We got our first ride on Magura’s new four-piston brakes in Sedona, Arizona. The design is based on motorcycle technology, with four independent pistons and brake pads.Tweet Print
A press camp like Magura’s annual retreat in Sedona, Arizona, is always a treat for us werd-slingers. But being a bit older and a bit more jaded about the latest new products, I go to hang out with old industry friends and ride bikes, while watching the young crop of new bike journalists work their magic on the trail and in the various other print magazines and websites.
I recently high-tailed it down to Sedona for a few days of sampling the latest stoppers from Magura, the four-piston MT7s.Tweet Print
I’m not much of a mountain bike historian but I have run into Don Koski many times over the years at bicycle trade shows and such. Nice guy. I knew he was around back in the day and was currently making ski bikes.
He had called me a few times recently, asking to show me something. I’m not really the product guy, but Don’s a persistent fella. So out of respect for my elders, and with the offer of lunch, I agreed.Tweet Print
Like a Phoenix, the GT Xizang rises from the ashes of the 90’s, when stars like Rishi Grewal and Juli Furtado marked the history books with their global domination of cross-country racing. Times have changed and cross-country racing isn’t the center of mountain bike culture like it used to be, but there’s still a place in many hearts for a bike like this.
GT’s product people, (some of whom were around for the last Xizang in the 1990’s) asked themselves “What would this venerable machine look like decades later?” After much consideration the Xizang has been updated with 29-inch wheels, hydroformed titanium tubing, and modern standards such as a tapered headtube.Tweet Print
By Maurice Tierney
I’ve ridden a bunch of Ventanas over the years. I enjoy them for their simplicity, durability, and ride quality. And also because they’re the real deal—these guys make bikes and deliver them one at a time, just in time. And the lack of marketing hype is quite refreshing. Ventana makes a full line of mountain bikes—hardtails to tandems—in all three wheel sizes and with varying lengths of travel. Ventana still uses the tried and true linkage-driven, single pivot suspension design. It is a design not falling by the wayside, but in a state of resurgence with the advent of 2x drivetrains. With only two front chainrings, it is much easier to optimize the pivot location to minimize the pedal-induced motion that has been the bane of suspension designers since the beginning of time.
The Ciclón is Ventana’s 26-inch trail bike. “Trail” meaning 140mm or 150mm of travel, depending on how you flip the convenient F3P travel washer—an offset washer that adjusts the position of the upper shock mount, altering the bike’s geometry and rear suspension travel.
The Ciclón also represents a small company doing their best to keep up with the latest standards put forth by the “powers that be.” Namely, bigger diameters for bottom brackets, headsets, and even axles. Ventana now uses tapered head tubes to bolster front-end stiffness and steering precision. Another addition is the incorporation of Press-Fit 30 bottom bracket shells on their frames. Both of these larger tubes provide increased welding area, so a larger diameter downtube can be used, resulting in increased in frame strength. Other new features include gorgeous asymmetric chainstays for increased strength; a new rocker link, which provides travel adjustability and weight savings; and a 142×12 rear thru-axle option.
Internal cable routing is also new for Ventana. The Ciclón has three cable housing-sized tubes welded inside the down tube for a clean look. Clean and pretty it is, but the real benefit is that this routing eliminates cable-rub.
Like many other bikes in this category, 30.9mm is now the seatpost diameter of choice (bye bye 27.2mm), allowing riders to run any dropper seatpost they want.
Parts pick was a full SRAM XO drivetrain with Avid brakes. Good stuff. I was a’scared that the 2×10 would not provide enough gearing for the steepest climbs, but was I proven wrong every time. There are fewer gears, yes, but the selections are all good, usable gears.
I hopped on the bike, rode it, and it was good. I immediately noticed how the Ciclón strikes a balance between burliness and light- weight. Not too heavy, not too light, and just enough metal in all the right places to instill confidence. Despite all the changes, it still rides like a Ventana.
Fact of the matter is there is so little flex that you wonder how you managed on that last noodlebike you rode. The Ciclón just feels solid. The stiffness of the whole package, from the front thru-axle, tapered steerer, asymmetric chainstays, and rear thru-axle made for supreme confidence when the going got rocky and technical. This could be felt the most during slow speed muscle moves, trying to “ooof” my way over a big rock or around a tight switchback.
My Ciclón came set up in the 140mm mode. The sweet Fox TALAS RLC up front providing the same. Five and five, yea, that’s a mountain bike to me. The angles, sizing, and fit meshed with my riding style. Long cockpit for sustained climbing, slack head angle for stable descending, tall headtube for fit, short stays for climbing—it’s all there. And if the given numbers don’t suit your fancy, Ventana offers three levels of customization for all your wildest dreams.
The functionality of the linkage-driven single pivot is just fine, especially in the format of the 2×10 setup. Any detected pedal bob is quickly minimized with a throw of the ProPedal switch on the Fox RP23 rear shock. I usually ran the ProPedal on full, and then tried to remember to turn it off on the downside of the hills. I sure like the feel of the bike when it’s turned off, smooth, flowy, active, and springy through the dips and pumps, mucho fun. Yes, the suspension stiffens a bit under braking, which can lead to a little rear wheel skidding—the price of simplicity.
Nits. Well, the internal cable routing sure is pretty, and it solves cable rub issues quite well, but it can be a bit difficult to set up, as the cable lengths and positions must be spot-on where the cables go under the bottom bracket. I also feel that it can increase friction in the system.
I rode the Ciclón all over Ventana’s home territory of northern California, and it did not disappoint. The Ciclón is a capable trail bike. But there are other factors to guide one’s purchase: craftsmanship you can see, paint that will blow your mind, customizability when you need it, and a friendly voice picking up the phone. These are the things that make Ventana stand out. We’ve pointed these attributes out before but they bear repeating, as these qualities are often hard to find these days.
- Wheelbase: 46.5-inches, 1,181mm
- Head Angle: 67.8 degrees
- Seat Tube Angle: 74 degrees
- Bottom Bracket height: 13.3-inches, 338mm
- Chainstay Length: 16.7-inches, 424mm
- Weight: 28.5lbs., 12.9kg
- Sizes: 15", 17", 19", 21" (tested)
- Specs based on size tested
- Price $2,145 with 135mm QR rear, $2,295 with 142×12 rear thru-axle United States
- Made in USA
By Maurice Tierney. Photos by Maurice from 2011.
There’s something for everyone at the SF Bike Expo this weekend, November 10 and 11. If you are in the Bay Area and reading this, you need to be there.
Aside from the Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times Magazine booths, where glorious free stuff will be handed out to every new and renewing subscriber, there’s something for everyone. The diversity of cycling culture is what it’s all about.
New this year is the Ballwhackers Ball Bicycle Polo tournament, of which Bicycle Times is a sponsor. If you’ve never played polo by bike it is easy to get into and a lot of fun.
For the dirt jumping crowd there’s AT’s Showdown, where you’ll be impressed by the derring-do of world class air-getters stunting for big prize money, or jumping yourself in the new amateur competion.
What else? Ya gotta wear clothes, the Pedal Savvy fashion show will help you with that.
And the Uproar Fixed Gear comp should be interesting.
Custom frame builders, The Kids Zone, lowriders, scraper bikes. It is all good! Don’t know what a scraper bike is? Get over here! A flea market swap will serve you buying and selling needs as well.
See you there!Tweet Print
By Maurice Tierney,
Lucky me. I’ve been riding the new-for-2012 GT Xizang in preparation for a titanium grouptest in an upcoming Dirt Rag. Stoked I am—I always dug the GT hardtails back in the day (mid-90’s), so it’s something to write home about when one of your old favorites makes a comeback.
The Xizang was GT’s full-race machine back then, with many podium finishes by people like Rishi Grewal and Juli Furtado marking the history books. And while XC races aren’t always won on hardtails these days, the Xizang sure pays homage to the genre.
Lets take a look. Here she is in all her unpainted glory, thus showing off the finest welds a Taiwanese factory can make.
The details are enjoyable, especially around the area where the chainstays meet the seatpost, crossing over to the top tube and forming GT’s singular “Triple Triangle”. The GT-embossed cap on the end of the top tube is the badge of honor.
Updated for the ‘teens the Xizang is, with 29-inch wheels, a tapered headtube, and hydroformed seatstays and chainstays.
The replaceable derailleur hanger is nice, and of course it’s disc-only, no V-brake tabs (When was the last time I saw these anyway?)
While sold as a frame only, my demo bike is well equipped with Shimano XT 2×10 drivetrain, racy Rock Shox Sid fork, Formula hydraulic brakes, DT Swiss wheels, and skinny 2.1 Maxxis tires. Check out the details like the brake mount here…
And Syntace was kind enough to hook me up with a VRO stem and Vector Carbon Lowrider bar to help me get the cockpit a little taller. I sure like its adjustability.
Rides have been great on this bike, I have wanted to get on a Ti hardtail for a while, and this fits the bill quite well. The racy 72-degree head angle was a concern at first, as I thought the bike was going to be twitchy, but no. I got used to it and I like it this way. “The Way” Is quick through switchbacks yet not unstable at speed.
The Xizang is even good on super-slow technical rock climbing, so I give the geometry an A+. And I have to say the ride is pretty comfy in the gluteus maximus (rear end), while still being able to get into a heap of trouble without flaking out (I’m talking about that 3 foot drop I did on the Schultz Creek trail the other day, I survived, and thanked the Xizang for pulling through).
Retail is $2,220 for the frame, and it’s available in S, M, L, and XL (tested).
Watch for our full, long-term review of the Xizang in an upcoming issue of Dirt Rag, and if you subscribe now you’ll get it delivered straight to your door.Tweet Print
By Maurice Tierney,
Unveiled in Utah for the 2013 model year, the Beargrease is Salsa’s new lightweight racing fatbike. Those of you in southern latitudes may not know this but there’s actually lunatics out there who ride and even race bicycles on snow, and they need fat, fat tires to do so. Fatbikes, with their 3.8” and larger tires are gaining popularity for their floatation abilities over sand, snow, any any other surface for that matter.
I have demo’ed (never raced) a fatbike or two here and there, thinking they were a bit cumbersome. Salsa is addressing this, as well as the needs of actual racers, with the Beargrease. Based on Salsa’s Mukluk fatbike yet five pounds lighter I am told, a ride on the Beargrease changed my mind about the viability of fatbikes in general.
The beargrease goes on its diet with fancy shaped-aluminum frame and fork. The rims are Surly’s Holy Rolling Darryl mated to new lighter tires from 45North. Braze-ons for racks and such that you find on the Mukluk are gone. Even the sweet black annodized finish is lighter.
Like the Mukluk, the Beargrease is sold as a complete bike, ready to rock. No “Fudging around” for you, consumer. Every set-up issue from crank to chainline to front derailleur positioning has been taken care of. And like the Mukluk, the Beargrease is based on 3.8” tires on 80mm rims. Everything is compatable.
My ride on the Beargrease was a blast. Weighing in at 28.5 lbs. in size medium, all visions of slowness were erased from my mind as the bike climbed as well as my six-inch travel dually mountain bike, which weighs more than this bike. When I turned back down the hill I attacked sharp rocks and railed through the loose, ball-bearing like surface of the trails here at Snowbasin, UT. It rode like a bike, nothing weird except the super-grippy connection to the earth below me.
Later that day I got on a regular bike and it felt weird and out of control. Uh-oh. Might I become one of the converted? One of the Fatheads? This could be troublesome. Beargrease complete will sell for $2,999, $999 for a frameset.
By Maurice Tierney, wheelie photo by Matt Cacho.
With all the buzz over Surly’s new platform, I was quite excited to get a chance to ride one at Snowbasin Resort near Ogden, Utah, where it was to be unveiled. I had seen the fuzzy, grainy spy photos and had some clues as to what was going on. I knew it involved yet another new tire size. What new trend were the folks in Minnesota cooking up now?
I had thought the Krampus was going to turn out to an extension of the fat bike genre that is sweeping the nation, but no. The Krampus is a mountain bike with 3-inch-wide tires, that’s all. A fun and versatile mountain bike.
I spoke with Adam Scholtes, Surly product manager, who filled me in on everything. The core value in the design process was starting with MTB standards: A 73mm bottom bracket shell, 100/135mm front and rear axle spacing, and while the headtube has a 44mm inside diameter for use with tapered forks, headsets will be available for straight 1-1/8” forks like the one that comes with the frameset.
I wasn’t sure what this bike was about until Adam pointed out that you could put whatever mountain bike parts you like (or just have sitting around in the garage) on the 4130 steel frame. You could put any 29er rim and tire combo on there; a great starting point; but the frame is really built around a brandy-new Surly rim and tire, which are designed for each other for easy, correct bead seating. Adam went on about how you must be able to put the tire on the rim by hand, while at the same time you don’t want the tire unexpectedly coming off the rim after a blowout either.
The Rim is called the Rabbit Hole. Gotta love the names, eh? It’s 50mm wide 7000 series T-6 Alu-minimum. 699g light I am told. I did note that the rim is concave so it may attract mud under certain circumstances.
Mated to Rabbit Hole is the Knard 29×3.0 tire. Looking at the tread pattern you see a good compromise of knobbiness and low rolling resistance, which is fine since this is the first and only tire of this kind. Cornering was also a thought, so there are side knobs for this. Weight should be around 820g in a 120tpi folding tire, with a less expensive steel bead available as well. How they achieved a weight that low with such a large tire has us scratching our head…
Ahh, but the ride. I got to ride the Krampus and it was pretty rad, especially after I got the pneumatic suspension dialed in. There’s a nice bit of travel to be had when the tires have the right amount of air in them. I started out hard and let a little air out at a time until I had a nice balance of traction and kush without bottoming out. This was somewhere around 15psi.
The Krampus rides big and long for sure, I called it Cadillac style. And unlike most 29ers that are aching to handle more like a little bike, the Krampus embraces it’s size. The XL I rode was real long, and the number that stuck with me was the laid-back 69.5˚ head angle, though we should mention the bike I rode was technically a prototype and numbers may change. This bike wants to go fast, and has the stability to do it. I have been way into this sort of style as long as I have been riding; it only took me a few turns to get used to it and dig it.
Traction was tops on the loose, ball-bearing-like surface of the trails at Snowbasin. I knew these big tires were on my side when I rode a "skinny" 29×2.4 later in the day, which felt sketchy. The 1×10 Shimano SLX drivetrain that the complete bike will be shipping with was surprisingly versatile. Versatile as in there was a low enough gear for me to get up the steeper hills. While 2×10 drivetrains and triples will be doable, installation of these may involve a bit of massaging. Plus, the one-by as the advantage of its simplicity, and with the guide, the chain stays on all the time.
The Krampus will ship as a frame and fork (pricing not yet set) or as a complete bike with the 1×10 drivetrain for maybe $1,950. Surly stressed that because of the special tubeset and chainstay yoke, the frame is more expensive to produce than it would be otherwise.
Tire and rim pricing has also yet to be determined. When this new platform takes off like I suspect it will, there should be more tires and other 29 Plus! ideas coming out of the Surly brain trust.
By Maurice Tierney,
Whisky Parts Co. just unveiled the first carbon fiber, disc-brake, thru-axle road and cyclocross forks here at the Saddledrive dealer event in Ogden, Utah.
Road? Cross? Thru-axle? Why yes, it is a stellar idea. Whisky’s mantra is is to make tough and durable parts, and these parts express that emotion rather well.
Being a small brand, it’s easy for Whisky to bring new ideas to the market quickly.
Thru-axles provide consistent, solid attachment of wheels to bicycles, they are a boon for safety, speed, and ride responsiveness. Cross bikes are going to disc brakes, it only makes sense to take it to the thru-axle level for consistent race wheel changes too.
The three forks use a mini Maxle, for standard 100mm road spacing. All steerers are tapered. The cross version has mondo tire clearance, and thee road versions are available in both 43mm and 49mm offsets. They weight in at 430 grams without the axle, which 70 grams or so compared to standard QR’s.