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Shimano’s Entry Level Alivio Brakes Get a Refresh

Shimano’s lineup of brakes have always been a good choice for stopping your steed. With its latest release, Shimano has made getting into it’s braking system with a respectable lever setup even easier. The Alvio line is Shimano’s base level, and their brakes now include some new features.

First off, the new BL-M425 levers feature reach adjust. Which is an almost mandatory feature for mountain biking. Reach adjust allows you to control how far the level is from your bar when in the neutral state. This allows the brake lever to be adjusted for a natural one finger grab of the lever.

The levers themselves are also redesigned on these new BL-M425s to match the higher end Shimano brake systems. While this isn’t a super flashy upgrade by Shimano it doesn’t present another budget braking option for less the $50 a wheel for levers, calipers and hoses.

The refreshed levers are ready to be purchased today.
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Light & Motion Taz 1200 Review

Dedicated winter riding usually means night riding. This winter I tested out the Light & Motion Taz 1200. Light & Motion has a few unique selling points that attracted me to testing out this light. First, Light & Motion is a US based company that actually assembles their lights in the US. They also stand behind them with a 2 year warranty.


The Taz 1200 is a self-contained, usb rechargeable light. The USB charging port is on the bottom of the light and features a usb mini charging port with a gasketed cover. The port is easy to expose and get plugged in. The light includes two different mounts, a rubber strap for attaching to handlebars and a gopro mount.

It features a waterproof design certified to a IP67 Rating. Which means it is tested to be fully waterproof in 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. The body of the light is fully metal and is FL-1 certified on ANSI-NEMA testing scale for impact resistance. The light is heavy. Ringing in at 219 grams.

The Taz 1200 has two buttons on the top. The first one is the main power button that also controls the mode of the 3 main LED array. The second button controls the secondary side visibility lights. These side lights are supposed to make you more visible when riding in traffic and on the road. For mountain biking, except if you are riding to the trail, these are pretty pointless.

Side lights

In Use

My hope had been to use this as a helmet-mounted light. The GoPro mount seemed the like the perfect combination for use with my Bell Super 2r breakaway GoPro mount. However in testing this, though it does mount well and hold the light securely, the light is a bit on the heavy side for head mounted use. I definitely noticed the weight up there and needed to cinch my helmet down more than usual to keep it from shifting.

This light is much more at home on the handlebars of my bike. The rubber strap works well. Though I think the looping design might be slightly more fiddly than some straps I’ve used. To install you have to first thread the strap up through a loop before pulling it back down to secure it.  Once installed though the light does hold fast and doesn’t shift over rough terrain. The strap does seem to be high quality and looks like it will last a good long while.
All this being said, the thing that really matters is how well this light lights up the trail and for how long it can keep lighting up that trail. Lumens are the definite measure of brightness, but they don’t always tell the whole story. The way a light spreads the light out in front of you can have a large effect on how effective it is. The highest mode on the Taz 1200 is 1200 lumens, with the next step down being 600 lumens. For comparison purposes I shot fully manual test shots with all exposure settings locked out on the Taz 1200 at 600 lumens and my Lezyne Macro Drive 800 at 800 lumens. While this isn’t a direct lumens comparison I think it gives a good idea of what the Taz is doing in comparison with another light. Keep in mind the Lezyne light is half the price.

Lezyne at 800 Lumens

To my eye the Taz and the Lezyne lights are pretty evenly matched. The Taz has a bit more pleasing color and has a little bit more of a directional beam pattern. But those differences would only be noticed really if you were running both lights side by side, as I was.

The 1200 lumen mode is significantly brighter. The edges of the trail get filled in better and there is a bit more reach as well. This brighter mode though is not without its downsides as far as battery life, which is what we’ll cover next.

Taz at 1200 Lumens

Run and Charge Time

So here is the real kicker with the Taz 1200. At the 600 lumen setting the Taz 1200 lasted two hours and forty-nine minutes. The Lezyne Macro Drive at 800 lumens lasted a full three hours (This is well above the manufacturer stated run time for the Lezyne). All this while the Lezyne weighs 151 grams and the Taz weighs 219 grams. This performance was slightly under Light and Motion’s claimed run time of 3 hours in the 600 lumen mode. But bear in mind I was doing real world testing with variable temperatures.

At the 1200 Lumen setting you only get a claimed 1.5 hours in ideal conditions and I often wound up getting even a little less than that in variable temperatures. This means that the 1200 lumen mode is only useful as a sort of “high beam” that you only turn on every once in a while.

I get the feeling that the Taz 1200 would work better in a more mountainous area where you might be riding up a fire road at 200 lumens for the first hour or two and then spend a half hour at 800 or 1200 lumens bombing back down the mountain. In my neck of the woods (Wisconsin) I need constant lumens that will keep me from thwacking trees or going OTB in a creek on tight twisting single track. This means that anything under the 600 lumen mark just isn’t enough for my riding and I was somewhat disappointed by the runtimes I got.

My final complaint with the Taz 1200 is after the ride, recharging is a lengthy affair. “Overnight” is the best way to put it. If you have Taz’s recommended 2.0A USB AC Adapter the charge time is cut down to 4 hours. But this is an extra $30 accessory on top of a $120 light. My Lezyne I can plug into any old usb charger and get those same charge times.

All in all I’d have to say that I would not recommend spending the money on this Light and Motion Taz 1200. It’s a fine light and does what it claims to, but there are better deals to be had (like the Lezyne).

Buy Now


  • Great Build Quality
  • Bright


  • Sub par runtime
  • Expensive
  • Heavy
  • Long Charge Times

Downhill Loops at Charles D Owen With My 6 Year Old

LengthDifficultyClimbingTrail Links
1 MileBeginner150ftView on MTB Project

Some days are just not great for heading out onto a large trail system. During our recent trip to NC we had some very rainy days. Even so, Micah, my 6-year-old, and I wanted to get some riding in. We had spied a little loop not far from our AirBNB house. The Charles D. Owen Downhill Track. As it turned out this was one of my 6 year old’s favorite rides while down in North Carolina.

Small loops like this can be great for beginners and younger riders. They are not intimidating because you are always close to the lot. Short loops also encourage progression. We were able to make three laps and each time we rode the downhill Micah got faster. This ride showed me that the longest, most epic rides aren’t always the ones you need.

Micah’s Specialized RipRock 20″ performed flawlessly. I have been really impressed with how well that bike has performed for him. The plus tires, once set tubeless, are very forgiving and do a good job of allowing him to push the limits of his riding abilities. The bike is also surprisingly light for having such large tires and rims. If there are any things that could be improved, I would wish for a lighter more tunable air fork and hydraulic brakes. But these are small complaints and the standard equipment on this sub $500 bike has been awesome and reliable. You can check out the whole video of our ride below.

Kona Launches the Satori but Build Kits Fail to Impress

Kona has relaunched the Satori model in its lineup as a mid-travel 29er. With 130mm of rear suspension and 140mm up front, the Kona Satori stacks itself up against a crowded field of trail bikes. The bike features the Fuse Independent Suspension system. This system utilizes a single pivot with a predictable leverage ratio. The frame features a seat stay that relies on small degrees of frame flex rather than a pivot at the seat and chainstay junction.

Those chainstays are 430mm long and the headtube comes in with a 68.0 degree angle. Pretty standard numbers for this category of bike. The Satori is slotted nicely in Kona’s lineup of 29ers. Bigger than the 120mm/100mm Hei Hei and yet not as burley as the 160mm/153mm Process 153.

What is very puzzling is the 2 build kits provided. The lower end Satori retails for $2699 which is a decent price point. But, for that money you don’t get the buildkit you would expect. The fork is a low-end RockShox Recon Gold. The drivetrain is Shimano Deore 10spd paired with Race Face Aeffect cranks. Putting 10 speed Deore on a bike in this price range just doesn’t add up. The bike also features lower end Shimano mt500 brakes and a Trans-X Dropper.

The higher end build, the “Satori DL” features a much more respectable build kit, but also bumps the price up to $3499. It gets rid of that Recon fork and 10 speed drivetrain by jumping all the way up to a SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain and a RockShox Revelation RC Solo Air. The nicer fork is welcome, but as I’ll show below many bike manufactures fit a similar fork on their base model.  Braking power on this higher end model is provided by SRAM Guide R brakes. The dropper is also upgraded to a RockShox Reverb.

Overall, while this bike is interesting, it feels like you need to be a Kona die-hard in order to pick this bike from the crowded lineup of mid travel trail bikes. I’ve put together a comparison table of bikes from Canyon, Specialized, Trek and YT all in this same category and price range to see how the Kona Satori stacks up.

Kona Satori Vs. The Competion

 Kona SatoriKona Satori DLSpecialized StumpJumper Comp AlloyCanyon SPECTRAL AL 6.0YT JEFFSY® 29 ALTrek Fuel EX 7 29
ForkRockShox Recon Gold RL Solo Air 140mm
Fork: RockShox Revelation RC Solo Air 140mm
RockShox Reba RL 140mmROCKSHOX PIKE RC 150mmFOX 34 FLOAT RHYTHMRockShox Reba RL 130mm
ShockRockShox Deluxe RL DebonAir TrunnionRockShox Deluxe RL DebonAir TrunnionRockShox Monarch RTROCKSHOX DELUXE RTFOX DPS PERFORMANCEFox Performance Float EVOL
DrivetrainShimano Deore 10 Spd w/ RaceFace Aeffect cranks
SRAM GX-Eagle 12spdSRAM GX 11spd w/ Race Face Aeffect cranksSRAM GX EAGLE, 12SSHIMANO SLX 11speed with E*THIRTEEN TRS+ cassetteSRAM NX, 11 speed
WheelsWTB STP i29 TCS laced to Shimano Deore hubsWTB STP i29 TCS laced to Formula hubsRoval Traverse 29 laced to Specialized hubsDT SWISS M 1900 SPLINEDT SWISS M 1900 SPLINEBontrager Line Comp 30
Dropper PostTrans-X DropperRockShox ReverbCommand Post IRccKIND SHOCK LEV SIE*THIRTEEN TRS+ Dropper post, Bontrager lever
Price $2699$3499$2800$2300$2299$2499
WebsiteRead MoreRead MoreRead MoreRead MoreRead MoreRead More

Finish Line Announces Tubeless Sealant Product

Finish Line, normally known in the mountain biking world for their lubricants, has announced that they will be producing a tubeless tire sealant. The big claim of this new sealant is that it will not cure inside the tires. This means that, according to Finish Line, you won’t need to replace or refresh this sealant during the life of your tire. If this claim holds up, it could be a very attractive options for riders that currently find themselves scraping stanimals (as seen below in the natural environment) out of their tire.

The Finish Line product has no liquid latex or ammonia. Instead it uses, DuPont™ Kevlar® fibers to seal punctures and cuts. Because of this, it is naturally non-toxic and hypoallergenic. It also appears to be water-soluble. So spills can be cleaned up with wet rag. Using Kevlar® fibers means that when a puncture happens the fibers are designed to fill in the hole and stop air loss. Finish Line says that “As the tire flexes while it is ridden, the FiberLink™ mesh tightens and reinforces itself, creating a confidence-inspiring seal that will last ride-after-ride.” It will be interesting to test this out and see how it holds up.

Finish Line Sealant will be available soon in 1-gallon bottles, as well as convenient 4oz, 8oz, and 1L consumer sizes. You can check out the video below demonstrating the setup and advantages of the Finish Line Sealant.

Race Face Announces New Womens Nano Jacket

Race Face has announced a new women’s version of its Nano Jacket for 2018 that was previously only available in a men’s cut. The Nano Jacket is a lightweight and packable. The men’s version weighs in at 164 grams. It is also wind/rain resistant and features a 3/4 zip, and a front and back stowage pocket.

The Women’s Nano Jacket will make a nice addition to Race Faces lineup of women’s soft goods for the 2018 season. Expect availability in April 2018.

You can check out more of the upcoming gear for 2018 from Race Face on this Instagram tag #rfsoftgoods18 Hopefully this is a sign of more gear in general for women in 2018 from RF.

Camelbak Podium VS a Regular Water Bottle

Many water bottles today look not that much different from the water bottles of 30 or 40 years ago. They have a pull-up valve, a cap and a bottle. Not much to write home about. It’s a simple but effective solution for delivering water to your mouth while riding. But can it be improved? The Camelbak Podium bottle attempts to take on some of the shortcomings of regular water bottle designs to build a better water bottle. I’ll give you my take on how well it has tackled this task in this review.

Design Differences

The Camelback Podium’s design is unique from the top down. At the top is Camelbacks self-sealing Jet Valve™ that uses the pressure of the water in the bottle to release the flow of water. This isn’t the same as a bite valve that you might be familiar with on hydration packs. You don’t need to clamp down with your teeth in order to open the valve. You also don’t need to pull on the valve with your teeth like you would with a standard water bottle

The Jet Valve™ is also designed to be removable. A simple twist and tug pulls it off for cleaning. This in comparison with a regular water bottle whose valve is usually integrated.

In addition to the Jet Valve™ there is an additional locking valve that functions with a twisting motion. This valve is a hard lock and no amount of squeezing will release water when the bottle is in the locked position.

The bottle itself is made of very similar materials to other water bottles on the market. Squeezing it is easy and the top seems solid and threads on nicely.

In Use

In use, the Camelbak Podium has been great. It seems to have less plastic taste than some water bottles that I have had. I love the Jet Valve. Being able to simply squeeze the bottle and get a nice even flow of water is awesome. The jet valve works great and I haven’t had it leak on me at all, even on bumpy mountain bike rides.

Removable Jet Valve for easy cleaning.

The secondary valve is my one complaint with this bottle. Being a twist lock means that it is just about impossible to operate one handed. I will often twist to lock the valve when I throw the bottle in my car or my backpack before hitting the trails. If I forget to unlock the valve before I set off, I have to completely stop my bike usually in order to get the valve unlocked. There’s nothing more disappointing than squeezing a water bottle and having water fail to come out.

This I think is the one way that a traditional water bottle still has an upper edge on Camelbaks design. The push/pull valve of most water bottles can be operated with your teeth making one-handed opening much easier. That being said, if the secondary valve is left open, the Camelbak Podiums Jet Valve is hard to beat.

Camelbak Podium 24oz bottles can usually be found for about $10. They also come in a variety of colors making it easy to match your bottle to your bike or kit. If you’ve found traditional water bottles not to your liking, I’d recommend giving the Camelback Podium a try.

Buy Now


  • Good quality plastic
  • Jet Valve is easy to use
  • Fits in standard water bottle holders
  • Secondary valve ensures no leakage when in transit


  • Secondary valve cannot be operated with one hand
  • Might be slightly more expensive

Rocky Knob Bike Park Ride Review

The Rocky Knob Bike Park is located in Boone North Carolina. From looking at maps and videos it seemed like the perfect place to take our family for a bit more of a bike park like experience with burms and flow trails.

Now I always hate to give trails negative reviews, because it could be that we just hit it on an off day, we didn’t know about some secret route, or we just weren’t having a good day ourselves, but this trail system really underwhelmed us all. It could also be that the marketing materials and hype around this trail oversell it a bit. From my 6-year-old ripper, to my wife, to my little 3-year-old, we all felt like the amount of “fun trail” compared to the amount of frustrating trail was not in balance.

As noted, I can only speak for our experience on this day. The pump track was unfortunately closed and the blue loop was rather uninspiring. Beyond the blue loop you are met with a daunting barrage of switchbacks which seem to never relent.

Once you finally ascend to the top of the mountain via those arduous switchbacks. You do get some fun downhill. But, I found even some of the downhill to be frustrating at times as I found it hard to carry speed through sharp turns and uphill rock gardens.

Overall I got the impression that if you are in the immediate Boone, NC area these trails are great, but they are not destination trails. They did not have the same epic nature that we found in Pisgah or Dupont State Forest.

Check out the full video to see the action and hear more of my thoughts on these trails.

Intense Announces Alloy Spider at a New Affordable Price

Intense has announced its new Alloy Spider. With 140mm of travel up front and 130mm in the rear, the Spider comes in at an attractive $2,399.00 in its “foundation build.” The travel is suspended by a Rock Shox Revelation RC 27.5” fork and a Rock Shox Monarch RL rear shock. Not a shabby setup for a sub $2,500 bike.

The drive train on this 27.5″ bike is a mix and match of sram GX and NX components along with Race Face Aeffect crank and a threaded bottom bracket. Wheels feature Race Face AR 24 Rims and an unknown hub with a Shimano driver made possible by the compatible NX cassette. Braking power is provided by Shimano BL M506 180mm Front and 160mm Rear. The alloy spider shares the same geometry as its carbon brothers.

The Switch to Consumer Direct

With the switch to a consumer direct selling model that Intense made in December ( Intense now finds itself in direct competition online with brands like Canyon, Diamondback, YT and Commencal. Each of these brands also hit the sub $2,500 trail bike with competitive offerings.

Canyon, for example, offers the Spectral AL 6.0 for the exact same $2,399. Diamondback offers the Release 3 and YT has the JEFFSY® 27 AL for only $2,299. Each of these bikes come very similarly specced. Those shopping for a consumer direct trail bike indeed have a lot of options.

More information on the Alloy Spider can be found at the Intense Website



YT Upgrades Their Direct to Consumer Business With New Toolkits

Following the lead of other direct to consumer brands like Diamondback and Canyon, YT Industries has announced that its 2018 bikes will include a new toolkit featuring “everything you need to let the good times begin.” Included with every YT bike will be a kit that includes a torque wrench, shock pump, Allen key, anti slip paste and all necessary manuals.

As mentioned, YT is not the first brand to include these types of tools. It seems like this is a very healthy trend in the industry through. Mountain bikes are becoming more complex and need more dedicated tools to maintain even after initial assembly. Periodically checking the torque of pivots and checking your shock pressures are things every mountain biker should be empowered to do. Putting the tools in the hands of consumers from day one seems like a great idea whether the bike was purchased consumer direct or not.

Mountain biking has and always will have a DIY, get your hands dirty vibe. The bike shop will never be in the middle of the woods when the shit hits the fan. That will always be true. I’m glad to see, even in little ways, that companies continue to empower us, the riders, to get out on an adventure.

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