Reviews

Review and photos by Greg Hotchkiss, staff at The Path Bike Shop.

Pivot Firebird mountain bikeI've always had mixed emotions about trail bikes. I spend most of my time riding hardtail single speeds (yep, I'm that guy). I prefer the endurance side of riding over the enduro side. Yet every year I convince myself I should own a trail bike for all the winter riding fun we have in SoCal's Santa Ana mountains. Trabuco to Bell just isn't as fun on a hardtail compared to a trail bike.

Rewind to last August. I'm investigating trail bikes to see what I should buy. I rode the Santa Cruz Bronson, which I loved, but wanted something with a little more travel and a new Eagle drive train. I figure if I'm going to haul around gears and suspension, I might as well have all the gears and all the suspension. I narrowed it down to the Santa Cruz Nomad, the Giant Reign or the Pivot Firebird.

I did the usual. Looked up reviews, studied and compared geometry charts and laughed at the bike jargon that manufacturers use in their press releases. I wrote off the Pivot Firebird and The Giant Reign based on the geometry because they both seemed a little too slack and low to meet my criteria for proficient pedaling. Santa Ana riding adventures usually average 3000 feet of climbing, so it's a deal breaker for me If I deem a bike to be a bad climber.

Review by Megan Welch, member of The Path Bike Shop Race Team. Photo: Called To Creation.

2017 Juliana RubionFifth in a five-part series - team manager and four elite racers from The Path Bike Shop Race Team chose their 2017 race bikes, and told us what features they loved and why they chose the bikes they did.

Just Juliana. My bikes for 2017.

I want to start with my thank yous to all who have set me up for a fun year of riding that is to come. Thank you to Lou Mollineda for being such great support at the races. You cheer for everyone and always say the right thing to keep our spirits up. I want to thank my 2017 sponsors, Juliana Bicycles, Speedtune wheels, HT components, Onza Tires, Tustin Brew Co, Ford of Orange, Acumed, and Raceface. Thank you to EVERYONE I work with at The Path Bike Shop for making me suffer on rides, working on my bike, and making me laugh on a daily basis. Thanks to Mike Mautner, our Santa Cruz rep, for letting me bug you till I got my sweet new rig and allowing me to represent Juliana. Lastly I want to thank Tani Walling for continuing to support and allowing me to be a Path ambassador at my own rate and terms.

Review by Blaise Janssen, member of The Path Bike Shop Race Team.

2017 Santa Cruz 5010 and team racer at The Path Bike shopFourth in a five-part series - team manager and four elite racers from The Path Bike Shop Race Team chose their 2017 race bikes, and told us what features they loved and why they chose the bikes they did.

My name is Blaise Janssen, I am a 16 year-old enduro and cross country mountain bike racer for The Path Bike Shop. For the 2017 mountain bike race season I, with the help of team manager Lou Mollineda, have chosen to race on the 2017 Giant Trance Advanced 1.

I have chosen this bike because of how comfortable I feel on the bike while riding, and when a rider is comfortable while riding or racing it allows the rider to preform at their maximum capabilities, which is a necessity to succeed as a mountain bike racer. The geometry of this bike also suits me very well, having a longer frame allows me to fit in the cockpit of the bike providing me more comfort and opportunity to ride and handle the bike to its best ability as well. This bike is the perfect all around racing bike for me due to the fact that the bike can pedal just as well as a cross country bike, but can also descend similar to a downhill bike; and as an enduro racer, this is the perfect choice for a bike because there are races where we're doing 30 plus miles and over 4,000 feet of climbing. The 2017 Giant Trance Advanced 1 pedals very efficiently allowing me to preform at my maximum capability and on the descents of those races where I need a bike to conquer the rock gardens, steep, rugged, and technical terrains of these courses, the bike handles all with ease.

The proof is in the results; I first took this bike out to demo, riding only two practice runs for the Southridge USA Golden Series, raced the bike the same day and came away with a win in the Expert Men's 34 and Under class. Since then I have been racing this bike in the 2017 Southridge USA Winter series, and with each race that I am racing on this bike I only get more comfortable and faster finishing with improved results each weekend in the Expert Men's 34 and Under class. Starting with a 4th the first race, a 3rd the second race, and a 2nd the third race. I regularly ride many local trails where I have noticed my speed has increased substantially by earning several K.O.M.'s (King Of The Mountain) on Strava, whether it be climbing or descending.

For this being the beginning of the 2017 race season, having my confidence and comfort levels being so high on the 2017 Giant Trance Advanced 1, I know there are going to be great outcomes for the rest of the season, all while making great memories and spending good times with The Path Bike Shop race team along the way.

Here's to a great season aboard an awesome bike, the Giant Trance Advanced 1!

2017 Santa Cruz 5010 at The Path Bike shopReview by Danny Mollineda, member of The Path Bike Shop Race Team.

Third in a five-part series - team manager and four elite racers from The Path Bike Shop Race Team chose their 2017 race bikes, and told us what features they loved and why they chose the bikes they did.

Why the 5010?

Simple, this bike rips. The Santa Cruz 5010 is a very capable yet playful bike. Its short travel makes it a great bike to ride daily, capable of handling anything that you throw at it. But because it is a short travel bike, your line choice for rough terrain is more slim and has to be precise. The bike handles rough terrain with ease, but the consequences for choosing the wrong line or going off line won't be as forgiving. With this in mind, I knew that this was the bike for me to race on this season, following the California Enduro Series circuit.

Review by Blake Wray, member of The Path Bike Shop Race Team.
 
Intense Recluse The Path Bike Shop Race Team riderSecond in a five-part series - team manager and four elite racers from The Path Bike Shop Race Team chose their 2017 race bikes, and told us what features they loved and why they chose the bikes they did.
 
There were several reasons why the Intense Recluse stood out from all of the other bikes that I rode. First of all was the head angle and and the suspension set up. It was ideal for the kind of riding that I do! Also, it was a good bike that I could move around easily. Some other bikes I ride weren't like this, but the Recluse was super good at doing this. Lastly was how good the climbing was. Even with the suspension in the long travel position, it still was one of the best bikes for climbing that I rode. All of these features of the bike led me to believe that the Intense Recluse was the right bike for me.
 
Thanks to The Path Bike Shop and Intense Cycles for this opportunity.

2017 Santa Cruz Hightower at The Path Bike ShopReview by Lou Mollineda, manager of The Path Bike Shop Race Team.

First in our five-part blog series - team manager and four elite racers from The Path Bike Shop Race Team chose their 2017 race bikes, and told us what features they loved and why they chose the bikes they did.

Blown away with this awesome 2017 Santa Cruz Hightower CC 29er. For me this is a do all bike as I plan to do a few races in 2017. I had the pleasure of practically riding all the demo bikes The Path has in the fleet. Not many shops have the selection The Path has to offer. I was able to ride the Giant xc hardtail, Kona carbon Honzo, Intense Primer, Pivot 429 trail, Santa Cruz Tall boy and several others but in the end it was the Hightower that won me over. It has a good pedaling platform thanks to the VPP. Bike is decked out with RockShox suspension, RaceFace wheels with DT Swiss hubs and the ever so popular Eagle drivetrain.

Santiago Oaks is usually where I ride and if you have been there you know it's super fun. Not a very big park but it will challenge you with short steep climbs with fun down hill trails to reward you. I will be using Oaks as my training grounds on and off the bike to help me lose weight and build speed and strength. 

by Megan Welch, Manager at The Path Bike Shop.

Lezyne Macro GPS Cycling computerA cycling computer was always something I wanted but could never justify the price. I always read into each one available and the features they offered, but once I scrolled down for the price I was turned off. So I settled for just using my phone to record my rides. For the most part, using just my phone is fine but if I had thought of listening to music and recording my ride...forget about it. I don't always want to listen to music but sometimes those soul road rides call for it.

Lezyne first introduced their line of GPS devices in mid-2015. You had two options: the Power GPS or the GPS Mini retailing at $169.99 and $139.99 respectively. These two devices gave us riders what we wanted in a computer at a reasonable cost. They have since updated the line a bit and have added a few more models to choose from. The Power is now called the Super GPS and retails for $149.99. The Super is going to hold the most hours of ride data, longest battery life, and a bigger screen. There are two versions of the Micro GPS with the main difference being that one is a color screen, the Micro C, which also has a few more features and stores a tad more ride info.

The one I tested is the Lezyne Macro GPS. I went with this model because I feel it is the most bang for your buck in the line up. At $99 you get a large screen, incredible amount of run time of 22 hours, and a 100 hrs of stored ride data. Set up was pretty easy, but the instructions given were not that thorough so I relied mostly on just hoping for the best but it all turned out to be pretty simple. With all Lezyne GPS devices you must download their app, the GPS Ally v2. This allows you to manage your rides and view your rides mapped which is powered by Google. This is also where you will be able to upload your rides to Strava once you sync your account.

The Path Bike Shop race team riderby Megan Welch, Manager at The Path Bike Shop. Photos: Called To Creation (top) and Megan Welch

As someone who has tried to stuff all the needed trail tools into a jersey pocket instead of sporting a full hydration pack, I am on board with the fanny pack trend. On The Path Bike Shop's first shipment of Dakine Hot Laps packs, I grabbed one right away. I took that pack on every ride except for the occasional epic ride where I would succumb to a full pack. It fit one water bottle and everything needed for a quick trail fix. Camelbak came out with the first fanny pack (that I saw), the Camelbak Palos 4LR that included a bladder. Not longer after that Dakine came out with their version (the Low Rider) and again I picked one up on the first batch.

I went with the Dakine Low Rider 5L for a few reasons: the Low Rider is a smaller pack both length and height wise, has a larger bladder, $10 less than Cambelbak, and I prefer the Dakine color options. However, I did learn if you fill the pack to the limit it becomes bigger. My first ride with the pack was a 4 hour epic so I filled it up and by the end of the ride it deflated. So it isn't a deal breaker as it reminds me to drink more water and I only have to suffer with the extra weight for a bit. On the daily, few hour rides I fill the bladder halfway and I'm good. Both the Dakine and Camelbak have a comfortable back padding that also provides a good air flow. No one likes the sweaty back full packs give, another reason why the fanny packs just make sense.

2016 Santa Cruz Bronson and 5010 in Downieville, CAby Tani Walling, owner of The Path Bike Shop

When Santa Cruz sent over the geometry charts for the new Bronson and 5010 models, I was extremely happy with what I saw. These two bikes have been among our best sellers for a while now, and with the new geometry, they look even better. The changes are absolutely on point; with slacker head angles, shorter chain stays, lower bottom brackets, shorter seat tubes, and longer reach numbers. These two new models also sport boost spacing, and they went to a 31.6 seat tube, which accommodates a 150mm Reverb. Santa Cruz says that the boost spacing helped them get the chain stays shorter and improves the bracing angle of the spokes.

I was already looking forward to a trip to Downieville to ride bikes with the crew from Santa Cruz. The event was called the Gold Rush; attendees included a small group of dealers, Santa Cruz Syndicate riders, media, and Santa Cruz staff. When I found out that we would be riding the new Bronson and 5010 bikes, I felt like a kid at Christmas. The visit started with a presentation of the new bikes, where the Santa Cruz design group went over the changes with us. They mentioned that they tweaked the leverage rate on the rear suspension, and that the suspension improvements might be the most important change to the bikes. They claimed that the new bikes would be more responsive at the top of the travel while providing more support through the mid stroke, and a consistent ramp up. That sounded good to me, but I was skeptical that this would impress me as much as the new fit and geometry based handling characteristics.

The first day, I rode the Bronson (pictured above, in Kalimotxo & Yellow) on a trail called Butcher - we did two runs. Right when I got on the bike, I noticed that the suspension did feel more plush, and seemed to have a more natural feel to it. There are a lot of rocks on Butcher, and the suspension was truly impressive - maybe Santa Cruz was right. It soaked up big bumps and small bumps with control left over. The steady ramp up makes the suspension predictable and facilitates an intuitive rider connection to the bike. There was no wallowing in the mid stroke, or blowing through travel.

Kona Honzo 29er mountain bikereview and photos by Eric (Auk) Akiyoshi, The Path Bike Shop Ambassador Race Team
 
A few months back, my weight weenie, amazing, aggressive-trail, 130mm travel, sub-26-lb, uber carbon, do-everything, full-suspension, 29er was sent back to Factory X for some warranty work.  I decided to build a Kona Honzo 29er since the geometry looked amazing and I wanted something to pedal around while the “super-bike” was being examined at Factory X.  The steel 29er Kona Honzo looked like it just might fill in nicely. 
 
An unassuming, 7-lb steel hard tail seems out of place in these modern times of full suspension carbon frames.  Kona product manager Chris Mandell once described it as, “...a trail bike that can go into the all-mountain realm.” (Dirt Rag, Feb 2014).  True to the design intent, the Honzo inspires the charger mentality through the chunky-gnar of Orange County, CA
 
 

2014 Kona Process 153 on the trail at sunriseReview and photos by Eric (Auk) Akiyoshi, The Path Bike Shop Ambassador Race Team

The 2014 Kona Process 153 is, to quote one great rider, "…a game changer!"  The legacy of Kona trail bikes includes classics like the King Kikapu (4-inch), Dawg (5-inch), and the Coiler (6-inch).  Having ridden each one of those bikes, the Process 153 has some, proverbial, big wheels (errr…shoes), to fill; maybe that is why it rolls on 27.5" wheels?

Earlier this year, there were rumors of the Process bikes getting some rough and rowdy testing in SoCal.  Solid reports started hitting the internet in July after Kona invited dealers to ride the 2014 lineup at the annual Kona dealer event, creating quite the buzz.  In early October, the Path Bike Shop received a shipment of production bikes and the "Process" had arrived.
 
There are plenty of articles on the design philosophy behind the Process lineup (just Google search on "Kona Process bikes") so it won't be rehashed.  Suffice it to say that the 153 mm of rear travel was the result of goals and objectives set by the design team rather than designing a bike around a specific travel amount:  pivot locations, long-ish top tubes, super low stand over, short chain stays, and low bottom brackets, all tweaked for peak performance.  Perhaps another way to characterize the design is "right sizing" the geometry.
 
Looking at the lines of the Kona Process 153, it's a darn good looking bike; just sitting there, it encourages confidence.  Someone once said, "…a bike needs to speak to me."  The Process 153 "speaks" volumes.  The Orange and black scheme was a bold move and executed nicely.  One small gripe, the lack of  space to fit one's favorite bike shop stickers without covering up the Kona logos...
 
2014 Kona Process 153 custom build from The Path Bike ShopBelow is a quick summary the geometry measurements:  just think, long, low, and slack…errrr, "right sized."
 
Bike Geometry
  • Head angle: 66.5-deg
  • Bottom Bracket (height): 13.4-inches
  • Chainstay: 16.75-inches
  • Effective top tube / reach: 23.7-inches / 17.1 (comparable other mediums have ETTs around 23-inches and reaches about an inch shorter).
  • Seat tube angle: 74-deg
A plethora of 27.5" wheeled bikes with about 150-mm of rear travel with killer geometries hit the market for 2014 (e.g. Rocky Mountain Altitude Rally Edition, Santa Cruz Bronson, Giant Trance SX 27.5).  However, this ride stands apart with it's 16.75-inch chain stays, lowest-in class sagged BB height, longer reach / short stem, and super low stand-over clearance.
 
Build Kit / Weight
This particular custom build started as a Process 153 (non-DL version), complete with the super sick 2014 Rockshox Pike RC fork.  From there, some personal touches were added:  drive train (SRAM XX1), wheels (Stan's Flow rims on DT Swiss 240 / Chub hub with comp spokes), dropper post, and ENVE carbon DH handlebar.  The stock Shimano Deore brakes weren't changed; consensus is that they feel and perform as well as their lighter cousins.  The final build weight is right at 29.75 lbs; it's no XC Racer-boy bike, but respectable enough for what it's meant to do.
 
Rides on the 2014 Kona Process 153  
In the span of a week, the Process 153 was taken to a local bike park (Snow Summit in Big Bear, CA), ridden through the Santa Ana Mountains (long steep climbs with steep, chunky, exposed downhills), railed through some local favorites at the Santiago Oaks Regional Park (short, steep ups, quick downs), and pedaled in south Orange County's Aliso Woods Wilderness Park.  Four very different riding conditions, about 8 hours of saddle time, and 15,000 feet of descending goodness!
 
2014 Kona Process 153 custom build from The Path Bike ShopPerformance…BRRAAAP!!!
People asked, "how does it climb compared to a first generation Intense Slopestyle, or even the recently released Rocky Mountain Altitude?"  Comparisons have been made to a "…mini-Downhill rig…"  Affirmative, it climbs as well as any gravity oriented trail bike and inspires confidence like a DH rig.
 
The longer top tube / reach measurement makes the transition from pedaling to descending completely natural with no need to search for that magic balance point between overweighting the front nor slipping too far off the back.  Chasing some local fast guys around Big Bear, the 153 goaded me on, faster and faster, bigger and bigger.  Brief thoughts flashed across my mind, "…should I be going this fast?" and "…dang this rig wants to charge harder, but I'm freakin' tired!"  Off-camber turns linked with table tops, rhythm sections, doubles, and built up berms leading into big drops, the Process handled these with aplomb!  Whew, my hands need a break just writing about the thrill.
 
As for climbing, the super short, 40 mm, stem might cause a little consternation for uphill stability.  However, coupled with the longer reach measurement, steep-ish seat tube angle, and low bottom bracket, the Process is as stable as it needs when the going gets steep.
 
When all was said and done, I often forgot I was riding a 650b/27.5" wheeled bike.  The ride is responsive and playful enough, and also gives that high speed DH stability.
 
Enough writing, go find a bike and ride.

 

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