Every persons body is different. You will react to various nutrition offerings different than I will, which makes recommending a product difficult, right? Well, not necessarily.Read More
Here are the 7 key pieces of gear I recommend you have for your cold winter rides.Read More
Looking for a gift to give a cyclist? Here are a few of our go to favorites that will make any cyclist happy!Read More
With the lower knobs lying even flatter the wider you set the tire, you can truly feel the ease in propelling their low profile forwardRead More
You've experienced it before. That first bite of an "energy" bar, where you are just hoping that this will be a good one.Read More
Power meter technology has changed quite a bit over the past 4 years. From a consumer standpoint, that means competition, price wars, and greater accessibility.Read More
In racing, bikes are just tools. Grant it, required tools, but tools none-the-less.Read More
Grips are pretty straight forward. In one way or another, they keep your hands firmly on the bar.Read More
If I gave you the choice of buying a German or an American car based solely on quality, what would you choose?Read More
Racing well is about confidence; in your fitness, in your ability, in your tactics and in your equipment. If you waver in your trust and belief in any of those things, winning becomes much harder. That’s why equipment choice is so important. There is very little actual difference between the $1,000 mountain bike and the $10,000 mountain bike. When you ride them both you can only detect slight differences here and there. But when you push the bike to its limit, trusting it with your life (literally), does it reward your trust? That’s where the difference lies. I’m very excited to now be a part of the Magura team for the 2015-2016 seasons. I didn’t have much experience with their brakes until this year, so when we finally linked up recently, it was a no brainer. There are tons of brakes on the market that are great. One of the crowd favorites is Shimano as they always seem to work and work well. I’d been riding those for a few years and had no issues with them and liked their ON/OFF feel. You squeeze that lever and know you’re about to slow down fast! So trying out Magura, I was a bit jaded. How could anything be better than Shimano? Its perfect.
Well, I’m now using the Magura MT8 and the very first thing I noticed is that these brakes are NOT like Shimano. “Ok, this is different, but not off-putting…” I thought. Over time as I warily spent more time on them, ever skeptical of them, I grew more and more confident. I started liking the lever shape, much more exaggerated than Shimano and SRAM offerings. The finish was obviously great as you would expect from top level brakes but it was ultimately their “feel” that pushed me into the “fan” realm.
With Shimano, you’re ON or OFF. There is very little if any middle ground. This is awesome because you know exactly what you’re getting every time. But, in reality, you don’t always want to be full ON, or OFF. You may want some modulation, some middle ground. Mountain biking fast revolves heavily around not using your brakes, so having some light braking option for when hard braking is just too much, is great!
That is what makes me confident in the Magura MT8, supreme modulation. It inspires confidence, and that will keep me from thinking about my gear during races, allowing me to focus more purely on my effort. Give them a try, you won't regret it!
Grab them here on Amazon.
So if you’re looking for a water shedding jacket and gloves to match, these deserve a look.Read More
The first time you wear carbon soled mountain bike shoes, your mouth will literally drop open. The feeling of stiffness is as plain as the nose on your face. It’s quite a sensation, pressing on the pedals and feeling the power transfer. That's the same feeling you should expect the first time you put on the Specialized S-Works MTB shoes. Not only do you get the stiffness you would expect from a top of the line mtb shoe, but you get unmatched fit and comfort. The BOA lace closure system is fantastic. Even when jammed with mud the dials still get the job done, synching the shoe closed at micro adjusted intervals. Pair that with the design of the shoe where stiffer material is employed where needed and flexible/pliable material is present elsewhere and you come out with pure comfort. The shoe conforms to the shape of your foot beautifully, given your toes plenty of room, but hugging the rest of your foot perfectly. You could definitely compare it to a slipper.
As a guy who races everything from 45 minute cross races to 13 hour mtb races, this couldn’t fit the bill better for both applications. Quick adjustment, comfortable and stiffer than anything else out there. If you can get over the price tag, there is no reason not to pick these up.
Before I first rode SRAM’s 1x11 XX1 system, I had resigned mountain bike components to a world different than road components. It made sense after all, that over rocks and roots, through rivers and mud, that a mtb group simply would never function like a road group. Then I rode XX1 (reviewed here), was absolutely blown away and would not go back to 2x for anything. I rode regular XO before XX1 so that was my direct comparison. As such, when my Specialized Epic Expert World Cup came with SRAM XO1, I was both excited but hesitant. The last time I used XO, it was underwhelming, so I was definitely skeptical.
It turns out, I wasted energy with my skepticism. SRAM XO1 is practically identical to its XX1 brother. Not only does it feel exactly the same, but some of the components are the same weight (re: cassette). The difference in weight between the two groups is pithy, and as I recall its under 50g. The shifting is just as snappy, the cranks are stiff, and the rear derailleur is spot on. I can’t recommend it enough.
So what’s the point of XX1 then? I don’t know, color choice maybe? A stick recently jammed in my XO1 rear derailleur destroying it thoroughly. I sourced a replacement and found an XX1 derailleur cheaper than I could find an XO1 one. So, there’s that.
If you’re stuck between the two, don’t waste another second. XO1 is virtually identical and gives insane value.
Get it on Amazon here.
There’s a couple things that makes or breaks cycling, and kit is at the top of that list. It may be a big ask to stomach the cost of the Specialized SL Pro jersey and bibs, but trust me, nothing about the product will disappoint you. Fit is paramount for any kit. Make sure you measure yourself well and compare it to Specialized’s measurement chart. I’ve found the fit is designed for a lean cyclists body, but the amount of possible stretch in the materials leaves some room. To give you a point of reference, I’m 6’2, 160lbs and the medium bibs and jersey fit me perfectly. In fact, it’s the most comfortable kit I’ve ever owned.
The chamois is great. I have no complaints after training rides and even a 13 hour mtb race. It will keep you happy and satisfied all day. The jersey though, that’s the shining star. The material they used is fantastic. It is super comfortable whether you’re wearing a base layer or not, and it looks great. The pockets are tight and stiff against your back keeping your gear in place, but perfectly accessible. The 4th zipper pocket is a great touch too.
The kit is perfect. They thought of every detail. Its light in its feel, aerodynamic and you will forget you are even wearing it before you’re warmed up. Move over Castelli and Assos, Specialized just joined the top ranks.
How can a bike change THAT much from year to year? Can large advancements even be made anymore? Technology is so good these days that its hard to imagine bikes getting much better than they are in large leaps and bounds. The masses might expect incremental changes, but nothing revolutionary.
The second half of last year, I rode a 2013 Specialized S-Works Epic. It is a phenomenal bike and I couldn’t imagine a faster one. Then, Specialized released their 2014 Epic with World Cup tuning. I simply couldn’t believe it could be faster. Thankfully, my curiosity was satiated and I was able to grab one and try it out for the 2014 season.
The main highlighted differences came with a revised geometry, lighter weight and different suspension tuning/linkage, all intended to make the bike faster and snappier on the trails. I ended up picking up their Epic Expert World Cup, and was shocked. The hype was true. It was noticeably faster, comfortable, and confidence building.
I’ve now put hundreds of miles on the bike in training and racing. I’ve done short XC races, mid distance endurance races and a 100 miler on the WC. The bike is simply excellent everywhere. I’ve never noticed a difference in the different suspension setup negatively, but do feel like I get more of a fully open feel when going over even small bumps. The newest Brain tuning is fantastic and better than the ’13 and ’11 I’ve ridden before. The stiffness of the suspension locked out is better than ever, making it a rocket on the smoother terrain.
The geometry is a bit more aggressive, and I love it. I feel like I’m on a road bike because of how nimble and maneuverable the bike has become. You wouldn’t think such small changes in the wheel base would be noticeable, but it’s a fantastic improvement. Cornering feels like you are on a smaller bike. More stability, control and speed. It is a truly thrilling ride.
Specialized advertises the bike as an XC bike because of its aggressive and stiff characteristics. Even though I primarily race longer races I wanted to give it a try, and I am so glad I did. Even with the Brains set to fully firm both front and rear I was perfectly comfortable over the 100 mile race I did on it. X01 has the perfect range and keeps the bike light. With a few changes to the bars, saddle, stem, grips and crank, it sits with bottle cages and XTR pedals at 23 lbs. Not bad for a race ready full suspension bike!
For short course or all day endurance, it is the perfect bike.
UPDATE 7/29/14 -------- With close to a thousand miles on it, the Epic WC continues to impress. The entire build is solid. SRAM X01 is just as good as XX1, there is literally no difference. I’ve put over a thousand miles on each group, and I can tell no discernable feel between the two. And the weight difference is ridiculously small. Great offering from SRAM!
Roval wheels are the future. The Expert comes equipped with the $1,200 version (the non-SL version) and again, I can’t see why you would need anything different. Forget expensive offerings from other companies, these wheels are stiff, light and have tank level durability. I clipped a spoke on a rock a few weeks ago while racing, and bent it badly. I continued to race for hours after that; rocks, steep climbs, log hops, and even jumps. A few days after the race I noticed the bent spoke and took it to my shop Twenty20 to get it fixed. The wheel wasn’t even out of true. Incredible.
In my opinion, the wheelbase and suspension is the biggest reason this bike is such an improvement over previous Epics. The bike is just snappy. Powering up a hill, dive through tight turns and berms, hopping logs, sprinting for the line; this bike feels like the perfect bike in every situation.
Two days ago I was ripping a smooth downhill. I was pushing the limits a bit, but was extremely confident in the bike and knew the trail well. I was leaning through a turn when my front wheel hit a root and caught a bit of air. When it regained contact with the ground about 6 inches further outside of the line I was on, I stayed upright. The Brain technology is perfect for smooth tracks. It locks your front and rear and lets you fly! But if I had been on a traditional fork with manual lockout, I would have crashed. If my fork hadn’t gone soft when regaining traction, the front tire would have washed out. But it didn’t because the Brain opened the fork and I rode away unscathed, smiling bigger than ever.
The suspension tuning is all you could ever want. I run the front and rear fully firm regardless of the terrain and find it to be amazingly comfortable over any distance. From crawling through rock gardens, to buffed out track, I find the fully firm tuning gets me through it all FAST.
And lastly, I love that Specialized went to a 27.2mm post. It flexes much more and softens the ride even further. That was a great move on their part.
UPDATE - 6/27/15
It’s time for an update. Last year I rode the Specialized Expert Epic World Cup all over the place. Racing and winning some, training and on some adventures. Then I switched teams (to a non-specialized team) and started riding a Trek Superfly FS. Now, that’s a great bike, and I did well on that bike. But, after over 1k miles on it, I just wasn’t quite satisfied.
It just so happened a friend was getting rid of an S-Works Epic World Cup, so I did a swap and was back on a Specialized. Let me just say, riding these bikes back to back is like night and day. Here’s why:
The Trek feels like a trail bike. With the CTD technology, you have a LOT of control over your suspension. When you put it into Descend mode, you are going to get a very plush, full travel experience. On super technical descents, that is an absolute blast! And even the ability to lock it out, and I mean FULLY rigid, is awesome when you’re on the road, or gravel or super smooth dirt. So those suspension abilities are truly great. What I can’t get behind (and where I think the Epic shines) is the geometry.
The World Cup is designed to be highly aggressive. I think Specialized scared people with that name, making people think it wouldn’t be a good endurance bike actually (I only do endurance races). But the truth is, the geometry enables a handling unlike other bikes. It is tight, whippy and can be thrown around like a hardtail, and take turns just as well.
Pair a tight geometry with a very firm platform in its suspension, and you have a very snappy bike that feels planted and very in control on every trail. Some people love the control of switches and lock out. I do not. I like simplicity, which is one reason I ride XX1. I don’t like second guessing my suspension choice. I don’t like the idea of standing up into a massive bob of suspension because I hit a tiny roller on a descent. The brains of the Epic keep you 100% ready for any obstacle or smooth trail. Locking and unlocking moment by moment is their specialty and what makes them so great. I am in and out of the saddle constantly, so not having one extra step involved in that makes me one happy camper.
S-Works or Expert? Now that I have owned both WC versions, I’d have to say the Expert is the better value. You get 96% of the S-Works function, at about 65% of the cost. Having said that, the S-Works bike is insanely light and carries the absolute top of the line products from Specialized, SRAM and Magura. So you do get something else aside from weight savings. But keep your bike in good working order, leave the camelbak at home over just bottles, and you’ve got basically the same ride.
I have terrible circulation in my hands and feet. Not sure what it is, but keeping my hands warm in temperatures below 60 degrees is a great challenge. By 50 degrees I’m wearing two pairs of gloves, and by 40 I’m in lobster claws. Anything below 35 has me needing chemical warmers to stay comfortable in the cold weather. Then you get to the feet and its nearly impossible. Sometimes chemical warmers don’t even keep me warm in 30 degree weather! It’s a constant battle, and one that long winters (like what we just had) don’t play kindly with. This year I bit the bullet and stopped fooling around with shoe covers and got a winter boot. A proper, waterproof, boot. I’d read a lot about different boots and a common theme was that they don’t solve all your problems. You still have to be smart and use appropriate sock techniques, but they do help. That was all I needed, any help I can get, I take. Eventually, I ended up with the Specialized Defroster. Looking at my local dealers it seemed there were only a handful of options, and it was actually the price and cuff height of the Specialized Defroster that put my money on it. The only other boot with a high cuff was something by Northwave and the price seemed prohibitive.
Putting the Defroster on, I realized they had more room than a standard shoe of the same size, which I greatly appreciated since I would likely be running wool socks all winter. BOA type cinch systems are genius in my opinion, and the fact that more companies have not started using them is baffling to me (or perhaps a copyright issue). So they fit well, had room, and covered my entire ankle. Good so far.
Out on the trail they were far less cumbersome than the word “boot” would imply. Feeling just like a regular shoe, they performed quite well even while lacking a carbon sole and other fancy features you become accustomed to with higher end shoes. The tread on the bottom is nothing special but does its job well in snow, mud and ice.
The cuff is a great feature but I will warn you, does not stay cinched to your ankle. It tightens with velcro and after hours of moving your ankle around with pedal strokes, a gap does form, allowing deep snow to crust around the top of the cuff if you hike through it. Very few times did this ever become a problem, and if I knew I were going to be in deep powder for hours, I would probably use some sort of gator for extra protection to keep the snow out.
The BOA system on the boot is fantastic. It disperses the load evenly across the top of your foot and its very comfortable. Perhaps the best feature of the shoe is that you can change how tight it is without taking off the waterproof cover flap. The dial pokes through a nicely made hole allowing access at all times. A very nice feature.
The shoe is absolutely bombproof. Probably more so than any shoe I have owned. I rode it thousands of miles this winter and it looks new. Compare that to a pair of shoe covers which will look ragged after a month of usage. I rode in deep mud, deep snow, ice, rain, and negative temperatures, and the boot was not fazed. On a few occasions I actually submerged the boot in water accidentally (up to the lower part of the cuff) crossing streams etc, and to my absolute joy, they kept water out!
But were they warm, you might ask? Yes. They are definitely warmer than a normal shoe and shoe cover. Did my feet still get cold? Yes. Like I mentioned earlier, these are not a boot you can simply put on your foot with your summer socks and be set. My feet are incredibly sensitive to the cold and many of my rides were in the single digits this year. I’m not sure there is a solution available for my feet in those conditions. You still have to wear the right sock so your feet don’t sweat, have room to “breath” and maybe add the assistance of a chemical warmer to jump start the heat process. So no, my feet were not perpetually warm in these boots.
One example I will give though is telling of this boots strong points. I did a 4 hour mountain ride in about 23 degree temps. With wool socks and chemical warmers I was set. I broke through some ice around hour 2.5 and stepped in water but thankfully, the boot saved me and I didn’t get wet. Comfort in those temps for 4 hours is sort of a miracle in my opinion.
If you’re looking for a weather resistant shoe (even if it’s just rainy commuting) you can’t go wrong with the Defrosters. They are fantastic quality and comfortable fit.
Using a power meter to train can be the difference between a good season, and a bad one. Ironically, people seem to toss this out the window in the mountain bike world, being satisfied to only use a pm on the road. Why? Well, in the past their haven’t been many mtb options. Even recently, XX1 doesn’t have many options, with the only current offerings being from Stages and SRM. However, if you’re willing to do a bit of work, you can create a crank-based XX1 power meter using a Quarq. SRM and Stages are great options to be clear, they simply have limitations. Namely, an SRM is north of $2,200, and a Stages arm might rub on the rear chainstays of modern mtbs. So those are out for some of us. XX1 is unique in that it uses a single ring up front without a chain catcher. The chainring tooth profile is to blame for this as it dubbed “narrow-wide” in its profile. SRAM is not the only company to come up with such a thing though, and plenty of other folks like Wolf Tooth and Race Face, have developed their own custom rings. The problem is that most crank spiders are not single ring compatible, thus making former power meters not an option. We need a single ring compatible spider to build on. That's where Fetha comes in.
Get a used, compact, SRAM Quarq spider. The compact spider has a smaller BCD allowing for smaller rings to be mounted up. Add a custom Fetha narrow-wide 34t compact BCD chainring. Then, take your mtb crank arms with the proper Q factor, and mount them to the spider (note: SRAM crank arms will be required for a SRAM spider. Theoretically you could do this with any other branded Quarqs like Cannondale and Specialized). With the Fetha ring, mounted to the compact spider and SRAM crank arms, you’ve got yourself a working XX1 pm!
I’ve ridden mine now for hundreds of miles in races, training, mud and the rest. Not a single issue. I love XX1 and I love running power. Now I don’t have to choose between the two.
I am very excited to be riding Specialized bikes this year! In the past they have proven to me they have the best products for mountain bike racing, so to have them as support this year is incredible.
With a light feel on the face and excellent visual fields, these are just what you need for twisty single track and 50mph road descents.Read More
Grips, pedals and saddles are arguably the most important part of your bike, as they are the only points you touch. I've tried a bunch of different grips trying to find something that keeps you comfortable all day across varying terrain. Thankfully, that search ended when I found ESI grips.
The simplistic design scares some off, but truly, it's precisely why people love them. With the basic round design, you can adjust your grip to maintain comfort all day. Getting locked into one position can cause nerve damage so having the ease of adjusting them is incredibly nice. Along with cushion the silicone provides, the varying thicknesses allows you to get a grip that dampens the trail chatter to whatever degree you need, keeping your hands happy.
While the racers edge is their super light offering, each level of grip has its own strengths for varying terrain. For races with rough and long downhills, I opt for the Chunky grip to get a bit more cushion, and it's incredible.
There is something incredibly confidence inspiring about having a nice big grip, filling up your hand. I don't have the longest fingers or the shortest out there, but having the thicker grip makes it feel like I've got more control of the bike. Mix that with the amazing tactile feel of the silicone (when its both wet and dry) and its a winning combo. Cover it in mud, snot, water, drink mix or sand and you're still good to go!
Downhill or uphill, ESI is the winning grip. There's a reason so many World Cup racers use them. Check them out!