First seen a few weeks ago, the new Fox Dropframe helmet delivers some additional protection over most traditional half-shells. It also delivers some interesting looks.
Fox’s M.O.RE. (Mandibular Occipital Reinforcement) Guard design provides coverage somewhere in between a full face helmet and a traditional half shell. M.O.RE. provides more coverage for the ears, jaw, and back of the head. The M.O.RE design gives a distinctive look by leaving most of the ear uncovered and opes to build a frame around that portion of the head.
Interestingly there is no mention of MIPS or other concussion reducing technologies. The helmet does come with a Fidlock® SNAP magnetic helmet buckle to provide quick entry and exit while wearing gloves.
The look of the Dropframe will definitely be polarizing. Time will tell if the additional coverage and new look will catch on with riders.
The Norco Fluid got some major updates this year and I got to try them out at the Fruita Fat Tire Festival a couple of weeks ago. The Norco Fluid for 2019 has new geometry. Some of the highlights include a slackened headtube angle by 2 degrees from 68.5 to 66.5. The reach on my size medium is stretched out by 8mm and the wheelbase is stretched out from 1125mm to 1169mm.
The most felt changes for me though, were the addition of 10mm of travel in the fork and a steepened seat tube angle from 74.5 degrees to 76 degrees. I’ll cover more on these changes in a little bit.
The aluminum frame itself is extremely sleek looking. From afar, you could easily mistake it for a carbon bike. Norco adapts its wheel size based on the size of frame. The Fluid FS is designed around 27.5″ wheels for XS-M frame sizes and 29″ wheels for M-XL with medium being available in either wheel size. I rode the 29er version of the medium.
Components and Build
The Fluid that I tested is the top end model, the Fluid FS 1. This model retails for $3,049.00, but Norco has builds that go all the way down to $1,649.00 with several build options in between. Each model also comes in a men’s and women’s version. From what I can tell though the only difference is frame colors and perhaps shock tunes. In my opinion this is the way it should be. In fact, Norco would be welcome to dispense with the men’s and women’s monikers and just sell and “light” and “medium” shock tune.
The Fluid FS 1 features SRAM components throughout. NX Eagle handles the drivetrain and SRAM Guide T 4 piston brakes provide the stopping power. A 130mm Rockshox Revelation fork is paired with a RockShox Deluxe R shock.
Cockpit components and the dropper post are provided by TranzX and performed just fine. The wheelset features novatec hubs laced to WTB STP i29 TCS, 32 Hole rims with an 29mm internal width. This is all pretty standard equipment for a bike in this price range.
During my testing all of the components functioned well. The NX eagle shifting was crisp and the Guide T brakes provided good stopping power even though my particular demo bike probably could have used a good bleed.
The first task during my test ride was climbing up Prime Cut at the 18 road trail system. The steep seat tube and bit longer reach meant the Norco Fluid FS 1 proved to be an eager climber. I found that I could spin up steeper sections of trail with no front-wheel lift. That, combined with the range and confident shifting of the NX Eagle drivetrain meant I tore through prime-cut in no time. I really liked how this bike climbed.
The Horst-link four-bar suspension design of the Fluid kept the rear wheel on the ground well. Combined with the 2.6” tires, traction heading up hill was not a problem. The power transfer through this suspension felt good.
Once at the top, heading back down showed perhaps some of the weaknesses or touchy setup of the bike. I found that as I started to hit rougher terrain at higher speeds the rear suspension worked through it’s travel very quickly. As I started to hit the jumps and drops further down I found myself bottoming out the suspension pretty easily.
It could very well be that adjusting the sag to less than recommended or adding volume spacers could help solve this problem. But be aware that the suspension may require some tweaking.
On the flip side, the front suspension handled the downhills great and the 130mm fork travel seems exactly right for this type of bike. The slacker head tube and lengthened wheelbase helped the bike feel very stable at speed.
Even though the rear suspension did not agree with me, I did really like this bike. The foundational geometry is solid. This bike could easily be used as a budget “down-country” bike or just as a general trail bike. Swap on some faster rolling and lighter tires and I would not hesitate to take this out to a XC race. Leave those original 2.6″ tires on and it would make a great general purpose trail bike.
In addition, the components specced are the right ones for the price range of this bike, and I don’t think most buyers will find themselves immediately needing to swap out any components. The Norco Fluid FS 1 is a great looking and riding bike that will please many… perhaps with a little tweaking of the rear suspension.
I recently visited the Fruita Fat Tire Festival and got a chance to ride the Marin Rift Zone 3. The Rift Zone 3 is a 29″ full suspension trail bike. Designed around a 120mm rear suspension and 120mm fork the Rift Zone sits squarely in the short travel trail bike category.
The Rift Zone comes in 3 builds (1, 2 and 3) that start at a MSRP of $1,599.99 for the “1” and go up to the $2,649.99 Rift Zone 3 that I tested. All of the models use the same alloy frameset. It features Marin’s Multitrac Suspension layout. The rocker link provides a progressive leverage ratio with a single pivot, linkage driven design.
Components and Build
The build on the Marin Rift Zone 3 is dominated by mid level Rockshox and Shimano Components.
On the suspension side you get a Rockshox Revelation RC fork. This fork now shares the same basic design as the higher end Pike. It is plenty stiff at 120mm and I could see adjusting the travel out to 130mm to make the Rift Zone a little bit slacker in the front. It is a capable fork that won’t hold a bike in this price-point and travel range back.
The rear shock is a RockShox Deluxe RT Debonair. This shock seemed to mesh pretty well with the Mutlitrac platform. I did not touch the lockout while climbing but it’s there if you want it.
Both drivetrain and brakes are Shimano components. The Shimano Deore M6000 brakes grab onto 180mm and 160mm rotors. This was a fine combination and provided confident braking on the steeps.
The drive train I have to say was the most disappointing part of the build. The 11 speed Shimano SLX 11-46 cassette and derailleur combo was inconsistent and clunky in its shifting. On more than one occasion I almost slipped a pedal from the lack of response and jarring shifting characteristics under power. I would have been much happier with an 11 speed SRAM NX system.
The rims on this build are house branded 29mm inner width laced to formula hubs. My demo bike had Goodyear Escape 29×2.3 tires. This is not the stock tire but these tires were fitted as part a demo partnership with Goodyear. After riding, I have no complaints about these tires. I was quite impressed actually.
My ride started with a climb up Prime Cut in the 18 Road trail system. All of the trails here are very familiar to me so I was able to focus specifically on the bike’s performance. This climb gave me a good chance to make observations on the Rift Zones performance when climbing.
The suspension felt firm as I applied power which made the initial climbing experience feel efficient. However the Shimano drivetrain eroded that confidence. With its pops and random shift timing I was quickly unsure of when I needed to shift while climbing. This bad shifting could be blamed on poor setup but I have the suspicion other’s might notice the same kind of issues.
As I got to steeper parts of the trail I noticed that the front wheel did have a tendency to lift and wander. To counteract this I found myself more hunched over than normal as I climbed. The Rift zone has a virtual seat tube angle of 74.8° at an unspecified saddle height and an actual seat tube angle of 67.4°. These kind of numbers are starting to look a bit dated at this point and they feel a bit dated when climbing seated as well.
When I pointed the Rift Zone downhill, I got along with it much better. The bike had a playful feel and got up into the air easily. The suspension resisted bottoming out well down the jumps and drops on Mojoe and didn’t get in my way.
There were a couple of G-outs where I think I would have appreciated another 10mm or 20mm of travel up front but the 120mm fork worked just fine. The TransX dropper gave me no issues and the 120mm of drop that it provided worked great on my size medium demo bike.
The Rift Zone is labeled “Made for Fun” and I think that is really a pretty accurate description. Even though it is a short travel bike it is not a bike I would choose for something like cross country or endurance racing. It did not have a “racy” feel. There are bikes on the market that have had more recent geo updates that make them better climbers
Unfortunately, the top end model is held back by the drivetrain used. I would actually consider purchasing the Rift Zone 2 instead that includes a NX 11 speed drivetrain.
If you categorize yourself as a “trail rider” that is slightly biased towards descents over climbing the Marin Rift Zone may be a bike to take a look at.
OneUp’s newly revised dropper post now has a wider range of options to fit the smallest to the largest riders. Now available in 120mm, 150mm, 180mm and 210mm lengths there should be an option for pretty much everyone.
In addition, all of the length options can be shimmed down in travel by 10mm or 20mm. This means that if you need a 140mm dropper you can take a 150mm dropper and turn it into a 140mm dropper instead of having to compromise with a 120mm dropper.
OneUp has also made other design changes. They have shaved off some total length and claim to have achieved the shortest total length and shortest stack height of any dropper. In addition they have revised their bushing designs to increase bushing overlap and durability.
The OneUp dropper will be available in 30.9 or 31.6 sizes and still retails for $199 (without lever). You will need a cable clamping remote as the post requires cable stop to be assembled at base of post.
Billed as the tire for, “days where relentless traction takes priority over rolling efficiency”, the new Verdict and Verdict Wet are the latest, extremely chucking looking tires from WTB.
The Verdict and Verdict Wet feature WTB’s TriTec compound and have a very wide knob spacing to allow the tire to clear mud quickly while enhancing traction. Designed as a front-specific tire, WTB recommends matching the Verdict with their Judge tire in the rear. The Verdict Wet features slightly higher center knobs for added traction in wet conditions.
Both the Verdict and Verdict Wet come in 29 and 27.5 sizes. A single width of 2.5″ is available. The Verdict will have two casing options while the Verdict Wet will only be available in TCS Tough, which is WTB’s heaviest casing. The TCS Light Verdict tires feature Slash Guard technology, which incorporates a protective nylon insert spanning the entire sidewall to provide extra protection without the weight of a dual ply casing.
Giro has announced a new line series of bike clothing as part of its push towards sustainably sourced materials that utilizes recycled fishing nets as a core material. The Giro Renew Series cycling apparel is made with recycled nylon, polyester and elastane, including Econyl® Lycra®.
The new line is not just eco conscious though. Clothing in the line offers UPF 20-50+ protection and has the same high performance, quick drying properties that have been present in Giro’s clothing.
The series currently includes several mountain bike jerseys and some chamois as well as road bike wear. For those items that are not part of the renew series, 100% of Giro’s mountain bike line use bluesign® materials. The use of bluesign approved materials means that the those materials are evaluated at every step in the supply chain from resource use, emissions, and pollution control, to consumer and occupational health and safety.
PNW has released a $150 dropper called the Ridge. We couldn’t wait to get one in and try it out. The Ridge features 125mm of drop. This may not sound like a lot but in actuality for most average sized individuals (5’8″) 125mm works pretty well. In fact on the size medium Stumpjumper we mounted the Ridge on any more drop would have been too much.
The PNW Ridge is internally routed and comes in two seatpost diameters: 30.9 or 31.6. It uses a sealed hydraulic cartridge for nice, consistent raising of the saddle but just has a slightly different internal design that relies on air more than just the coil spring. Rebound damping built in ensures the post rises smoothly instead of shooting up in an uncontrolled manner
The post is infinitely adjustable across the 125mm of drop. It comes with a thumb lever that is 2x compatible and all the required hardware and cables for mounting.
I was immediately impressed by the packaging and the feel of the dropper itself. This does not feel like a cheap piece of equipment. The dropper is made from 6061 alloy which is one way PNW keeps the price down on this dropper compared to it’s more expensive droppers that are made out the lighter and stiffer 7075. This compromise however does not affect the fit and finish of the post at all in my opinion.
Installation of The Ridge was pretty straight forward and not any more complicated than any other cable actuated dropper. This post is internally routed and we thankfully already had housing in place on our test bike so no finagling was needed that way.
The cable actuation is routed with the “clean” end of the shift cable at the dropper and end and the cable stop at the lever end. The clean end gets it’s own fitting that then slots into the bottom of the dropper to facilitate operating the dropper itself.
Cable tension is all adjusted at the lever end and getting a good lever feel was surprisingly easy. The Ridge has a full insertion length of 235mm which means slamming this post all the way on our size medium Stumpjumper was not an issue. Getting the saddle set up properly was easy with a standard two bolt adjustment. One small complaint is that the one adjustment bolt for the saddle is angled a bit close to the post itself so we were extra careful not to scratch it.
We’ve been riding with the PNW Ridge for about a month and we’ve had nothing but good things to say about it. The action and speed are consistent and smooth at a variety of temperatures. Coming from an adjustable pressure, air charged system found in the Specialized Command post, this consistency is extremely welcome. There’s no worrying about if the post will happen to come back up extremely quickly or at a sloth like pace depending on conditions.
In regards to the stoutness of the post, we’ve had no development of lateral play or any issue with the post sagging. It also does not seem to be very sensitive to seat collar tightness like some posts are.
The lever that PNW provides has been surprisingly good as well. While not as refined as some shifter style levers, the “2x compatible” design operates the post smoothly and with a light lever feel. This is probably partially due to the lever itself and the activation mechanism on the bottom of the post.
At this point we really have nothing but good things to say about this dropper and we’ve already been recommending it to people we meet on the trail. We’ll be continuing to use this post throughout the riding season and we’ll post a long term update.
However, with a 3 year warranty I have no qualms about it’s durability. If you are looking for an affordable post that’s backed by a 3 year warranty from a U.S. based company, I would look no further than the PNW Ridge dropper. In fact, the current price on Amazon has now dropped to $139.00 making this dropper even easier on your pocket book.
There are a select few mountain bikers that live next to a trailhead. But for many of us mountain biking often involves hauling bikes on vehicles. There are a myriad of ways to accomplish this, but one of the most common and secure methods is hitch mount racks. The Kuat Transfer 3 is a rack designed for hauling three bikes, without clamping to the frames all while remaining relatively affordable at $398. In this review we put the Kuat Transfer 3 through it’s paces over thousands of miles, through snow, over mountains carrying a wide variety of bikes.
The Kuat Transfer comes in a big box, but it is not fully assembled. Unlike some similar racks the Kuat Transfer 3 will require some aligning of components and turning of bolts. None of it is rocket science, but expect to spend a little bit of time getting this put together.
When installing on your vehicle the Kuat transfer comes with a sleeve to adapt it to 2″ hitch mounts or the sleeve can be removed to attach it to a 1.25”. It should be noted that 1.25” mount cannot be used on class 1 receivers.
The rack, full assembled is by no means petite. Weighing in at 52lbs you may find that you want a friend to help you line it up and slide it into position. You will also want to keep this weight in mind when thinking about what vehicle you will be mounting this to. I’ll talk about this more in a bit.
The Kuat Transfer is a “no frame contact” rack meaning that bikes attached to the rack are attached via their wheels alone. This has a number of advantages. First, the geometry and frame shape of your bike really don’t matter. Also, you frame isn’t going to get nicked up by frame clamps. In general I would say this type of rack is also easier to load and unload.
There are a couple of disadvantages as well. Because bikes attach at the wheels, tire width and diameter is a limiting factor. Full fat bikes (4″ plus tires) will not fit without an adapter and 16″ bikes and smaller won’t fit.
The front wheel is clamped with a ratcheting arm that swings into position and then ratchets down onto the tire. The clamping mechanism and tray is designed to accommodate a variety of wheel sizes and I was able to mount everything from a road bike tire to a 3″ plus tire without issues. The rear wheel sits in a swiveling tray that allows the Transfer to accommodate a variety of wheelbases. Unlike more expensive models the trays do not slide either laterally or horizontally but in practice I had no problem accommodating a variety of wheelbases and handlebar heights.
The Kuat Transfer features a 3 position fold away system. It is activated via a foot pedal and can be fully up and “stowed”, down in bike carrying mode and finally tilted down further to the ground to aid in rear hatch access. In practice, with bikes mounted, the rear gates on both the vehicles I tested this rack on were unable to clear the bikes. So, the final down position had limited use.
As noted earlier this rack is heavy at 52lbs, once you add on three 30lbs bikes you are up to 142lbs hanging off the back of your hitch. For vehicles with more burly suspension and ground clearance this this shouldn’t be an issue. But when attached to a lighter vehicle you will definitely notice a difference in ride characteristics of your vehicle.
That heavy weight though means that I had absolutely no mechanical issues with this rack in over a year of testing. Nothing broke. I might have tightened a bolt once or twice but that’s it. The tilt mechanism while not very refined feeling does not feel in the least bit flimsy. The plastic bits like ratchet straps and mounts are no worse for the wear. When driving with the rack loaded there is minimal motion of the bikes even on rough gravel roads.
I had one incident where a bike was not secured sufficiently that I think is good to discuss. I had the perfect storm of a rough road and a high volume 2.8″ tire that began to leak while traveling. One of the limitations of any wheel mount rack like the Kuat Transfer 3 is if your tire goes flat the wheel can become loose in it’s mount. This happened to me and before I was able to notice it, I hit some sizable bumps that dislodged the bike from it’s front tire mount. Thankfully this resulted in minimal damage with the only casualty being the tire. As noted though this is a weakness of any wheel clamping style rack and is not a specific issue with the Transfer 3.
I’ve been very happy with the Kuat Transfer 3. If you have a vehicle with some load capacity and don’t mind needing to potentially take your bikes off to access your trunk it may be a good fit for you too. When it comes to hauling three bikes without touching the frames this is one of the best bang for you buck buys on the market.
Specialized announced that it is starting a “Click and Collect” program available immediately on https://www.specialized.com/. The program allows bike and equipment purchases online and then have them delivered to your nearest dealer. When you select “click and collect” as a delivery method, products will be available for pickup in 2-4 days for equipment and for bikes, 6-8 days.
“Today, with over 50% of the purchase journeys initiated online, we have to evolve and adapt the ways we work together with our retailers to serve the rider,” said Jeff McGuane, USA Market Leader. “Over the past 3 years, we have invested significantly into technologies that enable our marketing to drive more riders into our retailer’s doors.
You’ll still need to get to your nearest specialized dealer in order to pick up your bike or equipment. For some this is not a big deal. For others, in less densely populated areas this still may be a major stumbling block. For instance when I went through the checkout process to locate my nearest participating dealer I found that I would have to drive a hour and a half away to pick up my online purchase.
100% has launched it’s protection collection for 2019 that includes 4 different lines of pads. Each line includes both elbow and knee pad options and offer varying levels protections.
Ridecamp is the lightest duty pads in the lineup. They feature a slip on sleeve with ventilated rear mesh. The pad is pre-curved to be in a natural riding position and the protection itself is lightly padded nylon for abrasion protection. These pads are geared toward XC and light trail use. Knee pads and elbow pads are $59 and $49 respectively.
Stepping up in the amount of protection provided, the Teratec line features a moderately padded with nylon anti-abrasion outer skin. This pad is impacted tested with Level 1 CE Protection. Like the Ridcamp line, Teratec features a slip on sleeve with ventilated rear mesh. The Teratec knee pads and elbow pads retail for $69 and $59 respectively.
The Fortis is a non-slip on design that features a injection molded protective shell for abrasion resistance and Level 1 CE impact protection. It is attached with a hook and loop thigh and calf closure along with a security cinch. These pads are billed as, “light enough for cross country, protective enough for gravity rides and breathable enough for everything in between.” Knee pads and elbow pads in the Fortis line are $79 and $69.
The heaviest duty pads, the Surpass line, are Level 2 CE certified. They feature a rubberized ventilated outer skin. The Surpass pads are a slip on design that also feature cinch straps for added security. 100% has worked to keep these heaviest duty pads pedalable though by adding an internal elastic flex joint. The Surpass knee pads and elbow pads retail for $139 and $129.