Dirt Rag Magazine

Josh Patterson

Josh Patterson

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Another Dirt Fest in the books

By Josh Patterson

The dust has settled from the third annual Dirt Fest. The demo crews have packed their bikes and headed to the next town; music no longer echoes through the woods; and the local ground squirrel population is breathing a collective sigh of relief; as are we at the office, as we do our best to recover from the weekend’s festivities.

During the three-day festival nearly 2,300 mountain bikers took to the rollercoster trails at Raystown Lake. By most accounts the event was a success. In an abstract sense, this should be a no-brainer: quality singletrack + free beer + blinged-out demo bikes + live music = a good time. In a very real sense it took a lot of hard work by a lot of dedicated volunteers to pull off—thanks to all.

I, for one, enjoyed myself immensely. Saturday I helped lead a group of riders on Rays-to-Lake; the fastest riders to the shoreline were treated to a houseboat cruise, post-ride recovery keg, and cliff jumping. Harlan Price of Take Aim Cycling, below, put on two skills clinics. I attended one and came away with some valuable insight on how to improve my cornering technique; I immediately put this newfound knowledge to use on the trails.

Speaking of the trails, last year I spent most of my time riding the trail network closest to the expo area. This year I ventured further away from the hustle and bustle of the expo and was rewarded with new and exciting singletrack. I highly recommend exploring all the trails at Raystown; you will not be disappointed.

If you couldn’t make it this year, no worries. We’ll be back. And check out our huge photo gallery of what you missed.  Got your own photos? Be sure to tag them with Dirt Rag’s Dirt Fest on Facebook.

Something special happens when you assemble a large group of people so passionate mountain biking—friends are made and stories are swapped. What are your favorite memories from this year’s event? Share in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Thanks to our sponsors, exhibitors

Dirt Fest would not have been possible without the support of these fine companies. Hope you enjoyed their wares!

  • Appalachian Outdoors
  • Cannondale
  • Club Ride apparel
  • Elk Creek Cafe
  • Erie Brewing Company
  • Felt
  • Flying Squirrel Organic Hops
  • Foundry
  • Fox Racing Shocks
  • Freeze-Thaw Cycles
  • The Gamble Mill
  • Giant
  • IMBA
  • Industry 9 wheels
  • Infinit Nutrition
  • Kuat
  • Lone Wolf Cycling Clothing
  • Niner
  • NiteRider
  • Osprey
  • Oskar Blues and Reeb Cycles
  • Pedal Pushers
  • Pittsburgh Trail Advocacy Group
  • Pivot
  • POC protective gear
  • Rebecca Rusch – Gold Rusch Tour
  • Reynolds wheels
  • Rothrock Outfitters
  • Salsa
  • Santa Cruz
  • Scott
  • Shimano
  • Shower’s Pass
  • Specialized
  • Stan’s NoTubes
  • Suntour
  • Swiftwick
  • Thomson
  • Trek
  • Wheels Manufacturing

Plus, more shirts!

We had a run on our one-chance-only Dirt Fest T-shirts, so we’ve decided to do a second printing. Order between now and June 1 and we’ll print one up for you, with an expected delivery of June 10. We’ll even throw in free shipping. Don’t delay, this is your last chance!








Review: Fox Van 36 FIT RC2

By Josh Patterson, photo Justin Steiner

Ongoing refinements in air spring technology have made coil springs an increasingly rare commodity these day. For Fox Racing Shox, the long-travel realm is the last bastion of the coil-sprung fork. The Van series comes in 160mm (tested) and 180mm flavors and is designed for all-mountain and park riding.

Unlike the air-spring Float 36 series, the Van 36 FIT RC2 has separate high and low-speed compression circuits, allowing the rider to fine-tune the fork for the many different types of trail and rider input that could otherwise require one to make a compromise between performance and comfort.

For the uninitiated, low-speed compression damping mitigates excessive suspension movement during hard braking, i.e. brake dive, cornering, G-outs, and rider weight shifts. High-speed compression damping handles the big hits, high-frequency stutter bumps, and other sudden, high velocity impacts. Both compression adjustment dials are located on the top of the right fork leg, with the rebound damping adjustment knob located on the bottom of the right leg. Preload adjustments are made via a dial on the left leg.

Like the Float series, this fork employs FIT damping. Fox began using cartridge damping units on their high-end forks in 2010 to improve performance by reducing the amount of air mixing with oil, which can lead to inconsistent performance in open bath systems. For riders looking for a less techy and slightly more affordable option, Fox offers the Van 36 with an open-bath damper, no external compression adjustments, and no friction-fighting Kashima coating for $795.

The Van 36 FIT RC2 ships with the medium spring installed, intended for riders weighing between 150-180lbs. With gear, I’m on the very low end of this range. After one ride it was clear I needed to swap the medium for the lighter, 115-155lbs. spring. Any capable home mechanic can do a spring swap; it took all of two minutes.

With the light spring installed, all was well. Small bump sensitivity was excellent and the separate high and low-speed compression adjustments allowed me to fine-tune the fork’s performance to suit general trail riding, as well as more aggressive park riding. The test sled for this fork was the Ibis Mojo HD I reviewed in issue #155. I rode everything from XC-oriented singletrack to the stunts and berms at my local terrain park, and even spent a several days riding this setup instead of a DH rig at my local ski resort.

After a season of riding, my impression is that the Van 36 FIT RC2 will be overkill if you’re on the longer travel cross-country side of the all-mountain spectrum. I was never able to get full travel during what I would consider general trail and all-mountain riding. It was only when I rode this fork in the bike park and on extended downhill runs that it really came into its own. Fox Racing’s Race Program Director Mark “Fitzy” Fitzsimmons says this is by design. The fork’s damper prevents harsh bottom-outs, but will also make it difficult to use the last bit of travel on everything but the biggest hits.

“We don’t want the fork to be the limiting factor of what the rider can do,” says Fitzsimmons . There you have it—no excuses—pin it, push it, whatever you choose to call it, this fork was designed with aggressive riders in mind.

If you’re on the downhill or freeride end of the all-mountain spectrum the Van 36 FIT RC2 will serve your needs with ample stiffness, a wide range of usable adjustments, and consistent performance. If I were building up a bike for enduro racing, this would be my go-to fork.

Vital stats

  • Price: $955
  • Travel: 160mm
  • Weight: 5.12lbs.
  • Spring: Coil
  • External Adjustments: Preload, Rebound, High and Low-Speed Compression
  • Axle: 20mm Thru-Axle
  • Country of Origin: United States

First Impression: Niner Air 9 RDO

By Josh Patterson

Niner expanded their RDO (short for Race Day Optimized) line this spring with the introduction of the Air 9 RDO. Niner used the Air 9 Carbon (read our full review here) as the foundation for building this carbon hardtail. The company’s goal was the shed weight while adding a bit of compliance to the new frame (two objectives that generally go well together).

Where the Air 9 Carbon uses Niner’s CYA bottom bracket system—an oversized bottom bracket shell with a 55mm inner diameter that is compatible with press-fit, threaded, and Niner’s eccentric bottom bracket—the Air 9 RDO forgoes this expansive range of compatibility in favor of a lighter PressFit 30 bottom bracket.

To improve compliance, the company used smaller diameter top and downtubes. The rear brake mount was moved from the seatstay to the chainstay, allowing for a lighter, more forgiving carbon layup to be used on the seatstays.

One subtle revision that is sure to please mechanics is full-length cable routing through the headtube. This should simplify Niner’s internal routing; I would not be surprised if Niner’s other carbon models follow suit.

Sea Otter’s mountain bike fondo was a good proving ground for this race-ready hardtail. Being a Fondo, we were not technically “racing," although that didn’t stop me, and a handful of like-minded participants, from turning it into a competition—I have my Strava reputation to think of…

After twenty miles of fire road and singletrack, I feel Niner has done a good job of balancing comfort and performance. The trails around Monterey are mostly hardpack, but are full of stutter and braking bumps that quickly take their toll. The RDO’s rear end did a commendable job of muting high-speed trail chatter, and I never encountered a situation in which I was left wanting for stiffness. I could see this bike being an excellent choice for endurance racers who prefer the lightweight and simplicity of a 29er hardtail to a full suspension.



Sea Otter downhill – the right tool for the win

By Josh Patterson

Sea Otter’s downhill course is tame by World Cup standards; it’s short on elevation, devoid of large drops, and lacks technical terrain. One racer described the course as “a single-slalom course on steroids.” This is not a dig at Sea Otter’s DH course, far from it. It’s oddball courses such as this one that challenge racers and team mechanics to re-evaluate their set-ups. For many gravity racers, both professional and amateur, the biggest challenge at Sea Otter is choosing the right bike.

Dirt Rag interviewed three racers before Sunday’s DH finals to find out what they planed to ride. Each had a different approach to the race, but the common theme was that a full-on downhill bike would be overkill for this course. They felt a long, slack bike with eight or more inches of suspension would be excessive and would result in wasted milliseconds, wallowing through berms and turns. A shorter-travel bike would be more of a handful to control, but would also give them the abiliy to carry more speed.

Aaron Gwin

Trek World Racing’s Aaron Gwin chose to ditch his carbon Session 9.9 in favor of the 160mm-travel Slash 9. The five-time World Cup champion cited the Slash’s agility and pedal-friendly nature as the reason he thought it would be the right bike for the race. The Slash was designed with aggressive trail riding and enduro racing in mind, which is not too far removed from the terrain found on the hills overlooking the Laguna Seca Raceway. Gwin piloted his Slash to a third-place finish at this year’s race.

Look for our review of the Slash 9 in an upcoming issue of Dirt Rag.

Troy D’Elia

“We built this bike specifically for this race,” said company founder and fabricator Brent Foes, “though it could also be a fun play bike for skilled riders at places like Whistler, or in bike parks.”

Foes Racing athlete Troy D’Elia rode this heavily-modified Foes Shaver to a 65th-place finish in a stacked Pro Men’s field.

Compared to the production version, D’Elia’s race bike has lower standover, for better maneuverability, and a slack, 64-degree head tube angle (the production bike sports a 67-degree head tube), and 140mm of travel.

Jared Graves

Jared Graves knows a thing or two about choosing the right bike for Sea Otter. Going into Sunday’s race the Yeti/Fox racer had two consecutive Sea Otter DH wins under his belt.

When the dust settled, the Aussie had bested the field for the third year in a row. And he did it on a rig with less travel than most trail bikes.

Graves’ one-of-a-kind prototype blends elements of Yeti’s 4X bike with rail technology borrowed from the company’s 303 downhill race bike. The rear suspension has 100mm of travel via a Fox RP23. Upfront, there’s a 120mm Fox 831—a variant of the 32 Float specifically designed for dirt jumping, dual slalom, and 4-cross racing. The 831 has firmer high and low-speed compression damping and a more progressive spring rate than the standard Float series.


Sea Otter 2012: New Knolly Endorphin

By Josh Patterson

If you consider yourself an aggressive trail rider, Knolly’s new Endorphin should be on your radar.

The Endorphin has 140mm of rear travel and can accommodate 140-160mm forks. This pre-production bike sports a 140mm-travel Fox 34mm. Fox Racing Shox’s new 26-inch 34mm stanchion forks look to be the perfect match for aggressive, shorter-travel bikes. We’re hopeful the increased diameter stanchions address our gripes about front-end flex on longer travel 32mm forks.

Out back, the Endorphin uses Fox’s new CTD shock, which supplants the RP23. The new shock features three modes—climb, trail, descend.

Wondering what’s up with the linkage? Knolly’s patented Four by 4 linkage separates axle path from spring rate, allowing each to be independently tuned to suit the needs of each model. Company owner and frame designer Noel Buckley places a premium on suspension performance under pedaling and braking, lateral stiffness, and low-maintenance.

The Endorphin is ripe with current “standards” and thoughtful touches: the frame uses a 142×12 rear end, ISCG tabs for a chain guide, dropper post routing along the underside of the top tube, and artfully machined CNC hardware.

The highlighter yellow bike pictured weighs in at 26-pounds.

Endorphin Specs:

  • Head Angle: 67 degrees
  • Seat Tube Angle: 73.5 degrees
  • Bottom Bracket Height: 13.4 inches
  • Chainstay Length: 16.7 inches
  • Frame Weight: 6.55 pounds (raw frame)

Look for more new stuff from Knolly in the coming year: new bikes, and new wheel sizes…




RockShox adds 650b, drops Dual-Air

By Josh Patterson

While the addition of a 650b Revelation is big news, the more sweeping change is the elimination of the RockShox’s Dual-Air system in favor of a single air adjustment. For those unfamiliar with Dual-Air, two separate chambers were used to regulate the fork’s positive and negative air springs. The Dual-Air system was highly tunable, but left a wide margin for error in setup.

The new Solo-Air system uses one valve to regulate both the positive and negative air chambers, making setup much easier. The new system has the added benefit of decreasing the amount of parts in the fork, which also sheds precious grams. Solo-Air will be found on 2013 RockShox SID, Reba, and Revelation models.

Rockshox revised their cable-actuated Push-Loc system to mimic the feel of the hydraulic X-Loc lockout lever, found on high-end forks. The new Push-Loc is also Matchmaker compatible.

In the back of the bike the Monarch RT3 is revised with a wider lever throw between, the open, pedal, and lock-out modes. This should make it easier for riders to make on-the-fly adjustments.

Rockshox has decoupled each adjustment, allowing bike companies a greater ability to tune the feel of each of the three settings to suit the ride characteristics of their bikes.

New for 2013 is the addition of what the company calls Rapid Recovery, this feature allows the rear suspension to rebound faster on high-speed, successive hits. This could help shorter-travel bikes by preventing them from “stacking up.”


Sea Otter 2012: Continental creates own tire sealant plus new tubeless rubber

Continental’s new Revo sealant uses four different sizes of fibrous particles to help seal punctures. A 250ml bottle of sealant will retail for $10 and should seal about three high-volume tires.


Conti is also offering a new tubeless-ready tire construction that features an additional rubber-coated nylon ply that aides in sealing and improves durability.

The new tubeless-ready tires will be offered in four of the company’s most popular tread patterns: Race King, X-King, Trail King, and Mountain King.

See all our coverage from Sea Otter 2012 here.



Sea Otter 2012: SRAM adds 650b wheels to Rise lineup

By Josh Patterson

SRAM unveiled a 650b version of their Rise 40 wheelset. The aluminum wheelset shares the same rim profile of the 26 and 29-inch Rise 40 wheelsets: 19mm inner width; 24 bladed spokes laced two-cross, front and rear; and compatibility with quick-releases or thru-axles.

Weight is not finalized—it’s a safe bet the 650b version will fall somewhere between the 26 and 29-inch wheelsets. A tubeless kit is in the works as well.

One thoughtful addition to all the Rise wheelsets is a red decal that indicates the size of the wheel.

See all our coverage from Sea Otter 2012 here.



Review: Rocky Mountain Flatline Pro

By Josh Patterson, photos by Justin Steiner and Adam Newman

Rocky Mountain introduced the Flatline series in 2008. It was a step in a new direction for the company that helped pioneer the freeride movement. The Flatline replaced both the burly RMX and more nimble Switch in the company’s gravity line. This was a move away from Rocky’s freeride heritage and towards a full-on downhill race bike. The Flatline, now in its second iteration, was developed with input from the Maxxis-Rocky Mountain team. The current version of the frame has six World Cup wins under its belt, so don’t go blaming the bike when your race runs don’t stack up.

The bike

There are two bikes in the Flatline family: the no-holds-barred World Cup model, spec’d with top-of-the-line goods from Fox and Shimano, and the significantly more wallet-friendly Pro model. Both bikes share the same 7005 aluminum frame. Bike companies love buzzwords for suspension designs. Rocky Mountain calls their linkage-driven single pivot suspension Low Center Counter Rotating, or LC2R.

Keeping the frame weight low and centered was one of the primary design goals. The suspension and linkage are tucked neatly below the rider, with the main pivot located above and behind the bottom bracket. Dual row, angular contact bearings are used in the linkage to bolster stiffness.

LC2R uses two counter-rotating links that provide a gradually rising spring rate with a linear feel through the beginning and very active mid stroke that ramps up nicely as your max out the 213mm of travel. The company calls this system Tuglink and claims this system also increases small bump sensitivity.

The Flatline Pro comes with a mix of mid-level components from SRAM, RockShox and Raceface. The Avid Elixir 5 brakes did a better than expected job of providing consistent, fade-free braking, while remaining quiet. Rockshox handles suspension duties. The BoXXer RC fork lacks the myriad of tuning options found on the high-end BoXXer World Cup model (reviewed in issue #159). Low-speed compression and rebound are the only external adjustments offered. The same is true of the RockShox Vivid R2 rear shock, the only adjustments being, preload, external beginning and end of stroke rebound, and low speed compression damping.

For many riders less can be more. More fun and less headaches. For beginners there are fewer adjustments to screw up. For riders like myself, who are less interested in shaving milliseconds off their runs than they are with having a low-maintenance, set-and- forget suspension. Fewer adjustments mean less time fiddling around and more time riding.

The geometry is on the steep end of the DH race bike spectrum: the head angle is 65 degrees and the wheelbase on my size small tester bike is 1,150mm. This goes against the prevailing triumvirate of longer, lower, slacker.

The ride

On the trail the Flatline Pro is a nimble bike. On tight and twisty trails it requires very little body English to initiate steep turns and navigate tight chutes. I didn’t mind the relatively quick-handling nature of this bike. It suited my XC race-weenie background just fine. Riders looking to slow things down can take advantage of the Flatline’s full 1.5-inch head- tube to run Cane Creek’s Angleset, which has the potential to bring the Flatline’s head angle down to a relaxed 63.5 degrees.

Once I had the suspension tuned for my weight and riding style— which, with the front and rear suspension’s minimal adjustments, didn’t take more than about three runs—the LC2R suspension design works as advertised, being very predictable in all situations. Lateral stiffness was good; the Flatline Pro tracked well through chunky rock gardens and highspeed brake bumps. The bike is very playful, particularly when hitting kickers, doubles and other park features. The combination of a well-designed suspension, low center of gravity, and a stiff chassis results in a bike with good trail manners.

While it is lower and longer than its predecessors, it still has a short wheelbase and steeper head angle than most other DH race bikes coming out these days. The handling is certainly quicker than many other DH rigs on the market, though the difference is subtle. This didn’t bother me, as I never needed to exaggerate my riding position in order to keep the bike in check. Handling is neutral and intuitive. I also didn’t have to get my weight as far forward to keep the wheel from pushing through corners.

I can understand how some World Cup-level riders would want their bikes as slack as possible. But the average Joe is not moving at those breakneck speeds and could benefit from a bike that trades a modicum of stability for agility, particularly if, like me, most of your gravity-assisted riding is just for fun or if you spend most of your time navigating tight and twisty terrain. If this does not sound like you, then consider looking elsewhere.

The Flatline’s ability to deftly maneuver though tight terrain should come as no surprise. This bike was born and bread on Canada’s North Shore, where tight, twisty and technical trails abound. The Flatline series remains the same for 2012, with the addition of a frame-only option.

Final thoughts

This is a good bike for the weekend warrior who spends most of their time playing in the park and scratches the occasional itch to race. The components and suspension are basic, but all perform well. In addition to being an outstanding value, the Flatline Pro is built on an upgrade-worthy chassis, so as you hone your skills, or find you have podium ambitions, the bike won’t be what’s holding you back.

Bike stats

  • Price: $3,100
  • Weight: 40.5lbs
  • Sizes available: S (tested), M, L
  • Country of origin: Taiwan.

Tester stats

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 5’7”
  • Weight: 145lbs.
  • Inseam: 30”




Catching Up With: Sterling Lorence

By Josh Patterson, photos by Sterling Lorence

In the world of mountain bike photography, Sterling Lorence is the closest thing to a
household name. Over the past decade his photos have documented the rise and evolution of the freeride movement. Living in Vancouver, British Columbia, Sterling bore witness to the early pioneers of the sport, riders named Berrecloth, Hunter, Watson, Simmons, Shandro, and Vanderham. His skill behind the lens catapulted these riders into the cycling media and introduced mountain bikers across the globe to locales such as the north Shore, Whistler and Kamloops. Despite his accomplishments, Sterling is humble enough to chalk his success up to being in the right place at the right time.

What made you realize you could turn photography into a successful career?

I knew deep inside that I had a lot of creative energy towards mountain biking and the photography of it. I thought if I could get a bunch of those ideas into photos, I would not only be able to make some money from it, but I would also be able to properly express the love I had for this sport in an artistic way.

Do you have any formal training, or are you self-taught?

Some schooling during high school and college—I majored in environmental studies. I am lucky to have a cousin that is a professional photographer. He acted as my mentor for many years.

Are there other photographers you look up to, or whose work you admire?

When I started to pay attention to the photos in the mags, I liked the work of John Gibson and Scott Markewitz. These days, some of the young shooters that have caught my eye are Reuben Krabbe and Jordan Manley. (Manley’s work was featured on the cover of issue #158. ed.)

Describe your style behind the lens:

Sniper-like. With a desire to extract as much soul, style and stunning light as possible. If you’re going to waste the Earth’s fine paper products on my work, it has to stoke the reader.

Describe your style on the bike:

Swiss precision in the tech (I grew up on the Shore.) and I smile at huge climbs through alpine passes.

What’s the most difficult aspect of being a professional photographer?

I am completely freelance which can be a bit scary—I can’t predict my paychecks more than a few months out. But, I will say that cycling has been great to me and I have found a solid career in this industry. The most difficult part is the travel. To work in this sport means that you’re moving around to find new places and create new looks from new places. It can be hard to be away from my family when I am on the other side of the globe for weeks at a time with people I don’t really know.

If you were not making a living as a photographer, what would you be doing?

I have always had a huge desire to help save our precious fisheries. I would be a badass politician in this area, and/ or would work in habitat restoration, making sure our rivers were healthy for the salmon to return to.

What inspires you?

My family, people who are willing to think outside the box, people with an environmental conscience, evening light that is raging the land, and riders with style.

What is your favorite destination for riding/shooting?

British Columbia has the most diverse collection of mountain bike landscapes imaginable. But I can knock it a bit due to the excessive forest landscapes, which can limit access to sunlight. I will say that Utah, with its dry, clean air and uniquely colored landscapes, still blows me away photographically.

You get to work with a lot of talented riders. Any new riders we should be on the lookout for?

A couple of young groms from Whistler Bike Park named Jack and Fin Iles.

Camera and lens of choice?

For action, I would say the Canon 1DX with a 70-200/2.8 lens. For lifestyle, a Hasselblad with an 80mm lens.

Bike of choice?

Trek Remedy Carbon spec’d with an aggressive vibe, so I can shred the shore and then hammer through some mountain passes a few days later…

Beer of choice?

That is a tough one. Let’s just say that when I get to the supermarket (except in Utah), and the variety is so diverse that they dedicated the entire aisle to beer, I am radically stoked and can never decide what to get. I will take a lifetime to try and savor them all.

What advice can you pass on to fellow riders who want to improve their mountain bike photos?

I tell people this all the time “Mountain biking looks boring in photos unless the rider is completely pinning it into a dynamic part of the trail, so shoot the fastest parts and get the rider to f’n pin it!”

What equipment suggestions would you make to aspiring photographers?

Shoot lots of photos and be your own toughest editor. Once your photos begin to look quite professional you can start worrying about buying nice lenses, lenses are more important than megapixels and frames per second.



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