What a year for Santa Cruz, after releasing the Bronson, Solo and Heckler models earlier this year, the Bantam is the fourth new 27.5 model to emerge this year. (Seventh if you count carbon and aluminum models separately.)
Packing 27.5 wheels and 125mm of the tried-and-true single pivot suspension, it offers the same geometry as the Solo model at a lower price point with less maintenance. It sports the same 68 degree head tube angle, 17.1 inch chainstays and low 13.1 inch bottom bracket. Just like it’s big brother, the Heckler, it has a 142×12 thru axle, a threaded bottom bracket and ISCG tabs.
The new bike follows Santa Cruz’s model of offering similar bikes in both single pivot and VPP variety, e.g. Tallboy/Superlight 29, Bronson/Heckler, and now Solo/Bantam.
There will be two colors available: green and black, as well as two build kits at $2,599 or $2,899.Tweet Print
Is it an XC bike? A trail bike? Rocky Mountain would say yes to both. The Thunderbolt’s 120mm of travel and 27.5 wheels bridge the gap.
When compared to the Element, Instinct and Altitude, the Thunderbolt’s Rocky Mountain heritage is evident, with a strong family resemblance. But unlike the brand’s dedicated XC offerings, the Thunderbolt is meant to be a more playful and aggressive bike for a wide variety of riding styles. Absent, however, is the Ride-9 chip found on its siblings, so the suspension is not as adjustable.
Most models of the Thunderbolt will use 142×12 E-Thru rear axles, internal cable routing, stealth dropper post routing and BB92 bottom brackets.
There are four models:
No word yet on availability. We’ll likely know more after Interbike.
Joe Breeze knows a thing or two about mountain bikes. He was an early pioneer in California with the likes of Gary Fisher, Charlie Kelly and Tom Ritchey and his eponymous bike company has built everything from commuter bikes to carbon mountain bikes.
Named after the first recorded mountain bike race, the Repack is aimed squarely at the hot trail and enduro market with 160mm of travel and 27.5 wheels. The suspension design is the new MLink, designed by the Sotto Group, an engineering firm that has designed suspensions for other brands, including Yeti’s Switch system.
Most modern full suspension platforms use a chainstay pivot either near the rear axle (e.g. Horst Link, Split Pivot) or near the bottom bracket (Santa Cruz’s VPP, Niner’s CVA). The MLink, however, places the pivot in the middle of the chainstay, allowing the chainstays to remain short while keeping the linkage stiff. It uses sealed cartridge bearings throughout.
Breezer says the MLink’s mid-link pivot rotates only three degrees. “Compared to short link systems’ large rotations, rapid accelerations, direction changes, and therefore, increased bearing wear, MLink’s fewer rotations translate into super smooth suspension travel and less stress on bearings and pivots. Compared to long link flexy systems, MLink allows for a rigid, triangulated rear end with riding forces diffused across widely spaced, low rotation bearings – supplying the stiffness essential for full suspension to function at its best.”
There will be three trim levels. The Team (pictured here) has a mostly Shimano XT drivetrain and a Fox Float 34 FIT fork and retail for $4,399. The Pro has a Shimano SLX build with a Fox Float 34 Evo fork and will retail for $3,599. The Expert has a Shimano Deore group with an X-Fusion Sweep fork and will retail for $2,899.
Look for the Repack to become available in January 2014.
Aaron Gwin isn’t just one of the premiere downhill riders on the planet, he’s also a coach. He recently welcomed riders and racers to a two-day skills camp at Mammoth Mountain Bike Park for three days of in-person instruction. Joining him were members of the ODI Development Team and Mammoth Bike Park guides.
Check out this quick edit as they shred on Mammoth’s new Pipeline trail.Tweet Print
By Eric McKeegan
Two summers ago, I got to fondle and photograph a Gambler at a Scott press camp. I didn’t get to ride it as the press camp’s local terrain was much better suited to the Genius bikes released at the same time.
I finally got to throw a leg over this bike, and on world class trails at Whistler. The Gambler is a bit a surprise from Scott. Scott’s trail bikes lean towards steeper XC geometry, but the Gambler is among the slackest downhill bikes on the market. Stock numers are a 62 to 62.7 degree head tube angle, depending on setup, and the included angled headset cups can take off another full degree for a true plow bike experience.
I hopped on a large 2014 model, with a Shimano Saint drivetrain, Zee brakes, FOX 40 RC2 with airspring, and DHX rear shock. All top quality stuff, and the new Schwalbe Magic Mary tires were perfect for the rainy day at Whistler.
I love riding downhill, but I’m not super fast. At heart I’m a trail rider, and I have a tendency to ride downhill bikes like trail bikes, steering too much, not taking the big lines, etc. This usually means bikes like the Gambler overwhelm me at first, as the slack and low geometry usually feels slow and ponderous at first. But the Gambler didn’t feel that way at all.
Maybe it was the bike setup, with the stays in the shortest setting and the BB in the high setting, and a great suspension setup for my weight, but everything felt right at home. Even on tight singletrack, full of wet bridge work, with fogged goggles, I was ready to charge whatever was in front of me. And out of all the downhill bikes I’ve ridden the Gambler was easiest for me to feel confident launching jumps, which is probably my biggest weakness as a rider.
With downhill season winding down, and thoughts turn to 2014, the Gambler is now #1 on my list for a long-term gravity bike review. I was pretty bummed my schedule at Crankworx didn’t have time for an all day session on the Gambler.
Floriane Pugin rocketed her Gambler to a podium finish in both the Fox Air DH and the Canadian Open DH at Crankworx last week.Tweet Print
By Eric McKeegan, photos by Adam Newman.
SRAM has been exemplary with trickling down technology from high-end groups to more affordable price points. Starting at $1,274 for the aftermarket kit, this isn’t the hoped-for X9 or X7 1×11 group many are hoping for, but it is a step in the right direction.
To be entirely honest, the XO1 group isn’t really that different from the XX1 group. The cassette is the same with a different finish. The carbon cranks are the same as the XX1 (and standard XO) with a differnet bolt-on spider, and the shifter appears to use many of the same parts as XX1, with aluminum replacing some of the carbon bits.
The cassette’s smaller 10 cogs are machined from a solid hunk of steel, and amazing feat when seen up close. The 42-tooth cog is aluminum. The finish is a mean-looking black, similar in appearance to the black stanchions on Rock Shox’s new forks. Yes this is a $400 cassette, but if you have a hard time understanding why that is, find one to examine off the bike, I still amazes me every time I see one.
The crank uses a 94 BCD four bolt spider, with chainrings from 30-38 teeth in even sizes. XX1 has a smaller BCD spider for chainrings down to 28 teeth. This smaller spider explains the minor weight savings for the crankset. Speaking of the crank, these carbon crank arms, orginially introduced on the XO group are one of the best things going. The bolt on spider means you can convert your current 2x crank to a 1x, or even use a one-piece aftermarket chainring. These cranks have been raced in DH, bashed around on demo bikes and generally used hard, I’ve never seen a broken set.
The shifter is obviously a sibling to the XX1 unit, and it appears to be lighter than XX1, according to the specs I’ve seen, I haven’t weighted either one personally. You can also go with a GripShift shifter, but I’ll ask you to keep that preference to yourself.
So far the 11-speed chains have proven to be strong and durable in our experience, and I expect the XO1 to perform the same way. I suspect the chains are under less stress since they are not getting pushed around from ring to ring up front.
The derailleur is also very, very similar to the XX1, with XO1 coming in at 30 grams heavier.
I got to ride the new group, but riding up the chair lift and blazing back down Whistler trails doesn’t do much to see how the system works under everyday use. I can say the chain retention is perfect, even on the blown out trails at Cranworx.
My thoughts on the new XO? With so few functional changes from XX1, I’ll go out on a limb and say this is going to be another awesome (and still expensive) drivetrain option from SRAM. As OE spec on a new bike, it might save just enough money over XX1 to score a nicer dropper, or upgrade to a carbon post. For aftermarket sales, unless you really need or want the 28-tooth ring (and aren’t willing to use an aftermarket option) XO1 might kill of most of the XX1 sales. There is no performance lost between the two groups, weight gain is minor, and the black XO1 cassette looks better too!
In other SRAM news, I rode the XO1 group on a new Lapierre Spicy stacked full of other new goodness from SRAM. The Pike felt amazing, and as long as the new Charger damper is reliable. This fork is the one to beat. We’ve got one on its way for long term test, and there might be a fight at HQ over who gets to ride it.
By Adam Newman
We’re still recovering from a week of madness at Whistler Mountain, but if you couldn’t join us, here’s a behind-the-scenes look at what you missed.
The mountains beckon on the bus ride from Vancouver along the stunning Sea To Sky Highway.
Aaaahhh… here we are.
The atomosphere is, shall we say, festive.
Everyone in the village loves gravity racing, and it doesn’t have to include bikes.
But if you need a bike, there’s never a shortage of options once you get here.
Though some folks push the definition of "bike" entirely too far.
Brandon Semenuk was pretty stoked on his new bike, the Trek Session Park, which he helped design for events like the Red Bull Rampage. Later he did break a smile after grabbing his second win at the Red Bull Joyride slopestyle comp.
Ryan Howard was a little more animated, hamming it up for the mountain bike press.
Speaking of which, here they are hard at work (aka tweeting about cats).
The parking lot with the fleet vehicles was a "mine’s bigger" contest. E-Rides was represented well.
Two all-conquering mountain machines. We should get one of these for the next Dirt Rag van.
Coolest dog on the mountain? We think so.
Next time you’re making excuses why you can’t ride, remember Chilean racer Adolfo Almarza who shreds the pro circuit even as a double amputee.
That’s it for now, but watch for more coverage in the coming days.
See you soon Whistler.Tweet Print
In just three days time BikePark Wales will open its doors to the public after five years of planning and construction. Today see’s the release of the final episode in the making of BikePark Wales triology “Go for launch” featuring guest riders Tracy Mosely, Joe Smith, Al Bond and Joel Moore.
This episode gives a great insight as to what the riding at BikePark Wales will be like. To find out for yourself, you’ll have to go check it out on Saturday, August 24.Tweet Print
By Adam Newman
Returning strong from bankruptcy in 2011, for next year RaceFace will get into the saddle game with the Affect, a mountain bike specific saddle weighing in at about 220 grams with Ti alloy rails and an approximately $100 price tag. Look for it in late fall 2013.
RaceFace is the latest brand to get on board with the new 35mm stem clamp standard. The SixC downhill bars measure in at 800mm wide with three different rise options. The Next series clocks in at 760mm, and even the XC-focused Turbo series has a 35mm option with the same 760mm width.
Naturally there will be RaceFace stems to match.
Devinci was showing off the new 27.5 Troy model, a 140mm enduro/trail bike with Dave Weigle’s Split Pivot suspension design. The internal cable routing pops out above the bottom bracket, leading to something of a housing crowd. The carbon weave look on the front triangle also isn’t something you see often these days. The seatstays are carbon while the asymmetric chainstays are aluminum.
While Steve Smith took the win in the Air DH race aboard his new Troy, above, we spotted a prototype Devinci under teammate Nick Beer. While the Troy and Dixon models have vertical shock mounts, this one, below, employs a horizontal RockShox Vivid Air, likely indicating an increase in travel, slotting in between Devinci’s trail/enduro bikes and the Wilson downhill sled. Look for it to be the perfect downhiller turned enduro racer’s xc-ish trail bike. (I kid. I kid.)
Banshee Bikes were "born on the shore" and naturally the booth was a popular stop in the Whistler Village. The Phantom 29er prototype pictured here was first spotted at Sea Otter, but it looks closer than ever to production. The frame sports 100mm of rear wheel travel and designed to handle 120mm-140mm forks. Unlike other short-travel XC bikes, the Phantom has a 67 degree head tube angle for more aggressive riding. Look for it to be production ready by spring.
Banshee also had this prototype 27.5 Legend in the booth, but it’s the only one in existence and hasn’t even been ridden yet. The Manitou Dorado fork has plenty of clearance for the bigger wheels, but the rear end sure is tight. The suspension is Banshee’s own KS Link with the replaceable dropouts and flip chips for adjustable geometry and convertible axle standards.
FiveTen has two new models for 2014: the Sam Hill signature edition Impact VXi and the Greg Minaar edition Impact VXi clipless. The new kicks are significantly lighter than the old style Impacts, and the new foam is non-absorbant, so you’re shoes won’t swell up like sponges on rainy days.
There will be a youth version of the classic Impact shoes as well, as 9-year-old FiveTen rider Jackson Goldstone tries on his for the first time.
EVOQ’s Liteshield line of bags have a closed-cell foam panel that protects your spine in the event of a crash, both from the ground and from whatever might be in your bag. Available in four sizes, there is an option for everything from XC to backcountry touring.
Not everyone needs fancy gear. DIY was in style at Crankworx. Or maybe it’s just a prototype…
One bike we didn’t expect to see at the bike park was Surly’s super-brand-new Instigator 2.0. The new bike has massive tire clearance with room for Surly’s new 26×2.75 Dirt Wizard tires or those oh-so-hot-right-now 27.5 wheels. The replaceable and convertible dropouts are new for Surly and can be fitted to handle most any axle system.
By Adam Newman
A few weeks ago we brought you news that Giant’s 2014 lineup would be almost entirely devoid of 26-inch bikes and a scaled-back selection of 29ers. The company firmly believes the 27.5 wheels are a future of trail riding and have equipped most of their mountain bikes, from the price point hardtails to the enduro-ready Trance SX, as such.
The mid-travel segment is the most quickly expanding market these days, as the bikes can be used for everything from casual weekend rides to enduro racing. The Trance models fall squarely in that not-too-big, not-too-small category with 140mm of rear wheel travel through Giant’s classic dual-link Maestro suspension system.
The Trance 27.5 1 model, pictured here, is equipped with a Fox Float 32 Evolution, a Shimano SLX and XT parts kit, and Giant’s own Contact Switch dropper seatpost. MSRP is $3,500. There is also a lower-priced version or it is available as a frame-only. The Trance Advanced is the same model with a carbon frame.
I grabbed one out of the Giant’s extensive demo fleet here at Crankworx and hit the popular Lost Lake trails just outside the village.
This was my first ride on Giant’s Maestro system but certainly not my first on 27.5 wheels. If you haven’t tried them yet, there isn’t much to say—they don’t require any brain re-calibration the way moving back and forth from 26 to 29 does.
With limited setup tweaks, the Trance stumbled a bit out of the block. The Maestro system stiffens up considerably under power but sank into its travel when off the gas. Setting the rebound to nearly full fast keep it up high in its travel. The fork took even more effort to wrangle, as a "proper" sag setup led to an astonishing amount of braking dive. Cranking up the air pressure kept it riding high, but left me with access to only half its travel.
Once all the squishing was sorted, the bike had that perfect "Goldilocks" feel that disappears beneath you. The 67 degree head tube and 17.3-inch chainstays are square in the middle of what you would expect to see on a 5-inch bike, and there are no handling quirks or surprises. Keeping the rebound damping fast gave the suspension a bit of life, but the Trance is definitely a bike that likes to stay on the ground instead of getting rowdy.
The only spots on the trails I had trouble with was charging up steep, technical, punchy little climbs, as the "smaller" 27.5 wheel just could roll over the small step-ups as well as a 29er could. When I rode the same sections on a 29er the next day it cleared them with far less speed and body english.
I was hoping get some shredding in though—this being BC and all—so I also grabbed a Trance SX off the rack. The SX uses the same 140mm frame but gets the burlier 160mm Fox Float 34 Evolution fork and a 1×10 drivetrain with a chainguide. With the spec pictured here, the $4,050 seemed a bit high compared to the regular Trance, as you get a bigger fork but one less shifter and derailleur.
The same suspension gremlins were present on the Trance SX though, and setting up the fork so stiff really took away from how hard I could push the bike. It also seemed a bit more wobbly and less adept at the tight and twisty Lost Lake trails that its smaller sibling. I didn’t have a chance to take it up the mountain to the bike park but it would certainly feel more at home on wide-open terrain with higher speeds.
If the fork issues were taken care of I would have likely come away with a better first impression. More extensive tuning could likely remedy braking dive. Since Giant has such a huge reach all over the world, I have little doubt the Trance will be a huge success as a very versatile bike that is going to keep a lot of riders satisfied.