Dirt Rag Magazine

Review: Giant Anthem Advanced 27.5 0 Team


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Giant Bicycles made a bold move this year by committing most of its line-up to 27.5 wheels. From hardtails to full-suspension, across the board you’ll see the middle wheel size. Though Giant didn’t totally eliminate 29ers this year (you can still find one or two versions each of Anthem, XTC and Trance, compared to a total of about 28 different 27.5 models) it has been spoken many times that the company is in the process of phasing them along with 26ers out completely.

While the Trance Advanced 27.5 with 5.5 inches of travel became available initially, we were able to secure the very first 4-inch travel Anthem Advanced sent to the U.S., Giant’s flagship cross-country race bike. Yes, it’s pricey, but as outfitted, it showcases Giant’s advanced carbon technology and ability to also make high-end accessories from the resin material, from the cockpit bits to a remarkable wheelset with carbon rims. The Anthem line starts at $2,250 for the aluminum-framed 3 model.

Click here to read the full review.

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Review: Knolly Endorphin


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Knolly Bikes’ CEO and chief designer, Noel Buckley (hence the correct pronunciation: noll-lee), not only has a degree in engineering and physics, but was born and bred on the trails of Vancouver. This is quite apparent in Knolly’s lineup of bikes built for the rocks and roots of the North Shore. From the Red Bull Rampage tested Podium and the all-mountain monster Chilcotin, to the relatively tame Endorphin, all are built to take a bit of abuse. Don’t let my choice of words fool you, the Endorphin would hardly ever be classified as tame in some other manufacturers’ line ups, but at 140mm, it’s the shortest travel bike Knolly offers.

Read the full story

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Review: Ruffwear Track Jacket (for dogs!) and Bivy Bota Bowl


By Shannon Mominee

Can you spot the dog in this photo?

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How about the dog in this photo?

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The blaze orange Track Jacket from Ruffwear definitely makes it easier to spot my dog, Roman, in the woods and makes him more visible on night walks. And even though he’s not hunting, there are hunters in the woods that we hike and mountain bike in, and I’d rather they see my dog than mistake Roman for a deer or other game. Read the full story

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Review: Yeti SB-66


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By Justin Steiner

There’s been much hubbub in recent months about Yeti’s newest flag- ship trail bike, the SB-66. At first glance, it seemed strange that Yeti might keep their venerable 575 alongside this new 152mm-travel machine, given their similar geometries and travel figures. Yeti’s Chris Conroy described the differences and the reasons for having both bikes in the Yeti lineup: “The 575 is plusher, the SB-66 will feel more ‘performance.’ Those are subjective descriptions, but the SB-66 will pedal better than the 575. Riders interested in comfort and being able to blast through rock gardens with a more muted feel would prefer the 575. On the SB-66 you will feel the nuances of the trail more.”

Having reviewed, and thoroughly enjoyed, the 575 in issue #154, I was eager to experience the differences for myself. Read the full story

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First Impression: Raleigh Eva 29 Comp


By Trina Haynes

The $1,100 Eva Comp is one of three women specific 29ers from Raleigh for 2013. While it’s true that women don’t necessarily need a “women specific” bike, they do have a few known benefits: shorter top tubes, to accommodate a shorter torso and longer legs as well as a lower stand-over height than any of the men’s frames I’ve ridden. As someone who has knocked her pelvic bone off the top tube once… ok, maybe twice. I am pretty jazzed about the vag-drop.

With only a handful of rides on this lovely lady (zing!) I can already feel the difference and benefits in the geometry. First and foremost, a more comfortable, upright riding position takes pressure off my sometimes, delicate back while boosting confidence and control over the front of the bike. The wheelbase makes for decent rear response and frame feels pretty smooth when the ride gets a little craggy.

Having only ever ridden on mechanical brakes before I’m stoked to have the opportunity to play with the Tektro Draco Hydraulic Disc brakes. The brakes are one of the highlights over its two siblings, as well as the Rock Shox XC32 fork and SRAM X5 drivetrain.

Keep an eye out for my full review in Issue #172, due on newsstands and mailboxes in a few weeks.  

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First Impression: Lynskey MT 650


By Karl Rosengarth

Don’t call it a comeback. Titanium bikes never went away. However, that whooshing sound that titanium heard in the 1990s was carbon fiber ascending to the top of the frame material food chain.

Back in the day, titanium mountain bikes graced the catalogs of a number of big brands. Who can forget the Tomac signature Raleighs of the early ’90s?

But times have changed. and stock Ti bikes have become scarcer than 150mm stems. For the most part, the magic metal has settled into a niche—namely, custom and high-end framesets from boutique brands (with high-end price tags).

 

Fast forward to 2013. Lynskey is out to change titanium economics with its recently launched Silver Series—the company’s most affordable line of bikes. By minimizing the manipulation of the straight-gage titanium tubing, and offering only stock sizing (with a single build kit) Lynskey is able to offer Silver Series bikes for significantly less than upscale models. Made-in-the-USA Silver Series framesets go for $1,299 (both road and mountain). The complete MT 650 that I’m testing goes for $2,840 (with Shimano XT kit, sans pedals).

Lynskey fabricates Silver Series frames in the same factory and using the same equipment as their upscale and custom frames. Silver Series frames have smaller diameter tubing, with no butting, which helps save cost. Stock frame sizing allows Lynskey to buy raw tubing in larger quantities and to build bikes in bigger "production runs" which is more economical.

My bike came from the initial production run, and was built with a conventional 1 1/8" head tube and headset. However based on feedback, including input from Dirt Rag, Lynskey has since made a running production change to a tapered head tube. We’ll soon be getting the updated MT 650 frameset to test as part of this review.

With the direction that the suspension fork market is trending, it could eventually become difficult to find top fork models in straight 1 1/8" steerers. Switching to the tapered head tube should make the MT 650 much more appealing to any shopper considering a lifetime investment in titanium.

Lynskey’s MT 650 is a hardtail with 120mm of travel up front. My size large (19") tester weighed in at 25.2 lbs. with the XT kit (w/o pedals). In addition to the XT drivetrain, the bike sports an X-Fusion Velvet RL2 650 120mm fork, an FSA control center, and Vuelta MTB Pro DX 650 wheels.

With its 69 degree head angle, 23.7-inch effective top tube and 16.9-inch rear center, the bike’s handling felt predictable and well-mannered from my first ride. The MT 650 is neither a slack play bike, nor a twitchy race steed. It slots somewhere in between, with non-quirky, neutral handling (I mean that as a compliment). The peaceful, easy feeling was enhanced by the fact that my 5′ 10" frame was in a comfortable trail riding position, not too stretched out, which is the way I like it (with 100mm stem).

In addition to shredding the local singletrack, I’ve completed two races atop the MT 650, one with the X-Fusion Velvet fork converted to 100mm travel (internal adjustment required). As expected, the steering response with the reduced travel felt snappier. It allowed me to flick my way around last-minute course corrections at race speed. While the handling didn’t feel overly nervous in 100mm mode, I simply preferred the more relaxed, but not slack, vibe of the 120mm mode (which also worked just fine for racing). The MT 650 comes with the fork set at 120mm, and my recommendation is to not mess with a good thing.

The MT 650 frame took the edge off the harsh stuff, and provided a hint of resilience, without feeling like a wet noodle in hard corners. I haven’t detected any significant flex at the BB when stomping up punchy climbs or while sprinting. I’ve certainly ridden chromoly hardtails that felt flexier than the MT 650. Quite frankly, I’m digging the frame’s balance point of stiffness and compliance. This is a smooth-riding bike that holds its line through the corners and has some giddy up.

Look for my full, long-term review of the MT 650 in an upcoming issue of Dirt Rag. Subscribe today and you’ll never miss an issue.

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First Impression: Ventana Zeus


By Adam Newman.

Ventana has been building mountain bikes in California since 1988, one year longer than we’ve been publishing Dirt Rag. It’s no surprise that the two would go well together, and we’ve written about several models over the years, and even took a tour of the factory in Issue #161.

The Zeus is one of two new 27.5 models, the other being the 120mm Alpino. The Zeus is quickly and easily adjustable from 140mm to 160mm by unbolting the top shock mount and flipping a chip insert. That travel is handled by Ventana’s tried and true linkage driven single pivot design, which has graced not only its own bikes but those of quite a few smaller brands and custom builders over the years. The asymmetric chainstays expand tire clearance and increase stiffness, and the main pivot has needle bearings and a grease injection port for longevity.

While the suspension design has remained true over the years, the details at either end of Ventana’s bikes have changed quite a bit. Like most current models, the Zeus sports all the modern touches, including a tapered head tube, dropper post routing, a PF30 bottom bracket shell, internal cable routing, ISCG-05 tabs and replaceable dropouts to accommodate most axle types. Ours is outfitted with the Shimano 142×12 thru axle, a $150 upcharge. It also sports a color-matched black swingarm, a $75 upcharge. One thing you can’t put a price on is quality, and the Zeus wears it like a badge. Electric Sex welds and the Made in America decal—can’t import those.

 

Ventana has always adapted quickly to new industry trends—especially wheel sizes—and first built the 27.5 El Bastardo with input from 27.5 evangelist Kirk Pacenti. After a few years of slow sales, Ventana’s owner Sherwood Gibson said he was close to giving up on the wheels, citing a lack of quality forks available. Fast forward to last year when suddenly all the major wheel and fork manufacturers rolled out new products and Ventana quickly responded.

While we don’t normally go about changing all sorts of things on our test bikes, but right now it’s sporting wider bars, a shorter stem, different tires, a dropper post, and the carbon Syncros wheels we reviewed in Issue #171. I didn’t quite so guilty about it since Ventana has traditionally only offered frames, but Gibson said they are close to rolling out complete bike packages with stock build kits. While this particular build kit won’t be available, a SRAM XO kit with the same Fox TALAS 34 Kashima fork and Stan’s wheels will retail for $6,223. The frame and shock are $2,295.

With the go-fast SRAM XX kit contributing to it’s go-fast nature, I’ve mostly been riding it in the shorter 140mm “trail” setting. I’ve been blown away by how well the suspension handles pedaling and even standing climbs. In my mind it’s on par with some of the more advanced dual-linkage setups on the market. The 13.4-inch high bottom bracket and 17.0-inch chainstays are also at the lower/shorter end of the 27.5 trail bike market and really makes it respond well to playful, aggressive riding. Yes, a bike is more than just numbers, but compare that with the 13.6-inch high bottom bracket and 17.3-inch chainstays on the Santa Cruz Bronson, while both bikes share 67-degree head tube angles.

Anyway, the Zeus has been a lot of fun, but I’m looking forward to setting the suspension chip to the 160mm setting and letting it rip in “all-mountain” mode. You’ll have to watch for the long-term review in an upcoming issue of Dirt Rag to read about it though. Subscribe today!

Prior Ventana reviews

El Ciclon – Issue #164

El Saltamones – Issue #157

El Capitan – Issue #133

X5 – Issue #112

El Conquistador de Montanas – Issue #70

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First impression: Lynskey Pro29 FS-120


By Jon Pratt. Photos by Adam Newman.

Mark Lynskey from Lynskey Performance stopped by the Dirt Rag office a few weeks ago to hang out, shoot the shit and sample some of the local trails. After a fun-filled day he needed to get on the road, but we wanted some extra time on his personal rig… the 120mm full suspension, titanium Pro29 FS-120 he had with him. So, while he was packing up to leave we used some tried and true misdirection techniques to distract him, and bam… he left the bike in the basement. Score.

What is that you say? A full suspension 29-inch Lynskey? Yep. The Pro29 FS-120 has been available to the public for about four months. Mark has been riding prototypes of the current model for the last few years. Lynskey, well known for its hardtail titanium bikes, has been interested in developing a full suspension model for a long time, but there were a few hurdles to getting started in the full suspension game.

Building a system from the ground up is expensive and time consuming. Time wasn’t something Lynskey Performance had any extra of. The hardtail design and production was absorbing most of it. In addition, before work can even be started there needs to be an in-depth discovery phase to make sure you aren’t using any patented technologies in your suspension design. Fortunately there are people like David Earle from the Sotto Group.

To put it simply, David Earle knows his stuff. David has worked for many years as an engineer in companies such as Bontrager Cycles, Santa Cruz Bicycles and Specialized, as well as with Lockheed Missiles and Space. He’s been heavily involved in developing suspension technologies like VPP and Switch, and along the way has designed some pretty killer bikes like the Nomad, VP-Free, and P3 to name a few.

Lynskey wanted the bike to be bulletproof and the suspension to work from the very first build. To borrow an old adage, "First Impressions are Lasting Impressions". So they brought in Earle who designed the suspension around Lynskey’s desire for a cross country bike meant not for the XC racer, but more for the aggressive trail rider. Earle provided the pivot point locations and the size and valving for the shock. Lynskey designed the bike around those specifications.

The culmination of this partnership is the Pro29 FS-120, a bike at home on singletrack with moderately difficult technical features. It is designed to be stable while climbing and quick but not twitchy. Limiting pedal bob while climbing is achieved through the high main pivot that sits forward of the bottom bracket. Also 50 percent of the rear travel sees the axle moving backwards, pulling the tire into the dirt.

In addition to the suspension design, Lynskey wanted a bike that was stiff but not uncomfortably so. To achieve this Lynskey pioneered Helix tubing technology. Without going into too much detail, the helix shaped down tube balances the benefits of a round tube and a beam. Beams are good at resisting bending, while round tubes are good at resisting twisting forces. Instead of choosing one over the other, the helix shape provides both, evenly distributed along the length of the tube. In addition, the large swingarm pivot, attached to the helix down tube, uses a Shimano press-fit bottom bracket bearing. Beefy.

So how did it feel on the trail? Pretty awesome. The suspension works as designed and I didn’t notice any significant pedal bob while climbing. Leaving the Fox Float CTD in trail mode seemed to tackle most of the technical lines I chose. Mark had his bike set up with a remote lock out on the Fox Float 32, which I used on several longish climbs in concert with the climb setting on the CTD shock. I did venture into some more sketchy sections and the descend mode provided just enough plushness to get me through. Pretty much anywhere I took the Pro29 the suspension systems reacted well, and there were no unwelcomed surprises.

I’m guilty of always thinking titanium and suspension won’t get along, and I took the Pro29 out expecting to feel a lot of sway in the rear end, especially in some of the more bermy sections of my favorite trails. Well… not so much. The bike reacted well to quick lateral directional changes and the rear didn’t take long to snap back to middle when exiting the berms. It was predictable. And that’s good. I also didn’t notice any significant flex while under load from hard uphill pedaling. Maybe it’s the helix down tube, maybe the huge swingarm pivot… whatever it is, it works.

After about 15 minutes of adjusting to a new bike it really started feeling at home on my favorite trails. I was comfortable pushing it through some pretty aggressive sections and it handled the smooth flowy bits with ease. Good stuff Lynskey… good stuff. I was riding the 2nd generation of the Pro29 FS-120 which has the swingarm pivot built into the down tube. Gen 1 had it installed in a Ti plate above the bottom bracket. While the current Pro29 FS-120 utilizes sliding dropouts to allow for a thru axle or 9mm QR in the rear, the next generation, slated for 2014, will be fixed and accept Shimano or DT Swiss thru axles. No other changes are planned. MSRP is $5,900 with XT components (and right now it’s on sale). Choosing the XTR kit adds another $1,600 to the build. 

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