As always, I like to start these mini reviews/impressions with a disclaimer. We get only 30-60 minutes on any of these bikes and even with the technician at the booth setting up the suspension for our weight and then fiddling with it some out on the trail I know that it would take a day or two of riding (maybe more) to get things really set up so that they are working anywhere close to perfection for our weight and riding style. In some cases bar, stem, seat, and tire selection had an adverse affect on our impression of the bike. Although, this year I think all the tires worked pretty well in the Bootleg conditions.
Some bikes were brand spanking new (We were absolutely the first ones to throw a leg over some) and in other cases they had been thrashed about a bit and the fork and shock seals were starting to be affected by the fine Bootleg talc so as to influence our impression as well. So, please, don’t interpret these views as anything but that. Just a couple of hacks first impressions.
We were disappointed to find that many of our favorite vendors ( Turner, Knolly, Niner, Banshee, Ventana, Titus, and Transition among others) chose not attend the Dirt Demo this year, but even so, we were able to demo around 20 bikes and get to some bike companies that we normally overlook. If you do the math, with 16 hours of demo time, that's less than 1 hour per bike. Not a lot of time to really get to know a bike, but it is surprising what you can determine in a short ride.
Some general observations:
-Reverb! This post was on almost every bike we rode and they all worked flawlessly. It's amazing how this one item has become almost required equipment of late. No complaints here. I'm addicted to my adjustable seatpost crutch.
-Carbon: It's everwhere. It's light. It's stiff. We didn't even break any this time around..... although I think they had a "Most Wanted Poster" of Russell at the Santa Cruz booth.
-2x10: It's taken over. Almost every bike we rode was running 10 speed cassettes and most had a double chain ring. It works just fine but did take some getting used to which combos provided the right ratios.
-Black is the new Black: I was surprised to see so many all black color schemes. Very sharp imo.
-Most all the bikes we rode were set up well, adjusted well, and had mid to top level components hanging on their frames. No demo fleet beaters here.
Enough of that. Russell, Randy, and I left Ely at 4:30 am Monday morning with our sights set on Boulder City. After dropping our bikes off at my father-in-law's up in Logandale we headed down the Lake Mead Shoreline road through the Valley of Fire to make it to Bootleg Canyon by 8:30.
By 9:00 we were at the first tents jonesing for bikes.
Intense Carbine: Carbon fiber 5 inch trail bike
"State of the art engineering and technology, along with the vision and design of Jeff Steber, has culminated in the production of our most alluring and inspired mountain bike design to date. "We combined the best of the best" says Steber, "American design with German engineering."
Intense employed the services of German firm, SEED Engineering to match its vision with their expertise in carbon-fiber product development and engineering.
The brains behind SEED come from years of experience in carbon fiber manufacturing. “We use all the great technology there is, but especially keep a focus on providing the best product”, says SEED engineer, Thomas Harter.
The outcome is remarkable: a do-it-all trail bike with a dual personality. "We took the original DNA of the famous Tracer VP and re-designed and improved it using carbon fiber construction”, says Steber.
The Carbine is proving to be Intense’s best all-around trail bike. The combination of the properties of carbon fiber and the magic of patented VPP suspension makes the new Carbine a segment leader."
There's the marketing hype straight off the Intense web page. Here's our impression. The Carbine is insanely light and stiff. It felt like it would practically levitate up hills... as long as they weren't too rough. The set up was decidedly more XC than AM with narrow bars and Fox 32 fork (you could get it with the 36 float as well but they were all out by time I got there).
I don't know if it was the early start that morning or the fact that I've been mostly riding slacker plusher more AM type bikes lately, but the Carbine felt a bit too skittish on any technical climbing stuff. I uphill endoed on a small rock feature when the front wheel got hung up with my weight too far foreword, logging my first crash of the Demo within 200 yards of the trailhead. I didn't feel any discernable pedal kickback on these same sections nor did I feel any lateral flex when mashing hard on the pedals. This would be a great endurance racer or multi-day stage race bike.
Slow technical stuff is not its strength, but get it up to speed and pound through the medium rough stuff and it was solid..... not plush mind you, but it didn't deflect, rattle, flex, or stray off line. Throw a light 160 air fork on there and I think the downhill performance would be Super D worthy as well.
Pretty decent tire clearance but not huge... and a sticker you're going to see a lot less of this year (In case that means anything to you).
Carbon bars and xtr brakes where both light and effective.
I really liked this 611 seat by SQlab. Never heard of them, but it was light and comfy. Kinda shaped like the WTB Silverado but with much better padding and not quite as flat.
Diamondback Mission Pro: 6" All-Mountain
The Mission Pro was a heavy duty 6" am bike that felt more at home descending than climbing. It seemed to bob some while pedaling but was very plush and flex-free on the rough Bootleg descents. According to the Diamondback site, "The Knuckle Box is shaped in such a way that the wheel rate starts off linear and finishes slightly progressive. This results in great small bump compliance, more perceived travel and a great bottom out protection." This sounds about right. The linearity of the initial stroke may be what was responsible for the bob, yet gave it the plush feeling over repeated small to medium sized rocks. Maybe we should've tried the propedal switch while climbing, but I think the design is somewhat flawed if you need the propedal to keep the bike from bobbing.
It had an unforgivable amount of chain slap. It seems like manufacturers would have this one figured out by now. No one wants to listen to that racket while descending a fun rocky stretch of singletrack.
The build quality looked to be on par with the Giants and GTs of the bike world but long term testing would be the only way to know how it will hold up.
We really liked the Hayes Prime brakes. Very adjustable with excellent stopping power and feel. The Haven bars and stem were very comfortable and seemed to put us in a good position for AM type bombing.
Having the "Knucklebox" rocker folded up like this looks like it might create a high leverage ratio, but it didn't feel like it and the low position helps lower the center of gravity.
Haven wheels, XO derailleur.... all top shelf stuff.
Ibis Mojo HD: 6" All-Mountain
This is a bike I've been interested in since I heard about it at the 2009 Dirt Demo. I got to throw a leg over one at the Over-the-Edge shop in Hurricane last spring and give it a spin around the lot and was super impressed by its light, responsive feel. I was dying to get it out on some rough, chaussey, Bootleg chop to see how it handled chunk in the real world.
As we climbed and sprinted the flatter sections, I was again impressed with its responsiveness. This thing is a freak. It is almost hardtail like on smooth climbs and standing sprints and yet still responds pretty well to trail irregularities and squared rocks as it encounters them.
The all carbon frame is solid and feels stiff through the rough, chundery, Bootleg rocks. Not super marshmellow plush, but it did not deflect off rocks and bounce around either. More of a solid, controlled plush. This would be close to a perfect Super-D/Endurance DH bike. I think it only weighed around 30 lbs yet did not feel like a long-legged trail bike like so many other light 6 inch bikes I've tried in the past. Though not exactly a Delirium-T it felt like it could quietly handle a fair amount of junk.
The large frame fit my 5' 11.5" body just about perfectly. The head tube was a bit tall which was comfortable for me because it felt similar to my 5 Spot. The top tube length was also just right.
I still have some misgivings about the durability of carbon fiber when tossed down in rocky country, but I would seriously consider this bike for a do-all "one" bike.
The nice Ibis guy get me set up to go. All the techs/mechanics at the booths I went to were friendly, helpful, informative, and seemed happy to help us out this year.
Plenty of room for decent sized tires.
This was one of the few bikes we rode that was set up tubeless. I wish all the bike companies did this. While we didn't have as many pinch flats as 2009, we (I should say Russell) did have three the first day.
Rocky Mountain Slayer 70 6" All-Mountain
The Slayer was one of our favorite AM rigs. Its roomy cockpit and upright seat tube made for comfortable, efficient climbing. It seemed to fit both of us really well. Not sure what the BB height measures but this bike is one of the few that did not suffer any pedal strikes out on the trail, yet it didn't feel too tall or tippy.
The so-called "Smooth-Link" rear end which has a chainstay-mounted rear pivot 10mm above the rear axle to minimize chain growth, separate brake action from suspension action, and most importantly avoid the FSR patent issues, behaved itself well. It did not wag its tail and tracked well over rough terrain. The linear, rising rate did seem to give the Rocky a plush, bottomless feel.
I don't think Rocky Mountain gets enough credit for making very good bikes. We liked it. Two thumbs up.
Back in Black.
I thought these clear lock-on grips looked cool, especially with the graphics of the Haven bars showing through and these Formula The One brakes felt really nice too.
Yeti SB 66: 6" All-Mountain
This was one of the bikes I was really looking forward to testing.... but in the end was somewhat underwhelmed. It felt very similar to the Mojo HD but not quite as responsive. It felt fairly plush on descents... but not quite as plush as the HD. It pedaled really well on the climbs.... but not quite as well as the HD.
The "Switch Technology" dual link rear suspension uses an eccentric mechanism which switches the direction of rotation as the bike moves through it's travel. It's supposed to create an initial rearward axle path, transitioning into a linear mid range "sweet spot) and then finally after 100 mm of travel the eccentric mechanism switches to a forward, clock-wise rotating direction providing a smooth linear transition into the last third of the travel. That's from the Yeti site. I'm not sure I felt all that going on. Nothing wrong with the rear suspension action really..... but not exactly magical.
Sizing may have been part of the problem. I seemed to be right between sizes. It was pretty roomy for a medium with a 24.1 top tube length but felt perhaps a bit small for me, however, I bet the large would've felt a bit too big at 25.1".
This is a very good bike....but In the end.... I would have been a lot more impressed with it, if there were no Mojo HD. If I were choosing between them, well, you can guess which one I'd pick. They were close enough that a good deal on the Yeti could sway me though.
It was plenty stiff and fairly quiet.
I liked the clean, uncluttered lines of the Yeti. One of the best proportioned, best-looking shapes of the show.
You can see the eccentric mechanism just above the bottom bracket. Kind of like the old GT i-Drive but not concentric with the BB.
Trek Slash: 6" All-Mountain
I hadn't really been following Trek lately so this one slipped beneath my radar. Luckily someone suggested it to me on one of my "Which bikes should I ride at Interbike" threads.
The Trek tent was by far the most organized, high-tech, and efficient booths at the show. You filled out a brief questionaire and waiver on a tablet, then the beautiful and friendly sales rep gave you the number of the bike you were going to test and as soon as one of the mechanics at one of the 5 or 6 six work stations was available he asked for your number, got your bike and took the time to set you up. Much improved performance over last time I was there.
The Slash fills in the gap left when they downsized the Remedy to 150 and added the 7" Scratch. It has the patented ABP rear pivot which is concentric with the axle and is supposed to separate braking and suspension action.
It also has the dual chamber DRCV proprietary Fox shock which is designed to create coil-like feel from an air shock. The way the tech explained it to me sounded just opposite from how it acted on the trail. He said the initial stroke is firm to prevent pedal-induced bob but then when it moves deeper into its travel the second air chamber opens up allowing a deep, plush linear feel. To me it felt plush in the initial inch or two of travel (even bobbed a little on seated climbing... which I don't mind btw) but then seemed to feel a bit harsh on deeper, faster, choppier hits. It did ramp up nicely at the end of the stoke, though a bit abruptly.
This is one of the bikes we had set up at the Fox booth after riding it awhile with the Trek booth set-up. The Fox guys worked magic with their set-ups but Russell had the same impression as me for the most part even after Fox set it up for him.
The Slash had a rangy, comfortable cockpit which we both liked. The lower slung, slacker geometry made it feel quite racy on the downs, though I did experience a few pedal strikes.
Overall, we thought it was a nice, well-designed AM bike. The lime and black colors were rockin' but the overall color/decal scheme was a bit busy for my taste but not bad looking at all.
Here's a closer view of the DRCV shock and rocker link.
Fairly stiff rear yoke though I sensed a little squirreliness on the chunkier sections. Room for some pretty good meats.
This Truvativ dual ring chain guide was one of the slickest we saw. It had two derailleur pulleys for rollers and the chain shifted seamlessly from one to the other as you shifted. It looks light and seems to manage the chain well.
Fox forks were on most of the 6" AM bikes we rode. I gotta say, for all the raves they've been getting, I was not impressed. Maybe I'm just spoiled my my Marz coil. They were stiff and resisted bottoming nicely. The midstroke was OK but the initial stroke was a bit stiff for my tastes.
This bike had the new Reverb Stealth seat post which routes the remote hose out the bottom of the seat post into the seat tube then out at the bottom of the seat tube. Pretty slick, though I'm not sure how you access it when it needs serviced.
Most bikes were also set up with top-of-the line XO and XTR components which worked flawlessly. We also saw more internal cable routing like this on the Slash top tube.
Cove G-Spot: 6" All-Mountain
Russell and I both felt like this was our favorite bike of the show. There's always one bike that surprises us, and this year, this was it.
The G-Spot was plush on the downs, cornered fast and low without striking the pedals, and accelerated on climbs like it was shot out of a shoulder mounted rocket launcher. The frame was stiff and totally free of flex. It wasn't as light as some of th blingier carbon options but the added bulk worked well on this bike.
Seated pedaling and standing sprints were bob free and efficient. This is one of the bikes that I had the Fox booth set up for me and maybe that was part of the magic because the rear suspension design looks pretty straightforward and simple. Whatever it is.... it seems to work. Proof that you don't necessarily need all the fancy smancy dual chamber, mini-link, eccentric action doo-hickies to get a good ride.
The build quality is top-notch and burly. It feels like it would take a bunch of abuse and last a long time. We liked it. We liked it a lot.
These Straitline AMP pedals were thin and grippy.
Here's a better look at the linkage. It does look a bit like a maestro-copy.
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