Editor’s note: “At the Helm” was a project we undertook earlier this year as part of our 25th Anniversary celebration. Four bikes, four companies, four founders. Much like Dirt Rag’s own history, each of these founders has seen rough times, but the ship still sails with a firm hand on the wheel. The stories you’ll read in the next few weeks aren’t just about the bikes, but also the history and the men behind them.
Mike Sinyard has had his far share of controversial moments, including the latest dust-up about Specialized’s overzealous pursuit of a trademark defense. We get into that and review the spiritual successor of the original Stumpjumper in the form of a Stumpjumper Expert Carbon HT World Cup.
We first spied this all-new creation from Diamondback back at Sea Otter—hell it was hard not to, considering its electric orange paint can be seen from space. Now it’s in our hands and ready for a long-term test ride.Tweet Print
We had seen it coming. There were spy shots and rumors tossed around about a full-suspension fat bike. In fact, the Bucksaw isn’t even the first one—several smaller brands have built bikes that qualified as “full-suspension”, but this one is different. This is a major brand making a big commitment to a new product segment, and bringing an advanced suspension design with it. Mike Riemer, Salsa’s Marketing Manager, said that Dave Weagle, the creator of the Bucksaw’s Split Pivot suspension, told him it was the most complex project he had ever worked on.
One thing is for sure, this is not a “stealthy” bike. From the big tires to the candy-colored paint, the Bucksaw is breaking a new trail in mountain biking. But how does it ride?Tweet Print
I’ve always been drawn to unusual products and technologies. When the strangest gear shows up at Dirt Rag HQ I’m always first to raise my hand to try it. After all, that’s how cycling journalists like myself earn the big bucks. When I saw the Lauf forks at the Sea Otter expo I knew we had to get one in the pages of Dirt Rag.
Like countless great ideas, the genesis of the Lauf came over post-ride beers. The goal was to create the lightest possible racing suspension fork. Using the latest composite materials, the engineering team made it a reality, with the prototype winning its first race in June 2013.
Now, I’m not going to be winning any races any time soon, but I’ve been riding with a rigid carbon fork for a few years now, and the concept of the leaf spring Lauf didn’t seem so crazy to me. While it looks outrageous, the 60mm of suspension travel is accomplished by flexing the six composite leaf springs per leg.Tweet Print
The race to improve technical clothing for dirt munchers is in full force and Specialized has poured its mighty resources into its Spring 2014 apparel line, specifically targeted at trail, all-mountain and gravity categories.Tweet Print
Breezer Bikes surprised us all last year with the introduction of the Repack, a 160mm, 27.5 trail/enduro bike aimed right at the heart of the full suspension market. Now it’s following up with a 29er version, with 120mm of travel and the same unique M-Link suspension system.
Back in February I was lucky enough to shake off the Pennsylvania snow and head west to Fairfax, California, (the “birthplace” of mountain biking”) to join none other than Joe Breeze for a special presentation.
There I got a sneak peek and a first ride on the Supercell, which continues the Breezer tradition of naming bikes after weather events. Joe Breeze himself was kind enough to give us a tour of the trails surrounding Mt. Tamalpais, and a tour of the new bike.Tweet Print
It’s been a rough winter near Dirt Rag HQ, and after our last trip to Virginia was such a success, when another offer of lodging and guide service came out way, I didn’t hesitate long to make plans to head south to Wilderness Adventure at Eagle Landing.
Willderness Adventure is about 45 minutes outside Roanoke, Virginia, and situated smack in the middle of a huge range of riding. We’ve ridden ridge lines, steep chutes, rock gardens and man-made jump lines, really the complete package of what I think makes mountain biking awesome.
The purpose of the trip is to finalize testing for a new feature: “Throwdown.” Later this year in Dirt Rag you’ll see six of 2014′s most compelling bikes paired off and assigned to a single reviewer. As is our unwritten policy, this isn’t a shootout, but a chance to use two bikes to better tell you the story of each one.Tweet Print
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 Print
While it might seem a little premature to make such a prognostication, I’m going to do it, if for no other reason to get your attention.
There is little argument among people who have ridden them that SRAMs 1×11 drivetrains are a serious step forward in drivetrian evolution. What isn’t appealing is the upfront cost, and the replacement cost for that 11 speed cassette, somewhere in the vicinity of $300. So, what’s a mountain biker with champagne taste and an MD 20/20 budget supposed to do?Tweet Print
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 Print