Dirt Rag Magazine

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.



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.

Inside Line: Crankworx tech, prototypes and more—Part 1

By Adam Newman


Returning strong from bankruptcy in 2011, for next year RaceFace will get into the saddle game with the Affect, a mountain bike specific saddle weighing in at about 220 grams with Ti alloy rails and an approximately $100 price tag. Look for it in late fall 2013.

RaceFace is the latest brand to get on board with the new 35mm stem clamp standard. The SixC downhill bars measure in at 800mm wide with three different rise options. The Next series clocks in at 760mm, and even the XC-focused Turbo series has a 35mm option with the same 760mm width.

Naturally there will be RaceFace stems to match.


Devinci was showing off the new 27.5 Troy model, a 140mm enduro/trail bike with Dave Weigle’s Split Pivot suspension design. The internal cable routing pops out above the bottom bracket, leading to something of a housing crowd. The carbon weave look on the front triangle also isn’t something you see often these days. The seatstays are carbon while the asymmetric chainstays are aluminum.



While Steve Smith took the win in the Air DH race aboard his new Troy, above, we spotted a prototype Devinci under teammate Nick Beer. While the Troy and Dixon models have vertical shock mounts, this one, below, employs a horizontal RockShox Vivid Air, likely indicating an increase in travel, slotting in between Devinci’s trail/enduro bikes and the Wilson downhill sled. Look for it to be the perfect downhiller turned enduro racer’s xc-ish trail bike. (I kid. I kid.)

Banshee Bikes

Banshee Bikes were "born on the shore" and naturally the booth was a popular stop in the Whistler Village. The Phantom 29er prototype pictured here was first spotted at Sea Otter, but it looks closer than ever to production. The frame sports 100mm of rear wheel travel and designed to handle 120mm-140mm forks. Unlike other short-travel XC bikes, the Phantom has a 67 degree head tube angle for more aggressive riding. Look for it to be production ready by spring.


Banshee also had this prototype 27.5 Legend in the booth, but it’s the only one in existence and hasn’t even been ridden yet. The Manitou Dorado fork has plenty of clearance for the bigger wheels, but the rear end sure is tight. The suspension is Banshee’s own KS Link with the replaceable dropouts and flip chips for adjustable geometry and convertible axle standards.


FiveTen has two new models for 2014: the Sam Hill signature edition Impact VXi and the Greg Minaar edition Impact VXi clipless. The new kicks are significantly lighter than the old style Impacts, and the new foam is non-absorbant, so you’re shoes won’t swell up like sponges on rainy days. 

There will be a youth version of the classic Impact shoes as well, as 9-year-old FiveTen rider Jackson Goldstone tries on his for the first time. 



EVOQ’s Liteshield line of bags have a closed-cell foam panel that protects your spine in the event of a crash, both from the ground and from whatever might be in your bag. Available in four sizes, there is an option for everything from XC to backcountry touring.

This guy

Not everyone needs fancy gear. DIY was in style at Crankworx. Or maybe it’s just a prototype…


One bike we didn’t expect to see at the bike park was Surly’s super-brand-new Instigator 2.0. The new bike has massive tire clearance with room for Surly’s new 26×2.75 Dirt Wizard tires or those oh-so-hot-right-now 27.5 wheels. The replaceable and convertible dropouts are new for Surly and can be fitted to handle most any axle system.  


First Impressions: New Giant Trance and Trance SX 27.5

By Adam Newman

A few weeks ago we brought you news that Giant’s 2014 lineup would be almost entirely devoid of 26-inch bikes and a scaled-back selection of 29ers. The company firmly believes the 27.5 wheels are a future of trail riding and have equipped most of their mountain bikes, from the price point hardtails to the enduro-ready Trance SX, as such.

The mid-travel segment is the most quickly expanding market these days, as the bikes can be used for everything from casual weekend rides to enduro racing. The Trance models fall squarely in that not-too-big, not-too-small category with 140mm of rear wheel travel through Giant’s classic dual-link Maestro suspension system.


The Trance 27.5 1 model, pictured here, is equipped with a Fox Float 32 Evolution, a Shimano SLX and XT parts kit, and Giant’s own Contact Switch dropper seatpost. MSRP is $3,500. There is also a lower-priced version or it is available as a frame-only. The Trance Advanced is the same model with a carbon frame.

I grabbed one out of the Giant’s extensive demo fleet here at Crankworx and hit the popular Lost Lake trails just outside the village.

This was my first ride on Giant’s Maestro system but certainly not my first on 27.5 wheels. If you haven’t tried them yet, there isn’t much to say—they don’t require any brain re-calibration the way moving back and forth from 26 to 29 does.

With limited setup tweaks, the Trance stumbled a bit out of the block. The Maestro system stiffens up considerably under power but sank into its travel when off the gas. Setting the rebound to nearly full fast keep it up high in its travel. The fork took even more effort to wrangle, as a "proper" sag setup led to an astonishing amount of braking dive. Cranking up the air pressure kept it riding high, but left me with access to only half its travel.

Once all the squishing was sorted, the bike had that perfect "Goldilocks" feel that disappears beneath you. The 67 degree head tube and 17.3-inch chainstays are square in the middle of what you would expect to see on a 5-inch bike, and there are no handling quirks or surprises. Keeping the rebound damping fast gave the suspension a bit of life, but the Trance is definitely a bike that likes to stay on the ground instead of getting rowdy.

The only spots on the trails I had trouble with was charging up steep, technical, punchy little climbs, as the "smaller" 27.5 wheel just could roll over the small step-ups as well as a 29er could. When I rode the same sections on a 29er the next day it cleared them with far less speed and body english.

Trance SX

I was hoping get some shredding in though—this being BC and all—so I also grabbed a Trance SX off the rack. The SX uses the same 140mm frame but gets the burlier 160mm Fox Float 34 Evolution fork and a 1×10 drivetrain with a chainguide. With the spec pictured here, the $4,050 seemed a bit high compared to the regular Trance, as you get a bigger fork but one less shifter and derailleur.

The same suspension gremlins were present on the Trance SX though, and setting up the fork so stiff really took away from how hard I could push the bike. It also seemed a bit more wobbly and less adept at the tight and twisty Lost Lake trails that its smaller sibling. I didn’t have a chance to take it up the mountain to the bike park but it would certainly feel more at home on wide-open terrain with higher speeds.


If the fork issues were taken care of I would have likely come away with a better first impression. More extensive tuning could likely remedy braking dive. Since Giant has such a huge reach all over the world, I have little doubt the Trance will be a huge success as a very versatile bike that is going to keep a lot of riders satisfied.  

First look: All-new 2014 Marin bikes

By Eric McKeegan, photos by Adam Newman

Last year Marin was sold to a private European investment group. From the outside, this move didn’t change very much, but it allowed Marin to invest in more design manpower, and these bikes are the first of what Marin promises to be many new designs. All models below share 27.5 wheels, and Marin will not make any 26-inch full suspension models for 2014.


First up is the Attack Trail, utilizing the latest iteration of Marin’s Quad Link Suspension design. The 150mm rear travel is matched to a 160mm fork, with all three models using the impressive new RockShox Pike fork. An aggressive 66.5 head angle , 13.3-inch bottom bracket and 17.1-inch chainstays show Marin is paying attention to the current long travel market. As of now, only three, carbon-framed models will be available. Canadian prices are $4,190-$7,870, and we’ll get U.S. pricing ASAP.

Also new this year is the Mount Vision line. In person, the Mount Vision and Attack Trail seem very similar, in both looks and design intent. Dig in deeper, and the suspension design is revealed to be a single pivot system, with a linkage driving the shock, and a flex point built into the seat stay, eliminating the need for a pivot in that location. Front and rear travel is matched at 140mm, with Fox 34 forks.


Three carbon Mount Visions will range between $5,030 and $7,550. Alloy models, with a carbon rear end (needed to create the flex point) will run $2,950 or $3,990.

The Attack Trail is marketed as a trail bike, and the Mount Vision an "enduro" bike. This seems to be the opposite of what many companies and consumers are selling and using for enduro races. The lighter and conceivably more efficient Mount Vision seems much more trail-able to me, with the longer travel and slacker angles of the Attack Trail would fit in well at the enduro events I’ve attended.

If all the complexity of travel lengths and suspension have you down, take a look at the Rocky Ridge. The lack front end (67.5 degrees), short rear end (16.5 inches) and a low bottom bracket (12.7 inches) should make this bike a very capable trail bike. Two models, both with 130mm forks, will be available for $1,890 and $2,520 (Canadian).


Nice touches include internal dropper post routing, a bent seat tube for short chainstay clearance, a 1×10 drivetrain with chainguide, a front derailleur mount, and a 142mm rear hub. If you haven’t ridden a newer aggressive trail hardtail, you owe it to yourself to do so, and the Rocky Ridge looks to be a good place to start.

First look: Trek offers limited-edition Ticket and Session Park

By Adam Newman

For nearly a decade Trek has been building dirt jump and slopestyle bikes for its sponsored athletes and mostly leaving consumers out of the equation. The Ticket Signature was briefly available as a complete bike, but with most riders preferring to build up their own ride depending on how they would use it, sales were sluggish.

Now, by combining the years of refinement on the Ticket hardtail and full-suspension models with Trek’s own Project One paint shop facilities in its office in Waterloo, Wisconsin, it will be releasing very limited runs onf special bikes under the Race Shop LTD label. Small production runs ("in the triple digits") means you better get to your local Trek shop in a hurry. First up are the three frames we saw today:


The Ticket DJ is the modern evolution of the dirt jump bike Trek has been building for years. Designed with the direct input of riders like Cam McCaul and Brandon Semenuk, it can be configured countless ways with ISCG tabs, sliding 142×12 dropouts and a derailleur hanger. It will be available in the spring, only in this blacked out paint, for $700.


The Ticket S was built to be the ultimate slopestyle bike, with 100mm of travel and 100mm-130mm forks. It matches the geometry of the hardtail so the athletes can switch bikes back and forth without having to adjust. The suspension uses Trek’s ABP linkage with a chip that allows for a small adjustment to the geometry, head angle and shock rate. It too will be available in only black, for $1,500, but will hit stores in late 2013.


The third bike is the Session Park frame. When Semenuk was preparing for the last Red Bull Rampage, he rode a modified Session with a custom swingarm that transformed the World Cup winning race bike into a more playful freeride bike. The rear travel has been shortened to 190mm while the shock rate has been made more progressive, and Semenuk said he runs his RockShox Boxxer fork at 190mm to match. The chainstays are also shorter at 420mm. It uses Trek’s patented OCLV carbon front triangle and will come in two sizes, medium and large. It will retail for $4,500 and be available in the spring.

Not into black? There will also be even more limited-edition versions of the C3 Project athletes’ custom painted bikes. First up is Ryan Howard’s stars and stripes Ticket S. Expect even more limited production runs, likely less than 100 units. When they’re gone, they’re gone, and Trek will decide which one to make next.


The Race Shop LTD program will also include other limited-edition goodies, including a straight up replica of Fabian Cancellara’s Paris-Roubaix-winning Domane road bike and the one-piece carbon fiber bar and stem used by the Trek XC race team.

Want to see the bikes in action? Check out Anthill Films‘ NotBad:

First impression: Ghost AMR Riot 9

By Eric McKeegan, photos by Adam Newman

Let’s get the basic stuff out of the way about this company first. One: Ghost is a German brand, part of the Accell group (parent company of many brands, including Raleigh, Diamondback, Redline and others). Two: Starting soon, Ghost will be available, via a dealer network, across Canada. Three: No current plans for U.S. distribution.

OK, now let’s get on to the bike. This is the AMR Riot, a carbon fiber 130mm trail bike with 27.5 wheels. The rear suspension is a Horst Link design, with an extra link tucked into the bottom bracket area. It moves on Norglide bushings.

The first bit of the travel is on the regressive side of things, which helps keep suspension bob in check, getting more plush mid-stroke for more better bump absorption. That extra link changes the progression of the suspension over the last 20 percent of the travel as the progression ramps up aggressively, to the point where it’s nearly impossible to bottom out the shock.

The rest of the bike features all of the stuff we’ve come to expect on modern trail bikes, with nice little touches that show someone at Ghost is paying attention. The internal routing has multiple optional for entry plugs to get a custom set up depending out your cable routing needs, be it for 1x , 2x or 3x drivetrains, brake lever set-up (moto or standard) and dropper post choice.


The cables run inside the bottom bracket shell out through the chainstasy, eliminating the common ugly loop of cable under the BB. The BB92 press fit bottom bracket is standard enough, but a small plastic chain catcher keeps the chain from falling off the little ring. And finally the rear brake mount is a post style, but it is a separate aluminum piece that uses the rear axle as the rear mounting point.


The Riot will be available in five sizes. All sizes share a 68-degree head angle, 17.1 chainstays and 73.5-degree seat angle. The size large I rode has a 24 inch top tube, matched to a 60mm stem (which is stock for all sizes) was a fine fit for my 5 foot 11 self.


There will be three trim levels available, all with Shimano groups and Fox suspension. I headed out for a nice ride with Ghost’s Ruben Torenbeek. We spun down to the Lost Lake area in Whistler and got right to it on a technical climb. Right off the bat, I noticed the Riot is the the best pedaling FSR-style bike I’ve ever ridden. I never touched the CTD lever on the rear shock, and never felt the need to do so. Even with the dropper post slammed, out of the saddle the suspension behaved itself, resisting bob without feeling too harsh. It’s almost dw-link feeling, in a very good way.

Headed back down similar terrain, this was an easy bike to get used to, with very little time needed to adapt. I didn’t get info on the BB height, but it felt low enough to corner to corner aggressively, but not too low as to smash pedals and cranks while climbing.

Unfortunately, without U.S. distribution, this may be the only ride I’ll ever have on the Riot, which is a shame. From my short time on it, I came away impressed, and would love some more time on it. I’m a bit jealous of the people living within the global Ghost dealer zone.


  • 130mm front and rear
  • 27.5 wheels
  • Full carbon frame
  • Aluminum linkage parts
  • RIOTLink suspension system, patented pending by Ghost Bikes.
  • Disconnect Brake Mount, a new design brake mount where forces go directly into the X12 axle instead of the seat stays
  • Frame weight: 2.1kg
  • 3 models: AMR Riot 5/7/9
  • Fully internal cable routing
  • BB92 bottom bracket
  • Tapered Headtube
  • Reverb Stealth seatpost
  • 68 degree headangle
  • 73.5 degree seat tube angle
  • 435mm chainstays
  • Composite bushings

First look: 2014 Norco mountain bikes

By Adam Newman

Norco went big last fall with its 2013 line and the introduction of bigger, 27.5 wheels. Now for 2014, it’s expanding the new wheels to more models and refining the popular Range and Sight models.

The highlight is the carbon fiber version of the Sight, with its 140mm of travel and FSR-derived suspension. The frame retains the geometry of the alloy version, but beefs up the bottom bracket to the BB92 standard. In fact, there are actually two versions of the carbon frame—one with a front derailleur direct mount and one without.

The Sight LE model (pictured here) and the Sight 7.1 will come with SRAM XX1 and XO1, respectively, while the Sight 7 1.5 has a Shimano SLX build and the 7.2 uses an X7 2×10 setup. Both versions will be available as a frame-only. There are also two aluminum versions as well as an aluminum frame-only.



The Fluid and Faze models slot in under the Sight, both in terms of travel and price.


The Fluid is an aluminum, 120mm frame in both 29er and 27.5 options with two build kit in each wheel size and prices ranging from $1,675 to $2,245.


The Faze is a 100mm 29er with three spec levels and prices from $1,315 to $2,330. Worth noting is the 140mm Shinobi 29er goes away for 2014, as most trail and all mountain riders were opting for the Sight and Range instead.


Then there’s the Bigfoot, Norco’s Canadian-bred fat bike. Acknowledging that it is likely a second or third (or eighth) bike for many riders, it’s built to hit a price point that won’t make you feel guilty about hanging it up all summer: $1,415. Its aluminum frame actually shares some tubing with the hardtail mountain bikes and fits a 170mm rear hub. The aluminum fork is 135mm. The tires spec’d are Vee Rubber’s 26×4.0 Mission tread and the 9-speed Shimano drivetrain is built with durability in mind.  

QBP launches new brand aimed at sportsmen

QBP surprised us over the weekend without the announcement of a new brand aimed at sportsmen. Cogburn Outdoors is the latest brand from the parent company of Surly, Salsa, Foundry and more.

The first product, a fat bike known as the CB4, is an alloy model that shows its family heritage if you look closely, appearing very similar to previous Salsa Mukluk models but with a new top tube. We don’t have all the details of the parts spec yet, but it is shown built with Surly Nate tires, a SRAM 2x drivetrain and Surly’s non-drilled rims.

But what really sets it apart is the RealTree camouflage finish applied by Dynamic Finishes in Kansas City. The non-camo parts are all flat black to avoid glare.

Since it’s designed for hunters and fisherman, they’re going to need a way to haul their gear, and the Scabbard is an aluminum attachment that goes on a rear rack to safely carry a rifle, bow or rod.

No word on pricing or availability yet, but look for more in September.

Unlike ATVs or snow machines, fat bikes allow access to the backcountry without any impact on the habitat.

What do you think? Will sportsmen take to fat bikes?  

Introducing Cogburn Outdoors from Cogburn on Vimeo.

Norco previews 2014 lineup with carbon Sight 27.5 and Bigfoot fat bike

Looks like we’ll get our first glimpse of them at Crankworx next week, but today Norco sent out some details of its forthcoming lineup: 

Sight Killer B carbon

The hugely successful Norco Sight Killer B is going carbon for 2014. Featuring the same dialed geometry as its aluminum predecessor, but with the added strength, stiffness and weight savings of carbon. Internal cable routing, optional 1×11 gearing, and Reverb Stealth routing complete the cleanest, lightest, and fastest trail bike on the market.


The Threshold series of cyclocross bikes was launched last year and for 2014 the lineup is going full disc. Integrating new SRAM hydraulic disc brake technology with a race-ready frameset makes for an out-of-the-box weapon eager to dominate the racecourse.


The 2014 Revolver is the stiffest, lightest XC race bike Norco has ever made. Featuring full carbon construction, Norco’s Gravity Tune geometry and available in both 27.5/650B and 29" wheels. Match the wheel size with your style and the Revolver is a recipe for the podium!

Fluid 7

The cycling community fell in love with 27.5/650B wheels but there remains a lack of choice at the lower price points that the majority of mountain bikers are looking for. The Fluid 7 series answers this need, taking what we love about the 29" Fluid 9 series and applying it to 650B. Suspension kinematics and geometry are specific to the wheel size, delivering the ultimate trail mountain biking experience in a very affordable package.


Norco is introducing a Fatbike for 2014. A versatile yet affordable option for snow, sand or wherever you plan to go, the Bigfoot brings the joy of fatbiking to the masses.

First look: Felt’s new 2014 Virtue Nine 1

By Neil Browne,

In the heart of Orange County, California, tucked between the 405 freeway and the Santa Ana Mountains, Felt Bicycles has quietly been producing some amazing rigs.

Just a few miles away, Trabuco Canyon is Felt’s testing grounds, and with those trails in mind produced the Virtue Nine models—a 29er only trail bike designed for all conditions. The previous Virtue models were 26ers, but Felt went back to the drawing board to completely redesign the 2014 line.

Central to that re-do was improving ride quality in all types of conditions.

“We’ve been working on this for quite awhile,” explained Scott Sharples, Felt’s mountain bike product manager. In this thick Australian accent, Sharples stated the Virtue model descends well and can haul you back up the mountain without having to grab the ski lift.

The former pro mountain biker gives credit to the Virtues’ 69 degree head tube angle. “We didn’t want to go super slack. It still needed to be nimble enough for the climbs.”

Another design feature of the Virtue was to keep the chainstays and wheelbase tight with the result a snappy handling trail bike that could be pressed into cross-country racing.

In order to shorten the chainstay to 450mm the front derailleur needed to be repositioned. This also allowed Felt to stiffen the bottom bracket area. To reduce weight further than the previous Virtue versions, the seatstays are slimmed down. The pivot points are ball bearings with 15mm aluminum axles.

Felt’s Equilink suspension got an upgrade on the 2014 Virtue with a larger diameter 7075 aluminum lower link axles. To further beef up the strength quotient, the double row angular contact bearings are 10 percent lighter and 60 percent stronger. The Equilink suspension is tuned to give the feel of a bike with more than the advertised 130mm of travel.

The other change to the Virtue model is a thru-axle 142×12 rear dropout with a replaceable derailleur hanger.

With the exception of the Virtue Nine 60 (the gateway model into the Virtue group) the complete line features a dropper post with the Nine 1 sporting the RockShox Reverb Stealth with internal routing.

RockShox delivers Felt’s suspension needs throughout the Virtue line-up. The drivetrain for the flagship Virtue Nine 1 is SRAM’s XO 11-speed with a 30 tooth chainring. Post style disc brakes are a feature of the Virtue Nine model and eliminates an additional bracket or adapter for 160mm brake rotors.

The Nine 1 is Felt’s top of the line model in the Virtue line. Constructed from UHC Advanced carbon fiber, the Nine 1 tips the scales at five pounds, including the shock. In addition to the Nine 1, Felt also offers a carbon Nine 3. The Virtue Nine also has three aluminum offerings (Nine 20, Nine 50, Nine 60) available in the Fall and Felt anticipates the carbon Nine 1 hitting bike shops in late December or early next year.


  • Virtue Nine 1: $6,199
  • Virtue Nine 3: $4,149
  • Virtue Nine 20: $3,799
  • Virtue Nine 50: $2,799
  • Virtue Nine 60: $2,199
  • Frame Kit (carbon) $3,499

Sizes: small (16”), medium (18”), large (20”) and X-large (22”)


First Impression: Stages Cycling Power Meter

By Eric McKeegan, photos by Wil Matthews.

I’ll admit to being a bit surprised when we were invited to attend a media camp for a power meter company.Dirt Rag isn’t well known for our embrace of electronics, although all of us certainly make use of our smartphones…

The more I read the invitation, the more excited I got. Stages Cycling‘s Matt Pacocha teamed up with a few other companies and the Colorado Freeride Festival to create a chance for the invited editors to race in the enduro, aboard a Yeti SB66c trail bike with the new Mavic Crossmax Enduro wheel/tire system, and equipped with a Stages power meter, natch.

Let’s get this out of the way first, the Stage’s product may be the smallest thing I’ve ever been to a press camp to check out. Here it is from the side and top, most people would never notice it on the bike.

Instead of using sensors in the hub or driveside crank, Stages bonds its sensor to the left crank arm. Inside this little black box is a strain gauge and accelerometer and a single CR2032 battery good for 200 hours of use and easily found for under $5 and replaceable without tools.

The Stages Power meter is just a sending unit, so a head unit that complies with the ANT power standard, an iPhone 4s or 5, or a third generation iPad. Expect an app for the Android OS soon, but your phone needs to be Bluetooth 4.0 compatible. While the Garmin is the most popular unit I’ve seen, there are also units from Cateye, Sigma, Bontrager, CycleOps, Specialized and others.

The power meter not only sends power info to the head unit, but using the accelerometer, it measures cadence too. With the head unit hooked up to GPS satellites, this means totally wireless info about location, speed, cadence and power. As a former mechanic that wired up some incredibly complicated computers to bikes, this system is a relief to install.

Since the unit only sends data from one side, the result of algorithm used to figure out wattage is doubled to figure out total wattage for both legs. While some might get up in arms about this system, it is good to keep in mind that the vast majority of riders have less than 4 percent difference in power between each leg, which falls within the average margin for error of most systems. While this might not result in exact data that would be revealed in a laboratory environment, Stages stands behind the consistency of its data. That consistency is what is important for training.

The big advantage of using the non-driveside crank means all kinds of components can be swapped with no need to recalibrate they system. Pedals, chainrings or wheels are all fair game for swapping with no need to change any settings, or send the unit back to Stages to reprogram.

The stages unit also automatically calibrates for temperature changes, unlike most other units on the market, which need to be calibrated throughout a ride with changing temps. 

I also had a chance to talk with a number of athletes who are pretty stoked about this system, from enduro racers like Jared Graves, Jeff Lenosky and Mark Weir, to more XC guys Mitch Hoke and Macky Franklin. Across the board, they are all excited about the in depth info this system makes available and how quickly this info can be incorporated into revised training plans.

The other key to this system is price. While $700-$900 isn’t at all cheap, it is substantially lower than any other power meter on the market. This system should open up the power meter market to more cyclists, and the well protected mounting location should keep the sending uit well protected with charging though rough terrain. When you purchase a Stages power meter, you actual purchase a non-drive side crank arm to match your existing crank with the power meter system already built in. 

I used the very popular Garmin Edge 510 computer to capture data, and everything worked well all weekend, at least until I forgot to charge the Garmin before day 3 of racing. All the captured data was uploaded to trainingpeaks.com, where a coach crunched all the number and recommended some direction for training, should I want to improve my enduro performance.

I’ve got the power meter at home now, waiting to be installed on new Turner Burner for further use and a complete test. To be honest, its been years since I’ve used any type of electronic device to record my speed off road, but the information captured by this system is pretty darn interesting, and I look forward to hitting the local trails and seeing what kind of data results.

We also had a chance to talk with a number of athletes who are pretty stoked about this system, from enduro racers like Jared Graves, Jeff Lenosky and Mark Weir, to more XC guys Mitch Hoke and Macky Franklin.

Check the pages of a future issue of Dirt Rag for the complete review.

SRAM X01 gets its official unveiling

It was one of the worst kept secrets of the summer as several brands had already been showing it off on 2014 bikes, but SRAM’s X01 11-speed group became official today.

Borrowing several of the technologies from the championship-winning XX1 group, it brings 11-speed to a slightly lower price point. The key features are still there: the narrow-wide chainring, the special rear derailleur, and the massive 10-42 cassette. In fact, the cassette remains the most expensive piece of the whole puzzle. Naturally you’re not going to want to have to replace that too often, so SRAM uses a new black finish for longevity.

One key difference in the two groups is in the crankset: the XX1 crank uses a small, 76mm BCD, while the X01 group uses a 94mm BCD. This means those looking for a 28-tooth chainring will need to splurge on the XX1 crank. X01 chainrings are available in 30, 32, 34, 36 and 38-tooth.

We have a complete group on its way, so check back soon for a first look and later for a long-term review. The X01 group should be available in mid-September starting at $1,274. See below for pricing of individual components.

NEW X01 Crankset

  • New patented X-SYNC tooth profile provides maximum chain control
  • Carbon arms with forged aluminum spider
  • Chainring guard option
  • New spider design allows for easier ring changes
  • CNC- X-SYNC machined rings (30-32-34-36-38)
  • Colors: Red and Black
  • Weight: 655g (with BB)
  • Technologies: BB30, GXP, X-SYNC

NEW X01 X-HORIZON Rear Derailleur

  • Large upper pulley offset automatically adjusts chain gap
  • X-HORIZON design reduces shift force and ghost shifting
  • 12-tooth X-SYNC pulley wheels
  • Carbon cage
  • Sealed cartridge bearings
  • Colors: Red and Black
  • Weight: 252g

NEW X01 Trigger Shifter

  • SRAM 1X X-ACTUATION for precise and dependable 11-speed performance
  • Zero Loss Engagement for fastest shifting
  • Multi-adjustable trigger shifter
  • MatchMaker X compatible
  • Aluminum cover and adjustable forged aluminum pull lever
  • Includes discrete clamp
  • Colors: Red and Black
  • Weight: 91g
  • Technologies: X-ACTUATION, ZERO LOSS, MatchMaker X Integrated

NEW X01 Grip Shift

  • SRAM 1X X-ACTUATION for precise and dependable 11-speed performance
  • SPEED METAL shift indexing
  • ROLLING THUNDER ball bearing technology
  • JAWS lock-on grip technology
  • Aluminum cover
  • Includes lock-on grips
  • Colors: Red and Black
  • Weight: 143g (clamps, cable and JAWS lock-on grip

NEW XG-1195 Cassette

  • Unique finish for high durability
  • 11-speeds (10-12-14-16-18-21-24-28-32-36-42)
  • XD Driver Body creates more stable hub connection
  • Optimized Gear steps across entire range
  • Weight: 275g
  • Technologies: X-DOME, XD DRIVER BODY

PC-XX1 Chain

  • New 1X specific chain
  • HARD CHROME technology for maximum strength and wear resistance
  • Proprietary link finish provides improved life span
  • 11-speed power lock
  • Technologies: X-SYNC, HARD CHROME


  • Cassette: $399
  • Chain $63
  • Crankset: $279-$319
  • Chainring: $98-$127
  • Bottom Bracket: $37-$49
  • Shifter: $129-$139
  • Rear derailleur: $269
  • Total: $1,274-$1,365

Spotted: New Niner WFO with 150mm of travel

By Eric McKeegan

While waiting in line to start stage 5 of the Trestle Bike Park stop of the Big Mountain Enduro, I noticed two Niner WFOs that looked a little different that what I was used to.

I got a sneak peek at the new WFO at an earlier media event, but after checking out the raw prototypes, I was vowed to keep this info secret. Those vows were lifted this past weekend, and I talked a bit with Niner’s Brad Cole about where the WFO is headed.

Much of the new tech on the  RIP 9 (covered here) will be applied to the WFO. This means air-formed tubing, ICSG tabs incorporated into the linkage, and updated linkages and bigger bearings. Travel is bumped up a bit to 150mm or so.

Geometry should be modernized too, with a shorter rear end, lower BB and slacker head angle. No numbers on these yet, but I do know the unused front derailleur mounts in these photos won’t be there on the production bike, allowing for a shorter chainstay than what we see here. This also means a 1x drivetrain only, best get your fitness in line or shell out for XX1 or XO1!

The fall trade shows should bring news about the final geometry numbers and prices, in the meantime, check out our review of the previous WFO


Lapierre brings new mountain bikes to US shores

By Karen Brooks

Lapierre is a storied French brand that has been making bicycles since 1946. Last year it debuted an electronically controlled suspension system in Europe, for 2014 that system, called Ei, will be available in the States on a trio of bikes: the Spicy and Zesty 27.5-wheeled trail bikes, and the XR 29er for cross country.

These bikes were so eagerly anticipated that it was tough to get a good look at them, let alone a ride. But I managed to snag one for a run down several trails at Deer Valley and shoot another between demo sessions.

Both the Spicy and Zesty AM (pictured here) were redesigned with input from no less than Nicolas Vouilloz, the enduro racer, former WRC rally car driver and 10-time (yes, 10) UCI downhill world champion.

The biggest change is the move from 26 to 27.5 wheels. The Spicy is the enduro specialist, with 150mm of rear travel and 160mm up front, while the Zesty has 150mm travel all around. (There is also a Zesty Trail version with 120mm of travel on 29-inch wheels.)

So, about all those wires… basically, the EI system activates the platform switch on your rear shock for you. It operates on a combination of sensors that feed into a computer which controls a servo motor mounted to the RockShox Monarch RT3 shock to change between Floodgate compression settings: open, platform, and closed.

There are accelerometers on the fork and in the headset top cap that detect the size of the bumps you’re hitting, and a cadence sensor in the crank to tell the system when you’re pedaling.

A small display on the handlebar gives some basic cycle-computer functions, and also switches between five sensitivity settings and turns the system on or off.

In general, pedaling and no bumps at the fork means the rear shock is locked out, while combinations of bumps and pedaling cause the system to choose between platform and wide open, depending on what it senses. Reaction time is only 0.1 second.

I got a chance to ride two new Lapierre bikes, a Spicy with the Ei and a Zesty AM without it. Both bikes were a helluva lot of fun, and seemingly tailor-made for Deer Valley’s extensive network of lift-serviced trails—lots of turns and some rocks, with loose sections and occasional sand traps of deep powdery soil. (Just like the snow!) Very enduro-like.

So what difference did the Ei system make? The Lapierre folks said, and in my case it was true, that many people neglect to use their platform switches and just leave the shock open or in platform mode. I did this with the non-Ei Zesty and still had fun, even if I worked much harder to climb the short uphills in the thin air.

But the Ei-equipped Spicy was certainly busy as I rode the same set of trails, clicking and whirring as it did its stuff. I can say that it did improve the ride, making the rear end more plush when the trail turned chunky or stiffen up when I hit the fire road climb.

However, it remains to be seen whether this fancy electronic system does as good a job with automatically changing the suspension feel as a mechanical system, such as a dw-link, would. I also wonder how all those wires, and the battery, will fare in a rainy, muddy climate. But of course, that’s why we test things.

Some stats:


  • Available in Team or 527 models
  • Head tube angle 66.5, seat tube angle 73.5, bottom bracket drop 10mm, chainstay length 430mm (same length as the previous 26-wheeled version)
  • Carbon frame with an aluminum swingarm
  • Replaceable down tube/BB protector
  • Internal cable routing for shifters, brakes and dropper post
  • 142x12mm thru-axle, ISCG05 tabs


  • Available in five models
  • Same frame as Spicy but with 150mm fork instead of 160mm (67 head tube angle, 74 seat tube angle)
  • Rear shock settings are slightly stiffer than on Spicy
  • Carbon frame with an aluminum swingarm
  • Replaceable down tube/BB protector
  • Internal cable routing for shifters, brakes and dropper post
  • 142x12mm thru-axle, ISCG05 tabs

Giant goes full-bore on 27.5 wheels with new Anthem, Trance, XTC and more

This is it folks. If you still had any notion that 27.5 was just a fad, forget it. Giant is going all-in with the middle wheelsize and 26 and 29-inch wheels are being pushed to the margins.

This isn’t an April Fools post. There are only three 26-inch models left in Giant’s lineup: the Glory downhill rig, the Reign X, and the STP dirt jumper. Our bet is that said gravity bikes will also adopt the new wheels in the next development cycle. Just like we saw in the 2014 Scott lineup, the middle wheels are taking over. Even price-point bikes are 27.5. Giant is hinting that 29ers are on the outs for all but its cross-country race bikes.

There are essentially four new 27.5 models for 2014 in addition to the women’s specific LIV models which includes hardtails and full-suspension.


Swedish national champion Emil Lindgren raced a prototype XTC Advanced 27.5 in World Cups and other XC races throughout the early part of the 2013 season.

XTC Advanced 2

The XTC is a race hardtail, designed for Giant’s World Cup level athletes. It is available in alloy or carbon fiber. The XTC bikes have a 69.5 degree head tube and 16.9 inch chainstays.


Giant Factory Off-Road Team rider Adam Craig won an early round of the 2013 Oregon Enduro Series on a prototype version of the Anthem Advanced 27.5.

Anthem Advanced 0 Team

The 100mm Anthem is a race-ready XC bike with Giant’s popular Maestro suspension. It is available in alloy or carbon fiber. The Anthem models have a 69.5 degree head tube and 17.0 inch chainstays.


Trance 2

The 140mm Trance is a capable trail bike that can climb as well as it descends. It is available in alloy or carbon fiber. There is also a Trance SX model that pairs the Trance frame with a longer and stiffer 160mm Fox 34 fork. It too is available in carbon or alloy. All Trance models have 17.3 inch chainstays, while the SX models kick the head tube angle out from 67 to 66 degrees.

Australian enduro racer Josh Carlson in a product testing session in Oregon on a prototype version of the Trance Advanced 27.5.

Trance Advanced SX


Talon 1

The Talon is the price-point bike that brings the middle wheelsize to the masses. It’s built around a 100mm suspension fork and has a 70 degree head tube and 17.3 inch chainstays.

Women’s line

What about the ladies? The 27.5 wheels are a great fit, since many women want the advantage of larger wheels but have trouble fitting on a 29er. Giant meets their needs with the Obsess Advanced hardtail, the 100mm travel Lust, the 140mm Intrigue, and the Tempt price point hardtail.

The Obsess is available only in carbon fiber, the Lust is available in both alloy and carbon, while the Intrigue and Tempt are alloy-only. It’s safe to make comparisons to the men’s models with the same travel, but the frames are completely unique to the ladies lineup.

Marianne Vos of the Rabobank-Liv/giant team, the current world and Olympic champion on the road, helped develop the Obsess Advanced. She rode a prototype version at several World Cup events this year as she begins her bid to race cross-country at the next Olympic Games. 

Giant Factory Off-Road Team rider Kelli Emmett has been racing her prototype Intrigue at pro enduro events in Europe and North America this summer.

Kelli Emmett and Swiss rider Jolanda Neff, the current women’s XC Under-23 world champion, both provided valuable feedback during the development phase of the Liv/giant 27.5 lineup. 

Obsess Advanced

Lust Advanced 0

Intrigue 1


Tempt 0

Pivot gets in the 27.5 game with new Mach 6 and LES hardtail

By Karen Brooks and Adam Newman

Mach 6

Pivot showed off three new bikes at their DealerCamp oasis. First off: the highly anticipated Mach 6.

We’re at a point in mountain bike history when factors are converging to create a fresh bloom of creativity—namely, the enduro racing scene and the 27.5 wheel size. Pivot’s been working on a bike that takes advantage of “Goldilocks” wheels to dominate this new form of racing.

The Mach 6 has 6.1 inches (155mm) of dw-link travel with a new upper linkage design that allows maximum tuning flexibility. Chris Cocalis, the mad genius behind Pivot, said that they aimed to make a bike “that can descend like a full downhill machine and climb like an XC race bike.” Ambitious, yes, but it’s a bike that looks like it can deliver.

Some pertinent numbers: head tube angle is 66 degrees, bottom bracket is 13.6 inches high, and the chainstays are 17 inches (16.929” to be exact)—in short, low and aggressive.

The new upper linkage has a wishbone-shaped piece that goes from the shock around the seat tube, and short, almost hidden links that connect its two rearward pivots to the seatstays. There are bearings with offset races rather than bushings behind those big silver covers, to eliminate play and provide the smoothest travel possible. A custom-tuned Float X CTD or Float shock will provide the cushion.

As with other Pivot bikes, the finish and fittings are impeccable. For instance, the lower drive-side pivot points are inset to clear a front derailleur, but if you choose not to use one, a nifty plate covers the mounting point. The shift and dropper post cables are routed internally, and rubberized bits protect the lower down tube and drive-side chainstay.

Prices for the Mach 6 will depend on build kit, but will range from $4,700 to $7,600, and frames will go for $3,000.


Key features

  • 6.1” (155mm) travel next-generation dw-link suspension design with position-sensitive anti-squat that pedals, accelerates and handles like nothing else for aggressive trail riding conditions.
  • All new upper linkage design provides additional control over the suspension curve.
  • This new Mach 6 linkage design also eliminates the rear shock bushing; replacing it with two large Enduro max cartridge bearings resulting in a substantial improvement in small to mid size bump compliance and better traction in all conditions. It is also compatible with most shocks in the marketplace so it does not require a proprietary shock design.
  • The new Mach 6 linkage design was one of the keys to achieving short (even for 26-inch wheels) 430mm chainstays (16.9 inches) and 155mm of rear travel while clearing 27.5×2.35 tires.
  • Pivot-exclusive hollow box, high-compression internal molding technology allows for greater compaction and smoother internal walls resulting in a lighter, stronger, highly optimized frame design with the best stiffness to weight ratio in the class.
  • Pivot-specific, custom tuned Fox Float or Float X CTD shock technology: Increased performance and adjustment range allows riders to quickly and easily adjust for changing course or ride conditions.
  • Internal top tube shift cable routing and down tube dropper seat post routing keeps cables clean and running smooth.
  • Rubberized leather chainstay, inner seat stay, and down tube protectors for a quiet ride and higher impact resistance.
  • 142×12 thru-axle, ISCG-05 tabs, Press Fit 92 bottom bracket, direct mount front derailleur, post mount brake tabs. 

LES 27.5

We reviewed the 29er version of the LES (pivotles, get it?) in Issue #170 and fell in love with its high performance. The 27.5 version offers the same package with, you guessed it, 27.5-inch wheels. Building a bike under 20 lbs. is now within reach, and smaller riders can get on board with the Small and XS sizes. 


The LES 27.5 will share most features with its larger-wheeled sibling, including full carbon construction, internal cable routing, 142×12 thru-axle, and the chainstays are just 16.77 inches. 



This was another bike that looked ready to dominate races, the short but painful CX kind or the long-distance gravel kind. This carbon wonder is built with “longer, slacker, lower” geometry than a typical CX bike. So, very much the same as other gravel-specific bikes, but in the high-end, sharply finished fashion we’ve come to expect from Pivot.


The dropouts come stock set for 135mm spacing, but have removable inserts to convert to 130mm.


The bike can also swap easily between discs or cantis, with more clean fittings to cover evidence of either one you’re not using.

The full-carbon fork was carefully designed to offer a bit of compliance but without chatter. There’s a lot of room for tires in there, both front and back.

The full build offering will have Ultegra 11, TRP HY-RD disc brakes and Stan’s wheels for $3,599. Frames will go for $2,299.


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