Category Archives: Initial Reaction
Smashing the Middle Ground on the S-Works Stumpjumper FSR EVO 29
S-Works Stumpjumper FSR 29

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for me – yay new review bike – I’ve been in absolute love with the new S-Works Stumpjumper FSR EVO 29 – which has been replaced by the standard FSR 29 – and who wouldn’t be?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…

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Oct 30, 2014 18 comments
Initial Reaction: Brooks C15 Narrow Cambium Saddle
Brooks-B15-cambium-saddle-review-1

This saddle has been creating quite the stir and rightfully so. I’ve been riding the C17 on and off for several months and it’s great, but I usually ride a narrower saddle, so it was never ideal. When Brooks England gave me two C15 Cambiums to try out on my bikes, I was eager to see how it felt on my touring bike and a road bike. First up, is my Geekhouse Woodville touring bike.

I’ve been pedaling around today on the C15 and I’m already in love with it… See more below

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Jul 23, 2014 26 comments
48 Hours with the Marin Rift Zone XC9 29r
MARIN-4

These days, I’d rather test ride new bikes than travel with my own, especially when flying into remote locations. That was the case at the Whiskey Off Road with Blackburn. Prescott ain’t exactly an international hub, so rather than pack up my bike and risk it getting lost, Marin offered to hand over a Rift Zone 29’r for me to rip on while at the event.

48 hours is by no means enough time to do a thorough review, but I’d like to go over a few points, with hopes that an extended product review will take place in the future.

Check out more below!
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May 1, 2014 Comments are OFF
Initial Reaction: The Rock Shox RS-1 Inverted Fork
Initial Reaction: The Rock Shox RS-1 Inverted Fork

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/

Apr 17, 2014 15 comments
SRAM Introduces the new Guide Brakes
moab-one

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.

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Mar 25, 2014 8 comments
I Finally Received My Spurcycle Made in the USA Bicycle Bell
Spurcycle-2

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!

Mar 12, 2014 17 comments
Review: Santa Cruz Tallboy LTC with SRAM XX1
... and yet, this bike just crushes.

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!

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Dec 4, 2013 56 comments
Review: Easton’s EA90 SL Tubeless Race Wheels on My Geekhouse Cross
They're one of the nicest looking hubs on the market and they're silent...

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).

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Oct 15, 2013 29 comments
Fun with a Half Fat: a Review of the Surly Krampus 29+ MTB
As you would expect, the Krampus embodies the essence of Surly construction.

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.

Aug 26, 2013 14 comments