Kali Avatar DH Helmet

Kali, a San Jose based company, maker of fine helmets and protective gear, came out with the super light helmet for 2010. The Avatar – weighing in at only 849 grams! This has to be one of the lightest in the industry for a full face helmet. Mine weighed in at 852 grams, so production is on target.

At Sea Otter 2009 is where I had my first glimpse of the Avatar DH. Brad Waldon the engineer was still toying with ideas on how to make this a better helmet.
The Avatar was still in its infancy stage… fast forward to Interbike 2009, the Avatar was in its final stages prior to full production. Kali showcased their 2010 helmets and products which included different graphics of the Avatar.

I started using the Avatar this January 2010 during the Southridge Winter Series. It caught a lot of attention with its killer graphics. When asked about it, I would let the inquiring minds hold the Avatar to feel how light it is. They were all amazed! I used it on five races as well as local DH rides. The Avatar DH is comfortable. It has ample padding through out the inside of the helmet. Also with its 12 vents, your head stays cool while under pressure.

How does the Composite Fusion hold-up? I had first hand experience testing its protection and durability. During Winter Series #4, as I approached the lower rock garden I went OTB (Over the Bars), face/head first onto a rock…OUCH! The Pop’Out system for the visor worked as it was designed. Rather than just breaking from the tabs or forcing my head into another direction, the visor “popped out”; in my case it folded down over my goggles. The helmet absorbed the impact and I was not hurt. I was able to get back up and finish my run.

The Avatar uses the same patented technology as their other helmets called “Composite Fusion” in their protective gear. It is a proprietary ultra light molecular co-curing technology that produces stronger components, lighter and more precise fitting gear. Unlike common helmets which construct the shell and the energy absorbing foam (EPS) as two separate units, Kali’s Composite Fusion incorporates the EPS foam as part of the shell, thus transferring the impact energy into the EPS foam more efficiently. What does this all mean – increased protection, better for your head.

Product description:

The AVATAR™ Helmet is lightweight. Damn light. In fact, the only thing more interesting than its light weight is how strong it is.

Utilizing patented COMPOSITE FUSION™ in-molding technology for a perfect shell/liner connection, this full-face helmet also features a revolutionary mix of Kevlar, Carbon Fiber and Fiberglass in its shell materials. These materials form perfectly into a skeleton of expanded protection allowing the overall use of softer CONTEGO™ EPS foam. What’s it all mean? Light. Strong.

Weighing in at just 849 grams, the AVATAR™ helmet provides the new reference in lightweight, full-featured and expanded coverage downhill biking helmets.

Product Features:
• Tri-Weave Shell featuring Kevlar, Carbon Fiber and Fiberglass materials
• COMPOSITE FUSION™ Shell/Liner Connection
• Low density CONTEGO™ EPS foam for greater impact adsorption
• Integrated Airflow System
• Washable, adjustable, anti-microbial fit pads
• Breakaway visor

Safety Compliance:
EN 1078, CPSC

OSLO: Khaki Matte, White/Blue Shiny, Red Shiny
HH Vs. ROCK: Black Shiny

XS, S, M, L, XL
MSRP $279.00
Kali products are MtnBikeRiders.com Tested and Approved! To see more products from Kali, visit their site at www.kaliprotectives.com

Review Disclaimer

Spenco Heat Wave MTB Gloves

I met the folks from Spenco at Sea Otter this year.  They are makers of cycling gloves with a new technology called SHOCK-TEC. 

IMG_6554 by you.

What is SHOCK-TEC?  It’s a patented technology designed by neurologist, Dr. A. Robert Spitzer.  Their gloves feature a unique patented groove over the carpal tunnel nerve that reduces shock and hand numbness.  It’s perfect for those jarring descents or epic rides.  For more information on Shock-Tec visit www.shocktek.com

IMG_6553 by you.

These high performance, full finger gloves are well ventilated and are anatomically pre-curved for maximum comfort.  I used these gloves at Woodward West for a downhill race.  It was perfect as the padded palms provided comfort for the jarring course.   It was also the ideal glove for the warm temperatures at Tehachapi, CA.  During our race, it was well in the 80s and the glove was just right.

3584649926_60e2165faf_o by you.

These gloves retail for $27.99.  Spenco offers a One-Year Unconditional Guarantee.  Your money back if you’re not completely satisfied with their gloves.  For more information, visit www.mtbseries.com.   

2009 Sea Otter: Quick Review Sette VEXX Sunglasses

Tim Scissors scored a pair of Sette Vexx sunglasses at Sea Otter. He’s been riding with them for the past month and a half. Here are his thoughts:

Sette Vexx sunglasses from Pricepoint.com

Eye protection is of the utmost importance while doing any type of riding. Could you imagine getting a little winged fellow in your pupil while doing 20mph down some single track parallel to a nice little drop off? Well for this reason and a few more I always wear sunglasses while “eye” ride.

The Vexx are comfortable and stylish with holes on the arms and in the front for venting

My first pair of real biker glasses came in the form of Sette’s VEXX sunglasses, previously I always wore my trusty Oakley street shades. These glasses are definitely a cyclist style and not really what I’m used to. To that end they feature a nice aerodynamic shape, holes for venting, UV protection lenses and a little cyclist style. The lenses are pretty cool as they get progressively lighter towards the bottom.

Product Specifications
# Features: 100% UV protection, Impact tested Polycarbonate Lenses
# Frame Color: Black, Silver/Black
# Includes a Rigid Durable Zip Case

The first thing I noticed about the Sette glasses was how light weight they were compared to my regular glasses. They hugged my face nicely and I could barely tell they were there. The problem I always had wearing “street” shades for mtb’ing was that they would fog up at the wrong time. While wearing these they never once fogged up and the lenses were distortion free. They say that your brain will make up for any distortion in a lens but as far as I could tell, these were clear as a bell.

The Vexx are MUCH better than using street shades for biking

These glasses will now be my go to glasses whenever I cycle; I never knew what I was missing by wearing regular ol’ street shades for biking. You can find the Sette Vexx here. They are definitely worth every penny. They even come with a pretty cool and sturdy case for safe keeping.

Sturdy useful carrying case

New stuff from Evomo

As usual, we kicked back with the guys from Evomo at Sea Otter. They showed us their new stuff:

New jacket with their raised logo and a hood!

New fitted hat with their raised logo.

And as promised, they had the Molotov T-shirt which was designed by contest winner, Brent Muir.

The only thing I found weird was the beer was not flowing at the Evomo booth… rumor has it that Sedrik Vomir drank all the beer!

Sedrik, passed out with a bunch of beer cans laying about

Sea Otter 2009: Turner Sultan Quick Ride Review

The 2009 Turner Sultan

The longest but least technical ride of the weekend sadly belonged to the Turner Sultan. The “least technical” part was not by choice. Scissors and I started out thinking it would be great to get in a longer ride on Saturday morning before the crowds showed up. After looking around we saw a 10 mile tour ride. Sadly the “tour” part meant all fireroad. It ended up being about 4+ miles of fast downhill fireroad proceeded by a long, tough 5+ mile climb. We were able to, in the end, ride some fun singletrack, but that was short lived as we hit the pavement after less than a mile of singletrack and went back to the Sea Otter exhibition area.

The DW Link is new for the 2009 model year on the Sultan and, correct me if I’m wrong, all Turner bikes

My first thought on the Sultan was: 4.7 inches of travel on a 29er is going to be total overkill for my riding style. I was very concerned about the extra travel robbing me of the pedaling efficiency I experience with hardtails and 3″ full suspension 29ers. Pedaling efficiency was and is key for me because even though I’m more of a XC oriented rider, I’m still a clyde and pedal bob wreaks havoc on my mind.

The Sultan, though, blew me away when it came to climbing. It was extremely efficient even without having to “lock out” or turn on the propedal feature of the shock. I distinctly remember commenting to myself that even though I’m not a fan of long sustained climbs the Sultan’s efficiency made it sort of OK. The 50% more travel than I’m used to (from 3″ to 4.7″) wasn’t noticeable at all when climbing. I expected some bounce and for the shock to be using some travel, but nothing.

The Off Road 10 mile Tour’s saving grace was a rest stop at the bottom of the descent. Cookies, drinks, made to order sandwiches and a bike mechanic, all for free! You rock, Sea Otter!

On the wide fireroad downhill, the Sultan did great. I mean really, what bike would not have done well in that situation? Poor trail choice by the rider. The singletrack we finally did get to do was new to me but I did get a chance to open things up just a smidge when the coast was clear and I could see ahead down the singletrack a bit. The Turner Sultan did really well in those situations but even then the zip tie showed I wasn’t using all of the travel. I really wish I had some more time on more technical trails to get a good feel for this bike.

Review: Dainese Raptor Helmet

Dainese provided me the Raptor helmet to test out during the Shimano Winter Series.


Full-face downhill helmet with fibreglass external shell and internal shell in dual-density polystyrene with ventilated structure. Band with micrometric quick-release buckle; lining in hypo-allergenic Sanytized® fabric, adjustable visor in transparent polycarbonate that avoids limiting the field of vision in downhill racing position. 14 front and lateral ventilation vents with back ventilation extractors ensure the maximum ventilation. Decals under soft, transparent paint. Exposed fibreglass forms the structure of the helmet while representing an element of design at the same time.

Cost: I’ve seen prices range from $200-$300

Hits: First of all the helmet looks amazing. I love black and white and the Raptor is wicked hot! Team Mate, Kim Finch has the transparent-ish Raptor, basically its not painted so you actually see the material in its true form. But I personally like the painted Raptor way better.

One of the key things I make sure I look for in a helmet is breath ability. The last thing I want is to be wearing a bowl that will cause me to over heat during a ride or race. The 14 vents on this helmet almost felt as cool as a XC helmet. Once you got going on the trail, cool air literally gets sucked into the vents and lowering the temperature by hundreds of degrees.

Another feature I liked about the Raptor was the fact that my mouth was not entirely blocked by the chin guard. Plus, the guard it self has vents on it for quick intake and exhaust of your breath when bombing down a hill. I have a cheap full face helmet that I rarely use anymore because the chin guard’s ability to move air was disappointing. But not the Dainese Raptor, this sucker felt like I was getting air forced into my mouth. Another key note I’d like to make is the visor. If you haven’t already noticed, its transparent. This is super useful when you have to stand up and sprint at the WALL in Fontana. Sometimes you just have to put your head down and mash those pedals and while you have your head down, your eyes need to be looking ahead. Having a transparent visor helps you see in situations where standard painted/colored visors won’t, just think of it as an additional advantage over you competition.

The chin strap doesn’t use traditional D-rings, it uses the same concept as car seat belt buckles. This is awesome because right after a race run, all you want to do is rip your helmet off, and sometimes bulky gloves will slow this process down. But with the Raptor, all you do is slide the button, and pop! The buckle is off!

Misses: Not much to be honest with you. One thing I did find out, the white and black will no longer be available, but a solid black or the original transparent styles will still be up for sale at Dainese.

We’d like to thank our friend Art from Dainese for providing us the Raptor to test and review. Please take the time to visit their site. Dainese Site and check out the other protective gear they offer. By the way, if you’re into motorcycles…they’ve got you covered too.

Sea Otter 2009: Specialized Epic 29er Quick Ride Review

Specialized Epic 29, waiting to be ridden

I got a chance to swing a leg over the new Specialized Epic 29er at Sea Otter. Nic of Specialized was great. He spent a good twenty minutes talking about the bike and getting it set up for me. What he did not mention, and what I felt immediately and confirmed later, was that the bike was a size too small for me. I found out later that they had run out of my size.

Specialized’s own shock of course.

The Epic 29 is a full suspension horst link frame that uses the 2009 Reba with a customized Specialized crown and steerer tube. The crown and steerer tube changes make the Reba stiffer, but lighter, a great combination indeed.

Tapered headtube, with an internal headset to keep things down up front

Taking the Epic out on the test loop I immediately noticed it’s racy roots. The Epic 29 was fast bike with good handling. There were a couple of times when the handling may have been a bit too fast for me or I was just not used to it yet, and the smallest movement had me straying off the singletrack. Thankfully the brakes brought me back under control before I hurt myself and I was able to quickly get back on the trail without any issues.

I was also impressed with the out of saddle climbing as I was uanble to feel or see any pedal bob. There were short stretches of trail where I got out of saddle and hammered things out and the Brain did its job and limited bob. When I got a chance to open up the bike and speed along, the shock and Brain did their jobs in taking out some of the terrain’s edges.

In the short time I was on the Epic 29, I could definitely tell it was a race worthy 29er bike. It felt efficient when climbing and yet descended well on the non-technical open trail.

Sea Otter 2009: Specialized S-Works Carbon HT 29er Quick Ride Review

Tim “Scissors” was able to get some ride time on the new S-Works Carbon 29er HT from Specialized. Here are his thoughts from the short loop we rode:

So here I am on an all new Specialized S-Works Hard tail 29er made from the fiber of the gods, heading to the trail head with Gary Fisher. Why would Gary Fisher be riding with little ol’ me you say? Well, we just happen to be riding at the same time and at the same place at the land of the Dirt Otter. Gary on his, well you know, and me on the badest Specy Hardtail ever made. Yup, that’s right, the not yet released frame rid’n on the not yet released Roval 29er wheel set.

Specialized S-Works Carbon HT 29 with singletrack ready to be ridden

One of my 2 current rides is a 29er hardtail that was geared and is now single speed. This demo is perfect for me since I rode my On-One Scandal geared for a lot longer than it has been a S.S. My Scandal is made from Scandium tubing and the Specy from carbon so an immediate difference in ride characteristics should be noticeable. The Specy was also outfitted with their Fast Track tires in size 29 x 2.0 set up tubeless and mounted on the new Roval 29er wheelset with straight lacing on one side and 2-cross lacing on the brake side. The front fork was a Rock Shox with custom Specialized carbon crown and steer tube. The crank set was a Specy unit with integrated BB; head tube was a 1.5” to 1 1/8”tapered variety, this all made for a very stiff frame laterally.

Integrated BB for stiffness and Specialized’s carbon cranks

Nic, global sales manager for Specialized, took care to make sure I was sized right on the bike adjusting the seat post height and fork air pressure. With everything dialed in, I hit the trail with Jer. We met up with Gary Fisher and Laura and proceeded to ride about 5/6 miles of almost all single track. First thing I notice of course was how compliant the frame is. It absorbed all the little nuances in the trail but remained laterally stiff at all times. This is definitely not a soft tail but this frame rode very well indeed. The bike was very predictable at speed and on rough trails as long as you were smart about how you rode it; ride it smartly and it rewards you with excellent acceleration, predictable handling and a compliant ride that won’t beat you up.

Roval 29er wheels, straight laced on one side, 2-cross on the other

This bike was set up tubeless with the fast rolling Fast Track tires. We got to take home some Fast Traks which will get a full test in the future. I typically prefer a little wider tire than the 2.0’s but I got to say, these tires got the job done without scaring me and the bike went every where I pointed it but remember you have to ride it smartly.

We came to a short but very steep climb. At this point, I was determined to ride it as a S.S. and just see how well it would perform. With Gary Fisher in front of me, I rose out of the saddle and started to hammer. Passing Laura, I continued up the hill where I finally caught Gary at the top resting. I made a comment to him about the bike weighing about 20 lbs and he says “ let me see”, he dismounts his ride and proceeds to pick the Specy up with both hands and says “it weighs a little over 20 lbs”. I guess this comes from years of picking up bikes by hand to determine the weight. Later that on the same ride, while riding next to each other, he looks over at me on the Specy and says “nice bike” with which I return, “ you wanna ride it” he says “no”. I’m not sure why he didn’t want to ride it but, I agree with him, this was a very nice bike indeed!

Trends that we saw at Sea Otter Classic 2009

One if the bigger things to hit Sea Otter this year was the full suspension 29er bikes that were introduced. Last year a handful of companies started coming out with them, but this year it seemed like more of them were showing up from various brands. Some of the FS29ers were considered “All Mountain” due to the amount of travel, kinda makes me wonder if they’ll ever try to come out with some sort of freeride/downhill 29er in the next few years…

Is Pink really dead? Well that’s hard to say. We did hear that from one company stating they were moving away from pink products and start focusing more on white. But if you recall, we mentioned that white was super hot at Interbike 2008, so I wonder if they are jumping on the wagon a tad late.

After thinking about this pink thing, I sought out pink looking products from bikes to accessories. From what I saw, pink is still pretty hot. In fact I even bought Priscilla a pair of pink Lizard Skin gloves that weekend. I also saw that Ellsworth was still offering their pink Epiphany, just like the one Kim Finch rides.

Frame sales are down, but accessories sales are high. Another tid bit we gathered was sales of high end frames have started going down. People are just not as willing to drop 2k for a new frame. So what more and more people are doing is keeping their current frame and spending more money on accessories and parts. Basically if you haven’t already figured it out, this thing called the economy is pretty bad and folks have quite a bit less cash to throw around, so what they’re doing is holding on to their stuff and replacing things if or when they break.

Personalization is King. Customizing your bike to your liking has always been a high point for bikers. From colored pedals to wheels, we like our stuff to either match or go with a theme. Well for those companies that offer small accessories to make a bike more personal, they’ll be doing well in the next few months.

Take for example this bike. New Ergon Grips, New Reaper Stem and Ghetto tubeless conversion. Already this bike has more personal appeal than it came with. But with added accessories, this bike is now a bad boy to its owners eyes.

These trends that I’ve mentioned were gathered from various industry people that we spoke with during the show. Plus we also saw it with our own eyes. So its not like we’re making this stuff up. Who knows what the next Interbike will bring, DH 29er? New suspension linkage? New internal geared hubs for mountain biking? Electronic braking? Carbon spokes? Frictionless bearings? Super lite weight AM Bike under 20lbs? What ever it might be, we’re looking forward to it!

Sea Otter Classic 2009: Ergon GA1 Grips and BC3 Backpack

Ergon just introduced their new GA1 All Mountain/Free ride/Downhill grips at Sea Otter Classic. The GA1 was Ergon’s answer to ergonimic grips for aggressive riding. I’ve been waiting for them to come out with these style of grips for the longest time. Now that they have, they even came out with it in WHITE!


New for 2009, the GA1 is a specific all mountain grip. Using the knowledge gained in the development of the GE1, the GA1 features a sculpted shape, and various textures to offer many of the advantages of our platform grips, in situations where absolute freedom of movement is called for. Securely bolted down with a slim aluminum clamp, available in two sizes, and three colours. Ergonomics aren’t just for XC or Endurance riders.

They also came out with a new large back pack called the BC3.

Water proof, and water resistant zippers.

The BC3 would be great for long haul/epic rides or races like the Counting Coup or Traverse that Eric “The Animal” Hunner likes to do for fun.

NEW! A cycling backpack built to take the punishment of a TransAlp race or your day to day commute. Double the capacity of our BD2, the Flink® Link ball joint equipped BC3 features a lightweight frame and allows for natural freedom of movement for the upper body yet still provides optimal load distribution. The BC3 utilizes a high-tech, heavy-duty water proof material (water proofed on both sides), with water resistant zippers, a helmet holder, internal compartments to keep you organized and a sleeve for a hydration bladder. The BC3 can carry your gear on an overnight mountain bike trip or your office clothes and laptop on an everyday commute. Gender specific carrying systems available in two sizes.