Moab Outer Bike Demo Reviews
Outer Bike Reviews 2013
I had a chance to attend the first two days of Outerbike in Moab this year and was able to hook up with schlim (Ben) who's been doing some very insightful Outerbike reviews here for the past few years and his buddy Dietrich. We had a great time on some really amazing trails and on some very impressive bikes. Here's what I thought. I think schlim will post up his own reviews separately so watch for those as well.
The same disclaimers apply here as in the Interbike reviews. Enjoy.
This is one of the bikes that was tops on the list as a Chili complement bike for me. All reports seemed to point to a fun, nimble, and fast 29er XC/Trail bike so I elbowed and pushed my way to the Ibis booth when they released the cattle gate shortly after 9:00 to score a size large first thing this morning.
The Ripley is a very unique feeling bike. When you sit on it, it doesn’t feel like a 29er. The wheel base is short and I kept looking down to make sure it actually had big wheels. Once on the trail proper I noticed that it climbed efficiently and the seated climbing position was comfortable and fairly upright. The front end felt tucked in just looking down at the wheel, but most xc/trail bikes feel that way after stepping off the Knolly. It always takes me a few minutes to get used to the taller stack height on 29ers compared to my Chilcotin but in short order it started to feel pretty good. Where it really felt great was standing. It just felt natural with a purposeful attack position without feeling stooped over. And speaking of standing… it just loved to hammer and climb from a standing position. Despite having ridden 6 hours on Wednesday and doing a TWE ride plus a Amasa/Cap’n Ahab ride yesterday, I just kept wanting to stand and torque up steep climbs in too big of gear. Traction was exceptional as well. Of course it had rained overnight and all the dirt was super packed and tacky…. But other bikes slipped a little in similar situations so it wasn’t just the perfect dirt speaking.
Weaving in and out of rocks on the twisty North 40 trail displayed its astounding nimbleness (for a twenty-niner) and it was easy to lift its front wheel up onto ledges and manual over small drops and little dips and gaps in the trail. Fun stuff. I also purposely left the trail to roll up onto larger boulders and off the back side to test its technical and steep roller chops and was very impressed with how it handled those situations. I don’t know what its bottom bracket height is but after countless pedal strikes on my Chili over the past two days (I never bothered to change it into its steeper/higher BB mode while here) I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of pedal strikes on the Ripley. The frame was stiff, light, and quiet.
But here’s the (minor) rub. I didn’t really notice any of the typical 29 “advantages”. It felt like many of the light weight, short travel 27.5” bikes I’ve tried over the past couple weeks but wasn’t quite as nimble as some of those. Roll over and that big-wheels-keep-on-rolling feel I’ve had on other 29ers didn’t seem to be there as much. It sounds odd to say, but it felt like it was a 29er just for the sake of being a 29er. In fact if I’d been blind folded I don’t think I would’ve guessed it was a 29er. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it was just a different feel than what I’ve come to expect from a 29er. Make of that what you want.
Despite that observation, I still really liked the Ripley. It does break the mold and works very well while doing it. I'd be interested in riding it with a 140 34mm Fox or Pike fork sometime to see how well it stretches into the more trail/am territory.
The Ripley is a very compact looking and feeling 29er.
A look at the very clean built in mini-link dw system.
Yeti SB95 Carbon
I stepped off the Ripley directly onto the Yeti SB95 and immediately felt those typical 29er characteristics that I remember. Big wheels definitely kept on rolling. Rocks seemed to disappear underneath the steam roller wheels and cornering was a little more work (though still not bad). I also liked the fit of this size large while seated or standing. Maybe I just like a higher stack height but both of these first two bikes just felt right. I loved standing and pushing bigger gears on the Yeti as well and it responded favorably to this type of riding. Suspension was a bit firm but acceptable for this amount of travel. Some of this was due to set up as most booths set up their bikes with too much air in the forks, shocks, and tires for me. On some of the bikes I took the time to adjust it on the trail and on some, like the Yeti, it wasn’t off so far that I couldn’t imagine how it would’ve felt a bit softer. The frame was well crafted and fit and finish was top shelf. Overall it’s a very nice looking, light frame and well-functioning bike as a whole, just very different feeling than the Ripley. Not worse necessarily, just different.
The Yeti was a looker. Lots of black bikes with neon accents this year. Ardent and Ikon tire front and rear worked ok but didn’t stick as well as some with their short tread.
Nice wide Haven carbon bars
Diggin the Yeti sticker.
A closer look at the frame and the “Switch Link” technology.
Intense Spider Comp 29er Carbon.
I’m still surprised at how different each of these first three bikes felt. This one fell in between the Ripley and SB95 but closer to the Yeti than the Ibis. That shouldn’t be too surprising as it is aimed more at the XC/trail end of things with its 4.5-5” adjustable travel. I’m not sure which setting this bike was in though. Maybe someone with some Intense knowledge can tell from the photos. If I had to guess I would say it was in the shorter travel setting. It had a lower stack height and felt more compact than the Yeti when standing, but while seated it felt more stretched out eventhough it had a fairly short stem and the seat was pushed pretty far forward on the rails. The frame was beautiful as are all of Jeff Steber’s creations and super light at 5.5 lbs. The ride was good overall and suspension was fine. It was a little harder to manual and pop over things mostly due to the lower stack and more stretched out feel, but good rollover seemed to make up for that pretty well. It all depends on what you’re looking for and comes down to fit and preference, but overall I think I’d rank this one slightly behind the Yeti.
I didn’t spend as much time on this one, so hopefully Ben or Dietrich will chime in with their impressions.
Ibis HDR 650b
When I returned the Ripley to the Ibis tent Scott Nicol (the founder and CEO of Ibis) was setting up bikes and there was just one or two bikes in the tent and it happened that one was the HDR….in a size large. Score. I’ve always been partial to smaller, boutique brands partly because I like having something that isn’t as common, but also partly because of the personal attention and passion that a hands on bike company owner like Scott Nicol, Dave Turner, or Noel Buckley have. He’s a very nice guy and worries the details. It was cool to meet him and chat with him a minute about the Ripley and the HDR.
The ride only added to my desire to own an Ibis at some point. They have really done an amazing job on this bike. Like the Mojo HD I rode a few years ago, the frame shape is beautiful, stiff, and efficient. People have griped that the frame is heavy for this short of travel (130mm) but it felt plenty light to me and it felt like it had enough travel for me.
I did a bigger solo loop on this one that had a good mix of fast and swoopy, and slower and techy/chunky with a few higher speed descents mixed it. It was a very well rounded bike and like the Mach 6 I rode at Interbike felt like it could do both the lighter XC trail days and the nasty chunk fest days equally as well. It carved and cut much like the Ripley but felt like it extended into the rough realm very competently as well. Plus you can easily convert it back into a 160mm 26” bike to really extend its range without too much trouble making it a very versatile bike.
It looked good in black with the green highlights, although this particular demo looked like it had been around the block a few times. The fit was good and I felt the same thing that I did at I-bike when I stepped off a bunch of 29ers and got on a 27.5”. It felt like a small wheeled 26er. Nothing wrong with that. I’ve been more than mildly positive about the in-between wheel size for a few years now but after riding a ton of them the effect has kinda been watered down some. I still like them, think they offer some advantages over 26”, I have no problem with the industry going all googoo over them, have no problem buying one, just don’t notice the differences over the 26 as much as I did. I suppose if I had been riding mostly 26 inch bikes then stepped onto a 27.5 I would notice the difference more.
Whatever. All I know is this is one rocking good bike. Does it topple the Mach 6 off its ‘Favorite Bike’ throne? Not quite but it sure makes for a crowd there at the top of the heap.
Scot took some extra time to get this CCDBA set up for me. More bikes were showing up with this shock this year and it certainly adds to the bling factor, but it is so hard to get it set up just right that a quick test ride may leave you unimpressed. I’ve spent 6 months tweaking mine and it’s still not shock nirvana but it’s better than when I started. Knowing this, I tried not to let it flavor my overall impression of the bike. None of the CCDBA’s felt appreciably better than a standard RP23 at the show…. Some felt worse.
Looks like there’s pretty good tire clearance for these Pacenti 2.3 Neomotos but this tire looks like it’s fairly worn.
Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt
This is RM’s new short travel 27.5 built for speed and fun. It sounds like RM was reading my mind when it built the Thunderbolt…. or at least when they wrote the ad copy for its description. “When XC gets rowdy, the agile and playful Thunderbolt shines. Standing on 120mm of travel and equipped with 27.5” wheels, the Thunderbolt delivers a great mix of intuitive XC capabilities and pure playful trail fun.” That’s pretty much just what I’ve been looking for.
But did it live up to the ad copy and my expectations? You bet! This was one of the few bikes I rode where the tech got the suspension almost perfectly set for me right out of the tent. It felt surprisingly plush for a 120mm bike and you can tell the AM/FR/DH guys at RM like Thomas Vanderham had a lot to say about how it felt. It wasn’t sloppy feeling or sluggish though. It accelerated smartly while standing without much lost energy and ramped up nicely at the limits of travel without bottoming.
Weaving in and out of boulders and popping over rocks was intuitive and fun. I finally just dropped the seat post an inch or two and just left it there preferring to have it out of the way for attacking the rowdier stuff and railing the corners, then just standing for the small punchy climbs that accentuated the trail I took it on as the dropper post was inexplicably deleted from the option menu . The short chain stays combined with a longish top tube combined to make for easy manualing and excellent cornering, yet still maintained good steadiness and unflappability on the rougher descents.
Despite not being carbon, the Thunderbolt still felt quite light and fairly stiff. It’s like the DH rider’s XC bike. I liked it. It's definitely up there on my short travel Chili complement list.
I loved the lime green ano accents against the black frame. Very cool.
X-King mounted on ZTR Crest rims were light, stiff, and fast rolling. Grip was pretty good but I had to be a little more judicious in how I leaned them into corners as the trails were starting to dry out and loosen up by this late in the day.
I was really more interested in the Sensor, GT’s shorter travel 27.5 brother, but this is the one we were able to obtain. On the trails we were riding today it felt like a big bike—bigger tires, heavier weight and a bit sluggish. Despite its “bigness” it didn’t feel overly plush either. Another seeming paradox for the Force was that it was one of the better bikes in regards to one particular short choppy, semi-fast, standing climb that caused most bikes’ rear wheels to skip and lose traction while pedaling hard over this section. The GT’s rear end seemed to stay glued to the ground through this same section pretty well. (The other bike that did well on this section was the Turner Flux). However on similar surfaces while the Force was headed downhill it seemed to skip around some.
Overall it was not a bad bike we may have just been riding it on the wrong trails, feeling somewhat cumbersome and slow on the tighter, twistier stuff. I think it would’ve come alive a bit more on steeper, chunkier terrain. We did get it out on Deadmans Ridge trail that had some of this kind of stuff, where it was able to show its strengths more, but I’m thinking The Whole Enchilada would’ve been more to its liking. Having said all that, I rode some other bikes that did well in both situations.
These were the only Formula brakes we rode…. And I didn’t like them as well as my XT’s. The overall power is down compared to others and they hiss when applied.
There’s a lot of beefy carbon and aluminum parts stuffed in and around the bottom bracket area. Ihave no idea how all that works.
Giant Trance 27.5
I rode the Anthem 27.5 at Interbike a few weeks ago and took some heat for marking it down for not feeling “trail” enough for me. So I wanted to try the Trance which is Giant’s 140 travel trail/am 27.5” offering for 2014 and should be more like what I was expecting from the Anthem. This was the top shelf advance version with carbon front and top bling parts which pushes $8K msrp (insert low incredulous whistle).
The Trance felt light and efficient and the fit and geometry still felt a bit too “XC” for this application with a longish top tube and narrowish bars, but overall the large fit pretty well and the bike felt the part. Like the Anthem it felt very light and efficient and I definitely felt more comfortable on it in rougher, more technical terrain. It also stretched back into the XC territory better than the Anthem stretched into the trail category feeling playful and flickable in the tighter, twisty, smoother stuff. This one was much more my style of bike than the Anthem and it worked really well, but there were three or four others in this same category that I liked better. I would love to try the SX version (160 fork, wider bars, bigger tires). I bet it would be more up my alley.
A note on XX1: This particular bike was the best shifting bike of the day but only one out of every three or so bikes set up with 1x11 drivetrains shifted really well. If I’d only ridden the ones that didn’t I would’ve said it was crap and would’ve not recommended it. But there were a couple, like this one and the Norco that I got from the SRAM booth, that shifted really well and totally won me over to 1x11. Not sure what the difference is, but I’m assuming it has to be adjusted just right to shift just right. With professional mechanics setting up all these bikes, I have to assume it’s not easy to get it just right?
I liked these Nobby Nicks and the Giant branded carbon wheels seem to work well.
Last edited by KRob; 10-13-2013 at 08:34 PM.
Here's the bikes I rode on Saturday. I'll be adding those reviews as I complete them. Ben and Dietrich rode two or three 29ers and a fat bike that I didn't so watch for those reviews.
Ben on the Norco
I'd stopped by the SRAM tent several times looking for this size large on the first day but was never successful so it was high on my list for the mad sramble at the bell. Our team had a game plan for Saturday morning and with a little serendipity and dropping of names we were able to score three very comparable and desirable 650b bikes for the Mag 7 shuttle that would leave at 10:00. Everyone we passed on the trail envied our trifecta.
After arriving less than 30 seconds after opening, the Santa Cruz booth had a line of 20 people in it so I waited a minute then headed for the SRAM booth where I picked up this beautiful flo green/yellow Norco Sight. By 10:30 or so we were at the top of Mag 7 clipping in for what would be a spectacular ride on three very good bikes.
The first thing you do on Mag 7 is roll about a half mile down a dirt road to the trail head so I had a good chance to just assess the fit, shift through the gears and generally just get acquainted with the bike. I liked the fit though it felt slightly short in the top tube for a large while seated but I didn't notice that at all when standing. The all SRAM suspension I could tell was set up stiff like most bikes but it didn't feel harsh. It stayed up in its stroke well with a nice firm feel when mashing and ramped up a bit abruptly when just bouncing on it rolling down the hill.
Once on the rolling, mostly down, rocky, ledgy, Bull Run portion of the trail this bike absolutely came alive for me. It loved to be thrown around and had the chops to feel solid while doing it. It felt light, controlled, and responsive to pedal imput. (After switching to the FB I realized it wasn't quite as responsive to pedal input as a dw link bike but for an FSR it was very good). Flowing, carving and pumping off and on stuff was a riot although I did notice it took just a little more effort to pull up the front end (longer chain stays?). Once adapted to throwing my weight back and yanking harder on the bars, all was well.
Descending rough sections of slick rock I could feel the rear wheel skipping and not quite keeping up with the consecutive hits, but after speeding up the rebound and letting some air out of the tires (40 lbs? Really?) it settled down quite a bit. It still had a very solid, damped feeling to it overall that both Ben and Dietrich mentioned after first getting on the Norco. On this type of terrain where you're bombing through rolling slick rock and off little booters and popping up onto small rollers and ledges, and wheelying through multiple small g-outs it was the right set up. I would want it a bit plusher in the initial stroke for the stuff around where I live but overall I though it worked really well. The 150 Pike felt stiff laterally and fore and aft and the stellar RC3 Plus shock worked very well. I'd describe both ends as firm/plush. More BMW than old Cadillac. Whether they can be made to feel more plush in the initial stroke remains to be seen.
The parts spec was nice and these were some of the few AVID brakes that felt pretty good for me and one of the two or three 1x11 set ups that shifted really well. The guy at the SRAM booth suggested that some folks weren't routing the cable correctly after the rollamajig thingy on the XX derailleur.
Not a bad back drop for photos, eh? Weather was perfect this day. I was kinda reluctant to give this bike up even with a Firebird and Carbine waiting in the wings.
I like beefy stanchions and I was loving this new Pike. I also really liked this High Roller II/Ardent Front/Rear tire combo. The HRII really dug in in the corners and the Ardent provided decent traction for climbing and braking while still rolling well.
Pivot Firebird 27.5
About half way down Mag 7 Ben suggested we trade bikes which I knew we should do, but I was really loving the Sight and wanted to hang onto it. Finally I relented and we switched pedals. He'd been ranting about how good the Pivot was and I'd ridden the 26" version at I-bike last year and liked it, but I was still skeptical about the need for a 6.7" 650b bike and didn't think anyone really made an appropriate fork to go with it.
About three seconds into my ride on the Firebird I realized that Sight wasn't accelerating quite as smartly as I thought. If you really want to see where the dw-link has an advantage over more traditional FSR type rear suspensions go directly from the latter to the former. It really is astounding how the dw-link really launches you forward with every pedal stroke.... even on a bike with big wheels that I expected to feel sluggish. Once the initial shock of that realization wore off, I immediately started feeling one with this bike. It absolutely loved this terrain. It carved and weaved a wee bit slower than the Sight due to its taller bb height but was plusher over smaller edges and rocks, manualed easier, and had a deeper, longer, go-look-for-bigger-and-bigger-drops-to-flat mentality than the Norco. I know the Pivot is more directly comparable to the longer travel Range, but when it pedaled so well and flowed so effortllessly over this slick rock terrain and still felt like a big, capable, AM/FR bike I was surprised. It also pedaled quite well on flatter terrain. I was the one that was "stuck" on this bigger bike when we got down off the trail and had a 3-4 mile sandy jeep road to traverse to get back to the demo area and it kept up quite well given its pilot. Dietrich the skinny road racer on the Norco spanked us up the hill but I nearly caught back up to him after bombing down the last Gemini Bridges road descent back to the highway.
The 160mm 34 Float worked admirably and I was not able to detect any significant flex and I did some things on this bike that normally I woudn't feel comfortable doing on anything less than a 36-38mm coil fork. I did bottom the RP23 shock once pretty hard while wheelying through a deep V-shaped seam (pushed the tire to the rim as well) so I wonder if the new Float X or RTC PLus from Rock Shox would be a better match but overall I was very pleased with the suspension.
The only problem with this bike for me is that it overlaps way too much with my Chili (in fact they are squarely in the same category) and I love my Chili.... but I like this bike nearly as well and even better in a few areas. A definite surprise for me. Nice work Pivot.
Even though this was an aluminum frame and had as much or more travel than the GT Force it felt a good 2 lbs lighter.
This bike, like the Mach 6 at Interbike was shod with a big ol' Nevagal up front and a smaller, faster rolling Honey Badger out back, neither of which have any current covetable street cred, but I gotta say, both my experiences on this combo have been favorable.
Intense Carbine 275
We were hoping to get our hands on a Carbine 29er for this ride but were only able to secure this 275 in the frantic rush for bikes. You may remember that this was mine and Craigstr's favorite bike of last year's Interbike Outdoor demo so even though I'd ridden it, I was glad Ben and Dietrich would have a chance to experience it and that we'd be able to compare it directly to some of the new offerings.
I was having so much fun on the Norco and the Pivot that I never got the chance to switch out onto the Carbine except for a brief spin while we were stopping adjusting its suspension and setting it in the longer 6" mode. Dietrich had been complaining that it felt very harsh coming down which was surprising to me but when Ben said the same thing after he had his turn on it I was puzzled. So we stopped and looked over the settings. I was only getting 20% sag (or less) when I checked it so we let out about 20lbs of air from the CCDB-A setting it at 130 PSI. I think the Chilcotin has a lower leverage ratio but I only run 125 in mine so I knew it was too high. We also determined that it had been set in the shorter (5.5") travel setting so we rectified that, let out a little pressure from the fork and tires and continued downward for the last 1/4 mile of trail or so.
My little spin around the area where we were stopped didn't tell me too much but I was surprised how different it felt from what I remember. Have bikes just all gotten so much better in the past year or was there something (several things?) different about the components and/or set up that just really affected the Carbine for the worse? Ben said it felt a little better after our adjustments but he still seemed less than impressed. It'd be tough to follow either of the first two bikes he rode, let alone both, but we'll just have to await his reviews to get his thoughts.
Novatec wheels and hubs and Vee Rubber Trail Taker tires. I hadn't heard of these tires until about two weeks ago when my buddy who just bought a Burner was looking for a replacement for the Honey Badgers that came on the bike came across a couple of threads here on mtbr with high praise for them.
I'd pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn't find a Troy at Outerbike so was really kicking myself for missing it at Interbike. But while walking by the Enve tent after having struck out again looking for the Flux at the Turner tent, I noticed two or three shiny black carbon Devinci's sitting there. I didn't dare hope that one was actually a Troy in size large but asked anyway. To my surprise one was in fact a Troy but they only had a medium. I asked the tech if they ran a little big because this frame looked like it would fit me. He said they typically run a bit small but I went ahead and sat on it. The top tube felt like it was at least 23.5" (23.9" according to Devinci's site) so I had him mount my pedals and I happily took it off his hands.
Visually, this bike is a stunner. The high gloss black carbon weave with red highlights and well-proportioned lines looks very sharp. Its stunning looks were only surpassed by its brisk, light, rocket launcher feel while accelerating. Wow. LIke the Ripley, this is one bike I wanted to just stand and hammer on. When I got to the trail head there was Ben with the size large Flux! Cool. We must be living right. So off we went to hammer and compare two bikes high on my Chili complement list..
Lunch must've done wonders for Ben's energy level because he was in a mood to push it. I wondered if I'd be able to hang but this bike just wanted to fly. I stood and pushed with my spent legs (this was the afternoon of my fourth consecutive full day of riding) and to my delight the Troy responded.... even begged me to push harder.
Lateral stiffness was exceptional and it responded well to this type of riding. I'm sure the superb Enve carbon wheels and SixC carbon bars added to this stellar stiff feeling. Carbon just has a very distinct, stiff, lively, but damped feel to it when done correctly and I am fast becoming a carbon snob (Honey, my next bike may be a bit more pricey than the last).The medium size was almost perfect... maybe a tad short but not by much. I'm coming to realize that for tight, swoopy, or more technical terrain where you're standing more anyway, I prefer this more compact feel. At home I mostly do long seated climbs (45-60 minutes) followed by flowing fun 15-20 descents for my morning rides and wonder if for that I might still prefer the large (although at 24.7" that may be a bit long) but for this up and down, tighter terrain the medium was perfect.
This was one of the few bikes that didn't have a dropper post where it didn't really bother me. I set it an inch or two below optimum pedaling height and just left it. I rarely sat down and cockpit was compact enough that it rarely felt like the seat was in my way. The overall suspension feel was perfect for this ride and I loved that Devinci had spec'ed a larger stanchioned fork (Fox 34) and the RP23 rear shock kept up nicely. I don't know what dw would say the split pivot is supposed to do (haven't read the ad copy) but it seems to flat out work right. It was controlled without feeling wallowy, firm when putting down the power, yet still felt fairly plush without bottoming.
When we got to the halfway point of the trail and it was time to switch, I was very reluctant to give this one up. This is telling, because the freaking Turner Flux was the switchout bike... Certainly no slouch. I'd love some more time on the Devinci in various trail conditions, but it certainly blew me away with its first impression.
I'd somehow lost my camera somewhere between dropping off the Norco, lunch, and picking up the Devinci so didn't get any pictures of the next three bikes (totally spaced the fact that I had an iPhone in my pack, d'oh). Ben shot the Turner and Devinci so maybe he'll lend me a couple photos for these posts.
Here's schlim's excellent photos of the Troy.
There is a switch chip in the linkage that allows you to change the geometry by .5 deg without affecting travel. Not sure what settng this bike was in.
The internal cable routing looked nice and tidy and was quiet.
Split pivot rear drop out is 142mm and requires a tool to remove the axel
Dug this Fox 34 fork
Turner Flux 27.5
Like I said, I'd been really wanting to try the Flux after missing it at I-bike and not finding it after several attempts at Outerbike..... but dang, I was having a hard time prying myself away from the Troy. When I first slung a leg over the Flux it felt kinda big.. Partly because I'd just stepped off a medium Troy, but also because it had a longish stem on it (90mm I think). It also felt a little heavier than the Troy though I don't imagine it weighed more than about 26-27 lbs with it's light hydroformed allow tubes and Enve wheels.
Pedaling off down the trail the Flux certainly responded well, but I didn't notice that kick in the pants leap forward that I usually notice when I step off lesser bikes onto a dw-link. Another testament to the pedaling efficiency of the Troy. It also felt very fast and maneuverable... but not quite as fast as the Troy, which is interesting because the Troy has 20 more mm of rear travel. The Flux did feel stable and able to be built into something that could handle a fair amount of more aggressive trail and AM riding with the right set up, despite the diminutive travel. In fact, one of the techs at the Turner tent had his personal Flux hanging up for display (beautiful custom electric blue color. Wow) that was set up with the 140 Pike and wider bars and he said he'd just been to Angel Fire in New Mexico with it hitting everything he could trying to break it and it owned it and came through unscathed.
Suspension action up front was handled by a 32 Fox fork which worked pretty well and saved some weight, but I would prefer to see a 130 or 140 Pike or Fox 34 up there and (here we go again) a tad wider bars, and a dropper post. No complaints with the rear suspension. It worked in typical dw-link Turner fashion and the geometry seemed to be spot on for this application.
The royal blue anodizing on the frame looked both industrial and elegant though I'm still not sure I'm totally in love with shape of the new tubing as it joins the elevated chain stay rear triangle. It doesn't seem to flow as nicely visually from front to back as some, though it's not ugly by any stretch..... and fault lies more with the rear triangle than the front.
When we finished out our North Forty loop I decided to keep the Turner for another ride to get some more time on it and give it a fair evaluation..... but I really wanted to just keep riding the Troy. Tells which one I was having more fun on doesn't it? But after another 45 minute ride around Lazy Easy I was starting to really come to dig the Flux as well and with my love of Turner bikes and their excellent customer service could possibly nudge me into picking this bike over the Troy (I just don't know anything about Devinci or have any emotional attachment to the company). It's hard to ignore a stunning first impressions though.
Photo credit to schlim for the Flux.
Santa Cruz Heckler 27.5
I rode with my buddy Tim from Moab on my pre Outerbike rides who has always loved simple, low maintenance bikes and has owned, among others, an old Bullit, a Butcher, and Kona Dawg in the past. He's had his eye on the new Heclkler 27.5 so I said I'd try and get a ride on one to see how it compares to all the high dollar, carbon, multi-link fancy bikes I'd been testing.
I usually turn my nose up at such simple, low budget two wheeled conveyances, but if someone knows what kind of bike would be good for Moab riding, it would be Tim so I figured the Heckler was worth a look. Besides, I thought it would be good to confirm to my mind why more complicated, more expensive bikes were better.
When I picked up this simply adorned Heckler at the Santa Cruz tent at the end of the day, I scoffed at its triple chain ring, sneered at its lack of any kind of compression adjustment, and sniffed at its embarrassing lack of carbon and its lone rear suspension pivot. I expected it too feel unsophisticated and sluggish with out-of-control pedal bob sapping my dwindling strength with every stroke. I soon found however that it pedaled just fine.... even with the simple Float R shock set with the propedal on the most active setting. Hmm. Must be a bum shock. I'm sure it's going to be harsh or pogo stick-like once out onto the rockier sections of the trail I thought.
So I turned onto the more techy Deadman's' Ridge trail to expose this simpleton's weaknesses. With tight turns, rocky climbs, ledges, and slabs to deal with I was certain it would soon become evident why I could not own such a bike. Well someone must've slipped a Bronson frame under me without my knowledge, because surely a bike so simple and out dated could not handle this type of terrain without bucking me off or wearing me down quickly. This bike did neither. The suspension worked fine. It just kept pedaling along, making every climb, rolling every descent, maneuvering through each tricky section of trail without breaking a sweat. I tried to find its supposed weaknesses but could not. It didn't even feel that heavy! Surely all those low end components and lack of carbon should add up to some tank like final weight. But it was not bad really.
So when I got out to the far end of Deadman's Ridge I saw I could follow a black diamond connector called Long Branch Trail over to a final double black descent called Killer B back down to the paved bike path. Surely this is where I'd find this Heckler's kryptonite. Nope. Despite my tired legs and the surprisingly steep up and down nature of Long Branch it continued to impress. It made every tight switch back, scrambled up every loose chute, and negotiated all the steeps, exposure, and tech Killer B had to offer. Once on a particularly complicated bit of steep terrain I thought I detected the rear suspension being out matched a bit (maybe) by the variable and harsh undulating slick rock beneath it..... but it was small consolation. My bubble had been burst. The bike snob in me had to admit that you don't have to spend $6K on a high zoot, multi-link, carbon wunder bike to get a good ride. Of course Tim already knew that.
To add insult to injury, once the suspension was locked out, it even spun up the long paved bike path back to the demo area with ease (I think I even passed a guy on an Orbea road rocket on the way). Harumph. The bike snob in me probably would not allow me to purchase such a creature, but I have no problem recommending this bike to those who just want a good mountain bike without all the complicated gimmickery and astronomical cost associated with all the other bikes we tested. In the end, there's nothing really wrong with this bike at all and it kinda made me feel stupid for spending so much time geeking out over every little nuance and acronym-labled gadget found on all those blue blooded steeds.
In the end, the Heckler reminded me that it's not really about the bike. Find one you like and go have fun riding it regardless of the cost or complexity. Sometimes simple is just fine.
I'm really sad I didn't get an on site picture of this bike at the end of the day, all dusty, simple, and humble looking to go along with my tongue-in-cheek ramblings. This stock SC glam shot will have to do. If anyone's got a Moab/Outerbike pic of this black Heckler I can use, shoot me a message.
Last edited by KRob; 10-13-2013 at 08:45 PM.
As always *twothumbsup* for everything you keep doing for us. No question many of us are awaiting this write up. Great work Kent.
Did you find and ride the Flux 27.5 at the Outerbike?
Ulating blencong sejatine tataraning lelaku...
Glad you tried the Trance. I personally thought you'd lost it trying to fit the Anthem into the trail category at all. I have to say, coming off an Anthem 29er getting on to a Trance 27.5 the other day on the trails locally, there's a vast difference between what I'd consider the classic XC feel of the Anthem, and the Trail feel (much shorter cockpit) of the Trance.
CAMBr Trail Crew
Another awesome review... Thanks, KRob! Btw, any chance you got to demo any NORCO's, specifically the Range or Sight? Looking forward to reading Pt. 2.
And, damn... I miss riding at Bootleg!
CAMBr Trail Crew
Originally Posted by DDDonny
Just read the review of the NORCO Sight- Damn, the bike is SWEET!!! Anyway, thanks dude!
Team Hardcore Cornbread
Good stuff KRob. Any feedback on the Thomson dropper post that was on th Yeti?
"Set the gearshift for the high gear of your soul".
Good work KRob. I really wanted to make it out to Outerbike to ride but I couldn't, so your perspective is appreciated. I am trying to decide between the Pivot Mach 6, the Ibis HDR 650b and the Santa Cruz Bronson C. It sounds like you would pick the Mach 6 as the best of the 3, but did you prefer the HDR or the Bronson more?
More interesting: Did you like Mach 6 more then your Chilly. Can Mach 6 potentially be one bike to do both :trail and heavy all mountain riding?
Out of 29ers, Rob could you expand more on Yetti 95C experience, I tried RIp9 RDO and Ripley and frankly agree with your comments : Ripley did not feel like 29er where the Rip9 just plowed over every climb and techy rock chunk. Yeti is the only one I did not demo and think with 140mm fork it will be pretty good.
Thanks KRob. Great stuff as always. Hoping you get to ride the Troy and how it stacks up relative to the M6 and Bronson C.
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic
- Arthur C. Clarke
I'm interested in this as well: Mach 6, HDR 650b, or Bronson C?
You gotta Get Up to Get Down!
Yeah, the remote lever was set waaaaay too far inboard. :0 I about crashed a couple times searching for it. Should've stopped and repositioned it.
Originally Posted by Phishin Paul
Honestly they all work pretty well. The question is, how long will they work before having problems. This kind of test won't tell much about that but the Thomson reputation for quality gives me hope. The design looked solid and the action was good.
Last edited by KRob; 10-09-2013 at 02:13 PM.
Great reviews as always. The XX1 cable routing is tricky at the RD. In addition is it VERY sensitive to even slightly bent hangars and sticky cables. With the abuse/upkeep that demo bikes see I would not be surprised if you encountered one or both of these on several test bikes. If you pay attention to those two things the stuff is rock solid.
Originally Posted by davemk
Originally Posted by cryde
Originally Posted by Ilyam3
Yeah, tough question. I think I still favor the Mach 6 out of those three and would pick the HDR over the Bronson for being a bit faster feeling if you value the XC more than the chunk.... giving the nod to the Bronson over the HDR for a more even mix. All three are very close. In fact Ben was mentioning after riding several bikes Friday that the problem he was having this year was that all the bikes were so good that he was having trouble pinpointing significant differences between bikes that he could talk about in his reviews. I agree.
I was about to just post all the pictures and say, "These are all very, very good bikes. Pick one. You'll be fine."
In response to how does the Mach 6 compare to the Chilcotin I'd say if I were to stay with a one bike stable and was willing to give up a little on the extreme AM side of the scale, the Mach 6 would be a very good choice. But before I purchased one I'd have to ride a Warden..... and to muddy the waters even more, I'd have to consider the Burner and the Troy in that mix as well. It's a really tough time to buy a bike right now. So many good choices.
I liked the Yeti better than the Rip 9 I rode at Interbike I think, but they are pretty close. I'm not a 29er rider so not as linked into some of the subtle differences between 29ers and didn't spend a ton of time on the SB95c so can't expand too much more than that. It is certainly a good bike and probably the favorite mid-longer travel 29ers I rode at Interbike or Outerbike.... but wasn't wowed by it.
Originally Posted by Ilyam3
For what I'm looking for in a 29er I liked the Czar and Ripley better.....although there were two or three shorter travel 27.5s that I liked even better yet for my purposes.
Thanks for another great set of reviews! I look forward to these every year.
Can you explain the issues you were experiencing with the XX1.
I'm extremely pleased with mine so far but am having a few issues shifting from a couple big cogs to the next one down (delayed or hangs a bit). Up shifts are all fine. I've also read 2 different B screw setting from Sram's documentation. One says 10-14mm while one says 12-16mm. Big B screw gap compared to a conventional derailleur.
Have you had a chance to get a ride on a new Banshee Spitfire V2 650b? Would love to hear your thoughts about that bike.
Nice reviews and lots of nice bike choices for pretty much everyone's taste now.
2013 Banshee Spitfire V2 650b
Great stuff as usual, KRob. Thanks!
Can't wait for a carbon Thunderbolt!
It's a real shame the DW-Link bikes are $1000 more expensive than the Split-Pivot bikes because you make it sound like the Pivot's are the way to go.
Comparing 140mm bikes, which was the most responsive climber when standing: Troy, Trance, or Sight?
ArcGIS mapping pro, offering trail design and mapping support to non-profit organizations across Pennsylvania.
KRob, I just finished building a Firebird 27.5 with 160mm Pike just before Pivot dropped the Mach 6. I love the Bird but that sexy Mach 6 that everybody is raving about has me intrigued. I could easily swap all my components to a Mach 6. My goal is an all-mountain/enduro rig. Might do some enduro racing next year. What are your feelings comparing those two bikes? Which of the two would you select if you didn't have your Chili?
Last edited by rehammer81; 10-08-2013 at 04:11 PM.
Mostly when shifting up onto bigger cogs, especially if you were trying to grab two cogs at once, it would get sloppy and shift up onto the cog then drop back down, but if you over shifted you'd end up between gears.
Originally Posted by skidad
The Spitfire has been on my list for awhile now but Banshee has not been at Interbike or Outerbike lately that I know of. Sounds like a great bike.
For sure.... or the Carbon Sight. They both were very light even in aluminum and I suppose if the price point jumped up too much with carbon I'd at least be content in the fact that both those bikes worked very well in alloy too.
Originally Posted by westin
CAMBr Trail Crew
+1 on the Carbon Sight! The review of the Troy was very informative, too! It just sucks that there aren't any pics.
What are your thoughts on the Sight vs. the Troy?
You are too kind
I'm sorry, but that is a serious bit of Rube Goldberg suspension right there.
That thing needs to have The Best Ride Evar to justify that cluster F.
Originally Posted by KRob
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