In not altogether unexpected news, Shimano trickles-down electronic shifting to XT level with a new M8050 group. Before you get all excited, this stuff isn’t hitting the shelves until September 2016, so you might still be pulling cable and not pushing electrons to shift for a while longer.
The new XT group gets most of the features of the XTR M9050, but adds Bluetooth and ANT compatibility, and optional control of Fox electronic suspension lockouts. Now XT can communicate with tablets and cellphones, previously XTR Di2 only communicated with Windows machines. An app allows easy control of the many fine tuning options, including using a single shifter to control front and rear shifting and shift speed when holding down a shift button for multiple shifts.
Riders with XTR Di2 can upgrade to Bluetooth tech with the purchase of a new battery and head unit. Future XTR groups will receive a running change to the new Bluetooth tech.
While it was announced previously, there will be an 11-46 cassette, which is a great option for single-ring drivetrains. Doubles can use either the 11-40 or 11-42. The Di2 drivetrain shares nonelectronic parts (crank, cassette, chain, brakes, wheels) with the mechanical XT M8000 group.
Pricing is substantially lower than XTR Di2, but obviously, still not cheap.
Front derailleur – $189
Rear derailleur – $293
Digital Display Unit – $150.00
Shift lever (right or left) – $220.00
3x E-Tube wires 70.00
Junction Box 29.00
Also new, but also expected, SLX moves to 11 speed. We don’t have pricing, and haven’t even seen this stuff in person, but we do know you should be able to buy it by July 2016. The entire group is new, with many features seen on the 11-speed XTR and XT groups.
There are single, double and triple crank options, paired with an 11-40 or 11-42 cassette. The rear derailleur can shift up to a 46 tooth cog, so riders looking for more range can swap in the 11-46 XT cassette. Brakes are lighter and utilize the Servo-Wave linkage for more power and control.
More info as we get it.
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
When Shimano announced the XM9 and XM7 earlier this year, I couldn’t have been more excited. These shoes looked to be perfect for cool-temperature fall, winter and spring riding. Now with a couple weeks of riding in these shoes, I’m stoked to report the XM9 is every bit as good as I had hoped.
This is the most rugged offering within Shimano’s “Tour” footwear lineup. The mid-height construction extends up over your ankles to provide coverage, support and protection. The Nubuck upper is made waterproof and breathable with Gore-Tex and a rubberized toe protects against impacts and scuffs. A plastic heel cup pairs with a mid-foot strap to ensure a secure fit as the laces are tightened up.
The XM9 is constructed on Shimano’s Volume Performance Last, which offers ample volume and E-size width. A half-length shank provides stiffness at the pedal interface, but also allows the sole to flex for walking. On Shimano’s one-to-11 stiffness scale, the XM9’s sole registers a three. A Vibram outsole provides great walking traction.
I’ve been riding the XM9 non-stop since receiving them for everything from mountain bike rides to commuting and I’m happy to report they’ve been nothing shy of awesome. For all-around use, the sole stiffness is a great balance of flexibility for walking and stiffness for all but the most aggressive riding. On the mountain bike, Shimano’s M647 pedals provided additional support thanks to their outer cage. This is my recommended pairing for aggressive mountain biking or any application where you want to maximize on-the-bike stability.
Folks in cold climates will need an insulated winter boot for the coldest months as the XM9 is not insulated. On the warm end of the temperature scale, I found these shoes to be comfortable up into the lower 70s.
Overall, the XM9 is my new go-to shoe for cool weather riding. They offer versatile performance and excellent comfort on and off the bike. Historically, Shimano shoes have held up very well for me over the long haul. Assuming the XM9 hold up similarly, they’re well worth the asking price of $250.
We field tested three bags for traveling with your bike: Evoc Bike Bag, Scicon AeroComfort MTB and the Shimano Pro Bike Mega. If you’re ready to ditch the cardboard box, considering putting one of these products on your Christmas/Hanukkah list this year.
Evoc Bike Bag
Tester: Mike Cushionbury
Evoc is commonly known as the brand that redefined how a bike travel case should be made: soft shell to keep it very lightweight, collapsible for easy storage, and quick and easy to pack. Its Bike Travel Bag, shown here, is the one that set the standard.
The bottom of the case has external hard-plastic skid beams that support and protect the case. Two removable glass-fiber rods at the front and back, along with two plastic rods inside each side wheel pocket, give the case support and shape. For portage, there are two inline skate wheels with sealed bearings at the back.
Evoc’s roomy wheel compartments are unique in that they zip open from the side as opposed to from the top, flapping open almost like little doors to make it incredibly easy to drop in your 27.5, 29 or 27plus wheel—and both pockets have hard-plastic reinforcement at the axle/rotor location. Inside, there’s a larger pocket on the side for pedals, tools and the like, as well as a smaller pocket at the back.
The bag clamshells open for easy bike installation. Remove both wheels and pedals, then lower the saddle to make it fit in the bag. Next, remove the bars and stem, then use the included frame pad to wrap around the top tube and down tube. Evoc’s bag doesn’t have dedicated axle mounts; instead, the bottom bracket rests on a large reinforced pad. You then slide the fork into its padded area, with the dropouts resting on the bottom of the bag.
Because of the frame angle this creates, rear derailleur removal isn’t necessary. Also, with this construction there’s no need to worry about various axle sizes and designs, and it’s one of the quickest and easiest to pack, taking just minutes once you have the process down. With plenty of Velcro and buckle straps, everything snugs tightly into place, and there’s lots of room for extras like a helmet, shoes, a water pack and some clothes.
With a whopping seven handholds and large, wide-stance wheels, maneuvering the bag around is easy. Weighing in at 19.6 pounds, depending on the style of bike you ride there might or might not be much leeway to pack extras before hitting that magic travel weight of 50 pounds. Nonetheless, Evoc’s reputation as one of the best bag makers in the world is well earned and the Bike Travel Bag proves that.
- MSRP: $475
Scicon AeroComfort MTB case
Tester: Adam Newman
Scicon Bags specializes in bicycle transportation cases and is used by several top pro road teams and triathletes, but it also offers a mountain bike case, pictured here.
The case starts with a metal chassis to which the frame and fork are mounted. With both of the bike’s axles (QR or thru axle) mounted into place, it keeps the bike stable and off the ground. Beneath the chassis is a set of four casters that rotate 360 degrees, making it a breeze to roll through the airport.
The bag unzips entirely, with each side folding away to give you total access to the bike, which is useful for you and for the security folks who can open it and see your bike without having to unpack and repack anything.
Each side of the clamshell opening contains a special zippered pocket for your wheels, and I was pleased to see that they fit both 29-inch wheels and a 26×3.8-inch wheel and tire. They will likely fit even 29-plus wheels and tires if you deflate them. There’s also a stash pocket on the inside of the bag for things like tools, pedals and other small items.
The handlebars are removed from the bike and slide into a padded sleeve to keep them protected. The sleeve then Velcros into place so it’s not flopping around. Included is a small metal guard that bolts on to protect your rear derailleur, but I felt safer not taking any chances; I unbolted the derailleur entirely and fastened it to the frame with a toe strap. Pro tip: Toe straps are super handy for all sorts of things—except securing your feet to your pedals.
The last piece is the saddle. You can either remove it altogether and stuff it in somewhere, or slam it down and slip the saddle cover over it. I found that even with it all the way down, the strap wasn’t long enough to reach up and around to secure it in place, but it doesn’t seem like a very vital step in securing the bike. When I traveled with a dropper post, I removed it from the frame and secured it in place with another toe strap because I didn’t want it popping up unexpectedly en route.
Some nice touches on the outside of the bag include plastic bumpers in high-wear areas on the sides, an integrated name tag, and pull handles to roll it along. I would like the bag to have more handles, though, especially down lower, as it is quite tall and can be difficult to lift up over a curb or into a vehicle with only the top handles.
With modern axle “standards” all over the map, you’re going to be able to use the Scicon only with traditional QR axles or 100×15 and 142×12 thru axles. One hang-up is that the rear thru-axle adapter is a small spacer that requires three hands: one to hold the bike, one to hold the adapter piece and one to slide the axle through the bracket. Plus, if you lose it on your trip, you are SOL.
Finally, you need to watch your weight when traveling, and this is likely the case with each of these bags. With just my bike and some small items, my case was right at the 50-pound mark, and some airlines may charge extra if you go over it. If weight isn’t a problem, there is plenty of room to stuff in some clothes, a helmet and other accessories.
- MSRP: $799
Shimano Pro Bike Travel Case Mega
Tester: Mike Cushionbury
Shimano’s component arm, Pro, makes not only quality handlebars, stems, posts and saddles, but also this impressive soft-shell bike bag designed to carry road and mountain bikes.
Holding its upper shape via four removable rigid rods, the aluminum frame is also removable for easy access; it’s suspended above the bottom of the bag and has sliding resin brackets to compensate for various wheelbases that attach to the fork and rear dropouts. The dropout mounts are designed to easily accept quick releases or thru axles, and the rear mount also has a built-in chain guide to keep the rear derailleur from hitting the bottom of the bag. The bag rolls on four small casters that rotate 360 degrees for easy rolling on smooth surfaces. It has a protective inner liner and plenty of additional foam blocks and specialty pads designed to protect the frame from the handlebars.
Each side of the bag has large external wheel pockets that easily fit 29er wheels and tires and some 27-plus (though some tires may need to be partially or completely deflated). Internally, there is a handy stash pocket for smaller items like tools, pedals and extra-small parts, along with a large pocket on the side. It also includes a large mesh bag for clothing. The wheel pockets have hard plastic panels at the hub to protect rotors, and thick padding helps prevents damage.
What makes the Pro bag so amazing is how easy it is to pack. Remove the bag’s frame, take off your wheels and pedals, secure the bike with your wheel axles to the frame, drop the seat just enough to fit in the bag, then remove the handlebars and secure them to the frame with the large pad specifically designed for this, which Velcros into place. Now, simply slide the frame into place—the bag completely unzips on one side, so there is ample room—secure it with the bottom straps, tighten the seatpost strap and you’re ready to travel.
At a light 17.2 pounds, there is some leeway (and plenty of space) to stash shoes, a helmet, a water pack and some clothing while staying under 50 pounds, which is the benchmark for airlines and shipping companies. In use, I’ve never had any damage to my bike or wheels, and all zippers and straps are as durable as you’d expect.
The Pro Mega is one of the best travel bags you’ll find, and it sells for a comparably decent price. It rolls nicely, has five handholds for dragging or picking it up and packing it is incredibly simple and fast. If you travel with your bike a fair amount, this is the bag for you.
- MSRP: $500
The new Shimano gravity series has been designed with input from Men’s Downhill World Champion Gee Atherton, 2013 Downhill World Champion Rachel Atherton and multiple British 4X National Champion Dan Atherton. The Atherton’s influence is clear to see in the AM9, which the whole GT Atherton team has been testing since the beginning of the season, with protection and grip to suit harsh riding conditions and the most aggressive riding styles.
The newly designed pedal channel in the outsole of the AM9 makes it easier to re-engage to the pedal while unclipped. This feature also brings about a weight-saving of 217g per pair (size 40), a 23% reduction over the AM45. It features a comfortable EVA foam construction midsole and Volume Tour Last sizing outsole for extra volume at the ball of the foot, providing additional comfort and support on and off the bike. A Velcro strap on the upper of all new AM shoes keeps the foot securely in place with even tension across the metatarsal bones.
The AM7 is identical to the AM9 but with a flat Virbram outsole for flat pedals. Armoured lace shields on the AM9 and AM7 provide additional metatarsal protection from the elements and keep laces confined, away from chain rings and cranks.
The AM5 on the other hand, foregoes the lace shield to offer a street-inspired style, equally at home in skate parks, trail parks and everywhere in between. With a lightweight and non-compressed flat insole, the AM5 offers an even and comfortable foot cushion for a platform that’s ideal for both walking and riding.
With its high-ankle protection and walking support, the XM9 takes on the appearance of a hiking boot rather than a traditional cycling shoe. Strategic ankle padding prevents debris from entering the shoe and offers more ankle support than a regular cycling shoe without interfering with pedaling movement. Further protection from the elements comes in the form of a durable rubber toe cap, natural nubuck leather and a breathable, waterproof Gore-Tex liner for optimal climate comfort.Traditional laces provide the closure system with metal hook eyelets for lacing, combined with a Mini Power Strap, TPU heel, and cupped and grooved insole to secure your foot in the shoe.
Designed for riders who are likely to spend as much time off the bike as on it, the XM7 delivers the best of both worlds. Natural Nubuck leather and a reinforced rubber toe box provide protection and durability, whilst a Gore-Tex liner allows your feet to breathe. Much like the XM9, a Vibram® outsole provides grip and a flexible half-length shank plate and shock absorbing EVA delivers outdoor walkability in all conditions. The lace closure system with its Velcro cross-foot top loop-strap provides a snug fit and allows laces to be tucked away.
Both the XM9 and XM7 come with a screw-in plastic cap for the recessed SPD cleat. This multi-functional cap is designed for use with flat pedals but is designed to fit an SPD pedal for those who want to get used to the cleat entry and exit action before committing. The cap simply unscrews when you’re ready to add Shimano’s SPD cleats.
A new addition in Shimano’s off-road shoe line-up, these insulated and waterproof boots are fleece-lined for protection from rain and cold. They have a waterproof Gore-Tex insulated comfort liner and heat-retaining fleece lined insole as well as Shimano’s Torbal torsional midsole giving you a stiff instep section and an independently flexible front and back section. This gives the foot a natural flow for descents and also provides you with efficient power transfer to the areas of the foot that need it most. Meanwhile high-traction rubber studs on the outer edges of the sole ensure excellent traction on a wide variety of terrains and conditions.
For mountain biking, the MW7´s molded toe cap and ankle support, cupped high sole and instep, and tough, padded synthetic leather surround protects the foot from on-trail basketball-shaped rocks. Lacing is taken care of with speed-lacing pull-cord and Velcro armored lace shield to ensure a quick and secure fit.
Pricing and availability
- MW7 – September
- XM series, AM9 and AM5 – October
- AM7 – November
- Pricing has not yet been determined.
The fifth annual Ride Sun Valley Bike Festival presented by Subaru of Twin Falls drew a large number of the biking community with an array of two-wheeled events June 25-28. From fierce competition in the SCOTT Enduro Cup presented by Vittoria and the new Shimano Boulder Mountain Fox Trot 50k cross-country race to the comedic Downtown Criterium Team Relay, Bike Prom and SheepTown Drag Races, there were activities to suit every bike fanatic’s interest.
Scott Enduro Cup
The second stop of the SCOTT Enduro Cup presented by Vittoria featured more than 200 competitors from across the country in the two-day competition, which was the first bike race to be held on Sun Valley’s backcountry trails. A North American Enduro Tour stop, this race is one of the longest enduros in North America covering 17.2 miles of downhill timed stages with 7,200 descending vertical feet across backcountry singletrack and the world-class trails of Bald Mountain in the heart of the Sawtooth National Forest. The fastest combined times for men were claimed by Curtis Keene (45:55) and and Teal Stetson-Lee (53:49) for the women.
New this year, day one of the Enduro Cup was the first bike race allowed on the area’s backcountry singletrack, and day two featured legendary trails of Bald Mountain. The course combined ridgelines, stream crossings and high-mountain alpine trails. The course demanded riders have both fitness and focus to rip full-throttle on the descents. A combined time of the five timed stages determined the overall champions.
Red Bull’s Curtis Keene executed the steep sections of the course with impeccable downhill technique to win the Open Men’s division with a combined time of 45:55. Craig Harvey earned second place (46:18) with Mitch Ropelato (46:27) and Kyle Warner (46:39) hot on his heels. Second through seventh place riders all finished within one minute of the other.
“Everything was well organized,” said Curtis Keene, “The backcountry trails were really raw with no berms, awesome rock and when you get to the top, you’ve got a 360 degree view of the mountains below.”
Next, in the Open Women’s category, SCOTT Sports athlete Teal Stetson-Lee (53:49), completely dominated the field. Stetson-Lee was excited to add this first place finish to her Enduro Cup season after placing second at the Moab stop in May. Alison Kinsler (58:03) maintained a consistently fast pace to step up into second place. Close behind was Ileana Anderson with a time of 58:50.
“I felt completely dialed in on my stages,” said Stetson-Lee, “I think adding the backcountry trails was an awesome call. It was good to have variety with the expansive trails out in the mountains and getting exposure to the resort’s singletrack that is really well built.”
Next, the action shifted to the expert, amateur and junior divisions. Winners of those categories were awarded SCOTT Handlebars and Toolkits, Vittoria Tires, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. beer and trophies made by Biondi Handcrafted in Idaho. Podium finishers ranged from first time racers to Enduro Cup veterans. Spectators and athletes viewed live timing results throughout the race on ItsYourRace.com and the ItsYourRace App. The real time results were made possible by the official media and timing sponsor, COX Communications. See the full race results here.
The Open category podium winners received $2,500 total in prize money divided evenly between men and women. The top placing riders in the Amateur categories received gear from sponsors. Riders and spectators also had the chance to enter daily raffles which raised over $1,000 for the Wood River Bike Coalition. Raffle prizes were provided by SCOTT Sports, Vittoria Tires, Subaru of Twin Falls, Niner Bikes, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, SRAM, Club Ride and Biondi.
The final race stop will take place at Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah, on August 15. Registration is still open for the next event. For more information, visit the series’ new website, EnduroCupMTB.com, or follow “EnduroCupMTB” on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Enduro Cup is an MSI production.
Shimano Boulder Mountain Fox Trot 50k
Event organizers worked closely with U.S. Forest Service to host the 32-mile point-to-point cross-country mountain bike race on backcountry trails with 4,200 feet of total climbing including some of the area’s best trails in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.
Robert Squire earned the fastest time of the day and overall men’s champion title by riding the course in 2:09:13. Three Idaho local riders, John Reuter, Eric Chizum, and Steve Price claimed second through fourth place.
Local Sun Valley athlete, Rebecca Rusch, dominated the women’s field with a time of 2:39:14. The next fastest women were Nina Otter (2:47:21) and Brett Stevenson (3:04:40). View the full results here.
“I think Ketchum is paradise,” said Rebecca Rusch. “This place is off the beaten path, which keeps the trails really pristine. Every day at the festival there is a little bit of something for everybody, it’s a party on bikes.”
The unofficial kickoff party of Ride Sun Valley was the legendary SheepTown Drag Race in Hailey, ID, where racers charged head-to-head down Main Street with flaming logs chained behind their bikes. Another entertaining race was the Downtown Criterium Team Relay presented by Vittoria where costume clad riders sprint laps around the town square for cash and local bragging rights.
“My favorite part of the festival was the Enduro Prologue race I did on Friday,” said Teal Stetson-Lee. “I love it when events have added components other than just the racing. It’s spectator friendly and draws the crowds out.”
For festival-goers less inclined to compete there was daily live music in the Expo Area, an 80s theme Bike Prom, and local stoker rides where local bikers guided tours of their favorite trails. The final gathering of the festival was the Idaho Pump Track State Championship Races.
All festival participants had the chance to enter daily raffles which raised over $1,000 for the Wood River Bike Coalition. Raffle prizes were provided by SCOTT Sports, Vittoria Tires, Subaru of Twin Falls, Niner Bikes, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, SRAM, Club Ride and Biondi.
Participants are also encouraged to post their #BestofRSV photos before Tuesday, July 12 on any social channel for a chance to win the Cox Communications #BestofRSV contest awarding Vittoria tires and swag from festival sponsors ($200 value). For more information visit ridesunvalley.com or follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Enduro Cup is an MSI production.
The new carbon Mach 429SL from Pivot Cycles shaves half a pound off the previous frame to come in at a very respectable 5.3 pounds. Match that to 100 mm of potent dw-link controlled suspension and this venerable favorite becomes even more attractive. New hollow-core carbon technology from Pivot not only reduces weight but also increases overall stiffness.
The Mach 429SL is the second ever production bike released with full Shimano XTR Di2 integration (the Mach 4 Carbon was the first) with an easily accessible internal battery compartment near the bottom bracket as well as internal ports with dedicated caps for wires or traditional cables and housing. The frame is also RockShox Reverb stealth dropper post compatible or in our case, the cable and housing from the Fox DOSS dropper routes internally in the top tube.
Our bike is built up with a complete XTR Di2 group, including Race level brakes and wheels as well as Shimano’s Pro line Tharsis XC Flat Di2 specific stem and carbon handlebar with internal wire routing. By using these the wiring system is almost completely hidden in the frame and totally out of view at the cockpit.
The frame comes standard with a Fox Float Kashima Factory shock with Pivot’s simple to use sag indicator. It also has a 120 mm travel Fox 32 CTD Factory Kashima coated fork but the geometry is designed to work with a 100 mm travel fork as well. As shown, our bike weighs 25.15 pounds without pedals but depending on some specific parts could be built to less than 24 pounds.
With a head angle measuring in at 69.3 degrees, Pivot is utilizing a fairly common number for its cross-country specific Mach. That’s matched to 17.65-inch chainstays to keep the bike quick and nimble. So far its 100mm of rear travel has been highly impressive, often giving the illusion of having more travel at higher speeds. Climbing, the Mach is consistently active but excellent anti-squat from the dw-link design keeps the bike feeling fresh and spunky when putting power to the pedals on smooth sections without giving up compliancy and traction on technical climbs
The Mach 429 SL Carbon frameset retails for $2,999 and various complete bikes are offered. The Shimano XTR Di2 bike retails for $10,400 with a few slight differences from ours including Reynolds carbon wheels, a Pivot branded Phoenix Carbon seat post and handlebar, and Team stem. For first impressions of XTR Di2 click here and here.
By Eric McKeegan
The Trail version of Shimano’s excellent XTR stoppers gets all the attention, but there is a Race version that deserves some attention as well. The power and control of the Trail brakes are well documented, but we’ve never had a chance to put the Race version through its paces, until now.
Visually the Race and Trail brakes look much the same, but there are number of differences. The lever itself is carbon fiber rather than aluminum, and it is slightly narrower. There is no pad contact adjustment, reach adjust requires a 2mm Allen key and there is no ServoWave linkage.
Both the master cylinder and caliper are magnesium, rather than the more common (and heavier) aluminum. Alloy backed resin pads are stock, but the finned metallic pads from the Trail brake can be swapped in for more power and better cooling. The pistons are ceramic, which absorbs very little heat, preventing heat transfer to the mineral oil. The front brake (caliper, hose, fluid and lever) weighs in at 185 grams, putting it up there with some of the lightest brakes on the market.
I also got a set of the Freeza rotors (180mm front/160mm rear) to review. The Freeza rotors extend the aluminum in the middle of the rotor into finned radiators for ever better cooling over the standard IceTech rotors. Freeza rotors are for CenterLock hubs only. The Freeza rotors claim cool like the next rotor size up, so smaller and lighter rotors can be used for XC racing.
There is a lot of technology in these brakes, and it isn’t wasted. I was prepared to be unimpressed with the performance, but that was not the case. There is plenty of power, and great lever feel. In fact, I find myself preferring the way the power comes on with the Race rather than the Trail brakes. At times, I find the power of the Trail brakes to be very abrupt, while the Race brakes have a very linear build up in braking power.
The brakes where as close to silent as any I’ve ever used, and I found the resin pads to be plenty powerful for XC and trail bikes. I did a couple of trail rides on basic stainless rotors when I swapped out wheels, and immediately noticed more noise and heat build up. With the correct rotors in place, the power and lack of fade on long downhills, particularly for such a light XC brake, was almost shocking.
Compared to the Trail brake, the Race brake doesn’t have quite the absolute power, but as a light rider, on light bikes, I didn’t find this to be an issue. The lever shape is perfect for one finger braking, and compared some other carbon levers I’ve used, these levers were plenty stiff.
Unlike some super expensive and lightweight component options out there, these XTR Race brakes have little to no tradeoffs for dropping grams, unless you are taking money into the equation. Obviously, all this performance isn’t cheap at $280 per wheel, but this is XTR after all so penny-pinchers need not apply. I’m highly impressed that a brake designed for professional cross-country racing is capable of handling the rigors of trail riding as well.
In its unending march of product development, Shimano has announced its latest Acera line of mountain bike and trekking components will feature many of its technologies that once debuted at a higher price point. The new M3000 series features a new compact triple crank, the introduction of the Shadow rear derailleur design, and shifters that stand alone or are integrated with the brake levers on a single clamp.
Retaining a nine-speed layout, the drivetrain starts with a new “compact triple” crank that has 40/30/22 gears, better suited to the overall larger diameter of 29er wheels.
The front derailleur has been redesigned for more tire clearance.
And the rear derailleur has adopted the Shadow design that tucks it in closer to the wheel, making it less prone to damage from impacts.
The Mega-9 shifter include a gear indicator window and is available as an integrated unit with the brake levers on a single clamp, freeing up handlebar space. They are mated to the new Acera hydraulic disc brakes.
Both the brakes and shifters are also available as standalone units.
Look for the Acera group to make its debut on 2016 model year bikes from various brands. While it might not take the mountain bike market by storm, it’s great to see how technology the is pioneered at the high end works its way down to more affordable price points, making everyone’s ride a little better.
This is Part 2 of my first real shakedown rides with the new Shimano XTR Di2 group. Read Part 1 here.
In the span of just a few days since receiving the goods I was able to put almost 150 off-road miles on Shimano’s exciting new XTR Di2 electronic components. Here’s a rundown of how it went in the California and Arizona desert.
Yes indeed, automatic shifting and double chainrings, that’s what XTR Di2 is all about. At first mention it’s also perhaps becoming one of the most polarizing features in mountain bike drivetrain history—until you try it. Many riders initial reaction upon hearing about Synchro Shifting is concern over a loss of control over gear selection resulting in unwanted shifts and/or being in the wrong gear at the wrong time. I can tell you that over all those miles I mentioned earlier that never happened. Not once. The truth is as a rider you still have plenty of control over gear selections and the system actually enhances control and certainly increases the speed of gear selection and shifting
Synchro Shift is controlled by the handlebar mounted display unit that serves as the brain. There are three settings: S1 for race style riding, S2 for “trail” riding and manual, which turns off Synchro Shift (a setting I couldn’t use because I didn’t have a front derailleur shifter plugged in.) Besides controlling shift settings the unit displays current rear gear by number, shows battery life, and serves as the recharge and computer port. It can also display and control suspension mode if you have Fox’s electronic iCD suspension plugged in. The battery is the same as Di2 on the road and is mountable in various positions depending on bike frame. In the case of the Di2 specific Pivot Mach 429 SL, it’s integrated and hidden in the frame, as are all the wires.
Plug and play
As I mentioned in my first report, the dynamics of performance can be easily altered via a downloadable computer program. When the display until is plugged into a computer the entire system shows up on the screen with all your options including yes or no for the front shifter, suspension, gear ratios related to when it auto shifts and shift speed.
My changes, besides reversing which button up and down shifted to match the mechanical version, were essentially beefing up the stock S1 and S2 with S1 being based around racing with more time in the big ring and S2 being based around trail riding with more time in the inner ring (both of which, according to the Shimano tech that came up with the custom mapping, makes it feel like 13 gears in the back rather than 11.) I also increased rear derailleur shift speed when holding down the shift button (hold it down and the chain can dance across the entire cassette quicker than you can blink.) The cool thing is because it’s so easy to program you can search for your own settings or just leave it stock which ultimately works amazing—the tinkerer in me just had to be able to say I changed it a bit I guess.
Because it’s so programmable, you can customize deeper by running both shifters and having both control rear shifting, or make one side all upshift and the other all downshift. If you choose to go with Fox’s iCD suspension rather than using the stock Fox button you could program the front shifter to control the fork and shock lockout. Or, set it to manual, leave both shifters on and just enjoy great shifting that way. The one fly in the soup is that thus far Shimano is resisting to make it Mac compatible. Also, making it mobile Android and iOS compatible would be a great thing.
Battery life is less than the road version mainly due to the rear derailleur having to push inward against the clutch mechanism. Expect to get about 20 hours based on how much you shift and temperatures–Shimano Skunk riders did the entire seven day BC Bike Race on one charge. If the battery did begin to die on the trail you’ll lose front shifting ability first followed by rear with it staying in whatever gear you were in when it finally puckers out.
On the trail
Since using XTR Di2 I can say I’ve never used a front shifter with the system and I never will, Synchro Shift is that good. My initial concerns of suddenly being in the wrong gear or getting frustrated with auto shift simply never materialized. As you shift through the cassette you’ll hear a double beep to signal on the next rear shift that the front will be auto shifting and the rear will be dropping up or down a few gears to compensate.
It worked perfectly every time and after just a few miles I was able to anticipate the shift and adjust cadence like I would if I was doing the shift manually except if you tried shifting both front and rear in the same fashion with a cable system you’re risking a jammed or derailed chain—something that has never happened yet with XTR Di2 no matter how sloppy my shift and pedaling form became. I was also always in the right gear at the right time. In fact, I’ve begun to ride (and think) like it’s a single ring in front, the performance of the double ring auto shift is that spot on, intuitive and seamless.
Other performance notes include a nice tactile feel at the shifter. Rather than just being buttons the triggers move just enough to give you a solid feel of shifting. This also prevents accidental shifts. I would like to see more lever position adjustability. At times they seemed to close together and I’d occasionally over extend my thumb and push the wrong trigger. I’ve moved the shifter perch farther inward on the bar as a fix.
Because the 11-40 cassette is designed around double (36/26 chainrings) and even triple setups rather than a single ring (though that is an option) the steps between gear ratios is noticeably tighter than that of SRAM’s 11-speed cassette and as such I found myself shifting a lot more and staying right in the gearing sweet spot everywhere on the trail
Undeniably Shimano has hit a home run with electronic mountain bike shifting. It’s also essentially the same weight as mechanical XTR—a feat Shimano says it achieved because the electronic wires are so much lighter than cables and housing. Price is, as you’d expect: about $3,300 to $3,500 for the complete group including brakes. But as with the Di2 systems for the road you can expect to see it trickle down to at least XT level in the future for a substantial cost savings.
Kudos to Shimano for setting up ride sessions in the tough, rocky terrain of Palm Springs to showcase durability. There were many times squeezing though rock sections at speed where I expected to snag or bang the rear derailleur but it never happened. I left with a few small scrapes on my cranks as a reminder of how unforgiving the desert can be but ultimately there were zero failures or broken parts. As you may have noticed, I haven’t got much to complain about yet.
Now it’s on to long-term east coast testing. Keep an eye on dirtragmag.com for more!
Shimano unveiled its fleet of long-term test bikes for its revolutionary electronic XTR mountain bike shifting in sunny Palm Springs, California. My bike is the potent Pivot Mach 429 Carbon, which is one of the first available to be designed specifically for all internal Di2 wire routing as well as battery storage. After a few shake down rides here in Palm Springs I’ll be going directly to 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo as a solo racer to get more time on the product before taking it home to the east coast.
Since XTR Di2 has had plenty of media coverage already but little actual ride reviews I’ll break this down into multi part reports. First, I’ll begin with my setup choices.
Because this this is going to be a cross-country race bike I was able to secure the 160 gram Pro Tharsis XC Flat Di2 bar and 145 gram stem. These two pieces are designed to run the Di2 wires internally, through the fork’s steerer, out the stem and inside the bar where a small port near the lever mount is located to bring out the wire. Additionally, Shimano mechanics added a little something special: In addition to the wire junction in the frame they added another one inside the stem. Everything is plug and play and it was ultimately pretty easy to do thanks to a multitude of wire lengths available. Doing this made what I did next very simple.
Right off the bat I wanted the full experience of a double ring set up without a front shifter so I had it removed even before riding the bike. In this case, imply remove the handlebar, pull out the junction box hidden in the stem and unplug the front shifter.
Next up was programming. Out of the box the shifters felt reversed from the traditional cable triggers (the upshift and downshift buttons were backwards) so I had the mapping changed to match that for which button up and downshifted. Anyone with a PC (no Mac compatibility yet and it’s not certain when) can adjust the performance in a nearly unlimited way.
Want to have right and left shifters that both control the rear derailleur? Sure. How about make the right side all upshift and the left all downshift for the rear? No problem. Of course you can also leave them stock and have traditional front and rear shifting. The basic S1 and S2 setting worked fine (there’s also manual which eliminates auto front shifting) but I went deeper with a custom program that one of the on-site Shimano techs created to better suit my riding style.
The new S1 map is based around riding in the big ring longer while S2 is based around staying in the inner ring longer. Both setting also increased the how many gears the rear derailleur automatically moves as well as when the front shift happens. I also increased the speed in when the derailleur moves across the cassette. As you can see, there is a lot of customization available.
The first two short rides were incredible. The performance of XTR Di2 is amazing and so far is delivering as promised. Stay tuned for more reports on how it works after more miles are packed on. This is just the beginning of our long term testing.Tweet Print
Joe Cocker passed way December 22. Say what you will about his singing, but there is no denying that man put his heart and soul and body into his performances.
It was against that backdrop that I unpacked boxes this Christmas Eve, the help from our friends to get the XTR and Deore groups we have in for a side-by-side review. Check out the introduction to this project and the unboxing and comparison of the individual parts here.
First up, and the key to the project, a pair of size large Santa Cruz Heckler frames. Reliable, versatile, and well-loved around here, the Heckler is ideal for this project.
Up front, each has a new, 150mm Fox Float 36 fork. We reviewed the current fork in the pages of the magazine, and praised it highly, but unless it was being pushed hard, it could feel harsh compared to its main competition, the RockShox Pike. Fox has been listening to feedback, and the forks we have here have revised damping rates, and claim to offer more small pump plushness without losing mid-stoke support. At some point we’ll install the fork we previously tested on one Heckler to do some side-by-side comparisons.
I love Continental Tire’s Black Chili compound this time of year. Grippy for wet roots and rocks, but still firm enough to dig in when the ground is soft. We got in two sets of the Trail Kings, 2.4 for the front, 2.2 for the rear.
Cockpit parts are courtesy Shimano’s little known (in the U.S.) component arm, PRO. We’ve got aluminum Tharis bars, stems and clamp-on grips. I haven’t ridden them yet, but the grips feel awesome. Thin, tacky and no outside metal clamp to make my hands hurt. Saddles are Condors with the anatomic cut out, chromoly rails in 134 mm width.
Santa’s elf was getting tired by the time the bikes looked like this and gave up on getting better pictures. Those looking closely will see all four brake hoses need to be trimmed to length, and the proper front derailleur (top swing, top pull, 34.9 mm clamp) for both bikes are still in transit. And the dropper posts don’t match, which is the one thing I wasn’t able to source from a single company. Right now the green Deore Heckler has an X-Fusion and the black XTR Heckler has a Fox.
Stay tuned for weights, better pics and more detailed build specs. In the meantime, watch this video and have a safe and happy transition from 2014 to 2015. Cheers!
After a first ride on the new XTR at the Orbea Oiz launch this summer, we’ve been impatiently awaiting for the XTR groups to become available. A few days ago, the wait was over.
Peel off that shiny outer layer and things look even more classy.
Just before the XTR stuff showed up, we also took delivery of the Deore M615 2×10 group, which is seems to be pretty darn awesome for an entry level mountain bike group.
Everything got unboxed and unwrapped, and each piece went up on our new Feedback Sports Summit scale. Weights, approximate retail prices, and comments below. We have an interesting plan for these groups, but that news will have to wait until a few more big cardboard boxes show up at HQ.
XTR – $600. Deore – $140. I’ll be honest here, the XTR crank doesn’t do much for me aesthetically, but it sure is shiny. The Deore crank has the best dollar to looks ratio of anything on the market right now. (In my heart of hearts, I prefer the looks and finish of the Deore crank, but we won’t talk about that)
XTR – about $40. Deore – included with crankset. The XTR BB looks mighty svelte, and comes with a plastic adaptor to install it using the regular Shimano bottom bracket tool. The bearing seem tiny, but for the most part Shimano bottom brackets are quite robust, so the odds are good the bearing should have an acceptable life span.
XTR – $240. Deore – $80. Both rear danglers have a clutch, and the 100 gram weight difference is the biggest percentage weight loss for the whole group. Neither of these are winning any awards for looks in my book, but form over function, and I’m not looking at them while riding, etc.
XTR – $120. Deore – $35. Shimano seemingly isn’t really pushing the 1x aspect of the new XTR groups for anyone but fit XC race types, steering most riders towards a double crank, so the front pusher is in full effect. A standard clamp mount Deore front derailleur will weigh more than the direct mount shown here, FYI.
XTR – $350. Deore – $45. Considering the shifting technology built into a modern cassette, the Deore cassette is a steal, albeit with one fewer cog. The XTR cassette slots in between the SRAM XO1 and X1 ten speed cassettes in terms of price, but is still a ton of money to spend on a wear item.
XTR – about $300 per wheel (no rotor). Deore – about $140 per wheel (no rotor). XTR Trail brakes may be the best brake on the market, assuming money is no object. The much less expensive Deore brakes use the same Servo-Wave link that everyone loves. Swap in some fancy IceTech finned pads and these may be the best bang for the buck going right now.
Front 180mm rotors. XTR on the left, Deore* on the right.
Rear 160mm rotors.
XTR – $75 per wheel. Deore* – $35 per wheel.
The rotors sent in for test with the Deore group are actually the RT68 model, which is part of the Zee group. They feature the ICE technology: a steel/aluminum/steel sandwich construction for better cooling. The standard RT64 Deore rotors do not have this feature.
XTR – $60. Deore – $25. The XTR chain uses hollow pins which explains most of the weight savings.
XTR – $240. Deore $80. I really can’t think of much to say here. They are shifters, and are mostly hidden by the handlebar.
XTR: The fit and finish of XTR is still tops in the industry. No one will mistake this for an entry level group. As a flagship product, XTR continues to look the part. You’re looking at about $2,400 for the complete set, depending on your specific setup.
Deore: It is hard to believe how good this stuff looks. Except for the rotors and cassette, the rest of the group would not look out of place with XT or SLX markings. You’re looking at about $755-$800 for the full set. For something marketed as entry level, this a very, very impressive looking group of components.
We’re going to build both groups onto a pair of identical bikes and see where they take us. Stay tuned.