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  1. 1. MOUNTAIN BIKE ACTION 3 298 C0 CC AUGUST 2009 Att’n Retailer: Please display until August 6 $4.99
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  4. 4. THIS MONTH The Sea Otter Classic is a celebration of cycling. Our special section devoted to the racing and new products starts on page 66. 46 54 Photo by John Ker Photo by John Ker BIKE TESTS 92 The Santa Cruz Jackal TECHNICAL 42 The Specialized Epic A jump bike from the mind of 46 How Handlebar Width Expert Kirt Voreis. Affects Your Ride Winning on performance A back-to-back, bar-to-bar ride and price. 106 The Tomac Snyper 140 comparison. “Johnny T” is watching over 54 The Trek Fuel EX 9.9 you. 100 Ten Ways To Bulletproof Premium fuel equals premium Your Trailbike performance. MBA SEA OTTER Preventing problems before CLASSIC COVERAGE they happen. 62 The Norco Fluid 1 A Canadian trailbike built 66 Cross-Country Under 110 Inside The Pros’ Bikes to take it. The Sun Geoff Kabush’s Rocky Mountain Dry and dusty puts a new twist Vertex RSL Team. on the Otter. 114 The Garage Files 70 The Heat Gets Turned Up Setup tips for Avid’s Elixir Elite racers clash at the dual brakes. slalom and downhill. 76 Miles Of New Products TRAINING AND Hidden treasures found in FITNESS the pits. 84 Ride Your First 24-Hour Race PEOPLE Ten tips that will make it fun. 50 Young Rippers Re-introducing Brandon COMPETITION Semenuk. 118 The Good Doctor Of 58 Riders Who Inspire Downhill Mathew Portell rides so kids Inside Steve Peat’s decade of Hit the brake: Does your mountain bike can read. dominance. really need a parking brake? Find out why the wrecking crew will never see a bike slip away again. Page 34. 4 &
  5. 5. 92 contents 106 Photo by John Ker Photo by John Ker DEPARTMENTS 12 Happy Trails Year of the 29er. 16 Mac Attack Getting schooled. VOLUME 24, NUMBER 8 AUGUST 2009 20 Hard Tales Faces of the racers, gossip and near truths. ON THE COVER 26 Trailgrams It is rush hour at the Sea Otter Classic with Specialized’s Todd Wells That resistance feeling is real! already in the place where he will finish. Photo by Jim “Please don’t put this magazine back on the rack” McIlvain. 28 Trail Mix Riders share their favorite photos. MOUNTAIN BIKE ACTION Magazine (ISSN 0895-8467 Canada GST 12500#9266RT: CPC INT’L. PUB MAIL 34 Thrash Tests 40024492) AUGUST 2009, Volume 24, Issue 8, is published monthly by Daisy/Hi-Torque Publishing Company, Inc., with editorial offices at 25233 Anza Dr., Valencia, CA 91355. Subscriptions $19.98 for 12 issues (one year). Canada Wheels, pedals and a parking add $12 additional postage for one year, $24 for two years. Foreign add $15 additional postage for one year, $30 for brake for your bike. two years. Foreign subscriptions are shipped by surface mail and may take up to 15 weeks to receive. Copyright ©2009 by Daisy/Hi-Torque Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved. Nothing in this magazine may be reprinted in whole or in part, by any means, without the express permission of the publisher. Contributors: Photographs should 38 Inside Line be submitted in digital form on CD or DVD. Images should be 4 megapixels or higher. High-quality, low-compression JPEG images are preferred. Please limit submissions to no more than 20 photos at one time. Transparencies and The eternal sponsorship ques- prints will no longer be accepted for consideration; such images should be scanned and submitted as high-resolu- tion answered again. tion digital files. Captions should accompany all submissions. Make sure the photographer’s name, address, phone number and e-mail address are clearly labeled on each CD or DVD. Submissions will not be returned. Written articles should be submitted on CD (unless other arrangements have been made with the editors), saved as “text” files, and 82 How To Subscribe accompanied by a printed version. Written submissions, both on paper and CD, will not be returned. The publisher Come on already, drop four fins does not assume responsibility for unsolicited material. PERIODICALS: Postage paid at Santa Clarita, CA 91383, and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Mountain Bike Action Magazine, P.O. Box 958, and get 12 issues a year. Valencia, CA 91380-9058. Printed in U.S.A. For Canadian returns mail to: Bleuchip International, P.O. Box 25542 London, ON N6C 6B2. 126 Quick Releases Pedals for every type of mountain bike. WARNING: Much of the action depicted in this magazine is potentially danger- 130 Down The Trail ous. Virtually all of the riders seen in our photos are experienced experts or pro- Joe Lawwill shows off his fessionals. Do not attempt to duplicate any stunts that are beyond your own serious capabilities. Always use discretion and wear the appropriate safety gear. August 2009 / MOUNTAIN BIKE ACTION 5 &
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  12. 12. HAPPY TRAILS By Richard J. Cunningham Will cross-country phenomenon leadership from the big brands. The N iner Bikes was selling Julien Absalon abandon his 26-inch- first victim of the 29er shuffle will be T-shirts at the Sea Otter wheeled Orbea Alma and opt for a every dual-suspension trailbike with Classic espousing that this 29er? Probably not—but the man less than four inches of travel—easy was the “Year of Niner,” which got who ultimately dethrones him may matches for a big-wheeled hardtail. me thinking, on the long drive well be sporting big wheels. All of the Add a few inches of rear suspension home, about the inevitable restruc- 29er’s technical barriers have been to the 29er equation and it will mock turing that results when a per- flattened. Folks like Niner have any 26-inch suspension bike with less ceived fad within our sport ironed out weight, wheel-strength, than five inches of travel. After that becomes a scientific reality. A tire design, geometry issues and prop- point, however, physical complica- pivotal teacher of mine said that er gearing. Perhaps the only hurtle tions related to swinging a huge when a new concept presents itself, that stands between the 29er and the wheel into the seat tube block the it’s like an important guest entering pro peloton is the fact that the sport’s 29er from further encroaching into a room where all are seated and top racers hail from Europe, where the territory of the 26er. The foresee- there is no additional chair. 29ers have been summarily rejected able conclusion to this game of dual- Everyone must rise to greet the by both industry pundits and enthusi- suspension musical chairs is that the guest, all must reconsider the new asts alike. Once Europe gets its head realm of the 26-inch wheel cross- seating arrangements, and around big wheels, however, the sim- country bike (strictly from a perfor- ultimately, one person will end up ple fact that a 29er hardtail can mance standpoint) will begin at five without a seat. Niner’s prediction is approach the downhill performance inches. Anyone who can read the accurate. The 29er has entered the of a complex, short-travel, dual-sus- wind will agree that this is already room, the cross-country guests are pension bike will eventually turn the happening. all scrambling, and it appears that tide. I am sure that Absalon and What does this mean to cross-coun- the 26-inch wheel hardtail will be friends would rather race a big- try enthusiasts? Well, nothing immedi- left without a chair. wheeled hardtail than accept the real- ately, because we already own bikes ity of rear suspension—ever. that fit our riding style. But the year of And what about rear suspension? the 29er will surely affect our next Blasphemous words, no doubt, but How will the new seating arrange- purchase. If you belong to the 26-inch- the truth is impossible to ignore—the ment upset the status of dual-suspen- wheel establishment, ride a few 29ers 29-inch hardtail is superior to its sion cross-country bikes once the (really ride them) before you throw smaller-wheeled cousin in all corners 29er hardtail is comfortably in its down for a same-old, same-old—you’ll of the cross-country performance chair? The reality is that bike makers be pleasantly surprised. Ignore this envelope. It rolls faster, climbs better, are lost on this one, so don’t seek advice, and you may be left standing. ❑ descends with a measurable improve- ment in control, and the larger-wheel format nearly approaches the rough- terrain capabilities of a four-inch- travel, dual-suspension 26er. In short, if you prefer a hardtail, your first and only choice is a 29er—unless you are simply too short to fit between two 29-inch wheels and maintain an ergonomic pedaling position on the bike. Don’t bother pointing the crooked skeletal finger of accepted tradition and spouting with your toothless mouth: “If 29ers are superior, why is the 26-inch wheel hardtail the first choice of World Cup Professionals?” We heard it all before when suspen- sion forks appeared, and then dual- suspension, and then disc brakes. Professional racers resisted low-pres- sure tubeless tires after that, and yet, all of these “nevers” fill the start line R. Cunningham illustration at World Cup cross-country events today. The overwhelming evidence exists in North America’s amateur cross-country ranks, where 29ers will soon outnumber 26ers in marathon events and are a rapidly growing pres- ence at traditional cross-country venues. As they say in Montana: “Eat more lamb—10,000 coyotes can’t be wrong.” 12 &
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  14. 14. The Power of 4 The four most innovative brands in cycling have come together behind one singular goal: to craft the most advanced 2x10 cross country group ever: XX™ XX was an idea whose time was right: our first MTB group. We didn’t just want to be better—we wanted to be beyond comparison. Revolutionary front shifting, unmatched ergonomics, and unequalled hydraulic remote suspension lock-out, all in the first-ever 2x10 MTB package. © 2009 SRAM, LLC &
  15. 15. Jon Cancellier, BlackBox® Racing Manager &
  16. 16. THE MAC ATTACK By Jim McIlvain Getting Schooled Y ou’ve got to listen closely when single carbon-framed Gary Fisher speaks. He starts bike, although I’m sure out in a normal speaking tone there were a few in the and then has a tendency to lower the field. Instead, the bikes volume as he continues. The listener appeared to be pulled has to lean in close, turn an ear and from the back of garages hope there is not too much ambient and pressed into service. noise competing with Gary’s soft deliv- There were more plat- ery. Now, you not only listen carefully form pedals than clipless because of Gary’s low tone, but pedals, and baggy shorts because you don’t want to miss what far outnumbered Lycra. this man is saying. Thousand-dollar carbon Gary has a knack for identifying fiber wheels with sew-up trends way before they become trends. tires? You’ve got to be kid- He has done it many times over a ding. I’d be surprised if career that spans from the pioneering anyone was running tube- days of our wonderful sport to the less tires. complexity of the splintered and highly The racing brought me defined disciplines of the sport today. back to the early days of So when Gary spoke about the NorCal mountain biking. Here were High School Mountain Bike Racing riders on oversized junkers League way back in 2001, I paid atten- borrowed from dad flying tion. down the trail in contention The soft-spoken words sounded like for the lead. There was seri- thunder in the distance. Something big ous dicing going on for 22nd was coming our way. Eight years of place. There were riders try- growth have proved that Gary still has ing like mad to make up time a knack for separating the wheat from after making a miscalculation the chaff. The NorCal High School on cornering speed and pay- Mountain Bike Racing League has ing the price. There were rid- grown every year since its inception, ers finding out this mountain and it expanded into Southern bike racing stuff wasn’t as California this year (“Earn A Letter In easy as they thought it was Mountain Biking,” MBA June 2009). going to be. Overall, there was Racing League is global domination. I didn’t know what to expect arriv- that overwhelming feeling of discovery Well, at least national domination. And ing the night before the first round of that I hadn’t felt or seen since my first after seeing the finishers with smiles, a the Southern California series, but it mountain bike race. few tears and lots of dirt-caked shins, didn’t take too long to realize Gary was Still buzzing from the positive ener- I’m optimistic that they are going to again on to something big. Teams hud- gy of that first event, it was hard to accomplish it. The High School dled around campfires eating pasta and believe my eyes. The story that Mountain Bike Racing League is a won- getting last-minute tips from their appeared on the front page of the local derful program, not only for the future coaches. The tips ranged from getting paper’s sports section was a feature on of our sport, but the futures of the young to the start on time to the next day’s the Channel Islands High School athletes taking part in it. racing strategy. Goals were set, riders mountain bike team. There it was, If you would like to become involved encouraged and everyone went off to color photos of a bunch of riders jam- in coaching, volunteering, supporting the their tents for a good night’s sleep. I min’ during a training ride. The last league or in the future of some fine couldn’t help but envy these kids. My time cycling was so prominently fea- young riders, you can visit the website generation didn’t have mountain bikes tured in this paper was two years ago for the NorCal League in high school, and if we did, there when the Amgen Tour of California ( or SoCal League wouldn’t have been coaching like this. passed through Ventura County (and ( And if you get a These kids are getting off to a great that coverage was skinny tire guys). It chance to talk to Gary Fisher, ask him start. took the SoCal High School League to what we’ll all be doing eight years from More teams showed up the next get mountain biking back in the main- now. ❑ morning, and racer turnout was twice stream media and show non-riders what I was expecting for a first-time what we already know about this great ched event. The most obvious difference sport of ours. Jimmy Mac can be rea between adult mountain bike racing The goal of the NorCal High School (when he is not playing hooky) .com. and the High School League was the Mountain Bike Racing League and the at Jamesmac@hi-torque equipment. I don’t remember seeing a SoCal High School Mountain Bike 16 &
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  20. 20. HARD TALES Art Limited Edition “Johnny T” Print Tomac Bikes is offering a limited edition print for John “Johnny T” Tomac fans (and we know there are a lot of you out there). The print is of a Randy Rigg painting based off a 1995 photo by Tom Moran, which features Johnny drifting through a corner at the Mammoth Mountain Kamikaze. Tomac Bikes will do a limited run of 20 John Tomac autographed giclee prints on canvas, which will also be signed by the artist. The prints will cost $250 with $50 of each print going to the Tara Llanas Road to Recovery Fund. “My goal was to create a realistic portrayal of Johnny’s racing,” says artist Randy Rigg. “The painting is just a snapshot of a moment, but there is this inherent movement that I hope was captured in it.” The artist himself produces the giclee prints on museum-quality, acid-free canvas using a high-end archival printing process. They measure 15-inches-by-20-inches-by-1.25-inches deep and can be hung as-is or framed. If you act fast, you might be able to get a print by calling Tomac Bikes at (402) 261-3988. Word E.C. On Retirement “I’m pretty much retired and focused Tires on traveling and doing dealer visits for GT, but I’m riding strong, having a lot of Sticking Like Glue fun and just keep winning.” —Eric Carter, after winning the down- hill championship in Southridge Racing’s 15th Annual Shimano Winter Series. Projects Replica Racer We already documented the advantages of the Geax Saguaro tubular tires for 26-inch wheeled bikes (“Tubular Tires For Mountain Bikes?” MBA March 2009). Geax didn’t want to leave the 29er crowd out of all the fun and introduced a 29-inch version of the tire Motocross champ Ryan Villopoto and Cannondale donated a we tested. The tire will sell for $120 at a bike shop near custom Cannondale Moto to use in an auction to raise funds to you. Can’t find one? Call (800) 223-3207. send three riders to the 2009 U.S. Motocross des Nations (the Olympics of motocross). We hope Ryan got to ride the bike before it was auctioned off. 20 &
  21. 21. People Faces At The Races Kelli Emmett Jared Rando Tracy Moseley Sam Hill “Johnny O” O’Mara Georgia Gould Jill Kintner Christoph Sauser Cody Warren Gee Atherton Emily Batty Todd Wells Prototype Santa Cruz’s Stupid Bike When not designing World Cup-winning downhill bikes, the guys at Santa Cruz create their “Stupid Bike” to display at events like the Sea Otter Classic or the Downieville downhill race. This year’s creation was made from two Santa Cruz Bullit frame front triangles, two RockShox Boxxer World Cup forks, the Truvativ HammerSchmidt transmission, and for ultimate versatility, a Crankbrothers Joplin adjustable height seatpost. From the looks of the drivetrain, it took some creative thinking to get the Bullit creation to move.❏ Santa Cruz Bicycles engineer Joe Graney August 2009 / MOUNTAIN BIKE ACTION 21 &
  22. 22. HARD TALES Racing New Gravity Circuit Debuts Photos by Jeremiah Dean As the U.S. National race series has floundered over the past few years, top riders were forced to focus on successful regional events, rather than pursuing a national title from events held across the country. Spearheaded by Jeremiah Dean, and Kelli Lusk of USA Cycling, the 2009 Pro Gravity Tour (Pro GRT) was born with the goal of crowning the United States’ top professional downhillers. The Pro GRT consists of five races taking place at already scheduled events at mountain resorts across the country, including three UCI- sanctioned races. Round 1 of the series was held on the flowing, technical terrain of Port Angeles, Washington, at the second stop of the Fluidride Cup series. For more information on upcoming Pro GRT events, visit Champions: Curtis Keene (left) and Katie Holden captured the victories at the inaugural Pro Gravity Tour event at the second round of the Fluidride Cup in Port Angeles, Washington. Numero uno: Curtis Keene rode his Specialized Demo 8 to victory at the inaugural Pro Gravity Tour race in Port Angeles, Top spot: Katie Holden was the fastest pro woman at the first Washington. Keene, 30, traveled from Northern California to race stop of the inaugural Pro GRT event. in Washington. 22 &
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  24. 24. HARD TALES Solo project: J.D. Swanguen put together his own race program for 2009, with sponsors including Intense Cycles, ODI grips, Troy Lee Designs and Spy Optics. J.D. put down a run good enough for seventh place. PRO GRT RESULTS Men 1. Curtis Keene (Team Keene) 2. Luke Strobel (Team Maxxis) 3. Ryan Condrashoff (X-Fusion-Intense) 4. Andrew Mitchell (CAN) 5. Joey Schusler (Yeti/Fox) Women 1. Katie Holden (Specialized) 2. Kathy Pruitt (Jamis) Fast times: Twenty-two-year-old 3. Katrina Strand (Oakley) Northern Californian Ryan Condrashoff 4. Abigail Hippely (Yeti) of the X-Fusion/Intense team put down 5. Darian Harvey (Cannondale) a quick run for third place. 24 &
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  26. 26. TRAILGRAMS Kind of a drag: Riders responded in The question from Dan Newman massive numbers about the phantom feeling of drag when adjustable travel about the pedal resistance he felt after forks are slammed. The MBA wreck- reducing fork travel and the answer ing crew is not done on the subject. from Dave Weagle (of dw-link fame) in Stay tuned. our May “Inside Line” generated a ton of mail. Here are a few of the responses we received. I FEEL IT, TOO I have a Trek Remedy 8 with a Fox TALAS 36 fork that adjusts from 6.2 inch- es of travel down to 3.9 inches. Like Dan Newman from “Inside Line,” I experience an increase in resistance when I drop the fork to its lowest travel. It’s not a big increase in resistance, but it is noticeable. My previous bike was a Rocky Mountain Slayer with a Marzocchi Z1 fork. It had the old ECC cartridge that would lock the fork into a lowered position. The increase Therefore, those components need to be forks. It doesn’t feel like shifting to a full in resistance was even more noticeable on adjusted differently when travel is gear higher on the cassette, but there is a that bike. I have never quantified the per- changed. noticeable difference in effort needed to formance difference by comparing times, Perhaps a better assessment could be turn the crank (which, psychologically, is so I don’t even know if there is one. Riding made if we looked at what happens on a not a good thing when struggling up a with the fork in the lower position makes hardtail fitted with a travel-adjustable steep climb). I have noticed it when climb- climbing steep hills easier. An added bene- fork. Set the bike up for 6.2 inches of ing steep sidewalks with no change in fit on the Remedy is it shortens up the travel, ride it and then switch to 3.9 grade. I’m with you Dan! wheelbase, which makes it easier to get inches of travel. How about it? Brooks Carter around tight switchbacks. I’ve heard of Ronnie Sittner Moab, Utah other people talking about the phenome- Randolph, New Jersey non, so I don’t think Dan and I are Sounds like a great tech story to us. FRONT BRAKE GREMLINS imagining it. We are on it. I have two forks with a rebound lockout Roy Miller and one with a TALAS feature. I know Longmont, Colorado DON’T WANT TO BE A DRAG exactly the feeling Dan Newman was I ride a 2005 Santa Cruz Blur with a referring to. I would describe it not as dri- NOT IMAGINED 2003 Marzocchi Bomber Marathon SL vetrain drag, but like somebody is holding I wanted to respond to Dave Weagle’s ECC5 fork that has five clicks of travel my front brake. The most interesting thing answer to Dan Newman’s question con- adjustment, and a Fox Float R shock. I is that this is most pronounced on my cerning pedaling efficiency when lowering have a similar situation as described by hardtail, not the five-inch-travel, full-sus- the front suspension. It is my contention Dan in his comment. Sometimes when pension trailbikes I ride. The lower the that the original question has merit. I have climbing I will click my fork adjuster fork is into the travel, the worse the drag noticed this phenomenon as well, on an just two clicks down from fully open, feels. This is true on a climb or even on a efficient-pedaling Intense 5.5 EVP. It is so and it feels as if I have shifted to one, if flat road. I can only determine that the apparent to me that I stopped using a trav- not two, gears higher—even though I am major difference between the bikes is the el-adjustable fork years ago. I would rather still in my granny! This is a very notice- head angle. The steep head angle on the adjust my center of gravity by moving my able feeling, and I rarely click the shock hardtail seems more susceptible to this, weight forward while climbing. A lowered out just for this reason. I have wondered and the slack head angles on my trailbikes fork on a climb feels like you are trying to for years what causes this sensation, but are not as affected. Perhaps dropping the ride the bike into the side of the hill. When just figured it must have something to fork to a point where the trail of the front I ride a bike that is designed for, say, 5.5 do with the geometry change. In most tire is affected, or simply putting weight inches of travel at 3.9 inches of travel, it situations, partially locking the fork out on the front wheel, creates the phenome- feels like I’m sliding off the saddle and con- doesn’t give me enough added advantage non and it really has nothing to do with stantly pushing back on the handlebars. to compensate for the feel of the loss of the rear suspension. My solution is to not This must substantially increase the gearing, even though locking out makes get the fork too low and just scoot out weight on the front wheel. a big difference in bike control. onto the tip of my seat for steep grades. Dave’s reply focused mainly on the Keith Thompson John Weber effect of the lowered front suspension on Santa Maria, California Buckhannon, West Virginia ❑ the rear suspension design. I would con- tend that the issue is more the fact that the AMEN, BROTHER geometry of a frame is changed outside of I want to give an “amen” to what Dan Write us at its design parameters. His theorizing may Newman said about feeling drag in the or hard copy us at MBA Trailgrams, hold true if a motor turning the cranks drivetrain when dropping an adjustable 25233 Anza Drive, Valencia, Ca. propelled the bike. But a rider, who has a fork to a lower travel setting. Dave 91355. Include the town and state body that needs to be positioned efficiently, Weagle seems to dismiss it by saying that where you live. Trailgrams tip of the works differently. Different riders may Dan is “superhuman” and that you month: Approach ruts at a 90-degree build a given bike with different travel would have to have “very tuned-in legs” angle and hop over them. If there are forks, but the setup would also be differ- to feel the difference. I have noticed this multiple ruts, continue crisscrossing ent. The stem rise, seat position and other phenomenon on several bikes after over the trail, keep the front end light, stay adjustments may be very different. seven years of riding adjustable travel off the brakes and skim them. 26 &
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  28. 28. TRAIL MIX FLYING LOW I go to school at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, which offers some of the best riding around. This Culvert Gap is conveniently located on campus. This is me, shortly after I picked up my new Santa Cruz. Byron Ingels Durango, Colorado FUTURE CHAMP A picture of a future world downhill champ! Her name is Sara, and she is two years old. Andraz-Vide Celigoj Taos, New Mexico MILITARY MANEUVERS Here’s my buddy, Mark Galeno, getting some serious air in the middle of a casual ride through the quiet valleys in Kyllburg, Germany. We’re a group of Air Force indi- viduals (below) enjoying our weekends abroad! John Winn, SSgt, USAF Spangdahlem AB, Germany 28 &
  29. 29. FASTE R , NO M ATTER THE TER R A I N. Designed for riders who appreciate the superior performance and quality of a lightweight, hand-built wheelset, Bontrager XXX, RXL, and Rhythm Pro wheels help you climb with less effort, accelerate out of switchbacks more quickly, and descend with greater confidence and control. Whether you’re looking for the lightest option for your 29er or an incredibly strong cross country wheelset for your trail bike, Bontrager has the perfect wheelset for the way you ride. Upgrade your ride to the legendary performance of Bontrager wheels. BONTRAGER.COM © 2009 TREK BICYCLE CORPORATION &
  30. 30. TRAIL MIX FAN MAIL It is always great to see the big names come down here to race. Adelmarie Cruz and Dashira Castillo stand between WHY WE RIDE Adam Craig and Kelli Emmett at a race in Rincon, Puerto My buddy, Russ Karaus, on Porcupine Rim Trail in Rico. Moab, Utah. Castle Valley is in the background. Johanna Homs Zeno Troy Hartman Quebradillas, Puerto Rico Denver, Colorado &
  31. 31. TOWER LEDGE No, I didn’t huck the ledge. I was out there on busi- ness and had the bike in the car “just in case.” Pretty much had the place to myself. The trail is Steve’s Loop at the Kokopelli Trailhead area in Fruita, Colorado. Not a place for those who don’t like exposure. John Neiley Glenwood Springs, Colorado &
  32. 32. TRAIL MIX IN LOVING MEMORY I ride 24-hour events in Alaina’s honor (she went to heaven in February 2003). I do the first and last laps with Alaina’s seat on, since she loved going on bike rides with me. The hand sign you see is sign lan- guage for “I love you,” something Alaina and I would do as I drove off to work each day. No, Alaina wasn’t deaf. It was just easier for both of us to show our love for each other instead of shouting. Shawn Lester, Alaina’s daddy Gardnerville, Nevada WATER-COOLED BOTTOM BRACKET My son-in-law, Jason, took this photo of me navigating through some early season snowmelt at Rampart Reservoir (8900 feet up in the Pike National Forest). A wet spring brought the lake several feet higher and left Jason, my other son-in-law, Travis, and me facing some very chilly water crossings. Tim Sanford Colorado Springs, Colorado 32 &
  33. 33. PARTING THE WATER It was a great time on the Womble Trail, part of the Ouachita National Forest in Mt. Ida, Arkansas. I DO Unfortunately, about two minutes after this picture After smuggling an engagement ring into my CamelBak, I loaded up was taken, my rear derailleur was in two pieces. the bikes and Kat and headed up to Case Mountain in Manchester, My Titus Racer X then became a single-speed for Connecticut. I had it all set up perfect. We were supposed to reach the the ride back to the parking lot. A spare bike made summit for sunset, where I would get down on one knee and pop the it an incredible trip. question. Halfway up the mountain, Kat insisted she knew a shortcut to Jim Shipman the summit. I figured we would still get to the top by sunset, so I went Tulsa, Oklahoma ❑ along with it. An hour later we were wandering around the woods lost, and it was getting dark. I traded in the summit at sunset for a trailside BECOME ALMOST FAMOUS boulder in the pitch-black night. While Kat was looking out for bears We want to make you a star. Here’s how: and coyotes, I got down on my knee behind her and waited for her to 1) Image file size needs to be 600 KB or larger. turn around. She turned around and was shocked. After she said yes, 2) Tell us what is going on in your photo we quickly removed the ring and it went back into the CamelBak for (include names). safekeeping. After a long, technical downhill in pitch black, we some- 3) Include your name and the city and state where you live. how arrived at our truck. At least it’s a good story to tell. 4) E-mail it to Trail Mix ( Andy Provencher Trail Mix rider of the month: Ray Petro. Enfield, Connecticut August 2009 / MOUNTAIN BIKE ACTION 33 &
  34. 34. THRASH TESTS Thrash test rating: ★★★★★ Perfection ★★★★✩ Delivers above average value and performance XPEDO MX-11 PLATFORM PEDALS ★★★✩✩ Recommended for intended application ★★✩✩✩ Shows potential but has drawbacks ★★★✩✩ ★✩✩✩✩ Save your hard-earned bucks For those who don’t clip Xpedo offers a line of clipless and platform pedals that look expensive but sell at reasonable prices. The MX-11 Platform pedal is intended for heavy gravity usage. Tech features: The MX-11 has a CNC-machined alu- minum body that uses one cartridge bearing and one bushing to float on a chromoly spindle. A large rubber seal is employed to keep dirt away from the bearing. The platform pins are replaceable, and the pedal body can be had in anodized black/silver, red/pink or green/orange. The pair weighs 15 ounces. The set sells for $100. You can reach Xpedo at (800) 221-6655. After the thrashing: The MX-11’s platform surface is an ideal size—big enough to find when you are scram- bling, but not so big that it feels like riding on waffle irons. The large rubber seal keeps the pedal from freely spinning when unweighted, making it easier to get your foot back on the platform and pedaling. Just as nice as the platform is the pedal’s thin profile that makes for better obstacle clearance. The pedals turned out to be tough little critters. We abused them for months without problems. It would be nice if the pedals included an extra set of pins with a more aggressive spike for slimy conditions. AZONIC WORLD FORCE 09 HANDLEBAR ★★★★✩ Going to great lengths If you are thinking about trying a wider handlebar, Still, from the first ride, the grips felt like they were in the the problem is selecting the correct width. The $59.99 right place. A rider used to 27-inch-wide bars felt 30 was Azonic World Force 09 handlebar takes the guesswork too wide until the second run. The bar feels better with out of choosing the right one. every mile per hour increase, and the rougher the downhill Tech features: The Azonic World Force 09 handle- course, the better. We used it with an Azonic Barretta bars are made for downhill abuse with double-butted, stem, and the duo never slipped. The marks on the ends of 2014-T6 aluminum. They are available for either 31.8- the bar are great for those unsure about using a tape mea- or 25.4-millimeter clamp size. The bars have a bead- sure. It gets the extra star because Azonic gives you the blasted finish with a polished grip area for better grip width necessary to experiment. Just don’t be surprised if adhesion. They have a 3x9-degree sweep, and our black you leave them be. version weighed 11 ounces uncut. The bar comes stock in a 30-inch width and is marked for easy trimming. You can reach Azonic at (800) 326- 6325. After the thrashing: The bar’s bend and sweep are spot on if you leave it at the full 30- inches wide. Who’s going to leave them that wide? We did, and that caught us by surprise. We intended to trim them after some hours at the full width. Never happened. The bike was ridden by riders from five-feet, ten-inches to six-feet tall, so smaller pilots might be tempt- ed to take a little off the sides. 34 &
  35. 35. né Raphael Gag Lea Dav ison nt émo e Pr Hélèn rie- Ma h bus f Ka of PHOTOS :: COLIN MEAGHER Ge Ready to turn the tables on this year’s XC championships You can bet your bottom dollar that our XC Aces Geoff Kabush and Marie-Hélène Prémont will be two of the best high rollers on the track, each with a full house and tires to match. Maxxis’ line of championship XC tires defies the odds and puts the house advantage in your hands... and the hands of our world class team. Place your bets, because Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain will be going all in on the circuit this year. Maxxis tires, podium proven this year and every year. &
  36. 36. THRASH TESTS AZONIC BARRETTA STEM BIKE BRAKE ★★★✩✩ ★★★✩✩ Wide bars need a firm grip Keep your bike from rolling away We laughed when we first saw this product. Then we used it If you plan to run wide handlebars, you are going to be and stopped laughing. putting more strain on your bike’s stem. The $59.99 Azonic Tech features: The Bike Brake is a rubber band that slips Barretta Stem was designed to work with Azonic’s World on your handlebar. When you want to set the parking brake, Force handlebar. you pull the band over the brake lever. It is available with six Tech features: The Barretta is CNC-machined from 6061 different color highlights to match your bike. The Bike Brake T6 aluminum. It is 45-millimeters long with no rise. It is sells for $2.99 (postage included) from available for either 31.8- or 25.4-millimeter diameter handle- After the thrashing: This is a simple product that gets the bars. It weighs less than nine ounces and is available in job done so effortlessly you’ll wonder how you ever got along black, red, gray or white. You can reach Azonic at (800) 326- without it. How many times have you leaned your bike against 6325. something, turned your back and heard a crash? The Bike After the thrashing: This stem is a return to form for Brake eliminates this gut-wrenching experience. We became Azonic. Their stems from the past few years were solid per- addicted quickly, using it while pumping up the tires, checking formers, but with nothing that caught your attention. The the suspension settings and every time we leaned the bike Barretta is eye-catching, and the attention to detail is notice- against anything. The wrecking crew, being the cheapskates able. The anodizing is as tough as it is beautiful. Each stem that we are, cut up an old tire tube to make our own Bike looks like the creation of a master machinist. Even the hard- Brake. Didn’t work. It ripped easily, was too thin and needed ware is custom. There is not an exposed thread to catch on more fussing than it was worth. Hey, we are only talking about your shorts (or worse). Used with the ultra-wide Azonic $2.99. We already know what our favorite Christmas stocking World Force 09 handlebar, we found this stem to be more stuffer is going to be for 2009. If you get one to try, we will bet than up to the job. that you’ll be back to get one for every bike in the garage. SIXSIXONE RACE BRACE PRO ★★★★✩ Join a support group If you have injured your ankle while doing a dangerous sport like skateboarding and want a little more support while mountain biking, the SixSixOne Race Brace Pro will act as your support group. Tech features: The Race Brace Pro uses a criss-cross design of laces and hook-and-loop straps to wrap a rider’s ankle. The brace has a ventilated tongue and sides. The brace sells for $29.95 and comes in small (4-7), medium (8- 10) and large (11-13). You can get more information at SixSixOne, (888) 520-4888. After the thrashing: It would be nice to get some instructions with the Race Brace Pro, because the straps and pedaling or walking. It looks like it is going to be restrictive, laces can be confusing the first few times you put the brace but you will actually forget you have it on. It cleans up easily on. It takes a moment to figure it out. The brace fits with a simple wipe down (we would not want to put this between your sock and shoe. It is thin in the right places, so much hook-and-loop material in a washing machine with it fits inside your shoe with no problems (we did not use other items). While we are not doctors, to our untrained the brace with a high-top shoe that might cause fit issues). eyes the Race Brace Pro looks similar to orthopedic braces Once laced up and with the straps secured, the Race Brace that sell for over $90. At $30, this is cheap insurance for Pro gives great side-to-side support without interfering with riders with ankle problems. 36 &
  37. 37. DT SWISS FR 2350 WHEELS ★★★★★ World Cup-proven wheels DT Swiss built this wheelset for serious downhillers who aren’t afraid to ride wide open. The FR 2350s were developed on the World Cup race circuit with the Santa Cruz Syndicate Team, and Sam Hill. The FR 2350 wheels are sold indivi- dually. The front sells for $461, and $623 for the rear. Tech features: The red DT Swiss’ FR 2350 wheels feature a 20-millimeter thru-axle front hub, and rear wheels are avail- able in three different sizes: 135x10-millimeters, 135x12-mil- limeters, and 150x12-millimeters. The wheelset we reviewed features the standard front wheel and a 150x12-millimeter rear wheel. The 32-spoke front wheel features three-cross lac- ing, DT Pro Lock brass nipples, stainless steel cartridge bear- ings and is available with a DT Swiss conversion kit with a DT Swiss Thru-Bolt. Our FR 2350 front wheel weighed 2.35 pounds. The 150x12-millimeter FR 2350 rear wheel features DT Swiss’ Ratchet System freehub, stainless cartridge bear- ings, and utilizes a 12-millimeter thru-axle. Our triple-butted, 32-spoke rear wheel weighed 2.8 pounds, and, like the front downhill run we thought, “Uh, oh, there was the hit that’s wheel, can be converted to DT Swiss’ 10-millimeter Thru-Bolt going to ruin this wheel,” only to get to the bottom and find it axle. The FR 2350 wheelset includes rim tape, a wheel bag in perfect condition. These experiences gave us the confidence and centering, too, plus it comes with a two-year warranty. to pin it run after run in training and not be worried when the DT Swiss USA, (970) 242-9232. time came to put down a race run. After the thrashing: After months of punishment from Downhill-specific tires have ultra-burly casings and can be a riding downhill trails all over Southern California and racing headache to mount. They often require a motorcycle tire lever. at Bootleg Canyon in Boulder City, Nevada, there were only We had no problem mounting downhill tires from Maxxis, slight dings in the rim. On more than one occasion during a Kenda and Specialized to the FR 2350 wheels. ❑ &
  38. 38. INSIDE LINE Got a question about mountain biking? Send it to “Inside Line” and let some of the most knowledge- able folks who ride answer it for you. E-mail your question to, and we’ll get it answered. LOCKED AND LOADED My bike has a Fox F80 RLC fork, and I ride with it will certainly firm up your ride, but I’m a believer in getting locked out almost all the time. After taking some hard what you paid for, so use that travel. Sag should be 20 to 25 hits, I have to wonder if riding so much with the fork percent of the travel. locked out will lead to excessive seal wear or even early A neat test you can do is to set the low-speed compression to fork failure? If so, would raising the air pressure be a the lightest setting and push on the fork slowly, then turn the better solution? low-speed compression dial all the way firm and try it again. Tom Cook You’ll notice it firms up significantly. I personally never use the Hollister, California lockout feature. Instead, I use the low-speed compression adjuster A pretty obvious question comes to mind, Tom. Why to firm up for the climbs, and then open it back up for maximum put up with the weight, complexity and cost of a great plushness on the descents. The advantage I find with using the fork if you are not going to use it? If you insist, we low-speed adjuster is I still have suspension action if hitting asked Brian Lindsey, who is Fox Racing Shox’s bumps while climbing, and if I forget to dial down the compres- Bicycle Service Supervisor to field your question. sion adjuster, I’m still getting plush travel and not having my Let me answer your question and then give you a little fillings rattled loose from my teeth like I would if I forgot to turn added advice. What can happen if you ride locked out all off the lockout. the time? There are a number of possibilities: 1. Premature bushing wear. When the fork hits a bump, bath oil is forced up between Use it or lose it: Riders who use their fork’s lockout feature too the stanchion and bushings. If the fork is locked out, this often are missing out on performance and shortening the life of their fork. movement is restricted and the oil isn’t being forced up into the bushings, especially the upper bushings. A thin coat of oil gets trapped between the stanchion and bushing during use, and since liquid can’t be compressed, the trapped oil acts as a cushion between the stanchion and bushing, not allow- ing the two surfaces to actually touch. If the oil doesn’t make it to the upper bushing, then the stanchion makes direct con- tact with the bushing, causing premature wear. Movement is needed to force the oil up into the bushings. I see this a fair amount with cross-country riders who over pressurize their air spring and only use a third of their available travel. The forks aren’t stroked deep enough into their travel to force the oil to the upper bushings. 2. Deterioration of the lockout effectiveness. There is a blow-off built into all the forks Fox makes with a lockout. This blow-off feature is a spring-loaded check valve built into the base of the damper assembly. When you have the fork locked out, you’re cutting off the oil flow to the compression valving and forcing it through the base valve when you hit a big enough bump to make it “blow-off.” Eventually, like any spring, it will fatigue and get softer, making the lockout softer, since the check valve can open easier due to less spring force pushing the check valve closed and keeping the oil from passing through it. 3. Premature oil breakdown. A lot more force is put on the oil when it is forced through the blow off rather than the compression valving, causing the oil to lose viscosity faster. Now, some ideas for you to take advantage of the perfor- mance your fork has to offer. Since you have the RLC model, you have the low-speed compression adjuster, which you should utilize rather than riding with the lockout on all the time. If you have issues with brake dive, or even pedal bob to a certain extent, you can use the low-speed compression adjuster to control that movement. This will make for an overall more comfortable ride. Besides, the low-speed com- pression offers a lot more controlled damping than using the blow off, which is either open or closed. More air pressure 38 &
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  40. 40. INSIDE LINE HELP PAY THE BILLS I’m 16 years old and ride downhill and love doing stunts. I’m fast and can do big drops and big jumps. I have a 25-foot jump in my backyard, and I go to Mammoth Mountain. I can ride every double black diamond they have. I live in a small town near Yosemite. What’s my chance at getting sponsored? Ryan Sullivan Groveland, California Your question, Ryan, is one we get often. We asked the Santa Cruz Syndicate Team Manager, Kathy Sessler, to explain how sponsorship works and the best way to get some. Sponsorship is given to those who give value in return for the sponsorship support. Typically, this is in race results, media exposure and community involvement (such as giving clinics, developing riders, putting on events and other chari- table endeavors). As a young rider, you need to find out what you can give sponsors, not what they can give you. If you are passionate about what you are doing and can find Fast company (from left): Kirt Voreis, Steve Peat, Santa Cruz Syndicate Team Manager Kathy Sessler, Hans Rey and Jamie something valuable to a sponsor, then you may have a Goldman. chance at getting some sponsorship. Often this will start at the local level. You may try your etc.). You need a track record of results, and you need to start a local shops to see if they have interest in what you are doing. portfolio of your media exposure. But what are you giving them? That is the question. If you A young rider from Australia, 17-year-old Shaun O’Connor, are good, and fast, as you say, then you need to get to nation- is a perfect example of a hungry, young, talented downhiller who al events to showcase your talents. That means paying your found his way to Crankworx a few years back. He printed up way to get out there and be seen. People notice fast guys on a business cards and introduced himself to everyone possible. Of racetrack when they see the results. Crankworx is a great course, he had some great junior downhill results to back up his event for this type of thing, as there are a big variety of races talent as a racer. He is now on the international Playbiker Team, to compete in and lots of media are there. traveling the UCI World Cup downhill circuit. He writes detailed There are also great programs out there, like Kirt Voreis’ race reports after each event and sends them to all his industry Santa Cruz Syndicate AllRide Academy. He selects a few contacts. He takes a very professional approach for such a young young riders each year to work with and helps support and man, and he is continually grateful and gives back far more than develop them. But you need to get people’s attention, and he takes. that is through results and media. You need to put yourself If you have the will, find a way to make your passion and into the circles in which these people are (races, festivals, talent turn into a sponsorship-worthy package. I think the “guys” you were asking about ceramic bearings didn’t want to let you in on the scoop. They wanted to hold onto an advantage. There are many ceramic bearings available for cycling appli- cations. All ceramic bearings are not created equally, however. We put our ceramic bearings through lots of testing to help us produce the hardest, roundest and most consistent bearing possi- ble. I’m bragging a little here, but I’ve seen our ceramic bearings go beyond the charts and scope of a test so the test had to be ended before damaging the testing equipment. On the other hand, we have tested ceramic bearings from different suppliers CERAMICS CLASS that have failed before a quality stainless steel bearing. Riders I’ve talked to who were early adopters of FSA sources individual components from around the world to ceramic bearings in their suspension, headset or drive- assemble our ceramic cartridge bearings. We use only high-qual- train were unhappy with the durability of these bearings, ity retainers and races to prevent friction. Only high-quality and none of them could honestly say they felt a perfor- grease is specified, because what good are low-friction bearings if mance difference. More companies are offering ceramic they are only to be bogged down by heavy grease? bearings as an option, and I’m curious if these ceramic The best place to start upgrading is in the hubs since the bearings are an improvement over the early versions. wheels are always rolling and can take best advantage of the Arnie Gerard ceramics, but if you also upgrade to ceramic bearings in your Quebec, Canada bottom bracket, derailleur pulleys and pedals, you’ll really Excellent query, Mr. Gerard. We have just the guy notice the difference. And don’t tell your buddies you’ve upgrad- to field that one. Dae Oh, Full Speed Ahead’s janitor ed. It just might be the difference between riding neck and neck and sometimes FSA’s Tech Support Manager, doesn’t with them or coming around them at the finish line. FSA know much about pottery, but he has ceramic bear- believes in the advantages of ceramic bearings because they ings covered. reduce friction, offer greater durability and are lighter weight. ❑ 40 &
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  42. 42. MBA est Winning on Performance & Price The Specialized Epic Expert Finally, the spotlight has to be turned on the rear suspen- S pecialized Bicycles produces seven models in their Epic cross-country race line. The top offering is the World sion’s swinglink. This little beauty is so compact and so well Championship-winning S-Works Epic Carbon Disc at a integrated into the bike’s design that it is easy to overlook it staggering suggested retail price of $8800. While we would all completely. It is beautiful and functional. love to ride the bike that Christoph Sauser races (he’s the World Champ), we’ve got to put food on the table and gas in HOW DOES IT PERFORM? the car. Luckily for us, Specialized understands and brings The setup: Epic riders are required to visit the Specialized much of the S-Works technology down to the more affordable website and watch the suspension tutorials. Yes, it is a little bit Epic Expert. of a hassle (make sure you have a pad and paper for taking notes), but once you set the suspension properly, you will only WHO IS IT MADE FOR? need to make minor adjustments for trail conditions and you The Epic Expert is a cross-country race bike that can easily will never have to worry about throwing platform levers dur- be pressed into service as an all-round trailbike, provided your ing a ride. Moving out: The Expert’s frame tubes are compact, so the bike feels small between your legs. This diminutive size makes the bike feel racy from the get go. The moderately narrow handlebar and generous top-tube length position the rider in an aggressive mode, with the rider’s weight biased towards the rear. The Expert bucks the trend of early Epics that felt high in the rear. Where we used to wish for another half inch of fork travel, this bike feels more balanced. Pedaling performance: In a word, amazing. The bike moves out like a hardtail and soaks up trail chatter like a dual-suspen- sion bike, all at the same time. The frame allows you to throw the bike from side to side between your legs for out-of- the-saddle bursts, but the bike reacts better if you stay in the saddle. That cool little swinglink? It does a lot more than look pretty. The little powerhouse kills flex before it happens. We adjusted the shock’s Brain Fade trails do not require long travel for continuous rocks, ruts and adjustment to full platform for our hard-packed trail condi- bumps or slack steering for ultra-steep descending. tions. Riders in muddy or soft conditions can back it out a few clicks. WHAT IS IT MADE FROM? Cornering: The Expert is quick and nimble. Specialized The Expert is one of only two bikes in the Epic line that settled on cross-country race geometry that allows the bike come with aluminum frames (all the others are carbon fiber). to change directions instantaneously for that quick pass or The aluminum is Specialized’s own alloy blend, and the tubes to avoid an obstacle. This geometry gives up some stability have been formed to look identical to the flowy lines of the and confidence in fast corners, but Specialized throws in a carbon Epics. The suspension pivots use sealed cartridge bear- low bottom bracket height to limit your losses. ings, and you get a replaceable derailleur hanger. Climbing: The Epic doesn’t care if your style is smooth, fluid spinning or big-ring gear mashing. It responds equally WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT? well either way. It does reward you for staying seated, All of them. The tiny Specialized AFR shock with the though, as your seated weight keeps the rear tire from slip- remote Brain inertia valve is refined to the point where it is ping during the power stroke. A lowering of your shoulders hard to imagine what Specialized can do next. Specialized uses is all it takes to keep the front wheel in contact with the their clout to get almost every component supplier to make earth on steep climbs or tricky switchbacks. concessions. Brakes get carbon upgrades. Cranks come in dif- Descending: The Expert will sail down singletrack with ferent lengths, depending on the bike’s size. The brake rotor the best of the cross-country race bikes, but when things size is wheel-specific (larger in the front, smaller in the rear). turn ultra-steep you won’t have the confidence that comes The hubs are made for Specialized. And when Specialized with the long-travel and fat tires found on a trailbike. Still, couldn’t get the performance they wanted from a supplier, they the excellent suspension components, solid chassis, superior made it themselves. That includes this bike’s saddle, seatpost, brakes and the bike’s light weight all work together to get bar, grips, stem, headset and tires. you down the mountain. 42 &
  43. 43. Balancing act: The Specialized Epic Expert bucks the trend of early Epics that felt high in the rear. Where we used to wish for another half-inch of fork travel, this bike feels more balanced. August 2009 / MOUNTAIN BIKE ACTION 43 &
  44. 44. Winning TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS? The shock’s Brain Fade and rebound adjustment require experimentation. What feels like the shock topping out (nor- mally cured by increasing rebound damping) may actually require backing off the Brain Fade. We suggest your first ride on the Expert (or any Epic model) be confined to a short loop where you can log multiple laps while experimenting with the suspension settings. Once you find the ride you want, the reward is you never have to touch it during your rides or races. If you plan to use your Epic for trail riding instead of racing, you might consider a slightly longer travel fork and a wider handlebar. This would slow down the steering and make steep descents more manageable. But don’t make any changes until you have spent some time on the bike. It is very possible that it will serve your trail riding requirements in stock form. BUYING ADVICE Forget that the Expert costs less than half the S-Works Epic’s $8800 price tag. And don’t let that guy who spent twice as much on his bike intimidate you. The Epic Expert is a competi- tive cross-country race bike right out of the box. If you can’t win aboard this bike, you simply can’t blame your equipment. It is versatile, and the aluminum frame makes it strong enough to serve as your everyday trailbike for years to come. If the trails you ride are fun and flowy, why carry the extra bulk of a trailbike when the Expert will get you to ride’s end faster Uphill burst: Combine the Epic Expert’s pedaling performance and more efficiently? with the race-oriented Specialized Fast Trak tires and you have Finally, the Expert comes from a solid company that stands a bike built to win. behind its products and boasts a massive dealer network. This fact should not be discounted if you plan to race, rage and ride your new bike for the next five years. The Specialized Epic Expert is an amazing combination of price, proven performance SPECIALIZED EPIC EXPERT and passion. This bike earns the MBA wrecking crew’s “highly Price $3900 recommended” status. You won’t be disappointed. ❑ Country of origin Taiwan Weight 25.8 pounds Hotline (408) 779-6229 Frame tested 17.5" (medium) Bottom bracket height 12.75" Chainstay length 16.75" Top tube length 23.5" Head angle 70° Seat angle 74.2° Standover height 28.5" Wheelbase 43" Suspension travel (front) 3.9" Suspension travel (rear) 3.9" Frame material Aluminum Fork RockShox SID Race Shock Specialized AFR Rims DT Swiss X420S Tires S-Works Fast Trak LK (2.0") Hub Specialized Hi Lo disc (f), DT Swiss 370 Brakes Avid Elixir R Carbon SL Crankset Shimano XT Hollowtech II Shifters SRAM X.9 Handlebar Specialized XC low rise (25.5") Front derailleur Shimano SLX Rear derailleur SRAM X.9 Special delivery (clockwise from top left): The suspen- sion’s Brain with blue Brain Fade adjuster, Specialized’s own Chainrings Shimano (44/32/22) DMD (Direct Mount Derailleur) positions the front derailleur Cassette Shimano (11-34) on the swingarm, a tight fit for the rear brake and Brain, Pedals None (weighed with Shimano XTR) flowy frame tubes and the little shock that does a big job. 44 &
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  46. 46. How Handlebar Width Affects Your Ride MBA TECHNICAL A back-to-back, bar-to-bar ride comparison Bar brawl: Four bars with a width (from left) of 27 inches, 26 inches, 25 inches and 24 inches make the same bike react very differently. Which width is best for you? and durability. This handlebar comes T he trend towards riding with riding destination, the park serves our wider handlebars came from in a 27-inch width, so it was perfect comparison needs perfectly with a 1.2- where most mountain biking for our comparison. Once Race Face mile course that includes rocks, sand, innovations come from—the fringes. graciously donated four of the $110 steep climbs, tight turns and fast Single-speed mountain bikers adopted handlebars for our bar-to-bar compari- descents, allowing us to ride short laps wide bars early on to increase leverage son, we were in business. (essential for comparisons) and experi- for those make-it-or-break-it climbs. One handlebar was left at the full ence a little bit of everything a trail rider More recently, the most elite downhill 27-inches wide. The other Race Face would encounter (except water cross- racers in the world have been clamping Next XC 3/4 low-rise handlebars were ings). up wider and wider bars to slow down cut to 26-, 25- and 24-inches wide. the way the front end reacts through The next step was to mount the four WIDE LOAD rocky and rough sections. bars on the MBA test fleet. The MBA One question we had going into this Where bar width was an afterthought test fleet consists of four identical experiment was answered on the second just a few years ago, it is now a studied Specialized Stumpjumper Comps that lap: Can a rider feel a difference with a tuning option for everyone from cross- we press into service for comparison handlebar that is trimmed a mere half country racers to dual-slalom racers. We testing. Why not simply swap bars on inch on each side? The surprising answer recently added the bar type and width to one bike? While changing handlebars is yes. There is a marked difference in the bike specification chart in every bike is a simple and quick procedure, espe- the ride quality and rider position with test. So why is bar width so important, cially if they are equipped with each width. The difference was so pro- and how does it affect your bike? Glad Specialized’s XC Locking Grips, it is nounced that it was easy to identify the you asked. still not as fast as jumping from one width of the bar after just a few turns. bike to the other. The MBA test fleet is This was a relief, because a compari- GOING BAR-TO-BAR the best way to make back-to-back son where there is not much of a differ- We recently tested a Race Face Next comparisons. ence is boring and a waste of time. The XC 3/4 low-rise handlebar (July 2009, We loaded up the bikes and headed bar width comparison was neither. We “Thrash Test”) and came away thor- to Corriganville Park in Simi Valley, have broken down the feedback on each oughly impressed with its ride quality California. While not a recommended bar width. 46 &
  47. 47. THE 27-INCH BAR Moving along: The 26-inch-wide THE 26-INCH BAR bar gives the rider a slightly better connection with the trail than the XL. You become more in touch with the trail surface and its irregularities. Steering is precise but not overly quick, and you still get the benefit of an open chest cavity. Climbing: This large bar offers powerful leverage while climbing out of the saddle, but it is not as easy to loft the front wheel accidentally while climbing in the saddle. It is easy to hold your intended line. Sand: It tracked straight and felt ultra stable. Descending: The 26-inch-wide bar slows down the input from hitting rocks, ruts and roots at speed. This bar softens blows, and riders could hold their lines, even through techni- Moving along: The 27-inch-wide cal sections. bar stretches out the rider position Clearance: The reduction of a half and opens up the rider’s chest cavity. inch on each side of the bar helps It may be psychological, but riders make this bar a lot easier to ride on felt they could breathe better with the thick trails lined with bushes, trees wide bar. The front feels light, and and rock faces. the added leverage makes it easy to oversteer if you’re not careful. Rough trail seems smoother, as rocks and THE 25-INCH BAR roots don’t easily deflect the front wheel. This bar allows for plenty of hand positions (on the grips, on top bike tracks straight while hammering of the brake levers, or inside the in the seated position, and there is a brake and shift levers). power stroke feeling you get with Climbing: A rider feels like he your elbows tucked in and pulling magically gains two horsepower when back on the grips. grabbing the 27-inch-wide bar and Climbing: The bike felt different powering up a climb out of the saddle. on the climbs. Forget the big ring The added leverage that the wide bar torqueing. Stay in the saddle and offers while rocking the bike up the spin. There is a good bend in your climbs (or during a sprint) allows you elbows, and there is more emphasis to grab another gear and muscle it. on pedaling technique than upper Some care needs to be taken with in- body muscles. The front wheel stays the-saddle climbing, because the front in better contact with the trail sur- end feels lighter and it is slightly easi- face, especially when the going gets er to loft the front wheel. steep. Sand: The 27-inch-wide bar trans- Sand: You have to keep a light formed the Stumpjumper into a 29er touch on the grips and keep your in the sand. It tracked straight and weight back. The front wheel has the felt ultra-stable. tendency to wander if you don’t con- Descending: This bar slows down centrate on keeping it pointed the input from hitting rocks, ruts and straight. roots at speed. The wide bar seems to Descending: The bike felt more soften the hits because, while it is not nervous on the downhills, and the something you’d classify as flexy, the rider felt every rut and surface wider bar offers more give with the change. Riders found themselves rider’s weight farther away from the Moving along: The 25-inch-wide more concerned with searching for handlebar stem. bar felt familiar, like the bar that the smoothest line and steering away Clearance: This big guys’ largest comes stock on a medium-sized from obstacles. fault is that you scrape your hands on Stumpjumper (which is actually 25.5- Clearance: We didn’t even brush every bush, tree or rock face that may inches wide). After riding the larger our arms on the same bushes that line a tight section of trail. These bars bars, riders felt like they were pinch- grabbed our hands with the two are so wide that even riding close to ing their shoulders with this bar. The larger bars. other riders is a learning experience. August 2009 / MOUNTAIN BIKE ACTION 47 &