Review: Marin Four Corners

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Tester: Emily Walley
Price: $1,100
Weight: 26.9 pounds
Sizes: S (tested), M, L, XL

This year is Marin Bikes’ 30th anniversary, and it marks the introduction of an all-new “utilitour” model, the Four Corners. The neutral gray steel frame gives the bike a timeless look, while disc brakes, wide tire clearance and an upright riding position keep pace with cyclists’ expectations for adventure touring and bikepacking.

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What piqued my interest in this bike was its Gemini, do-it-all attitude packaged at an approachable price point. The Four Corners is equipped with a Shimano Sora 50/39/30 crank and 12-36 cassette, wide Schwalbe Silento 700×40 tires and the stopping power of Promax Render 160 mm disc brakes. The bike’s tour-ready spec is rounded out with mounts for racks front and rear, fenders and three water bottles.

Marin also offers the upgraded Four Corners Elite model with a SRAM 1×11 drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes for $2,300.

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The Four Corners was designed with a long top tube—21.8 inches on the small—but also a long stem offering ample room for adjustment. An upright riding position is facilitated by a tall head tube, and the Marin bars have a 20-degree flare to the drop, which allows for a natural hand position that opens up your core. This had me in the drops more than usual, and I’ll struggle to return to a bar without flare.

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On a weekend tour I split my gear between a front rack, frame pack and seat bag. It can be a struggle to fit standard-sized frame packs on small-sized frames, but the long top tube opens up the interior space, expanding storage options for shorter folks. The tires are a good middle-of-the-road rubber, offering adequate rolling speed on hard roads and off-road traction. Best of all they’re stout, making them a good fit in any terrain where you’re susceptible to punctures.

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While the stock tires were capable on smooth sections of singletrack and confident when loaded down with touring gear, there’s ample clearance for swapping to larger tires: up to 700×45 with fenders or 29×2.1 without.

The bike remained poised across varying terrain, its balance un-phased by rutted dirt roads and chunky railroad ballast, proving competent to carry the weight for an extended tour. I found the gear range to be ample for touring Pennsylvania’s rolling hills, but an easier gear may be advantageous on an extended tour with sustained climbs.

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For days between 45 and 85 miles, the WTB Volt Sport saddle was comfortable and supportive, even on long sections of rail trail. “The Four Corners was designed for the rider who is looking for a versatile, modern take on a touring bike,” said Chris Holmes, brand director for Marin Bikes. “[It’s] one that is equally at home with a weekday commute as it is on a week-long adventure.”

For the city dweller, it fills the niche for everyday commuting needs, and for the adventure seeker, the large tire clearance and touring capability encourages exploring on gravel and dirt. As cyclists, what tales would we have to share if everything went as planned? The Marin Four Corners is ready for a change of route and a story to tell.

 

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First Impression: Kona Wheelhouse and Sutra LTD

Kona is pretty well known as a mountain bike brand, but it also has plenty of road-going products with finger-in-your-eye mountain bike attitude. While many companies start with road racing bikes and then branch out into adventure, travel and commuting, Kona focuses solely on the kind of bikes you’d expect to see in Bicycle Times.

Each year Kona hosts its dealers and some of us media slime for an event called the Kona Ride. It’s a chance to get hands-on with the new models and hobnob with the Kona employees. Nearly the entire company joins in and it’s fun to match some faces with the bikes named after them. Traditionally held at the brand’s US office in Bellingham, Washington, this year they invaded our neighbors to the north and hosted it in Squamish, British Columbia.

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If you’ve heard of it but you’re not familiar, Squamish is sort of halfway between Vancouver and Whistler, the mountain bike/ski mecca and host of the 2000 Winter Olympics. Squamish used to be the place where you stopped for gas and a pee on your way north, but in the last few years the city has seen a huge surge in popularity thanks to dual booms of interest and investment in outdoor recreation, namely cycling, rock climbing and whitewater.

I was fortunate enough to have a few days to explore town and sample Kona’s latest bikes. A friend and I grabbed two from the demo fleet and set out to get lost.

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First up is the Wheelhouse. A new model for 2017, it starts with the same Reynolds 853 steel frame as the Roadhouse model introduced last year but does away with some of the frills to hit a lower price point, in this case $1,600. Built with a 10-speed Shimano Tiagra drivetrain and a wide gear range, it’s the perfect do-it-all road bike.

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Disc brakes and 30 mm Schwalbe tires give it great stopping power and a smooth ride, especially when combined with quality steel. Kona says it will fit a 28 mm tire with fenders and maybe a 32 mm without, which is exactly what we like to see in a road bike. And a threaded bottom bracket! Rejoice! 

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The Roadhouse model ($3,799) remains for 2017 and gets an even higher end spec: Shimano Ultegra 11-speed with hydraulic brakes, Mavic wheels and a very cool frame that has been welded AND brazed, then clear coated.

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Halfway through our ride we stopped at Fergie’s, a Squamish institution if there ever was one. It’s an indoor and outdoor cafe open for breakfast and lunch. The property also boasts 12 riverside cabins and a whitewater guiding service, so you’ll have plenty to do before and after you fuel up with some amazing Eggs Benny.

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After lunch my friend and I traded bikes and I hopped aboard the new Sutra LTD ($2,000). Introduced last year, it gets an update for 2017 in the form of even more tire clearance. Officially it will fit a 29×2.1 tire, but you might even fit a little more.

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It ships with the new 45 mm WTB Riddler gravel/adventure tires that can be painlessly converted to tubeless with the WTB Frequency Team i23 rims. Despite the quick release axles at both ends, these are straight-up mountain bike wheels and can handle whatever punishment you want to throw at them.

Compared to the Wheelhouse, the Sutra LTD feels like a much bigger bike. It has a less aggressive position and the flared handlebars are nice and wide. It’s not too burly for road use though, as the tires don’t have that annoying vibration that many treaded tires have on pavement. While we only got to explore some gravel alleys, Kona approves of, no actually encourages, you getting it dirty on some singletrack.

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The steel frame has mounts for up to five bottle cages so stay thirsty, my friends. It’s built with a SRAM Rival 1×11 drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes. It’s also available as a frame and fork for $550.

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While the Sutra LTD takes care of the bikepacking and gravel market its sibling, the Sutra model ($1,400), gets the more traditional road touring treatment with a 3×9 drivetrain, bar end shifters, rear rack, fenders, Brooks saddle and some beautiful, sparkly root beer paint.

Other highlights

We didn’t get to sample any of these new bikes, but there’s a lot to like about the 2017 lineup. You can also read my ride impressions of the Big Honzo DL in our sister magazine, Dirt Rag.

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Jake the Snake: The Jake line of cyclocross bikes gets a few tweaks, and the cantilever brakes are gone for good. The cyclocross/gravel crossover Private Jake model would be my choice.

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Esatto: A disc brake road bike for adventure seekers, not skinny pants racers. It’s available in aluminum, carbon and Ti.

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Rove: Perfect for commuting, light touring or all around adventures that don’t require tires as big as the Sutra LTD. The Rove is available in aluminum, steel and Ti versions. Read my review of the Rove here.

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Unit: Historically a steel, singlespeed 29er, the Unit goes 27plus for 2017, though it keeps the traditional 100/135 mm quick release sliding dropouts. It also gets a whole host of braze-ons so you can build it up for any kind of adventure. It’s also available as a frameset for $525.

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Ute: Kona still makes the Ute.

 

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First Impression: Lauf Grit fork

I think it’s safe to say the Lauf fork design has become iconic. Now in its third gestation, the leaf spring suspension design has expanded to cover nearly every type of off-road bicycle.

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After an original model was designed for mountain bikes dubbed Trail Racer, Lauf expanded into fat bikes with the Carbonara. Now it’s gone a bit skinnier with the Grit fork for gravel and adventure bikes.

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If you’re familiar with the design, there isn’t actually much new here. It is essentially a scaled-down and re-tuned version of the Icelandic brand’s other forks. In this case, the 12 fiberglass springs provide 30 mm of travel and are actually stiffer than the other models. These aren’t fiberglass like a boat; they are extremely strong composite materials that give just the right amount of flex.

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After a few rides on the Grit I’d have to say it is the most transparent of the three variations I’ve sampled. The original mountain bike version took some re-calibrating of your brain, while the fat bike version is more subdued. This gravel version is almost hard to notice until you start getting into the rough stuff.

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It can fit a 700 x 42 tire or a 27.5 x 2.1. Pictured below is a 35 mm tire for some sense of scale. In keeping with the ever-evolving “standards,” it will be available with either a 15 mm or 12 mm thru axle when it goes on sale in August. (Also worth admitting is that my brake housing is too short. Swapping in the Lauf required a longer cable and housing so I cheated and skipped one of the routing points.)

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We’ll be putting it through its paces this summer and following up with a long-term review in an upcoming issue. Why not subscribe now and help support your independent cycling media?

 

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First Ride: New Gravel and Adventure Tires from Maxxis

Words and photos: Emily Walley and Justin Steiner

Gravel and adventure riding are all the rage right now and there doesn’t appear to be any end in sight. As a result, tire manufacturers continue to bring new products to market in order to meet the diverse needs of these disciplines.

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In early April, Maxxis invited us to Mulberry Gap Mountain Bike Get-A-Way near Ellijay, Georgia, in order to sample some of the new tires it has launched within the last year across the road, adventure and mountain bike lines.

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For all that Mulberry Gap offers for mountain biking, the area’s mixed-surface riding shouldn’t be overlooked. Bikepackers frequently stay over at the Get-A-Way on their travels and, after riding and driving Ellijay’s winding roads, we can certainly see the appeal. The surrounding gravel roads have minimal traffic, rolling hills flanked with farmland, some big climbs and noteworthy views.

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While mountain biking was a big focus of the Maxxis Summit weekend, the company also shared its newest gravel adventure tire options, the Rambler and the Re-Fuse. We rode the Pivot Cycles Vault with the Rambler in the front and Re-Fuse in the rear.

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Aptly named, the Rambler is Maxxis’ first gravel-specific tire. It’s currently available in 700 x 40c. Both the 60 tpi casing with SilkShield bead-to-bead protection and the 120 tpi model with EXO sidewall protection offer tubeless-ready construction. Weights check in at 420 grams for the 60 tpi casing and 375 grams for the 120 tpi version. Both casing options will retail for $64. Word is that a 38c version of this tire is in the works for bikes that don’t have quite enough clearance for the 40c version.

The Rambler’s closely-spaced center knobs roll and grip well in dry gravel conditions. We rode the 120 tpi casing and on the front of the Vault and found it to be very supple compared to the 60 tpi Re-Fuse on the back.

All told, the Rambler looks to be a good option for light and fast adventure as well as gravel racing. Just pick the model that offers the protection needed for your use and terrain and roll happily.

Re-Fuse

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Maxxis has offered the Re-Fuse in traditional road sizes (23, 25, and 28 mm widths) for some time now, but has expanded the popular tire into more adventurous sizes. For 2016 the Re-Fuse will be available in 700 x 32c, 700 x 40c and the “new” 27.5 x 2.0 inch road plus sizes, which is really just the old 650b standard. What’s old is new again.

Like the road sizes, the 60 tpi casing utilizes MaxShield technology, which is the SilkWorm bead-to-bead protection teamed with a Kevlar composite layer under the tread area for the ultimate protection. Unlike the road sizes, all three of these tires are tubeless ready.

Weights are 610 grams for the 27.5 x 2.0 inch model ($50), 390 grams for the 32c version ($64) and 520 grams for the 40c Re-Fuse ($64).

On the rear end of the Vault the Re-Fuse felt sturdy. Certainly much stiffer than the 120 tpi Rambler on the front. Though it wasn’t as supple, this extra stoutness was confidence inspiring bombing down dirt roads with chunky gravel at high speeds not having to worry about flatting.

Traction was great on hard-packed dirt, but, as expected, the diamond-shaped file tread doesn’t have a lot of bite on loose surfaces.

Maxxis describes the Re-Fuse as a training tire, but it would also serve you well as all-around road tire.

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Lauf launches new gravel version of leaf spring suspension fork

After we rode the radical Cannondale Slate with its high-tech suspension fork, and got down and dirty with the Lauf leaf spring suspension fork on a fat bike, it only seemed like a matter of time before the two concepts came together.

Adventure riding is all about taking your bike places that you didn’t think it would go and having the freedom to explore. A suspension fork lets you push just that extra little bit harder and rip down that fire road or pothole street without worrying about every little bump.

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Lauf has embraced that concept with its new Grit suspension fork for gravel and adventure bikes. Designed much like the brand’s mountain bike and fat bike forks, it uses a dozen glass fiber leaf springs to provide 30 mm of travel—just enough to take the edge off without changing the nature of the handling.

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It’s available with either a 15 mm thru axle or the new 12 mm road standard, and can fit up to a 700×42 tire or 27.5 x 2.1. The 409 mm axle-to-crown and 47 mm offset pair with a tiny amount of sag to create a geometry that closely matches that of a traditional cyclocross or gravel fork. At 900 grams there is a small weight penalty over a standard fork, but being able to rip any descent should more than make up for it.

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We have a Lauf Grit on the way and we’ll be putting it through its paces so keep an eye out for more. Consumer deliveries should begin in August and it will retail for $790.

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New 700c tires from WTB are ready for adventure

Hot on the heels of its 650b Road Plus announcement, WTB says it will expand its line of 700c tires for all kinds of roads.

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The new Exposure tire with its new, multilayer casing brings WTB’s excellent TCS tubeless technology to a road size. Available in 30c with a slick tread or 34c with cornering knobs, it’s ideal for road bikes that aren’t afraid to get a little dirty. WTB claims a weight of 345 grams or 370 grams. It will retail for $80.

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If your idea of a “road” is something most folks would be afraid to drive on, the new Riddler tires take the tread pattern that first debuted on WTB’s 27.5 mountain bike tires and applies it to 700c. The idea is that the closely spaced center knobs roll as quickly as a file tread, but the full-sized cornering knobs still offer all the bit of a mountain bike tire. It will be available in 37c and 45c with the TCS Light casing for $55 and in a big 29×2.25 version for $68. It looks like a great choice for gravel racing and bikepacking.

 

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Rawland unveils two new adventure bikes

Rawland Cycles has been filling a niche in the bike industry for a decade now as a small brand that produces versatile models that don’t fit neatly into any particular category. “There’s this awesome new zone where I think the fun is,” said Rawland’s Creative Director and VP, Jeremy Spencer. If your idea of fun is getting off the beaten path, you’re probably going to like its newest models.

On Saturday it unveiled them both with a party at Portland’s Velo Cult bike shop. The new Ravn is built for what Rawland calls “All Road Enduro” with *gasp* 26-inch wheels. The Ulv is ready for the backcountry with 27plus wheels and tires. Both models use drop bars and can accommodate a range of wheel and tire sizes.

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The Ravn, above, indeed uses 26-inch wheels with Panaracer Driver Pro tires and will fit a 650b x 42 tire with fenders. While it is optimized for those sizes, Rawland says, it can also fit up to 650b x 58 or 700c x 42 tires.

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The Ulv, above, has even more clearance for a 27plus tire (in this case a Panracer Fat-B-Nimble on WTB’s massive Scraper rims) or even a 29-inch mountain bike tire. It also has additional braze-ons for bikepacking gear.

Both frames are built from custom-drawn and double butted 4130 steel tubes with thru-axles at both ends. The Ravn has a 142×12 axle while the Ulv is 148×12 Boost. Those rear dropouts are replaceable as well, so quick release or singlespeed options might be in the cards.

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The key to both models is the low trail geometry, Spencer said. By lowering the trail the bike becomes much more stable with a load on the front end. Rawland said it wants riders to be comfortable on epic long rides and not have to use super-wide handlebars to maintain control.

“That’s what we love: fat tires and drop bars,” Spencer said.

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In addition to the bikes are the brand’s own line of stems, seatposts and handlebars. The handlebar design takes cues from the classic Nitto designs, Spencer said, with a slight backsweep and very flat ramps and drops. Those parts, along with hubs, the rando rack pictured here and an upcoming porteur rack will be available separately in Rawland’s online store soon.

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Other nice touches include routing for dynamo hub wiring (not included) inside the fork.

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The bikes will be available around April for $2,999. Framesets may or may not be available separately in the future, Spencer said.

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Update: 4.11.2016

Rawland sent us updated geometry numbers:

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Test Ride Report: Cannondale Slate

Photos by Jesse Carmondy and the author

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It was a pretty difficult prototype to disguise. When former professional racer Tim Johnson started ripping around on a modified Cannondale affixed with a Lefty suspension fork a few years ago it attracted quite a bit of attention. Would he race cyclocross on it? Was it even allowed? Was it just an experiment?

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The concept isn’t new, of course. In the mid-1990s, RockShox debuted the Paris-Roubaix fork for road bikes and it carried its riders to the top step in the eponymous race three years in a row. While it seemed like a wave of the future, its popularity faded as quickly as it raced over the cobbles. In the early 2000s, Cannondale had a series of cyclocross bikes built with the brand’s distinctive HeadShok. The 2003 lineup saw both a HeadShok version and a disc-brake model—models that would then roll right into the history books. Lightweight carbon fiber dominated bicycle development for the next decade instead of suspension and braking technologies.

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But the wheel keeps spinning and earlier this year Cannondale elicited a collective “what the…?” with the introduction of the Slate, a 650b road bike with an all-new version of the Lefty fork. While it may seem outrageous, if any brand was going to build such a bike it would be Cannondale, as the company has never shied away from some creative ideas in the course of its 35-year history.

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As riders have continued to push the envelope of what is considered rideable on a “road” bike, Cannondale embraced the opportunity to create a bike that was overwhelmingly specific in its design purpose. It’s also likely to appeal to the rider who wants one bike that can do a little bit of everything and look like nothing else.

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Everything about the Slate’s design began with the fork, in this case a completely new version of the Lefty chassis designed specifically for this model. Dubbed the Oliver, it has 30 mm of travel and a carbon case that keeps the weight at a reasonable 1,100 grams.

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Attached to the Oliver is a 6069-alloy aluminum frame with several design cues from other Cannondale models. The seatstays and chainstays are radically shaped to allow for vertical flex, similar to the SAVE design used on other Cannondale models. There are fender eyelets at the rear dropouts, and two eyelets near where a seatstay bridge would normally be. Cannondale said it is working on a fender set designed specifically for the bike that will mount there.

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While some Cannondale models use a smaller 25.4 mm seatpost for even more comfort, the Slate has a 27.2 mm post and can be outfitted with one of the few dropper posts on the market with internal cable routing available in that size.

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There are three models of the Slate for 2016, and each of them ships with the Oliver fork, hydraulic brakes, Panaracer/Cannondale tires and Cannondale SI cranks. The frame is also identical on all three, with a 142×12 thru-axle and BB30 crankset. Cannondale is sticking with that design despite its less-than-stellar reputation, and mine creaked throughout my test ride.

2016 Slate lineup

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Slate Force CX1, SRAM 1×11 drivetrain, SRAM Force CX1 brakes, $4,260

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Slate Ultegra, Shimano 2×11 drivetrain, Shimano R685 brakes, $3,520

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Slate 105, Shimano 2×11 drivetrain, Shimano R505 brakes, $2,980

While the frame and fork are designed to take the edge of the ride, Cannondale didn’t want to sacrifice performance, so its geometry falls in between that of its EVO race bikes and Synapse endurance road bikes. Because the outside circumference of the 650x42c tires is the same as a 700x23c tire, the chainstays can remain road-bike short at 405 mm. The front-center, however, is pushed out a bit compared to many road bikes for stability when traction is limited. A long reach, short chainstays, suspension fork and dropper post? Are you sure you aren’t reading Dirt Rag magazine right now?

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Alright, so enough of the Powerpoint presentation, how does it ride? Well… it rides like a bike. Cannondale tuned quite a bit of low-speed compression damping into the Oliver so it operates with virtually no sag and doesn’t start bouncing around when you ride out of the saddle. If you do want to firm things up, a simple button at the top of the Oliver engages a virtual lock-out that will still open up into the travel if you hit a bump hard enough. Pressing the outer portion of the dial, which also controls rebound damping, will release the button. For idiots like me, they’ve labeled them “Press to climb” and “Press to descend.”

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I was looking for the button marked “Press for larger lungs” as I joined a group of journalists and Tim Johnson for a test ride out into the Santa Monica mountains above Malibu, California. On the smooth shoulder of the Pacific Coast Highway and into the hills, the Slate feels likes just another road bike, albeit an especially comfortable one thanks to the fat tires. Made by Panaracer for Cannondale, they weigh just 300 grams each and are extremely supple at 40 to 45 psi.

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From road to off-road

The SRAM Force 1x drivetrain offered more than enough gearing to get up and down the mountains, and if you spend much time on mountain bikes you’ll feel right at home with just one shifter. The hydraulic brakes are more than powerful enough to slow things down and while the hoods look a bit crazy, they are quite comfortable in your hands.

The singletrack is where I was really looking forward to pushing the Slate. If you’ve ridden a CX bike a bit off-road you know the most difficult part is holding onto the handlebars. The Oliver fork makes a huge difference in keeping the sharp shuddering to a minimum and greatly lessens the hand strength needed to keep steering. Make no mistake: this is no mountain bike, but over the long haul I know it will be much more comfortable with the suspension fork.

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It felt great when moving forward but things got a bit hairy under braking or hard turning on the trail. For a bike with such an “all-purpose” attitude, the slick tires had a few of us scratching our heads. A file tread or cyclocross-type tread would be a great upgrade if you plan on riding dirty.

Someone I overheard described the Slate as an “N+3” bike for riders who want a very, very specific tool for a very specific job. On the other hand, it does seem to be an excellent choice as an all-rounder. Either way, it’s a creative venture to think so far outside the box, something Cannondale has never shied away from.

Watch for a long-term review of the Slate in an upcoming issue of Bicycle Times. Subscribe now to make sure you don’t miss it.

See it in action

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Shop Window: Sage Cycles unveils new Barlow titanium adventure bike

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Last fall I met up with David Rosen of Sage Cycles to get the story of his new bike brand, Sage Cycles. Watching a brand take off from the ground floor is always interesting, so I was happy to see Rosen has launched a third model, the Barlow adventure bike.

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Built by Lynskey Performance Designs in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Sage’s specifications, the Barlow is made from 3/2.5 titanium for a lifetime of use. It has a 44 mm head tube to run a tapered steerer tube fork, an English-threaded bottom bracket (yay!) and mounts for a third water bottle cage as well as a rack and fenders.

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The drive side chainstay attaches with a titanium plate for maximum stiffness and tire and chainring clearance. The dropouts are also interchangeable between quick release and 142×12 thru-axles.

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The frame also uses a smart, interchangeable cable routing system Rosen designed. The removable clip holds the barrel adjusters that route the shift cables along the down tube. If the bike is outfitted with an electronic group, it can be detached for a super clean look.

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Sold as a frameset (in seven available sizes) with a carbon fork and titanium seatpost, the Barlow will retail for $3,325 with complete builds available at $5,265.

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Video: GT Bicycles presents ‘Waypoints’

As the “bikesploration” market really gets rolling, more people are riding bikes in more places where you wouldn’t expect. GT Bicycles has had a hit with its Grade line of “adventure road bikes,” and we’ve been sampling one for a review in the next issue of Bicycle Times. To feature its adventure-worthy bikes, GT has launched a new video series about destination-based rides called Waypoints. The first episode recounts a trek from the heart of Vancouver, British Columbia, to the Sloquet Hot Springs, 150 miles northeast of the city.

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Field Tested: Jamis Renegade Elite

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“Adventure” is all the rage these days, but the scope definition and scope of these adventures varies greatly from source to source. In this case, Jamis defines adventure with a heavy dose of performance and a side of versatility for their new go-anywhere, do-anything road bike.

The highly engineered Renegade joins a stable of staid and stalwart steel touring bikes in Jamis’ line of adventure bikes. Two Renegade models are available, the Elite reviewed here and a less expensive Expert for $2,399. Both models utilize carbon fiber frames, a slightly lighter high-modulus carbon for the Elite and a mid-modulus carbon for the Expert that saves dollars at the expense of a few grams.

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For me, one of the most interesting aspects of the Renegade is Jamis’ approach to geometry. Jamis strives to provide consistent handling across all bike sizes, which is no short order for six different frame sizes ranging from 48 to 61. To accomplish this, Jamis produces forks with three different offset measurements and frames with three different chainstay lengths. As frame size increases, head tube angles steepen and fork offset decreases. Similarly, chainstay length grows with frame size too. This approach is admirable considering the added tooling cost of creating additional molds for two forks.

Another interesting frame feature is the 15 mm RockShox Maxle thru axle up front. The 15 mm thru axle has become standard in the mountain bike world, and is steadily working its way over to the road market due to the inherent stiffness and safety of the system. According to Jamis, the torsional stiffness of the thru axle allows them to engineer more vertical compliance into the fork.

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Also noteworthy are the hidden mounts for rack and fender eyelets. These eyelets thread into the bottom of the fork leg and the end of the chainstay. Additionally, a mount on the seatstay bridge accommodates a rear rack, but your rack and fender will have to share the single seatstay mount. The chainstay-mounted brake caliper greatly simplifies mounting these accessories. Attaching a front fender isn’t quite as simple as the eyelets are a bit further forward than most. The fenders I installed required quite a bit of modification and even then weren’t quite 100 percent. Best to plan on custom fabricating a fender stay that can reach down under the brake caliper and dropout then back up to the eyelet.

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I’ve been looking forward to sampling the latest crop of hydraulic disc brakes for drop bars, and dang, these Shimano units have far exceeded my expectations. The light and silky lever throw ramps up to firm lever feel that provides incredible stopping power when desired as well as the subtlest trail braking through a corner. I’m accustomed to using at least two, sometimes three fingers, when braking on modern cantilever and caliper brakes, but one finger is all that’s needed with these brakes. Every stop sign is an invitation to ride a big, long nose wheelie. I can’t say it enough, these brakes work awesome and inspire incredible confidence.

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Likewise, the Ultegra 11-speed drivetrain has been flawless. Shifts are smooth, crisp and authoritative, never missing a beat. For the Renegade’s intended use, the compact 52/36 crankset and 11-28 cassette provide a reasonably wide range of gearing. There’s plenty of top-end out on the road and enough low gearing for all but steep, technical off-road climbs.

One noticeable difference between the hydraulic and cable actuated STI levers are the length of the hoods. In order to house the hydraulic master cylinder, the hood is substantially longer. This certainly isn’t a bad thing as it gives you more room to move around on the bike.

Ride quality

Right out of the gate the Renegade’s personality is best described as spirited and eager. Thanks to the bike’s svelte weight, it leaps forward when you jump on the pedals, with not a hint of flex at the bottom bracket. Just look at that burly bottom bracket junction if you have any doubts.

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But, it’s not all about stiffness. Those dainty seatstays are shaped to take the edge off of impacts. Additionally, Jamis’ fork design incorporates some vertical compliance. Both of these measures were very noticeable on the road, particularly when paired with the inherent vibration damping qualities of carbon fiber. The ride is smooth and fluid, with much of the high frequency road vibration damped out. On rougher, off-road surfaces, the Renegade does an excellent job of taking the edge off of bumpy terrain.

The Renegade’s handling is equally quick thanks to pretty aggressive geometry. Fork offset varies with frame size, but the 53 mm of offset on my test bike is more than average when paired with the 71.5-degree headtube angle. This translates to a very quick-steering bike that changes direction via subtle counter-steering pressure at the bars. This quick-handling nature feels incredible when you’re on you game and really attacking, but it also commands a certain amount of attention at all times.

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Of course, good tires with appropriate volume also help smooth out rough terrain. The stock 700 x 35 mm Clement X’Plor USH tires offer great comfort and versatility. These tires roll well on the road thanks to the siped center tread, and provide decent traction off-road thanks to the side knobs. All in, it’s a wonderful tire for gravel road adventuring. For rougher terrain, the Renegade will fit a 40 mm tire without fenders. It’s also worth noting the American Classic Argent wheelset is tubeless compatible.

Parting thoughts

The Renegade is a very enticing offering for those looking for an adventurous road bike that also offers a lot of versatility. It’s easy to imagine riding this bike to work during the week with a rear rack and fenders, then pulling off those bits and racing a gravel grinder on the weekend.

With a set of road tires, the Renegade does a pretty damn good impersonation of a road bike, too. I can easily see this being someone’s only road bike. With two sets of wheels you could quickly swap back and forth between hammering road group rides and weekend adventures on remote dirt roads.

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Bottom line; the Renegade is no one-trick pony. There’s a lot to like about this package if you’re looking for a capable and versatile performance machine.

Vital Stats

  • Price: $4,199
  • Weight: 18.5 pounds
  • Sizes: 48, 51, 54 (tested), 56, 58, 61cm

Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #34 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss an issue, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.

 

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This Just In: Foundry Overland cyclocross bike

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The Foundry Overland is a titanium bike designed with drop bars for cyclocross or gravel riding and racing, a nice alternative to all the carbon and aluminum models on the scene.

Our 58 cm sample weighs 20.3 pounds with disc brakes and without pedals. Five frame sizes all share 68 mm of bottom bracket drop for a bit more stability, while head tube angles range from 71 to 72.5 degrees. The bottom bracket shell is threaded.

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Where the Overland differs from dedicated ‘gravel’ bikes is in the shorter 42.5 cm chainstays. With ‘cross racing in mind, our test sample comes with Clement 33s, but Foundry says 40s will fit fine.

The rear frame triangle has post-mounts on the seatstays, with a 142×12 mm thru-axle. The Whisky No. 9 carbon fork has a 100×15 mm thru-axle, providing a stiffer ride than a traditional 9 mm quick release.

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As you can see in the photos, old-school top-tube cable routing has been chosen, which requires a pulley mounted on a threaded seat tube boss. While the SRAM Force 22 drivetrain might look a little outdated compared to the company’s new single-chainring specific Force group. Foundry also includes internally-routed access ports in the seat and down tubes for electronic shifting.

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Pricing

Not in the market for a new complete bike? Foundry is offering the Overland frameset for $2,495. Need a new machine? The complete bike as pictured retails for $4,695, which includes DT Swiss R24 Centerlock tubeless-ready wheels, Zipp Service Course bars, seatpost and stem, and SRAM’s Force drivetrain with 46/36 crankset and an 11-32 cassette.

Click on the magnifying glass to enlarge images in our gallery, and stay tuned for our first ride impressions!

 

 

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First Look: Open Cycles’ U.P. gravel/adventure bike

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Industry veteran Gerard Vroomen made his name with the mega-successful brand Cervelo, which pushed the limit of carbon fiber technology in the road market for years. His latest venture is Open Cycles, a high-end boutique brand with tons of innovation and a minimalist aesthetic. Its first product was a superlight 29er mountain bike, but this week it unveiled its second model, the Unbeaten Path.

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As riders and racers in the “gravel” or adventure market are pushing for more and more performance, the U.P. delivers with an aggressive position and low weight. It doesn’t have the top-tier carbon layup of the mountain bike, but Open points out that using only the stiffest layup in every spot would be a bad idea. The U.P. is also made in China while some of the mountain bikes are hand-made in Germany.

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The most interesting feature is the generous tire clearance, which can fit not only a 700×40 tire but also a 27.5×2.1 mountain bike tire. Since the outer diameter is essentially the same between the two, only a bit more room needs to be made for the extra width. Open accomplished this by dropping the chainstay down rather than squeezing it between the tire and chairing.

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Other key features include the flat faces of the down tube which allow strips of high-modulus carbon to be used, a 27.2 seat tube designed for a non-setback post, Syntace rear thru-axle, and internal cable routing for a super clean look with double or single chainring drivetrains with cables or wires.

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The Unbeaten Path should go on sale this summer for $2,900 for a frame and 3T fork. As for the color options, you can actually help choose by visiting the Open Cycles website and leaving a comment. We vote for orange!

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SRAM expands 1×11 drivetrain to include gravel, road, adventure and more

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What would you say if someone took your favorite bike, swapped out your go-to compact gearing or reliable triple crankset, and installed a single chainring with a ginormous 11-speed cassette? Then, to pour salt into the wound, told you to climb nearly 3,000 feet of elevation on California’s central coast? On nearly 15 miles of rutted jeep trails? It happened to me and my small posse of journalists, and the results were quite impressive, as SRAM announced plans to expand its popular 1x drivetrain platform from mountain and cyclocross to include aero, criterium, gravel, adventure, urban drop bar, and fitness. 

Photo: Nils Nilsen N2Photo

Photo: Nils Nilsen N2Photo

“We’re not proclaiming that 1x drivetrains will replace 2x; we’ve had huge success with 1x on the MTB and ‘cross side,” said J.P. McCarthy, SRAM’s road product manager at the recent launch in Pismo Beach, which included the introduction of Zipp’s 30 Course wide rim wheels. “Our feature focus for those categories has been on chain retention, keeping the bike clean. What we get out of 1x drivetrains on road bikes is simplifying the shifting process, and quieting the sound of it. It also features one-hand shifting.”

What is 1x (pronounced ‘one-by’)?

Defined by SRAM’s X-SYNC single chainring, which now extends its range from 38 to 54 teeth. When appropriately paired to SRAM’s wide or super-wide cassettes, and managed by SRAM’s dedicated clutch rear derailleurs, 1x ratios allow riders to push gearing comparable to that of double (2x) chainring systems. SRAM’s cassette lineup now features a 10-42*, 11-36, 11-32, and 11-30. (*requires XD driver body option)

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What’s new?

There are three elements critical to the of the 1x drivetrain: the chainring, the cassette, and the rear derailleur. SRAM is expanding nearly all of its new 1x offerings into the renamed Rival 1 and Force 1 groupsets.

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Chainrings

Essential to the development of 1x are the expanded chainrings options, which now extend from 38 to 54. The new configurations offer plenty of gearing for gravel and adventure riders, cyclocross racers, multisport or time trialists, as well the criterium racer and fitness fanatics. 1x provides the most secure chain and chainring interface available defined by simplicity, range and durability.

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The single chainring defines the 1x system with X-SYNC technology, whose tall square teeth edges engage the chain earlier and the traditional sharp and narrow tooth profile, as well as rounded chamfer edges, help manage a deflected chain. SRAM’s X-SYNC chainrings are designed for optimal chain line and frame clearance.

Rear derailleurs

SRAM’s new 1x rear derailleurs have adopted all the same technologies from MTB but in a road specific package, including the addition of a barrel adjuster.

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The new long cage version is capable of managing the chain across SRAM’s super wide 10-42 and 11-36 cassettes. Short cage (up to 28T), mid-cage (up to 36T), long-cage (up to 42T) Other technologies include:

  • X-Horizon: a rear derailleur’s ‘straight parallelogram’ design limits all movement to the horizontal axis, which makes ghost shifting nearly impossible and maintains a constant chain gap across all gears;
  • Roller Bearing Clutch: derailleur bounce and chain slap are eliminated without sacrificing precision;
  • Exact actuation: SRAM 1:1 actuation ratio (shifter cable travel/derailleur movement) helps to simplify and stabilize the uneasy act of balancing rear derailleur hanger design, tight cog spacing and exact cable tension.
  • Cagelock: wheel removal and installation—as well as chain installation—becomes faster and simpler. Just pushing the cage forward to create slack and lock it into place. We witnessed this in action when Zipp brand manager Declan Doyle got a pinch flat toward the end of our dirt ride; click the magnifying glass to enlarge photos taken by Nils Nilsen N2Photo:

Cassettes

The new PG and XG cassettes provide 1x riders the gearing options needed for challenging climbs, fast descents, sprints and everything in in between. SRAM‘s strong, lightweight and precise PC 1130 and 1170 chains are the perfect match for SRAM Rival 1 and SRAM Force 1.

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“Last year I used Force 1 exclusively,” said reigning national cyclocross champion Jeremy Powers, who spent three days riding with us in Pismo Beach. “We had zero mechanicals; I didn’t drop out of any races, never dropped a chain. I like its simplicity. Picking up and dropping the bike in a race didn’t affect the Force 1. In ‘cross the mud usually causes chainsuck; the Force 1 totally eliminated that. I used a 44T with a 11-32T cassette for most of my races, modifying my gear ratio a few times based on the course.”

Your reigning national cyclocross champion, the unflappable Jeremy Powers. Photo: Nils Nilsen N2Photo

Your reigning national cyclocross champion, the unflappable Jeremy Powers. Photo: Nils Nilsen N2Photo

Cutting the number of gears in half means cutting some gear ratios and eliminating a range in exchange for a simpler, better-looking bike for some riders.  “Rider-to-bike interface is pretty limited to bars, saddle and pedals; the 1x drivetrain changes the way a rider interacts with his or her bike,” McCarthy added.

Here’s more from McCarthy:

“We determined that approximately 150 – 170 grams are saved with the Force 1x versus Force 22, depending on cassette choice. A real-world change might zero it out, but we know riders will ask.”

Gravel

“Chain retention is a real priority; eliminating chain slap makes a better ride; simpler drivetrain with fewer parts.”

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Criterium

“Crit racers don’t use a small chainring anyway, so the benefits of a 1x drivetrain are most noticeable for them. The aftermarket opportunities are huge.”

Fitness

“Less complication for the bike path rider or new cyclist by eliminating the front shifter.”

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Adventure

“The loudest request for 1x drivetrains came from product managers for adventure bikes; one less part for potential for failure.”

Hydro

“We have hydraulic brakes (disc and rim) across the board for 2015.”

Name changes

What was originally referred to Force CX-1 is now Force 1; the products have always been labeled as such, but the brand mavens at SRAM pushed the CX moniker on us. With the expansion including nearly every discipline but unicycles (wouldn’t that be cool?!), the CX was retracted.

Force 1 crankset

A few changes includes adding 48- and 50-tooth chainrings in the popular 110 bolt circle diameter (BCD), and 52- and 54-tooth in 130 BCD. Force 1 cranks will have carbon arms with detachable spider, come in GXP (24 mm) and BB30 (30 mm) spindle options, while magically offering the same exact Q-Factor as Force 2x (the distance between the inner crank arms and the outside chainstay, a term coined by Rivendell Bicycle Works founder Grant Petersen when he designed and specced Bridgestones in the early 1990s; legend has it that Petersen—after creating a geometry graphic—ran out of letters to label an important and little-known spec, and chose Q for ‘quack’, because he thought of how ducks walk and the similarity to how road racers walked with clipless pedals ~ Ed.).

Force 1 chainrings

“We eliminated the mud evacuation grooves on the road rings compared to the ‘cross rings, which also allowed us to keep weight down and durability up,” McCarthy explained. “We also kept the running noise down.”

Force 1 rear derailleur

Long cage variant accepts a whopping 10-42-tooth 11-speed cassette, providing road specific actuation with barrel adjust, a clutch retention system to stop the chain from moving around and bouncing around, even on the nasty stutter bumps we experienced riding near Santa Margarita. 

Cassettes

“We do not have a 2x rear derailleur to accommodate up to a 36-tooth cog,” McCarthy added. “So, the SRAM PG 1170, 11-36T 11-speed cassette is specific to 1x drivetrains. Great application for gravel racing!”

According to SRAM, its XG 1180 10-42T 11-speed cassette provides the widest possible range for all applications, providing almost the same range (97 percent) as a current SRAM WiFli drivetrain (50/34 x 11-32T). “Up until recently this would require a 29er frameset; now, with the 30 Course wheels, gravel racers can benefit from this cassette,” McCarthy said. New refinements and features include:

Force 1 brake levers

Hydraulic and mechanical (with new hatch that covers shift area for better feel). 

Rival 1 crankset

Forged arm, forged removable spider; 110 BCD 38, 40, 42, 44, 46, 48 50T X-SYNC rings. Same exact Q-Factor as Rival 2x.

“SRAM chainrings begin as a 7 mm plate, then are machined down to the proper chainline, where the teeth are sitting over the spider for best frame clearance,” McCarthy said. “We polled our OEM customers to get it dialed in.

“Our current 11-speed chains are compatible with our 1x and 2x drivetrains,” he added. “They share the same dimensions for shifting and chainring retention; the chain plates on our shiny finished chains are so hardened for durability the chainring will wear out before the chain will.”

Early efficiency comparisons between 2x and 1x, according to an outside testing resource, have shown that a small fraction of a watt is the difference, with the 1x coming out on top.

Rival 1 rear derailleur

Material differences between Force and Rival (stainless vs. galvanized hardware); Medium and Long Cage only (no Short);

Rival 1 brake levers

Hydraulic and mechanical (with new hatch that covers shift area for better feel) like the Force. Now offered as a pair with newer ergonomics.

Rival 1 Cassette

PG 1130 11-36T 11-speed; heat-treated cogs and steel lockring. “For weight savings we riveted more than one cog (no aluminum spider),” McCarthy said. “On the SRAM XG 1150 10-42T 11-speed cassette; cogs are pinned to one another to save weight, with an aluminum big cog.”

SRAM S350-1 Crankset

“Modelled on our Apex platform, specifying almost exclusively with a pant guard for fitness and lower-priced ‘cross bikes. This will come with 38, 42 or 44-tooth rings with no mud grooves, and is slightly heavier.”

S700 11-speed Trigger shifter

Based on the SRAM MTB shifter for flat-bar Rival 1 or Force 1 rear derailleur. 

New groupset highlights:

  • Criterium: crankset, cassette, brake/shift levers, hydraulic brakes, chain;
  • Cyclocross: crankset, cassette, brake/shift levers, hydraulic brakes, chain;
  • Fitness: derailleur, cassette, chain, crankset.

Retail availability is June for the Rival 1 brake levers, disc brakes and all rear derailleurs; July for all cranksets and X-Sync road chainrings, and August for PG-1130 11-36 cassettes. Click on the magnifying glass to enlarge photos of my Salsa Warbird:

 

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Zipp spins up new 30 Course aluminum, disc brake wheels

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Indianapolis-based Zipp Speed Weaponry recently introduced its 1,530-gram/$2,400 Firecrest 202 and 1,645-gram, $2,400 303 carbon disc brake clincher wheelsets for cyclocross and road use, and today it’s introducing the 1,655-gram/$1,000 30 Course aluminum (above) tubeless-ready version, available in June. The design goal was low aerodynamic drag, greater stability and predictability in crosswinds, something we tested on California’s central coast Tuesday afternoon.

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“Customers have been asking us for an aluminum, wide, tubeless wheelset, and the 30 Course is the answer,” said Jason Fowler, Zipp wheel product manager, during the company’s launch in Pismo Beach earlier this week. “This wheelset is targeted at the athlete riding cyclocross, mixed surface and gravel.”

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Fowler emphasized that the new aluminum wheels are tubeless ready, though Zipp doesn’t make its own tire to go with it. “Zipp is not offering a tubeless tire today,” Fowler said with a smirk when asked if the company will be offering a larger diameter tire. Zipp already offers 700x23c clincher and tubular tires. This is Zipp’s first wheelset to be tubeless-ready, providing the ability to run lower tire pressures without risk of pinch flats.The 30 Course wheels include tubeless valves and carry a 250-pound rider weight limit plus five-year manufacturer’s warranty.

Specifications

External width on the 30 Course rim is 25mm; internal is 21mm. According to Fowler, this means increased air volume, which spreads tire casing. This also helps increase the tire’s contact patch with the ground, while improving cornering grip.

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While Zipp’s testing has shown a low aerodynamic drag with wider rims, speed demons will benefit from running 700x23c tires, but for more time savings—if that’s your aim—the Firecrest 202s are still faster. Fowler said there’s no tire size limit to the 30 Course rims; that’s based on your frameset’s clearances, but 700×23 is the smallest diameter allowed. Wheel depth is 26 mm, with 24 Sapim CX Ray spokes both front and rear.

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New hub technology: 77/177D

The 30 Course wheels use the same 77/177D hubset as the Zipp 202 and 303 Firecrest disc-brake wheelsets, with bearing preload precision set, meaning no pre-load adjustment is needed. Additionally, this includes improved bearing protection and sealant, and for gravel and adventure riders, the hubs are thru-axle compatible. The 77/177D hubset comes with thru-axle end caps that can be swapped by hand. Front: 12×100 mm and 15×100 mm. Rear: 12×135 mm and 12×142 mm. Zipp also includes its newly designed quick-release skewers with a wider, more ergonomic handle to provide better leverage for opening and closing. When closed, lever contours neatly with the frame.

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Zipp’s proprietary flange geometry and spoke-hole attachment pattern are designed for  Sapim CX Ray spokes to maximize torsional and lateral stiffness without sacrificing weight or robustness. Also available with a 17 mm axle; a SRAM XD driver body for the 177D will be available separately.

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77-177D Quick-Release Hubs

17mm axle

  • 10 degrees or 36 points of engagement
  • Weight: 145g/265 grams
  • Compatible with SRAM, Shimano, Campagnolo and XD driver bodies

Thru-Axle

  • Weight: 140 grams front, 260 grams rear
  • Front: 12×100

Each wheel includes Zipp thru-axle end caps; one Zipp skewer; Zipp rim tape 700c X 20mm, and one Zipp tubeless valve (clincher). Rear wheel includes 1.85 mm cassette spacer 10-speed compatibility. The 30 Course Disc-brake Clincher rear wheel is available with a standard 10/11 speed driver body for SRAM/Shimano or for Campagnolo.

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The 30 Course wheelset is made in SRAM’s Taiwan facility. A tubular version is also available. Stay tuned for a ride report and testing facility tour! Click the magnifying glass below to enlarge images in our gallery:

 

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The best and worst of NAHBS in photos

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Being around the industry as long as I have I know a lot of people, many of whom congregate once a year in a different location to look at the fashionshow we call The North American Handmade Bicycle Show. Where artisan framebuilders show off their latest and greatest creations, which are judged and given giant plastic bowling trophies. Fun fun fun with my favorite people. While totally distracted the whole time, talking to old friends and new,I did manage to get a few random shots off which I will now share with you.

See what I mean? First guy I run into walking in the door is this guy. Ted Wojcik, who I have not seen in maybe 20 years. He’s been makin bikes closer to 30. Might have been the first custom builder to work with Dirt Rag. Now he’s working with Fiefield to bring out some E-bikes.

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This happens a lot. Makes it hard to look at bikes sometimes, but thankfully I like people better than bikes. Geoffrey Halaburt is everywhere, we shake hands quite often. He’s here representing maybe the nicest guy in the world, Steve Potts, who I did not get a photo of because we were busy talking about life and family.

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Then there’s this guy. Contrary to popular belief, and the sentiment of this photo, I do have a lot of respect for Zap despite him having bigger holes in his ears than I do. As you can see, the feeling is mutual.

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OK, Bikes. Black Sheep brought some amazing creations as usual, and while awesome, I couldn’t help but just zoom in on this rad head badge by Jen Green.

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Another cool Titanium purveyor is Moonmen. I was fortunate enough to ride with these guys and try these bars, they fell right into my hands and I want to get a hold of a pair for myself.

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Back to humans. Here’s the boss of the show, Don Walker. I don’t care what anyone says about Don, I have a metric ass-ton of respect for him and what he’s done for our community. Be thankful.

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Sometimes bike porn comes in the ogling of a bare frame. Here Jeff Archer of MOMBAT checks out the work of DiNucci Cycle’s best lugs winning frame. Perfection!

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Another one of my favorite people, Erik Noren of Peacock Groove. Note that Shimano provided a bunch of their STePS electric drivetrains for builders to have at it. Each found a different way to attach the STePS unit to the frame.

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Here’s another example from Sycip.

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Yes, there were many E-bikes, and many fatbikes. On the other side of the spectrum was this carbon fiber something. The Signorina from Abbott Cycles takes the objectification of women to a new level. Definetly sucks that this is how women are represented here. Especially since this object was one of about 10 women I saw at the whole show.

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Subtle. Which leads me to this human down the aisle. Look! A living! Female! Framebuilder! Yes, they do exist. Her name is Julie Ann Pedalino and she’s from Lenexa, Kansas and she’s just getting started in this building thing and I’d sure like to see a lot more real women at shows like this and less old boy network. Fer sure (Ok there was Cayley Baird at The Rille booth and Karen Brooks journalizing and Anna Schwinn and Kristen Legan but I am not going to run out of fingers any time soon).

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Here’s something from Rody over at Groovy Cycle Works. Another one of his bikes won best of show, but I am all about funk, so take a look at this.

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Ok, so here’s one more gift. For Sarah Prater’s wedding. This Shamrock Cycles cross bike was hand painted by Kate Oberreich with 585 individual paper airplanes representing the 585 days of Sarah and Josh’s courtship. Now if that ain’t love.

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Well that’s all I have for today, hope you got some enjoyment looking here. There’s plenty of bike porn out the on the web, so feel free to look some up. NAHBS was awesome as usual, it really is the best this bike business has, and I’m glad I was there. Next year, Sacramento, CA! Oh wait, I have one more geezer pic….

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Shenandoah Mountain Touring gets 2015 rolling with two rough road races

Riding through beautiful backcountry Virginia is always a treat, but don’t get too distracted by the scenery—these two events will demand some serious concentration. Shenandoah Mountain Touring is kicking off its 2015 season with the Stokesville Strade and Virginia’s Rough Roubaix.

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The Stokesville Strade on March 6 (The event has been postponed to March 21 due to wintery conditions) will start and finish at the beautiful Stokesville Lodge and Campground outside Harrisonburg, Virginia. The 33-mile loop consists of about 40 percent gravel or natural surface roads, has about 1,800 feet of climbing, and if you’re looking for a real challenge you can loop it twice.

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Virginia’s Rough Roubaix on April 19 starts in Harrisonburg, and it’s a real leg-buster, with options from 54 to 114 miles through Virginia and even into West Virginia. The route will take riders through the George Washington National Forest and onto Shenandoah Mountain. The conditions are so treacherous that the longest Grand Classic route will only take place if temperatures are expected to reach 60 degrees by noon in Harrisonburg. It crosses six creeks during its climb up Rough Run, and you won’t enjoy the Big Bear Hollow descent with cold, wet feet.

Registration for both events is open now and if you register for the Rough Roubaix before March 7 you can save a few buck on fees.

 

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Salsa unveils new Powderkeg tandem 29er and refreshed Warbird gravel race bike

Salsa's Mike Riemer introduces the new bikes to the audience at FrostBike.

Salsa’s Mike Riemer introduces the new bikes to the audience at FrostBike.

Each year, Quality Bicycle Products, the parent company of Salsa (as well as Surly, All-City and others) hosts a dealer show at is Minnesota headquarters. Salsa took the opportunity to announce it would be officially offering a production version of the Powderkeg tandem that has been floating around in prototype form for years.

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Powderkeg

bt-salsa-powderkeg-warbird-frostbike-12Not just an extended version of the El Mariachi 29er, the Powderkeg is built from Salsa’s new 4130 Cobra Kai tubing, a riff on the Kung Fu tubing in the El Mariachi. The fork is new as well, with a tapered, steel steerer and massive legs—as big as some steel bikes’ down tubes. It’s naturally equipped with a thru axle, or can be swapped with a 100mm suspension fork, if you’re brave enough to tackle singletrack. The timing chain is tensioned with a classic pinch-bolt eccentric bottom bracket.

While it’s stout enough for off-road, Salsa says it sees many of its customers using the Powderkeg for gravel riding/racing and adventure touring. A prototype was put to the test in the Tour Divide race in 2012. As such it’s equipped with rack mounts, and the fork uses the three-bolt bosses for Salsa’s Anything Cages. It also sets a record for Salsa with no less than nine water bottle mount positions.

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The Powderkeg will go on sale this summer for $3,999 complete or $1,999 as a frameset. It will be available in three sizes: medium captain/small stoker, large captain/small stoker, and large captain/medium stoker.


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Warbird

Salsa is proud to state that it “owns gravel”, and the brand has supported the growing gravel ride/race scene since it began to gain popularity in the past five or six years. From events like the Dirty Kanza 200 to shorter ultracross races across the country, the Warbird separates itself from cyclocross bikes with a longer wheelbase, lower bottom bracket and larger tire clearance.

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The second generation of Warbird bikes retain much of the same geometry of the first, but with a slightly lower stack height for a more aggressive position. The biggest visual difference is the bowed seatstays, which Salsa calls Class 5 Vibration Reduction System—class 5 referring to the gauge of gravel used on roads. The stays have a thin, flat profile that allows them to offer a small amount of give over impacts, a small amount that can add up quick over long rides. By mounting the disc brake caliper on the chainstay Salsa is able to allow both stays to function this way without having to support braking forces.

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Offered in both aluminum and carbon fiber versions, both models use the carbon Warbird fork with 15mm thru axle and tapered, carbon steerer tube. Salsa claims the carbon frame and fork reduce vibrations nine percent over the previous generation titanium model, and six percent for the aluminum frame and carbon fork.

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All that space in the stays means the Warbird can pack a big tire: 44c in the carbon model and 42c for the aluminum. Both models use PF30 bottom bracket shells and internal cable routing for mechanical or electronic drivetrains. Because gravel rides are often pretty long, it also has a third water bottle cage under the down tube.

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The carbon Warbird will be available this summer for $1,999 for the frameset or $3,499 with a SRAM Rival 22 build and hydraulic brakes. The aluminum models are in stock now for $999 for the frame set and $2,499 for a Shimano 105 11-speed build or $1,999 for a 10-speed Tiagra build.

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Foundry goes metal, introduces titanium Overland “ultracross” bike

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Foundry is known for its no-frills, carbon fiber race bikes, but now it is expanding into a material more closely aligned with its name: titanium. The new Overland model is an all-road adventure bike squarely aimed at the growing gravel and ultracross market.

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Built with hydraulic disc brakes and clearance for 41c tires, the Overland is meant to be a versatile platform for explorations both on a race course and in the backcountry. The titanium frame is paired with a Whisky No. 9 carbon fork and employs thru-axles at both ends for extra stiffness and wheel security. Whisky says building bikes from titanium closely adheres to its philosophy of making products that can be ridden hard and last a lifetime.

This isn’t a grocery-getter though. The lack of rack mounts keep things streamlined while the top tube cable routing uses full-length housing for better performance in the muck and comfortable shouldering on the race course. There are a set of fender eyelets on the frame and the Whisky fork for wet-weather comfort.

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The Overland will be available in limited quantities as a frameset ($2,495) or complete bike ($4,695). The frameset includes the fork, DT RWS front and rear axles, Cane Creek headset, and a seat collar. The complete build features a SRAM Force 22 Hydraulic drivetrain, DT Swiss R24 wheels, Zipp cockpit, and tires from Clement.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the Overland does not have fender eyelets. It does.

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First Ride: New GT Grade gravel/road/adventure bike

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Photos by the author and Dane Cronin, courtesy of GT Bicycles.

Let’s face it, the vast majority of us are never going to need the kind of elite-level performance that modern race bikes are designed for. We want other things, like bigger tires, maybe some fender mounts, and a slightly more comfortable ride for our real-world behinds. GT is jumping into the fray with a new model aimed at the core the recreational road bike market with the new Grade.

The frame is built around GT’s famous Triple Triangle design, with carefully shaped tubing to create a compliant ride. There’s also room for tires from 23c to 35c knobbies and fender eyelets front and rear. Featuring carbon and aluminum options with complete bikes starting at just $799, there is likely to be an build spec for everyone.

Get all the details here.

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