Two big-tire heavyweights go head to head.Tweet Print
From our neighbors to the north comes the Mutant, a hardtail 29+ monster hell bent on global domination! Hailing from Toronto, RSD Bikes (Rubber Side Down) is showing promise with its new line-up of hardtail trail bikes and the Mutant shows the company is willing to be among the first to put a 29+ bike to market.Tweet Print
For me, the hitch mounted tray rack is what you graduate to after toying around with other, lesser types of bike carriers. The Holdup 2 from Yakima is an excellent example of what a bike carrier can and should be.
The Holdup comes in two variations for receivers of either 1.25-inch or 2-inches. Yakima supplies you with a hitch bolt and lock for said bolt. The bolt screws into a receiver inside the rack itself and tightens, eliminating side-to-side sway.
For an extra $285, you can get an extension (the Hold Up +2) complete with extra trays and wheel locks for two additional bikes. Making your potential carrying capacity 4 bikes, though not without paying for it.Tweet Print
I woke to the sound of rhythmic scratching, my mouth a hollow, dry cavity that tasted like stale IPA. Subtle chanting in an unrecognizable dialect reverberated as if in confined quarters, putting an exclamation mark on the headache forming behind my eyes.
As the world around me came into focus, my attention fell to a diminutive figure fanning a small flame and rocking fore and aft to the chant, “ummm-se-bah-bah-umm-do-ah”, in the corner of what looked to be a small cave. I tried my damndest to appear asleep but the figure spotted me at once. The chanting stopped and I wasn’t sure whether I should be frightened or not. Read the full storyTweet Print
By Stephen Haynes
Twice a year, in the tiny town of Oakridge, Oregon, Randy Dreiling and Oregon Adventures host Mountain Bike Oregon with the help of trail maintenance and advocacy groups the Disciples of Dirt and Greater Oakridge Area Trail Stewards, as well as many local businesses and volunteers.
Now in its ninth year, Mountain Bike Oregon is a well-oiled, all-inclusive festival that brings together hundreds of riders from nearly two dozen states (and beyond) to sample what many consider Oregon’s premiere mountain bike trails, with shuttle service and guides included in the price of admission.
For $430, you get a spot to pitch your tent, breakfast, pack-your-own style lunch, dinner (with vegetarian options), free beer and wine from local breweries and vineyards, nightly spectacles such as bike toss and mini bike races, an expo area with bike demos, yoga classes, ladies-only rides and clinics, and enough stunning scenery to keep your mouth agape when it’s not smiling from the onslaught of awesome singletrack.
I rolled into Greenwaters Park on the shores of the Willamette River just before noon on Friday, quickly established camp and headed straight for the guide tent to suss out something to ride on.
Helpfully assisted towards a departing shuttle, I found myself in a van, in a strange town, with nine people I’d never met before, driving to a trail I’d never heard of. I was becoming slightly nervous at the prospect of potentially being in over my head. It bears mentioning that this was the first time I’d ever been shuttled anywhere before. All of my experiences in the short time I’ve been mountain biking have included riding uphill before I get to ride down. In this case, my fears were unfounded as the smooth singletrack and stunning scenery were all that awaited me. My biggest problem was cramping up from having not warmed up at all…
The other component I wasn’t wholly prepared for was camaraderie. Turns out, sitting on a school bus for 45 minutes and then enjoying hours of amazing singletrack with 20 other folks is a great way to get to know people. Who’da guessed?
The guides do an amazing job as well, both as guides and ambassadors for the area. Their knowledge of the trails and friendly demeanor makes it feel less like being “guided” and more like a buddy showing you around. The guides’ system of client control allows faster riders to move ahead and lets slower riders not feel like they’re getting dropped.
Of the trails I rode, ATC (Alpine, Tire Mountain, Clover Patch) stands out as the highlight of the trip. The scenic terrain includes stunning vistas of the Cascades, open glens with fantastic wildflowers and stands of old growth forest that had me pretending I was on a speeder flying through Endor (one insanely fun section of Alpine Trail is even called “Jedi”). It’s not all downhill on this one though—you’ll have to work for some of the fun. With 2,300 feet of climbing, your legs will know you’ve been riding all day. The plus side to that number is that there is 5,500 feet of descending… Keep smiling.
In addition to the standard list of guided trails, there are several additional “add-on” rides and activities available. For $30 you can do the Moon Point ride, a 16-mile screamer with more than 4,000 feet of elevation loss, proceeds from which benefits Greater Oakridge Area Trail Stewards. For $50 you can do the Entire Middle Fork, a 32-mile technical challenge. Or for $25 you can do a rafting trip down the Willamette River. Sign up for these when you register to make sure you get a spot.
While the atmosphere is friendly, the beer pours freely and the trails are seemingly without limit, MBO is not for beginners. A certain level of skill and confidence is definitely required for the trails that the festival promotes. They do offer a lower rate for non-riders to come and enjoy the event as well as reduced rates for children. There is enough riverfront and hiking trails to keep most kids happy, should you be turning it over in your head.
For what was once a logging industry hub and now turned outdoor enthusiast Mecca, I’d say the town of Oakridge and the folks at Outdoor Adventures have the right ingredients to make Mountain Bike Oregon a long-lasting and unforgettable event. MBO is offered twice a year with sessions in July and August. They cap attendance and space fills quickly, so book early.
By Stephen Haynes.
Click to see ithe infographic full-size.Tweet Print
By Stephen Haynes
There are very few cycling goods out there that live up to the perceived reputation inherent in the name given to them. The Wolvhammer winter boots from 45NRTH are a fine example of performance actually meeting perceptions.
“We started from the conceptual standpoint of making a mountaineering boot work for cycling, rather than taking a cycling shoe and trying to make it warmer” says Daivd Gabrys, brand manager at 45NRTH, a rather new brand that specializes in cold-weather cycling products. It is this focus that makes the Wolvhammer boots stand out from the competition.
The inner boot is lined with 45NRTH’s Monster Fur, a super soft and warm layer that makes me think of some masochistic plush doll hugging my feet. The inner boot is laced up with a cinch closure that can be tightened up with gloves on. No need to tie laces. The Aerogel Jaztronaut insoles are noteworthy as well for their suppleness and resistance to the cold coming up through the bottom of your foot. These insoles can be purchased separately for $50.
Getting my feet into the inner boot has been the biggest chore for me. There is a little pull tag to gives you a little purchase while cramming, but it always seems to be a bit of a struggle. I hardly consider it anywhere near a deal-breaker though, more like the price of admission, and a pittance at that.
Once you’ve got your feet secure in the inner boot, the three-part (Cordura, Sympatex, and fleece), water-resistant outer zips up with a water-resistant zipper that is locked down with a Velcro strip. A Velcro ankle strap also secures the upper of this mid-calf boot.
A nice mudguard on the heel, over the toe and surrounding the lower foot, keeps the really nasty splashback at bay. These things even have a gaiter hook should you need extra protection.
An SPD-compatible Vibram sole rounds out the bottom of the boot and reiterates the fact that “robust” doesn’t seem adequate it when talking about these things. On the dozen or so rides in the Wolvhammers they’ve not yet disappointed; keeping my feet both warm and comfy (and this from a guy who generally has cold feet issues). I can confidently say that they are, without a doubt, the most comfortable riding shoes I currently own as well.
The Wolvhammer’s are stiff yet responsive while pedaling. What I mean is, they interact well with the pedal as far as stiffness is concerned and seem to spring board you out of each pedal stroke. Plus, they’re oh-so-squishy comfortable. The one setback I’ve had while wearing them is walking in them. Despite looking at the construction from a mountaineering boot point of view, they hike more like a cycling shoe. Which is ok because, well, they’re cycling boots!
I look forward to many more rides with the Wolvhammers. I only hope that our winter here in Pennsylvania gets a bit more winter-ish to give me the opportunity.
By Stephen Haynes
P.R.O. Series Transfer Thermal
Zip Neck LS Base
- MSRP: $80
- Country of Origin China
- Lifetime warranty
The Pearl Izumi Transfer Zip Neck LS Base is part of the brands’ multi-tiered system of baselayers and outerwear. Athletes can choose from three levels (Select, Elite and P.R.O) to fit their personal needs. The levels range in both price and form starting from the lower tier Select, moving to the upper tier P.R.O., while maintaining the intended purpose of each item (i.e. a waterproof P.R.O. jacket is also waterproof in the Select line)
The P.R.O. Series Transfer is at the upper end of technology and warmth. Constructed with P.R.O. Transfer fabric that incorporates volcanic matter known as Minerale to aid in the transfer of heat and moisture. Volcanic matter is very porous and thus aids in the materials breathability and is claimed to be up to two times more breathable than Gore materials.
The XL fit me snugly around the chest and forearms and the material, though breathable, isn’t super stretchy so check the measurements online before you buy. Thermal fleece lined, this long sleeve base layer was almost too warm for me. Personally, I would reserve this piece for the very coldest days or perhaps as a standalone piece. An 8in zipper on the front of the piece is mandatory due to the non stretchiness of the material.
Elite Thermafleece Tight
- MSRP: $135
- Country of Origin China
- Lifetime warranty
The Elite series Thermafleece Tights make you feel invulnerable to the cold. I used to get the same feeling when I’d climb into my wetsuit as a kid before surfing on cold “Dawn Patrol” sessions. Slightly heavier front/rear quad and knee panels keep your pistons insulated and an 8in zipper makes them easy to put on or take off. A silicone strip on the ankle keep the lowers in place. Riding in the Thermafleece tight was great; strategic panels over the quads and knees made for great articulation through each pedal stroke. I paired these with the Elite Barrier WxB Pant for and incredibly warm combination down into the teens and would sever you well even colder I’m sure. A simple drawstring waist keeps thing secure up top and the Elite 3D Chamois is as good as any of my riding shorts. Reflective IP logos and strips on the calves round out a very well equipped pair of tights.
Elite Barrier WxB Jacket
- MSRP: $300
- Country of Origin Vietnam
- Lifetime warranty
The Elite Barrier WxB Jacket is a water resistant, cycling specific soft shell designed to ward off the worst of what Mother Nature can throw at you. The fabric itself is made of three layers. Two layers of stretchy material that PI calls “titanium thermo-regulating technology” sandwich a third middle layer that has been treated with polyurethane to make it waterproof. In the 2012/13 version of the Elite Barrier Jacket, PI will employ the same volcanic Minerale material used in the Thermal Base layer in place of their titanium thermo-regulating technology. This will allow for greater breathability.
Taped seams further ward off moisture and are employed on the full zip front and the jackets two pockets as well. Speaking of pockets, there is one larger-ish pocket on the back, good for energy bars, wallet, keys, bigger stuff. There is also a pocket on the left chest, big enough for an mp3 player and has a little cut out for internal headphone routing. While I like jackets with pocket on either side of the front, the storage capabilities found here are ample enough for just about any outing and are bike specific.
Overall the jacket fits well. A somewhat sporty cut is comfortable without being overly tight or overly flappy. The collar is a tad higher in the front for good coverage and has snaps in the back for a hood you can purchase separately. The back of the jacket extends lower than the front as do most cycling specific jackets, but the Elite Barrier has an auxiliary drop down that can be used for and extra 5in. worth of posterior coverage. The flap can be folded into the jacket and secured via Velcro when not needed.
The waist has a cinch chord and the wrists have a half elastic half Velcro closure that works really well. The first 6in. of wrist also have an extra interior sleeve of stretchy fabric that locks in heat around the wrists. I found this to be just a tad too much warmth personally and resulted in super sweaty wrists.
Reflective accents along the arms and back round out this very capable jacket. Look for a mountain bike specific design in the coming season, which utilizes the same high-tech features and may sweeten the deal for those willing to cough up the coin for this well made jacket.
Elite Barrier WxB Pant
- MSRP: $250
- Country of Origin Vietnam
- Lifetime warranty
The Elite Barrier WxB pant utilizes the same semi-stretchy “titanium thermo-regulating” material as does the Elite Barrier jacket, giving them water resistance and breathability. The semi form-fitting cut of the pants is great in that they are performance oriented, but are loose enough that modest folks needn’t blush.
Fully taped seams keep water from sneaking in and an 8in zippered ankle makes getting in and out of them easy, even with shoes on. On the interior portion of the ankle there are abrasion patches that help keep contact with moving parts from being destructive.
A bonus feature is that these pants have zip off lowers, allowing you to covert them to shorts should your ride heat up unexpectedly. The waist has elastic around the back and elastic belt-like tabs on either side that allow you to tighten up as needed.
These pants are super comfy and versatile whether it’s cold outside or if the forecast calls for rain.
Elite Barrier MTB Shoe Covers
Country of Origin: China
The 3mm, neoprene, fleece-lined Elite Barrier MTB shoe covers were a welcome edition to my cold weather kit. I can generally keep my body warm but my extremities always suffer when the thermostat takes a dive. Being that I don’t yet own a pair of cold weather riding boots, shoe covers seemed like a good interim step.
My size Large fit over my size 9.5 shoes well. The Kevlar bottom has enough give to squeeze your foot into place and is hearty enough to withstand continued abuse. Your shoes are held securely in place by way of a toe closure and a band across the arch of your foot. This is enough to keep things tight while allowing you to use your preferred clipless setup. Reflective accents along the sides and back of the covers make them versatile on road as well.
A 7”x 3.5”in. Velcro closure on the back secures the cover in place and while it seemed like it would be a pain to operate at first, is actually quite easy. The whole process of jamming your foot in, shifting as needed for desired fit and closing up the back takes about 30 seconds per foot, totally worth it in my opinion.
By Stephen Haynes. Photos by Justin Steiner.
Like a sure-footed dwarven fighter graced with the agility of an elven ranger, the Jamis Dragon 650B inspires confidence in hardy adventurers willing to straddle its sparkly green body.
The Dragon 650b is, at first glace, a very simple looking steel bike. A look at the geometry of the little monster tells a different story. More on that later…
A 120mm White Brothers Loop TCR 650b fork absorbs the hits and, once dialed-in, worked great for me. The TCR—or threshold, compression, rebound—has an eight-position compression-damping knob. The three positions that offer the most resistance are considered the threshold zone and give you a firm pedaling platform. While not a lockout, it was stiff enough to prevent significant bob while standing and climbing. This fork, while performing well, was a little loud when preloading or absorbing bigger hits.
The Syncros AM cockpit was highlighted by the 710mm-wide AM handlebars with 25mm of rise and 5 degrees of sweep. The Shimano SLX 3×10 drivetrain provided ample gearing options and was used, unapologetically, all the way down to granny gear by this tester. The Avid Elixir 3 hydraulic brakes performed well in all conditions, despite the warbling that seems indicative of the brand.
Part of the intrigue of this bike is the wheel size. The American Classic 650b XC wheelset is built up 3-cross with 14/15 gauge spokes laced to American Classic hubs—a 15mm thru-axle hub up front and a 135mm QR hub in the back. The Kenda Nevegal 650b x 2.1 tires proved to be great for all-conditions, working well on both wet and dry days.
As I mentioned before, the wheel size is what got my attention. There is a lot to like about the “tween,” but it has been helped in this case by the geometry. A 68 degree head angle (slack by cross-country standards) gives the Dragon great trail bike handling characteristics. Combine this with relatively short 425mm chainstays and you have a bike that is stable but can also be agile when you need it to be.
The larger (than 26-inch) wheels roll over small obstacles much as a 29-inch bike would, but in tight turns, or in instances when sudden changes in terrain occur, the smaller (than 29-inch) wheels feel responsive like those of a 26-inch bike and allow you to correct quickly without being locked into a particular line.
On long sit-and-spin climbs, the larger wheel size keeps the front end smooth and rolls over rocks and roots easily. The same is true for out-of-the-saddle climbing, though it felt more responsive than 29ers I’ve ridden.
The Dragon 650b rolls well downhill, too. The bike tracks well and is playful in tight stuff—the result of the 650b wheels and relaxed geometry. Rock gardens that typically give me fits on a 260-inch rig were tamed easily on the Dragon, though not as soundly as with a 29er. Popping wheelies to conquer trail obstacles like rocks and log piles was easy; the 650b wheels rolled over, or through, most everything. Any shortcomings were the result of the rider, not the bike.
The one thing I will take issue with is the placement of the cable routing along the top length of the top tube. I realize this keeps the cables out of the elements, but my wife and I have both suffered inner thigh scrapes because of it. A top tube pad would likely remedy this rather minor hang-up for me and would be an inexpensive solution for anyone who chooses to purchase a Dragon. Additionally, a larger diameter (44mm) head tube would be a nice addition, allowing riders to run forks with tapered steerers.
A lot has been made of this half-step wheel size, both for and against, and it seems like many manufacturers aren’t quite ready to pull the trigger on 650b just yet. I, for one, am glad Jamis was early to the 650b party. And the nerdy tabletop adventurer in me loves the idea of riding a bike called Dragon. I’d like to see more options in this wheel size; I think it could cork a lot of the partisan bickering over which wheel size is best. I’ve had nothing but good times on this bike. Jamis has nailed the geometry of the Dragon and made a playful yet forgiving rig. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for the best of what 26- and 29-inch bikes have to offer.
- Wheelbase: 42.9 inchs, 1,090mm
- Head angle: 68 degrees
- Seat tube angle: 73 degrees
- Bottom bracket height: 12.4 inches, 315mm
- Chainstay length: 16.7 inches, 425mm
- Weight: 27lbs.
- Sizes: 13", 15", 17" (tested), 19", 21"
- Specs based on size tested
- Price $2,700
- Made in Taiwan
- Age: 34
- Height: 5’11”
- Weight: 217lbs.
- Inseam: 30”
By Stephen Haynes, photos by Justin Steiner.
The Marin Team CXR 29er PRO is the top of the line carbon hardtail 29er from the storied California brand. This race-inspired bike is as light as it is capable.
The frame uses Marin’s Race Geometry, which has a longer top tube to put you in a race ready stance but I didn’t feel like I was way out over the front wheel which was nice.
For the 2013 model year Marin will be offering the CXR line in a size 15, though that size will come with an 80mm fork instead of the 100mm Fox 32. Also new is the internally routed cables, making for a nice clean, clutter-free look.
Pedaling performance up the cat littler-like fire roads in Bootleg Canyon here at the Interbike Outdoor Demo was about as good as you could ask for with installing a motor or paying someone to do it for you. Solid and stiff, the bike went were I wanted it to, when I wanted it to, as long as I kept the pedals turning.
Some of the more technical climbing found on Bootleg’s singletrack was eaten up just as readily. I didn’t have a problem lifting the front end up onto rocks and powering over them once the front wheel was clear.
Coming down the mountain the CXR 29er PRO was a lot of fun. I made it through all but the most exposed, gnarly sections of rock and I chalk that up to my riding ability, not any short comings on the bikes behalf.
While this bike doesn’t match my laid back, beach cruiser riding style, it flowed through bermed turns and over and off of rock drops as easily as any hardtail 29er I’ve ridden.
The Fox 32 100mm fork delivered a plush and confidence inspiring ride up front while the Shimano XT drivetrain kept the forward momentum going without incedent. Continental Race King tires were fantastic in the loose, dry, sometimes rocky terrain of Bootleg Canyon.
Overall this bike is a good time. I’m not sure how a carbon 29er is supposed to be anything less, but there it is. If you are someone looking for a superlight XC race machine, this could be one to watch.
The CXR 29er PRO will set you back $4,300 but you can get the same frame with slightly less impressive builds in the form of the Team CXR Race and Team CXR 29er for $3,800 and $2,950 respectively.