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.
I think it’s safe to say that Specialized has created an instant icon. Simply put, the new Demo 8 is unlike any downhill bike we’ve ever seen. While it retains the classic FSR suspension layout, the pivot points were all moved as far down as possible, with the main pivot finding itself concentric with the bottom bracket. With the pivots out of the way, the seat tube was really only there to support the seat, and since that doesn’t have the structural requirements of linkage, it could be pared away to its minimum. The resulting asymmetric frame design is something that could only be possible with modern carbon fiber technology.Tweet Print
Bikes like the new Yeti SB5c pack a ton of technology, and usually carry a price tag to match. Lots of folks write to us criticizing the crop of new bikes that are, admittedly, pushing the price envelope at five, seven, even ten thousand dollars. Is that a bad thing for consumers? Not at all, I say.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
Not all hydration packs are created equal. I’ve been using these three all-purpose adventure packs lately and evaluating the pros and cons of each. Get a detailed report below.Tweet Print
The Auron is Suntour’s 34mm stanchioned entry in the enduro market, a 27.5 fork in a few damper configurations and travel lengths, topping out at 160mm. This is a basic RC damper with low speed rebound and compression clickers, a slick QR thru-axle, forged hollow crown, and magnesium lowers, adding up to 4.1 pounds with a cut steerer.
Competition is stiff in this segment, with the Fox 34 and darn near perfect RockShox Pike owning most of the market. I’m happy to report this fork plays in the same league on all levels: steering stiffness, damping adjustments and ride quality.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 new Crossmax Enduro wheel system is unique in that it’s designed around (and includes) Mavic branded tires, the dual-ply Charge and Roam XL. While the wheelset itself doesn’t break any new ground, it does use specific rim widths, spoke counts and lacing for the front and rear.Tweet Print
Mountain biking requires a lot of gear, particularly if you’re, say, going on a multi-day road trip where you plan to camp and ride. When faced with the decision of which automobile to buy to haul around said gear, choices run the gamut from small and efficient to large and inefficient. Years ago, I bought a small, two-door hatchback that was efficient and great in the city. But, when packing for a camping and riding road trip for two, I simply didn’t have as much room as I’d like. Enter Yakima’s Skybox Pro 16 with, you guessed it, 16 cubic feet of storage.Tweet Print
Liteville isn’t a brand you see much of on this side of the pond. A sister company to German component maker Syntace, Liteville makes just three understated models, which, when examined closely, display some of the finest design and engineering in the industry.
Rather than complaining about what wasn’t on the market, Liteville was formed to create bikes its founders wanted to ride, but weren’t available and the 601 is an obvious example, with a whopping 190mm of rear travel, adjustable geometry, and a full range of gearing capable of going up as well as down.
The 601 attracts very little attention on the trail because its flat black, ball-peened finish hides enough features to fill the rest of this page. Some highlights: super smart cable routing, model specific Syntace chain guide and a rear derailleur rock guard. Liteville designed specific aluminum tubing for each size and model, and the amount of shaping is nothing short of impressive. The 601 looks like the bicycle equivalent of an assault rifle; all business, and in the right hands, very dangerous.Tweet Print