The 29/27plus platform has another option, this time in the form of a aluminum frame made in Colorado. Guerrilla Gravity looks to take a slice of the shorter-travel market with this 120 mm travel frame, the Trail Pistol.
Eagle-eyed readers will notice the change to a Horst link/chainstay pivot. Why? Guerilla Gravity says: “Marketing, mostly. Before we committed to switching to the more popular platform, we made sure the same go-fast qualities as our single pivot Megatrail layout were maintained: excellent pedaling characteristics and mid-stroke support. As an added bonus, we were able to reduce braking influence by eight percent.”
The flip chip in the suspension linkage adjusts both the suspension leverage. The Plush mode works well with the more plush 27plus tires, and the Crush mode goes well with the 29er wheels. As a final note, pay attention to sizing on these bikes; most riders will size down. This is the only brand I would go for a medium frame at 6 feet tall.
Frame Highlights (via Guerrilla Gravity):
- GG-style geometry: 120 mm travel, 16.9” chainstays, roomy cockpit. 66.6º head tube angle with a 130 mm travel fork (+/- .4º per 10 mm of travel)
- Crush Mode: made for goin’ fast on 29-inch wheels
- Plush Mode: maintains a consistent BB height between wheel sizes, steepens the head angle a degree, and reduces the progression in the suspension. Ideal for 27Plus wheels, but can be used as a less-aggressive mode with 29-inch wheels
- No fork swap necessary to use either wheel size
- Tire clearance: 29×2.6; 27.5×3.0 (both are actual measurements, not claimed since all tire manufacturers seem to use a different ruler)
- Low standover for improved agility, especially on smaller frame sizes
- The steeper angle is intended to maintain consistent geo as the saddle is raised and lowered
- “Follow the Leader” standards: Boost 148 rear end and 210×50 metric shock sizing
- Universal Syntace derailleur hanger and axle system and easily-accessed Enduro Maxx bearings
- Frame storage: NUTS (Necessities Under the Saddle) Bracket and water bottle mounts
What’s it going to cost? Prices will range from $2,200 for a frame with a Deluxe RT3 shock or SRAM GX build for $3,000, up to a SRAM XO1 build for $5,500. See all the builds at Guerrilla Gravity.
You can get 27plus wheel sets and tires, build kit customization options and nine powder coat colors plus five decal colors on all models.
During some discussions at Sea Otter this spring, Trek dropped hints it was working to simplify its trail bike line up. This was right before it dropped a new full-suspension fat trail bike, so I wasn’t sure how to take that statement.
These simplification ideas became more clear few weeks ago when Trek invited us to Squamish to ride new trail bikes. As of now, Trek has only three full-suspension mountain bike platforms (not counting that fat bike)
Top Fuel – 100 mm 29er
Fuel EX – 130 mm 29/27plus
Remedy – 150 mm 27.5
Yes, in a surprising move, the Fuel EX 27.5 and the EWS winning Remedy 29 are no longer. Well, you can still get a new Fuel EX in 27.5 wheels, but only in smaller sizes of the women’s bikes.
Fuel EX 29
This is the same frame as the Fuel EX 27plus we’ve been riding, but all 29ers have a 130 mm fork, vs the 140 mm on the 27plus bike. The 29er version comes in a lot more models compared to the EX 27plus’s three.
|Fuel EX 5 WSD||$2,199.99|
|Fuel EX 8 WSD||$3,199.99|
|Fuel EX 9.8 WSD||$4,999.99|
|Fuel EX 5 29||$2,199.99|
|Fuel EX 7 29||$2,599.99|
|Fuel EX 8 29||$3,199.99|
|Fuel EX 9 29||$3,999.99|
|Fuel EX 29 AL frame||$1,889.99|
|Fuel EX 9.7 29||$3,999.99|
|Fuel EX 9.8 29||$4,999.99|
|Fuel EX 9.9 29||$8,399.99|
|Fuel EX 29 Carbon frame||$3,299.99|
We rode top of the line 9.9 (natch). Since I had plenty of time on the 27plus EX, I was happy to stick to the 29er wheels in Squamish. In fact, the few pairs of 27plus wheels Trek brought with them never made it on a bike while the media was there. It seems no one was that interested.
Right off the bat, the 29er felt more like the EX of the previous generation, light and snappy. Some of this might be attributed to the carbon rims and light tires, but after riding quite a few of these 29/27plus bikes in both configurations, the 29 inch wheels always feel faster to me.
The geometry of the new EX 29 is almost identical to the old Remedy 29, and the frame is actually stiffer. Which somewhat explains why the Remedy 29 went away. Put something like a Pike up front and some beefier tires and I would expect this thing to be a pretty serious ripper.
A quick rundown of the changes from last year’s EX:
-120mm->130mm rear / 130mm front
-68˚ headtube->67.7˚ (high) / 67˚ (low) headtube
-448mm->453mm (low position)
Lighter & Stiffer frame
– Straight Shot downtube for strength & stiffness
Knock Block Frame Defense
– Prevents frame damage from fork controls or brake levers
We rode some steep stuff in Squamish, and the EX felt at home here. The longer front end and slacker head angle (I spent half of the day in each geo setting) are a huge plus on steeper terrain. We did a fair amount of climbing as well as descending , and the EX now feels like a bike that balances the two more evenly, where the previous EX still had a lot of XC-racing genes.
And that is where I came away surprised. This is a much more aggressive bike than the previous Fuel EX, and I wonder if that will leave a hole in Trek’s line up? The Top Fuel is more capable these days, and maybe we’ll see a version of the Top Fuel with a longer fork, beefier tires and a dropper to compete with the likes of the new Kona Hei Hei Trail and other lightweight, short-travel, trail bikes. This isn’t to say the Fuel EX feels slow, but not everyone needs or wants 130 mm of travel and a 67˚ head angle.
Most of this is speculation, as the trails of Squamish don’t lend themselves to a lot of navel gazing about the fractured state of trail bike genres in the summer of 2016.
No more 29er Remedy? Yes, and this is somewhat shocking. Tracy Moseley has been dominating the EWS circuit on a Remedy 29 for years, but with the Fuel EX taking on the geometry of last year’s Remedy 29, Trek expects most riders looking for an aggressive 29er will be happy with the EX29. Time will tell. In the meantime, those looking for a 150 mm travel 27.5 bike should get themselves a test ride on the new Remedy. We’ve got a contender here.
-140mm -> 150mm rear
-68 / 67.5˚ headtube -> 66.5˚ / 66˚ headtube
-447mm ->458mm (19.5” size)
Lower bottom bracket
-341mm -> 336mm
This is returning the Remedy to its roots as a longer travel trail bike, with a few models coming stock with 160 forks. This puts it squarely in Slash territory. Which leads one to wonder about the future of the Slash….
Anyway, the new Remedy uses the same technology as the Fuel EX, including the Knock Block headset and Straighshot downtube to make a lighter and stiffer frame. Lots of pricepoints with this one, too.
|Remedy 7 27.5||$2,999.99|
|Remedy 8 27.5||$3,299.99|
|Remedy 8 WSD 27.5||$3,299.99|
|Remedy 9 27.5 RSL||$4,499.99|
|Remedy 27.5 AL frame||$1,889.99|
|Remedy 9.8 27.5||$5,299.99|
|Remedy 9.8 27.5 WSD||$5,299.99|
|Remedy 9.9 27.5 RSL||$7,999.99|
|Remedy 27.5 Carbon frame||$3,299.99|
If you look closely at the picture above, you’ll see a new RockShox Deluxe rear shock with the red stick denoting it is equipped the Trek’s proprietary Re:Aktiv valve. This is a good thing. So is the Lyrik up front. SRAM handles most of the parts on this bike, including Guide brakes and 1×12 Eagle drivetrain. Hidden behind my leg is Bontrager’s new Line dropper post, which has an excellent remote, although it could use more than the stock 125 mm of travel, which is feeling short next to 150 mm (and even longer) posts.
I’m going to have to look into the “hows and whys” more later, but the RockShox rear shock seemed to be better at controlling bob than the Fox on the Fuel EX, while still sucking up the bigger hits like a champ. This bike just felt controlled, everywhere. I keep things below my limits (and way below the bike’s limits) as I am not a fan of pinning it at media events, but I was shocked at how well this bike scooted uphill and bombed down unfamiliar trails. I expected to miss the 29er wheels on some of the steeper and chunkier bits, but it wasn’t an issue. In fact, if I lived in Squamish, this bike would be my choice over the Fuel EX, even though the trails never open up enough to really take advantage of the travel and stability of a bike like this, at least with my skillset.
My long term Remedy tester just showed up at the office, so expect a full review soon. We’ve got the RSL (Race Shop Limited) model, which has SE4 reinforced tires and a 160 mm Lyrik travel adjust fork. In other words, the enduro model. That extra travel kicks the head angle back to 66˚/65.5˚and a slightly higher bottom bracket at 346/339 mm. Maybe I just don’t have enough steep climbs, but this is another in a long series of bikes that I’ve adjusted the travel on the first long climb, forgot to return it to full travel on the first descent, and proceeded to leave it in the long setting and never think about it again.
Wrap it up, I’ll take it.
Trek is also offering a huge range of prices and aluminum frames that offer all the features of the carbon models at about half the price. There are even a solid selection of women’s bikes, for those that are into that type of thing. Some of the cheaper models don’t get a Re:Aktiv shock, but to Trek’s credit Re:Aktiv is found at even lower price points this year.
It is pretty easy to get wrapped up in all the tech-y buzz-words the Trek uses to market its bikes. ABP, Mino link, Re:Aktiv, Full Floater, Evo Link, Control Freak internal routing, etc. It is harder to talk about how well all of this works as whole. Trek has been slowly and quietly creating some very fine trail bikes, and this pair of bikes has no trouble holding it down against some of the best trail bikes I’ve ridden.These bikes are available NOW. Check out Trek’s website for more info.
The Fuel EX wasn’t exactly an “old” bike, even by bike industry standards. It wouldn’t have taken much for Trek to redesign the rear end of the Fuel EX 29 to accept a 27plus tire, slap a new Fox 34 Plus fork on the front and ship it out. It would have been an above average bike.
But that is not what Trek did. At all. This Fuel EX 27.5 Plus is just the start of Trek’s entirely revamped trail bike offerings. We’ll be in Squamish next week to ride the other new bikes, but in the meantime, we’ve been lucky to be one of small number of media outlets riding the new Fuel EX.
Trek released the Chupacabra 27.5 plus tires this spring, the first clue that we’d be seeing a bike like this from Trek. In fact, we had a bet going that about whether it would be this or a full-suspension 29plus Stash that we’d see released at Sea Otter (it was a full-sus fatbike, so we all lost).
Fully blacked-out, this is perhaps the meanest looking bike Trek has ever released. It doesn’t just look mean, it has the performance to back up the sneer. Long and low geometry, a new frame that is stiffer than the current Remedy and a travel increase push this new bike out of the long-legged XC realm into do-it all trail bike territory. Think less Midwest and more Pacific Northwest.
Unlike the 120/120 mm travel on the 29 and 27.5 bikes, the new bike is 140/130 mm front/rear. The travel is noticeably more plush, but loses some of the snappy pedalling feel of the shorter-travel bike. It hasn’t lost the oddly magic feel of controlled plushness that the Re:Aktiv shock provides, but feels better sitting and spinning rather than standing and mashing.
The carbon frame has a huge, almost-straight downtube, and lots of stand-over, Trek’s totally quiet Control Freak internal routing and a new bump-stop headset. Developed in conjunction with FSA the Knock Block headset uses keyed spacers and stem to prevent the fork from swinging 180 degrees in a crash. This protects the top tube from the brake levers and the down tube from the fork’s top caps. This allows Trek to increase tube separation at the head tube, and get rid of the upper bend in the down tube. Straighter, shorter tubes are lighter and stiffer, the attributes everyone is chasing in the full-suspension marketplace.
The downside to this new headset? Proprietary stems and spacers. I have a feeling this idea has enough merit to expand to more of the industry, but proprietary parts are not well received right now. The stock Bontrager Line 35 mm bar and stem is more than serviceable, and any 35 mm bar will work, so it isn’t that huge of a deal unless you really can’t ride without you chi-chi Chromag bar and stem.
The biggest news with the EX is the geometry. The head angle is the most obvious change, rivalling the new Santa Cruz Tallboy 3 for biggest difference from previous generation frames. Trek continues to use the geo-adjusting Mino link, resulting in a rider’s choice of 67.2 or 66.6 degrees. Seat tube angles are steeper, chain stays are at 433 mm (17”) and a 13″ bottom bracket should keep thing on the shreddy side on the trail.
I’ve been on the EX 9.8, which is an interesting mix of parts for a modern mountain bike. Brakes and drivetrain are all XT, including a 2×11 with side-swing front derailleur. The specs say the fork should be a FOX 34 Performance FIT, but my bike has a GRIP damper. Rear shock is a FOX EVOL with three-position Re:Activ valve. Wheels are DT hubs laced to Sun Duroc 40 rims. Everything else besides the 125 mm Reverb are Bontrager bits.
The other two bikes are aluminum frames. The EX 8 is 1×11 via SRAM GX, brakes are Shimano Deore, Fox 34 Rhythm GRIP fork, same FOX EVOL/Re:Aktiv shock and Bontrager hubs in place of the DTs. A KS EThirty dropper and Bontrager parts finish it off. The EX5 gets 2×10 Deore, Shimano M315 brakes, no dropper post, and less expensive Bontrager finishing bits. Suspension is handled by RockShox, a Sektor Silver RL up front, and Deluxe RL rear.
All three models use the new “metric” shock sizing and trunnion mounts. Also, all three bikes will work with 29″ wheels, although the bottom bracket will end up about 5mm higher depending on tire selection.
The current Fuel EX with 29 or 27.5 “standard” tires will remain in the line-up, which should be a relief for those riders that don’t need a bike as aggressive as the EX 27plus, but not as race-focused at the Top Fuel.
This bike is fun. It retains enough of the efficiency of the shorter travel EXs to want to take on long days on the trail, but the added travel and traction are welcome additions when things get rough. Chainstays at 17″ seem to be a magic number for this bike (or maybe just for me), keeping the front end down on climbs, but able to pop and hop without excessive body english.
I’m still messing with air pressure in the rear shock. The Re:Aktiv shock takes a little longer to dial in, and has a pretty broad range of usable pressures. Even when set up on the soft side, the regressive valve manages to make the bike pedal well, and all three positions of platform are all very usable on the trail,. Even on the firmest setting once past the threshold the shock opens up and gobbles up the bumps better than would be expected for something that feels so firm off the top.
The long and low geometry invites aggressive riding, in fact, it rewards it. Unlike the standard Fuel EXs, the plus bike feels best being tossed around versus a lighter touch. When given a choice, the EX plus bike is more fun to ride on the aggressive lines. If you like to stay seated and steer around things, this might not be your bike. With this much quality travel and traction, dropping the seat and attacking the trail is your best bet.
The Chupacabras are impressive performers for a tire with such small knobs, but they can start to feel overwhelmed with things get really hairy. I’m guessing Bontrager will have a more aggressive tread up its sleeve if we see a 27plus Remedy released. A more aggressive front tire paired with the Chupacabra in the rear would be a sweet setup.
Personally, I think Trek should have given this bike its own name, it is that different from the shorter travel EXs. How about Rumblefish or Roscoe, some of my favorites from the now-defunct Fisher brand? Regardless, even though Trek has been talking about simplifying its trail bike line-up, the addition of this bike and the full-suspension Farley EX seems like the opposite of that.
Navel-gazing about names and sales-floor confusion aside, the Fuel EX 27plus seems like a very worthy contender in the hotly-contested trail bike marketplace. We’ll have a full review in the next issue of Dirt Rag.
Pricing and Availability:
|Fuel EX 5 27.5 Plus||$2,399.99||June|
|Fuel EX 8 27.5 Plus||$3,299.99||NOW|
|Fuel EX 9.8 27.5 Plus||$5,299.99||NOW|
Full specs and geometry are up on Trek’s website.
Words and photos: Emily Walley and Justin Steiner
The mountain bike market is a flurry of activity right now as frame, wheel and tire manufacturers strive to sort out where the current evolution and specialization of mountain bikes will end up. On one end of the spectrum, we have enduro bikes with descending capabilities that aren’t too far behind those of downhill bikes. Some of those bikes are even flirting with 27plus tire sizes. On the other end of the spectrum, we have 29plus and fat bikes that are being used for everything from bikepacking to crushing rowdy trails on fully rigid singlespeeds. Within the last year, manufacturers have thrown a lot of ideas on the wall to see what sticks.
In early April, Maxxis invited us to Mulberry Gap Mountain Bike Get-A-Way near Ellijay, Georgia, in order to check out the plethora of new tires it has launched within the last year to fill the broad spectrum of demand for new mountain bike tires.
Before we talk about specific tires, let’s touch on the development process. Manufacturing tires involves having a production mold cut from steel. This process is time consuming and extremely expensive, so it’s something Maxxis, and all tire manufacturers, strive to get right the first time.
Short of having this mold, there’s no way to produce a tire. In order to facilitate the design process, Maxxis engineers produce 3D-printed prototypes of a tire design in order to visualize the final product. This 3D-printed prototype is then shared with test riders, sales staff and OEM partners for feedback. This prototype might go through 2 to 3 revisions before a design is finalized and the mold cutting begins.
Perhaps the biggest (pun intended) story at the summit was the expansion of plus and fat bike offerings from Maxxis. In addition to some of the lighter, faster tires on offer from Maxxis, the company has recently announced burlier options in both 27plus and 29plus sizes utilizing some of its iconic tread patterns.
Maxxis’ position on 29plus trends on the larger end of the spectrum with size-accurate 29 x 3.0-inch versions of the Minion DHF and Minion DHR. In person these tires looked burly and way grippy. We’re curious to get our hands on samples to see how they roll. All that grip will likely come with the penalty of increased rolling resistance and weight, but Maxxis wasn’t willing to divulge weights since these tires we saw were pre-production samples.
27plus versions of the Minion DHF, Minion DHR, and High Roller II will be available in a 2.8 inch width. According to Maxxis, 2.8 inches is the sweet spot for tires that are designed to be ridden more aggressively, providing a good balance of air volume and casing stability. The tires also offer the benefit of fitting inside many existing 29 inch frames. Weights for all three of these tires will be 980 grams for 120 tpi versions and 1040 grams for 60 tpi models, which is impressive considering the 29 x 2.3 inch versions of these tires check in between 855 and 925 grams.
Fat bike riders looking for substantial rubber should rejoice in the new Minion fat bike offerings. The Minion FBF and Minion FBR are inspired by their narrower Minion siblings, promising to bring a bit more grip to the world of fat bikes. Weights range from 1225 grams to 1650 grams depending on size and technology featured.
In 2015, Maxxis also launched its DoubleDown casing construction to fill the gap between its tires with EXO sidewall protection and the dual-ply downhill tires. The tires target the hardcore enduro crowd where aggressive riders are looking for a tire that’s tougher than the EXO offerings but not as heavy as a dual-ply downhill tire.
Maxxis’ trail tires utilize a single-ply 60 tpi casing, where the downhill tires use a dual-ply of the same 60 tpi casing. The DoubleDown casing utilizes dual layers of 120 tpi casing and a butyl insert above the bead to protect from pinch flats. Even though it is a true dual-ply casing, DoubleDown splits the difference, both in terms of protection and weight, between the trail and downhill offerings.
In addition to the go-to Minion DHF, two new Maxxis tread patterns will be offered with DoubleDown construction: Aggressor and Tomahawk. We didn’t have a chance to sample the Tomahawk, but did get to ride the Aggressor in single-ply form. See riding impressions below.
Also new for 2015 is the Forekaster, offered only in 29 x 2.35 inch size for now. Billed as an aggressive XC tire, it looks very well suited to loose and wet trail conditions. The Forekaster tips the scale to 735 grams.
We weren’t able to sample all of Maxxis’ new tires, but here are our brief ride impressions on those we were able to ride.
Rekon 27.5 x 2.8
Ridden by Justin.
The Rekon is quickly establishing itself as a go-to plus tire for all-around trail use thanks to its balance of traction, weight, reasonable rolling resistance and resilience. On a brief ride aboard the Rekon, I was impressed by its traction during acceleration, braking and cornering. Only in wet turns did the Rekon begin to push the front and drift the rear, but always in a predictable fashion. At 780 to 825 grams, the Rekon is lighter or on par with many 2.3 inch wide tires in 27.5 and 29 inch diameters. The Pivot Mach 429 Trail felt faster, both uphill and down with these tires than the Aggressors in 29 x 2.3 inch.
Aggressor 29 x 2.3
Ridden by Justin.
The Aggressor is designed to be a heavy-duty tire for trail and enduro applications. Weights reflect that: 900 grams for the 29 inch EXO-reinforced single-ply and 1115 grams for the DoubleDown casing in the same size. On the trail, the Aggressor felt, well, aggressive. It bit hard in all situations, providing more than adequate traction. The only downside was that they felt heavier and slower than plus tires on the 429 Trail. The extra weight was noticeable both in climbing and when flicking the bike around during technical moves and in the air. Though I have no data to prove it, I felt faster and experienced a more comfortable ride aboard the plus tires on the 429 Trail.
Minion SS 27.5 x 2.3
Ridden by Emily.
Tested on the Pivot Mach 6 with the Minion DHF on the front and the Minion SS on the rear. The SS is generally ridden as a rear tire. A center of short, cross-country-style knobs are nestled between chunky Minion side knobs, giving the tire a boxy look. My perception was that this tire would slide around on the rear, but that wasn’t the case. The large side knobs offered ample cornering traction and the square profile was fast rolling on Mulberry Gap’s, moderately technical, Bear Creek trail. The SS saved 95 grams over running a Minion DHF on the rear. The weight savings was worthwhile on this trail, where the extra traction of a DHF wasn’t essential. However, in more aggressive terrain I’d likely opt for the extra weight of a DHF or DHR.
High Roller II 27.5 x 2.8
Ridden by Justin.
I’m a big fan of the High Roller II, so I was stoked to see and sample this tread pattern in 27plus, even in pre-production form. This chunky tire looks mean in the 2.8 inch width and feels incredibly competent on the trail. Pivot’s 429 Trail is a very capable bike, but the High Roller II felt almost like overkill for both the bike and then relatively smooth trails we traveled. Where the Rekon felt more use-appropriate on the 429 Trail, the plus-sized High Roller II begs for more travel, chunky technical terrain and a hard-charging rider. Despite the High Roller II’s hefty appearance, it felt more nimble and seemed to roll at least as well as, if not better than, the Aggressor on the 429 Trail. Not only that, but there’s only an 80 to 104 gram weight penalty compared to the lightest Aggressor. Aired up to 15-16 psi in the front and 18-19 psi in the rear, as recommended by Pivot President and CEO Chris Cocalis, I wasn’t able to discern any tire squirm or other strange handling characteristics during our brief ride. Though more testing is required, this tire setup shows a lot of promise for aggressive riding in rough terrain.
Ardent Race 29 x 2.2
Ridden by Emily.
On the 100 mm travel Pivot Mach 429SL, this medium tread tire was about perfect on Georgia’s non-technical Pinhoti 2 and 3, which involved a fair bit of climbing before hitting a rewarding downhill. The Ardent Race tires were quick to climb and capable on the descents, offering a balance of fast rolling speed and plenty of grip on loose terrain. The Ardent Race tread falls between the lightweight Ikon and the more aggressive Ardent.
John Parker’s new bike company will debut at Sea Otter 2016. Here’s the press release that got us all excited:
John Parker, founder of Yeti Cycles, announced his return to the mountain bike industry by launching Underground Bike Works, his new mountain bike company. The new firm will launch at Sea Otter next month and will simultaneously launch a Kickstarter Campaign for the company.
“After selling Yeti I went underground. Now I’m back with a vengeance and will be using new technologies and distribution models. If you liked what I did at Yeti you’re going to love what I have up my sleeve at Underground Bike Works. If that don’t light your fire then your wood is wet,” said Parker when asked about his new bicycle company.
Underground Bike Works is launching the Kickstarter Campaign on April 14, 2016. The bikes that will be sold on the Kickstarter campaign are a 27.5 hardtail plus bike and a 29 hardtail plus bike. Limited production bicycles will be available, fabricated by Frank The Welder, one of John’s longtime partners and one of the best in the business. Additionally, Missy Giove will rejoin John Parker and Underground Bike Works at Sea Otter this year and take part in the dual slalom race on one of Parker’s new bikes.
‘I’m excited about joining forces with Parker again. We have some really cool things planned for the future,” said Missy.
While attending Sea Otter please come by and join John and Missy, who will sign autographs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 10:00 AM and again at 2:00 PM at booth 919.
It looks like Parker is getting the band back together.
Finally, I get my grubby mitts on a bike with them thar plus-sized tires. My portulent partner for the next few weeks is Marin’s Pine Mountain 1, sporting a pair of 27.5 x 3.0 inch Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires rolling on wide-bodied Maddux DD40 rims. Those tires and I are bound to become best buds, as they’re the only part of this fully rigid rig that remotely resembles suspension. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more …
Ringing the register at $989 and tipping the scale at 30.6 pounds (size large, without pedals), the Pine Mountain’s frame and suspension-corrected fork are both built from no-nonsense chromoly. That’s tried and true durability right there, my friend. Look closely and you’ll notice gussets on both the top tube and down tube. Ol’ Piney is ready for action. Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood …
The 1×10 drivetrain mates a Sunrace 11-42 cassette with a narrow-wide 32-tooth chainring and changes gears via a SRAM X7 derailleur and X5 shifter. So far, so good. Crisp shifting. Nary a dropped chain. With a 380 percent range, I’ve yet to run out of gears on either end of the shifter. When I let ‘er rip, the Shimano BR-M445 hydros have ample power to keep the party in bounds, even if their feel is somewhat “wooden” compared to Shimano’s higher-end offerings. Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide …
Look even closer and you’ll spy full rack and bag mounts—just the ticket if you’re looking to take a crack at bikepacking or backroad touring. The Marin house-branded bar, stem, saddle and seatpost work for me. The stock bike comes with aluminum platform pedals, though my demo arrived without them. At less than a grand, the Pine Mountain 1 strikes me as a solid value, considering the frame, fork and parts package. The mettle of your pasture; let us swear / That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not …
My first impression of the handling: well-mannered, with a dash of carvy. Piney likes to be leaned-over in turns, rather than steered with the bars. Don’t be afraid to dip the hip and get your lean on. Those wide tires will oblige and hook up—despite some pretty radical lean angles—even in soft, sandy soil. It takes extra effort to keep those big, traction-y tires turning, but that’s the nature of the breed, I suppose.
That’s all I have to say for now, but keep your eyes peeled on the print version of Dirt Rag for my full review, and be sure to subscribe if you’re not already in the fold. The game’s afoot: Follow your spirit, and upon this charge / Cry “God for Harry, England and Saint George!”
[Ed note: Apologies to William Shakespeare for “re-purposing” a few choice lines spoken by King Henry in The Bard’s play “Henry V.”]
This newest Mojo has almost nothing in common with the steel hardtail that first wore that nameplate. But like the original Mojo, the Mojo 3 is a pretty lust-worthy trail bike.
This bike doesn’t break any new ground for Ibis. It continues with Ibis’ successful combination of the industrial design ascetic of Roxy Lo, the smarts of Ibis’ in-house engineers and the proven suspension design of the Dave Weagle dw-link. And just like every current Ibis, the Mojo 3 is all-carbon, all the time.
Where the Mojo 3 really gets interesting is the tire sizes allowed by the Boost hub spacing. Besides providing increased frame stiffness, Boost allows for shorter chainstays, increased tire clearance, and room for a single or dual ring drivetrain.
Bikes like the new Santa Cruz Hightower are designed around 29 inch and 27plus wheels and, originally, Ibis was planning to do the same to its Ripley 29er trail bike. But after a few rides with 27plus tires on the Ripley, that idea was tossed out and the plus sizes tires where moved over to the Mojo 3 that was still in development. There are a few reasons for this.
- Even in the full 3.0 size, 27plus tires are still smaller in diameter than 29er tires.
- Ibis found the 3.0 to be too bouncy when ridden hard and likes the 2.8 tires much better. Those 2.8 tires are even shorter than the 27.5×3.0 tires.
- All tires have some sag, and at preferred riding pressures (12-18 psi) the 27plus tires are the same height as a 27.5×2.3 tire.
All this means that without any fork length or suspension chip adjustments, the Mojo’s bottom bracket height should be the same with a rider aboard, although static heights are different. Seems pretty interesting, to me.
Ibis has been on the wide rim kick for a while now, and its carbon 741 wheels pull triple-duty here, coming stock with either the new Schwalbe Nobby Nics 2.35, the new Maxxis Minion WT 27.5×2.5 WT or plus-sized 2.8 Schwalbe Nobby Nics. The carbon wheels are stock on some build kits; the other stock option are aluminum Easton Arc 30s. The 741 wheels are an upgrade option on any build kit for $1,400.
Also of note is the shock tune option for lighter riders. Named after five-foot-tall designer Roxy Lo, the Fox Float DPS can be order with a lighter rebound “Roxy Tune” for riders under 135 pounds at no extra charge. This shock tune, combined with a 27.4″ standover on the size small should make a lot of short-statured rippers very happy.
While this is just a 130 mm bike (with a 140 mm fork), it is slacker than a Mojo HD with a 150 mm fork, by a scant 0.2 degrees. It is also shorter in the rear end, with 425 mm chainstays to the HD’s 430 mm. Top tubes are the same, but the Mojo has a steeper seatube and more reach. The Mojo’s bottom bracket is also at a modern 335 mm, and is thankfully a standard threaded interface, not press fit. There are five sizes for riders from 5′ to 6’6″.
Ibis has an interesting idea here, and right now is the only company we know of with a bike designed to use 27.5 inch tires from 2.25-2.8 inches wide, with no adjustments to accommodate the change in static heights of the wheels. I’ll admit to being a little skeptical about this tire sag theory, but can attest to the amount of pedal strikes I’ve had on plus and fat bikes, even with what seems like normal bottom bracket heights. A proper test ride is in order, and one is in the works.
Ibis also is using either 30 or 35 mm internal width rims on tires from 2.35-2.8. I’m still surprised to see this, as it seems rim width should continue to increase as tire width increase proportionally, which would put the 2.8 on something more like a 40 mm internal width rim. Specialized goes even further, with its 3 inch plus tires on 29 mm internal rims. It seems now that the 29 vs 26 debate has ended, we can all get online an argue about rim widths. This is great, because I was getting bored trolling people about 31.8 vs 35 mm handler bars.
The frame (with Fox Float DPS shock) is $2,999. Complete bikes start at $3,999 for the Special Blend (available in June). Stay tuned. This should be a fun one.
The dealers below have the bike in stock. If you want one, get moving. Ibis will have a fleet of Mojos for test rides at Dirt Rag Dirt Fest in May. Ibis did a bang-up job with explaining the hows and whys of the new Mojo on its website. I recommend heading there for further reading.
Pro Bike Supply, Newport Beach California
Tracce Bike Shop, Genova Italy
JRA Bikes & Brew, Agoura Hills California
Fat Tire Farm, Portland Oregon
Sunshine Bicycle Center, Fairfax California
Trail Head Cyclery, San Jose California
The Hub Bicycle Service, Jackson Wyoming
River Rat Mountain Bikes, Fair Oaks, California
Sunnyside Sports, Bend Oregon
Pedal Pushers Cyclery, Golden Colorado
Tenafly Bicycle Workshop, Tenafly New Jersey
Elephant’s Perch, Ketchum Idaho
Cal Coast Cycles, San Diego California
Fanatik Bike Company, Bellingham Washington
B-Rad Cycle Service, Nelson New Zealand
Jenson USA, Coronoa California
Moto Ofan, Natanya Israel
Mountain Pedaler, Minturn Colorado
Mountain Pedaler, Eagle Colorado
Fullerton Bicycle, Fullerton California
Cenna’s Custom Cycles, Longmont Colorado
The Bike Peddler, Santa Rosa California
Bicycle Cafe, Canmore Alberta
Calgary Cycle, Calgary Alberta
Hank & Frank Bicycles, Lafayette, California
Junket- a free trip by a member of the press to a place where something (such as a new bike) is being promoted.
Let’s get that out of the way first. The new Santa Cruz Hightower was introduced to select members of the media on a trip to Chile for the first running of the Rally of Aysén Patagonia, a four day bike event. More about that later, just wanted to be clear that I’m well aware trips like this might be enough to cloud one’s judgment about a new bike. Fortunately, Santa Cruz isn’t making any turds.
The Tallboy LT quietly disappeared from the Santa Cruz line-up recently, so it came as no surprise that the new bike was a replacement. Mid-travel trail bikes with 29 inch wheels are a solid slice of the market, and Santa Cruz wasn’t about to miss out.
In a nutshell, the Hightower is a carbon-fiber-framed 29 or 27plus trail bike with 135 of rear travel, a 140 or 150 mm fork, the newest Virtual Pivot Point suspension design and thoroughly modern geometry.
What is changed from the Tallboy LT? Save for the 135 mm of rear travel, everything is new. Imagine the attitude of the Nomad, Bronson and 5010, scaled for big wheels and even bigger days.
Head and seat tube angles go from 69.4/72.6 on the TBLT to a much more aggressive 67/74.3 on the Hightower. Bottom bracket height drops about a quarter inch to 13.27 and chainstays shrink from 17.7 to 17.1 inches. Top tubes and reach grow as well. This numbers are with 29 inch wheels, the 27plus option has very minor differences. Geo chart is found here.
How about those big tires? Since the 27.5×2.8 Maxxis Ikon/Recon tires are a little smaller in diameter than the 29×2.3 Maxxis Minions, those opting for 27plus get a 150 mm fork, and a small flip-chip in the upper suspension link gets moved to the high setting.
All bikes use the excellent RockShox Pike platform, but the air-spring design of this fork means there is no way to adjust travel without swapping out the air-shaft for a longer fork. So if you want to keep geometry mostly the same while swapping wheels, you’ll either need two forks, or spend the time swapping out the air-shaft. Or, just do what most of the Santa Cruz crew does, and run a 150 mm fork all time and deal with a bit more slack and a wee bit of bottom bracket height. Considering how often I scraped a pedal, and how I never, ever wanted a steeper bike, this seems like the winning plan. It wouldn’t surprise me if this is how all the bikes come in six months or so.
Hub spacing is 148/110 (Boost) for both wheelsizes. The bottom bracket is threaded with good-old English threading and ISCG tabs. Cable routing is a mix of internal and external. Rear derailleur and dropper go through the downtube, the rear brake is routed externally on the left side.
No front derailleurs need apply here; like the Nomad, suspension linkage and chainstay length leave no room for a front shifter. If the rumors of a single ring, 12 speed, 10-50(!) cassette group from SRAM prove to be true, those with deep enough wallets might never have to worry about sacrificing the range of a double for the simplicity of a single. In the meantime, the stock 30 tooth ring and 10-42 cassette seems like plenty of gears about 90% of the time.
(Aside: Some riders on bikes with no front derailleur compatibility are running a standard narrow-wide ring, a granny ring and no front derailleur. Shifting is via your hand, so it isn’t really enduro-approved, but an interesting idea for those rare times a single ring drivetrain isn’t enough range.)
Do I hear the question about an aluminum frame? I heard that question in my own head, and the answer is: nope. Carbon in CC and C versions only, with the frame only in CC, at $2,899 with Monarch LT. A shame, and it certainly keeps these out of the garage of many riders without a solid chunk of disposable income.
All bikes come with a 150 mm RockShox Reverb Stealth, either Maxxis Rekon/Ikon 27.5×2.8 EXO 3C TR/ or Maxxis Minion 29×2.3 DHR2 TR tires, an 800 mm Santa Cruz carbon handlebar, and Santa Cruz Palmdale grips. Get your ENVE carbon upgrade on for $2,000, with M Series 60 Forty HV rims and I9 hubs, 29 inch only.
Colors are Sriracha Red or Matte Carbon & Mint
- S AM 27plus or 29
- Carbon C frame
- Rock Shox Monarch RT
- Rock Shox Pike RC
- SRAM GX 1×11 RD
- Shimano SLX M675 brakes
- SRAM MTH hubs
- Easton AR 40/29.67/29.72 lbs.
Hightower CC – $6,499
- XO1 AM 27plus or 29
- Carbon CC frame
- Rock Shox Monarch RT3
- Rock Shox Pike RCT3
- SRAM X01 Carbon 11sp RD
- SRAM Guide RSC brakes
- DT 350 hubs
- Easton ARC 40 / ARC 27 28H
- 27.96/ 28.05 lbs.
Hightower CC – $7,799
- XX1 AM 27plus or 29
- Carbon CC frame
- Rock Shox Monarch RT3
- Rock Shox Pike RCT3 150
- SRAM XX1
- SRAM Guide Ultimate brakes
- Industry Nine 15/110mm 28H
- Industry Nine 148×12 28h Rear hub XD
- Easton ARC 40/ARC 27 28H
- 27.18/27.26 lbs.
Hightower CC VPP Frameset with RockShox Monarch RTS – $2,899
- Weight: 2,678g / 5.88 lbs.
The trip to Chile wasn’t solely about the new bike. Santa Cruz is throwing its support behind a new event in southern Chile, a not-quite-a-race called the Rally of Aysén Patagonia. A bunch of us media types, some of the Juliana team, various photographers and Cedric Gracia got a four day tour around Coyhaique, which is about 1,300 miles south of Santiago.
We covered all kinds of terrain. Shale scree fields. Dusty doubletrack. Hot gravel roads. Dozens of barbed wire fence crossings. Freshly cut loam. Miles of cow paths. Hike-a-bikes. Steep, loose singletrack descents. In fact, this may be one of widest-ranging, and highest mileage of any press event I’ve been to.
The Hightower took it all in stride. It has the downhill chops to be ridden quite hard, but pedals well enough that I could have happily ridden it without ever messing with the platform lever on the Monarch rear shock. I never really felt like I got in the grove down there, so I won’t even pretend that I even close to the edge of performance on this one. I can say it most have been stiff enough, because I never thought about it.
Climbing was great, although on the real steep stuff, those short chainstays take more work to keep the back wheel biting and the front wheel down. There is room for a bottle inside the front triangle on all three sizes.
We rode miles of new trail, with no idea what was around the next corner, and I came way impressed with how well this bike handled that type of stuff. Enough stability to ride out bad line choices, but enough fun-factor to be able to pull-up hard and hop over those hidden logs. It even did a fine job meandering around on the cow-path sections.
The parts kit is a no brainer these days, all these SRAM bits work very well. I only rode the 29er version, with ENVE wheels and XO1 kit.
I flew home with a 27plus version of this bike, and few rides on it make me think I’d want both wheelset. The 29er for most of the summer, and some aggressive tires for the 27plus wheelset for the sloppy season and snow.
Stay tuned for a full review, and more info on the Rally of Aysén Patagonia.
Cannondale’s new Habit is a 120 mm travel, 27.5-wheel trail bike. I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon riding one. Here is what I thought.
Unlike Cannondale’s longer travel offerings, the Trigger and the Jekyll, the Habit has no fancy handlebar actuated travel adjust, just a simple single pivot design with a swing-link actuated shock. Both carbon and aluminum frames have been engineered with enough flex in the seat stays to eliminate the need for a rear pivot.
Our group rode the Habit Carbon 1, top of the line, save for the no holds barred Black Inc model. The Carbon 1 has RockShox’s Full Sprint remote lockout controlling the trail-tuned rear shock and Lefty fork. The other remote is for the now de rigeur Reverb dropper post.
Our ride consisted of good sized climb on a mix of singletrack and pavement, and descending a mix of fast, degraded fire road and singletrack.
The Habit was pretty easy to get along with from the get go, with what I would consider pretty neutral geometry. I didn’t weigh the bike, but it was probably somewhere under 25 pounds. Climbing was fast and efficient, and while I used the lockout at times, it was mostly reserved for pavement. The 30-tooth chainring was a nice touch for the shape I’m finding myself in lately. It was also mighty cool looking.
I haven’t ridden a Lefty in years, and I’m happy to report there was very little to complain about here. The fork (or more properly, “strut”) was well controlled and felt plenty stiff for such a light chassis. Descending the Habit was a fine blend of nimble and stable. Cannondale did a fine job matching parts to intended use such as the Nobby Nic/Rocket Ron tires, 760 mm bars that can be trimmed to desired width, and four-piston SRAM Guide brakes.
The new Habit is a trail bike. It doesn’t seem to be trying try to be “enduro-light” or a long-trail cross-country bike. I like that.
Prices range from under $2,000 to over $12,000, so most consumers will be able to feed their Habit, regardless of budget.
HABIT CARBON BLACK INC. $12,250
HABIT CARBON 1 $7,460
HABIT CARBON/ALLOY 2 $5,330
HABIT CARBON/ALLOY SE $4,480
HABIT CARBON/ALLOY 3 $3,730
HABIT AL 4 $2,880
HABIT AL 5 $2,340
HABIT AL 6 $1,950
As we reported in February 2015, Santa Cruz has added a 27.5 option to its 2015 Highball lineup. The original 29er model also received minor geometry tweaks, but in both wheel sizes, the hardtail remains true to its cross-country, racy roots.
The CC designation denotes an upgraded carbon frame that, thanks to some nips and tucks, shaves 280 grams compared to the base C model. My very first impression came when I hung the Highball 27.5 CC XX1 on our scale and rubbed my eyes at the 19.7 pounds on the display (w/o pedals). A sub-20-pound mountain bike is not front-page news, but even as a spoiled-rotten magazine guy, it’s not every day that I get to ride such a svelte steed.
On the trail the feathery carbon frame felt flex-free when cornering or accelerating hard. It’s almost expected that each new generation of carbon frame ups the light-yet-stiff ante, but I still find myself shaking my head when I stop to think about the engineering that goes into a bike like the Highball.
The Highball 27.5 CC is available in a frame-only option for $1,899 (all that gee-whiz technology doesn’t come cheap). Complete bikes start at $4,299 (with an XT kit) and max out at $6,799 for the XTR build—with our XX1 review bike not far behind at $6,299.
Highlights of the XX1 build kit include: Fox 32 Float 100 mm Kashima fork, SRAM XX1 rear derailleur and shifter, Race Face Next SL cranks and bottom bracket, Shimano XTR M9000 brakes (160mm rotors) and DT Swiss 240 hubs (142×12) laced to WTB Asym i19 TCS rims.
This is my first review bike with SRAM’s 1×11 gearing. So far the XX1 rear derailleur has flawlessly run the chain up and down the 10-42 cassette. The shift-lever’s action felt a little “heavier” than I’d expected, but I’ve gotten used to it and haven’t thought much about it since my first few rides.
The carbon Highball frame has provisions for a high direct-mount, bottom-pull front derailleur. Of course, the 1×11 model we have in for review requires no shifty bits up front. Rather, there’s a Race Face Next SL crankset that features a 32t narrow/wide spiderless chainring. Haven’t yet dropped a chain, and really don’t expect to.
The derailleur cable (or cables, depending upon the drivetrain/model) and rear hydraulic hose are internally routed, with the later getting its own internal guide tube, which keeps the hose from rattling. With the 1×11 drivetrain keeping chain slap in check, the Highball glides with ninja-like stealth.
Here’s a look at the underside, showing the detachable plate that allows access to the internal cable routing. Also note the external bearings of the threaded Race Face bottom bracket.
The size large 27.5 CC XX1 model that I’m reviewing has a 69 degree head tube angle, 16.7-inch chainstays, a 24.6-inch top tube, 12.4-inch BB height and 44.1-inch wheelbase. While this is not a full-blown bike review—that’s coming soon in print—I will say that my first impression is that the geometry translates into a well-balance ride.
The Highball’s snappy steering response and short rear make it a joy to flick around at low-to-moderate speeds—while at higher speeds the bike has a long-and-low feeling of stability that inspires confidence in sweeping curves, or when pointed straight down a chute.
I’m still racking up the miles on the Highball and will have more to say in print. In the meantime, pop over to the Santa Cruz website for all the gory details on the Highball lineup (they’ve even got an aluminum version for metal-heads).
Fox kicks off the 2016 product news with an announcement that may signal widespread industry acceptance of the plus size tire as something more than an oddity: A Fox Factory 34 fork for 27.5+ tires.
Fox claims plenty of clearance for tires up to 27.5 x 3.25, travel from 110 mm to 150 mm, 51 mm offset, and the new 110 x 15 axle standard. Much like the rear Boost 148 axle released last year on Trek’s new Fuel EX and Remedy trail bikes, the wider hub spacing will create a stronger wheel due to less offset and increased spoke bracing angle. It does make one wonder why anyone bothered with 100 x 15 anyway, since the 110 x 20 axle standard was pretty well established. Oh well.
Also new is the latest FIT4 damping cartridge and a revised FLOAT air spring. RockShox has been bringing the heat with the new Charger damper in the media-darling Pike fork, we’ll see how the new spring and damper measure up as soon as we can get out hands on one.
Just to be clear, this is a specific chassis for 27.5+ wheels, it will not replace the standard 34. We don’t have prices or availability info yet, but this is a Factory level fork, so expect somewhere in the $1,000 range, and a spring-time release.
The question remains, which bike company had enough confidence in this wheel size to get this fork made? It is doubtful the Fox would develop this fork without at least one sizeable original equipment order. With travel up to 150 mm, will we see a 6 inch travel 27.5+ trail bike at Sea Otter next month? My guess is yes, and probably more than one.
While we wait for what the future holds, we are working on at 27.5+ project of our own, read about it here.
If the past decade is any indication, there may soon be as many tire sizes as there are gears in a cassette (though that is also growing year after year). 26 is too small. 29 is too big. 3.7 isn’t fat enough. 4.8 is too fat. Where will it end?
Perhaps it never will, but Dirt Rag has a long history of experimenting with new wheel and tire sizes, from 26/24 combos, through early 29ers, and onto one of the first 27.5 bikes.
Our first introduction to 27Plus came in the form of the Rocky Mountain Sherpa displayed at the 2014 Sea Otter Classic. Based on a Rocky Mountain Element full suspension 29er, it was outfitted with a set of super wide 27.5 wheels with big 2.8-inch tires from WTB. The wider and taller tires have roughly the same diameter as a 29-inch wheel, so it was able to fit in the Element’s frame and fork.
Fast forward a year and a the WTB Scraper rims and Trailblazer tires are headed to a bike shop near you soon, and a few other brands have followed suit with tires that fall somewhere between a “normal” size and a full fat bike.
We got our hands on a set of the WTB Scraper rims with an internal width of 45 mm—that’s twice as wide as a traditional rim. Built with the same double wall construction as WTB’s other popular TCS rims, it promises to be a simple tubeless setup when the tires become available.
In the meantime, we also received a set of Panaracer’s new Fat B Nimble tires in 27.5×3.5. Eager to get this project started, I mounted them to the Scraper rims before the wheels have even been built. One of the key steps in this project is seeing how they will work with existing components, so we haven’t yet decided on which hubs to build them with. Out of the box the pair weighed in at 693 grams and 673 grams, so their weight is significantly lighter than fat bike tires and competitive with many cross-country tires.
First we mounted them up on the Scraper rims and grabbed the Feedback Sports calipers: Panaracer Fat B Nimble 27.5×3.5 on WTB Scraper rim (45 mm internal width) measured 71 mm wide and 73.3 cm in diameter.
UPDATE: Since I first posted this story the Fat-B-Nimbles have stretched out a noticeable amount. They now measure 74.3 mm wide.
If that seems small, it’s because it is—71 mm is about 2.8 inches, well short of the 3.5 inches marked on the sidewall:
Up against a normal 27.5 wheel and tire, however, they are quite a bit larger. A Schwalbe Hans Dampf 27.5×2.35 on a Easton Haven rim measured 57.5 mm wide and 71.4 cm in diameter.
So how does it compare to the other “mid-fat” size? I grabbed a 29×3 Surly Knard mounted on a Stan’s NoTubes Flow EX rim (25.5 mm internal width). It measures 73 mm wide and 77.4 cm in diameter:
For the sake of comparison, we also installed the Hans Dampf on the Scraper rim and the Fat B Nimble on an Easton Haven rim (21 mm internal width):
- Panaracer Fat B Nimble 27.5×3.5 on Easton Haven rim: 65 mm wide, 72.5 cm in diameter
- Schwalbe Hans Dampf 27.5×2.35 on WTB Scraper rim: 67 mm wide, 71.6 cm in diameter
As you can see from the numbers, the rim makes a bigger difference in the tire’s ultimate width, though it also dramatically changes the shape of the Hans Dampf, creating a flatter, more square profile than it was likely designed for. The Fat B Nimble is also much taller.
The Fat B Nimble is also far from optimal on the smaller rim, with its profile rounding off so far that the side knobs become essentially useless. However it did fit easily in a 27.5 Fox 34 fork when mounted on the smaller rim, and I have no doubt it will fit on the larger rim as well.
So what’s next? Step two is getting the Scraper rims laced up and see which bikes the wheels will fit in. A 29er with good tire clearance should be no problem. Will he bigger tires on a smaller rim perform well on the trail? That’s what we hope to find out. Stay tuned.
Editor’s note: This is one of six bikes we’ve gathered together that fall between $1,900 and $2,600. Read our introduction to see the other five and watch for our long-term reviews of each in Dirt Rag #182, due on newsstands and in mailboxes any day now. Subscribe now and you’ll never miss a bike review.
GT’s new-for-2015 Helion lineup consists of five models ranging in price from the $5,420 Carbon Pro down to the $1,680 Comp model. Sitting one step above the Comp, you’ll find this $2,550 Elite offering.
GT develops all of their bikes utilizing “Centered on Rider” (C.O.R.) philosophy, which targets five specific areas when designing a bike: fit, function, tune, spec and geometry. With the Helion, GT was striving to develop a bike for the “everyday cross country rider.”
When Dirt Rag Tech Editor Eric McKeegan initially assigned the Helion to me for review, I was a bit skeptical about how much I was going to enjoy this short-travel rig. Having spent quite a bike of time on longer-travel trail and all mountain bikes over the last couple of years, my style and tastes have gravitated toward more aggressive bikes. But, assignments must be followed through, so off I went. Let me walk you through my first impressions.
During last year’s $2,500 bike group test, I was continually impressed with the quality and performance of bikes in this price point. Out of the box, the Helion certainly held its own with the best of them. It’s a decently good looking bike with solid spec for the asking price. Details like the WTB ST i23 TCS rims, which are UST certified, are a very nice touch. Even though the stock tires are not TCS models, they’ll wear out and you can upgrade to tubeless versions.
Up front you’ll find a RockShox XC 32 TK setup at 110 mm of travel. With RockShox’s Solo Air spring, setup is a piece of cake using the air pressure chart on the back of the fork leg. Rebound damping is adjustable and the lockout is remote actuated.
The 110mm of Pathlink suspenion travel is controlled by X-Fusion’s 02 RLR rear shock with adjustable rebound damping and remote lockout. Down on the middle pivot of the Pathlink, you’ll notice a sag indicator to help you find the proper air pressure for the shock, though it can be hard to see while you’re on the bike.
Here’s a better view of GT’s Angle Optimized Suspension (AOS) design. The high main pivot (above the shock) creates a rearward axle path that should improve small bump performance. The downside of that high main pivot would be a lot of chain growth and resultant pedal feedback, but that’s where Pathlink comes in. As the suspension compresses, Pathlink carries the bottom bracket rearward with the swingarm to minimize feedback. That said, there’s still a little bit of chain growth, which provides anti-squat and a firm pedaling platform under power.
After my first ride aboard the Helion, it was clear I was underestimating the potential of this bike. It quickly because clear this test was going to be more fun than I had anticipated.
Quite a few bike manufactures are making women’s specific bikes these days and many of them are employing the tweener, 27.5 wheel size. Raleigh has joined the party with its 2014 Eva hardtail line which has switched to 27.5 wheels throughout. Last year’s Eva models were all 29ers and I had the opportunity to review the Eva 29 Comp (Dirt Rag Issue #172). I’m excited to get a chance to ride the 2014 model and compare the two.Tweet Print
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.Tweet Print
If you have a serious bike obsession equal to mine, shopping for new bike products can break the bank. Thankfully, Nashbar is a competitively-priced company that carries a plethora of products, including bikes, like this offering, the $500 Bee’s Knees 650B Single Speed.
The Bee’s Knees is a simple, fully rigid singlespeed with working man’s components that, while on the entry-level side, will likely last a while. Notably, the Alex XD-Lite rims, Kenda Nevegal 27.5 tires and FSA Hammer headset all took a beating and remain ready to handle more.Tweet Print
This morning we brought you news that Specialized was readying the release of the new 27.5 version of the Stumpjumper FSR and now the brand has posted photos and details of the two models on its website. There are two models, both of the EVO persuasion, which get extra travel and a more enduro focused build kit than the standard Stumpjumper FSR. Both feature 150mm of Specialized’s FSR suspension system with PF30 bottom brackets, ISCG-05 tabs, internal dropper post routing
The $6,500 Expert Carbon EVO will come spec’d with a carbon front triangle and an M5 aluminum rear, paired with a RockShox Pike RC fork and SRAM XO-1 build kit, Fox Float CTD shock with Kashima, and a stealth-routed Command Post dropper. An interesting spec choice is the Shimano XT brakes, as Specialized has traditionally spec’d SRAM, Magura or Formula brakes.
The $3,400 Comp EVO is a full M5 aluminum frame with a Fox Float CTD Evolution shock, matched with a RockShox Revelation RC3, a SRAM X7 and X9 2×10 build kit, Shimano Deore brakes, and externally routed Command Post.
Still no official word on availability, but expect them to be hitting dealerships in the near future.Tweet Print
Cannondale unveiled its new 2015 OverMountain line this week, and while we couldn’t be there (for reasons explained below), we still got the scoop on the new 27.5 Jekyll and Trigger bikes. Both models make use of Cannondale‘s new Lefty SuperMax fork and travel-adjust Fox DYAD pull shocks.Tweet Print
Earlier in the week we brought you news that the Cannondale OverMountain team would be riding a new Lefty SuperMax fork for 2014, and here is what it will be bolted to: an all-new 27.5 wheeled Jekyll. The 26-inch wheeled Jekyll was enough to get Clementz to the top of the podium in 2013, so look for him to go even faster on the new 160mm bike.
Watch this blog for more details of the new bike—and its stablemate, the new 27.5 Trigger—in the coming days.Tweet Print
This year marks drastic changes for Intense Cycles. With a new CEO, CFO and COO in place, company founder and owner Jeff Steber along with his original business partner Marv Strand both agreed, “This is a very exciting time, a reinvention of our brand.”
Steber added, “I designed a guitar before I could play one and I went into the mountain bike business with the same energy.” For the complete tale of how Steber almost went into the guitar business instead of bikes as well as the story behind Intense’s rise to fame check out our special 25th Anniversary Issue (#176), coming soon.
Intense was an early pioneer in downhill racing, not only in the amount of riders that rode its bikes but also in that the brand ushered in a new look. “Intense downhill racers began wearing motocross inspired gear instead of Lycra, specifically Shawn Palmer,” recalled Steber. “He changed the sport forever and this brought us a lot of attention. In 1996 when he won a silver medal at the World Championships, that’s when Intense arrived.”
Another pioneering move by Steber and the Intense brand was the embracement of 27.5-inch wheels. “We were one of the first to move to this wheelsize when the Tracer 275 came out in 2012”, Steber says. “I called it 275 because 650b sounded too roadie.”Tweet Print