This is Dirt Rag’s second year doing an official “Editor’s Choice.” With editorial staff of all shapes and sizes, spread out all over the country, we can’t just pick one product per category and call it the best.
Also notice our timing. While we could do this in the early spring, how much ride time do you think those early season awards are based on, if any at all? Waiting until the end of the year allows us to consider all the products we’ve used.
And finally, notice not all these products have been reviewed (some we’ve shelled out our own money for), nor are they all from our advertisers. We’re doing our best to be honest with our selections here, and each one is deserving of its award on its own merits. While you can buy us a beer, you can’t buy our editors.
Electronic shifting? I can hear the purists and singlespeeders scoffing, pointing and cursing my name, but the unequivocal fact is this drivetrain works with absolute perfection. It’s been a few years since I’ve had a double chainring on a personal bike, yet with top-notch shifting from the auto Syncro Shift I barely notice it’s not a single—it’s that smooth, with no front shifter to fiddle with.
With almost a year of abuse, through the tail end of winter, a wet spring and a dusty summer I have never adjusted, tweaked or fiddled with it once. That’s the biggest takeaway: truly maintenance-free performance without frayed cables, corroded housing, water freezing the line or worrying about funky routing hampering shifting. Battery life is also longer than claimed, so I hardly think about that either.
Shimano Di2 XTR isn’t in everyone’s wheelhouse and it’s not meant to be, but the concept and performance is groundbreaking. Because of that it gets my choice and is certainly here to stay.
More info: bike.shimano.com
Price: Varies, but serious $$$. If you have to ask…
Tech EditorOther than good tires, a dropper post is the best upgrade you can make to your bike. The Fall Line is the best dropper I’ve used in 2015, and as long as it remains reliable it’ll be the best I’ve ever used.
The Fall Line is cutting-edge because its design is the first mechanically locking dropper with infinite adjustment. It also has a sweet remote that can be run horizontally or vertically on either side of the bar. And two offset choices: 0 mm or 25 mm along with internal routing with tool-free cable removal for packing or sharing the post between various bikes. And it never, ever needs to be bled.
All that, plus it’s made in Canada and costs less than most high-end droppers on the market. I hope 9point8 sells a million of these things.
More info: 9point8.ca
Contributing EditorAside from some early misadventures, I’ve ridden Time clipless pedals for what seems like an eternity. Sure, SPDs are great and they’ve been around forever, but once you commit to a pedal system and pick up a few pairs, it sure is hard to switch.
I signed on to review these SPD-cleat-compatible trail pedals from VP and switched over some cleats. With both the stock VP cleats and some old Shimano ones they have a positive engagement and a crisp, quality feeling when unclipping. I’ve moved them from bike to bike for the most part of the year, and they’ve never loosened, squeaked or complained one bit. The large platform is just the ticket for a secure feeling underfoot, as more of your shoe is in contact with the pedal.
I may not be ready to toss all my Time pedals in the recycling bin, but the VP VX Adventure Race pedals are good enough to find a permanent spot on one of my bikes and a pair of SPD cleats on my favorite shoes.
More info: vp-usa.com
Former Art DirectorStrength, weight and price. That’s the trifecta, and it’s been said that you can only have two of the three. So with a $2,850 base price it should be no surprise which two are finishing first and second.
While the hubs and spokes are machined by I9 in North Carolina, the carbon rims are made by Reynolds Cycling, of Utah. Rim profiles and layups are designed to maximize lateral stiffness but maintain controlled vertical deflection. The 32 spoke holes are angled to minimize stress and promote long-term durability. The hookless bead walls allow for a slightly increased internal rim width. At 24 mm they aren’t super wide, but the bead walls are formed using a continuous fiber wrap around the top of the wall, which increases strength and impact resistance. Without a bead hook, it’s counterintuitive how secure and burp-free the tire is. Setup was easy, and I’ve had no issues.
This wheelset is ’spensive, but I9 hubs are my favorite. They’re precisely machined with a 120-point, three-degree engagement. They’re compatible with everything, and there are several colors for a custom look, but which will cost you an additional upcharge. I even like the freehub sound. There’s no need for a bell on the crowded weekend trails.
More info: industrynine.net
General Manager and Photographer
SRAM has earned significant market share and popularity with its single-ring drivetrains for good reason. These drivetrains offer enough gearing range for most situations, greatly simplify bike setup and perform incredibly well.
Last year, Dirt Rag Editor-in-Chief Mike Cushionbury awarded SRAM’s X01 drivetrain his Editor’s Choice honors because it offered similar performance to the flagship XX1 group at a reduced cost. With GX1, SRAM has again significantly cut the price of entry to 1×11 ownership.
Sure, the GX 1×11 group gains a little weight, but it retains all of the performance benefits from its pricier siblings. Shifting might be ever so slightly less crisp than XX1 or X01, but I wouldn’t bet on being able to discern a difference if blindfolded. If I were building a bike or planning to buy a new one, I’d be targeting GX 1×11 for certain. This is the pinnacle of the current performance-to-value ratio right now.
More info: sram.com
Asheville, NC – Industry Nine, a cycling components manufacturer in the heart of Western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, has announced new rim options for mountain and fat bikes, and a new plus-size rim option.
Two new tubeless fat bike rim options join the well-received BigRig 825 Carbon. The new BigRig 975 Carbon and the alloy BigRig 845 are built on Industry Nine’s proven Torch FatBike System hub and spoke chassis. The BR975C features Hed Cycling’s innovative BFD rim. At 1890g, the 100mm outer width/97.5mm inner width carbon hoop defies convention and allows riders to explore the limits of low-weight yet dependable tubeless fat bike riding. Available now.
One of the most requested Industry Nine wheelsets last season was an alloy fat bike wheelset and, for 2016, a BigRig845 tubeless alloy fat bike wheelset joins the lineup. The BR845 has a 90mm outer width/84.5mm inner width at a weight of 2530g for the pair.
Both rim choices are available on all-season ready Torch FatBike System hub and spoke chassis with options for every fat bike axle configuration presently in the wild. Coming November 2015.
The BackCountry450 has a 49mm outer width/45mm inner width rim and provides support for 2.8” to 3.5” tires. Build options include Torch Mountain, Torch Boost and Torch FatBike system chassis, allowing the BackCountry450 to be the solution for multiple bike builds and applications. Coming December 2015.
27.5″ MTB/Boost, 1950g
29” MTB/Boost, 2050g
27.5″ FatBike, 2015g
29″ Fatbike, 2115g
The Trail rim has been Industry Nine’s best-selling model in the Torch lineup. Trail245 delivers a wider 24.5mm internal width, 1mm wider bead seat per side, and a 0.5mm shorter bead wall from the original Trail for improved tire performance and increased “burp” resistance at low pressures.
Industry Nine has also created a thicker bead wall and tapered downwall construction that puts more material in the “impact” zone where it’s needed most. Trail 245 comes in 27.5” and 29″ versions using 32 hole or 24 hole Torch Mountain System Chassis. Available now.
27.5” 24h, 1480g; 32h, 570g
29” 24h, 1560g; 32h, 1660g
Boost Options For Mountain; Front Conversion Endcaps
Industry Nine accommodates Rock Shox 31mm TorqueCap-equipped Boost forks. Current Boost Specific Front hub configuration options include 31mm TorqueCaps and 15×110. Non-Boost Torch Mountain 32h Front hubs and Non-Boost Torch Classic Flanged hubs are adaptable to Boost 110 using our Non-Drive Side conversion endcap.Tweet Print
It’s taken most of the summer but we’ve finished gathering parts for our 27plus project bike. We started this process earlier this year when rumors of a fat 27.5 production bike were just a whisper and no one was really sure what to make of Trek and SRAM’s “Boost” hub spacing.
Then came Sea Otter and we were inundated with bikes with 27plus wheels and tires ready to roll. Before we even had a chance to try one there were dozens of brands with production bikes ready to go. There are also quite a few aftermarket products out there already, and in the spirit of DIY we kept moving ahead with Project 27plus, initially by measuring up some new tires.
Now that all the parts are here it’s time for an update. The foundation of this project is the Advocate Cycles Hayduke frame. Made in Asia from Reynolds 725 chromoly steel it features replaceable dropouts that can be swapped to fit either a 142×12 or 148×12 Boost axles, or even a swinger dropout for singlespeed use.
Key geometry numbers include a 68.5 degree head tube angle, 430 mm chainstays and 60 mm of bottom bracket drop. It can also fit standard 29-inch tires without a problem. One reason we started with this frame is that you can bolt current 29er parts to it if you’re not sure you want to go 27plus in the future or if you’re saving for a new 27plus wheelset and fork.
The real attention-getter here is of course the wheels. The hubs are Industry Nine‘s Torch Classic model, one of the first aftermarket options for Boost spacing and some of the finest on the market. The aluminum bodies are CNC machined and anodized in Asheville, North Carolina, with angled flanges for lower stresses on the traditional, J-bend spokes.
The freehub body is switchable between standard and XD drivers and the end caps are interchangeable, though in the case of Boost there’s no QR frames to use them with (that I know of). The freehub mechanism features six pawls that engage at three degrees for nearly instant propulsion.
Laced to the hubs are WTB’s Scraper rims with a 45 mm internal width and a pair of the new WTB Bridger 3.0 tires. Unlike the, um, “trailblazing” Trailblazer 2.8 tires, these make no attempt to be anything other than a full-blown 27plus tire, with a far more aggressive tread.
They are mounted up tubeless thanks to the TCS tubeless system, which is essentially the same standard as UST. Going tubeless is highly recommended on these Plus bikes because of the low air pressures the tires run at. Something in the neighborhood of 10-12 psi is no problem.
Mounted up on the front of the Hayduke is the new 27.5 Manitou Magnum Pro fork, purpose built for Plus bikes with 110 mm hub spacing and room for up to a 3.4-inch tire. With the Dorado air spring it has tons of adjustment including high and low speed compression, rebound damping, even air volume. Tying the two 35 mm legs together is the Hex Lock QR15 axle, which takes some practice to use quickly but stays super secure.
Manitou’s sister brands contributed the finishing kit. The brakes are the new Hayes Radar model that uses mineral oil instead of DOT fluid and can be flipped upside down for easy changes between regular and moto braking. (Demo truck drivers must LOVE these.)
Answer Components supplied the Carbon SL bars, AME stem, grips and Rove R2 pedals.
Finally, propelling things is the Hope crankset. Like most Hope products it’s CNC’d from aluminum in the UK then given the anodized treatment, in this case the “gunsmoke” finish. The direct mount chainring features the now ubiquitous narrow/wide tooth profile, and it can be removed and replaced with an optional spider for a bolt-on, double chainring option. It fits the BB92 bottom bracket with a 30 mm spindle that has an expanding spline that won’t wear down after repeatedly installing and removing the crankarm, ensuring a tight fit every time.
We’re going to be evaluating each of these products for a long-term review as well as using the bike as a test bed of sorts for future Plus products. What kinds of things would you like to see evaluated?Have questions about the build? Let us know in the comments.
A few years ago Velocity moved all its rim production from Australia to the United States and became Velocity USA, building rims in its Jacksonville, Florida, factory and lacing them by hand in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Now it’s paired with North Carolina’s Industry Nine components to offer an American-made wheelset from its in-house Wheel Department.
The build option is a pairing of Velocity‘s Blunt SS rims that measure 26.6 mm of internal width and 425 grams for a 29-inch version. They are the next evolution of the popular Blunt line of rims, and have a shorter, stronger sidewall for increased durability with tubeless tires. The rims are laced to Industry Nine’s Torch classic hubs with adaptable axle caps and 120 point, 3-degree engagement. Like all Industry Nine components they are made in Asheville, North Carolina. The 32 spokes per wheel are DT Swiss Competition double-butted, with Sapim alloy spoke nipples. Wheel weights are 790g/915g front and rear in 29-inch and 745g/870g in 27.5.
The wheels are built when orders are placed, and customers can choose from Velocity’s black, white, blue, silver and soon, red rims. The hubs are black, but customers can special order any of Industry Nine’s hub colors with a two-week turnaround.
The wheelsets are available now from the Wheel Department for $1,050 or through your local bike shop.Tweet Print