By Karl Rosengarth and Eric McKeegan. Photos by Justin Steiner and Jon Pratt.
For all of Pittsburgh’s endearing qualities, its wet, pre-spring weather sucks. There are weeks on end when the trails are just too wet and muddy for responsible riding. The optimal solution is to load Dirt Rag’s “trusty” Ford E-Series van with test bikes and head south, where spring is already busting out all over (or is close enough to permit proper bike testing). This year’s spring trip wound its way south and east—to Wilderness Adventure at Eagle’s Landing, located in the mountains near Roanoke, Virginia.
With acres upon acres of cool bikes and gadgets on display at the annual Interbike trade show, it’s tough to get noticed. Exhibitors battle to attract the roving hordes to their booths. Most employ tried and true tactics: booze, booth babes and boatloads of booty (as in pirates’ booty, a.k.a. swag).
Dirt Rag has always been know for rolling its own. In 1996 our booth buzz scheme was a “Show Us Your Tattoo” promotion. We invited ink-bearing attendees to stop by our booth and have their body art documented via color Polaroid snapshots, which we posted on the back wall of our booth.
Dirt Rag Issue #55 featured a full-page black-and-white collage of our favorite 20 tattoos from the show. While rummaging through the Dirt Rag “hardocpy” archives, I stumbled upon the original tattoo Polaroids.
Eureka! This gold mine needed to be shared—in living color.
So without further ado, I give your “Our Favorite Tattoos” from Interbike 1996.Tweet
Let’s get this out of the way first: SLM stands for Super Light Mountain. They ain’t lyin’. The $5,799 SLM 1.1 is the flagship of the Fuji SLM fleet and its frame is made from C15, Fuji’s highest grade of carbon fiber. The end result is a 29er frame weighing less than 1,000 grams (nearly 300 grams lighter than the 2013 version). The size medium bike tipped Dirt Rag’s scale at 22.2 pounds (without pedals).Tweet
Canine co-habitation has long been a part of the casual atmosphere that prevails at Dirt Rag headquarters. From rides to relaxation, they are a constant companion. Some are gone, some are still with us, but they all warm our heart – and our toes under our desk.
With the assistance of the respective poochies’ partners, I offer this tribute to the four-legged denizens of Dirt Rag, past and present.Tweet
The first edition of Dirt Rag’s Dirt Fest took place in 1991 at Camp Soles, a YMCA youth camp located in the Laurel Highlands, just east of Pittsburgh. For me, that era represents a magical time, marked by glorious tribal gatherings known as mountain bike festivals.
In fact, I’d learned about Dirt Fest from some friends that I met at the legendary Jim Thorpe Mountain Bike Weekend. I attended the first Dirt Fest as a “civilian.” A few months after the event, I became friends with the Dirt Rag crew by showing up at their weekly rides in Pittsburgh, and about a year later I landed my first job at the magazine.
Compared to Dirt Fest’s current incarnation, the original event was decidedly chill. There was no vendor expo bristling with the bleeding edge of bicycle technology. Demo rides amounted to swapping bikes with a newfound friend. I seem to remember a bonfire, and somebody playing a guitar—a far cry from The Earthtones jamming for a circus tent full of free-beer-lubricated mountain bikers.Tweet
One bike to do it all—that’s the idea behind Pivot’s Mach 5.7. While the definition of “all” depends to a large extent on the rider, with its 145mm of rear travel and 26-inch wheels, the versatile Mach 5.7 is exactly the style of bike that would top my shopping list.
Chris Cocalis of Pivot Cycles gave me his take on the intended applications for this steed: “The Mach 5.7 is not an XC race bike, and it’s not a freeride bike; it’s really designed for everything in between. We consider it a do-all mountain bike, and that is the reason it is our best seller.”Tweet
The Stache is an all-new addition to Trek’s 2013 lineup, a rugged trail bike designed to be versatile enough to serve as the elusive “one bike that’s does it all.”
Rather than give the Stache a substantially different layout, Trek adapted their tried-and-true 29er G2 geometry. The Stache’s 68.6 degree head angle is about a degree slacker than Trek’s 100mm-travel Superfly, and its 12.44-inch BB height is 0.16-inch taller. Both models have 17.5-inch chainstays.
The aluminum frame looks quite robust, thanks to the large hydroformed main tubes, tapered head tube, 142x12mm thru-axle rear and press-fit bottom bracket. Bonus points for ISCG tabs and dropper post routing (including stealth routing). The seat tube has a flattened shape at the bottom for tire/mud clearance (which hardly seems necessary, considering the ample room provided by the 17.52-inch chainstays). The total package looks agile and muscular, but not burly. With pedals and a bottle cage, the Stache 8 weighed in at 27.5 lbs.
The $2,420 Stache 8 comes with a Fox Evolution Series 32 Float fork (with CTD) and a solid 2×10 kit. Proven Shimano SLX parts include brakes, shifters and front derailleur (there’s an XT upgrade on the rear). The Bontrager Duster tubeless-ready wheels and meaty Bontrager 29-3 Expert 29×2.3 tires are ready for rough-and-tumble action.
I found that the Stache was neither a slack play bike, nor was it a razor-quick race machine. The bike’s handling fell in between those two extremes. Dare I describe the Stache’s handling as neutral? I think I just did.Tweet
Over the course of an amazing 19-year run, Bill Boles stepped into a nearby phone booth seven times per year, and emerged toting yet another installment of The Old Coot. Starting with Dirt Rag #15 and running through issue #153, The Old Coot dispensed a potent blend of riding tips, mechanical tricks, and practical New Englander wisdom—in a unique, homespun style.
Contributing a legacy of 139 columns was not only a mind-boggling demonstration of journalistic superpowers, but it was also a boon for artists. All of those columns would need illustrations, after all.
Over the years, Dirt Rag has been graced with a dazzling array of artists’ interpretations of the Coot. I thought it would be fun to recap the artistic history of the Old Coot, and share some of my favorite Coot artwork.Tweet
The idea behind the Silver Series from Lynskey is to offer titanium bikes with a lower price tag, relative to the higher-end models in the company’s lineup. The Silver Series saves some shekels by eschewing extensive tubeset manipulation, sticking to stock sizing, and offering a single build kit.
The tweener MT 650 rings the register at $4,123 with a build kit featuring a Shimano XT drivetrain and brakes and a 120mm X-Fusion Velvet RL2 fork. If you want to build your own, the frame will set you back $1,678. If you still have sticker shock, remember that the “lower price tag” is relative to upscale titanium bikes costing much more.Tweet
In its present format, The Specialty Files is a recurring print column in Dirt Rag that is written by Jeff Archer, and features a vintage bike from his collection at the Museum of Mountain Bike Art & Technology in Statesville, N.C.
However, the earliest installments of The Specialty Files featured serendipitous discoveries that Maurice spied while jaunting cross-country, during the heyday of the Dirt Rag World Tour. Maurice leaned on Jeff to help provide background details on the unearthed rigs.
The Specialty Files first appeared in Dirt Rag issue #104, which was published on Nov. 15, 2003. It featured Dan Smith’s sweet 1987 Cannondale SM600, with its unique 24/26-inch mismatched wheels.
Dan is a Pittsburgh homeboy that was a regular fixture on the infamous Dirt Rag Thursday night ride back in the early 1990s. Some years ago Dan and his mountain biking wife Sara relocated to Salt Lake City.
As I re-read the original story, my mind got to thinking about that old bike. Did Dan still have it? Was it running? Did he hit any sweet jumps on it?Tweet
By Karl Rosengarth
To celebrate his 10th year in business, Steve Garro of Coconino Cycles popped the Champagne cork and sent Dirt Rag his Signature Model frame to test.
OK, so that’s not exactly how this 650b hardtail ended up at DRHQ, but the part about Garro fabricating mountain bikes for 10 years is true. Not to mention the fact that he has been building 650b mountain bikes since Kirk Pacenti got tweeners rolling in the dirt back in 2007 (with the introduction of the Pacenti 650b Neo-Moto tire). All that experience made Coconino an easy choice when Dirt Rag was looking for a handmade 650b frame to review. Read the full storyTweet
By Karl Rosengarth
As I dove deep into the stack of archives from my most recent excursion in the Dirt Rag Time Machine, a thought occurred to me. Wouldn’t it be fun to play a little trivia quiz game?
Sure it would!
I even came up with a name for my game: Hüsker Dü? Rag. (I hope the makers of the original game have a sense of humor.)
Here’s how it goes… Below I’ve posted a series of pics from the Dirt Rag archives, along with clues, and a question about each item. Your challenge is to post your answer(s) in the comments below. You’re allowed one answer per question. I’ll let you know if you’ve answered correctly or not. Here we go!
Back in the day, folks took bike limbo seriously. Perhaps a little too seriously, from the looks of that bloody shin. Can you name the “very popular in the ‘90s” mountain bike festival at which this action shot was taken?
I pity the fool that doesn’t read Dirt Rag! Can you name the artist of this fine drawing? (hint: appeared as full-page art in 1996).
The following illustration by John Hinderliter came from a column that appeared several times over the years. The column revealed the “true” meaning behind riders’ words. Can you name the title of the column?
What the hell are these people doing, and where are they doing it?
I love this action shot of Chris Cosby (Dirt Rag’s former Ad Guy) Johnny Surfing on Bradley Woehl’s Bicycle Trader cargo bike at the 1997 Anaheim Interbike show. Can you name the fine, upstanding motel where these shenanigans went down (hint: it’s shown in the background)?
In the early ‘90s we had fun during deadlines, cutting and pasting tiny drawings in the “white space” that was left over at the end of articles and in the page margins. It’s interesting to note the all of the “margin art” came from the same art contributor. Can you name the artist?
That’s it for the first installment of Hüsker Dü? Rag. Is there a prize for answering correctly? Why yes—the glory of victory! Not to mention our eternal gratitude for being a Dirt Rag fanboy or fangirl.
Please forgive the condition of some of the above items. Time travel is rough on paper.
I’ve got more archival goodies up my sleeve future posts, so don’t be a stranger.Tweet
By Karl Rosengarth. Illustration by Stephen Haynes.
Team Dirt Rag is going racing. This time we’re headed to West Virginia for the Big Bear Ultra and Ultra Light on Sunday, August 4th. This fifth race on the WVMBA Ultra Series calendar promises 50+ miles of mostly singletrack racing through the rugged mountains near Hazelton, just east of Morgantown. Competitors in the "Light" version will sample roughly 23 miles of singletrack sweetness (or is that roughly sample, heh, heh).
The Big Bear Lake trails rank near the top of my list of my personal favorites. I look forward to challenging myself on the 50-miler. My Dirt Rag cohort Stephen Haynes has let better judgment rule, and has opted for the 23-mile light version. Either way, with the promise of ample aid stations (with food and water) the racing action promises to be fast and furious.
Dirt Rag is kicking down a free pint glass and sample of our fine publication to the first 100 racers who roll through the registration line. The early bird gets the worm, so don’t be late! Or better yet, join us for the free primitive camping the night before, right at the start/finish, in back of the Big Bear Lake Community Center.
Dirt Rag is also issuing "The Pace is Right" challenge to all Ultra racers. The rules are as follows: The Ultra racer (regardless of sub-classification) whose official finish time is the closest to the official finish time of me, Karl Rosengarth, without finishing faster, wins some Dirt Rag swag. The winner will be announced during the official awards ceremony, and you must be present to win and collect your swag. Decisions of me, Karl Rosengarth, are final. If something bizarre happens, or I DNF or DFL (could happen), I’ll make it up as I go along.
We’ll see you at the races.Tweet
By Karl Rosengarth
Don’t call it a comeback. Titanium bikes never went away. However, that whooshing sound that titanium heard in the 1990s was carbon fiber ascending to the top of the frame material food chain.
Back in the day, titanium mountain bikes graced the catalogs of a number of big brands. Who can forget the Tomac signature Raleighs of the early ’90s?
But times have changed. and stock Ti bikes have become scarcer than 150mm stems. For the most part, the magic metal has settled into a niche—namely, custom and high-end framesets from boutique brands (with high-end price tags).
Fast forward to 2013. Lynskey is out to change titanium economics with its recently launched Silver Series—the company’s most affordable line of bikes. By minimizing the manipulation of the straight-gage titanium tubing, and offering only stock sizing (with a single build kit) Lynskey is able to offer Silver Series bikes for significantly less than upscale models. Made-in-the-USA Silver Series framesets go for $1,299 (both road and mountain). The complete MT 650 that I’m testing goes for $2,840 (with Shimano XT kit, sans pedals).
Lynskey fabricates Silver Series frames in the same factory and using the same equipment as their upscale and custom frames. Silver Series frames have smaller diameter tubing, with no butting, which helps save cost. Stock frame sizing allows Lynskey to buy raw tubing in larger quantities and to build bikes in bigger "production runs" which is more economical.
My bike came from the initial production run, and was built with a conventional 1 1/8" head tube and headset. However based on feedback, including input from Dirt Rag, Lynskey has since made a running production change to a tapered head tube. We’ll soon be getting the updated MT 650 frameset to test as part of this review.
With the direction that the suspension fork market is trending, it could eventually become difficult to find top fork models in straight 1 1/8" steerers. Switching to the tapered head tube should make the MT 650 much more appealing to any shopper considering a lifetime investment in titanium.
Lynskey’s MT 650 is a hardtail with 120mm of travel up front. My size large (19") tester weighed in at 25.2 lbs. with the XT kit (w/o pedals). In addition to the XT drivetrain, the bike sports an X-Fusion Velvet RL2 650 120mm fork, an FSA control center, and Vuelta MTB Pro DX 650 wheels.
With its 69 degree head angle, 23.7-inch effective top tube and 16.9-inch rear center, the bike’s handling felt predictable and well-mannered from my first ride. The MT 650 is neither a slack play bike, nor a twitchy race steed. It slots somewhere in between, with non-quirky, neutral handling (I mean that as a compliment). The peaceful, easy feeling was enhanced by the fact that my 5′ 10" frame was in a comfortable trail riding position, not too stretched out, which is the way I like it (with 100mm stem).
In addition to shredding the local singletrack, I’ve completed two races atop the MT 650, one with the X-Fusion Velvet fork converted to 100mm travel (internal adjustment required). As expected, the steering response with the reduced travel felt snappier. It allowed me to flick my way around last-minute course corrections at race speed. While the handling didn’t feel overly nervous in 100mm mode, I simply preferred the more relaxed, but not slack, vibe of the 120mm mode (which also worked just fine for racing). The MT 650 comes with the fork set at 120mm, and my recommendation is to not mess with a good thing.
The MT 650 frame took the edge off the harsh stuff, and provided a hint of resilience, without feeling like a wet noodle in hard corners. I haven’t detected any significant flex at the BB when stomping up punchy climbs or while sprinting. I’ve certainly ridden chromoly hardtails that felt flexier than the MT 650. Quite frankly, I’m digging the frame’s balance point of stiffness and compliance. This is a smooth-riding bike that holds its line through the corners and has some giddy up.
Look for my full, long-term review of the MT 650 in an upcoming issue of Dirt Rag. Subscribe today and you’ll never miss an issue.Tweet
By Karl Rosengarth
Team Dirt Rag will be throwin’ down at the Cheat Mountain Ultra and Ultra Lite Sunday in Beverly, W.V. The fourth race on the WVMBA Ultra Series calendar sends Ultra riders on a 40+ mile romp through the rugged Cheat Mountain Wilderness, including a 12 mile gravel road climb that should sort out the starting field in fine fashion and avoid any singletrack logjams.
The Ultra Lite option promises a 17-mile singletrack pummeling, with the start/finish on top of Cheat Mountain, eliminating the long climb at the start. Just the ticket for less-than-ultra-fit riders who still want to punish themselves, such as yours truly.
Dirt Rag is chippin’ in and giving a free pint glass and sample of our fine publication to the first 100 racers who roll through the registration line. The early bird gets the worm, so don’t sleep late! Hint: there’s free tent camping at 4-H Camp Pioneer near Beverly, W.V. (which is the spot for registration and the Ultra start/finish).
Dirt Rag is also issuing "The Pace is Right at the Ultra Lite" challenge to all racers competing on the short course. The rules are as follows: The Ultra Lite racer (regardless of sub-classification) whose official finish time is the closest to the official finish time of me, Karl Rosengarth, without finishing faster, wins some Dirt Rag swag. The winner will be announced during the official awards ceremony, and you must be present to win and collect your swag. Decisions of me, Karl Rosengarth, are final. If something bizarre happens, or I DNF I’ll make it up as I go along.
Find out more about the Cheat Mountain Ultra at this link. We’ll see you at the races.