By Eric McKeegan
The S.I.R. 9 was one of Niner’s first models, helping to propel the 29-only company from tiny start up to a dozen models including three full-suspension platforms. Not one to forget its roots, the S.I.R. recently got a full redesign, and Niner sent us out a test bike, set up in single speed configuration.
After a late winter of sorry trail conditions, the S.I.R. arrived just in time for a trip down to Pisgah for some dry trails and big hills. Niner was nice enough to include both a RockShox SID XX suspension fork and one of its own carbon forks. Knowing Pisgah’s rep for trails full of the gnar, the suspension fork got the nod.
The rest of the build was purely cross-country, with Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires set up tubeless, a Niner flat bar, carbon seatpost, and my preferred all around singlespeed gearing of 32-20.
After some initial rude awakenings to both the realities of climbing with one gear and the limitations of XC geometry on fast, rough descents, I was stoked be back on a simple, efficient bike. Not to mention it was good training for my less-than-wise choice to race the singlespeed class at the Transylvania Epic stage race in a few weeks.
The tubes in the S.I.R. remain Reynolds 853, still one of the finest steel alloys on the market. Niner utilizes larger diameter tuning and a proprietary bent down tube and rear stays for a more precise steering and less flex while pedaling, without losing that magic ride that steel is known for.
Chain tension is handled by Niner’s BioCentric II eccentric bottom bracket. The two-bolt design distributes the clamping force over a wider area than the first generation design. At the other end of the chain are 142×12 dropouts of Niner’s own design with a replaceable derailleur hanger that can be removed for a clean look whilst singlespeeding.
After a few hard days on this bike, I’ve been reminded how nice it is to just ride. No diddling with suspension switches, no hunting around for the just the right gear. That is the key to the single speed, your gear is always the right one, even when it feels very, very wrong.
Pick up the current issue, Dirt Rag #170, for my complete review.
By Karl Rosengarth
There’s no denying the buzz surrounding 27.5-inch mountain bikes. Color me intrigued, as I begin my first long-term test on a tweener. I’m ready to clear my mind of preconceptions, ride and learn.
KHS offers two 120mm and two 140mm-travel models in their SixFifty lineup. All four models employ a Horst-link rear suspension, which KHS has been licensing for many years. For this initial report, I’ll simply mention that this is a tried and true suspension platform, and leave it at that.
My first foray into the B-side finds me astride the 120mm-travel SixFifty 2500. With its $2,149 price tag, the 2500 is the company’s entry-level SixFifty dually. Our size medium test bike weighed in at 33.2 lbs with my Time X-ROC S platform pedals.
Before I hit the trails, I wondered how the geometry would translate to on-trail handling:
- effective top tube length = 23.2-inches
- chainstay length = 17.5-inches
- head tube angle = 69.5 degrees
- seat tube angle = 73 degrees
- BB height = 13.3-inches.
After shredding some sweet singletrack, I breathed a sigh of relief. The 2500 handled intuitively, and immediately put me at ease. The 2500 felt responsive, and more playful than monster truck-like. It’s solid XC-oriented handling.
Up front the bike sports an RST 650B Air fork, with adjustable rebound damping and a lockout knob atop the right leg. The fork has 30mm diameter uppers and a conventional Q/R skewer, which may account for the flex and imprecision that I detected under strain. The fork didn’t feel as plush as I’d have liked either. The RockShox Bar R air shock in the rear has been hunky-dory.
The 3×9 drivetrain on the SixFifty 2500 features Shimano SLX/Deore derailleurs F/R, mated to Alivio shifters, with an Alivio 44/32/22T crankset and 11-34 cassette (and, interestingly, a SRAM PC-951 chain). So far so good on the drivetrain.
Rubber is courtesy of Maxxis, with an Ardent 2.25 up front and a Crossmark 2.1 on the drive wheel. Both tread designs work well under a wide range of conditions.
The Bengal Helix 7.0 hydro disc brakes (with 160mm rotors) were new to me. My initial impression is that they lack stopping power, compared to hydros from the major name brands.
Look for the long-term review of this bike in an upcoming issue of Dirt Rag. Subscribe now to make sure you don’t miss it.Tweet Print
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.
By Justin Steiner
Here at Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times Headquarters it seems nary a day passes without a delivery person rolling a new bike through the door. Awesome as it is, there are challenges to constantly swapping from bike to bike. In terms of suspension bikes, quickly setting up a new bike at its manufacturer’s recommended baseline is key to kicking off a proper test.
Fox uses ID Tags on all of their 2013 and newer shocks and forks. These ID tags communicate the necessary info to the app. All you have to do is locate the ID tag and enter the code.
Next, you follow the instructions to select “descend’ mode on the shock, and dial rebound damping to the minimum setting.
Next, you enter your weight, including all riding gear, into the App. Using all the information provided by the ID Tag, the App will recommend a baseline air pressure.
You then mark the sag position by assuming a normal riding position, per the instructions.
With the travel o-ring marking the sag position, you then use the iPhone’s camera to check the sag.
We double checked the iRD app’s recommendation and found it to be right at 22 percent sag. Since Matt wasn’t wearing his hydration pack for this sag measurement, he’ll be at closer to 25 percent sag with a pack, which is a good starting point for this test. With sag set, the iRD app then recommends a rebound setting.
With the rear suspension set up, we moved on to the fork. Again, based on the information from the ID Tag along with the rider weight Matt entered, the iRD app provides a recommended air pressure.
Then you’re back through the process of marking and checking sag.
In this case, the app was spot on first time through. From here, all Matt had to do was adjust rebound damping to the recommended settings and go ride.
I was highly impressed with the app’s ability to simplify what can be a very complex process. The iRD app takes the mystery out of suspension setup, and provides a solid baseline that will should work well for most riders in most situations. I’d wager a vast majority of app users will arrive at better baseline settings than those using the traditional measuring tape approach.
As of now, Fox’s iRD app is available for iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and iPad mini running iOS 4.3 or later. Android and Windows phone people will have to borrow an i-device.Tweet Print
By Emily Walley. Photos by Emily Walley and Justin Steiner.
The new-for-2013 Trek Lush 29 SL is the fast, stable, big-wheeled sister in the Lush family, which began in 2012 with her 26-inch wheeled siblings. Flaunting her 29-inch wheels along with frame sizes as small as 14-inches, this full suspension trail woman is proof that a small frame size doesn’t have to mean small wheels.
As with all of Trek’s women’s bikes, the Lush 29 SL utilizes Women’s Specific Design, which features components and suspension tuning for our unique build. The frame nestles itself between those big wheels improving control and stability, and the swooping top tube allows for plenty of standover clearance to accommodate smaller riders. This model also boasts Trek’s signature G2 Geometry, which utilizes a fork with more offset and a slacker headtube angle to balance high and low speed handling. Check out this great video to learn more about Gary Fisher’s secret behind G2 technology.
Lush 29 SL is a bit of a techy in her youthful age. She sports the same Active Braking Pivot as her sisters, so her rear wheel stays in contact with the terrain while you’re on the brakes, but it’s no surprise that she’s updated her suspension and components from her 26 and 29-inch kin.
The Lush 29 SL operates on a two-chamber Dual Rate Control Valve suspension system in both the front and rear, with a valve that manages when the second chamber engages. The Fox Evolution Series DRCV, 15QR fork and DRCV shock also have the Climb, Trail, Descend suspension settings for their respective terrains.
Her front derailleur, shifters, and brakes are part of the Shimano SLX group and rear derailleur a Shimano Deore XT. Lush 29 SL also enables you to add an internally routed dropper post. Finally, Lush rolls down the mountain on Bontrager Duster Tubeless Ready rims.
Out of the box, the 14-inch Lush proved to be a perfect fit with no component swaps. As I settled onto the saddle I was pleased to find that the women’s specific seat is comfortable and gentle on my delicate feminine parts.
I’m steadily dialing in my ideal suspension settings, but I am finding that running more than recommended sag has been advantageous, as it provides the plush ride I’d been expecting.
So far, I’ve found the Lush 29 SL to be stable and responsive in technical terrain and a champion at rolling over obstacles.
Two 29-inch Lush models are available. The Trek Lush 29 SL retails for $3,050 and the Lush 29 for $2,420.
I’m looking forward to riding the Lush 29 SL on the trails at Raystown Lake for Dirt Rag’s annual Dirt Fest. Look for my full review of the Trek Lush 29 SL in an upcoming issue of Dirt Rag.
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 Jon Pratt. Photos by Justin Steiner.
The LES is Pivot Cycles’ first entry into the hardtail 29er market. With a carbon frame, a slack 69.5-degree headtube angle, low 12.1” bottom bracket, short 17.1” chainstays, and weighing in at a scant 22.5 pounds, the LES is meant to be a high performance race bike that affords a smoother ride than its XC brethren. For our upcoming review we got our hands on a fully blinged-out carbon XTR build which came complete with a 100mm travel Kashima coated Fox Float 29 100mm CTD fork, XTR drivetrain and Trail brakes, 700mm carbon handlebar, and DT 240 wheels. Sexy.
On my initial outings this bike feels light, and fast. The wide 92mm press fit bottom bracket makes for a substantial bottom bracket junction which looks and feels like it will retain stiffness while putting the hammer down, and help transfer some of that energy from my legs to the gears. Matched with the Fox Float, and a stiff rear, climbing some of my favorite trails has been noticeably easier. The frame also feels pretty smooth when hitting some of the more chattery sections. All good signs for things to come.
One of the cool features on the LES is its ability to be run geared or singlespeed. While all the frames come with carbon dropouts, featuring a 142x12mm thru axel, post disc mounts, and a replaceable derailleur hanger, we also got our hands on Pivot’s Swinger Kit. The kit includes cold-forged aluminum dropouts, a front derailleur plate, and caps to cover all the geared cable locations. I’m interested just how easy it is to swap between the two. And because of its slackened head tube angle and short chainstays, I’m anxious to see how well the LES performs on some of the more technical lines.
Look for a full review in Issue #170 of Dirt Rag. Click here to subscribe.
- Country of Origin: Taiwan
- Warranty: 3 years
- Size: S, M (tested), L, XL
- Price: $6,700
- Website: www.pivotcycles.com
By Justin Steiner. Photos by Justin Steiner and Jon Pratt.
Given the amount of buzz this year surrounding 27.5-inch bikes, Specialized sure surprised a lot of folks when it pulled to wrapper off the Enduro 29 last week. Many of us around the office were skeptical of a 155mm-travel 29er, but the overall geometry package looked rather promising, in particular the 16.9-inch chainstays.
The Comp’s aluminum frame is paired to a very impressive parts package for the $3,500 retail price. Everything from tire choice to the roller-type chain guide seems very well thought out. Of course the star of this show is the new mid-mount SRAM front derailleur and Specialized’s “Taco Plate” mounting system (yum, tacos).
We’ve already seen some readers complaining about this “proprietary” front derailleur system, so I’d like to point out this new front derailleur mountain system was co-developed by Specialized and SRAM and is available to the public. Progress is not proprietary. I’d wager we will see quick acceptance of the mid-mount front derailleur as it has shown to facilitate some very short chainstays on the Enduro 29.
Fortunately for me, this black and blue beauty arrived just two days before we headed south to Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina. In the rough, mountainous terrain, the 29-inch wheels rolled over roots and rocks at slow speed like we’ve come to expect, but really came into their own when pointed down hill. Sure, it offers the traction of a 29er, but the short chainstays allow you to ride it like a 26-inch wheeled bike, manualing, wheelying, and j-hopping your way down the trail in a way you never would have expected from a 29er. Though it sounds like a back-handed compliment, this bike doesn’t feel like a 29er, it simply rides like a very cohesive and competent bicycle.
After riding a bunch of bikes with lots of anti-squat built into the suspension design, the FSR suspension does feel somewhat sluggish. It rewards a sit-and-spin approach to climbing. The Fox CTD rear shock is effective, however, and I used the Trail setting quite a lot. Fortunately, the trade-off is a suppleness and small bump sensitivity that’s second to none in Descend mode.
Climb mode does offer a firm and supportive platform, but the ride feels somewhat dead and the additional damping decreases traction. Hauling this bike’s 30.3 lbs. (33.2 lbs. with pedals and a dropper post) up the trail wasn’t awful, either. Stiffness and durability are far more important characteristics to this test rider.
Heading down the trail, the Enduro surely lives up to its name, and surpassed my expectations by a large margin. Given the big wheels and 155mm of travel, I found myself riding the Enduro much like I’d ride a DH bike—pop and transition, rumble across the rough sections. This bike is scary fast. It’s truly terrifying how fast you can roll through gnarly terrain.
Overall first impression? This bike is a game changer. Seriously. For a company that was staunchly anti-29er, Specialized has come full circle to deliver what might just be the most rally-able 29er on the market today. Every design choice simply works. The 67.5-degree head tube angle is slack enough to be stable, but not so slack as to wander drastically when climbing. The bottom bracket is low, but you’re able to carry so much momentum on this bike it simply isn’t a problem.
The stays are short, half an inch shorter than my 26-inch wheeled all mountain bike, in fact. Those short stays keep the rider’s weight over the rear wheel in a way that’s familiar to gravity-oriented riders. The long front center is stable at speed and on steep sections, too. In short, this bike is a complete package for mountain riding. I’ll need more saddle time to weigh in with a final verdict, but things certainly look extremely promising.
Look for the long-term review of this bike in an upcoming issue of Dirt Rag. Subscribe now to make sure you don’t miss it. And click here to read more from our Tech Editor about why the Enduro 29er is a potentially revolutionary design.
By Eric McKeegan, photos by Adam Newman
Any mountain biker with an internet connection and at least one working eyeball has probably read the news of the Specialized Enduro 29. Yes, there have been plenty of 29ers with longer travel before, why all the hype for this bike from the Big S?
The current 26-inch wheeled Enduro may be one of the most universally respected all-mountain bikes on the market. The Enduro didn’t just pop out of a mold already close to perfect, it’s been changing and adapting to new tech and more travel since 1999.
It wasn’t until 2008 that Specialized hopped aboard the 29er train, but since then it hasn’t wasted any time, developing three full suspension platforms, and the big wheels taking over almost the entire hardtail line-up. It is no surprise it wanted to see how some 29-inch peanut butter would go with the Enduro chocolate.
There are plenty of longer travel 29er out there, although few with anything near the 155mm rear travel of the Enduro 29. Paired up with a 150mm Fox Float CTD Evolution 34, the Enduro would be news with just those travel numbers, but those are just minor players here. The big news is 16.9-inch chainstays, paired up with a 13.1-inch high bottom bracket, and things just got really interesting. That’s 430mm for you metric fans, versus the 26-inch bike’s 419mm.
In the past, it was pretty much physically impossible to get chainstays this short and a BB this low on a 29er, and run a front derailleur, especially when dealing with the added complexity of full suspension. Fortunately for fans of short chainstays (I count myself in that fanbase) Specialized wasn’t satisfied with a long rear end, and worked with SRAM to develop a solution.
This result, a new “mid-mount” derailleur, is the key to the short rear end. I asked Sam Benedict, Specialized MTB Product Marketing stud, how they got around the clearance issues. He said “We worked with SRAM on making the mid-mount exclusive for Specialized but it is not patented. It’s a good middle ground: away from the pivot/tire and lower than a high direct mount. Part of the reason for it is that a low mount FD adds a lot of mechanism behind the seat tube… where the tire needs to go so that would not work. The mid is modeled after the SRAM band style of mount in the position we needed.”
The new derailleur is paired with a Taco Plate, which is a removable mount for the new derailleur. This makes for a clean look when running a 1x system, and ISCG05 tabs allow for plenty of chain guide options.
Sizing will be medium, large, and XL for now, a small isn’t going to happen. All that big-wheeled travel doesn’t fit into a small-sized package, and that can’t be changed with a redesigned component. Head angles across all sizes are a nice 67.5-degrees, and the effective seat angle is a steep 75-degrees, with a layback post offsetting some of that steepness. The Fox Float CTD shock is equipped with Specialized’s AutoSag setup too.
The Comp model we have is made from M5 aluminum, while the S-Works and Expert models are carbon fiber. The Comp’s build kit is rounded out with a SRAM double crankset, Specialized Roval all mountain wheels, Specialized Butcher and Purgatory tires, Avid Exlir 5 brakes, and SRAM X7 shifters mated to X9 derailleurs. Retail price is $3,500.
For me, these numbers very closely resemble a 650b bike I’ve been riding (and loving) lately, I’m very curious to see if the same geometry on bigger wheels can translate to the same handling with the increased rollover that 29er are known for.
Stay tuned to for more news about the Enduro 29, and from Specialized. When asked if we would see the short chainstay treatment on other 29-inch models, Benedict simply said: “I like where your head is at.”Tweet Print
By Trina Haynes.
As a cyclist and a mom of two, I am quite familiar with Nashbar’s offerings. Over the years it’s been the cost effective outlet for my hubby and I to get new gear without breaking the bank.
This year Nashbar is breaking into the 650b market with the $500 Bee’s Knees single speed. This is not the first 650b I have played around on and I already enjoy this “tweener” size.
The first thing that caught my eye is the stock gearing, a 38 tooth ring matched with a 16 tooth cassette is a bit of a heavy gear for ascending mountains and seems more apt to commuting. A test of singlespeed uphill charging abilities are definitely ahead.
The bike comes stock with 620mm handlebars which I will likely swap out for something a bit wider for more leverage on climbs. A smaller chainring or bigger cog may be in my future as well. Time will tell.
I’ve only had a few decent weather days to get a good spin on the bike, and I have minimal complaints thus far. From our smooth rolling home trail to a weekend at Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park, the Bee’s Knees has performed admirably.
This is my first time on a fully rigid setup and the low-speed technical control is great. The trade off, of course, is no high speed impact dampening. As a girl with a history of poor wrist circulation, a little cushion out front might not be a bad idea for an upgrade
I’m looking forward to many more rides on this budget-friendly single speed. Time will tell if it really is the Bee’s Knees. Look for my full review in an upcoming issue of Dirt Rag.