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Every 30 days, we award the Top User Reviewer with a little prize. This month Jenson USA pitched in a $100 gift card! Vital MTB member missinglink knocked it out of the park by writing several good reviews, and we'd like to highlight a few of the ones that helped earned him the Top Reviewer spot.

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Knolly Endorphin Frame - "Seems kind of silly these days to be writing a review for a 26" bike but if you're not in a hurry to switch over to larger wheels the Endorphin should be on your short list. I've been riding this frame for almost two years now and it is the best bike I've owned to date.

First off the geometry is dialed on this bike. Slack head angle (67*), steep effective seat angle (73.5*), low BB height (13.2-4" depending on tires), and short chainstays (16.7") working all together makes this bike a ripper. The numbers puts a rider right in the center and IN the bike for great cornering manners and aggressive handling.

The 4 x 4 suspension is not everyone, but if you favor traction over pedaling performance on flatter terrain you will love the Endorphin. Your legs will give out before the bike will when climbing. The traction is caterpillar-like over ledges and steep technical terrain. The 4 x 4 suspension also makes the bike's 140mm of travel feel like more and imo transcends the trail bike category. Point this bike downhill and you'll know what I mean.

The Endorphin has all the modern features that a good trailbike should have imo: removable ISCG-05, 12x142 rear, 44mm headtube, dropper post routing.The frame comes in at a fairly light 6.5lbs with fox ctd shock.When I purchased the bike almost two years ago, the fox ctd was the only shock offered and after I few rides I immediately replaced it with a Cane Creek Double Barrel Air. I felt that was when the bike truly hit its full potential. That was also before Avalanche offered their SSD mods for the fox ctd. I highly recommend either an Avy mod or DBair for this frame.

In almost two years of flogging I haven't had a single issue with the frame. Bearings are solid/tight and still running smooth. No creaks or structural issues. There is only one cosmetic issue of the linkage bolts getting a little rusty. I'm not bothered by it but Knolly will warranty it with ones that don't if you ask. Tire/mud clearance is amazing. Throw a 2.5 tire in there and you can still stick your finger between the tire and frame.

I really can't see improving this bike other than making it carbon. Right now you can find these for $500 or more off retail which makes it very competitive even with non-boutique frames. The suspension characteristics are not for everyone but for me it's exactly what I prefer and look for in an aggressive trail bike."

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Easton Haven Carbon Handlebars - "I've been using this bar for almost two seasons now and it's held up better than I expected. As this is my first carbon bar, I did my research and spent a little bit more than I would normally on a handlebar. I settled on Easton due to its reputation/experience with carbon and because I also have the aluminum version of this bar and liked it.

Installation was easy and I made sure to get carbon paste and use a torque wrench. So far no slippage, creaks, or anything that would cause alarm. On the trail, I could immediately tell the difference between the carbon and aluminum bar, however it wasn't as large of a difference as I thought it would be. Vibrations were a little more muted but not as much as I had anticipated. This is a stiff bar. Not a bad thing, just surprising since I've read so many reports about how carbon dampens the trail so incredibly well. The rise, sweep, and bend is pretty standard and feels good. At 711mm the bars are a little on the narrow side by today's standards. It would be great if they offered a 725mm or 740mm version. At 170 grams this bar is really light. It took about 100 grams off of my aluminum haven setup.

I've laid this bar down several times on some minor crashes and the ends have held up surprisingly well. The ends have no damage, and just a few scratches near the bend that didn't make it past the clear coat. I really like this bar as it suits me and my riding style perfectly. However, I'm not sure of its broader appeal. At 711mm it seems too narrow for most folks, it's virtually as stiff as the aluminum version (so very little magical carbon dampening qualities), and it's got a hefty price tag (relative to aluminum bars). If you're looking to save weight, the 100g might be better coming from the tires or rims. All this said, I really love these bars, just wish it was a tad wider."

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Cane Creek DBair Rear Shock - "I've been running this shock for about 2 years now and so far it has lived up to my expectations. I've run many shocks (romic, avalanche chubie, push tuned rp3's, push tuned monarchs, push tuned vanilla rc's, stock rp23, CTD, x fusion vector hlr) through the years so I'll compare it my experience. My 200 x 57 came in at 530 grams. Not heavy by coil standards but "heavy" if you're comparing it to a Fox CTD. The X-fusion HLR air I had was around 450 grams.

I'm running this on a 5.5" trail bike which is a little overkill but works great. Initially I encountered some trouble getting full travel from the shock (a common complaint) even with hitting 5-6 drops on not so great transitions. I ended up running about 38% sag which honestly felt incredible, but I ended up getting the high flow sleeve installed (for free on warranty) and now running 30% sag I have no problem getting full travel. I did feel however that the mid-stroke support diminished a little because of this. Not a big deal, but it was noticeable.

The reducers that came with the shock were surprisingly loose and I was able to push in the mounting shaft by hand. Had warrantied set delivered by Cane Creek and it had the same issues. Ended up putting fox hardware in and it solved the problem.

The tuning range on this shock is incredible.  I've been told by a suspension tuning vendor that the bike I ride fortunately falls into the tuning range that the DBair provides. Others I assume have not been so fortunate, hence some reviews of the high speed packing on fast rocky terrain. The high speed manners have been great so far, coming close to the performance of a coil Avalanche Chubie. Notice I said close  The chubie still outperforms albeit at a higher weight penalty.

The ride on this shock is great. You can go from a super compliant, super traction ride to a firmer more poppy ride with just a few clicks. A common complaint I share with others is that I wish there were tool free adjusters. The midstroke is incredible for an air sock and doesn't wallow. The only other air shock in my experience that compares in midstroke manners is the x fusion hlr. With all the independent adjusters you can run this shock very compliant on the top stroke, with a controlled midstroke, and have a smooth compression with no harsh bottomout. With other air shocks, you usually have to compromise one end of the spectrum. Don't be scared off by tuning options. It's actually very straightforward if you follow CC tuning methodology (bracketing) found on their website.  Once set, you can forget it.

Maintenance has been surprisingly trouble free for me. I know others have not been so lucky. Seals have been holding up and holding air since day one. No air leaks so far. My only complaint is that the o-ring dries up and falls off easily even with two replacements. Would love to see anodized markings like on the monarch.

Bottom line: this is an incredible air shock. If you're not counting grams you will be stoked. However, I got it before Avalanche started tuning Fox air shocks or else I may not have even bothered. Not sure I would buy this now considering cost and weight. Where CC bests Avy in my opinion is that you can switch the stock shock onto another frame and tune it to perform great, a potentially problematic issue when Avy tunes for a specific bike and leverage."

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Renthal Single Ply Grips - "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 issues. FWIW, I don't white knuckle or throttle the grips so it might be an issue if you do. So far two seasons on the same pair and they have held up better than the ruffians in terms of wear. One thing to note if you're concerned with looks is that the kevlar version gets dirty right away and the color looks like dirty snot after a ride or two!

If you're looking to get a super minimalist, light grip, I highly recommend the Renthals."


Big congrats to missinglink! Thanks for helping out the riding scene with your thoughts on these products.

Want to be in the running for next month's award? Start reviewing the parts you use in the Vital MTB Product Guide and keep an eye on the Top Reviewer leaderboard. We'll announce the next winner in early July.

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bturman bturman 6/2/2014 9:02 AM

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