By Justin Steiner
There’s been much hubbub in recent months about Yeti’s newest flag- ship trail bike, the SB-66. At first glance, it seemed strange that Yeti might keep their venerable 575 alongside this new 152mm-travel machine, given their similar geometries and travel figures. Yeti’s Chris Conroy described the differences and the reasons for having both bikes in the Yeti lineup: “The 575 is plusher, the SB-66 will feel more ‘performance.’ Those are subjective descriptions, but the SB-66 will pedal better than the 575. Riders interested in comfort and being able to blast through rock gardens with a more muted feel would prefer the 575. On the SB-66 you will feel the nuances of the trail more.”Tweet Print
By Justin Steiner
Copper Harbor, Michigan, lies at the very northern-most tip of the Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, marking the northern terminus of both the M-26 and US-41 highways. This sleepy, little one-stoplight town boasts about 120 year-round residents, all of whom are far hardier than I to deal with the region’s yearly average 125 inches of snowfall.
While this region’s copper mining heritage may be in the distant past, the town’s most recent natural asset comes in the form of silver. Specifically, a Silver-level Ride Center designation bestowed by IMBA—one of just four Silver-level ride center designations in the world right now. These Ride Center designations are designed to highlight areas where professionally developed trail networks cater to riders of all skill levels, ensuring a good time for beginners through experts. Think of the Ride Center designation as an IMBA “stamp of approval,” where you’re guaranteed an awesome mountain bike experience.
Copper Harbor has been on my list of places to visit for quite some time, so my girlfriend Emily and I took advantage of a friend’s wedding as an excuse to drive north for a visit. We choose to base our Copper Harbor stay out of historic Fort Wilkins State Park, just a mile from the town’s main drag. This location offers ride-in, ride-out access for all of Copper Harbor’s official trails, as well as heated restroom/shower facilities and even WiFi. Check out copperharbor.org for more information about accommodations.
All the trail information you’ll need can be found on the Copper Harbor Trails Club (CHTC) website. The interactive map includes elevations profiles and video footage of each trail from beginning to end. Locally, you can pick up a physical trail map and route advice at the Keweenaw Adventure Company. The Keweenaw folks even run bike shuttles up the mountain Tuesday evenings, Saturday and Sunday.
Trails range in difficulty from beginner to a double black diamond trail with large gap jumps. Three trails are gravity specific, one-way trails so even bigger bikes have terrain to run. With 24 miles of trails that can be linked in a variety of ways, we found plenty of riding to keep us occupied for three full days, while leaving a few trails to explore the next time we’re in town. Additionally, trail builder Aaron Rogers told us there are plans for expansion of both the gravity and XC riding in the area, including the Overflow Trail, a downhill trail running from the top of Brockway Mountain down into town. All trails are clearly signed in conjunction with the map, including difficulty ratings.
Back in April, Bell Helmets announced that Copper Harbor was one of three locations chosen to receive the 2013 Bell Built Grants. A total of $100,000 will be split amongst these three locations for specific projects.
At the end of each day’s riding we cruised into Copper Harbor’s new microbrewery, Brickside Brewery for a beer before heading back to our campsite. Emily and I both highly recommend their dry-hopped Fish Camp IPA.
Overall, the Copper Harbor experience was well worth the drive. Be sure to put this destination on your bucket list, and pick up a pasty at Toni’s County Kitchen in Laurium on your way north. Call a couple hours ahead and they’ll make you vegetable pasties too.
Keep an eye out for our Access column in Issue #172 (now shipping to subscribers and newsstands) for more background on this trail success story.
By Justin Steiner,
With the launch of the 2014 Spearfish and Horsethief, Salsa Cycles has become the first US-based brand to license Dave Weagle’s Split Pivot suspension design. For Salsa, this partnership with Weagle is their first collaboration with an outside designer. They considered redesigning their current single-pivot platform, but ultimately decided licensing an existing design would achieve better results and mitigate potential patent infringement concerns.
The folks at Salsa wanted to maintain the simplicity of their single-pivot design and mimic the existing design aesthetic. Candidly, and somewhat jokingly, the Salsa folks said their dealer base was asking for an “acronym” suspension system, meaning a design with a proven track record and the catchy marketing that comes along with it. Those criteria ultimately led them to Weagle’s doorstep.
When Weagle takes on a design project, he starts defining how the client wants the end result to feel on the trail. In this case, Salsa wanted to maintain the vibe of the Spearfish and Horsethief models, while increasing the suspension’s performance under braking, acceleration and cornering loads. Once the intended use and desired suspension feel are established, Weagle selects a stock tune from Fox’s portfolio of rear shock offerings. Weagle and Salsa Engineer Pete Koski then developed the frames around those criteria.
Weagle’s Split Pivot design employs a high main pivot location to build anti-squat into the suspension for snappy performance while you’re on the gas. According to Weagle, this pivot location is optimal for pedaling performance, but as a purely single pivot design would jack noticeably under braking. To get around this, Weagle employs a pivot concentric to the rear axle, isolating braking forces from the swingarm for neutral performance under braking.
Each of the new design’s Fox CTD rear shock are driven by a linkage in order to tune the spring curve, which Weagle says is lower in the beginning stroke for small bump compliance but ramps up for end of stroke progression. Also, since the Split Pivot design combats pedal bob through the physical placement of the main pivot, the shock is not burdened with excessive low speed compression in order to minimize movement under load.
Internally, Salsa uses a set of four emotional keywords to define their products: explore, discover, endure and devour. Each of their models must fulfill one of these guiding principles. The Spearfish falls solidly into the “endure” category. It’s designed for ultra-endurance racing such as 100-milers and epic excursions on point-to-point rides like the Colorado Trail, Arizona Trail and the Great Divide.
To fulfill this mission, the existing bike’s 100mm front and 80mm rear travel was retained from the previous design. “Why only 80mm,” you ask? According to Salsa, the Spearfish is designed to facilitate long distance riding and racing, not to get rad on the trail. The goal is to simply take the edge off over the long haul. For perspective, the spiritual predecessor to the Spearfish was Salsa’s Dos Niner softtail with just one inch of suspension travel.
Aside from wheel travel and the aesthetic similarities, not much else remains the same about the Spearfish. Geometry has evolved substantially. Rear center length has dropped from 17.8 inches to 17.2 inches. The headtube angle is slackened from 71 degrees to 69.3 degrees. Paired with a 51mm-offset fork, this arrangement maintains similar rake and trail figures for snappy handling, but the increased front center ads stability at speed and in steep terrain. Despite the shorter chainstays the wheelbase grows slightly across the range. In my mind, all of these changes are solidly in the right direction; longer out front for stability, shorter in the rear for maneuverability. The reverse mullet, if you will.
Frame interface updates include a 142x12mm rear axle, BB92 bottom bracket, chainstay clearance for 1x and 2x drivetrains only (no triples here, folks), and cable routing for an externally actuated dropper post. The new rear suspension design is said to be 21 percent stiffer laterally and offers ample room for up to 2.35-inch tires.
Out on the trail, it was quickly clear to me the Spearfish will nicely fulfill it’s intended mission of helping rider’s endure long hours in the saddle. Though I wouldn’t describe this bike’s suspension as plush, it is responsive when pedaling and offers great traction over roots and rocks. This is a hard-edge tool for covering ground with speed and efficiency, not a cushy trail steed—exactly what Salsa set out to build.
Handling-wise, the Spearfish offers a lively package that handles quickly but never feels nervous or twitchy. By shifting both wheels forward under the rider—compared to the first generation design—Salsa increased the poise, composure and confidence of the Spearfish while greatly decreasing the effort required to loft the front wheel.
Though my brief experience aboard the Spearfish is far from a conclusive long-term test, I feel confident insisting you put this bike on your short list of XC race, marathon, and adventure dual suspension 29ers.
Complete Spearfish bikes will retail at $5,500, $4,100, $3,300 and $2,750 price points, with frames available for $1,700. Sizes range from XS to XL, targeting riders from five feet, two inches to over six feet, three inches. Frame weight is said to be right around six pounds with shock, rear axle and seat collar.
The Horsethief represent Salsa’s “devour” keyword. This trail 29er targets big adventures over rugged terrain. Moab’s Whole Enchilada and Colorado’s Monarch Crest Trail come to mind. While the Horsethief is designed for tougher trails, Salsa dealers and customers were asking Salsa for a less slightly less burly build than the existing bike. For 2014, Salsa has swapped the 120mm-travel Fox 34 for a 130mm-travel Fox 32 fork. Rear wheel travel remains the same at 120mm. NoTube’s Flow rims have been replaced by with Arch rims to save rotational weight.
Like the Spearfish, the Horsethief receives the short chainstay, longer front center treatment. Chainstay length is down from 17.8-inches to 17.2-inches, and headtube angle slackens from 68.6 degrees to 68.1 degrees. But, fork offset increases from 48mm to 51mm to maintain slow-speed handling. Again, smart move in my opinion.
Horsethief frames offer a 142x12mm rear axle, BB92 bottom bracket with ISCG 05 tabs, chainstay clearance for 1x and 2x drivetrains, and cable routing for external or internal dropper posts. The new rear suspension design of the Horsethief is 18 percent stiffer laterally and officially offers room for up to 2.35-inch tires, though Koski was running Maxxis Ardent 2.4 tires on his bike.
Saddled up on the Horsethief (sorry, couldn’t resist), I was immediately struck by the bike’s sense of poise. Again, with both wheels shifted forward under the rider, rider weight distribution is similar to that of a 26-inch trail bike; weight back over the rear wheel, with the front wheel well out in front for stability. Within minutes aboard the bike, I was extremely comfortable with capable handling. The increased fork offset kept things moving along nicely at slow speeds, too.
I’ve been a fan of every Weagle-designed suspension system I’ve ridden and the Horsethief is no different. Weagle’s ability to design a suspension system that’s efficient, has great traction under power, offers a supportive mid-stroke, and provides great big-hit capability is simply amazing. Never once did I feel a need to flip the CTD rear shock into Trail or Climb modes because there’s very little pedal-induced suspension movement. I’m a big fan of these set-it-and-forget-it suspension designs, as I don’t like to flip levers with every change in grade. My rear shock’s travel o-ring indicated full use of available travel at various points during our rides, but I never felt harsh bottom out—even when casing a few landings at Spirit Mountain’s Candyland flow trail.
For the launch, I was aboard the Horsethief 1 model, which will retail for $4,600. This model will be equipped with SRAM’s 11-speed X01 drivetrain, though my test sled was not so equipped due to lack of current availability. Equipped with X01, X0 Trail brakes, nice DT Swiss/NoTubes rims, and a smartly appointed cockpit, this bike will be a hell of a machine—with the addition of your favorite dropper post, of course.
As with the Spearfish, I was very impressed by the cohesiveness of the Horsethief’s ride. This will be a highly versatile bike. Its efficiency and reasonable weight make it adequate for amateur XC racing, while its capability and confidence are up to the task of recreational enduro racing. More importantly, this is a mighty fine all-around bike due to its versatility.
Complete Horsethief bikes will retail at $5,700, $4,600, and $3,300 with frames available for $1,700. Sizes range from S to XL and expect frame weights around 6.5 pounds with shock, rear axle and seat collar.
This is a big turning point for the Salsa brand, and is a stellar setup right out of the gate. Salsa’s choice to employ Weagle’s Split Pivot (that’s him pictured above) moves the brand up-market to compete with the big players such as Specialized, Trek, Yeti, Santa Cruz—to some extent event the boutique builders like Tuner, and Pivot—in terms of performance, while maintaining a price point that’s very attractive. Kudos to Salsa for stepping up their game with these redesigned models.
By Justin Steiner. Photo by Matt Kaspryzyk.
Man, it sure is a good time to be a mountain biker. With all of the recent innovations—from dropper posts to 27.5-inch wheels—development sure is cooking along. Seems like this year, more so even than recent years, there’s simply a flood of incredible bikes and products coming to market.
Though far from a well kept secret, Santa Cruz’s new Bronson certainly falls into the “badass-new-product” category. Thus far, we’ve touched on the specs and details here, and posted another update as soon as we got our grubby little hands on our blingy Tennis Yellow test bike.
So, first impression? Damn, with the full-bore, every-option-selected build kit this bike is a status symbol, particularly considering the $10,420 price tag. As you might expect for a $10k+ bike, it also works incredibly well. Everything about this build kit is incredibly dialed for the intended use.
The SRAM XX1 drivetrain is flawless. After spending a bunch of time on it, it’s easy to see this 1×11 setup capturing significant market share when and if the technology is trickled down to lower price points. If I never had to switch back to a 2x or 3x setup, I wouldn’t complain a bit.
Of course, the Shimano XTR brakes work incredibly well. Good overall power, good modulation.
XX1 aside, the star of this show might just be the ENVE carbon All Mountain rims laced to DT Swiss 240s hubs. Sure these things are damn expensive, but they feel incredible on the trail. Given their reasonable weight, these rims are very laterally stiff on the trail, yet seems to damp a bit of high frequency chatter and noise that provides a calm and serene ride. Sure, the price will push these wheels out of reach for a lot of riders, but if you have the money, they sure are nice.
Initially our bike shipped with Maxxis’ High Roller II tires in the 2.4 inch size. These tires are huge, and arguably on the large and heavy end of the scale for the Bronson. They fit with room to spare, despite the 2.4-inch tire’s tall and aggressive knobs. These tires hooked up incredibly well braking and cornering, but roll accordingly slow.
Shortly thereafter, Maxxis hooked us up with the stock spec’d High Roller II in a 2.3-inch width with a tubeless ready bead and EXO reinforced casing. The knobs on these tires were only slightly smaller than the height of the 2.4-inch tires. As you might expect, they rolled better, but offered a bit less grip, too. Overall, the 2.3-inch tires are a much more appropriate tire for the Bronson.
I’m incredibly stoked about the internally routed Reverb Stealth. Regardless of your preference for infinitely adjustable vs. a three position post, This internal routing is the ticket, and, if I was a betting man, will become the standard moving forward.
Granted this particular build is incredibly expensive. Just for comparison, let’s see what we could score on our local Craigslist for $10k:
- 2008 Ducati 1098 with 10,000 miles.
- 2006 Honda Civic with 85,000 miles.
- 2003 Toyota 4Runner with 129,000 miles.
- 1994 36-foot houseboat.
Though none of those vehicles are brand new, they all have the added complexity of internal combustion engines.
It’s clear this bike is well out of the price range of most folks, myself included. If you have the money, it’s not hard to justify as it works impeccably well. On the othger hand, if $10k for a bike is a little rich for your blood, there are Bronson models starting at $3,400.
Look for the full review of the Bronson in issue #171, which will go on sale in mid-June. Also, we’re hoping to keep the Bronson around for a full season’s worth of testing, so look for future updates.Tweet Print
By Justin Steiner
Here at Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times Headquarters it seems nary a day passes without a delivery person rolling a new bike through the door. Awesome as it is, there are challenges to constantly swapping from bike to bike. In terms of suspension bikes, quickly setting up a new bike at its manufacturer’s recommended baseline is key to kicking off a proper test.
Fox uses ID Tags on all of their 2013 and newer shocks and forks. These ID tags communicate the necessary info to the app. All you have to do is locate the ID tag and enter the code.
Next, you follow the instructions to select “descend’ mode on the shock, and dial rebound damping to the minimum setting.
Next, you enter your weight, including all riding gear, into the App. Using all the information provided by the ID Tag, the App will recommend a baseline air pressure.
You then mark the sag position by assuming a normal riding position, per the instructions.
With the travel o-ring marking the sag position, you then use the iPhone’s camera to check the sag.
We double checked the iRD app’s recommendation and found it to be right at 22 percent sag. Since Matt wasn’t wearing his hydration pack for this sag measurement, he’ll be at closer to 25 percent sag with a pack, which is a good starting point for this test. With sag set, the iRD app then recommends a rebound setting.
With the rear suspension set up, we moved on to the fork. Again, based on the information from the ID Tag along with the rider weight Matt entered, the iRD app provides a recommended air pressure.
Then you’re back through the process of marking and checking sag.
In this case, the app was spot on first time through. From here, all Matt had to do was adjust rebound damping to the recommended settings and go ride.
I was highly impressed with the app’s ability to simplify what can be a very complex process. The iRD app takes the mystery out of suspension setup, and provides a solid baseline that will should work well for most riders in most situations. I’d wager a vast majority of app users will arrive at better baseline settings than those using the traditional measuring tape approach.
As of now, Fox’s iRD app is available for iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and iPad mini running iOS 4.3 or later. Android and Windows phone people will have to borrow an i-device.Tweet Print
By Justin Steiner. Photos by Justin Steiner and Jon Pratt.
Given the amount of buzz this year surrounding 27.5-inch bikes, Specialized sure surprised a lot of folks when it pulled to wrapper off the Enduro 29 last week. Many of us around the office were skeptical of a 155mm-travel 29er, but the overall geometry package looked rather promising, in particular the 16.9-inch chainstays.
The Comp’s aluminum frame is paired to a very impressive parts package for the $3,500 retail price. Everything from tire choice to the roller-type chain guide seems very well thought out. Of course the star of this show is the new mid-mount SRAM front derailleur and Specialized’s “Taco Plate” mounting system (yum, tacos).
We’ve already seen some readers complaining about this “proprietary” front derailleur system, so I’d like to point out this new front derailleur mountain system was co-developed by Specialized and SRAM and is available to the public. Progress is not proprietary. I’d wager we will see quick acceptance of the mid-mount front derailleur as it has shown to facilitate some very short chainstays on the Enduro 29.
Fortunately for me, this black and blue beauty arrived just two days before we headed south to Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina. In the rough, mountainous terrain, the 29-inch wheels rolled over roots and rocks at slow speed like we’ve come to expect, but really came into their own when pointed down hill. Sure, it offers the traction of a 29er, but the short chainstays allow you to ride it like a 26-inch wheeled bike, manualing, wheelying, and j-hopping your way down the trail in a way you never would have expected from a 29er. Though it sounds like a back-handed compliment, this bike doesn’t feel like a 29er, it simply rides like a very cohesive and competent bicycle.
After riding a bunch of bikes with lots of anti-squat built into the suspension design, the FSR suspension does feel somewhat sluggish. It rewards a sit-and-spin approach to climbing. The Fox CTD rear shock is effective, however, and I used the Trail setting quite a lot. Fortunately, the trade-off is a suppleness and small bump sensitivity that’s second to none in Descend mode.
Climb mode does offer a firm and supportive platform, but the ride feels somewhat dead and the additional damping decreases traction. Hauling this bike’s 30.3 lbs. (33.2 lbs. with pedals and a dropper post) up the trail wasn’t awful, either. Stiffness and durability are far more important characteristics to this test rider.
Heading down the trail, the Enduro surely lives up to its name, and surpassed my expectations by a large margin. Given the big wheels and 155mm of travel, I found myself riding the Enduro much like I’d ride a DH bike—pop and transition, rumble across the rough sections. This bike is scary fast. It’s truly terrifying how fast you can roll through gnarly terrain.
Overall first impression? This bike is a game changer. Seriously. For a company that was staunchly anti-29er, Specialized has come full circle to deliver what might just be the most rally-able 29er on the market today. Every design choice simply works. The 67.5-degree head tube angle is slack enough to be stable, but not so slack as to wander drastically when climbing. The bottom bracket is low, but you’re able to carry so much momentum on this bike it simply isn’t a problem.
The stays are short, half an inch shorter than my 26-inch wheeled all mountain bike, in fact. Those short stays keep the rider’s weight over the rear wheel in a way that’s familiar to gravity-oriented riders. The long front center is stable at speed and on steep sections, too. In short, this bike is a complete package for mountain riding. I’ll need more saddle time to weigh in with a final verdict, but things certainly look extremely promising.
Look for the long-term review of this bike in an upcoming issue of Dirt Rag. Subscribe now to make sure you don’t miss it. And click here to read more from our Tech Editor about why the Enduro 29er is a potentially revolutionary design.
By Justin Steiner,
Crankbrothers recently announced a new version of the Mallet dh. According to Crankbrothers, rider and racer feedback lead them back to a pedal with a larger platform and more traction. The first two versions of the Mallet both had a fairly larger platform, while the third iteration, launched in 2011, offered a narrower platform. Generations two and three offered six adjustable and replaceable traction pins apiece.
For this 2013 redesign, Crankbrothers increased the pedal body size back up to that of the original Mallet and incorporated two more adjustable and replaceable traction pins for a total of eight. The body is more open for better mud clearance, while the Q-factor has been increased by 5mm per pedal for a wider stance. The retention spring has also been beefed up for more positive entry and exit. The claimed weight is 479 grams.
In terms of durability, the spindle is said to be 50 percent stronger, and sealing has been improved for better bearing life. These are positive changes, as bent spindles and roached bearings have long plagued Crankbrothers pedals. According to crankbrothers, these recent changes have brought warranty claims down to less than one percent.
I haven’t yet ridden these new pedals, but they’re certainly very visually appealing for DH riding and racing, or even aggressive trail riding. The platform is big without being cumbersome, and I really like the idea of the adjustable and replaceable traction pins. Look for a full review in an upcoming issue of Dirt Rag. For now, let’s take a look at some of the other clipless DH pedals on the market.
The M647 pedal has been with us for quite some time. Though Shimano technically classifies this as a BMX pedal, you’ll see a fair number of these pedals on the DH racing circuits from amateur to World Cup levels. As with all Shimano pedals, they tend to be dead reliable, but a hefty impact will break the resin platform. I’ve always been a Shimano pedal guy, and currently run these on my DH and trail bikes. Shimano claims 568 grams per pair.
Compared to the new Mallet DH, the M647 pedals offer a smaller platform and less grip due to lack of traction pins.
Time ATAC DH4
Time’s ATAC DH4 pedals are perhaps the most similar in design to the new Mallet DH, with a large and burly platform. I don’t have any direct experience with the DH4 pedals, but we all know how much Time users love their pedals. I imagine these pedals are a wise choice if you ride Time pedals on your XC bike. Time claims 517 grams per pair.
Like the new Mallet DH, these pedals have a large platform, but again do not offer traction pins.
Xpedo G-Force 1
Though I haven’t heard much talk about folks using the Xpedo G-Force 1 for DH riding and racing, it doesn’t seem like that much of a stretch. The magnesium body is similar in size and shape to the M647, and it does include some built-in traction pins. Xpedo claims 465 grams per pair. Anyone out there riding these pedals? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or on facebook.
Compared to the Mallet DH, the G-Force 1 has a smaller platform and the traction pins are not replaceable.
After researching the above pedals for this blog, it’s easy to image crankbrothers continuing to gain market share in the clipless DH realm. This is the only clipless pedal currently on the market to offer adjustable traction pins. The overall package looks good and appears to be highly functional. So long as they hold up for the long haul, crankbrothers will have a winner on their hands.
Of course, we haven’t even touched on the clipless vs flats debate for DH riding and racing. Having transitioned to DH from a XC/trail background, I’m a fan of running clipless. My muscle memory has evolved to count on being clipped in, for better or worse. That said, this season I’m going to work on riding flats more to become a more well rounded rider.
I’m curious about your thoughts on the flats vs clipless debate. Tell us what you prefer in the comments below.Tweet Print
By Justin Steiner
X-Fusion may not have the name recognition of Fox, RockShox, or Marzzochi, but its parent company has been quietly producing suspension components for other brands since 1989. The X-Fusion brand itself was launched in 1999. In recent years, X-Fusion has been making a big push into the market, gaining significant OE spec and recently penning sponsorship deals with both Brian Lopes and Anne-Caroline Chausson.
X-Fusion introduced the Vengeance chassis in 2009 and refreshed it for 2012 with a new Syntace X-20 tool-less axle system and a new crown, which reduced axle to crown height by 7mm. Maximum travel bumps up to 170mm this year, while retaining the ability to adjust travel internally from 170mm to 100mm with a combination of X-Fusion’s Internal Travel Adjust (ITA) settings (at 160mm, 130mm, and 100mm) and as well as adding internal spacers to achieve settings between the factory options.
The HLR model offers a high volume air spring for a fairly linear feel while a coil negative spring help to overcome stiction and control top out. High and low speed compression damping adjustments as well as rebound damping adjustability round out the tuning options.
Fit and finish are on par with the competition, if not exceeding some of them. All of the adjustment knobs are nice CNC’d bits, in fact you’ll be hard pressed to find any plastic parts on or in this fork aside from the cable guide.
Suspension setup was straightforward in terms of air pressure and rebound damping thanks to the setup guide, but X-Fusion leaves compression damping adjustments up to the rider. While this is OK for experienced riders, less experienced or less diligent tuners might benefit from more discrete baseline recommendations. Your local shop will help you sort out suspension setup, or a quick call to X-Fusion will yield baseline settings.
On the trail, this fork is best described as buttery smooth, with supple small bump response and just enough spring rate progression to handle larger hits with control and confidence. I ran all the damping adjustments near the middle of their respective ranges, and found there to be plenty of meaningful adjustment in either direction from that point. Light or heavy riders should have no trouble setting this fork up for their needs.
Chassis stiffness is on par with the other forks in this class, which is no surprise given the similarities between this fork and the compe- tition in terms of the 36mm stanchions and weight—5.07 lbs with a cut steerer. Axle-to-crown height is identical to the Fox 36 I had set to 170mm of travel.
My test fork felt smooth out of the box, but developed pronounced stiction after a couple months of riding. I sent the fork back to X-Fusion where they found an out of spec bushing to be the culprit. With new lowers installed, this fork feels downright magical. I’ll go so far as to say it’s the most supple fork I’ve ridden—it’s that good. I’ll chalk the initial experience up to manufacturing variability.
All told, I’ve found the Vengeance to be a solid performer for the $835 asking price, which is roughly $200 cheaper than the equivalent 1.5” tapered steerer offering from Fox or RockShox. This fork holds its own on performance alone, if not edging out the competition in terms of small bump response, with a price tag that’s simply icing on the cake. It’s easy to see X-Fusion’s appeal to shoppers on a budget and those who don’t harbor existing brand loyalty.
The Vengeance is a legitimate offering from a company that stands behind their product with responsive support and a two-year warranty against manufacturer’s defects and workmanship.
Made in Taiwan.Tweet Print
By Justin Steiner
Meet the new Slash, but don’t confuse this bike with Trek’s previous all-mountain bike, the Scratch. While Trek positioned both bikes to be extremely capable descending rigs, the Slash delivers a level of all-around versatility that’s head and shoulders above the Scratch. The stats speak for themselves: 160mm of front and rear suspension, an adjustable 65.5/66 degree head angle, and just a touch over 30lbs. My old 29er hardtail weighed nearly that much—guess which bike is more fun bombing down the mountain?
The Slash’s suspension design employs what Trek calls Active Braking Pivot (ABP) and Full Floater shock mounting. The main pivot defines the rear wheel’s axle path, while the rear pivot rotates concentric to the rear axle. This arrangement isolates braking forces, allowing the suspension to remain active under braking. Full Floater refers to the rear shock being mounted between the rocker link and the swingarm; this allows Trek to further fine-tune the spring rate.
At the heart of this suspension platform is the Trek-designed Dual Rate Control Valve (DRCV) Fox RP3 rear shock, which features two in-line air chambers. During the first half of the stroke, the shock operates solely on the smaller, initial air chamber for a snappy, responsive beginning stroke.
A plunger opens up the secondary chamber when the suspension moves into the remaining half of its stroke, allowing for a large volume end of stroke feel that does a better job of absorbing bit hits. It’s the best of both worlds: small volume for a lively initial stroke, large volume for linear, big-hit performance.
The RP3 rear shock is an early adaptation of what appears to be the next wave of platform damping adjustments: a three-position ProPedal lever with settings for climbing (3), trail riding (1), and descending (0). In terms of outright pedaling performance, this single-pivot design does benefit from ProPedal utilization. I only felt compelled to use ProPedal 3 on road climbs, spending a majority of my ride time in the ProPedal 1 setting. Only on long, chunky descents did I feel the need to use the fully open setting.
The high-end Slash 9 build kit is a smart mix of SRAM X0 brakes and X0 2×10 drivetrain parts with Bontrager wheels and cockpit. The RockShox Reverb Stealth seatpost provided slick dropper duties, and the internal hose routing was a blessing—I can’t wait for the Stealth routing to go market-wide later this year.
I’ve read reviews elsewhere complaining about the stock Bontrager XR4 tires, but these 2.35” tires worked well for me when inflated to 30- 35psi. They provided excellent traction in both wet and dry conditions and are a good match for the bike, in my opinion.
Trek bills the Slash as a “technical trail” bike, designed to be a capable climber that can rip technical singletrack on the way down.
Hop on the Slash and you’ll quickly notice how pedal-friendly the riding position is. It’s clear that Trek intends you to pedal this bike long and hard, with a neutral, efficient riding position. My size 18.5-inch test bike fit like a glove right out of the box, and I really dug the width (750mm) and sweep (9-degrees) of the Bontrager Rhythm Pro handlebar. The wide and relatively low handlebar increases reach in spite of the relatively short (586mm) top tube.
On the trail the Slash proved to be a willing partner in all sorts of terrain. The slack angles and long wheelbase provide stability that coddles you with a sense of security, while somehow never managing to seem unwieldy. Quite the contrary, I found the Slash to have a very snappy ride thanks to the superb suspension feel and light-for-a- 160mm-bike nature.
With such a neutral position on the bike and average-length chain- stays (434mm), steep and technical climbing requires a moderate amount of body English to keep the front wheel on the ground. These characteristics also helped to keep wheel flop in check while climbing.
Of course, with 160mm of travel, the Slash certainly enjoys being pointed downhill. The long wheelbase and slack angles provide heaps of stability and a composed ride when things get ugly. Not surprisingly, the nearly DH head angle encourages a committed lean into tight corners— slam that Reverb and crank it over!
The Fox 36 TALAS FIT RLC absorbs small and large hits with the control we’ve come to expect from Fox. This fork is a great performer but is slightly outclassed by the positively stellar small-bump response of the rear suspension. I personally found little value in the TALAS functionality on this bike, as I felt the drop to 120mm was too drastic. Had it dropped to 140mm I might have used it more, but frankly, I’d rather have a Float and save some money.
Balanced chassis design delivers a bike that’s nearly too good to be true. I’m still amazed by this bike’s ability to balance nearly DH bike descending capabilities with responsive, trail bike pedaling performance.
Trek’s Mino Link, located on the rocker arm, adjusts the head angle and bottom bracket height. Riders can choose between a steep and high (66-degrees/368mm) or slack and low (65.5-degrees/360mm) setting. I preferred the slacker setting and would love to see a lower bottom bracket height for both settings, something like 66-degrees at 360mm and 65.5-degrees at 353mm.
I’m extremely impressed with the Slash. This is one of the only test bikes I’ve ridden that has satisfied my needs without swapping a single part. It’s a highly refined package that delivers burly performance in a capable, all-around chassis. While I feel the Slash would hold up to bike park abuse, it’s a bike that’s designed to earn its turns. The Slash is well-suited for enduro and super-D racing.
No matter how you slice it, $5,880 is a lot of money, but I do feel this bike delivers the performance to back up the price tag. This model will carry over as-is to 2013. Riders looking for a supremely competent all-mountain bike should check out the Slash. There’s been a lot of buzz about the Slash this year, and my experience supports the notion that this is one hell of a bike.
- Price $5,880
- Made in Taiwan
- Wheelbase: 45.8-inches, 1,163mm or 45.7-inches, 1,161mm
- Head Angle: 66 or 66.5 degrees
- Seat Tube Angle: 71.9 or 72.4 degrees
- Bottom Bracket height: 14.2 inches, 360mm or 14.5 inches, 368mm
- Chainstay Length: 17.1 inches, 435mm or 17 inches, 433mm
- Weight: 30.3lbs., 13.7kg
- Sizes available: 15.5", 17.5", 18.5" (tested), 19.5", 21.5"
- Specs based on size tested
By the Dirt Rag staff
This is our first attempt at a holiday gift guide, and, in typical Dirt Rag fashion, we had to do it our way. We’ll share a dirty little secret with you: most magazines’ gift/buyer’s guides are not created based on the recommendations of riders, but by the wants and desires of advertisers.
That’s not how we roll. Instead, we asked each staffer to select two items that they had experience with and would wholeheartedly recommend to fellow a mountain biker. Real riders, honest recommendations, realistic prices—the way it should be.
Each day we’ll be sharing a different staffer’s choices for their favorite gear of the year. Today’s picks are from General Manager and Photographer Justin Steiner.
Wingnut Packs – $65 to $245
Wingnut’s Hyper 3.0 pack is my go-to pack when I’m not testing something else, and the same can be said for nearly half the Dirt Rag staff. My love for Wingnut revolves around their Low Rider pack positioning, which places the packs weight on low on your hips, rather than high on your shoulders. If that isn’t enough, they’re made in the US from quality, waterproof sailcloth.
RxGoggle – $145
RxGoggle’s optical docking vision correction system is by far the best solution I’ve found for goggle wearers. From my experience, contacts dry out, while wearing glasses and goggle is pain in the ass—not to mention the risk of breaking your glasses in a crash. RxGoggle’s offers adapter to fit most major goggle brands. $145 gets you the adapter with your prescription lenses installed. When it’s time to update your prescription, send in you old lenses and adapter and the new setup costs just $100. Made in the USA.
2×2 Moto Rack – $298
When I reviewed 2×2’s Motorcycle Bike Rack just last issue, I fell in love with the ability to combine pedaling and motoring. This US-made, off-the-shelf solution is the perfect gift for the two-wheeled junkie in your household. Can be fit to nearly any make and model of moto without permanent modification. 2×2 also sells a golf bag rack so you can carry your clubs on two wheels too.
Pelican 1015 Micro Case – $22
Sure, you can keep your fancy smartphone dry inside a plastic baggy, but I’ve always been worried about crushing mine in a crash. Pelican’s 1015 case offers me the peace of mind that it’ll keep my phone dry and in one piece. I’m able to put my phone, small money clip, and car key inside all at once. It’s a nice stocking stuffer that might just save hundreds of dollars in the right situation. Pelican also offers the i1015, which offers a water resistant external headphone jack for $40. Molded and assembled in the US.
Cartecay Bike Shop Changing Kilts – $70
A changing kilt may seem like a strange Holiday gift, but consider just how many pasty-white bum sightings you’ll be sparing. We discovered Terry Palmeri’s changing kilts on our Georgia two years ago, read that story in issue #149. Palmeri hand makes all her kilts out of 100 percent cotton flannel. Spending $70 for a kilt might seem steep, but you’ll get years of use out of it, and it’s a whole lot cheaper than a fine for indecent exposure. I’m at a loss when I forget to pack my Palmeri kilt. Handmade in the USA.
The North Face Indylite Jacket – $99
The North Face’s Indylite Jacket is made of 2.5-layer HyVent mini-ripstop material, which has a wonderfully light feel. This jacket is said to be water-resistant, but turns away water better than anything I’ve worn lately. With it’s mesh underarm panels and cape vent back panel, the Indylite wears very light, indeed. Perhaps best of all, this jacket zips into its own back pocket for storage—just toss the tiny-for-a-jacket bundle in your pack for a rainy day. This one is well worth the asking price.Tweet Print