So as you can imagine, the contributors to the Radavist are all sitting on a bit more free time these days, myself included. While personally, I still have a few bikes to review, which will be rolling out over the next few weeks, we’d all like to queue up a few more. Over the years, the readership has provided outstanding feedback, and with those opinions, we’ve reviewed various bikes from big brands to small. We’re all collectively wondering which bikes you’d like to see reviewed here on the Radavist? Drop your preference in the comments and we’ll take note!
When someone makes a big marketing claim, one that promises “compliance”, superb strength, and a ride quality unlike anything else on the market, I can’t help but roll my eyes. This reaction is a sentiment that I’m sure you, the readers of this very website, also feel! The cycling industry is always coming out with the next best thing and trying to get you to buy it. That’s why when I take on something to review, I like to really give it a go because if I’m going to tell you something is worth your hard-earned money, it damn well better perform.
Please don’t mind this introduction, I just wanted to explain how long I’ve been thinking about writing this review and how it’s going to seem that I was paid to sing the praises of these wheels. Spoiler alert, I was not and yes, these wheels really do live up to the marketing hype!
For the past 10 months, I’ve been riding the Zipp 3ZERO MOTO 29er wheels on my hardtail and I am a firm – pardon the pun – believer that these wheels are the best thing to hit the MTB market in some time.
The beauty of a capable all-road bike is it can transport you from the inner city to more rural areas with ease and depending on the bike’s capabilities, you can ride everything from dirt roads to rugged Forest Service roads and even singletrack. In a city like Los Angeles, we’ve got a good mix of everything, and it wasn’t until I moved here that I realized this importance in a bike. For me and the kind of riding I enjoy, I prefer to be able to pedal out to the dirt from my front door.
Over the years, bikes that had only previously been available as a special order from a custom frame builder are slowly making their way into mainstream bike company’s catalogs. In that time, I’ve noticed a rather acute phenomenon, and most companies aren’t listening.
They’re not listening to what real, everyday cyclists are asking for. Who are they designing for? Who do they expect to buy their bikes? I’m not sure because I’ve seen a number of well-designed frames leave out crucial details that would make the bike from Brand X be the ultimate all-road bike, turned bikepacking bike, turned quiver killer.
Then there’s the Trek Checkpoint, which checks all the boxes, and I must say I was surprised when I saw it. After riding it on and off over the past few months, I’m finally ready to talk about this unique bike.
Say what you will about hardtail mountain bikes. Die hard park rats think they’re antiquated, beginners often times think they’re hard to ride and the most common complaint I hear is that it’s hard getting bucked all over the place without rear suspension. Granted a lot of those common conceptions can have some truth to them, yet with the advent and availability of new rear spacing, dropper posts that work really well and bigger tire sizes, a hardtail can be pretty damn capable and even a lot of fun. For the past six months, I’ve been riding what I consider a new benchmark in hardtail mountain bike design: a 140mm travel, slack and low, 27.5+ hardtail, complete with a dropper post and a 1x drivetrain. This one in particular was built by hand in Napa by Curtis Inglis of Retrotec. So what does the creator of this beast call it? Well, what else? It’s a Funduro.
After slicing a 6-month old WTB Nano wide open on a sharp rock during a ride last week, I swapped my tires back over to the Bruce Gordon Rock N Roads. Once I got them set up tubeless, I was immediately reminded how much I love these damn beautiful tires but as we all know, looks aren’t everything.
A 43mm tire with a decent amount of tread can’t fit in most frames, but I had my Firefly designed to specifically accommodate the Rock N Roads. After a few inner-city dirt rides, with a few photos, I felt compelled to share some thoughts…
Aero carbon clinchers with tubeless capabilities that are made in the USA, offer exceptional braking in dry or wet conditions, minimal branding and come with proprietary DT Swiss hubs. That’s a brief description of the Bontrager Aeolus 3 TLR wheels, which I might add, are hands down the best carbon clincher I’ve ever ridden but they come at a price…
This bike should need no introduction to the readers of this site. It’s All-City’s flagship road model, made from Columbus Zona tubing and available this year in a classic throwback magenta and pink paint job. The Mr. Pink is one of the best steel road bikes on the market. It’s affordable and capable with the only limitations being those which you set yourself.
So what drew me to review this beaut? For the first time since this bike’s launch, I felt drawn to it in more than just an aesthetic attraction. All-City as a brand has hit the point now where they’re improving on their current catalog piecemeal, rather than focusing on launching entirely new models. At least that’s my observation and the Mr. Pink got some much-needed upgrades.
“If Ferrari made an off-road vehicle, that’s what it’d be like to ride the Santa Cruz Stigmata.”
That’s been the simile I’ve used countless times when describing how this bike rides. In fact, I still can’t think of a better way of describing the Stigmata’s handling and capabilities.
Seven months is a long time for a review and honestly, I wanted to get this up before ‘cross season began but with very little expectations to race this season, I quickly realized that I had been using the Stigmata in every other way than it’s market intention. That’s the beauty of ‘cross bikes though, right?
Let’s step back a bit and look at what this bicycle is.
No one ever said “a fork is a fork.” Well, maybe they did but I doubt they were talking about suspension and in the case of the Rock Shox RS-1, this is unlike any other fork on the market today. Before I get ahead of myself here, I’ve struggled with how to address this review. Without sounding like a copy and paste of marketing jargon, it really is the best fork I’ve ridden, for my specific type of use: XC riding with a bit of rowdiness.
When Taj from Fairdale reached out to us and asked if we were interested in testing their steel road bike, the Goodship, I had a hard time containing my excitement. Fairdale, who has an office in Austin is a staple of the cycling community here. You can’t go to a downtown restaurant, East Side bar, local swimming hole, or ride through campus without spotting a Fairdale between the legs of an excited Austin dweller. The company radiates positive vibes and makes quality bicycles.
For some reason, when Gevenalle first launched, I didn’t want to like their shifting mechanisms. They just seemed too contrived. A solution for a problem that didn’t exist. Perhaps it was their marketing, claiming to be designed for cyclocross racing. Sure, I read the product descriptions, the PR, looked at the photos but I still wasn’t convinced.
It wasn’t until I began to see the Gevenalle shifters on touring bikes that my interest was piqued. “Now that makes sense” I thought. Not running traditional road shifters on a touring bike is completely reasonable. The same can be said for barcons or downtube shifters. Why take your hand off the lever to shift? Sure. I get that.
The Gevenalle shifting system I recently spent time with is the GX shifters for mountain bike derailleurs. More specifically, a shifting system ideal for long-cage, dirt tourers like the Elephant NFE.
Cross is coming, cross is coming! But then cross is over, just as quickly as it came and you’re left with a bicycle that is only alive for about an hour on a closed course, right? I’d sure as hell hope not. Strap some bags on it, take it on singletrack, shred it on gravel. Cyclocross bikes are incredibly versatile and with so many options out there these days, it’s hard to sift through them all.
That’s where brand recognition helps. For those of you who have ridden Niner’s bikes, you know they’re thoughtful, ripping machines and when they announced the RLT 9 Steel earlier this year everyone’s interest was piqued including mine. Let’s face it, there aren’t a lot of high-grade steel ‘cross frames out there. There are a lot of “custom butted” or “special recipe” tubesets, which have a place for sure but there’s something recognizable about the words “Reynolds 853.”
Forging Ahead on the Foundry Overland
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson
A couple months ago Foundry sent over their new titanium cross/gravel bike, dubbed the “Overland“, for me to spend some time running it through the wringer. From long mixed-terrain rides, endless dry/dusty Southern California fire roads, through alpine snow storms (two), bike park single track, and trekking through wilderness with it strapped to my back. This versatility is really what the Overland is built for. Foundry’s slogan may be “racing matters”, and I’m sure this bike would perform well in a frantic one hour burst on a cross course, but it is perfectly at home traversing backroads and exploring some off-the-beaten-path single track.
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.
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.
I love long-term reviews. “Here, take this bike, travel with it and shred it for around six months, then send it right back to us.” Pretty ideal, huh? Especially when there’s a no-strings-attached policy. If you like it, do a review, or don’t, no big deal. Just get out and ride it. For The Radavist, that’s how I like to do product reviews: honestly and with no commitments. The problem is, you’ve got to be really stoked on a bike to want to ride it a bunch, and then photograph it / write about it.
Reviewing bikes is something I don’t often do, partially because I rarely get the chance to ride anything else besides my own bikes but mostly because so few companies contact me to review their bikes. One of the companies that has embraced what I’m doing over here is Santa Cruz and I can’t complain. Great company, great bikes and as I said before, no strings attached.
When Santa Cruz offered to send me out a Tallboy LTC with SRAM’s new – at the time – XX1 groupet back in December, I obliged! Who wouldn’t? I traveled with it, raced it a few times and rode the shit out of it for half a year.
While the world of the $8,000 – $10,000 MTB is certainly saturated at this point, I’ve ridden a few of them and yet I keep wanting to come back to the Tallboy and its unique riding characteristics. The best way I can describe the way this bike rides is solid. There’s no “plastic feel” to the frame, no annoying resonance when you hit technical sections and when the bike tells you to go in a particular direction, it’s usually on point… What often requires honing are your own skills and your confidence on that bike in particular.
While my favorite go-to bibs for MTB riding are the Giro New Road bib undershorts, my new favorite non-bibshorts are the Kitsbow Merino Base Shorts.
I wore them every day on the Oregon Outback and I’ve begun using them exclusively during short and sweet MTB rides. Because the main material is merino wool, they dry fast, feel soft, keep you cool in warm weather / warm in cold and don’t get super funky like synthetic blends tend to. They’re great for camping or touring as well, because they’ll dry faster than synthetic shorts.
When you ask Jon from Skratch why their “Lemons and Limes” flavored drink mix is pluralized, he’ll tell you because it takes more than one lemon and one lime to make it. Now, the concept of sports drinks or hydration mixes containing fruit shouldn’t be that foreign to most of you, but the reality is, a lot don’t. Instead, they’ll contain “natural” flavors, which may be natural, but in reality aren’t fruit.
I love raspberries and the Skratch Raspberry mix is a favorite of mine, but it always tasted a bit different than my other raspberry flavored drink mixes. It wasn’t as overpowering. The main reason being, Skratch is actually made from raspberries and my *gasp* other mix is from other “natural” flavors.
As I quit using other hydration mixes, the actual, real, raspberry mix tastes worlds better and the other mixes started to taste like ass. Coincidentally, that’s where “natural” raspberry flavoring comes from. Ass. A beaver’s ass. No shit. Well, yes, shit. Well…
Castoreum is an all-natural additive used in perfumes and food flavoring. It’s the anal gland of our flat-tailed friend, the beaver. You’ll actually find it e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. In fact, unless it says “raspberries” in the ingredients, you’re *definitely drinking beaver ass. Pucker up baby!
I know this sounds like an advertisement. It’s not. I buy my Skratch from my local shop and have never taken a dime from them to say any of this. I just don’t want you sucking down the butthole of a beaver when you hydrate.
Drink Skratch, don’t drink beaver butt.
*maybe not definitely, but most likely