Amid the circus of Trojan hangers and load-bearing derailleurs, few of us paid any mind to SRAM Transmission’s humble front chainring. All it got was praise for its two removable bash guards, and scorn for its eight-bolt interface. But the T-Type chainring reflects some fascinating choices. Choices that prevented you from using any competitor’s chainring, and by extension, any competitor’s crank … until now. Wolf Tooth recently released Transmission-compatible chainrings that can be paired with many common cranks. Travis Engel talks about why that matters, even though his Cane Creek eeWings aren’t exactly common.
The new 2023 Fox Float rear shock is not any flashier than its predecessor. In fact, it’s less flashy. Fox abandoned the blue lever’s not-too-hard, not-too-soft “Middle” setting, leaving riders the simple, classic choice between “Open” and “Firm.” Travis Engel loved the idea, and could gush all day about its implications for the future of trail bikes, and how it relates to their past. Now, he’s finally ridden the new Float so he could make sure of it. And he’s talked to some folks at Fox so he could make sense of it.
No matter how innovative or controversial a given mountain bike technology may be, it’s usually just a means to an end. A way to add efficiency or capability. Sure, these technologies can often make for utterly spectacular rides. But bikes themselves—especially full-suspension bikes—rarely add any soul purely for soul’s sake.
That may be why we love to highlight bikes like the REEB SST, Chromag Darco, and, of course, the Starling Murmur. These bikes have esoteric quirks usually found only on hardtail, gravel, and town bikes. And they just happen to also offer utterly spectacular rides.
But when Travis Engel noticed function-first stalwarts, Pivot and Specialized suddenly teasing in-house experiments in lugged carbon fiber, he wondered if there might be a new search for soul afoot…
There’s a classic, time-honored technique to help you evenly position your drop-bar brake levers by using a ruler or straightedge. If you know, you know. But handlebars have changed, and the ruler method sometimes won’t apply. So, Travis Engel is here to share a bike hack to help keep the brake lever positions symmetrical on today’s shallow or oddly shaped gravel bars. There’s no ruler involved, but you will make use of some items you may already have in your home office.
This isn’t as much a product review as it is a public service announcement: Every cyclist should have an assortment of 3M Nexcare waterproof bandages at home, and maybe even a couple in your pack. They’re pretty special. If you know, you know. And if you don’t, Travis Engel is here to explain why they’re nothing like the band-aids you used as a kid.
MicroSHIFT’s new Sword group came into Travis Engel’s life at the perfect moment. He had been noticing that his Ratio-12-speed-converted SRAM Force shift quality would degrade quickly, as the cable housing wore and friction increased. It’s a sad side-effect of the Ratio conversion’s decreased cable pull per-shift. Also, the hydraulic brakes had too much dead stroke for Travis’ discerning index fingers. He was looking for something new. That’s when, like the sexy stranger disrupting a rom-com protagonist’s unhappy European vacation, microSHIFT Sword bumped into Travis with a very timely meet-cute.
A brand new tubeless tire is just as vulnerable to punctures as one that’s two days from retirement. It’s one of cycling’s many injustices. And nobody wants to throw away $80 (or more) just because of a slice that’s barely too wide for a traditional plug. Travis Engel happens to be in that very predicament. He has a nearly new tire with a terminal injury, and it’s been on ice waiting for science to find a cure. The Lezyne Tubeless Pro Plugs just might do the trick.
We just covered the SB135, a Switch-Infinity-equipped, carbon fiber Yeti with just 15mm more rear travel than the SB120 that Travis Engel is here to talk about. But there’s very little danger of any overlap between the two bikes. The SB135 is one of the last mid-travel 27.5-inch bikes left in the wild, and that kinda dominates any conversation it’s in. The SB120, on the other hand, is a short-travel trail 29er: The compact crossover SUV of mountain bikes. Seems like every brand has at least one model that mixes trail-bike capability with cross-country speed. Pivot, Ibis, and Transition have a few perfect 10s on the board. Marin and Norco are strong players too, and they can do it for under $2,000 if you don’t need a carbon bike. But comparisons are always tricky thanks to Yeti’s unique design language around geometry, frame construction, and, of course, suspension. As with every Yeti, the SB120 is like nothing else in its category.
In today’s installment of our ongoing opinion column, The Dust-Up, we bring you Travis Engel’s thesis on why full-suspension bikes offer the most inviting, user-friendly experience to people trying mountain bikes for the first time, and why the commonly held “hardtail-first” doctrine is flawed and outdated. Please read in full before commenting, but please comment.
We covered Forge + Bond’s house-brand, U.S.-made, recyclable “Fusion-Fiber” carbon wheels when the brand launched back in April. Today marks the first update to their lineup; the new cross-country 25 XC, and the lightweight all-mountain 30 AM, which Travis Engel will be putting through its long-term paces on his personal and test bikes over the coming year. But there are also new builds, and new price points. The exact details of today’s news serve as a bit of a status report on this disruptive new tech, and how today’s volatile market is reacting to it.
The Maxxis Assegai is one of the most aggressive front tires on the market, but you don’t necessarily have to be aggressive to enjoy it. Its adaptability to multiple riding styles and multiple terrains has gained the Assegai quite the following, including from competing tire brands. American Classic, Delium, and Bontrager have launched lower-priced tires clearly inspired by the Assegai, and Travis Engel is here to tell us how how they stacked up against his favorite front rubber.
No, we haven’t devolved into publishing clickbait articles. And no, we’re not saying a hip pack can be made into a reasonable replacement for a handlebar bag. But Travis Engel has a very clever, very temporary way to get the weight off his back for long boring climbs, and then easily put it back on for quick fun descents. The trick is kinda just for the uphill, it’s a little ugly, and it won’t work on every pack or every bike. But what do you want from us? That’s why they call it a hack.
When you review bike products, sometimes they arrive with some swag. T-shirt, stickers, sure. But sometimes there’s a cool memento, like an Abbey Tool laser-etched by whatever brand has partnered up with them for the launch. Or an artifact from the product’s manufacturing and development, like a piece of the innovative raw material that made it possible. But what came with my GX Transmission kit is by far the most moving party favor I’ve ever received.
At the time of publishing this, the ink is still drying on our first-impressions of SRAM‘s debut boat-rocking direct-mount, electronic-shifting drivetrain concept, dubbed “Transmission.” Ever since, it’s been hard to get into a conversation with a bike nerd without Transmission coming up. Travis Engel is one of those nerds who can’t stop talking about it, so he was the perfect person to cover the surprise addition of a lower-priced GX group, which launched today. Read on to see what changed, what didn’t, and why this is such good news.
It’s not every day that an aluminum tube inspires heavy philosophical questions about the bike industry. But that’s exactly what the new OneUp alloy bar did for Travis Engel. It’s a lower-priced alternative to the brand’s unique, innovative carbon bar, and after just a month, Travis is questioning a few long-held beliefs. We think he should relax. It’s only an aluminum tube.
The current mixed-wheel wave started in the gravity racing scene. And that seems to be where it’s set its roots too, given that most options are clustered near the long-travel end of the spectrum. But Travis Engel believes that this oft-misunderstood configuration is better suited for mid-travel bikes like the Santa Cruz 5010 and Juliana Furtado. In his review below, Travis covers the unique way the 5010 balances business and party, but he refuses to call it a “mullet.”
Every time we ride alone, we’re taking a risk. That’s why we we tell people where we’re going and when we’ll be back. But maybe we’re also a little more careful on the downhills, and a little more careful when packing our essentials. There are ways to mitigate that risk, and the Aleck Tocsen Helmet Crash Sensor is a pretty novel one. Travis Engel spent a couple months with one right behind his ear, but never really noticed it. And that’s a good thing.
SCOR has been a bit of an enigma ever since they emerged in 2021 as a more aggressive offshoot of BMC. So far, they make just one bike in two travel configurations, plus an e-MTB and a couple of kids’ hardtails. It’s a short lineup, even for a brand this new and niche. But there’s something about the clean, understated design and techy VPP-style linkage that makes it seem like SCOR must be destined for greater things. So, Travis Engel brought in the trail-focused 4060 ST to find out whether its beauty is only skin-deep.