Ride Report: San Juan

AV Dan hitting the turn at San Juan

Got out for a lollipop ride this weekend at San Juan. It’s a lollipop because that’s what the trail map would look like: 6 mile climb, loop at the top, back down the same way you came up. –O.

San Juan is definitely becoming one of my favorite trails. This past Saturday’s weather was excellent. Little cool to start which worked well with those infamous switchbacks, then warmed up just a tad, but never got hot. In fact the sun was blocked off by the clouds for the most part which made for a great, comfortable ride. On the way down, there was some slight drizzle which cooled us off even more but didn’t even last long enough to warrant wiping the sunglasses.

A brief respite before heading down some more singletrack

This marked a couple of firsts for me on the San Juan trail. The first time I did the loop after Cocktail rock, the first time I rode SJ while not sick and the first time I rode SJ without eating it. San Juan is really not an extremely techy trail. It’s just that after riding for a few hours, I usually get extremely tired and lose focus/concentration on the 40+ minute downhill ride back to the car. When I lose my focus is usually when body meets dirt.

Me on the Jet9. I’ve got to learn to stop staring at my front tire!

The riding group consisted of me, Tim Scissors, Marky Mark and AV Dan. We all brought our full suspension bikes to the party including my Niner Jet9 which did not disappoint. It definitely contributed to not eating it on this ride. San Juan was a blast and that back loop section had some great short techy climbs and rutted descents that are definitely calling us to come back and do it again.

Dan’s one-finger braking always cracks me up

I thought Kermit was for kids

Kermit is not only for kids, my friends. It’s also for mountain bikers too. Meet my Kermit Green Niner Jet9.

Waiting to rock!

I’m in New Bike Euphoria (NBE), so I can’t really give you any detailed comments on the Jet right now unless you want to hear me gush. Oh, you do? Well then… why didn’t you say so?

The Niner Jet 9 is the best pedaling FS 29er bike I have ridden and I have ridden quite a few. OK, a bit of an overstatement as some of those DW Link bikes I rode were really good, but they were not set up quite right or the trail I rode was just blah, so I can’t compare it. Not to take anything away from the rest of them… although I will take something away from the Gary Fisher HiFi (WAY TOO FLEXY)… but the Jet9, on my home course and nearly dialed in, was extremely efficient both in seated and standing climbs. The rear feels planted even when I’m out of the saddle. Very little wheel slippage on standing climbs which can be momentum killers.


To top it off, I never flicked the propedal on. I was extremely surprised by this. Wait, nix that. I doubled back to get to a steeper, short climb and had to ride uphill on the road a bit. I turned on the propedal for that road section. But other then that the propedal stayed off. This is a very nice change because in most other FS bikes if you don’t engage the propedal, you’re feeling Mr. Bob all the way up the climb.

Rear seat stays easily clears a 2.2″ Captain

The bike is nimble. You won’t see many Jet9’s built up with bigger tires (2.35″ front/2.2″ rear), like I did, because the Jet’s purpose is definitely: race/XC/trail in that order. I’m not a racer, although I will on occasion, so I built mine to be more trail and less race oriented. You won’t see any carbon bits, chopped flat bars or skinny tires on my Jet. But even with non-racy parts, the Jet is quite nimble. It handles well on the descents and carves up singletrack very well. It is definitely not G2 nervous, but it’s not slow handling as was the case with some previous 29ers.

OK, so all this was based on a first ride, and more of a shakedown (is everything working properly) type of ride. Also NBE was definitely at work here so please take everything written above with a huge grain of salt.

By the way, I’m still thinking of a name for the green machine.

And of course, every Niner comes with a subtle reminder:

In the meantime, my personal build, for those of you interested:
Large Niner Jet 9 in Kermit Green
Rock Shox Reba 29 Race with pushloc at 100mm
28 hole Bontrager Rhythm Elite wheels with DT Swiss 370 hubs
Shimano XT cranks
Shimano XT brakes
X9 shifters
X9 r. derailleur
XT f. derailleur
Alligator ilink derailleur cables
F: Panaracer Rampage 2.35 setup tubeless (a non-tubeless tire)
R: Specialized Captain Control 2.2 2bliss
Thomson Elite
Sette clamp
Chirs King headset
Truvativ Stem
Truvativ Handlebar
ODI lockon grips
Crank Brothers Candy SL
Lezyne L. Caddy (awesome bag, by the way)
Purple carabiner
Generic Black Cowbell

Santa Cruz Has Realized their Shame…

… and will be offering a VPP 29er.

No worries. We forgive yah. Now, some clarification is in order with regards to this line:

It’ll weigh a whole lot less than some other bikes of similar configuration.

Should I be holding out hope for a carbon VPP 29er? Santa Cruz already has a beautiful carbon Blur XC & LT and there is word out a carbon Nomad is in the works. Could a carbon 29er be coming to the party as well? Do that and Santa Cruz will go from no entries into 29er land to starting a new category of 29ers, the Full Suspension Carbon 29er. Now that’d be a huge splash.

Click here to read the announcement from Santa Cruz. Props to Wey for the link.

Sea Otter 2009: Foe’s 29″ Trail

Foe’s Racing has come out with a really cool 29″ full suspension prototype. Meet the Foe’s 29″ Trail bike.

Foe’s unique 2:1 full suspension system

The low down:

– 29″ front and rear wheel design specific
– 4″ rear wheel travel
– 2:1 leverage ratio
– Exclusive Curnutt XTD AIR or Fox RP23 shock
– Single pivot design – Super stiff & low maintenance
– Full compliment pivot bearings
– Foe’s Signature Swinglink
– Handmade in the USA

Asymmetrical seat stays

2:1 Pro Lite, XTD Air Curnutt shock


This bike is a looker, but since it is a prototype we’re not able to get it out on the trail yet. We’ll be in contact with Foe’s, a great Southern California company with all their bikes handmade in the USA, to get some cycling time on this bike.

Sette asks you to Compare

Not many people know this but along with selling bike frames, which we have extensively tested (Reken) or are testing (Razzo), Sette also sells fully built up bikes. Many times fully built bikes are a good deal because of the manufacturer’s buying power. When a big manufacturer can buy 1,000 Mavic wheelsets, the vendor is going to give them a deal compared to when we purchase the exact same wheelset. When you think about all the components on the bike being purchased in this fashion it makes some sense to consider buying a complete bike versus building up bikes piece by piece.

Sette’s mountain bike lineup includes 4 full suspensions and one hardtail. The fs bikes include a XC oriented bike called the Sette Ace to a durable X-7, Monarch 3.1 all mountain bike with 6″ of travel aptly named the Sette Flite.

Sette Ace, XC full suspension for $1,399.98

Sette Ace Specs:
Frame Aluminum 7005
Size(s) Small (16.5″)/Medium (18.5″)/Large (20.5″)
Fork Rock Shox Tora 302 Air (4.72″/120mm)
Rear Shock Rock Shox Monarch 2.1 (4″/101mm)
Shifters SRAM X7, 9-Speed Trigger
Front Derailleur SRAM X7, Low Clamp, Blk, ø 30.9 Top Pull
Rear Derailleur SRAM X7 Black Long Cage
Shifter Cable/Housing Jagwire Slick
Brake Levers Avid Juicy 3
Front Brake Avid 160mm Rotor
Rear Brake Avid 160mm Rotor
Hoses Avid Hydraulic Hose
Crankset Truvativ Firex 3.3, 175mm, Black, 44/32/22t
Bottom Bracket Truvativ Giga Pipe XR, 68mm
Cassette SRAM PG-970, 11-34
Chain SRAM PC-971
Headset FSA 1-1/8″ Standard – Black
Handlebar Lightweight Alloy – Black
Grips Durable Ergo Grips – Black
Stem Lightweight Alloy – Black
Saddle High Performance Saddle – Black
Seatpost Lightweight 6061 Alloy – Black, 31.6 x 350mm
Rims Mavic XM719 32H Black, Presta Valve
Front Hub Shimano XT M756, 6-bolt Disc Brake, 32H black, QR
Rear Hub Shimano XT M756, 6-bolt Disc Brake, 32H black, QR
Spokes 14/15 Gauge Double-Butted, Stainless Steel, Black
Front Tire Kenda Krusher 26″ x 2.1, 60 TPI
Rear Tire Kenda Krusher 26″ x 2.1, 60 TPI
Color(s) White
Warranty 5 Years
Weight 29.8lbs/13.5kg (Medium w/Pedals)

Sette Flite, 6″ of travel at $1,599.98

Sette Flite Specs:
Frame Aluminum 6061
Size(s) Small (17″)/Medium(18″)/Large(19″
Fork Rock Shox Domain 318 Coil (4.5-6.3″/115-160mm)
Rear Shock Rock Shox Monarch 3.1 (6″/152.4mm)
Shifters SRAM X7, 9-Speed Trigger
Front Derailleur SRAM X7, Low Clamp, Blk, ø 34.9 Top Pull
Rear Derailleur SRAM X7
Shifter Cable/Housing Jagwire Slick
Brake Levers Avid Juicy 3
Front Brake Avid 185mm Rotor
Rear Brake Avid 185mm Rotor
Hoses Avid Hydraulic Hose
Crankset Truvativ Stylo 3.3, 175mm, Black, 44/32/22t
Bottom Bracket Truvativ Stylo 3.3, 68mm
Cassette SRAM PG-970, 11-34
Chain SRAM PC-971
Headset FSA 1-1/8″ Semi-Integrated Zero Stack – Black
Handlebar Lightweight Alloy – Black
Grips Durable Ergo Grips – Black
Stem Lightweight Alloy – Black
Saddle High Performance Saddle – Black
Seatpost Lightweight 6061 Alloy – Black, 31.6 x 350mm
Rims Mavic EX729 32H Black, Presta Valve
Front Hub Sette 20mm Thru Axle, 6-bolt Disc Brake, 32H black, heavy-duty cartridge sealed bearings
Rear Hub Shimano XT M756, 6-bolt Disc Brake, 32H black, QR
Spokes Straight 14 Gauge, Stainless Steel, Black
Front Tire Kenda Nevegal 26″ X 2.35, 60 TPI, DTC
Rear Tire Kenda Nevegal 26″ X 2.35, 60 TPI, DTC
Color(s) White
Warranty 5 Years
Weight 34.8 lbs/15.8kg (Medium w/Pedals)

For more info on Sette’s bikes, click here.

Ride Report: Whiting Ranch for a Bday Ride

Tim Scissors & I were able to get out for 2 laps at Whiting Ranch this past Saturday. It was a birthday ride but the birthday boy was a little shy so no pictures of the group.

Tim Scissors salutes the beautiful ride, great weather and fun trail

We’ve written about Whiting Ranch a couple of times on this site. It is a nice set of trails about a 30 minute drive from mtnbikeriders.com headquarters. It’s also a very busy set of trails on the weekend especially if the weather is good.

And boy was the weather good this past weekend. Other than the winds it was absolutely gorgeous out with temps when we started the ride in the upper 50s to the low 70s by the time we were done. The winds were a bit gusty but we weren’t exposed to it. It only hit hard on a fireroad climb up to Four Corners, as if Mustard wasn’t enough!

Full Squish Robinson’s first ride on his Specy

We started off a little later than planned but got into a good groove right away. We were 9 strong and only had one mechanical, truly amazing and it has got to be a record somewhere. The mechanical happened to be an easy fix too: a slow leaker on Full Squish Robinson’s front tire. Some air and we were done.

Whiting starts off with a gradual uphill ride on a trail called Borrego. Not hard climbing, mind you, but just enough uphill to get the blood flowing. Borrego goes for about a mile and half and was in good condition. It had a couple of sand pits but if you’re on a 29er you’ll get through fine.

Test bike, the Kona King Kahuna, made short work of sand pits and baby heads alike

Borrego ends at Mustard which is a short 0.8 miles to Four Corners on an approximately 9% grade. The fun part about Mustard is that it kicks up just a tick the last 15 yards or so. Lots of fun I tell ya.

From there, you can choose a variety of routes including hitting the Luge which adds a 4.5 mile climb before a short bun descent, the Dreaded Hill climb, or a couple of options going downwards. We, of course, pointed our tires downwards and took off on Cactus and a couple of other trails before arriving back at our car for a second lap.

Me, dropping into the Cactus singletrack after a stop at Four Corners.

Two had to bail before our second lap so after bidding adieu, 7 of us took off. The only mishap on the second lap was we lost one of our riders, AV Dan, when we split up at the bottom of Mustard. When we found him he was dying from exhaustion but gamely willing to finish the ride, for the birthday boy. What a trooper, AV Dan.

Overall a good ride. If you’re wondering how the trail conditions in Whiting are, no fear. There are only a couple of sandy areas. The rest of the trail is in good condition and a lot of fun as always.

The First Annual, Quarterly Lift Assisted Ride Report, Part IV

Exposure also allows for some sweet views! In the middle of the valley, you can see the fireroad we climbed. The day before, we were on the other side of the mountain riding the slopes

Just a few lessons learned from this past weekend of riding, plus some more random pictures that didn’t make it into the previous posts. By the way, thank Khoa for all the sweet pictures. He lugged around his camera when I was too lazy to carry mine. Thanks Khoa.

Bikes parked in the kitchen

Guys who ride your style
It’s better to ride with guys who ride your style than ride with guys who don’t. It’s as simple as that. It takes a little while but if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll easily define what style it is that you like to ride. I, for instance, enjoy fast, continuous singletrack with technical sections that don’t require me to drop my seatpost. Exposure doesn’t bother me too much nor do jumps under one-foot tall. I would like to get better at riding fun stuff like teeter totters and logs, but that isn’t particularly important to me. I don’t like climbing but it’s a necessary evil in my book.

Redline Mono 9 taking the lift

I do not liking riding gnarly terrain that is optimized for bikes with more than 5 inches of suspension. I don’t mind occasionally doing the ”point and shoot” through small rock gardens or other ugly stuff but I want a bit of a run out afterwards to get things back under control. Riding with those that enjoy downhill stuff is not only frustrating to me but is also frustrating to the DH rider waiting for me to walk a ridiculously steep or traction-less slope. Riding with guys that have the same tastes in riding as you do makes it easy to have fun for everyone. Just find stuff that you like to ride and they’ll like it too.

Not busy on the slopes today. You can see Big Bear Lake too

Ask for Guidance
The riding on Saturday morning was not our style and since the trails were not marked, we knew the afternoon was probably going to be hit and miss to find trails we like. So we did what any desperate mountain biker does when their back is up against the wall. We asked for guidance. But you can’t just ask anybody. You have to watch for tell tale clues as to the rider’s ability and familiarity lever before asking for help.

Trek Fuel EX 9.0 resting on the porch

What made Tim ask Deb for help beats me, but what I gathered from some hindsight is that Deb exhibited characteristics of one able to help. She had a good bike (a Specialized Safire), proper riding attire (plain woman’s no sleeve jersey and lycra shorts), proper sunglasses (not aviators which we saw a lot of, but riding glasses with interchange-able lenses) and two strap riding shoes. She also, I noticed much later, did not have a hydration pack. Combine this with the other characteristics and this is obvious a knowledgeable rider who is familiar with local trails and her own riding limits. You don’t want to find the poseur or waste time asking the newb.

Not really a “river”… more of a Santa Ana Stream. Pretty though.

If you don’t know what to do in regards to hydration, do as much as you can and then add another bottle. The long day of riding got me at the end when I started to cramp a little. The lesson here is to keep drinking. I decided not to fill up my water pack when we went out after lunch… a calculating decision that came back to haunt me at around 3:30pm. The cramping began in my legs and quickly spread, even hitting my triceps which have never cramped before. I ended up taking Khoa’s Accelerade filled bottle and drinking it all. Afterwards, I was ready for another run… maybe two if the lifts hadn’t stopped for the day. Drink, not just water, but stuff to replenish what your body loses and it’s always better to have a little extra than to not have enough. Thanks Khoa.

Jeremy cramping under a tree

HT vs. FS
If you can go with a full suspension bike, rock it. At the end of the first day, 7+ hours of riding mind you, my butt was feeling good. I was thinking “no problem” for tomorrow’s ride. But, I was wrong. My worst fear from the past two weeks sprang up and when I got on my saddle the next morning I could feel my sit bones aching. After riding up the fireroad I knew I’d appreciate a full suspension bike. For a guy not accustomed to spending so many hours on the saddle a little love from some full suspension would have gone a long way.

Tim at the SART trailhead

Not to say anything negative about my bike, though. The Redline Mono 9 with 29-inch wheels hung in there with the other full suspension bikes. The steel was great and I swapped back the White Brothers Magic 80mm 29er fork which worked excellently after I dialed it in. The Redline was never the limiting factor during the rides. The rider and his desire to live another day was.

A picture of the valley that the fireroad was in

SART Singletrack

Jeremy eavesdropping on Tim’s cell phone conversation

Khoa proudly finishes negotiating a switchback

Jeremy & Tim on SART

Thanks for all the comments & I hope you enjoyed our pictures and commentary.

Pivot 429 Ride Impressions

I got a chance to take the Pivot 429 out on a quick haul through the Sea Otter Demo XC demo course. I was out there for less than an hour so this is definitely not a full on review of the Pivot 429 but more of a couple of impressions I got from the short ride.

When I hopped on the 429 and started pedaling, I instantly noticed that this bike has an almost hardtail-ish racy feel. I attribute this to a very solid/stiff rear that transfers power down without any wasted flex. There was no noodley feeling from the rear that I occasionally get with other fs 29ers. This suspension seems to be on the firm side rather than ultra plush. I personally prefer this setup as it suits my riding style to a “t”.

The demo trail at Sea Otter is not extremely technical but it does have a couple of short climbs one being particularly steep and a couple of uphill grinders. It also has some nice flowy singletrack with stutter bumps, small XC-ish jumps and, on this weekend, sand. On all the climbs around the demo course the 429 to performed very well. Standing and seated climbs were easy and the rear suspension never felt like it got in the way. I was particularly happy with the way the 429 climbed a steep section as the rear felt planted and the cockpit felt comfortable enough to change from a seated position to a standing position and back to a seated position without losing balance or being awkward.

The steering feel of the Pivot is neutral. Not fast like the Gary Fisher G2 geometry but not slow either. The bottom bracket height is almost a full inch taller than my Redline but this did not impede handling, nor did it make me feel like I had too high a center of gravity. I still felt comfortable carving the singletrack at SO although the tires did not give me confidence to rip any of the jumps. The stutter bumps were muted by the suspension but did not disappear entirely as the suspension is more firm than plush.

Overall the 429 is a very fun racy bike that fits my type of riding entirely. I would probably go with a tire with a bit more grip both front & rear if I were to ride this but I could see the Kenda Small Block 8 on the rear being used for races.

Click here for pictures of the Pivot 429 prototype seen at Sea Otter 2008.

Click here for the video of Chris Cocalis discussing the Pivot 429.

Click here for Pivot’s website.

KHS Flagstaff & Turner Sultan at Bike Demo Days

Lance & I hit up the Consumer Bike Demo Days at Southridge in Fontana, CA this past Saturday. It rained pretty hard all night on Friday but I continually checked the weather.com and knew that there shouldn’t be anymore rain by 9am.

KHS tent

When we rolled into Southridge, the skies were cloudy but no rain. Thankfully Sourthridge race course dries up very quickly and, because of the rain, the trail was more ridable than normal.

I had two bikes on my mind and Lance was up for anything (thanks Lance).

KHS Flagstaff
We first headed over to KHS and I checked out their new Flagstaff, a full suspension horst link 29er.

KHS Flagstaff
Still dirty from Interbike

KHS Flagstaff
Enough clearance for WTB Exiwolf 2.3’s up front and in the rear

KHS Flagstaff
Horst link can be seen in the back

I don’t have much to report on this bike because it wasn’t my size (KHS doesn’t have a Large Flagstaff yet) but I am glad I put in some seat time on it. The Flagstaff give me more confidence as compared to riding my hardtail 29er on the Southridge course and the horst link was very plush. For the price ($2,000 complete) and what you get, there is no competition in the full suspension 29er category.

Turner Sultan
The 2nd bike I rode was the Turner Sultan. You can’t just glance at this bike as the blue really calls attention to itself. The Sultan uses the Turner Rocker suspension design.

Turner Sultan
Turner guys took a few minutes to dial in the bike for me

Turner Sultan
Cables fit under

Turner Sultan
Ready to rock & roll

This bike was my size and dialed in to me so I do have a couple of quick impressions. I thought this bike fit me really well. The geometry is just a good fit for my body’s dimensions. The frame was pretty stiff and the suspension was very nice. It definitely gave me confidence in some of the more technical parts of the trail. Lastly, I found that the front end of the bike did not pop up on me as much as my hardtails do.

If you get a chance to ride a demo day, I’d highly recommend it. The guys at the booths were very accommodating. Also, a suggestion I heard from more than one person: bring your own shoes & pedals. Other then that, leave the rest up to them.