Dirt Rag Magazine

First Ride: Kona Big Honzo DL

Riding photos by Caleb Smith/Kona

Kona is the kind of brand that when it wants to f*ck around, it doesn’t f*ck around. It makes solid product backed by solid people who are genuinely more interested in having a great time—on and off the bike—than raking in the dough.

I was lucky enough to score an invite back to the annual Kona Ride event where the brand hosts dealers and media slime like me for a few days of showing off the new models and then getting them properly dirty. While the event had long been held at the Kona offices in Bellingham, Washington, this year they took the party north to Squamish, British Columbia, for some “BC XC.”

Poor us.

While there are a lot of new models to talk about, let’s start with the one I had a chance to spend an afternoon on, the Big Honzo DL ($2,400). Kona’s original Honzo was the first mass-produced version of what came to be known as the “trail hardtail.” It was simple; it was steel; it offered you no excuses. Afterward followed Ti and aluminum versions, and for 2017 a carbon version dropped, too. More on that in a sec. But this summer is all about the Plus bike, and Kona has delivered with a version designed specifically for the fatter tires.


While a lot of the bikes we’ve seen released in the last few months tout their ability to swap between 29 inch and 27plus, the truth is they are not the same size. Yes, that was the idea at first but, with refinement, Plus bikes became their own thing. Kona said it isn’t into gimmicks, so instead of adding a flip chip thingamajig or adjustable this or that gizmo, there are separate 29 inch Honzos and 27plus Honzos.

Yes, the wheels from one will technically fit in the other, but the 29er has a lower bottom bracket drop to compensate for the taller wheels. Want to ignore Kona’s advice and build up whatever you want? You can pick up either frame on its own for $499. Go nuts.


Back to the bike: Yes, it’s Boost. Yes, it has super short chainstays (16.3 inches/414 mm) and, yes, it has internal dropper routing. Here’s what it doesn’t have: a threaded bottom bracket (PF92 instead) and a means to run a front derailleur. But those things are becoming more rare than a Charizard Pokémon, aren’t they? The front center also gets a stretch to match the extended reach and stack of the new Process full suspension bikes.


While at first I was apprehensive about jumping on an XL, at 6-foot-2 I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t feel extreme in any way. Without a direct comparison to the previous version, I didn’t even notice the extra 32 mm of front center distance. That’s more than an inch. I hopped on, turned a few circles in the parking lot and I was ready to go.


If you’d like to read about the Big Honzo back to back against the 29er Honzo, so would I, but I couldn’t ride both bikes at the same time, so you’re stuck with the former. While I unconditionally approve of 29 inch wheels, I’m still on the fence about this Plus thing, but I’m willing to play along. The first thing I noticed about this version of the Honzo is that it just feels so… normal. It’s not at ALL like a fat bike and, shockingly enough, somewhere between a 27.5 and a 29er. I know, that’s not helpful at all.


What I can say is that the Big Honzo rides a lot like you’d expect. With the tires pumped up firm, things are a bit bouncy. Throughout my ride I continually let more and more air out at each stop and things improved. One thing about these bigger tires is that tire pressure becomes a much bigger part of the equation. These bikes should come with small, low-pressure tire gagues.


One thing holding plus bikes back in my opinion is the tires. The Big Honzo DL comes with Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.8s, and while they have plenty of tread, they are a bit more round than I would like. If you compare them to the stiff, broad shoulders and fairly flat profile of the Maxxis Minion DHF you find on the front of the 29er version, you’ll see a big difference. I like the squared-off tread for its sharp cornering knobs that can dig in. The plus tires have the advantage in traction when you’re straight up and down, but not when you’re leaning the bike.


The RockShox Yari fork is a beefed-up version of the Pike and a sibling to the heavy-hitting Lyric, but with a Motion Control damper inside it instead of the Charger damper in the Pike and Lyric. That didn’t dampen my ride experience though, as the super-stiff chassis keeps that big front wheel in check.


The rest of the build is pretty much classic Kona trail: WTB rims, RaceFace cranks, SRAM 1×11 drivetrain, Shimano non-series hydraulic brakes and a RockShox Reverb dropper. It all works great, just as it always had.


I have a feeling the Big Honzo is going to be a big seller, and if you’re having trouble deciding between it and at the 29er version, know you’re not alone. Maybe if we ask Kona real nicely they’ll let us sample both….

In other news

There were some other big changes to the lineup that had already been released, but we’ll go through them again together, shall we?


Hei Hei: Here’s where things get interesting. The Hei Hei Trail from last year is now just the Hei Hei. It’s available in aluminum or carbon. The Hei Hei Race, above, gets a full carbon frame and swingarm with a 100 mm fork instead of a 120 mm, plus a bunch of other go-fast bits.


The new Hei Hei Trail is duh, all new, with 140 mm of travel front and rear and 27.5 wheels. Hmm… sounds a lot like a Process 134, huh? Well, Kona is pitching these toward two very different types of riders. The Process is a very gravity-oriented bike, while the Hei Hei Trail has a much more “ride all day” personality thanks to the carbon frame and swingarm and the Fuse flex pivot rear suspension. It’s also available in an XS so smaller folks can rip, too. Both bikes are supremely capable, but you might want to ride them back to back. Choose wisely, my friend.

All the Hei Hei bikes come with a 1x drivetrain and the Hei Hei and Hei Hei Trail models have dropper posts.


Honzo: Like I mentioned before, there is also a carbon fiber Honzo, dedicated to 29 inch wheels only and dubbed the Honzo CR. It has the same geometry as the aluminum model, but sheds quite a few grams. With cross country racing becoming more badass again, Kona is betting that you might soon find a number plate on the front of one of these. Oh, and the steel and Ti versions are still available as a frame-only option.

Operator: Full World Cup level DH with 27.5 wheels and aluminum frames on all three models.

Process: New frame geometry across the board, with a longer front center. All models ditch the front derailleur. The XS size remains available in the 134 model.

Other notables:

  • The Big Kahuna is a 27plus hardtail with 2×10 gears and a 100 mm RockShox fork.
  • The Unit is now a 27plus singlespeed, with all the braze-ons and mounts your bikepacking heart could desire.
  • The Wozo is a trail bike fat bike. It has a slacker front end, 1x only gearing and is dropper post compatible, so you don’t have to stop shredding when the snow begins to fly.



Guerrilla Gravity launches Trail Pistol

Trail Pistol 1

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.

Trail Pistol 5

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.

Plush and Crush

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.

Trail Pistol 7


Trek releases longer-travel Fuel EX 27.5 Plus


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.

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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.

rekFuelEX27plus__WEB-13The 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.

First  Impressions

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.

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New Santa Cruz Tallboy 29 and 27plus

The original Santa Cruz Tallboy is arguably the bike that signalled 29ers acceptance into the mainstream/cool kids’ cycling club. That’s not to say there wasn’t good 29er before the Tallboy or that it had the most revolutionary geometry. What is had was a certain something that was well loved and well used.


Fast forward a few years, and the Tallboy is looking dated. There was some internal debate about what to do with the Tallboy. With the new Hightower pedalling so well for a “big” bike, it might have made sense for Santa Cruz to push the Tallboy into cross-country territory. Maybe if there was a Santa Cruz Syndicate for XC racers, and maybe if the staff at Santa Cruz wasn’t always tinkering with longer forks and custom linkage for more travel on their personal Tallboys, maybe this new Tallboy would be much steeper and racier.

HyperFocal: 0 HyperFocal: 0

But that isn’t what Santa Cruz is about, so the new Tallboy is a modern trail bike that gets the trickle-down geometry changes that started on the Nomad. Think of it as a 5010 for 29 inch wheels (or 27plus). Geometry changes tremendously starting with the reach/top tubes which get much longer. Also, the head angle drops 2.2 degrees (which is huge!). Chainstays get shorter, seat angle steepens a little over half a degree, and the bottom bracket drops by 1 mm. Travel also bumps up to 110 mm in the rear, from the previous 100 mm. Suspension is updated to the latest VPP design, which has proven to be an excellent performer on the other bikes in the lineup.

Just like the Hightower, the Tallboy is compatible with 27plus and 29 inch wheels. Boost spacing  front and rear combined with a flip-chip and a 10 mm longer fork keeps geometry almost identical when switching between wheel sizes.

 4.26.16 SCB Tallboy Launch Deck

Parts spec leans towards traction and stiffness, not light weight. A FOX 34 is up front, replacing the 32. Aggressive tires, wide bars, short stems and dropper post on all builds point to a bike that loves being pushed harder than its travel numbers would suggest. Unlike the Hightower, the Tallboy can run a front derailleur on a removeable direct mount tab.

Tall boy specs 1 Tallboy spec2

Unfortunately, due to component supply issues, we didn’t get a first ride on this bike when it was revealed to the press before Sea Otter. BUT! We’ve been promised one soon and will hit you up with first impressions as soon as we get it out of the box and on the trails.

In the meantime, get down to your dealer because you might be able to ride one before I do. Santa Cruz timed this release with availability, so you should be able to plunk down the cash and walk out with a bike right about now, assuming you have the scratch. Santa Cruz neither confirmed nor denied aluminum frames, but I bet this bike will get a metal frame version at some point in the future.  Prices are in the pics above. Expect frame-only options soon, as well as less expensive Tallboy C-framed builds.

More info, as expected, at santacruzbicycles.com.


CERES - March 23 2016 - during the TB3 photoshoot with Greg Minnaar in Ceres, Koue Bokkeveld in South Africa.

CERES – March 23 2016 – during the TB3 photoshoot with Greg Minnaar in Ceres, Koue Bokkeveld in South Africa.



First Ride: Rocky Mountain Pipeline

For some riders the name Pipeline will bring up old memories of adjustable travel URT suspension and Giro Switchblade helmets. But put those thoughts out of your head. This new bike might as well be an alien species for how little DNA is shares with that early freeride bike.


Much like the Sherpa, Rocky’s first plus bike, the Pipeline shares a main frame with another model, in this case the 29″ Instinct trail bike. This idea of sharing frames among a few models or wheels sizes while adjusting geometry with fork travel and a different swingarm seems to be a trend that is catching on in the industry, and one that makes a lot of sense considering the cost of developing carbon fiber molds for each size.


I rode the fancier of the two models, the $4,800 Pipeline 770 MSL. Shimano provides XT for the 1×11 drivetrain and brakes, RaceFace kicks in the bar, stem and crank. The RockShox Reverb does dropper duties and the wheels are a a mixes of brands, most notably 35mm (internal width) Alex tubeless rims and Maxxis Rekon EXO tires front and rear.

Pipeline-8 Pipeline-6 Pipeline-2 Pipeline-4

Dre Hestler and Wade Simmons acted as tour guides, and we ended up on a fun combination of trails, dead-ends, and dirt roads. While none of the terrain was particularly challenging, there were some fun bits and sandy corners to give me a feel for the bike.

I’m just finishing up a review of the Santa Cruz Hightower, which has very similar travel numbers to this bike, and has (optional) 27plus wheels. Since the Pipeline is based on a platform that is a few years old, we’ve seen geometry change pretty dramatically since then, and the size large, with its 23.5 top tube felt small while climbing and cranking along on the flats.

Fortunately the rest of the geometry is quite modern. Rocky’s Ride 9 chip system can adjust geometry (and shock progression). I rode it in the middle, which gives it a 68 degree head angle and  about a 74.5 seat tube. Combined with pretty “normal” 17.4 inch chainstays, the Pipeline felt peppy and fun on the trails at the less-than-warp speeds that we traveled. Once the seat was down, any sense of “small” disappeared, and the bike was more than ready to take the roughest lines I could find.

With only a single ride on this bike, versus a few months on the Hightower, it is hard to really compare the two. I’d be will to bet, if compared head-to-head on each company’s’ local trails, I’d like the Santa Cruz better in Santa Cruz and the Rocky better on the Shore.

I would have preferred a first ride on some of the trails in this video, but alas, the biggest U.S. bike event is held at a venue with mediocre trails.

I came away wanting more time on this bike, and wondering how it would feel with some the even more aggressive tires will be seeing soon from Maxxis.

The less expensive $4,000 Pipeline 750 MSL shares the same carbon main frame, aluminum rear end, 1×11 XT drivetrain, but swaps out the Fox suspension for less expensive RockShox options and the RaceFace components for house brand bits. Wheels and dropper remain the same. The 750 is orange. I like orange.

More info at Rocky Mountain’s website, bikes.com.





First Ride: New Maxxis 27plus, 27.5 and 29 Inch Tires

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

First Impressions

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

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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

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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

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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

Maxxis_Tire_Summit_2016_Dirt_Rag_WEB (11 of 16) Maxxis_Tire_Summit_2016_Dirt_Rag_WEB (15 of 16)

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.



Underground Bike Works, a new John Parker joint

It was with some excitement that we read this press release. John Parker? Missy Giove? Frank the Welder? 27plus and 29plus bikes? Yes to all those things.

John Parker and the 29 plus proto

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.


First Impression: Marin Pine Mountain 1

Marin Pine Mountain DR-4

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 …

Marin Pine Mountain DR-5

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 …

Marin Pine Mountain DR-2

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 …

Marin Pine Mountain DR-1

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 …

Marin Pine Mountain DR-3

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!”

Marin Pine Mountain DR-6

[Ed note: Apologies to William Shakespeare for “re-purposing” a few choice lines spoken by King Henry in The Bard’s play “Henry V.”]



First Impression: Salsa Pony Rustler



Salsa Cycles’ Pony Rustler is the rotund sibling of the brand’s well-admired Horsethief. Both bikes feature the same basic platform and very similar components, with the obvious difference being the wider wheelset of the Pony Rustler. I’ve been riding the Carbon X01 build for a few weeks and have been impressed on how well it tackles the ever-changing winter weather we’ve been experiencing on the East Coast this year. There has been everything from summer-like 70 degree days to Arctic cold temperatures mixed with slush, ice and deep powder. Throw in a couple of blistering windstorms and you get the idea.


I really have come to appreciate Salsa’s decision to use 45 mm WTB Scraper rims matched up 3-inch WTB Bridger tires. While not the best in the deep snow, the Bridgers have been a great all-around choice. The wide rims also do a great job of creating a nice full tire profile, allowing for more of the knobs to maintain contact with the trail surface.


Two of the three Pony Rustler build kits come with a 1x drivetrain; the lower-priced model ships with a 2x option. So far I’ve had no issues with the SRAM X01 that shipped with ours. Yea, it’s sometimes a pain to try and dump a bunch of gears when faced with an uphill you weren’t expecting, but I’m willing to deal with the inconvenience for a cleaner handlebar setup.


The Carbon X01 build features a nice upgrade to the 130 mm Pike RCT3 which uses the awesome Charger Damper that RockShox fans have grown to love. You’ll find a Fox Float 34 with the two other kits.

And, of course, what would a high-end trail bike be without a dropper post? Here Salsa opted for the internal cable routed Reverb Stealth.


I’ve had the Pony Rustler out on a few regular singletrack outings and a snowy/rainy/slushy overnight bikepacking excursion. It’s been a ton of fun on all of it. I’m really looking forward to putting some more miles on it and seeing if it could be the one bike my stable has been itching for. I’m cautiously optimistic.

Price: $5,499
Check out salsacycles.com for more information on the Pony Rustler and all their other bikes.

We’ll be running a long term review of the Pony Rustler in a future issue of Dirt Rag so stay tuned and make sure you have an active subscription so you don’t miss it, and all the great stuff we’ve got planned for the year.



First Look: New Ibis Mojo 3


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.

Red Riding inthe Hood

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.

Red XX1 741 2.8 Next-55 Black XT Easton 2.35-19

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.

  1. Even in the full 3.0 size, 27plus tires are still smaller in diameter than 29er tires.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Mojo3 downtubeIbis 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.


Mojo3 linkage

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″.

LA the Black

Our Take

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.


Big Red inthe Man Cave REVISED

Get 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
Competitive Cyclist
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



First Ride – Santa Cruz Hightower 27plus/29 inch trail bike


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.

hightower_red_29_hero hightower_black_275plus_hero

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.

hightower_details_red_2 hightower_details_red_1

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.)

hightower_details_black_2 hightower_details_black_1

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

Hightower C – $4,599
  • 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 Ride

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.

COYHAIQUE, PATAGONIA, CHILE - 19 January during the inaugural Aysen Rally Patagonia for Santa Cruz Bicycles launch of the Hightower. Photo by Gary Perkin

COYHAIQUE, PATAGONIA, CHILE – 19 January during the inaugural Aysen Rally Patagonia for Santa Cruz Bicycles launch of the Hightower. Photo by Gary Perkin

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.

COYHAIQUE, PATAGONIA, CHILE - 19 January during the inaugural Aysen Rally Patagonia for Santa Cruz Bicycles launch of the Hightower. Photo by Gary Perkin

COYHAIQUE, PATAGONIA, CHILE – 19 January during the inaugural Aysen Rally Patagonia for Santa Cruz Bicycles launch of the Hightower. Photo by Gary Perkin

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.

COYHAIQUE, PATAGONIA, CHILE - 20 January during the inaugural Aysen Rally Patagonia for Santa Cruz Bicycles launch of the Hightower. Photo by Gary Perkin

COYHAIQUE, PATAGONIA, CHILE – 20 January during the inaugural Aysen Rally Patagonia for Santa Cruz Bicycles launch of the Hightower. Photo by Gary Perkin

COYHAIQUE, PATAGONIA, CHILE - 22 January during the fourth day of the inaugural Aysen Rally Patagonia for Santa Cruz Bicycles launch of the Hightower. Photo by Gary Perkin

COYHAIQUE, PATAGONIA, CHILE – 22 January during the fourth day of the inaugural Aysen Rally Patagonia for Santa Cruz Bicycles launch of the Hightower. Photo by Gary Perkin

COYHAIQUE, PATAGONIA, CHILE - 19 January during the inaugural Aysen Rally Patagonia for Santa Cruz Bicycles launch of the Hightower. Photo by Gary Perkin

COYHAIQUE, PATAGONIA, CHILE – 19 January during the inaugural Aysen Rally Patagonia for Santa Cruz Bicycles launch of the Hightower. Photo by Gary Perkin

COYHAIQUE, PATAGONIA, CHILE - 20 January during the inaugural Aysen Rally Patagonia for Santa Cruz Bicycles launch of the Hightower. Photo by Gary Perkin

COYHAIQUE, PATAGONIA, CHILE – 20 January during the inaugural Aysen Rally Patagonia for Santa Cruz Bicycles launch of the Hightower. Photo by Gary Perkin

COYHAIQUE, PATAGONIA, CHILE - 19 January during the inaugural Aysen Rally Patagonia for Santa Cruz Bicycles launch of the Hightower. Photo by Gary Perkin

COYHAIQUE, PATAGONIA, CHILE – 19 January during the inaugural Aysen Rally Patagonia for Santa Cruz Bicycles launch of the Hightower. Photo by Gary Perkin

COYHAIQUE, PATAGONIA, CHILE - 20 January during the inaugural Aysen Rally Patagonia for Santa Cruz Bicycles launch of the Hightower. Photo by Gary Perkin

COYHAIQUE, PATAGONIA, CHILE – 20 January during the inaugural Aysen Rally Patagonia for Santa Cruz Bicycles launch of the Hightower. Photo by Gary Perkin

COYHAIQUE, PATAGONIA, CHILE - 22 January during the fourth day of the inaugural Aysen Rally Patagonia for Santa Cruz Bicycles launch of the Hightower. Photo by Gary Perkin

COYHAIQUE, PATAGONIA, CHILE – 22 January during the fourth day of the inaugural Aysen Rally Patagonia for Santa Cruz Bicycles launch of the Hightower. Photo by Gary Perkin

COYHAIQUE, PATAGONIA, CHILE - 20 January during the inaugural Aysen Rally Patagonia for Santa Cruz Bicycles launch of the Hightower. Photo by Gary Perkin

COYHAIQUE, PATAGONIA, CHILE – 20 January during the inaugural Aysen Rally Patagonia for Santa Cruz Bicycles launch of the Hightower. Photo by Gary Perkin

COYHAIQUE, PATAGONIA, CHILE - 20 January during the inaugural Aysen Rally Patagonia for Santa Cruz Bicycles launch of the Hightower. Photo by Gary Perkin

COYHAIQUE, PATAGONIA, CHILE – 20 January during the inaugural Aysen Rally Patagonia for Santa Cruz Bicycles launch of the Hightower. Photo by Gary Perkin.




Ellsworth returns with new ownership, new bikes

For a while there, the patient was touch-and-go. Assets were on the operating table. Little passion was moving through its blood. After its sale to BST Nano Carbon in late 2014, Ellsworth looked like it might not pull through. The 2015 lineup wasn’t released at all.

“We weren’t dead,” joked company founder Tony Ellsworth. “We were fermenting.”

Then, as it has done many times before, Ellsworth came roaring back to life—just in time for its 25th anniversary—with a new owner supplying much-needed capital and Tony Ellsworth still at the helm. Despite not having bikes in dealer showrooms, the team never stopped engineering, and for 2016 it has an all-new lineup with clean-slate designs built around its classic Instant Center Tracking linkage system.


A four-bar design, ICT is similar to the Horst-link design used by many brands, but it keeps the virtual pivot point in line with the chain forces, thus preventing drivetrain input to affect the suspension. Because of this, Ellsworth says, it runs a much softer tune on its Fox shocks, allowing the suspension to remain much more active during pedaling or braking.


The centerpiece of the new lineup is the Epiphany. Combining the traits of several previous models, the 2016 version is available in two frame materials and three wheel sizes. The 27.5 versions have 140 mm travel and are built for 150 mm forks, while the 27plus (pictured) and 29er versions have 120 mm of travel and 130 mm forks. To further differentiate the attitude, the aluminum bikes have a much slacker head tube angle for a more gravity-oriented ride.

ellsworth-epiphany-27plus-7 ellsworth-epiphany-27plus-8

All the bikes use identical ICT systems with smaller rockers that Ellsworth admits were slimmed down based on customer feedback that the massive rocker links of the past looked outdated. All the models also use a 148×12 Boost rear axle with hex-shaped ends that lock into the frame to prevent twisting. Making everything as stiff as possible can only improve the performance of the suspension, Ellsworth says.


Each of the Epiphany models will be available in a frame-only or in six spec levels, starting at $3,895 for the aluminum 27.5 and 29-inch models and $3,995 for the 27plus.


The new lineup also includes the Moment and Dare, which share a frame but are built into either 160 mm all-mountain bikes in the case of the former, or 200 mm downhill bikes for the latter. That same frame can also be set to 180 mm for freeride or bike park use. Switching travel isn’t as simple as flipping a shock mount chip though, so don’t plan to do it trail-side.

Bike_Moment bike_dare2

Other new models include a carbon hardtail Enlightenment in both 27.5 and 29er flavors, and the Buddha fat bike.

Bike_Enlightenment_29 Bike_BuddhaLanding

While the bikes aren’t entirely made in America, Ellsworth says it still prides itself on having one of the highest percentage of American-made content in its bikes in the industry. The carbon frames are made overseas but the aluminum frames as well as the rocker links and chainstays are made in the U.S.



First Impressions: Norco Torrent 7 Plus

Ed’s Note: This bike is part of our annual, sub-$3,000 bike test where the Dirt Rag staff spends significant time aboard less-expensive but fully capable offerings that we’d seriously consider buying ourselves. The final review will be out early 2016 in issue #189. Subscribe today so you don’t miss it!

Price: $2,425


The Torrent name is not new to Norco but the plus-size tires certainly are. The Torrent name has been in and out of the Norco line since the 90s and was last used on a carbon 26-inch hardtail that looked like this:


I know which one of those two I’d pick.

The Torrent is a return to the all-mountain hardtail, a niche market that is near and dear to my heart. Say what you will about plus-size tires but they have companies reconsidering what a modern hardtail can be, and the Torrent is a excellent example of this new breed of bike.

Norco_Torrent-web-10 Norco_Torrent-web-9

Norco_Torrent-web-8 Norco_Torrent-web-7

There are lots of well-thought-out details on the Torrent, including Boost hub spacing front and rear, a hugely adjustable fork, internal dropper routing and sleek rear caliper positioning.


So far, the Manitou Magnum Pro fork is very plush, although I’m still trying to properly tune it to use more travel on big hits.


The Schwalbe Nobby Nic is, hands down, the best tire I’ve ever ridden on leaf-covered trails.


The 16.7-inch chainstays are one of the reasons this is among the most playful bikes I’ve ridden. That nimbleness is balanced with a good bit of stability from the long front center (29.3 inches) and 67-degree head angle. The dropper post, stout fork and aggressive tires are treating me right, as well.

You’ll have to wait for the full review but, so far so great. See Norco’s website for more info.



Project 27plus Part 3 — Hayduke lives!

It’s taken most of the summer but we’ve finished gathering parts for our 27plus project bike. We started this process earlier this year when rumors of a fat 27.5 production bike were just a whisper and no one was really sure what to make of Trek and SRAM’s “Boost” hub spacing.

Then came Sea Otter and we were inundated with bikes with 27plus wheels and tires ready to roll. Before we even had a chance to try one there were dozens of brands with production bikes ready to go. There are also quite a few aftermarket products out there already, and in the spirit of DIY we kept moving ahead with Project 27plus, initially by measuring up some new tires.


Now that all the parts are here it’s time for an update. The foundation of this project is the Advocate Cycles Hayduke frame. Made in Asia from Reynolds 725 chromoly steel it features replaceable dropouts that can be swapped to fit either a 142×12 or 148×12 Boost axles, or even a swinger dropout for singlespeed use.

project-27plus-complete-3 project-27plus-complete-1

Key geometry numbers include a 68.5 degree head tube angle, 430 mm chainstays and 60 mm of bottom bracket drop. It can also fit standard 29-inch tires without a problem. One reason we started with this frame is that you can bolt current 29er parts to it if you’re not sure you want to go 27plus in the future or if you’re saving for a new 27plus wheelset and fork.


The real attention-getter here is of course the wheels. The hubs are Industry Nine‘s Torch Classic model, one of the first aftermarket options for Boost spacing and some of the finest on the market. The aluminum bodies are CNC machined and anodized in Asheville, North Carolina, with angled flanges for lower stresses on the traditional, J-bend spokes.


The freehub body is switchable between standard and XD drivers and the end caps are interchangeable, though in the case of Boost there’s no QR frames to use them with (that I know of). The freehub mechanism features six pawls that engage at three degrees for nearly instant propulsion.


Laced to the hubs are WTB’s Scraper rims with a 45 mm internal width and a pair of the new WTB Bridger 3.0 tires. Unlike the, um, “trailblazing” Trailblazer 2.8 tires, these make no attempt to be anything other than a full-blown 27plus tire, with a far more aggressive tread.


They are mounted up tubeless thanks to the TCS tubeless system, which is essentially the same standard as UST. Going tubeless is highly recommended on these Plus bikes because of the low air pressures the tires run at. Something in the neighborhood of 10-12 psi is no problem.

project-27plus-complete-15 project-27plus-complete-14

Mounted up on the front of the Hayduke is the new 27.5 Manitou Magnum Pro fork, purpose built for Plus bikes with 110 mm hub spacing and room for up to a 3.4-inch tire. With the Dorado air spring it has tons of adjustment including high and low speed compression, rebound damping, even air volume. Tying the two 35 mm legs together is the Hex Lock QR15 axle, which takes some practice to use quickly but stays super secure.


Manitou’s sister brands contributed the finishing kit. The brakes are the new Hayes Radar model that uses mineral oil instead of DOT fluid and can be flipped upside down for easy changes between regular and moto braking. (Demo truck drivers must LOVE these.)

project-27plus-complete-8 project-27plus-complete-7

Answer Components supplied the Carbon SL bars, AME stem, grips and Rove R2 pedals.


Finally, propelling things is the Hope crankset. Like most Hope products it’s CNC’d from aluminum in the UK then given the anodized treatment, in this case the “gunsmoke” finish. The direct mount chainring features the now ubiquitous narrow/wide tooth profile, and it can be removed and replaced with an optional spider for a bolt-on, double chainring option. It fits the BB92 bottom bracket with a 30 mm spindle that has an expanding spline that won’t wear down after repeatedly installing and removing the crankarm, ensuring a tight fit every time.


We’re going to be evaluating each of these products for a long-term review as well as using the bike as a test bed of sorts for future Plus products. What kinds of things would you like to see evaluated?Have questions about the build? Let us know in the comments.



Inside Line: Devinci Enters the Plus-Size Market with the Hendrix

I might be speaking prematurely here, but in a few years this new bike from Devinci might just be what most trail bikes look like.

Hendrix - Front

Boost spacing, 120 mm front travel, 110 mm rear travel, 27plus tires, single-ring drivetrain, aggressive geometry, and an affordable price put the new Hendrix in a good position for 2016. Like all Devinci suspension bikes, the Hendrix uses the Split-Pivot suspension design.


The Hendrix uses a chip to adjust between high and low geometry, both of which are quite slack for a 120 mm bike. While I can’t call 433 mm (17-inch) chainstays “ultra-short” as Devinci does in the press release, I also can’t call them long. How about “just right” chainstay length? Top-tube lengths are obviously designed around short stems, and the bottom bracket height seems ready to carve.


Not a bad spec for $3,000, although I would budget for a dropper post too, this bike could use one.

Bikes will be ready to go November 2015.

Frameset will set you back $1599.

Hendrix - Side

Hendrix - Rear


First Ride: Specialized Stumpjumper FSR 6Fattie

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Specialized went all-in on 27plus bikes for the 2016 model year with 6Fattie versions of the Stumpjumper and Rhyme, as well as dedicated 6Fattie hardtail models for men and women, called the Ruse and Fuse.

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Here at Crankworx Whistler we took our first ride aboard the top-of-the-line S-Works Stumpjumper FSR 6Fattie with 150 mm of travel up front and 135 mm out back. All this with 27.5 x 3.0-inch tires on 30 mm-wide rims. Another number to consider is the $8,600 price tag of this S-Works model. However, the aluminum Comp model rings in at $3,500.

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We’ve posted previously about the new 29er and 27.5 Stumpjumper tech details, so head on over here for the full scoop. For now, we’re going to focus on the 6Fattie.

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The 6Fattie shares its front triangle with the Stumpjumper 29, but the Boost 148 aluminum swingarm and plus-specific version of Fox’s 34 fork are unique to the 6Fattie model.

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Our thoughts

Both Adam and I rode the bike today and had pretty good conversation about so we thought we’d share:

Adam: So we got to ride the 6Fattie today on the Hey Bud trail, which was the first stage of the EWS race here in Whistler this week. Justin, you and I were a bit skeptical of this new tire size, but I think it’s safe to say we came away impressed. What was one factor that stood out to you?

Justin: Traction, without a doubt. I couldn’t believe how well this bike hooked up on loose terrain.There were times I’d have my ass on the back tire for fear of going over the bars, and you know what? I could have stop in the middle of that downhill to eat a sandwich. What jumped out at you?

Adam: I think the biggest surprise was just how normal it felt. If I was riding blindfolded (which I only recommend at SSWC, by the way) it would have been hard to distinguish it from a 29er, except for the traction you mentioned (especially braking) and this sort of “safety net” feeling of stability. I’m not 100 percent sold that it’s “better,” but it is certainly confidence inspiring.

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Justin: You’re all about the safety net, Newman. I walked away convinced the 6Fattie will be “better” for a lot of riders simply as a result of the huge fun-factor. Sure, might feel a little slower while climbing, but if you can turn the pedals over you could climb a tree. In rough terrain, the 6Fattie will roll through terrain it simply shouldn’t. Descending, it’s a hoot due to all that traction. Who do you think would like this bike?

Adam: Haha, I need that safety net! I think the kind of folks who will enjoy these bikes are the kind of people like us who are not shredding in the 99th percentile, but are more interested in having fun than going fast. The tires were a bit of a question mark going in, but the Ground Controls 27.5×3.0 on our demo bikes performed better than expected despite the super round profile.

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Justin: Agreed. I was really eyeing up the Purgatory tire on the front of some of those other bikes. Wonder what other tires they have in the works? In general, I’d have to agree with you. There’s a stumpjumper for everyone; 6Fattie for fun-loving, optimistic types, 27.5 for shred-bros doing tricks, and 29 for speed-racers.

Adam: Aside from the bike, I also wanted to give a special shout-out to the new Command Post IRcc dropper. It has internal cable routing but uses a basic shift cable and the actuation lever is the best I’ve ever used. Plus instead of the classic Command Post’s three positions, it now has 10 so you can get it just right.

What do you think?

Is 27plus going to roll over the mountain bike scene? Or is it full of (hot) air? Let us know in the comments below.



Inside Line: New Orbea Loki and a unique dropper post

The hardtail isn’t dead. At all. In fact, we might be living in the golden age of hardtails, with everything from fancy carbon race bikes to steel expedition bikes easily available. Most exciting to me is the trail hardtail market and the versatility that is becoming common with the addition of new technology. Orbea’s new hardtail is a great example of that.



The Loki has a hyrdo-formed aluminum frame, Boost 148 rear spacing, Boost 110 fork, and room for 27×3 or 29×2.4 tires. The geometry is surprisingly aggressive, with a 67-degree head angle, 430 mm chainstays, long top tubes, and low bottom brackets. Match this with a 120 mm fork and a dropper post, things are looking interesting indeed.

LOKI H-LTD 16M -10 LOKI H-LTD 16M -1

LOKI H-LTD 16M -11 LOKI H-LTD 16M -9

There are three models to choose from:


LOKI 27+ H30 – $1.499


LOKI 27+ H10 – $2.099

LOKI 27+ H-LTD – $2.999

Digit Seatpost

Normally a new (non-dropper) seatpost wouldn’t garner much attention. But the Digit is desigened to offer the most of the function of a dropper without the weight and complexity.


This cut away view shows the internals of this post. Upper and lower bolts set the high and low points for saddle height, and a keyway keeps the saddle from rotating when yanking it up and down while still on the bike. The quick release uses a cam that “pops” open when released, making one handed seatpost adjustment a possibility, even while riding. Assuming you have a modicum of skillz.


Will this replace dropper posts? Not a chance. But for those sick of maintain issues, looking to spend less, or keep weight down, the Digit is going to be an interesting option.


As of right now, there are no plans for this post to be offered aftermarket, and admittedly many people don’t understand why this is any better than a normal post with a QR. I think those people aren’t paying attention.

We’ll have a full review of the Loki and the Digit in the future so keep an eye out.



Inside Line: First ride on new 2016 Salsa models


Spotted as a prototype at Sea Otter, the new 27plus full suspension bike from Salsa made its official debut today with two carbon fiber models and an aluminum model built around the excellent Split Pivot suspension.


If you’re ridden the Horsethief 29er and enjoyed it, you’re likely to feel right at home on the Ponyrustler, as they share geometry figures. In fact, the 2016 Horsetheif is the exact same frame and each model can swap wheels thanks to the Boost hub spacing front and rear. Salsa will continue to offer them as two distinct models though, and the ride experience is quite different.


A quick demo ride largely confirmed that the ride experience somewhat splits the difference between a normal 29er and a full suspension fat bike. Compared to the Bucksaw full suspension fat bike the Ponyrustler feels much faster and more like a “normal” bike while still offering the extra traction and compliance of the larger tires.


The frame offers 120 mm of travel the complete bikes ship with 130 mm forks, all with 110 mm Boost spacing. The Carbon XO1 model ships with the Pike and SRAM XO1, of course, for $5,499. The Carbon GX1 model has the Fox fork and a 1×11 GX build for $4,499. Finally, the aluminum Ponyrustler has a Fox fork and 2×10 GX build for $3,499. All three models ship with SRAM hubs laced to WTB Scraper rims with WTB’s new Bridger 27.5×3.0 tires. The carbon frame will also be available on its own for $2,499.



Are 27plus bikes going to be the new normal in a few years time? Don’t be surprised if they are.


Somewhat surprising is this 29plus touring bike that Salsa says will be produced in somewhat limited numbers. More evolutionary than revolutionary, it’s kind of like what you’d expect to get if a Fargo and a Mukluk enjoyed a little too much bourbon around the campfire before snuggling into a sleeping bag together.


It’s built with Salsa’s more heavy duty Cobra Kai steel tubing also found on the Powderkeg tandem and Marrakesh touring bike. Here you’ll find all the features and mounts from a Fargo but with the Boost 148 spacing on the Alternator rear end to accommodate the 29×3 Surly Knard tires on WTB Scraper rims. The fork is identical to the standard Fargo model though.


The deep copper paint is lovely in person, and subtle touches like the special logo treatment and subdued graphics are really eye-catching.


I had a chance to take it for a quick spin and I think it could really be the perfect vehicle for riders who want to tackle touring/bikepacking routes at a more casual pace and are willing to trade some speed for comfort. The huge tires soak up the bumps without creating excess rolling resistance. My guess is it’s the kind of bike that will leave customers either salivating or scratching their heads.

2016-salsa-5 2016-salsa-6

The Deadwood will retail for $2,599 or $1,099 for a frame/fork.


Salsa says the Tour Divide race was the inspiration for the Fargo model, but in the ensuing years the bar for speed has been raised (or lowered?) and top gravel racers are looking for something even lighter and more aggressive. The full carbon fiber Cutthroat is the result.


An even more streamlined vision of what the perfect Tour Divide race bike could be, the Cutthroat does away with some of the practicality found on the Fargo such as the Alternator dropouts and rack and fender mounts. The triple cage mounts on the fork are still there though, as it shares the Firestarter carbon fork with the high-end Fargo model.

In the back is the new “Class 5 Vibration Reduction System” that made its debut on the Warbird gravel bike. In an effort to absorb impacts and vibrations the seatstays bow outward considerably to flex. When you’re racing 2,800 miles in two weeks on unpaved roads and trails, any bit helps.

The Cutthroat with a SRAM Rival 1×11 build is $3,999 and the SRAM Apex/X7 2×10 build is $2,999. The frame/fork can also be had for $1,999.



While the Vaya has been carrying the “light touring” torch in the Salsa lineup for a few years, the brand admits it can be a bit overwhelmed when carting heavy loads. The Marrakesh was built from from Salsa’s Cobra Kai steel tubing to carry you and ALL your gear to its namesake exotic lands.


A touring bike in the classic sense, it has a 3×9 drivetrain and bar-end shifters on the drop-bar model. The flat-bar model is an entirely different frame geometry to achieve proper fit, but is otherwise identical. Each version is available in two colors with a Shimano Deore kit, SRAM BB7 disc brakes, a rear rack and a Brooks saddle. The Alternator dropouts allow you to rig a singlespeed setup if you destroy a derailleur or to built one with an internal-gear hub.


The Marrakesh will retail for $1,599 or $650 for the frame/fork.



Other changes in the Salsa line

Aside from spec and color changes, some notable tweaks:

  • The carbon Beargrease gets one of the coolest fade paint jobs ever. (Pictured above)
  • All of Salsa’s fat bikes now come with 150 mm spacing on the forks so they can be swapped with a RockShox Bluto if desired. Each of the hardtail fat bikes (Mukluk, Beargrease and Blackbarrow) is also available with one stock.
  • The Mukluk frame geometry changes to match that of the Blackbarrow.
  • The Spearfish is now available in carbon only, with two spec levels or a frame option.
  • The Fargo Ti rides off into the sunset, mostly supplanted by the Cutthroat.
  • The new carbon and aluminum Warbirds were unveiled earlier this year.
  • The Vaya Ti remains in the lineup as a complete bike or frameset.
  • The smallest Vaya models now use 700c wheels instead of 26-inch, and there are only six total sizes instead of eight.
  • The Colossal Ti rolls away, and the single steel model is offered with SRAM Apex or as a frameset.



Inside Line: Scott unveils line of 27plus bikes

Photos courtesy of Scott Sports


The tidal wave is coming, and it’s rolling on big tires. Scott is one of the first major brands out of the gate with 27plus, in this case built on the Genius full-suspension platform and Scale hardtail. The brand touts the added traction offered from the 27.5×2.8 tires while sacrificing minimal rolling resistance and weight gain.


Scott Genius Plus

The Genius is Scott’s line of multi-purpose trail/enduro bikes, offered in both 27.5 and 29-inch, and now 27plus. The new models are built around the Boost hub spacing with 15×110 mm Fox forks and 12×148 mm rear axles. The front triangle is carbon fiber while the entire aluminum rear triangle of the bikes have been specifically developed to optimize stiffness with the bigger wheel and to increase clearance for up to a 3.0 tire.

Adding the bigger tires means sacrificing some suspension travel, in the case of the Genius. The Genius 700 Plus is 140/130 as opposed to the 150/150 of the standard 27.5 model and is closer to the 130/130 of the Genius 29er. If you want the best of both worlds, Scott says the new bikes are also compatible with 29-inch wheels built on Boost hubs. They also have the dual-position geometry adjustment chip that lets you make small changes to the feel of the bike.


The rear suspension is controlled through a new Fox Nude shock designed specifically for Scott’s TwinLoc system. It has three modes: “Descend” with 130mm of travel, “Traction Control” with 90mm of travel and increased damping, and a lockout. To go with it is a new TwinLoc remove lever can fit under the handlebar where a shifter used to be.

scott-scale-genius-27plus-23 scott-scale-genius-27plus-21

The remote also controls the new Fox 34 Float fork with the new FIT4 damper.


The three Genius Plus models are the 700 Tuned Plus with a SRAM X01 group and Shimano XTR brakes, the 710 Plus with a SRAM GX1 group and Shimano SLX brakes, and the 720 Plus with a Shimano 2×10 group with SLX brakes.


Scott Scale Plus


If you prefer to let the tires handle the squish, the two aluminum Scale hardtail models feature the same geometry as the World Championship winning Scale but with more clearance for a 3.0 tire. The Scale 710 Plus has a Fox 32 Float fork with Boost spacing and 120mm of travel and a SRAM GX1 drivetrain. The 720 Plus has a Suntour Raidon Air fork with Boost spacing and 120mm of travel and a Shimano 2×10 Deore drivetrain.


Pricing and availability has not yet been set for these new bikes, but we’ll be looking to get a leg over them as soon as possible.




Project 27plus Part 2 – WTB Trailblazer 2.8 tires

By this point you’ve likely heard plenty of watercooler chatter (both excitement and complaining) about the latest crop of bikes with 27.5 wheels and tires ranging from 2.8 to 3.5 inches wide. If you’re looking for some backstory, check out Part 1 of this occasional series.

Here at Dirt Rag we’ve only had some short demo rides on these bikes at all, so we’re not prepared to pass judgement on any of them in particular—or the trend as a whole—but we’re trying to stay ahead of the curve.


In installment I’m going to look at the WTB Trailblazer 2.8 tire that kicked things off in the public eye last year when it debuted on the Rocky Mountain Sherpa prototype. We mounted up a pair to some of WTB’s own Scraper rims that have an internal width of 45 mm and seal with the excellent TCS tubeless system.


It’s so good, in fact, that in order to measure these tires I taped over the rim’s valve holes, mounted the tire and stuck a tubeless valve in. When I inflated it with a floor pump the beads snapped into place and the tire stayed inflated without any sealant in it for at least 36 hours. I wouldn’t recommend running these tires without sealant, but it was really impressive to see how well the TCS bead interface works.


Just like in Part 1 I wanted to see just how big these tires are in the real world. I grabbed the Feedback Sports calipers to find out. Mounted on the Scraper rim the Trailblazer measured 70.6 mm at the casing and 59.6 mm at the tread. The tread has a square profile, with the casing actually measuring out a bit wider than the tread. The sidewalls are much taller than a standard tire too. Flattened out and measured from bead to bead they are 170 mm, compared to 160 mm for a WTB Riddler 2.4 tire I measured.


Just as with the Panaracer tires I measure in Part 1, the rim makes a huge difference in the width of the tire. Mounted on a standard 21 mm rim the Trailblazers measured just 2.2 inches wide at the tread. They easily fit in a standard 27.5 frame and fork, but because the sidewall is so much taller I can’t guarantee they will ride very well.


The Trailblazer, left, next to a 2.3 Trail Boss 29er tire. You can see how much taller the sidewalls are.

One of the key arguments for the 27plus “movement” is that the wheel and tire’s diameter is very close to that of a 29er. In reality, these tires are a bit smaller. The 29×2.3 WTB Trail Boss pictured here measured 74.17 cm in diameter, while the Trailbazer is at 72.7 cm. It may not seem like a lot, but it is enough to drop your bottom bracket almost a centimeter if mounted in a 29er frame. Trust me, that’s a lot.

The 29er tire is still a bit taller than the 27plus Trailblazer.

The 29er tire is still a bit taller than the 27plus Trailblazer.

Speaking of, there’s really no guarantee that these tires are going to fit in existing 29er frames as many have championed. Neither tire is even close to fitting in my Santa Cruz Highball, though they both fit in an On One Parkwood frame I tried. Just as a lot of folks were shoving 27.5 wheels in bikes designed for 26-inch a few years back, I think there will be some experimentation and trial-and-error involved here, plus lists of “compatible” frames popping up in forums online.


Some tires lined up for comparison, from left: A 26×3.8 Surly Nate on an 80mm rim, the 27.5×2.8 Trailblazer on a 45mm rim, the 27.5×3.5 Panaracer Fat-B-Nimble on a 45mm rim and a 29×2.3 WTB Trail Boss on a 21mm rim.

Which brings us to the Boost system. The new, wider hubs and forks now coming to market are designed to accommodate these larger tires, as are many new frames.

Will the 27plus trend stick around in the long run? We’ll have to wait and see.


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