Dirt Rag Magazine

Review: Trek Fuel EX 9.8 27plus


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Tester: Eric McKeegan
Age: 42, Height: 5’11, Weight: 155, Inseam: 32 inches
Price: $5,300
Sizes: 15.5, 17.5, 18.5, 19.5 (tested), 21.5
More info: Trek Fuel EX

The previous generation Fuel EX was Trek’s best selling full-suspension bike. With Trek’s move to a more race-focused Top Fuel last year, it came as a surprise to see the new Fuel EX move into the territory staked out for the longer-travel Remedy. This new Fuel EX gets more travel and the long, low, slack treatment. It also dumps the 27.5 option in favor of a chassis that supports 29 or 27plus wheels. How do these massive changes perform when the rubber hits the trail? Let’s find out.

The Bike

Trek started over, clean state style, with an entirely new carbon frame with 130 mm of travel. The full list of Trek’s suspension technology is utilized: ABP rear pivot, Full Floater floating shock mount, Mino Link for geometry adjustment, and the poorly named but excellent-performing Re:Aktiv valve equipped rear shock.

The frame does without the typical bend in the downtube to allow clearance for the fork controls. Instead Trek uses a new headset that pairs with a replaceable tab built into the frame to prevent the fork from rotating far enough for the top caps to contact the frame. The straighter downtube is stiffer and lighter, and overall frame stiffness is greater than the previous Remedy 29.

The parts kit is an interesting blend of Deore XT brakes and 2×11 drivetrain, Reverb dropper, Sun Duroc 40 rims and DT hubs. Bontrager handles the rest of the bits, including Chupacabra 2.8 tires. Fox provides suspension via a 140 mm 34 GRIP damper fork and Float EVOL rear shock.

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The Mino chip can be flipped for high or low settings. I spent the vast majority of my ride time on this bike with the chip in the high setting (on the 27plus tires). The low setting was super stable and shreddy, but pedal strikes were all too common. With 29 inch wheels, both settings are more usable. To be clear, even on the high setting the head angle is 67.2 degrees and the bottom bracket is 13.3 inches, numbers that are pretty low and slack for a 130 mm bike.

The Ride

The previous EX was obviously closely related to Trek’s cross-country race tool, the Top Fuel. The new EX falls more solidly into the trail category. Trek goes as far as to say the Fuel EX effectively replaces the Remedy 29, as that bike is discontinued for 2017. The 27.5 Remedy gets updated to a more shreddy 150 mm chassis; expect a review of that bike soon.

I was a big fan of the old EX bikes, partially for the efficient yet plush suspension, and partially because it was a very easy bike to get along with on tight and twisty trails. I had some trepidation at first that the geometry changes would take away from my love of this bike. Fortunately, while things have changed, this is still a very lovable bike.

Trek continues to impress me with the Re:Aktiv valve shocks. They deliver incredibly plush, controlled suspension. I have to resist the urge to add more air to the suspension, as it often feels too soft on the road while riding to the trailhead or pushing on the seat, but on the trail, it feels seamless and it’s always doing the right things and never bottoming harshly.

For trails that required a lot of body English and standing climbing, I kept the rear end in trail mode, but even in the firmest platform setting, the Re:Aktiv valve would blow-off and absorb a lot more trail chatter than expected.

fuel-ex-2017-1

Photo: Margus Riga

It is hard to put into words about how well this suspension system works. Once in the woods, the suspension just does its thing with a minimum of fuss. The increased frame stiffness was noticeable, paying dividends when working the bike over rocks or powering up hills. Descents are handled with much more composure; the increased reach, decreased head angle and resulting longer front center put me farther behind the front wheel, making it easier to roll down steep sections with much less chance of going over the bars.

Because the front wheel is farther out in front, like most modern trail bikes, care needs to be taken to load the front end in flat or off-camber turns. Technical climbs need a firmer hand on the front end as well. But that is about the only place I ever thought the slacker geometry was a detriment, and I suspect most riders will adjust pretty quickly.

While this review is technically of the 27plus version of this bike, I also rode the 29er version in Squamish, and swapped out the wheels on this bike to see what the 29er felt like at home. In similar fashion to the Santa Cruz Hightower I reviewed last issue, the 29 inch wheels feel faster almost everywhere, and felt more secure when cornering hard. The 27plus tires erase trail chatter and provide more confidence over slippery roots and rocks.

A few random things that warrant mention. The Reverb remote still doesn’t play well with Shimano brakes. The Shimano brakes are still exhibiting inconstant engagement points, which has plagued all the redesigned brakes we’ve ridden this year. How about some metal pads for those brakes, Mr. Product Manager?

The GRIP damper in the Fox 34 is excellent for a “second-tier” offering, but the air spring could use some spacers, something that I’d like to see included with the bike. The 2×11 drivetrain is starting to feel like a throwback on bikes like this, but it is easier to swap to a single-ring drivetrain than go the other way.

The internal routing is quiet, but trying to swap dropper posts made me want to punch a box of puppies. Someday everyone will listen to me and we’ll see external routing come back, as nature intended.

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Conclusions

Like many other bikes getting updates and redesigns this year, the new Fuel EX bears little resemblance to the previous model (see our review in issue #191). Part of me wants to mourn the loss of one of the few trail bikes left that relied on the “just enough” school of thought, but most of me was having too much fun riding the new bike to worry about it too much. And really, isn’t the idea of buying a new bike to have a new riding experience?

Yes, if you are buying a first new bike in years, the EX will feel foreign at first, but ride it enough to become familiar with the nuances and you’ll find yourself feeling more in control at higher speeds on just about any trail. For those of us with more time on modern bikes, the Fuel EX feels familiar already, a still almost-minimalist trail bike that is more than capable on almost any trail out there without overwhelming the rider with extremely slack geometry or excessive travel.

In other words, the new Fuel EX is a darn good trail bike, in the most modern way possible. If you still really, really want something steeper and snappier, Trek’s Top Fuel might make a better option but really, if you are going to haul around suspension and you aren’t racing, a proper trail bike is a better choice.

While this EX 9 is almost cheap for a carbon bike with full XT, Trek offers a huge range of aluminum- or carbon-framed Fuel EX models starting at $2,200 all the way up to $8,300.

Details

  • Reach: 18.3”
  • Stack: 24.6”
  • Top Tube: 25.8”
  • Head Tube: 67.2°
  • Seat Tube: 74.2°
  • BB Height: 13.3”
  • Chainstays: 17”
  • Weight: 28.3 lbs. w/o pedals
  • Specs based on size tested

 

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New: Rocky Mountain Slayer updated


Slayer_790_MSL_Hero

Rocky Mountain has brought back the Slayer, this time as an all-carbon machine with 170 mm front / 165 mm rear suspension and 27.5 wheels designed for enduro racing, bike parks and big mountains. It’s another entry in the almost-a-downhill-bike-but-can-still-climb category.

Slayer790_MSL_C2_Profile

Rocky Mountain’s four-bar Smoothlink suspension has been tuned to eat up rough terrain and square-edged hits. It increased the anti-squat values to make sure the bike pedals efficiently. The Slayer also features shock-mount bearings for small-bump suppleness. Its rate curve provides good support at sag and a moderate ramp towards the end-stroke.

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Frame details:

  • Ride-4™ adjustability chip for geometry adjustments
  • All sizes fit one water bottle inside the front triangle
  • Can run Di2 and a dropper post concurrently
  • Max type Enduro cartridge bearing pivots with simplified hardware, Pipelock rocker link pivot
  • Shock-eyelet bearings for small-bump sensitivity
  • Single-sided chainstay and seatstay pivots for a narrower rear triangle—eliminates heel rub, even with Boost spacing
  • Metric shock, 230 x 65
  • 1x specific
  • Clearance for up to 27.5 x 2.5 inch tires, and compatible with 26+ tires (26 x 3.0)
  • Full-length internal dropper post and lockout routing. Internal brake routing in the front triangle, internal tube-intube shift routing
  • Oversized downtube ports for ease of cable routing
  • New derailleur hanger design reduces hardware complexity
  • Lightweight bolt-on axle saves 35 grams compared to a traditional Boost axle
  • PressFit BB92 bottom bracket, ZS44 | ZS56 headset
  • Post-mount 180mm rear brake
  • Max chainring size is 36t
  • Sizing: S/M/L/XL

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The Slayer is available in four carbon models:

Slayer 790 MSL — $7,000
Slayer 770 MSL — $5,800
Slayer 750 MSL — $5,000
Slayer 730 MSL — $4,200

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New: Pivot updates the Firebird


2017 Firebird - XT/XTR pro 1X - RED

The new Pivot Firebird features some of the longest reach measurements on a bike in this category, combined with super-short 16.95-inch chainstays, 65-degree head angle, 170 mm of suspension, Boost spacing, and clearance for 27.5 wheels with tires up to 2.5 inches wide.

Firebird Pivot1-2

The carbon frame can reportedly be built up with a weight of less than 28 pounds. Also new is the availability of a size XL in this model. There is no extra small, and the shortest suggested rider height for a small Firebird is 5’4″.

For comparisons on how the geometry changed, the old Firebird 27.5 had a 66-degree headtube angle, 160 mm of suspension and a chainstay length of 17.25 inches. Top tube length on a size large went from 24 inches to 25.12 inches.

Firebird Pivot1-3

The Firebird is being billed, without apologies, as a no-compromise enduro race machine. To aid that, Pivot utilizes DW-Link suspension. Dave Weagle, the brains behind DW‐Link and Chris Cocalis, Pivot’s president and founder, collaborate on every Pivot suspension design. Pivot used DW-Link to offer square-edged bump absorption that is claimed to rival the company’s DH bike while also pedaling more efficiently than the bike’s travel and geometry would suggest.

2017 Firebird - XTR 1X - Blue

With the new Firebird, you also get internal cable routing, front-derailleur capability, 180 mm disc brake rotors and electronic shifting integration. There are eight available build kits on Pivot’s site, ranging from a Shimano XT 1×11 build ($5,000) up to a Shimano XTR Di2 build with carbon wheels, if money is no object ($9,900). The Firebird should be available now at your local bike shop.

 

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Trek releases Slash 29, focused on enduro racing


There was a general sense of “WTF” when Trek killed off the Remedy 29 for 2017. Yes the new Fuel EX 29 had the same geometry and a stiffer frame, but 130 mm of travel is still only 130 mm of travel. How is the semi-retired Tracey Mosely supposed to take on the EWS without her beloved Remedy 29?

As expected, Trek wasn’t really asleep at the wheel; it was busy developing a true race weapon for enduro riders: the Slash 29.

Trek Slash 9.9 in Squamish, BC, June 2016

This thing is all about going as fast as possible on modern enduro race courses. With that in mind, it will only come in two models, both sharing a carbon fiber frame. That 150 mm travel frame gets all the typical technologies (except Full-Floater) in the Trek acronym soup: an OCLV Mountain Carbon main frame and 1x-specific stays, ABP, Boost 148, Knock Block steerer stop, EVO link, E2 tapered head tube, Mino Link, Control Freak internal routing, Carbon Armor, PF92, ISCG 05 and G2 Geometry. Drivetrains are 1x only, and forks are 160 mm on both the 9.8 and 9.9 RSL.

We didn’t get to ride this bike at the recent press camp, but we did get a sneak peek at a complete bike, maybe to help assuage the general consensus that the Remedy 29 would be missed.

Trek Slash 9.9 in Squamish, BC, June 2016Trek Slash 9.9 in Squamish, BC, June 2016

Trek Slash 9.9 in Squamish, BC, June 2016

Some things that stand out to me:

– Four frame sizes, including a 15.5″. While a lot of companies don’t make a small, long-travel 29er, Trek felt confident it could pull of a small frame that still rides well and can fit short riders just as well.

-No 27.5″ wheels or 27plus tires. This bike is about going as fast as possible, and in Trek’s collective mind that means 29″ wheels, a frame as stiff as a Session, and lots of suspension travel.

-No more Full-Floater. Much like the old DRCV valve, Full-Floater was developed when Trek determined there were shortcomings to rear shocks that it wanted to address. With modern metric shock packaging and improved internals, Trek determined that the ride characteristics is wanted could be accomplished without the floating shock mount, so that space was freed up for other uses.

-Geometry is extreme, but that is starting to seem normal. A 65.6/65.1-degree head angle is about as slack as you’ll find any stock 29er these days; the 1187 mm (46.7 inches, size medium) wheelbase is still a little less than a medium Session; and the 434 mm (17-inch) chainstays are pretty short for a 29er with 150 mm of travel. A bottom bracket that sits right around 13.5 inches is looking pretty stable to me.

-Hope you like red.

The Pike on the 9.8 is a hell of a fork, but… Why not a Lyrik like the Remedy 9.9 RSL? Stiffer and stronger is a good thing  Looks like I caught a misprint in the spec sheet, the 9.8 will have a Lyrik after all.

-I continue to be not stoked on internal routing. I am stoked on the Knock Block headset.

-This is a high-end race bike. If you don’t have a high-end bank account, you probably need to go look at aluminum Enduro 29s if you want a cheaper 29 enduro race bike. Pretty much everything else around 150 mm of travel is all carbon and $$$.

-The Bontrager SE5 is an excellent tire, it feels like a cross between a High Roller and a Minion, which makes me confused as to why this bike is spec’ed with the the SE4. Trek says the SE4 is a more versatile all-around tire, but c-mon, this is a race bike. Put the big meats on there.

Both bikes get SRAM drivetrains (X1 on the 9.8, XO1 Eagle 12 speed on the 9.9). A Pike Lyrik and Super Deluxe suspend the 9.8, the 9.9 has a Fox 36 and Float X2. Bontrager provides most everything else for the bikes, which isn’t a bad thing at all.

Pricing

Slash 9.8 29 $5,499.99
Slash 9.9 29 RSL $8,999.99
Slash C F/S $3,699.99

This bike aims squarely at the Specialized Enduro 29, Evil Wreckoning, and the new Niner RIP. While this isn’t a direct replacement for the Remedy 29, it really does look like a true enduro race bike, not an all-’rounder. We are seeing 29ers get more acceptance each year on the enduro circuit, but there still seems to be some resistance, even if the bigger wheels are faster. Sort of like why NBA players refuse to shoot foul shots granny-style, even though it is proven to be more accurate.

Bikes should be at dealers in October, so start saving. Trek’s website should be updated with more info soon.

Trek Slash 9.9 in Squamish, BC, June 2016

Trek Slash 9.9 in Squamish, BC, June 2016


Some FAQs from Trek:

What’s new with 2017 Slash?

With the new 2017 Remedy moving deeper into All-Mountain territory, new Slash sets its sights squarely on Enduro racing. With that in mind, we designed it around a carbon frame with the fastest-rolling wheel size. All 2017 Slash models use 29” wheels with Boost110 & Boost148 hub spacing. Rear travel moves to 150mm for the right balance of capability and efficiency. Both models get Enduro-minded 130mm/160mm forks which offer a better climbing position in the 130mm setting, and more confident descending in the 160mm setting.

Like the Fuel EX & Remedy, Slash gets a Straight Shot downtube with Knock Block frame defense for DH-worthy frame stiffness with no added weight. It also gets our extra-versatile Control Freak cable routing system to tie it all together.

How many Slash bike models are there?

Two. Both the Slash 9.8 and Slash 9.9 RSL share the same race-ready, full-carbon, 1x-specific frame.

What does Race Shop Limited mean?

Race Shop Limited, or RSL models are built with a parts spec that meets the demands of our top-level Enduro racers, including extra suspension adjustments, a Rapid Drive rear hub, and the new SRAM X01 Eagle 1×12 drivetrain.

Is Slash available as a frameset?

Yes. Slash is available as a frameset, which includes a Fox Factory Float X2 shock, Knock Block headset, and Line Pro 35mm stem.

What are the available sizes for Slash?

All Slash models are available in 15.5, 17.5, 19.5, and 21.5.

While most other long-travel 29ers suffer from design constraints that don’t allow for a Small frame size, Slash benefits from Trek’s decade of 29er experience, allowing us to offer a fast, great-handling 15.5” long-travel 29er.

Why doesn’t the new Slash use Full Floater?

We developed Full Floater years ago to address performance constraints associated with the air shocks that were available at that time. Since then, mountain bike shocks have evolved. More dynamic and responsive dampers, along with more refined air springs like EVOL and Debonair, offer the performance benefits our engineers sought to achieve with Full Floater.

Using a fixed lower shock mount opens up the lower frame area, giving us more opportunity to design stronger, stiffer frames and chainstays. This also gives us more flexibility to accommodate larger, more capable shocks. All of these effects are experienced most dramatically on long travel bikes, like the Slash.

Then why is Full Floater still on new Fuel EX and Remedy?

Full Floater works great on short to mid-travel bikes where engineering requirements are not so challenging. The demanding combination of design requirements – frame stiffness, bigger 29” wheel size, long travel, and fitting piggyback shocks– of the new Slash 29 presented the greatest opportunity to incorporate a new direction in suspension layout.

What front derailleurs work with the new frame?

None. The carbon chainstay is 1x only, which allowed our engineers to optimize stiffness and weight, as well as keep the length down to 435mm.

Is Slash compatible with other aftermarket shocks?

Yes. Slash uses new standard metric shock sizing (230×57.5mm).

Does Slash use a G2 fork?

Yes. It’s a 29er, and we know that our G2 Geometry with a 51mm offset fork still makes for the best 29er handling at any speed, on any terrain.

What Mino Link position is standard out of the box?

All MY17 full suspension bikes (EXCEPT Top Fuel and Session) will ship with the Mino Link in the High (steeper) setting. This gives Slash a headtube angle of 65.6 out of the box.

Is the new frame compatible with 27.5 Plus wheels and tires? 27.5?

No. We designed Slash around 29” wheels and tires for maximum speed. Running any other wheel/tire size will adversely affect handling and speed.

What is the max tire size for Slash frames?

29 x 2.6”

 

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Ellsworth adds Rogue Sixty to its lineup


press camp bikes DR-34

At this year’s Press Camp, Ellsworth previewed its newest bike, the Rogue Sixty. This carbon enduro/all-mountain rig will feature 160 mm of travel front and rear, 27.5 wheels, internal cable routing, aluminum chainstays, a 1x-only design, threaded bottom bracket, Boost spacing front and rear and Di2 compatibility.

press camp bikes DR-35

Ellsworth added a house-designed shock bolt called the “Hex Key Rocker Locker” and a hex-taper rear axle for more stiffness and simpler maintenance. The latest iteration of the Ellsworth four-bar linkage rear suspension is designed for efficiency to be a great climber for enduro transfer stages (and, we guess, regular mountain biking) just as it’s designed to descend well. If you want to get into it, read about Instant Center Tracking here.

press camp bikes DR-36

Four builds in three colors, each, will be offered, all with FOX suspension, Maxxis High Roller II tires and Race Face Turbine dropper posts. The Shimano XT kit comes in at $6,500. Pre-order starts this month with availability in September. Currently, no size small is being offered, only medium, large and extra-large.

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Trek releases new simplified trailbike lineup: Remedy 27.5 and Fuel EX 29


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

Trek Fuel EX in Squamish, British Columbia, June 2016

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:

More travel
-120mm->130mm rear / 130mm front
Slacker geometry
-68˚ headtube->67.7˚ (high) / 67˚ (low) headtube
Longer reach
-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

_MRP0976

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.

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Remedy 27.5

Trek Remedy launch in Squamish, British Columbia. June 2016.

Trek Remedy launch in Squamish, British Columbia. June 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.

More travel
-140mm -> 150mm rear
Slacker geometry
-68 / 67.5˚ headtube -> 66.5˚ / 66˚ headtube
Longer reach
-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….

Gee and Dan Atherton with Remedy in Spain 2016

Gee and Dan Atherton with Remedy in Spain 2016

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

 

Trek Launch in Squamish, BC, Canada, June 2016

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.

Trek Launch in Squamish, BC, Canada, June 2016

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.
Trek Launch in Squamish, BC, Canada, June 2016

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.

 

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New Archi Enduro RR helmet from Urge


Urge is a company that has long focused on the enduro market, and the Archi Enduro RR (Race Ready) helmet was specifically designed for the world’s toughest enduro events and the riders who race them. The design is intended to provide the lightest weight and best ventilation possible for long enduro stages with plenty of uphill pedaling.

Enduro RR helmet

The Archi RR is made from a mix of glass and linen fibers. The layup of the materials is designed to better spread impact shock waves around the helmet so that less is transmitted to the skull.

Ten vents are designed to provide ventilation even at low speeds, and redesigned cheek pads should allow better airflow around the ears. The wide front opening of the helmet was shaped to work with all googles on the market. “Gripping pads” on the sides of the helmet help hold the goggle straps in place.

Urge-Archi-group

  • Weight: 990 grams (2.2 pounds)
  • Sizes: XS (53-54 cm), S (55-56 cm), M (57-58 cm), L (59-60 cm), XL (61-62 cm)
  • Price: $300
  • Available: May 15
  • More info: Urge Archi Enduro RR

 

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The Rant: My Enduro


Illustration: Stephen Haynes

My event would allow only two bikes—any two bikes the racer wanted, but only two, with just tire swaps allowed between stages.

No question, the Enduro World Series is a great racing event. It’s well run, truly global in locations and is attracting some of the fastest riders on two wheels. I “raced” one a few years ago on a borrowed bike with a triple-ring crank and unclutched rear derailleur, and I had a blast doing it.

But you don’t read this column to be regaled with prose about the wonderfulness of things, do you? I don’t want to slag off on the EWS—I’d be glad to race another one anytime—but in reality, it has turned into downhill racing on trail bikes.

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It wasn’t always like this, as Carl Decker said in an interview in Dirt Rag #185: “There was a mix that rewarded cross-country fitness, strong bike handling and descending abilities. Now it’s definitely trending toward the washed-up World Champion downhiller.”

I’m all for a retirement circuit for the former fast guys, because they make for fun racing. But I always thought enduro was supposed to reward riders with a mix of skills, not just the ability to pin it going down.

What really got me thinking about this again was Grinduro (which we detailed in Issue #189), which really isn’t a mountain bike event at all. The key to making it interesting, at least to me, is a nice mix of stages that doesn’t favor any one riding style or bike. Grinduro has four timed sections: road hill-climb, dirt-road descent, rolling pavement and singletrack downhill. Choices like that make it very hard to choose the right bike, and throwing in the ability to draft on the pavement means some peloton skills are needed as well.

After a night watching Red Bull’s Hard Enduro events, having nostalgic thoughts about putting on our own Punk Bike Enduro in the past, debating making a trip to Harrisonburg, Virginia, for the Tour de Burg (whose motto is “All good downhills start with a climb”) and fondly recalling John Tomac racing cross-country and downhill on drop bars, I’m once again reminded that cycling is too damn specialized (not a pun).

I want to celebrate the amazing all-around riders who might never be at the top of their class in any one discipline, but kill it on any kind of bike, in any type of terrain. I’m betting there is enough interest among racers, spectators and manufacturers (as well as sponsors) to have a multi-day, multidiscipline event that truly would find the best bike riders in the world.

I’m thinking World Cup–level downhill course, 100-mile gravel/dirt-road race, multi-lap road crit and a day of enduro-style racing with uphill, downhill and rolling stages. Maybe even toss in BMX and cyclocross stages for good measure.

If it were up to me, my event would allow only two bikes—any two bikes the racer wanted, but only two, with just tire swaps allowed between stages. That would keep things even more interesting and truly would test the allaround performance of modern machines.

I have a lot of ideas in the course of a given day, and most of them just float off into the ether. This one seems to be sticking around, and now there is written proof. Maybe others might feel the same about this idea? I guess this is as good a way as any to find out.

 

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The One-Bike Challenge


Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt 790 MSL BC Edition

How far can a short-travel trail bike take you? From Issue #187

We are at an interesting point in the technological advances in mountain bikes. For years the idea was always more. More travel, more gears, more bigger wheels. But now we’ve started to dial things back: Single ring drivetrains, 27.5 wheels, shorter travel trail bikes, gravity riders dumping full blown downhill racers for 160 mm trail bikes that can climb.

With scenes of “Top Gear”, “Road Kill” and “Junkyard Wars” challenges floating in my head, the One Bike Challenge was conceived. Could a spoiled bike media guy be happy on one bike for three very different big events? Would I have fun? Would I spend the whole time thinking about bikes I’d rather be riding? Would I decide to give up riding for water polo? Let’s see what happens.

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Tester: Eric McKeegan, age: 41, height: 5’11,” weight: 160 lbs, inseam: 32″

The Events

Bikepacking: A self-contained bikepacking trip in Pennsylvania on a mix of pavement, dirt roads and technical singletrack

Endurance: The Wilderness 101, a brutal 100-mile race with 10,000 feet of climbing and rocks everywhere in central Pennsylvania

Gravity: Chomolungma Challenge, a 20-lap downhill race at Snowshoe bike park in West Virginia, totaling 30,000 feet of descending

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 The Bike: Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt 790 MSL BC Edition

Almost all the bikes on the shortlist were in the 120 to 130 mm travel range, and all were 29ers. My logic? Since the bikepacking and endurance segments of this challenge would be where the majority of my saddle time would take place, the larger wheels have been my go to for that type of stuff for over a decade now.  Also, bigger wheels can help make up for shorter travel when things get fast and chunky.

Slowly, each of my initial selections were crossed of the list for various reasons. Some brands were about  introduce an improved model that wouldn’t be ready in time. Some were so popular companies prioritized dealers and consumers over media when bikes were scarce. Some never bothered to return my calls or emails.

So I cast a wider net and started to consider the wide range of 27.5 wheeled bikes. It didn’t take long to hone in on the Thunderbolt in B.C. Edition trim. Strong wheels, Pike fork, adjustable geometry. Rocky Mountian was agreeable to the challenge, and I was in business.

Rocky’s BC Edition moniker refers to hot-rodded versions of existing bikes based on employees’ customization of stock bikes to make them more capable on the famous trails in British Columbia.  The stock Thunderbolt is a capable 120 mm trail bike, and the BC Edition drops in a 130 mm RockShox Pike fork, NoTubes Flow wheelset, 2.4-inch Maxxis Ardent EXO-casing tires, a wider bar/shorter stem and single-ring drivetrain.

Full disclosure: I did swap the wheels out for a set of the new Easton Heist 27.5 wheels, and the RockShox Reverb dropper post for a 9Point8 Fall Line dropper. Since both the stock wheelset and dropper are so well proven, I took the opportunity to test some new products.

Rocky utilizes its Smoothlink suspension design for the Thunderbolt (and all other full-suspension bikes in its lineup). Smoothlink is a four-bar system with the pivot above the rear axle, rather than below in Horst-link style. The Thunderbolt uses a full complement of bushings (not ball-bearings) at all pivots. A new collet system keeps the main pivot tight, and grease ports all-around keep maintenance time at a minimum.

Its Ride-9 System adjusts both geometry and suspension progression. With nine different settings, this is a tinker’s dream or a Luddite’s nightmare. I think most riders will either leave it where the shop sets it or experiment until a favorite setting is found and not touch it again.

The frame is fully carbon, with internal routing for the dropper and derailleur cables, and the rear brake hose is external.

Bikepacking

Since I have hand-pain issues on long days, I swapped out the stock 760 mm bars for some 28-degree Fouriers Trailhead alt-bars and a longer stem. I installed lighter tires and a thicker WTB Vigo saddle, along with bags from Carousel Design Works, Blackburn and Porcelain Rocket to carry my gear. I really wanted to retain the use of my dropper post, so I strapped a Thule Pack ’n Pedal rack to the seatstays, leaving plenty of room for the seat to drop. I set the suspension in the middle setting, figuring the most neutral handling would be the best for bikepacking.

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My trip was a loosely planned route that covered a lot of rarely used logging/fracking roads, rocky hiking trails and plenty of paved back roads. The trip started with a steady four-mile paved climb where I appreciated the firmest Lock setting on the RockShox Monarch RT3 Debonair shock.

The voyage was surprisingly without much fanfare, and this trail bike handled it all with surprising grace. Pedal mode on both the shock and fork helped to control the additional sprung weight added by the camping gear.

I really wasn’t expecting the ride-all-day comfort provided by the Thunderbolt, but it delivered with a combination of efficient pedaling, comfortable geometry and a playful attitude. The ride ended with a descent down that same four-mile climb, and even with bags I was able to relax on the bike; there was no weird shimmy, headshake or wobble from the front end. In fact, I was able to ride no-handed at speeds well over 20 mph, something rare even on dedicated touring rigs.

Endurance

The Wilderness 101 is a very hard race. And I didn’t find the time to do much training. By the time I hit mile 40, I was spent. But even after I was offered a friendly ride back to camp from aid station 3, I decided to continue. I had an article to write, and dropping out was less interesting that sticking to it. I downed handfuls of whatever looked tasty at the aid station and walked up the next hill (and many more after that), but I finished.

I lowered the stem by 10 mm and swapped to a WTB Volt saddle, other than that, my endurance setup was the same as bikepacking, minus the bags. I had cross-country tires to install, but after much frustration, I realized they weren’t tubeless and gave up and reinstalled the sturdy, but slow-rolling combo I used for bikepacking.

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On the many miles of dirt roads, the Thunderbolt was very efficient, although I missed the way 29er wheels roll on the road, particularly when trying to hang on to the back of a paceline. In the rocks the nimble geometry was a blast; the steeper the decent, the happier I was.

This event was where the Thunderbolt felt most at home to me, which isn’t surprising, as the 101 is very much like a typical mountain-bike ride, just longer.

Gravity

I took on the Chomolungma Challenge a few years ago, but that was on a real downhill bike. This was the event I was most worried about. A few bad choices here can mean a few months off the bike.

Due to deadline timing, I wasn’t able to take part in the actual race, but I did my best to reenact the conditions. After a warm up lap on each of the two tracks used for the event on a 160 mm bike, I then dropped in on the Thunderbolt. After a few laps of the Pro downhill track, I think I realized what makes the Thunderbolt such a great bike: It’s up for almost anything, including laps of a real downhill track. Good tires helped with this, and the Schwalbe Muddy Mary and Rock Razor with Super Gravity casings allowed me to attack the rocks with more confidence than I expected for a short travel bike.
RM One Bike-6

After a few laps of the pro downhill track, I realized what makes the Thunderbolt such a great bike: It’s up for almost anything, including laps of a real downhill track. Good tires helped with this, and the Schwalbe Magic Mary and Rock Razor with Super Gravity casings allowed me to attack the rocks with more confidence than I expected for a short-travel bike.

I ran the Ride-9 chip in the slackest setting, never futzed with the suspension setting all day, and was highly impressed with the bottom-out resistance of the rear suspension.

But, unlike riding a true downhill bike, instead of dialing in the lines as the day progressed on the Pro course, I started to get sloppier and sloppier, so I swapped to the other track, which was more jumpy, but still had plenty to keep me on my toes, including a long section of baby heads that I remember as torture by the end of the race. I felt much more in control here, but after stopping for lunch, I realized I wasn’t that interested in just banging out laps to just bang out laps. Instead I hit up some of the trails on the Basin side of the mountain, and finished the day with a handful of trips down the Skyline jump trail. I came up short of a full 20 laps by about five, but I’ll was still having fun when I quit for the day, so I put this down as a success.

Changes and Adjustments

Bikepacking: I’d get a custom frame pack to get some water weight off my back. Even with a good backpack, I was uncomfortable pretty quickly with most of my food and water on my back.

Endurance: I’d be sure I was prepared with better cross-country tires. Something that rolled more quickly would have been a huge boost, even if it was mostly just mental.

Downhill: I’d find more time beforehand to tune the suspension. The Pike, which felt great on the trail, bottomed out regularly in the bike park, which coud be remedied with another Bottomless Token in the air chamber.

One-Bike Challenge Conclusion

Was it a success? Absolutely. I had a lot of fun at these events, although my idea of fun might be on the masochistic side of things for some riders. But all that aside, I was highly impressed with what this bike could do, and expect with more time and more tuning it could be even better. While having a quiver of bikes is always going to be more fun for most people, a single mountain bike these days is a hell of a tool for a variety of riding.

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Thunderbolt Final Thoughts

At its core, this is a simple bike. Short travel, subdued graphics and a parts spec that is more about getting the job done than impressing your buddies at the trailhead. But dig deeper and this is one of the most versatile bikes on the market today. While setting up adjustable geometry and suspension settings can be tedious, a rider looking for specific handling characteristics, or one that falls outside the standard weight range can find a happy place here.

To me, this is almost perfect trail-bike geometry: A short rear end, longer front-center and a low-ish bottom bracket combined with a slack head angle are the key ingredients to a bike that can carve and pop and rumble. This is one of my favorite-handling bikes, ever. I love long rides on unfamiliar terrain, and that might be where this one is most at home: efficient enough to ride all day, but with enough handling in reserve to save a few bad line choices on some unexpected chutes.

What complaints I can muster are few. The rear suspension wasn’t the most plush on square-edged hits, but this is only a 120 mm rear end. The air valve is difficult reach with most shock pumps when in the slackest setting, making suspension tuning tedious. No ISCG tabs means no chainguide. On the positive front, this frame fully supports a front derailleur, the internal routing is dialed, and those grease ports on the pivots are awesome.

This review is the hardest test we’ve ever put a bike through, testing its abilities at the edges and even past its intended purposes. The Thunderbolt was part steady friend, part happy puppy and part secret lover. Whether you are after your own “one bike” or just one of the most fun and versatile trail bikes on the market, the Thunderbolt BC Edition is often just the right amount of bike for the job.

  • Price: $6,400
  • Sizes: XS, S, M, L (tested), XL
  • More info: bikes.com
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Video: The story of race plate 139


This episode of “On Track With by Curtis Keene” deals with the passion and the risks involved with racing mountain bikes. It is dedicated to Will Olson—who ran race plate number 139 at stop #5 of the Enduro World Series in Crested Butte, Colorado and who unexpectedly passed away on August 1, 2015 while racing. The athletes, the event organizing committee, the volunteers, and the spectators went Colorado with excitement but left Crested Butte with heavy hearts.

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Inside Line: Continental releases new Baron Projekt enduro tire


Continental showed this tire last year at Eurobike, but it seems it is finally ready for production. We’ve been a fan of Conti’s Black Chili rubber compound, but have been noticing the casing and tread widths of its tire line aren’t matching up as well as we’d like with modern wider internal rim widths. The new Baron Projekt should change that. This is the only image supplied by Conti:

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The “Baron 2.4 Projekt” is an extremely grippy, agile and universal enduro race tire with high durability and puncture resistance. During the development period, Continental’s tire engineers optimized the tire tread as well as the size and the structure of the carcass. Its deep-tread, relatively exposed profile is the modification of the BlackChili compound, which has been adjusted to match the needs of enduro and freeride tracks, ensures reliable grip while not comprising the low rolling resistance, even on mud or lose ground. The 2.4″ carcass combines good rolling characteristics with inherent damping without gaining weight. An additional protection layer is incorporated around the entire carcass to reduce risks of punctures. The stable Apex inlay at the lower part of the carcass prevents it from collapsing in fast corners and helps protect the sides from slicing on sharp features in rocky or rooty sections.

I’m extremely interested in getting on a set of these as we enter the wet and slippy seasons. No prices or wheelsize info yet, we’ll update after we get in touch with Continental.

 

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Inside Line: Lazer Revolution enduro helmet


With the capabilities of modern trail bikes increasing every year, it makes sense to up the level of protection for the rider. This new helmet from Lazer allows the rider to choose just how much coverage is wanted or needed.

This isn’t an entirely new concept (see Bell’s excellent Super 2R), but the Revolution adds a few more features.

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As shown in the picture above, the ear pads are removable, in addition to an optional bolt-on chinbar. The top of the helmet has what Lazer calls SMS: “The SMS (Safety Mounting System) for cameras and other accessories has been fully crash tested to assure that Revolution still passes all safety certifications when these items are attached and in use.” Lazer claims this is the only helmets to pass all the safety tests with accessories mounted.

The rest of the features are as expected: a visor that pushes up enough to park goggles below, a dial-adjust retention system and lots of vents. Lazer expects this helmet to pass ASTM-DH certification, which is not common for helmets with removable chinbars. Price is not announced yet, helmets should go on sale in early 2016.

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Trail Tested: Bontrager Rhythm Trail Shoes


By William Kirk

These Bontrager Rhythm shoes could easily hide on the shelf at your LBS under the guise of a standard light-duty cross country shoe. However, if you dig deeper you’ll find features with an obvious gravity influence. About the intended usage of the$160 Rhythm shoes, Bontrager says “A little bit of all-purpose. Trail. Tech Trail. Enduro.” To me, it sounds like Bontrager managed created another mountain bike shoe, right?

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The side panels and toe box of the Rhythms are armored with plastic to protect your feet from trail debris and impacts. The ratcheting buckle on the top of the shoe offers micro adjustments to fine tune the fit as the day gets long. To keep you upright during hike a bike sections, Bontrager constructed the Rhythm with a Tachyon rubber outsole for better grip. While the Rhythms have features to protect your feet, they also offer generous venting on the top of the shoe to keep your feet cool in the warm weather.

When I first put the Rhythm’s on my feet, I was struck by how snug they fit. My feet tend to run slightly wider than average, so I was delighted to find the adjustment screw that fine tunes where the ratchet engages the buckle system, which made it simple to get the fit where I needed it.

On the trail the Rhythm’s offered a stiff platform for pedaling efficiency and provided the feel of an XC race oriented shoe. Off the bike, the soles were excellent at providing traction on all kinds of wet and dry surfaces. The micro adjust ratchet strap was used regularly on longer rides to adjust the fit for swelling feet or after creek crossing and wet socks. I tested the Rhythm’s on both standard and trail-style clipless pedals, and both pedal configurations engaged and disengaged without issue.

The Bontrager’s were used as my primary shoes for an entire summer of riding. The first pair of shoes I received had a pre-production ratchet strap which lost its bite within a month or so. Bontrager updated the shoe to include the new strap, and I am happy to report it works fantastically. The shoes have worn very well, I don’t see any reason you can’t get more than a few season out of the Rhythm’s.

As a rider who often switches between clips and flats, I long for the efficiency of reasonable pedaling platform but still demand trail feel. This is where the Bontragers may have fall short. The Rhythms have a very XC feel to them, but it seems this shoe is aimed at a wider audience that would be happy to sacrifice some stiffness for more trail feel and more comfort off the bike. If you are looking for an efficient pedaling shoe that offers more protection and versatility than your carbon soled XC race slipper, you want to check these out.

 

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Trail Tested: Kona Process 111 DL


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The Process 111 is the shortest of travel and biggest of wheel in Kona’s lineup of enduro bikes. Focusing on a slight 111mm of rear suspension and 29-inch wheels, it’s easy to wonder how an XC bike ended up with the longer-travel 27.5 offerings, which includes the Process 134 and 153. But, taken as a whole, the 111 may be one of the most curious trail bikes on the market today.

Kona ships all Processes with stubby 40mm stems. While these short stems are the most noticeable feature, they’re just one facet of the overall geometry package, which includes short chainstays, a low bottom bracket, a long top tube, a slackish head angle, and a whole lot of standover clearance. One of the compromises that needed to be made for that low bottom bracket (13.1 inches) and the short stays (16.9 inches) was eliminating the front derailleur to make room for the suspension bits and the tire. This also makes space low on the frame for the suspension, dropping the bike’s center of gravity and allowing for 28 inches of standover height.

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With a full SRAM XX1 kit, I didn’t miss the front derailleur, and the rest of the build was well suited to rough use. The wheelset is low key, with NoTubes ZTR Flow EX rims laced to Hope Pro 2 hubs, and there’s a KS LEV Integra dropper and 785mm Race Face Atlas bars. RockShox holds up both ends with a Revelation RCT3 120mm fork and Monarch RT3 rear shock, and brakes are a problem-free setup of SRAM X0 trail with 180/160mm rotors.

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Looking at the stem and geometry, I expected this to be a bike that takes a good bit of time to get used to, but I was mistaken. Other than a swap to narrower 740mm bars, I felt at home from ride one.

The big wheels and short travel don’t feel too far away from a cross- country race setup, and with the bars set low, this machine can cover some serious ground and crush climbs. But drop the seat and that XC feeling goes away to reveal a precision trail assassin. The long top tube (25 inches on a large frame) and short stem place the rider farther back over the rear of the bike, and the short rear end keeps things playful even with a 46.2-inch wheelbase. The 68-degree head angle is not terribly slack, keeping steering responsive for such a stable bike.

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Kona’s no-nonsense Rocker Independent Suspension is a variation of the linkage-driven single-pivot shock design that has graced its bikes for more than a decade. The leverage rate is designed to match up well with modern air shocks, creating consistent feel throughout the travel. This should help riders become used to how the suspension will react, with no odd spikes, ramps, or hammock-y feel anywhere in the travel.

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To be honest, with such short travel it was hard to really feel much of that going on, but I was very satisfied with the performance. Hard to bottom out, not too much bob, easy-to-access platform lever—I could just set it to the least amount of platform and ride it all day. It was nice, but not necessary, to have the option to lock it out for road sections and open it up fully for long descents.

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The aluminum frame looks big and burly, and looks do not deceive. This is a stiff frame—stiff enough to make the 32mm stanchioned fork feel a little overwhelmed at times—but in some ways that was part of the fun. I always felt obliged to take the big line, go harder and deeper into the next turn, and generally felt the bike had my back in finding the limits of aggressive riding.

That stiffness also pays off when climbing. The 29er wheels, efficient- feeling rear end, and somewhat aggressive seat-to-bar drop allowed me to tackle steep, tech climbs better than expected for a bike with such a short stem. Some adjustment to body positioning was needed to keep the rear tire biting and the front wheel down, but it was much more minor than I expected and better than many of the longer-travel 27.5 bikes I’ve been riding. The rear end stayed active enough to provide plenty of traction for climbing.

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For such non-standard geometry, the Process had no issues just tooling around in the woods. I had to remind myself to keep some weight on the front end, but other than that, it was almost brainless to ride around at lower speeds. But crank up the pace on a rough descent and the Process comes alive.

The short travel and stiff frame provided great feedback, and the responsive geometry allowed me to steer my way to the best line or just pick the whole shebang up and drop it back down where needed. The short stays and short stem make the front end easy to get up, which is really never a bad thing. And in the lower-speed rock gardens that are common around Pennsylvania, the shorter travel is a huge plus, as the bike doesn’t wallow around in the travel and I was able to pick my way up, over, and through.

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The only drawback I see here is the weight. Even with the high-end parts kit, the Process weighs almost as much as many longer-travel bikes. The weight didn’t really bother me, but it is going to take some money to make this thing any lighter.

All in all, the Process is a hell of an interesting bike for the right rider. When compared to the standard-issue modern trail and all-mountain bikes, the Process 111 might seem under gunned. But riders with an open mind will look past the travel and see that this is a bike capable of competing with bikes with longer travel while leaving them behind on less-technical sections of trail.

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Introducing the new Juliana-SRAM women’s mountain bike team


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From left to right: Sarah Leishman, Kelli Emmett and Anka Martin make up the new Juliana-SRAM pro women’s team.

Photos by Gary Perkin and David Smith.

Juliana Bicycles has announced the launch of the new Juliana-SRAM Professional Mountain Bike Team. Anka Martin (RSA) is joined by Kelli Emmett (USA) and Sarah Leishman (CAN) to complete a trio of female athletes who will be racing the Enduro World Series and select international events in 2015.

A gravity racer and mountain bike adventurer for over 13 years, Martin has been with Juliana since the brand launched in May, 2013. Emmett brings another 16 years of race experience to the team, beginning her career as a cross-country racer and successfully transitioning to the new breed of enduro events. Leishman completes the roster with downhill and enduro skills honed in the mountains of Whistler over the past six years.

SCB December 2014, Juliana Bicycles

“It’s incredible to see how excited and motivated our partners are to support a women’s cycling team,” says Juli Furtado, founder of Juliana Bicycles. “Anka, Kelli, and Sarah are going to do us all proud at the Enduro World Series and look set to have a great time doing it… I’m quite envious that nothing like this existed in my day, to be honest!”

SCB December 2014, Juliana Bicycles

Furtado, known as “The Queen of the Mountain” during her race career, is also arguably the “Godmother of Enduro,” having raced both downhill and cross-country in the 1990s and claiming World Championship titles in both disciplines. With the launch of the Juliana-SRAM Pro Team, Furtado’s racing legacy continues.

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The Juliana-SRAM Pro Team is possible thanks to the support of Juliana Bicycles, SRAM, Giro, Lululemon Athletica, RockShox, Evoc, and Chris King.

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Scott Enduro Cup announces 2015 dates


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The Scott Enduro Cup presented by Vittoria has announced three competition stops for the 2015 season: Moab, Utah (May 9), Sun Valley, Idaho (June 27-28) and Canyons Resort, Park City, Utah (July 18).

Each location provides a challenging and unique mountain bike race experience for both men and women professional, amateur and junior athletes. Enduro Cup has also announced Vittoria, the world’s leading manufacturer of bicycle tires, as the Scott Enduro Cup’s new presenting sponsor.

Each race location showcases spectacular views and requires riders to have the endurance to sustain energy while pedaling on the non-­timed transfer stages while upholding impeccable skill to charge full­throttle down the timed descents.

The Moab stop will feature long red rock stages.

Next, Enduro Cup will travel to Sun Valley, Idaho, as the flagship race of the Ride Sun Valley Bike Festival (June 25­-28), which is complemented by several days of cycling entertainment for the entire family.

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Finally, the series will return to the birthplace of Enduro in Utah, Canyons Resort, which always features a stacked pro ­field and enthusiastic crowd. Read our dispatch from the 2014 Scott Enduro Cup at Canyons here.

The Scott Enduro Cup presented by Vittoria is dedicated to the progression of enduro mountain biking. Every event will showcase athletes, brands, and trails, which will provide an authentic and robust experience for athletes and spectators. The addition of Vittoria as an event partner will complement the existing relationships with Scott Sports and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. to assist the production of a premium quality race series. Registration will be open at a later date. For more information, visit endurocupmtb.com or follow the series on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and #EnduroCupMTB.

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California Enduro Series announces 2015 schedule


Photo by Bogdan Marian

Photo by Bogdan Marian

The California Enduro Series (CES) is pleased to announce the 2015 race schedule and promises another great year of enduro racing. In its third year, CES proves its commitment to growing this popular cycling sport by expanding its schedule to include additional fun and challenging venues, offering more race categories, and maintaining equal pro payout to both men and women for series overall top placement.

For 2015, the series is expanding to seven rounds, welcoming back popular venues from last year and adding two new events: the Wild Wood Adventure Enduro on the Mendocino coast and the Ashland Mountain Challenge. Additionally, 2015 will introduce the first multi-day enduros—with both Wild Wood and Northstar leading the way with back-to-back exciting days of racing.

CES continues to prove its commitment to supporting female riders by again offering equal pro purses for both women and men for the series top finishers. In addition to an expanded schedule, CES is also increasing the selection of race categories. Additional age groups have been included in the Men’s Sport and Expert classes, and the Junior Boys category has been split into Sport and Expert classes.

With the expansion to seven events, the 2015 series points will be based on the top five results of the seven races.

2015 Event Schedule

  • May 9: Battle Born Enduro on Peavine Mountain in the Reno/Tahoe area, to benefit The Poedunks
  • June 13-14: Wild Wood Adventure Enduro on the Mendocino coast in Caspar, presented by Mendocino Bike Sprite
  • June 27-28: VP EnduroFest at China Peak Mountain Resort in Lakeshore, presented by VP Components
  • July 11-12: Ashland Mountain Challenge at Lithia Park in Ashland, presented by Ashland Mountain Adventures
  • TBD: Santa Cruz Super Enduro at Soquel Demonstration State Forest in the Santa Cruz Mountains, presented by Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz
  • Aug 29-30: Northstar Enduro at Northstar California Resort in Truckee
  • Sept 24-27: Kamikaze Bike Games Enduro at Mammoth Mountain in Mammoth Lakes
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Long-term Review: Santa Cruz Nomad


Santa Cruz Nomad Action—WEB (1 of 1)

Photos by Justin Steiner and Emily Walley

We’ve arrived at version 3.0 of the venerable Nomad, a bike that’s pushed the boundaries of pedal-friendly long-travel bikes from its inception. It comes as no surprise to see this new Nomad further redefining the capability and versatility of the all-mountain category, this time with 27.5-inch wheels.

Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of this new Nomad (Miami Vice paint job aside) is the radically progressive geometry: 65-degree head tube angle, 74.2-degree seat tube angle, 13.4-inch bottom-bracket height, 17.1-inch chainstays, and a 46.1-inch wheelbase.

Santa Cruz Nomad (2015) First Impression—WEB (6 of 27)

The new bike is substantially slacker, lower, and shorter in rear center, yet longer in wheelbase. Naturally, these changes point to improved down-hill prowess, but that’s only part of the story. Santa Cruz also revamped the pedaling position by steepening the seat-tube angle while maintaining top-tube length. This change places the rider up over the bottom bracket for an efficient pedaling position, increases reach to provide a roomy cockpit, and increases front-center length for stability.

Santa Cruz Nomad (2015) First Impression—WEB (20 of 27)

This new carbon frame is gorgeously executed with clean lines and a purposeful aesthetic. Everything from the new, recessed lower link to the genius internal cable routing is an inspiring blend of form and function. Two thin, carbon fiber tubes are molded inside the down tube, so the rear shift cable and dropper-post line can simply slide right through the tube. The rear brake line is run externally so you don’t have to bleed your brakes when installing or removing. Other neat touches include an ultra-short seat tube to accommodate 150mm-travel dropper posts and built-in down tube and chainstay protection. It’s worth noting this bike has no accommodation for a front derailleur.

Santa Cruz Nomad (2015) First Impression—WEB (12 of 27)

The new Nomad’s suspension has been tuned to ride higher in its travel and provide more mid-stroke support. Some folks criticized the old Nomad for often using too much mid-stroke travel. The new bike does indeed ride higher in its travel and feels very well supported. While the RockShox Monarch Plus DebonAir does an admirable job of providing small-bump sensitivity, I wouldn’t necessarily call the Nomad plush. “Composed” and “responsive” are better descriptions of the suspension feel.

Santa Cruz Nomad (2015) First Impression—WEB (10 of 27)

Under pedaling, there’s very little suspension movement, even with compression damping on the minimum of its three settings. Both additional settings add firmness without harshness, making them very useful on smoother terrain or during high-intensity pedaling sessions. Santa Cruz’s tuning choices are spot on for the Nomad’s new personality.

Up front, the Nomad is designed for 160 to 170mm forks. RockShox’s awesome 160mm Pike is the base option, or you can upgrade to the new 160mm Fox 36 for an additional $140. Both forks feel great on the Nomad, with the Pike being a little more plush on small bumps and the 36 delivering more damping for hard-charging applications, even tuned on the plush end of the spectrum.

Santa Cruz Nomad (2015) First Impression—WEB (8 of 27)

In addition to the SRAM X01 kit on my test bike, an X1 kit is available for a build price of $5,899, as well as the high-end XX1 kit for $8,299. Buyers also have the option to upgrade to the RockShox Vivid Air R2C for an additional $230.

In my brief ride aboard the Vivid Air at the press launch, it was notice- ably plusher on small bumps and gave the Nomad more of a DH-bike feel without much downside in terms of pedaling performance. It’s an upgrade worth considering if your Nomad will spend significant time pointed downhill, particularly for long runs where the Vivid Air’s increased oil volume will better dissipate heat.

The last and most grand upgrade is the $2,000 Enve carbon wheel option. Clearly your wallet will dictate whether or not that’s an option for you. We ordered our Nomad with the stock WTB Frequency i23 rims and DT Swiss 350 hubs, but currently have a pair of Enve M70 rims with DT Swiss 240 hubs to test the value of the upgrade. Look for the review in an upcom- ing issue, but I’ll give you the facts now. Total weight savings: 197 grams.

Santa Cruz Nomad (2015) First Impression—WEB (26 of 27)

X01 and XX1 kits ship with Santa Cruz’s newly launched Carbon 800 handlebar, featuring 800mm width, 20mm rise, 9 degrees of sweep, and a 35mm clamp diameter in a 200-gram package. It’s a nice-looking bar with good sweep and plenty of stiffness.

Santa Cruz Nomad (2015) First Impression—WEB (17 of 27)

Hop on the new Nomad and one of the first things you’ll notice is the neutral riding position. No longer do you feel behind the pedals and over the rear wheel. As confidence inspiring as that position can feel downhill, it doesn’t help forward propulsion. On this bike you feel centered, ready to attack both climbs and descents.

Turn the pedals uphill and you might think you’re on a Bronson. I’m blown away by how well this bike pedals. Seated, you see very little motion in the rear shock, and only a touch more standing. It’s definitely one of the best-pedaling bikes I’ve ridden in this class.

True to form, the Nomad really shines when pointed downhill. The long front center, slack head tube, and low bottom bracket provide a ton of confidence at high speeds and on steep terrain. The faster and steeper, the better; this bike eats it up. That low bottom bracket and the awesome High Roller II tires make the Nomad incredibly confident while cornering; crank it over and rail.

Santa Cruz Nomad Action2—WEB (1 of 1)

The well-damped chassis is very predictable and forgiving. The Monarch Plus handles big hits without breaking a sweat. I can’t say I consciously felt the bike bottom out once throughout the test, which is rare for me. The end of the stroke ramps up pretty quickly to bottom out, leaving the feeling there’s always a little left in reserve if you do something stupid.

Downsides? Just two I’ve found, and they’re caveats at worst. One, the bottom bracket is low. If you bash your pedals a lot or hate pedal strikes, this bike is not for you. However, if you simply time things so you don’t smash into rocks and roots, it’s a non-issue. And two, in very high-load situations such as g-outs where you might have the bike leaned over just a touch, I perceived just a hint of flex. This is, after all, a frame the weight of a Bronson but with geometry that encourages you to ride it much harder.

From my very first shuttle run at the Nomad press launch to my first trail ride on familiar stomping grounds, it was clear I was going to like this bike a great deal. The Nomad offers an insanely potent combination of descend- ing confidence and capability with incredible pedaling efficiency at a weight that’s hard to argue against. Put it this way: The Nomad pedals nearly as well as the Bronson, but is in a league of its own when the trail points downhill.

For those coming from the gravity realm, the Nomad offers Bronson-like efficiency in a mini-DH package. It might just be the perfect all-around bike for someone who spends a lot of time on a downhill bike. For riders from the XC/trail spectrum, the Nomad offers incredible descending confidence in a versatile package. Its ability to comfortably and efficiently tackle all-day trail rides one day and rally the bike park the next is largely unmatched. It’s a hell of a bike. Only question left for me: Aqua/Magenta or Stealth Black?

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This review originally appeared in Dirt Rag Issue #180. To make sure you never miss a product review, order a subscription and help support your favorite mag.

 

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Jared Graves and Tracy Moseley are Enduro World Champions 2014


Courtesy of Enduro World Series. Photos by Matt Wragg.

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The Enduro World Series 2014 has created many stories in the last seven rounds – but none quite as compelling as Finale Ligure this weekend.

Not only did the Enduro World Series crown new World Champions but we saw one of the most impressive comebacks cycling has ever seen. Finale 2014 will go down in the history books for all the right reasons.

Beside the beach in the Italian Riviera, Jared Graves (Yeti/Fox Shox) and Tracy Moseley (Trek Factory Enduro Race Team) were named the 2014 Enduro World Champions.

It was a fitting culmination of seven rounds, six countries and 14 days of incredible racing that drew to a close this weekend. What’s even more incredible is that in the women’s race the championship was decided on the very last stage of the season.


Tracy Moseley on stage four. EWS 7 2014, Finale Ligure. Photo by Matt Wragg

Pro Women

Tracy Moseley, above, started the race just 80 points ahead of Anne Caroline Chausson (Ibis), meaning she had to place at least second to win the overall series. But with Anne winning every stage of the race, and Cecile Ravanel (GT Pulse Session) a very close third, it all came down to stage six. Anne won the stage convincingly, but at the end of the day Tracy held on to second, securing Moseley’s status as World Champion for a second year.

“After a year of hard work for it to come down to essentially the last stage of the last race meant there was a lot of pressure and your mind plays games,” Moseley said. “Last year it was a bit of a surprise to win the inaugural series, but in a way this year has actually been more satisfying as I’ve battled with Anne all year and had to raise my game every weekend.”


 

Jared Graves on stage five. EWS 7 2014, Finale Ligure. Photo by Matt Wragg

Pro Men

The men’s race was different altogether – Jared Graves’ consistency throughout the year meant the championship was his to lose. Any finish in the top 23 guaranteed he’d leave Finale the best in the world. And that’s exactly what he did. He may have come second in this race but he will start next season with the number one plate on his bike.

“This year I’ve had good and bad days and we’ve had such a variety of trails and terrain – it’s been a true test,” Graves said. “World Champion is a pretty huge honor and I couldn’t be happier right now.”

The top three in the series was rounded out by Damien Oton (Devinci/Alltricks.com) and Justin Leov (Trek Factory Enduro Race Team). Oton has had an amazing season, including winning round four in La Thuile. Leov has been consistent all season and was second at round two in Scotland earlier this year.


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Barel returns

The winner of the race came as a shock – even to the man himself – Fabien Barel (Canyon Factory Enduro). After breaking his back in Chile at round one only five months ago, Finale marked Fabien’s return to racing and what a stunning return it was. He won the race by over eight seconds.

“Just coming back to racing was a victory for me today and when I saw I was in the lead I couldn’t believe it,” Barel said. “It’s just amazing – the emotion is hard to explain but I put all my passion and all my heart into this weekend. I’ve been back on the bike for three weeks now and I thought if I can make a top 20 that would be great – winning is just something that is unreal for me.”


 

Juniors

In the junior race Sebastian Claquet has had an incredible season and it finished with him crowned Junior Enduro World Champion on the stage in Finale. Robin Matot (Yeti Belgium Urge BP) has also ridden well all year to take second in the overall, with Conor Lavelle of Ireland in third. In the Masters Primoz Strancar (Orbea Geax MTB Team) dominated all series to take the title of Masters World Champion, with Mika Kangas and Emmanuel Abate in second and third.


 

Team competition

With the two times World Champion Moseley amongst their riders, it’s little wonder Trek Factory Enduro Race Team lifted the series trophy in the team competition. With an incredibly consistent season and a young team Rocky Mountain Urge BP took second, whilst Jared Graves’ own Yeti/Fox Shox team finished a well deserved third place.

Enrico Guala, of Superenduro and Enduro World Series said: “I started to work in Finale in 1994 and 20 years later I’ve lived one of most intense and emotional weekends since I started riding.

“The integration of the city, locals, bike community, different organisers, riders and industry created an emotional intensity that I’ve never experienced before. Fabien was the peak of this feeling that was shared by all the people that joined us in Finale.”


 

Keep reading

Full results, photo galleries and the Dirt TV highlights films are available now at enduroworldseries.com.

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Enduro World Series enters final round in Italy


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Defending World Champion Jerome Clementz at Finale in 2013. Who will succeed him as champion? 

Courtesy of the Enduro World Series

The Enduro World Series will crown its new world champions this weekend – and all that stands between the riders and glory is the incredible trails of Finale Ligure, Italy.

The Italian Riviera resort is one of the most popular and iconic riding destinations in Europe – but anyone who thinks they know what to expect from this weekend’s course is mistaken – four of the six stages are on brand new trails created especially for the race.

Event organizers Superenduro have managed to not only build new trails, but also breathe new life back into two classics that haven’t been raced in years. The result is nearly 60 miles of fresh trails, descents totaling more than 7,500 feet and liaisons that are entirely pedal powered with no uplift. Through beech forests, limestone, thick vegetation and loose rock, riders will encounter a huge variety of terrain as they make their way down to the warm waters of the Mediterranean.

And although the 500 riders taking part will be following routes first carved out by their ancestors in 3000 BC, their thoughts will very much be focused on the race in hand as they look to make their mark on the last round of the season.

In the men’s race Jared Graves (Yeti/Fox Shox Factory Team) has a comfortable lead in the overall – he only needs to finish in the top 23 to secure the World Champion Title. But all it takes is one mechanical or mistake, and his nearest rivals Damien Oton (Devinci/Alltricks.com) and Justin Leov (Trek Factory Racing Enduro Team) could still steal the victory from him. Also in the mix this weekend are Fabien Barel (Canyon Factory Enduro Team) and reigning World Champion Jerome Clementz, pictured above, (Cannondale OverMountain), both of whom have missed the last five rounds due to injury.

As with every race this year, the points battle between Anne Caroline Chausson (Ibis) and Tracy Moseley (Trek Factory Racing Enduro Team) in the women’s competition rages on. Tracy sits ahead of Anne by a mere 80 points – a win from either lady this weekend would hand them the overall title. But Cecile Ravanel (GT Pulse Session) will be feeling strong after winning the last round in Whistler, and is still very much in contention for the overall. Anneke Beerten (Specialized Racing Team) has also enjoyed some podium time this year and will be hungry to finish her season back up there.

In the junior race it’s Sebastien Claquet (Giant France) who’s out in front, with Robin Matot (Yeti Belgium – Urge bp) just 100 points behind in second and Ireland’s Conor Lavelle (Team Biking.ie) in third. In the Master’s Primoz Strancar (Orbea Geax MTB Team) is way out in front and has the title in the bag, but the race for second and third place is tight with just 30 points separating Mika Kangas (Kampin Kanuunat) and Emmanuel Abate (Cercle Des Passionnes).

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