Wednesday, July 29, 2015

REVIEW: Lauf Trail Racer 275

REVIEW:  Lauf Trail Racer 275



This is my current whip.  
It is a Giant XTC Advanced SL 1.  It is a pretty sweet bike.  I get a lot of questions about it every time I have it out at the trail.  It does have some unique stuff on it, but today I'm focusing on the Lauf fork.  The above pic is from the day I built it up.  I have 5 months of solid riding on the fork now, and I am ready to give an honest review about it.  Here's what's up. . .

The Basics
I've been riding the Lauf Trail Racer 275.  The Trail Racer is available in a 29" or a 27.5" version.  Lauf has 2 different spring rates for the fork, a light spring for riders up to 154 pounds or a heavy spring for riders above 143 pounds.  I weighed 142 pounds and change this morning.  I'm rolling with the light spring.  I would recommend the light spring for riders under 150 pounds in Michigan type riding.  Lauf lists the weight at "sub 990g."  Mine weighed 997 grams.  Close.  Still lighter than any suspension fork out there.  For comparison, a Niner RDO fork weighs about 630 grams with the axle, a RockShox RS1 weighs in at 1666 grams sans axle, and a RockShox SID XX World Cup tips the scales at 1350 grams in a 275/100mm version.  The point is that the Lauf is lighter than any suspension fork out there, but still heavier than the rigid forks out there.  The fork also features a 15mm thru axle, post mount disc brakes, and requires the use of a 180mm disc rotor.  The price is $990.  It is priced right in line with the other "Premium" forks on the market.  The Enve rigid carbon fork is $625, a Ritchey WCS rigid fork is $550, and the Niner RDO fork is $550.  The Lauf slots in right between those and the premium suspension forks like the RockShox RS1 ($1865), SID XX World Cup ($1225), and the Fox Float 32 IRD ($1525).  Yes, it is expensive, but in line with the other high end parts on the market.

Set Up
Set up for the Lauf was pretty standard issue.  I did notice that the brake caliper mount is really close to the rotor position on certain hubs.  I was not able to use Clarks floating rotors on the Giant factory hubs, because the floating part of the rotor would hit the fork.  Not a big deal, I just wouldn't recommend floating rotors with Laufs.  I have set up the XT RT86 6 bolt rotors without issues on another bike.  Also, the cable routing is kind of weird, but after 5 months of riding, I haven't noticed any cable rub, so I guess it doesn't matter that it is a little weird.  If you buy a Lauf, you'll see what I mean.  For headset preload, they use a compression plug because it is a carbon steerer tube.  All compression plugs suck for mountain bikes and seem to develop a little bit of play after a few weeks of riding.  Minor issues aside, set up was very easy.  

The Ride
Reviews of the Lauf on the internetz are all over the place.  I will start the ride review by saying this. . .The Lauf is the perfect fork for Michigan!  If you live in Michigan, you know what our trails are like.  If you don't live in Michigan, our trails are perfect, well groomed, smooth singletrack, that snake through the woods.  Some of our trails are rougher than others, but they are smooth for the most part.  We do not have monster climbs or epic decent in the lower peninsula of Michigan, we just have some of the smoothest, flowy, awesomest singletrack around.  This is where the Lauf slays.  The short travel Lauf is tailor made for Michigan XC.  I admit that I am a fan of rigid forks on 29ers, and the Lauf on a 27.5 is just enough to take the edge off, but handle better.  Admittedly, when I first started riding the Trail Racer, there was about a 1 month learning curve to figure out how the fork works.  Yes, there are no settings, no air pressure, no adjustments, but you need to develop a "feel" for the fork.  I did notice that in rough sections of trail, the fork seemed to get "wild" feeling.  This "wild" feeling was almost out of control, but I quickly realized that the Lauf would go where I pointed it.  The Lauf is also not a fork for big drops or super aggressive riders.  The Lauf is a straight up XC fork.  If you are the type of rider that likes to get air off of every log pile, the Lauf is not for you.  Even getting a little air off of a 1 foot drop at speed, the Lauf will bottom out.  When the Lauf bottom outs, it's not a big deal, it just makes a loud "clunk."  Bottoming out the Lauf will happen.  It ain't no thang.  For the XC rider who wants something just to take the edge off of riding, the Lauf is where it is at.  At first when I started riding it, I wasn't even sure if it was working, because the actuation is so smooth.  The Lauf is definitely NOT as plush as a suspension fork though.  I like to think of the Trail Racer as a really plush rigid fork.  After riding on the Lauf fork for the summer, I am really confident with it.  I would absolutely recommend it for the rider who wants a light fork that can just take the edge off.  I've ridden the Lauf at the Lumberjack 100 and it was the perfect weapon of choice for the 100 miles of single track.  I have yet to find a trail in Michigan that I would not recommend using the Lauf for.  I've read reviews online that the Lauf feels "whippy" or the undamped travel is too "springy," but I have not had these issues at all.  I reiterate again, for Michigan XC riding, the Lauf is where it's at.  

The Verdict
Buy a Lauf.  If you are a cross country racer, this is the fork for you.  Yes, the looks are very polarizing, some people love it, some people hate it, but the performance is spot on.  They are not hype, Laufs are the real deal.  At just under $1000, the Lauf Trail Racer is a worthy upgrade for your steed for something that will really change the ride of your bike.  It handles great, it climbs awesome, and the weight is spot on.  Laufs rock.

Friday, December 7, 2012

ALL HAIL THE RIDDO!

If you're searching for the latest and greatest, look no further than the Riddo.  At Cycle to Fitness we've nicknamed the RDO series bikes from Niner the "Riddo."  The Riddos are the pinnacle of engineering from Niner, and what I consider the current benchmark for the top tier bikes on the market.  This blog entry is going to showcase the Air 9 RDO, which is the hardtail in the RDO series of bikes.  There are 2 other models in the RDO series, the Jet9RDO (XC full suspension bike), and the Rip9RDO (Trail full suspension bike).

Back to the Air 9 RDO, this is Niner's top tier carbon hardtail.  This is the badboy of bad rides.  The Air 9 RDO was introduced in 2012, is available in 2 different colors (licorice and Niner Green), and is going to be pretty readily available.  In '12 they were tough to come by, but Niner tells me that they're past any production issues they've had with the A9RDO's, and they are currently flowing out to dealers.
This particular bike was an in-house custom build we did.  Niner currently offers complete bike options that go up to a "5 Star" build.  We consider this our "6 Star" build.  This awesomeness is shown in Niners Licorice black color matched to the Niner Riddo carbon fork and Reynolds carbon wheels.  It tips the scales at just over 18 pounds in a size medium.  We also had to match the Riddo hardtail to the Riddo components like the handlebar, stem, and seatpost.
Heres a close-up of the stem:
The Riddo components are all lightweight, look great, and of course match the slickness of the sickest bikes on the market.  Check out the seatpost too:
The Riddo components are awesome!  The seatpost is actually a flexpost, so there is a built in degree of flex to it.  I've ridden the RDO seatposts, and they smooth out the ride on any bike.  I would go as far to say that if you are looking for a simple upgrade that will improve any bike, the Niner RDO seatposts are a great upgrade to get for your current bike to instantly smooth out the ride. 
If you are in the market for a high end carbon hardtail, the Niner Air 9 RDO, or "A9 Riddo" should top your list.  When it comes to ride, this is how a carbon hardtail should ride.  It is stiff, but not bone-jarring stiff.  It is smooth enough to take the edge off of the ride, but not too stiff to hurt you.  It does a great job of dampening vibration, and the geometry on this bike is just dialed.  The fact of the matter is that Niner has their geometry dialed in.  When you ride the bike, it just feels more comfortable turning and more stable at speed when compared to the other "uber" bikes out there like the Trek Superflys and the Specialized Carbon Stumpjumpers.

When it comes to geometry, looking at the numbers a Niner A9RDO compared to a Trek Superfly or a Specialized S Works Stumpjumper 29 are very different.  The Niner has the longest top tube of the bunch, the slackest seat tube angle, and the steepest headtube.  Add all this up and you get the most awesomemest bike ever!  Really, I've ridden the other bikes, and the Fisher feels slow and sluggish, the Stumpy is pretty quick, but just can't match how the Niner handles on the trails.  Geometry has always been Niners claim to fame, and this bike is the culmination of their engineers years of hard work.  

The Niner Air9 RDO is the benchmark of carbon frames.  If you want the ultimate carbon frame, the Riddo is it.  The frame starts at $2100 for a frame only, $2650 for a frame and matching carbon RDO fork, or $3750 for a "World Cup RDO Frame Module" (This includes an Air9RDO frame, matching RockShox SID XX World Cup fork, RDO handlebar, RDO seatpost, and RDO stem).  They also offer a few complete bike options starting at $3300 for their "2 Star" build, $5000 for the "4 star," and $6500 for their "5 Star" build.  I know what you are thinking, but the "2 Star" build does not come with a SID XX World Cup, an RDO handlebar, RDO stem, and RDO seatpost.  There is an A9 Riddo for any budget, talk to your Niner dealer (Like Cycle to Fitness at 734-266-8203), and they will get you set up with the bike that you need.
If you want the best carbon hardtail on the market, get the Niner Air 9 RDO.  I wouldn't even bother shopping around.  This is the ultimate carbon hardtail, and for 2013, Niner has come up with some very aggressively priced bikes to get a Riddo into your garage.  GET A RIDDO!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

I'm Fat.

I'm riding the fat at least.  That didn't come out how I thought it would.  I'm into riding fatbikes, and you should be too.
My ride of choice is the Surly Moonlander.  Don't judge.  

You know, before I got this bike, I thought fatbikes were a fad.  Up until this year, I just thought they were silly, for riders who didn't realize that you could buy a 20 pound race bike or something.  Then, I went to Interbike.  At Interbike this year, fatbikes were EVERYWHERE.  You could not avoid them.  At the Dirt Demo, it felt like every other person was riding fatbikes.  The funny thing was that there were only 3 companies even showing them there.  Between Surly, 9 Zero 7, and Salsa, their fatbikes dominated the demo.  

So I rode one.  I actually rode a 9 Zero 7 at the demo.  It was pretty sweet.  
It felt like riding a regular bike, only with giant tires.  Seriously, it was very easy to ride.  I was amazed, it pedaled easy, it climbed great, and it was just a blast to ride.  After riding it, and seeing the clout that fatbikes had at Interbike this year, I knew that when I got home, I would have to get one to test at my local trails.

Back at home, I decided to go with the Surly Moonlander.
I decided on the Moonlander for a few reasons:
  • Surly is the OG of fat bikes
  • It was steel.  I love steel.
  • The Moonlander is the FATTEST of the fat, having clearance for 4.8" tires
Starting with the first point, Surly was the first company to really make a commercially available fatbike.  Surly was the originator of the category, and Surly is the innovator in the category, why not stick with the original?

On the second point, I love steel.  Yes, it is slightly heavier than aluminum, but lets be honest, fatbikes are not light.  I realize that Salsa has some light-ish fatbikes like the Beargrease and the Mukluk Ti, but that's just craziness.  I mean, even if you throw thousands of dollars at these things, you'll be lucky to break the 25 pound mark.  You are not buying a fatbike to be light, you are buying it to be awesome.  The ride of a steel frame is awesome.  Yes, the tires do take the edge off of riding, but the steel frame also does a great job of adding a degree of forgivingness to the bike.

The final point is that the Moonlander is the fattest of the fat.  Pretty much all of the other bikes have clearance for 3.8 tires.  The Moonlander has clearance for MONSTEROUS 4.8" tires on 100mm wide rims.  If you want fat, the Moonlander is where it's at.  You are buying this bike for a fun bike, and what's more fun that having the fattest of the fat?  NOTHING.  

When it comes to ride, the Moonlander rules.  Yes, it is heavy (About 36 pounds as you see it), but it pedals surprisingly easy.  You'd be amazed at how easily it pedals.  It handles awesome.  No, it is not on par with a Niner Air9 RDO when it comes to razor sharp handling, it is very different.  Because of the big tires though, this thing just grips the trail.  The RDO rips, this thing GRIPS!  When it comes to the fun factor on the trail, this bike is an absolute 10.  If you are looking for a beast to just have fun on the trail, the Moonlander is the bike for you.  I would even go out on a limb and say "buy it" even if you don't live in a snowy area.  I've been riding this bike at my local trails that I ride all summer, we have not an ounce of snow yet, and it has been a blast.  It really breathes some fresh life into an old trail.

Ideally, the Moonlander is for everyone.  If you already have a nice mountain bike, the Moonlander is a great second bike.  If you live near a sandy beach, even better!  If you live in a snowy area, you need this bike!  If you are in the metro Detroit area, stop by Cycle to Fitness and take this bike for a spin, you will be blown away by how easy it is to ride and how fun it is to pedal.  At $2400 it's a great value in complete bike form.  It is also available as a frameset for $700, but the price climbs pretty fast when you build it up as a custom bike.  The last thing that I'll leave you with is that if you are considering a fatbike, get the fattest, and get the Moonlander.  If you get a Puglsey or Mukluk, you'll be trying to figure out how to put bigger tires on it one day, and you simply can't fit a 4.8" tire into the Pugs or Muk frame.  Save yourself the headache and go big.  Go Moonlander.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

GOODIES! From the Interbike floor.

Check out these delicious items from the bike world heading to a dealer near you (possibly.)
1.  Bianchi Carbon Hardtail 29r!
ISP sexiness!  Also named after my favorite type of cigarettes, minty fresh menthol!
It's cool, yes.  BB30 bottom bracket, tapered head tube, and an integrated seat post.  I just feel like Bianchi is a few years too late to the party.  At $2500, it's priced against some steep, proven competition.  I'm sure the Bianchi lovers will embrace it though.

2.  Ergon CF3 Carbon Seatpost
It is defined as a suspension seat post, but it is purely based on flex.  
It is clearly 2 separate pieces.  Ergon is a hot company right now, and with new products like this, it's good to see them really pushing the envelope.  I can't wait to get my hands on one of these and ride it!

3.  Formula Thirty Five 29" suspension fork
Finally!  Someone came out with a high quality 29" suspension fork.  
Wait.  I forgot.  RockShox and Fox already make really nice suspension forks.  Well, this fork is probably lighter than the comparable models from RockShox (Revelation 29) and Fox (Fox F29 34), right?  No.  Well, it's probably more affordable, right?  No again.  Oh wait, this is pretty much the definition of a "Me Too" product that you can put on your bike is you want to be that one guy who's different at the trailhead.  It is really hard to break into the 29r world right now, and this fork really offers nothing new.  I thought it should be mentioned in my blog though to show that Formula is serious about forks.  It is a good first effort, and maybe they will come out with something that will rock your world eventually, but this just isn't it.

4.  Peter Sagan's bike!
Ok, probably not coming to a dealer near you, but it's pretty cool.  
Awesome!!!!

5.  SRAM XX1!!!!!
More on this in the future.  Just know that it is awesome.  11 speeds are here for the mountain bike world.  Deal with it.
On the one hand, I love it!  It's new.  It's fresh, and it is an evolution of the bike world.  On the hand, I HATE all of the proprietary bits that have to be used together with it.

6.  Kulhavy's Bike!
I guess I'm a sucker for pro's rides.  Once again, this gold iteration is probably not coming to a dealer near you.  
I believe that red versions of this bike will be available for $12,000.  No gold ones for us amateurs though.

7.  Sun Cycles Crusher!
Fatbikes for the masses?  Well, sort of.  MSRP of this bad boy will be $475!  It has clearance for 3.8" tires (barely!) and it is fun!  This would make a great neighborhood cruiser or a sweet beach cruiser.  For the serious cyclist, the cheap-o steel frame probably won't hold up, it will be too heavy and there are no disc brake mounts on it.  For the occasional rider who wants to dabble in the fatbike world, this is your bike!  I believe there is also a singlespeed version coming out as well.

8.  Kenda Turnbull Canyon
Fast rolling tires your thing?  GET THESE!!! They will be under 500 grams, and they will be a great Michigan XC tire.  Availability will probably be around January.  Check out this blurry pic:

9.  NINER PARTS!!!!
Ok, it's not all new, but it is all awesome.  For 2013, Niner has told me that they are committed to more parts being readily available all the time.  They are not cheap, but Niner is only making high quality stuff.  Their carbon fork is the original badass carbon fork.  Their RDO seatpost is one of the first flexposts on the market, and their cogs are some of the lightest around.  If you are looking for a nice way to pimp your ride, dress it up with Niner components! 

10.  Interjet?
Do you believe in engineering?  If so, do not buy this frame.  It looks ominously similar to the Niner Air9RDO from a distance.  Up close, well, lets just say it's a 15 foot bike.  If you want to fool your friends into thinking that you got something cool, get this.  If you actually care how a bike rides, what goes into the carbon lay-ups of your bike, and you want to know that a team of engineers has worked hard developing and testing your bike so it won't catastrophically fail going down Columbine, get a Niner.  I just posted this up because I thought it was funny how the Niner was knocked off.  I counted no fewer than 5 knock-offs of the Niner from Chinese carbon companies.  All of them only similar to the Niner in paint, but that's where the similarities ended.

Ah yes.  Interbike.  Now let's go ride bikes for real!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

REVIEW:  Pinarello Dogma XC
This is the baddest of the bad.  That's all I can say about the Pinarello Dogma XC.  Yes, it's a Pinarello, YES it is a mountain bike, and YES, IT IS FREAKING SWEEET!!!!  Missurp will be $3500 and that includes the frame and Fox fork.  It was amazing riding this bike.  At the Dirt Demo in a sea of bike nerds that are riding the highest end, pimpest bikes around, so many people stopped me and asked me about the Pinny.  It was ridiculous, random people all over the demo stopped me and asked me questions about the bike as if I was the guy who designed it (Perhaps they didn't realize it was a Demo and that they too could ride it when I was done).  It is a carbon frame, but Pinarello does some interesting stuff to the frame.  When it comes to aesthetics, this bike is a 10.  Look at some of this stuff:

Seatpost junction:
Headtube junction:

Awesome!!!!  Internal cable routing looks totally clean, and the fork stop under the frame behind the head tube lets Pinarello make the frame how they want to make it and not worry about fork clearance.  The seat tube clamp is essentially a stem faceplate that holds the seatpost in place.  Pretty trick! 

I rode this thing too, and it was a ROCKET!!!!  It was light, it was fast, and it handled great!  Living in Michigan, I have a soft spot for carbon 29r hardtails, and Pinarello nailed it with this bike.  I felt that the ride was very comparable to the standard of the industry, the Niner Air9 RDO, and felt a lot more nimble than the Genesis geo equipped bikes.  Personally, I give the edge to the Niner A9RDO because it is the best handling 29r out there, and I have some decent time on an A9RDO.  I just don't have enough time in the saddle on the Pinarello to say it is a better bike.  It's close, and in the looks category, the Pinarello Dogma XC is trick as Rick.  If you want a great handling bike and want to be the center of attention at the trailhead, get the Dogma XC.  At $3500, it falls right in line with other top tier hardtail offerings in the market such as the Niner Air9RDO ($3100 w/ matching Niner SID XX World Cup) and the S-Works Stumpy frameset ($3200 w/ matching Brain SID World Cup).  If you think the price is too high, then this is not the frame for you.  The bike is clearly designed to a standard, not a price point.

If you've always dreamed of taking a Pinarello out on the dirt, get this bike!  If you really want one of these, order one ASAP, because I'm sure stock will be super limited and they will be hard to come by next year.  
Pinarello Carbon 29r!!!!
The top tier just got a little more crowded!



Thursday, October 11, 2012

REVIEW: Turner Burner 650B

Let the debates begin, which is better, 26?  29?  650b?  Who the heck knows?!  To be perfectly frank with you, I really feel like all the wheel sizes have their benefits, and personally, I'm all about the industry trying new things.  Is 650b the answer?  I don't know yet, but give it some time and let some companies see what they can do with it.

Which brings me to the Turner Burner.
The Burner is cool.  Bringing back an old name in the Turner stable is pretty neat too.  But how does the bike ride?  I would say, "Average."  Seriously, what were you thinking?  Were you thinking that I'd throw a leg over this bike, and my life would be changed forever?  I mean, I hoped that would happen, but it didn't.  The Burner felt solid like all Turners do.  It was plush, the DW like felt glued to the trail, and the 650b wheels rolled like they should.  A good all around bike would be the best way to describe the Burner.  

Who is the Burner for?
If you are in the market for a new full suspension bike, you don't race XC, and want a good solid bike, the Burner is for you.  The bike oozes quality everyone, rides rock solid, and like all Turners, is made in America.  If you already own a really nice full suspension 29r, I can't see this being the bike that replaces it.  The Burner is only revolutionary from a wheel size perspective, and that's not really enough to carry it to work its way into my stable.  For Michigan XC, 29rs still rule the roost, as does lightweight.  I didn't have a scale with me at the Dirt Demo, but the Burner did not exactly feel light.  It did feel rock solid though.  At $2500 for a frame, or about $4500 for a complete bike (Starting price), for Michigan XC riding, the Burner is a tough sell against proven bikes like Niners Rip9, and newcomers like Niners new Rip9 RDO.  If you want to be that dude that rides a 650b bike, get this.  If you must buy American made products, get this bike.  If you want a versatile XC or trail bike, get this.  If you want to Rip Michigan-style XC trails, stick with a 100mm travel full suspension 29r, and not this.

Monday, October 8, 2012

BIKE: Tretta 2wd MTB Bike 

Two wheel drive?! On an MTB?! Haven't I seen this before?! Ummmmmm, yeah. Christini did it with some worm drive contraption a while ago. If you still want one, get one on Ebay HERE.

Buuuuuut, that was expensive. These are more affordable. Tretta is attempting to brake into the 2wd bike market with bikes that are starting around $1000 they say. They are a Japanese company, and tell me that these bikes are hot in Japan right now. They told me they are showing off the bikes at Interbike to gauge interest in the US. Well, here it is:
First thing you'll notice is the chain.  Er, the chains.  This bike has a total of 4 chains.  Lightweight is NOT the focus here, TWO WHEEL DRIVE IS!!!  Here are pics of all the chains:

Get past the 4 chains thing, and everyone wants to know, how does it ride?  Disappointing is probably the best word to describe the ride.  There were so many awesome mountain bikes out there, it was really tough to see why you would need 2 wheel drive.  The bike was heavy, clunky, and the long chain from he rear disc brake to the front of the frame on the non-drive side kept pulling my leg hairs out (Yes, I know, not an issue if you shave your legs.)  Seriously though, I wanted this bike to climb like a mountain goat.  It climbed like a Walmart Huffy.  I honestly did not notice any added benefit of the 2 wheel drive system.  Right before I rode this bike, I rode a 9 Zero 7 Fatbike, and right after I rode a Turner Burner full sussser.  Both blew this bike out of the water when it came to traction and climbing.  

The design is unique, and I give Tretta props for trying it, but for right now, the design is too complex to be a viable option in the MTB world.  The price point is right for what they are trying to do, but there simply is no benefit in this case for the 2 wheel drive system.  They also had road bikes with 2 wheel drive on them, which I did not ride.  I can honestly say though that I never really feel like I need more traction on my road bike.  

The verdict is that it is an idea that still needs a lot more development to be a benefit to the cycling community, or there is no benefit at all.  For now, I'll stick with my "old school" 1 wheel drive bike.