Dirt Rag Magazine

New: Pivot Mach 429SL carbon


Pivot’s full-suspension “race” bike, the Mach 429SL carbon, has been updated for 2017. It’s not plus (but it does have a Boost rear); it’s not even 27.5. This carbon bike has 100 mm of suspension front and rear and—gasp—29-inch wheels.



The Mach 429SL is spec’d with the Fox Float Dual Piston System (DPS) shock custom tuned specifically for cross-country and endurance racing. The Float DPS shock features settings and a design that allows for a plush feel with a wide range of damping control while also offering an extremely positive “firm” position for fast climbs.

The new Mach 429SL carbon is available in more than 12 different complete bike configurations, starting at $4,200.



  • Frame weight from 5.2 pounds (2.4Kg) and sub-23 pounds (10.4kg) complete
  • 100 mm of dw-link suspension tuned for race and trail handling
  • Full-carbon frame featuring Pivot’s proprietary hollow core internal molding technology
  • Full length internal cable routing and Shimano Di2 integration via Pivot’s exclusive, Cable Port System
  • Internal dropper post compatible
  • Cold forged alloy linkages with Enduro Max Cartridge Bearings
  • Fox Float Kashima Factory shock
  • Highly durable rubberized leather downtube and swingarm protection
  • Updated to Boost 12x148mm rear spacing
  • Designed to work with forks from 100-120 mm in travel
  • Every frame size has room for two water bottles
  • Available in sizes S, M, L, XL for riders between 5’3″ and 6’4″

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New: Rocky Mountain Slayer updated


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.


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.


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


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: Jamis expands line of plus hardtails

Dragonslayer 27plus

Dragonslayer 27plus

Jamis has expanded its lineup of hardtail plus bikes in both unisex and women’s-specific models. The new Dragon, Komodo and Eden Series bikes are designed for trail riding with 120 mm forks, slackened geometry, short rear ends and 3-inch tires.

The Dragon Series is made of Reynolds 520 steel and has been expanded to six models (four unisex and two women’s-specific). Dragonslayer will be available either in a 27plus or 26plus, while the women’s Dragonfly models move to 26plus.

Dragonfly 26plus

Dragonfly 26plus

The Dragonslayer sports a 68-degree headtube angle, 73-degree seat tube angle and 16.7 inch/425 mm chainstay length. The top-of-the-line bikes in the series will feature a FOX Rhythm 34 Float fork, WTB Scraper rims, a 1×11 Shimano SLX build and a KS eTen Integra dropper post.

All Dragon Series bikes feature adjustable sliding dropouts with 15 mm of range, thru axles front and rear, rear rack capabilities and multiple cargo/water bottle eyelets for bikepacking, plus oversize 44 mm head tubes, Boost hub spacing, tubeless wheelsets and internal dropper post routing.

Komodo 27plus

Komodo 27plus

The Jamis Komodo and Eden Series bikes are made from triple butted 6061 aluminum and feature Boost hub spacing, tapered head tubes, tubeless wheelsets and internal dropper post routing.

Eden 26plus

Eden 26plus

The women’s bikes have better standover clearance, come in smaller sizes—down to 14 inches—and are stocked with narrower handlebars and different saddles.

The steel models will range from $1,400 to $2,500. The aluminum bikes will range from $1,000 to $1,700. 2017 Jamis Plus bikes are expected in stock beginning at the end of September. All 2017 Jamis products including the new Plus bikes will be live and online with the 2017 Jamis website in mid-September.



New: Commencal META AM V4.2


Commencal has released an updated Meta, a downhill-oriented all-mountain/enduro bike designed around 160/170 mm forks and Boost spacing. The top tube length, seat tube angle and reach are the same as version 4, but the head angle is half a degree slacker (65.5 degrees) and the wheelbase a tad longer. A new, two-piece top tube is compatible with all rear shocks—the design promises more progressive suspension. There’s also now more clearance for large rear brake calipers.


The new Meta gets improved internal dropper post routing, a new downtube protector and more space inside the triangle for a water bottle (yep, there are mounts tucked in there). Finally, all Metas will come stock with nice-n-wide rims (25-30 mm inner width) to give you more tire contact on the trail.


Available in sizes small through XL, the bike is now available for pre-order. Six models are available (all with 170 mm front and 160 mm rear travel). Prices start at $2,200 for a SRAM NX1 1×11 build, SRAM Level brakes, RockShox Deluxe RT shock and a RockShox Yari RC up front (yellow bike pictured above). At the top of the line, you’ll get a shiny silver aluminum frame, RockShox Lyric fork, Reverb dropper post and SRAM XO1 Eagle 12-speed build for $4,600 ($100 less for a black frame).




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.



New: Rocky Mountain Growler 27plus hardtail


The market expansion of plus-size trail hardtails with don’t-need-to-mortgage-the-house prices continues with the new Rocky Mountain Growler, a 120 mm, 27 plus hardtail. All models feature an aluminum frame, 1×11 gearing and 3-inch WTB Ranger tires. None of the models get a dropper post, womp womp, even though the top-end price point of this bike is comparable to plus-tire hardtails with droppers.


Notably, the Growler is available in six sizes, including XXS(!!). That and the XS will run 26plus wheels/tires, which makes a whole hell of a lotta sense.

Geometry highlights include a 67-degree headtube angle. On the XXS and XS, the bottom bracket drop goes from 58 mm to 40 mm, and the rear chainstay shrinks a bit from 440 mm to 430 mm. Rocky Mountain resisted the short-as-possible trend on many mini-fat hardtails, helping it stand out a bit against brethren such as the similarly spec’d Salsa Timberjack.


  • Growler 750 — $1,700
  • Growler 740 — $1,250 (pictured above in red)
  • Growler 730 — $900

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New: Intense Recluse



Intense added a new all-mountain bike to its fold, the Recluse. It has everything you would expect of a modern trail ripper: 150 mm front / 140 mm rear travel; 27.5 wheels with Boost dropouts; internal cable routing on a high-modulus carbon frame; fancy titanium hardware. It has the ability to run a front derailleur and still sneaks in one bottle cage mount.


The Recluse is available in five build kits from very nice to sell-your-extra-kidney nice. The base level “Foundation Build” still sports a carbon frame, a RockShox Pike fork, a dropper post and comes in the super-rad orange/pink frame color (as well as stealth black); not bad. If you want one, hope you have some extra coin. High-zoot Factory Build: $9,500; Foundation Build: $4,600. Everything else is in between. Sizes are small-XL with recommended rider heights ranging from 5’0” to 6’6”. Geometry charts below:


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Canfield Brothers updates trail hardtail

Canfield Brothers Nimble 9 Boost Build5 (1)

For the Canfield Brothers cultists, there’s a new steel hardtail on the block. Canfield updated one of its staples: the steel, get-rowdy 29er Nimble 9 to be Boost compatible, slacker and more sparkly.

The Nimble 9 combines the revered ride quality of a steel frame with a slack 66.5-degree head angle and stubby chainstays adjustable down to 16.25 inches via sliding dropouts, making it a candidate for singlespeeding and providing clearance for 2.5-inch tires.

Available in S, M, L and XL, the Nimble 9 frame retails for $749 and sells directly from Canfield Brothers.

Nimble 9 Boost Features and Updates

  • 29er all-mountain bike
  • 4130 chromoly steel
  • Increased reach and shorter seat tube
  • 66.5° head angle (w/ 140mm fork)
  • Custom sliding Boost 148mm x 12mm rear dropouts, axle included
  • Adjustable 16.25“ – 16.9” chainstays
  • Singlespeed-able
  • Stealth cable routing
  • Sparkle metallic painted finish
  • ED Black treated for superior anti-corrosion resistance
  • Removable direct mount front derailleur block
  • Two water bottle bosses



Trek Stache 29plus gets the carbon treatment

Trek Stache-5

Stache 9.8

If you follow this stuff at all, you knew this one was coming from Trek Bikes: a carbon Stache 29plus. And you won’t have to wait long, with aluminum models available now and carbon models hitting your local bike shop in September.

The newly expanded Stache lineup includes two OCLV mountain carbon models—Stache 9.8 and 9.6—plus two Alpha Platinum aluminum models—Stache 7 and 5. You may also get a carbon frameset.

Stache 9.6

Stache 9.6

The new carbon frame of the 9.8 and 9.6 weighs about 400 grams less than its alloy counterpart and benefits from a more aggressive geometry with a 15 mm-longer reach and a bottom bracket that’s 5 mm lower.

Trek Stache-3

Stache 7

Stache 9.8 is equipped with the all-new Rock Shox 29plus Pike, a SRAM X0/X01 build kit and a Bontrager Drop Line dropper post. Bontrager Line Pro 40 OCLV carbon wheels complete the lightweight build on the blinged-out, top-o-the-line model to tip the scales at 27.2 pounds.

The Stache 5 aluminum starter model gets a Manitou Machete 32 fork, Bontrager Chupacabra tubeless-ready tires, Race Face Aeffect crankset with a 30-tooth chainring, Shimano Deore shifting and basic Shimano hydraulic disc brakes.

Stache 5

Stache 5

All carbon and alloy models feature additional travel, with an increase in suspension from 110 mm to 120 mm. The carbon models will comes in sizes in 15.5, 17.5, 19.5, and 21.5 inches. The aluminum models also get an 18.5-inch frame size.

Pricing is as follows:
Stache 5 aluminum: $1,580
Stache 7 aluminum: $2,100
Stache 9.6 carbon: $3,000
Stache 9.8 carbon: $4,700
Carbon frameset: $1,580



First Ride: Surly Karate Monkey 27plus

TEST Surly Karate Monkey-1

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, too.


Original Karate Monkey ad ripped from Surly’s Facebook page

In case you’ve been under a rock for the last decade or so, a primer: The Surly Karate Monkey was one of the first production 29ers on the market. Surly bikes are not the fastest, lightest, newest, fanciest or most technically whiz-bang on the market. That’s probably why I like ’em so much (have to admit my bias, here). When I start to feel like I’m just being aggressively and excessively marketed to as an editor in the cycling industry, I take a break and ride my Surly. To be fair, I also own a modern carbon full-suspension trail bike that I adore, but I wear the mantle of steel-loving retrogrouch much better.

TEST Surly Karate Monkey-8

The new Monkey is slacker and longer. It sports a 69-degree headtube angle (formerly 72 degrees), a slightly shorter chainstay length, a wheelbase stretched by about an inch and a longer top tube. Seat tube angle is the same. The seat tube diameter bumps up to 30.9 for greater dropper-post compatibility while the frame comes stock with Surly Dirt Wizard 27.5×3.0 tires. I’m nuts for Dirt Wizards, especially since they were updated to be less tear-prone. They have grip, grip, grip for days.

TEST Surly Karate Monkey-5

Whereas the old Monkey was either rigid or built with a 100 mm fork, the new one will take up to a 140 mm fork. A 140 will raise the bottom bracket 17 mm and kick the headtube angle out to 67.5 degrees. The frame is loaded with even more braze-ons than ever. Yessiree, this is intended to be a bikepacker, a rigid singlespeed, a cross-country bike or a trail shredder. Or, all of the above. Choose your own adventure. Choose all of the adventures.

TEST Surly Karate Monkey-4

What’s your clearance, Clarence?

The new Monkey made me smile. It’s not better or worse than the two Salsa’s I also test rode at Saddle Drive: the carbon Woodsmoke and aluminum Timberjack. In fact, those other mid-travel 27plus bikes outshine the Monkey on several points. For $600 more (OK, yes, that’s a lot) you can get in on a carbon Woodsmoke with suspension or, for the same price as the Monkey, grab the Timberjack and get suspension.

Surly’s entry in this category is just different. If you want a plus hardtail, you have to find the one that suits your riding style and calms your inner demons. The Karate Monkey is my drug of choice. I would probably build it just like this Surly employee did. No, yes, this is exactly what I’d do.

Karate Monkey-6


Anyway, how does it ride? It rides like a Surly. The Monkey is still made of the company’s 4130 ‘Natch chromoly steel, but with slightly bigger tubing than previously used on this bike. It doesn’t have internal cable routing or weird tubing shapes. It’s not light but it’s mighty comfortable. Get off my lawn.

One of the Surly guys said the company strives for balance with its bikes. It didn’t try to do stuff like make the rear chainstays as short as possible just for the sake of making them as short as possible. The Monkey is intended to ride well in a multitude of situations, not just one or two. And that it does.

TEST Surly Karate Monkey-11

The bike is extraordinarily stable, almost to a fault if you’re intending to play. It’s not as flickable as some other bikes but rather trucks along with confidence, those big meats digging in all the way. To that end, it climbed far better than I expected. In fact, on the ride up the dirt service road, I kept looking around to see if I had a tailwind. No such luck. (I’m not very strong but I had just downed two shots of espresso; maybe that had something to do with it?) I caught up to two dealers also riding the Monkey who made the same comment: “This thing climbs really well!”

TEST Surly Karate Monkey-7

On flat to rolling singletrack, the Monkey felt a little sluggish. It’s weight and big tires means it’s a bit slow to get up to speed. The bike also doesn’t hold its momentum as well as other options. I felt that I was working it harder than the aluminum Timberjack and carbon Woodsmoke that I also sampled that same day on the same route in the hills of Northstar at Tahoe. Yes, those bikes have lighter frames. Still, if I were looking for a single hardtail that’s versatile, reasonably priced, comfortable and fun, I’d pick this one.

TEST Surly Karate Monkey-2

On the way down, the Monkey is a blast. I would have loved to have tried out a version with a suspension fork; I can image the addition of some squish would make this bike truly shine. I plowed it along the same intermediate DH trails I tested the other plus hardtails on and it held its own, rigid fork and all. It confidently led me down slow, techy sections that required taking it more carefully but was also just as happy being pushed hard through the chunk. With the help of the big tires, it hugged the dusty berms, despite being not as easy to throw around.

TEST Surly Karate Monkey-12

Don’t mind that funky chainring setup. This is just a test bike. Production bikes won’t look like this.

Some on the interwebs have called this a 27plus Krampus. Not so. The geometry numbers aren’t even close. The Monkey is more like a slimmed-down Surly Wednesday (read our full test of that bike), from which this frame borrows some tricks. One of them is a proprietary dropout called Gnot-Boost that offers spacing of 145 mm, allowing the steel frame to expand to fit 148 mm Boost hubs or pulled inward to work with a 142 mm hub. Surly is also now offering an add-on that allows you to transform the rear track dropouts to standard, vertical dropouts.

True to being a Surly, this thing is so versatile that I’m just going to send you to the Monkey’s homepage rather than trying to detail all the details, here.

TEST Surly Karate Monkey-10

The stock bikes are orange (geared/frame) for $1,400 complete, purple (singlespeed/frame) for $1,175 complete and black (frame only). Frame/fork can be had for $600. On the 1×11 geared version you get SRAM NX components, an 11-42 cassette, SRAM Level brakes, an Answer Pro Taper handlebar and a WTB Volt saddle (note that not all of that is pictured; the demo bikes at this event had different builds). The singlespeed will run 30×17 gearing. Go nuts.

TEST Surly Karate Monkey-9

This test bike is a size small, FYI



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.

TEST Salsa Woodsmoke-4

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

TEST Salsa Woodsmoke-6

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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Moots launches Farwell 27plus hardtail

Moots Farwell

The plus tire juggernaut of 2016/2017 continues its roll now on a titanium Moots hardtail, the Farwell. You can run this bike 27.5 x 2.8 (that is max tire clearance) or up to a 29 x 2.25. The Farwell was designed around a 120 mm fork, 17.1-inch (434 mm) chainstay length, 68.5-degree headtube angle (68 on the XL) and a 12.6-inch (32o mm) bottom bracket height.

Options include internal electronic routing, fender mounts and rack eyelets, a polished or etched finish, an engraved head tube and color decal options. The frame and FOX 34 fork retails for $4,789. The build as shown goes for $7,900. See full details and options from Moots.



Salsa debuts updated Mukluk fat bike

Salsa Wolftooth-14

The Salsa Mukluk is all-new for 2017. We admittedly almost overlooked this beast. One does not really think about five-inch fatties when it’s 80 degrees and sunny on the site of a mountain bike park. Well, maybe you do.

The all-new Mukluk is available in both carbon (pictured) and aluminum. The stiffness of the carbon version was adjusted, but in the direction often not taken. Because the Salsa Beargrease is the company’s speed-focused fatty, the new Mukluk frame was actually tuned to be more comfortable and more compliant for longer days in the saddle. The chainstays shrunk to 430 mm, making them the shortest on the market on a fat bike.

Salsa Wolftooth-15

Both frames have the Alternator Dropouts 2.0, allowing room for up to 4.7-inch tires (paired with 70 mm rims) on the carbon version with a chainstay length of 432 mm. You can still use Salsa’s Alternator 190 Rack with this setup. The aluminum version gets Alternator Dropouts 1.0 for 440 mm chainstays. By moving the wheel back for bigger tires, the chainstay grows to 450 mm.

Set this bike up with a 1x or 2x drivetrain—it will indeed take a front derailleur. The top tube got a bit longer to play well with 60/70 mm stems alongside the 69-degree headtube angle, 73-degree seat tube angle, 63 mm bottom bracket height and 100 mm threaded bottom bracket. The rear dropout grew to 197 x 12 mm.

Salsa Wolftooth-61

The routing for derailleurs and rear brake housing are internal through the top tube and external down the inside of the seatstays. Customizable rubber grommets for the cable ports allow different drivetrain and brake setups. Stealth routing for dropper posts is also provided. Finally, the bike will also accept a 100 or 120 mm fork.

The Salsa Mukluk will be offered in five builds. Expect to see it in your local shop in October/November.

  • Mukluk Carbon XO1 – $4,500
  • Mukluk Carbon X1 – $3,500
  • Mukluk Carbon GX1 – $2,700
  • Mukluk ALU NX1 SUS – $2,500
  • Mukluk ALU NX1 – $1,800

Salsa Beargrease


The go-fast-oriented Beargrease remains unchanged for 2017, but did get some rad new paint jobs across the four different models (three carbon and one aluminum). Photos courtesy of Salsa Cycles.



Foundry launches XC race bike, the Firetower


Boost spacing and plus-sized tires burst into our collective consciousness so quickly and so definitively that a bike like the Foundry Firetower looks slightly odd in the current, trend-soaked world of mountain biking. But here it is, a brand-new cross-country race machine that lacks Boost, takes only a 29×2.25 tire and runs a 100 mm fork mated to a 70-degree headtube angle.


The Firetower features a Press Fit 92 shell, a blend of carbon fibers and will come in sizes small through XL at a price of $3,700 for Shimano XT and a RockShox Reba SL (the only build kit offered). While it will ship as a 1x build, the frame will accept a front derailleur. Whether or not you think this rig is already “old-school,” the Firetower certainly stands out in the newly crowded sea of plus-tire bikes.


One of the Foundry guys mentioned that this is an “affordable” race bike the company would like to see under NICA (high school) racers. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, but we disagree. That is a lot of coin these days for a bike like the Firetower. You, the consumer, will decide this one when it shows up in local bike shops around September.

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Salsa unveils new plus-size hardtails

We’re at Saddle Drive near Lake Tahoe this week checking out new bikes from Quality Bicycle Products (QBP), the parent company of Surly, All-City, Foundry, Heller and Salsa. Salsa went all in, releasing all of the brand’s new-for-2017 bikes and updating most models across the range. Here’s a look at the two new 29plus bikes, both of which we’ll be riding later this week for initial reviews.

Salsa Woodsmoke

Salsa Wolftooth-57

Entering the fairly small ring of carbon-framed 29plus hardtails is the new Salsa Woodsmoke. The goal was simply to create a highly versatile hardtail and, from the looks of it, that’s what we have here. The frame even has four—count ’em—bottle mounts for all of your whatever, wherever adventures.

Salsa Wolftooth-32

The frame was designed to be friendly with 29plus, 27plus and traditional 29er setups. The looks-like-a-Trek-Stache chainstays (we had to say it before you did) got an elevated design to facilitate a short-as-possible-for-a-plus-bike length: 400 to 417 mm depending on the frame size. Those funky chainstays also allow for a front derailleur, multiple drivetrain possibilities and the elimination of chain slap.

This bike utilizes Salsa’s Alternator Dropouts Version 2.0, which allow the geometry to be properly adjusted for your chosen wheelsize. It also means singlespeed!

Salsa Wolftooth-26

Those short chainstays mated to a relatively long top tube, 50 mm stem and the ability to take rigid or 100-140 mm forks, you have a weirdly and wildly versatile trail bike that has multiple geometry and ride quality possibilities. For example, headtube angles are as follows: 68.4 degrees (traditional 29er, 2.4-inch tires, 120 mm fork); 67.9 degrees (27plus, 130 mm fork); 67.8 degrees (29plus, 120 mm fork).

Salsa Wolftooth-19

The 2017 Woodsmoke is available in five complete builds and five colors (red, white, matte black, khaki and green) and should land in your local bike shop this December:

  • Woodsmoke 29plus XO1 – $4,000
  • Woodsmoke 29plus GX1 – $3,000
  • Woodsmoke 27plus XO1 – $4,000
  • Woodsmoke 27plus GX1 – $3,000
  • Woodsmoke 29 GX1 – $3,000

The stock bikes are spec’d with either 120 or 130 mm RockShox forks. See Salsa’s website for complete build kit information and the geometry breakdown of each bike.

Salsa Timberjack

Salsa Wolftooth-46

We know that the high cost of carbon hardtails can really rub some riders the wrong way, which is why we’re always happy to see models like the Timberjack appear in bike company lineups. The trail-oriented Timberjack is a new aluminum hardtail that can either be a 27plus or traditional 29er with forks ranging from 120-140 mm and a price starting at $1,000.

Salsa Wolftooth-60

The Timberjack also gets Salsa’s Alternator Dropouts, meaning you can fiddle with the rear-end length to adjust the way this bike rides. Those dropouts also allow flexibility on which rear end you’d like, from 135 mm quick release to 148 mm Boost hubs. Additional trickle down technology includes internal cable and dropper post routing and 1×11 gearing, plus three bottle cage mounts.

Salsa Wolftooth-41

The Timberjack is available in both 27.5plus and 29 versions, each in two of these colors: dark red, matte khaki, dark blue, matte gray. Look for it in your local bike shop around October. See full build kit and geometry details on Salsa’s website.

  • Timberjack 27plus GX1 – $1,400
  • Timberjack 29 NX1 – $1,000
  • Frame only in matte gray – $400

Salsa Wolftooth-49

Rumors of the demise of the #steelisreal El Mariachi have not yet been confirmed, but the bike was nowhere to be seen at this event are true; that model is done and Salsa no longer has a steel mountain bike (other than the Fargo touring rig, which now accepts 27plus but is stocked with a rigid fork and drop bars). There’s always the newly updated Surly Karate Monkey.



Surly updates the Karate Monkey

We’re at Saddle Drive near Lake Tahoe this week checking out new bikes from Quality Bicycle Products (QBP), the parent company of Surly, All-City, Foundry, Heller and Salsa. Because of the proliferation of cycling events across the country, these companies aren’t launching all of their new stuff right away, but we did get a look at a big update from Surly: the re-designed Karate Monkey.

Karate Monkey-2

If you ride a Surly bike and have owned it for some time, you’ve probably messed with it so that it’s no longer still stock. Surly said it used to smile and nod at the crazy modifications people did to its bikes but otherwise kind of let it be. Now, it’s embracing more and more of the customer-driven tinkering and adapting frames to better accomodate your whims.

Karate Monkey-5

The 2017 Karate Monkey got a bunch of tweaks, many of them borrowed from the Instigator 2.0 trail bike and Wednesday fat bike. The tubing is mostly new, including using Trumpet tubes from the Instigator 2.0 on the front triangle. From Surly: “The main triangle’s tubes are internally butted and some tubes are externally tapered, flared like a trumpet and ovalized to add stiffness and strength without adding weight.”

The new frame has internal dropper post cable routing and a 44 mm head tube for broad fork compatibility.

Karate Monkey-3

The Monkey’s geometry was adjusted to be slightly more trail-oriented, its numbers coming rather close to the Surly Wednesday fat bike. The headtube is slightly slacker and the top tube slightly longer than older versions. The longer front center also allows the Karate Monkey to now be available in extra small.

On the medium Monkey, top tube length is 582 mm (22.9 inches), standover height is 783 mm (30.8 inches), seat tube length is 419 mm (16.5 inches), 69-degree headtube angle, chainstay length of 423 mm (16.7 inches) and a fork offset of 47 mm. Full geo numbers below this story.

Karate Monkey-1

The new frame will accept up to a 140 mm fork. Seriously. A 140 will raise the bottom bracket 17 mm and take the headtube angle from 68 degrees with rigid/100 mm to 67.5 degrees. We expect to see more than a few of these built up with dropper posts and 120/130 mm forks.

The Monkey uses a horizontal dropout with a derailleur hanger that features “Gnot-Boost” spacing, which gives the rider the ability to run any mountain bike hub. You can build your Monkey with 10×135 mm QR, 12×142 or 12×148 Boost. The frame/fork will clear up to 27×3.0 or 29×2.5 tires.

Karate Monkey-4

On the 1×11 geared version you get SRAM NX components, an 11-42 cassette, SRAM Level brakes, an Answer Pro Taper handlebar and a WTB Volt saddle (note that not all of that is pictured; the demo bikes at this event have different builds). The singlespeed will run 30×17 gearing. Both builds utilize tubeless-ready Alex rims and tubeless Surly Dirt Wizard 27.5×3.0 tires.

You can't buy it like this, but you can build it like this.

You can’t buy it like this, but you can build it like this.

The two stock complete models will be a purple singlespeed for $1,175 and a yellow/orange 27plus model for $1,400 (yep, no more stock 29er but you can still build it up as such). These bikes should be available in October/November. You can also just get a frameset in black.

Also, when poking around the Surly website, we noted that the good ‘ol fashioned Pugsley is now listed as available in a frameset, only. RIP, complete Pugsley.


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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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Review: Santa Cruz Hightower CC


Tester: Eric McKeegan
Age: 42 Height: 5’11”, Weight: 160 lbs., Inseam: 32”
Price: $2,899 frame; complete bikes from $4,599; $6,499 (tested)
Sizes: M, L (tested), XL 
More info: Santa Cruz Bicycles

Photos: Gary Perkin

Santa Cruz was very late to the 29er ballgame, but came out swinging with the Tallboy. That was soon followed by the Tallboy LT, a longer travel 29er aimed at the growing big wheel trail bike market. The LT was well-liked but quickly became dated as 29er trail bike geometry evolved and was quietly discontinued by Santa Cruz.

The Hightower is the entirely new replacement for the retired LT, and as such, deserved a new name. Hightower refers not to the guy from the “Police Academy” movies, but to the Santa Cruz demo guy Eric Highlander. Honestly, either one would have worked for me.


The Bike

Other than sharing the same rear travel, 135 mm, the Hightower is entirely new. Taking a page from the Nomad, Bronson and 5010, the Hightower is a thoroughly modern trail bike. There are huge changes from the LT with geometry, starting with a head angle almost 3 degrees slacker, a seat tube angle 1.5 degrees steeper, reach growing 1.5 inches, and chainstays three-quarters of an inch shorter. Even the bottom bracket drops a quarter inch.


What makes it even more modern is a frame design that allows enough clearance for 29 or 27plus wheels. To keep geometry mostly consistent (two-tenths of a degree) between the wheel sizes, Santa Cruz provides a small flip-chip and a 10 mm longer travel fork to change the geometry when swapping in the slightly shorter 27plus wheels.


Unfortunately, one of the stock Rock-Shox Pike’s few shortcomings is the need to swap air spring shafts to adjust travel, so the only easy way to make the swap are a pair of forks in 140 mm for 29 and 150 mm for 27plus. Easy for a spoiled magazine guy, but a serious expense when added to the cost of a second set of wheels/tires/rotors/cassette.

Much like the Nomad, there are no plans for a aluminum frame, but there are two levels of carbon frame, the CC which is about 230 grams lighter than the cheaper C version. Stiffness is equal between the two, but only the CC is available as a frame only.


Also like the Nomad, you can forget the front derailleur. With the recent release of even wider range single-ring drivetrains this is less of a problem. I spent my time on a 1×11 with a 30 tooth ring and 10-42 cassette and just once in a while dreamed of those new 50 tooth cogs.

The Ride

My first rides on this bike were in Chile for a dry run of the Rally of Aysen Patagonia. Santa Cruz invited a group of international bike media-types to see what was up with the Rally and to launch the Hightower.

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

We covered a lot of varied riding, in fact, probably the most diverse terrain and conditions I’ve ever experienced during a media event. From steep and loose natural trails to long grinds on the dirt roads so prevalent in southern Chile, the Hightower showed itself to be immensely capable. The third generation VPP mini-link suspension is nothing short of refined. Seated pedalling is without a hint of bob, and it was only on the smoothest of trails or under the most spazmatic of pedaling efforts that I wanted to dial in any platform on the rear shock.

On the other end of things, the 135 mm of travel has the magical combination of bottomless travel and wallow-free feel. Compared to some of its direct competitors like the Trek Remedy 29 or Specialized Stumpy 29, the Hightower isn’t quite as plush feeling, but that is a trade-off I’m more than willing to make for suspension that rarely needs a platform and communicates the trail so well to the rider without feeling harsh.

Aysen, Patagonia, Hightower, 29er, SCB,

The up-to-date geometry only felt out of place in the slowest and tightest of terrain, where the front wheel could take some effort to keep it pointed where I wanted. Anything above walking speed isn’t an issue.

I experimented with the 29er wheels with the bike in the 27plus setting, and found the higher BB and slightly steeper angles to be very usable on local trails, and maybe even more fun. It also reduced pedal strikes, which happen with some regularity with the bottom bracket at standard height. In fact, in every single other situation, the Hightower felt very much in control and on top of things. Think James Bond with wheels and a carbon frame, and you might be getting close the personality of this bike.

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

While I think wheel size choice is going to come down to a combination of rider skill/style and local terrain, I preferred this bike as a 29er. It was awesome as a plus bike, but I was very much into the way this bike ate up miles as a 29er, rolling along like a cross-country race bike (with 850 gram aggressive tires), but attacking descents like a Nomad’s older and more mature brother. Interestingly enough, the 27plus configuration is slightly lighter than the 29er with similar parts, and there is no price difference between the 29er and 27plus options.

This bike is going to make a lot of riders happy. As is often the case with high performance bikes, that performance doesn’t come cheap. I have to give a lot of credit to Santa Cruz for parts spec; even on the “entry-level” bike, all the parts are shreddable right out of the box. Really, the build kits on all the Hightowers are stellar, from the 150 mm Reverb to the single chainring SRAM drivetrains and tubeless tires, this stuff just works with little fanfare and no complaint. There is an ENVE wheel upgrade for $2,000. Personally, I’d save that cash, buy the 27plus bike with the 150 mm fork and a set of 29er wheels.


The Lowdown

I wouldn’t be afraid of taking this bike anywhere. B.C. Bike Race with some extra days afterwards to ride more trails in Squamish and Whistler? Yes! Fart around on the local trails with your crew? YES!

A day at the bike park? YES!

Pisgah? All day, every day, YES!

To put it simply, this is one of the best mountain bikes I’ve ever ridden. It just does it all, does it well, and keeps doing it with a minimum of fuss. Santa Cruz has a whole stable of very good trail bikes, but the Hightower might be the one horse for almost any course.


27plus/29 wheels

  • Reach: 17.6/17.7”
  • Stack: 24.2/24.1”
  • Top Tube: 24.2/24.1”
  • Head Tube: 66.8/67°
  • Seat Tube: 74.1/74.3°
  • BB Height: 13.2/13.3”
  • Chainstays: 17.1/17.1”
  • Weight: 27.3 lbs. (with 29” wheels) w/o pedals (specs based on size tested)



Marin brings back the Hawk Hill


Marin Mountain Bikes just announced a new 2017 full-suspension model, the Hawk Hill. Set to retail for $1,500, the bike is built around 27.5 wheels, 120 mm of travel front and rear and thru-axles. The bike uses’s Marin’s new MultiTrac suspension system, similar to the company’s existing IsoTrac system. Up front is a RockShox Recon Silver RL fork. Rear suspension is handled by an X-Fusion O2 Pro R air shock.


Key Specs:

  • Trail geometry with a low bottom bracket height, 67.5-degree head tube angle and longer reach
  • Wide-range, 1×10-speed drivetrain with Shimano Deore Shadow Plus rear derailleur and 11-42 tooth cassette, plus Deore shifter
  • Marin forged alloy crankset with hollow spindle and narrow-wide 32 tooth chainring
  • Shimano hydraulic disc brakes with 180 mm rotors
  • Double-wall alloy rims with 27 mm inner width with Schwalbe Hans Dampf 27.5 x2.35-inch tires


The Hawk Hill is not scheduled to arrive until next year—summer 2017. Back in the 90s, the Hawk Hill was an entry-level silver hardtail hung with purple anno parts, and we haven’t seen this model since 2011 when it was still a hardtail. We’ve come a long way, baby.



Kona introduces new carbon Hei Hei bikes

For 2017, Kona has updated its full-suspension, cross-country Hei Hei with two 29er models in carbon: the DL and Race DL.


Kona Race

Hei Hei Race

Hei Hei Race geo

Kona increased bike stiffness and dropped the weight by giving the two-bike line full carbon frames weighing 1800 grams (just under 4 pounds). Kona’s own Fuse Independent Suspension—a design that eliminates a pivot at the chainstay seatstay—is now lighter and stiffer. The geometry continues to have a low-slung frame weight and good standover, highlighted by a rider fit that incorporates a short stem, long front center and compact rear triangle.

Kona Dl

Hei Hei DL

Hei Hei Trail geo

Both bikes feature Boost spacing and stealth dropper post routing. The Hei Hei Race DL was developed on World Cup XC courses. While the Hei Hei DL was built on the same carbon frame, it gets more travel up front (120 mm vs. 100 mm), a dropper post, chunkier tires and a more aggressive cockpit.

We have already been rolling on the Race DL for about a month and will bring you a full review in an upcoming issue of Dirt Rag. Start by reading our initial impressions of the bike for more details (spoiler: we like it).

The Hei Hei DL is currently available in North America, while the Race DL will follow in August. Both models are currently available in the EU and UK.


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