Posts in the category Feature

2016 Axle Standards, Part 1: Rear 148mm Thru Axle Coming Fast & It’s About More Than Just Better Wheels

2016-axle-standards-boost148-is-coming

Just when you thought things might be settling down for a bit, with 650B wheels all but taking over the mid/long travel segment, 29ers owning the XC field and 26″ bikes relegated to entry level, youth and gravity bikes. Alas, the 148mm thru axle that seemed to be a novelty when introduced on Trek’s 2015 Slash and Remedy bikes may soon be ubiquitous.

But why?

Surprisingly, there are a lot of reasons why this makes sense. Ones good enough to actually justify the annoyance of another axle standard that’ll require new hubs and new frames to take advantage of. Ones that will make mountain bikes better in quite a few ways. And while most companies we talked to wouldn’t provide details of their own forthcoming products on the record, some would speak in generalities. We have it on good authority from some of the biggest parts suppliers that the 148mm axle standard will become the major new feature of 2016 bikes from almost every major company. SRAM is on board since they’re providing the wheels for Trek’s new Remedy 29er, the first bike to use Boost 148. And Norco told us outright they’re “planning … a couple of new platforms to use this standard.”

Here’s what we learned…

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How To Build A NAHBS Bike – Part 1: Starting The Process Of A Custom Bike

Matter-Cycles-Benefat-Front-Side-2_1024x1024

Bikes shown at the North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show are objects worthy of drool. For years, I have seen the art that passes through those halls, and dreamt of someday owning one of these rolling masterpeices. The most impressive are the bikes that can hold their own for finish quality, yet you know are going to be ridden hard once the owner takes it from the show hall.

A few months back, we covered new builder Matter Cycles. After striking up a conversation with the owner, Collin, he mentioned that he would be showing his bikes at NAHBS this year. When writing the original story on them, I was very impressed with the BeneFat, Matter’s take on a fat bike. The 420mm chainstay length is the shortest I have seen on any fat bike, and I was looking for a trail-oriented fattie. A Surly Ice Cream Truck is a part of my stable for winter fat bike riding, but I wanted more of a dirt-oriented fat bike. You know, long, slack and low for ripping the trail.

Most NAHBS show bikes are actually owned by the builder’s customers. Most small builders don’t have the resources to build show-specific bikes, and they work with their customers to show off some of their best work. In this series, we will be following the entire process of building a Matter BeneFat, custom for me, and crafted as a show peice for the show. Here’s how it starts…

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Sneak Peek: Louisville Mega Cavern will House World’s Largest Underground Bike Park

Louisvill mega cavern bike park mtb bmx underground cave  dirt jump (5)

Beneath the streets of Louisville, Kentucky, there lurks a monster. But this is no horror story, it’s one of dreams. Specifically, the wild dream to turn the largest cavern in the state of Kentucky into a multi-faceted business park that will soon be home to the largest underground bike park in the world. What sounds like an absolutely insane idea comes to us from co-owners of the Louisville Mega Cavern, Jim Lowry, Tom, and Don Tyler. After all, as Jim told us, their motto is “you have to be a little crazy.”

Crazy doesn’t begin to describe the Mega Cavern itself. Opened in the 1930′s by Ralph Rogers as a limestone mine, the man-made structure had been mined 24 hours a day for 42 years straight. When the digging was complete it had left a massive cavern with 4 million sq. feet and over 17 miles of passage ways. Considered to be the largest building in the state of Kentucky, the decision to turn the Mega Cavern into a business park required the creation of new building codes due to the out-of-the-ordinary circumstances.

After purchasing the cavern in 1989, Jim and his partners began a recycling operation inside in 1992 which still runs to this day. It wasn’t until 1999 that they started building offices inside for local businesses to lease, which now accounts for a half million square feet inside the cavern. Before any businesses moved in, the owners were faced with an interesting dilemma. The ceilings were so high -more than 90ft in some spots- that prospective customers came in and couldn’t picture the space being utilized, so they left. Eventually, enough dirt was brought in to raise part of the floor 62 feet, leaving a 24 foot high ceiling which was standard for warehouses at the time. Above the 24 foot high ceilings, there is another 26 feet of solid limestone – enough for geologists to call it one of the safest places in Kentucky. So safe, in fact, that it was one of the largest fall out shelters during the Cuban Missile Crisis capable of housing 50,000 people, and still acts as a safe haven for vaults and other storage today.

Even though the cavern has a massive heating and air conditioning system, Jim said it’s never used. With a nearly constant 58º F temperature, body heat and heat radiating from computers and equipment is enough to keep it comfortable. That makes it ideal for an indoor bike park as well as the zip line and ropes course since it remains warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Considering how little we actually saw of the cavern, it’s hard to process just how big it really is. One of their biggest attractions this time of year is the Lights Under Louisville – a 1.2 mile drive through the cavern in the family vehicle to see an expansive display of 2 million Christmas lights. Even though they are adding a 385 thousand square foot bike park, it seems like they are just starting to scratch the subterranean surface…

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SRAM simplifies, lightens 1x groups w/ new direct-mount X-Sync chainrings (UPDATED)

SRAM X-Sync direct mount chainrings for 1x11 drivetrains

Perhaps spurred by the popularity of Race Face’s CINCH 1x rings and other 3rd party, lighter chainrings, SRAM’s finally taking advantage of the weight savings to be had by moving to a direct mount chainring system. Their direct mount design is already in place, but until now it’s been used to hold the spider.

The new X-Sync drops the two piece design to save weight, and it’ll open up smaller tooth counts. You can now get an X-Sync chainring with just 26 teeth or up to 40 teeth, with all even increments in between accounted for. Aftermarket cranksets will all ship with the popular 32 tooth ring. They’re compatible with XX1, X01 and X1 1400 cranksets. And while you won’t be able to retrofit them to a standard XX or X9 because of the spider interface with the chainrings, you will sort of be able to mount them to X0 (UPDATE: and X9!) crank arms from the past few years…

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#BikeStartup: 3 Steps to turning your big idea into a product cyclists will love

The various prototypes of the Fortified Defender

The various prototypes of the Fortified Defender

Slava Menn is a serial entrepreneur and CEO of Fortified Bicycle.  He loves biking, building, entrepreneuring, and teaching.  In this monthly series, he shares his team’s hard-learned startup lessons with aspiring entrepreneurs.

Last month we discussed how haters will tell you not to start a company and why you should do it anyway.  Then we covered the first three lessons for launching your business:

  1. Turn your pain into a product idea
  2. Figure out if others need this product
  3. Do so qualitatively first (talk to people) then quantitatively (surveys)

Now that you’ve completed the first three lessons, you’re so confident the world needs your product that you start mass-producing thousands of units, right?  Not so fast…

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Review: Rockshox’s Bluto RL Fat Bike Suspension Fork & What It Means for Riders

Bluto-Odia

The Rockshox Bluto changed the game for fat bikes. Just like the 29ers that heralded before, it took the release of a major brand’s suspension fork to start to give the idea traction (pun intended) in the minds of consumers. Many of the early adopters of the fat bike movement were polarized on the need for suspension when you already have a 4″ tire at 8psi being able to take the majority of shock before it is transmitted to the rider.

Interestingly, the same brand that brought us the Reba, propelling 29ers into mainstream, also has brought us the Bluto, doing the same for fat bikes. SRAM remains one of the most flexible companies in the business, most likely to be the early adopter of new technology. Simply because of this business strategy of working closer together with their OEM customers to be on the front of new trends, they often lead and let the others follow. These risks may not always pay off, but when they do, customers take notice.

Now that the Rockshox Bluto has been on the market for a season, and is entering the first bit of snow use, we discuss our thoughts on the use and application of a product that has changed where the tracks of fat tires go.

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Review: Rolf Ares4 Disc Brake, Carbon Fiber Road Bike Wheels

Rolf Prima Ares 4 carbon disc brake road bike wheels long term review

After beating the snot out of their Ralos CXC carbon 29er wheels last summer and riding away very impressed with their durability, I was curious if that same quality transferred to their road wheels. Over the summer and through the fall, I’ve been testing the mid-height Rolf Prima Ares4 disc brake road wheels aboard my Alchemy, and, sure enough, they met all expectactions.

Designed to be light, fast and generally capable of anything, the Ares 4 comes in at 42mm deep with a slightly bulged aero shaped rim. It’s available for rim brakes, too, but it’s the disc brake version that was tested. They say it’s perfectly fine for cyclocross, however my testing was on pavement and gravel/dirt roads only, on which it excelled…

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Review: Race Face Turbine Cinch Cranks – From Enduro to Fat Bikes, There’s a Spindle for That

race face cinch turbine crank fat bike enduro 170 190 spindle review weight  (3)

First introduced on the Next SL carbon crankset, the Race Face Cinch crankset interface promised a revolution in crankset design. No longer limited to a single spindle or chainring configuration, Cinch meant compatibility for a much wider range of bikes while giving the end user an extremely versatile product.

After the Next SL got its legs, Race Face introduced the Turbine Cinch – their first aluminum crank with the design. Not only did the Turbine represent a much more economical Cinch crankset, but provided an option for fans of metal rather than carbon for their crank arms. After the weigh in and installation, it was out to the trails for a season of abuse. See how they fared plus their new assignment next…

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Review: Ergon GE1 Grips and SME3 Pro Carbon Saddle

Ergon GE1 SME3 PRo carbon saddle review weight (1)

Years ago when Ergon grips started showing up on the rigs of all the local endurance racers, I must admit, I wasn’t all that interested. Sure, they looked like they were quality grips with good design, but I never really liked the feel of the big ergonomic grips on my bike. Eventually I was convinced to buy one of the first pairs of the GA1s. Their rounded shape promised better feel for technical riding, but truthfully they didn’t stay on my bike for long.

Thankfully, the GE1 is worlds apart from that first GA1 (which is also now much improved with the new GA1 Evo). Hailed as the company’s first “enduro” specific grip, the round but still very ergonomic grip looked great on paper and turns out to be just as good in real life. As a company that focuses on your body’s points of contact with the bike, Ergon also offers a full range of saddles which could redefine your perception of comfort….

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