Dirt Rag Magazine

Mike Cushionbury

Mike Cushionbury

Title

Dirt Rag Editor

Yeah, but what do you ACTUALLY do around here?

Sleep in 'til noon, never come to the office and crack open a beer at 3 p.m.

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

I got this slow when?

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

I give myself a 1. As in 1 pot a day.

Complete this sentence: "My other bike is …"

My other bike has always been a motorcycle of some sort.

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

These days I'm usually drinking out of a paper sack because I'm fearing I might get caught...

Elvis or the Beatles?

Elvis

Say something profound and meaningful in exactly seven words…

Don't stop believin', hold onto that feelin'

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

Email me

Review: Intense Tracer 275 Carbon

intense-tracer-275-1

This year marks drastic changes for Intense Cycles. With a new CEO, CFO and COO in place, company founder and owner Jeff Steber along with his original business partner Marv Strand both agreed, “This is a very exciting time, a reinvention of our brand.”

Steber added, “I designed a guitar before I could play one and I went into the mountain bike business with the same energy.” For the complete tale of how Steber almost went into the guitar business instead of bikes as well as the story behind Intense’s rise to fame check out our special 25th Anniversary Issue (#176), coming soon.

intense-tracer-275-4

Intense was an early pioneer in downhill racing, not only in the amount of riders that rode its bikes but also in that the brand ushered in a new look. “Intense downhill racers began wearing motocross inspired gear instead of Lycra, specifically Shawn Palmer,” recalled Steber. “He changed the sport forever and this brought us a lot of attention. In 1996 when he won a silver medal at the World Championships, that’s when Intense arrived.”

Another pioneering move by Steber and the Intense brand was the embracement of 27.5-inch wheels. “We were one of the first to move to this wheelsize when the Tracer 275 came out in 2012”, Steber says. “I called it 275 because 650b sounded too roadie.”

Get the details of the Tracer 275C here.


25th Anniversary: 25 years of dirt to dish

moe-magazine

dr-anniversary-logo copyThis year is a major milestone for Dirt Rag. We’re celebrating 25 years of printing the magazine. The ‘Rag has gone from being hand-stapled in Maurice and Elaine Tierney’s basement for East Coast consumption in 1989 to where we are today in 2014: enjoying rapid circulation growth and distribution across the globe.

As part of the celebration our next issue will feature special content that’s sure to become a collector’s item. One feature story, written by Gary Boulanger, is an inside look at the history of Dirt Rag with an inside view of how it all began and how we got to where we are. As part of that, I’d like to share a few extra stories over the next few weeks that came out of Gary’s research. Hopefully you’ll enjoy them as much as I do and will look forward to reading this special feature when it arrives on newsstands April 1 or in your mailbox even sooner if you’re a subscriber (hint, hint).

Read about some of Dirt Rag’s not-so-illustrious moments here.


Catching up with: Mark Weir, on the mend

Weir 3

Last weekend while doing trail work Cannondale-WTB OverMountain rider Mark Weir was crushed by a 300-pound tree limb, breaking his pelvis in three places. We talked to him by phone from his home in Novato, California, where he’s recuperating for the next six to eight weeks. Mark was especially disappointed about the accident because he just signed a new, three-year contract with the Cannondale OverMountain team. All things considered Weir seemed in good spirits and was happy to talk about his ordeal.

Read the interview here.


NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic adds new 3-day option

Start

The NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic presented by Dirt Rag is now offering a three-day stage race alternative called TS3 during the Epic targeted towards racers who can’t be away for an entire week. TS3 racers get the same benefits as the 7-day Epic competitors (since they will be riding the same courses) including fully stocked aid stations, mechanical supplies at each checkpoint, a daily quick bike check by Freeze Thaw Cycles from State College, back up mechanical assistance from SRAM and BMC’s neutral support bikes available at each checkpoint.

TS3 also includes special prizes from event partners tossed in at random through the weekend. Overall TS3 GC and enduro awards include $10,000 in prizes. TS3 will start on Sunday, May 25 and finish Tuesday, May 27 (the first three days of the 7-day race.)

TS3 racers will mass start separately on Sunday and instead of racing the classic ITT they will do two cross-country style laps on the time trial course. The next two days will be the Coopers Gap epic stage followed by the Galbraith Enduro on Tuesday to decide final TS3 GC.

We sat down with Trans-Sylvania Epic promoter Mike Kuhn as asked him a few questions about the new event. Read our interview here.


Review: Lake MX145 winter shoes

lake-mx145-1

A good pair of winter shoes is key for year round riding if you live where it gets cold and snowy. Depending on your region, super duty boots like Lake’s MXZ might be overkill, that’s where Lake’s new $260 MX145 mid-weight winter shoe comes in.

The water resistant upper is constructed with a combination of waxed canvas, leather and a waterproof membrane to keep foul weather elements at bay. The fiberglass injected sole is stiff enough for good power transfer and the durable rubber lugs provide good traction in snow and over wet, slippery logs and rocks.

Keep reading here.


Shimano opens new business center in CA

shimano-visit-3

Photos by Maurice Tierney and Shimano

In response to its rapid growth, Shimano American Corporation has expanded its Irvine, Calif., office building by some 48,000 square feet turning it into a massive 51,000 square foot distribution center. An entirely new, modern business center also opened directly across the street for Shimano’s marketing, R&D and inside sales staff.

A recent move by Shimano to go dealer direct with its products, which also includes Pearl Izumi and a host of fishing brands, not only means lower prices for the customer but a need to expand warehouse capability for shipping, receiving and storage. Even after a year the project is still being completed with a new fire sprinkler system being installed, new hi-tech conveyers being finalized and large storage spaces being prepared. Other changes to the former offices include a fishing rod and reel repair and warranty center for quick turnaround.

Shimano’s Marketing Manager Joe Lawwill, who raced professionally for over 10 years and won a Masters Downhill World Championship in 2002, showed us around the entrance to the new, highly modern Business Center. Visitors are treated to an action video loop on the main screen while a smaller interactive monitor showcases Shimano’s history in cycling.

Join us for a tour of the new facility.


Coming Soon: The Stokesville Campground Ride Center

stokesville-camping-4

You may have noticed from the recent batch of bike First Impressions that have been popping up on this site, the staff recently embarked on a little trip to focus solely on a $2,500, six-bike test for the upcoming February issue (Dirt Rag #175). Our chosen location was the Stokesville Lodge in Virginia, just outside of the bustling college town of Harrisonburg.

The area is famous to a large part of the right hand side of the country for more than just exceptional riding: it boasts upwards of 500 miles of amazing singletrack, is home and training grounds to Sho-Air/Cannondale pro Jeremiah Bishop and NoTubes’ Sue Haywood and on top of that the Stokesville campground behind the lodge is home to the legendary Shenandoah Mountain 100 race.

As good as the camping is with its vast network of trails right out of you tent flap, it’s never been open to the public for anything other than the race on the last weekend in August and the Virginia Mountain Bike Festival in late May. Much to the delight of many, we found out that this is about to change, likely as soon as this summer.

Read more about the Stokesville Campground.


First impressions: Giant Anthem Advanced 27.5

giant-anthem-1

Just as the 29er movement was exploding, Giant stood firm in its belief that bigger wheels were not a replacement for the good ol’ 26-inch standard. As large wheels became de rigueur for most other brands, Giant began to dangle off the back of the pack, both in progression and image. Sure, its full suspension bikes benefitted from the highly effective Maestro design, but in a market where buyers were scooping up 29ers like pelicans over a lazy school of fish Giant’s tide seemed to be retreating fast. Eventually the company dabbled in 29ers which performed well but weren’t the most popular choices among fashionable buyers.

Does the new 27.5 Anthem signal big changes? Read on to find out…


Team CF returns as Rare Disease Cycling

patengleman

I remember when I first moved to the East Coast and Team CF (Cystic Fibrosis) formed in Philadelphia. They were a small group of mostly local riders who had a lot of heart, some notable results and now a big vision: Take it all up a notch and create a larger regional, and maybe national, presence to raise awareness for the cause. It impressed me how quickly they became a dominant force. Go to any regional endurance or National Ultra Endurance Series race, and you were guaranteed to see a lot of blue and white argyle, often leading the charge.

Team founder and major funder Dr. Jim Wilson, who has been the leading researcher on cystic fibrosis in the world for over 20 years, is not only an avid mountain biker himself, but also saw firsthand how vigorous exercise like mountain biking was as effective as therapy for kids and adults with the inherited, chronic lung disease (and let’s face it, it’s way more fun). He wanted to use cycling as a platform to promote fitness for those with CF, to increase awareness of CF, and to raise money for CF research.

In short order the elite mountain bike team (the team also includes cyclocross racers), led by Christian Tanguy, Cheryl Sornson, Gerry Pflug, and Selene Yeager cleaned up at nearly every endurance race in the Mid-Atlantic region, not even Trek legend Jeff Schalk could stop Tanguy in the NUE series that first and second year. Along the way, besides the elite squad, he nurtured a growing band of amateur cyclists on the club team, many who had Cystic Fibrosis themselves and used the sport to retain a better quality of life.

As the team broadened, its riders began successfully hitting select stage and marathon races on the west coast as well as foreign lands such as Africa, Brazil and Costa Rica with success not only in results, but also in spreading the message of Dr. Wilson.

Heading into this year there’s an important name change and a new look—Team Rare Disease Cycling. This represents Dr. Wilson’s ongoing research well beyond just CF but to all rare diseases. The elite team has also added notable racers, including up and coming pro Cole Oberman, to leave an even bigger footprint, both in its race results and message. The team, along with The Penn Center for Orphan Disease Research and Therapy, will also be hosting a “Million Dollar Bike Ride” this May in Philadelphia to raise money for rare disease research.

If what I’ve seen so far is any indication, Rare Disease Cycling will be a force to be reckoned with—and definitely fun to watch—this season.

Click here to learn more about Rare Disease Cycling…


First Impression: Specialized CruX Elite EVO Rival Disc

specializedcrux-1

By Mike Cushionbury

For a great many of us, road riding isn’t a dedicated endeavor of criterium racing and hill repeats. It’s a combination of long days on the pavement, as many dirt roads as we can find, a training race here and there and maybe even a cyclocross race. This of course begs the question, is there just one do-it-all bike for all of the above?

The answer according to Specialized is, in fact, yes. Taking what it learned from the successful CruX cross line, Specialized has been dabbling in creating the ultimate gravel road bike, a concept that seems to be working as team riders Rebecca Rusch and Dan Hughes both won the Dirty Kanza 200 this year on specially outfitted editions of the “gravel” Crux. The production model, dubbed the CruX EVO, is a $3,200 road/gravel/cross machine that could be the only drop bar bike you’ll ever need. Or want. Read the full story


Specialized gets fat – plus more new gear from Specialized

By Mike Cushionbury 

S-Works Enduro 29

Look for our long-term review of the $3,500 Enduro Comp 29 SE in Issue #172. In it, test rider Justin Steiner writes: “Specialized singlehandedly breathed new life into the long-travel 29er category by proving these bikes can be as fun and maneuverable as they are fast and stable.”

This beautiful 155mm travel S-Works model has a FACT IS-X 11m carbon front triangle, 29er geometry, an M5 rear triangle, tapered headtube, PF30 bottom bracket, ISCG-05 mounts and a new internal cable routed Command Post IR. Front suspension is handled by a 160mm travel RockShox Pike RCT3 29 with Solo Air spring and the drivetrain is SRAM XX1 with a 32t ring installed and a 30t ring included. The frame is also SWAT compatible. Retail price is set at $9,250

Cane Creek Double Barrel Air

Cane Creek developed this all-new custom Double Barrel shock for the S-Works Enduro. It uses an air spring with adjustable high and low speed compression and has adjustable platform damping via a climb/descend switch.

Fatboy

One of he worst kept secrets among fat bike followers was that Specialized was in the process of making one. It was spotted earlier this year and now its existence is official. The aluminum Fatboy features a tapered headtube, PF30 bottom bracket and carbon fiber fork. There’s 5-inches of tire clearance, a 135mm front hub and a 190mm rear hub. You’ll also find SRAM twist shifters, an X0 rear derailleur and disc brakes. Specialized is claiming weight is near 30.5lbs for a size small. Price is not yet been announced

Fat Wheels

Specialized’s own Roval engineers came up with the 90mm rim design. The cutouts shave weight (just 795 grams per rim) without compromising strength, and like the Carbon Roval wheels, they use a hookless rim bead design. The 26×4.8 tires have Specialized’s famous Ground Control tread pattern and will be available aftermarket.

Command Post

The new internal cable routed Command Post IR now has an air adjustment valve located near the head for easy accessibility. This latest iteration performs much smoother than previous models.

S-Works Trail Shoes

The main design goals for the new Trail show include all day fit, traction, protection and power transfer. As a result the new Trail replaces the EVO, which was introduced two years ago. The S-Works Trail with a full carbon FACT sole is more protective with a redesigned last and more forefoot volume. Besides a better fit, increasing overall protection was achieved from a full rubber tread for off-the bike traction in dry as well as wet—real rubber is used so it will stick to wet and nasty roots and rocks. Also, clever offset toe studs won’t interfere with toe push off while walking. Toe protection comes from an injection molded toe box while ankle protection comes from a medial ankle guard that deflect impacts and “outer armor” with more material to fend off rock strikes. Amazingly with all these added features the S-Works Trail is the same weight as the S-Works EVO at 370 grams each.

Dissident Comp

Gravity riders on a budget will be happy to see the addition of the new $160 Dissident Comp full-face helmet. It has carbon helmet styling albeit with a fiberglass shell that only adds 200 grams compared to the full carbon Dissident.

Demo 8

Not much has changed in regards to frame structure for the Demo 8 downhill bike but big news is a new partnership with Swedish motorsports shock maker Öhlins.

Öhlins Twin Tube

Öhlins is heavily involved with motorsport racing and is considered a leader in high-end suspension performance. The new shock was developed to have consistent damping and simple adjustments. It has a Twin Tube design, which has separate compression and rebound. It’s a low-pressure system that keeps the shock cooler and is less prone to changes in performance due to increasing temperatures.

A wide selection of springs are offered in 23-pound increments and low speed compression has 16 clicks of adjustment, high-speed compression three clicks and low speed rebound seven clicks. Additionally, the shock pivots on a spherical front bearing mount so when bike chassis flexs there is no strain on the shock or frame mount. The shock was made for the $8,500 ($3,500 frame only) S-Works Demo 8 FSR and $5,800 S-Works Enduro Expert EVO but will be available as an upgrade for the 2012 and 2013 S-Works Demo 8’s.

Trigger tires

The fast rolling Trigger cyclocross tire is becoming a top choice for gravel road racing as well. This year at the Dirty Kanza 200 the 2-Bliss (tubeless) prototypes were used by overall winner Dan Hughes and women’s class winner Rebecca Rusch. The 33mm width option conforms to UCI cyclocross tire regulations.

I Ride For Burry

Specialized had a special section of the hall set-aside for the late Burry Stander.

Keep reading

There was a lot more to the 2014 launch. See the latest XC race bikes and hardtails or the new trail bikes


First look: 2014 Specialized XC race bikes

By Mike Cushionbury

Specialized’s annual Global Press Launch has morphed into the must-attend event of the year for cycling media worldwide. Besides an in-depth look at what’s on tap for the coming year, the extravaganza is jam packed with epic riding each and every day as well as with opportunities for one-on-one discussions with key Specialized employees before, during and after the rides. This year the festivities began with three days in Durango, Colo., for a small and exclusive look at the new cross-country specific offerings. The next four days were in Copper Mountain, Colo., for the larger Global Product Launch “tradeshow” and bike demo.

During his kickoff speech, company owner and founder Mike Sinyard made a few things clear to all those in attendance: “I started this company 40 years ago and it’s been a great journey. One of the things I’m most proud of is the team of people we all work with. A team that drives to be the best,” he said. “Specialized is a private company and that’s important because I can answer the dreams of what people want without answering to anyone. For us, our boss is the rider and that’s pretty powerful.”

He also hinted about something special in the fall of this year. “One thing we’re working on for an October announcement is for the kids and we feel it can change the world. It’s something we’re really excited about. Our mission is to get more people on bikes. More kids…and more women.”

As for now, here’s a look at some major mountain bike changes coming in 2014. Our first dispatch focuses on cross-country and the cool new SWAT system. The second installment will be trail and gravity oriented. And maybe there will even be a fat bike…

Epic

According to Sam Benedict, Specialized’s mountain bike product manager, Specialized assembled the largest dedicated team ever to create the new Epic line. “Fifteen people and two years of development to put this bike together,” he said. “Two types of cross-country riders have emerged and one is endurance riders who want comfort, stability, efficiency and water storage. We wanted to really focus on water storage and repair item storage and really address the needs of those who refuse to wear a pack.“

As a result the all new FACT 11 carbon Epic frame shares a similar silhouette as the current model but it now has room for two water bottles as well as the new SWAT (storage, water, air, tools) box that houses one tube, a Co2/valve assembly and a custom tire lever. “It took a lot of work to configure it, the shock had to be raised and slightly hidden in the top tube so standover height could remain the same,” Benedict said.

New features include a tapered head tube, in-molded headset, a 27.2mm seatpost to help lower weight, PF30 bottom bracket and internal cable routing where cutouts in the frame use a single bolt to hold the “scoops” in place with a large exit port. The scoops can be changed to alter cable routing—accommodating anywhere from one to four cables. A foam “churro” inside frame goes the length of the cable to eliminate rattling. The 100mm travel Epic line is topped with the $10,500 S-Works, which has a Shimano XTR 2×10 drivetrain, Magura MT8 disc brakes and hookless Roval Control SL Carbon 29 wheels. Lower price point Marathon ($7,250) and Expert ($6,750) models round out the carbon line while the Epic Comp M5 Alloy retains the same frame design, BRAIN shock and SWAT capability while shaving an entire pound off its overall weight compared to the current model.

Epic World Cup

Specialized was the first company to win a World Championship and Olympic gold with full-suspension. For next year the line gets a whole new category called Epic World Cup—a dedicated cross-country race bike that weighs just 19.64lbs. in a size large. It’s designed to satisfy that second type of rider, the short course racer who wants stiffness, light weight, pedal efficiency and aggressive geometry. The front and rear suspension drops down to 95mm, the headtube is half a degree steeper thanks to the shock having a shorter eye-to-eye measurement and the bottom bracket is also slightly higher. The frame is specific to a single front ring with no option of adding a double ring crank or front derailleur (Specialized has special tooling to completely eliminate the mount from the frame during production).

Because there’s no front derailleur to work around, the chainstays are 8mm shorter than the standard Epic and the driveside stay is massively oversized at the bottom bracket junction. The $10,500 S-Works Epic WC with a FACT IS 11m full carbon frame features a SRAM XX1 drivetrain, Specialized FACT OSBB with PF30 bearings, a carbon crankset with a one-piece spider/arm combo and hookless Roval Control SL 29 carbon wheels. The Expert WC ($6,750) gets a FACT IS 10m carbon frame with M5 stays, SRAM XO1 drivetrain and Roval Control Carbon wheels. Next week’s National Championship cross-country event will see factory racer Todd Wells debut the new Epic World Cup in competition. Both the Epic and Epic WC framesets are available for $5,500.

BRAIN 

Redesigned for 2014, the AutoSag-equipped BRAIN shock has a new shim stack, improved tuning and lower threshold to retain the active reaction of the FSR suspension design without bob from pedaling. It has the same mini damper BRAIN reservoir—only now 30-percent smaller—and a Kevlar hose that sheds 25 grams. There’s also a more limited range of adjustment—five clicks—to make it easier for the consumer to dial in. Specialized also eliminated the most open settings on the shock.

“It’s a delicate balance to get the fork and shock matched so we knew the range we wanted to be in so it’s now easier to match the shock and the fork,” Benedict said.

The Epic also gets the concentric pivot link off the current aluminum Camber along with a new shock block developed for the 2011 Stumpjumper FSR. This redesign along with a wider seat tube contributes to vastly improved center stiffness you can feel on the trail. 

RockShox SID World Cup 29 Inertia Valve fork

Like last year, the RockShox SID World Cup 29 Brain fork with inertia valve damper has a Solo Air spring but finally, in 2014, it gets a 15mm thru-axle.

Stumpjumper hardtail

The $7,800 S-Works Stumpjumper hardtail is made from all-new FACT IS 11m carbon and features the full SWAT kit, internal cable routing, PF30 bottom bracket, and 142×12 rear dropouts. The fame is a feathery 1,050 grams and geometry changes include chainstays that are 5mm shorter, a 6mm higer bottom bracket and a half a degree slacker head tube for Expert models and up. They did this, according to Benedict, to modernize the bike and and make it handle better in corners. The Stumpjumper also gets the World Cup treatment for the same price with a dedicated, single chaninring XX1 version. Both the Epic and Stumpjumper World Cup can accept the SWAT package if you want to add one on. Frame only is $3,400. The Stumpy Alloy and Comp Carbon frames remain unchanged from last year.

SWAT (storage, water, air tools)

Engineers at Specialized took a lengthy look at long distance events and what Epic riders were doing. Namely using duct tape to strap all sorts of repair items to their frames. “The Epic is a beautiful, $10,000 bike so why would you tape stuff to it?” Benedict asked.

To solve this Specialized developed a custom plastic box (which took as long to develop as the frame) that connects to the bottom of the downtube bottle cage and is anchored via a third downtube mount. It can hold a 29er tube, one 25g CO2 w/ custom head and custom tire levers. Epic and Stumpjumper S-Works, Marathon and Expert’s come stock with SWAT while the World Cup models are designed to accept SWAT aftermarket units for a price of $150 for the box, cage and accessories. SWAT also includes a special $25 headset top cap that houses a mini chain tool and one spare chain quick link. The entire kit filled with spares only adds about a pound to the bike.

Talk about a hidden gem. Stored above the shock mount and inside the frame is this small SWAT Allen set with enough sizes to perform basic trailside adjustments. Stumpjumper hardtails (and the aluminum Epic) have their SWAT Allen set connected to the bottom of the seat tube bottle cage. This accessory can be mounted on any brand of bike.

The complete kit installed and ready to roll

S-Works crankset

An all-new S-Works crank has a full carbon integrated spider with 104mm spacing that’s lighter and stiffer overall. Mechanics will applaud the fact that the new crank now uses just an 8mm Allen key for easy removal.

Crave (not Carve)

It’s not a new model, just a name change. Due to copyright issues the Carve is now the Crave, Specialized’s race-ready, entry-level aluminum bike. It has M4 tubing throughout with a wider bottom bracket to increase torsional stiffness. There’s also better standover height, larger chainstays for improved acceleration and the chassis has been streamlined to 1,580 grams for a size 19. That’s 12-percent lighter than last year with a claimed 12.5-percent more compliance.

The Crave has a neutral XC race geometry, a 100mm travel fork with a slightly higher bar position, longer wheelbase and more compliance compared to the Stumpjumper HT Comp (which clocks in with a 95mm travel fork and World Cup geometry.) The Crave is designed for newer riders with input from National High School League racers. Prices range from $1,300 to $2,000.

That’s all for now. Check back soon for more from Colorado!
 


First Impression: Ritchey P-650b

By Mike Cushionbury

Tom Ritchey built his first 27.5-inch wheeled off-road frameset in 1977 (which he called a 650b) as a personal bike. It never caught on at that time but now, 36 years later, the industry and many riders have begun to create demand for the in-between wheel size. Though most brands are looking towards longer travel, a few companies with roots in cross-country racing are utilizing the wheel size for that application as well.

Built from Ritchey’s classic heat-treated, triple-butted Logic 2 steel, the P-650b has new forged, socket-style dropouts and lightweight, chainstay-mounted disc brake tabs. The rest of the bike, including its iconic red, white and blue color scheme is a throwback to the past. The 68mm bottom bracket accepts English threaded cups (no BB30 here), seatpost size is standard 27.2, and the head tube is non-tapered at 1 1/8”. Our test bike came with a rigid, Ritchey-branded full carbon fork, though the geometry is adjusted to accept a 100mm travel suspension fork.

The parts build is just as cross-country specific, with a SRAM X0 2×10 drivetrain, alloy Ritchey Vantage 2 tubeless ready rims, WCS Shield tires and a carbon seatpost and handlebar. I was impressed with the ease in which the wheels were converted to tubeless and the quality of the wheelset in general on the trail.

I’ll admit, the P-650b was a bit of shock to my overly suspended system on our rougher east coast trails. Ritchey’s steel tubing remains one of the most refined and compelling materials for cross-country riding and racing, albeit with a weight penalty compared to carbon fiber, but this is still a fully rigid race bike no matter how nice the frame feels through the rough. I would have liked the addition of a suspension fork for some added comfort but for long, west coast fire roads and smooth singletrack this build will flat out fly.

After a few weeks with the P-650b I’ve developed a bit of an attachment to its old school charm. I’ve also realized just what type of rider will more fully appreciate everything the Ritchey has to offer.

Want to read the full, long-term review? Grab a copy of Issue #171 and check it out.

 


Dirty Kanza 200: Dan Hughes and Rebecca Rusch repeat wins

By Mike Cushionbury

Photos by Eric Benjamin/Adventure Monkey

In this year’s eighth annual Dirty Kanza gravel road race riders doing the full loop were punished with nearly 100 miles of strong head and cross winds across the open prairies, resulting in slightly slower finishing times. Nonetheless, local favorite Dan Hughes (Sunflower Outdoor and Bike) took a commanding overall victory, claiming his fourth DK 200 title. Specialized-Red Bull’s Rebecca Rusch took the women’s category (and 11th overall) for the second year in a row even with a short trip off course that cost her some time.

Riders line up in downtown Emporia, Kansas, for the 6am start. Groups are divided up by expected finishing times with the fastest riders at the front in the 12-hour grouping. Despite the high winds, this years event saw perfect, 72-degree temps and dry, fast roads. This year’s course also had increased climbing compared to previous events.

Hughes crosses the finish line with no one in sight behind him. His finishing time for 203 miles was 12:03:39

 Rusch alone in the Flint Hills of Kansas on her way to a finishing time of 12:51:04.

John Bayley, left, (Ride Studio Cafe) crosses the line with David Wilcox (Mad Alchemy/Verge.) Bayley claimed third overall. Wilcox was fourth overall and the winning Open class rider. The top three overall were all in the Vet 40-plus class.

Jay Petervay (Salsa/Fitzgerald Bicycles) rides to second overall, 19 miuntes behind Hughes and only two-and-a-half minutes ahead of Wilcox after 200 miles of windy racing.

(Left to right) Jim Lehman (Carmichael Training), Yuri Hauswald (Roctane Ultra), Matt Brown (High Gear Cyclery) and Garth Prosser (Specialized Factory Racing/Ashford Surgical/Pura) cross the line together in 12:33:30. Brown took third in Open Men and Lehman, Hauswald and Prosser all stood on the podium for a shared fourth in Veteran Men.

Team CF’s Selene Yeager had a lock on second in the Women’s category untill a missing course marker sent her off course after checkpoint three and dropped her back to third. Later, near the finish she went off course again. Her final milage for the day was a whopping 213.6 miles.

Monika Sattler (Grand Performance) upped the pace after checkpoint three to gap Yeager and take second in the Women’s category.

The open, windy roads of Kansas. The Dirty Kanza began in 2006 after executive director Jim Cummins and co-founder Joel Dyke participated in the 350-mile Trans-Iowa gravel race. That first year only 38 riders entered the DK 200. For information on the 2014 event, which will be on Saturday May 31st (it’s always held the first Saturday after Memorial Day) go to dirtykanza200.com

 


Fox introduces revamped TALAS fork and Float X shock for enduro

As a respected downhill and cross-country racer in the bike industry, Fox Global Marketing Communications Manager Mark Jordan practices what he preaches.

By Mike Cushionbury. Photos by Colin Meagher.

Fox’s RAD program is the center of the company’s suspension building process. As the moniker implies, it’s all about racing and development to refine every part of a fork and shock. From materials to valving to spring curves, each component of its suspension is finely tested and tuned by everyone from engineers to marketers to professional athletes. Mark Fitzsimmons, Fox’s race program manager says it’s just part of the Fox culture.

“A lot of things are being raced on for future release but some will never come out. RAD was all downhill and cross-country and now it includes enduro racing to tie in all-mountain and trail product.” He continued by saying the discipline of enduro allows Fox to make a better product for these categories through racing and as a high performance company it’s important to get that kind of feedback. As an example, the CTD (Climb, Trail, Descend) adjustment came out last year and Fitzsimmons says they’re still trying to redefine what it is this year through race testing.

Seven-time Supercross champion and all-time win leader a.k.a. “The King of Supercross” Jeremy McGrath came out to test product and try his hand at enduro.

“We got a lot of feedback on CTD last year on spring curve and damping. It was good for the casual rider but our racers had much more feedback. They wanted increased compression damping across the board—that’s why most riders have been using the Trail setting most of the time.” Race testing also helped Fox address diving in turns and under breaking.

The first two products to come out of the RAD enduro program are the 2014 TALAS adjustable travel fork and the Float X shock. Fittingly, the introduction was held in Hood River, Oregon, during the first stop of the Oregon Enduro Series.

TALAS

The biggest improvement for the TALAS is a redesigned air spring design that’s similar to what you’ll find in the 2014 Float damper and a change in the spring curve. Namely, it’s no longer linear. The goal was to make the higher and lower travels have exactly the same progressive curve, feel and performance that mimics model year ’13 coil springs.

Feedback Fox received was that the 2013 TALAS hammocked in the middle of the curve in the short travel setting—essentially flattening in the middle before ramping up at the end of the stroke. This often made riders feel like they couldn’t push the fork as hard as they wanted to so they avoided using the shorter travel setting. Compression rate has been firmed up across the board on all models along with a new tune for Trail and Climb mode has been increased to what Fox calls, “a firm tune.”

The CTD settings have also been expanded. The adjuster has five low speed compressions setting (much like what the RP23 shock uses) for Trail mode. This allows riders to easily custom tune their low speed compression.

According to Mark Jordon, Fox’s global marketing communications manager, Fox has moved to CTD and the five-click setting over dedicated high/low compression adjusters because it’s easier to understand and offers better on-the-fly adjustment for cross-country, trail and all-mountain users.

“For 2014, our Factory forks use two types of damping systems based on fork series. The 32 and 34 fork series feature the CTD damping system while the 36 and 40 series use the RC2 damper with high and low-speed compression damping,” he said. “There are a few reasons why we went to the CTD system for 32 and 34 forks. With CTD, the fork and the shock have identical adjustment names that are based on terrain modes rather than damping terms, making it easy to understand and providing common naming between the fork and shock. The Climb, Trail and Descend names help riders identify what each setting does but can be used any way the rider sees fit, for example riding downhill in Trail mode. The CTD naming also matches our seatpost to keep things simple and easy to understand.”

CTD gives riders three on-the-fly settings (previous designs only had two) and an additional three clicks of adjustability to fine-tune the Trail adjustment mode. According to Jordan this is important for riders needing to adapt to varying terrain. “When you break CTD down in terms of damping settings, it provides five low-speed compression settings with three that can be accessed on-the-fly. The ease of switching settings allows a rider to change low-speed compression without the need for a tool or stopping on the trail.

The new TALAS uses an actual cartridge damper (previous models utilized the fork leg as part of the structure) and an inline hydraulic travel adjust system. Travel is changed through pressure on a check ball valve. Oil changes the travel to make it a true hydraulic travel adjust rather than relying on air pressure. This hydraulic travel design averages about a 40-gram weight increase. Also new is an internal shuttle bumper that can easily be switched to change total travel up to 20mm from standard (with a 160mm max.) At the other end of travel, 5mm spacers can be easily installed by removing the top cap to reduce travel range if desired.

Available travel and wheelsizes with be 160mm for 26” and 27.5” and 140mm for 29ers. A CTD cable remote will also be available with a splitter to operate both the shock and fork.

Float X

Fox’s new Float X is its first CTD all-mountain shock designed for what the company calls “aggressive enduro riding,” optimized for 140mm to 180mm travel. Because the firmer Climb mode (which is matched to the fork) has it’s own valving circuit Fox can make it much stiffer without affecting Trail or Descend characteristics. Like the TALAS, the Float X has three on-the-fly CTD compression settings with an additional three clicks of adjustability in Trail mode (1, 2, 3.) A handlebar remote option is available and Fox claims that later this year its enduro racers will be using electronic iCD versions as well.

Initial ride impressions

Due to a mid-week storm our early Oregon testing was limited to a few muddy weekday rides and a Saturday of enduro racing in what turned out to be prime conditions. As claimed, both the fork and the shock have increased Climb platform that eliminates the sometimes sluggish feel under acceleration on rear suspension designs that have less anti-squat built in.

The additional adjustability of CTD with its multiple compression clickers adds an increased degree of personalization into the design allowing riders to tailor settings to terrain. Front end diving under braking is also noticeable absent and the shorter travel setting feels entirely usable, especially on the pedaling, high speed sections of Hood River’s courses. As we’ve come to expect from Fox, overall performance appears to be excellent. But, due to the limited time we’ve had on the components we can’t provide a full review just yet. For that, look for issue #173 of Dirt Rag after we’ve spent a few months riding and testing the product.


Gravel racing: A look at my Dirty Kanza 200 weapon

By Mike Cushionbury

Gravel road racing is filled with innovations and inventions. Bikes range from road to cyclocross to full-on Frankenbikes cobbled together from a mix of road, cross, touring and mountain bike parts. As a mountain bike racer and first-time DK200 competitor I momentarily considered setting up my 29er cross-country race bike for the task late last year but further consideration led me towards my cyclocross bike—namely a 2013 Cannondale SuperX Disc—with the goal of keeping it as simple and familiar as possible.

I knew for sure a Frankenbike was not the answer. I didn’t want to gamble with a cumbersome bike I wasn’t used to. I also wanted something I could consistently train on, making sure my position was completely dialed. In February, after ‘cross season, I set up my SuperX with the exact same measurements as my road bike, a professionally fitted position I’ve had for as long as I can remember. My saddle height, reach and stem length are all exactly the same on both bikes.

I also chose the same model Fizik Areone saddle (that’s well broken in by now) and same crank arm lengths (being a mountain biker I use long-ish 175mm on the road for consistency.) Once everything was set I put road tires on and used this rig as my road bike, compiling as many miles as I could to make sure the bike and my position was deeply burned into my muscle memory and as comfortable as possible.

Frame

The SuperX’s carbon frame is lighter than many road bike frames and with SAVE seat and chain stays it’s compliant and forgiving over rough terrain. It is truly an elite level ‘cross bike that performs like a refined road bike with snappy acceleration and geometry suited to longer road races opposed to crit-style racing—just the ticket for DK. Front and rear disc brakes insure precise stopping will never be an issue.

 

Build

Nothing too radical for parts save for some drivetrain adjustments. I choose a short reach Ritchey WCS Curve carbon fiber handlebar and WCS 4-Axis stem for ultra lightweight and reliability. I also went with a bump absorbing Ritchey WCS Carbon Flexlogic Link seatpost. The post’s carbon layup provides a claimed 15-percent increase in vertical compliancy compared to standard posts without giving up any lateral or torsional stiffness. For a little extra comfort I double wrapped the top of the bars since this is where I will mostly be, not down in the drops.

Shifters and front derailleur are standard SRAM Force. For the road I used a Force rear derailleur, SRAM Red 11/26 cassette and Cannondale Si 53/39 crankset. Because 200 miles is, well, 200 miles, I wanted extra low gearing for the later hours of the race. I switched out the rear derailleur for a SRAM XX mountain unit and matched that to an XX 11/32 cassette. I also geared down the front with an FSA K-Force compact crank and 50/34-chainring combo.

This is a set-up I successfully used at last year’s Iron Cross race so I’m already comfortable with it. I’ll be using Shimano XTR Race pedals and mountain bike shoes because I believe top-level mountain bike shoes, though they do have very stiff carbon soles, vibrate less over such harsh roads. Super stiff road shoes could lead to early foot numbness and fatigue.

Wheels and tires

Wheel selection was simple; I’m using the same NoTubes Alpha 340 Team road wheelset I’ve been on all winter—simple, light and ultra reliable. Initially I was going to use a NoTubes ZTR Crest mountain bike wheelset to widen the tire’s contact patch but tire installation proved difficult due to the increased rim width (something I didn’t want to deal with in Kansas.)

My tire choice was simple as well: Challenge Almanzo’s. These super-durable, 360-gram, 700x30mm tires are specifically designed for gravel road racing. They roll very fast and utilize a special Puncture Protection System belt between the casing and belt—perfect for the spiky rocks on the roads around the Flint Hills.

Accessories

Since I’m not much of a water pack wearer, I plan on going with two bottles on the bike and one in my pocket—three bottles per 50 miles to each checkpoint where I’ll have a drop bag loaded with supplies including real food like sardines, pepperoni sandwiches, black licorice and of course drink mix and bottles. If I stay on point of not using a water pack I’ll add a large seat bag with three tubes, a multi tool with a chain breaker, two quick links, a few links of chain, electrical tape and a tire boot. I also have a Lezyne mini-pump secured to the bike. As a precaution, I’ll have a full water pack in my drop bag at the midpoint checkpoint.

Veterans of the race may think I’m gambling by going minimalist but when I built up my bike for this mammoth event I went with what I know and am comfortable with. It’s a roll of the dice I’m willing to take.

Dirty Kanza is Saturday, June 1 in the Flint Hills region of east-central Kansas. Go to dirtykanza200.com for more info.

Keep reading

For more on the Dirty Kanza 200, check out our race report from last year, and see how other riders set up their rigs

 

 

 

 


Sea Otter Report: DVO Suspension

By Mike Cushionbury

DVO (pronounced devo and short for “developed") Suspension has been not-so-silently working towards an August release for its new Emerald fork and Jade shock. The company formed over a year ago when then Marzocchi USA president Bryson Martin and four key employees walked out the door to form this new suspension company. Their plan is to focus on top shelf downhill suspension but, when we spoke with Martin at this year’s Sea Otter Classic, he hinted that there would be more products coming, targeted at other riders as well.

According to Martin the hardest product to create is high performance, long-travel DH forks and shocks. Perfecting this will set the tone and then it’s easier to go from longer to shorter travel. While the initial releases from DVO will be an inverted, 8-inch travel fork for 26 or 27.5 wheels and matching rear shock with either a coil or air spring, Martin confirmed that the future would hold enduro, all-mountain and 29er specific products and maybe even a single crown inverted fork.

Emerald

The beauty of the Emerald’s internals is simplicity. It’s fairly standard save for two exceptional features. First, the Loader damper allows users to turn a bike upside down and pull the fork apart to make custom adjustments to the shim stack without loosing oil: simple, clean and efficient. Second, the fork has externally adjustable tension on the top-out spring to allow fine-tuning of breakaway force. In theory, heavier or faster riders who run a high spring rate can lessen breakaway forces for extra initial tenderness on rough courses or increase tension on smoother, more pedally routes.

DVO’s Carbon Torsion Arch (CTA) is where the Emerald gets its stiffness. This trick, integrated arch and stanchion protector is easily removed—it bolts to the dropouts and sandwiches between the forks uppers. This unique design is claimed by DVO to provide 50-percent more stiffness at the dropouts (where it’s secured) than a standard arch on a non-inverted fork. Weight is claimed to be just less than seven pounds and retail price is expected to be around $1,500.

Jade

The Jade comes in either an air or coil spring and will be available in all popular sizes and lengths. It will have externally adjustable hi and low-speed compression, and a 14mm alloy shaft with cooling fins on the piggyback. Additional adjustments can be achieved by removing the one-piece compression unit to customize the shim stack. Internally the shock will use a bladder system popular with motocross suspension. This design, according to DVO, increases small bump sensitivity.

As noted, after market shipping is planned to begin in August. In fact, DVO doubled its production order based on pre-sales (the entire first run is already sold out.) Check out dvosuspension.com for more info.


First impression: Rocky Mountain Altitude 770 MSL

By Mike Cushionbury. Photos by Justin Steiner

Rocky Mountain started with a clean slate for its new 150mm travel Altitude 770 MSL. The Canadian company weighed the pros and cons of wheel sizes and decided that for a long travel, do-it-all trail/all-mountain bike with a genetic gift for descending, 27.5 was the ideal hoop size. Like geometry and suspension travel, Rocky now uses wheel size to enhance its bike’s ride characteristics.

Another key component to the Altitude is the Ride-9 adjustment system. By rotating two interlocking chips on the upper shock mount the position of the rear shock changes to steepen or slacken head angle, seat angle, and raise or lower bottom bracket position. It also alters suspension rate at the top and bottom of the stroke. The result is nine possible geometry and suspension rate configurations. The chip additionally provides a “custom tune” for lighter or heavier riders to create a suspension system that performs very consistently in feel and performance for a 135lb rider or a 250lb rider.

The 770 MSL comes with a great parts group including a very reliable Shimano XT drivetrain as well as an internally cable routed RockShox Reverb dropper post—its handlebar mounted remote was poked nearly as much as the rear derailleur shifter on every ride. The Fox Float rear shock CTD shock has a handy but oversized handlebar mounted remote adjuster to toggle between Climb, Trail and Descend damping platforms, which was also thumbed and prodded consistently throughout every ride.

With three solid days of shredding in Pisgah, North Carolina, some things became readily apparent: when pedaling got technical the FOX Float CTD shock’s Trail setting was a mixed bag of efficiency and traction. Climb mode tended to skip off edges too much and lose grip and had a noticeable degree of bob on smooth, fire road climbs (a lover this bike isn’t designed to marry.) Rocky’s SmoothLink suspension doesn’t have much anti-squat in its design so it relies mostly on shock platform to control bob.

When it was time to really push the limits the Rocky Mountain showed its true heritage of aggressive savvy. As its travel suggests, the 770 was a capable climber right at home scaling the slow-speed, technical rock climbs and slickrock of DuPont, N.C., rather than the smooth, fire road grinders right out of our Davidson campsite. For this Trail was the perfect shock setting.

When it was time to rally the big stuff, open the shock to descend and let loose. It’s quick and nimble like its 26-inch wheeled little brother (I often forgot I was on slightly bigger wheels) yet still possessed an uncanny ability to float above rocks and roots like its bigger, 29er uncle. Ultimately the 770 MSL is a great mix of form and function wrapped into a do-it-all package. It’s aggressively tuned to handle big hit descents yet agile enough to be a daily trail bike in most any locale.

Want to read more? Look for a full-length review in the new issue of Dirt Rag.


Back to Top