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Tyke-Toter Child Carrier Mountain Biking Review

Many people assume that having young kids means that mountain biking adventures will be fewer and farther between. Yes, there are balance bikes and bike trailers. But your 3-year-old isn’t going to make it more than a few miles on a balance bike, and most trailers just aren’t suited for singletrack.

Enter the Tyke-Toter. The Tyke-Toter is one entrant in a breed of new bike seats that positions your child above your top tube and between your arms. This positioning is key. Your child is not only protected between your arms but is also positioned near the center of gravity of the bike. Unlike systems that place the child near the handle bars or behind the rider the Tyke-Toter preserves the maximum amount of your bike’s regular handling characteristics.

In addition, at $115 the Tyke-Toter is one of the most inexpensive child carrying solutions. It isn’t quite as adaptable as a trailer, but the price and off-road capabilities make it well worth the price.

Installation

The Tyke-Toter comes with two main components, the seat and a footrest. The seat itself is attached to your bike using a quick release clamp on your exposed seat post. It goes without saying that dropper posts and carbon seat posts are out of the question here. The clamp has aggressive teeth but even so getting the right amount of tension when installing takes a bit of practice.

Quick release clamps directly to the seatpost

The foot rest is attached via two Velcro straps to the downtube of your bike. Tyke-Toter also supplies some self adhesive foam pads to increase the diameter of your downtube if needed. Again, I would be slightly nervous installing this on a carbon frame, but on an aluminum or steel frame it is no problem.

Modifications

I knew from the get go that I would be taking the Tyke-Toter off-road, that was my primary purpose in buying it. The Tyke-Toter though is not officially an off-road device, so everything from this point on is me sharing my personal experience, not in any way suggesting you should do the same. There are many different skill levels of riders and kids. You need to do what you think is safe for your child.

One of the shortcomings of the stock design of the Tyke-Toter is that the foot rest does not in any way prevent the child’s foot from slipping forward into the front wheel. This is a legitimate concern depending on the bike the Tyke-Toter is mounted to. I mounted the Tyke-Toter to my Raleigh Tokul 3 which has a relatively slack 68.5 degree headtube angle. This meant that there was quite a bit of room between my son’s feet and the front tire. Even so, I wanted to be safe instead of sorry.

I experimented with a couple of different solutions. In he end, the best solution to this problem was to drill some holes in the existing footrest. Then bolt on two plastic clips from old style clip pedals. These held my son’s feet from sliding forward into the front tire, even on very rough terrain. This solution has worked surprisingly well and it would be great if Tyke-Toter added something like this to the product.

Modified foot rest

Riding

The first couple of times I took the Tyke-Toter out I was a little concerned. The width of having a 2-4 year old sitting in between you legs means that you end up pedaling a bit bow-legged. However, as I got used to it and my body adapted I realized that the Tyke-Toter is amazing. I’m able to do 75% of what I can do solo on my mountain bike with my kid tagging along.

This has opened up the opportunity for longer family rides covering 5-10 miles instead of 1-2. Also, I have been able to ride technical terrain that my son would not have been able to handle on his own. Here is an example from Grand Mesa Colorado, me and my son handling a tricky little downhill section without issue. You can hear how much fun he is having!

The Tyke-Toter comes with a small handlebar in front of the seat. This handlebar is comfortable for road and xc pedaling. However when things get rough my son switches to grabbing on to my bars directly. This gives him a much more stable body position. He can also stand up on the foot rest in order to absorb larger impacts and bumps. We’ve discovered a rhythm and communication style where I advise him of when he is going to need to stand up or switch to holding onto my bars for upcoming features on the trail.

I have found that when my son stands or sits up, there is a chance of me hitting my chin on the top of his helmet. I’m not overly tall at about 5′ 10″ so unless you are much shorter than me, I wouldn’t be too concerned. Here is an additional video with more riding examples.

Crashing

Have I crashed the Tyke-Toter? Yup. Did anyone get hurt? I sprained my pinky. Seriously though, we’ve laid the bike down multiple times and I have to say the Tyke-Toter design seems pretty ideal. There are no straps holding my son in and he is immediately in my arms as soon as I let go of the handle bars. This means that when I hit the eject button he comes right along with me. This is much better than having him continue on with the bike.

We’ve low sided a couple of times. Stumbled off a couple of technical climbs. But our worst crash was a high-speed slide out on a wet wooden banked curve. Even in this instance though my son came away with a couple of scratches while I bore the brunt of the impact.

Final Thoughts

Even though it required a bit of modification to meet my needs I feel like the Tyke Toter is one of the best biking investments I have made. It has opened up countless possible rides that just would not have otherwise been possible. For a dad of 2… soon to be 3, the Tyke Toter has changed my riding more than dropper posts or great suspension designs. This simple tool has truly transformed real mountain biking into a family affair.

At $115 the Tyke-Toter has been more than worth the money I spent on it. It’s become an indispensable tool in my bag of child hauling bike tricks.

 

Buy Now

Pros:

  • Cost
  • Ideal positioning
  • Easy installation and removal
  • Super fun
  • Safest setup I’ve seen

Cons:

  • Foot rest should have toe clips
  • Will not work with dropper posts or carbon equipment
  • You end up biking a bit bow-legged
  • Shorter individuals may find the child’s head bumping their chin

Review: One Year with the CamelBak Rogue Hydration Pack

Living in North Carolina, I have thousands of miles of mountain bike trails throughout the state and the one thing I never want to be without is water. When I first started riding, I tried taking a single water bottle, only to drink it all in less than an hour on hot summer days.

Cutting your ride short because you run out of water is never fun, and I felt it was time to get serious and invest in a hydration pack. CamelBak is a brand that has been around since 1988, and they are known for making packs specifically for mountain biking.

The CamelBak Rogue Hydration Pack is the one I went with and have used it on every ride I’ve been on since it arrived.

CamelBak Rogue Hydration Pack

The CamelBak Rogue features an 85oz reservoir, Leak-Proof On/Off Valves, a top zippered pocket, and a bottom pocket perfect for your car keys, a multi tool, or anything else you need to carry that’s small.

Bottom Pocket

The back flap lifts up to expose the hydration bladder which features a large cap that CamelBak touts as an “Easy-Open Leak-Proof Cap.” They claim, “it is redesigned for easier refilling and seals shut in just a few twists.”

Easy-Open Leak-Proof Cap

Even though CamelBak claims it’s made for easier refilling and shuts better, I found that not to be the case. I typically fill the bladder by using a refrigerator and with the way it’s positioned it almost always makes a mess.

Filling the CamelBak using the refrigerator

The plastic around the cap is so large that it makes it challenging to unpress the water dispenser, so it stops before spilling water outside the hole. The leak-proof cap is also not as easy as they claim. Because it shuts in just a few twists, you have to be very careful to get the threads lined up; otherwise, it will leak. I caused a few messes for this very reason.

Everything from the fabric, to the stitching, is solid, and the Rogue is a sturdy pack. After a year of heavy use, it’s held up surprisingly well even with all the mud rides. Another nice feature is the hydration bladder is removable, and the outside is washable. That is great for keeping it clean and keeping those nasty smells from riding in the hot sun away.

The bite valve is large comes with a locking mechanism so you can be certain no water will spill out. Without it in the lock position water will come out even while riding, so I leave mine in the locked position until I’m ready for a drink.

I find the tube that runs from the bladder to the valve to be extremely long. I’m a short guy at 5’5″ and at times I’ve wanted to cut part of the hose off just so I didn’t have to keep stuffing the excess back into the pouch.

As I mentioned earlier I’ve used this pack for every ride and having it with me is part of my routine. I’ve done everything from three to four hour-long rides to quick 3 milers at lunch, and it performs excellently. I’ve even taken a few hard falls and even lightly separated my shoulder while wearing this pack and it still feels as solid as the first day I tried it.

Overall I do recommend the CamelBak Rogue hydration pack, and I wouldn’t hesitate to tell anyone to get this pack. I would, of course, mention that they should look out for the cap and to be sure they have it threaded correctly, but otherwise it’s a great hydration pack.

At the time of writing the Rogue is currently on sale for $51.99 on Amazon with a retail of $70.00. It also comes in four colors, black, red, blue, or lime.

Pros:

  • Cost
  • Quality Construction
  • Easy to use bite valve

Cons:

  • Filler cap needs more threads
  • Long hose

Mountain Biking at DuPont

This past weekend a few of us loaded up and headed to the North Carolina mountains to ride a fourteen-mile loop at DuPont State Forest. This was my first time, and I’ve heard how great the area is for many years, so I was super excited to get to see it first hand.

Bikes Loaded in the truck

We parked in the Lake Imaging access point which is just off Staton Road, and it was a nice place since it was directly on the Lake Imaging trail access and far enough away from Hooker Falls access where everyone parks to walk to the falls. After spending a little time checking out the bikes, we hit the trails.

Checking the tire pressure

The route we took was designed to hit some of the fun parts like Ridgeline and Hilltop, and those downhills did not disappoint. Based on Strava data the route we took was 13.93mi with 1,554ft of elevation, and you had to work for those fun downhills.

Strava Route Map

The route we took is as follows:

  • Lake Imaging Rd.
  • Right on Jim Branch Trail
  • Right on Isaac Heath Trail
  • Stay straight to Locust Trail
  • Stay straight to Hilltop Trail (the first fun downhill)
  • Right on Lake Imaging Rd.
  • Turns into Buck Forest
  • Right on Thomas Cemetery
  • Right on Tarkin Branch Rd.
  • In the Guion Parking area turn right on Sky Valley Rd.
  • Left on Rocky Ridge
  • Rifle Trail
  • Hickory Mountain Rd.
  • Down Ridgeline for the final descent.

Visit the Strava Ride to see the full map and to download the GPX file.

Note: This route does skip the famous covered bridge, so if you are interested in seeing it check out our other DuPont Ride Review.

Isaac Heath Tr

Thomas Cemetery

Hanging out at Grassy Greek Falls

If you are ever in the North Carolina mountains, I highly recommend spending a few days riding DuPont. It was tons of fun, and I can’t wait to go back!

New From Marin an “Aggressive Hardtail” – The San Quentin

The bike maker whose namesake is where it all began, has announced a new line of aggressive hardtails that look like an appealing option for those who want to get back to their riding roots. The Marin San Quentin hardtails slot in between the already existing Alcatraz dirt jump bike and more tail/xc oriented Nail Trail.

The San Quentin, is a 27.5″ bike in all sizes, unlike the Nail Trail that slides between 27.5″ and 29″ based on frame size. And, unlike many bikes you might compare the San Quentin to, this is 27.5 non-plus, which should help make the bike more agile. The San Quentin also receives a slacked out 65° head tube angle which should stabilize things when pointing the bike downhill. 425mm chainstays will keep the rear end compact and easy to move around.

These are true 27.5 trail tires, bucking the trend to make every hardtail a “plus bike”. The boosted rear end looks like it provides some serious clearance though.

A vast majority of hardtails come specced with a 120mm travel fork. On the San Quentin 2 and 3 however riders will get an extra 10mm of travel with either Rockshox Recon or Revelation forks. The San Quentin 1 which is the base build however comes with a 120mm Suntour fork.

Builds

The San Quentin 1 comes in with a price point of $849 which while attractive, comes with some major concessions. As already mentioned the fork is a lower end 120mm Suntour XCM and the drivetrain is a Shimano Altus, 1×9 setup. In addition, while the bike does have boost spacing the rear hub holds a 141mm qr rear axle, instead of the standard 148mm through axle.

Customers would do well to try to stretch for at least the San Quentin 2 build at $1299. This build features that 130mm Recon fork, a proper 11 speed SRAM NX drivetrain and a regular boost 148mm through axle.

The $1899 San Quentin 3 ups it’s game even further by upgrading the Tektro M275 Hydraulic Disc brakes found on the 1 and 2 to Shimano BR-MT400s. You also get an even more capable Rockshox Revelation fork. The drivetrain switches to a Shimano SLX 1×11 setup and a X-Fusion Manic 150mm dropper post is also included.

An internally routed dropper is a welcome addition to the San Quentin 3.

Marin seems to have a knack for building bikes that make you think slightly differently about the price points and categories we usually slot bikes into. The Wolf Ridge and Hawk Hill are two prime examples of this from recent years. It might just be that the San Quentin will be another one of these bikes.

You can visit Marin at https://www.marinbikes.com/

Maxxis Ardent 29×2.4 Review

Tires make a huge difference in the ride quality of a bike. Whether you’re accelerating, braking or turning your tire choice determines much of what that action will feel like and how effective it will be. In this review I’ll be sharing my experiences with the Maxxis Ardent 29×2.4 tires.

When I purchased my 2017 Specialized StumpJumper 29er it came with the Specialized Butcher up front and a Slaughter in the rear. To be frank, I was pretty much immediately unhappy with this combo. They didn’t roll very fast. I felt like I was never able to carry as much speed as I should have been able to. They were heavy, with each tire weighing in at over 1000g. And the Slaughter in the rear did not provide good climbing traction. So, I decided to experiment with running matched Ardents on the front and rear.

The Maxxis Ardent is billed as an all purpose trail tire. It features ramped knobs in the center of the tred to minimize rolling resistance and larger, more squared off knobs on the side for cornering traction. It is available in a EXO casing for extra side wall protection. I actually made an aesthetic choice with the sidewalls for my tires and went with the Maxxis Skinwalls to compliment my blacked out StumpJumper. These skinwalls did come with the EXO casing as well.

Tire Setup

I had no major issues setting up the Ardent Skinwall tires tubeless. Even though they are not technically tubeless rated the have held up fine over extended testing. I have them mounted on Roval Traverse 29, hookless alloy rims with a 29mm inner width. They’ve seated well on these rims and I’ve had no trouble with burping even when running ultra low pressures to handle snow and icy riding conditions.

 

The 29mm inner rim width also gave the tires a nice shape. I’m not one to pull out calipers and measure exact widths of knobs etc, because I think feel is way more important than dimensions. But, just eyeing it up I’d say these probably come it at less than the advertised 2.4″ width.

Riding

The first thing I noticed when I got on the Maxxis Ardents was how much faster my bike felt immediately. These tires definitely roll a whole lot faster than the stock tires that came with my bike. Sections of trail that I previously found myself pedaling on I could now pump effectively to keep speed. My tires weighed in at 875g and 884g which is a bit more than advertised. Either way they feel light and not like boat anchors underneath me.

In the rear that increased speed was not met with any sacrifice in traction while climbing. The StumpJumper is a capable climbing bike while seated and I found that the Ardents gave me the expected traction that I needed to make it up punchy climbs.

Up front I would say the Ardent is an acquired taste. In a straight line these things are fast. Put it into a turn and they are a little unpredictable. They are by no means bad, and I’ve found no good reason to pull them off the front, but I have had times on the trails that have given me pause and made me wish for something a little bit more aggressive. If my local trails were higher speed I think would consider moving to something more aggressive like a Minion DHF.

Durability

As mentioned, I’ve ridden these tires in a variety of conditions, from mud, to dry hardpack, to icy and snowy conditions. They served me well on a trip to Asheville, NC and I raced them at the ~36 mile Whole Enchilada race, also in North Carolina. I’ve had zero punctures, zero burps, and really zero complaints. The tred has held up nicely with no torn knobs or anything concerning on that end.

Final Thoughts

If you are looking for a tire that will prioritizes rolling resistance and weight while being able to handle most trail conditions, I’d give the Ardent a try. Depending on your riding style, you may find you need something different up front, but I have found it to be a solid, dependable tire.

Buy Now

Pros:

  • Fast Rolling
  • Light
  • Durable
  • Killer looks

Cons:

  • Might not have enough bite as a front tire

Rocky Mountain Vertex 24″ First Impressions Review

My oldest son is turning 7 this summer and growing like a weed, which means a couple of things. First, he will be old enough to race in our local WORS racing series.  Second, his 20″ Specialized RipRock with plus tires was starting to look a little small. So we started the fun of bike shopping for a 24″ bike. After much research and looking at youth specific brands like, Prevelo, Spawn, Trailcraft and Early Rider, we ended up buying an unexpected bike, the Rocky Mountain Vertex 24.

The Rocky Mountain Vertex 24 has been redesigned for 2018 and the cost/build kit ratio is pretty compelling on paper. It features a Shimano Deore 9 speed drive train paired with a Rocky Mountain Microdrive 2PC 28T crankset.

A very nice legitimate crankset.

Shimano M315 hydraulic brakes provide stopping power. It also features a Suntour XCR LO Air 65mm fork. Hydraulic brakes and a real air fork were a couple of our requirements and the Vertex is one of the lowest priced bikes to provide both.

A legitimate shock with air spring and lock out.

The tires are admittadly a lower end wire bead Schwalbe Black Jack 24. Those will most likely get swapped out for some Rocket Rons, set up tubeless. The WTB SX17 seem to do the job well and we haven’t had any issues with the wheelset yet.

The geometry on the Rocky Mountain Vertex 24 is also very competitive. With 380mm chainstays and 68 degree head tube angle the geometry is very close to more expensive bikes like the Spawn Yama Jama 24.

Out of the box the fit and finish on the Vertex is super nice. The paint job is awesome and the all of the components seem dialed. The only things we swapped immediately were some silly small house brand slide on grips for some regular lock-ons and some better metal flat pedals.

My son has had a couple of weeks to rip around on this new bike so we sat down for an interview to talk about the transition from his old bike and how he’s feeling about his new bike.

Matt: What are your favorite things about the rocky mountain vertex?
Micah: The shock because it has a lockout I can turn on and off. The brakes because it’s easier to do tricks like endos. I also like the quick release seat because you can quickly change the height of the seat without a multitool. I like that it can hold a water bottle cage.

Matt: What are the biggest upgrades over your last bike.
Micah: Smaller tires and bigger wheels. It feels higher off the ground.

Matt: Is there anything you wish the Rocky Mountain could have that it doesn’t.
Micah A rear suspension and a dropper post.

Matt: How does riding the rocky mountain feel different that your old bike?
Micah: It feels higher and it moves over rocks much easier. It’s easier to wheelie.

Matt: Was switching 20” to 24” hard? Was there anything different about it?
Micah: It wasn’t hard. It just feels higher off the ground.

Matt: What is your overall impression of the Rocky Mountain Vertex 24?
Micah: I’d give the rocky mountain a five star review.

Here’s a couple of quick clips of Micah shredding on this new hardtail.

Overall as a dad, I don’t think I could be more impressed with the attention to detail Rocky Mountain has given to this kids bike. Also a big shoutout goes to Belgianwerx bike shop and specifically Nick over there for getting us set up with this little shredder of a hard tail. If you want to see this bike in action, head over to Micah’s YouTube channel.

 

6 Things To Do While Your Trails Dry Out

This time of year can be frustrating for mountain bikers. Trails in many areas are muddy and going through freeze, thaw cycles that leave them unridable. All work and no play makes a mountain biker cranky, so here are some ideas on things to do while your trails dry out.

Service Your Suspension

This is an often neglected task that can greatly improve the performance of your bike and longevity of your suspension components. Doing a basic service on most shocks or forks is not an overly scary proposition. You’ll need a few tools, the right oil/lube, perhaps a basic service kit and YouTube to guide they way.

I’ve picked up a basic service kit for my RockShox revelation fork  and I’ll be doing a service on the next rainy day in my neck of the woods.

Work On Your Local Trails

Spring time often reveals damage that winter’s harsh weather has done to trails. There are often trees to clear, dirt to move and drainage to fix. Garbage also tends to collect in the winter so there may be some simple clean up tasks as well. There may even be new trail to build. Get in contact with your local trail stewardship organization and find out how you can help.

Go For A Road Ride 😱

I know, I know. The horror! The fact is though that mountain biking often does not provide the best training at putting down consistent power over an extended period of time. Pounding out 15 or 20 miles on a road bike can yield great endurance returns when you get back on the mountain bike. You don’t even need to have a second bike. Riding road on you mountain bike is just fine. However, we’ll let you take this excuse for N+1 if you don’t already have a road bike.

Learn A New Bike Handling Skill

Have you always wanted to be able to bunny hop, manual, endo-turn or track-stand? These are all skills you don’t need a trail to master. Your driveway, parking lot or an empty patch of grass will do just fine. Need some inspiration? I always love Skills with Phil’s videos on this topic. I’m working on endo-turns this spring.

Ride A Skate Park Or Skills Park

Skate parks and skills parks can be great places to practice your jumping and moving your body around on your bike. While the weather is still cold, they most likely won’t be super busy either. Don’t know where you closest local park is? TrailForks will have a listing of parks open to bikers here https://www.trailforks.com/skillparks.

Build a Feature

If you don’t have any skills parks in your area, you can always make your own features as well. An easy beginner feature to build that requires almost no carpentry skills is a skinny. I built one for working on my skinny skills in about 20 minutes for a few bucks. If you are feeling up to it you can build something more complicated like a jump, roller or drop. If you aren’t sure of your carpentry skills, this can be a great opportunity to get a friend who is more confident involved in mountain biking with you!

What are your ideas? Let us know if the comments below.

 

Best 2018 Mid Travel 29er Trail Bikes For Less than $3000

The word is out. 29ers are no longer just for XC racing. 29ers have cemented a place in many bike makers lineups as do it all trail machines. These bike are extremely capable, able to tackle all day epic rides and hold their own in a bike park. The criteria we used to define “mid-travel” is  bikes featuring greater than 120mm of front suspension and trail oriented geometry. In this round-up we’ll be looking at some of the best value priced bikes in this category. While $3000 is still a ton of money we’ll try to cover an entire price range of bikes. I won’t be going into geometry specifics or linkage differences. With bikes in this range, you are getting a good linkage and good geometry with every bike and any differentiation is going to be nuanced personal preference.

YT JEFFSY® 29 AL – $2,299

The YT Jeffsy packs quite a punch with a unique buildkit. You will find fox providing 140mm of suspension on the front and rear of this bike. Where things get interesting is in the drivetrain. YT has opted to build out the Jeffsy with a Shimano SLX 11 speed derailleur paired with an 1×11 e*thirteen TRS+ cassette. The TRS+ is usually an aftermarket addition for those looking to increase there gearing range. So finding it specced on a stock build is a bit of an oddity. Boasting a 511% gear range the TRS+ outperforms SRAM Eagle transmissions by 11% in regards to sheer range. You will pay for that range though with larger jumps between ratios.

Ethirteen also provides the dropper for the Jeffsy which for some people is a very desirable dropper. User serviceable and fully mechanical, the ethirteen TRS+ dropper promises to be reliable and simple to maintain. Right next to that dropper lever you will find SRAM Guide R brakes that slow down those big 29in DT SWISS M 1900 SPLINE wheels. Overall it’s hard to find fault with YT’s build here and the price is the lowest of all the bikes in this roundup.

 YT JEFFSY® 29 AL
ForkFOX 34 FLOAT RHYTHM
ShockFOX DPS PERFORMANCE
DrivetrainSHIMANO SLX 11speed with E*THIRTEEN TRS+ cassette
BrakesSRAM GUIDE R
WheelsDT SWISS M 1900 SPLINE
Dropper PostE*THIRTEEN TRS+
Price $2299
WebsiteRead More

 

Trek Fuel EX 7 29 – $2,499

The Trek Fuel is a proven platform and for 2018 it seems like Trek has finally figured out how to spec the lower end model, the EX 7, with a decent build kit. The Fuel features 130mm of travel in the front and rear provided by a Rockshox Reba fork and a Fox Performance Float EVOL shock. The drivetrain is all SRAM but from their lowest end one by offering, NX. Braking power is also provided by SRAM with the Level T system. If you are looking for a retail brand that you can find at a local bike shop, the Trek Fuel EX 7 has to be one of the best values in this category.

 Trek Fuel EX 7 29
ForkRockShox Reba RL 130mm
ShockFox Performance Float EVOL
DrivetrainSRAM NX, 11 speed
BrakesSRAM Level T
WheelsBontrager Line Comp 30
Dropper PostDropper post, Bontrager lever
Price $2499
WebsiteRead More

Stumpjumper Comp Alloy 29 – $2,800

The Stumpjumper is the highest priced bike in this roundup. However, for that price you are going to arguably get a little more value in a locally supported brand than the Trek Fuel. The Stumpjumper runs the same Rockshox Reba fork but at 150mm of travel paired with a RockShox Monarch RT running at 135mm of rear travel.

The drivetrain and brakes however are upgrades from Trek’s offering. Featuring SRAM GX 11 speed shifting and SRAM Guide R brakes. You also get the Specialized command post and Race Face Aeffect cranks. This bike is the longest legged bike in this roundup and I like that specialized has chosen to put more suspension out front than in back.

 Specialized StumpJumper Comp Alloy
ForkRockShox Reba RL 140mm
ShockRockShox Monarch RT
DrivetrainSRAM GX 11spd w/ Race Face Aeffect cranks
BrakesSRAM Guide R
WheelsRoval Traverse 29 laced to Specialized hubs
Dropper PostCommand Post IRcc
Price $2800
WebsiteRead More

Salsa HorseThief – $2,699

Salsa hasn’t announced any changes to the HorseThief for 2018 but the 2017 model is still competitive. Specced with 130mm of travel up front and 120mm out back it’s the shortest legged bike in this list. But that may suit many riders well. Suspension is Fox Float front and rear, and the drivetrain is an interesting combination of a Sunrace cassette and GX derailleur along with a SRAM s1000 crankset. It also doesn’t feature a dropper, but if you haven’t taken a gander, check out the lesser known Salsa HorseThief.

 Salsa Horsetheif GX1
ForkFox Float, 130mm travel
ShockFox Float DPS, 120mm travel
DrivetrainSRAM GX 11spd w/ SRAM S1000, X-SYNC 30t cranks and Sunrace 11-42t cassette
BrakesSRAM DB5
WheelsWTB i29 TCS
laced to Salsa hubs
Dropper PostNone
Price $2699
WebsiteRead More

Bonus Bike – Canyon SPECTRAL AL 6.0 – $2,399

If Rockshox suspension, SRAM drivetrains and 27.5 wide trail tires are your jam, then the Canyon Spectral has your number. Yes, yes it’s not a 29er, but in this price point I think it deserves a look.

Featuring a ROCKSHOX PIKE RC 150mm up front and a ROCKSHOX DELUXE RT in the rear, the Canyon comes with enough travel for almost any party. It should be able to get you back up the mountain in ease too, with a SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain. The Canyon features the same SRAM GUIDE R brakes and DT SWISS M 1900 SPLINE wheels that the Jeffsey does. It leaves the SRAM theme though with a KS LEV SI dropper, which is a perfectly acceptable dropper post, especially at this price point, where many brands fail to include a dropper at all.

 Canyon SPECTRAL AL 6.0
ForkROCKSHOX PIKE RC 150mm
ShockROCKSHOX DELUXE RT
DrivetrainSRAM GX EAGLE, 12S
BrakesSRAM GUIDE R
WheelsDT SWISS M 1900 SPLINE
Dropper PostKIND SHOCK LEV SI
Price $2300
WebsiteRead More

Did we miss any? Which is your pick for a mid-travel 29er?

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.
Buy Now

 

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.

Design

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

Pros:

  • Great Build Quality
  • Bright

Cons:

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