develop little snag marks from branches and thorns quite easily, but these remain confined to the area of contact and do not develop further. Riding with a pack has also caused some localized scuffing (mainly under the buckle of the chest strap), but again, this is perhaps unfair treatment of a gravity jersey. Finally, while the graphics on the main panels of the jersey remain as white as the day we got it, the small sponge panel on the back of the neck has turned a bit grey after all that washing. Hardly a big issue, but worth mentioning.

What’s The Bottom Line?

Royal’s SP247 kit is billed as a no-frills, good-value, everyday item for racers and trail riders alike, and it lives up to its billing and more. Simple yet full-featured and stylish, it doesn’t cut corners to hit its very reasonable price point. The short is without a doubt a class leader, and the jersey delivers modern, balanced styling at a great price/performance ratio. Both items should last you quite a while and will have you feeling and looking good on your bike.

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 1 review.

Added a product review for Royal 2014 Quantum Glove 2/23/2014 1:50 PM
C138_quantum_grey_green

Tested: Royal Racing Quantum Glove

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by Johan Hjord // Photos by Tal Rozow

Royal Racing has put a lot of work into its glove range over the past few years, and there’s a pretty impressive selection on offer from the UK-based outfitters today. For 2014 there’s a brand new model in the catalog, and given the spec we were eager to try it out. Here’s our report after a good couple of months of trail time with the Quantum glove.

Royal Racing Quantum Glove Highlights

  • 0.75mm AX perforated stretch palm material
  • Minimal cuff closure with expander v panel
  • Aggressive ergonomic pre-curving to avoid bunching
  • Microfiber thumb wipe
  • Lycra fourchettes
  • Technical knit mesh back of hand material
  • Unique wrap around one piece palm/seamless finger tips
  • MSRP $34.95

Initial Impressions

You can call a glove a glove, but in truth, the glove is a crucial part of the riding experience. Get it wrong and you could quickly find yourself lacking comfort, grip, or both. Looking over the Quantum glove it soon become clear that Royal put all their know-how and experience into its design. Fitting in between the ultra-lightweight Signature glove and the more robust Victory glove, the Quantum looks to offer everything you need in a glove and nothing you don’t.

The first time we tried on the Quantum, we were taken aback by what we thought might be a defect. The glove is very aggressively pre-curved, to the point where it really strains against the fingertips when you try to straighten out your fingers – we thought we’d gotten on hands on (and in!) a pre-production Monday morning sample with funky sizing. That was until we realized that the Quantum was designed this way on purpose and with good reason…

Continuing our inspection of the Quantum, we found lots of well-executed details and a generally very high level of workmanship on display. Another stand-out feature that caught our eye early on was the wrap-around fingertip design – the palm side material extends from the palm area all the way along the fingers and around the tip, which does away with the traditional fingertip seam. Having had many gloves pop open at precisely this seam or present a generally bulky feeling in the fingertip area, this appeared like a step in the right direction. Note that the braking fingers lack any kind of rubber or silicone grippers often found on many other gloves, including some from Royal.

The back of the hand features a very thin mesh fabric, and the glove is held in place by an equally minimalist Velcro strap on the cuff. A thin microfiber thumb wipe is provided for your sweaty brows and runny noses.

On The Trail

The first time we gripped a bar with the Quantum, it became obvious that the heavily pre-formed shape was going to work really well for riding. It allows a snug feeling on the grip, with a lot of feedback and without any bulking up of excessive material. It stays very comfortable throughout the day, and due to its lightweight and breathable design, you soon forgot you’re wearing it. Even after several washes, the palm area remains soft and does not cause chafing or other discomfort.

In terms of protection, the palm area is one step up from the thinnest glove on offer from Royal. For such a lightweight glove it is fairly robust. Many long rides, impromptu trail work and less graceful dismounts have all failed to leave much of a mark on the palm side material over the two months we’ve been riding with the Quantums. The lack of silicone grippers on the brake fingers had us a little concerned at first, but that turned out to be non-founded as we never found ourselves wanting more grip on the levers - they usually just fall off after a few rides anyway. The gloves also work well both in the dry and in the wet.

As for the back of the hand, there is little to no protection on offer. The material used is thin and breathable, which translates to not a lot standing between you and the menacing protrusions of foliage that lay in ambush behind every turn. If you have a penchant for bushwhacking, you’d do better to go for something with more protection in this area. In keeping with the rest of the glove, the snot/sweat wipe thumb area is also thin, so it tends to become soaked fairly quickly if you are of the perspiring persuasion. It is effective enough to keep using even after it’s drenched though.

Things That Could Be Improved

There is not a lot we can find to complain about on the Quantum. The Velcro-equipped rubber strap on the cuff is a little bit stiff, and because it is so small, it doesn’t latch on all that securely. This did not translate to any real issues in use, but is worth pointing out. The sweat wipe material on the thumb area could also be made a bit thicker and perhaps also softer.

Long Term Durability

In terms of longevity, after two months of intensive testing, there are no alarm signals going off. No loose threads, the graphics are still hanging on, and the palm side material is showing almost no signs of wear at all. We have no doubt these will provide many more months of loyal service, which is great given how well they perform on the trail.

What’s The Bottom Line?

There was a lot of thought put into the Quantum gloves, and it has certainly paid off. The very aggressive pre-curved shape took us by surprise at first, but we were completely won over to the concept after just one ride. These are certainly among the most comfortable gloves we have ridden in. The design is meant to be minimalistic, but the gloves are made with great attention to detail and come with plenty of innovative features. If you like your gloves thin but still up for months of hard riding, take a good look at the Quantum.

Check out www.royalracing.com for more information.


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 Sony Action Cam HDR-AS30V 2/17/2014 5:31 AM
C138_sony_as30v_angle

Tested: Sony Action Cam HDR-AS30V

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

When big dog Sony entered the POV camera market a bit more than a year ago, a lot of people were rightfully excited. Sony has a long history of producing world-class video cameras, and the Action Cam (HDR-AS15V) looked like it ticked a lot of POV boxes in addition to bringing some innovative new features to the table. We reviewed that first camera, and though we found it very impressive in some aspects, there were some issues that knocked its score down a bit. Fast-forward to today and there's a new, updated AS30V Action Cam. We have been testing it to see if Sony has managed to iron out some of the bugs and ultimately whether it is a viable contender in a market still dominated by GoPro.

AS30V Highlights (Live View Remote Bundle)

  • SteadyShot image stabilization
  • Wi-Fi and NFC for remote control and smartphone viewing
  • GPS plots location and calculates telemetry
  • 6 video modes including 1080/60p HD and 4x slo mo
  • Ultra-wide 170° Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens
  • Exmor R CMOS sensor for low light performance
  • Rugged, waterproof housing with universal tripod mount
  • Included Live-View Remote for hands-free remote control and viewing
  • Built-in stereo mic
  • Mac and PC-compatible
  • MSRP: $399 USD (live view remote bundle), $269 USD (Action Cam only)

Initial Impressions

Out of the box, the AS30V looks very similar to the original Action Cam, and with the same quality material and workmanship throughout. It ships with fewer mount options included in the basic kit than GoPro does (notably absent is a tilting helmet mount), although we also received a few extra accessories to test the camera with. Two things jump out at you when you put it side by side with the first generation of the camera – it seems much smaller, and it has more buttons on the housing.

Regarding the size, the camera body itself is actually identical in form factor to the old one, but the new housing is significantly slimmer. Sony decided that making the standard housing waterproof down to five meters (16 feet) would be enough, and in doing so they were able to make a significantly smaller case that also features a thin microphone membrane that allows for proper sound capture even with the housing on. Note that a dive case which is rated to 200 feet and features a flat port for sharp underwater footage is also available. The lower waterproof rating also allowed Sony to include two slim buttons on the side, which means we are finally able to access all camera functions even with the camera in the housing (this was not the case with the first generation housing). Because the two generations of cameras are the same form factor, all your old Action Cam accessories will work with the new one, which is nice.

Sony have kept all of the cutting edge features introduced on the first Action Cam, like SteadyShot, hi-FPS super slo-mo recording modes, and built-in WiFi. In addition, they have introduced GPS on the AS30V, which allows for the capture of GPS data alongside the video being recorded. Another novelty is the introduction of a 1080/60fps recording mode with high bitrate and the ability to record sound – the previous generation only offered the 60fps mode without sound, but there is also a firmware update available for the older generation which includes the new recording modes and other improvements – a nice touch for owners.

Continuing the feature tour, we note that the camera now takes stills at 12MP, a huge improvement on the original cam which could only muster a meekly 2MP, and it also has a new option for controlling the tone of the image. There are 2 “Scene” modes available, Normal and Water.

Our bundle included the Live View Remote, which is a small device that connects to the Action Cam via WiFi and then allows you to control the camera remotely, as well as preview what the camera sees before and during recording. The remote is splashproof but not waterproof.

The Action Cam can take a couple of different types of standard Sony rechargeable batteries (it ships with the highest capacity one), which is great – easy to bring a spare for long days of shooting, and if you already own Sony cameras, you may already have a battery that will work for the Action Cam as well.

On The Trail And Everywhere Else

The Action Cam is operated via three buttons, a main on/off button that also acts as the “Enter” button while navigating through the in-camera menu settings, and two navigational “Prev” and “Next” buttons. The menu system is reasonably well-thought out and easy to navigate through, with no real hidden options or hard-to-get-to tweaks. The built-in LCD is small but informative (it is only used for displaying settings and menus), and it is always easy to tell what recording mode you are in and if you are recording or not. Some of the options could do with easier to read short codes though.

If you turn the camera on via the main Start/Stop switch, it starts up and immediately begins recording. This is good if that is what you wanted to do, however if you just wanted to turn the camera on, then you’ll have to stop recording immediately and you’ll have a bunch of little one second clips at the end of the day. If you use either of the other two buttons to turn the camera on, it powers up without starting to record.

It is simple to choose a recording mode, although note that not all combinations of modes are possible. Because the SteadyShot is electronic and functions by cropping the image on the sensor and then moving it around to counter camera shake, it cannot operate when using the 170-degree wide angle field of view (because the whole sensor is used for the image capture in this case). SteadyShot is also not available in 120FPS super slomo, presumably because of the available computing power being monopolized to record at that frame rate. The field of view restriction is less of an issue in reality, because the wide angle of view is inherently less sensitive to camera shake, but it is one to keep in mind when choosing to record in super slomo mode – best used for trail side shots with steady hands or a tripod.

One of the issues with cameras that lack a viewfinder is getting the setup on the helmet/chest/wherever right. The Live View Remote came in very handy here. Power up the cam and the remote, and after a few seconds you can see what the camera sees on the screen of the remote. You can also access many of the settings and functions of the camera via the remote, so it’s easy to change settings without removing your helmet for example. If you do not have the remote, Sony provide the “PlayMemories” app for iPhone or Android for free. This app provides the same functionality as the Live View Remote on your smartphone.

Note that using WiFi tends to heat up the camera significantly, and because WiFi won’t allow the Action Cam to shut down between takes either, leaving it on can cause condensation to build up in the case, especially on colder, humid days. Make sure to turn the camera off manually between runs to prevent this from becoming an issue. Sony also sells anti-fog sheets which are inserted into the housing to prevent moisture build-up.

The Live View Remote works well enough for controlling the camera and setting up shots, and is comfortable to wear even for extended periods of time. We did however experience a lot of dropped connections during actual recording. This does not affect the outcome, as the camera continues to record even after dropping the connection with the remote, but it is nonetheless not very impressive for a $169 accessory. To re-establish the connection you turn the remote off and back on again. We noticed similar issues with the iPhone app, dropped connections a little too frequently. We did apply a firmware update to the Action Cam in the hope that it might address this issue, but to no avail.

A year after introducing the original Action Cam, Sony have finally caught up to GoPro and provide a chest mount for the AS30V. While the whole set up ends up a bit bulkier than the GoPro version because the Sony is elongated in shape, the chest harness does feature a breakaway mount which allows the camera to release if you crash. Also note that you don’t have to flip the Action Cam footage as this chest mount holds the camera in the normal position, and allows for an almost unlimited angle of adjustment in all directions.

The chest mount proved excellent in operation, and coupled with the image stabilization of the Action Cam it produces a very immersive experience, keeping enough shake and movement in the image to maintain a sense of action, but maintaining the trail steady on the screen. This quickly became our favorite way of filming with the Action Cam. When helmet mounted, footage produced with SteadyShot on is unnaturally smooth and takes away from the trail experience, unless you are following another rider in which case it provides a great way of focusing on that rider without the distraction of camera shake.

We also received a new “tube mount” to try out. It’s meant to allow you to mount the Action Cam to anything tube shaped, and it includes two different lengths of strap to cater to different tube sizes. While an improvement on Sony’s original handlebar mount (which was woefully inadequate – ours developed severe play after only one ride, which then happened again on the replacement unit), this new version is still not a good accessory for mountain biking. Because its base is essentially made of rubber, it generates a lot of camera wobble and shake as soon as you roll out. We had moderate success when mounting it on a vertical tube (upper stanction, seat tube), but this accessory is best used for attaching your Action Cam to something a lot less prone to actually moving around than a mountain bike…

Video

The most important aspect of any video recorder is the result – your clips and edits. The Sony has improved in many areas, and we were quite impressed with the video quality of the HDR-AS30V:

Various clips shot with the Sony Action Cam HDR-AS30V

SteadyShot is very good. It is by far the most effective way of stabilizing POV video we have ever seen, superior to wide angles and similar tricks. When mounted on a helmet, it produces very smooth results – so smooth that it is almost unnerving, especially if you are used to the shaky images produced by other cameras. When used together with a chest mount, we found the footage to be the most immersive to date, almost up there with the quality often seen in major productions where lots of tricks are usually employed to achieve such results. Bit of a game changer here.

The super slow motion mode is excellent and produces 4X slomo that is very smooth. Note that you lose audio at 120fps, which is a bit annoying but probably not a deal-breaker. If you do want audio with slomo, use the 1080/60fps mode which allows you to slow down footage 2x, and still retain audio.

Audio is well controlled, and sounds a bit less “boxy” than we have become accustomed to on other POV cameras. The new waterproof housing muffles the sound a little bit of course, but it is still audible and usable.

The first generation of the Action Cam used far too much compression on the video files it produced. The addition of new video modes and presumably revisions to firmware on the new version have by and large addressed this issue. Comparing the AS30V to the GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition, there is a not a lot of difference between the two on identical settings. Check the two clips below, each one filmed on the same section of trail within 10 minutes of each other, in 1080/60fps mode on the widest angle without image stabilization. Straight out of the camera, the GoPro files do seem to hold a slight edge in terms of overall crispness of image, but as soon as things start moving, it’s Even Steven, pretty much.

Sony Action Cam HDR-AS30V Reference Clip:

GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition Reference Clip:

The following screen grabs show slightly more visible compression artifacts from the Sony footage, which is probably due to compression algorithms, optics, and the difference in bitrate (30Mbps on the GoPro vs “only” 25Mbps on the Sony, in this recording mode). We were also pleased to note that the turquoise hue present on the first generation of the Action Cam (especially in the sky) is all but gone now, although the image is still notably colder than GoPro.

Sony HDR-AS30V:

Screen grab from Sony HDR-AS30V, shot at 1080/60fps, wide angle, no image stabilization.

GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition:

Screen grab from GoPro Hero 3+ Black, shot at 1080/60fps, wide angle, no image stabilization.

Viewing the built-in GPS data from the Action Cam requires use of Sony’s “PlayMemories Home” software, which allows you to create an overlay of speed, location, and map data on top of the video footage captured. It works OK, although it is a bit unwieldy to operate. There also appears to be some lag and inaccuracies in the GPS data captured, and we wouldn’t have too much faith in the speed readings it generates when riding twisty trails. Nevertheless, it's a fun feature, and one that could potentially be very useful for analyzing training rides/race runs.

Things That Could Be Improved

The new housing is a great improvement with its slimmer size and new external buttons. However, those buttons are not very easy to operate. They feature raised ridges to prevent unwanted operation, which is of course a good thing, but we think they could be made slightly easier to operate without losing this aspect.

The Live View Remote is a useful addition to Action Cam, but we’d like to see it function without the hiccups. It never caused us to lose footage, but it should not have to drop the connection with the camera so often.

The Action Cam does not offer a lot of control over image quality aspects like white balance. Sony have certainly improved both the quality and the look of footage from the Action Cam, but they still lag behind GoPro in terms of user image control.

We’d like to see more accessories out of the box – notably the fact that you have to buy a tilting adaptor for your helmet mount separately is a little bit on the cheap side. The Sony is priced directly in line with GoPro, and yes the remote does offer live view which the GoPro remote does not, but at least a tilting helmet mount is really a must.

Sony are catching up in the mount game, notably with the long overdue addition of a chest mount. It still has some way to go to produce a proper tube mount though.

The small red LED that indicates that you are recording is all but useless in daylight. You do have the built-in LCD screen to fall back on to check if you are indeed recording, but still, this could have been done better. Also, the audible “beep” and “bee-bee-beep” to indicate starting and stopping recording are not loud enough. Iin fact they are significantly LESS loud than on the first generation of the Action Cam, which we already found too soft.

Long Term Durability

We've owned the original Action Cam since it came out over a year ago, and it has seen a lot of use during that time. It is none the worse for wear. Even the plastic housing while scuffed up and generally a bit sorry looking has not missed a beat - it is still waterproof, and the viewport is still clear enough to produce good footage. There are no bits that look like they want to fall off the camera, nor are any of the buttons acting up. The interface between the base and the helmet mount is as slop-free as on day one, and the mounts we glued to our helmets are still there. The battery still holds a good charge too. After using the new version for two months, we have no reason to believe it will not offer the same durability as the older generation, which should translate to years of trouble-free filming ahead. The same cannot be said for the tube mounts offered by Sony, both versions have proven all but useless for mountain biking, due to how quickly they develop play (out of the box, basically).

What’s The Bottom Line?

With the HDR-AS30V Action Cam, Sony has all but caught up to GoPro in terms of image quality, at least when recording in the highest quality settings. It is also mostly evenly matched with the GoPro in terms of features, but has an edge when it comes to image stabilization, the Live View Remote, and the built-in GPS. Add a growing ecosystem of mounts and the Action Cam is poised as a serious threat to GoPro. There is also a new version of the Action Cam due to hit stores in April which will offer pro-level image quality at the same price, but unless you think you have a need for 50 Mbps footage, the AS30V is a solid investment. Sony also seems set to stick with the form factor between generations, which means you can splash out on accessories without fear of having to replace them all down the line.

For more details, visit Sony.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 spends 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 Source Paragon 25L Hydration Pack 1/30/2014 1:38 PM
C138_paragon_web

Tested: Source Paragon 25L Hydration Pack

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

Source was founded in 1989, and has since built itself into a globally distributed brand specializing in outdoors footwear and hydration systems. Well-known in the general outdoors/adventure market and recognized for its innovative approach to hydration, the company has also recently introduced a line of packs designed specifically for biking. The Paragon 25L is the top of the line option for riders looking for a big pack with all the bells and whistles (there’s actually a whistle!) – we’ve been rocking one for a few months to see how it stacks up in this crucial equipment category.

Source Paragon 25L Highlights

  • 20L cargo capacity, 3L hydration capacity
  • Wire frame and mesh back system for maximum ventilation
  • Insulated hydration compartment
  • Music player pocket
  • Padded shoulder straps
  • Adjustable sternum belt with integrated whistle
  • Lightweight buckles
  • Elastic helmet holder
  • Elastic strap retainers
  • Side mesh pockets
  • Detachable waist belt
  • High visibility reflective stripes
  • Reflective LED tab holder
  • Essentials compartment with internal Storeganizer™
  • Concealed rain cover
  • Carrying handle
  • Includes Source Widepac 3L hydration bladder with a weave-covered tube for UV protection
  • Helix™ bite valve - round design valve with safety shutoff mode
  • “Dirt Shield” docking station
  • Dimensions: height 50 cm, width 24 cm, weight 963 gr, total volume 25L
  • MSRP: $165 USD

Initial Impressions

When you first pull the Paragon out of its packaging, the light weight is the first stand-out feature. For such a big pack, it is very light. Second aspect of note, this is a wireframe pack. This means that it features a thin steel frame that lifts the pack off the rider’s back, which is meant to help with airflow. In this context, the light weight is even more remarkable.

Close inspection of the pack revealed good attention to detail and a high level of workmanship. The pack is full of neat features like weather-proofed zippers all around, media pocket, reflective strips, removable waistband, and a very nifty elastic band system for keeping excess strap lengths from flapping around.

In terms of storage, the pack offers an insulated hydration bladder compartment, a roomy main cargo hold, a smaller storage area with the “Storeganizer” system for keeping all your tools in check, a flexible general purpose pouch, side pockets on the waistband, mesh pockets on the side of the pack, and a dedicated helmet net which attaches to 4 eyelets and sits on the outside of the pack itself. In other words, if you need any more storage space than this, you should probably consider driving, not riding.

The Paragon is delivered with Source’s own 3L Widepac hydration bladder. With features such as Glass Like™ Film Technology, Grunge-Guard™, QMT compatible hose quick connect system, a spring loaded Helix™ bite valve with included Dirt Shield™ valve cover, and a taste-free system that is both BPA and Phthalate free, our previous review of this hydration system proved it to be excellent.

With these initial observations out of the way, time to hit the trails to see how the pack would fare in the real world.

On The Trail

Loading up the Paragon with our day-to-day selection of tools, parts, food, and beverages hardly scratches the surface of what this thing can carry. This is almost expedition level storage minus the tent and the folding chairs. But thanks to the relatively flat and wide design, most of the weight ends up low and centered, and the 2 compression straps provided help adjust the pack to the actual content.

We were curious and a bit apprehensive of the whole wireframe deal – what would it translate to for riding? First of all, in terms of airflow, it works better than any other solution out there. Unlike packs with “pillows” or “channels” or other similar concepts featured as part of the back panel, the wire frame actually ensures that the pack itself can’t touch your back even when it’s fully loaded. This translates to a lot more air flow than we are used to with any other packs, definitely a welcome feature during warmer days.

The system does take a little bit of getting used to. While the mesh panel helps distribute the load over the back, you can still feel more pressure from the top and the bottom of the pack. It does however remain comfortable and stable in use, and we had no problems rocking the Paragon on epic days out with heavy loads.

The flexible helmet net provided is a bit too small to be useful for anything but a XC helmet. For carrying “trail style” or full-face helmets, we ended up using the compression straps instead. These also come in handy for attaching knee or elbow pads if you like to dress down for the ups.

The fit of the Paragon is excellent. The shape of the shoulder straps is very comfortable, and the waistband rides on the hips in a natural way. The pack never felt like it was moving around, even during more acrobatic manoeuvers. All the straps are easy to adjust and remain in position without slippage. The very clever elastic bands found at the end of each strap are a great solution for rolling up excess strap length and actually keeping it rolled up – they never came loose once secured.

The Widepac hydration system proved to be one of the highlights of our experience with the pack – simply put, Source’s hydration systems are among the best we have ever tested. Innovative both with regards to form and function, these bladders are virtually maintenance free, but more importantly, taste-free too. The Helix bite valve works exactly as a bite valve should, remaining drip-free even when in the open position yet easy and comfortable to drink from. And whether we were using the “Dirt Shield” docking station or the magnetic clip option, the hose was always held securely in a good position both for riding and drinking. For more information, you can catch our full review of the hydration system itself here.

Things That Could Be Improved

The helmet net provided for carrying a helmet on the outside of the pack is too small for most of today’s “trail” helmets. The idea is good but needs to more easily accommodate bigger helmets. We’d also like to see the addition of straps to carry bigger body armor elements on the bottom of the pack. As it stands, you can fit elbow pads into the side mesh pockets, but kneepads have to be attached using the 2 main compression straps (which may also be in use to carry a full-face helmet). For a pack this size, the addition of 2 more straps at the bottom would make great sense anyway, as the Paragon could easily find itself on overnighter expedition duty in addition to just riding.

The hydration compartment is very wide, which means the bladder has some room to move around in there. We'd welcome a compartment of the same width as the bladder to stop it from being able to do so.

The pack includes a built-in rain cover of good quality which also attaches itself very securely to the pack via attachment points both at the top and the bottom. However, due to the shape of the pack at the top, it creates a crease which can leave the media pocket exposed to the elements even with the rain cover on. Some kind of solution to allow the rain cover to really cover the whole of the top of the pack would be welcome. (Note that the rain cover does an excellent job in general of protecting the pack from mud and water, and also stays in place during riding).

Long Term Durability

We’ve been riding with the Paragon for close to 6 months now, and it’s showing no signs of premature wear. All the stitches are holding up, and there are no rips or tears in any of the materials used throughout the pack. The inside of the tool compartment is made of durable nylon, and there are no holes to report even in the pouches holding the pointier tools. There is no reason to suspect you’d get anything less than years of service out of the Paragon.

The excellent Widepac hydration system included with the Paragon is very easy to maintain, and has as previously mentioned proved capable of continuing to provide taste-free water throughout the duration of this test.

What’s The Bottom Line?

The Paragon is a surprisingly agile solution for such a big pack. Innovative in its approach to keeping you cool and packed with useful features, it offers everything you would expect from a premium pack at this price point. If you go on a lot of epic rides or just like to be well-prepared in general, it will allow you to store everything you need and more, and to carry it all comfortably and securely. As for the hydration element, the included Widepac bladder is one of the best we've ever used, almost self-maintaining and completely taste-free.

More information at www.sourceoutdoor.com.

Catch the Paragon in action:


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 Source WLP - Low Profile Hydration System 12/21/2013 8:51 AM
C138_source_wlp_hydration_system

Tested: Source Hydration Systems

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Johan Hjord

Source was founded in 1989, and has since built itself into a globally distributed brand specializing in outdoors footwear and hydration systems. Well-known in the general outdoors/adventure market and recognized for its innovative approach to hydration, the company has also recently introduced a line of packs designed specifically for mountain biking. Curious to see what they can bring to us riders, we put their range of hydration reservoirs to the test.

Source Hydration Systems Highlights

  • Triple layer taste and odor free PE film with anti microbial agent
  • PP, PE & POM injected plastic parts
  • Silicon mouthpiece
  • Widepac™ closure (U.S Patent No. 7,648,276,B2) - allows easy filling, cleaning, draining, and ice insertion. Airtight seal
  • Glass Like™ Film Technology - A multi-layer polyethylene film utilizing Source's Glass-Like™ technology, which prevents bio-film build up making the system self-cleaning. SOURCE's Glass-Like™ Film is 2000% smoother than standard TPU films, with virtually no difference from glass itself
  • Taste Free™ System - Co-extruded PE film retains pure liquid taste with no plastic flavor. BPA and Phthalate free
  • Grunge-Guard™ Technology - Inhibits bacteria growth on the reservoir and drinking tube surfaces for the life of the system. Technology utilizes FDA-approved and EPA-registered anti-microbial agent
  • Easy Care & Low Maintenance
  • SQC™ - Source Quick Connect (QMT compatible)
  • Helix™ Valve - Source bite valve
  • Dirt Shield™ - Valve cover
  • MSRP: $26 - $35 USD (depending on model)

Initial Impressions

A hydration bladder is often included when you purchase the riding pack itself, and for that reason, many of us never pay much attention to how it’s put together or delivered. But when you think about it a bit more, the bladder is a crucial component of your riding experience – you’ll be drinking from it for years to come, hopefully. With that in mind, we checked out all the little details when we took delivery of a few Source bladders and accessories to test out.

Checking out the packaging (which is made from recycled materials mostly), the feature list is long. So long that it leaves you wondering if it’s just a list of terms and acronyms dreamed up by the marketing department, or if there’s actually room for that much tech in a simple bladder. Well, turns out that there’s quite a lot to it.

One of the most common complaints regarding hydration systems is that they can leave a bit of a plastic taste in the water. Source utilizes a co-extruded PE film which is meant to be entirely taste- and odor-less. Additionally, Source has developed what they term “Glass-Like” technology, which is essentially a way to make the inside surface of the bladder extremely smooth, thus providing less real estate for assorted microbial life forms to throw a party in your hydration system. Coupled with “Grunge-Guard” anti-microbial surface treatment, Source claims that the system is virtually maintenance free. For anybody who has ever taken a shot of old grungy water from a bladder, this sounds like good news.

On close inspection, the bladders appear well put together. One of the aspects we noticed straight away is how rigid the material is – not floppy like most hydration bladders we’ve tried. The welds also seem strong and the product is well finished off, with no apparent quality issues. All the bladders we tested feature the Widepac slider opening, which is a clever system that folds the end of the bag unto itself and then holds it there with a plastic slider. This creates a wide opening which makes it easy to rinse out and dry the bladder, or to add ice to your drinking water for warm days.

The bladders all feature quick connect hoses, which is helpful for quick drying and also for swapping bladders or connecting different accessories (the connectors have a built-in stop valve that prevents water from pouring out when you disconnect the hose). Some of the hoses are wrapped in a weave that protects from UV rays – not to keep the water cool (there’s an optional insulated hose for that too), but to keep the tube from deteriorating under sunlight and tainting the taste of water over time.

All the bladders on test feature the “Helix” bite valve, a spring loaded valve that claims to be drip free and easy to drink from. To finish off the feature tour, the Helix valves come with a dirt guard in the form of a plastic “docking station” that holds the valve in place on your pack and also protects it from dirt and various other naturally occurring substances you’d rather not be drinking. There is also an optional magnetic clip solution for those who prefer it that way.

And with that said, time to hit the trails to see what the real world would have to say about it all…

On The Trail

Filling up Source bladders is easy thanks to the wide opening. We were skeptical at first regarding how leakproof this system would be, but that turned out to be completely unfounded. Once filled and closed, you can stand on these things without causing a leak or any other damage. The quick connect hoses also turned out to be just as functional and leak proof, all of which translates to a system that is easy to manipulate and that holds water where it’s supposed to be. We tested the bladders in a couple of Source’s own riding packs, which provide a handy strap for attaching the bladder, but the bladders will work in any pack.

The Helix bite valve works very well, definitely one of the best solutions we have tried to date. It really is drip-free, and very easy to drink from. You can leave it in the open position for the whole ride, we only closed it down when we knew our bag would be thrown in with a lot of other bags and equipment in the car for example. In normal use, the valve does not leak at all, even when in the fully open position. It’s easy to take apart and clean, especially important if you use more than just water in your hydration system. We also appreciate that it rotates 360 degrees, which means it’s easy to position for drinking on the go.

The included Dirt Shield works well to hold your hose securely and your bite valve protected from the elements while riding, especially useful if you ride in lots of mud or come across lots of, erm, other organic matter. In the dry, you might want to opt for the magnetic clip which makes drinking even easier. The magnetic clip is strong and holds the hose in place while riding, including over rough terrain.

Source has come up with a very nifty solution for refilling your hydration system while on the move. Called the “Universal Tube Adapter” or “UTA”, it is a rubber baffle that takes the place of the bite valve and allows you to connect a water bottle or a faucet to the drinking hose to fill the bladder without removing it from the pack. This simple solution could make a big difference during Enduro or other stage races for example, where riders don’t have much time available during refueling stops. (The UTA is available to order as an accessory.)

As previously mentioned, Source bladders are quite rigid, and therefore hold their shape well in the pack. This helps keep the liquid from sloshing about too much. Some of the models offered also have built in separation walls that serve to keep the profile of the bladder slim and further prevent the liquid from moving around. If you are really concerned about keeping a low profile, there is a special donut shaped bladder that really distributes the load, ideal for shorter rides (since it only contains 1.5 liters of water).

The ultimate question asked of any hydration system is the taste of the water. Curious to test out Source’s claim that the system is virtually maintenance free, we started our test by running the same bladder for 4 months, without cleaning it and without letting it dry. At an average rhythm of three rides per week, we would simply fill the bladder for each ride, and then leave it in the pack once we got back. Amazingly, the bladder still serves up fresh tasting water and there are no signs of any build-up of gunk or other unsightly occurrences in the bladder. We cleaned the bite valve every now and then, especially after dunking it in mud, but other than that, the system has basically cleaned itself. Touching the inside of the bladder there is the slightest hint of slime build-up on the walls, but nowhere near what we were expecting to find. Of course, Source still recommends that you rinse and dry the bladder out between each ride (easy to do thanks to its non-stick properties and rigid material), and in doing so, we can’t see the system ever becoming contaminated. If you run anything but water, it goes without saying that you have to rinse and clean it each time.

Things That Could Be Improved

We have a couple of very minor observations to make. As previously pointed out, the bite valve works extremely well. It is actually drip-free, and easy to drink from. Every now and then we noticed that the hose and/or bite valve would get a little air in it between sips (probably pulled down from the bite valve), which meant the next sip would be a bit bubbly. Not really a big issue, and if it’s the price to pay for the drip-free design, we’ll gladly take it. (Some prefer to drain their hose back into the pack between sips to avoid water heating up in the hose, in which case this would not be an issue).

We would also love to see a small eyelet added at the bottom of the bladder to help with hanging it upside down to dry out.

Long Term Durability

As previously pointed out, we’ve used mainly one bladder for the entire first four months of testing, and it still performs every bit as well as when new – even without maintenance. There are no signs of deterioration in any of the materials or welds, and the water still tastes as fresh as it did when the bladder was new. We’ve since started riding with several of the other Source bladders on offer as well, with the same excellent results so far. The system really does manage itself most of the time (as long as you use only water of course), and with minimum care, it should last you a very long time. What’s more important, it should give you tastefree water for a very long time, and that is a claim that not every other brand out there can make.

What’s The Bottom Line?

Source has put considerable effort into designing its line of hydration systems, and it has paid off. It is one of the easiest to use thanks to its nearly self-maintaining properties, and it is completely taste-free. Add in the very innovative Universal Tube Adapter and numerous sizes, configurations, and accessories to cater to any kind of adventure you might want to go on, and you’re looking at a great hydration solution that will work with any riding pack. With prices in line with competition too, there’s not much to not like.

More information at: Source


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 Source WXP Hydration System 12/21/2013 8:49 AM
C138_wxp_source_hydration_system_70oz

Tested: Source Hydration Systems

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Johan Hjord

Source was founded in 1989, and has since built itself into a globally distributed brand specializing in outdoors footwear and hydration systems. Well-known in the general outdoors/adventure market and recognized for its innovative approach to hydration, the company has also recently introduced a line of packs designed specifically for mountain biking. Curious to see what they can bring to us riders, we put their range of hydration reservoirs to the test.

Source Hydration Systems Highlights

  • Triple layer taste and odor free PE film with anti microbial agent
  • PP, PE & POM injected plastic parts
  • Silicon mouthpiece
  • Widepac™ closure (U.S Patent No. 7,648,276,B2) - allows easy filling, cleaning, draining, and ice insertion. Airtight seal
  • Glass Like™ Film Technology - A multi-layer polyethylene film utilizing Source's Glass-Like™ technology, which prevents bio-film build up making the system self-cleaning. SOURCE's Glass-Like™ Film is 2000% smoother than standard TPU films, with virtually no difference from glass itself
  • Taste Free™ System - Co-extruded PE film retains pure liquid taste with no plastic flavor. BPA and Phthalate free
  • Grunge-Guard™ Technology - Inhibits bacteria growth on the reservoir and drinking tube surfaces for the life of the system. Technology utilizes FDA-approved and EPA-registered anti-microbial agent
  • Easy Care & Low Maintenance
  • SQC™ - Source Quick Connect (QMT compatible)
  • Helix™ Valve - Source bite valve
  • Dirt Shield™ - Valve cover
  • MSRP: $26 - $35 USD (depending on model)

Initial Impressions

A hydration bladder is often included when you purchase the riding pack itself, and for that reason, many of us never pay much attention to how it’s put together or delivered. But when you think about it a bit more, the bladder is a crucial component of your riding experience – you’ll be drinking from it for years to come, hopefully. With that in mind, we checked out all the little details when we took delivery of a few Source bladders and accessories to test out.

Checking out the packaging (which is made from recycled materials mostly), the feature list is long. So long that it leaves you wondering if it’s just a list of terms and acronyms dreamed up by the marketing department, or if there’s actually room for that much tech in a simple bladder. Well, turns out that there’s quite a lot to it.

One of the most common complaints regarding hydration systems is that they can leave a bit of a plastic taste in the water. Source utilizes a co-extruded PE film which is meant to be entirely taste- and odor-less. Additionally, Source has developed what they term “Glass-Like” technology, which is essentially a way to make the inside surface of the bladder extremely smooth, thus providing less real estate for assorted microbial life forms to throw a party in your hydration system. Coupled with “Grunge-Guard” anti-microbial surface treatment, Source claims that the system is virtually maintenance free. For anybody who has ever taken a shot of old grungy water from a bladder, this sounds like good news.

On close inspection, the bladders appear well put together. One of the aspects we noticed straight away is how rigid the material is – not floppy like most hydration bladders we’ve tried. The welds also seem strong and the product is well finished off, with no apparent quality issues. All the bladders we tested feature the Widepac slider opening, which is a clever system that folds the end of the bag unto itself and then holds it there with a plastic slider. This creates a wide opening which makes it easy to rinse out and dry the bladder, or to add ice to your drinking water for warm days.

The bladders all feature quick connect hoses, which is helpful for quick drying and also for swapping bladders or connecting different accessories (the connectors have a built-in stop valve that prevents water from pouring out when you disconnect the hose). Some of the hoses are wrapped in a weave that protects from UV rays – not to keep the water cool (there’s an optional insulated hose for that too), but to keep the tube from deteriorating under sunlight and tainting the taste of water over time.

All the bladders on test feature the “Helix” bite valve, a spring loaded valve that claims to be drip free and easy to drink from. To finish off the feature tour, the Helix valves come with a dirt guard in the form of a plastic “docking station” that holds the valve in place on your pack and also protects it from dirt and various other naturally occurring substances you’d rather not be drinking. There is also an optional magnetic clip solution for those who prefer it that way.

And with that said, time to hit the trails to see what the real world would have to say about it all…

On The Trail

Filling up Source bladders is easy thanks to the wide opening. We were skeptical at first regarding how leakproof this system would be, but that turned out to be completely unfounded. Once filled and closed, you can stand on these things without causing a leak or any other damage. The quick connect hoses also turned out to be just as functional and leak proof, all of which translates to a system that is easy to manipulate and that holds water where it’s supposed to be. We tested the bladders in a couple of Source’s own riding packs, which provide a handy strap for attaching the bladder, but the bladders will work in any pack.

The Helix bite valve works very well, definitely one of the best solutions we have tried to date. It really is drip-free, and very easy to drink from. You can leave it in the open position for the whole ride, we only closed it down when we knew our bag would be thrown in with a lot of other bags and equipment in the car for example. In normal use, the valve does not leak at all, even when in the fully open position. It’s easy to take apart and clean, especially important if you use more than just water in your hydration system. We also appreciate that it rotates 360 degrees, which means it’s easy to position for drinking on the go.

The included Dirt Shield works well to hold your hose securely and your bite valve protected from the elements while riding, especially useful if you ride in lots of mud or come across lots of, erm, other organic matter. In the dry, you might want to opt for the magnetic clip which makes drinking even easier. The magnetic clip is strong and holds the hose in place while riding, including over rough terrain.

Source has come up with a very nifty solution for refilling your hydration system while on the move. Called the “Universal Tube Adapter” or “UTA”, it is a rubber baffle that takes the place of the bite valve and allows you to connect a water bottle or a faucet to the drinking hose to fill the bladder without removing it from the pack. This simple solution could make a big difference during Enduro or other stage races for example, where riders don’t have much time available during refueling stops. (The UTA is available to order as an accessory.)

As previously mentioned, Source bladders are quite rigid, and therefore hold their shape well in the pack. This helps keep the liquid from sloshing about too much. Some of the models offered also have built in separation walls that serve to keep the profile of the bladder slim and further prevent the liquid from moving around. If you are really concerned about keeping a low profile, there is a special donut shaped bladder that really distributes the load, ideal for shorter rides (since it only contains 1.5 liters of water).

The ultimate question asked of any hydration system is the taste of the water. Curious to test out Source’s claim that the system is virtually maintenance free, we started our test by running the same bladder for 4 months, without cleaning it and without letting it dry. At an average rhythm of three rides per week, we would simply fill the bladder for each ride, and then leave it in the pack once we got back. Amazingly, the bladder still serves up fresh tasting water and there are no signs of any build-up of gunk or other unsightly occurrences in the bladder. We cleaned the bite valve every now and then, especially after dunking it in mud, but other than that, the system has basically cleaned itself. Touching the inside of the bladder there is the slightest hint of slime build-up on the walls, but nowhere near what we were expecting to find. Of course, Source still recommends that you rinse and dry the bladder out between each ride (easy to do thanks to its non-stick properties and rigid material), and in doing so, we can’t see the system ever becoming contaminated. If you run anything but water, it goes without saying that you have to rinse and clean it each time.

Things That Could Be Improved

We have a couple of very minor observations to make. As previously pointed out, the bite valve works extremely well. It is actually drip-free, and easy to drink from. Every now and then we noticed that the hose and/or bite valve would get a little air in it between sips (probably pulled down from the bite valve), which meant the next sip would be a bit bubbly. Not really a big issue, and if it’s the price to pay for the drip-free design, we’ll gladly take it. (Some prefer to drain their hose back into the pack between sips to avoid water heating up in the hose, in which case this would not be an issue).

We would also love to see a small eyelet added at the bottom of the bladder to help with hanging it upside down to dry out.

Long Term Durability

As previously pointed out, we’ve used mainly one bladder for the entire first four months of testing, and it still performs every bit as well as when new – even without maintenance. There are no signs of deterioration in any of the materials or welds, and the water still tastes as fresh as it did when the bladder was new. We’ve since started riding with several of the other Source bladders on offer as well, with the same excellent results so far. The system really does manage itself most of the time (as long as you use only water of course), and with minimum care, it should last you a very long time. What’s more important, it should give you tastefree water for a very long time, and that is a claim that not every other brand out there can make.

What’s The Bottom Line?

Source has put considerable effort into designing its line of hydration systems, and it has paid off. It is one of the easiest to use thanks to its nearly self-maintaining properties, and it is completely taste-free. Add in the very innovative Universal Tube Adapter and numerous sizes, configurations, and accessories to cater to any kind of adventure you might want to go on, and you’re looking at a great hydration solution that will work with any riding pack. With prices in line with competition too, there’s not much to not like.

More information at: Source


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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