REEB cycles was started a few years ago by Colorado craft beer brewery, Oskar Blues. Rather than copy an existing design and slap on the REEB logo, Oskar Blues went against the grain with slacker geometry to tackle the rough descents near its Colorado brewery.
REEB bikes are aimed at the rider wanting a capable trail rig without twitchy, XC racer geometry. But, non-race geometry doesn’t necessarily make a bike slow, as evidenced by Macky Franklin’s victory at last year’s Breck Epic in the Solo Singlespeed category riding a REEB. My tester is a 29-inch-wheeled singlespeed, with Paragon dropouts and a Gates belt drivetrain, but it can also be built as a geared bike.Tweet
Since 1981, Moots has been handcrafting frames from U.S. made titanium and are well known for their soft-tail YBB frame and high-quality hardtails, road, and ‘cross frames. Feeling the need to cater to XC and Epic riders and racers looking for a short travel bike, other than ones made from carbon or aluminum, Moots partnered with the suspension experts at the Sotto Group. The Sotto Group has helped bike companies such as Fox, Mountain Cycle, Lynskey, and Ahrens with suspension designs, and after two years of working with Moots, the 29-inch-wheeled MX Divide was created.Tweet
Call it fate. I recently purchased a Santa Cruz Highball frame and needed a fork to complete my build, and while I searched an email was forwarded to me from Fox looking for a tester for this fork.
The fork happens to be a Fox 32 Float 29, 100mm FIT Terralogic model, and yes, I’d like to test it. This model is available with either a 9mm drop-out or with an included 15mm thru-axle, which I opted for, and with either a tapered or 1 1/8” straight steerer. Kashima coated uppers, Terralogic threshold, rebound, and an air spring with updated damping for 2014 are all included.
The Terralogic technology was first introduced in 2004 and before that Fox partnered with Specialized to develop the Brain for its full-suspension rigs. If you’re not familiar, here’s the basics: when Terralogic is engaged, the fork rides as if it were locked out. Stand up, mash the pedals, pump the bars back and forth and there’s very little movement in the fork. When you hit a bump, the force from below activates the suspension by pushing the lowers up. As the lowers rise, a brass mass, which seemingly moves but really stays in place relative to the fork, reveals a piston for the oil to flow through and the suspension to become active. The amount of force needed for activation is controlled by a threshold adjuster. A return spring eventually pushes the brass mass back into place when the trail smoothes out, restricting again the flow of oil.Tweet
Club Ride has made a name for itself in the cycling industry for offering high-performance apparel with a unique style. From the trail head to the pub, the Roxbury jersey and Pin’It shorts are great options if you want to stand apart by blending in.Tweet
The Beargrease, one of two fat bike platforms from Salsa, is billed as a soft conditions racing bike. It’s designed for maximum performance when floatation and stability are necessary. As spec’d, it’s ready to take on frosty winter races or weekend fun on pretty much any terrain.
Made EV6 Xtrolite aluminum, the Beargrease has size-specific, double- butted tubing. For stiffness there’s a tapered head tube and hydro- formed top and down tubes. Full-length cable housing helps to inhibit contamination and the durable matte anodized finish saves weight over paint. Geometry is designed for stability at slow speeds with plenty of clearance to stuff those fat tires into the frame and fork. A 170mm spaced rear accommodates a 26-inch x 4.0-inch tire while the 135mm fork can fit a 4.8-inch fatty. Its relaxed 69.5-degree head tube adds stability and helps control the heavy front wheel, while the 45-inch wheelbase increases stability in soft conditions.Tweet
By Shannon Mominee
Can you spot the dog in this photo?
How about the dog in this photo?
The blaze orange Track Jacket from Ruffwear definitely makes it easier to spot my dog, Roman, in the woods and makes him more visible on night walks. And even though he’s not hunting, there are hunters in the woods that we hike and mountain bike in, and I’d rather they see my dog than mistake Roman for a deer or other game. Read the full storyTweet
By Shannon Mominee
Trek’s Fuel is one of the most popular full-suspension bicycles on the market, and for 2014 the company hopes to expand on that success by offering the option of 29-inch wheels. We recently got one in for a long-term review. Read the full storyTweet
By Shannon Mominee. Photos by Justin Steiner.
Easton’s EA70 XCT 29” wheelset is essentially the high-end EA90 UST rim laced to a less expensive hub. The stealthy graphics are attractive and the multiple axle options make them available to a wide range of users.
The tubeless rims have welded seams, and are laced three-cross with 24 straight pull, butted spokes to Easton hubs. Though, their 19mm inner width is on the narrow side. I mounted the wheels to my rigid Niner with carbon fork, which provided a good impression of the wheels isolated from any suspension movement.
The more I ride 15mm thru-axles, the more I appreciate them. The wheelset has excellent steering precision and felt solid when making quick steering adjustments and when carving through switchbacks. Nothing felt flexy, and the wheels held a line through turns. They proved stiff and have an awesome strength-to-weight ratio. I think the EA70’s are durable enough to use everyday and won’t have you wasting time at the truing stand.
The two-pawl design with 20 degrees of engagement is slow to catch, so there’s a lot of play in the drivetrain before moving forward. I would’ve expected a faster-engaging rear hub for the price.
If you are looking for durable wheelset that isn’t overly heavy, these could be for you. If you frequently riding in technical terrain, where you need to ratchet the pedals frequently, you may want to look for a wheelset built around a rear hub with quicker engagement.
- Price: $750
- Weight: 1,900g
- Hub Compatibility: 9/15 Front; 135x10mm, 142x12mm rear
- Degrees of Engagement: 20 degrees
- Internal Width: 19mm
- Spoke Count: 24 front, 24 rear
- Country of Origin: Taiwan
- Online: eastoncycling.com
By Shannon Mominee. Photos by Shannon Mominee, Jon Pratt and Justin Steiner
The Intense Spider 29 Comp is the bigger and bolder brother of the Spider 29. Intense should have picked a different name for the Spider 29 Comp, because unlike the Spider, this machine has a carbon fiber frame with more rear travel, shorter chainstays and a slacker head angle than its aluminum counterpart. It’s pretty much an entirely different beast except for the suspension design.
With 4.5 or 5 inches of adjustable travel and VPP suspension licensed from Santa Cruz, the Spider 29 Comp is ready to face the most aggressive trails or be dialed back for more groomed dirt. My inaugural rides took place over a weekend of riding in and around the Pisgah National Forest near Asheville, North Carolina. What better way to become acquainted than with a 7-mile climb and a 4-mile descent through a rock garden.
For each of those trail situations I used the CTD setting on both the Fox Kashima coated Float CTD shock w/boost valve and the 130mm, 32 Float 29 FIT CTD fork to ascend and descend as efficiently as possible. I liked the “Climb” setting on the fork when, well…climbing, but that same setting on the shock was at the cost of rear tire traction, so I mostly used the “Trail” setting for the rear instead. For my downhill enjoyment, both shocks were set to “Descend” which provided a high degree of absorption on small and large hits alike.
The Spider 29 Comp has a long 46.5-inch wheelbase and rides exceptionally smooth and stable, but lets the length be known in tight switchbacks where it doesn’t maneuver so nimbly. The 67.5-degree head tube makes steering feel natural and is quick enough to pick a line, instead of running over everything, which this bike is also capable of doing. At 28.4lbs. the bike climbs lighter than the scale foretells. The carbon chassis is stiff and provides a comfortable ride, climbs well, and mutes trail vibration, without be so stiff as to be jarring or feel flexy.
Some cool features of the Spider 29 Comp is the internal cable routing with cable guide tubes, internal cable routing for a Rock Shox Reverb Stealth dropper post, which my tester has, ISCG mounts for using a single chainring in the front, a tapered head tube, rubbery protector on the chainstay and downtube, and G1 dropouts that can be swapped to accommodate 135mm QR wheels or 142x12mm thru-axles. A size medium frame weighs a claimed 5.5lbs.
The Spider 29 Comp retails for $5,928 as built without the dropper post, or $2,900 for a frame and shock. Unlike all of Intense’s U.S. made aluminum frames, the carbon ones are manufactured in Taiwan and assembled in the U.S. Look for a full review of the Spider 29 Comp coming soon to a Dirt Rag Magazine near you.
By Shannon Mominee
Call it luck, but with 8-12 inches of snow on the ground and a Salsa Beargrease in for test, I was ready to see what the snow bike flurry has been all about. If you’re not familiar with the Beargrease, it’s one of Salsa’s two aluminum fat bikes.
The Beargrease frame is made from EV6 Xtrolite aluminum for corrision resistance, has a tapered head tube, hydro-formed top and down tube, full length cable housing, direct mount front derailleur, and mounts for two bottle cages. It has a black anodized finish with blue highlights that match a set of fat blue rims. The matching aluminum fork has D-shaped blades, a 51mm I.S. disc brake mount, and 135mm spacing for a 4.8-inch-wide tire. The rear hub is the 170mm fatbike "standard."
The Mukluk (not pictured), on the other hand, is made from 7005-aluminum and has Alternator dropouts that allow for singlespeed setup and uses set screws to adjust chain tension when pulling the wheel back in the vertical dropout. The steel Enabler fork it ships with also has mounting options for two additional bottle cages and and a fender mount. The rear triangle has rack mounts to extend your adventure.
Basically the Beargrease is a "stripped down" fatbike, while the Mukluk is designed for more adventurous expeditions.
I’m running low air pressure at 6psi. in both the 45 NRTH Hüsker Dü tires. Not sure if that name is a tribute to the 1970s board game or the 80s rock band from Minnesota, but either way the tires hook up in snow and provided more traction than I had anticipated.
For winter boot riding, the chainstays are shaped to provide extra heel clearance. Although I didn’t catch my heels on the chainstays, I did hit the back of my thighs on the seatstays when I paused pedaling to relax and stretch my hamstrings on down strokes. There’s ample standover clearance too in case you’re sliding toward a tree and need to bail.
On New Years Eve I went out for the maiden voyage with climbs through deep snow that included a lot of huffing, puffing, and pushing. The 2×10 drivetrain uses an e*thirteen 22/36-tooth crankset and 11-36-tooth Sram cassette. This 10-speed combination was adequate for the majority of riding until the snow becomes too deep to navigate through. After five miles I was spent and my upper body fatigued, but I had the bike dialed in. I set it aside and waited for an early morning ride.
New Years Day, I met my friend Jerry with his Mukluk and pedaled through the city to the trails. First thing I learned; tire pressure is key. I began with about 8psi., which caused me to spin out during climbs. After letting 2psi. out the tires came alive and gripped powder way more than I’ve experienced with a 29er. With a snow bike there’s less drifting and fighting against the wheels to maintain a somewhat straight line. The wider contact patch and volume floats on snow, instead of digging in. That’s not to say there’s no sinking, and I certainly wasn’t riding on top the snow, but think of the Beargrease as a bike wearing snowshoes. The larger footprint distributes the weight.
On downhills, I just removed my fingers from the brake levers and hoped to maintain my distance from trees. Once I got rolling I had the feeling of sledding as a kid and let out a few wooo hoos! as I sped to the bottom narrowly missing a deep drift. The Beargrease is just a pleasure to ride.
Turning is compliant as well with very little slipping or weird body movements to keep from losing the wheels. Braking actually slowed the bike without skidding or fish tailing, which aided control and kept my momentum moving forward. I also like that I had the confidence to roll over log piles and obstacles that make trail riding fun and could just relax, ride, and enjoy the winter scenery.
What I’ve learned in a few rides is that snow bike riding is less about speed and more about reaching the destination, if you have one. After a 5-hour ride and roughly 25 miles covered I was completely exhausted, but I experienced trail riding in an entirely new manner than I have in 20-some-years of riding.
A fat bike isn’t a guarantee that you’ll be able to ride through all snow, and make it up every climb. Some snow is just too deep to pedal through. But a bike like the Beargrease is a guarantee that you’ll at least be out riding in the winter through snow and having an awesome time doing it.
The Beargrease retails for $2,999 complete or $999 for the frameset.
Watch for my long-term review in an upcoming issue of Dirt Rag.
– Shannon Mominee
By the Dirt Rag staff
This is our first attempt at a holiday gift guide, and, in typical Dirt Rag fashion, we had to do it our way. We’ll share a dirty little secret with you: most magazines’ gift/buyer’s guides are not created based on the recommendations of riders, but by the wants and desires of advertisers.
That’s not how we roll. Instead, we asked each staffer to select two items that they had experience with and would wholeheartedly recommend to fellow a mountain biker. Real riders, honest recommendations, realistic prices—the way it should be.
Each day for the next two weeks we’ll be sharing a different staffer’s choices for their favorite gear of the year. Today’s picks are from Operations Manager Shannon Mominee.
WTB Laser V Team saddle – $130
This has been my go to saddle for the past 10+ years. At 148mm wide by 265mm long, it supports my body comfortably. It’s made from leather and synthetic material and has titanium rails. I use the Laser V Team on my mountain and cross bike and a cheaper version with the same shape, the Speed V, on my commuter, but honestly the Speed V wears out quickly, whereas the Laser V Team provides years of comfort and is worth the extra $60.
Adidas Evil Eye Pro – $175
These glasses are the only glasses that stick to my face no matter how rough the terrain. They’re available in a half or full frame in two sizes. The nosepiece and hinges are adjustable and the coverage is awesome; rarely does debris get into my eyes. The optically correct, interchangeable lenses are distortion-free, but RX inserts are available. The Evil Eyes fit well with every helmet I’ve used. Definitely worth the price.
Lupine Piko 3 – $330
This is the helmet light I reach for first. It puts out a bright 750 lumens and the aluminum lamp weighs 55g. This tiny 24mm x 32mm package can hardly be felt on a helmet. If you use an Uvex Supersonic LX helmet, the lamp mounts directly with no straps required and the battery slides onto the back of the helmet. At full power there’s 2 hours of burn time and the lower three settings stretch the rechargeable lithium-ion battery life up to 40 hours. Recharge time is 3 hours. What I love most is even if the unit sits for a month, I know the battery is still holding the charge and is ready to ride.
By Shannon Mominee
As the morning commute and evening mountain bike rides turn colder, I find myself searching for the warmer clothing I know I have somewhere. Fortunately, it’s easier to find my dog Roman’s winter gear and before the snow falls I thought it would be a good idea to give his Ruffwear a test run to check on its condition.
Last year, I bought Roman a Ruffwear Cloud Chaser jacket, which he loves, and reviewed it on our website. I won’t embarrass him with a photo, but lets just say I had to cut his food back and increase his mountain biking to get him back into his prime weight. Seems our overly friendly neighbors are treating him too much. They say he’s skinny. I say he’s fit.
Roman also received a pair of Bark’n Boots Polar Trex last winter, but I forgot to photograph him in the snow. (Hence the current late autumn photos here). The Polar Trex model have a Vibram sole with a shallow lug pattern, softshell construction with a DWR coating, and an extended height to prevent the snow from entering and to protect your dog’s legs from your ski edges. A pair of straps keep them in place and reflective piping adds visability to your pooch on evening walks.
He puts up with me sliding the boots over his paws and adjusting both straps, but then does the most ridiculous Tiny Tim impression and slaps his paws in a high-step fashion, club footing around the house. After a few minutes he walks and runs normal and I can breath again after laughing at him.
I like to put his boots on him when we are walking around the neighborhood to prevent sidewalk salt from affecting his pads. I live close to a soccer/football field where I take him so he can just run in the snow without snow and ice accumulating between his deep pads.
In the park and on the trails, the type of snow and trail condition dictates usage. With new snow, fresh trails, or exploring off trail in deep snow he wears the boots. They do a fine job of protecting his paws from the cold and prevent snow from building up between his webbed-toes, so I don’t need to remove a glove and dig the snow out with a frozen finger.
He occasionally looses a boot, but the bright red color is easy to spot and put back on him. If I bought another pair, I would go a size smaller just so they are a little tighter.
If the trail snow is compressed or icy, I’d rather he runs barepaw, so he can use his claws. Nature provided him with more traction than the boots do. I think if I lived somewhere with flat terrain the boots would be great on packed trails, but with the hills and rapid rollercoaster ups and downs around Pittsburgh he slides out a bit.
Overall, the Bark’n Boots Polar Trex do protect Roman’s paws from the wintery conditions. I’ve also used them to keep him from licking paw wounds, as the Bark’n Boots are superior to anything the vet has. In the southwest I’ve seen dogs wearing the shorter Grip Trex boot to protect paws against the jagged rock and thorns of the desert. The Poler Trex retail for $90 for 4 and can be purchased individually if one is lost.
Ruffwear, if you need a handsome model, Roman works for cheap.
See more at www.ruffwear.com.
By Shannon Mominee
We often hear of bicycle products created by bikers for bikers, but Bike Blood Synthetic Lubricant can claim roots to a rich racing history. Bike Blood is brought to market by former pro BMXer and Pittsburgh native Mat Harris.
As interesting as lube is, Mat’s back-story is worthy of a mention and successful enough to claim him a spot in the Heinz History Center, which has on display his Huffy Pro Team racing suit, photographs, and career summary. At age 11, a year after he began riding BMX, Mat won the Grand National Championship for his age group. Mat dominated the expert class through the ’70s, turned pro at 17 and signed on with the Huffy Pro Team. In a four-year period he claimed 1st place in 30 races and in 1983 won the International BMX Federation World Championship Pro Cruiser Class in Slagharen, Holland.
Biking may be in Mat’s blood, but Bike Blood is a synthetic lubricant with a light consistency. The lube applicator is pen-style with a needle tip. It’s perfect for lubing hard to reach areas such as derailleur pulleys, spoke nipples, suspension pivot points, shifting mechanisms, and more. It also works great for dripping lube inside of cable housing. On my commuter bike the full-coverage fenders and a rear rack make some spots hard to reach without dripping lube all over ground, but the Bike Blood applicator reduces waste and allows for precise lube application.
Bike Blood contains anti-rust and anti-corrosion properties, plus reduces dirt-attracting static. Because the lube is petroleum-free, it’s also safe for use on carbon, plastic, and rubber. It works well inside my cable housing, derailleur pulleys, and clipless pedal springs.
A .25oz. pen of Bike Blood retails for $5 and is made in the U.S.A. It can be purchased online at www.bikebloodlube.com.Tweet
By Shannon Mominee. Photos by Justin Steiner.
Oskar Blues Brewery has a long history of supporting mountain bike culture. It sponsors many events and delivers tasty canned microbrews to campsites and post-ride trailheads everywhere. It’s no wonder that its latest foray doesn’t involve malts, hops, and barley, but rather 29-inch-wheeled, steel and titanium mountain bike frames.
Reeb Cycles is Oskar Blues’ brand of hardtail frames welded in Denver, Colorado, by Chris “Soultrain” Sulfrain. Sulfrain is also the welder of his own brand of frames called Generic Cycles. No matter which metal is used for tubing, the basic geometry is the same: 13.5-inch high bottom brackets, a head tube angle of 68.75-degrees, a tall front-end built around a 120mm suspension fork, and chainstay lengths of 17.3-inches. Sizes available are small thru extra large.
I’m testing a size Large TyReeb, which as the name implies, is made of 3/2.5 titanium. My tester is a singlespeed but the frame can also be built as a geared bike as well thanks to the Paragon sliding dropouts. In singlespeed mode, Reeb Cycles prefers to use a Gate’s center track carbon belt drivetrain. The 46×28 effective gearing is adequate for the hilly terrain of southwestern Pennsylvania and the tall bottom bracket keeps pedal strike to a minimum along the rock garden-laden trails.
Handling is relaxed due to the slack (for a 29er) head tube angle and 720mm-wide Cromag Fubars handlebar. Because of the long, 43.6-inch wheelbase the TyReeb rides stable on fast downhills, but is slow steering through tight switchbacks. My high center of gravity also slows things down a bit, but it’s all fun nonetheless.
Two build kits are available for the Reeb and TyReeb, SFP (super f’ing pimp) and PFP (pretty f’ng pimp). Both are heavily centered for enduro riding and downhill rolling, with a wide handlebar, powerful brakes, 120mm fork, and American Classic All-Mountain wheels. An OX Platinum steel frame and Gates belt retails for $1,650 and a titanium frame and belt is $2,500.
Look for a complete review of the TyReeb in an upcoming issue and if you like what you see, don’t forget to subscribe to the magazine.
By Shannon Mominee, photos by Justin Steiner and Adam Newman.
The Element debuted in 1996 as a 26” full suspension bike and continued as such until this year, when a 29” version was added to the Element family. There are three 29” models, each with the same hydroformed aluminum frame. The 950 is the middle bike in the Element 29er line and the one with the most interesting, and versatile, component package.
The Element 950 is designed to meet the needs of cross-country and endurance racers. It features a tapered head tube, oversized tubing, a Press-Fit BB-92 bottom bracket, 142mm rear spacing with a 12mm thru-axle, and internal routing for the front and rear derailleurs.
In 2011, Rocky Mountain replaced their long-running, linkage-driven, single-pivot suspension design with a 4-bar suspension linkage. The rear pivot is located in front and slightly above the rear axle to minimize pedal-induced feedback. The main pivot rotates on sealed cartridge bearings, while the remaining three pivots use Rocky Mountain’s ABC (Angular Bushing Concept). The ABC consists of two polymer bushings at each pivot that press in from both sides of the linkage. The bushings fit over a pair of tapered alloy cups, which the bushings rotate on. As the bolt is tightened, the cups meet and bottom out against each other, preventing overtightening. Rocky Mountain claims that this bushing system is much stiffer and 20g lighter than sealed bearings.
The Element 950 sports a custom RockShox Revelation RL 29 fork. It has a lockout and 90-120mm of on-the-fly adjustable suspension, which turned out to be pretty useful. The rear shock is RockShox’s Monarch RT. It has a short stroke with 95mm of travel, complementing the compact geometry and racy feel. Its rebound and floodgate adjustment knobs are easy to reach, making mid-ride tweaking a breeze. There’s no lockout on the Monarch RT. I thought this was strange at first, but after a few rides I realized the bike really doesn’t need it.
Using the carbon rocker link’s handy sag indicator and keeping an eye on the O-ring, I needed 255-260psi for proper sag and to keep from bottoming out the shock. Set as such, the O-ring teetered at the edge of the shaft, assuring me full travel was being used. Not a big deal, but heavier riders should definitely test-ride to ensure proper sag can be achieved without exceeding the shock’s max pressure. I’ve been pedal- ing the Element 950 since November and have ridden it through the damp Pennsylvania autumn, a sloppy winter, and the absolute dryness of the high Arizona desert.
On steep western rock formations, sandy terrain, and good old dirt, SRAM’s 2×10 drivetrain provided enough gear options for the ups and downs. Because oversized tubing was used to create a stiff bottom bracket area, the direct mount front derailleur had to be attached to the swingarm.
The Element 950’s 95mm of travel is on the short side these days, but I liked it. The Monarch’s short stroke has a rising suspension rate that rides high in the beginning of its travel for pedaling efficiency. Combined with Rocky Mountain’s placement of the rear pivot, 10mm above the rear hub’s axle, unwanted pedal-bob is nearly nonexistent. When climbing, the suspension rolled with the terrain and moved just enough to maintain traction.
During slow-speed ups or downs, small square-edged bumps were softened, and I could feel the suspension compress slightly as the rear wheel crept over rocks and roots. At speed, I really couldn’t feel the linkage moving, and trail hits disappeared under the big wheels. But when I dismounted and looked at both shock’s O-rings they were al- ways near the end of the travel. The few times that the O-ring slipped off the shaft, I didn’t hear or feel the rear shock bottom out.
I didn’t think I would use the fork’s travel adjustment knob much, but it was fun to experiment with the front end’s handling characteris- tics. The Revelation’s travel adjustment knob is large and easy to reach. The 30mm of adjustment slackens the head tube angle by just over 1-degree from the 70.6-degree head angle with the fork set to 100mm.
If sustained climbs were ahead, I dialed the fork down to 95mm of travel. This steepened the head angle, lowered the bottom bracket, and dropped the front end to keep the wheel planted on the ground. The steeper angle also made the front wheel feel less floppy during slow-speed maneuvers and sped up the steering in tight and twisty sections. It’s a no-brainer that more travel and slacker angles equal more fun when gravity is on your side. As the terrain began to trend downhill, I dialed in more travel. This slackened the head angle, raised the bottom bracket, and shifted my weight rearward. The difference in bottom brack- et height was as noticeable as the change in the Element’s head angle.
I like the Element set at 120mm of travel best. It feels race-worthy at speed, handles quickly, and is a capable climber. Even in tight, twisty sections or during extended climbing, I can manage and never feel hindered or slow. The Element holds a line well and likes to be leaned into corners where the suspension can compress into the turn. The short suspension and big wheels gobble up terrain, take the edge off of the trail, and make the bike feel fast. I wouldn’t say the 950 handles as quick as a 26”-wheeled bike, but it’s no slouch either.
I felt comfortable, fast and in control riding this bike. The Element 950 is a capable racer or all-day trail machine that climbs as well as it descends. I like the neutral handling and the way the suspension dis- appeared beneath me. The adjustable travel fork is an awesome touch that increases the Element’s ability to adapt to a variety of terrain. If you’re looking for a capable XC bike with a smart component package that won’t break the bank, the Element 950 could be for you.
- Wheelbase: 45.1 inches/1146mm
- Head Angle: 70.6-degrees
- Seat Tube Angle: 74-degrees
- Bottom Bracket: 13.1 inches/332mm
- Chainstay Length: 17.5-inches/445mm
- Weight: 28.31 lbs./12.84kg
- Sizes: 15.5", 17", 18.5", 20" (tested), 21.5"
- Specs based on size tested
- Age: 39
- HeigHt: 6′
- Weight: 183lbs.
- Inseam: 33”
By Shannon Mominee, photos by Adam Newman
Rocky Mountain has been designing frames for more than 27 years and the Element debuted in 1996 as a 26” full suspension rig. Over the last 16 years it has seen some changes, most noticeably the adoption of 29-inch wheels, a tapered head tube, and use of the latest fabricating techniques. The 2012 Element includes three 29-inch models made from hydroformed 7005 series aluminum, and several 26-inch models made from aluminum or carbon fiber.
I’ve been riding the Element 950 29er since November. It’s outfitted with a RockShox Revelation RL 29 fork with 90-120mm of adjustable suspension, lockout, and a 20mm Maxle Lite thru-axle with a tapered steerer. The 95mm of rear travel is provided by a RockShox Monarch RT with rebound and floodgate adjustments.
The Element uses a 4-bar suspension linkage with ABC (Angular Bushing Concept) pivots, which employ angular contact polymer bushings that rotate on a tapered alloy pivot. The two halves of the alloy pivot screw into opposite sides of the linkage, are self-centering, and it bottoms out against itself, so it can’t be over-tightened and cause the bushings to bind. Rocky Mountian claims the bushings are 105 percent stiffer and 20 grams lighter than a sealed bearing. I’ll take their word on it.
The rear pivot is placed 10mm above the rear hub’s axle to combat pedal bob and unless I’m standing and mashing, movement has felt minimal. I was worried about not having a lockout on the rear shock, but the suspension design is such that it’s not required for efficient climbing.
A concern I have is that I weigh 185lbs. without a loaded hydration pack and have the rear shock’s air pressure set at 260psi. The max pressure is 275psi. I’ve taken a few hits big enough to knock the little red O-ring off the end of the shaft, but for the most part it’s been consistently close to the end assuring me full travel has been used. The suspension has been trouble-free, was easy to set up, and the floodgate and rebound knobs are easy to reach to tweak while riding.
At first I had my stem set too high and kept over-shooting turns and had a lot of flopping of the front wheel, but after lowering the stem 10mm handling has improved and I feel like I have control. The travel adjust knob on the Revelation RL is easy to reach and dial the suspension’s travel while riding. For climbs I set it at 90mm and dial anywhere to 120mm to slacken the head tube for downhill rolling.
My size 20 frame has a 70.6-degree head tube angle and 74-degree seat tube angle. It feels like I’m sitting back into the suspension and ready for the trail to decline. The chainstays are 445mm long and the wheelbase 1,146mm.
I’ve put a decent amount of mileage on the Element 950 29er thanks to the mild Pennsylvania winter and a trip to Sedona, Arizona. Look for the full review in Dirt Rag Issue #163 and if you like what you read, don’t forget to subscribe to the magazine.
By Shannon Mominee
The numbers for total mileage and days commuted by bike to the Dirt Rag office have been calculated, and per her normal dominance—or at least our ability to mark an “X” on the record board—Karen Brooks, above, takes home the prize for most days and mileage. Actually, there is no prize, but all of us receive $1 for every round trip cycled.
- Karen had 93.5 days and 2,338 miles
- Eric probably would have won, but isn’t the greatest at tracking his days, he finished with 88.5 days and 1,239 miles.
- Shannon cycled 80 days and 1,120 miles.
- Matt rode 31.5 days and 693 miles.
- Justin rode 20.5 days totaling 287 miles.
- Adam finished with 17.5 days and 287 miles.
- Josh has a really ugly hill to climb to get home, but still rode 13.5 days for 432 miles.
- Trina and Stephen live far out, take it as you wish, but rode 7.5 and 7 days respectively for 105 and 98 miles.
- And the newest member to the staff, Jon, managed 4 days for 88 miles even though he only worked a few months and suffered a broken thumb.
In all, we accumulated 363.5 days and 6,687 miles. Both numbers are an improvement over 2010’s totals of 319.5 days and 5,868.5 miles. I’m confident that a lot of days were left unaccounted for, because we were so involved in producing quality magazines and drinking coffee and beer that we forgot to keep track.
What we need is a small rodent, maybe a hamster or Guinea pig, or a friendly primate able to mark an “X” on paper. Have one? If so, send video proof of penmanship to Adam at email@example.com. All applicants will be considered and we are willing to trade a T-shirt and subscription for use of your pet
How many miles did you commute in 2011?
By Shannon Mominee
Bronto is located in Springfield, OR, and their mission is “To build some of the best riding and best looking handmade steel mountain bikes,” says Todd “Jedi Master Welder” Gardner. Gardner has 11 years of building experience. He got his start at Burley, where he built over 1,000 steel and aluminum frames. These days, Todd builds two frames per week in five stock sizes. David Alvarez, Gardner’s business partner, handles sales and marketing.
Together they produce four frame models. Willy, my test bike, is their 29er singlespeed. There is also the Reverend, a geared 29er; Bon, a 26” hardtail; and Paycheck, a 26” long- travel hardtail. Bronto will also do custom geometry, pricing will vary.
The standard $1,700 Willy has a True Temper OX Platinum main triangle with straight tubes chosen for each size. Bronto custom bends thin-walled, 4130 chromoly seat and chainstays in house using their own tooling, and all frames are TIG welded.
My tester was built with a few available upgrades. Bronto used a hydraulic bending machine to bend the 4130 chromoly top down, and seat tubes. The top tube is bent for additional standover, the down tube for fork crown clearance, and the seat tube to reduce the chainstay length. For added strength and stiffness, Todd fabricates sleeves and wraps them around the down tube and seat tube. The sleeves act as lugs and are stronger than a gusset. I think they also give Willy an original look.
Bronto designed the sliding dropouts but are still in the development stages. Mine don’t have threaded adjusters, but 2012 models will. A sliding dropout with a derailleur hanger is also in the works. Bronto does offer an AC-DC build that includes cable stops and a geared and singlespeed dropout. With Willy’s dropouts slid all the way forward it’s possible to have short, 428mm chainstays. Mine are set in the middle for average 438mm chainstays that accommodate the big 29”x2.35” Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires. Mud clearance could become an issue for some riders, but I didn’t have any problems. Through the test the sliders only needed to be adjusted once.
Bronto wanted to give riders the option to ride rigid forks and were determined to build a fork that looked good and handled well. So the $300 Udo was born, made from straight-bladed chromoly tubes with hooded dropouts that wrap nicely around the quick release. The segmented fork crown and sleeves add stiffness and reduce brake flex. The Willy is suspension corrected for a 80mm travel fork, but Bronto also makes 100mm, and 120mm corrected forks. I can vouch for its stiffness, plus I like the rugged appearance and trail feedback.
Put it all together and my Willy has a 20.5-inch frame with a 617mm top tube, aggressive 71.5-degree head and 74-degree seat tube angles, a 1-1/8-inch head tube, and 305mm bottom bracket height. It has international standard rear disc brake mounts and 135mm rear hub spacing. The matte “Bronto Brown” paint and subtle decals add to Willy’s appeal. Overall, the bike looks hot as hell.
My bike included Hive’s Chub front and rear hubs laced with 32 bladed spokes to Stan’s ZTR Flow rims with standard quick releases, E. Thirteen singlespeed crankset geared 33×21 for the hilly terrain, Hope Tech X2 disc brakes, and Cromag Fubar handbar and saddle.
Willy is a rigid bike. No doubt about that. I felt roughed up the first few rides, until I remembered to use my knees and elbows as shocks and pick cleaner lines. The frame looks and feels solid with little flex, which is great for climbing. Its torsional stiffness helped when standing and mashing. The curved seat tube tucked the wheel underneath me for excellent traction.
Rolling with gravity, the steel provided awesome trail feedback, and once I found a suitable air pressure for the tires, the Willy came to life and lost most of the jarring feeling. Instead of being ping-ponged, there was absorption that led to precise steering. The bike handles quick, great for dodging large rocks and attacking the trail. The 1104mm wheelbase allowed me to easily maneuver up and over built up features and swing the bike back into a straight line after cornering. On fast downhills Willy felt stable and tracked well.
The 305mm bottom bracket is approximately 7mm lower than my personal bike, but I had no trouble clipping pedals on rocks or logs. I liked the feeling of sitting lower between the wheels and keeping my center of gravity closer to the ground. Carving felt more natural without the top topsy-turvy feeling I often experience with my bike.
There were a few times I wished for a suspension fork, but with the Udo, I could feel what I was rolling over and didn’t have to consider fork dive in rock gardens or preloading before jumping. I always knew where the bike was going to go when I moved the bars, and after a couple rides my arms lost the vibrating sensation that came with a few hours of saddle time.
I like how simple Willy is and the subtle ride that the steel frame, supported by the bent seat and chain stays, gives. The bike is solid and the head tube junction and top and down tubes are flex-free which allowed me to remain confident when gaining speed and making rapid steering adjustments.
My complaints are minor. Some people may like more than one bottle cage mount, and I would have liked a jet booster for spinning on the street to the trailhead…
Bronto’s Willy would be a good choice for the singlespeeder looking for a small brand frame with big time class. The Willy could find its place on any mountain bike trail and be equally comfortable participat- ing in races, albeit a little on the heavy side for a rigid singlespeed. It’s an expensive frame and not a bike for the masses. If every bike looked and rode this nice and was priced low, everyone would have one.
But it’s not. The curved lines, matching fork, and the simplicity of a singlespeed, made me excited to ride each time I threw a leg over it. The Willy has a style all its own and a ride quality like none other. It took me a few rides to get comfortable, but was worth the time and I’ll be sad when I have to return it.
Price: $1,950 (frame), $300 (fork), $4,000 (complete)
Sizes available: 16, 17.5, 19, 20.5 (tested), and 22”
Country of origin: USA
You can read Shannon’s first impressions of the Willy here.
By Shannon Mominee
Velocity’s new 29” Blunt SL Pro wheelset is handbuilt in Grand Rapids, MI. They’re marketed as a race day wheel, because the 1,565g weight is comparable to other “racing” wheelsets. I used them as my primary wheels for optimal trail mileage during the test.
The Blunt SL is a blend of the wider Blunt and the P35 rim with the addition of Velocity’s tubeless rim bead. The Pro build uses Blunt SL rims and lightweight disc hubs with 6-bolt rotor mounts, laced with Sapim CX-Ray bladed, J-bend spokes to alloy nipples. Each wheel has 28 spokes; the front is radial laced on the drive-side and two-cross on the non-drive side. The rear wheel is laced two-cross on both sides. The rims have an internal width of 20.8mm and a 25mm external width.
Velocity Velotape and valve stems are used to convert the wheels for tubeless use. The front hub has two sealed cartridge bearings and uses a 9mm quick-release. A 15/20mm compatible front hub option is also available for no additional charge. The rear hub has four cartridge bearings, a standard quick release, and 3 pawls with 30 engagement points. The rear hub is not compatible with 142mm axle spacing. Front hub preload is easily done via a setscrew. Two 5mm hex keys adjust the rear. My hubs didn’t require adjustment during the test.
On the trail the Blunts rolled smooth and remained dent-free after an encounter with a snakebite-causing rock. They didn’t, however, feel as stiff as the burlier Industry9 wheels they replaced (reviewed in Issue #138), especially through high-speed turns. Hub engagement wasn’t as instantaneous either, and was apparent when starting from a stop on an uphill section or when slow speed balancing and back pedaling was required.
After a few long rides I was preparing do a tubeless conversion on these wheels— the rims sealed nicely with Stan’s sealant and UST tires—and placed them in our truing stand to see how they were holding up. The wheels were in need of truing. I had a hard time truing them because some spokes were locked into the nipple and wanted twist even as I held them with a bladed spoke tool.
For my 185lbs. weight and riding style I wouldn’t use the Pro Build as an everyday wheelset, but if you’re racing and don’t mind truing bladed spokes as a trade-off for low weight, then I’d give them a try. The Comp build appears to be a more durable product to me. It uses the same rim but has 32-DT Swiss double-butted spokes laced three-cross with brass nipples. They are $250 less, weigh 200g more, but should be a stiffer wheel and easier to maintain. Skewers are included, as well as a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
Weight: 1,565 grams
Country of Origin: Assembled in the United States
By Shannon Mominee
The Uvex Supersonic LX helmet features double in-mold technology with twenty-three vents and insect webbing across the front three. The shell looks subtle with no pointy edges. At 285g it’s perfect for everyday trail riding and racing.
Seven-position height adjusters determine where the retention system rests around the head and a single wheel adjusts the tension evenly in 2mm increments. The ratcheting chinstrap makes correcting strap length easy. The inside of the helmet is full of antibacterial, sweat absorbing pads that are removable and washable. The molded visor is also removable.
A cool feature on the Supersonic is that Lupine’s Piko 3 light system (reviewed in issue #154) mounts directly to the helmet, but is not included. The light’s base presses into four holes on the front of the helmet and the battery slides onto a plastic tab on the back. The Piko’s 180g weight is noticeable, but is balanced so the helmet doesn’t tip fore or aft. Best of all there are no straps to mess with.
I had no problems with the tension loosening as I rode singletrack with or without the light, and the Supersonic was comfortable to wear on long rides. There’s plenty of ventilation and it’s well constructed. The price is line with comparably vented helmets. It has a one-year warranty, and is eligible for a discounted crash replacement for three-years.