Category Archives: Reviews
I’m pretty adamant in believing that out of any bike you own, your MTB deserves carbon wheels more than the rest. Now, my point that I’m trying to make – without getting too far off-topic – is out of all your bikes, your MTB gets abused the most and is required to do the most. With road and even cross wheels, you’re rarely taking big hits off-axis and you’re certainly not charging rock gardens. Regardless of tire size, a MTB benefits from a carbon wheel, both in durability and performance. Just ride a set and you’ll see what I mean.
That said, I’ve never been convinced that a set of proprietary wheels is a worth while investment, when compared to a set of hand laced wheels. The problem is, those hand-built wheels get expensive when you’re talking carbon fiber rims, laced to a DT, King, White Industries or the like hubset.
If you do decide to pull the trigger on a set of carbon hoops, there are so many options out there. Do you want XC race-light or “trail” wheels? Well, SRAM made it easy with the Roam 60. They’re nearing the weight of an XC wheelset (1650 grams for a 29r) with the durability of a legit trail wheel. I tend to over compensate my inability to connect what I see myself doing in my head, to what actually happens on the bike, with products that are engineered for even gnarlier undertakings. In short: I like riding beefy products on my XC rig, because it’s not just a XC rig.
There’s something special happening right now within the US framebuilding industry. Something that ought not to be overlooked, no matter how too good to be true it might seem. Before we go any further however, I must make one note: a production frame is not a custom frame. There’s a misconception that everything made by a framebuilder is custom. A production run is a series of sizes, made in an assembly-line process, which drastically reduces cost on both the builder’s end and the consumer’s end.
With that come a few issues: one of which being fit and others include – often times – paint choice, or adding extras like braze-ons, pump pegs, chain holders, etc. The most important factor however is fit. Many people are driven to a framebuilder due to fit issues, but a majority of the population can be fit on a stock geometry with a series of tweaks. That said, the geometry for these stock sizes has to be able to accommodate.
Enter Wraith Fabrication, one of these new US-made production companies, headed by an existing framebuilder, Adam Eldridge of Stanridge Speed. Now, why would a framebuilder make another brand to sell bikes? Because of their construction: Wraith is tig-welded, Stanridge is fillet brazed. Adam isn’t the first fillet-braze builder to move onto a brand reliant on tig welding, either.
There exist a series of tig-only framebuilders who build production bikes for various brands, including Wraith Fabrication. Wraith now offers a disc cyclocross bike, the Paycheck and a road bike, the Hustle. These frames are built from Columbus Life tubing, with Ohio-manufactured head tube cups in Oregon and then painted or powder coated in Ohio.
Adam designed the geometries, specs and brought the project to life… using magic? Nope. Just a solid production. I got to take one of these bikes, the Paycheck disc cross bike for a series of rides over the past week. Check out an initial reaction below…
Photo by Gideon Tsang
Sure, it’s not technically “bike wear” but I’ve still enjoyed wearing, riding in and camping in the new Topo Designs apparel. With a newly improved fit, the shorts feel better and the flannels are an amazing companion during fall camping trips.
This is all I wore for two days and couldn’t be happier. See more at Topo!
I’ve ridden my share of 29’rs and up until recently, I was sold that the Tallboy and Tallboy LTC had the market cornered as far as geometry is concerned. Now, let me say that I’m an enthusiastic reviewer and that can be a double edged sword at times. I’d also note that I don’t particularly like doing reviews, not because they’re not fun, but I couldn’t really care for technical adverbage.
That said, I can tell naunces in geometry and component groups quite well and when something’s good, it’s good. Also, believe me, when it’s bad, it’s bad.
Luckily for me – yay new review bike – I’ve been in absolute love with the new S-Works Stumpjumper FSR EVO 29 – which has been replaced by the standard FSR 29 – and who wouldn’t be? This is a 29’r fans dream bike. Once you strip away the plush, crispness of XX1, the tunability and stability of the Rock Shox PIKE and the Fox Float rear shock, you’re left with one crucial element: geometry…
It takes a bit of convincing for most people, but after you go with a fatter tire on your cross bike, you rarely will want to go back. Since riding the Nano for around 6 months, I’ve fallen in love with the extra cushion provided by a 40c tire and while I love the Nano, I really wanted to give the Surly Knard 41c a go. If, for any other reason than the allure of a smidge in additional width.
Trails, sure! But racing? For some reason, people are apprehensive about racing a 40+c tire – USAC allows it, so why not? My guess is, that age old myth that a “bigger tire is slower”… Oh but the contrary, with the right PSI, you’ll have the upper hand on just about any course.
I spent the weekend racing on my new Knards and have some thoughts below…
Pulling the Trigger on the Bullitt Cargo Bike
Words and photos by Kevin Sparrow
Bakfiets, bucket bike, cargo bike, or long john; no matter what you call it, this is a true workhorse of a bike. The Bullitt from Copenhagen, seem to be the cargo bike of choice for working messengers around the globe. My first opportunity to ride one was when I was working for Breakaway Couriers right here in Milwaukee. I have always wanted one for myself but had no idea just how much until my last trip to Amsterdam. There, I borrowed a friend’s bakfiets from the brand Work Cycles and took my wife Dani and daughter Lily for a riding tour of the city. After that one afternoon, I was convinced that I needed one. As soon as I got back from that trip I started researching what was available and affordable within the U.S.
People keep talking about dropper posts on cross bikes and while I understand their concerns, I think these Ergon CF3 posts are the perfect solution for those wanting a post that absorbs rough roads or trails. They’re light, fairly easy to setup – use a torque wrench! – and I was amazed at how much “shock” they actually absorb. Aside from rider weight limitations (220lbs), they seem to be resilient. I’ve since put it on my cross bike for trail riding and even after some remounts and wrecks, it hasn’t slipped. I didn’t even use the shim…
See more below.
The history of Chumba is one with a somewhat rocky past but it appears the brand has finally hit smooth trails with its recent rebranding and relaunch. When a couple of guys from Austin, Texas took over, they had one thing on their minds: steel. That and making mountain bikes in Texas, designed to thrash our local trails and still perform in the mountains of Colorado.
Earlier this year, we looked at their 29+ Ursa model and yesterday, I met the Chumba team out at Pace Bend Park, a 45 minute drive from Austin, to shred their new made in Texas Stella 29’r hard tail.
Reviewing bikes like the Cielo Road Racer is easy. Well, sort of. Isn’t the whole idea about a bike review to critically assess its potential for the market? That means looking and discussing honestly the strengths and the weaknesses.
Luckily, for Cielo, these were apparent after the first ride and continued to hold strong throughout the several weeks that the Road Racer Di2 was in my possession. Some of my critiques are merely aesthetic or tied in with the build kit on this particular bike.
Whatever my thoughts are, I can tell you, it’s gonna be tough to send her home.
Turner’s CZAR XC Lightweight Race 29r MTB
Words by Sean Talkington, photos by John Watson
I spent the last few weeks getting to know the Turner Czar and rode it just about everyday while in Austin post-Interbike. John had invited me to fly out on his private jet – the Jetavist. Our plan was just to chill and launch water balloons at Lance Armstrong’s house from his adjacent mansion (they’re neighbors you know). This was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up, but when we tried to pay the pilot with “internet dollars” he declined, so we were forced to drive out in an old pickup truck instead.
David Turner has been building legit metal bikes in the USA for 20 years now. He and his wife both ride/race regularly. The fact that he has been both building and riding for so long and is actually conducting R&D on his own products is apparent in the ride quality. If you talk to anyone that owns a Turner, they will tell you how great the ride is. Now he is offering carbon models like the Czar to keep pace with the current trend of making featherweight xc bikes.
This bike was perfect for Austin, TX. The place is basically one giant rock! You don’t really “feel” the rear suspension until you need it, which is nice. That paired with the fact that this bike weighs in at less then most hardtails and has two bottle cage mounts (why are people still making xc bikes w/ one cage mount!!!) makes it a perfect bike for long days and mixed terrain combined. It goes over rough sections effortlessly, yet climbs with ease… especially in the chunky stuff.
I’m no rocket ship down the super steep technical stuff, so it was easy to become a fan of the slacker head tube that this bike offers. The 69.8 degree angle makes steep downhill sections feel noticeably more comfortable than a bike with a more aggressive set up. The Turner sizing on this model is also shorter then most other brands. The Czar I was riding was listed as a medium, but felt more like a small/medium (smedium).
This made the bike feel more maneuverable and agile for quick or technical punchy climbs and switchbacks, but I did have to ride a 100mm stem. The demo I road had some skinny pizza cutter Schwalbe tires that would be better suited for a cross bike, but if you swapped those out for something a bit meatier and maybe even throw in a dropper post I think you could ride this bike just about anywhere.
For more information, including purchasing, build options and just plain browsing, head over to Turner Bikes.
*Photographer’s note: We haven’t had much sun at “golden hour” in Austin and it was raining when we shot these photos. That said, the photos don’t do this bike’s finish justice. It really looks great in the sun!
Follow Sean on Instagram.