Dirt Rag Magazine

Justin Steiner

Justin Steiner

Title

General Manager

Yeah, but what do you ACTUALLY do around here?

[quizzical look]

What do you think about when you're riding your bike?

[awkward silence]

How would you rate your coffee consumption on a scale of 8-10?

What's up with a scale from 8 to 10? Who does that? Nine: couple of cups in the morning, but rarely any caffeine after noon.

Complete this sentence: "My other bike is …"

... a motorbike! Two wheels, one love. The only thing as fun as pedaling two wheels is twisting a throttle.

What are you eating, drinking, reading, or fearing these days?

I'm fearing the slow, global radioactive poisoning of the globe post Fukushima. We're all screwed. This is a game changer and we're choosing to not to address the issue.

Elvis or the Beatles?

Elvis

Say something profound and meaningful in exactly seven words…

Pedal as though your life depends on it.

I like your answers. How can I get in touch with you?

412.767.9910 x106

Email me

First Impressions: Mongoose Teocali Expert and Santa Cruz Heckler


Editor’s note: Here at Dirt Rag we don’t really do “comparison tests” or “shootouts” or declare “winners”. Every bike we review has a story to tell, and they’re all interesting. That said, we rounded up six full-suspension trail bikes in the $2,500-ish range to see what’s really out there in the heart of the mountain bike market. To get the party started, we spent a week riding in and around the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. Watch for full reviews of each bike, as well as more about the trails, in an upcoming issue, but for now, a teaser:

stokesville-5

I admit to being more than a little bit skeptical at the outset of our trip down to Harrisonburg, Va. The idea of thrashing $2,500-ish bikes on some of the most raw and rowdy trails I’ve ever ridden gave me nightmares of bad brakes boiling over on long descents and under-damped suspension systems bucking me over the handlebars in protest of being pushed hard.

However, not long into our first ride, I realized just how spoiled my perspective had become. Both bikes I rode performed flawlessly over five days of punishing trails. Read the full story

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First Impression: Intense 951 EVO 27.5


951evo-1

Just a month ago we previewed the build up of our Intense 951 EVO test bike. Now with some hours on this boundary-pushing machine, it’s time to weigh in with a First Impression.

Aside from this being a very slick and purposeful looking, US-made bike, two characteristics really stand out; one, 27.5-inch wheels, and, two, the very progressive geometry. Read the full story

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Review: Yeti SB-66


yetisb66-1

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.”

Having reviewed, and thoroughly enjoyed, the 575 in issue #154, I was eager to experience the differences for myself. Read the full story

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Ride Guide: Copper Harbor, Michigan


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.

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First look and first ride impressions: 2014 Salsa Horsethief and Spearfish


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.

Spearfish

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.

Horsethief

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.

Sea Change

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.

 

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First Impression: Santa Cruz Bronson


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.

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We take a spin through the Fox iRD suspension setup app


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.

So, it was with much interest yesterday that I watched Matt set up his new Ventana Zeus test bike using Fox’s Intelligent Ride Dynamics (iRD) App.

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.

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First Impression: Specialized Enduro Comp 29


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


 

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Point/Counterpoint – Clipless pedals for downhill


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.

Shimano PD-M647

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.

Comparison

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.

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Review: X-Fusion Vengeance HLR


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.

www.xfusionshox.com
 

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