Dirt Rag Magazine

First Ride: Salsa Woodsmoke 27plus


TEST Salsa Woodsmoke-5

Ed note: This is part of our initial bike test of three new hardtails introduced at QBP Saddle Drive 2016, each shod with 27plus tires: the aluminum Salsa Timberjack, carbon Salsa Woodsmoke and steel Surly Karate Monkey. Despite their obvious differences, we will draw some comparisons and distinctions among the three, so make sure to check out the other first ride reviews as we publish them.

OK, we know most of you think it’s ugly. You told us all over social media. We also know that elevated chainstays are not a new design, which you also rightly pointed out. But here it is, Salsa’s new carbon hardtail, the Woodsmoke, and it is sporting elevated chainstays in order to get them as short as possible while being able to squeeze in a 29plus tire. On the 27plus bike I tested, you’re looking at a chainstay length of 400-417 mm. (More specifics below.)

That funky rear end also means no chain slap and the ability to run a belt drive. Even though you can’t see it, there is indeed a hidden front derailleur mount (those two holes between the chainstay bend and chain in the below image). The large frame triangle leaves plenty of space for a frame bag—way more than I’m used to on the size small bikes I always ride.

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Once, when you said “carbon hardtail,” the assumption was automatically that you were speaking about an XC race bike. That is not what this is, although the Woodsmoke can run a rigid or 100 mm fork. It’s also not just a trail bike, even though you can spec a 140 mm fork and big meats, should you so choose. It’s actually all of those things.

On the XC bike side, the Woodsmoke climbs remarkably well for having such a short rear. Part of that is its carbon frame; part of that is the grip of the tires. The 67.9-degree headtube angle is by no means traditional (and is different than the Trek Stache 29plus at 68.4 degrees) but was more manageable on climbs than I expected.

But the Woodsmoke leans more heavily on the trail bike side of its split personality. The 27plus Woodsmoke I pedaled comes with a SRAM GX1 build and a RockShox Yari RC Solo Air 130 mm fork. My Saddle Drive test route on the slopes of Northstar at Tahoe went like this: climb up a long, dirt service road; rip around on some rolling, rooty cross-country singletrack; descend on rocky, dusty, intermediate DH trails.

TEST Salsa Woodsmoke-2

The bike was simply fast—too fast, sometimes. I got airborne more than once when I didn’t intend to. You can run out of suspension and control in a hurry because this thing just rips for a hardtail. It’s much quicker to get up to speed, and holds on to that speed much tighter, than either the Karate Monkey or the Salsa Timberjack.

The slacker geometry means it’s extremely exuberant and, if you ride it right, that geometry allows you to stay in control through some nuts situations. Let’s call the Woodsmoke good ‘ol jazz hands. Get out there and dance with reckless abandon, my friends.

The bike can accept 29plus, 29 or 27plus setups, made possible by Salsa’s Alternator 2.0 Dropouts (which also makes singlespeed setup simple). Since I wasn’t able to ride anything other than the 27plus, I present you with Salsa’s stated intent for each tire size:

  • 29plus creates monumental rollover, traction and momentum
  • 27.5plus delivers quick, punchy grip and increased line choice
  • 29er boosts traditional cross-country and climbing speed

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So who is this bike for? Almost anyone, it seems. Well, anyone with a good bit of spare cash. All this fun doesn’t come cheap, which is the bane of carbon. I am sort-of lukewarm on how carbon mountain bikes ride, to be honest. They make plasticky noises and can creak and rattle unnervingly. That said, the Woodsmoke benefits greatly from its carbon frame because it keeps the weight down when you’re building it up with a bigger fork, bigger wheels and bigger tires.

Depending on the build you choose, this bike will cost you either $,2000, $3,000 or $4,000. Add to that any extras you might want to occasionally alter the personality of the Woodsmoke and you’re well into the pricing territory of very good full-suspension bikes. My test bike desperately needed a dropper seatpost and grippier tires, for example. With those two things, it would have become a truly badass trail bike.

And that’s the thing. It used to be that if you wanted a really fun, playful, whippy bike, you almost certainly needed a full-suspension rig (or, a dirt jumper, I suppose) because that’s what was being built with this kind of slacker, more downhill-oriented geometry. If your trails aren’t super tech-gnar-chunk all day, every day, but you still want to flick and pop and juke and jive while you ride, this kind of bike should shoot to the top of your wish list.

TEST Salsa Woodsmoke-7

You now have endless options and, with this bike, options within your option. This “trend” of longer-travel, short-rear hardtails is gaining steam on the heels of early attempts by companies like Kona and Surly, and I wholeheartedly endorse it.

As I said before, it’s worth noting that plus bikes do ride differently than your standard 2.2-2.4 tire—you can’t straight compare all hardtails. You will feel a bit of sag if you run low pressures on long climbs (kind of like a rear shock in trail mode rather than climb or lockout). The tires can bounce if you don’t get the pressure right. The noise those big meats make can sound like you actually have a flat because so much more rubber is contacting the dirt and gravel than you’re used to. You have to learn to block that out of you mind.

But all that contact equals grip equals fun times. That’s the deal with these 3-inch tires: confidence. They float over more chunk than you imagine is possible and they will claw you up and over all kinds of trail crud.

TEST Salsa Woodsmoke-1

Woodsmoke 27plus geometry

For full geometry and build details across the line, visit Salsa’s website.

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First Ride: Salsa Timberjack 27plus


TEST Salsa Timberjack-11

Ed note: This is part of our initial bike test of three new hardtails introduced at QBP Saddle Drive 2016, each shod with 27plus tires: the aluminum Salsa Timberjack, carbon Salsa Woodsmoke and steel Surly Karate Monkey. Despite their obvious differences, we will draw some comparisons and distinctions among the three, so make sure to check out the other first ride reviews as we publish them.

The Timberjack arrives on the heels of the demise of the steel El Mariachi, a longtime singletrack-and-bikepack staple of the Salsa lineup. This new bike follows most current hardtail trends of more than 100 mm of travel, short chainstays and plus-size tires. By building the bike out of aluminum, Salsa created a machine friendlier on the wallet, lighter weight and perhaps less intimidating for a newer mountain biker/bikepacker to approach in their local bike shop (Salsa will also be sold by REI very soon).

TEST Salsa Timberjack-3

Personally, I don’t fancy the way most aluminum bikes ride or look, especially hardtail mountain bikes. Despite being the youngest person on Dirt Rag’s staff, I am the resident steel-loving retrogrouch.

That said, it is hard to argue with what you can get for $1,400 (the test bike I rode): 120 mm of RockShox Recon SL suspension, 27.5×3.0 Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires, tubeless-ready Whisky (in-house QBP brand) rims, trail bike mannerisms, internal cable routing and a 30.9 seatpost size for greater compatibility with droppers (which also can be internally routed).

At that price point, and after a couple of hours romping in the woods together, I can’t think of a single bad thing to realistically say about the Timberjack.

TEST Salsa Timberjack-5

My Saddle Drive test route on the slopes of Northstar at Tahoe went like this: climb up a long, dirt service road; rip around on some rolling, rooty cross-country singletrack; descend on rocky, dusty, intermediate DH trails.

My bike was set up with a wildly short stem (40 mm, I think) and tubeless tires (necessary). Despite the short, 420 mm-long chainstays on my size small, the Timberjack motored up that service road without complaint. It’s a little sluggish when you stand to hammer out of the saddle but if you are, like me, a sit-and-grind climber, the tire grip should please you.

The top tube is on the long side, helping to facilitate that short cockpit, so riders with short torsos might have a little trouble getting situated. It also meant I had a bit of a harder time getting my butt back behind the saddle on some of the gnarlier descents. I would absolutely add a dropper to this bike if it were to be ridden on steeps.

TEST Salsa Timberjack-2

On the singletrack, the Timberjack was playful, confident, held its momentum decently well and generally rode a lot like its carbon sibling, the Salsa Woodsmoke (yes, really). Its stability and speed fell right in between the Woodsmoke and the new Surly Karate Monkey, the latter of which is more stable and assuring, the former snappier and easier to get silly on.

I did almost face plant off a wooden feature when I took it too fast to simply roll but wasn’t positioned correctly to get air. The big tires, brapping cockpit and whippy rear end means you can easily get out of hand on the Timberjack because you’re having too much fun and forget you lack a rear shock…

TEST Salsa Timberjack-12

The bike held its own at speed, railed berms and stayed patient with me when I needed to slow way down to pick my way through bigger rock gardens that I didn’t feel I had the bike to just blast through.

These plus bikes are your bad-idea cousins. Take one down chunky trails without rear suspension? Sure, why not? Just stay light, stay back and bounce your way over those rocks with your fingers mentally crossed. The chain slap and general rattle of an aluminum bike does get a bit noisy through rock gardens and you can bottom out those low-pressure tires if you take it off too big of a drop, but, whatever. It’s also a sweet trail bike for your hometown singletrack.

TEST Salsa Timberjack-7

It’s worth noting that plus bikes do ride differently than your standard 2.2-2.4 tire—you can’t straight compare all hardtails. You will feel a bit of sag if you run low pressures on long climbs (kind of like a rear shock in trail mode rather than climb or lockout). The noise those big meats make can sound like you actually have a flat because so much more rubber is contacting the dirt and gravel than you’re used to. You have to learn to block that out of you mind.

But all that contact equals grip equals fun times. That’s the deal with these 3-inch tires: confidence. They float over more chunk than you imagine is possible and they will claw you up and over all kinds of trail crud.

The Timberjack is a bargain at $1,400 and it’s one of the only bikes in this category available in extra small. Get yourself a used dropper post off Craigslist for $100 and you have yourself a really nice trail bike at a really nice price.

See full geometry and build-kit specs on Salsa’s website.

TEST Salsa Timberjack-8

The aluminum 27plus bike category

The Specialized Fuse was a big player in kicking off this category a year ago and the entry-level aluminum model comes close to the Salsa at $1,600—that $200 difference gets you a dropper post. As much as I love droppers, I think the new SRAM GX/NX spec on the Timberjack works better than the SRAM X7/X5 build the Fuse gets.

TEST Salsa Timberjack-6

Also in the aluminum 27plus bike family (around the Timberjack’s price point) are the following:

  • Kona Big Kahuna at $1,400 (100 mm fork, Shimano Deore, 440 mm chainstays, 69-degree headtube angle)
  • Cannondale Beast of the East 3 at $1,600 (120 mm fork, Shimano SLX, 435 mm chainstays, 68.4-degree headtube angle)
  • Scott Scale 720 Plus at $1,700 (120 mm fork, Shimano Deore, 439 mm chainstays, 67.7-degree headtube angle)
  • Norco Torrent 7.2 at $1,450 (12o mm fork, Shimano Deore/SLX, 422.5 mm chainstays, 67-degree headtube angle).

All stats are from each bike’s size medium.

The Fuse is the only one with a dropper; all of the bikes wear decent tires and hydraulic disc brakes. We really liked the slack Torrent 7.2’s nicer and more expensive brother, the Torrent 7.1 (read our review of that bike).

I’m personally stoked to see this category growing. For someone who wants just one bike to do many things but doesn’t have a wallet fat with Benjamins, this is one type of mountain bike they should closely consider, and the Salsa is a strong contender.

 

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First Ride: Ibis Ripley LS


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Last year, I reviewed the Ibis Ripley. I liked it well enough, but my tastes in mid-travel 29er leans towards low and slack, while the Ripley is more long-travel cross-country. I also got yelled at (via email) by for being too soft on the bike. Which was a valid complaint, as I had inadvertently cut a paragraph in editing that talked about my problems with the through-the-headtube cable routing, not super-stiff rear-end, and less-than-generous tire clearance in the rear end.

I did not know at the time that Ibis was working on an updated Ripley, but when I did, I was pretty stoked to see what Ibis had been up to:

From the Ibis website

– Two geometry options: The nimble geometry of the original or a new school long and slack version called the Ripley LS
– Internal cable routing using our flexible and easy to setup port system
– Increased tire clearance
– Threaded bottom bracket
– Seat mast lowered by 1/2” to accommodate today’s longer droppers
– Choice of Boost 148 (staring in November ’15) or 142mm x 12mm Shimano through axle (now)
– Stiffer eccentric cores
– New rubber molded chainstay and seatstay protection
– Two new colors (let’s call them “Tang” and “Black”)

I was very interested to try the LS version, and on a recent trip to Santa Cruz, Ibis was kind enough to loan me one of the few rideable production samples to take for a rip through some local trails.

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Much better cable routing.

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Plenty of tire clearance.

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Is there a more elegant full-suspension design on the market?

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Ibis branded handlebar, stem and wide carbon rims.

I’d ridden the almost exact same route the day before on a loaner Santa Cruz Nomad, so the baseline was set pretty high for the Ripley LS.

As expected, the short-travel dw-link rear end pedaled very well, and offered more small bump comfort than I remembered, perhaps due to the 2016 Fox Float DPS EVOL rear shock. Or maybe all those acronyms confused me into a state of befuddled compliance.

Other than one super-fun rock garden, there wasn’t much on this ride to test rear-end stiffness, and to be honest, I was too busy trying to find a clean line to worry if the claims of increased rear end stiffness were true or not. More riding is needed. More riding is always needed.

The long and slack geometry was very easy to notice, and to me, there is no question what option I would choose. What little “nimbleness” is given up with the increased wheelbase and front center is more than made up for with confidence when things get steep. The 17.4-inch chainstays are pretty middle of the road, and seem to offer a good compromise between stability, climbing ability and play-ability.

This isn’t meant to be a full review; we plan to get a bike in for a proper long-term relationship as our first date was quite intriguing.

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Ibis is making a pretty bold move here, offering two geometry options for the same bike, especially considering how small its product line is.

I appreciate Ibis listing the geometries for both Ripley and Ripley LS in the same chart, making it easy to see the important differences.

More details, as expected, on Ibis’ website.

State with 130mm fork (537mm axle to crown)

Nominal Size Medium Medium (LS) Large Large (LS) X-Large (LS)
Seattube A 419 (16.5″) 419 (16.5″) 470 (18.5″) 470 (18.5″) 521 (20.5″)
Toptube B 587 (23.1″) 600 (23.6″) 607 (23.9″) 619 (24.4″) 640 (25.2″)
Headtube C 94 (3.7″) 93 100 (3.9″) 102 107
Chainstay D 442 (17.4″) 442 (17.4″) 442 (17.4″) 442 (17.4″) 442 (17.4″)
Seat Angle E 72.2° 73° 72.2° 73° 73°
Head Angle F 69.2° 67.5° 69.2° 67.5° 67.5°
Wheelbase G 1105 1140 1125 1167 1187
Standover Height (mid toptube) 745 (29.3″) 740 (29.1″) 745 (29.3″) 740 (29.1″) 750 (29.5″)
Stack 620 619 625 625 632
Reach 390 411 406 428 448
Trail 85 97 85 97 97
BB Height (2.1″ tires) 331 (13″) 325 (12.8″) 331 (13″) 325 (12.8″) 325 (12.8″)
Sizing Guide (rider height) 163–175 (5’4″–5′ 9″) 163–175 (5’4″–5′ 9″) 175–188 (5’9″–6’2″) 175–188 (5’9″–6’2″) 183–198 (6’–6’6″)
100mm KS seatpost minimum saddle height (center BB to center of saddle rail) 59cm 59cm 63cm 63cm 68cm
125mm KS seatpost minimum saddle height (center BB to center of saddle rail) 65.5cm 65.5cm 66.5cm 66.5cm 71cm
150mm KS seatpost minimum saddle height (center BB to center of saddle rail) 71cm 71cm 72cm 72cm 75.5cm
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Interbike: Fuji Auric 1.1 First Ride


Fuji is not usually the first brand that springs to mind when most riders think of mountain bikes, but full suspension has returned to the company product line and Fuji’s new Auric with M-Link suspension design just might begin to change minds.

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The M-Link suspension design was first introduced on Breezer’s Supercell and Repack. Breezer is a sister brand to Fuji, so it comes as no surprise the M-Link design found its way to the relaunch of Fuji’s full suspension bikes. (Beside the long-travel Auric, Fuji also released a 120mm 29er, the Rakan.)

I rode Breezer’s Repack at Outdoor Demo and was impressed with M-Link, but found the geometry to be steep for a long-travel bike. I expected to feel much the same way about the Auric, but geometry numbers don’t always tell the full story.

While the 67-degree head angle is quite steep compared to a Nomad’s 65 degrees, a long top tube (24.6 in large) and the resulting long front center would have me guessing the Auric was at least a degree slacker than it is. Combined with not-long chainstays (17.2), great tires (Schwalbe Rock Razor and Hans Dampf) and a comfortable cockpit, I was much more at home on the trails in Bootleg Canyon than anything I’ve ridden in recent memory.

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The M-Link had a best pedaling efficiency of any bike I have ridden on the Dirt Demo trails, and one of the best of any 160mm bikes I have ridden. This includes both sitting and standing pedaling. Most modern bikes are very good at seated pedaling but the bob-monster can still rear its head when up on the pedals and cranking up a steep climb.

Once the climb was over and the trailside photoshoot finished, I took off on a rolling descent. I expected the Auric to morph into a handful as my speed increased, but instead found myself riding a bike that constantly goaded me into increasing my speed. I had hit the jackpot of demo bikes: The suspension was set well for my weight; the bar width/height and stem length suited me; and the tires featured a great tread pattern and compound. This is a very rare thing.

I had a blast and actually extended my ride to get more time on the bike. Every time I get jaded from many years of doing this kind of work, something like the Auric comes along to remind me not to judge a book by its cover, or a bike by its geometry numbers. I wish I had time to shuttle up to the nearby DH trails as I have a feeling I would have liked it there, too. The Auric is a great combination of toss-it-around playfulness, pedal-ablity and some handling left in reserve for when the playfulness gets you to write a check your skills can’t match.

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Parts pick on the top-o-the-line Auric 1.1 is excellent—there is nothing I would bother changing—and has a few nice touches like a Praxis chainring, MRP chain guide/bash guard and Oval Boost crankset. The other three models also looked to be thoughtfully built.

I admittedly misplaced my notebook with pricing and availability info and will update this post when I track down the numbers and dates.

We are looking to get the 29-inch, 120mm Rakan in for review. If it rides as well as the Auric, I think Fuji might significantly be upping its profile in the mountain bike world.

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Interbike: Turner RFX v4.0 First Ride


The RFX has been out of the Turner lineup since 2007 but returns with a vengeance as a fully modern carbon fiber all-mountain bike.

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The Turner website is already loaded up with prices and build kits, with complete bikes starting at $4,573 for SRAM GX, up to $8,718 with XTR and Enve wheels. Frames are $2,995, and an “upgrade kit” consisting of frame, headset and Pike RCT3 Solo fork is an even $3,400. The bike I rode was a mash-up of parts Turner had lying around, but was a solid mix, including Enve M60 rims, Pike fork and Monarch Plus rear shock, KS dropper and Thomson bar and stem.

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Look closely at the pictures above. Do you notice anything (other than the prototype DVO suspension bits)? All cable routing is external. Take note, rest of the bike industry. The routing is clean, adaptable, and simple. No holes in the frame, no rubber cable adapters that fall out every ride, no service frustrations. And the frame has well hidden front derailleur mounts rather than the more typical direct mount.  The PF30 bottom bracket shell is another story. I guess we can’t have it all.

The new frame uses the proven dw-link suspension to control the 160 mm of rear travel. Geometry numbers are in the middle ground for bikes like this today, with a not too slack or steep 66-degree head angle, not too long 24.4 top tube in the large, 17.2-inch chainstays, and 13.4-inch bottom bracket height.

The Ride

David Turner is a bike guy, through and through, and from the first look in person at the new RFX, it looks like a serious and well thought out bike. Even with less-than-ideal tires, and narrower than I wanted handlebars, I had a great ride on the RFX.

Seated climbing is completely neutral, but getting out of the saddle can still create bob, something only partially mitigated with the platform lever on the rear shock. I’d like to spend some time trying to tune the rear shock a bit better to combat this, but really, other than climbing up steep sections of gravel road, I never thought about it.

On rolling sections of trail, the RFX feels quite neutral for such a bike bike. Not as playful and poppy as a Santa Cruz Nomad, but not overly stable or staid, either. In other words, it went about its business with a predicatble attitude and responded well to smooth or more spastic rider inputs.

I didn’t have time to shuttle up to the downhill course at Bootleg Canyon, so I didn’t really get a chance to open it up, but I don’t expect to see this being anything less than a ripper as speeds increase even as the riding position felt all-day comfortable to me. The dw-link disappears on the trail, with no mid-stroke wallow, and effective anti-squat to control bob, although that same aggressive anti-squat could cause the rear tire to scramble for traction more often than I expected.

The FSA headset Turner uses can be swapped to a offset model, for head angles  of 65 or 67 degrees if the stock 66 degrees is too slack or steep for your riding style/skills and riding area. No aluminum frame version is planned at this time.

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As one of many 160 mm bikes released for 2016, this bike stacks up well against the best offerings on the market. We look forward to more saddle time on this newest Turner.

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First Ride: SR Suntour Revamps the Durolux


Back in July, SR Suntour invited us to Mountain Creek Bike Park to check out new-for-2016 front and rear suspension products. Although SR Suntour may be best know to some readers as a the suspension brand most often spec’d on trekking and budget mountain bikes, the company has been working incredibly hard in recent years to improve performance though technological advancement, while maintaining the price point and serviceability that are key tenants of the company’s philosophy.

In order to make all this happen, SR Suntour brought on French suspension engineer Stephane Guillaume. Guillaume put in extensive time with Marzocchi during its hayday, so he knows a thing or two about suspension.

The New Durolux

SR Suntour Duralux Fork (16 of 25)

SR Suntour’s burly Durolux has undergone a complete overhaul for 2016. For starters, the new design targets 27.5-inch wheels, while the existing Durolux will continue to serve the 26-inch wheel market. Stanchions are up from 35 mm to 36 mm. Obviously, that change requires all-new magnesium lowers, which offer excellent fit and finish. Wisely, SR Suntour incorporated threaded fender mounts on the Durolux lowers and forks will ship with a fender. Lubrication holes allow owners to splash a few drops of oil on the foam wipers periodically to keep things moving freely. Travel is internally adjustable between 160, 170 and 180 mm settings.

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The big story in forkland is the all-new closed-cartridge R2C2 damper that will sit above the existing RC2 damper in the lineup. Yep, you guessed it. Independent high- and low-speed rebound circuits, in addition to independent high- and low-speed compression damping. All circuits are damped via shim stack and externally adjustable.

SR Suntour DUAir and UNAir Rears Shocks (8 of 20)

Instead of using a bladder system like Fox and RockShox, SR Suntour utilizes a spring-loaded piston compensator at the top of its new closed-cartridge damper. By employing a very soft (1 N m) spring, the piston is able to accommodate oil displaced by the damper with a minimal increase in seal friction. Not only is this system simple, but it’s said to be easier to bleed than a bladder system as it doesn’t require the use of syringes. This design is similar in concept to the floating piston used in rear shocks, but does not require a high-pressure nitrogen charge, making it far easier to service.

At the launch, Guillaume talked a lot about the cause and implication of cavitation on suspension systems. Cavitation is the vaporization of a liquid at low pressures. This oil vaporization occurs on the low-pressure side of the piston during compression and rebound above shaft speeds of approximately 4 m/s.

Incredibly, mountain biking causes some of the fastest shaft speeds of any suspension system due to the speed of the rider, intensity of the terrain and, most importantly, the low un-sprung weight of our components. The heavier mass of automotive and motorcycle wheel and suspension systems make them far slower to reaction to bump force. Automotive applications top out around 2 m/s of shaft speed, while motocross bikes top out around 6 m/s. A World Cup downhiller, however, is capable of regularly punishing a fork with over 9 m/s of shaft speed throughout a run.

Over time, or over the course of a long run under a pro, this cavitation ends up causing air bubbles to form inside the damper as the oil heats up and degrades.  Once air bubbles have formed, only bleeding will remove them. Given the inevitability of needing to bleed the system, Guillaume developed a quick and easy bleed system for the R2C2 damper in order to fulfill the company’s Quick Service Product (QSP) philosophy. Just fill the damper with oil, place the floating piston in the cartridge with the bleed screw removed, cycle the damper to remove air, push the damper rod to end of stroke and reinstall the bleed screw.

SR Suntour continues to utilize an air positive spring and coil negative spring arrangement, but the positive are volume is now adjustable via a series of spacers. Lighter and firmer negative springs are available directly through SR Suntour for lighter and heavier riders.

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One carryover item is the slick Q-LOC2 thru axle in 20 mm diameter. According to Suntour, folks shopping in the 160-180 mm market served by the Durolux gravitate to the larger standard. The new Durolux tips the scale at 5.16 lbs.

On the Trail

SR Suntour Duralux Fork (1 of 1)

The early-production samples we rode at Mountain Creek were impressive. The air volume spacers provide progressive ramp-up for aggressive riders like Mike Hopkins and a bit plusher and less progressive ride for those of us who aren’t pro.

The R2C2 damper provides a wide range of adjustment, of which I found myself on the lighter end of the spectrum. There’s plenty of damping available for hard-chargers. The high- and low-speed rebound adjustments allow the fork to recover quickly from the end of stroke, but offer a controlled return to the top of the travel. Only after riding this same fork with the RC2 damper installed did I appreciate how the new damper helps the fork ride up high in its travel.

Chassis stiffness felt great in the bike park, with nary a hint of flex under this rider.

Price

Of course, progress comes with a price. Where the previous Durolux retails for $700, the new R2C2-equiped model will sell for $800 with a fender. In all, this increase seems awfully equitable considering the increased performance. Stay tuned for our long-term review in coming months.

Rear Shocks

See our earlier post about SR Suntour’s new DUAir and UNAir rear shocks.

 

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First Ride: Rocky Mountain Maiden World Cup


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A little over a week ago Rocky Mountain announced its new Maiden downhill bike, and we brought you up to speed on the details here. As we hoped, we were able to ride a few laps aboard an early-production Maiden World Cup at Whistler.

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After a period of downhill bikes trending steadily slacker, the market seems to have leveled out between 63 and 64 degrees, which is right where the Maiden plays. Even in the slackest 63-degree setting the Maiden struck a comfortable balance of maneuverability and stability, particularly combined with the very-short 16.7-inch chainstays.

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This was my first ride aboard BOS suspension and I’m thoroughly impressed with the Idylle Air model spec’d on the World Cup. This air-sprung fork is very supple, and soaked up Whistler’s extensive braking bumps and bomb holes incredibly well. It also provided a well-controlled and comfortable ramp up to end of stroke.

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Out back, the BOS Stoy RaRe was very well matched to the fork, soaking up small chatter and big hits without breaking a sweat.

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In designing the Maiden, Rocky Mountain invested a lot of time and energy in minimizing the impact of braking force on the rear suspension. The company’s patented Autonomous Braking design “[balances] anit-rise, caliper rotation, and instantaneous inertial brake transfer values” to keep the rear suspension active when braking. That’s a bunch of tech-speak, but in a nutshell, most all of today’s downhill bikes squat under braking, which firms up the suspension a bit due to being deeper in the travel. Combine that squat with caliper rotation and you can end up with grip-slip under braking. On the Maiden, I couldn’t believe how composed and neutral the bike felt under braking. It was astonishingly smooth under even the worst braking bumps.

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Although all of the complete bikes are spec’d with 27.5-inch wheels, the Maiden offers some interesting options to make it 26-inch compatible. By installing a headset spacer and utilizing the lower rear axle position, the geometry is optimized for 26-inch wheels. With 26-inch wheels and fork, the trail number is nearly identical to that of the 27.5-inch setup.

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The Maiden’s Ride-4 chip is similar in concepts to Rocky’s Ride-9 chip, but simplified substantially. The chip’s four positions subtly adjust geometry, but are said to have a negligible impact on suspension performance. We didn’t have time to play with the settings, but look forward to doing so in a future long-term review.

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Photo by Adam Newman

In all, I’m very impressed with the Maiden. It was easy to ride and very intuitive from the moment we rolled in the park. The suspension’s performance on small bumps and braking bumps was nothing short of astounding, while the big-hit performance far more capable and I am able to push it. The Maiden seems like an incredibly well-designed and executed bike. I’m sure looking forward to getting my hands on a long-term test sled. Look for production bikes to begin shipping in October.

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