A few Interbike Dirt Demo reviews
Santa Cruz Blur LT Carbon
The BLTc was the first bike I grabbed after getting off the bus at Bootleg Canyon. The spec on the bike was solidly middle of the road, with an SLX crankset, SRAM X.9 rear derailleur, XT front derailleur, and Avid Elixir brakes. The tires were Kenda Nevegal 2.3s mounted up on DT Swiss 5.2d rims. The fork was a new Revelation 150 Maxle.
Pedaling out of the demo area, the bike felt very comfortable. The fit was good, although the bar rise was a little lower than I typically ride. I did notice that with the large volume air sleeve, there was some pedal-induced movement in the shock as I was climbing. It was mostly solved by clicking on the Pro-Pedal, but I was disappointed to see it since VPP suspension is supposed to stiffen up under power. Like all of the demos, this could simply be the result of imprecise shock pressure, which would be resolved with a little fine-tuning.
On the trails, but bike felt well balanced all around, with nothing in particular standing out or exhibiting any bad habits. The bike stayed planted both up and down, while the Revelation fork offered a good degree of stiffness and control up front. With the carbon frame, the bike felt fairly light, but held its line without a lot of coaxing. The Blur LTc just felt like a comfortable bike with no bad manners.
Ibis Mojo SL
The next bike I rode was a beautiful translucent blue Mojo SL. Even though I was looking to try more ďall mountainĒ style bikes as opposed to trail bikes, this is the same frame geometry as the non-SL Mojo. The bike was fitted with a Fox 32 TALAS, XT drivetrain (including shifters and crank), an Easton EC 90 seatpost and bar, and Nevegal tires mounted onto an Easton Havoc wheelset.
Of all the bikes I rode, this one seemed the snappiest and most precise. It was pretty clearly a bike that would reward pushing the envelope a bit, because the cornering traction was pretty spectacular. To me, this bike felt like it would be suited to someone who wanted a racy-handling trail bike to do nearly everything with. It felt like it was more in the XC spectrum of bikes, although that could have been a result of the lighter build. With the TALAS at full 150mm extension, the bike felt a but unnaturally tall up front, making me skeptical that it could be ďbuilt up burlyĒ for all mountain use and still retain the nice zippy feel that I got from it.
On the downside, the XT shifting did not offer the quality and positive feel that Iíve come to expect from my SRAM drivetrains. They felt vague, plastic, and poorly designed ergonomically. Itís certainly not a fault of the bike though. It just would have felt better with X.0 gear. The bottom line is that I think this would be a good ďone bikeĒ option for someone who wanted it to handle any terrain demands and still wanted to race it on weekends or for endurance events. I thought the blue color was best of show, as well. As a side-note, the guys at the Ibis booth were friendly and fun to talk to. They seemed to be enjoying letting everyone try their bikes.
Riding Dave Turnerís DW 5.Spot right after the Mojo offered a good example of how different two different applications of the DW link can offer amazingly different rides. Greg was nice enough to grab a white large 5.Spot for me and took the time to carefully set up the shock and fork pressures for me before sending me off. This bike had XT shifters, crankset, derailleurs, and wheels, along with an FSA seatpost, a Race Face stem, and an Easton aluminum bar. It also had a WTB SST saddle, which I havenít tried before. The fork was a through-axle 140mm Fox Float. As with other bikes, it had the Nevegal 2.3s that seemed to be the preferred tire for bootleg canyon. As I rolled it out of the tent, the sun caught the multi-colored glitter in the clear coat, which I felt was a nice touch and made the bike finish stand out a bit.
I spent more time on this bike than on any other ride. In fact, I pedaled the bike to the top of the hill where the shuttle dropped off the downhillers. Make no mistake, I felt the weight gain going from carbon bikes to an aluminum frame with XT gear. As a result, the bike felt it had additional inertia to overcome that the BLTc and Mojo SL did not. I think that lighter wheels and tires would have gone a long way to counteract that feeling, though.
In spite of the additional weight, the climbing ability was clearly evident. As I told Dave Turner and Greg Wulff, I felt like this bike put power into the ground climbing better than any other bike I rode. There was a slight amount of pedal bob (less than 5mm and not noticeable unless I checked the O-ring) with the pro pedal fully open, and nearly none with the pro pedal on. Even at PP3, the suspension stayed active and responsive to the trail conditions. The headtube on the 5.Spot is high, resulting in only a few mm of spacers being needed under the stem, which I liked quite a bit. The standover clearance was also quite good.
Descending, this bike felt stiff and solid. I didnít feel any flex, and the bike did not get kicked around through the various rocks that bootleg has to offer. This was one of two bikes I rode that felt so comfortable in the cockpit that it felt like I was riding my own rig. My riding position felt very upright and controlled. In fact, I felt comfortable enough to lean back and hit some smaller drops, pop over rises and catch some air, and do some fast shredding through the twisties. Through sketchy rocks that completely knocked other bikes off their line, the 5.Spot was a guided missile and rolled its preferred line without a lot of input from me as the rider. The O-ring clearly showed that the bike was utilizing all of its travel, though I never felt a bottom-out.
The 5.Spot was one of my three favorite bikes at the demo. Itís downsides (cheap plastic XT shifters and the weight) could be addressed pretty easily. I was also disappointed with the SST saddle, but thatís not the bikeís fault by any means. Itís just preference. The Float fork on this bike was the only one I liked on the various demo bikes. Dave said that the Spot could handle a Fox 36 just fine if someone wanted to go bigger. It would be interesting to see how different the ride would be with a Revelation 150 TA or a Lyrik. Thereís no getting around my perception that the rear triangle and linkage looks a bit bizarre and out of place on such a nice looking front triangle, but I suppose you donít see it when you are riding it. Again, the 5.Spot was one of three really stand-out bikes I rode.
I was very anxious to try this bike because one of my good friends just bought a 575 recently and loves the ride. The Yeti folks at the booth had a pretty professional suspension setup line going, with a lot of effort going into helping get everything dialed-in for each individual rider and not just going off a weight- air pressure table. A lot of riders were trying the new Yeti ASR 5 carbon and the ASR 7, with lots of satisfied comments about the ASR 5.
The 575 had a Float fork, an RP23 shock with the new boost valve, SRAM X9 shifters and rear derailleur, XT front derailleur, Stylo crankset, Schwalbe Fat Albert tires mounted on Mavic Crossride wheels, Truvativ stem, bar, and seatpost, and Avid brakes. The bikeís hydroformed tubes were certainly nice looking, along with the carbon seatstays. The seatstays had a brace between them that unfortunately offered very little tire clearance.
I had planned on riding this bike to the top of the hill and the shuttle drop-off like the 5.Spot, but my plans were derailed pretty quickly. More than any other bike I rode, the 575 suffered from a ridiculous amount of pedal-induced bob. Even spinning smoothly and carefully uphill, I could actually watch a significant amount of my pedal stroke going into shock compression. It was unnerving to feel that significant of an efficiency loss. ProPedal did nearly nothing to counteract this. If Iíd had a shock pump with me, I would have added 20psi to see if there was a difference. I almost suspected that they had set up the shock with the ProPedal on, not open, but I remember the girl doing the setup had checked the sag with ProPedal on and off. Either way, Iíd ridden bikes that day that did not need a platform in the first place to motor up a hill. Additionally, I did not feel that the bike kept traction to the ground to any significant degree. I turned around at the halfway point.
The bike I rode was a large, but it had a 24.8Ē virtual top tube (I checked the Yeti website to be sure). The larges I normally ride are closer to 24.0Ē even, which meant that the Yetiís cockpit was huge, even with the saddle adjusted fully forward. Iím guessing this is why I felt so uncomfortable on the singletrack descent. I felt that I lacked fine-control on this bike. It also got kicked around through the rocks more than it should have with nearly six inches of travel and a potentially too-soft shock. I did not feel as if the bike wanted to hold a line and I felt myself getting tentative on features other bikes cleared easily.
Overall, this ride wasnít a good experience. It could be that a medium frame with additional air pressure could overcome some of the bikeís shortcomings, but my own assessment is that this single pivot falls far short of DW, VPP, and well executed HL offerings.
Titus El Guapo
Jeff Titone and the guys at the Titus tent were some of the most coolest people I encountered at Interbike. They were clearly excited about their new offerings and nearly all of the bikes were out on the trail at all times. People were especially interested in the new X carbon, the FTM carbon, and the nice hydroformed El Guapo that I got to try.
The EGs at the demo were the mango-colored variety, which coordinated very nicely with the new mango Crank Brothers Iodine wheels and looked awesome in the Nevada sun. Everything on this bike conveyed a sense of big, bad, and capable. I especially liked the look of the new hydroformed seatstays. The Iodine wheelset had big, tubeless Conti Rubber Queen 2.4s mounted onto them. The 1.5Ē headtube hosted a Fox 36 TALAS fork and a short 70mm stem. The EG had a Gravity crankset that came complete with a bash-guard, an XT drivetrain, and Magura Marta brakes.
Through some miscommunication I ended up with a medium frame instead of a large, which resulted in not being able to get quite full seatpost extension necessary to get maximum efficiency. Nevertheless, the El Guapo was a capable, if heavy, climber. It did exhibit a tendency to squat a bit in its travel when pointed uphill, which is typical of a horst link style suspension setup. The trait wasnít particularly exaggerated, though. Because of the smaller frame, I did catch the shuttle up the road rather than electing to pedal the bike all the way.
Downhill and through singletrack, the EG was a hoot. It felt like it had AWD, staying in contact with the terrain and scrambling to find any traction available. The bit 2.4 Conti Rubber Queens were the best tires I rode during the two days in the desert. At least in the dusty, rocky, and dry conditions, there wasnít anything comparable to high air volume compliance and cornering ability they offered (as a disclaimer, I typically prefer Continental tires). Several other people had the same favorable opinion of these tires after riding the EG. The combination of the FOX 36 (also impressive) and 2.4 tires enhanced this bikeís ability to tractor over any kind of gnarly trail features and retain its momentum nicely. The EG handled slower speed technical ups and downs just fine, mainly due to its decent traction and neutral geometry. I could not detect any kind of flex in the Iodine wheelset, and they certainly added a cool and different look to the bike.
If I was looking for a bike that could handle shuttle runs, but didnít pedal like a downhill bike when a shuttle isnít available, this would be the one. Titus has certainly stepped up the bling factor on the EG this year, with the new tubes, better cable routing, new colors, and a cleaner looking linkage. It was definitely in the top three bikes I rode during my two days in the desert.
Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Pro M5
My first high-end bike (which I still own) was a 1996 Stumpjumper M2, so nostalgically, I had to see what was new. The Specialized tent got quite a bit of buzz at the dirt demo, as they were featuring both the new Stumpjumpers and Enduros. The Stumpjumpers have 140mm of travel this year, and I wanted to try one to see what kind of a ride it offered.
My test frame was a large aluminum version, with SRAM X.0 drivetrain, XT crankset, Thomson seatpost, and a Fox (could have been a Specialized branded) adjustable travel fork. I forgot to get pictures of this one, and the demo bike was the frame-only model built up, so I donít remember all of the other components. I believe the wheels were the specialized re-branded DT Swiss and the tires were something from Specialized as well. The new Stumpjumper features a new shock placement similar to what Titus offers, instead of the previous downtube/bottom bracket mounting. It isnít quite a Mac strut setup where the seatstays drive the shock, since there is a linkage present in the rocker.
Overall, the Stumpjumper was a very well-mannered bike. Similar to the Blur LTc, nothing stood out as a negative on the test ride. I havenít had the chance to ride a brain-equipped Specialized for any length of time, so this was a good introduction to Specializedís take on the horst link. The brain was set somewhere in the middle to offer a good compromise between a firm ride and full open comfort. Climbing, I felt like the bike had good to great traction and didnít feel any kind of downside to the extra inch of travel. On descents and through rollers, the brain transition to fully open was seamless, but I could definitely feel the quality of the softer ride.
I came away with a favorable impression of the brain action and felt that it wasnít just a gimmick. As a result of the variable platform, the bike didnít exhibit any tendency to bob or biopace and I felt no efficiency loss. The traction of the bike was somewhat middle of the road. It wasnít particularly confidence-inspiring, but wasnít a detriment either. Different tires may make a difference in this assessment. The Specialized stock saddle was the absolute worst I rode during the two days and was unreasonably painful. Unfortunately, I did not detect a huge advantage to having 140mm of travel instead of 120mm. I would have still guessed it had 120mm if I hadnít known otherwise. I didnít feel like the Stumpjumper was a huge leap forward in design or execution. It was a decent bike without a lot of downside that lots of folks would be perfectly happy with. I just couldnít work up much excitement about it.
Schlim, thanks for the ride reports. Did you spend any time on any of the offering from Titus?
I rode this bike first thing on Tuesday morning. By way of disclaimer, I typically carry a healthy amount of skepticism regarding bikes from the big three manufacturers and wasnít necessarily expecting to discover anything earth-shattering. Trek certainly went all-out with their demo models, featuring the 9.9 carbon. The front triangle is USA OCLV carbon, and the rear triangle is aluminum. The suspension is the APB design, with the rear pivot concentric with the bottom bracket, and the shock floats between the chainstay pivots and the rocker arm. Notably, the bike had the new Fox DRCV shock with the second air chamber that opens up halfway into the shock travel. The fork was a Fox 32 TALAS RLC with a 15mm through-axle, and the shifting was handled by SRAM X.O shifters and X.0 rear derailleur, and an XT front derailleur. The Remedy had an XTR crankset that was definitely a nice touch. This was also the only bike I rode that had a Crank Brothers Joplin adjustable seatpost.
The guy doing the suspension setup did a great job checking air pressure and sag to make sure everything was as it should be. He even took the time to measure the seatpost extension for me to match my bikes at home (785mm from center of bottom bracket to the top of the saddle). Pedaling out of the tent, it was clear that the bike was exceptionally well mannered for a full 150mm travel bike. The balance was neutral and propelled its way along surprisingly easily. As it turns out, the bike weighed less than 28lbs, explaining the slightly zippy sensation. Climbing, the shock appeared to bob somewhat, but I didnít feel a loss of efficiency because of it. Switching to PP3 left only a slight amount of movement, but the shock remained active over the terrain.
I got onto a shuttle just as it was leaving and was dropped off at the entrance to the singletrack. At first, the bike felt a bit light and I wasnít super confident, but the neutral handling allowed me to warm up quickly to the bike. Like the 5.Spot, within a couple of minutes I felt so completely at home in the cockpit, that it felt like my own bike. The Remedy was very responsive to rider input, handling some smaller drops with ease, and easily transitioning from descending to climbing on the rollers. I did have to ignore the howling from the Avid brakes (which are my least favorite due to their propensity to produce unwanted noise).
On the lower half of the trail, I was able to lean the bike into corners and twisties with full confidence and pop over the rocks littering the trail before carving back a different direction. Through technical rocks, the bike held its line without getting kicked around to any significant degree. The 2.4 Bontrager XDX tires did a surprisingly good job of keeping the bike tracking well. The tread pattern looks similar to a Schwalbe Racing Ralph, and the small well-spaced knobs seemed ideal for the loose desert terrain.
To double-check myself after the descent, I took the bike onto the cross country loops to really see what it could do climbing steep singletrack. For such a long-travel bike, it felt like it had an amazing amount of technical climbing ability. The suspension was active enough to flatten the terrain a bit, but didnít feel like it was wallowing to any degree. The power to the ground was excellent. Over washboard trail, the Remedy kept its rear wheel on the ground better than any other bike I rode, with no skipping about or getting kicked across the troughs.
My final verdict is that the Remedy was a spectacular ride and right up there with the 5.Spot climbing and with the El Guapo descending (although without the solid bulldozer sensation). The bike's only real downside is the slight pedal-induced shock movement climbing and the brakes screaming like banshees. Its neutral sense of control and traction through anything was outstanding. The Trek folks assured me that the OCLV carbon front triangle is engineered to withstand impact due to reinforcement at key areas and they claim it is stronger than the aluminum version of the bike. It has an armor plate on the downtube to protect against errant flying rocks. The suspension is incredibly active, but channeled efficiently to enhance the ride experience.
Pivot Mach 5
As long as I was trying various DW-link bikes, I grabbed one of these to see how differently it rode from the others I tried. They guys in the Pivot tent confirmed that the bike was intended to ride a little stiffer than some other 5Ē bikes by design. The build was solid, with DT Swiss Tricon wheels, XT drivetrain, Ritchey seatpost and stem, and the ubiquitous Kenda Nevegals. It also was fitted with the ever popular Float fork.
I should mention that the person who rode the bike before me had them do something strange with the stem, spacers, and bar so that the bike felt way too stretched out. The bar was nearly a 2Ē rise with virtually no spacers under the stem. It created a feeling of steering a ship rudder. Not good.
Climbing, the bike was solid. It offered good traction, great efficiency, and the ride felt taut and decently mannered. Downhill was a different story completely. It could have been due to the odd bar setup, but the bike didnít want to follow any kind of a line through rocks or corners. I felt like I was fighting both the bike and the trail to keep everything under control. Instead of the suspension absorbing bumps and rocks, the bike got kicked around them as the suspension didnít want to react. I felt ridiculously unconfident on this bike and eventually got off the singletrack and rolled back down the road to the demo camp.
The Mach 5 may make a fine race machine, but Iíd rather ride a hardtail. Again, a lot of my issues could be explained by the oddball setup of the stem and bar and may not be the bikeís fault.
Noel and Trevor at the Knolly booth were great guys and fun to talk to. I took out one of their RP23-equipped Endorphins with a Fox 36 TALAS up front. The bike was fitted with Race Face NEXT cranks and bar, and X.9 shifters and rear derailleur. The front derailleur was an XTR, and the braking was handled by Magura Martas. The wheels stood out, as they were DT Swiss 5.1Ds on 240s (light) hubs.
This is another bike that I rode to the top of the shuttle run to get the full climbing and descending experience. With the Fox 36 at full 160mm travel, the front end felt a bit high and like the bike was somewhat over-forked. I did drop the travel on the climb, but the Endorphin didnít have the same netural feel to it that the Remedy and 5.Spot offered. It also biopaced noticeably, which was reduced with the ProPedal, but at a slight expense to climbing traction. Needless to say, even with the carbon cranks, it was a fairly heavy bike overall.
Descending, it was clear that the linkage was very stiff, with no detectable flex. It was one solid bike that could clearly take hits. It seemed to me that the bike was designed more for those big hits than for flowing singletrack. The suspension was set very hard and seemed to spike on hitting rocks dead-on rather than absorbing the impact. The bike was stout enough to roll through, but I didnít have a feel for the trail through the bike at all. I also didnít have much sense for the center of gravity that would allow me to start catching air and directing the bike with my feet and hips.
Unfortunately, my time on the bike was cut short when the chain snapped on a steep climb through a roller and I had to coast/scooter my way back to the tent. I think this bike is definitely geared more towards people looking to pedal their bike up to do massive drops and big hits on the way back down. I ended up feeling a bit disappointed with the ride.
I got a ride on an El Guapo! See above for my thoughts. I didn't get a chance to ride a new Carbon X or FTM, though. So many bikes, so little time.
Originally Posted by Vespasianus
Man, Schlim bringing the goods!
Thanks for the reviews. IMHO, the Endorphin is the best of the bunch - but different strokes for different folks. I got to ride a few bikes at ODD and the Delirium was my favorite. I was also impressed by the Trek Scratch and new El Guapo (except for the ridiculous bar height on the demo).
Yeah, it's all just my observations. One guy came in while I was talking to the Knolly bunch and said the Endorphin was the best bike he rode all day. Obviously, what you are used to and what your preferences are will make a huge difference. I'm glad there's a variety of different things out there to choose from!
Originally Posted by NoahColorado
Intense Uzzi VP
I'd refer you to tscheezy's review for this bike. I rode it, but my review isn't going to be a fair representation of what the bike offers. I wanted to ride a Tracer VP, but they were all out on Tuesday. I tried on Monday, but I'd lost my "official" badge out in the desert and they wouldn't let me take one out even having the official wrist band, temporary pass, driver's license, and credit card, and badge number.
Since all the Tracers were out on Tuesday when I got a new badge, I grabbed an Uzzi. I gotta say that I didn't like the Intense people much. They seemed to have an attitude along the lines of, "Take our bikes or leave our bikes, we don't care because we are awesome." Every other thing one guy said was a snarky remark that made it sound like I was inconveniencing him. It made me wonder why they came out in the first place if they were going to be that rude to potential owners? Like all of my observations, it is just my humble opinion. Other folks may have had entirely different experiences.
My Uzzi wasn't setup properly. The Cane Creek Double Barrel shock was too soft and sagged through at least 50% of its travel (I only weigh 163), and they didn't make an attempt to fix it. The Totem fork was so pressurized that I thought at first it was hydro-locked due to a blown seal. There was no sag at all, and no attempt to adjust it to fit me. Additionally, I'm pretty sure it was a medium and not a large. No one seemed to know how to figure out the frame sizing.
I took the bike up on the shuttle, even after letting air out of the Totem with my fingernail, nothing felt right on the bike when I was riding it. I eventually gave up and decided not to waste any more time on it.
I won't be buying any Intenses in the future due to my experience at the demo, but I did see that one lady was buying a Tracer VP demo after riding it. It would have been cool to see what the hype was about on that bike. I didn't get any pics of the Uzzi while I was out, but again, check out tscheezy's review. He has a great write-up.
Without a doubt the most wide-ranging, well-written, in-depth, interesting, insightful, and comprehensive collection of reviews from this year's Interbike I have seen so far. I liked your personal take on all the bikes (including pointing out your positive and negative experiences and how that influenced how you judged the bikes) and I could imagine the behaviors of all the models from your detailed descriptions. Outstanding work all around, and a hearty thanks for your effort. This is what Dirt Demo coverage is supposed to be like!
The Orbea was the only road bike I rode during the Dirt Demo. I had instructions from my wife to spin around on one and bring back my thoughts since she is thinking about getting one. I actually got to ride two while I was waiting for a chance to ride the Knolly. One Orca was Ultegra-equipped, and the other was a Dura Ace bike from the Shimano booth (of the mechanical variety, not Di2).
I own an Orbea Alma (the new 2010 Almas look incredible, btw... 26" hardtails are NOT, in fact, dead) and I like what they do with carbon. The Orcas, especially the Dura Ace-equipped model, were incredibly light. In fact, it's possible that the latter wasn't UCI-compliant.
I was wishing there was some chip-sealed pavement around to ride on similar to here at home, but everything out in the desert was smooth blacktop. My impressions of the bike on the short course were extremely good. The bike is very lively and lacks the "wood block" feeling of some carbon road frames. It definitely had some springiness to it that made it feel especially racy. The handling was predictable and the bike exhibited no bad manners cornering hard downhill into a turn. Climbing felt solid with little lateral flex in the frame.
The drivetrain on the Ultegra bike rattled, but the Dura Ace bike was significantly quieter. I especially liked the Dura Ace tubeless wheelset. Some guys I was talking to at lunch said going tubeless is the single best thing they've done to their road bikes in years. The lack of a tube results in less friction between you and the road.
My "intangible impression" is that the frame, while fast, was so light that you could almost feel the thinness. I sort of developed an feeling that I was riding very solid clamshell packaging. It's sort of irrational, but the high modulus carbon is definitely a different ride than my scandium road bike or my 80/20 high to medium modulus Alma mountain frame. Either way, the carbon layup was well tuned and it made a great bike.
Trek Session, Trek Remedy, and Gary Fisher Superfly 100
Last edited by schlim; 10-01-2009 at 10:54 PM.
Gary Fisher Superfly 100, Gary Fisher Blowfish, Titus X Carbon, various Intenses
Maxxis tires, various American Classic stuff
Tinker Juarez, Vicious Cycles, Mark Cavendish's Tour de France ride.
Ibis Mojo HD (one of eight in the world) and various Marzocchi offerings. The Marzocchi guy said they are moving back to open bath systems for performance and reliability.
Formula RX, new Turner RFX (only one in the world, never been built), and various other Turner offerings.
Christiano De Rosa shows off his bikes, Commencal's offerings, Moots