by 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.
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.
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?
By Luke Wronski, employee of The Path Bike Shop
When I began the search for a new bike I was looking for an aggressive and snappy handling 6" travel 26er. When I found the Altitude, I found it to be just as snappy and fun as any 26", with improved pedal-ability due to the slightly larger wheels.
Due to Rocky Mountain's "Straight up Geometry", which pertains to the straight up seat-tube angle, the Altitude climbs even the steepest ascents with comfort and ease. I've managed to climb comfortably with the bike in its slackest setting, but if climbs are a struggle the adjustable geometry chip is there to help. In addition to the geometry, the 27.5" wheels also help this bike maintain traction on technical climbs, and help the rider stay planted in the center to preserve energy.
In rough stuff the Altitude easily plows through the roughest rock gardens and feels confident on steep chutes and drops. Although the bike is stable and confidence inspiring, this is not at the cost of playfulness and flick-ability. The rear suspension of the Altitude is progressive, which favors a rider who tends to push hard into obstacles and needs the suspension to refrain from bottoming out too much.
When it comes to producing cool bikes, Kona is on it! The 2013 Kona Operator is definitely one of the best downhill bikes I have owned and pedaled and honestly I was really sold on a Specialized Demo 8 thinking there was nothing better. Once I rode the Kona Operator, I was blown away!
It didn’t feel like a big, sluggish DH bike and I immediately noticed it sat higher in the travel. When I corner in braking bumps it feels way more stable than all my other DH bikes I have ever owned and the bike tracks very well through high speed corners to rocky off camber turns. The short chainstays really enhance the cornering and at the same time is still super stable at high speed chunk and straightaways. I felt comfortable the first time I jumped this bike, it handles well and was very predictable in the air and getting back on the ground!
Five Weeks, Zero Chain Drops
SRAM's XX1 Still Causes Fits
Live with SRAM XX1, the new 11-speed, single-chainring, slackless drivetrain for five weeks and you're going to have some regrets.
First, you'll find yourself stuck with the urge to burn all front derailleurs. Not just yours, either. Your friends will be beating you away from theirs, too. But that's not all. Oh, no. All your old-school chain-slapping rear derailleurs will be destined for the flames as well.
Truth is, if you ride in a way that's ever made your chain fall off, you'll be riding this stuff inside of 12 months. It's that good. With the switch from a Shimano 2x10 setup I lost both the chain-dropping antics common to clutchless drivetrains (yes, Shimano makes one. No, I didn't have it) and three quarters of a pound from the bike. It was like losing a noisy anchor. Missed it about as much, too.
"…no sir, I'm holding on too tight, I've lost my edge…" (Top Gun)
Ten months ago, my left Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) was completely ruptured, every other ligament in my knee was at least partially torn, and one of the meniscus required repair work (basketball injury). Enter one magnificent orthopedic surgeon (Dr. David Gazzaniga), one stellar rehab center (Breakthrough Physical Therapy), and six months of arduous rehab and the knee is back FSA (Full-Speed Ahead).
Six weeks on crutches, 10 weeks off the bike, and about 14-weeks off the dirt messed with my mind: Or perhaps it was just mental games of wanting to avoid another blown ACL. I felt like that pilot, Cougar, in Top Gun, "…no sir, I'm holding on too tight, I've lost my edge…"
Road Bike…Cyclocross (CX)…Monstercross…Fargo Cross (FX)?!?!?!
After almost 9 years of commuting to work via bicycle on everything from an Ellsworth Joker to a Moots Compact Road bike, I met the Salsa Ti Fargo. The Fargo has been around since 2008, and in 2011, Salsa released their Ti version: US made (by Lynskey) and weighs in right around 3.25-lbs +/-. The Fargo is Salsa’s “…drop-bar, offroad, adventure bike” complete with 3 (on the small) or 4 waterbottle bosses on the frame, rack tabs, and disc only brakes.
Conventional mountain bike wisdom says that the quick way through feature-filled backcountry trails is with five to six inches of travel and 26-inch wheels. Conventional mountain bike wisdom is changing.
Big-wheel bikes are proving themselves capable in virtually any environment – from the World Cup to the Downieville All-Mountain World Championships to, well, wildly insignificant races here in our local Santa Ana Mountains – like this year’s Ultra Quest.
Here’s a closer look at the bike that won that race – a Santa Cruz Tallboy built specifically for covering ground quickly in the backcountry. At 24.8 pounds ready to ride, this bike is three to six pounds lighter than most long-travel small-wheel bikes, yet it’s at home on the same terrain.
I purchased my Santa Cruz Tallboy from The Path a few months ago (I’m the one with Tani in the pic). I am writing this unsolicited update of my experiences.
Let’s first start with the basics. Why did I choose the Tallboy? My rationale was I wanted a 29er. But, the main drawback of 29ers was the weight. Based on simple physics, the heavier the bike, the more effort the climbs. On the flip side, I come from a road bike background, and the 29er just feels right. Also, descents are better/easier because I feel 29er rolls over stuff better. With my skills (or lack thereof), I need all the help I can get.