Dirt Rag Magazine

Maurice Tierney

Maurice Tierney

Title

Jack of all trades, master of none. Chief cook and bottle washer. Small Cheese.

Yeah, but what do you ACTUALLY do around here?

Kissing hands and shaking babies. Keeping it real is a full time job.

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

Why does that tree stump look like a wild boar waiting to eat me?

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

Morning only.

Complete this sentence: "My other bike is …"

pinball machine.

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

Mission burritos, Jeffersons Bourbon

Elvis or the Beatles?

The Beatles

Say something profound and meaningful in exactly seven words…

If you don't run you rust, man.

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

Email me

SF Bike Expo 2010

Don’t you know?
It’s the place to go
Where a bike show will explode
Near the San Francisco Bay if I may be so bold
Called the SF Bike Expo
In November it’s summer
It will not be a bummer
It takes place on the 6th
And will be really sick!
(That’s HELLA sick, in Bay-speak)
Cyclists of all styles
Will come for a while
Check out the fashion show
Or the cross race to go
Ride in off the street
It cannot be beat
All the bike peeps will come
You’ll surely have fun!
There will be stunting as well
And lowriders from hell
Advocacy too
How about you?
A palace of Cow
Becomes a palace of wow!
(What’s a Cow Palace anyway?)
The Dirt Rag booth
Will feed your sweet tooth
It’s not just a swap
You might blow your top
Try to remain calm
At sfbikeexpo.com


Shimano XTR Media Camp, Part One: Dyna-Sys 10-speed.

Lucky me. Yours truly recently attended a Shimano XTR press camp high in the Sierra Buttes of California. The plan? One day of riding the Downieville Classic DH course, and another “XC” day around the Lakes Basin area.  And if that’s not enough, my Santa Cruz Blur LT has been sent to Shimano in advance for installation of the newest in Shimano XTR componentry, as well as a fresh Fox fork. Can you say “Positive review?”

I will tell you how the new XTR stuff doesn’t suck at a later date, but first let’s get our minds around this Dyna-Sys program. As a guy who thought 8 speeds was one gear too many, let me tell you that a ten-speed drivetrain really does have some advantages, especially in Shimano’s Dyna-sys 3×10 layout.

Ten-speed drivetrains may be new to MTB, but they developed out of the needs of road racers; guys who need closely-spaced gearing to keep that one mad cadence going the entire race. And anyone who has done any touring has probably wished for another gear in between that one that’s too hard and the one that’s too easy.

A narrower chain makes it possible to put ten freewheel cogs (11-36) in the same space as nine. It’s a directional chain with four different plate profiles; the outside links are optimized for front shifting while the inside links are designed moving smoothly across the rear. Shimano claims this narrower chain is just as strong as a 9 speed chain, and better at mud shedding. Time will tell on that promise. A long-term review is certainly in order.

The 24-32-42 range in front combined with the bigger stack in back has several advantages, which were discovered during a highly technical ride through the Lakes Basin area of Plumas National Forest. 24-32-42. Closely spaced for quicker shifts. The bigger chainrings in front combined with bigger gears in back keep me in the big or middle ring longer. This just feels right, and keeps the momentum up to par with the gnarly course. At Lakes Basin, sudden changes in terrain steepness are handled without the drama of bailing to granny gear, so efficiency, momentum and speed are smoothly maintained. And when you do bail to granny, the 24 teeth provide a bigger, more efficient gear that doesn’t torque the drivetrain all to heck like a smaller ring can do.

Another advantage of the closely-spaced front chainrings is that they work with the various popular suspension designs better. Many suspension designs are optimized for middle-ring performance, with compromises made for the small and large rings. With less difference between the cog sizes, there’s less change in the direction of chain pull in relation to the pivots, so there is less change in the suspension action in different chainrings. Installed on my Santa Cruz Blur LT, I found the suspension action more consistent in all three chainrings. This did pan out on the trail.

The above verbiage falls under what Shimano calls “Dynamic Power Transfer” Catchy, huh? The other side of the corporate mumbo-jumbo is “System Optimized Stability” My interpretation is that Shimano has been working on advancing their concept of “Light Action” shifting. They did this by changing the geometry of the Shadow rear derailleur to arrive at a more linear shift force requirement through the gears. So that last push into the larger chainrings requires about the same force as the shifts on the smaller cogs.

All of this work is quantifiable on the trail. XTR is good stuff, as anyone who can afford it will tell you. Fortunately, the availability of the new technology spans a wide section of the Shimano line, namely the XT and SLX groups. But in some sections, it’s still about the rider, as Matt from Shimano proves…


Stuff I like: Ergon Grips

Sometimes you just wanna tell people about something good without getting into a full review-test-deadline-drama scenario. I have been running Ergons GP1 grips on one of my mountain bikes, on a bike here and there, but I have not gone to the trouble of putting them on all my bikes for whatever reason. But when I reunited with my Karate Monkey after leaving it in the East Bay area, it had some new Ergons on it. I was immediately pleased and thankful for this. Not only do my hands feel comfy upon first grasp, but they feel great all day.

These Ergon GX1 Leichtbau grips are designed for XC racing. They are some of the lightest grips Ergon has to offer, as well as having a more compact body, a smaller wing, and a narrower diameter. I like ‘em cuz my hands are prone to numbness and/or pain when riding long distances.


800 Racers Can’t be Wrong. Downieville Classic Does Not Suck.

Let’s just say this writer has a bit of an attitude problem when it comes to racing. Like why pay to ride your bike with your friends? I have not paid to ride with my friends in many years, and I didn’t want to start now. But I am in Downieville at the Downieville Classic, so maybe I aught to…

Poach the course? Punk.

Yea, that’s what happened. Unwilling to fork over the cash, I got through the day with 2 or 3 juicy rationalizations. One, that I was “Press”, and did not need to throw down since I was going to be writing something and needed to “Observe” the goings-on. Two, that I was a “Volunteer” and that I would hand out water and otherwise help others on the course (Which I did). And three, that I wouldn’t be in anybody’s way and was just a guy out for a ride that day. Yea, right.

Despite all this I was left with bad feelings toward myself, especially after riding the course, seeing how incredibly awesome it is, and learning about why these trails are here. I spoke apologetically with Greg Williams. He is not only the race director, but the director of the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship group. That’s the group that builds all the trails around here. (Here being the Tahoe National Forest) Around $30,000 of this weekend’s race fees were to be given to SBTS, to support the building and maintenance of this mountain bike mecca. Get this: SBTS has a paid trail building staff to the tune of $50,000 in payroll PER MONTH, thanks to some aggressive grant-writing and some “Recovery Act” funding. That is large cash, anywhere, but here it’s a boon to a county struck hard by recession to the point of 20% unemployment. More and more trails are on the docket, including a hut to hut system destined to bring mountain bike tourism to the area.

After hearing all that I felt worse. But I am glad to get that off my chest here. Aaaand, my disillusion with racing in general is greatly decreased by the whole event. Much of my disillusionment came from watching high level mountain bike racing turn into a physical endurance event, rather than the test of bike handling skill it should be. This course proved me wrong. It is gnarly. Point-to-point, starting in Sierra City with a 3000 foot climb followed by a 5000 foot descent into Downieville. Never a dull moment, always a surprise around every corner. Somehow Carl Decker (Giant Bikes) was able to run this 27 mile course in 1:50. I am flabbergasted at this. I don’t know how anyone could go that far that fast. Guess I am new to this scene.

But the even cooler thing about this event is the all-mountain category…That’s the whole XC course on Saturday followed by the downhill course on Sunday. There’s 200 spaces in this category, and it sells out quick. Here’s Adam Craig after his run. This is the only race pic I took, he he.

The best combined time won the event. Here’s a snapshot of the top ten men…

And the Pro Women…

I was too busy having fun to get you much more in terms of race coverage. Downieville Classic is also a sweet festival, with the River Jump World Championships going on, as well as the WTB Pixie Cross World Championships, and the Swobo DERBY! Here are some of my better river jump pix…

Then Seth from Camelbak helped yours truly prepare for Saturday night’s Derby with his 845 ounce Camelbak o’ margaritas. Developed for military, the Squadbak is used for refilling smaller Camelbaks in the field.

Ahhh yea, Derby. That’s Eric Highlander on the left. He ran the All-mountain class on a Santa Cruz Tallboy BTW …

And WTB Pixie cross was a big hit too…

On Sunday Morning Chris King made us some pancakes…

With all the fixins…

And we got to check out Santa Cruz’s new V-10 Carbon prototype…

And a new Ritchey 29 inch carbon fork…

While enjoying some New Belgium beers to raise even more money for Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship!

There you have it, one fine weekend in the Sierras. Big thanks go to Yuba Expeditions for putting this on and making Downieville a destination; Fox Racing Shox for the crash pad; New Belgium for the beer and sunhats; Camelbak for the Margs; Swobo for bringin the Derby; Santa Cruz for letting me ride the Tallboy; Ellsworth for helping me Guerilla market a few magazines; Chris for the pancakes; and all our Nor Cal pals! Great company.

PS: First comment with the correct movie quote wins a Dirt Rag prize!


Dirt Rag / Bicycle Times World Tour, Urban Assault, Austin, TX

Words: Courtney Bell, Pix: Maurice

On June 23, the only thing separating us from the Urban Assault Ride in Austin, TX was 1,400 miles of blazing asphalt.  A few days, and countless pit stops later, we had reached our long-awaited destination…only to screech to halt in Friday rush hour traffic.  The skyscrapers of downtown Austin seemed close enough to reach out and touch, yet our trusty steed (a ’94 Toyota Camry, packed to the gills) was forced to crawl at inchworm speeds. Fortunately the spirit of Stevie Ray Vaughn was with us.

By the time we reached our hotel, we were itching to trade our four wheels for two.  Steering clear of the traffic-laden main roads, we set out to explore the funky and colorful neighborhoods that have helped put Austin on the map as a Mecca for all things kitsch.  What we found were streets bursting with colorful bungalows, eye candy in the form of tacky lawn ornaments, every kind of food cart imaginable, and Mexican influence galore…which led us to a find some amazing grub at local hot spot Curra’s Grill. After devouring the last morsel of Carnitas marinated in Coca-cola, orange juice and milk (sounds strange, but sooo good!), I sat back, closed my eyes and laughed at the idea of ever eating another cheese slathered platter of soggy enchiladas and beans-from-the-can “Mexican” food again.  Bellys happy, now the only thing separating us from the crown jewel of our adventure was a solid night’s sleep.

Sponsored by the New Belgium Brewing Company, the Urban Assault Ride’s motto is “beer, bikes and big wheels,” all of which were aplenty at this celebration of all things bike.  Around 7:30 a.m., cyclists began trickling in.  A half hour later, a mob of nearly 2,000 had gathered- young and old, some in costumes, others in racing kit, seasoned veterans and newbies alike.  The whole scene was, in effect, an example of the power the bicycle has to bring people together, make people smile and spread good vibes in general.

Although technically a race, for many this ride was more about the fun factor: exploring Austin by bike while taking part in silly obstacle courses.  For example, one of the more popular obstacles required team members to ride a kids’ big wheel around a race course.  The best part:  these big wheels were designed to make huge skidding stops and turns.

Another obstacle that was almost as fun for participants as it was for spectators was “skateboard bowling.”  You guessed it; one person lays flat on the skateboard while the other pushes them, feet first, into plastic bowling pins.  I must say, we were pretty talented at this one.  We both got strikes on the first try!

Piggyback polo.

And, of course, because Texas summers are stinkin’ hot, more than one obstacle involved water.  Giant floating rubber duckies awaited participants at a stop along Lady Bird Lake.  The object was for one team member to jump on the ducky’s back while the other pulled the ducky from point A to point B on a leash.  For many, this was just as much about cooling off as it was about completing the obstacle.

Around noon, as temps shifted from hot to sweltering, riders made their way to the finish line.  What awaited them was the thumping bass and crooning of a local alt-country band (a nod to Austin’s musical roots), burrito carts, sponsor tents (Keen, Globe Bicycles, REI, Clif, Timbuk2, among others), a free massage tent, and, of course, cold New Belgium beer on tap. Check out the handlebar tap handle here:

As we made our way through the crowd, handing out free issues of Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times along the way, we were greeted with many tired but content faces. A few savvy participants were even treated to free Panaracer tires when they wisely subscribed to our magazines. Thanks for the help, Panaracer!


The festivities concluded with one final wacky competition on the main stage, which included the classic “feet strapped to tin cans” stilt walk, a mini bike limbo and a wheel hoola-hoop contest.  Good times were definitely had by all!  The next stops include:

Ft. Collins- 7/18
Denver – 7/25
Minneapolis- 8/8
St. Louis- 8/15
Des Moines- 8/22
Chicago- 9/12
Madison- 9/26

More about our Austin adventures:

Thanks to our friend Hill Abel, a long time Austin native and owner of Bicycle Sport Shop, for suggesting that we check out Barton Springs and the nearby Greenbelt trail system.

The Greenbelt trail system has some rocky, highly technical trails in close proximity to the entrance to Barton Springs (more about that in paragraph 2). As a mountain bike novice, I was challenged to my very core here.  As I stumbled and cursed down the trail, my usual motto of “speed is your friend” became more important than ever.  As we looped back to the trailhead, I felt a little surprised (maybe disappointed too) that I’d finished the ride without shedding a single drop of blood.  Even a seasoned expert like Moe found the trail righteously challenging in parts.  Definitely recommended for those who want to cut their teeth on some rocky technical trail.

Barton Springs is a monstrous (3 acres to be exact) spring fed public swimming pool with an average year round temperature of 68 degrees.  Not surprisingly, we found rows of bikes locked up outside the gates of this “crown jewel” of Austin.  According to one cyclist we met, it’s not unusual to see upwards of 500 bikes locked up outside the gates following one of the popular Thursday night rides.  And it’s no wonder; dipping into the cool spring waters makes for a perfect ending to a day of riding under the hot Texas sun.

By the way, Austin is bike-friendly…


Bicycle Times does England: Part One: Brooks Saddle Factory

When this press trip came up at the office I shoved all the other staffers aside and politely volunteered myself for duty. I had never been to England, so to get a taste of British culture through a Brooks Saddle factory tour and picnic ride was going to require expertise only and old codger like myself could handle.

The plan? Fly to Birmingham, have dinner, Brooks factory tour in the morning, ride 30k to picnic. Pashley and Moulton tours the next day. I really get a great vibe when I see a actual factory making stuff. It leaves me poptimistic and hopeful that all is not lost to the almighty Pound, Dollar, or Euro. It takes a company with a conscience to stay true to the bigger purpose of a business operation. The fact that they are making one of my favorite things is icing on the cake..

Yes, leather and metal come in one end, saddles come out the other. Ever since 1866 in fact, surviving through thick and thin. The factory in Smethwick in the West Midlands is a wonder of machinery and human craftsmanship to be awed. The best way to proceed with this blog might be through pictures, especially since I cannot hear our tourguide over the metal machine music of the factory.  I could have spent all day here but we had a ride on the schedule, so I took as many photos as possible.

Blank saddles are softened with water before shaping

So gotta go, time to suit up and RIDE! Which is going to be awesome, because it is pouring cats and dogs and the fine folks from Brooks marketing were hoping for this. One of brook’s new products is a fancy rain cape and we get to test them out! Yay! Bigger problem is that there are 50 cats to herd here. It’s going to be slow going down the canal.

After the picnic was time for the press conference. Besides the Oxford rain cape, there are some other things to tell you about. Like Brook’s line of bags and such, real old-school solid construction. Take this BMW motorcycle, I mean Barbican messy bag for example. Sure looks good.

Then there’s the Hampstead bag, which can cleverly be mounted to your back or rack. At $399, it is expensive and nice.

But back to saddles. The new Select line of saddles was introduced today. Naturally-colored leather that is guaranteed for five years instead of the usual two.

And lastly, we got a sneak peek at a cool saddle that partners with the Vans brand in style.

Well folks, that’s about all. All I got left, is one lonely minute. if you’d like more, head over to http://www.brookssaddles.com/ for more info. And stay tuned for the next installment in my tour of England.


IMBA Summit Comes to Augusta

Augusta Georgia was the hostess with the mostest  and had a lot to show during the biennial (Every two years) IMBA Summit last weekend. The southeast is a stronghold for IMBA due to their merger with the Southern Off Road Bicycle Association (SORBA) And Augusta is a fine venue to show this off.

The moment in time I can’t get out of my mind was walking down Broad Street Friday night, while the monthly First Night was going on. Musicians of all types, Gospel singers, breakdancers, fire breathers, Jamaican chicken Jerkers and Classic car nuts were all there to entertain  the racially mixed crowd that roamed the streets, all centered around the life size (5’6”) bronze statue of James Brown that adorned the median of the street.

And while mountain bikers are a distinctly white bunch of people, some of us are working on that. Trips For Kids held a conference on Wednesday that was attended by 30 people representing 12 TFK chapters. As you hopefully already know, part of TFK’s mission is to bring ethnic and economic diversity to the sport of mountain biking by exposing less fortunate kids to the joys of biking. They are doing a swell job, and many other breakout sessions during the summit had to do with getting the kids on bikes. This to me is a key component of the bicycle mission we are on.

Diversity was also a key to the keynote address on Friday. People for Bikes aims to unite one MILLION bicyclists in a unified campaign to make us one voice that he government will hear, thus granting the return of some our tax dollars in the form of bicycle infrastructure destined to help our country more than some useless imperialistic endeavor halfway around the globe. Whether you commute, tour, race, road ride, mountain bike, BMX, or anything, www.peopleforbikes.org is for you.

IMBA is at a crossroads of diverse ideas. Fight for access like the punks that we are, become a mainstream conservation group that protects wilderness, or a powerhouse that can walk over everyone like the National Rifle Association. On the board for discussion at the IMBA congress on Friday was the chapter program. IMBA wants all the mountain bike advocacy clubs to become IMBA chapters (Like SORBA), sharing membership and membership dollars. With 32,000 members out of ten million mountain bikers, we have a long way to go to reach the representation in Washington we need to maintain access to the land (Such as wilderness). But many clubs stand strong by themselves, and don’t need IMBA’s help to get what they want locally. Time will tell. See what IMBA Executive Director Mike Van Able has to say here.

Another highlight for me was the session on “Connecting with the bike media” with yours truly and other journos discussing best practices for clubs to get the word out to the media about what they’re doing. I used this opportunity to tout Dirt Rag’s legacy of advocacy of which I am so proud. The room did fill up BTW. Here’s the view from the hot seat…

There were many more diverse program, too many to choose from in fact. IMBA is doing a great job of putting trail on the ground in an expedient fashion. Clubs are wising up, building urban bike parks, pump tracks and infrastructure that really fit in with the vision of a bike-friendly world. Friday evening saw the grand opening of one such pump track, a short ride across the river from the summit. Georgia red clay is a beautiful thing.

And to wrap it up Saturday, we all went out to the Forks Area Trail System, (FATS) for an epic ride. Six loops totaling 25 miles of fun, swoopy, pumpy, jumpy track built for mountain biking. What a gas! A testament to what $200,000 in grant money plus 1500 volunteer hours will get you! Here’s to IMBA an SORBA, our hosts!

Our Access guru Philip Keyes liked FATS…

And the compulsory group photo courtesy of Rachael Lopes IMBA/Hilride…


World Tour Report: Seattle Bike Show

Spinning in Seattle: I Could Live Here

We launched Bicycle Times a year ago at the Seattle Bicycle Show, amid some really crappy Seattle weather. Standing on a wet floor in a leaky circus tent somewhere in Magnuson Park, we greeted the hordes of dedicated cyclists pouring in with fresh copies of our very first issue. Eyeing the preponderance of yellow-jacket-wearing, pannier-hauling, mirror-sporting cyclists, we new we were in the right place to reach the legions of real-world bike life. And everyone else was there too!

That was then, this is now.

This year we’re in a seemingly-new cruise terminal on Pier 91. There’s carpet on the floor, luxurious lighting, and a fantastic view of the Olympic range right outside the large windows. Things are smooth, as Robert and the Two Fish family have driven the booth up from SFO, I’ve flown in after the Bike Summit in DC, and we’ve just ridden our bikes from the hotel, over a giant hill with a mondo view of the Seattle skyline and 14,411 foot Mount Rainier. Life is good.


But let’s get to work. We’re here to promote our magazines. Let’s grab a stack and shove them into people’s faces. Make sure they have seen them and have had a chance to like them (or not). “Dirt or off dirt?” That is the question as we offer each attendee their choice of Bicycle Times or Dirt Rag. We’re happy to meet all kinds of cyclists. Some have known Dirt Rag for years and others are just getting their indoctrination papers for the first time. It’s all good.

And when we lure them into the booth for the subscription offer, it gets better. We’ve got Melissa Bearns from Klean Kanteen in our corner today, and she’s brought along the spinny-wheel.

Melissa is a pro. A sales pro. She walks into the booth, says hi, grabs a stack of magazines, and she’s off to the races, hawking “Subscribe and spin! Yea, come on in!” Spin the wheel and you could win one of these fine prizes from Klean Kanteen, Dirt Rag, or Bicycle Times!


Anyway, we converted nearly fifty regular people into enlightened ones (subscribers) in those two days, and got to look around the show a bit as well.

Got to meet up with Erik “Sure King” Zo, a man with a brain bursting at the seams with bike knowledge.


Always a pleasure. Zo was part of the classic lightweight bike display at the Seattle show, a huge collection of old bikes, and featuring a bunch of Jack Taylors, and a visit from Ken Taylor, a man with a few more years of bike knowledge. Man I need to find some photos of this stuff. All I got was this head tube from a 1939 Caminargent…


Then there’s the  World Champion Artistic Cyclists from Germany! Corrina Hein, Stefan Musu and Lukas Matla were another amazing attraction. Awe-inspiring! There are some videos here… http://kunstrad.fernradweh.de/media/videos/
And I took a few stills myself…


All told, 9300 visitors came to this show. In this new venue things are only going to get better. We’ll be back!


Frostbike: It’s always sunny in Minneapolis

Minneapolis is always a good place to be. I’d say MPLS or minneapplepuss or whatever you wanna call it is the city with the strongest bike culture in these United States. Geno at One On One Bicycle Studio , Hurl at Car R Coffins Coffee Bar and Cykel Garage and so on, well ya can’t go wrong, even in the middle of a close-to-arctic winter. These guys make the rest of us look like pansies. I’m talking the whole MPLS community mind you. While MPLS has a luxurious system of bike paths as well as singletrack, just take a look at what we’re dealing with here on the ride home from a party at Angry Catfish, the latest in the Bikes and Coffee bizness. Solid, glaring, black ice…

Somehow I managed to not fall down on that ride home. This gave me a feeling of great self-satisfaction I’ll tell ya. Man’s got skills. But this piece is supposed to be about Frostbike, an annual mini-Interbike held at Quality Bicycle Products in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington. “Q” distributes bicycle parts to bicycle shops who then distribute the parts to you. They have grown from a few page catalog (1981) to one that is five inches thick and encomapasses two volumes. Here’s a display of the history of “Q” catalogs…

Many of QBP’s suppliers were in attendance. Salsa (A brand owned by QBP) showed off their line of Titanium hardtails, available in 2-six, 2-nine and cross. Sweet graphics lazer-etched into the downtube. Made at the Lynskey factory and retailing for $1800…

Salsa also showed a sweet rigid fork with a Maxle thru-axle. Here Ed from SRAM shows the fork and it’s required damping cartridge….

Speaking of Sram, they have a sweet new road kit for the budget minded, Apex…

I took a few photos mind you, not too many, so I’m just showing you a few things that I thought or someone told me were interesting. Like this Swingline Office Hauler garment pannier from Pacific Outdoor. You can put a fine suit in there and arrive at the office looking like a pro, as long as you have somewhere to change…

Lazer has a new helmet with an integral water feed device. Designed to cool your jets without getting water in your eyes.

The Hive has these sweet looking cranks that remind me of the old Grove Innovations design back in the day…

Ever look inside a Rohloff hub? Sweeeeeet….

And Andrea from Brooks showed off their sweet Oxford Rain Cape. While completely waterproof, it rolls up to take a very small space under your saddle. $300 retail…

The Surly booth is still the place to be. Although the prohibition on alcohol made happy hour patrons unhappy…

So those are a few things I saw at Frostbike. Here’s a shot of the QBP building. While miles from the city it is about as bike friendly as it can be…

Much like Minneapolis. The Midtown Greenway I rode home that one night has a very expensive bicycle and pedestrian bridge. Sweet Infrastructure stuff like this makes all the difference…

Bib and I wish you good day!


Procrastination Central: First Ride on Santa Cruz Tallboy

Weekly meeting after weekly meeting, I’ve been promising to get this done, but this morning our esteemed web editor said that he’s “counting on me” to write a blog and submit it today. The blog post based on my experience with the “new” Santa Cruz Tallboy. What to do? I have a few words written down, but not much, and the deadline for the full print article is right around the corner as well. Doh!

Let’s keep it short and sweet. The kids over at Santa Cruz have been delving into the “latest and greatest” of materials, carbon fiber. I’ll get into it more in the upcoming print article, but Santa Cruz tells me that this 29 inch frame is 2 pounds lighter than if it were made of aluminum. So what do I say? You’d be stupid not to! No need to discuss the pluses and minuses right now, this is my first 29er test ride under 30 lbs.

Let me give you an idea of just how much I’ve been procrastinating on this. I picked up the bike after Interbike’s On-Dirt Demo back in September, rode her in Flagstaff on the way home, and this post has been due ever since. This amounts to my incredible squandering of the immediacy of the internet, and for this I am sorry.

The ride however, was not sorry. In Flag, riding up mount Elden was certainly the proof to this low-cal pudding, as I was able to keep up despite the past week’s long workdays and longer nights.

After the hill comes Lower Moto, a technical trail if there ever was one. Rocks, baby, rocks. Big wheels sticking to rocks for awesome traction, yet the lightness and stiffness abounding as I carve the tiny spaces between the derailleur infringing rocks on the sides of the narrow trail.

Yea, I like this bike, it’s no wonder it’s the receiver of much hype. Let’s finish with this Justin Steiner shot of me stunting…

Mine is flat black, the best color, and has a XPX 29 kit. That’s mostly Shimano XT, a Fox F29 RLC100 and a RP23 shock. MSRP is $4874 this way, but a complete is available for as little as $3599. Frame price is $2350 before shock upgrade. Company website: www.santacruzmtb.com.


Old News: Cannondale Simon Released to Press at Interbike

Been to a few press presentations, some of which have been pretty hilarious in their use of props to amuse the audience. Like when the old GT used dry ice to introduce the I-Drive suspension design in Brian Head, Utah back in 1990-something. The bike was fine but what I remember most was trying to keep up with Hans Rey on the fine Brian Head trails and winding up at the local clinic for several stitches in the old knee. This latest stunt from Cannondale was reminicent. One early Las Vegas morning during Interbike, a group of journos was loaded into the back of a Mercedes Unimog and taken on a blindfolded trip to C-dales secret compound deep in the desert. Well actually, they closed the door to the Unimog, leaving us in total darkness as we four-wheeled to a local self-storage unit. Out of the darkness we hear a garage door opening, we back up, the door closes, and we are suddenly blinded by bright lights and surrounded by men in hazmat suits.

p1020473.jpg

Here’s some happy campers in the back of the Unimog. One guy was using his phone togather gps data.

p1020478.jpg

Then we were offered a light breakfast as we watched the indoctrination video.What Cannondale has been working on for the last five years is supposed to change the way we ride mountain bikes. And here I had thought it was all about spinning pedals in circles to move the bike forward. Ok I’m a smartass. My mind races back to the “Smart Shock” that pro Flex came out with a long time ago. We always said, “Just gimme the dumb shock, willya?” So here we are again. But seriously, folks…

p1020484.jpg

This new thing is called Simon, and what it is is an elaborate damper and computer for your suspension, designed to achieve whatever suspension response you can imagine. This is interesting stuff. You got yer accelerometer on the hub that’s measuring bump forces. And an optical position sensor in the fork leg measuring the shock position. These two devices are hooked up to a computer CPU inside the steerer tube that collects all the info on shock position and bump impact, and thus controls a micro-motorized shock damper. There are 10,000 terrain-response maps built into the computer, plus a high level of self programming for you to set things up to your own liking. Here’s what the CPU and damper motor assembly looks like on a tv screen…

p1020488.jpg

We all then went out into the daylight to ride the Simon-equipped bikes around the parking lot…

p1020493.jpg

So here’s the first screen you would see as you begin to program Simon. Using the 5-position joystick, you program your rider weight in, and Simon tells you how much to pressurize the shock.

p1020502.jpg

Then you pick what type of riding you’ll be doing, from five options: XC, All Mountain, Downhill,Travel Management and lockout.

p1020503.jpg

Here’s a picture of what one control screen looks like. In the downhill mode you’re able to control high and low-speed compression damping, rebound damping and bottom-out.

picture-4.png

So there’s lots of input the rider can put into the system, but the heart of it all is this fluid control system, rather than attempt to explain it,I’ve simply cut and pasted from Cannondale’s press materials….

picture-5.png

And another graphic showing the whole system…

picture-6.png

So what’s it good for? Another smartass shock? All cynicism aside, I think it would be pretty nice to really get control of my suspension setup while riding. I’m always on that quest for the one mountain bike that can do anything, and Simon just might do the trick. I’m imagining riding a completely locked-out bike to the trailhead, doing some cross country riding and maybe even long-travel stuff as well. Cannondale’s Simon could potentially do it all. When might you be able to purchase Simon? Time will tell. What we saw was a high level prototype, it may be some time before Simon hits the market. I think it’s easy to assume that the plan would have to include control of the rear shock as well as the front, this was nowhere in sight at this press trip.


Press Camp Sun Valley: Part Three

Another day, another bunch of appointments followed by riding. Some journalists have found time to write, blog and Twitter from the site; but as you can see, I’m like three weeks behind due to my other duties.

First I’m off to BMC, or Bob’s Mountain Company. American Bob Bigelow started BMC in Switzerland in 1995 with an MTB model, but the company was sold to Andy Rihs in 2001 and is now better known for their road bikes. Style/Passion/Precision is the company mantra, and I could see all this evident in the bikes that were shown. The new-for-2009 trailfox 01 (Small”t”) shown here looks pretty sweet, with 140mm of travel, and an APS suspension design that I’m told has characteristics much like  a DW Link, but with it’s own patent. Frame and shock $2249, complete with XT/DT/FoxQR for $4499

p1010839.jpg

Over at Pedro’s they have some new stuff. Like the Evolver chain tool. It’s Speed Dial spins to handle any 1/8” and 3/32” single and multi-gear chain, including Campy 11 speed. And the Retracting Pin Guide (RPG) prevents misalignment of the pin, a bane for mechanics. Available in shops as of spring 2010 for $99. Check out the real item and the prototypes in this photo…

p1010833.jpg

And I had to shoot the new Master Tool Kit 3.0. This $939 mechanics tool kit has a new watertigtht resin case that carries a lifetime warranty. 65 pieces available next spring.

p1010830.jpg

Over at Lazer they have a new MTB helmet, the Nirvana. It features big vents, a flat spot on top to mount a light, and Lazer’s Rollsys fitting system, whereby fit is controlled by a knob on top. I’ve used Rollsys, and it offers the most positive head-gripping adjustment I’ve tried. The helmet never bobbles around on your head.

dsc_0074.jpg

DT Swiss showed me their new M1600 wheelset. At $7-800 it’s a good way to get DT’s venerable star ratchet pawl system at an affordable price. Here Gary Boulanger of Bike Radar checks out a wheel.

p1010844.jpg

I also got a look at DT’s 36 tooth star ratchet upgrade, for when 18 points of contact just isn’t enough.

p1010849.jpg

More riding that afternoon, but first, pick up some schwag Pivloc sunglasses from Smith.

dsc_0079.jpg

Then Gelande Quaffing, again courtesy of Smith Optics. But that’s another story….

p1010888.jpg


Press Camp: Sun Valley Part Two

Seven half-hour appointments, each in a different condo room of the Sun Valley Resort.We’ve never been interested in regurgitating the company line when it comes to press camps. I mean, sometime there’s something interesting to report, and sometimes not.As I headed to the first of seven morning appointments on Wednesday, I wondered what I might learn in each of the half hour sessions. Would the company have something new and exciting to show me, or would it be a drag? I went in with an open mind, hoping to take something salient from each meeting.My 8:30 was with the Delta 7 people; they make those bikes with the carbon fiber tubes that look like spider webs. IsoTruss technology it’s called. A single hand-laid strand of carbon creates one tube out of many three dimensional triangles. I’m told that this is a stronger and redundant structure that won’t fail catastrophically. If you need a bike that hardly anyone else in the world has, the few hundred a year that they are making can be had starting at $7500 complete. Interesting thing that I took away from the meeting was the many other applications this technology can be applied to, like ultra light utility poles and towers.
An IsoTruus tube
Nine was time for Clif Bar’s presentation, where we learned three things. One that the Builders protein bar comes in a new flavor, Lemon, and it tastes yummy. Two that the Shot Bloks energy chews have a new, skinny package that allows you to squeeze ‘em out one at a time. And lastly, that Clif has entered the liquid refreshment, excuse me, Hydration market with its Quench sport drink, which “Contains the optimal balance of electrolytes and low carbs for maximum hydration”. The bottle is made from recycled PET plastic, and the label is recyclable as well.
Clif Goodies
Blue Competition Cycles (9:30am) is a five-year-old, Atlanta-based company, which started based on a road team’s need for bikes to race on. I learned a little about time trial bikes (As a mountain biker, I start at zero) and the passion to start a bike company from scratch. Here’s something new, purchase of Blue’s Triad comes with an hour in the A2 wind tunnel in Charlotte, NC. Veddy interestink. But Blue makes a mountain bike as well. I’m told Seth Wheeling was Xterra champion riding a Blue Ryno full-suss racer.
p1010794.jpg
Next I had two Gore appointments. Gore has been pushing all things polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) since 1958, and has grown to an 8400-associate company with manufacturing around the world. This, as well as the fact that those associates have ownership in the company impressed me.Impressive to all cyclists was 1985 introduction of Gore-Tex and Gore Bike Wear. Yes, waterproof, breathable fabrics. Gore Bike Wear has been the number one brand in Europe for some time, so in 2005, the brand was brought to the United States.New from Gore is their Fusion Jacket and Fusion SO pants, which feature Gore’s “Comfort Mapping Technology”, a patchwork of technical fabrics that serve a variety of functions depending on placement within the garment, whether it’s for venting, comfort, warmth or flexibility. Look for Fusion this fall.On the cable side, Gore is back. These slippery wonders were available from 1993 to 2003, went on hiatus, and became available again in 2007 mainly due to demand that never went away. The line has been expanded and the coating is now much more thin and durable, I’m told. But I’ll tell you, I rode an Ultegra road bike equipped with Gore cables and it shifted better than another Dura Ace bike with other cables. Good stuff. Here’sa company-supplied shot of the pants!
twfusi9900.jpg
Now for a short half-hour at Cycling Sport Group. That’s Cannondale, GT, Mongoose, Schwinn and Sugoi. There was no way to take this all in, but there were a couple of standouts. One was the Cannondale Hooligan, a non-folding folding bike for getting around town while taking a small space in the cubicle or BART.Then there’s Mongooses all around bike, the Sobrosa, available as an 8 speed internal or single speed, it also offers flip-away pedals and a handlebar that can easily be turned 90Ëš for easy access to smaller urban spaces. here’s the Hooligan, presented by the official presenter.
p1010821.jpg
Lastly, before lunch and a ride, there’s Saris, another notably independent American manufacturing company, bless America. They make racks, and the rack they were showing today was the T-Bones, a rack designed to hang your bike in the living room as well as the back of your car. The whole thing weighs ten lbs, and folds into a handy bag for moving from auto to abode.
p1010817.jpg
Now to ride. Back at River Run chair, I grab a GT  Force mountain bike for my first run. I’ve ridden there before, the Force offers a swell mix of long travel gas while still remaining a capable climber. Fortunately we were able to find a little uphill to test this funktion, it felt good to stretch the legs.
p1010809.jpg
My second run would be on the Cannondale RZ120, which proved to be a far better climber, while desending just as quickly as the longer-travel GT. Here’s a picture of Singletrack Chipps riding one. Know the dude for years and yet this was perhaps the first time we had ridden together.
p1010802.jpg
Yea, good times were had. Here’s “Chopper” before wiping out.
p1010870.jpg

Press Camp – A week in Sun Valley Part One: Scott Bikes

p1010719.jpgPress camps have always been great places to get to know people in the bike industry, learn about their products, and decipher their company vision. The fact that they usually take place in exotic locales is not lost on the media either. But camp scheduling has been becoming time-problematic for our small staff lately, and with many bike companies scheduling their camps at the same time (In June), it’s difficult.But Lance Camisasca, the former director of the Interbike trade show, had an idea. A multi-company “Press Camp” thing, providing face time and new product presentations for 19 bicycle brands and 20 journalists for two solid days in Sun Valley, Idaho.Press camp was scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, so the folks at Scott Bikes wisely invited a bunch of us to arrive early for a couple of Scott-exclusive days. Let’s cover that first.The flight out Sunday I could forget, but waking up Monday morning in the fabled Sun Valley Lodge is a dream.  This is America’s first destination ski resort after all; the halls are lined with a bevy of old black and white photos of the glitterati since 1936.But off to work at the Scott Bikes offices. After a thankfully short presentation of the salient points of Scott’s latest offerings, we hopped on Genius 20 mountain bikes and headed for the nearby River Run chairlift. What was the salient point? Oh yea, improvements to the genius platform for 2010. I had one complaint for the Genius 20 in my recent review (DR #143), the lack of a remote lockout for the Fox Talus fork. Scott’s new Twinloc remote switch allows you to ride in your choice of three modes, fully locked front and rear, fork active with 95mm rear, and the full 150mm of travel front and rear.p1010811.jpgSo up the chair we go for a freeride, a downhill run on some fine singletrack, the Genius holding it’s own as we bomb down. A nice run, but waiting at the bottom is a Western Spirit Touring van piled with fancy carbon road bikes for the second portion of the day. While some riders groused that they were unable to change from their baggies into more appropriate squidly kit, off we went.Despite my distaste for the whole preoccupation with lightweight bits and fancy kit, I currently find myself vaguely interested in these speedy plastic wonder machines. The Scott CR-1 road bike we rode was just that, yet was not too painful to ride due to the shock absorbing seatstays, which Scott refers to as SDS, or Shock “Dampening” System. Also helping me to keep my back from spasming is the more comfy, non-race geometry of the CR-1 (I did flip the stem to get the bars as high as possible).This swell time we’re having riding bikes in Sun Valley could only be accentuated by one thing, camping. We ride the CR-1’s out Corral Creek road to find the full Western Spirit rigs waiting for us. Yes, camping, with a slew of tents being brought by the Nemo Tent people, a full kitchen staffed by the folks from Camp Chef, and numerous coolers packed with fine malted beverages.p1010737.jpgThe next thing I remember is the next day. Climbing. And climbing. And climbing. A good place to point out Scott’s new Twinloc again, as I have the Genius 20 fully locked out front and rear. Super old school rigid, yet super efficient considering I haven’t done a sustained (near 2 hour) climb like this in a long time. As the climbing became more technical I switched to the 95mm rear travel setting, and dialed the Fox Talus down to it’s shorter 110mm setting. This helped keep the front end down while tightening up the steering, as it was tough to climb for hours on such tight track.p1010776.jpgAll told, a fine couple of days on the bike, fer sure, with only a little bit of Kool-Aid drinking. But wait, there’s more! Scott showed the 2010 Scale 29er! With Scott’s euro roots it’s been tough to make the home office drink the 29er Kool-Aid, but this is a start. The Scale 50 features an Aluminum frame and a price point of $1599 US. It’s also worth noting that price points will be lower across the board. The Genius 20 goes from $6000 to $5250. Nice.Further installments will cover Wednesday and Thursday at Press Camp, lots to tell!p1010872.jpg

A Day at the Bike Summit

pa teamLobbying at all, especially at the highest level of American government, is not something I ever thought I’d be involved in. But after 20 years in the bike “business” (and I use that term loosely) it becomes clear that there’s more to it than just slaving away and hoping you make a profit.

Advocacy.

The daily news can really piss one off can’t it? You feel pretty helpless sometimes when things are going to hell. The past eight years have been especially frustrating for this commentator.

Fortunately, bicycles offer solutions to many of the world’s problems, and that’s why I find myself standing tall walking the halls of congress to push bicycle-related legislation.

It’s all centered on the “Ask”, where you ask your legislator to promote a specific agenda. Like the Complete Streets agenda, whereby pedestrians and cyclists transportation needs must be considered in the construction and repair of roads.

Or Safe Routes to Schools, a sure cure for child obesity. Plus Mom can keep the suv in the garage.

Or CLEAN-TEA. In a nut, the transportation budget. We’d like to see more than one or two percent spent on infrastructure that’s really green. Bicycle green.

So here’s how it goes. What we do is hike around to the different senatorial and congressional office buildings circling Capitol Hill, in hopes of gaining face time with anyone representing our individual districts or senate seats. Our Pennsylvania delegation is 20 strong for the senatorial meetings, but at the district meetings, it’s just me and the local cycling advocacy group, Bike Pittsburgh.

pitt teamScott Bricker, Eric “Erok” Boerer, Jessie Buckner and yours truly attended some Western Pennsylvania district meetings as a gang of four. Unlike the senate meetings, you really have to have it together as sometimes it’s just you and a 20-something staffer with little or no interest in your agenda.

Yes, these meetings are rarely with the actual congressperson or senator. Their staffer’s job is to listen to what you ask for, nod their head, and agree to take your message to the representative. Much of the time these peeps are just talking heads that could care less about bikes, but at least it’s encouraging to have them listen to us.

But our meeting with the staffer at Kathy Dahlkemper’s office was another story. Phil English was given the boot last November and we could not be happier that he’s been replaced by a Democratic woman. But get this, the dude we’re talking to is a rabid mountain biker, and we get to spend like 20 minutes just talking about bikes! Needless to say we felt our voice was really being heard in this office.

And thus ends a great day on Capitol Hill.


NAHBS Does Indianapolis

The North American Handmade Bicycle Show came to Indianapolis this year, and it was better than ever. While many lamented the move to America’s heartland after last years show in the preeminent bike town of Portland, this year serious bike people came from near and far to check out the wares.  This resulted in high-quality participation.

Happy Inglis

The Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times staff were there in full force as well. Justin set up our whole photo studio in the back hall while Eric covered the editorial end for the next issue (141) of Dirt Rag. Andrew and Matt handed out copies of Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times and serviced subscribers new and old with free Jagwire cable sets and Genuine Innovations inflators. Me, I bounced around commiserating with long-time readers as well as the cream of the bicycle-business crop, people with their hearts and souls fully enveloped by the love of the rotating mass. Pretty much everyone in attendance.

nahbs322.JPG

A big hand to Don Walker for seeing this event through five years and four different locations. And thanks to the volunteers, the exhibitors, the local and international cycling communities, and everyone who attended, this weekend was a great example of what the cycling life can be.


Tour of Dirt Rag Offices

Director Maurice Tierney VII has released his first major (19min) motion picture on Dirt Rag’s YouTube channel, and the Dirt Rag TV portion of Dirtragmag.com. “Tour of Dirt Rag Magazine” stars Maurice Tierney VI in a role that is sure to secure his stardom, talking the viewer on a tour of the palatial abode where the magazine is created. Never-seen-before places like the kitchen and bike room are prominently featured. The viewer even gets a speak-peek at how the mail gets mailed. Rated R for ridiculous. Goooo Dirt Rag!


Part One:



Part Two:




Scott Bikes Get Smart: The Genius

The Scott Company began in Sun Valley Idaho 50 years ago with the first tapered aluminum ski pole. It was the most sophisticated pole yet created. And that continued into the bike world as well. Scott made their first mountain bike in 1986, aero bars for Greg Lemond’s Tour De France win in 1989, and Ruthie Mathes’ mountain bike world championships winning bicycle in 1991.But that’s all ancient history. Scott aims to make more history with its current line of bicycles, including some of the most out there technology. The Genius Mountain bike is coming out again. We got to ride it in Sun Valley, Idaho.img_3045.jpgThe Genius is made of carbon fiber for the lightest weight per travel of any mountain bike. That’s 150mm of travel with total bike weight under 25 pounds, or 15 grams per mm of travel according to Scott. The dollar-per-gram calculation is another story. The 25lb. Genius 20 we rode runs $5999.00. And if you really want to push the bar, the Genius LTD is available for $11,499.99 (23.8lbs in medium). Now someone has to make the most expensive production MTB on the market, it may as well be Scott. I applaud the audacity.This bike is sweet. Coming off a bunch of 30lb+ bikes, I was like a new-and-improved rider on the Genius. While the Horst link has been moved to the chainstay for patent compliance, there is other stuff going on that makes the Genius excel.The shock is a three-piston pull shock. The main piston has negative air in its chamber. As the shaft pulls the piston, air expands to create a spring while oil on the other side of the piston pushes through valves and into one of two secondary chambers, each positively charged with air. Controlling the valves changes the travel. With both valves closed, no oil moves, rendering the bike locked out. With one valve open, chamber one is activated. The bike sags into a little slacker head angle and rides with 95mm of travel. Open valve two and you get two air springs providing 150mm of travel, plus a little more head angle and BB drop.

scott-shock.jpg

Specifically, the head angle changes from 68.5˚ in locked out position to 68.4˚ in the “traction” or 95mm setting to 67.7˚ in the full 150mm setting. This drops the bottom bracket from 13.7” in lockout to 12.5” in the 150mm setting.How did this pan out on the trail? With all the climbing and descending in Sun Valley, the Tractor travel control on the handlebar came in handy. I made a point of using it and was not disappointed. On dirt road climbs and the more buff singletrack, I switched the lever into the lockout mode for a nice, efficient pedaling position over the bike. Maximum efficiency combined with the light weight, and I’m able to keep up with the resident pros much better than I’d expected. Yet still in back of the pack, fyi. The 95mm “Traction” setting was great when the climbing got a bit more bumpy/technical, and is a great general-purpose setting. And the 150mm setting was just balls-out plush, for those fast fast fast descents with their big rocks hidden amongst the buff track.img_3050.jpgMore on the shock and rear suspension. Scott has moved away from the Horst link after they were unable to license the design from Specialized. So we’ve got a single pivot aligned with the middle chainring for well-mannered behavior in most gears. On the trail, I found this to be a non-issue. Only in granny gear and full long travel did I notice, as I should have not been in that gear anyway. More raddness is found in the carbon fiber construction. Deemed IMP-4, the latest carbon fabrication technique is an improvement on Scott’s CR-1 carbon manufacturing method. Now the front triangle is one piece for more optimalness. Other frame features include a direct mount front derailleur that pivots as the swingarm swings, full cable housing for dirty avoidance, clearance for 2.4” tires and a place to hang you bottle cage.Gallery here: http://www.dirtragmag.com/gal/showgallery.php?cat=717


IMBA Summit, June 18-21, 2008

The IMBA Summit is the biannual international gathering of mountain bike advocates, this year held in lovely Park City, Utah. With around 350 advocates in attendance, it’s a virtual who’s who of advocacy.

Wednesday Night’s opening ceremonies took place at Olympic park, where a team of top-level freestyle skiers put on a show for us while we ate, drank and schmoozed, bombing down giant training jumps and getting huge air into a pool of water while we watch.

But the first jumper was none other than Mike Van Abel, Executive director of IMBA. This may have seemed like a silly stunt, but for me it typified the bold audacity that has gotten us mountain bikers so much success in the advocacy arena.

img_2924-copy.jpg

Thursday morning, and I grab breakfast and sit down next to Philip Keyes, head on NEMBA and Dirt Rag’s access editor. Little did I know that I’d also be sitting with Kozo Shimano, president of Shimano and Mary Bomar, the director of our National Park Service. Big company.

Thursday morning’s keynote was by John Burke, the head of Trek Bicycles. John pointed out several big picture problems and adverse conditions: Obesity, traffic congestion, the move of humans into the urban areas, and the environment.

Problems? No, Opportunities! Burke’s positive thinking really got the crowd going, and really energized us to go out and do our good deeds.

Trek has stepped up in a big way. They are taxing themselves $10 for each full suspension bike sold. That amounted to $350,000 last year, which was given directly to IMBA to build more trails. Burke then challenged all the other bike companies to step up as well. This would generate ten times as much dough, 3.5 million to build trails! John was not shy regarding his ulterior motives for such funding. More trails equals more sales! Any bike industry types out there listening? Up for the challenge? (Yes! Cannondale would be the next summit attendee to step up, with commitments announced the following day. Others companies are sure to follow, many other companies have been setting the pace with IMBA since the beginning).

After the morning Kumbaya, we all headed off to the various sessions, all designed to make us better advocates. Sessions on everything from urban bike park building to national wilderness issues are covered, but since I was here representing my local group, PTAG, I attended a seminar on successful grassroots organizing.

There would be lunch, then two more rounds of afternoon sessions. Sustainable trails, club leadership, effective communication, risk management are some of the other topics to be covered. So many opportunities, it was difficult to decide which to attend.

After filling one’s brain to the top with all the great ideas flowing through the halls, there’s only one way to top off the day, a ride on Park City trails. Out to Bob’s Basin, stay tuned…

.

img_2942.jpg


Shimano Saint: Big Air in Whistler

Shimano hosted press test rides on their new Saint component group in Whistler last week. Whistler Bike Park to be exact. Lift assisted downhill mountain biking, yessir.

The plan? Journalists (And I use that term loosely) bring a frame, fork, shocks, and cockpit. Shimano to install the drivetrain and wheels. Well, actually, we scribes did a lot of the installing ourselves, thus becoming intimate with the parts and the way they attach to the bike.
Bike Dialing c/o Shimano
Being gravity-bike-challenged, I did not have a suitable seven-or-eight-inch-bike on hand, so thanks to Kona a Stinky was borrowed for the occasion. Since Kona provides the official rental bikes for Whistler, and they are located right down the road (construction) in Vancouver, it seemed like a natural.

So let’s get down to business. Shimano’s Saint group has been updated to address the needs of gravity riders. It has been discovered that the gravity set needs their bikes lighter as well as stronger, so this is what Shimano has been working on since the first Saint introduction in 2004.The rear derailleur now enjoys the low-profile Shadow configuration, which tucks the mech inboard, reducing the chance of being smashed on rocks. This means that guys who used to carry spare derailleurs in their backpacks might no longer need to. img_2788.jpgPlus, the derailleur is not attached to the axle as in the last version of Saint, this results in a 100 gram weight savings and much more flexibility with it’s conventional mounting method. This mech was a big hit when I brought the bike to the local shop for a little shock adjustment. It’s also worthy to point out that the spring is stronger and the mech is now designed to NOT bang the chainstay anymore. And that it’s adjustable for road or mountain cogsets, making it a good choice for downhill as well as all-mountain (still not sure what that means) applications. Shifters. The two way release introduced with XTR has found itself here. More options, more better. They worked great for me the entire two days of riding. And the positioning is easy and adjustable to either side of the brake lever.

The brakes are awesome. One need not touch them until the last possible moment, resulting in more speed for meeee. The four piston, dual diameter design has more oil in it than the previous version, allowing for better temperature management. On the trails of Whistler Bike Park, they never faltered. And I really liked the easy-to-use-by-hand reach adjustment.

Cranks? Hollowtech II is the buzz. They say 150g lighter, and now available with single (34-36-38-40-42) or double (22-36) chainrings. A matching double-specific front derailleur is also now available in Saint and SLX. While a bashguard is included, we used a E-Thirteen SRS chain retention system, which did just that.

As for the hubs, better seals and wider, angular contact bearings are the order of the day. The centerlock disc mount was easy to use as we built the bike up (had to try several different rotor/adaptor combinations).

img_2776.jpg

But what about the fun part? The ride? With a solid machine under me, there was nothing left to chance but the rider’s skill. It’s not without a few butterflies that this rider went up the chair for the first run. And there was even more trepidation as I saw Francesco Maggiorelli of Mountainbike World (Italy) break his ankle on the first run (See gallery). But managed to escape unscathed, even improving my jumping skills on Crank It Up trail. Other favorites were Devils Club, Karate Monkey, Ho Chi Min and Heart of Darkness. Thanks to Shimano and Kona.

Click here for the Saint press camp photo gallery.


Back to Top