Mountain Bike Mayhem

Because of my day job I spend an inordinate amount of time riding a road bike. Maybe not a crazy number of miles, but definitely a crazy number of days. Hell, I got a company Pinarello F10 handed to me in the same way I got issued my MacBook Pro. My uniform for work is a full Giordana FRC kit in team colors and I have used the company mechanic far more often than the company IT department.

I occasionally shave my legs, take the random FTP test and visit Steephill.tv on a regular basis to get a dose of the professional race scene, but I also have a subscription to BIKE magazine, love watching mountain bike videos on instagram and find myself ocassionally geeking out over sag percentages and rebound rates.

And never has it been a better time to be a bicyclist in the off-season. The amount of fodder to pour over is at an all-time high. You have your traditional books and magazine, you have podcast and youtube channels, you have online training tools like Zwift and TrainerRoad and Sufferfest and you have Strava to not only track everything you do, but the ability to stalk all your friends, neighbors and even the professionals who let you peak at there impressive numbers.

All this is to say I have spent an inordinate amount of time this winter reading training articles, listening to mountain bike podcasts, studying workout charts and generally geeking out over all things bicycle.

And what I’ve concluded is I desperately want a new mountain bike.

And buying a new mountain bike right now should be a no-brainer. No one is making a bad bicycle right now. Whether that be a mountain bike or a road bike or a gravel bike, the bicycles of 2019 are amazing. From the shifting to the braking to the geometry, bicycles right now are better than they have ever been.

Which is both a blessing and a curse.

If all the bikes are great, then how does one pick a new whip? And to make the task of picking a new mountain bike even more daunting the people who ride mountain bikers, come in more varietals than grapes. You have your enduro riders, cross-country rides, downhill riders, down-country riders, short track experts, freeriders, single-speeders and your garden variety trail rider. And there is a bike for each and everyone of them.

So here is what I’ve learned about the modern mountain bikes, so far. 100mm is plenty of travel. 150mm is not enough travel. 130mm is the new 145mm. 180mm hardtails are the new singlespeed. Having longer travel upfront is better than having the same travel front and rear, unless having the same travel is better than the other way around. And hardtails are great unless you have one.

And thus, if I may summarize, the mountain bike shopper is looking for a one-quiver bicycle and as far as I can tell it does not exist. If you want to race, you need a cross-country bike which is short on travel and light on weight or at least a trail bike that has a solid pedaling platform, that climbs really well. And if you want to trail ride our need a cross-country bike that is a little slacker and descends well or an enduro bike with cross country tendencies. Not to mention that if you live in some place flat, but aspire to hit the bike parks for some big hucks then you will want something that pedals really well, has a reasonable amount of travel, but rides like a much bigger sled.

Specialized headquarters

Now once you have picked out the perfect mountain bike for your riding conditions you are going to have to make some serious calculation and decisions about how you will set up your suspension. Do you want small bump compliance or do you want a bottomless feel to your whip. Do you want aggressive rebound over stutter clutter and/or big hit plushness. Should you be running a coil shock, are you going to nerd out over rebound and compression and therefore want a shock with a myriad of adjustment or are you a set it and forget it kind of guy. Then we have stem length, saddle setback, dropper post drop, bar width and water bottle placement.

Oh wait, even before all this you need to decide if you want a 29er, a 27.5er or maybe you picture yourself as a 27.5+ kind of pedaler. The 29er is faster unless you are riding in the tighter slower sections then they are apparently slower and more cumbersome. And the 27.5er is faster unless you are in the faster sections and then they are slower. And they are more fun unless you are riding faster sections, then they are less fun. Finally, the 27.5+ is more confidence inspiring and possibly faster in trickier sections with more grip, but can also be difficult because they can feel uncertain while being certainly fun.

Of course, this leads us to tires and tire pressure. Softer rubber offers more grip, but also wears faster and can be a bit pricey. Harder rubber is good for certain conditions and certain days and then bigger tires with lower tire pressures being great for some conditions on some days and you will need a tire with wider spread tread for those other days on other conditions. This, of course, will all become much clearer once you have added your Quark Tyre Wiz monitors and start to parse the data.

Which brings us to another crucial question. Are you Shimano rider or SRAM devotee? Is the bird the word? Or are you still of the belief 2x drivetrains make for a better riding experience? And what about the conundrum of whether you are in the Rock Shox or the Fox Factory Racing camp. Or maybe you like the idea of running a smaller companies suspension: Marzocchi, DVO, Cane Creek or maybe Manitou.

I have weighed all of these things, done all the research, watched all the videos and have narrowed my choice down to three bicycles. They are, in no particular order, the Yeti SB6, the Santa Cruz Hightower 27.5+ and the Scott Spark RC 900. Which is to say, I have literally no idea what bike I should be riding.

I’m battling two very clear schools of thought at this juncture. The first being there is something comforting about being way over-biked for almost all conditions. Which explains my love of the Yeti. It runs on 27.5 inch wheels, has 6 inches of travel, climbs surprisingly well and under almost no circumstances would I ever take full advantage of all the craziness it is capable of getting one into. I would be so over-biked as to be embarrassing.

Which brings us to the second school of thought, which is to buy the bike for the type of riding you actually do. Which for me, at the moment is a lot of pedaling with my beloved labrador, Carter Whitney, and mostly Cross Country types of trails. Which brings us the Scott Spark RC. The bike rolls 100mm of travel front and back, is whisper light and has just a enough rowdie built-in to make it’s race specific pedigree a blast to blast. I road one of these steeds at last years Barner Burner and it is all that and a bag of chips.

And finally we come to the school of thought I had not discovered in all of my research, which is the Holy Shit I love this thing and it makes no sense at all. But this bike is a blast. I borrowed my friend Tony’s Hightower, which is all blinged out with the Eagle drivetrain, the Fox Factory fork with the Fit4 damper and Float DPX2 shock and giant carbon hoops from Enve. Sitting on it, looking down at those giant WBR tires I was figuring it was going to be like spending the day on a clown bike. How less right could I have been? Certainly, the 27.5+ tires didn’t make it climb like the Spark, but it went up just fine. Climbing and clambering over everything I could ram it into and when the trail turned sloshy, rooty and steep it was nothing but a ripping good time.

Specialized headquarters

So I am so close to making a decision. I just need to test ride the Evil Following MB, the Specialized Stumpjumper S-Works 29, the Yeti SB130, the Trek Fuel EX, the Cannondale Bad Habit, the Spot Mayhem 29, the BMC Fourstroke, the Ibis Ripmo…

Our next installment will take on the hot button topics of baggy shorts vs. lycra, full face helmet vs. enduro lids and the backpack vs. fanny pack vs. no pack conundrum.

Please stay tuned.


Stumpjumper Just Got An Extreme Makeover

Specialized Stumpjumper
Photo: Specialized

With much that has already been out on the interwebz about the 37th iteration of Specialized’s Stumpjumper, I am just going to focus on this promo video.

It’s a really really good one coupled with a wicked sense of humor, a quick trip down memory lane, the new design, the whole nine yards and then some. Watch it.

www.specialized.com


These Stan’s NoTubes Carbon CB7 Hoops Are Smoother And Faster

Hans Rey Stan's NoTubes Arch CB7
Hans Rey sending it on the new Stan’s NoTube Arch CB7 wheelset. Photo: Stan’s NoTubes

Stan’s NoTubes has been one of our favorite wheel makers for many reasons: They’re reasonably priced, durable, and oh so tubeless friendly. As matter of fact, we love our set of Avion Disc Pros so much that we made it our benchmark.

Stan’s has been busy lately since launching their Valor, Bravo and Podium SRD wheels last summer.

Stan's NoTubes Crest CB7 Wheelset
The new Stan’s NoTubes Crest CB7 Wheelset in action. Photo: Stan’s NoTubes

New for 2018 are three rims plus corresponding wheel builds: A 325 gram 29er only Crest CB7 rim with a 23mm internal width for cross-country racing and the Arch CB7 with a 26mm internal width in both 27.5″ (450 gram) and 29″ (475 gram) made for the all-around trail and enduro crowd.

Stan's NoTubes Crest and Arch CB7 profile
Rim profiles of the new Stan’s NoTubes Crest CB7 for cross-country racing, left, and the Arch CB7 for trail, all-mountain and enduro. Photo: Stan’s NoTubes

The heart of the new hoops comes from Stan’s proprietary RiACT lay-up and rim shape featuring a novel high-impact resistant nano-elastomer resin that improves rim strength with the ability to absorb up to 10mm of radial deflection in such Stan believes that it’s not only stronger, but also allows the rim to roll easier while eliminating the dreaded pinch-flats. All three rims feature Stan’s own Bead Socket Technology (BST) where the patented rim geometry secures the bead of the tire (instead of the sidewall) to enable easier tubeless setups, better seal security at lower pressures, and ensure a rounder tire shape for better performance. The low-profile rim is also lighter and stronger too.

Stan's NoTubes Crest CB7 Wheelset
Stan’s NoTubes Crest CB7 Wheelset. Photo: Stan’s NoTubes

As complete stock build, both the Crest and Arch CB7s will come in 28-holes only laced with J-bend (yay!) Sapim Force spokes to Stan’s own Neo hubset with a Durasync six-pawl freehub rolling on triple bearings and a zippy 10° engagement. The precision-machined hubset is compatible with Standard/Boost spacing, all major axles, freehub bodies, and Centerlock/6-bolt.

Stan's NoTubes Arch CB7 Wheelset
Stan’s NoTubes Arch CB7 Wheelset Photo: Stan’s NoTubes

For better peace of mind, the CB7 rims and wheelsets come with 2-year warranty extendable to 5-years plus lifetime crash replacement after registration.

Both the Crest and Arch CB7 will be available in 28 or 32 hole configurations this February with the price of $600 for one rim and $1,399 for the complete set.

www.notubes.com


Go Bag Essentials For The Gnar

I live in earthquake country and sadly I am more prepared to run out the door for a chance at some hero dirt than I am for a big shaker. But then again, maybe it just means I have my priorities straight. Because statistically I feel like I am more likely to get invited to a knobby tire adventure, than I am to be around for the “big one.” This might be foolish thinking and in the end I might regret my decisions, but it is much more fun shopping for new knobbies, than shopping for bottled water and C-rations.

Oddly, I have given this a lot of thought. Since I mostly travel with my road bike I am always trying to find some way to get in a little dirt when I am on the road. This means I have to beg, borrow, plead or rent my way onto a mountain bike. Below is the short list of things I try to pack to make sure I am not only able to ride, but am stoked when the opportunity arises.

Kali, Interceptor $180

Rolling over the top of a blind-pitch, headed to god-only-knows where, the last thing going through my mind is whether-or-not the person who designed my helmet knew what they were doing. Luckily, for me I’m wearing a helmet designed by protection nerd, Brad Waldron, at Kali Protectives. The Interceptor is one of many choices in the newish “enduro” helmet market, designed to give more protection than a weight-weenie cross country helmet, but not the no-holds-bar protection of a downhill helmet. The Interceptor has great coverage, style and plenty of ventilation for all day comfort and just the right amount of “holy shit, about to have an epic yard sale” piece-of-mind for your melon.


Five Ten, Freerider Pro Shoes $150

Sticky feet make for happy trails and the Five Ten reputation defining Freeride Pro is the perfect go-bag shoe. Pull them on, wear them through the airport, out to dinner and onto the gnar from the trailhead. The Freerider Pro is perfect for rolling all over the mountain and honing your mountain biking skills. If you’re not wearing Five Tens, what are you wearing?


Mission Workshop, The Hauser $215

Who knew staying hydrated could be so sexy. So very sexy. Mission Workshop’s Hauser hydration pack falls on the pricier size of packs to strap to your back during your shred and we know form is supposed to follow function, but in this case we wanted a Hauser long before we ever figured out if it was any good. Luckily, for us and for you, this is one quality ripping sack.

To start, let’s get the double bummer out of the way. First, the hydration ready bag, even at over 200 clams, does not come with a hydration bag. It seems a little silly to design a backpack specifically for hydration and to not include a bladder. Fortunately, for me I had one of Osprey’s Reservoirs on the way and can now attest it is one of the nicest and easiest to use bladders on the market. Second, this may not be the best backpack to pack on a scorching hot day. Although, we don’t get many of those here in NorCal, but having this in my go-bag as I prepare for a trip to the Arizona desert has me a little concerned. It just does not vent against the back as well as my Camelbak Mule.

Now on to what we did like about the Hauser. We already mentioned how amazing it looks, but with those good looks comes stellar construction. This pack is built to withstand any major yard sales, comes with an additional tool roll, has plenty of pockets for organization, is waterproof and we chose the larger 14 liter version which sits nicely on the back without hindering mobility. And we would remiss if we didn’t mention these beauties are made right here in the ol’ U.S. of A. and comes with a lifetime guarantee.

We like it. And we think it brings out the color in our eyes.


Shimano, Saint MX80 $60

These Shimano flat pedals are not the lightest or the thinnest pedals on the market, but they are reasonably priced and workhorses ready for anything you can huck off of or pedal up. The other nice part about packing these MX80 pedals instead of clipless is they will, arguably, make you a better rider. They will make you find a better balance on the bike, teach you to weight and un-weight more efficiently and will give you more confidence on a strange whip.


DynaPlug, Air Tubeless Repair $74.99

The hardest decision I have when putting my go-bag together is which tool, hell how many tools, do I “need” to feel comfortable on the trail with someone else’s bicycle. The first thing I make sure I have is some duct tape. I usually wrap a nice helping around a hand pump I bury deep in my bag. I then pack a giant multitool, with a chain breaker, into my bag. I love the tools from Lezyne, Park and Crank Bros. Which brings us to the DynaPlug Air and our love of all things DynaPlug and CO2. With this little wonder you just find the puncture, push the repair dealie into the punture and twist on the air. The air plugs the hole and fills your knobbies back to pressure at the same time. Of course, this won’t help if you have a side tear, but that is why I carry a tube, extra C02 and duct tape.


Silca, Maratona Gear Bag $180

I have been using my North Face duffel bag as my catch-all, stuff it full and go-bag for the last couple of years and I have had no complaints. The only problem being that although the duffel swallows everything I can think to throw into it, but that also means I can spend way too much time, sometimes in a panic, digging around in its gluttonous innards in search of this or that.

Along comes Silca’s new Maratona gear bag with a spacious amount of room and ample organizational opportunities. You have the option of three different carrying straps or make the quick conversion to make it a backpack. The Maratona is designed to meet airline carry-on regulations, so whether you are going around the corner or around the globe, your go-bag is ready to go.


Clif Bar, Crunchy Peanut Butter $1.79/ea, $17.88/box of 12

Sure they are better when they are fresh, but even an old Clif Bar is better than no Clif bar at all. Sure you could do a gel or a block or another bar, but I’ve been gnawing on Clif Bars so long they feel almost like comfort food. Ok, maybe not like a big bowl of mac-n-cheese, biscuits and gravy or a piece of pumpkin pie, but these bars have gotten me through plenty of oh-crap-I-am-about-to-bonk situations.


Light&Motion, Seca 1800 $350

Let there be light. With the days shortening, but the weather still within acceptable riding temperatures, it is the time of dawn and dusk patrols. It is also time to break out the blinky lights and headlamps. The Seca 1800 is an excellent choice for these extend the day jaunts. The quad LED array throws enough light to gobble up the dark and make you feel secure in your line choices on any trail you find yourself pedaling. We ran the Seca on our bars and we ran the Seca 1800 (as in 1800 lumens) on our helmet and didn’t feel like we were asking too much of it in either spot. Add in the fact this chubby, but lightweight light is waterproof and it will get you where you need to go, even if you should have gotten there hours earlier.


Giordana. Monsoon Jacket $380

The cycling rain jacket has come a long way in the last 5 or so years. Not that long ago rain jackets made for cycling were basically fancy garbage bags with zippers stitched in for good measure. You basically pulled it on and let the sweating begin. And lord forbid the rain eased before the ride ended and you had to remove your jacket… you were soaked through and through. The new generation of rain jackets is not only windproof and waterproof, but also “somewhat” breathable. The Monsoon jacket is cut plenty long, with great length on the elastic sleeves, taped seams and packs down to a surprisingly small footprint. I also love my Mission Workshop’s The Orion jacket, the Castelli Tempesta jacket and the Shower Pass Club Pro.


Kitsbow, Shorts $125

This is the first version of Kitsbow’s Base Shorts and I keep them at the ready for any last minute rides. They are beautifully constructed, bombproof and super cozy. I’ve put them permanently into my go-bag, knowing full well they are ready for anything the trail can throw at me. If my bits are protected and comfortable, I can always ride in a pair of jorts and a flannel shirt, so as long as I have my Kitsbow base shorts I am good to roll.


Mercedes-Benz To Sponsor UCI MTB World Cup

Photo: Daimler AG

German automaker Mercedes-Benz and the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) announced today a three-year partnership as presenting sponsor of the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships and title sponsor of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup.

Starting in 2018, Mercedes will support every World Cup Race as well as the World Championship with a fleet of V-Class multi-purpose vehicles for shuttle services and the all-new X-Class pickups for course preparation. There will also be test drives and rides at each venue.

The sponsorship comes as the Stuttgart-based company prepares for the global launch of the mid-sized X-Class in addition to increasing its brand presence in outdoor sports particularly within the mountain bike segment given its active global reach.

Mercedes-Benz X-Class Pickup UCI MTB World Cup
Photo: Daimler AG

“This partnership provides an excellent opportunity for us to accelerate the development of mountain bikes, one of our flagship disciplines. Our events will benefit from the brand’s global reputation and knowledge. That a manufacturer of the calibre of Mercedes-Benz has chosen to invest in cycling is evidence that our sport is attractive to major economic players who select our events to launch their new products. We are delighted with the trust shown by Mercedes-Benz in our federation, our discipline, and our major events,” said newly-elected UCI President David Lappartient.

www.uci.ch