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  1. #1
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    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews

    First of all, I should say thanks to Western Spirit Cycling, who put on the Outerbike event. They did a fantastic job bringing in manufacturers, vendors, and mountain biking enthusiasts to an epic ride location. The options for riding that were opened up by the shuttle runs were tremendous. While many manufacturers host dealer camps, this kind of opportunity simply has not existed for the average consumer. Well done! As for the do it yourself sandwiches at all the lunches, those constitute a future ďarea of opportunityĒ.

    I always try to start off these reviews with a little information on myself and my riding background. I'm a little over 6' and weigh in at 165lbs. On account of my long legs, I run my saddles at 785mm from the center of the bottom bracket to the top of the saddle. I lean toward the cross country spectrum of riding as a racer boy, but have been known to cram myself into a full face helmet and pressure suit to hit Whistler runs. I value flow over hucking and am a better climber than descender. As always, these reviews are subjective. Many bike companies are in business and cater to different preferences than my own.

    I was fortunate enough to be travelling with my riding buddy, TheDL, and got the chance to connect up with KRob for both days. We are all pretty close to the same size and weight, so we were able to trade off bikes and got ride many more than we would have otherwise. I personally pedaled 15 of them, and KRob and TheDL were able to snag to bikes that I missed while waiting for others. A lesson learned is that next year weíll plan ahead and bring the same brand pedals and shoes with compatible cleats so we can leave the pedal wrench at home! Iíve tried to avoid looking at KRobís reviews before writing my own, so I am anxious to compare and see how close our opinions are.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3185.jpg

    My general thoughts and Monday morning quarterbacking:
    1) 142x12mm TA is the new standard Ė QR will be banished into the outer darkness.
    2) 11 speed is taking over and seems legit.
    3) 27.5 is winning the 140-150mm travel war, beating out 26Ē and 29Ē options.
    4) Dropper posts are now standard equipment like derailleurs and wheels.
    5) Cane Creek Double Barrel air is a massive disappointment on test rides.
    6) Maxxis is creeping up there with Continental as my tire brand preference.
    7) Rock Shox forks are starting to look second rate and cheap visually.
    8) Avid brakes continue to be miserably bad, and itís unacceptable to spec them OEM on a high-end bike. Shimano brakes are in another stratosphere.
    9) CTD is still dumbing down the suspension market, but the descend setting is actually useable now.

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    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3124.jpg

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    Onward to the reviewsÖ

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    Yeti SB95 Carbon

    Yeti SB95 carbon

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3130.jpg

    The sleek new carbon version of Yeti's full suspension 29er was at the top of my list to ride at Outerbike, so I was very happy to be able to get my hands on one immediately. Lots of great looking bikes were on display in the desert, but the SB95c is an elegant work of art. The more dissonant angles of the aluminum bike have been softened up and I have no problem calling this the best looking ride on hand at the event (yes, I know, beauty in the eye of the beholder, blah blahÖ).

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3131.jpg

    The SB95c suspension felt supple and responsive in the parking lot. The ride quality was noticeable and the bigger wheels certainly made for a different experience on small stuff than the 26ers that I have been accustomed to. The second thing I noticed was how comfortable it felt in the cockpit. I fully chalk this up to my owning an ASR-5c with a similar fit philosophy, but it was comfortable and commanding to pilot.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3132.jpg

    In terms of component, the XX1 looks very slick bolted onto the carbon chassis. The Thomson seatpost added a touch of bling as well, and seemed to work smoothly and comfortably. My only quibble was that the smallish lever was mounted out of reach of my thumb, but I was too lazy to pull out my multi-tool to move it. The new Yeti brand saddle takes a step back from the superb WTB Volts of last year. Itís ok, but not great. The Yeti turquoise on the rails adds something, though. The Stanís rims were definitely in vogue this year, and it was surprising to me how many bikes were rolling on them. I have a difficult time rating wheels when I canít control the tire choice and pressure, but since I am familiar with these Maxxis treads, I rate the wheels pretty high in terms of feel and stiffness.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3133.jpg

    So how does the SB95c ride? It is faster than the aluminum for sure. I didnít get a weight, but with a carbon frame and XX1/X01, itís seriously light for a 29er AM rig. Itís also long. It isnít a monster truck, but you can tell you are taking up some significant space front to back. It retains one of the best qualities of the aluminum rig, and that is the ability to lean (way) over and carry a solid line through just about anything. It rolls over all sorts of chunk and just keeps on trucking without being knocked off a line. 11speed was snappy, but ground slightly going into 42. Not sure if this is a tuning issue or something with chain growth?

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3134.jpg

    Getting into the suspension feel, while supple in the parking lot, the switch design exhibits some degree of firmness when challenged by square edged stuff and step-ups. It is just a tad more restricted than a single pivot, 4-bar, or even a DW link in its action. Where it showed up is in just a slight hesitation in slower tech terrain, and didnít quite scramble up as readily as I had hoped. The shock was showing some fairly free movement (read bob, but not noticeable unless you look) in the parking lot and I kept everything on descend mode to bring out the suspension traits without undue compression damping. However, the traction was good and so was the control. If I had the bike for longer, I would have dropped the pressure a touch and clicked over to trail mode on the CTD dials for the Fox 34 and the Float shock to see what the bike did. I wonder if I could have made it more supple deeper into the travel? Happily, the CTD descend modes were not gooshy and undamped this year. Thanks to the engineers at Fox for fixing this.

    The SB95c is a really good bike and anyone with the aluminum version will want to upgrade. I said last year that it is a ďone bikeĒ solution, and I stand by that statement to an even greater degree with this version. Could you race it? Not realistically on short course, but enduro/endurance would not be totally ruled out. Can you have fun on it? No question about it.

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    Ibis Ripley

    Ibis Ripley

    Going to the Ripley after reluctantly handing over the SB95c to KRob was a study in contrasts. I want to spend more time on this bike to form a more rounded opinion, because I feel like this is just ďseat of my bike shortsĒ consideration.

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    It was great to run the Ripley back to back with the SB95 to compare the action of the eccentric suspension setups, as the Ibis is a novel take on the DW link format. KRob got to talk with ďChuck IbisĒ about this bike and the philosophy behind it, but I missed the opportunity while sourcing other rides. It is a smaller feeling bike, and the rear wheel is nicely tucked in to create a shorter wheelbase. I had to look it up, but sure enough, this bike different fork offset Ė 51mm, and steepish (for a non-racer bike) 70deg head tube angle. It adds up to feeling, well, not like a 29er.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3145.jpg

    I had more of a sense that I could throw this bike around as it felt light on its wheels, but I didnít have the same roll-over confidence that I felt on other 29ers. However, similar to the Mojo 26Ē, but Ripley felt a little more zingy than one might expect. It was, though, just somewhat at the mercy of the terrain and could have benefited from a more substantial feel. In fact, give me a blindfold and tell me to ride (a dangerous proposition in Moab), I would have called this a 26er, maybe a 27.5. Additionally, it felt odd to find a positive stem angle on a 29er vs a flat one.


    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3146.jpg


    The DW application was well behaved, and I didnít have any complaint except that I didnít get the feeling of deep traction that I get from the Turner DW application on climbs. When we talked, KRob and I both thought that the bike responded well to standing and hammering, which is a frequently cited DW trait. In fact, the similar feeling to a Mojo fell right between a fairly compliant and supple Turner DW and a more traditionally stiff and efficient Pivot DW. It did exhibit some rear rebound pop-back issues that we were able to tune down a bit, but it remained perceptible.


    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3147.jpg

    Based on the ride, the bash guard on a double crank is totally out of place and an inelegant addition to what is a pretty decent (in TheDLís words, non-space alien) looking frame. The angles are not as odd in person as they seem in pictures. Also, Reverb posts and XT brakes (exceptional as usual) are nice compliments to the Ripley. However, the green decals on the fork to match the frame were more reminiscent of dollar store than high-end kit.


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    Itís clear that some great bikes are being made right now, and this is no exception. Someone will really value this bike who wants a 29er with a lighter touch, but isnít quite ready to jump to a 27.5 application just yet. However, I do think that the oncoming 27.5/650b horde of wheels might make this bike the odd one out for its intended purpose.

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    Intense Spider Comp

    Intense Spider Comp

    TheDL and I left Outerbike absolutely stoked on the Spider Comp last year with its crisp handling, short stem paired with wide bars, and excellent VPP suspension feel. In fact, TheDL grabbed it to ride again for the purpose of possibly buying one.

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    While our general observation was an overall compression of the quality spread in the bikes and their ride characteristics (in other words, a lot of great bikes without a ton of perceptible differentiation or negative traits), some differences came through when comparing back to back.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3136.jpg

    Unfortunately, this bike was a let-down compared to last year. So what is different? The suspension last year was a Fox Float Kashima CTD and a Float 32 Kashima CTD fork. This yearís bike was a Cane Creek Double Barrel Air and a Rock Shox Revelation fork. Frankly, the CCDB shock was underwhelming at best. It did not come anywhere near achieving full travel and was simply harsh feeling. This was a disappointment after expecting a premium ride from it, but I do recognize that there are so many tuning options that it is difficult to get it right for a single rider (let alone 3 riders at once) in a demo setting. Iíd call it a one-off, but I fully hated this shock on two other bikes at Outerbike. I should have pulled out my shock pump and bled some air, but I didnít want to take the time. I did check the pics, and the bike was in the shorter, steeper rear travel setting on both this yearís bike and last yearís.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3137.jpg

    I noticed that despite the short stem, the bars were centered pretty much over the front hub for me at full seatpost extension, which isnít particularly short. However, in contrast to the Ripley and the SB95, it needed pronounced steering input and correction into corners as leaning it wasnít accomplishing the intended piloting result. It was odd to need to re-direct it, but the bike was clearly intended to be more on the playful side of things than the other two bikes. I still like it, but with the Fox suspension. The Revelation didnít particularly impress and looked cheap with the black on black look and chintzy dials. The Avid brakes were predictably horrible with howl, warble, and lacking the modulation offered by other brands. What canít SRAM manage to fix this?

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3138.jpg

    I donít mean to sound as negative as Iím sure this review is coming across, because the Spider Comp is a playful, capable bike with no VPP pedal feedback that I could discern. The Maxxis Ardents were awesome, the Reverb seatpost was predictably good. However, this suspension setup was a total letdown.

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    Last edited by schlim; 10-12-2013 at 11:54 PM.

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    Turner Czar

    Turner Czar

    Back to disclaimers here, I own and rock a Turner DW 5 Spot and my wife rides a TNT 5 Spot. I have previously owned and abused a Turner Six Pack horst link, so I do have some affinity for the brand. I have been critical of Turners as well Ė including the excessive squat in the Pack with the DHX shock, the less than stellar feeling of the mis-tuned Monarch on last yearís Burner, and the Starship Enterprise wheelbase of the Sultan.

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    Having said all that, the Czar is staggeringly good. Iím sure that much of this is attributable to the primo build spec, including full XX1 drivetrain, carbon Enve/I9 wheels (the first of several bikes I was fortunate enough to ride with these rims), Thomson cockpit, and an Enve carbon flat bar. However, there is something special about the way this bike flies over terrain.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3150.jpg


    Admittedly, I have not been the biggest fan of 29ers, as I feel like something in the character of the ride is lost, and the ultra-slack seattubes donít lend themselves to an optimal fit for a guy with long legs such as myself. Not so with the Czar. While the Enve rims clearly offer a higher than average (ok, insane) degree of stiffness, the ride of the carbon Turner is ultra zippy and overall feels like the wind is at your back and pedaling is nearly effortless. Dave could have called this the Afterburner (or Nitrous) and it would have been fitting. I also liked the look of the rear triangle better on the Czar than the other DW turners with elevated chainstays.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3151.jpg

    The fit of the Czar was exceptionally good for my taste. For 29ers, I generally prefer a shorter top tube to get myself centered more neutrally on the bike. The Czar has a 23.8Ē top tube, which is right in line with other geometries I have favored. Combined with the negative rise Thomson stem and the Enve flat bars, I was offered a good position from which to hammer. The racket made by the I9 hubs was akin to stirring up a hornetís nest and let others know I was intending to run them down.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3152.jpg

    So what was bad? The SID fork was over-inflated to begin with. 100psi (I checked) is too high to get much appreciable sag. Once I took out 20psi from the fork and 5 psi from the shock for kicks, the bike reacted a little better on difficult terrain like slickrock. I was able to get closer to full travel on the bike, which improved the comfort level a bit to offset the Enve stiffness. But this is just fine-tuning. The Avid brakes howled and warbled like banshees. It almost drowned out the I9s. I ask WHY?? The gloss black fork also contrasted poorly with the matte carbon frame. A white fork would look very nice instead.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3153.jpg

    Back to the positives, the 29Ē Maxxis Crossmark tires were surprisingly sure-footed out in the desert and seemed to compliment the Czar well. Some have mentioned a knock or click in the bike, but I was not able to make out anything like that. The WTB Devo saddle was also quite comfortable. The Turner felt like a race bike that is capable of much more. In fact, I think many people would be able to get away with this as an adventure/backcountry trail bike given its efficiency and poise. While on it, I felt like it could navigate anything.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3154.jpg

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    Specialized S-Works Enduro 29

    Specialized S-Works Enduro 29

    I had the somewhat strange experience of trading the Turner Czar mid-trail for the Specialized Enduro S-Works that TheDL picked up. I donít recommend the abrupt transition from a 100mm travel race 29er to the opposite end of the 29er spectrum at 155mm. Both of these bikes probably cost the same ($9000+) given their builds Ė carbon wheels and frame, XX1, etc.

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    I came away disappointed with the Enduro. There are things this bike does well, but one would also expect a 155mm travel bike with a 160mm fork to be plush. Right? I preferred the Czar on slickrock, which ought to be somewhat concerning for Specialized. I would say it is a setup issue, but last yearís Enduro 26Ē left me with the same impression of being hammered. I reduced the air pressure in the suspension on both bikes and last yearís Enduro and this yearís both remained harsh. Once again, the Cane Creek Double Barrel shock didnít feel like an advantage over a Fox Float CTD. One might argue that the setup favors big hits over flow and that to use the Enduro properly I should hit some massive gaps and drops. In that case, a coil shock would be preferable to the CCDB air. My local Specialized mechanic says the Enduro can be tuned to be plush, and I trust his judgment, but I wonder if there is something in the shock tune or the leverage curve that is at work here.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3159.jpg

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3160.jpg

    The carbon frame and build look fantastic, though, and I liked the wide and commanding presence in the cockpit. The Enduro was decently light for its size and travel, and really did not feel like a 155mm travel bike while pedaling it. The shorter chainstays are not a gimmick, and in fact contributed to a very respectable climbing ability and general maneuverability. The harshness, though, made the travel feel more like a 140mm travel bike than something supposedly more capable. The Roval carbon wheels are as usual a great addition to a bike, and I did not miss bead hooks in the rims one bit. While I was underwhelmed with the Pike on this particular bike, I did have a great experience with it on another one later.

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    In all, I felt like a $9,000 bike should deliver a better experience.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3164.jpg

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    Rocky Mountain Altitude 27.5 770 MSL

    Rocky Mountain Altitude 27.5 770 MSL

    After riding the Element 999 last year and being favorably impressed, I had it on my list to ride a bigger travel Rocky Mountain like an Instinct or Altitude. Walking past a nearly empty RM racks due to all the bikes being out and in the process of being thrashed, I spotted a large Altitude 770. It represented the first of many 27.5 bikes I rode over the two days and was a really nice example of a good 650b application that makes sense. The 150mm range seems to be ideal for what the mid-size wheels does well Ė retain momentum and rolling ability without feeling like a total aircraft carrier on the trail.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3166.jpg

    The Altitude incorporates a slick chip system at the forward shock eyelet that allows you to custom-fit the geometry to your preference. The tech setting up my ride told me that this one was at a 68 degree head angle, but could be dropped back to 67 if preferred. As a side-note, the Altitude came equipped with what I was told was a compression-adjusting lever for the Fox CTD shock. The lever Ė it does nothing! Maybe it is just there to look cool. Iím guessing something was broken, as there was no distinct trail or climb mode.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3167.jpg

    While not my favorite 27.5 ride of Outerbike, this is a really nice looking carbon design with a solid Fox 34 fork up front to keep everything in line. The fork is legit and worked great. Extra points are awarded for the Shimano XT brakes. Like many other bikes, it was rolling Stanís wheels (Arch EX), and had Conti Mountain King treads.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3168.jpg


    So how does it ride? Well, pretty much like bike. While it didnít have bad manners, there wasnít a whole lot remarkable to make it stand out, either. Thatís not a knock, it had a good feel to it, and I think I would like it even better in the slacker mode. However, something is lost in terms of playfulness over a 26Ē bike with this travel and it was difficult to persuade it to try and pop over things. On the other hand, it rips quite nicely through twisty berms and G-outs. Also, as was the case with most bikes out there, the tires were way over inflated for the terrain causing a touch of harshness.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3169.jpg

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3170.jpg

    The bottom line is that I could live with the Altitude and not be unhappy at all. However, it wouldnít call to me from the garage to ride for the experience. If something was truly haywire with the shock, though, I could see the bike getting more interesting.

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    GT Force Pro carbon 27.5

    GT Force Pro carbon 27.5

    It was great to see GT out there and showing off the new Force and Sensor 27.5s. I was disappointed because they did not bring the Zaskar 100 29er, which was on my list, but was happy to have the chance to take a ride on the Force Pro that TheDL landed. It is a visually striking frame and likely reflects the influence that the Athertons are having on GTís design and philosophy. I like the progression, and I like the fact that a classic name in mountain biking is making moves to become relevant and respected again.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3171.jpg

    Was it perfect? No, there was room for improvement, but the Force is a real option and potentially a great bike for someone who wants to buy a capable and well thought-out all mountain bike. In terms of specifics, it had just come back from a shuttle run, and accordingly it was somewhat creaky and ill-tuned.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3175.jpg

    A 150mm travel 27.5 bike like the Altitude, it felt bigger than the Rocky. The perception might just be subconscious suggestion based on the massive swingarm on the new suspension design. Itís seriously stout looking in person. Additionally, the frame comes with a useful double handle for swinging it effectively if you encounter a bear on the trail.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3172.jpg

    The rear suspension felt more supple than the Enduro or the Altitude and tracked the desert terrain really nicely. However, I did notice that the suspension bogged down just a tad when climbing and I needed more effort to hike up and over chunk than I did on the Altitude. Iíll readily admit, though, that the Whole Enchilada and a day of riding around on lots of bikes had taken a toll on my legs. It did have a low center of gravity, which will be appreciated by lots and a definite advantage over some other offerings.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3173.jpg

    The formula brakes felt not so special and the E13 wheels appeared cheap on such a nice looking carbon frame. In fact, the rear hub is so massive that I wondered if it had internal gearing or a power generator for the Death Star in it. Sadly, I didnít get a good picture of the hub. The XT triple seemed out of place in a desert full of doubles and single chainrings. Excellent Continental Rubber Queens complimented the ride quality offered by the Force. I would have preferred a carbon bar, but the width of the aluminum one was nice for leverage and control.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3174.jpg

    It had a good, solid "in the bike" feeling to it that I appreciated. The bottom line is that I preferred the Force to the Enduro, but would take the Altitude over the Force for bikes with similar travel built for similar purposes. At this point, I knew that weíd be getting enough rides on similar 27.5s to offer some good comparative feedback.

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    Giant Trance Advanced 27.5

    Giant Trance Advanced 27.5

    Admittedly, I didnít spent a whole lot of time on the Trance. While I want to say that it wasnít long enough to form an opinion, the truth is that I wanted off of this one pretty darn quick. It seems like every year there is a bike I get on and say, ďyeaaah, no.Ē The Trance Advanced was that bike for Day One.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3178.jpg

    I also donít have much experience on Maestro suspension applications, and I expected it to ride a bit like a DW link bike. But it doesnít feel like a DW or a 140mm travel bike, and I would have guessed 120mm until I looked it up. The suspension felt harsh and stiff to me, but it could be the Rock Shox Monarch shock, which I have not been particularly impressed with overall (though there have been some notable exceptions).

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3176.jpg

    In this case, the Trance was a conglomeration of a lot of things I dislike. The Fizik Gobi saddle isnít a good fit for my backside and was instantly uncomfortable. I find Schwalbe casings to be hard and lacking trail feel, therefore the Nobby Nics were another strike against it. The Avid brakes did nothing to cause me to warm up to the Trance. A proprietary Giant dropper post felt chintzy compared to the excellent Rock Shox and Thomson options we rode.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3179.jpg

    In addition, the geometry was too stretched out for a trail bike and felt off to me. The composite stem looked neat, but was way too low at its negative angle. I would have tried to get a somewhat higher angle if I had stuck with the bike for longer. I also wondered why it had a carbon front triangle and an aluminum rear? Specialized (ahem, Enduro 29, ehrm) and Trek do this too, which is confusing given that several years ago we had aluminum frames with carbon seatstays. Letís use one material consistently, shall we? An $8,000 bike should look the part.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3181.jpg

    Overall, I had no real confidence on this bike and I was pretty happy to offer it right back to KRob. Hopefully he can do it justice in a way that I canít.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3182.jpg

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    Pivot Firebird 27.5

    Pivot Firebird 27.5

    I need to keep a promise that I made to the Pivot guys. When I arrived at the booth on the day two, the line was long (one dude actually shoved his way in front of me, and then gave me a dirty look) and all of the Mach 6 and Firebird bikes tagged to take on shuttle run were gone by the time I got to the front. The two guys helping me grabbed a ďlocal trails onlyĒ Firebird 27.5 and swapped a shuttle tag onto it so I could take it out on Mag 7. I promised them substantial karma and an online callout of appreciation, as they landed in some hot water for doing me a favor. Iím very grateful!

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3195.jpg

    The Firebird has 167mm of rear travel and a 160mm Fox 34 fork, resulting in a 66 degree headtube angle. The frame design is odd looking, as the lower eyelet of the shock is actually mounted onto the front of the DW swing link itself and does not rotate on the frame. All of the metal work around the bottom bracket area appears totally over-engineered and convoluted. But the result is effective.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3196.jpg

    Iíve noted before that Pivotís suspension tunes tend toward the stiffer side of things, resulting in a ride that did not feel as controlled and glued to the trail as some other DW link offerings available. The Firebird suspension action, however, absolutely sparkles.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3197.jpg

    From the moment I got off the bus and dropped into the Mag 7 trails, it felt plush and confident, like how a 170mm bike should, but with an added bonus Ė it pedals exceptionally well. I told KRob that I might not hand it over to him given how much fun I was having. Part of the great downhill feel may be due to the fact that the tech set the sag on the bike for me with the Trail mode enabled on the shock and fork, and I ran them in descend exclusively.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3198.jpg

    The kicker was how efficiently it hiked itself up and over rocks and steep slickrock. Climbing, it felt much more nimble and capable than 167mm would suggest. Traction to the ground was exceptional, even with Kenda tires that I normally dislike. The Nevegal and Honey Badger didnít detract from the ride at all. The double chainring was appreciated for the ability to drop gears fast when terrain changed. Itís a capability I miss somewhat on single ring setups.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3199.jpg

    Not only was the Firebird confident and composed, but it felt capable enough that I wanted to chuck it off of everything in sight. The geometry is dialed and neutral, and I have to say that this might be the best application of 27.5 mid-size wheels I came across. There is simply no reason to buy this bike in its 26Ē iteration. I loved the DT M480/240s wheelset.

    What could be better? Iíd like it a little lighter. Carbon might not be a bad thing for the Firebird, but the performance of the aluminum proves that carbon isnít essential. Aesthetically, the whole thing looks strange and inorganic, but ride is amazing. This is what the Specialized Enduro should have been.
    Last edited by schlim; 10-12-2013 at 11:51 PM.

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    Norco Sight 27.5

    Norco Sight 27.5

    I reluctantly traded the Firebird to KRob, but thought it was interesting that he didnít really want to give up his own ride. The Norco Sight came with a ridiculously good build, including XX1, the Rock Shox 27.5 Pike, and Carbon SRAM Roam 60 wheels with a Maxxis High Roller 2 / Ardent combo.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3200.jpg

    I didnít expect a lot from the Sight, as Norco just hasnít been on my radar at all. However, it was very well put together and the ride was tuned brilliantly. A nicely muted, damped feeling came across and the Pike and Monarch Plus with the piggy back reservoir worked perfectly together to produce a very planted feel. In fact, the Pike on the Sight was probably the best riding fork of any I bike I got on at Outerbike.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3201.jpg

    As this was a horst link bike, the best I can compare it to is the ride quality of the Titus El Guapo. While the El Guapo feels big, the Norco actually handles like a much smaller bike, even seeming somewhat short in the cockpit, although the virtual top tube is 24.2 inches. It makes me wonder if we might have actually had a medium on our hands? This is a nicely done horst application and an example of how good 4-bar type suspension can be.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3202.jpg

    I could totally live with the Sight for all kinds of riding and think the composed characteristics are accentuated by the 27.5 wheels. If this bike were 29er, it would likely retain its stability, but lose the nimble nature of its design that is accentuated by the midsize wheels. 26Ē would likely feel squirrely. Also, the aluminum is dang good. I know Norco makes a carbon version now, and Iíd be interested to try the bikes back to back. Unless you absolutely want to lose a little weight, you might not need the carbon for this chassis.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3203.jpg

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3204.jpg

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3205.jpg

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3206.jpg

    A final thought: flo yellow looks good.
    Last edited by schlim; 10-13-2013 at 05:50 PM.

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    Intense Carbine 27.5

    Intense Carbine 27.5

    The Carbine was another smaller feeling bike, and was a study in contrasts with the Firebird and the Sight. Where the Firebird felt like cruise control, and the Sight was slightly more predictable and damped feeling, the Carbine let you know the trail was present and intending to oppose you.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3207.jpg

    Iíve taken a little criticism for my comments on the feel of the Cane Creek Double Barrel Air shock, and unfortunately, I didnít like it on the Carbine either. Iíve beaten this topic to death though, so I wonít pontificate too much. Iím not asking for PUSH custom tune quality, I just want the premium product at typical settings to operate at least as good as the cheaper products. Fix the Spade has offered a great explanation of whatís going on in this thread, and his comments make sense. Thanks!

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3208.jpg

    The handing of the Carbine was interesting. It was a little more temperamental in the run up to features and was more of a point and shoot weapon than a carve and flow style ride. The suspension was significantly harsher than the Norcoís in the 5.5 inch travel mode, so we bled out at least 20psi from the CCDBA and adjusted the swing link to the 6 inch option to try and smooth out the trail some. This did help somewhat and allowed the bike to soak up a little more of the medium sized hits. However, the creaky carbon frame was a distraction after the smoother running aluminum bikes I had just been riding.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3209.jpg


    I was not a fan of the Vee Rubber tires, as the rear kept sliding unexpectedly when I was trying to establish some confidence on the bike. Additionally, the Reverb post was failing and sinking down throughout the ride. It was kind of comical.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3210.jpg

    TheDL liked the Carbine, and enough that he is considering buying one, albeit with nicer wheels and componentry. He called it spunky and rabbit-like, with a willingness to hop off things despite the harshness we both recognized. The Novatec wheels and hubs did seem a more than a little out of place on such a nice looking frame with mostly upscale parts.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3211.jpg

    After climbing our way back out of Mag 7 (while ravenously hungry for lunch - I bonked), I noticed that the Intense wasnít dealing with washboard well on the fireroad descent and the dirt road back to the Outerbike camp. I swapped bikes back over to the Norco and I was instantly gliding along rather than my teeth chattering out.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3212.jpg

    For my money, I think the Carbine does not fit my ride preferences, but man those Intense frames are pretty.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3213.jpg

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3214.jpg
    Last edited by schlim; 10-13-2013 at 08:15 PM.

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    Turner Flux 27.5

    Turner Flux 27.5

    The new and improved Flux was quite simply one of my favorites of Outerbike. Riding so many of the new 27.5s back to back provided a decently comprehensive survey of what is available out there. The Flux is only 120mm of travel, so it wasnít in the same category as the Rocky Mountain Altitude or the Norco Sight. Itís aimed at those who would by a Trek Fuel EX or a Specialized Camber, who want something a little longer legged than a race bike but still want to keep the weight down. The blue anodizing was striking, and I didnít notice the new curved top tube once on the bike.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3215.jpg

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3216.jpg

    Some things werenít perfect, for instance I got a few pedal strikes that I hadnít gotten on the longer travel 27.5s. It also felt really stretched out compared to what I was used to on Turners. It has moved over to more of the in-vogue geometry with a slightly longer top tube for Turner at 24.1, but retains the 100mm stem rather than a shorter one. I did check, and someone had put the saddle all the way back on the rails. When I adjusted it, the long reach feeling went away.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3217.jpg

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3218.jpg

    Also, the Schwalbe Racing Ralphs were just bad on the Moab trails. I kept drifting the rear of the bike, which was fun, but I prefer a more predictable feel. The RRs newarly killed KRob when he went skidding off the trail altogether, but he was able to bring things back under control. The tires limited the bike, as did the lack of a dropper post, which is fast becoming a requirement. I appreciated the 68degree head angle, but wonder what it would be like at 67. Angleset maybe?

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3219.jpg

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3220.jpg

    Now for the good Ė the newly incarnated Flux was zippy and peppy, and climbing was out of sight compared to other offerings that were a bit more sluggish (Altitude) or felt like they lacked traction bite (Trance). The bike was excellent weaving through the trails and would actually pop up pretty good, unlike many other offerings we rode. I wanted to go fast and hard when riding it. The Flux is a great application of 27.5, and I would likely take it over a Burner for the speed and maneuverability offered. The Enve wheels were ultra stiff, but super quick to spin up.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3231.jpg

    I also liked the low, wide Race Face bars and solid XT build spec. I managed to used all the travel in the rear, but didn't ever feel a bottom-out. Additionally, it was easy to pick up and move the rear wheel if necessary. The Flux is another case of really liking an aluminum offering in a sea of carbon alternatives. KRob and I agreed that it is 90% of a Burner or 5 Spot in capability, but faster.
    Last edited by schlim; 10-13-2013 at 09:12 PM.

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    Devinci Troy 27.5

    Devinci Troy

    Krob was able to score a Devinci Troy by talking the gentlemen at the Enve booth into handing it over. Iím always favorably impressed by what Devinci turns out, as the spit pivot is another Dave Weagle design that doesnít rely on excessive compression damping to tame the trail.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3222.jpg

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3223.jpg

    The Troy is the third Devinci model that Iíve been able to ride, and my overall impression is pretty similar to how I felt about the Dixon earlier this year. It is a solid, capable ride with a suspension design that kind of disappears. It is working much harder than it feels to keep things steady and controlled.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3224.jpg

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3225.jpg

    Since the bike was medium, I couldnít get the seatpost to a high enough extension for me to be able to pedal it comfortably seated. For this reason, I did not spend a lot of time on the Troy. I did, however, spend much of that short time standing and climbing, and the bike responded very well. I liked it just as much climbing as the Ibis Ripley, and much more than the comparable GT Force. If asked to choose between the Troy and the Norco Sight, it would be a really tough decision.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3226.jpg

    The carbon application was great for weight, but good aluminum bikes like the Dixon, the Sight, and the Firebird have me wondering if the aluminum version of the Troy would feel even more solid and planted. Itís just speculation, but at only $500 more for the carbon frame than the aluminum, Devinci offers a great deal on the upgrade.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3227.jpg

    As usual, the Enve rims were great, and they did not feel too stiff for their intended use. I appreciated the lack of flex in the 650b hoops as I cranked away standing up and over the rocks. The wheels to a lot to liven up the ride, and the trick looking gold Chris King hubs punctuated the black and red frame nicely. They also happened to be noticeably quieter than the I9 buzz on the Czar. The Maxxis Ardents were once again a worthy tire in Moab dirt.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3228.jpg

    Surprisingly, the SLX shifting with the XT derailleur was only slightly rougher than full XT, but not by much. Iím not sure if I could tell the difference between the two if I didnít check first.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3229.jpg

    The Troy is an excellent bike, I just wish Iíd had it longer and in a large size!
    Last edited by schlim; 10-13-2013 at 11:07 PM.

  15. #15
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    Fatback xx1

    While I was waiting for the Yeti ARC to find its way back to the booth, I snagged the first fat bike I could get my hands on. It happened to be a large and green Fatback aluminum. Now I am going to have to buy a fat bike. I have avoided riding one somehow up until now, but the massive wheels were an insane amount of fun. I expected the thing to be sluggish and only really at home in snow with the massive wheels. I was wrong.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3233.jpg

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3234.jpg

    Once I dropped a little air out of the tires to tune out some bounce, I commenced monster trucking along the trail and began chuckling to myself like a maniac (it was late in the day, and I probably had heat stroke or something). The Fatback under me was chasing down and passing riders on various other normal bikes, like Yeti 575s and SB75s. Like Will Smith in the Independence Day alien spaceship, I said, ďI have got to get me one of these!Ē

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3235.jpg

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3236.jpg

    It wasnít like a full suspension bike, but the ride was quality with all of the air volume and the grip was otherworldly. Leaning it over while dropping down stair step rocks was like peeling Velcro Ė but faster. If I got a little nose heavy, it was evident by the zing in my arms that the Fatback had no suspension. The carbon fork did a great job keeping things from getting out of hand, though. It also up and rolled over, well, anything I aimed it at.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3237.jpg

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3238.jpg

    The single chainring was brilliant on the Fatback. I managed to get pictures from only the non-drive side due to the heatstroke, but XX1 is a great idea on these machines in order to not have the front derailleur freeze open in the snow. I speak from experience having suffered snowballs in my front mech while cursing the Norse gods. The mechanical disk brakes were noisy due to a warped rotor but functioned fine.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3239.jpg

    I wish now Iíd ridden more fatbikes, as Iíd like to compare the Fatback to the Specialized Fat Boy, the Surly Moonlander, the Borealis Yampa, and the new carbon Salsa Beargrease. So many great options on the market this year. The Fatback comes in Ti as well Ė for a big price.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3240.jpg

    The green machine was one of my favorites and the surprise of Outerbike.
    Last edited by schlim; 10-14-2013 at 08:49 AM.

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    Yeti ARC carbon

    Yeti ARC carbon

    It took me all of two days to get my hands on the one and only large ARC carbon. The folks at the Yeti booth were incredibly friendly. They offered me a brew and let me bum around their tent waiting for the ARC to come back. Eventually I wandered off to try the Fatback, but they were kind enough to hold onto the ARC for me when it was returned.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3241.jpg

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3242.jpg

    I know many have been anxiously awaiting my verdict on the ARC. It is a big-wheeled rocket pure and simple, with very impressive geometry that handles beautifully. The most applicable descriptor for the bike is precise. In fact, the amount of control I had navigating technical and rock-strewn terrain was surprising for a hardtail and for a 29er in general, which can sometimes be more of a point and shoot affair.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3243.jpg

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3244.jpg

    The Maxxis Ikon 2.2s looked narrow and I had to let some air out of them to get the maximal traction I was looking for. They performed fine, though, and much better than the Racing Ralphs on the Flux. The new Yeti brand saddle had me again missing the WTB Volts from last year, but a tilt adjustment got it to a tolerable point. The Avid Elixers did better than most other Avids, but the X01 was a little out of tune and ground slightly. In general, though, I was happy to have a single chainring and not be worrying about whacking it on rocks on the Deaman loop.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3245.jpg

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3246.jpg

    If you want a slot-car ride, this is it. It leaned over and carved through twists and turns and tracked berms with an impressive degree of composure. The through-axles added a lot to minimize unwanted flex that would through the bike off target. The Yeti trademark slightly slacker head angle and relative width of the bars combined for an excellent feel overall.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3247.jpg

    Hereís the ďbutĒÖ the ACR is massively stiff laterally and vertically. It was difficult at times to stay seated and pedal in the same way I can on my Orbea hardtail that flexes some in the stays and absorbs a bit of the force of hits. The ARC was excellent for going fast on buffed terrain, but not necessarily something youíd want to rip through anything and everything on. It loses something in rocky terrain. Ascending difficult switchbacks, it was ultra stable and did everything I asked it to. On the flip side, it didnít keep its momentum in chunk the same way as full suspension offerings like the Czar. I realize, though, this is a different animal. You get lightness, but you lose some carry-through ability. I do wonder what a Syntace p90 post, a 120 fork, and high volume Race King 2.2s would do for compliance?

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3248.jpg

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3249.jpg

    My conclusion is that the geometry is good, the fit is good, the through axles are effective, and itís fast, but I wish it had just a little more give to take the sting out of hits and let me pedal seated a little more.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_3250.jpg
    Last edited by schlim; 10-15-2013 at 02:02 PM.

  17. #17
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    If the CCDB air is so disappointing, what air shock is not? I have a 29er Enduro with the CTD and I'm pretty disappointed with that. It's plush and all with the "D" setting, no doubt about that, but the mid-stroke and support is pretty poor in that setting. Going to the "T" setting bumps up that support significantly, but then it doesn't transition easily to high speed. I can't tune it to be set up like my avalanche shock (high and low speed compression) so that it has good low-speed compression support but still transitions easily and effortlessly when I encounter sharp-edged bumps. In the "T" setting the rear end seems to "kick" when it hits a bump or a root, rather than blow off and absorb like my avalanche shock.

    I want real high and low speed compression adjustability, not either having it "on" or "off". More low speed helps in the chunk at speed as long as you have a good high-speed circuit, but this shock doesn't seem advanced enough for that. On the other hand "opening" it up makes it plus, but wallow, blow through travel sometimes, poor mid-stroke support, etc.

    Oh, and the "C" setting, damn near unusable on anything but pavement. Way too much compression damping with no/very hard to actuate blowoff. This setting makes the rear end "kick" over every bump like crazy, much more than the "T" setting.

    I'm thinking about sending the shock to push over the winter, but I've also entertained getting the CCDB for it. Unfortunately, most shock manufacturers seem completely resistant to putting the same kind of high/low speed compression circuits in air shocks that they do in coil shocks like the RC4...
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

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    How can you expect a Cane Creek DBA to perform well if you don't even set the sag, the first step in setting up a shock? Also, in the Spider review you said you only got 2/3 of the travel, as shown in the photos, but the photos show that you only used 1/3 of the travel. No wonder it felt harsh!!!

  19. #19
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    Good catch on my O-ring, those shots were indeed taken before we hit the trails and did anything significant on the bike. I've edited my post.

    As far as the sag goes, take it up with Intense, since they set up the bike for TheDL's weight and checked to make sure the sag met their expectations. All I'm saying is we didn't try to adjust the pressure in this one, but we did bleed out quite a bit of air on the Carbine we tried later. It didn't help much.

    I know there is a wide range of rebound and compression adjustment on the CCDBA, but I'd expect the demos to be set up so that they ride at least as well as a Float equipped bike.

  20. #20
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    I agree, the more adjustments the better.

    I also agree with you that Fox's CTDs lack fine tuning ability. Like you, I never use Climb unless I'm on pavement. The fork in Climb is like a lock out, and the rear just dials up a resistant spike in the action. My Fox 32's Trail mode is only good at setting 1. 2 and 3 are almost blow-off settings. Descend is gooshy on the front and fine in the rear.

    My criticism of the CCDBA is that I rode three and liked the feel of none. Surely one of them should feel about as good as a Fox Float or the Norco Sight's Monarch Plus?

  21. #21
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    Great reviews schlim. It was a pleasure riding with you and TheDL. It is reassuring that our impressions corresponded for the most part. You have a good way of putting into words (usually fewer) things that I felt but wasn't able convey as well as you did (like the Trance feeling like it had less travel than it did).

    Nice work. Anxiously awaiting the rest.

    What? No hucking photos of the Firebird?

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by KRob View Post
    What? No hucking photos of the Firebird?
    Almost forgot!! Actually, I had to get the pics from the DL.

    Ladies and gentlemen, the Firebird is legit and so are KRob's skillz.

    Outerbike 2013 demo reviews-img_1563.jpg

    Last edited by schlim; 10-13-2013 at 10:26 PM.

  23. #23
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    Great reviews and detailed write up Schlim. Kudos to you and guys like KRob, and those days -Tscheezy.
    On CCDB-A, to be fair if the demo ride is the right event to test the bike without the time enough to set up the shock correctly. Wouldn't it raised some questions when the it's ride crappy when you expect it to be ok?
    I spent approx 3 months to get it right on my Chilly.
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by schlim View Post
    My criticism of the CCDBA is that I rode three and liked the feel of none. Surely one of them should feel about as good as a Fox Float or the Norco Sight's Monarch Plus?
    I think the problem is that most of the companies that fit CCDBas fit them and declare it done without actually doing any tuning. There's two air can sizes and the rubber bands before you even touch rebound/compression.
    The base shock is very progressive, too much for a VPP type bike certainly. If the shocks are all new I'll bet they're quite sticky as well, it takes a little while to wear them in. I doubt the factories in Taiwan (or elsewhere) are taking every shock apart and getting can volume right during assembly. A bunch don't even spec a base tune, which kind of defeats the point of such an adjustable shock.

  25. #25
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    Thanks for taking the time to write these great reviews! Did you ride anything this year that you like better than your Yeti?

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