INSIDE SEA OTTER 2013 | Part 2

The Link, Price Point’s finger on the pulse of the bike industry, delves deeper into the depths of Laguna Seca to continue bringing you coverage of the coolest new bikeswag from the Sea Otter Classic.

Giro Chamber

Served up hot ‘n’ fresh, the Chamber marks Giro‘s first entry into the downhill realm. Developed with none other than Aaron Gwin, the Chamber combines casual skate style with super-sticky vibram rubber soles. Flat and clipless-ready varieties are available, with the latter featuring a super-stiff sole. They’ve also lost considerable weight since debuting at Interbike in prototype form. An internal bootie,  EVA foam footbeds, impact-absorbing Poron XRD heel cups and velcro strap enhance comfort and fit.

 

Continental 27.5-inch Tires

Continental 27.5

Photo by Don Stefanovich

The German tiremaker introduced 27.5 (650b) versions of four of its most popular mountain treads. The Trail King (our personal favorite), Mountain King, X-King and Race King have all adapted to the tweener size. Currently only existing in 2.4 widths, Continental says most of the tires should be available in a full size run for 2014.

 

Troy Lee Designs Sam Hill D3 and Fresh A1 Colors

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

Troy Lee Designs released much anticipated colorways of two of its most popular helmets, the D3 and the all-mountain A1. The D3 sees a fresh splash of color for the Sam Hill Signature edition while the A1 gets both a new metallic treatment and even a version with a matte finish.

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

The matte finish covers one of the original A1 paint schemes, but creates a stark yet welcome contrast to its metallic-flake siblings.

 

Optrix Barfly

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

The new Barfly mount from Optrix makes mounting the XD5 to your handlebars a simple and versatile affair. It can be mounted for POV action, or flipped to lay the phone in a flat “landscape” mode if you’d rather use apps and training functions. 

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

Optrix also made sure no one forgot its waterproof dunkability.

 

Marzocchi 380 C2R2 Titanium Fork and Moto C2R Shock

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Marzocchi is replacing the 888 with the new 380 C2R2 Ti fork. Compatible with 26 and 27.5-inch wheels, the 200-millimeter 380 is a complete redesign with 38-mil stanchions, titanium spring, new arch and lowers, titanium pinch bolts, a hollowed-out axle and new internals. It trades in the open-bath design in favor of a “Dynamic Bleed Cartridge” inspired by the Italian company’s motocross forks, which it says will provide the plush, smooth feel of open bath with the consistency of a cartridge.  The DBC cartridge employs a one-way seal to let oil in. A spring-loaded piston acts a compensator; the piston moves up to make room as the damper cartridge fills with oil, and then back down to take up excess volume as oil exits the cartridge. Impressive—and it all weighs in at a tidy 6 pounds, 2 ounces.

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

The ROCO isn’t going anywhere just yet, but the C2R will be the top-of-the-line DH shock going forward. With an eye on weight, the body is machined down to a minimalist design, and the 14-millimeter shaft and shock eyelet have been precision machined from a single piece of aluminum, decreasing weight and increasing strength.

Marzocchi doesn’t find the compression boost necessary, but offers the C2R both with and without for riders wanting increased tunability and bottom out. It all tips the scales at just 369 grams without the spring.

 

Bell Super

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

Bell claims the Super splits the difference between heavy-duty downhill coverage and cross-country comfort and breathability. While that’s just another way of saying this is an all-mountain/enduro helmet, it seems to hit the mark in both form and function—not to mention style. The Super is also designed to readily accept goggles with an adjustable visor and guides.

 

Mavic Cosmic Carbone 40C

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

Creating what it felt was the perfect carbon clincher wasn’t easy, but Mavic found a simple yet elegant solution.

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

The French wheelmaker used aluminum inserts for increased strength and stiffness, giving the spokes a strong anchor point while keeping weight respectable at approximately 1,545 grams per pair.

 

Sock Guy Rainbows and Unicorns

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We think these socks speak for themselves.

 by Don Stefanovich 

Finger_End

INSIDE SEA OTTER 2013 | Part 1

The Link goes on location at the Sea Otter Classic in the pits of Laguna Seca for a sneak peek at all the new bikeswag being unveiled.

Answer Gentlemen’s Collection Bars

Photo by Don Stefanovich

Classy as always, Answer proudly displayed its Gentlemen’s Collection of bars with dignified designs such as paisley, plaid and houndstooth. The bars are a manly 780 millimeters wide with 4-degree upsweep and 8-degree backsweep. The graphics for each bar are hand-laid ensuring no two are alike. The Gentlemen’s Collection features a military-grade anodized finish to ensure the bars don’t fade or scratch.

Answer Gentleman's Collection

Photo by Don Stefanovich

Further adding to the allure, Answer says these are limited edition, so once they’re gone, they’re gone.

 

Sun Ringlé 27.5-inch Wheels

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

Sun Ringlé expands its wheel line with 27.5-inch (650b) offerings in both the Charger Pro SL all-mountain and—adding to the signs of changing times—A.D.D. downhill wheels. Both feature Stan’s NoTubes BST Technology.

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

The anodized hubs of the A.D.D. downhill wheels look as good as they sound.

 

Manitou 27.5-inch Forks

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Manitou‘s trail forks gets all-new lowers, graphics and are now available in 27.5-inch (650b) sizes to fit the emerging crop of middle-wheeled bikes.

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

The Minute Pro and Marvel Pro are available with up to 140 millimeters of travel. Expect a 160-millimeter all-mountain fork with 34 millimeter stanchions in the near future.

 

Fox Head Rampage Pro Carbon

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

The Rampage Pro Carbon tops Fox Head‘s helmet lineup with carbon-fiber construction, 17 vents and tips the scales at only 1,145 grams.

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

Colors range from subtle to not so much. We spotted a few of these on the race courses already on pros and amateurs alike.

 

Race Face Narrow-Wide

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

Race Face designed its Narrow-Wide chainrings to be run as single-ring setups and eliminate dropped chains and the need for chainguides. The name refers to alternating-width teeth similar to SRAM’s XX1 X-Sync. Narrow Wide will play nicely with while adding a touch of color to XX1 setups.

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

Rather than the ramps of traditional two and three-ring setups designed to drop chains for smoother shifting, the Narrow-Wide design holds onto chains with a Kung-Fu grip.

 

Crankbrothers Mallet DH

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

When Crankbrothers redesigned its popular mallet to be lighter, it resulted in slightly less platform real estate. Gravity riders lamented, so Crankbrothers introduced the Mattlet DH, featuring the refined internals of the new Mallets with a larger platform resembling the original design. They still come in at a respectable 470 grams per pair.

 

Zipp Wheels 202 Firecrest Carbon Clincher

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The 202 Carbon Clincher is the lightest wheel in the Zipp lineup at a scant 1,375 grams per pair. Designed to combine aerodynamics with low weight, the 202 combines the 32-millimeter rim depth of its predecessor with a more aerodynamic Firecrest profile and now has a wider 25.4-millimeter max rim width, resulting in an impressive all-around road wheel.

 

Kenda Turnbull Canyon and Honey Badger Tires

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Developed with cross-country legend Tinker Juarez, the Kenda Turnbull Canyon tire is named for the Southern California trail network where Tinker is notorious for the self-inflicted torture of his training sessions. The XC/marathon tire will be available in 2.0 width in 26, 27.5 and 29-inch incarnations.

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

The Honey Badger is Kenda‘s new do-it-all trail tire designed to grip as well on slimy Northwest roots as in the dry and loose of the Southwest while retaining fast-rolling characteristics. Climb all day? Descend some serious chunder? Like its namesake, the Honey Badger don’t care—as the letters stamped in the tread will remind you. Currently available in 2.2 widths for 26, 27.5 and 29-inch wheels, look for a 2.4 downhill Honey Badger soon.

 

Fox 34 TALAS CTD, Float X Rear Shock and Float 40

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

FOX displayed its new 34 TALAS CTD and Float X rear shock on the wildly popular Santa Cruz Bronson C, further iterating their intended all-mountain/enduro purpose.

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

The Float 40 RC2 announces FOX’s commitment to air springs taking center stage in its gravity forks going forward. Completely revised lowers feature air-bleed valves and shave 1.15 pounds from the previous 40, resulting in a sub-6 pound dual-crown gravity fork—impressive.

FOX stopped by Price Point headquarters to give us an in-depth look, so be sure to stay tuned for a full review.

 

Shimano XTR Revisions

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

Shimano overhauled its XTR brakes with magnesium calipers and carbon levers, dropping 40 grams per wheel and resulting in the company’s lightest hydraulic brakeset to date. The rotors see finned Freeza technology trickle-down from the 203-millimeter gravity realm where it debuted, to a full range of cross-country sizes, improving cooling and shaving weight.

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Photo by Don Stefanovich

Get your glue, kids. A new carbon tubular XTR 29er wheel also saw daylight for the first time in Laguna Seca.

 

Five Ten Freerider VXI

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The redesigned Contact Outsole of the Freerider VXI allows full pin contact for maximum grip, but lacks tread on strategic areas of the sole to allow repositioning without lifting the foot.

 

To be continued…

Stay tuned for continuing Sea Otter Classic coverage.

by Don Stefanovich 

Finger_End

DON’T CALL IT A ‘CASE’ | Optrix turns iPhone into an HD action-sports cam that can take a beating and a bath

The Optrix XD5 and helmet mount in action.

We’ve all done it—fumbled with our iPhone during a ride to try and get “the shot” only to have it wind up face down in the dirt with a new spiderweb screen saver. And point of view with the same iPhone? Forget about it, unless you like riding one-handed.

Enter Optrix, a unibody polycarbonate housing that turns iPhone 4, 4S and 5 models into waterproof, wearable, wide-angle, high-definition, point-of-view action sports cameras. Given the HD capabilities of the iPhone and the fact that most users carry it just about everywhere, this seems like a no-brainer. So, why didn’t someone think of it sooner?

Well, they did.

“This isn’t our first rodeo,” John Willenborg, Optrix founder and CEO told The Link.

The first Optrix was designed around the iPod Nano in 2009.

Optrix has been a labor of love for about 4 years,” recalls Willenborg. “I used to be a semi pro motorcycle racer and used a GoPro frequently. One race weekend I was getting ready to head on track and I realized I left the GoPro SD card in my computer. My iPod Nano was just sitting there on the table and I decided to zip-tie it to the front of the motorcycle. The results were fantastic. The Nano was clearer, easier to use and I was able to watch the race back right on the device. The simplicity made so much sense I decided to start Optrix and create a better way to capture action video.”

The XD5 is not Optrix' first rodeo. Photo courtesy Optrix

The XD5 is not Optrix’ first rodeo.

In 2010 the company patented a clamshell design for the iPhone—then scrapped it.

“If there was a mistake to be made on the housings, chances are we made it,” Willenborg says, surprisingly candid about the dead ends in the extensive development process.

“The XD5 is the fourth generation of our XD Series, and it’s the result of countless hours of industrial design and engineering—making Optrix more than just a ‘phone case,’” says Willenborg. “We built prototypes, we tested, we found flaws, and reengineered until it was, in our eyes, perfect. There’s a reason our housing doesn’t look like anything else on the market: we’ve tried them all, and none compare to the durability and user friendliness of Optrix XD5.”

Among those flaws was the fact that the clamshell design required 15-percent more area—read more material—to be waterproof. More material equals more weight, and one of the goals—other than being waterproof and nearly indestructible—was to be lightweight, according to Willenborg. That lack of heft was achieved with a distinctive low-profile, monocoque, polycarbonate construction that still allowed it to take a beating—and a bath. During the marketing, er, testing phase, Optrix dropped its latest incarnation, the XD, from a second story window, threw it against a wall, ran it over with a full-size pickup truck and took it snorkeling in the Pacific, all—safely—while recording.

Not bad considering we’ve had friends mourn the loss of iPhones that met their demise during mundane activities such as getting out of the car or using the restroom. But we digress.

Out of the box

The Optrix XD5 includes everything you need—and a zip tie.

Out of the box, both the XD4 and XD5 include the main housing, an iPhone “sled,” a 175-degree wide-angle lens, a flat base mount, a curved base mount, a safety leash, a removable rail clip and a zip tie (hey, ya never know when you’ll need one).

The main housing—the true brainchild of Optrix R&D—is what makes it unique in the world of cases and mounts for both stand-alone POV cams and camera phones. Optrix claims it received inspiration for the monocoque, unibody construction of its housing from the driver “cocoons” designed to protect Formula 1 drives in fiery 200-mph crashes. It all sounds a bit dramatic, but regardless of the inspiration, the waterproof, nearly indestructible result is impressive. A “membrane” over the screen allows the user to retain full touchscreen functionality while remaining sealed and waterproof. The XD5 features an access door on the bottom of the housing to allow easy access for charging and headphone use while inside, though opening this port mitigates its waterproof properties.

The included iPhone “sled” serves as a sort of protective cartridge for inserting your iPhone into the main housing. Upon slipping an iPhone into the rubberized sled, we discovered it lives a surprising double life. The sled, as it turns out, makes a rather fine iPhone case for everyday use on its own. Bonus.

The wide-angle lens enhances the field of view, making the most of the iPhone’s HD recording abilities. Flat and curved base mounts with 3M industrial adhesive give you some mounting options to get started, but over 40 mounts are available, including our personal favorite, the chest mount. A sliding rail system means that you can easily attach and remove the main housing, allowing you to utilize its protective capacity whether or not it’s mounted and filming.

A safety leash and zip tie are thrown in for good measure.

In action

Head or chest? Life is about choices. Photo courtesy Optrix

Head or chest? Life is about choices.

Setup is easy. The sliding rail system allows for easy attachment to various mounts. The adhesive mounts work as well as any others we’ve used and the unibody construction keeps weight to a minimum. Other than being able to immediately watch footage you’ve just recorded, being able to immediately see what you’re recording on the iPhone’s screen makes for easy adjustment when mounting, taking the guesswork out of getting the right angle. There’s nothing worse than having a great run only to download your footage and find out your chest mount was pointed straight up your nose the entire time.

Once on the sled and in the case, things are pretty simple—but they weren’t simple enough for Optrix. The company developed propriety iPhone apps to maximize POV potential. The Optrix VideoSport is a free app featuring focus lock and adjustability for resolution and frame rate. The focus lock feature prevents the iPhone from “hunting” and constantly attempting to focus while in motion. At the time of press, motion-activated start/stop and a “minutes left” warning are slated for the next update.

An Optrix VideoPro gives users the ability to overlay telemetry data on their videos including speed, G-Force, lap times and a track map in addition to the functions of the VideoSport for $9.99 in the app store. Both also include oversized record, stop and play buttons for ease of use.

Final take

While it may seem counter-intuitive to bomb your favorite trail with an expensive iPhone anywhere but stowed safely in your pack or back in the truck, we’re looking forward to spending more time with and putting the Optrix through its paces and—most likely—testing its crash-test rating. While other dedicated POV cams likely aren’t going anywhere, the Optrix offers an ingenious and viable option for riders who already have a very capable iPhone, but don’t want to drop the extra coin for an expensive stand-alone unit.

by Don Stefanovich 

 

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TROY LEE DESIGN’S TRAIL ROOTS | New gear recalls the company’s history

The new A1 only the most recent incarnation of TLD's trail helmets.

The new A1 is only the most recent incarnation of TLD’s trail helmets. Photo by Don Stefanovich

If you ride a mountain bike, chances are you know Troy Lee Designs for its line of full-face helmets and gravity gear. And maybe you are familiar with its origins in races requiring internal combustion engines; Troy, after all, got his start racing motocross as a teenager and painting helmets for his friends in his parents’ garage. But what most people don’t realize is that the company’s first venture into bicycle helmets was closer to the recently hyped A1 enduro helmet than anything in between.

The A1 recently received quite a bit of buzz, and rightfully so. After three years of development and scrapping several concepts, TLD released what it felt to be a proper all-mountain helmet—not a road helmet with a visor. The A1 features deep rear coverage and EPS (expanded polystyrene, the impact-absobing material in most helmets) that is strategically thicker in common impact zones and reinforced with fiberglass strands, but combines that extra protection with “super vents” for improved cooling over similar designs without compromising safety. Inside is a one-piece liner for comfort, so you won’t have to fuss with separate pads. Naturally, as an artist, Troy couldn’t let the A1 leave the factory without a custom look, so techniques used on moto helmets were applied to the paint and graphics along with anodized hardware. It all weighs in at a tidy 320 grams.

But among all that buzz in the bike-industry media, the A1 was widely regarded as TLD‘s first trail helmet without a chinbar—a statement that happens to be both true and false.

A young Troy Lee makes visors on at a time on the punch press. Photo courtesy TLD.

A young Troy Lee makes visors one at a time on the punch press. Photo courtesy TLD.

Troy Lee Designs‘ deep [bicycle] roots can be traced back to the ’70s when Troy and his brother Kelly roamed around in the hills of Laguna Beach on beach cruisers,” bicycle division marketing manager Craig “Stikman” Glaspell told The Link. “And later on when Troy started painting helmets in 1981, he would eventually find his way to BMX racing in the late ’80s painting Dave Cullinans helmets, who would be the first BMX racer to have a custom painted helmet.”

In the early ’90s, motorcycle helmet manufacturer Shoei decided it was going to take a stab the mountain-bike market, but needed a little help. Troy got the call.

The Edge lived double lives as trail helmet and downhill dome bucket.

The Edge lived double lives as trail helmet and downhill dome bucket. Photo by Don Stefanovich

Shoei’s now-iconic—among those old enough to remember it—louvered shell was soon splashed with wild paint schemes by Troy and outfitted with a custom visor. One of the first “real” mountain-bike helmets was born. Donned by pro riders the likes of Brian Lopes, Greg Herbold and Leigh Donovan in races at the time, it quickly put the motorsport-goods maker on the mountain-bike map. When Lopes wanted a little more protection, Troy devised a detachable chinbar, making the Edge both TLD‘s first half-shell and full-face lid. While the chinbar design wouldn’t pass TLD‘s strict safety standards of today, the concept was revolutionary at the time for a bicycle helmet—and even moto helmets of the day featured removable chin pieces.

A young Troy Lee shows his nephews how to paint an Edge helmet. Photo courtesy TLD.

A young Troy Lee teaches his nephews how to paint an Edge helmet. Photo courtesy TLD.

“Later in the ’90s was when Troy would make the groundbreaking full-face that set the standard, the Daytona,” said Stikman. The Daytona closely resembled today’s full-face helmets, and was a giant leap forward in 1995. Mike King, Nico Vouilloz and Dave Cullinan—luminaries during the ’90s in BMX and mountain-bike racing—all had their heads inside a Daytona. Soon everyone wanted one. TLD began production in 1996, and soon the Daytona was making appearances on the World Cup circuit on noggins the likes of Steve Peat and Shaun Palmer (yes, the snowboarder was a World Cup downhill racer—and a damn good one).

A detachable chinbar was was good enough for motocross, why not mountain bikes?

A detachable chinbar was was good enough for motocross, why not mountain bikes? Photo by Don Stefanovich

While the Edge helmet planted TLD‘s feet firmly in the mountain-bike market, the Daytona’s popularity carried more momentum, eclipsing the Edge and eventually evolving into the popular D2 full-face in 2001 and later the D3 in 2009.

Today the company is predominantly known for its strong footing in downhill and freeride helmets and gear but Stikman is quick to point out that it’s only a part of TLD‘s bicycle segment. “Troy Lee has been making BMX and mountain-bike apparel since the ’90s as well, from number plates and racewear to the introduction of trail-riding gear in early 2000, to what is now one of the best lineups in all-mountain, enduro, freeride and racing apparel on the market,” he said. The company counts to its credit an all-star big-bike roster including Aaron Gwin, Sam Hill, Brendan Fairclough, Troy Brosnan,Cam Zink and Brandon Semenuk, but is growing its enduro team as well. Nicolas Vouilloz, Curtis Keene and Lars Stenberg are all on board.

Even though they are separated by two decades, the A1 bears a striking resemblance to its predecessor

Even though they are separated by two decades, the A1 bears a striking resemblance to its predecessor. Photo by Don Stefanovich

The Link was recently able to preview TLD‘s newest technical trail products—including gloves, shorts, jerseys and even an expansion on TLD’s partnership with Shock Doctor to include post-injury support products such as knee and wrist braces—but most of the goods are still top-secret. We will give you full details as soon as we’re able, but what we can say is that the new gear will round out the line to cover just about any style of riding when it comes time to put two wheels in the dirt.

Vintage cross-country race bikes and kits from the likes of Brian Lopes, John Tomac and Greg Herbold remind visitors of TLD's trail roots.

Vintage cross-country race bikes and kits from the likes of Brian Lopes, John Tomac and Greg Herbold remind visitors of TLD’s trail roots. Photo by Don Stefanovich

Lest anyone forget TLD‘s trail roots, cross-country race bikes and kits from the likes of legends like Greg Herbold, John Tomac and Brian Lopes hang among the wild array of clothing, products and memorabilia in its So Cal showroom.

“We have been doing it for a few years and some of the items we have had were the first to market: trail-riding shorts, freeride shorts, loose-fitting jerseys, etc.,” Stikman said. “It is definitely a buzzword right now, but these new formats are things Troy and I did 20 years ago. Racing mountain bikes you had to race the uphill to race the downhill. We were out all day on trails, having fun with our friends, cooking at the campsite, having a beer fireside. It is a lifestyle that we all still live today, not just the latest craze for us.”

by Don Stefanovich 

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ONE MORE HILL | Welcome to the All-New Price Point

“Hey, I think I can see my house from here!”

 

Sometimes you just have to put your head down and charge up one more hill. It’s not easy. In fact, it’s downright painful. But you keep going. You keep breathing. You keep spinning. Eventually you stand and sprint. You keep going because you know that just over that hill lies the next adventure—a ride that eclipses everywhere you’ve laid tracks up until now.

We’ve spent more than a few late nights here at Price Point headquarters, charging up our most recent hill—working on the all-new PricePoint.com—and now that we’re at the top, we couldn’t be more amped on the view in every direction. It’s been a great ride, and it’s far from over. We won’t stop at the top of this hill—or the next one. Every challenge is a new opportunity, and the new Price Point is just the beginning.

MORE DIRT, LESS DOUGH

The new PricePoint.com.

The new PricePoint.com.

 

Even though our own after-work rides have become sparse at best, we’ve forgotten what daylight looks like, and have subsisted on coffee, CLIF Bars and the occasional taco, we’ve managed to create an entirely new Price Point experience centered around a completely rebuilt website with improved shopping features like intuitive navigation, bigger product images, super-fast checkout, Q&A, a new rating system and even better deals. It is now easier than ever to get the gear you need and have it delivered quickly.

But the dialed new website isn’t all we’ve been up to.

Price is still the point, but in addition to the great low prices we’re known for, we are expanding our product selection to include more brands, models, colors and sizes of the latest trends, tech and products driving the cycling industry—still at unbeatable deals, all backed by The Price Point Pledge, our promise to provide you with the best selection, service and prices in the industry so you can get what you need and get on your bike.

Want to try before you buy? Our 90 Easy Returns make it painless, whether it’s the wrong size or the wrong color.

Don’t want to wait? Our 100% In Stock Guarantee ensures that if it’s on our website, it’s in our warehouse. And same day shipping means that you can buy today, ride tomorrow.

Found a better price? Our 120 Day Best Value Pledge means we’ll refund the difference if you find a lower advertised price up to four months from the date of purchase, because worry-free shopping feels good.

And just to celebrate the new Price Point, we’ll be giving away gear from now until Sea Otter, including a complete SRAM XX1 drivetrain.

LOOK, MA—NO HANDS!

Wait, we already used this picture for our Groundhog's Day sale. Why is it happening again?

Wait, we already used this picture for our Groundhog’s Day sale. Why is it happening again?

 

You won’t need your mouse and keyboard to connect with us anymore, either. Now that the new site is up and running, we’ll be spending a lot more time on the trails and at the races and events that help define our sport. If you see us, don’t be shy. Come say hi and we’ll give you the finger—a Price Point logo sticker, that is. Give it back by tagging us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter in a photo of your creative, legal placement of the finger-logo sticker, and if we post your photo, we’ll put together a Price Point prize pack with your name on it.

But for those of you still in front of a computer—whether you live somewhere you are forced to play a waiting game with Old Man Winter, you are recovering from an injury or just happen to be watching the clock in cubicle land—we’ve created this humble bike blog, The Link. Be sure to check back for plenty of contests and giveaways, reviews and previews on all the hottest new gear, updates from our sponsored riders, training and tech tips, and the occasional groundhog.

LOG ON AND DROP IN

Get dialed at PricePoint.com.

 

It’s been a long winter, but spring weather, longer days, new rides and the next adventure are just around the corner. It’s time to attempt to collect our thoughts and our riding gear. So, go ahead. Click around. Check out the site and let us know what you think. Think we could do something better? We want to know. Want to heckle us or cheer us on? Feel free to drop us a line. Then go ride your bike. We’ll see you on the trail.

by Don Stefanovich 

The End

INSATIABLE INSANITY | Markley Anderson gears up for his second Tour Divide

Markley Anderson in Austria during the 2012 TransAlp. Photo by Sportif.

Markley Anderson in Austria during the 2012 TransAlp. Photo by Sportif.

It takes a hard man to ride a mountain bike 2,700 miles along the Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico, gaining over 200,000 feet of elevation in the process. It takes an even harder man to ride it with his wheels rarely touching a paved stretch of road. It takes a really hard man to do it entirely self-self supported, carrying everything he needs.

It takes a mad man to want to do it again—the kind of mad man who would say something like, “Cross-country racing is fun, but too short for my liking.”

Price Point team rider Markley Anderson is no stranger to challenges, physical or mental. Formerly a paratrooper in the infamous 82nd Airborne Division of the United States Army, Anderson has competed in powerlifting, bodybuilding and endurance and adventure races such as the TransAlp and the BC Bike Race. But when he arrived at the Mexican border in the dark, shaking beneath a crusted layer of salt and dirt 24 days after leaving the surreal postcard-like setting of Banff, Alberta, Canada, he swore he would never do it again. Now Anderson is quickly learning the meaning of the old adage never say never.

Markley Anderson descends in Austria during the 2012 TransAlp. Photo by Sportif.

Markley Anderson descends in Austria during the 2012 TransAlp. Photo by Sportif.

“It has a magnetism like no other event I have ever had the sweet and painful pleasure of getting to know,” Markley writes in his 2013 Letter of Intent. “Funny how one can be attracted to something that beats you down to what I can only describe as a crushed saltine cracker in a bowl of chicken noodle soup.”

Much like the men and women who attempt it, The Tour Divide is an entirely different kind of animal. There is no entry fee, you don’t need a license and there is absolutely zero support—save for emergency extraction, should you need it—along the way. Not a single prize is awarded. And although there is a mass start known as the Grand Départ in June, the race can be completed by anyone any time during the year.

Anderson displays his bike and gear as he begins preparing for the 2013 Tour Divide.

Anderson displays his bike and gear as he begins preparing for the 2013 Tour Divide.

Mild-mannered high-school counselor by day, masochistic mile-muncher by night, Anderson has already begun training and preparing for 2013.

“After having some time to reflect and heal from the wounds that the Tour Divide inflicts, I find myself wanting to venture back and improve my overall time— some kind of crazy romantic quality about the Tour,” Anderson muses. “In 2013, I plan to race the Tour Divide again with the focus being more on speed. Now that I have the experience from having done it, I will be better prepared in regards to equipment, training and mental resolve.“

Anderson will be attempting to best his own 24-day time set in 2011.

Follow this blog to see if he succeeds.

Read more about Anderson’s bike and gear here.

Anderson learns during the 2011 Tour Divide that even when you can't ride, you have no choice but to keep going. Photo courtesy Markely Anderson.

Anderson learns during the 2011 Tour Divide that even when you can’t ride, you have no choice but to keep going. Photo courtesy Markely Anderson.

 by Don Stefanovich 

The End

AND THEN THERE WAS ONE | SRAM’s XX1 simplifies drivetrain performance

"Push, fellars! There's singletrack in dem der hills!"

Before gears, there was only one way to the top. Photo by Gary Fisher, courtesy of Charlie Kelly/Sonic.net

Gravity junkies and freeride fiends have been espousing the benefits of running single-ring setups nearly as long as they’ve been using shuttles and ski lifts in order to maximize their down time.

But why lose gears? At one point in the ‘70s—when a few boys in Nor Cal riding 1940s Schwinns figured out that grafting road gears onto their “klunkerz” allowed them to climb up as well as ride down—being able to shift was the single greatest innovation in the blossoming sport of mountain biking. We’ve been adding gears and complicating things ever since. More is better, right?

In theory, yes, but if you weren’t much concerned with climbing, it made sense to ditch the front rings—it was simpler, and, with the addition of a chainguide, all but eliminated dropped chains and the cacophony of chain slap.

So many a ham-fisted freerider went to work—not unlike those Nor Cal incendiaries years before—mixing and matching parts. They paired a single front ring with a rear cassette, then slapped some sort of chain-chastity containment unit around it. Which was fine, considering the extent of climbing on their “big” bikes was rather limited.

But what if you do climb and want a wide range of gears for a wide range of trails? And what if you climb mostly to reach the same kind of rowdy, chunky downhills capable of rattling the fillings out of your head, and don’t want to add guides and pulleys and gizmos just to avoid dropping your chain? We were trying to simplify things, weren’t we?

Enter XX1

SRAM’s XX1 goes up to 11. If they rode bikes, Spinal Tap would be stoked.

 

SRAM’s new golden child pairs a single, front chainring—available in 28, 30, 32, 34, 36 and 38-tooth flavors—with an 11-speed rear cassette for a wide range of gearing conducive to today’s all-mountain and enduro riders. But that’s not to pigeonhole it; everyone from cross-country hammerheads to aforementioned gravity junkies can find something to like here, especially with the wide range of rings available—rings designed not to drop chains. Seems like common sense.

Traditional rings are designed to drop chains, and traditional chain management then is designed to attempt to negate another component’s intended purpose. It all sounds a bit convoluted, doesn’t it?

In addition to lacking the ramping of traditional rings meant to dump the chain, XX1 ring features teeth of alternating thickness designed to fill the different size openings in the chain. SRAM calls it “X-Sync.” As it will be doing all the work all the time, SRAM made the front ring of durable aluminum, and paired it with carbon crank arms for a light-yet-strong package.

The X-Sync tooth design is designed not to drop chains. Who'd have thunk it?

The X-Sync teeth are designed not to drop chains. Who’d have thunk it?

 

Even the chain gets some special treatment here. Aside from playing nicely with the aforementioned X-Sync design of the front ring, the XX1 chain is coated with HARD CHROME—a friction-reducing coating to prevent wear, elongation and weakening. We see no reason this technology shouldn’t trickle down to other chains (it probably will), but it particularly makes sense here, where a thinner profile is necessary to mate with the tighter spacing of the 11-ring cluster.

Along with the Type 2 chain-tensioning clutch-style tech on the rear mech, all this means dropped chains essentially don’t exist. Sure, some riders may still opt for a guide of some sort, but most will likely never miss it should they ditch it. It also makes for a quiet ride—a really quiet ride. And anything that allows for greater appreciation of the sweet sounding duet that can only be performed by tires and dirt is fine by us.

Aside from the Type 2 technology, the XX1 rear derailleur moves in a “straight parallelogram” as opposed to the traditional “slant parallelogram” of traditional modern derailleurs. All this mumbo jumbo really means is that the shifting path moves perpendicular to the chain line, since the rear derailleur is now dedicated to rear shifts—not attempting to compensate for changes in chain length due to front shifts. Again, simple. Nice.

Shifting duties will be handled courtesy of an 11-speed shifter available as a trigger or the recently revived Grip Shift.

You rang?

While we can only guess what the next addition or subtraction might be to mountain-bike technology, SRAM’s XX1 seems like a simple-yet-elegant solution from which most riders—regardless of bike or riding style—can benefit.

Have you ridden XX1? Give us your impressions in the comments below.

Want to ride XX1? We’re giving away a complete XX1 drivetrain here.

The only real question now, is what will you do with all that newly vacant real estate on the other side of the bars? Maybe it’s time for a bell.

by Don Stefanovich 

The End