Giant has long been a powerhouse in producing bikes that are a good bang for you buck. Recently though their lower end offerings seemed to be falling behind in component spec and geometry. The new Stance 29 looks to change that with an update geometry, two formidable build under $2000 and the look of a modern trail bike.
The Stance 29, as the name suggests is a 29er platform with 120mm of travel in the rear and 130mm of travel up front. The rear linkage is not the usual Maestro link that Giant’s more expensive bikes do. Instead, the Stance 29 follows in the footsteps of the old 27.5″ Stance and uses Giant’s FlexPoint suspension. This suspension is a single pivot design that uses a flexing chainstay/seatstay junction.
There are two builds to choose from a that come in at $1500 and $1750. They both share SRAM’s lowest end SX Eagle drivetrain. The drivetrain uses a traditional Shimano driver instead of the SRAM XD driver. Unfortunately, the rear end of the bike uses a weaker 141 QR axle. Both bikes are also equipped with Shimano MT200 2 piston brakes.
The two models diverge in specs for their suspension. The lower spec Stance 29 2 comes with a Raidon 34, Boost, 130mm fork and a Suntour Raidon R shock. The $1750 Stance 29 1 comes with a RockShox Recon RL Solo Air at 130mm and RockShox Monarch R rear shock. In addition you get a house branded dropper post with this spec.
When putting together full suspension bikes in this price range compromises will always be present. The lack of a rear through axle is a bummer as that is not an after market upgradable item. Other brands have made compromises in other areas and kept the same frameset for their lower priced bikes. For example the Stumpjumper ST is missing a dropper and utilizes lower end Shimano SLX drivetrain. However, the frame you get is the exact same as higher end Stumpjumpers.
In my mind this may be a better strategy as things like the drivetrain are largely made out of wear items that will need to be replaced every few years if you decide to keep the bike. There always be compromises and I would recommend thinking about how long you plan on owning your bike when looking at the Giant Stance 29.
Arguably the most important connection between you and your bike is the interface between your shoes and your pedals. The DZR Sense Pro flat pedal shoes promise to provide this interface while providing an everyday look that is at home on or off the bike. This FiveTen Freerider diehard rider recently got a pair in for testing and I was pleasantly surprised by their performance.
Construction and Features
The Sense Pro shoes are constructed from DZR’s full grain leather. The padding around the shoe and tongue is substantial. Traditional laces provide the closure for the shoe and a highly visible reflective badge is sewn into the heel for rear visibility if these shoes are tasked with commuting duties.
All this is well and good, but flat pedal riders know that the real difference is made where the rubber meets the pedals. The Sense Pro shoes utilize SAP Rubber. This sticky rubber has been an ongoing development for years. DZR says that it is designed to balance the needs of pedal traction, durability and foot position adjust ability.
The rubber is laid out in a truly unique “link traction” design. This design lies somewhere in-between FiveTen’s dotted tread and Van’s waffle pattern.
The most unique portion though of the Sense Pro shoes is that they feature interchangeable mid-soles. These soles allow you to tune the stiffness of the shoes. Each sole is equipped with velcro that attaches the sole to the base of the shoe. A insert then goes on top that provides your arch support.
The first, flexible sole is well suited for dirt jumping or more casual use. It bends pretty easily and is comfortable for walking around and biking. The stiff sole is very stiff. It changes the whole feel of the shoe and makes it feel much more like a cycling shoe.
When I got the shoes they fit true to size so there were no surprises there. The heel of the shoe cups my heel well and holds it in place. There is a fair amount of padding in the shoe and I found that the material protected my feet well from rock strikes and sticks on the trail.
The link traction design rubber works well. I found that because of the deeper tread my foot tended to “lock” onto the pedal a bit more. This makes repositioning the foot a bit harder, but it gives a very positive connection to the pedal. I would say as far as pure grip the Sense Pro shoes are in the same league as FiveTen stealth rubber. However, the feel is different and some riders may like it while others may prefer something else.
Over the test period the tread did not wear down significantly. Because the tread pattern is deeper I think DZR is able to use a bit stiffer rubber than a smoother soled shoe and still get good grip characteristics. I did notice a bit of breakdown on the some of the stitching of the shoe over my test period. My demo pair did look like they had seen some past use and there were not any catastrophic failures so I am pretty confident they will hold up well in the long run.
Two Shoes In One
The DZR Sense Pro shoes are kind of like two shoes in one. With the swap-able soles you have the ability to create two very different feeling shoes.
The stiff soles provide a clipless shoe feel. When mashing on the pedals I could feel that my foot was much more supported through the entire shoe and not bending around the pedal. On downhill runs the stiff soles give the feeling of being on skis or rails. I really enjoyed the stiff soles for these reasons. While hiking and walking though, the stiff soles are not quite as pleasant. They seem to be a little too stiff to be an everyday, off the bike shoe in that configuration. These soles are the ones I ended up preferring for traditional trail rides.
The flexible soles transform the Sense Pro shoes into a more standard feeling flat shoe. With more flexibility the walking and hiking characteristics are improved. The sole also allowed my foot to bend around the pedal more. For times when I was focusing on jumping and moving my bike in the air this added flexibility allowed me to control the pedals a bit better. But, at the same time they felt like they didn’t transfer power quite as well as the stiff soles.
The really great thing is you get this flexibility. You can choose what feels better for you without having to buy another pair of shoes. Even with the Velcro attachment, getting the soles converted does take a bit of work. I found that I needed to walk around in the shoes for a bit to get the hook and loop attachment to fully engage. With that in mind I found that I picked a sole and stuck with it.
The Right Shoe For You?
Shoes are an extremely personal choice. They need to fit well, feel good and fit your riding style. The DZR Sense Pro shoes worked great for me. I found myself enjoying wearing the shoes and I did not feel like they held me back in any way while on the bike.
The DZR shoe is a legitimate flat pedal shoe that should be on many rider’s short lists when selecting a shoe. The swappable midsole provides even more options and allows you to customize the shoe further. At a $99 MSRP the Sense Pro shoes deliver great value.
Trek’s full suspension XC race bike, the Top Fuel, has been revised for 2020. Going from a 100mm by 100mm bike, the new Top Fuel has 120mm of travel in the front and 115mm in the rear.
The Top Fuel has undergone geometry revisions with this new design. All of the changes follow the same trends that other manufactures have made to their XC race bikes.
The frame design itself now borrows the Knock Block system from the trail bike Fuel line. This system utilizes a straight downtube which is stiff and lighter combined with a steering limiter and prevents the fork crown from contacting the frame.
The suspension linkage has been revised and includes a “Mino link” flip chip. The flip chip and be rotated to provide a 0.5° change to the head tube angle and seat tube angle, while changing the BB height by about 6mm.
On the components end, the Top Fuel builds include TwistLoc suspension lock outs. This system simultaneously locks out front and rear shocks with a Grip Shift-like motion. This prevents having yet another lever on your bars. All builds do include a dropper post.
Trek’s new Top Fuels are available in both Carbon and Aluminum framesets with prices ranging from $3,299 all the way up to $9,999. Drivetrains in the various builds are dominated by SRAM products with suspension duties being shared between RockShox and Fox depending on the build.
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.