iceman2058's Product Reviews

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

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

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

2016 FOX Float X2 Highlights

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

Initial Impressions

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

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

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

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

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

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

On The Trail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things That Could Be Improved

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

Long Term Durability

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

What’s The Bottom Line?

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

More information at www.ridefox.com.


About The Reviewer

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


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

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

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

2016 FOX Float 36 RC2 Highlights

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

Initial Impressions

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

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

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

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

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

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

On The Trail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things That Could Be Improved

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

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

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

Long Term Durability

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

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

What’s The Bottom Line?

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

More information at www.ridefox.com.


About The Reviewer

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


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Added a product review for Nukeproof Zero Stem 1/14/2016 7:23 AM
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Tested: Nukeproof Warhead Carbon Handlebar and Zero Stem

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

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

Nukeproof Warhead Carbon Highlights

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

Nukeproof Zero Stem Highlights

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

Initial Impressions

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

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

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

On The Trail

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

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

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

Things That Could Be Improved

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

Long Term Durability

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

What’s The Bottom Line?

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

More information at www.nukeproof.com.


About The Reviewer

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

This product has no reviews yet.

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

Tested: Nukeproof Warhead Carbon Handlebar and Zero Stem

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

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

Nukeproof Warhead Carbon Highlights

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

Nukeproof Zero Stem Highlights

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

Initial Impressions

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

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

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

On The Trail

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

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

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

Things That Could Be Improved

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

Long Term Durability

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

What’s The Bottom Line?

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

More information at www.nukeproof.com.


About The Reviewer

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

This product has no reviews yet.

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

First Ride: Hope Technology Pro 4 Hub

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

Hope Pro 4 Highlights

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

Evolution, Not Revolution

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

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

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

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

On The Trail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Far, So Good!

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

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

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

This product has no reviews yet.

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

First Ride: Hope Technology Pro 4 Hub

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

Hope Pro 4 Highlights

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

Evolution, Not Revolution

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

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

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

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

On The Trail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Far, So Good!

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

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

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

This product has no reviews yet.

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

Tested: Royal Racing Storm Waterproof Short

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

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

Royal Racing Storm Short Highlights

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

Initial Impressions

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

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

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

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

On The Trail

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things That Could Be Improved

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

Long Term Durability

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

What’s The Bottom Line?

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

More information at www.royalracing.com.


About The Reviewer

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


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

Tested: Novatec Factor 327 Wheelset

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

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

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

Factor 327 Highlights

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

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

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

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

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

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

    On The Trail

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

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

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

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

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

    Things That Could Be Improved

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

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

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

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

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

    Long Term Durability

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

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

    What’s The Bottom Line?

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

    More information at www.novatecusa.net/factor.


    About The Reviewer

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

    This product has no reviews yet.

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

    First Look: Nukeproof Horizon Pro Flat Pedal Sam Hill Edition

    Rating:

    The Good:

    The Bad:

    Overall:

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

    Nukeproof Horizon Pro Sam Hill Highlights

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

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

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

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

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

    More information at: www.nukeproof.com.

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

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

    Rating:

    The Good:

    The Bad:

    Overall:

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

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

    2016 Nukeproof Mega 27.5/29 Pro Highlights

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

    The Mega 29 joins the 27.5

    Initial Impressions

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

    No more

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    On The Trail/Riding Impressions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Blink and you'll miss him.

    2016 Nukeproof Mega Pro Build Kit

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

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

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

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

    2016 Nukeproof Mega Geometry

    2016 Nukeproof Mega Pricing

    Mega 275 Build Kits

    (click image to zoom)

    Mega 29 Build Kits

    (click image to zoom)

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

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

    This product has no reviews yet.

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

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

    Rating:

    The Good:

    The Bad:

    Overall:

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

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

    2016 Nukeproof Mega 27.5/29 Pro Highlights

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

    The Mega 29 joins the 27.5

    Initial Impressions

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

    No more

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    On The Trail/Riding Impressions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Blink and you'll miss him.

    2016 Nukeproof Mega Pro Build Kit

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

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

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

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

    2016 Nukeproof Mega Geometry

    2016 Nukeproof Mega Pricing

    Mega 275 Build Kits

    (click image to zoom)

    Mega 29 Build Kits

    (click image to zoom)

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

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

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

    First Look: FUNN Black Magic Flat Pedal

    Rating:

    The Good:

    The Bad:

    Overall:

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

    FUNN Black Magic Highlights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Tested: 2015 Specialized Ambush Helmet

    Rating:

    The Good:

    The Bad:

    Overall:

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

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

    Specialized Ambush Highlights

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

    Initial Impressions

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

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

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

    On The Trail

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

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

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

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

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

    Things That Could Be Improved

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

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

    Long Term Durability

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

    What’s The Bottom Line?

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

    More information at www.specialized.com.


    About The Reviewer

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


    This product has no reviews yet.

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

    Tested: 2015 7iDP Flex Knee Pad

    Rating:

    The Good:

    The Bad:

    Overall:

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

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

    7iDP Flex Knee Main Features

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

    Initial Impressions

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

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

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

    On The Trail

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Things That Could Be Improved

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

    Long Term Durability

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

    What’s The Bottom Line?

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

    More information at www.7protection.com.


    About The Reviewer

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

    This product has no reviews yet.

    Added a product review for Easton Heist 27.5" Wheelset Complete Wheel 7/19/2015 4:50 AM
    C138_heist_product_shot

    Tested: Easton Heist 27.5 Wheelset

    Rating:

    The Good:

    The Bad:

    Overall:

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

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

    Easton Heist 30 Wheelset Highlights

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

    Easton X5 Hub Highlights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    On The Trail

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

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

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

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

    Things That Could Be Improved

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

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

    Long Term Durability

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

    What's The Bottom Line?

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

    More information at www.eastoncycling.com.


    About The Reviewer

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

    This product has no reviews yet.

    Added a product review for Birzman Travel Tool Box 7/13/2015 4:43 AM
    C138_birzman_product_1

    Tested: Birzman Travel Tool Box

    Rating:

    The Good:

    The Bad:

    Overall:

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

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

    Birzman Travel Tool Box Highlights

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

    Tools included:

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

    Initial Impressions

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

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

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

    In The Shop/On The Trail

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

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

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

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

    Things That Could Be Improved

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

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

    Long Term Durability

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

    What’s The Bottom Line?

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

    More information at www.birzman.com.


    About The Reviewer

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

    This product has no reviews yet.

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

    Tested: 2015 Royal Victory Glove

    Rating:

    The Good:

    The Bad:

    Overall:

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

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

    Main Features

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

    Initial Impressions

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

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

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

    On The Trail

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

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

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

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

    Things That Could Be Improved

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

    Long Term Durability

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

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

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

    What’s The Bottom Line?

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

    More information at www.royalracing.com.


    About The Reviewer

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

    This product has no reviews yet.

    Added a product review for Sombrio Disciple Jersey 5/24/2015 8:25 AM
    C138_sombrio_disciple_jersey_big_air_black

    Tested: Sombrio Pinner Short and Disciple Jersey

    Rating:

    The Good:

    The Bad:

    Overall:

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

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

    Sombrio Pinner Short Highlights

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

    Sombrio Disciple ¾ Jersey Highlights

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

    Initial Impressions

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

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

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

    On The Trail

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

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

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

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

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

    Things That Could Be Improved

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

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

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

    Long Term Durability

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

    What’s The Bottom Line?

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

    More information at www.sombriocartel.com.


    About The Reviewer

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

    This product has no reviews yet.

    Added a product review for Sombrio Pinner Short 5/24/2015 8:24 AM
    C138_sombrio_pinner_short_big_air

    Tested: Sombrio Pinner Short and Disciple Jersey

    Rating:

    The Good:

    The Bad:

    Overall:

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

    Sombrio Pinner Short Highlights

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

    Sombrio Disciple ¾ Jersey Highlights

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

    Initial Impressions

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

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

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

    On The Trail

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

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

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

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

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

    Things That Could Be Improved

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

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

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

    Long Term Durability

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

    What’s The Bottom Line?

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

    More information at www.sombriocartel.com.


    About The Reviewer

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

    This product has no reviews yet.

    Added a product review for Royal 2015 Drift Short 5/21/2015 12:03 AM
    C138_drift_short_grn_f

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

    Rating:

    The Good:

    The Bad:

    Overall:

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

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

    Royal Racing 2015 Drift Short Highlights

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

    Royal Racing 2015 Drift ¾ Jersey Highlights

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

    Initial Impressions

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

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

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

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

    On The Trail

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

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

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

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

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

    Things That Could Be Improved

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

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

    Long Term Durability

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

    What’s The Bottom Line?

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

    More information at www.royalracing.com.


    About The Reviewer

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

    This product has no reviews yet.