Mountain Bike
January 03

From Jasen
Tires: While Michelin still has the best tires going for the race crowd, Intense is the new king of the daily-driver, multi-conditions, good-traction mountain bike tire. With their slow-rebound rubber compounds, rounded casings and small knobs, the SYSTEM TIRES (System 1 is for wet conditions, 2 is for dry, 3 is a semi slick) are the best thing going. Intensetires.com

Wheels: Mavic Crossmax SL. New color, new reduced weight, new carbon front hub (on the rim-brake version, anyway), and still compatible with standard or tubeless tires. If youíre looking for an XC wheelset, you canít do better than this. www.mavic.com

Shoe covers: Sidi and Louis Garneau Shoe Covers. Mountain bike shoe/hike-a-bike friendly, and they keep your feet extra warm in crappy weather. www.sidiusa.com; louisgarneau.com

From Billy
Tires: Specialized Roll-X Tire. Coming in at a wee 560 grams (for the S-Works version), the slow-rebounding ROLL-X is one of my favorite new tires. It drifts predictably when things break loose and is knobby enough to hook up and brake in a wide range of conditions. The Roll-Xís weaknesses? Well, they get a tad slippery in the wet, and they donít roll as fast as Intenseís System tires. Specialized.com

Derailleur: SRAM X.0 Derailleur. Our $180 X.0 derailleur/$90 shifter combo has delivered crisp, authoritative shifts with excellent consistency ever since we got it. The system is cheaper and lighter than XTR, and the shifter cover has been slimmed down for a more seamless transition to thinner (are there really any other kinds?) grips. Itís not a whole group, but it managers to perform flawlessly all the same. Sram.com

Lights: Light and Motion ARC Cabeza HID. Handís down, this is the lighting system of the year. Itís light, simple and powerful, and its burn time is almost identical to its charge time, making it ideal for 24-hour racing; with a neutral charge station, you can get away with having only this and one spare battery. Bikelights.com

Brakes: Shimano XTR Disc Brake. Thereís been a lot of commotion about the new XTR Hollowtech II crank/bottom bracket and the Dual Control levers, but for me the brakes are the jewels of the group. The sleek one-piece caliper has plenty of stopping power for its intended use, and modulation is excellent. In typically savvy Shimano fashion, the hub/rotor interface has been redesigned (and improved upon) to save weight and facilitate fast rotor changes, but in a not-so-typical move, the brakes are compatible with traditional XT rotors and six-bold hubs. The only caveat: if youíre going to go with the new level, caliper and hubs, youíre going to have to part with some major bucks. Shimano.com

Chain: SRAM Hollow-pin chain. The chain world is usually a pretty bland place, but SRAM has managed to breathe some excitement into things through its new Hollow-pin riveting process. The holes shave about 20 grams from the conventional PC-99 (mountain) and PC-89R (road) chains, and through the weight benefits are modest (equivalent to shortening your chain by about 4 links), the Hollow-Pin chain adds a custom race look to any bike. The retail price is set at $44. Sram.com

From Matt
Wheels: Mavic TX 3.1 UST Rim. The CrossMax wheel set is awesome, but I have a soft spot in my heart for the traditional look of steel-spoke wheels, plus the convenience of east-to-find replacement parts. This Mavic rim lets you choose how you want your wheels built, and it saves several hundred dollars over the $800 CrossMax set. http://www.mavic.com/

Pedals: Shimano 959. I love the smooth entry and release of Time pedals, their easy-on-the-knees float and invulnerability to adverse conditions. The secure, locked-in feel of Shimano pedals appealed to me, but I could never really make the switch. Then the 959 came along. Entry and release was hugely improved Ė especially in adverse conditions. They had plenty of float and none of the rocking and lateral movement of Times, plus they still had that secure, locked-in feel. The Time is still smoother and superior in really nasty conditions, but the Shimano has won me over. Shimano.com

Brakes: Hayes Mag TI. Nobody has shown me a better disc package than Hayes: powerful, reliable, rugged, consistent, good feel and easy setup. Now that same package is even lighter and sexier. Maybe the XTR and Avid hydro brakes will change my mind, but the time tested Hayes is going to be tough to beat. Hayesbrake.com

Mountain Bike - Jan 02

Brianís best
Food: Fig Newtons
Lights: NiteHawkís Dual at $100
Or NiteRiderís Storm H.I.D. helmet light

Mattís best
Disc brakes: Hayes hydraulic disc brakes
Best wheels: www.gravywheels.net build from different combinations

Best products
Glove: AXO Raji
Skewers: Shimano
Computer: Specialized PBrain $250
Stem: Thomson $80
Economy disc: Shimano Deore BR-M555 (cost close to Avidís, but better feel)
Tires: Geax Sturdy, IRC Backcountry, Specialized Enduro
Disc-hub upgrade: SRAM 9.0SL

Most useful products:
Pump: Specialized AirForce $44.99
Tools: Crank Brothers Micra 17 $20
Pocket pump: Crank Brothers Power Pump Alloy $29.99
Energy gel: Enervit G
Cage: King Cage TI $60 or Elite Ciussi Gel $16.50
Lights: Helmet NightRider H.I.D. Storm $389.99 and CatEye Stadium 3 $425 Ė
Wait for new gen HID?

Mountain Bike - June 00

Uncle Knobby
Usually, you can find excess weight in a few key spots on most lower-end bikes. The lower-end Shimano bottom brackets are solid steel, and you can lose at least 75 grams by going to a hollow one (XT level). The rear clusters, up to XT level, are solid steel, while XT and XTR have aluminum carriers for the inner four cogs, saving another 100 grams. Usually, useful weight savings can be found in the saddle, seatpost, pedals and the handlebar. The thing to do is to replace your heavy parts with light parts as the old parts wear out, when those parts are wear items. If they arenít (seatposts rarely wear out, for instance), you just have to bite the bullet and crack open the wallet. Another thing you can do to make your bike feel a lot lighter is to carry your tools and your water in a hydratio0n backpack. Weight on your body is part of your control mechanism. Weight on your bike is a handling problem.

Shimano 636 pedals are 640 grams per pair. Speedplay Frogs are 250 grams for the steel axle versions, and 206 for the Ti axles. Even 545s are 570 grams. Save weight and get better mud performance at the same time.

(On disc brakes)
Iíve run several bikes with discs on the front and a V-brake on the rear, and the combination works just fine. Thereís no huge feel difference between the two, except when your rims are gunked out and the rim brake isnít working at all, of course. Having one reliable, strong-when-wet brake is better than having none. I would avoid the cable-actuated discs, although Hayes claims that its next try at a cable-actuated brake will actually work (good plan, that), and Avid has a nice-looking cable disc that I havenít tried, and a buddy at Kona swears the newest Formula cable discs are much improved (couldnít get worse). If youíre going to spend the money, get either a Hayes hydraulic, a Hope hydraulic or wait for the Shimano disc.

www.salsacycles.com or 1-800-762-4688

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Last Modified: March 9, 2008