Category Archives: Initial Reaction
Words by John Watson / Riding photos by Adrian Marcoux
It’s safe to say that Rock Shox was going for a bit of a throwback with the new RS-1 inverted fork. Other companies have tried the inverted platform, to no great success, yet motorcycles have widely adopted the design. In mountain biking, just about every new leap comes from motos, so why has the inverted fork not taken off? There have been a few reasons, the most glaring being stiffness. There’s no bridge, like there is on a traditional suspension fork. No bridge means the fork lacks lateral stability. That’s a big problem, especially when cornering.
Rock Shox’s new RS-1 fixes that problem with a concept they call Predictive Steering. Marketing jargon? It may seem like it, but Rock Shox is onto something, albeit with a bit of a sacrifice. In brief: the RS-1 requires a proprietary hub, which uses a new 15mm Maxle skewer. Why? Because this hub has a massive 27mm axle that slides into the hub body, essentially, or reportedly solving that lateral stiffness issue.
So, is this marketing voodoo magic, or does is actually solve the problem?
While in Moab, I got to spend a few hours on the RS-1 and I have to say, the feel of the fork was incredible, once I dialed it in. Initially, I started at 120psi, then went all the way down to 80psi before felt like it should. Another nifty by-product of the design is that the seals are always lubed, since it’s inverted, keeping it nice and smooth.
The most noticeable difference I felt was cornering. The 32mm tubes felt more than stable when tucking into rocky corners. If you did take a big hit, there’s a nifty little bottom-out bumper to soften the blow and protect the fork’s internals. Another feature is how well the fork locks out. The mandatory remote switch will add yet another doo-dad to your bars, but it’s worth it.
So, this RS-1 must be made from angel farts and unicorn horn or something, right? Well, there are a few qualms: the technology is reliant on a new hub, that means you’ll lace a new wheel. And at the moment, Rock Shox isn’t opening the hub platform to other manufacturers, which means your rasta PAUL, purple King or pink Industry Nine won’t have a matching front – This opens a can of worms when it comes to professional racers who need to be riding their sponsor’s wheels… Maviiiiic
Then, what about those exposed stanchions? Well, just be sure you’re mindful of your lines. If you do clip a rock, or a rock “clips you”, like all Rock Shox products, they are serviceable. I didn’t run into any issues during the ride in Moab, and it’s probably safe to say you wouldn’t either on your home trails. Just don’t wreck in that rock garden, bro.
Overall, I liked the fork – I like the look, I like the concept and I like the execution. People complain that it’s a couple grams heavier than the other XC racing fork, but I don’t really care about weight. For me, the feel is most important and the RS-1 feels damn good.
I don’t want to bore you with technical jaw flapping, there’s plenty of it over at Rock Shox, I just wanted to say that I’m eager to try out this fork on my home turf…
The RS-1 will be available in 29′r only options later on in June for $1,865 with 80, 100, and 120-millimeter travel options. It comes in red and black with a final weight of 1666g… \m/
Photo by Margus Riga
New found confidence? Or just summoning the Necronomicog? Finally, some photos of me riding gear in a review!
I think this goes without saying, but I’d like to thank everyone involved with last weekend’s trip, including Margus and Adrian for shooting such rad photos of the riding. One of the reasons why we were there was to test out the new Guide Brakes from SRAM.
I’ll be pretty honest here, I have never really liked Avid brakes. My bikes all have Shimano systems on them, from SLX to XTR. In the past, I’ve said that I’d never ride anything else. Coming off a weekend like this, it’d be easy to say that SRAM put us in this rad location, threw new products at us and expected some positive feedback but that wasn’t the case at all. They really were interested in what we thought and were open to critique.
Unfortunately, the only feedback I had to offer up was: “I didn’t even have to think about the brakes”. Period. Riding new terrain, on a new bike, the last thing you want to do is worry about if your brakes are going to feel good and perform up to par. They felt so amazing, even compared to XTR.
We all know I’m not a king of technical garble, but I think it’s safe to say that these exceeded mine and everyone else’s expectations. I didn’t hear a single squeal from the rotor, or person the whole trip.
These new Guide Brakes from SRAM are like night and day compared to Avid…
Check out more below.
Yesterday I received my Spurcycle bell in the mail and immediately installed it on my Geekhouse Woodville. With all the madness of SxSW enveloping Austin, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
The packaging is well thought out, the bell is simple, all metal (save for some rubber bushings) and the black finish almost disappears on a my handlebars. I know a bell might not seem like that big of a deal, but I am stoked on how great they look.
Now I just need to put one on the MTB…
They’re in the process of shipping all their (10,000) Kickstarter backers at the moment, but there is a pre-order going on now with a spring ship estimate. Head over to Spurcycle now to reserve one!
Over the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of sampling the MTB industry’s best 29r’s on the market. All of which, I might add, are exceptional machines and with the right parts and group, can easily be tailored to your riding style and home terrain. While my Indy Fab rigid has proven to be more than fun on my local trails here in Austin, it’s still a rigid bike, limiting not only the lines you can take, but the speed at which you can take them. The latter being one thing I’ve found out the hard way: the faster you thrash, the harder you crash.
One might argue that riding a new bike on unfamiliar trails is a true test of the bike’s performance and the rider’s ability. While I’ll surely agree with that, seeing as how my experiences with many 29r’s have been on new trails, I will say that ripping your local trails on a new bike is the true test. Especially a more than capable ride like Santa Cruz’s Tallboy LTC. Add a Sram XX1 group and ENVE‘s tubeless-ready wheels and you’ve got more than enough reason to thrash fast.
At this point, I’ve spent enough time on a Tallboy to back my bold claims and even with this bike’s accumulated accolades since its inception, I don’t think anyone will disagree with me.
Check out more of my Trail Tested review of the Santa Cruz Tallboy LTC below!
For me, nothing beats a 32h 3x wheelset for my cross bike but after talking with the guys at Easton about their new EA90 SLX tubeless race wheels, I was willing to try a set out.
While these can be used for road or cross, I have no desire to run them as road wheels. Tubeless rules for off-road riding, especially if you live in an area with a lot of rocks, roots and thorns. Why? There’s no pinch-flatting. The latex sealant also keeps trail debris from flatting your tires. Around this time of year in Austin, the thorns get blown and washed onto the trails, leaving you with at least one flat per ride if you’re not careful.
I don’t have this issue on my 29′r but my cross bike…
Check out more of my Initial Reaction to Easton’s EA90 SL tubeless race wheels below and more photos in the Gallery of my dialed-in Geekhouse Mudville, race-ready (for all who have asked).
Since first seeing the PR on this bike, I had to get my hands on one. Preferably, on my home turf in Austin for some comparison to my IF 29′r. I wanted to know if the extra “fat” would really make that much of a difference.
Before getting into the details, let’s talk about the concept of the bike. While it’s no Moonlander or Pugsley, the Krampus is still fatter than most 29′rs on the market. Its stance is aggressively increased by the 29 x 3˝ Knard tires, mounted 50mm Rabbit Hole rims. The general positioning of the bike looks more aggressive than Surly’s other offerings with that rear end too.
Surly isn’t really a company known for “racing bikes”, so don’t be confused. The Krampus handles singletrack, rock gardens, somewhat technical conditions like most rigids out there but the extra beef of the tires absorbs more of the jarring moments you’ll find on the above conditions.
I’ve been riding the absolute shit out of my IF 29′r, which is also rigid, on 2.25″ tires and I could tell a difference the extra beef made. It’s still a rigid bike, so you’ll be taking different lines than if you were on a full susp but don’t downplay the fun you can have. Or the workout…
The weight of this thing, stock, is not light. Surly doesn’t list the weight and if I recall correctly, a large weighed in close to 30 pounds. Eeeesh. But, as I said, it’s a rare bird and that weight can be drastically reduced by converting it to tubeless (it can be done with Gorilla tape), swapping the saddle, seatpost and bar / stem. If you’re smart, you can easily bring it down 5 lbs or so.
Not that a weight weenie will buy one of these bikes. After a quick spin at Lebanon in Minneapolis, both Kyle and I were feeling the weight. The bike descended amazingly, cornered and floated around turns and actually hopped up and over obstacles quite easily. On berms it was a beast and most rock gardens were mere appetizers. But the second you started climbing. Oh boy… you felt it.
So what? It’s a fun bike, that tends to get a bit heavy when you’re sticking it to a lot of short, punchy climbs but that’s not where the Krampus reigns supreme. We had a blast tearing through the River Bottoms in Minneapolis. It wheelies very easily, zips through sand, mud and whatever else you can toss at it. I didn’t even notice the weight of the bike, until I got it up to speed. It’s like a bush bowling ball.
Would I buy one? Sure thing! But if I did, I feel like my IF would be obsolete. I don’t really need another rigid 29′r right now… right? N+1?
My advice would be, if you’ve never ridden a MTB and want something for your local trails, I dare you to try out a Krampus. You might just be happy with it. Check out all the tech info you want to know at Surly.
Check out more photos and thoughts in the Gallery and decide for yourself.
I feel like over the past few years, I’ve begun to appreciate a good pair of shorts. So far this spring, I’ve had a few pairs on heavy rotation but since acquiring a pair of the SWRVE BLK Japanese Canvas trouser shorts, I’ve barely taken them off and I’m pretty sure that’s what SWRVE wants you to do.
This Japanese canvas is coated with a special treatment to give them a broken-in look after a few weeks of wear and riding. The fabric took only a day to loosen up and break in, something I wasn’t expecting as they’re kind of stiff feeling when you first put them on.
A 9″ inseam is what many would consider too short for comfort but I’ve taken a liking to their fit. When walking or riding, they sit a few inches above the knee caps, but when you sit down, they tend to hike up a bit more, usually around your riding tan line and cyclists love to show that off, right?
Two pockets on the rear will hold your wallet and what have you, with one zippered pocket to ensure you don’t lose your keys. Signature SWRVE detailing like a soft lining around the waist, durable belt loops and one reflective loop strip set these apart from many other “cycling-specific” shorts. All this with a zippered fly.
I’ve only had these for a little over two weeks now, so they’ve yet to show heavy signs of breaking in, but as with all of SWRVE’s products, especially the BLK line, I’m sure they’ll hold up fine to daily use.
Since these are Made in the USA and small batch, you can expect a retail of $100. Money well spent if you ask me…
Scoop up a pair at SWRVE and check out a few more photos in the Gallery!
Detroit has a long tradition of US manufacturing and it’s this very tradition that Shinola is looking to continue with their brand. The company began with watches, a common, everyday object that hasn’t been mass produced in the United States for decades. But Shinola knew that in order to bring that industry back to Detroit, they’d have to enlist in the help of true craftsmen. Ronda AG, a Lausen, Switzerland-based movement manufacturer is working with Shinola on their Argonite 1069 watch movement assemblage and that’s only the beginning.
Similarly, when Shinola began to design their bicycles, they looked to Wisconsin and the Waterford facilities for fabrication. Inspired by French porteurs and light tourers, the Shinola Runwell is an ideal city bike and you don’t need any fancy Swiss movement to get these bikes rolling. An 11-speed Alfine hub effortlessly shifts this mid-trail bike through your city or countryside. Load up the front rack with groceries, post office runs, beer, or what have you and just go! If you need to stop on a dime, the mechanical disk brakes will do the trick.
The Runwell has details. Waterford’s simple and classy lugwork, along with a bright Cherokee red paint job (it’s really bright!) really compliments the mostly chrome components. Even the gusset on the non-drive fork leg resolves any stress riser issue you might have with disk tabs on a mid-trail ride. Shinola went the extra mile with their branded saddle and grips and the 32c Continental Contact tires will roll without getting flats from thorns or glass.
Check out more below.
The years I spent in New York make me appreciate two concepts: mobility and real estate. Observing both, in the literal and figurative sense, can teach you everything you need to know about anything, even products. They are key deciding factors in determining something’s usefulness. Quite simply put: how you use the product while moving through space and how the product uses its own space.
When I heard that Chrome had picked up a designer from Lowepro to design their new Niko Camera Pack, I had high hopes that it would be an improvement over last year’s Niko Messenger Sling bag. The design seemed to be simple enough and the product shots made it look like the Niko Pack was just an enlarged by 200% Niko Messenger. I shoot multiple formats and travel a lot with my camera equipment, so I’m always looking for a new bag that meets my needs.
Surely with all this space, it had to be the bag I was looking for?
A wise man once said “Don’t buy upgrades, ride up grades” and those words still hold true today but for those who are looking for cutting edge wheel technology to aid in their performance, the name Mad Fiber might come to mind. Now, I am the last person on the face of the Earth that wants or needs carbon wheels like this but they’re not even mine. So technically, “Don’t buy upgrades, borrow them from the rep” fits here.
Check out more below.