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2013 Specialized S-Works Enduro Carbon 29 SE

“Top dollar, Top dog”

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The Good: It's Fast. Really Fast.

The Bad: The price, clearly. Few can justify spending 10g's on a bike, but those who can will appreciate a ride that is truly next-level. Also, in reference to the factory build: A bike of this caliber probably ought to come with carbon bars, and we certainly prefer a shorter stem. Shorter even than we might run on it's smaller-wheeled brother, so as to quicken the steering of such big wheels.. We've found that it behaves quite nicely with something around 40mm. Wider bars are nice too. Other small frustrations are the proprietary rear hub spacing, and shock mounts. but we understand that both are concessions that must be made for a bike to handle the way this one does.

Overall Review: In fact fast is a bit of an understatement, If you've ridden wagon wheels before you're acutely aware of their propensity for gathering speed, but the likelihood is that as soon as you encountered the need to change direction, quickly or otherwise, the frame that held them began to feel real big. Not so with Specialized's E29 - it's only 6mm longer than it's 26-inch-wheeled counterpart, and once you've overcome the novelty of looking down at a giant front tire, you'll likely forget that you're aboard a 29er at all. Even in the more affordable Comp version (which is not light, by the way) this bike's Read More »

Renthal BMX Single Ply Grips

Featured Review

“great minimalist grip”

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The Good: light, long lasting, cheap

The Bad: none so far

Overall Review: My go to grips in the past were the Odi ruffians lock-on, but I was I was looking for something even more minimal. I purchased the kevlar version which is supposedly the tackiest and the longest lasting. I was not disappointed. The grips are super light and even thinner than the ruffians since there isn't the plastic core that the lock-ons rest on. I cut the flanges off of the end with a razor blade and it mounted up with a little elbow grease. If you have access to an air compressor I would recommend going that route. I was a little concerned about grip slippage since these aren't lock-ons these haven't given me any Read More »

Race Face Narrow/Wide Chainring

“Benchmark bolt-on”

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The Good: The narrow/wide tooth profile is an absolute must-have on any 1x setup. Ditch your chain-guide and actually improve chain-retention, for less than $40. Absolute no-brainer.

The Bad: A bit louder than the Sram offering, but that's really splitting hairs.

Overall Review: If you're one of the many people running a 1x setup, but still have yet to shell out for XO1 or XX1, this is the only way to go. Chain management has never been better, and the versatility of the 104 BCD is unmatched. Then you look at the price tag - there's probably no better way to improve your AM, FR or DH bike for $35.

Lizard Skins DSP Grip

Vital Review

“Tested: Lizard Skins DSP Grips”

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Review by Justin Schroth and Joel Harwood // Photos by Justin Schroth Lizard Skins recently applied their DuraSoft Polymer (DSP) technology to their mountain bike line, allowing them to create a grip that does not require an inner plastic sleeve or lock-rings. The result is a grip that is super lightweight with a soft feel and thin profile. Previously the DSP material was used to make bar tape for road bikes, touting improved durability, increased shock absorption and superior grip in all conditions. Curious to see how the DSP grip stacks up against a sea of other options, we mounted a few pairs and hit the trail. DSP Grip Read More »

FSA Afterburner Stem

Vital Review

“Tested: FSA Afterburner Handlebar and Stem”

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Review by Dave Trumpore // Photos by Dave Trumpore and Gary Perkin FSA’s Afterburner line of mountain bike components have suited cross-country and trail riders quite well over the years, offering reliable and lightweight performance. The lineup includes handlebars and stems, which come in various rise, width, and length options. The alloy stem was recently redesigned to reduce weight, and has a new faceplate as well. Let’s see how the combo faired on trail. Afterburner Handlebar Highlights Material: AL7050/T6, Triple-Butted, Tapered and Shot-Peened Clamp Size: 31.8mm Width: Low Riser - 630, 685, or 740mm // Flat - 600, 620, Read More »

FSA Afterburner Handlebar

Vital Review

“Tested: FSA Afterburner Handlebar and Stem”

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Review by Dave Trumpore // Photos by Dave Trumpore and Gary Perkin FSA’s Afterburner line of mountain bike components have suited cross-country and trail riders quite well over the years, offering reliable and lightweight performance. The lineup includes handlebars and stems, which come in various rise, width, and length options. The alloy stem was recently redesigned to reduce weight, and has a new faceplate as well. Let’s see how the combo faired on trail. Afterburner Handlebar Highlights Material: AL7050/T6, Triple-Butted, Tapered and Shot-Peened Clamp Size: 31.8mm Width: Low Riser - 630, 685, or 740mm // Flat - 600, Read More »

Race Face Narrow/Wide Chainring

“Great affordable upgrade”

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The Good: light, lots of teeth options, cheap, it works!

The Bad: not really a bad, but I recommend using with clutch derailleur

Overall Review: As others have said, get the number of links and chain tension correct and you'll be golden. I'm running a 30T and 11 x 32 on a 9speed setup with a clutch rear derailleur and haven't dropped a chain. I had a chain guide but have since removed it and haven't regretted my decision. Been on this setup for a year now and have no regrets. I ride in fairly rocky terrain and like to jump, hit drops, and pop off of natural trail features. The chain has miraculously stayed on when in the past I've always had to run a chain guide. If you want to run 1x, for the price, it's hard to choose anything else.

Topeak Pocket Shock DXG Pump

“good reliable shock pump”

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The Good: compact, accurate readings, tough, reasonable price

The Bad: none really

Overall Review: I've had this pump for about 2 years now, and I use it for a couple of bikes that have both air forks and shocks. It's compact enough that I always drop it in my hydration pack when I ride. The air valve works and I always get accurate readings. There's a little air loss when I disengage from the valve but I attribute that mostly to the air trapped in the hose. When reattaching it the pressure readings remain consistent. I've dropped it many times on rocks and pavement and it's held up. No broken glass or off-readings. Basically, this is a good  shock pump that is accurate and reliable. I don't have to think about it which means that it's doing it's job!

Shimano Zee RD-M640 Rear Derailleur

“Silent and Deadly”

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The Good: low cost, works great, reliable

The Bad: none so far

Overall Review: I got the zee clutch after reading on some forums that you can run it with 9 speed sram shifters. I wanted to go with a 1x setup but didn't want to upgrade my entire drive train and shifters just yet. I mounted a small spacer I picked up from home depot to the derailleur to get the correct pull and the shifting has been flawless. The clutch simply works. I use it in conjunction with a narrow/wide chainring and haven't had a chain drop since. Not one in 8 months so I ended up removing my chain guide where it sits lonely in a box gathering dust. And the silence is wonderful. I hate noisy bikes. If you're on the fence about getting a clutch derailleur just do it. Like a dropper post, it's hard to go back once you do.

Five Ten Freerider VXi Shoes

“Arguably the best flat pedal shoe”

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The Good: 5.10 sole works, lighter weight, stiff sole for pedaling

The Bad: No lace cover, looks (but that's subjective)

Overall Review: This review is for the Freerider xvi elements shoe (since it doesn't have a category of its own on Vital). First off, I need to say that I really like these shoes. They are a lot lighter than the previous freeriders that I had which I found to be too heavy and bulky for general trail riding which is the bulk of my riding. The elements are slimmer and lack the padding around the tongue and heel of the previous freeriders which I like. The sole on the elements is supposedly the stickiest compound 5.10 makes and I found them to be perfect for my needs. Put your foot down and it stays there. Unweight them slightly Read More »