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Top Sub $3000 Enduro Bikes for 2020

Enduro is becoming a more popular racing format, but more than that we continue to ask our bikes to go faster down more gnarly terrain. Even if you don’t plan on racing, an “enduro” bike may be the right next bike for you. If you visit lift access bike parks, jump lines and like to go on 4-5 hour rides, modern enduro bikes can do it all. Today we’ll be looking at a number of great enduro bike options at the lower end of the price spectrum.

Best Spec 27.5 Option – Canyon Spectral AL 6.0

The Canyon Spectral AL 6.0 is a 160mm by 150mm travel enduro bike. Equipped with a FOX 36 Rhythm fork, Float DPX2 rear shock, SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain, SRAM Guide R brakes and DT Swiss M1900 wheels this bike comes with the most complete build in our list. With this great spec though you may not be getting the most progressive geometry. With one of the shortest reaches and slackest seat tubes in our list the Spectral AL 6.0 geo chart is looking a little long in the tooth. In addition it is one of only 2 27.5 bikes on this list. The trend in enduro racing is toward 29ers so if you are looking for all out speed the Canyon may not be the right bike. On the other hand if you find yourself still loving the “little wheels” Canyon provides a ton of bang for your buck.

Price: $2,899

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Most Unique Build – Ibis Ripmo AF NX

Ibis, which has long been outside of the financial reach of many, just dropped a new version of the Ripmo 29er in aluminum for $3k. Not only has this been a much buzzed frame design but Ibis has worked to outfit the Ripmo AF with DVO’s top of the line suspension with a Diamond D1 fork. This gives you additional controls such independent high and low speed compression not usually found in this price point. In other areas of the bike the spec if a bit more modest, but still respectable featuring NX Eagle drivetrain and SRAM Guide T 4 piston brakes.

Price: $2,999

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Best Spec 29 Option – YT Capra 29 AL Base

Available in both 29 and 27.5 versions, the YT Capra AL Base features a beefy 160mm by 160mm suspension that is supplied by a Rockshox Lyric RC and Rockshox Super Deluxe. This is one of the nicest suspension specs in this list. It also comes equipped with SRAM Code R brakes paired with 200mm rotors front and rear which you would not be surprised to find on a full downhill bike. If you’re a bigger individual the YT Capra should be able to keep your speed in check with ease. The drivetrain is also a decent spec with the SRAM NX Eagle setup.

Price: $2,599

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Budget Option – Commencel Clash Origin 2020

If you are looking for the cheapest way to get into a ridable Enduro bike the Commencel Clash Origin 27.5 bike may be your ticket. At $2,299.00 it’s a good $700 less than many of the other bikes on this list. What do you give up for that price? First, there’s no dropper so you’ll either be supplying your own or going without. In addition, your looking at SRAM SX Eagle as apposed to GX or NX that you find on most builds. You also will find a Rockshox Deluxe shock out back so no piggy back for this budget pick.

Price: $2,299

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27.5 Bike You Can Find at Your Local Shop – Rocky Mountain Altitude Alloy 30

If you want to be able to buy a sub $3000 enduro bike from your local shop, Rocky Mountain may have an answer. The Altitude Alloy 30 is a 160mm x 150mm 27.5 enduro bike. You’ll get an SX Eagle Drivetrain and a Rockshox Yari and Rockshox Deluxe suspension setup. The stopping power however diverges from SRAM with a Shimano MT420 4 Piston spec. The dropper is a house branded Rocky Mountain Toonie Drop. Overall is a good starter spec and you’ll be able to try this bike out at a local shop or demo.

Price: $2999

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29er You Can Buy At Your Local Shop – Kona Process 153 29

Kona wrote the book on new school geometry and the Kona Process 153 is still a solid contender. This 160mm x 153mm design is a battle tested formula. You’ll find the familiar Rockshox Yari and Deluxe shock surrounded by a mix of NX and SX level 12 speed drivetrain components. Also you’ll get the common Guide T brakes paired up with 200mm and 180mm rotors.

Price: $2799

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New Ibis Ripmo AF

Ibis has released a new Ripmo 29er enduro bike, this time in Aluminum. This is the only Aluminum bike in the Ibis lineup and the material change isn’t the only trick it has up its sleeve.

The new Ibis Ripmo AF has slackened the headtube angle when compared with the carbon Ripmo from 65.9° to 64.9°. The wheelbase has also in turn increased and the reach has as well. What results is an even more aggressive bike on paper. The travel has been kept the same at 160mm up front and 147mm in the rear.

The new Ripmo AF is coil compatible

To go along with these geo tweaks, the Rip­mo AF is com­pat­i­ble with both coil and air shocks due to a more pro­gres­sive lever­age rate on the DW-Link™ suspension. All of the builds come stock with a DVO Topaz T3 Air, 210 x 55 and are up-gradable for $100 DVO JadeX coil shock. As someone who writes about writes about and rides more “budget” oriented bikes having the same shock spec across all builds is really exciting. Often finding a build with a lower end drivetrain (that works perfectly fine) combined with a decent suspension is just about impossible.

The Ibis Ripmo AF has a base spec complete build starting at $2999. When you consider that the base build of the carbon Ripmo is $4399 the Ripmo AF offers some significant savings while being perhaps a better bike for some people.

Base Build

The $2999 build gets you a pretty complete spec. A DVO Diamond D1 160mm fork up front and the aforementioned DVO Topaz T3 Air provide the springy bits. These are DVO’s top of the line shocks and forks, so you aren’t making any compromises by buying the cheapest build available.

4 piston SRAM Guide T brakes paired with 200mm and 180mm rotors are a fitting choice for this bike. The SRAM brakes are matched up with a SRAM NX 12 speed drivetrain. A KS Rage-i Dropper dropper is included and the cockpit and wheels are rounded out with mostly house-branded components.

Upgrade Options

If you want to bump up the specs out of the box you can also purchase a SLX 12 speed or GX Eagle build. In my estimation, since the base build presents so much value, most buyers will be best off saving their pennies and replacing components as they wear out.

The other upgrade option provided is the $100 bump up to the DVO JadeX coil shock. For those who are coil curious this seems like a very tempting option.

Overall, the new Ripmo AF looks to be an pretty awesome deal for those looking for a rowdy, tough, alloy enduro bike. You can find out more over at the Ibis website or Jenson USA.

Fezzari La Sal Peak Ride Review

BikeFezzari La Sal Peak Comp Size Medium
Trail SystemCrested Butte Bike Park, Crested Butte Colorado
Testers Weight150lbs
Testers Personal BikeKona Process 153

The first bike I checked out at Outerbike Crested Butte 2019 was the Fezarri La Sal Peak. This bike is a 160mm/150mm trail/enduro 29er bike. I was riding the base spec version that starts at $3,599 with a full carbon frameset.

That frame features Fezarri’s “Tetra Link” suspension that at its core is a Horst Link. The suspension layout itself is quite simple and you’ll find the minimum number of pivots needed for this type of system. The Tetralink is tuned to have a progressive leverage ratio so it can be paired with a coil shock if desired.

The La Sal Peak in it's natural habitat
The La Sal Peak in it’s natural habitat

The frame will also clear a 29×2.6in tire and features CleanCatch™ rattle-proof internal cable routing. In addition, 2 water bottles will fit in the front triangle which is an achievement few bike makers can tout in this travel range. The frameset does have some odd angles and it is in the eye of the beholder whether the “chin” on the toptube is pleasing to the eye.

Unique lines on the La Sal Peak make it aa very distinctive bike

Components and Build

The build I rode was the La Sal Peak Comp. This is the base spec version. It features a RockShox Lyrik RCT3 with 42mm offset in front and a RockShox Super Deluxe RC3 in the back. This suspension setup worked just fine for me after a bit of tweaking of rebound and air pressures.

The drivetrain was a full NX Eagle build and it gave me no trouble. Even down to the NX level I have found SRAM’s 11 and 12 speed offerings to be trouble free. Those concerned about bottom bracket specs will be happy to see a SRAM English Threaded BB.

Braking power was provided by SRAM Guide T brakes. While not the fanciest brakes on the market, they provided consistent stopping power in the gravity focused bike park setting where I was testing this bike.

The rims provided were WTB STP i29 rims which are common on base builds. These were laced to Bear Pawls hubs with a Shimano freehub body to accommodate that NX cassette. These wheels were wrapped in a Maxxis 2.5 WT DHF up front and a 2.5WT Aggressor in the back. The dropper was a X-Fusion Manic that performed just fine.

x-fusion manic dropper
The X-Fusion Manic Dropper

Ride Impressions

Initially this bike did not stand out to me in either a good way or a bad way. It just felt like a trail bike. Not much more, not much less. That was a good initial sign.

As I rode a bit more I found that I needed to add a bit of pressure to the fork to keep it from feeling like it was diving. In retrospect I believe the reason the bike was feeling this way was because it was equipped with a longer stem and has a bit shorter reach than some other bikes in this category. This combination meant that I was over the front end a bit more that I should have been. The shorter reach and steep seat tube angle combination made the bike feel a bit too cramped for my liking.

I also found that I needed to slow down the rebound a bit to keep from being a little nose heavy off jumps. After doing this I found that I was bottoming out the rear suspension so I needed to add a bit of pressure. I felt like this got the Tetra Link running pretty well.

The Tetra Link Suspension Run by a RockShox Super Deluxe RC3
The Tetra Link Suspension Run by a RockShox Super Deluxe RC3

The Tetra Link overall didn’t fare as well in fast and rough sections of trail with repeated hits. It felt a bit harsh and didn’t have that bottomless feel. While on climbing and pedally sections however, the suspension felt very supportive with little pedal-bob. I also found the suspension did respond well to pumping sections of trail and seemed to preserve energy well and allow me to build speed with the bike.

The steep seat tube angle meant that seated climbing was enjoyable without any front wheel wandering. When thinking about the climbing and fast downhill sections found in Crested Butte, the La Sal Peak struck me as a bike and suspension platform that would be best suited to someone who is looking for a longer travel trail bike that they’ll be pedaling up hill a lot of the time. I wouldn’t characterize the La Sal Peak as in any way not capable on fast downhill sections, but it seems to be biased more to turning the cranks while riding.

All of the components on the bike worked together well. The brakes held up in the park and the NX Eagle drivetrain was flawless. The X-Fusion Manic dropper performed well and I honestly didn’t even need to think about it.

Conclusion

As mentioned above overall the La Sal Peak struck me as a pedalers enduro bike. While not a standout in any particular segment of trail the La Sal Peak did well across the board. The shorter reach and a bit finicky suspension were my two main complaints. As an all round, one-bike-quiver, type trail bike, the Fezarri La Sal Peak performed very well.

Ride Review Video

Outerbike Crested Butte 2019

I’m fortunate enough to be located within a few hours of Crested Butte, CO, the Summer venue for Outerbike. For the uninitiated Outerbike is a multiday bike demo, organized by Western Spirit with hundreds of demo bikes at some of the most iconic riding locations in the United States. This was my first opportunity to attend and I’ll be back with details on the bikes I rode but I wanted to give an overview of my experience at this demo event.

The Event

Outerbike is a 3-day event with really all your needs taken care of for you while demoing bikes. There is a registration fee for the event. This covers your lunches for 3 days at the event, lift tickets and unlimited bike demos from all the brands at the event.

Lodging for the event is the participants responsibility. This means that you have a number of options. The Crested Butte Outerbike is located right at Crested Butte Mountain resort so hotel/condo stays are simple. Alternatively, camping in Crested Butte is available outside of town. This is the option I chose and I was able to find a site Thursday night for myself and a couple of my riding friends (The Crashing Dad & Unprofessional Kyle) about 15 minutes from the event venue.

Camping within 15 minutes of the venue

When you check in at Outerbike you are given some swag, a lift ticket and a special card. This card is your ticket to demo bikes. And boy are there a lot of bikes to demo. I ended up riding for 2 days of the 3 day demo event an got on bikes from Evil, Fezzari, Rocky Mountain, Transition, Marin, Niner and Alchemy.

Lines and Bike Availability

When I came up to the first day of demos I was a bit worried. The line probably had 50 to 100 people in it waiting to get into the demo area already. Would there be enough bikes? As it turned out my fears were unfounded. I was able to walk… not run like a crazy person on Black Friday and get on my first bike, the Fezzari La Sal Peak.

Could you ask for a better place to test bikes?

The Demo Experience

Each bike company handles their own demos so the experience is unique to each vendor. Some companies require you to fill out an additional form while they set up your bike. You’ll want to know your riding weight (your weight plus everything you carry while riding) as this will allow the staff to set up your suspension properly. It’s also a good idea to bring along your own pedals. All of the companies will have their own but being on your own pedals allows you to feel the differences in bikes more easily.

I would also recommend bringing along a multi-tool, shock pump and mini-pump. The demo staff at each manufactures tent will do their best to get the bike set up for you, but there will most likely be small tweaks you want to make once your get on the trail.

After you’ve obtained your bike the Crested Butte venue offers just about everything you could want for testing bikes. The venue offers lift service access to miles of both cross country trails and downhill trails. This means you can test bikes all day without getting tired. It also means that a quick bike swap is relatively easy as unless you wander further away, your never more than a few miles from the event area. I was able to test about 4 bikes a day putting in multiple laps at the bike park.

Food

I handled breakfast and coffee at my campsite every morning. Then, lunch was provided every day. The “big white tent” housed a buffet style lunch with several options every day. This meant that it would have been relatively easy for someone with dietary restrictions to find options, plus you could go back for seconds!

At the end of the day free beer was also provided in the big white tent for those over 21. Just another added perk! I did bring along some bars and my own hydration pack. However, Tailwind Nutrition was there for the entire event providing drink samples and there were also Cliff bars often hanging around in bowls around the venue.

Free beer after riding is always welcome

Value

Overall the value of the Outerbike event was great. For $240 you get three lift tickets that would cost about $120 on their own, all the bike demos (so no rental bikes needed) and lunches and beers. I would recommend Outerbike Crested Butte to anyone that is looking to make a larger ($3000+) bike purchase. In addition I would also recommend Outerbike Crested Butte to anyone who perhaps has a hardtail or cross country bike that they would not be comfortable riding on downhill trails. When you factor in rental costs of around $100 a day, Outerbike is a no brainer for riding some lift-access trails even if you aren’t planning on buying a bike.

What’s Next

I had a blast at Outerbike Crested Butte. You’ll be seeing ride reviews of a number of the bikes I tested popping up on the site soon. Stay tuned for more from Outerbike Crested Butte 2019!

Giant Drops A New Affordable Stance 29

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.

Read More About the Stance 29 here.

DZR Sense Pro Flat Pedal Shoe Review

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.

DZR’s unique Link Traction tread design.

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.

In Use

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 DZR shoes have 3 layers: An insert, swappable midsole and the traditional sole of the shoe.

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.

DZR provided these shoes for our review.

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Pros:

  • Swappable midsoles
  • Good fit
  • Padded foot protection
  • Positive grip on the pedals
  • Good rubber wear

Cons:

  • May be harder to reposition your foot on the pedals
  • Some stitching could be tougher

Ride Review Video

New 2020 Trek Top Fuel Gets a Downcountry Treatment

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.

For all the details head over to Trek’s site.

New Fox Dropframe Helmet

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.

Fidlock buckle system

The look of the Dropframe will definitely be polarizing. Time will tell if the additional coverage and new look will catch on with riders.

You can pick up the new dropframe today for $169.99.

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Norco Fluid FS1 Ride Review

Ride Info

BikeNorco Fluid FS 1 Size Medium 29″
Trail System18 Road, Fruita Colorado
Trails RiddenPrime Cut, Joe’s Ridge, Mojoe
Total Distance5.2 Miles
Testers Weight150lbs
Testers Personal BikeKona Process 153

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.

The aluminum frame could easily be mistaken for carbon from afar.

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.

130mm Revelation Fork

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.

Ride Impressions

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.

Conclusion

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.

Marin Rift Zone Ride Review

Ride Info

BikeMarin Rift Zone 3 Size Medium
Trail System18 Road, Fruita Colorado
Trails RiddenPrime Cut, Joe’s Ridge, Mojoe
Total Distance5.2 Miles
Testers Weight150lbs
Testers Personal BikeKona Process 153

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.

Marin’s Multitrac Suspension Layout

Components and Build

Rockshox and Shimano 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.

My nemesis on this ride.

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.

I was impressed by the Good Year tires.

Ride Impressions

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.

Flowy Fruita singletrack

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.

Conclusion

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.

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