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Building on a Budget: Avid Elixir 9 Trail Brakeset

In our last posting we talked about the fantastic Shimano XT M775 Trail brakes. If you are in the market for something different than Shimano’s but demand great performance, tons of power on tap and a reasonable price tag, the Avid Elixir 9 Trail brakes might just be right up your alley.


These aren’t the Avid’s that you used to know. Avid / SRAM has come a long way in the last few years with there brake technology. The Elixir 9 Trail’s are a great example of how far they’ve come, these brakes are affordable, offer amazing power, and great feel at the levers. These brakes are designed for the massively popular Enduro scene, and as such have to offer competitive weight, fantastic feel, and power to stop on a dime. These do that in spades. Like our Shimano XT’s from the last posting you can pick these fantastic brakes for around $200 USD with some shopping around.

So lets get into it!


With a giant reservoir at the lever, and a massive 4 piston caliper, power should be the least of the worries with these brakes and they certainly deliver on that aspect! Grab hold of the lever and you will stop, doesn’t matter the speed, doesn’t matter if it’s wet or dry, you will STOP.


With all that power, you’d think that these brakes have the subtly of a light switch. That is where all the work Avid and Sram has done is evident with these brakes. The Elixir 9 Trails have a great feel at the lever and offer actual modulation, meaning you can gently scrub speed with out locking up your wheels. This is not something that Avids are traditionally known for and it is a very welcome surprise!

Adjustments / Features:

So far we have a brake that offers great power and good modulation. What else do these brakes offer to set them apart from the other brakes out there? These Avid’s offer a pad contact point adjustment which will adjust the point in which your pads contact your rotors, in turn changing how your levers feel. in addition to changing the pad contact point, these brakes also offer the ability to change the position of your levers, which is a very important aspect of getting your cockpit to feel right.

The last feature isn’t one that is very obvious, until you need to bleed your brakes that is. Avid changed the inline brake hardware on the new Elixirs, no longer do you need to break our bench vices, vice grips or hammers to drive in brake fittings. Now the barbed ferrules are quite easy to install and offer a quick and easy method for changing length of your lines.

Real World Performance:

I’ve had the chance to ride these brakes in a  few different conditions, which really show the versatility of a brake system. In chunky, rocky, steep technical terrain the modulation and sheer power these brakes offer is outstanding. In this type of terrain these brakes offer instant power, precise lever feel and give the confidence you need to be able to ride in this type of terrain.

In a fast and flowy trail environment where momentum is key the Avid’s performed excellently as well. Scrubbing off a little bit of speed to keep control but not losing your momentum is a common occurrence and the Elixir 9’s were more than up to that task. The Elixirs also had more than enough immediate power to stop me in a blink of an eye in the event of a needed “emergency” stop. The Avid’s also showed no evidence of brake fade over long distance braking situations.

On the trail these brakes impress. They were a bolt on upgrade that improved the handling and confidence on the bike. They don’t have a “weakness” per se, but there is one calling card of Avid’s that is almost universally known as the “turkey warble”, meaning that once your pads or rotors are wet, Avid’s provide a noise that is not unlike a turkey mating call. These Elixir 9’s give you that same exact call.

Wrap up:

For our money, we’re getting a 4 piston brake that is a fairly light weight set up, we’re getting tons of power and great modulation at a price that won’t break the bank. In that respect these brakes pass all the marks with flying colors, once set up they will rival any brake system in this price range for pure performance. The one detail that always catches me out with Avid brakes is the dreaded turkey warble, it’s still here, it was greatly reduced but it does rear its head. If that is not a big deal for you then these brakes will provide you a package that will be hard to beat.

Building on a Budget

If one thing is obvious in the mountain biking world, it’s that it is getting more and more expensive to participate in. With the introduction of three different wheel sizes, multiple genre’s of great bikes, and more bikes regularly reaching the 8, 9 or even 10 thousand dollar price range it’s hard to figure out how to afford all this great stuff! The goal of this series of articles will be to look at certain pieces of gear that we use here in the shop that deliver exceptional performance at a figure that won’t blow up your budgets. Some of these gear reviews will be familiar to you and maybe some parts and pieces will really surprise you.

The first piece of gear that I wanted to talk about is possibly the one that I always get asked questions about. Brakes! They are on every bike out there, there are dozens and dozens of options to choose from, and prices can range from anywhere from $100 for a set of brakes all the way out to $1000 for something that essentially functions in the same exact way!

Our first contender here in the shop is the stellar Shimano XT Brakes.


These should be no surprise to quite a few of our readers. This generation of Shimano has a reputation of offering fantastic power, great modulation, trouble free operation and easy bleeding. These brakes not only look good, they might simply best one of the best performing brakes out on the market today. Well here is a secret, Shimano XT Brakes are also a great deal where you can find a complete set with rotors and hardware for $200 USD or LESS with some shopping around. Simply put, for $200 there is not a single piece of equipment that you can currently put on your bike that will improve the overall performance of your daily rides more than these brakes. So lets talk about what makes these brakes so special!


First and foremost these guys supply power in spades. Grab the levers and you’re stopping, these guys provide offer TONS of stopping power, so much so that if you are unused to them they can be a bit surprising how much they have. Hello Endo’s!


What good is having a ton of power if you can’t control it? There are lots of brakes that offer TONS of power and little control, think about a light switch, it’s either on or it’s off and that’s how quite a few brakes I’ve ridden feel like. That’s what makes these guys special, despite having enough brute force to lock up the wheels at a moments notice, a light touch on the brakes will give you plenty of stopping power with out locking your wheels up, with power to spare past that if you need it. If you have a heavy hand on the brakes, you’ll lock them up at first until you get used to them.

Adjustments / Features

So the Shimano XT Brakes stop well, they offer power and modulation but what else can they offer you? That is where the adjustments come in, and these guys aren’t shy with offering you plenty. The Shimano XT’s offer tool free lever adjustment, meaning you can position your brake levers to where your fingers can comfortably reach the levers with out stretching. They also offer pad contact adjustment, which essentially means that you can adjust the point in which you feel your pads contacting your rotors to give you even more comfort and control while braking. Beyond offering these control features, they also offer disc cooling fins whose job it is to help dissipate heat away from the braking surface to offer less brake fade over extended braking. The last feature I want to talk about is the super short levers, at first I didn’t think a whole lot about this but in practice these short levers offer you the easy ability to use only one finger for braking giving you tons more control through the bars and requiring less braking force on the levers. All packaged together you have a set of brakes that are rich in adjustments, control features and lastly comfort features.

Real World Performance:

All kitted up I’m not a small guy. I’m 6’2″ and depending on the season I can weigh in with gear anywhere from 190lbs to 210lbs. I also normally ride not light bikes, ranging in the area of 30-35lbs on a regular basis, so brakes are one of most important features of a bike.

In general trail riding, consisting of short downhills combined with lots of twists and turns I’ve found that these brakes offer great braking performance. They offer consistent braking points, on demand power and enough juice to stop me on a dime. The levers are comfortable on your hands, don’t require a ton of force to stop, and work noise free if set up properly.

In downhill situations the XT’s work great. Give tons of power to both wheels to be able to slow you on demand. Offer enough modulation to slow you with out killing your momentum and if needed enough force to lock up your wheels (emergency braking) if needed. In technical downhills (rock crawling or sketchy descents) the XT’s offer so much control that it becomes much easier to pick and choose your lines where you need to keep your wheels from rolling.

Wrap it up:

The Shimano XT Brakes are stellar for their costs. They give you unrivaled control, power and modulation for their price. If you had to pick at something on these brakes it would be over long descents you can start to feel some brake fading. There are ways to address this and it’s an extremely common malady among most brakes on the market, even ones much more expensive than these. When I’m building a bike for a customer, this is easily our most recommended piece of equipment, its hard to beat its performance, even with brakes approaching double the cost of these guys.

Transition TR250 – First Impressions

Moving to Santa Cruz does weird things to a person. Take a guy who is a solid mountain biker, who likes to jump normal sized jumps, who loves to log long rides, rack up miles and generally get out in the woods to have a good time and move him to Santa Cruz and he’ll decide that he NEEDS a “big air” bike.

Enter the Transition TR250, a “mini” DH sled, jump bike, park bike and generally a misfit in the bike world. While the terrain out here doesn’t technically “need” a 7″ full coil rig to enjoy the trails, why wouldn’t you have one? Today was the first day out on the Purple People Eater and here is what I thought of her.


The Trail: 

The testing ground for Mrs Cleo(That’s the TR’s name because reasons!) was Emma McCreary Trail. This is a pretty buff trail overall, it’s about 2.5 miles to climb but can go out a LOT longer if you know your way around the woods. The reasons for choosing this trail are pretty simple, but for getting a impression on a bike this trail does offer a bit of everything. 

1. Berms: EMT offers very good bermed corners for really seeing how a bike hooks up in braking ruts and loose sandy bermed corners. 

2. Jumps: Now EMT doesn’t have big air jumps, but it does have ALOT of smaller jumps littered throughout the full trail. You have ample chances to turn single jumps into doubles, use off camber jumps to get the bike sideways and overall gives a good feel of the flow of a bike. 

3. Speed: EMT is a fast track once headed down, it rewards flow, keeping momentum and offers fantastic sight lines to see riders coming up the trail. This makes it easy to keep out of peoples way and not run someone over. 

4. Easy Climb up: The climb up EMT isn’t too bad, while it is 2.5 miles of climbing it’s a gentle climb with no steep pitches and easily doable even on a near 40lb rig like this. 

The Bike: 

Ok now we got the trail info out of the way lets talk a little bit about the TR250 and what it offers. 

Geometry: The TR250 is a very planted bike, offering quite a bit of adjustment in numerous areas; wheel base, chain stay, shock travel, bb height and head angle are all things that can be changed quite easily. For the purposes of this test, the TR was set up in 7″ rear travel mode, shortest chain stay, and slackest head angle. Which leads to a low slung, well planted and slack set up perfect for railing corners and keeping an over eager (ME!) rider out of trouble. 

Suspension Setup: Just like the geometry, the suspension on this bike is extremely adjustable. The TR is running a Fox DHX RC4 Rear Shock and Fox Vanilla 180 FIT RLC in the front. Both shocks offer low speed, high speed, and rebound adjustment. In my set up the bike is currently set up with a fast rebound, poppy compression settings (to help give that pop off lips on jumps) and finally to suck up the bigger hits at the end stroke of the suspension set up. 

The Climb: 

Lets get to the dirty secret of this jump eating, hill slaying, crazy machine. It’s really not a bad climber all things considered. It is a 40lb rig that is slack, low and set up to be squishy and there is no getting around that, BUT it pedals very well, doesn’t bob in its travel, rides high in its travel (which I love) and made it to the top of this climb with little to no fuss. I’m impressed and feel that with a dropper post one could put some miles on the bike and not hate life while doing so. 

The Turns: 

This was an eye opening experience. I know EMT very well, I know the turns, I know how fast I can enter these turns on my normal bike, I know where I can push and where I need to scrub speed. All of that knowledge went right out the window, the TR250 will bring you through a corner, the bike loves to be tossed into a corner and it will bring you out on the same line it took you in. Thanks to the 150mm rear axle, and giant front stanchions / 20mm axle the TR holds lines you don’t think it should. If you have traction the bike gets you through. Simply put, this bike is a demon in the corners and led me into numerous situations where my brain was screaming at me to slow down but the TR just didn’t care to listen. 

The Jumps: 

Now no one will mistake me for Brandon Semenuk with my jumping ability. To put it bluntly, I get through more with just going for it and hoping for the best than sheer ability. I’m not a smooth jumper, but I can get to where I want to go….usually. The TR250 today changed that for the better, this bike loves to jump, cleaning lines where it really has no business cleaning. Essentially trust the bike, have ample speed and you’ll clean what you’re trying to clean and come out the other side. In time the TR250 may just upgrade me from HACK to SLIGHTLY Dangerous to Myself in regards to jumping, and yes that IS a step up. 


Overall for a first ride impression I’m extremely impressed. Granted the TR250 does have some drawbacks and we’ll eventually cover those, but to be honest a lot of those are niggling details that any type of bike similar to this would have. The biggest drawback I would consider is a pronounced about of brake jack, take a step back though and realize you’re on a single pivot bike with 7″ of travel and really the amount of brake jack just really isn’t that surprising. 

My thoughts on the TR250 are very good, this is a bike that will improve your riding if you trust it. If you screw something up, it will bring out out the other side, and treat her right and she’ll take care of you. If you are in the market for something to push your skills on, to improve your riding and to generally have a great time on a bike, the TR250 is a fantastic option.

Chromag Rootdown – All Mountain 29’er Hardtail

If you are anything like me, you grew up riding hardtail bikes you did everything and anything on them. In today’s bike market, it’s hard to figure out what you want, there are dozens of suspension platforms, there are new “categories” of bikes seemingly everyday, there are multiple wheel sizes and finally that doesn’t even mention the amount of brands that are out there. When planning on a new bike build, what do you do?

I wanted to build a fun bike this summer, I wanted the bike to be as little maintenance as possible, I wanted it to be capable, and most of all I wanted it to be something that forced me to work on skills and improve my abilities. When thinking about this, I decided I wanted to go with a long travel hardtail, something that had aggressive geometry, liked to jump, was steel and could accept up to a 150mm fork. With those options in mind, I ended up choosing a Chromag Rootdown.

I’ve never ridden a bike from Chromag, they are generally a company that offers what I like to call “BC Geometry”, meaning they build aggressive bikes that love to jump and they only offer hardtails. You may be more familiar with Chromag as a parts company, they offer stems, posts, seats, seat post binders, and a million other little bits and pieces in addition to their frames.

Enough of that stuff, lets talk about the bike!

Bike Build:


The Chromag Rootdown offers aggressive geometry highlighted by a long top tube, short chain stays, slack angles and solid weights. This leads one to believe that this bike will not only handle anything you can throw at it as a rider, but will be fun doing it as well. Check out these numbers, in my current build, the Rootdown offers a 16.9 chain stay, 31.6 seat tube, 67 degree head angle, and a 24″ top tube. That lets you build a bike that has any dropper you want, run’s a 140mm fork currently (will be upgrading to a 150 Pike shortly), run a short 50mm stem, and overall gives you a riding position that is upright and lets you really get that bike to go where you want it.

The overall build is pretty awesome, it’s strong, dependable, and builds out to be about 28lbs.

  • Large Chromag Rootdown Frame:
  • Rock Shox Revelation RCT 140MM
  • Easton Haven Carbon Wheels
  • Maxxis Ardent 2.4 Rear / Maxxis Minion DHR 2.5 Front
  • Hope V2 Brakes
  • SRAM X9 Shifter
  • SRAM X9 Type 2 Rear Derailleur
  • Shimano XT Cassette
  • Shimano XT w/ Race Face Narrow Wide 30T Ring
  • Race Face SIXC Bars
  • Chromag Ranger 50mm Stem
  • Chromag Trailmaster Saddle
  • KS LEV Dropper Post 

As you can see a no nonsense build.

Riding Impressions:

So now we have a bike that is built like a tank, offers fantastic performance and is super fun / jumpy “on paper” but how does it ride out in the wilds? 

First thing that you notice with the Rootdown is it gets up to speed QUICK. If you put the power down the bike JUMPS out from you. It wants to go fast, it wants to be a little reckless and it wants to have fun doing it. 


If you’ve never ridden a hardtail before on a trail, climbing is a whole new experience. There is zero power loss through the suspension system, the bike just scoots from every pedal stroke. The Rootdown is no difference here, it loves to climb and with the bigger wheels makes short work of chunky and technical climbs. 

Having a slack headangle, short chain stays and a tall fork does lead to a fairly light front end that can be prone to wandering. If your weight drifts to the back of the bike, you’re front end will want to lift up. The Rootdown really does reward proper climbing technique and has enough traction to help clean most climb. 

Technical Chunk: 

The Rootdown shines in the rough, the bike just wants to claw, spit and fight its way over rocks, roots and chunky lines. If you have the legs and the balance, the Rootdown will get you through, overall and down obstacles that show up in your trails. I’ve taken it over, off of and down things that a hardtail really has no business doing. 

It does take a few rides to get familiar with riding a hardtail in chunk, especially if you’ve been on a full suspension rig for a long time. Your attack angles, approaches, speed, and lines will be different, and possibly the toughest aspect, learning to trust the bike all take time to learn and get comfortable with. Once you do, the Rootdown will truly surprise you with what it and you are capable of. 


Now we get to some real fun stuff, when the trail points down! The Rootdown loves speed, loves to fly downhill, carve corners, and get rowdy over chunk. The faster the Rootdown goes, the smoother the trail seems to get! The Rootdown has such a relaxed posture that speed just feels comfortable, I’ve actually found myself going faster through sections that I’ve done on some of my past FS rigs, which really surprised me. 

The Rootdown loves to be tossed into a high speed corner, set it up with some grippy fat tires and the bike will reward your speed. The possible downside to the Rootdown’s descending is that you won’t forget that you’re on a hardtail, you do feel trail chatter, you feel the smaller rocks and roots that your FS rig just eats up. When riding the Rootdown (like any HT), you need to focus on being loose, don’t lock your knees / elbows out, and try and flow with the trail. You’ll be going faster than you know what to do with in no time! 

Air Time:

Possibly the most fun aspect to the Rootdown is when the trail has lots of jumps to play with! The Rootdown loves getting into the air, loves to be whipped around and generally is pretty darn playful considering it’s bigger wheels. That shouldn’t be surprising considering that the bike IS from Chromag, guys who love to build amazing jumping bikes and the Rootdown is no exception. 

I’ve taken it off just about everything that I’ve taken my FS rigs off, including 3ft drops, fun doubles and overall anything else that I’ve come across. The Rootdown really rewards speed here, you’re not going to forget your on a hardtail, drops to flat can be a bit rough but as long as you use your body to absorb the drops with your knees / elbows you’re going to enjoy the Rootdown. If you can play on things with transitions then the Rootdown is a BLAST! 


So after piling up a good number of miles I can confidently say that the Rootdown is a great bike. It’s not going to make you forget that you’re on a HT, you feel trail chatter, you feel roots, you feel rocks and you have to focus on your riding. You can’t just blindly rush your way through rocks / roots, you can’t be lazy, and at the end of a ride you’ll be more beat up than you were on a FS rig. Which is pretty much the same thing you could say about any HT bike. 

That really doesn’t sound like a great bike. Yet the Rootdown is for a person looking for a hardtail, as far as hardtails go the Rootdown offers a smooth ride, climbs great, loves technical terrain, screams downhill and loves to get crazy in the air. If you stay aggressive, ride with good technique, and focus on maintaining speed the Rootdown will truly impress you. The bigger wheels, the slack angles and the playful nature of the bike brings a smile to your face. At the end of the day, that is truly what makes this a GREAT bike. 


Monday Mechanicals

Hey gang! I wanted to try something new and start having weekly articles and one series that I’ve been wanting to do is talk about the mechanical side of bikes and give a short “how to” on taking care of and fixing our bikes. 

One of the most common questions I get asked is how do I clean a bike. I figure that this will be a great starting point to talk about as it’s a pretty critical aspect of taking care of a bike yet also one of the most overlooked items out there. While I love seeing bikes out on the trails and dirty bikes are well loved bikes dirt / dust is a killer on a bike. So lets talk about why it’s important to clean your bike as well as how to actually go about doing it! We’re also going to talk about some common problems caused by dirt and how to address them. 


This is possibly the most annoying aspect of a dirty bike, and one that you can hear a mile away. There is nothing more annoying than a constant creak as you pedal your bike, it creaks over and over again, similar to a dog with a chew toy. So how does this happen? DIRT! 

As we love getting our bikes out on the trails, dirt gets everywhere on the bike as well as in places that would boggle the mind. Creaks / cracks / groans most commonly come from three places on your bike and are directly related to dirt. The first place dirt loves to accumulate is around your seat post where it slides into the frame. Everytime your weight hits the saddle, CREAK! The easiest solution to that is slide your post out of your frame, get a dirty rag and clean the post as well as carefully cleaning the inside of the frame as well. Important tip here, do NOT grease the post if you put it back in the frame, that is NO BUENO! 

Now you’ve cleaned your post, lets look at your saddle. This is where dirt loves to live, right there under your saddle along the rails that get clamped by your seat post. Dirt LOVES hiding there, and can easily cause the same creak as your post will make. Again this is an easily solution, remove saddle, grab a slightly damp rag and clean your rails as well as the rail clamps on the post. 

The last place that dirt loves to hide is IN your pedals. Some pedals will constantly creak as they get dry and dusty. The bushings and bearings get dry, start to make noise and with every pedal stroke starts to erode your sanity. Pedals are a little harder to take apart, but if your pedals are rebuildable, it’s usually a simple matter to take the spindle off, clean it and apply a light layer of grease on the axle contact points, as well as cleaning the actual threads that slide into your cranks. Both of these places are great spots for dirt to hide, and can be easily addressed. 

Fork / Shock Seals: 

Dirt not only can cause a creak on your bike, but can prematurely wear away at your fork seals which in turn creaks a leaky fork and shock. Cleaning your fork stanchions are extremely quick and easy and can lead to MUCH longer times between service. The simplest way to clean your fork is to get an old cotton T-Shirt (with no graphics on it, the old stand by cotton white tshirt is great for this), gently wipe off any dirt on the stanchion itself, now follow the leg down to where the fork stanchion enters the lower portion of your fork, that is your seal and you will see a buildup of dirt there, just slide the tshirt down into that gap and “floss” the seal top and you’ll pick up most if not all the dirt out of there. This little 5 minute cleaning exercise can increase your fork seals lives a LONG time. 

Cleaning Frame / Rest of bike. 

This is the part where most of my customers go horribly wrong when we talking about bikes. Most people want to use some type of harsh soap / clean (simple green, 404, and even bleach!) which is exactly what you don’t want to do. These soaps / cleaners are designed to do one thing, and that is to break up grease. Yet your bike requires bearings to provide smooth actuation for your suspension which REQUIRES grease to operate at full capacity. 

So how does one go about cleaning the dirty bike? Well the simplest thing to do is grab a hose, grab a rag and just spray and wipe the bike down. As you are mostly removing dust you don’t really need any major cleaning substances. 

So I hope this quick read helps you keep your bikes cleaner and at the same time keep them out of the shop longer! Next week we are going to stay on the cleaning kick, and talk about a little more in-depth cleaning of cassettes, brake rotors, and deep cleaning a frame! 


Enduro Races, what do they offer you?

So unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year or two, you’ve noticed that Enduro racing is all the rage. Combine XC riding with time downhill runs and you’ve created a super fun format that just about anyone can enjoy. What else does an Enduro race offer for you as a mountain biker? 

Enduro races are odd ducks to say the least. As a rider you need to be able to handle multiple things on a bike, sometimes almost simultaneously. You need to be a fairly strong climber, have good cardio, and at the same time need to have solid bike handling skills as well as be fast when the trail points down. Sounds daunting to say the least! So how does a rider get better at all of that? 

Enduro’s have blown up the market when it comes to skills classes. If you look at popular Enduro destinations (Washington, Oregon, NorCal, Denver and Utah) you’ll notice that there are a TON of privately run classes to improve almost any aspect of riding you could want. This is nothing new as classes have been around a long time, yet the quality of instructors is climbing, the amount of companies offering classes is increasing, and the sponsorship opportunities for these classes are also on the rise as companies realize its a GREAT marketing opportunity. 

So Enduro’s have given us better instruction, which is great! What about those of you who feel that you don’t need instruction, yet you need someplace to put your rad shredding on display! In comes FLOW trails! These “trails” are purpose built with the intention of improving riders skills in things that you just don’t always see on the trails in a manner which is safe and sustainable. Just here in Norcal we’ve seen an explosion of these trails with Soquel Demonstration Forest opening a trail this year, Tamarancho opening a trail last year, and a confirmed 3 or 4 more in the planning stages for local areas. 

So far we’ve seen that Enduro’s have given us some rad places to ride, some types of classes to improve our riding (especially for us HACKS!) and that’s not everything that the popularity of Enduro’s have lead to. 

Open a bike mag or go on a MTB website, you’ll see Enduro plastered over everything. Now look at those vendors that sponsor or advertise on those websites. You’ll see drastic improvements in equipment across the board. Improved safety gear, lighter armor, safer armor, safer helmets, lighter helmets, and improved eye protection are all demands that Enduro rider has and the market has listened. Not only does the safety apparel get better but so do your bikes, with lighter frames, better suspension designs, better components and more  shock / fork options than ever. Increasing the competition between manufacturers only benefits us consumers. We get lower prices, improved technology, improved performance and more choices. How can you go wrong? 

In talking with some of my customers, you get the sense that they are sick of just hearing about Enduro’s over and over again. Yet when you look at the full picture of what the Enduro craze has provided, you realize that maybe just maybe even if you never run an Enduro, you still benefit from that crazy Enduro scene! 

2014 Rock Shox Pike Review

During my time on bikes I’ve had the pleasure of riding a lot of fantastic bikes with great components on them. I’ve ridden everything from fully rigid single speed bikes (super fun!) to full blown DH bikes. Yet from all that riding one thing I’ve personally always taken for granted is my front fork, I’ve always wanted the fork to do what it’s supposed to, which is to help keep the front wheel in control. Some forks have done better than others at that over my time on a bike, and I’ve managed to stumble across the one that so far has put all others to shame. 


The 2014 Rock Shock Pike we are testing is the Diffusion black, solo air, 150mm, 29er version; which has extremely good timing as there are more and more longer travel 29’ers coming to market. The Solo Air version is the “simple” version of the fork, which gives you the benefit of lock out, slow speed compression adjustment and rebound adjustment. The stiff chassis is comprised of beefy 35mm stanchions, and Rock Shox “Power Bulge” lowers to give an amazing light and stiff chassis. 

If you just looked at the description of the fork you’d think it’s heavy, but you’d be wrong as it’s only 4.1lbs which puts it within spitting distance of weenie XC forks. The Solo Air version of this fork is the set it and forget it type of fork, which is perfect for riders like me who don’t want to fiddle with remotes and other things and just ride the heck out of the fork. 

After a few months of testing and thrashing on this fork in all kinds of terrain, including Jump Lines, DH Resorts, XC Slogs, Chunky Technical, and long climbs I’m extremely impressed. Once you get the fork dialed into your riding preference (setting up sag and compression) this fork really does well in all types of terrain. Lets break down how the fork does in these situations. 

Cross Country Riding: 

The Pike is very good in this type of terrain, eating up small bumps, washboards, staying in control within loose sand and overall inspiring confidence that the wheel will go where you point make the Pike a great XC Fork. The Pike won’t be the lightest fork out on your trails, and it wasn’t designed to be, yet it is light enough to not put you at a big disadvantage. Setting up for long climbs was easy with the lock out switch close on the top of the fork leg, and it works great. There is a little bit of blow off so if you do hit something hard you won’t lose any fillings too. 

Technical Terrain: 

The Pike really excels in any chunky terrain. The fork makes short work of small to medium bumps with very little loss of composure. The fork holds its line amazingly well and as long as you have the ability to keep the line the fork is not going to let you down. The Pike is light enough that it won’t hinder you in lofting the front end over obstacles and provides a nice liner real through out all of it’s travel so no harsh ramp up at the end of the fork’s stroke. 


The Pike has been great so far in jumping, yet this may have highlighted one of the Pike’s very few weaknesses. Rock Shox made the Pike extremely linear in it’s travel, which simply means the fork feels the same through out it’s whole travel range. On the one side this is very good as control is excellent. On the negative side, this can sometimes lead to harsh bottoming out if you are not a smooth jumper (like me, who I’d consider a hack!). 

What I found impressive with Rock Shox though is that the designers knew this, and provided some internal spacers for the fork which increase the fork’s compression. What this will accomplish for you is to create a more progressive spring rate (makes the fork firm up the deeper into it’s travel it goes). The benefit to this is that the fork will resist bottoming out at the same air pressures you are currently riding. So there is no need to jack up your air pressure settings which would create a harsh and uncomfortable ride. So kudos’ to Rock Shox for thinking outside of the box on that.


So we’ve found that the Pike is a very good performer for most riding. Handles everything well, is light weight and looks good. So we’d expect that the fork would be crazy expensive after that, but it’s really not. You can find a new Pike for around $800-850 if you spend some time looking. That is a sick deal for a fork that you’ll have a VERY hard time ever replacing. 

Personally I’ve found the Pike to be the best 29’er fork that I’ve ridden and would gladly put it up against any offering from Fox. Next time you’re in the market for a fork, give the Pike a thought! 


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