Review: Soma Wolverine

Wolverine-6

Tester: Justin Steiner
Price: $620 (frameset)
Weight: 7.1 pounds (frameset)
Sizes: 50, 52 (tested), 54, 56, 58, 60, 62 cm

I’ve always been a sucker for bicycles that offer heaps of versatility. Sure, some folks will argue that aiming for versatility results in a “jack-of-all-trades, master of none” scenario, but in reality most of us are more jack than master anyway.

Wolverine-8

On paper, Soma’s Wolverine offers compelling versatility in terms of tire and drivetrain flexibility as well as options for mounting racks and fenders. The Wolverine frame is constructed from Tange Prestige heat-treated chromoly steel and butted chromoly stays. The rear triangle offers mounts for fenders and racks, and the disc brake caliper mounts to the sliding dropout.

Wolverine-3

The Tange/IRD rear dropouts offer adjustable chainstay length and the ability to run a singlespeed setup. These dropouts are also compatible with many of Paragon Machine Works’ dropout offerings, including Rohloff, thru axle, direct mount and other options.

Wolverine-7

The fork uses a flat crown and Tange Infinity chromoly fork legs with double braze-ons at the dropout for rack and fender mounts as well as mid-mount eyelets and mini rack mounts for a front rack.

A small section of the drive-side chainstay also unbolts in order to install or remove a belt for belt drive. Originally, the Wolverine was slated for development as a belt drive compatible version of Soma’s popular Double Cross. However, Soma employee Evan Baird suggested the company push tire clearance into the monster ‘cross realm to give riders more options.

Wolverine-5

The team’s effort to maximize utility then led them to lengthen the wheelbase and increase stack height to improve on the Wolverine’s light touring chops. With clearance for 45 mm tires with fenders, or 1.8 to 2 inch wide knobby tires—depending on volume and knob size—without fenders, the Wolverine holds up the monster ‘cross description quite well.

Top tube lengths on the smaller sizes run on the longer side, so be sure to take a close look at the 50 and 52 cm frames. The smallest is said to fit riders from 5 feet 4 inches to 5 feet 8 inches, while the 52 cm spans 5 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 10 inches.

Wolverine-10

Soma currently offers the Wolverine as a frameset only, but the company built up a complete bike to facilitate testing, including a SRAM Rival 1×11 drivetrain and Avid BB7 brakes. The Easton Heist 24 mountain bike wheels offer ample width for the Shikoro tires in a 42 mm width. Soma’s Rain Dog fenders round out the build and keep salty winter road spray and spring showers at bay.

A couple things struck me on my first couple of rides aboard the Wolverine. First, I had forgotten how supple and lively a steel bike can feel, even at this price point. The ride quality improvement when you jump from a basic 4130 tubeset to even an entry-level, name-brand tubeset is significant.

Wolverine-9

Secondly, the big Shikoro tires rolled very well and were incredibly comfortable. This was my first extended test of SRAM’s 1×11 drivetrain on a drop bar bike and I’ve come away impressed. At first, the larger ratio jumps between gears were noticeable, but I quickly acclimated.

This setup is great for all-around recreational and commuting use, but may not offer enough gearing range for steep terrain when loaded for a camping weekend. My test rig had the 42-tooth chainring up front, which I would definitely swap for the 38-tooth for touring—the smallest chainring offered with the Rival crankset.

Wolverine-2

Just as Soma intended, the handling of the Wolverine straddles the middle ground between drop-bar commuter, monster ‘cross bike and light touring rig. Handling is quicker than you’d find on a true touring rig, but slightly more relaxed than you’d find on a cyclocross bike.

Off road, the Wolverine feels great on graded dirt surfaces or anything that could be loosely classified as a road. When you turn onto singletrack the Wolverine holds its own but the road-oriented geometry requires quick reflexes. With its plethora of rack options the Wolverine is ready for adventure.

However, it’s important to keep in mind this is designed as a light touring bike. It’s more than up to the task, but the lighter your load the more fun you’ll have. If you’re looking for a round-the-world-with-the-kitchen-sink rig, there are better choices on the market such as Soma’s Saga touring bike.

Wolverine-4

With a reasonable weekend’s worth of gear, the Wolverine’s handling and frame stiffness both felt great. In day-to-day use as a commuter rig, the Wolverine was a treat. Handling is lively and fun if you’re feeling frisky, yet mellow enough to let you zone out and decompress on your way home from work.

Set it up with fenders and commuting tires for weekly commutes. Rip the fenders off and throw on some knobbies for a long weekend gravel bikepacking adventure. Run it as a singlespeed commuter during the winter to save your drivetrain. The options are nearly limitless if you enjoy tinkering.

Wolverine-1

No doubt, there are a lot of bikes on the market promising versatility. Soma’s Wolverine is a fine example of one that offers highly functional versatility with a few features, such as the sliding dropouts and belt drive capability, that set it apart from entry-level offerings. It’s easy to see this as a versatile drop-bar solution for anyone outside of the performance road or ‘cross racing realm.

It’s now available in black in addition to orange.

 

Print

Review: GT Traffic 1.0

GT Traffic-9

Tester: Adam Newman
Price: $660
Weight: 27.8 pounds
Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL (tested)
More info: GT Bicycles

Practicality and fashion are a difficult mix. Some would say they’re even incompatible. Many bikes will get you where you need to go, but they aren’t exactly turning heads.

GT Traffic-8

If you’re reading this magazine you likely have more than a passing interest in two-wheeled transit. But you don’t have to be a bike nerd to appreciate having fun in the saddle, and that’s what I found with the GT Traffic.

GT Traffic-1

Sitting atop the line of three Traffic models, GT says the 1.0 is built for urban professionals, suburban commuters or anyone who wants a really practical bike that doesn’t just blend in with the crowd. It takes several design cues from the sportier GT Grade models, but incorporates a more upright posture and commuter-friendly features like the kickstand mount.

GT Traffic-3

The aluminum frame features the classic GT Triple Triangle, and the silver finish is classy without a ton of logos marring it. It is available in six sizes, so almost anyone should be able to find a good fit. At 6-foot-2, I rode the XL.

GT Traffic-12

The Traffic is a solid platform for getting where you need to go and fun enough to take you a little bit beyond. While I will admit to being spoiled by some of the high-end bicycles we get to demo, I was impressed with the value of the build. Included are Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, full coverage fenders and even a bell. Add some lights and a lock and you’re off.

GT Traffic-10

Propulsion runs through an SR Suntour triple crankset and 8-speed cassette. I’ll admit to using the center 38-tooth chainring the vast majority of the time, but the 28-tooth granny gear was appreciated once in a while. I think I used the 48-tooth big ring only once or twice.

GT Traffic-11

Moving the chain from one chainring to a larger one is a bit slow but it always got there. Out back the wide range of the 11-32 Sunrace cassette was great for hills, and shifting through the Shimano Altus rear derailleur was crisp and easy, a remarkable difference from the front.

GT Traffic-6

One hangup was the Acera shifter only has a “pull” motion for the cable release, not the two-way release of high-end Shimano shifters, so you have to take your index finger off the brakes to shift. After a few rides I had adapted to it though.

GT Traffic-7

On the road the ride is smooth with a sporty, but not aggressive, body position. The swept back handlebars keep your head up and your elbows bent, ready to dodge that errant taxi cab about to pull out in front of you.

GT Traffic-4

The 40 mm Schwalbe Road Cruiser tires offer a smooth ride without much risk of punctures, and while many purists will scoff at the aluminum fork, I didn’t even notice it.

GT Traffic-5

The best thing about the Traffic is its versatility. For rides around town I found myself repeatedly reaching for it. There aren’t many places you couldn’t go on this thing, and knowing that you didn’t break the bank to get there only makes it that much more fun.

GT Traffic-13

I wouldn’t hesitate to take it out for rides through the countryside, or throw some front and rear racks on and go for a tour. Dirt? Gravel? Pavement? Sure, why not?

 

Print

Review: Scott Sub Evo 20

scott sub evo-2

Drawing on Scott Sports’ European sporting and racing heritage, the Evo 20 is designed to be an urban bike that is well-suited to its environment and fun to ride. In practice, I found it to be a very well-thought-out bicycle that had just about everything you’d find yourself needing to navigate through your city’s streets and alleyways.

The Evo’s frame and fork are aluminum so there’s no worry about rust. There are adequate fenders fore and aft to ward off the spray from the Continental City Ride II tires. I think the addition of a small mudflap on the front fender could limit the very small amount of water that gets to your feet when riding around rain-soaked roads.

scott sub evo-4

The tires are pretty great in most conditions as well. These tires have a very nice tread that sheds water well and puts a lot of rubber on the ground. An added bonus is their internal belt, which enhances the puncture resistance of the tire. Nobody wants flats, especially when you are on your way to work or a hot date and don’t want to get dirty patching tubes.

scott sub evo-5

The Evo has a 10-speed Shimano drivetrain with a 48x36x26 crank matched up to an 11-34 cassette, which equates to plenty of gears for all those fun hills! Of course, once you go up you’ll need to come down, so Scott equipped the Evo with a set of Shimano hydraulic disc brakes with 160 mm rotors. Snazzy.

scott sub evo-3

While you’re pedaling around town you’ll probably want to pick up a thing or two from the store and cart it home with you. To aid in your deliveries, there’s a Racktime rear rack that not only has a spring clamp to hold down your precious copy of Bicycle Times magazine, but also features the Snapit system. Snapit allows you to securely mount and remove bags by way of a simple latching system. Of course if you don’t have a compatible bag, you can just use the rack normally. While you are in the store you can prop your bike up with a kickstand that does a pretty good job of keeping the bike upright and stable.

What will they think of next? I’m glad you asked. Lights that never need recharging. Yep, the Evo has a Shimano dynamo hub that powers a front and rear light. The rear light does not blink; remember Scott is a European brand and they don’t like blinkies over there. It’s plenty bright though.

scott sub evo-1

That brings us to the front Busch & Müller light. Great idea, poor implementation. Unlike the mid-headtube mounted light on the cheaper Evo 30, the 20’s front light sits on top of the fender and is positioned in a way that the fender and tire can obstruct the beam. The light can be tilted so that the beam is not obscured, but then it does not illuminate the road directly in front of the bicycle. I would suggest relocating the light to a point higher up on the frame.

Other than the front light’s somewhat perplexing placement, Scott Sports did a great job with the Evo 20. It incorporates pretty much everything you’re going to want in an urban commuter and wraps it up in a comfortable, fun package.

  • Price: $1,399
  • Weight: 32.7 pounds Sizes: S, M, L (tested), XL
  • More info: Scott Sub Evo 20

 

Print

First Impression: Novara Mazama

NOVARA_MAZAMA_BIKE_REI

Every day is a good day for an adventure bike! This one comes to us by way of REI. Say hello to the steel Novara Mazama, designed for bikepacking, grinding gravel and all of your off-the-beaten-path adventures. It seems to work well on the plain-old road too, just in case you were wondering.

REI_NOVARA_MAZAMA_1

At first blush, this is a pretty great bike. It’s got most of the things I’m looking for in a commuter/hauler/adventure buddy: 40c tires, three bottle cage mounts, a comfortable saddle, lots of gears (30 if you’re counting), mounts for fenders and racks and disc brakes.

REI_NOVARA_MAZAMA_6

It does have some slightly odd handlebars, though. Not quite sure how I feel about them yet. Right now I can’t get into a super comfortable position with them, but time will tell.

REI_NOVARA_MAZAMA_2

The Mazama does have bar-end shifters, if that’s the sort of thing you’re into. You are, aren’t you?

REI_NOVARA_MAZAMA_5

Another cool feature with the Mazama is the Head Block turn limiter. Basically it limits the turning radius of the stem so that your bars don’t come in contact with the frame.

It will be interesting to see how functional it is in real world use, or if it’s just a pain in the long run. So far, it makes a lot of sense.

REI_NOVARA_MAZAMA_4

Among other thoughtful component choices, Novara went with TRP Spyre mechanical discs matched up to 160 mm rotors. TRP designs the Spyres so that both pads are brought into contact with the rotor with the same force, allowing for more even wear. The pads are pretty easy to adjust as well. They have provided ample braking force on a few commutes and an excursion along the singletrack near my house.

I’m looking forward to spending a lot more time in the saddle and reporting back in a future issue of Bicycle Times how it all went. Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss it, or all the other great content we’ve got lined up!

 

Print

First Impression: Kona Humuhumu

I was stopped on the side of the bike path, topping off a slightly underinflated tire.

“Hey nice bike. What’s that extra tube for? Must be heavy duty or somethin’. Is it for extra weight?”

The tube in question is the twin top tube on this here Kona Humuhumu. A retro/cruiser/mountainous/classic/singlespeed/bar-hopping/klunkish/commuter. Why is the extra tube there? Because it can. Why does this bike exist? Because fun. #becausebikes

BT-kona-humu-1

Note: Leopard print saddlebag and pink Klean Kanteen not included.

The Humu has been in Kona’s line since 1992 and was loosely inspired by the legendary Lawwill Pro Cruiser and Koski Trailmaster. More of a giant BMX bike than an upgraded klunker, the original Humu wasn’t meant to be a hard-edged trail tamer, but rather a less expensive way for fans to fly the Kona flag while getting to class, cruising the neighborhood or generally causing a ruckus wherever they went.

1995humuhumu

The current iteration was inspired by a custom build and sports the same classic layout, 4130 steel tubing, moto-style handlebars and let’s-go attitude of the original, but updates it with disc brakes, 29-inch wheels and sliding dropouts.

BT-kona-humu-4 BT-kona-humu-7

Unlike a lot of cruisers, the Humu is available in three sizes so everyone can join in the fun. The Schwalbe Big Apple tires measure a massive 2 inches wide so the ride is magic carpet smooth. The rear hub is nearly silent too, letting you roll in stealthy silence. It’s available in orange or lime for $899.

BT-kona-humu-6

So far I’ve had a blast hopping curbs, blasting through alleys and riding like a hooligan. I’m guessing that’s exactly what Kona was going for.

BT-kona-humu-3

Watch for my long-term review of the Humuhumu in an upcoming issue of Bicycle Times. Subscribe today and help support your independent voice for cycling.

BT-kona-humu-5

 

Print

Review: Peace Bicycles Dreamer

BT39 Peace Bike-2

Dutch city bikes are well known for their pleasing ratio of practicality to style. The Peace Bicycles Dreamer keeps that rule intact with this fully featured ride. Peace Bicycles was founded to bring an affordable, stylish and well-equipped alternative to a market that is still chock full of fixies and expensive boutique models.

BT39 Peace Bike-6

Don’t let the price fool you, this bike looks expensive and was admired by a wide range of the population as I made my way around town. It is classy and understated, but still stands out. The Dreamer is a turn-key commuter, including most of what is often an add-on sale: kickstand, fenders, chain guard, front and rear LED lights, skirt guard and a rear rack with spring clamp. The chain guard is a particular standout, offering a lot more protection than what’s available on most bikes with derailleurs.

BT39 Peace Bike-5

A basic 7-speed Shimano drivetrain has a decent range, though I wouldn’t mind an easier gear for the hills. This wouldn’t be hard to modify, but I’m guessing most riders in flat to moderately hilly cities will be fine as-is. The rest of the parts performed just fine for a city bike. The saddle not only looks good, but offers much better support than most saddles of this type.

BT39 Peace Bike-1

The riding position is upright, and anyone taller than 6 feet is going to feel pretty cramped on the single size, but Peace plans to offer more sizes in the near future. A longer stem would be an easy swap to open up the cockpit for taller riders.

The real star of the show here is the ride quality of this bike. I’ve ridden a few Dutch-style bikes, and they are often heavy and clunky. The Dreamer’s steel frame and high-quality Schwalbe Fat Frank tires provide a much more refined ride quality than I expected. The tires smooth out the ride but still roll much faster than they look. The color and reflective sidewall stripes are icing on the cake. It doesn’t hurt that the Dreamer is lighter than it looks too. It helps to not cut corners, and using aluminum components keeps the weight reasonable.

BT39 Peace Bike-3

The battery-operated LED lights are perfectly functional, although they aren’t terribly bright. For busy nights out on the town, I added extra lights for more visibility. One of the bungees for the skirt guard pulled out of its hook, but there are plenty left to keep skirts out of the spokes.

Part of Peace’s mission reads: “When we were young, the bike was always an escape, a sense of hope and opportunity, and that’s something that we wanted to personally pass on to as many people in need as possible.” To that end, Peace donates a portion of its profits to local bike co-ops to help offset the cost of a bicycle for a rider in need.

BT39 Peace Bike-4

Currently, Peace ships Dreamers directly to consumers who are savvy enough to assemble the bike themselves, or to a bike shop for professional assembly. Although the tool set included with the Dreamer is more than adequate for assembly, I’d recommend professional assembly for all but the most experienced mechanics—the build process is far from easy. Peace is now working on an option for delivering bikes 90 percent assembled and plans to add a few more sizes to the range.

Having a bike like this kept in a handy place ups the odds that the car will stay parked and the bike get used more often. With an attitude and riding position that feels natural and relaxed, the Dreamer matches up perfectly with quick trips to the store, a night on the town or a short commute to work.

 

Print

Review: Tern Eclipse X22

Photos: Justin Steiner

tern x22-2

All new for 2016, the Tern Bicycles Eclipse X22 is designed to pack a big ride into a foldable package. Thanks to its 26-inch wheels the X22 feels and handles like a “standard” bicycle. That’s something that the best tiny-wheeled folders approach, but never quite attain. The Eclipse is also more adept at rolling over uneven pavement, crossing railroad tracks or grinding through gravel than smaller-wheeled bikes.

Tern designed the X22 for speed. Clues are the slick Schwalbe Kojak tires and the racy paired-spoke wheels. The 22-speed Shimano drivetrain has a huge gear range. When needed, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes keep the speedy X22 in check—with plenty of power and mucho modulation.

tern x22_2-1

Throwing a leg over the saddle and grabbing the Ergon grips, I found myself in an athletic, heads-up riding position. The cockpit is roomy and comfy. I was more “over the pedals” than on my personal bikes—so I slid the Ergon SMC30 Pro saddle saddle all the way back and felt more at home.

After reeling off a number of multi-hour rides, I came away impressed with the comfort of both the riding position and the contact points. The Eclipse X22 feels energetic, and it’s a lot of fun to ride. Agile handling makes it a breeze to thread through crowded confines with a flick of the wrist, or dodge potholes with a wiggle of the hips. It’s a lot of fun zipping around town on this responsive, but never twitchy, bike.

tern x22_2-2

The frame and fork have mounts for racks and fenders (offered by Tern, as well as aftermarket brands)—just the ticket for transforming this speedy steed into a workhorse, or packhorse. All-weather daily driver? Check. Light-duty tourer? Go for it.

At a folded size of 16.5 x 35 x 31.9 inches the X22 is not as compact as its smaller-wheeled siblings—something to keep in mind if size and space is a major consideration. The fold/unfold operation is quick and easy via cam-actuated levers on the frame and handlepost. The closure force is adjustable, and the levers feature Tern’s AutoLoc that automatically locks the levers in place to prevent accidental opening (e.g., if the closure force is improperly set too low, or something snags the lever while riding).

tern x22-4

To open the lever, you must first slide back the red AutoLoc button, which releases an internal catch. Which brings me to my one negative experience: I failed to fully release the AutoLoc button the first time I opened the frame lever and managed to break the plastic catch. Tern told me it is considering switching the frame’s AutoLoc design to an aluminum catch at some point in the future. It has already switched to aluminum on the handlepost AutoLoc.

tern x22-3

Despite morphing like a Transformer, the bike feels solid and secure. There’s no undesirable play in the main folding joint or the handlebars. Both the Tern Physis 3D-forged handlepost and Syntace VRO adjustable, double-clamp stem are solidly built. While the VRO stem provides less height adjustment than the telescopic systems on some folders, I had no problem finding a comfortable stem position.

tern x22-1

I’ve ridden a number of folding bikes over the years, but none that has had the chops to deftly dispatch the daily grind, and hold its own in a paceline with pals, as well as the Tern Eclipse X22. I’d love to have this horse in my barn.

  • Price: $2,500
  • Weight: 24.5 pounds
  • Size: One size fits riders from 4’10” to 6’5”
  • More info: Tern Eclipse X22

 

Print

First Impression: Marin Four Corners

Marin GAP Tour (10 of 41)

Photos: Emily Walley

DSC_1764

Marin designed the Four Corners and Four Corners Elite for the daily commute and the weekend adventure, and it couldn’t be more on point. I’m testing the lower priced model, with an MSRP of $1100. It offers all the bells and whistles for fully-loaded touring in an affordable package. The Four Corners is an all-steel frame with mounts for a front and rear rack, fenders and three bottle cages.

DSC_1766

Saddling up, I immediately noticed the upright riding position facilitated by the long headtube. The bars sit higher than what I’m used to and have a 20-degree flare to the drop. On other bikes, I’ve trended toward riding primarily on the hoods and tops, but the Marin’s upright position had me comfortably riding in the drops for long stretches of rolling hills and rail trails—a welcome change. The reach on the size small frame was a little long for me, so I put on a 20 mm shorter stem.

Marin GAP Tour (24 of 41)

To get a sense of the bike’s touring capabilities, I added fenders and a front rack and loaded it down with gear for a mixed-surface tour from Cumberland, Maryland, to Pittsburgh. The ride included crushed limestone rail trail, rolling hard roads, dirt roads and railroad ballast. I carried my weight low on the front rack and the bike handled very well while weighted down.

Marin GAP Tour (10 of 41)

On the small-sized frame, I was unable to include a water bottle underneath the downtube because it hit the fender. Though I haven’t tried yet, I’m speculating that the tire will come very close to hitting even a short bottle without fenders. On my trip, I used a stem-mounted cage for a third bottle.

DSC_2434

The other two bottle mounts are placed so they’re easy to reach for day-to-day use, but they’re not in an ideal location for a frame bag. I zip-tied a cage lower on the downtube, closing up the unused space and allowing room for my frame bag.

DSC_1765-2 DSC_1789

I found the stock Schwalbe Silento 700c x 40 mm tires to be an appropriate spec, rolling well in a variety of terrain and adequately burly, so I wasn’t overly concerned with getting a flat. The Four Corners has clearance for up 45 mm tires with fenders or 29 x 2.1 knobby tires without fenders.

DSC_1765

The Shimano Alivio 9-Speed with 12-36T gearing was adequate while weighted down over Pennsylvania’s rolling hills, but I’d go with a lower gear range for an extended, fully-loaded tour with sustained climbs.

Marin GAP Tour (32 of 41)

DSC_1768

I was thrilled with the stock WTB Volt Sport saddle. One of the biggest pains of rail trail riding are the long, flat sections of saddle time. The WTB is comfortable and supportive and I didn’t find myself sitting gingerly.

Marin GAP Tour (33 of 41)

Look for the full review in an upcoming issue of Bicycle Times. Not subscribed? Sign up today for our email newsletter so you don’t miss stories like this one. Or, subscribe to the print magazine, where you can find the full review of this bike.

 

Print

Review: Trek 920 Disc

From Issue #37

Bicycle touring has changed a lot over the past few years, and while riders once rejoiced for a smooth ribbon of asphalt, a rough and rocky road is now de rigueur. Right on the Trek website you see signs of this preference as the new 920 Disc is classified under the banner of “touring and adventure,” and it’s clearly been designed to peg the needle at the latter end of that dial.

trek-920-review-3

I have to say, the matte green paint and knobby tires look pretty badass, like something you’d expect to see with CALL OF DUTY EDITION stenciled on the side. Besides its looks the main draw of the 920 is of course the wheels and tires, which are straight out of the Bontrager mountain bike catalog: duster elite tubeless ready 29-inch wheels with thru-axles front and rear and XR1 29×2.0 tires. There is ample clearance for a 29×2.2 or a set of fenders with the stock tires.

When not exploring the back roads of the Wild West, the 920 Disc would make an excellent commuter. The build powering those big wheels is a Sram 10-speed drivetrain with 42/28 chainrings and an 11-36 cassette, also borrowed from a mountain bike. Old-school bike tourists will appreciate the bar-end shifters, though I wish the modern SRAM versions could be switched to friction mode. The double chainrings are more than adequate for most riding, but don’t offer a huge range. This might be the first bike I’ve ridden where I was wishing for a little bit lower gear and a higher gear; usually it’s just one or the other.

trek-920-review-2

Built from Trek’s 100 Series Alpha Aluminum, the frame’s tubing is aggressively shaped with a massive downtube and a distinctly kinked top tube. That kink makes room for a second bottle cage on the top of the down tube on frames size 56 and up, for a total of four on the main triangle. There are also bottle cage mounts on each fork leg that do double duty as the front rack mount. In fact, the 920 Disc includes both front and rear Bontrager aluminum racks. While the rear rack is a fairly conventional design, the front rack sits up a bit higher than a set of traditional low-riders, though with the panniers mounted on the second bar from the top the bike handles just fine with plenty of toe clearance.

trek-920-review-9

Bringing it all to a halt is a pair of TRP’s Hylex hydraulic disc brakes, which stand out for their stopping power but are also distinctive for their ergonomics. The main body of the lever houses the master cylinder, and to make room they are quite long. So much so that if you swapped these onto another bike, you’d have to shorten the stem by 10 mm or so to compensate to achieve the same reach to the hoods. The compact bend of the handlebar keeps things pretty comfortable though. I also swapped out the stock stem for a shorter one to dial in a perfect fit.

I loaded the 920 up with panniers and hit the pavement for a 100-mile overnight road ride, and then ditched the racks for some forest road exploring. It’s perhaps a bit too heavy for all-out gravel racing, but I found it’s an excellent companion for all-day back road explorations and dirt road rambling. Despite the aluminum frame, the big tires are more than enough to soak up the road vibrations, and the Bontrager saddle and I got along just fine.

trek-920-review-11

While the basic layout of the 920 Disc is fairly traditional, the details are anything but. Shift cables run internally and the frame is equipped with a port for the Trek DuoTrap S speed and cadence sensor system. The hydraulic brakes might scare off some traditionalists, but they are much appreciated when you’re careening down a mountain with 70 pounds of gear. Purists will also scoff at the notion of an aluminum frame and fork on a touring bike, but if you really think you need a frame that can somehow be pieced back together on the side of the road by a good samaritan with a blowtorch in Uzbekistan, so be it. But I doubt you do.

The other refrain I’ve seen echoing through the message boards is that Trek copied the Salsa Fargo, as if that were the first bike with 29-inch tires and drop bars. While the Salsa is at heart a mountain bike and can run a suspension fork, the 920 Disc isn’t meant for singletrack. Think of it more as a Subaru Outback than a Jeep Wrangler.

trek-920-review-8

The stock tires are most at home on double-track or gravel, but they roll well enough that I left them on for road rides as well. Because they are tubeless ready the bead sits incredibly tight on the rim and fixing a flat requires very high air pressure, some strong thumbs and a bit of cursing to get the tires to seat properly. I recommend setting them up tubeless from the beginning to shed weight and eliminate pinch flats.

While the 920 is meant for more rough and tumble adventures rather than smooth pavement, I would still choose it over the classic Trek 520 model for traditional road touring. My mountain bike experience has made me a big fan of hydraulic disc brakes and thru-axles—modern features that have earned my trust. Whether you go slicks or knobbies, with racks or without, the 920 Disc is a versatile bike that is ready for your next adventure.

trek-920-review-12

Details

  • Price: $2,090
  • Weight: 24.8 pounds (without racks), 27.5 pounds (with racks)
  • Sizes: 49, 52, 54, 56, 58 (tested) and 61 cm
  • More: trekbikes.com

 

Print

Field Tested: Traitor Cycles Slot

From Issue #37

With the Slot, Traitor Cycles set out to create a bicycle that could transition easily between urban commuter and off-road explorer. The idea was to have a bike that could be ridden through the city, to the trailhead, and continue into the wilderness without sacrificing too much from any one experience. Traitor is definitely targeting a rider who wants a do-it-all bike and doesn’t need a more robust mountain bike.

Traitor Slot

The Slot is made from steel and features a decent component group built from a mix of SRAM and Shimano throughout. The 44/32/22 chainrings matched to a 9-speed, 11-34 cassette provided me with a gear for just about every situation, and it all costs less than some of the more modern single and double crank setups.

The stock Avid BB5 brakes and 160 mm rotors are OK; I’m sure the BB5 brakes help to hit the price point, but I missed the adjustability of the BB7 versions and would have liked a larger rotor up front. Swapping rotors is a cheap and easy upgrade that you can do yourself, if needed. Traitor deserves a shout-out for the rear brake placement inside the stays so that it doesn’t interfere with mounting a rack or fender. Nice.

Traitor Slot 3Speaking of touring, the Slot has braze-ons for front and rear racks, fenders and two water bottle cages. The front rack mounts are compatible with low-rider racks like the Tubus Tara. The down tube/ head tube junction has been formed so that even the smaller-sized Slots can accommodate an under-the- down-tube bottle and fender while still using 29-inch wheels. A water bottle under the down tube can get a bit crusty while touring, but it’s useful if you decide to outfit the bike with a frame pack and thus lose the use of cage mounts inside the front triangle.

For rubber, Traitor chose 29×2.1-inch Kenda Small Block Eights. While not the best tire for muddy or wet trails, they did an admirable job in most situations. I found them to be a perfect choice for a bike that is going to be jumping back and forth from the street, to gravel, to dirt. If you want to install full fenders you’ll have to swap out the 2.1s as the Slot will only accommodate up to a 700×45 mm tire with your splash guards on.

When I took it into the woods, the Slot did reasonably well on singletrack. Without bags, it performed just as you would expect a full rigid steel bike to. Without power lost to shock or fork compression, the bike felt efficient, albeit a bit rough in some of the more technical sections of the trail. And as long as the route up the hill wasn’t too muddy, it climbed like a champ.

Loaded up with bags and gear, the Slot didn’t flinch. Of course the weight slowed my progress down, but the frame handled the increased bulk well and I didn’t notice any unwelcome flex or loss of maneuverability. Even on some of the more challenging trails the bike felt well balanced and comfortable. The frame is compatible with an 80 mm suspension fork, but Traitor has also been mulling over selling a version with a suspension fork. I have a feeling that would be just plain awesome.

Traitor Slow 2The bike really showed its worth when it transitioned from riding on a dirt trail to asphalt or gravel. Without any fanfare it just kept trucking along. I took the Slot on some pretty substantial rides with varying types of terrain and it performed as well as I could ask for from a multisurface rig. Long 17.9-inch chainstays and a low bottom bracket kept the bike stable in the dirt and the tires were able to crunch along gravel and roll pretty well along the smoother routes I explored.

The only real problem I had was with the seatpost clamp. I could never get the quick release mechanism to stay tight enough and the 26.8 mm seatpost slipped a bit while traversing rougher roads. I would suggest switching to a bolt-on collar if you experience the same. While Joel DeJong, the general manager at Traitor cycles, wasn’t aware of this issue, he stated they will likely change the post to the more standard 27.2 mm size with the next run of frames.

I really have to hand it to Traitor Cycles. They did a fantastic job building a reasonably priced, great-looking bike that can handle a wide range of terrain and activities. If you are in the market for a bike that you can ride to work or the store, tackle moderate singletrack, and take on tour I definitely recommend looking at the Slot.

  • Price: $1,399
  • Weight: 29.7 pounds
  • Sizes: S, M, L (tested), XL
  • More info: traitorcycles.com

Catch up on all of the Bicycle Times reviews.

 

Print

First Impression: Marin Lombard

Marin Lombard—WEB (1 of 20)

Editor’s note: Here at Bicycle Times we are as mindful of price as you are. So we gathered together a group of six very diverse bikes to showcase what you can find right now at the $1,000 price point. See our introduction here.


Marin describes the Lombard as having been “Birthed from cyclocross and touring parents…” and “Part adventure bike, and part urban warrior.” Those descriptions certainly had me sold from the get-go, this is my kind of bike: versatile.

Marin Lombard—WEB (16 of 20)

We’ve had a lot of conversation around the office lately about just how good bikes around and under the $1,000 price point are these days. Assembling the Lombard further cemented that point in my mind. On initial impression, this bike is very well built and spec’d at the price point.

Let’s take a walk around the bike.

Marin Lombard—WEB (13 of 20)

Due to the subtle matte grey and black palette, the Lombard’s gum-wall Schwalbe Road Cruiser tires draw your attention. These 35mm-wide tires seem like an awesome choice for a bike that will see terrain that varies from dirt to street.

Marin Lombard—WEB (7 of 20)

The second thing to strike me were the Lombard’s subtle reflective graphics. Not only is the branding minimal and tasteful, it also adds an element of visibility after dark.

Marin Lombard—WEB (18 of 20)

Promax Render R cable actuated disc brakes promise all-weather stopping power front and rear. Note the Lombard’s dual eyelets for both a rack and fenders. By mounting the brake inside the rear triangle, Marin greatly simplified rack and fender installation.

Marin Lombard—WEB (8 of 20)

Check out that headbadge and ample tire clearance in the fork with the stock 35mm tires. Looks to me like a 40mm would fit no problem. Might even be able to squeeze a 45mm in there.

Marin Lombard—WEB (20 of 20)  Marin Lombard—WEB (19 of 20)

Rear tire clearance is generous at the seatstays, but a little less forgiving at the chainstays. Anything much bigger than a 40mm tire looks to be a tight fit.

Marin Lombard—WEB (10 of 20)

The Lombard’s 9-speed Sora drivetrain with the 50/39/30 triple chainring offers a wide range of gearing. Let me tell you, this Sora group operates more like an Ultegra group from the 9-speed era than an entry level drivetrain. It really is that good.

Marin Lombard—WEB (9 of 20)  Marin Lombard—WEB (12 of 20)

Marin’s house-brand cockpit rounds out the build. All of these bits are functionally perfect and the fit is spot on for me.

Look for the full Lombard review in Issue #33 of Bicycle Times. Subscribe to the magazine or our eNews to have more of this great content delivered directly to your inbox.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the brand of brake calipers.

 

Print
Back to Top