Archive for December, 2007

Top Ten Favorite 29"er Products of '07: RST M-29 Suspension Fork

December 31, 2007

Editors Note: Yeah, yeah…..another year end review! Tis the season! So, here are my favorite things that have passed through the Twenty Nine Inches review process during the past year. I want to point out a few parameters that I used for what I chose here.

1. The product had to be in the review process during the time period of December 2006 through to the end of November 2007. Reviews that are currently in process I did not include and will be eligible for my 2008 Top Ten list.

2. They had to be products or bicycles that I personally used during this period. Nothing any of the other Twenty Nine Inches staff reviewed on their own could be considered for my list. This list doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone but me, Guitar Ted.

That said, let’s get on with this……
RST M-29 Fork in white

Number One: RST M-29 Suspension Fork. RST wasn’t on most folks radar when it came to suspension forks for 29″ers and it was a bit of a surprise to Twenty Nine Inches when we heard about it. We got our mits on one of the M-29 forks late in the spring and thrashed it throughout the rest of the year. It became quite clear that this wasn’t the RST I knew before.

Why it made the list: First and foremost, the fork just plain works well. That is something that needs to be stressed here. Even if it wasn’t an RST product, this fork at under $350.00 retail is such a great value and works so well for what it is that I just would have to put it on the list. Add to that the fact that this is one fork in the line of new stuff from RST that should turn the image of the company around and you have nothing short of a smash hit on your hands.

My Two Cents: This is the best bang-for-your-buck 29″er product of 2007 by a long shot. With suspension performance that rivals forks twice the price and lateral stiffness that is better than the category leading Reba, the RST M-29 is an attention getter. Then you have the ability to run cantilever brakes, (for those disc brake hold outs amongst us), a choice of 80mm or 100mm travel options, and a choice of either a pearly white or black color for the magnesium sliders which puts it over the top value-wise. Solid performance, options, and a low price for all of it adds up to the Number One status for 2007 on my Top Ten 29″er Products list.

That’s it folks! The Top Ten 29″er Products as I tested them for 2007. I hope you enjoyed that. Now I am looking ahead to 2008 and already I have some stellar choices that will most likely end up on the list for the next time I do this. 2008 looks to be an exciting year for 29″er freaks. Happy New Year!

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Top Ten Favorite 29"er Products of '07: Bontrager's Tubeless Ready System

December 30, 2007

Editors Note: Yeah, yeah…..another year end review! Tis the season! So, here are my favorite things that have passed through the Twenty Nine Inches review process during the past year. I want to point out a few parameters that I used for what I chose here.

1. The product had to be in the review process during the time period of December 2006 through to the end of November 2007. Reviews that are currently in process I did not include and will be eligible for my 2008 Top Ten list.

2. They had to be products or bicycles that I personally used during this period. Nothing any of the other Twenty Nine Inches staff reviewed on their own could be considered for my list. This list doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone but me, Guitar Ted.

That said, let’s get on with this……
Bontrager Tubeless Ready rim strip, valves, and skewer

Bontrager ACX Jones Tubeless Ready Tires

Bontrager Race X Lite Tubeless Ready Wheels

Number Two: Bontrager’s Tubeless Ready System. After rumors of a tubeless tire system from Bontrager had been heard for at least three years running, the products finally saw the light of day over the course of 2007. With a promise of several tread designs and two wheel formats, Bontrager had the attention of 29″er freaks nation wide. Twenty Nine Inches recieved a Race X Lite wheel set, Bontrager Super Juice sealant, and two different tread designs to test out over the course of the year.

Why it made the list: This may not be the first tubeless ready system out for 29″ers per se’ (Stan’s No Tubes Crow and various rim pairings could be argued to be first), but Bontragers system is a “real world” system in that the tires are multi-condition, fully knobbed tires and the system is bullet proof. I saw first hand how the rim strip works and it provides an amazingly snug fit for the Bontrager Dry X and ACX Jones tires that I tried out. The Super Juice sealed the tires up so that they held air better than my tubed set ups did, and out in the dirt I never experienced any burping or otherwise negative performance traits due to the system itself. Bontrager may have seemed crazy for not going UST, but I say they are crazy like a fox. This system will only get better as new tires are introduced and the Rhythm wheel sets start popping up on trail bikes set up tubeless. Bontrager has an edge on the “approved” tubeless ready market and looks to be committed to holding down that first place for awhile.

My Two Cents: While supplies of tires and rim strips have been sporadic at best, the system is out and it works well. Really well. I have seen and held two other tread designs and know of a third that will be added to the arsenal of Tubeless Ready tires that Bontrager has on offer already. Compare that with the competitions one tire a piece and I think you can see that when it comes to “tested and approved” tubeless tire systems, Bontrager is way up the trail on this stuff. If Bontrager can get the supply problem squared away, it will rule the tubeless roost in ’08 unless there is a miracle of some sort coming that I don’t know about. For coming out with a tubeless ready system and having a variety of choices out of the box, Bontrager’s Tubeless Ready System gets the Number Two spot on the list this year.

What 29″er product did I choose at Number One for 2007? I saved the best for last on the last day of 2007!

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December 29, 2007

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Top Ten Favorite 29"er Products of '07: Salsa Cycles Dos Niner

December 29, 2007

Editors Note: Yeah, yeah…..another year end review! Tis the season! So, here are my favorite things that have passed through the Twenty Nine Inches review process during the past year. I want to point out a few parameters that I used for what I chose here.

1. The product had to be in the review process during the time period of December 2006 through to the end of November 2007. Reviews that are currently in process I did not include and will be eligible for my 2008 Top Ten list.

2. They had to be products or bicycles that I personally used during this period. Nothing any of the other Twenty Nine Inches staff reviewed on their own could be considered for my list. This list doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone but me, Guitar Ted.

That said, let’s get on with this……
Salsa Dos Niner in the mud

Number Three: Salsa Cycles Dos Niner. The Salsa Dos Niner was the companies first foray into the 29″er market and arguably was the product that helped turn the company around and make Salsa a dominant force in the 29″er marketplace. Twenty Nine Inches got ahold of a Dos Niner back in December of ’06 and I have been putting it through its paces since then.

Why it made the list: The Dos Niner is a hard bike to explain. It is not a hard tail, it is not a full suspension device, and because it rolls on the big wheels, it makes the most of its limited travel. I was consistently amazed at how versatile the bike was in various situations. Although titanium and custom softail 29″ers are available, the Dos Niner stands alone in its class as an affordable option and it has been evolving all along the way. That and the fact that it has killer looks didn’t hurt it’s chances of making the list either!

My Two Cents: This is a bike that will do more than you think it will. It is a versatile bike and handles most anything you can throw at it in cross country or trail biking situations. Salsa Cycles committment to this design shows in that ever since its debut, Salsa has never quit refining this platform. And for good reason, it is a perennial favorite amongst 29″er freaks and a great design that makes the most of 29″er wheels best traits. It is a 29″er classic and an outstanding value. That’s why it is Number Three on the 2007 Top Ten list.

What will make the list at Number Two? Check back tomorrow to find out!

Top Ten Favorite 29"er Products of '07: WTB Weir Wolf LT 29"er Tire

December 28, 2007

Editors Note: Yeah, yeah…..another year end review! Tis the season! So, here are my favorite things that have passed through the Twenty Nine Inches review process during the past year. I want to point out a few parameters that I used for what I chose here.

1. The product had to be in the review process during the time period of December 2006 through to the end of November 2007. Reviews that are currently in process I did not include and will be eligible for my 2008 Top Ten list.

2. They had to be products or bicycles that I personally used during this period. Nothing any of the other Twenty Nine Inches staff reviewed on their own could be considered for my list. This list doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone but me, Guitar Ted.

That said, let’s get on with this……
WTB WeirWolf LT's on a Niner

Number Four: WTB Weir Wolf LT 29″er Tire. The voluptuous WTB Weir Wolf had been rumored for months and finally bowed at Interbike ’06. Twenty Nine Inches got a pair to test late in ’06 which Tim Grahl used for a bit, then they made their way out here to the Mid-West where I rode them a plenty.

Why it made the list: WTB was the first company to get a tire out for 29″ers with a truly humongous casing. The Weir Wolf LT has ruled as the largest 29″er tire anyone could get until recently when the Schwalbe Racing Ralph just barely edged it out of first place. Still, the WW LT is a fine roller with a great ability to be run at low pressures and give us rigid fork runnin’ fools something to cushion the blows with. I had excellent results with it as a snow/ice tire and in summer hardpack it was about the best tire I could hope for. Mud runners and sticky soil sloggers need not apply. It has a long lasting tread and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to buy. All things that helped get the WW LT on the list at #4.

My Two Cents: While my first impression upon seeing the WW LT at Interbike back in ’06 was, shall I say, less than enthusiastic, I have come around to really appreciate this tire for what it can do. Sure, there are folks that go all weak in the knees for knobbier offerings, but for a wide range of conditions and lower rolling resistance the Weir Wolf LT can’t be beat. I bumped this tire up the list after a ride on some rocky, rooty trail on a friends bike that had the Weir Wolf LT’s front and rear on it. I made it through the loop on those tires and afterwards my friend tells me, “Those tires are at 20 psi front and rear.” Now this was on a rigid hardtail and I would not have believed that I could have slammed those rocks and roots like I did if I had known that ahead of time. Well, I did and you can color me impressed.

Number Three is just around the corner! Stay tuned!

Top Ten Favorite 29"er Products of '07: Willits WOW Fork

December 27, 2007

Editors Note: Yeah, yeah…..another year end review! Tis the season! So, here are my favorite things that have passed through the Twenty Nine Inches review process during the past year. I want to point out a few parameters that I used for what I chose here.

1. The product had to be in the review process during the time period of December 2006 through to the end of November 2007. Reviews that are currently in process I did not include and will be eligible for my 2008 Top Ten list.

2. They had to be products or bicycles that I personally used during this period. Nothing any of the other Twnty Nine Inches staff reviewed on their own could be considered for my list. This list doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone but me, Guitar Ted.

That said, let’s get on with this……
unmounted Willits WOW fork

Number Five: Willits WOW fork. The Willits Brand WOW fork is a steel unicrown design fork with a unique profile bent into its two fork legs that is said to give verticle compliance while retaining steering precision. We got our hands on the Wes Williams creation back in May and gave it what for.

Why it made the list: The Willits Brand is the stuff of 29″er legend and lore. You can not separate the birth of the modern 29″er from Wes Williams and this storied brand of his. That alone is enough to give this fork a high pedigree, but we test things here, we don’t rest on legend and lore. I can say that the early claims of almost “suspension-like” performance were a bit optimistic, but the fork does give way a bit as advertised. Laterally the fork is rock solid and the super beefy drop outs and beautiful disc tab give the brakes a solid foundation to work off of. It weighs less than a lot of steel forks but it isn’t quite in the carbon fork territory. That said, we all know how steel bicycle components fail, and that is a reassuring thing when you are about to attempt that drop in on your 29″er.

My Two Cents: While the WOW fork isn’t suspension- not even close to it– it does take the edge off the hits and it is much like a carbon fork in this manner. The thing is, you don’t have to worry about that fist sized rock that bounces off of your fork blade or if your body weight is pushing the limits of the technology. Yeah, the looks are a bit odd, but I kind of like it in a retro kind of way. Customization of rake and color is available, which is also a huge plus these days with the different geometry ideas for 29″ers out there. Did I mention that it says “Willits” on the fork blades? If there is such a thing as “29”er cred”, this fork gets you it just by bolting it on.

Look for Number Four in the countdown coming soon!

Last Ride

December 27, 2007

Fisher 29er frame, done up 1x9er drivetrain. Bonty Rythmn wheels, LX/XT drivetrain, King headset.
Don’t ask more details cause I’ll tell you to just ride.

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December 26, 2007

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Top Ten Favorite 29"er Products of '07: Bontrager Dry X 29"er Tire

December 26, 2007

Editors Note: Yeah, yeah…..another year end review! Tis the season! So, here are my favorite things that have passed through the Twenty Nine Inches review process during the past year. I want to point out a few parameters that I used for what I chose here.

1. The product had to be in the review process during the time period of December 2006 through to the end of November 2007. Reviews that are currently in process I did not include and will be eligible for my 2008 Top Ten list.

2. They had to be products or bicycles that I personally used during this period. Nothing any of the other Twnty Nine Inches staff reviewed on their own could be considered for my list. This list doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone but me, Guitar Ted.

That said, let’s get on with this……

Number Six: Bontrager Dry X Tubeless Ready 29″er Tire. Bontrager’s long rumored developement of a tubeless ready 29″er tire was finally revealed at the Trek Press camp in Santa Cruz in early 2007. Twenty Nine Inches recieved a pre-production pair to test and review then. Bontrager was the first to produce a true tubeless ready system for 29″ers that included the Bontrager Tubeless Ready Race X Lite wheels which we were also testing at the time.

Why it makes the list: Tubeless. the words 29″er freaks were salivating over for months….nay, years to hear describing a new 29″er tire. Well, the Bontrager Dry X was it, (Stan’s nearly treadless Crow tire not with standing) and I was excited to try out a tubeless ready system that was approved and tested for use in a 29″er package. The Dry X was a great first foray into the tubeless tire world for Bontrager and was immediately recognized as a great tire design in its own right, even without the tubeless factor.

My Two Cents: Bontrager’s Tubeless Ready System is a solid, bombproof system, but that aside, the Dry X is a great all-round tread design with a nice, round casing profile and a great, grippy performance on most types of terrain. It rolls fast, corners well, and is good at absorbing bumps because of its voluminous casing. Add to that the tubeless factor and you have a tire that should work well for many 29″er freaks. It comes in two versions: a weight-weenie, non-armoured sidewall version and a “AR” casing design that beefs up the sidewall strength a bit. Both are very light weight, which is a bonus when you use the Super Juice sealant and go tubeless. A great tire design and a bombproof tubeless system that goes along with it. Those two things make the Bontrager Dry X Number Five on the Top Ten List of 29″er Products for 2007.

Look for the beginning of the top five of the Top Ten Favorite 29″er Products of ’07 in another post soon!

Top Ten Favorite 29"er Products of '07: Geax Saguaro 29"er Tire

December 24, 2007

Editors Note: Yeah, yeah…..another year end review! Tis the season! So, here are my favorite things that have passed through the Twenty Nine Inches review process during the past year. I want to point out a few parameters that I used for what I chose here.

1. The product had to be in the review process during the time period of December 2006 through to the end of November 2007. Reviews that are currently in process I did not include and will be eligible for my 2008 Top Ten list.

2. They had to be products or bicycles that I personally used during this period. Nothing any of the other Twnty Nine Inches staff reviewed on their own could be considered for my list. This list doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone but me, Guitar Ted.

That said, let’s get on with this……
Geax Saguaro in the mud

Number Seven: Geax Saguaro 29″er Tire. Geax has been making some fine mountain bike tires for awhile now, but this tire was their first foray into the 29″er field. We got our mits on some Saguaros for some early season testing in ’07.

Why it makes the list: The Geax tire was a great all-rounder for our Mid-West conditions. Not particularly outstanding at any one thing, this tire impressed me with what conditions you could make it work in. The weight was decent, cornering grip was pretty good, but in the end, the tread wear, which was minimal, put this tire over the top as one I would choose if I could only buy one set of tires for an entire year.

My Two Cents: While Geax called this tire a 2.20″, I thought that was a bit generous. I’d make it a true 2.1″ tire, but with that said, the tire performed admirably in a wide variety of conditions. As stated above, the long wearing tread was a welcomed thing, especially if you have pavement to the trail head riding. I thought that for a first outing in the 29″er tire world, the Geax Saguaro was a smart all-rounder that should work for a lot of riders. I liked it and I would highly recommend it.

Look for Number Six on the list coming up right after Christmas.