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Montana Miller

Montana Miller

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Magura updates 29er forks, adds new 150mm option

By Montana Miller

For 2014, Magura has updated the dampers and air springs in its line of 29er forks. I recently had a chance to ride the 120mm travel TS8 and got one ride in on the new 140mm travel TS8 that can be streched to 150mm.


In addition to the new, electronically controlled eLECT cartridge we covered earlier this week, Magura has a new DLO3 damper, which is on all long-travel forks. It has an open, firm, and lockout setting, but no remote option. Both forks that I rode were equipped with the DLO3. All the compression settings are preset and can not be adjusted.

Air Springs

To make the forks ride progressively, Magura reduced the volume of the air springs. It will also be releasing plastic air spring spacers that will take up volume in the chamber, and increase the spring rate. Mechanics have always used grease to take up air volume and change the feel of a fork, but unlike slopping some grease in a chamber, the spacers will allow shops to tune the forks accurately.

To keep the forks sliding smooth, Magura has switched from 60cc suspension oil to food-safe meat slicer grease (it’s the purest stuff they could find). The bushings have also been updated from plastic to Teflon-coated aluminum, which allows for much tighter tolerances.


Instead of a Maxle-type thru-axle with a quick release lever, Magura uses a 15mm axle that bolts on with a T25 torx wrench. The fork includes a T25 wrench that’s held in the end of the axle by a small rubber o-ring. Unfortunately, a few times when I pulled the T25 out to unscrew the axle, the o-ring fell off the end of the tool, leaving me scratching around in the dust. Omitting the quick release lever saves weight, and since most multi-tools have a T25 anyway, I guess the O-ring problem could be solved by just leaving the Magura T25 at home.

The Ride

My 120mm TS8 was set up on a Specialized Camber Pro. To get full travel, even in chunky, ledgy Sedona, I used about 10psi less than the suggested pressure on the fork leg. The fork rode high in its travel and very progressively.

There was no brake dive, and I never blew through the travel when I screwed up a roller or drop. The fork is tuned to have “trail feel,” which means that it rides a little stiff by design. It doesn’t erase small bumps. Instead it transmits some feedback to the handlebars.

I really liked that feature in bumpy, dust-covered corners. I could load the suspension into a turn, and still feel how much traction the front wheel had.

Once I got the air pressure right, I had no problem using all my travel on fast, chunky descents. With the 15mm thru-axle and dual arch, the fork tracked better than any other 32mm stanchion fork I’ve been on, and never felt overwhelmed.

The open setting on the fork felt evenly matched with the Climb setting on the Camber’s Fox rear shock. When I flipped the shock to descend, the back end of the bike felt far softer than the front. I only used the fork’s lockout setting on the road, and never really bothered with the firm compression setting. The fork rode stiffly enough set on open.

I only rode the 140mm TS8 for a few miles before a flat forced me to turn around, but my initial impression was that it felt a little too firm for the super-active rear end of the Specialized Stumpjumper that it was mounted on. I think it would feel better on a more efficient long travel bike, and would be awesome on a big travel hardtail like the Kona Honzo or Diamondback Mason.

I do most of my climbing out of the saddle and like a sharp firm ride, so I loved the TS8s. Riders who like a soft, pillowy ride might want to look elsewhere. Riding the TS8 was like running in a minimal trail shoe. It was light, connected to the ground, and easy to maneuver.

The 120mm TS8 is internally adjustable to 80/100/120mm and the 140mm TS8 can be internally adjusted up to 150mm.

Both forks have 32mm stanctions, 15mm thru-axles and dual arches, and post mounts for a 180mm rotor.
There’s one air chamber to fill, and an external rebound adjustment. Once you figure out the air pressure, it really is a set and forget fork. While the air spring spacers are a great idea, I’m not sure I’d want the fork to ride any more progressively. But that might just be because I don’t get rad enough.

Both forks will be available soon, and 650b forks will be available in September of this year.

Magura unveils new electric fork lockout with Bluetooth remote

By Montana Miller

For 2014 Magura is introducing an automatic electric compression damper. To lock and unlock the fork, the eLECT damper uses the same accelerometer technology that changes an iPhone screen when the phone is flipped from straight up to sideways.

When the eLECT damper senses that the bike is pointed uphill, it shuts off oil flow and locks the fork. Pointed downhill or on flat ground, it opens the damper and allows the fork to run through its travel freely. Unlike Specialized’s Brain system, which locks when the trail is smooth and opens when it hits a bump, the eLECT is completely unaffected by the condition of the trail.

The orientation of the bike and free-fall are the only things that the eLECT damper senses. Off a drop, the fork will automatically open to soften the landing. But on a rough technical climb the fork will automatically lock out, which could be a problem for some riders. For that reason, Magura says that the damper was designed primarily for race bikes using 100 to 120mm of travel. The eLECT seems ideal for a traditional cross country race course with fire road climbs and singletrack descents.

The system also has an optional wireless Bluetooth handlebar remote. Once the rider pushes the button, the automatic accelerometer in the damper will switch off. So with the remote, it’ll be possible to avoid times where a locked out fork would hurt, like on a rough climb.

To calibrate the system, a button under the top cap has to be pressed and held for a few seconds while the bike is on level ground. So if a rider only wanted the fork to lock only on very steep climbs, they could lift the front end of the bike while depressing the button, which would trick the damper into thinking that the slight incline was flat ground.

The damper responds in 0.2 seconds, so while it isn’t instant, it’s pretty fast. The system is charged by a micro USB. Charge time is three hours, and run time is approximately 40 hours. If the damper runs out of power, it will default to fully open. The system goes on standby after five minutes so it won’t eat battery power at a lunch stop or on a bike rack.

The system weighs 93g, which is 15g lighter than Magura’s mechanical DLO2 damper.

The eLECT damper will screw into all Magura forks, including older models. Price and availability are to be announced.

Stay tuned for more Magura goodies next week.

Pulp Stiction: Pisgah National Forest

By Montana Miller

The Basics

Town: Brevard, North Carolina (4 miles from trailhead)

Brevard is an arty little town. It has a good bakery, plenty of restaurants, coffee shops and white squirrels. It’s a pretty excellent place to stage a mountain bike trip.

Beers: The Pisgah Tavern (2 miles from trailhead)

The Pisgah Tavern is inside the Hub bike shop, and is right outside of the forest. They have six beers on tap, but close at 6 most nights. We started our rides late, so we had to hit the grocery store for beer a few times.

Eats: Hawg Wild Bar-B-Que (2 miles from trailhead)

Hawg Wild Bar-B-Que is night next to the entrance to the forest. A big mound of barbecued pork meat with a side of fries is only $6. We ate there after every ride. It was awesome.

Bikes: The Hub and Sycamore Cycles (2 miles from trailhead)

The Hub and Sycamore Cycles are close to the entrance of the forest, and are really well stocked. And they have reason to be. Pisgah eats bike parts. Both shops carry good maps of the trails, which are completely necessary if you aren’t from the area.

Sleep: Davidson River Campground (Half mile from trailhead)

The Davidson River Campground is right at the base of Black Mountain Trail, so it’s easy to start a ride right from the tent. The campsites are nice, but unfortunately there weren’t enough bathrooms. And North Carolinians seem to use the toilets at a relaxed pace, which led to some uncomfortable mornings.

The Ride

“2,134 feet!” says Powers.

“2,103,” says Joe.

“I have 2,225,” says Tim.

We’re almost on top of Black Mountain in Pisgah, North Carolina. It’s pretty clear by looking around that we’re almost on top of a mountain. But Powers, Joe and Tim are staring at the elevation gain on their tiny black and white GPS screens. If they shout out numbers all day, I might lose my mind.

Photo by Derek Bissett

We spent almost all of the last hour climbing, pushing our bikes up a trail so steep that my front wheel was level with my head. We’re probably less than three miles into the 40ish mile loop I mapped out. It’ll be a long day. I pop a few drugstore white chocolate macadamia cookies into my mouth.

“I like Tim’s elevation the best,” Powers says, “We’ll go with 2,225.”

“Wonderful. We good?” I say.

Everybody nods. I get back on my bike, and turn onto Turkey Pen Trail. I hop over a few downed trees, then I’m ripping straight down a hillside, overgrown mountain laurel thrashing at my face, arms and legs. There’s some cursing behind me. I squeeze my brakes and lean way back. Then the trail pitches back up. Off and hiking again.

The trail shoots up and down for miles. I know we’ve got to be getting close to the end of this thing. We stop on top of one of the crests.

“Hey Derek, you want to take it?” I say to East Coast Enduro superstar Derek Bissett. I don’t need to hold him up anymore while I pick my way down these scrumbley hillsides on my rigid bike.

He starts down the hill, picks up speed, then pops off a root ball, gracefully flicking his back wheel to the side. Man, I wish I had style like that. I ram the root ball and rattle down the hill. Down forever, then into a long section of steep steps. My hands were hurting a lot, but now they’re numb. I bump down the steps, and into a parking lot. Shake my hands out.

An hour later, I hit the bottom of another long descent and splash into a little creek. Tim rolls down the hill.

“Derek was stuck upside down in a tree,” Tim says. “I had to stop and help him back up to the trail.”

Derek appears a few minutes later, covered in mud.

“You alright man?”

“My head hurts pretty bad,” he says. Hitting a tree can do that. He’s probably a little concussed. But there’s nothing we can do about it out here. We keep rolling.

The next stream is too big to ride through, so we have to find another way across.

A while later, we’re at the end of a long double track climb.

“6,472!” says Powers.

“6,524,” says Joe.

“I have 6,367,” says Tim.

“We’ll go with Joe’s,” says Powers.

I try to ignore the number-nerding and eat some more drugstore white chocolate macadamia cookies.

We start up Laurel Mountain trail. It’s a beautiful single track climb, the perfect grade, some fun rocks, and a great view.

“6,689!” shouts Powers. Damn statistically minded meathead.

I hop off to hike up some steps, and Joe powers past me. Powers powers past to chase down Joe. The race is on, and I didn’t enter. Guess I’ll see them at the top.

When I get to the top where we were supposed to turn onto Pilot Mountain, they aren’t around. Some tracks in the snow are headed the wrong direction. That’s what they get for dropping the guy with the map. I should probably call them. But first I should probably eat some cookies. I sit down on a log and take off my pack. We’ve been out here close to five hours.

Cider Bloch rolls up the hill.

“Derek and Tim look like they’re dead,” he says.

“Sweet. Joe and Powers look like they will be if there’s no cell service,” I say.

After a few cookies, I pull out my phone. Surprisingly, I have service. I guess that’s good news. I call Powers and tell him to turn around.

Tim and Derek catch up and we finish the push to the top of Pilot. Then we start the descent. I skitter around a rocky switchback, then another, then another. Root drop, rock garden, big slab, water bar. Down and down. The numbness from my hands spreads to my arms, but as long as I can work a brake lever I don’t care. This is awesome.

Finally get to the bottom. That’s such a great trail. Tim and Derek are toasted. Since we probably have two hours of single track left, they split off to ride the road back.

We start the climb up Buckhorn Gap, and Cinder Bloch, who’s been riding easy all day, sets a fast pace. Then we’re off, hiking over the back side of Black Mountain. Half an hour later, we’re on top again. We’re way high up.

Photo by Joe Malone

Blue ridges crinkle out into the horizon, the huge lump of Looking Glass Rock bulges out of one mountain.

“7,380!” says Powers.

"7,320,” says Joe.

“I have 7,234,” says Tim.

“We’ll go with mine,” says Powers, “I can’t wait to load this into Strava. If the elevation correction takes away some of our climbing, I’ll un-correct it.”

“I’m going to smash those stupid goddamn computers with a rock if you guys don’t shut up,” I say.

“I have 7,382,” says Cinder Bloch.

“We’ll go with that one!” says Powers.

I give up. I start down Black Mountain. The trail turns into a deep drainage ditch, with huge water bar drops. I thump over drop after drop. My whole upper body is going numb now. Just hang onto the bars.

Finally, the bottom of the first section. We stop at a fire pit, climb a little rise, then start the rest of the descent. It’s steep, covered in roots and the trees are tight. Then it opens up, the turns sweeping wide. I ride way up on the banks, pump over the rollers, no brakes now. This is perfect. My eyes are watering from the speed. Swoop another high wall, through some more rollers, then into the parking lot.

I set my bike down and take off my sweaty helmet. Everybody else coasts in with a huge smile. That was the best ride I’ve been on in a long time, number-nerding aside.

Some stats

Mileage: Enough

Climbing: A lot

Hours: All day

Drugstore white chocolate macadamia cookies: 16


From the Pisgah Ranger Station parking lot:

  1. Up Black Moutain,
  2. Right on Turkey Pen,
  3. Left on Mullinax,
  4. Left on Squirrel Gap,
  5. Right on Laurel Creek,
  6. Right on 5015 Road,
  7. Left to Laurel Mountain,
  8. Left on Pilot Rock,
  9. Right on 1206 Road,
  10. Left on 476 Road,
  11. Straight on South Mills River,
  12. Right on Buckhorn Gap,
  13. Left on Black Mountain,
  14. Left to food and beer.

Things that should make the universe explode

Brevard has a Waffle House. It’s clean inside.

Handmade bikes in the wild – Rick Hunter

Editor’s note: Each year we cover dozens of the most beautiful bikes in the world at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show and other local shows. But what happens to them after the display booths are disassembled and the lights go out? After all, bikes are built to be ridden, not to sit around and look pretty. So we followed up with some of the bikes and builders we’ve covered in the past to see how these works of art are holding up.

By Montana Miller. Photo above by Justin Steiner. Other photos courtesy of Dylanlovesbikes and Rick Hunter. 

Rick Hunter has been building since 1993 in Santa Cruz County, California. He specializes in fillet-brazed and tig-welded steel frames, forks, and stems. Last year at NAHBS, he showed a bright blue, drop-bar 29er bikepacking rig with custom frame bags.

Dirt Rag: What’s the best ride you’ve done on this bike?

Rick Hunter: Some buddies and I did a five-day dirt tour to Santa Barbara from Santa Cruz. We rode a bunch of abandoned and lightly used dirt roads, along with some parts of the Coast Ridge road through Big Sur and the entire length of the Carrizo plain National Monument.

Where is it now?

The bike is currently disassembled, I needed some of the parts for another bike, also I’m having RandiJo Fab rework one of the integral frame bags on it as we are trying to refine them, and create a good design for future projects.

Are you using the bike for the type of riding it was designed for?

Yes. I was riding the bike for short tours and overnighters, I like it as a comfortable day rider also, it basically turns itself into a drop bar 29er mountain for the local trails.

Anything you’d change?

We’re tweaking the bags a bit including the frame mounting parts, I’ll probably change the color at some point, as the tours can beat up the paint job pretty quick. The fit feels great, so I got that part right. I am always thinking about new bikes for myself, it’s nothing personal against my older bikes but I do always want to try a different set up or geometry or little tweaks here or there. But I do plan on keeping this one for at least another season of tours.

How long did it take to build the bike, and how much have you ridden it?

I’d estimate I put 40 to 50 hours into that bike, I’m sure I’ve ridden it lots more than that.

What are you bringing to the 2013 show in Denver?

I’m bringing an expedition fat touring bike with built in frame bags from Porcelain Rocket. Should be a good one, people are hyped on it already.

I’ll also have another 29er touring bike that has been dubbed the Super Scrambler. It was built for Nate Woodman at Monkey Wrench cycles in Lincoln Nebraska, basically a stripped down simplified version of last year’s blue bike, but with an insane paint job on it, reflective of the old Ritchey Commando paint jobs.

How to set up a fat bike tubeless

Editor’s note: Will this process work on your bike? I have no idea, so please don’t ask me. But since we get paid the big bucks to be human guinea pigs, we went ahead and tried it anyway. Caveat emptor and all that…

By Montana Miller. Photos by Adam Newman. 

Tubeless fat bike tires have quite a few benefits. They roll faster (by eliminating friction between the tire and tube), can be run at lower pressure without risk of pinch flatting, and are lighter.

Before we started, we had to weigh the wheels. There was some snow clinging to them, so we smacked it on the floor of the shop to make sure we were very precisely weighing them dry.

Then we started setting them up tubeless. We used:

  • Gorilla Tape
  • Old tubes with removable presta valve cores
  • High density window insulation foam, 1/8th inch wide.
  • Surly rim strip
  • Sealant
  • And an air compressor

On a single wall rim, like the Snowcats on Karen’s 616 test-bike, the Surly rim strip needs to be installed to fill in the cutouts in the rim. On a double wall rim, you could skip this step and go straight to tape.

Put the rim strip on first, then wrap the rim in a tight layer of duct tape. 

On the 45mm Snowcats we were able to use a single strip of tape. For 65mm to 100mm rims, wrap a strip down the middle, then a strip on each side, making sure the tape goes all the way to the edge of the rim.

On a rim that fits a tire decently tight, like most Surly rims, you can install the tire and go straight to inflating. But the Snowcats had a really loose interface with the Husker Du tires (it was so loose that the tire and tube almost fell off the rim when we deflated it), so we had to take some extra steps.

We still started with the rim strip and a layer of duct tape, then we wrapped a strip of high density widow insulating foam around both sides of the rim, leaving about 5mm between the edge of the rim and the foam. This creates a little groove for the bead of the tire to sit in so that it doesn’t pop off at low pressure. 

After the window foam was on, we wrapped the rim in another layer of duct tape.

Then we cut the valve out of the old tube, leaving a little bit of rubber around the valve stem, and popped it in.

We used the little nut to tighten the valve to the rim. Removed the valve core with a pair of needle-nose pliers, installed the tire, and used the compressor to inflate it.

The tire inflated right away with the foam groove, but if you’re just using duct tape, put a cam strap around the tire to get it tight enough for the first blast of air to seat the bead. The cam strap should be snug, but not so tight that it’s wrinkling the tire.

Once the tire is seated, go ahead and deflate it, then add some sealant, re-inflate, and make sure the bead is seated the whole way around. If it’s seated, shake the tire around to get the sealant into all the little cracks, then go ride it. It should be totally solid. We used this stuff from Orange Seal. Thanks Orange Seal


Even with just one or  two psi, the tire wouldn’t roll or burp.

And here are the weights:

Rear wheel with tube: 3,950 grams

Rear wheel tubeless: 3,850 grams

So even with three layers of duct tape, we saved 100 grams over a setup with tubes. And the foam made the tires fit on the rims tighter, so they should be more reliable at low pressure.

Input from test rider Karen Brooks:

But, you’re wondering, how does it work? The short answer is: awesome. I’ve only been able to take one short ride so far, but in that time, the tubeless set-up feels much more responsive and able to conform to the trail surface. Fat bike aficionados generally talk about the need to adjust tire pressure downward of "that basketball feeling," when the tires bounce too much, but for me that leads to the tires feeling like… deflated basketballs, somewhat dead.

Set up tubeless, they feel much more alive. Some of this "dead vs. alive" feeling is no doubt due to my relatively low weight. I’ll be eager to hear from some bigger folks how fat tubeless feels to them. I hope 616 doesn’t need their bike back too soon, as I’d like to try tubeless on some really rocky stuff. I bet it will work great. This may be the factor that tips fatbikes into the "yes, definitely" column for me.

Pulp Stiction: Mug bogs and gin buckets in Ohio

By Montana Miller

It took longer to get to Ohio than usual, because I got stuck behind a house.

I don’t like going to Ohio in February but my girlfriend is in school there, so every few weeks I have to head into the grey plains.

Fortunately there’s an awesome trail, Vulture’s Knob, just a few miles from the college in Wooster. Friday was barely above freezing, and alternating between rain and ice pellets. I still wanted ride. So I went out. 

And regretted it immediately. The wind is really unpleasant when it blows through an empty corn field.

When I finally got to the Knob the trails were in nice shape, frozen with a light dusting of snow. I got a lap in, winding around and around through the trees. Even though my Puglsey handled like a bus on the twisty trail, it was fun times.

That night, we went to a party where Katy Perry was rattling speakers in the dank basement. I refrained from drinking gin and soda pop from the Rubbermaid bin. My standards are low, but I still have them.

Next morning, I wake up late. I have a slight headache because I didn’t refrain from drinking other things. I roll over on the hardwood. I slept on the floor because the college-issued bed is barely big enough for a toddler.

A little later, I get on my bike and roll into town. It’s too warm to try to ride any trail today. They’ll be thawed, and riding mud in Ohio is like riding through wet cement.

I ride into the industrial part of town, where some cars are being crushed:

And the rest are rusting:

Bump down the railroad tracks for a while, then turn onto an illegal 4×4 trail. I follow it into the town mudding pits, which are frozen enough to ride over. Except for the random spots that aren’t:

Even though I’m right next to a busy highway, I try to pretend I’m having a great adventure. I go blindly under an overpass, hoping I don’t run over a meth head in the dark:

I make my way back onto the road, and pedal back towards town. It wasn’t the grandest ride, but at least I got out for a while. Then some teenagers in a beat pickup up-shift, bog-down their engine, and cover me in a cloud of black smoke.

They drop some cigarette butts out the window. I smile at them. How swell. The truck rattles off into the flat grey horizon.

A snowbound adventure starring Sixpoint Resin and raw potatoes

Editor’s note: Montana Miller is our new columnist, and Knobby Meats is a weekly column about bad decisions, good times, and riding bikes. Enjoy! 

By Montana Miller.

I munch on a raw potato, while drawing a big loop on the computerized topo Saturday night.

The loop climbs seven miles to the top of the ridge, goes along some old trails that might not exist anymore, then back to town on a winding stream bed, which is probably full of water right now. There’s four inches of fresh snow in town and it’s still dumping, but we have fat bikes, so we should be ok.

My friend Cinder Bloch gets to the house at noon the next day. We fill our bottles, flasks, and let air out of our tires. It snowed a lot last night. I stick a ruler in the ground: six inches of fresh stuff. This should be something.

We start up the climb. The snows light and dry, and we’re making solid progress up the ridge. Spinning our lowest gears. We have to push up a few steep parts, but otherwise this seems fine. Maybe we will be able to knock out this loop.

I stop to let more air out of my tires, till I can squish the tire to the rim. Keep on moving. I hear a roar in the woods. Spin around corner. My housemate, Grizz, is stomping towards me. He’s a huge furry sasquatch looking guy. His little lab puppy is bouncing through the powder behind him.

“These felt soled boots I pulled out of the dumpster are the worst things I’ve ever worn in the snow,” he shouts, “Did you hear me yelling?”

“Yes Grizz,” I say, and pedal past. Apparently there’s not anywhere I can go to get away from my roommates.

We stop at an overlook about two thirds of the way up the ridge.

“So how long did that take?” I say.

“Well, looks like two point three miles, and it took us an hour,” Cinder Bloch says.

That has to be a new record for slowness. And I have another twenty miles mapped out. Hope it gets easier up top. 

Thirty minutes later, we hit the top. Celebrate with some peanut butter sandwiches and good beer.

We get back on our bikes, roll down the road.

“This is our turn,” I say, and start to swing right.

“Where, through that snow pile?” Cinder Bloch says.

I crash through the snow mound. Start laughing. This is ridiculous, the powder is hub deep. We plow through the open field, snow spraying off our tires.

On top of the knob, I pull a glove off to check the GPS. The wind blows little snow tornados through the field. My fingers start to freeze. We need to get on a pipeline, somewhere off to the right. Charge through the snow. This looks like it.

Now we’re at the experimental point in the ride, where I’m not sure if the trails are still intact. Down the pipeline, then off the bikes to hike up the other side. After fifteen minutes, we’ve made it less than half a mile. We’re sinking to our knees.

I sit down in the snow.

“So if we do find this theoretical trail, where does it theoretically take us?” Cinder Bloch says.

“To another theoretical trail. And we have another fifteen miles of this,” I say, and toss some snow, “At this pace, we won’t finish until Tuesday night.”

We decide to find another way out. There’s an old trail that looks like it goes to a logging road, which should take us toward town. We take it, lose the trail for a while, wander through the woods, then pop out on the logging road. The snows so deep that we can hardly pedal downhill.

And the layer of ice under the snow keeps putting me on the ground. At least landing in snow is nice and soft.

It takes us another tiring hour of descending to get back to town. I’m super glad we took the short way. We finish the ride at the pub, where that big football match is on the TV. I ask for a cookie, and get served a crappy crispy rice bar with a lemur on it instead.


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