Dirt Rag Magazine

First Ride: Rocky Mountain Pipeline


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sea Otter adds e-bike race for 2016. Do motors belong?


Sea Otter Classic, the California event that “kicks off” the road and mountain bike race seasons each April, has announced it will host an e-mountain bike race at next year’s event. While plenty of battery-powered technology has seeped into mountain biking via electronic shifting and suspension adjustment, this move strikes me as ominous.

The manufacturers pushing e-bikes on natural-surface trails need to get their stories straight. I sat in on a well-attended e-mountain bike panel presentation at Interbike this year. Bosch, maker of e-bike motors, kicked off the festivities with a video depicting highly talented mountain bikers ripping e-bikes on European singletrack in a backcountry alpine setting.

The panel then followed up the shred-fest video with an explanation that the U.S. audience, which they claimed is 4-5 years behind Europe, is primarily people who can’t keep up on a regular mountain bike either due to age or lack of fitness, or those who aren’t serious riders and still want to get out into the backcountry. That, and a handful of hunters and nature photographers, according to Felt Bicycles founder Jim Felt, who sat on the panel.

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The argument currently being made is that e-bikes should be allowed on natural-surface trails because they won’t be ridden by rippers and Strava hounds. They’re too expensive to be an N+1 bike and they’re too heavy for all but the strongest riders to enjoy maneuvering. They’ll be Sunday drivers out for a cruise, so we need not fret about our precious trail access or the inevitable tinkering by home mechanics hacking factory motor settings to make them exceed power limits set by federal laws.

But the Sea Otter race betrays what is coming. E-mountain bike racing is already popular in Europe and the manufacturers are hankering to get into the U.S. market at a level much greater than “your mom on a mountain bike.”

Meanwhile, the question continually flowing through the industry is, “Who is buying the things? Where is the consumer clamoring for this expensive, niche product?” Other than a handful of individuals here and there, we don’t seem to know.

Felt did say that e-bikes (in general) are the fastest growing segment of the industry, but I would like to see that data as I can imagine quite a few caveats. “Fastest growing” is easy to claim if a company sold five e-bikes last year and 20 this year.

Vibram Five Finger shoes were a fast-growing segment of the shoe market when they were introduced, but it didn’t mean they were a good idea, and they have all but disappeared. (In fact, they might have been a bad idea, and Vibram has had to pay out millions of dollars to settle a lawsuit over false health claims. The marketers won the battle, then reality won the war.)

I’m looking at this almost entirely through an advocate’s lens and I fear that the manufacturers aren’t understanding that America is not Europe. You know when a band says they’re “big in Europe” that you can’t trust them? It’s the same thing. In the U.S. of A, all trails are local; almost all trails are volunteer-driven; almost all trail battles are unique in some way.

Remember that the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) was birthed in America by pot-smoking, cruiser-klunking, long-haired Californians who got themselves banned from all trails in the 1980s and realized things were only going to improve if they organized. They didn’t ask any existing trail user group to take on their cause; they took in on themselves because they had a passion for something.

European mountain biking doesn’t have that level of grassroots, gritty history. IMBA Europe is a thing, but you wouldn’t recognize its formal structure. The bicycle industry can more easily drop technology on the landscape across the pond and not have to worry so much about causing problems for the volunteer advocates and trail builders doing much of the heavy lifting.

I worked at IMBA for five years—up until this past August—and never once did I hear from an IMBA chapter leader (there are almost 200 of those groups) that they wanted to take on supporting e-bikes. The pressure on IMBA to re-think its hardline stance against any bike with a motor—which dates to 2010—is coming from the top down.

The sour taste in my mouth is that I’m convinced the bicycle industry is forcing this one on us on its own timeline because new wheel sizes and fat bikes and five or six or whatever number of confusing and made-up mountain bike categories aren’t giving them the sales numbers they want.

Yes, you can say the same thing about suspension and carbon frames and the now-dizzying array of wheel sizes—that they were forced on us—but those things mostly just annoyed the purists; they didn’t threaten trail access which, depending on where you live, might still be tenuous or downright terrible. Those technological developments didn’t threaten to frighten land managers who function under a motorized vs. non-motorized mindset, or burden already over-stretched volunteer mountain bike advocates who work tirelessly under the banner of human-powered recreation.

As it stands, there is still not nearly enough money or muscle (either political or physical) to do all that is needed to have great trails and great access for human-powered (only) mountain biking. Layering e-bikes onto the current advocacy landscape—without a groundswell of real people seeking e-bike access and stepping up to help—would further stretch thin resources and complicate already complex efforts.

We’ll see who turns up to race in April.

 

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2015 Sea Otter tech roundup – Part 4


Ryde Rims

Ryde Rims showed up to our booth one morning with a new rim. Ryde was until recently known as Rigida, and is now going after a higher end part of the market.

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This is the Trace rim ($135), which will come in 22, 25 and 29 mm internal widths in both standard and asymmetric. A second series of rims, Edge ($85), will have the same width and asymmetry, but are a bit heavier. All rims will come in 26, 27.5 and 29, in any color as long as it is black.

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Tubeless ready with the addition of rim tape and a valve, these rims look to challenge NoTube’s dominance of the market. the website isn’t live yet, but bookmark www.ryde-usa.com for more info later.


 

Rever MCX1 Disc Brakes

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Rever brakes are aimed squarely at road and cyclocross bikes, not the mountain bike market. With the Avid BB7 growing long in the tooth, and most of the big money seemingly going into developing hydro discs for road, Rever should be able to serve the part of the market that is after a premium cable disc brake.

How premium? $150 a wheel. That  includes a 140 or 160 mm rotor, ISO and direct mount adaptors, stainless slick cable (uncoated, thankfully), two meters of compressionless brake housing, and all related hardware.

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The caliper is a dual piston system, with separate adjustments for each pad, plus a cable adjuster. Pads can be replaced easily from the rear, and can use an Shimano G-series type pad, so any option under the sun is out there for metallic, organic, or semi-metallic.

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Power is claimed to be reduced from a BB7, something that may be welcome on bikes with skinny tires and reduced traction. riderever.com


 

 

Marin 2016 steel mountain and adventure road bikes

Marin is celebrating 30 years in 2015, and half its booth was set aside for vintage bikes. The other half of the booth had these two new models built to celebrate three decades of building bikes.

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The Pine Mountain name isn’t new, and although this bike seems a little retro, it is entirely up to date. A steel frame and fork with sport a single chainring Shimano SLX drivetrain with a wide range 10 speed SunRace cassette. The Vee tires shown will be replaced by the new 27×2.9 Schwalbe Nobby Nics. This is a sharp looking bike for $1,100.

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Coming in at the same $1,100 level, this is the new Four Corners touring bike. Room for at least 40 mm tires, a quality steel frame and fork, triple bottle mounts, and disc brakes should make it ready for all kinds of adventures. The bags and racks are not included, nor is the big bottle of beer.


 

 

Jamis Dragon Slayer

There is still much love for the long-running Jamis Dragon. Not many steel hardtails, if any, have remained continuously in production. It currently has four models, in 27.5 and 29, and soon to be a fifth model in 27plus.

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With a Deore 2×10 drivetrain, Boost hubs front and rear, Vittoria Bombolini 27×3 tires and Fox Float 32 fork, all this thing needs is a dropper to be ready for some serious business. And you heard it right, Shimano will be supporting the Boost standard from now on, even though it began life as a SRAM/Trek project.

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Stoked to see the sliders, for single speed conversion, either on purpose or after roaching a derailleur out in the backcountry. The stays are right around 17 inches, a plus in my plus-size book.

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This is the first peek we’ve seen of the new Vittoria plus size tire in 27.5. Glad to see some well supported side knobs.

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The Dragon Slayer is ready to go long, with triple bottle mounts and rear rack braze-ons. Glad to see some versatility coming back to hardtails.


 

 

Manitou, Sun and Answer

The Hayes Bicycle Group has been through some ups and downs the last few years, but some new products and OE spec seems to be righting this ship.

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This is a cut-away of the new Magnum plus-size fork. We’ve been riding one on a Trek Stache and so far have been hugely impressed. Lots of tech from both the Dorado DH forks and Mattoc trail fork, but in a 34mm stanchioned packaged for either 27plus or 29plus. You’ll be looking at $900 for the Pro model, less for the Comp when it becomes available. Only two travels, 100 and 120 mm, 15×110 hub spacing and room for tires up to 3.4 inches.

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The Mulefut 50 is the skinnier brother to the well received 80mm fat bike rim. It’s tubeless ready (with rim tape to cover up those huge rim cut-outs) and Sun claims these are the lightest aluminum 50mm rims you can buy. These will set you back $140 a piece.

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Everyone seems to be talking short stem talk right now, and Answer adds to the chat with a 30 mm AME model. You’ll be able to get it in red, black or white in a 31.8 bar clamp. If 30 mm is too short, you can get one in 40, 50, 60, 70 or 80 mm. Any size or color for $80.


 

Keep reading

Miss our earlier coverage? Click here to read all our tech coverage from Sea Otter 2015.

 

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