Category Archives: Reviews
The Black Cat Bicycles Operation Thunder Monkey 29r MTB
The Black Cat Bicycles Operation Thunder Monkey 29r MTB

Todd from Black Cat Bicycles knows a thing or two about mountain bikes. Living in Santa Cruz provides a more than ideal testing ground for everything related to dirt. Over the years, he’s dialed in the geometry on his hardtails and recently, this process culminated in what he’s dubbed the Thunder Monkey.

A few months back, Todd emailed me asking if I wanted to review a production bike he was making. His description was right up my alley “slack and low 29r with a tight rear end.” Some time passed and this incredible frame showed up at Mellow Johnny’s to be built up with various SRAM and RockShox products.

Since then, I’ve been putting this bike through the hell that is Central Texas limestone. How does a bike designed to conquer Santa Cruz bide in Texas? Damn well. Check out more below.


May 27, 2015 57 comments
Firing Out of the Gate: My Argonaut Cycles Road with Bontrager Aeolus 3 TLR Carbon Clinchers
Initial Reaction: Bontrager Aeolus 3 TLR Carbon Clincher Wheels

Apologies for double-dipping in Bontrager today!

It’s been torrentially downpouring for the past few weeks in Austin, which flushes those dirt-obsessed back onto the roadways. My MTBs are gathering dust and yet my Argonaut Cycles road bike has been incredibly happy. Coincidentally, we did a photoshoot here in Texas Hill Country with Bontrager last week, which left me with a set of the new Aeolus 3 TLR wheels to review. So now it’s got a new pump and new shoes to skate around town on.

There’s a lot of made in the USA goodness going on. Check out more below.


May 26, 2015 24 comments
Fast and Easy Tubeless with the Bontrager FLASH Charger Floor Pump
Fast and Easy Tubeless with the Bontrager FLASHcharger Floor Pump

The idea of buying an air compressor has come across my mind a few times. With three of my personal bikes being tubeless and a few other review bikes in queue also running tubeless, there’s a lot of tire and wheel swapping happening in the office. Bikes come in with a cyclocross tire and I immediately put on WTB Nanos. MTB tires fall victim to Austin’s craggy limestone and need replacing. Just about every few days, I was finding myself heading to Mellow Johnny’s to get tires put on. While I love giving them the business, I’d rather do that shit myself…

Back to the air compressor conundrum. I love those things, but they’re load and you can’t toss them in the back of a pickup truck or race vehicle with ease. When Bontrager came out with the FLASH Charger floor pump I remember thinking “oh, neat” before scrambling back out on the road for a few weeks. It wasn’t until recently that I bit the bullet and bought one.

At $120, it’s a bit more money than a low-end air compressor, but it uses no electricity, is much more quiet and honestly, seats up tires just as easy…


May 26, 2015 34 comments
Six Months with the Surly Ice Cream Truck: A Three-Season Review – Morgan Taylor
Six Months with the Surly Ice Cream Truck – Morgan Taylor

Words and photos by Morgan Taylor unless otherwise noted.

Six months ago, I hung up my modern mountain bike and began riding a fat bike with thumb shifters and cable brakes as my only bike. Accustomed to the niceties of lightweight wheels, four piston brakes, and an 11-speed drivetrain, I’ll admit I didn’t have a lot of faith in this experiment. I had a feeling I would be itching to get back on my other bike long before the snow melted.

You see, not especially long ago, I held some fairly strong opinions about fat bikes. I worked in mountain bike media, had access to all the newest technology, and was convinced that fat bikes were so far outside the realm of acceptable mountain bikes that I chose to write them off.


Apr 27, 2015 63 comments
Locked and Loaded on the Niner RLT9 Steel Cyclocross Bike
My ride: Niner RLT9 Steel with everything I need for three days of self-supported camping.

Cyclocross bikes may be designed to race for 45 minutes to an hour in various conditions, but their beauty lies in their versatility. I’ve put in a lot of time on my cross bike over the years, and only a fraction of those hours were spent racing. Instead, my bike’s been on road, trail, dirt, gravel and frontage road rides. With the right gear range, which is now as simple as a cassette or a chainring swap, a cyclocross bike could very well be the only drop bar bike you’ll need.

Companies like Niner are banking on that and while they offer a few ‘cross bikes, the RLT9 Steel is their flagship steel rig. Made from oversized Reynolds 853, with a pressfit 30 bottom bracket and a sweet carbon fork, the RLT9 Steel is being marketed to the “adventure” crowd.

What better way to test a bike’s capabilities than to pull one right from the box, strap three day’s worth of camping gear on it and chase 20 people around the mountains, roads and singletrack in central California?

That’s exactly where my relationship with the RLT9 Steel began… In the San Jose airport.


Apr 22, 2015 41 comments
Is it Worth it? Kitsbow’s Alpha Snap Jacket

While doing reviews of higher pricepoint products like the Kitsbow Alpha Snap Jacket, I’ve found it’s best to set the expectations in the opening paragraph, so here I am, setting those expectations. Now, this jacket is close to $400. It’s made in Canada, from Polartec® Alpha® insulation, a fabric used by the military for years. Read that as very expensive fabric please. This review’s intent is to answer if indeed, the Alpha Snap Jacket is worth the pricepoint, addressing anyone who might be considering the purchase, yet want more information.

I’m not trying to sell every single reader of this site a $400 jacket, I’m simply showcasing some details and thoughts of said jacket to help anyone who has considered buying it. If you want to read on, please do, if this jacket isn’t for you, no worries, no harm done.


Apr 21, 2015 35 comments
Oakley’s Prizm Trail Radarlock Path

For the most part, I only wear sunglasses on the road, at least here in Austin anyway. With all the sharp, spiky plant life here, sometimes I’d force myself to wear eyewear but was never 100% content with it. I’ve always had an issue with how sunglasses read the splotchy light found in the woods on my local trails. It was either intense and white, or shaded and dark, leaving little to no middle ground or time to adjust and it was difficult to make out details.

A few of my friends here started wearing these Oakley Prizm Trail sunglasses and swore by them for trail clarity, so I picked up a pair. Sure enough, after wearing these glasses for a few rides, the difference was clear. Let me clarify that, they made a huge difference. Oakley achieves this through a material they call Plutonite and while it sounds like a marketing ploy, the performance backs it up incredibly well.


Mar 23, 2015 7 comments
Entry Level Fun on the State Thunderbird ‘Cross – Andre Chelliah
The State Bicycle Co Thunderbird SSCX - Andre Chelliah

Entry Level Fun on the State Thunderbird ‘Cross
Words by Andre Chelliah, Photos by John Watson

I see it all the time at the bike shop I work at. A young, college-aged kid comes into the store and strolls the aisles. They take in the smells, sights, and sounds of cycling. They have just seen the newest Svenness video and are ready and stoked to dip their toes into the timeless obsession that is bike racing. Then, they flip over a price tag and that excitement quickly turns into a nearly impossible math problem- how can I afford to pay for school as well as buy a quality bike to race on? This sentiment resonates strongly with me.

Being a student at The University of Texas and racing bikes on the weekends, there are times when I have to pick between textbooks and race fees. In an area where collegiate teams are not extremely supported or competitive in disciplines other than road racing, the best thing to do is pay your own way through the cross or track season. When Mehdi from State Bicycle Co asked me to shred on The Thunderbird, their $1000 singlespeed ‘cross bike, I was ecstatic to have time with a bike that could be a buy for new racers looking for something with quality, style, and affordability.


Mar 3, 2015 23 comments
The Radavist Approved: Serota’s Underarm Balm

I know this isn’t cycling-oriented, unless you’re the smelly guy in the pack…

Over the past three years, I’ve helped my partner Lauren develop an all-natural deodorant at our home in Austin. I’d grown tired of hippie options and found most of them didn’t work anyway. After mixing various essential oils together, Lauren came up with a recipe that not only worked, but was remarkably effective over long periods of time.

From the hot summer months, to wearing layers upon layers in the winter time, Serota’s Underarm Balm works for me, as well as a few of my close friends who received early batches. I’ve been using it for three years and couldn’t be happier. We’ll also be developing a special Radavist scent over the next few weeks.

At any rate, I’m stoked for my partner as she launches a new brand.

You can read all about it, including how to apply, what it’s made from and read testimonials at, or if you’d like to pick up a container, it’s $19 shipped in the USA. Each container lasts around 3-months, depending how often you apply.

Feb 23, 2015 20 comments