Dirt Rag Magazine

Inside Line: First ride on the new GT Sanction enduro race bike

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When GT unveiled its Force and Sensor bikes last year they were a big hit with their sponsored athletes, but for the rigors of the DH-level Enduro World Series tracks, they knew they had to offer something to bridge the gap between the 150mm Force and 220mm Fury downhill bike. Enter the rebirth of the Sanction, this time as a 27.5, 165mm platform that is designed expressly for the “e-word.”

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Inside Line: First ride on the Lapierre Overvolt FS900 Bosch-powered e-bike

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If you don’t think e-bikes are a real mover in the bicycle marketplace? Look no further than the entry of Bosch in the marketplace to prove that some big brands are willing to invest serious resources in the growing market. For 2015 it has paired up with a few key brands to bring e-bikes with Bosch motors and control units—already a huge hit in Europe—to U.S. dealerships. Look for bikes from Haibike, Felt, and Lapierre, including this Overvolt FS900.

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NoTubes unveils new fat bike, disc road rims

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Last year we saw a prototype fat bike rim from Stan’s NoTubes, and while we figured a 26-inch wheel was in the works, today we saw the finished product: the Hugo is a 50mm-wide, tubeless rim with a unique cross section and options in all three wheel sizes.

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We also got the details and a ride in on the new Grail disc road wheel that is perfectly suited to all manner of “road” applications and slots in between the IronCross and Alpine models.
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Inside Line: Trek introduces new Fuel EX 27.5 with F1 derived Re:aktiv shock

Trek in North Carolina, June 2014.

Trek hasn’t shied away from developing proprietary suspension products in its search for better performance. About five years ago, the Dual Rate Control Valve (DRVC) air spring system appeared on Trek’s full suspension bikes, and has remained part of its suspension designs ever since.

About the same time, Trek started talks with Penske Racing Shocks through a fortunate father-son connection, the father being a well-respected NASCAR engineer, and the son being a frame engineer with Trek.

I knew the Penske name had something to do with racing, but I was mostly familiar with the big yellow rental trucks. Penske is a whole other ballgame supplying high-end, bespoke suspension solutions to the fastest motorsports racing teams in the business, including six of thirteen F1 teams.

There are a few mountain bikers on staff at Penske’s Reading, Pennsylvania, “skunk works” where most of the suspension design takes place. Those riders realized that the “regressive” damping design developed for F1 racing would have some application for mountain bikes, and a partnership with Trek would be a perfect vehicle to deliver it to the mountain bike market.

Find out how.


Kona’s Independent Suspension – An Overview

Suspension designs are a complicated thing. As Kona says, it’s a game of millimeters. From its first full-suspension model in 1995 to its coming 2015 models, Kona has refined its single-pivot, linkage driven suspension designs for their ultimate application. There are three variations in the current lineup, and this cool video walks you through the design philosophy of each.


Shimano opens new business center in CA

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Photos by Maurice Tierney and Shimano

In response to its rapid growth, Shimano American Corporation has expanded its Irvine, Calif., office building by some 48,000 square feet turning it into a massive 51,000 square foot distribution center. An entirely new, modern business center also opened directly across the street for Shimano’s marketing, R&D and inside sales staff.

A recent move by Shimano to go dealer direct with its products, which also includes Pearl Izumi and a host of fishing brands, not only means lower prices for the customer but a need to expand warehouse capability for shipping, receiving and storage. Even after a year the project is still being completed with a new fire sprinkler system being installed, new hi-tech conveyers being finalized and large storage spaces being prepared. Other changes to the former offices include a fishing rod and reel repair and warranty center for quick turnaround.

Shimano’s Marketing Manager Joe Lawwill, who raced professionally for over 10 years and won a Masters Downhill World Championship in 2002, showed us around the entrance to the new, highly modern Business Center. Visitors are treated to an action video loop on the main screen while a smaller interactive monitor showcases Shimano’s history in cycling.

Join us for a tour of the new facility.


2014: the Year of the Single-Ring Drivetrain

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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?

Read on to find out…


Video: SRAM’s president discusses details of hydraulic road/cx brake recall

In what seems to be a trend this month, another CEO of a major cycling brand falls on his sword and apologizes to consumers. Here, SRAM’s president Stan Day discusses what led to the recall of all SRAM hydraulic road and cyclocross brakes and what steps consumers should take if they have them. For the latest on the recall, visit sramroadhydraulicbrakerecall.com.


Inside Line: Mountain bike highlights from Eurobike

By Jeff Lockwood

It’s the end of August and we’re in Germany. That means it’s Eurobike time. Here’s a selection of some interesting mountain bike bits we’ve seen over the first day and a half of the show.

Breezer Repack

Joe Breeze was part of the Repack gang racing down Mt. Tam back in the 1970’s. Around the same time, he was also building some of the first mountain bikes before they were known as mountain bikes. In fact, the first fat tire bike built by Joe Breeze, the Breezer #1, is now in the Smithsonian Institute of American History.

Under the Breezer brand, Joe has kept right on designing and building bikes. Sensing that today’s enduro riders share the same spirit of adventure and fun of the sport’s forefathers, and to capitalize on it, Breezer has unveiled the all-mountain, 160mm-travel Repack.

The Breezer Repack 27.5” wheels 160mm of travel for Enduro riders

The three Repack models all feature 27.5” (650B) wheels, a Breezer D’Fusion hydroformed custom-butted 6066 aluminum frame, and the all-new patented MLink suspension system.

The pivot in this design is situated at the middle of the chainstays, which make the links longer. Breezer claims this creates a more rigid rear end for more efficient climbing, yet retain the ability to take all the downhill abuse enduro riders throw at it.

Breezer says the Repack bikes will arrive in January.

Vaude

Long known for their great bags and other cool outdoor gear and clothing, Vaude has jumped into the mountain bike shoe market for 2014 with the Taron MTB shoe series.

The three shoes in the Taron line retain the sleek styling Vaude is known for. Two of them are low-cut, while one is a waterproof mid-cut. There is almost no stitching on the top of the shoe, in favor of bonding at the seams. The soles of the shoes are inspired by mountain bike tires, and definitely look like it. There’s a nylon board inside the bottom of the shoe that makes it stiff for power transfer, yet the tire-like base of the sole, which is made in conjunction with Vibram, is soft and grippy enough for your off-the-bike sessions.

DZR

California shoe company DZR has a new shoe for those of the freeride and/or downhill persuasion. The Sense Pro features adjustable stiffness thanks to two different footbeds: one that’s stiff and one that’s not so stiff. The toe and heel of the sole are a bit more rugged than the middle of the sole. This allows less wear on the toe and heel, and more grip at the pedal interface.

DZR Sense Pro for the downhillers and freeriders

Two different sole compounds.

 

One footbed is stiff, while the other one is more flexible.

Juliana

Julie Furtado was one of the most successful mountain bike racers in the 1990’s. She was in the Olympics, and has been inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame and the United States Bicycling Hall of Fame.

More recently, she’s been doing work with Santa Cruz bicycles, and now we have the Juliana brand of bikes, which are for women. And they’re some sweet bikes. Let’s let the photos of these 27.5” bikes speak for themselves.

Kona

Fat bikes are getting a lot of curious looks here in Germany.

Mission Workshop

Mission Workshop is well-known for making some serious messenger bags, backpacks and other urban riding clothing. But their interest in cycling goes deeper than bikes ridden in and around the city. As their marketing guy, Lyle, told me, “All of us at Mission Workshop ride mountain bikes, and we wanted cool stuff to ride with.” And that’s how Acre was born.

A sub-brand of Mission Workshop, the Acre line of trail packs and apparel shares the same high-quality features and well-thought out design details.

 

The Hauser trail pack looks similar to Mission Workshop’s other backpacks in style, but their functionality is obviously aimed at mountain bikers with things like the ability to use a hydration bladder.

 

Capacity options (not the capacity of the hydration bladder) are 10 and 14 liters.

Instead of including a number of internal pockets for tools, etc., Acre decided to include a complete removable tool roll. Pretty cool.

WTB

What’s as light as carbon fiber, but a little more sensible to handle the abuse of certain types of mountain biking? What’s light enough for cross-country riding, but made for all-mountain riding?

If you’re thinking it’s the new KOM i23 aluminum rim from WTB, then you’re right!

Available in all mountain bike wheel sizes, the KOM rims feature the WTB Tubeless Compatible System (TCS). The TCS system combines the WTB rims and tires that is compatible with all international tubeless standards.

WTB minimized rim thickness wherever possible in an effort to get weights comparable to carbon fiber.

X-Fusion

The X-Fusion Hilo SL is a lighter version of their Hilo 125 dropper post. Like it’s heavier sibling, the slimmed down hydraulic SL offers 125mm of infinitely adjustable travel to stabilize your ride. It weights in at 450 grams with the included remote.

Cube Stereo Hybrid 140

Electricity is creeping into all areas of cycling, and the 140mm travel, 27.5” party is no exception. We’ve seen a lot of electric motors thrown into frames in all sorts of manner. However, Cube seems to have given some serious thought into this model.

The engine on the Stereo Hybrid is situated at the bottom bracket, but the pivot for the rear link is there, as is the seat of the shock eyelet. It’s all at a low position on the bike, so the center of gravity is lower. This means more agility.

Wood you?

Want a unique look for your wheels? How about these wood grain graphics? These are aluminum rims, but a wood grain graphic… even inside the rim.


Inside Line: Santa Cruz gives us a single-pivot Solo, the Bantam

What a year for Santa Cruz, after releasing the Bronson, Solo and Heckler models earlier this year, the Bantam is the fourth new 27.5 model to emerge this year. (Seventh if you count carbon and aluminum models separately.)

Packing 27.5 wheels and 125mm of the tried-and-true single pivot suspension, it offers the same geometry as the Solo model at a lower price point with less maintenance. It sports the same 68 degree head tube angle, 17.1 inch chainstays and low 13.1 inch bottom bracket. Just like it’s big brother, the Heckler, it has a 142×12 thru axle, a threaded bottom bracket and ISCG tabs.

The new bike follows Santa Cruz’s model of offering similar bikes in both single pivot and VPP variety, e.g. Tallboy/Superlight 29, Bronson/Heckler, and now Solo/Bantam.

 

 

 

There will be two colors available: green and black, as well as two build kits at $2,599 or $2,899. 


Inside Line: Rocky Mountain strikes with new Thunderbolt

Is it an XC bike? A trail bike? Rocky Mountain would say yes to both. The Thunderbolt’s 120mm of travel and 27.5 wheels bridge the gap.

When compared to the Element, Instinct and Altitude, the Thunderbolt’s Rocky Mountain heritage is evident, with a strong family resemblance. But unlike the brand’s dedicated XC offerings, the Thunderbolt is meant to be a more playful and aggressive bike for a wide variety of riding styles. Absent, however, is the Ride-9 chip found on its siblings, so the suspension is not as adjustable.

Most models of the Thunderbolt will use 142×12 E-Thru rear axles, internal cable routing, stealth dropper post routing and BB92 bottom brackets.

There are four models:

770: $3,999

750: $3,299

730: $2,599

710: $2,099

No word yet on availability. We’ll likely know more after Interbike.


Inside Line: Breezer debuts 27.5 160mm Repack

Joe Breeze knows a thing or two about mountain bikes. He was an early pioneer in California with the likes of Gary Fisher, Charlie Kelly and Tom Ritchey and his eponymous bike company has built everything from commuter bikes to carbon mountain bikes.

Named after the first recorded mountain bike race, the Repack is aimed squarely at the hot trail and enduro market with 160mm of travel and 27.5 wheels. The suspension design is the new MLink, designed by the Sotto Group, an engineering firm that has designed suspensions for other brands, including Yeti’s Switch system.

Most modern full suspension platforms use a chainstay pivot either near the rear axle (e.g. Horst Link, Split Pivot) or near the bottom bracket (Santa Cruz’s VPP, Niner’s CVA). The MLink, however, places the pivot in the middle of the chainstay, allowing the chainstays to remain short while keeping the linkage stiff. It uses sealed cartridge bearings throughout.

Breezer says the MLink’s mid-link pivot rotates only three degrees. “Compared to short link systems’ large rotations, rapid accelerations, direction changes, and therefore, increased bearing wear, MLink’s fewer rotations translate into super smooth suspension travel and less stress on bearings and pivots. Compared to long link flexy systems, MLink allows for a rigid, triangulated rear end with riding forces diffused across widely spaced, low rotation bearings – supplying the stiffness essential for full suspension to function at its best.”

There will be three trim levels. The Team (pictured here) has a mostly Shimano XT drivetrain and a Fox Float 34 FIT fork and retail for $4,399. The Pro has a Shimano SLX build with a Fox Float 34 Evo fork and will retail for $3,599. The Expert has a Shimano Deore group with an X-Fusion Sweep fork and will retail for $2,899.

Look for the Repack to become available in January 2014.

 

Geometry


Fist Impression: Scott Gambler

By Eric McKeegan

Two summers ago, I got to fondle and photograph a Gambler at a Scott press camp. I didn’t get to ride it as the press camp’s local terrain was much better suited to the Genius bikes released at the same time.

I finally got to throw a leg over this bike, and on world class trails at Whistler. The Gambler is a bit a surprise from Scott. Scott’s trail bikes lean towards steeper XC geometry, but the Gambler is among the slackest downhill bikes on the market. Stock numers are a 62 to 62.7 degree head tube angle, depending on setup, and the included angled headset cups can take off another full degree for a true plow bike experience.

I hopped on a large 2014 model, with a Shimano Saint drivetrain, Zee brakes, FOX 40 RC2 with airspring, and DHX rear shock. All top quality stuff, and the new Schwalbe Magic Mary tires were perfect for the rainy day at Whistler.

I love riding downhill, but I’m not super fast. At heart I’m a trail rider, and I have a tendency to ride downhill bikes like trail bikes, steering too much, not taking the big lines, etc. This usually means bikes like the Gambler overwhelm me at first, as the slack and low geometry usually feels slow and ponderous at first. But the Gambler didn’t feel that way at all.

Maybe it was the bike setup, with the stays in the shortest setting and the BB in the high setting, and a great suspension setup for my weight, but everything felt right at home. Even on tight singletrack, full of wet bridge work, with fogged goggles, I was ready to charge whatever was in front of me. And out of all the downhill bikes I’ve ridden the Gambler was easiest for me to feel confident launching jumps, which is probably my biggest weakness as a rider.

With downhill season winding down, and thoughts turn to 2014, the Gambler is now #1 on my list for a long-term gravity bike review. I was pretty bummed my schedule at Crankworx didn’t have time for an all day session on the Gambler.

Floriane Pugin rocketed her Gambler to a podium finish in both the Fox Air DH and the Canadian Open DH at Crankworx last week.


First Impression: SRAM XO1 group

By Eric McKeegan, photos by Adam Newman.

SRAM has been exemplary with trickling down technology from high-end groups to more affordable price points. Starting at $1,274 for the aftermarket kit, this isn’t the hoped-for X9 or X7 1×11 group many are hoping for, but it is a step in the right direction.

To be entirely honest, the XO1 group isn’t really that different from the XX1 group. The cassette is the same with a different finish. The carbon cranks are the same as the XX1 (and standard XO) with a differnet bolt-on spider, and the shifter appears to use many of the same parts as XX1, with aluminum replacing some of the carbon bits.

The cassette’s smaller 10 cogs are machined from a solid hunk of steel, and amazing feat when seen up close. The 42-tooth cog is aluminum. The finish is a mean-looking black, similar in appearance to the black stanchions on Rock Shox’s new forks. Yes this is a $400 cassette, but if you have a hard time understanding why that is, find one to examine off the bike, I still amazes me every time I see one.

The crank uses a 94 BCD four bolt spider, with chainrings from 30-38 teeth in even sizes. XX1 has a smaller BCD spider for chainrings down to 28 teeth. This smaller spider explains the minor weight savings for the crankset. Speaking of the crank, these carbon crank arms, orginially introduced on the XO group are one of the best things going. The bolt on spider means you can convert your current 2x crank to a 1x, or even use a one-piece aftermarket chainring. These cranks have been raced in DH, bashed around on demo bikes and generally used hard, I’ve never seen a broken set.

The shifter is obviously a sibling to the XX1 unit, and it appears to be lighter than XX1, according to the specs I’ve seen, I haven’t weighted either one personally. You can also go with a GripShift shifter, but I’ll ask you to keep that preference to yourself.

So far the 11-speed chains have proven to be strong and durable in our experience, and I expect the XO1 to perform the same way. I suspect the chains are under less stress since they are not getting pushed around from ring to ring up front.

The derailleur is also very, very similar to the XX1, with XO1 coming in at 30 grams heavier.

I got to ride the new group, but riding up the chair lift and blazing back down Whistler trails doesn’t do much to see how the system works under everyday use. I can say the chain retention is perfect, even on the blown out trails at Cranworx.

My thoughts on the new XO? With so few functional changes from XX1, I’ll go out on a limb and say this is going to be another awesome (and still expensive) drivetrain option from SRAM. As OE spec on a new bike, it might save just enough money over XX1 to score a nicer dropper, or upgrade to a carbon post. For aftermarket sales, unless you really need or want the 28-tooth ring (and aren’t willing to use an aftermarket option) XO1 might kill of most of the XX1 sales. There is no performance lost between the two groups, weight gain is minor, and the black XO1 cassette looks better too!

In other SRAM news, I rode the XO1 group on a new Lapierre Spicy stacked full of other new goodness from SRAM. The Pike felt amazing, and as long as the new Charger damper is reliable. This fork is the one to beat. We’ve got one on its way for long term test, and there might be a fight at HQ over who gets to ride it.


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