This past week I had the opportunity to attend Kali Camp, an informal riding and product info session in Big Bear, CA for Kali Protectives. Most of the guys rolled in late Wednesday evening to the quirky local cabin where everyone would be staying. This cabin even featured a pool table; however, the carpeted surface made it less than ideal. Around a dozen guys including a couple Kali sales reps and the owner himself, Brad Waldron, were there.
The priority was getting saddle time in, so first thing Thursday morning everyone headed out for a XC grind on to a local trail called Hanna Flats with an added climb up to Grey’s Peak. It began with a 15 minute fire-road climb before to get to the start of the single track that was the start of the real climbing. From there on it was mainly rolling single-track with what felt like more up than down. The group was a strong set of riders, and by halfway through I was cooked. When it was all said and done my Garmin clocked the ride at just over 20 miles and just less than 2500’ of elevation gain.
Post ride everyone headed back to the cabin to clean up and relax for a bit. While hanging out and chatting, there was a chance to discuss existing and future Kali products and technology. There were a few product sample of take a look at and put our hands on while we were there. The Avatar2, a super light composite full-face helmet, was an example of existing and currently available product. Next a prototype full-face helmet was passed around that is in the final stages of development and should be ready for production in the next few months. Sorry no pictures of the forthcoming products! There were other future products that aren’t quite ready for prime-time, but hopefully will be soon.
The next day the guys split up and went to another XC loop or the ride the trails at Snow Summit. I was planning on hitting the lifts, but a combination of pressing work and a bit of exhaustion won out in the end. If you have not been up to Big Bear for either XC or gravity riding you are missing out.
This summer in Orange County, Enduro Stuff held a series of four races in the local country parks, entitle OC Parks Tour, starting at Aliso & Wood Canyons Park, then Santiago Oaks Regional Park, O’Neill Regional Park, and ending at Caspers Wilderness Park. I had not raced any other races put on by Enduro Stuff before, and they did a great job of organizing and running these events. They even held formal pre-rides for riders to come check out the course before the events. Being XC races, I was on my SS for this series.
The first race, held at Aliso Woods, was especially early in the morning on May 5th with a start time of 6:30am. Luckily for me, I live in Aliso Viejo, so the 5 minute drive to the event was the shortest drive ever for me to any race. It was chilly on the line with the sun having just crept above the horizon. The course was a lollipop layout starting with fire-road off the starting line (which was just across the street (Alicia) from the entrance to Laguna-Niguel Regional Park). The fire-road let to the Aliso trail-head bypassing main paved entrance. From there it headed directly to the bottom of Mathis via the main fire-road. Up until that point, the course was relatively flat. Mathis is a major climb ascending about 1000’ft. in 1 mile. The first 25% of the trail is the steepest, and clearing that part is the hardest section of the climb. On the SS is it quite a lung-burner. After the climb, Mathis leads to the ridge-line trail West Ridge. A quick right then and the course head down to Rock-it trail. If you cannot gather or guess from the name, there is a large rock garden in the middle of this trail which is like a big cheese grater. It starts out with nice, tight, and twisty single-track that opens up in the middle with the rock garden and then back to awesome, flowy single-track with a long straight chute out at the bottom. From the bottom of Rock-it, the course made one more loop up Mathis and down Rock-it a second time before returning toward the start/finish the we we came. If Mathis was not hard enough the first time, it surely was the second. I ended up with a 3rd place finish for this race.
I missed the second race of the series on July 14th at Santiago Oaks, as I was out of town.
The third race was held at O’Neill Regional Park on Aug 25th. I had never ridden in this park before, so I definitely took advantage of the pre-ride event to familiarize myself with the course. The course had two sections to it, an out-and-back first section to separate and thin out the riders, and then a single-track loop. Starting briefly with some single-track the course quickly led to a river-bed crossing. This section was sandy, rocky, loose and a potential hike if you lost your momentum. I wanted to be the first through this section as to not get bogged down by other riders struggle through or dismounting. Across the River began a short pavement climb to a longer mild upward pavement grade. After about 2 miles or so, we made a U-turn and jumped onto single-track that paralleled the road for the return route.
The first section of the course was pretty straight-forward and uneventful with a few switchbacks at the end, but the looping section of the course is where all the fun (good & bad) was to be had. Passing back through the starting area, the lap began up pavement for a few hundred yards before jogging left and onto single-track. A mild climb led to a quick single-track descent, with a quick turn at the bottom where too much speed could be troublesome. From there the course headed a pavement climb that was steep enough to be tough, at for me with each recurring lap on the single-speed. At the top of the pavement a double-track trail continues the upward grind. After quick descent the trail hit the steepest section and was just barely cleanable for me with only one gear. Shortly after this section the trail reaches it peak and a single-track drops off to the left. This is the major descent of the loop and it is fast, fun, and twisty. This was by far my favorite portion of the course. At the bottom it spits out to a pavement section that led generally down toward more laps or the finish line. I completed this race with a 5th place finish.
The fourth and final race of the series was held on Novemeber 3rd at Caspers Wilderness Park in the San Juan foothills. It was a chilly 43 degrees (F) upon driving up to the race venue and slowly warmed up into gorgeous racing weather. The course was simple one and consisted of a short loop and a long loop branching off of the same climb. Out of the gate the course started on pavement for a bit then headed to a left and began an undulating climb of varying grades. For the short course, a quick left down the hill over some loose dirt led quickly down to a lower rolling fire-road which headed back to the start for then next lap. The long loop passed the turn for the short loop and continued the climbing. At the top of the long loop, a FAST fire road descent lead down to the same lower road, but another mile or so out. I finished this race in 2nd place.
With three out of four races completed I ended in second place overall for the series. This series was unique in the it was held solely in local Orange County parks, and made great use of the available trails. The events had a great atmosphere and weas well enjoyed by the racers. Ron ,the head of Enduro Stuff, made sure to choose courses that were spectator friendly and fun for the racers. Post-race each event had food available and a raffle (in which I won a new light). Being a newer race series for the area the attendance was reasonable, but not overwhelming. In other words, if you have not been to or raced at one of these events, there is room for you!
Special thanks to Called to Creation, local MTB photog, for all the photos above. You can view more MTB photos from all the these races and other events as well on his site.
Continental has provided us here at MtnBikeRiders.com with a set of 26″ tires for evaluation and testing. They sent us the Race King (2.2) and the X-King (2.4) which according to their website is pronounced Cross-King. These tires are a large volume low tread type of tire which I think is great for cross-country riding for us here locally in Southern, CA.
I only have one 26″ bike currently, and it isn’t a great fit for XC tires being a 6″ all-mountain bike, but I gave them a shot. Simply switching out the tires from the ones I was currently running (not that heavy either) I lost about 3/4 lb. off the bike. These tires are light. This was felt immediately on the trail. On the climbs, the Race King was like having an extra gear on the climbs. It felt as if I was always a least one gear higher. This tire would be excellent on a XC bike. It had great rolling resistance and acceleration, and did well in cornering for the limited tread. It transitioned well and consistently as there are no larger side knobs. It did not do well descending on the bike bike due to weak braking. I do not think this would not be an issue on an XC bike as you just cannot carry the same speeds going down that you can on the bigger bike. The Race King would be a good replacement option for someone running a Kenda Small-Block8 or a Specialized Renegade or even a Fastrack. This tire at 2.2 seemed to have more volume than it’s small size would indicate.
As you can see from the picture below, the X-King is still a small tread tire even at it’s large 2.4 size. On the front the X-King was a great XC tire with tons of predictable traction. Even with the low tread, I didn’t have any issues with washing out or not being able to steer. I ran it for several rides on the front with the Race King in the rear, but I quickly exceeded the limits of the X-King on larger drops, and moved the X-King to the rear.
I still have the X-King running on the rear of my all-mountain bike after over 6 weeks. It has done well. The X-King does not suffer from the weak braking that the Race-King did. I was not sure if the two specific models of tires that Continental sent were considered tubeless tires or not, but I ran them both tubeless and tubed throughout the testing. From what I gathered, the UST is really want they want to you use though. I had some tubeless failures in rough terrain, but as I don’t think these were intended to be run that way, it is a risk you take. Both of these tires have good sidewall protection and they have held up well ripping through local rock gardens.
This style of low tread high volume is really my preference when it comes to XC type tires and I really like these tires, especially the X-King. I will probably replace my 29er HT tires with the UST version and see how they hold up on the larger wheel format. These tires are light enough that you could run them on your race bike, and are strong enough and have enough grip to use on your everyday XC bike as well. I definitely give them two thumbs up. And just for fun, here’s a short video of my catching a little air while running these tires.
As a part of the MtnBikeRiders.com racing team we are sponsored by Serfas. This year they have provided us with sunglasses. I was able to pick out two models from the product line. After perusing the website, I was able to find two pair that were available with polarized lenses. Polarized lenses are a requirement for me when it comes to sunglasses. Not only are they better for your eyes, they look better and are clearer from the wearer’s perspective. When it comes to sunglasses, I ALWAYS wear them. They might as well be permanently attached. I don’t go outside with them. It’s like my smart phone, almost always within reach.
The two models that I chose are the Syke Out and the Force 5. Both models came with several different sets of lenses, a nice protective microfiber pouch for cleaning, and a good quality case. The different lens options included with both glasses are the following from light to dark: clear (great for night riding!), light tint (rose), polarized (brown/amber), and dark tint (grey).
The Syke Out glasses have been my go to riding glasses, and they have been outstanding. They have a metal, adjustable nose-piece and open or exposed lens edges on the bottom. This is not my preference for a nose piece, but I have not had any issues with it. I tend to find the plastic uni-body more comfortable. When it comes to riding glasses, I have found that a high-contrast amber lens tint has been the best. The Syke out lens (polarized lens) is a light brown/amber tint and is a touch light as well than the Force 5. It has been great for riding in all daylight conditions. These glasses DO NOT slip off my face at all while riding. They stay in place no matter how much I sweat. They breathe excellently, and do not fog up till you stop moving for too long. I do use some lens cleaner that includes anti-fog properties, but these glasses did not really need much help in that area. The lenses have good clarity, and have held up with with 6 months of riding so far. I generally have to replace riding glasses once a year because they just suffer to much abuse are are scratched. The Syke Out’s are still in great shape with no major scratches. My only complaint is not really a legitimate one, but in super dusty trails, I have had trouble with dust in around the glasses and in my eyes, but the only real solution here would be googles. So I don’t really count that as a negative here.
The Force 5 glasses were closer to my aesthetic preferences, so I wear these to work, driving, hanging out, and generally anytime I am not riding. The lenses are a little darker than the Syke Out’s, which I think is good for more relaxed situations. The styling actually reminds me of some Black Fly glasses I had back in the day. They are light and uber-comfortable.
I would recommend both of these pairs of glasses from Serfas. They have held up well, under high use and abuse and still look good with lenses in good shape.
After racing Super D this past winter at Southridge, I knew I needed to started working toward a bigger travel, slacker bike. I had ridden the Santa Cruz Butcher at the last year when SC’s demo fleet came through town, and had thoroughly enjoyed that bike. I started keeping an eye out online for used frames, and eventually I had success! This started the several month long process of bike building and part hunting. Now that I had the new frame, I put up ads to sell my Giant Trance to help fund the new build. I pulled all the upgrades I had made to the trance off that bike and swapped them over to the new frame, brakes, bars, grips, saddle, & dropper post.
BTW- I apologize for the quality of all the pictures in advance, as they are all from my cell phone as this build came together in free moments here and there and random late nights.
Next I found a used Fox fork. It was a bit of a drive to go get, but worth the savings. Note: This is just a reminder to ALWAYS measure twice, and here is why. I got the headset installed and when to install the stem and found I was 5mm short on the steerer tube. The steerer tube did not even pass the centerline of the stem bolt. Not really enough pot to clamp on to. Now, I had not cut the steerer tube, but I had just tried to install it in the state I received it. I had only eyeballed the length when I purchased the headset which came in two varieties, standard and low rise which left about a 5-10mm difference between the two. “What’s 5mm?” I thought, plus that one’s cheaper. Well, it turns out it is the difference between a safely installed stem and, well, a not so much safely installed stem.
I ordered the wheels new, which was pretty much the only part major part I was not able to find used. Good thing I ordered them early, as they took almost twice as long as expected, 6-8 weeks. But it was worth it! They looked good, and ride even better! For extra stiffness I went with the 10mm axle in the rear, instead of the standard 9m skewer.
The last parts I needed to complete the build at this point was the drive-train. I knew I wanted to but 2×10 on, but had found exactly what I wanted yet. I had been talking with several other friends trying to make a final decision on what I wanted to use for the build when I got a, “Hey, I’ve a whole extra drive-train sitting on the shelf at home available.” It was an offer I could not refuse.
I was finally wrapping up the build and couldn’t wait to get out and ride it. I have neglected to mention, but the same time as I was finishing this build my SS ended up with a cracked frame and was sent out for warranty replacement. Now the pressure was really on to finish the build so I could get out and ride. I had gotten wheels, rotors and cranks on so I was able to finally sit on the bike and get a feel for it for how it was coming along. I scheduled a ride with a friend for the next day and all I had left was to install and tune the derailleurs. The night before the ride I ended up having to work late and had just enough time to run to the LBS for the final part I had forgotten. I did not have the end caps for the derailleur housing! Without these the derailleurs were useless. I literally showed pulled up at 7.00 at night at closing to the closest shop to my house. The lights were off, but I stepped in anyway, and caught them just closing up. Doesn’t get much closer than that.
Here is the info on the build.
Frame: Large Santa Cruz Butcher w/ Rockshox Vivid Air
Fork: Fox 36 Float RLC 160mm
Dropper Post: Rockshox Reverb
Drivetrain: Sram XO/X9
Wheels: Industry 9 Enduro Hubs w/ Stan Flows
Brakes: Shimano XT 180/160
Bars: Raceface Atlas
Grips: Ergon GA-1
Tires: F-2.3 Specialized Clutch Control R- 2.3 Specialized Butcher Control
Final Weight: 31lb 13oz
One thing I found out after the first ride is that I had incorrectly installed the stem. For some reason, I thought I had a zero rise stem, and I had just pulled it from the previous bike without much inspection. Well, evidently, it is a 5 degree rise and flipping it around made a huge difference in the feeling, mainly on the climbs. It took me several rides to dial in the suspension to a comfortable place, but now the Butcher is nothing but fun…. on the way down of course. I won’t be entering any XC races or hill climb contests on this bike, but I’ll get to the top eventually. The slacker head angle has given me increased confidence on the descents and am able to attack them much stronger than before. I have a Big Bear trip scheduled in a few weeks, and will give the Butcher a good weekend long workout. In the meantime, I have had plenty of fun tearing up the local trails on my new all-mountain build.
Well, I have had and been riding the Ibex Maroc 26 hardtail for a few months now. Here is the introductory article with info on the bike. If you listen carefully, you can hear my favorite part about this bike… wait for it. Yes, it is quiet. Sneak attack quiet. It feels quieter than my SS in fact. I would tend to think that it due in part from a number of factors. One of the major contributors besides that a carbon frame cannot resonate like metal can is the internal cable routing. I came across an article recently (somewhere which I don’t remember now) that recommended using internal routing as a way to quiet down your ride. So I would image this contributes to the lack of noise.
The Maroc was on the small side of things for me frame wise, but not uncomfortable so. In fact, it kind of felt like a BMX bike. It love to be thrown around, stand up and mash, and had acceleration for days. Standing up charging up the hills made to bike just beg for more. Usually however, my heart-rate was the first one to give. Another good thing about the Maroc and this goes hand in hand with its lack of noise is the smoothness. Even through moderately choppy terrain it stayed smooth, on course, and lacked a good amount of trail chatter. While on the bike I never noticed any unduly amount of flex.
The even though the Maroc is a hardtail, it performed like a great all-around bike. Even though it is fairly light on the scale, it isn’t a super XC race machine, I would think mainly due to the geometry. The sit and spin up a big hills is where I had only the real point of contention. The bike climbed just fine, but it was not a put your head down and charge up the hill while in the saddle. The key market for this bike to me would be those riders who want a hardtail, but still want to to be able to handle the fun stuff. It is a very good all-around bike, and would do well for those who only have one bike, and don’t do any major DH. I even took it down some of my favorite AM trails, and they where definitely all rideable, but I was not able to carry the amount of speed I normally would through the rough parts and drops. The 69.5 degree head angle I would credit with the stability here. Even with the slacker HA for a hardtail the steering was not sluggish in the corner, quick the opposite in fact. The Maroc is still a hardtail and has limitations as such, but it is a fun bike.
The SRAM X9 2×10 drive-train was a solid as expected (I’m swapping my drive-train out to this, so I unquestionable like it). The Rockshox Reba RLT was great. Sometimes it felt like more of a 120mm travel instead of 100mm. I had a little trouble with the lockout remote, minor, but mainly just an annoyance. The cable with controls the locking has to have a lot of tension while in the lock position or the fork does not completely lockout. I kept having to re-tighten it. Personally, I would like to see Rockshox have a hydraulic option here, but that’s just me. The one thing I have have to change if I owned this bike would be the front tire. The WTB Wolverine 2.1 was just not enough meat up front for me and cut loose a few times causing me to quickly say hello to the dirt. The Wolverine was a descent XC tire in the rear, in the front I had to be cautious and aware to to rely on it too much.
My normal hardtail is a steel 29er, and the carbon Maroc was unquestionably smoother than the steel. The quick handling made me aware of the limitations of the 29er in tight quarters. I was able to carry much more speed through tight switchbacks. I did have one significant issue with the bike was that the frame cracked on the seat tube just about the bottom bracket underneath the front derailleur. I contacted Ibex and their representative simply asked us to continue riding the bike. This did not affect the ride-ability of the bike, but because of it the front derailleur would come loose and slide up the seat-tube just enough to disable shifting. I would have to assume this issue was caused by the derailleur crushing the tube and would be a warrantied issue. I never took it easy on the bike after this and the frame continued to hold up without issue.
In summary, the Ibex Maroc is a quick, light, smooth, and quiet bike. It has a great build with SRAM X9 and a Reba RLT fork. For the price it is a tough to beat option for those looking to step up into carbon. It held up well among the California rock and dust and also got a rare rain ride in. This is one bike I wouldn’t mind having in my stable.
We’re about halfway through this year’s winter series at Southridge in Fontana, CA with three of five races completed. Rather than doing the single-speed XC race this year, I decided to give the Super D a shot. Super D racing resides somewhere between down-hill racing and cross country. There should be enough pedaling and climbing to keep the long travel heavy DH bikes out of contention, but also is technical enough not to yield any advantage to hard-tail XC bikes. Super D is where the 5-6″ trail-bikes find their home. The definition and course content tends to change among different locals, but at Southridge it is downhill light.
Southridge runs (at least they have been this year) their races in a two run format for Super D, a short run and a long run. The times from both runs are then combined for a total time, and your placement is based upon that combined time. Obviously, the shortest time wins. The short course is about a 2-5 minute run depending on your speed and skill. This long course had been about a 5-10 run, but for this most recent race they cut the large climb out and it was much closer to the short run times.
For those who are familiar with the location in Fontana, the Super D starts at the top of the hill that had been used in the old national XC course. Both short & long courses start and end at the same place. The first 15 yards are so are shared by both courses, and then they split each going in opposing directions down each side of the hill. After dropping down the back side of the hill, the long course wraps back around to meet up with the short course and then they share the end and finish line.
Having never raced Super D before, I started the series in Cat III to get an assessment of where I should be. For the first race, I didn’t make it down clean on the short course. I washed out in a sandy off-camber section, but was able to quickly get back on the bike and finish out the run. The second run came out a little smoother. This yielded me a second place finish. After that first race, it seems liked a good time to move up a class to Sport, plus for the next race I was going to be joined by fellow teammate Corey Pond.
The course for the second race was 85-90% the same as the previous race with just some small changes. One of those small changes, I forgot about during my run on the short course. On the outside of one of the turns was a small drop off a rock and the inside of the turn was a smooth roller. The drop wasn’t that big, but it is beyond my skill. I came in too hot and hit the outside of the turn. I had to plant a foot and kick the back end around to make it to the line I wanted. Definitely not smooth, but better than a full on crash. The second run come out cleaner, and I ended up with a 4th place finish behind Corey who took 2nd. I was able to shave about 30 seconds off my time from the previous race as well.
I did not fare so well in the latest race installment however. I was feeling good race day, and was able to get in three good practice runs. There had been a significant change to the long course in that there was no longer a major climb on the back side of the hill. This cut a good 40% of that run making much closer in length to the short course. I knew I was going to have my work cut out for me that day because I would not be able to make up any time on the climb. On the first run I cam around a turn to hot and washed out in the loose soil. While not completely off the bike, it definitely cost me time and momentum. I felt good on the switch backs on the top of the second run, but coming out of one of the rock gardens my steering was feeling sluggish. I kept pedaling for a bit till I realized my front tire was incredibly low and losing air even faster. I had pinch flatted through one of the rock gardens. Well, that ended up with a DNF for me for the third race. We’ve got two more to go, and two more chances to improve and try to podium.
This week MtnBikeRiders received a new carbon hardtail from Ibex Bikes, their Maroc 26, for testing and review. The frame is a stealth black/grey with the carbon weaving visibly bleeding through in a few places for a nice visual affect. Here is the build spec and geometry from Ibex.
I want to start by pointing out the things that Ibex does not list in their spec. It also include Raceface carbon bars (appox 670-680mm – a little narrow by my tastes, but still effective), Raceface carbon seatpost, and internal derailleur routing, which you can see in the first pic. Out of the box the bike weighted in at 23lb 5oz. I put on pedals, bottle cage, and Ergon grips which are in the photos.
The Maroc came with the Elixir brakes with dual mount for the brake levers and shifters. Also on the bars is a remote for the fork lock-out. This will be my first time with the shifter/brake lever dual mount system. It didn’t lend itself to my more esoteric positioning I normally run in my cockpit, but I don’t foresee it being a big problem either.
With SRAM X-9 drivetrain the Maroc won’t be a slacker with it comes to shifting on the trail. The all around component build is absolutely solid.
A fork with a lockout is a must for me, and the Maroc also includes a fork remote on the bars.
There are a couple geometry things that caught my attention right away before looking at the specs. First the head angle is a bit slack for a hardtail at 69.5°. I’ll definitely make use of that on the downhill. And the second was that the top tube was on the shorter end from what I’m used to (ETT 24.2″). This just seems to tell me that this is a more all-a-round geometry rather than race oriented. The frame looks solid with a down-tube that is a nice thick, almost octagonal shape. I look forward to putting the it through its paces in the upcoming weeks.
If anyone has any questions about the Maroc, just leave a comment.
A couple of weeks ago fellow team rider Mark Tomas and I were able to take the day and head up to Big Bear for some lift assisted shuttling. We drove up with a friend of Mark’s, JJ. This would be my first time riding at Big Bear. I headed out long before sunrise to meet up with Mark & JJ and complete the long drive up the hill. We made a quick pit stop and grabbed some snacks before hitting the lifts. After armoring up we pedaled over to the lifts for our first run.
Mark had rented a 160mm travel bike for the day as his previously he had taken his 120mm Fisher and felt it to be insufficient for the trails. The first trail we hit was Fall Line. As I eventually found out, there are several ways to complete this trail, but on our first run I think we found the rockiest one. It took me two runs to get the hang of riding the new trails. There were lots of logs, roots and rock to ride over all the while on a good steep pitch which generally was topped off with very loose soil. There were points were shedding speed was near impossible, and the main trick was just to keep your rear wheel in the rear.
After our first run we met up with some works associates JJ, and as it turns out, the Path was also having a shop ride at Big Bear that weekend, and after our first couple of runs we joined up with them, making a fairly large group of 10-15 riders. Thanks go to Neil Adams was leading the the ride for the Path and knew all the trails like the back of his hand. We ended up hanging with them for most of the day. We got in about four runs or so before grabbing lunch. At the top of the lift the was a small place to get burgers for lunch that had been calling our names all day as we could smell it every time we rode by.
As evidenced by some of the pics, we took a few stops along the way to session some of the fun, technical extras the trail provided. It made for a long day of riding, that was thoroughly enjoyed by all, and I for one can’t wait to go back!
Paging any readers in the Knoxville Tennessee area! I will be traveling to Tennessee for business for the rest of this month, and will be staying just outside of Knoxville. I wanted to see if we have any local readers in that area who would be able/willing to show me around some of the local trails. I don’t know exactly what my schedule will be and will be playing it by ear, but I should be able to squeeze in at least one ride while I’m there. Message me at email@example.com if you’re interested. Thanks!