Amongst the European paparazzi we arrived in the French Riviera. The Nice-Côte-d’Azur airport was aflutter with the excited activity leading to the annual Cannes Film Festival. As I exited baggage claim there was one sign within a crowd of limousine drivers and chauffeurs that I was looking for: the yellow Mavic logo. We didn’t come to southern France to sit indoors and screen films. We came to ride a sampling of the incredible singletrack used during the six-day Trans Provence enduro race as we put Mavic’s new wheel system and apparel through a couple days on intense testing.Tweet
Admittedly, I went into this test a bit skeptical. I can justify titanium for other applications rather easily, but for a progressive trail riding 29er I needed to be convinced. The weight savings is nice, but would it be stiff enough?
Although Ti is usually associated with compliant ride characteristics, Carver Bikes made a point of using larger-diameter tubes that were shaped for stiffness. I was pleased to hear that was a priority. I’m not one to enjoy unwanted and unexpected feedback from a frame.Tweet
By Matt Kasprzyk
Issue #170 is done and done. It’s being shipped and will soon be fondled by lucky subscribers. It won’t be long before you’ll be marveling at the issue in its entirety, but here’s a little insider bump to hold you over.
Our May issue features some solid contributors from past issues. Kyle Stecker’s cover illustration takes us back to our roots of great cover art but also pushes us forward. I’m sure veteran readers, and new subscribers alike, will appreciate his work. You may recognize his style from the Manic Mechanic column in Issue #163, pictured below, and I’m looking forward to getting him involved with another issue.
Here’s a rough sketch, the final BW comp, and the final illustration for Issue #170:
Leslie Herman is a Delaware native living in Chicago. He has an impressive list of recognitions and clients including: Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Huffington Post, Atlanta Magazine, and is now able to add Dirt Rag. Those titles are lucky to be on the same list as our venerable institution. I’m stoked he was able to work with us. Check out his latest work at leslieherman.com
Andrew Roberts is an illustrator living and working in Brooklyn, NY. When not grinding out artwork for magazines and newspapers, he spends his days learning bass lines to weird prog rock songs, eating at Paulie Gee’s (best pizza on the planet!) and narrowly avoiding death while riding back and forth over the Williamsburg Bridge. Andrew brings some levity to a topic that could affect your bowels. andrewdraws.com
Check out Mark Mackay’s images for a behind-the-scenes look at the Elements of Perfection series and to give a look into the lifestyle of the people coming together to make it all possible. This led him to shoot the 2013 ad campaign for the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, his first commercial work. “Sounds cheesy but I moved to BC from the far north of Scotland three years ago to follow a dream and it feels like its finally beginning to happen for me," says Mark. I expect we’ll be seeing a lot more from him. markmackayphotography.comTweet
By Matt Kasprzyk
Why mess with a good thing? To make it better, of course. If you agree with the reviews and press; Yeti’s SB-66c is a good thing – if not a great thing. So good that I leapt at the chance for the super-bike to kill my quiver. Yeti has already received several accolades from our staff and many others for their Switch Technology suspension bikes. They must be a good thing, right? So why f’ck with it?
Here’s my reason. Maybe you’ve heard about the 650b craze that is now the 27.5 craze, or what may become the 27 rage? If you have, then you’ve also heard about the shortcomings of 26-inch wheels and the overcompensating 29-inch wheels. What you’re about to read is my attempt at taking a good thing and making it slightly better by asking one question: How would a really ballin 26-inch bike feel with a 650b front wheel.
The steps to answer that question aren’t so simple. Sure, you could grab any 650b fork with a wheel and slap it on there.
The problem with that solution is it could affect the bike’s geometry and characteristics. Maybe the new axle-to-crown length is longer, thus slackening the head-tube-angle. In turn that raises you handlebar and bottom bracket height. Blah, blah, blah and see what a slippery slope this gets into. Sure some of those adjustments could be favorable, but this experiment is solely about a 650b front wheel on a 26-inch bike and what the slightly larger diameter wheel feels like out front. Will this give the “goldielocks” ride while largely maintaining the personality of the bike? Is the slight diameter increase even perceivable?
First, I needed to isolate some variables in this experiment. I wanted to preserve the geometry of the bike as much as possible. That means you need to do some math. Or find someone smarter than you who knows what math to do, which is exactly what I did. Enter Justin Steiner, our resident engineer and mecha-builder. (I’ve never seen Justin build a mecha, but it would be cool.)
Step 1: Measure twice
Know your current measurements
- Head tube angle
- Front wheel axle height
- New fork axle-to-crown
- New wheel axle height
Step 2: Sketch
Step 3: Math
Step 4: Space fork down and install
Step 5: Ride
I’ve done some intense rides on this 627.5er or SB6/27.5-6/5. My first impression was that there was more wheel flop. With equal HTAs the math shows that there will be a slight increase to Trail. This could account for the added perception of wheel flop while climbing.
However, other than that there really isn’t much to say. The bike’s character wasn’t drastically altered. The 650b wheel is actually not smack-dab in the middle of 26 and 29. It’s closer to a 26-inch wheel then a 29. On the trail I could hardly tell a difference. I like to think that I was able to truck through the rough a little easier without getting a smaller wheel sucked into divots, but it wasn’t as obvious of a change as the move from 26-inch to 29-inch. I attacked descents with the same reckless abandon and emphasis on inertia, rather than grace, as I always do and there was never a moment where I wished for a smaller wheel up front.
The X-Fusion Vengeance fork used in this conversion was slightly heavier than the Fox 36 I had been using. Even so, with the larger wheel and heavier fork, lofting the front wheel wasn’t unwieldy. The Vengeance travel was supple and smooth but I did miss the CTD settings of the Fox.
I think there’s still some fine-tuning and experimentation yet to do, but my final verdict is that the 650b wheel is on there for keeps. I see no reason to take it off. Even if the benefits are minimal, there weren’t any drawbacks.
By Matt Kasprzyk
Salsa’s tagline “adventure by bike” is actually more of a mantra according to Pete Koski, Salsa’s design engineer. Everything the company does is filtered through those three words. The Horsethief is the latest bike the phrase has inspired. Salsa’s goal was to design a bike that could devour technical trails like Horsethief Bench in Fruita, Colorado.
Salsa learned a lot from the XC-oriented Spearfish and some of the same design principles were applied to the longer travel Horsethief. The pivot minimizing suspension design is a simple, single-pivot arrangement that requires the seatstays to flex several millimeters. This small amount of deflection eliminates a pair of rear pivots.
The design worked well for the Spearfish, so the stays were shaped specifically for the abuses of trail riding and the longer rear travel. The concept remains the same though—reduce pivot points and hardware, with the goal of creating a lighter, stiffer, and lower maintenance rear-end.
The Horsethief’s hyrodformed aluminum frame has a long cockpit. The effective toptube is longer than Salsa’s other comparably sized mountain bike frames; the frame is designed around a 10-20mm shorter stem and a wider bar. This better positions the rider for more aggressive trails by keeping more weight over the rear wheel.
The frame has ISCG 05 chainguide tabs and is designed for a 120mm or 140mm travel fork. Since we’re moving up front, I have to mention the new Fox 34 RL. The new ‘tweener’ stanchion fork comes set at 120mm of travel and can be converted to 140mm by removing a spacer located in the left fork leg.
Adding that 20mm of travel to the fork will take the head tube angle from 69.5 degrees at 120mm to 68.6 degrees at 140mm of travel. The increased travel will also make a long bike longer, increasing the wheelbase of this XL up to 1,200mm—that’s longer than many downhill bikes.
Geometry, tubing, and spec help create a distinct personality for the Horsethief. This long and slack trail bike allowed me to (as promised) devour terrain. The long wheelbase gives the Horsethief a very stable and confident ride—especially when pointing the bike downhill. This length made tight switchbacks harder to navigate, but as a taller rider, that stability was welcomed on descents, a worthy trade-off, in my opinion.
I didn’t feel there was a need for more than the 120mm of travel in the back. It felt bottomless when fully active, tracked well and was laterally stiff, thanks in part to the 142×12 Maxle. The Horsethief’s simple suspension design relies on the custom-tuned Fox RP2’s platform damping for efficient climbing. This budget-friendly shock only offers ‘open’ or ‘on’ settings. Pedaling performance felt relatively efficient with the RP2’s platform on. When switched to open for descents, the rear suspension benefitted from fully active travel with improved traction.
The Fox Float 34 inspires an incredible amount of confidence. I will go so far to say that I wouldn’t purchase a 29er over 100mm of travel without at least a 34 up front. It was that good, and I imagine the top-of- the-line forks with all the bells and whistles to feel even better. As a bigger rider, I never felt limited by capabilities of the bike. I knew I could attack the terrain. The bike arrived with the fork set at 120mm and that’s where it stayed for most of the test. My local terrain didn’t beg for greater travel. However, I was happy to have the full 140mm of travel to rip long, rocky descents out west.
When set at 140mm, the slacker angles make the front-end pretty light when climbing. All things considered, it’s not unexpected. On short steep uphill bursts it was difficult at times keeping weight over the front wheel. Over correcting a flopping front-end with big wheels and wide bars was sometimes a challenge on technical uphill sections.
The mix of mid-level Avid/SRAM components behaved as expected and need little space for anything other than a nod to their reliability. NoTube’s Flow wheels were stalwart. Schwalbe 2.3” Nobby Nics proved to be a tight fit on the Flow rims, but sealed well with the latex sealant and have quickly become one of my favorite trail tires. There’s enough room for 29”x 2.5” tires should you choose to go wider. And keep your hydration pack close —there’s only one water bottle mount on the underside of the downtube.
I see the Horsethief as a gateway-bike for most. After a long stint of cross-country bikes and endurance events, this bike has helped me foster an excitement for more enduro-appropriate bikes and the adventures that combine downhill skills and speeds with XC fitness.
It appears to be great timing for Salsa. Events are popping up all over the country that cater to the strengths of this bike. With the Horsethief, Salsa adds another affordable bike to a line-up of enablers—a trail bike that will open up a whole new world of riding opportunities.
The Horsethief is good at what it’s designed to do. If your style is more about surviving climbs to crush descents, the Horsethief will get you into all kinds of adventures.
- Wheelbase: 47”, 1,193mm; 45.7", 1,161mm
- Head Angle: 69.5 degrees
- Seat Tube Angle: 73.5 degrees
- Bottom Bracket height: 13.75”
- Chainstay Length: 18.1", 460mm
- Weight: 31.7lbs.
- Sizes: S, M, L, XL (tested)
- Specs based on size tested
- Price: $2,949 (complete) $1,399 (frame and rear shock)
- Made in Taiwan
- Age: 32
- Height: 6’2”
- Weight: 190lbs.
By Matt Kaspryzk
These last couple seasons I’ve welcomed some time off my bike. The winter months have given me time to prepare both mentally and physically for riding in the coming season.
I like that the time away from trails makes me excited for returning to them as the weather improves. "Absence makes the heart grow fonder," right? It’s fun to plan which events I’m going to do and where I’ll be traveling this coming year. It’s my mental recharge without the stress of travel and deadlines, and in my imagination my riding is at it’s best.
Physically though, it’s not a time where I hibernate like a bear and emerge with my lower half emaciated and neglected. I try not to pack on extra weight or wait till spring to worry about fitness. (Well, maybe pedaling fitness.) But there’s a lot you can do off your bike in the winter to make those early season rides easier and your riding better.
Here are few exercises I think all mountain bikers should consider doing.
1. Push Ups
These may come as a surprise for some. But it’s at the top of my list for all mountain bikers for a couple reasons. The first being there’s not much you can do on a bike to supplement weak upper body strength. I don’t think these are as important for roadies or more XC racer types, but if you’re into any type of technical riding and DH they are a must.
Absorbing impacts and controlling the bike over rough terrain is easier with a strong upper body. Pushing and pulling your bars while having the endurance to control the front of you bike is very important.
There are two different types of push-ups I like to do.
Push-Up to T-Plank: These target your chest, shoulders, and triceps while aiding core strength and stability.
Push-Ups with a Single-Leg Raise: These are my favorite. A normal push up, but keep one leg raised while doing a push up. I alternate legs half way through a set. As with most push-ups keep your back straight. These engage your glutes and quadriceps as well as your upper body.
If you want to make them more challenging, elevate your legs on a bench, and you can certainly add a T-plank while alternating raised legs. When you’re ready for something more advanced, try resting your feet on a stability ball for an even better core work out.
2. Bulgarian Split Squats
These are absolutely my favorite leg exercises. Balance, flexibility, and strength training all in one. Many trainers and coaches agree that these are perfect for mountain biking. They are difficult and can be awkward at first.
If you’re new to the exercise, try them without weights first then add dumbbells, kettlebells, or a bar as needed. Here’s what mountain bike strength training coach James Wilson has to say about them.
3. Leg Curls with Ball
These also improve stability and leg strength. Lay on your back with your arms extended to the sides. As with push-ups, keep you body straight like a plank, and curl the ball towards you butt. These are great for glutes and hamstrings.
There are two specific core work-outs I like to do. First being Back Extensions. You can use a ball at home if you don’t have Roman Chair. I also make sure I twist my torso helping active the oblique muscles on your sides while doing these. I feel that this exercise has greatly reduced my lower back pain, which often plaques longer rides or early season outings.
The second core specific work-out I like are Hanging Leg-Raises. There’s a myriad of different variations. I like alternating between straight raises – bringing my knees to my chest, and twisting my legs to target the obliques again. Again, James Wilson explains it best.Tweet
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 Art Director Matt Kasprzyk.
Shimano XT Trail pedals – $150
The XT PD-M785 Trail pedal is a great choice for the technical trail rider or enduro racer on your list. The aluminum cage increases the length and width of the pedals’ surface area, allowing for more support and control; it also means there’s a larger target for your feet if you dab and need to get clipped again. As you can see, I have not been nice to my pair; they’ve been bashed off rocks and roots a plenty and are still going strong.
Schwalbe Racing Ralph, Nobby Nic and Hans Dampf tires – $85-$95
These tires are my best friends—a Nobby Nic on the front grabs onto slippery rocks and guides me through mud holes, and a Racing Ralph lays down the power once through the danger spots. I opted for SnakeSkin sidewall protection on both, and of course ran them tubeless. The pair has gotten me through two campaigns at the Trans-Sylvania Epic; in fact, after I retired the trusty pair from last year, I shelled out my own money for another set in 2012. The Hans Dampf features a triple compound and reinforced sidewalls. While not the fastest rolling or the lightest option, this tire provides great traction in a variety of conditions. We’ve enjoyed this tire in both 26 and 29-inch sizes. It’s not light, or cheap, but it does offer incredible, German-engineered traction in almost any situation.
By Matt Kasprzyk,
If you like to trade the mud and gray skies of winter for florescent lights and gray floors, then Pittsburgh can soon accommodate. The town totes plenty of all the aforementioned and plenty of vacant warehouses.
The Wheel Mill is the latest in a growing number of indoor bike parks across the country. The idea obviously isn’t original, and was conceived in a neighboring rust-belt city, but Pittsburgh’s own take on the two-wheeled indoor amusement park promises to be unique.
Harry Geyer, owner of The Wheel Mill, has been riding for decades. He grew up racing BMX and mountain bikes, but he’s also been building things for decades. While he’s been searching for property perfect for his dream, Harry’s day job as a contractor has helped prepare him with skills and contacts for this new endeavor.
Not only can he build and ride, but he also has a reclaimed lumber company. More than 80 percent of the wood used at The Wheel Mill is reclaimed. Some of it is from old skateparks and warehouses, or its been donated from individuals within the community. Even the more natural features have been donated. A lot of the rough-cut natural logs are from arborists working within the city limits.
Of course there will be the standard vert ramps, a pump track, rhythm rooms, and a foam pit. Those lines that will be great on a BMX or dirt jumper that we’ve come to expect from indoor parks, but the goal is to use the space and design courses from the ground up, thus introducing flow and natural obstacles. The idea being more time on your bike and less interruptions.
“We’re really trying to make this a reflection of the people riding in Pittsburgh,” said Geyer.
The place isn’t meant to be a copy of a copy. When asked what will be improved upon at The Wheel Mill, or done differently, “It’s more of how can we execute our vision without making the mistakes others have,” Geyer said.
So far the largest hurdle seems to be behind them. Zoning restrictions limited the possibilities of potential sites, but serendipitously the location is well positioned in the east-end of Pittsburgh and likely to be more accessible. Although it looks like a small army is needed to finish the building, late January 2013 has been set for opening. When it does, we’ll be there.
See more at www.thewheelmill.com,
By Matt Kaspryzk. Photos by Matt Kaspryzk and Bill Freeman.
Riding bikes with Brian Lopes in Laguna Beach for a couple days? As if that wasn’t enough of a reason to pack my bags, throw in a pair of the much-anticipated new shoes from Pearl Izumi and I’m reminded why this job can be so much fun.
Pearl Izumi’s ‘X Project’ was born out of the need for a hikable and runable mountain bike shoe befitting Trans-Alps style events where there’s time spent off your bike as well as on. For the last two years Pearl Izumi has been developing the X Project shoe with several-time World Champion Brian Lopes providing input. While in development, Lopes claimed a solid victory in the UCI World Cup’s inaugural XC Eliminator this past April using X Project prototypes.
None of us journalists that showed up were going to be winning World Cups anytime soon, but we at least got to ride some of the same trails those athletes train on. In Laguna Beach we tested both the power transfer while riding and the walkability hiking our bikes on the Aliso and Wood Canyon trails. There’s enough technical climbing and grinds up fire roads to get a sense of the stiffness and efficiency while providing plenty of opportunity to unclip and hike sections that would be a lot more fun riding the other direction.
X Project is mainly about the bottom of the shoe. The soles are Italian-made by chianti-sipping cobblers accustomed to mountaineering. I’m not certain about the chianti, it might be pinot grigio. Actually, I really don’t know what they sip. Anyway, I do know you should be thinking about Ducati and Ferrari technologies when looking at the carbon insert that extends toe to heel. That patent-pending carbon fiber plate is made of both unidirectional and woven carbon layers and set in a translucent colored sole. It’s designed to be stiff under the cleat but with enough lateral and tortional flex to make running and hiking more comfortable.
Pearl Izumi claims that there is no loss in power transfer, and the comfort off the bike is greatly increased because of the flexibility of the sole. The lugs are in molded and semi-hollow for reduced weight. The flex isn’t very drastic. Trying to compress or twist the shoes in your hand only gives a slight hint of the engineering. On the foot they are still stiff and efficient feeling, but certainly more comfortable walking than other carbon soled shoes.
The upper construction is where the differences of price and fit are. The green 1.0 level shoe has a completely bonded construction on top. It’s almost totally void of seams with lots of breathable mesh. There’s EVA foam under the heels of every model to absorb impacts, just like some running shoes.
As you drop in price the weight increases and so does the stitching. There’s less bonded construction and more stitched. The 2.0 and 3.0 versions have women specific sizing and colors.
1.0 and 2.0 versions also come with Pearl Izumi’s 1:1 Insole System with interchangeable varus wedge and arch support for a more custom fit. The new X Project shoes will be available in March along with a revamped mountain bike apparel line from Pearl Izumi.
If you need to get out of the doldrums of winter weather for some trail and beach time, I’d recommend you check out the Aliso Creek Inn. It’s right across the street from the Aliso Beach Park with superb access to the local trails, beaches, golf course and town. The inn is under new management that’s interested in making the facility more cycling friendly. Expect some new bike amenities and remodeled accommodations for 2013.
By Matt Kaspryzk
Mountain bikers came from far and wide to experience what could be the longest enduro race in the world. We introduce you to a few. You can also read our race recap here.
Chewy Aikin, Sedona, Ariz., Mechanic at Bike & Bean
Chewy is excited for some “good shreddin’” and he’s glad to be back in Moab with his trusty Titus Supermoto, “a little heavy, but super fun.” I saw Chewy at the finish after my run. He was bandaged, but smiling, and still stoked about the weekend.
Jesse Martin, Sedona, Ariz.
This was his first time riding Moab. He was expecting a great morning pre-ride and some long docents. Jesse brought his daily rider, a Yeti ASR 7.
Jermy Horgan-Kobelski, Subaru/Trek
Normally “the XC racer guy,” he was out in Moab doing some late-season eduros. Jeremy finished 5th among Pro Men on his Remedy 9.9. His bike of choice this weekend was decked out with a SRAM drivetrain and Rock Shox suspension along with some new Bontrager tires. Jeremy likes the added slackness of the 160mm fork since it’s such a rough course.
Heather Irmiger, Subaru/Trek
This World Cup XC racer is trying out the enduro scene. (She might want to stick with it, seeing that she placed 2nd in the Pro Women’s class.) Riding Trek’s full carbon Remedy 9.8, with a SRAM XO 1×10, new XO Trail brakes and a RockShox Revelation up front. Heather said she can see the benefits of a double or 1×11 if it was steeper course, but if she continues doing enduros this would be a pretty standard set-up for her.
Jason Bertolacci, Boulder, Colo., Interactive Marketing Manager for IMBA and President of the Colorado Mountain Bike Association.
At the top of Burrow Pass during a pre-ride, Jason was excited and nervous about the race. “It’s a bruiser the whole way down,” he says as we’re about to drop in. I saw Jason with a smile on his face several times throughout the weekend so it couldn’t have hurt that bad. Thanks for that post-race beer, Jason!
Brett Foncannon, Golden, Colo.
Brett was looking forward to a world-class destination trail and staying in one piece. He was nervous about the mud at the top and mechanicals because it’s such a rough course. However, the course was dry and fast on race day. With a couple of both good and bad eduros under his belt so far this year, his goal was to simply keep it together and finish.
We caught Alison Dunlap at the top of Burrow Pass. Actually, it was more like she was waiting for her group—I can’t catch her if she’s moving. She was guiding one of her Alison Dunlap Adventure camps in Moab. She also does private skills clinics in Colorado Springs.
Suzan, Seattle, Wash., Sturdy Bitch Racing sponsored by Diamondback
She’s worried about the climbing and being distracted by the beautiful fall scenery. (There was definitely a lot of pedaling.)
Angela Sucich, Seattle, Wash.
She normally races XC/Endurance on her Diamondback Axis. However, for The Whole Enchilada race she chose the 6-inch, Hammersmit equipped, Diamondback Mission. With so much varied terrain she understands the need to “choose your weapon wisely.”
Jenny Liu, Scenectady, N.Y.
Jenny’s at the race for fun. It’s her favorite ride! She did it four years ago, and she’s back to just have a good time.
Hot spots in Moab
Chili Pepper Bike Shop: Shuttle service and espresso bar.
Poison Spider Bike Shop: Shuttle service with bike wash and a shower.
The Blue Pig: The music on the website = fail. I promise the food is better than that crap.
Paradox Pizza: Best pizza I’ve had in awhile.
Moab Brewery: Not sure what it is with Moab websites and music… I like breweries so this place made the list, but don’t expect anything spectacular other than gelato.
Aarchway Inn: Outside of town, but it’s the first hotel on your ride back from Porcupine Rim. Which is a big plus after five hours in the desert. Lots of amenities and very bike friendly.
Rim Tours: Great staff and I’m sure you’re not traveling to Moab for the climbs.Tweet