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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 »

Shimano SLX M666 Disc Brake

“Excellent brake that won't break the bank”

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The Good: Powerful, reliable, easy to bleed (mineral oil), cheap, quiet when wet

The Bad: The pads are held in by a cotter pin (minor quibble though)

Overall Review: For the money, you can't find a better brake, in my opinion. Picked these up for $80 each brand new. Been on these brakes for about a year now and they have worked perfectly. Haven't had to bleed them at all, but like all Shimano brakes they use mineral oil, a plus in my book. They are a little grabby if you grab a fistful of brake in a panic, but I like that I can do one finger braking and I prefer to feather my brakes anyway. The stock pads that came with it are pretty good, too. They're quiet even during wet rides. If you don't care about the bling or don't need the extra adjustments of xt and xtr, get the slx and be done with it.

Thomson Elite Seatpost

“Gold standard”

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The Good: Light, looks great, doesn't creak, wide range of adjustment, reliable

The Bad: A little expensive, but you get what you pay for.

Overall Review: If you're not using a dropper post, then this is the post you want. It does everything a seat post should do and does it very, very well. The two bolt design allows you to really fine tune the angle of your seat. When it's set, it's set. No creaks, slippage, etc. On top of all this, the post is gorgeous. This is about as close to art as you're going to find in a seat post.

Niterider Cherry Bomb Rear Light

Featured Review

“The Cherry Bomb can save your bacon a couple of ways”

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The Good: 1. Weather seals are good // 2. Super Bright and has a couple modes // 3. Usable clip // 4. Works for running as well as the bike // 5. Super long battery life

The Bad: 1. I broke the seatpost hard mount in a crash. I'm deducting 1.5 stars for that. // 2. The flash or strobe mode may give riders behind you seizures.

Overall Review: I've been running this little gem for about a year and a half now and do a lot of night riding in the fall and winter months. I don't want to be in the unfortunate spot of having some distracted motorist taking me out while I'm along the road headed to the trail.  And as I ride solo often it gives me some piece of mind knowing that if I am down and a search goes out, they will find me in the dark. It is so bright those who would come looking will be able to see you easily and the battery life is so long that it'll last a couple of days straight. At the end of last winter I was riding in the snow and washed out and this fall broke the hard seatpost mount that came with it, but it still has a clip that has worked without issue since.

Crank Brothers Multi 17 Tool

“17 ways CrankBrothers makes you faster and more consistent ”

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The Good: This bad boy fits everything on all of my bikes trail, single speed, commuter, jump, and friends bikes!
CrankBrothers make a few models with fewer and more tools, depending on what your needs are.

The Bad: Just a little extra weight to carry along.

Overall Review: It has saved more than a handful of rides and that along makes it invaluable. Nothing is worse than finally getting out on the trail and few miles later you or one of your buddies is broke down and the fun stops and the sweating begins. It is almost like having a whole bike shop of tools right under the seat. I have this exact one other than my 17 has some ano-gold trim. The chain tool functions properly and you can get some good torque on it to pop those stubborn links and the spoke wrench works like a charm and isn't unmanageable considering the rest of the tool is connected. This little piece of Read More »

Manitou Mattoc Pro Fork

Vital Review

“Tested: Manitou Mattoc Pro Fork”

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Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Ian Collins After a promising looking product launch from Manitou, we were anxious to get our hands on their newest offering, the Mattoc fork. Aimed at the All Mountain side of the sport, we were excited to learn that the Mattoc borrowed some tech from its big brother, the Dorado, and features the well received DH Dual Chamber Air cartridge and the HBO feature on the compression side of things. With Manitou's somewhat shaky history and relatively recent success with the re-release of the Dorado DH fork, we really had no idea where the Mattoc would stack up, but we were definitely very Read More »