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First Impressions: Santa Cruz Nickel

Timing is everything, and I was lucky enough to pick up my new test bike, the all new Santa Cruz Nickel, just a couple days before heading out to Dirt Rag‘s Dirt Fest at the Allegrippis Trails in Hesston, PA. These super-fun and flowy trails were a great place to get the Nickel dialed in and to get a taste of what’s in store over the next few weeks of the test.

Santa Cruz introduced the Nickel this year as their new "Trailbike" alongside the Blur LT and the Blur LT Carbon. Fitting somewhere between cross-country and an all-mountain bikes, the Nickel features Santa Cruz’s new Actual Pivot Point (APP) suspension design with 5" of rear travel. What’s APP? Well, Santa Cruz describes it as "…a single pivot suspension that utilizes a pair of links to create a variable shock rate." They admit it’s a bogus name, but hey, you gotta call it something. I won’t get into all the details now, but I will share some pics and specs of the bike.

The complete Nickel I’m testing sports the Fox Float RP23 rear shock and a Rock Shox Revelation Race Dual Air 130mm travel fork. Drivetrain highlights include SRAM XO shifters and rear derailleur and Shimano XTR front derailleur.

So far, the Nickel has not disappointed me. It climbs surprisingly well for a 5" travel bike. Downhill, the only thing holding me back apparently is my overdeveloped sense of self preservation. Lucky for me, I’ve got a few more weeks on the Nickel to help me work on that.


Next Stop: Dirt Rag’s Dirt Fest 2010

Dust off that camping gear and pack up your bike(s). The 2010 Dirt Rag Dirt Fest begins next Friday, May 21! This is one weekend of riding you won’t want to miss.

We’ve got a great weekend on tap, with over 30 miles of singletrack riding at the Allegrippis Trails, advocacy workshops, night rides, live music, Pennsylvania beer tasting, bike demos, BBQ, bourbon tasting, swimming, and the list goes on and on. You get the point. It’s going to be big.

Not registered yet? Go here. Thirty bucks pays for primitive camping at the Susquehannock Campground, riding, and all other mayhem. Food is not included, so bring some grub. Proceeds go to the Allegrippis Trail System.

Need help getting to Dirt Fest? Here’s a map.
Dirt Fest is about 3 hours from Pittsburgh, PA and Washington, DC, and 4 hours from Philadelphia.

The Dirt Rag crew will be there all weekend, so stop by to say hello. We’ll have selected merchandise at the Dirt Rag booth at special Dirt Fest pricing. Two of our fine World Tour sponsors have also given us some really good stuff we’re giving away with new and renewal subscriptions. We’ve got tires from Panaracer and lock-on grips from Price Point.


By the Time I Get to California: Sea Otter Classic

Next week (April 15-18) marks the coming of an annual spring right of passage for the cycling industry and about 50,000 of their closest friends, the Sea Otter Classic at the Laguna Seca Recreation Area in Monterey, California. It’s a four day celebration of cycling with races, organized rides, demos, stunt shows, and one of the largest consumer bike expos in the world. What’s more, this year will be Sea Otter’s 20th anniversary celebration. It’s going to be a good one!

Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times will be on the scene, getting the scoop on all the new bikes, components, and accessories that we’ll be seeing at the show. Look for updates on the Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times websites and in upcoming print issues. We’ll be sure to find lots of good ways for you to blow your tax refund this year.

If you’re going to be at Sea Otter, stop by the Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times booth to say hi and pick up some of our cool merchandise. Or sign up for a subscription and get a free gift from two of our World Tour sponsors, Kenda or SKS. We’ll have some great Kenda tires available and SKS will be providing multi-tools and fenders.

Are you going to be at Sea Otter? Have you been there before? What’s your favorite event at Sea Otter? A lot of questions, I know. But we’re all interested in what you have to say…so leave a comment below.


Interbike Mini-Review: BH Gira

During Interbike week, we borrowed a variety of bikes from companies to ride from our rental house to the indoor show, plus to parties and happenings around town after dark. Not only did this make our experience much more enjoyable, it allowed us a closer look at some of the latest offerings in the realm of transportation and utility bikes. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be presenting our impressions of our time with these bikes as mini-reviews on the Bicycle Times website.

bh bikes

Fixed-gear singlespeed bikes are everywhere these days; on city streets and college campuses, on TV, in magazines and catalogs, and especially in the halls of the Sands Convention Center at Interbike. While some purists scoff at the “fakengers” or “posengers” riding “hipster sleds,” the fact is that they’re popular for a reason. They are a mix of style and function. Sure, often times style outweighs function and crosses the line of ridiculousness. That is the way of popular culture. But the clean lines of a classic bicycle frame without geared bobbles and cabled bits can be a thing of beauty. A good example of this is the BH Gira, my personal Interbike transportation. Click here to read the mini-review on the Bicycle Times website.


Midwest MTB Summit Recap

Midwest MTB Summit RecapWe promote and cover mountain bike advocacy a lot here at Dirt Rag, arguably more than any other magazine. We do it because we believe it is critical for continued access to trails, and to help promote and grow the sport we love. We also do it to give some much-deserved recognition to the good work of all the local clubs and volunteers out there building and maintaining trails for all of us. These local clubs do some amazing work with minimal resources, all in the name of building better trails.

Recently the Dirt Rag World Tour had a chance to get together with several Midwest local trails advocacy groups for the 9th Annual Midwest Mountain Bike Summit in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This was a meeting of people on the front line of trail access, from groups like the Michigan Mountain Bike Association (MMBA), Wisconsin Off Road Bicycle Association (WORBA), Friends of Off-Road Cycling (FORC) Quad Cities, Gateway Off-Road Cyclists (GORC) St. Louis, Chicago Area Mountain Bikers (CAMBr), and Wisconsin Off-Road Bicycling Association (WORBA) to name a few.

These are the kind of people who make it happen in your neck of the woods. They’re out there swinging Pulaskis and McLeods building and maintaining trails. They’re also the ones working with local land managers to gain access to areas so that new trails can be built.

The three day summit/festival was a great way to share information, meet new friends, and learn new trail-building techniques. IMBA was there in force with a 2-day trail school with hands-on technical trail building demonstrations, along with Club-Care and Gateway Trails presentations. Plus there were other workshops and seminars focusing on all aspects of mountain bike advocacy with nationally and regionally known presenters. Stihl and Ditch Witch brought some toys for hands-on trail building at the Cannonsburg Ski Area. There were also races and organized rides from the ski area. Last, but certainly not least, the summit concluded with a 40-mile epic ride. And Founders Brewing provided some much needed refreshments after three days of learning, digging and riding. Advocacy never tasted so good.

A special thanks goes out to Nate Phelps and his crew from the Michigan Mountain Bike Association for hosting this event. Word is, the Midwest Mountain Bike Summit will once again be held in Grand Rapids in 2010. Keep an eye open for details at: www.midwestmtbsummit.com.


Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times take on the Otter

sea otterThe next stop on the Dirt Rag/Bicycle Times World Tour is the 19th Annual Sea Otter Classic on April 16-19 at the Laguna Seca Recreation Area in Monterey, CA. This four day cycling extravaganza has just about everything you could ask for, including Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times.

Stop by our booth to subscribe or renew your subscription and walk away with some fine products from our generous World Tour sponsors, Continental, Seal Line and Platypus. We’ve also got some great new Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times merchandise. So stop on by to say hi.

Throughout the weekend there will be nearly 200 classes of amateur mountain and road bike racing. Mountain bike races include Cross Country, Dual Slalom, Super D, and Downhill. There’s also Road Racing and Circuit Racing on the world famous Laguna Seca Raceway for the skinny tire crowd. For non-racers there are plenty of opportunities for recreational road and mountain bike rides in and around Laguna Seca.

At the Sea Otter Expo there are hundreds of vendors displaying new products and services as well as bike demos and stunt shows. And don’t forget to bring the kids! This year’s Sea Otter will have an Egg Hunt, Kids’ Bicycle Rodeo, and Classic Kids’ Carnival. Sorry, no dogs allowed, so leave the pooch at home.

Entry into Sea Otter is $10 per day or $30 for the full 4 day festival. Kids under 12 get in free.


Looking Forward to Bicycle Times

As I look out my window at icy snow-covered streets, all I can think about are bikes and how much I’d like to be out there riding. I just finished proofing one of the final drafts of our new publication, Bicycle Times, and I’ve got to say, I’m more excited than ever that we’re doing this. Sure, it will mean an almost 60% increase in work for the meager staff of Dirt Rag. Not to mention starting a new business venture while the economy is in the toilet will be challenging to say the least. And let’s not forget the general trend away from print media in favor of online sources. It appears the cards are stacked against us.

BT#1 Proofing

Then why am I so excited? Because Bicycle Times will be a magazine (and website) focusing on what I truly love about bicycles; the practicality, the beauty, and the limitless possibilities for adventure on a bike. I don’t think there is another mode of transportation as efficient, versatile, and as fun as the simple pleasure of riding a bike. Walking, running, skateboarding, riding a horse, cross-country skiing, you name it, nothing beats a bike.

The promise of Bicycle Times is that it is inclusive of all, and a celebration of bicycling. It doesn’t matter if you’re a roadie squid, or an urban hipster wearing too-tight jeans on a fixie, or a mom on a bike path riding with her kids, or an electrical engineer on a recumbent (that’s right, they’re included too), or a knuckle-dragging mountain biker on a 6-inch travel rig, or a couple on their tandem touring the U.S. It’s about all bikes and the people who live to ride them.


Looking outside at the single-digit temperature with the snow and ice, I know I haven’t been on my bike as much as I’d like. It doesn’t get me down. It doesn’t make me want to ride on rollers or go to the gym or take a spinning class. It makes me want to get studded tires for my bike.


ACA Announces Ride the Divide Sweepstakes Winners

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, our friends at Adventure Cycling Association partnered with Dirt Rag to present the “Ride the Divide” sweepstakes. You may recall we announced the sweepstakes at the end of May 2008, and we’re happy to report that the results are in!

Piotr Gorecki of Burlington, Vermont, won the Grand Prize of a $6,500 Old Man Mountain Boomerang bike with handmade racks.

The second prize of a weeklong Adventure Cycling tour on the Great Divide, valued at more than $1,000, went to Theodore Ludwig of Colfax, Wisconsin.

Third prize, a copy of the guidebook “Cycling the Great Divide” and a full set of maps for the route, was claimed by Mary Monaco of Putnam Valley, New York.

Congratulations to all the winners and a special thanks to Adventure Cycling for including Dirt Rag in the Sweepstakes!


Old Adventure, New Adventure…

My commute to work today made me think about a recent Old Coot article we published a few issues ago. The idea of the article was that you don’t need to ride new and different trails all the time. Sometimes it’s fun and challenging to ride trails closer to home that you’ve ridden several times in the past.

My ride today took a slightly different twist on this, but the idea is similar. It started off much like any other day that I ride to work, except that I wasn’t riding my normal commuter bike, a Surly Cross-Check. I was on a full suspension Foes Racing 2:1 XCT-4. Most people would think that riding on mostly roads for a 13 mile one-way commute on a full suspension mountain bike with some pretty aggressive knobby tires is just plain stupid. It was actually one of the most fun days I’ve had commuting to work.

I ride from downtown Pittsburgh out into the suburbs to Dirt Rag HQ, and on the way pass by lots of stairways, curbs, walls and other obstacles that I usually try to avoid on my regular commuter bike. Today was different. I hopped ramped curbs, flew down stairways and basically launched off of just about anything I could find. It was so much fun I almost didn’t make it to the office.

To be sure, it wasn’t my fastest commute and I wouldn’t want to ride a full suspension bike every day. But riding a different bike made a great new adventure out of a ride I’ve made literally hundreds of times. I’m looking forward to doing it again.

Look for more on the Foes 2:1 XCT-4 test in an upcoming issue of Dirt Rag.


World Tour: 24 Hours of Big Bear

Once again Dirt Rag will pack up the van and head on down the road a piece to Hazelton, WV for Granny Gear’s 24 Hours of Big Bear. We have a long history of going to this race and we’re glad to be going back.


This year will feature the classic 24 hour race starting at noon on Saturday, trials exhibition, kids race, and midnight spectator safari. And to top it off, WE will be there with more swag than you can shake a stick at. Stop on by the Dirt Rag booth and sign up for a new or renewal subscription and you’ll get something from one of our fine World Tour sponsors. We’ll have Platypus Big Zip bladders and 1L collapsible bottles, Microflate Nano CO2 inflators from Genuine Innovations, SealLine Urban Totes, and WTB Moto Raptor tires.


Come on down to Big Bear to hang out with the Dirt Rag crew and race or just watch one of the finest 24 hour races on the east coast!


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