Shimano’s redesigned Saint group has garnered much attention this year from those looking for the crème de la crème of Shimano’s gravity line. Fortunately for budget-minded shredders, Shimano trickled many of Saint’s technologies down to a new, mid-priced rival called Zee.
As with many of Shimano’s budget-friendly component offerings, Zee utilizes similar high-end technologies and designs, but keeps the price down by employing more affordable raw materials and construction methods. Relative to Shimano’s XC and trail group lineup, Zee fits in at about SLX-level in terms of fit and finish.Tweet Print
We sample the latest in hydration packs that are not too big, not too small, with a 10-15 liter capacity.Tweet Print
In the varied and ever-changing garden of bicycles, it seems that the fat bike corner is the latest area of flourishing growth, producing new ideas and iterations at a rapid pace. Two longtime mountain bike innovators—Aaron Joppe, former owner of Slingshot, and John Muenzenmeyer, former owner of Nukeproof—have been drawn into this bloom and are making interesting contributions with their relatively new company, 616 Fabrication.
The company name comes from the area code of western Michigan where they manufacture frames, forks and hubs at their own facility. They offer frames for fat bike, cyclocross and mountain builds, all made in high-end steel. Artistic touches, such as laser-cut seatstay bridges and custom-etched ID plates, further set these creations apart from the average mass-produced models, as does a classic paint job.
The first thing I and other staffers noticed about the Fat frame is its relatively steep 72 head tube angle. It also sports short-for-a-fat-bike 17.5-inch chainstays. Hub spacing is 135mm front and 170mm rear. It’s designed to ride light and nimbly over sand, snow and rock. Custom geometry is available to suit anyone’s taste, but for our tight turns and four seasons, the stock numbers suited me just fine.Tweet Print
It was certainly not the first, but no bike typifies this new genre of “trail” or “all-mountain” 29ers quite like the Honzo. The brainchild of some serious gravity-addicted minds at Kona, this ain’t no old-school big wheeler.
How so, you ask? Well, up front the 68-degree head tube angle is mated to a 120mm RockShox Revelation (though it can easily handle a 140mm fork) and out back the chainstays measure a teeny-for-a-29er 16.3 inches. The stays are so short, in fact, that Kona designed the bike around a single-chainring-only drivetrain. No front derailleurs need apply. The frame has a great low-slung, BMX look that I like a lot. Kona also deserves a shout-out for the tinted clear-coat finish and retro graphics. Everyone at Dirt Rag HQ agreed it was a handsome fellow.Tweet Print
One bike to do it all—that’s the idea behind Pivot’s Mach 5.7. While the definition of “all” depends to a large extent on the rider, with its 145mm of rear travel and 26-inch wheels, the versatile Mach 5.7 is exactly the style of bike that would top my shopping list.
Chris Cocalis of Pivot Cycles gave me his take on the intended applications for this steed: “The Mach 5.7 is not an XC race bike, and it’s not a freeride bike; it’s really designed for everything in between. We consider it a do-all mountain bike, and that is the reason it is our best seller.”Tweet Print
Tools, in the most basic sense, empower you. They’re an investment in the future; they will help you accomplish things. Foundry Cycles, as a brand, has really pursued the marketing their carbon fiber bicycles as tools. In the hands of a skilled user, or rider, the tool will be transformed into a beautiful thing. Dirty, but beautiful. My tool was the carbon fiber Broadaxe B2—a 29er hardtail, sporting the middle of the three SRAM drivetrain packages. The price for the three Broadaxe models ranges from $3,000 for the X7-equipped B1 up to $5,600 for the XX-equipped model.
“Stealthy” is how I would describe this bike. Its lines are symmetrical and clean and seem to flow uninterrupted, fore and aft. If you appreciate a matte, primer gray paint job on a classic muscle car, you will like the looks of the Broadaxe. Internal cable routing, tapered head tube, the new SRAM X0 Type 2 rear derailleur, Press-Fit 30 bottom bracket, 15mm thru-axle in the front, and a 12x142mm thru-axle in the rear make this bike a caucus of the latest standards and tech—the Broadaxe is kryptonite to retro-grouches.Tweet Print
The Stache is an all-new addition to Trek’s 2013 lineup, a rugged trail bike designed to be versatile enough to serve as the elusive “one bike that’s does it all.”
Rather than give the Stache a substantially different layout, Trek adapted their tried-and-true 29er G2 geometry. The Stache’s 68.6 degree head angle is about a degree slacker than Trek’s 100mm-travel Superfly, and its 12.44-inch BB height is 0.16-inch taller. Both models have 17.5-inch chainstays.
The aluminum frame looks quite robust, thanks to the large hydroformed main tubes, tapered head tube, 142x12mm thru-axle rear and press-fit bottom bracket. Bonus points for ISCG tabs and dropper post routing (including stealth routing). The seat tube has a flattened shape at the bottom for tire/mud clearance (which hardly seems necessary, considering the ample room provided by the 17.52-inch chainstays). The total package looks agile and muscular, but not burly. With pedals and a bottle cage, the Stache 8 weighed in at 27.5 lbs.
The $2,420 Stache 8 comes with a Fox Evolution Series 32 Float fork (with CTD) and a solid 2×10 kit. Proven Shimano SLX parts include brakes, shifters and front derailleur (there’s an XT upgrade on the rear). The Bontrager Duster tubeless-ready wheels and meaty Bontrager 29-3 Expert 29×2.3 tires are ready for rough-and-tumble action.
I found that the Stache was neither a slack play bike, nor was it a razor-quick race machine. The bike’s handling fell in between those two extremes. Dare I describe the Stache’s handling as neutral? I think I just did.Tweet Print
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 Print
A good pair of winter shoes is key for year round riding if you live where it gets cold and snowy. Depending on your region, super duty boots like Lake’s MXZ might be overkill, that’s where Lake’s new $260 MX145 mid-weight winter shoe comes in.
The water resistant upper is constructed with a combination of waxed canvas, leather and a waterproof membrane to keep foul weather elements at bay. The fiberglass injected sole is stiff enough for good power transfer and the durable rubber lugs provide good traction in snow and over wet, slippery logs and rocks.Tweet Print
The Mason is a serious departure from most 29-inch hardtail geometry, with numbers more often found on all-mountain rigs. A 66.5 degree head angle, 17-inch chainstays and 13-inch bottom bracket is closer to full-suspension bikes. This bike was ready to rip out of the box, assuming you can look past the skinny rear tire. The KS dropper post, short stem with wide bar, Fox 34 and a 1×10 drivetrain are just the right balance of burly vs. ride -all-day light.Tweet Print