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All DOWN Cycles MTB NewsMain MTB NewsLocal NewsTech Tips & Reviews
Tech Tips & Reviews
01/01/11
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

“I racked my bike and some POS stole my seat. Do you have a seat in stock that fits my bike?”
For some reason, customers assume that seat post size is standard. Low and behold their disbelief when I tell them that posts begin at size 25.4mm and go all the way up to 31.6mm in increments of a tenth of a millimeter!

Seat post clamps are not as much a headache. Make sure your clamp didn’t get nabbed as well. Typically one of four size clamps fit your bike: 28/30/32 or 34mm. You may have an odd ball size if your bike is 50 years old or was purchased at a department store.

You must bring your bike into the shop in order to buy a new seat post. Down Cycles measures the frame with a micrometer measuring tool. This measurement is a ball park figure. The frame has been clamped down on the post and the true inner diameter may differ from the clamp area. We trial fit new posts in the shop to determine the proper fit. For instance, a measurement at the clamp area may read 27.0mm on the micrometer. We then attempt to install a 27.0mm post in the frame, but it can be a sloppy fit. Then we fit a 27.2mm post and whamo, perfect fit. The 27.0mm post would not perform properly on a bike designed for a 27.2mm, no matter how crazy tight you make the seat clamp! You could also ruin or crack the bike frame tightening down the seat clamp onto the wrong size seat post.

Sorry you had your post stolen! Don’t make the ordeal any worse on yourself! Get the bike into the shop to buy a new post otherwise you will drive back and forth multiple times to get it right. Please don’t roll up for a new post without your bike with this much too common statement: “I need a post for my 94 fisher Y bike.” (My guess on that model would be a 31.6mm by the way).

A new alloy post, a decent seat and a bolt on clamp will set you back minimum $60.00. Sometimes we have old seats hanging around we can set you up with that would be OK on a station bike.
Next time you rack your ride, use a bolt on, not QR seat clamp or bring your seat, clamp and post with you after you lock up. It sucks that we have to live this way, but such is life. I’m not sure why thieves would want your grunge old seat. Defend yourself against stank seat sniffing weird-o’s for crying out loud. It’s a long ride home without a saddle!

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10/29/10
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

Bring a flat repair kit while cycling! I can’t stress this statement enough. It’s not if you get a flat, it’s when you get a flat! Riding a bike for ten miles is not too difficult. Walking the bike home ten miles is no fun at all.

What‘s in a “flat repair kit”? The basics are a patch kit and a pump. These two essentials will get you out of most jams. They weigh hardly anything and take up little room. It’s a good idea to bring one or two tire levers to help remove the tire from the rim, but it is possible to remove a tire without them. It’s also smart to carry a spare tube since a torn or busted off valve can’t be patched.

Experienced cyclists may tell you to bring a Co2 kit. These devises are helpful especially when racing and work well during mosquito season, but a good pump works perfectly. Inflating with a Co2 can also blow a patch off the tube if done in a hurry. It’s also difficult to control the tires bead “seat” using a Co2. You could potentially blow the tire off the rim when inflating with a quick burst of air.

Another smart idea is to bring a thick piece of rubber and electrical tape. The rubber will work well to repair a ripped/torn tire and the tape can be used for holding the rubber in place inside the tire. Tape can be used for replacing an out of place or broken rim strip. Every rim (except tubeless) has a strip of cloth, plastic or rubber wrapped around the rim outer diameter and over the spoke nipples. The rim strip acts as a barrier between the rim and tube. Tubes can easily flat from contact with a spoke nipple or from contact with the hole in a double wall rim (a rim with two layers, the outer layer is drilled to insert the spoke nipple, usually speced on higher end bikes).

Anyway, be prepared for a flat tire because you are going to get them. Use your head when making a repair and remove the object that cause the flat before filling up the repaired, or new tube. Visually check the outside of the tire for a foreign object while carefully feeling around (for something sharp like glass) inside the tire with your hand.

Pump the leaky tube to locate the hole. The location of the hole determines the cause of the flat. A single puncture on the outer part of the tube indicates debris such as glass, a nail, tack, thorn, a staple, etc…

A hole on the tubes inner part, the part that faces towards the rim indicates a problem with the rim strip or spoke head. Visually inspect the rim strip. Most likely it shifted slightly revealing the sharp edges of a hole(s) in the double wall rim. Use you electrical tape and tape down the rim strip after shifting it back into place. File down sharp spoke heads. A sharp spoke nipple can poke through the rim strip and puncture the tube.

A hole with two gashes next to one another is called a “snake bit flat”. This type of flat can usually be repaired using two patches. A snake bite flat is the result of a large impact. Riding straight into a pot hole or riding fast through rocks causes this type of very common flat. Go ahead and make the repair to the obvious double puncture, but also check the tire for thorns. A thorn stuck in the tire will cause a very slow leak. The lower than normal pressure was most likely the cause your snake bite flat.

Always check your tire pressure before a ride. Tubes leak down all on their own. Road bikes will need airing up every ride. Mountain bikes may need air every other ride. Low tire pressure is not only annoying to ride and dangerous, but can cause you to get a dreaded snake bit flat.

Remember to buy a new patch get every few months. The glue in the patch kit dries out in a hurry. I’ve never had good luck with glue less patches, but I guess they could get you out of a jam and are better than nothing. I’d consider glue less patch only temporary. A properly patched tube is perfectly sound for pressures up to around 50 psi. Roadies should install a new tube after a patch repair. Road racing tires typically inflated to 120 psi. Patches do not work well at these intense pressures. Pump your road tire up to around 80 psi after patching and limp home.

If your tube explodes while riding, you have a serious tear in the tire or on the tires bead. If the tube has herniated outside the tire, get ready for a Ka Boom! Usually a rim brake pad is out of adjustment (or the rim itself is not installed correctly) and has worn through the tires side wall. A weak side wall eventually will give out, when it does; the tube protrudes into the rim brake and then explodes. The tube will deflate rapidly and could cause a rider to crash. This type of trailside repair is technical. The bead is under lots of pressure when inflated. You can try taping that thick piece of rubber against the tear. It may hold long enough to get you home. A patch will not repair the gaping hole in the tube. You will need a new tube for this repair. Do not apply the brake on the ride home, unless you have a tool to fix the out of position pad that caused the flat. Watch for clearance on the bulged repaired tire. You may have to disconnect the rim brake altogether just to get home.

In desperation, a dollar bill is pretty tough and works OK for side wall repairs. Energy bar of Gu wrappers will suffice as a quick fix. If your tube blows to smithereens and you have no spare, stuff the tire with vegetation then muscle the bead back onto the rim to get home. Believe me when I tell you that this actually works!

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10/25/10
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

I have narrowed “skipping gears” down to a few culprits. I’ll list the possible causes in order from common to bizarre.

1. Have you installed a new chain recently? If so, your new chain is not conforming to the bikes worn out sprockets. Solution: Reinstall the old chain or buy new sprockets (front chain rings and rear cassette). Remove the new chain right away! Ride the new chain more than a few times on the old rings and it will wear premature or break under the added stress.

2. Inspect the chain for a stiff link. Locate the bad link by freewheeling the crank backwards and eyeing for a jump in the derailleur jockey wheel, apply lube to the stiff link (Tri flow works well). Pry/twist/bend the chain in all directions to free up the link. Most likely, the bearing between the plates is bulged and deformed and the link can’t be freed up. Solution: New chain (if it is not too old and worn out) or new link.

3. Bent rear derailleur or derailleur hanger. Solution: straighten the hanger. Buy a new rear derailleur.

4. Ring(s) are bent or missing teeth (some teeth seem like they're missing, but are purposely formed with ramps to aide shifting. Do not mistake the shift ramps as bad teeth. Both rear cassette and front rings bend, especially on 9sp cassettes with 4 bolt front chain rings. Solution: buy new rings or bend them back with a metal punch and a hammer. I know it sounds crude, but it works. A stick and a rock will do on the trail (also works for bent disc rotors). Check that the cassette is tight to the free hub.

5. The inner cable slipped on the derailleur pinch bolt. This is a common problem with the new Shimano “shadow” rear derailleur. Solution: shift into 1st and 9th, turn barrel adjusters in, and pull inner cables tight. You will need to add barrel adjustment to add cable tension to fine tune the shifts. Watch for outer cables that are cut too short near suspension links. Short cables in this location will cause huge shift headaches.

6. The PAWL mechanism (the clicking sound you hear when you’re not pedaling the bike) inside the rear hub (or inside the rear freewheel on cheap bikes) needs to be cleaned or replaced. The ring gear that is pressed into the rear hub is cracked or has spun loose. The PAWLS engage into the ring gear which then propels the wheel forward.

7. The rear axle is bent, cracked or axle bearings are toast.

8. The chain is bent.

9. The rear wheel is not installed properly or the rear quick release is not tight.

10. You have a 9 or 10 speed chain installed on an 8 speed (or 7/6 speed) bike.

11. You have an 8 speed chain installed on a 9 or 10 speed bike.

12. You have a 10 speed chain installed on a 6,7,8,9 speed bike.

13. You are using a 10 speed derailleur on a 6,7,8,9 speed bike.

14. You are using a 6,7,8,9 speed derailleur on a 10 speed bike.

15. You have a Sram 1:1 ratio shifter installed on a Shimano 2:1 ratio derailleur.

16. You have a Shimano 2:1 ratio shifter installed on a Sram 1:1 rear derailleur.

17. You have a 9 speed shifter installed on a 6,7,8,10 speed bike.

18. You have a 10 speed shifter installed on a 6,7,8,9 speed bike.

19. You have installed the wrong master link on the chain (example: an 8 speed master link (quick link is not compatible with 9 speed chains or vice versa. (Also worth noting: A Sram 8 sp quick link will bind and causes a stiff link when installed on Shimano 8 speed chains).

20. Your drive side crank is loose and is soon to fall off the bottom bracket spindle or the bottom bracket is worn out/loose.

21. Your bike is filthy. Gunk, leaves, or sticks are jammed into the gears or your bash guard has damage from impacts. Clean by picking at the buildup of junk with a small screwdriver and file the burrs on the bash.

22. Check if chain ring bolts are tight.

23. Check the rear derailleur fixing bolt. The plastic jockey wheel bolts may be loose or the derailleur limit screws backed out from vibration. The limit screws may have been set up poorly when the bike was new.

24. You have too many links in the chain.

25. The tension spring in the derailleur is busted.

26. Do you have a DRS (Dual Ring Security) or some kind of chain guide? You may have hit the lower roller on the trail and bent the guides boomerang. The guide may have moved causing the roller to butt up against the frames chainstay. Tweak the guide straight and reposition lower roller (the roller must roll smooth, check for damage and check/lube the rollers bearings. If you do not have a ISCG mount (3 bolts that hold the guide to the frame), you may have to loosen the bottom bracket to reset the position of the boomerang.

27. Have you been riding your bike with the same chain for a few seasons? It’s time for all new drive components. It’s too late to replace only the chain. All the parts associated with the forward drive are worn out. A new chain will not mesh properly with old cogs. The bike’s new chain will skip pedaling up hill and during a sprint when installed on old, worn gears.

Shifting issues can be avoided by keeping your bike clean,maintained and properly lubed. Inspect your bike for damage after a crash and before each ride. Change you chain and cables at least two times per season (that is, if you ride a couple times per week).

Installing a new chain will prolong wear to the chain rings. It’s a good idea to buy a chain checking tool that measures chain stretch. Avid riders should be installing a new chain every 2 ½-3 months when the season is hot and heavy.

I purposely left out information on front derailleur tweaks (although the slipped cable on the pinch bolt fix works for the front derailleur as well). Front derailleur issues are even more complicated to figure out than rear shift issues. I recommend bringing your bike to a shop regardless. As you can read, shifting issues can be caused by a number of problems. I didn’t even mention cable stretch! Yes, cables will stretch only when they are new. Add tension on the barrel adjuster either at the shifter or rear derailleur to tune for cable stretch. Turning the adjuster counter clockwise will add cable tension.

Always carry a spare derailleur hanger with you on rides. A replaceable derailleur hanger is designed to break in a crash to help protect the derailleur itself from damage. It’s common to bend and break off the hanger when attempting to pry it straight by hand. It takes only a few minutes with simple tools to install a new hanger on the trail.

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10/01/10
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

Fall mountain biking on the east coast is the best time to ride, especially after a dry summer. The scenery is to die for, the crisp, clean air is uplifting and the dirt is that perfect loamy dark brown. Fall lap times may be a bit slower compared to summers, but railing turns and spraying a dirt roost is exhilarating! Traction is in abundance when you find pristine dirt, but watch out for those dreaded acorns!

This fall, it seems acorns are piled in every turn. I was told that the trees this year produced more than the usual amount of acorns due to stress (not enough rain this summer). Negotiating a turn on these natural marbles of doom can be tricky. I have a few tips for riders struggling to ride in these conditions. The technique to enter and exit a turn covered with acorns ironically is the proper way to turn year round.

When the dirt is just right, we get lazy and trust the dirt and our tires to hold the line for us. This is a bad habit, one that you’ll pay for some day.

Leaning your body along with the bike is not the proper way to turn on natural terrain. Try this technique as you turn on acorns and you will hip check yourself into oblivion. Turning your bike properly may require some effort at first. It’s not easy to change a bad habit, but that is exactly what you’ll need to do in order to stay off you head this time of year.

We are faced with more than just the dreaded acorns in fall. Wet roots hidden under wet leaves deflect our tires and have less than zero traction. Rocks that once had gobs of grip are now dripping in a coat of green slime.

We are lucky we have so much variation in trail conditions. The same old trail that was easy to clean a few weeks ago now presents new challenges.

After learning and applying this riding tip you will rail turns covered in slime, acorns, loose dirt, sand, whatever. It is possible to carve a turn at speed and not slide out. Often you’ll get into a two wheel drift and maybe soil your chamois. Drifting through turns is an awesome sensation when it’s controlled. (This tip doesn’t apply to turning in a deep rut or berm. Most properly built berms can be trusted. Riders can lean their body weight on an angle when riding through berms. All other turns, like the other 99 percent we encounter on the trail cannot be trusted.)

The trick to finding traction in the loose stuff is to keep your body as close to 90 degrees to the ground as possible while leaning the bike with your arms. Your body will lean slightly and that’s OK. For instance, when turning left, lean the bike down to the left, far as possible with your arms while keeping your head upright and in the same position it was in before entering the turn. Look ahead, not down. Apply pressure (weight) down on the right handlebar with your right hand. At the same time pressure down on the right pedal with your foot (like you’re trying to step down to the ground, straight through the center of your bike). The outside right pedal can face down, but it is not necessary to have the pedal in the down position. The idea is to load the tires left side knobbies with pressure, directly down into the dirt. You are looking to eliminate any sideways pushing to the tires side knobs. You need to do all of this while loading the front tire with a tad bit more body weight compared to the rear. You do this by shifting your body weight forward a small amount.

Every bike rides differently and every turn will require more or less body English (the jerky movements your body performs to maintain control of your bicycle). You need to practice a lot and find your bikes sweet spot. Small shifts in weight make a huge impact on maintaining traction. Keep your chin and chest above your stem as a starting point, elbows slightly bent and up. This is called the “attack” position.

That’s the tip! It’s really that simple to explain, but I’m sure it will take loads of practice to master. Never do I see an XC rider on the trail applying this technique. Get used to riding this way year round. It’s insane how much faster you become when you can carve turns with confidence. Eventually, when you master turning, you’ll never take your foot off the pedal again. Stay in your pedals and power out of the turn as you exit. Nail the turn just right and you may loft the front wheel into the air as you exit a turn.

After you have your turns down pat, practice pumping through turns like a skateboarder pumps for speed on a ramp. It’s possible to gain speed when exiting a turn, even a turn covered in acorns!

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10/27/09
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

Impressed with Marin bicycles 2009 line, Down Cycles will move forward into 2010 stocking the brand and testing these amazing machines. The in house support at Marin is exceptional and my outside representative is no slacker, running around the north east displaying and demoing bikes at many different events. Even though my shop is three thousand miles from Marin HQ, they take care of my shop like it’s in their backyard.

2010MarinMtVision

Last season I tested out both the Mount Vision 5.8 and Wolf Ridge 6.8. I reviewed the Mount Vision in a past article on the Down Cycles product tests page. My only peeve was the steepish 69 degree head angle on the 2009 Bike. I felt the HA was too steep to get the most out of the bike. This year Marin Hooked up the 2010 bike with a 68 degree HA, perfect angle for trail riding! Many other improvements were made to the 2010 Wolf Ridge that not only benefit how it rides, but also how it looks.

Marin worked hard and cleaned up the aesthetics on the 2010 Mount Vision. Smoothed out welds on the head tube and seat post tube mimic the look of a carbon frame. Nicely done, two tone paint and slick graphics do an amazing job of slimming down the look of the frames tubes. Headset stack height is lower thanks to internal headset bearings and cable guides are present under the top tube for riders who may install a remote dropper seat post. Most noticeable though is the totally revised links and swing arm. Not only is the new swing lighter compared to last year bike, it’s also stronger and much better looking. The swing arm tubing is now almost all round, looking proper on a pure XC rig.

Marin’s Quad link suspension pivot and shock function close to your calves and inside knee. The old links were fairly wide, the bolts capped off with what I called Frankenstein bolts. Occasionally the link would graze my inner leg. This wasn’t bothersome me, but even the link area has been addressed for 2010. The whole link system and end caps that cover the link bolts are now narrow and have a cleaner appearance. I didn’t feel any part of the suspension touch my legs at any point during my test.

The Mount Vision is and always has been a fun bike to ride. The 2010’s improvements are immediately noticeable when first hitting the trail. On my first day of testing, the trail was littered with downed leafs that were soaked from two days of rain. Typically most bikes spin out on climbs in these conditions. I could not believe how the Marin crawls up impossible, sketchy climbs. I cleaned sections of trail that are hard to ride in perfect conditions, even with 32 psi in the WTB DNA compound tires! The only thing that could stop this bike from inch worming up slop would be the rider’s lack of endurance.

Descending is no sweat thanks to the new slacker head angle and Quad link rear suspension. The Marin gobbles up anything in its path. It does make a ruckus as the chain hits the swing arm. A small piece of felt glued in the right spot virtually eliminated the banging. Taking flight is a breeze. The bike jumps with confidence and is plush when landing even on flats. The suspension is lively and reacts well to boosting off obstacles, bunny hopping over logs and getting through tech sections. The wheelbase is pretty standard for a medium size bike. The ride is lively, this bike is flickable and carves turns like it’s on rails. The front wheel always feels planted and never once pushed on me no matter how hard I drove into the turns.

The new Mount Vision’s weight is acceptable at 28lbs w/pedals and identical to the 5” travel trail GT Sensor that I last tested. Weight can be reduced easily by switching to 2.1” wide tires (Stock F & R are 2.25”) and ditching the 180mm front rotor to a 160mm. Marin has tweaked the leverage ratio slightly for 2010 improving the ride. Riders interested in this bike must understand that the Marin Quad Link suspension is always very active. Pro pedal on or not, you always know you’re riding a suspension bike. The 2010 Marin feels less detached to the trail compared to the 2009 model, but still feels soft compared to other 5” travel bikes. Don’t get me wrong, you can still motor around on this bike and hit mach speeds, but most riders will assume that the plush ride is robbing power even though it is not.

What would make this bike the cat’s meow? I’m nit picking here because the 2010 Mount Vision is a seriously amazing bicycle. Marin is closing in on pure perfection, but I would love to see a few tweaks to the 2011 bike. Add ¼” length to the bikes top tube length (personal preference. I prefer to ride a bike with the front wheel way out in front. Adding a bit of wheelbase will improve the bikes handling through high speed rock gardens). Offer the bike with a seat post that has no kickback what so ever (not really an issue since I was able to slide the seat forward enough on the stock post to take some weight off the rear suspension. Sliding the seat back on the rails on a lay back post brings the worst out of the Quad Link suspension). Switch up to a shorter 80mm stem (hey, it’s the DHer in me. Besides the short stem would complement the ¼” longer top tube and also add to the confidence factor).

Redesign the disc side caliper mount. Space out the two bolts that hold on the drop out or just eliminate the bolt on drop altogether and weld on a fixed disc side drop (also not an issue unless you pull trials moves were the rear brake is locked up, rocked forward and back, flexing the 2 bolts that hold on the drop out). Improve the chain line with 150mm rear hub spacing while keeping the 73mm BB shell (Climbs in 2 and 1 created some noise from the chain line. A 1mm spacer behind the cassette might help reduce the angle, but the ultimate fix would be to dump the 135 QR spacing altogether and spec a 150mm Maxel swing arm like the 6” travel Attack model bike). Lastly add compression to the rear shocks mid stroke (Push Industries could probably tweak the FOX RP 23. Adding compression to the rear shock would help rid mid stroke wallow).

All in all, the new Mount Vision looks better, is lighter, stiffer and rides better. The engineers at Marin sure put their heart and soul into this bikes makeover. This unique bike and the company behind it deserve the many years of success they have achieved with their designs. After all, the Mount Vision has been bike of the year for some time now for a reason. The suspension technology designed into this bike will save your behind from pilot error and grab and claw for some traction when you try and pedal up the wrong line. The following equations simply sum up this review: New Rider + Marin Mount Vision = Smiles. Intermediate Rider + Marin Mount Vision = Applause. Advanced Rider + Marin Mount Vision = Podium!

1 Update

08/06/09
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

Cycling Sports Group (GT, Mongoose, Schwinn, Cannondale and recently Iron Horse) invited DOWN Cycles and other select shops to a multi day seminar/dirt demo in Park City Ut this past June. I extended my stay a few days and took a road trip down to Moab with a couple 2010 GT’s locked and loaded.

GT Sensor

Other than parking lot tests, I never properly thrashed around on a new GT. I always admired GT’s attention to detail and trick suspension design. Ironically, before I was a dealer, I primarily rode only GT bikes. For crying out loud, GT was my first grass roots sponsor!

In park city I tested the GT Sanction on lift access runs at Deer Valley. The Sanction was a spot on bike for this type of riding. 6” travel was enough to bomb almost all the runs and hit them fast and clean. I took it down the national course. I rode ninety percent on the track, but walked it through the Barney Rubble rock garden. I also didn’t feel confident enough to hit the big drops. I tried not to fall in love with the bike since it will only be available as a UK bike for 2010. Say good bye in 2010 to the Sanction state side.

I also tested the GT carbon Zaskar. This bike is scary fast! It rides extremely light and has stable geometry for high speeds (this is a good thing because you will only ride at high speeds). If you’re in the market for a lightning fast XC racer, consider the Zaskar. It is an unfair advantage on an XC loop as far as I’m concerned (even though I took the town lift to the top). Every other bike you ride will feel like a pig after riding a carbon Zaskar. I won’t be right for a while after that experience.

2010 GT Sensor

Moving on to the bike that stands out as my favorite of all time, a new model for 2010, the GT Sensor! I tested it out in Park City and fell in love. This is the bike I took to Moab along with a Force. The Sensor is a 5” trail bike with perfect geometry, a longish stroke rear air shock (low leverage ratio) and a rock solid build kit. The bike I tested had a full XT build, Fox air rear with lock out and Fox Float RL, 15mm fork.

From what I was told, the GT Sensor will be priced very competitively. The frame is alloy and is not available in carbon fiber. Handling is superb and the suspension is absolutely perfect! GT got the suspension balance nailed down on this new design. 5” trail bikes should be quick to accelerate and this bike rockets to speed thanks to the stiff swing arm and dialed in, no slop suspension links. What amazed me most is the positive rider to ground feedback. In other words, this bike does not feel like mush at all. The rider can feel what is happening beneath him, but is not being punished. The bike can be pumped back up to speed without any loss/absorption from inefficient suspension. I feel that the long stroke air shock has a lot to do with the Sensors dialed in ride quality. The shock is not working hard thanks to a low leverage ratio.

The Sensor’s ride is lively and inspirers confidence. I actually liked this bike much better compared to the more expensive 6” travel GT Force. I’m not sure how keen I am about 6” travel XC rigs. They just feel like too much bike for XC. The GT Sensor is my next trail bike for sure. Get ready to read crazy positive reviews when they’re released. The 2010 GT Sensor is simply fun to ride, easy to ride at speed and crushes anything you throw at it!

6 Updates

05/27/09
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

Occasionally I get to demo high end bicycles. I lucked out when Marin bikes hand delivered me a brand spanking new 2009 Mount Vision 5.8. Much to my surprise, Marin offered up the bike to me for a few weeks! To say I was flattered is an understatement. From the get go Marin knew, with utmost confidence, that I’d love their bike and the Quad Link suspension.

What attracts a buyer to consider purchasing a particular bicycle? In my opinion the look of the bike/ first impressions are most important. I would think the name brand weighs in next, then, I feel that positive reviews certainly help, good warranty, price/value may also seal the deal.

Marin bikes resemble no other suspension design in the industry. Marin takes an unconventional approach to suspension perfection by combining a true four bar link with a high forward pivot. This design creates a bike with a longish swing arm. This look is unconventional and invokes strange and sometimes annoying comments.

Obvious to me, the Mount Vision is an XC bike. With a steep head angle of 69 degrees and 4.7” of rear travel, this bike shouts XC. Funny thing, other riders (even experienced riders) would ask me if I was riding a DH bike. To some, the huge swing arm resembles that of a long travel DH bike. This scenario played out many times in my shop and out on the trail. Some people love the look; others think the frame looks odd and is too bizarre for their liking.

I like the look of this bike. Maybe the DH rider in me could care less how robust the swing arm is. I feel the bike has a well balanced, artist look to it. I can appreciate the attention to detail and I’ve always sided on “form follows function”.

Simply put, the Quad Link suspension does everything a suspension bike is supposed to do. I did not feel one bit of pedal feedback. The suspension is unaffected when braking and remains neutral. Small to medium bumps are gobbled up and the suspension ramps aggressively towards bottom out. Sag is easy to set (and also very important to set properly). The FOX rear shock "Pro Pedal" lever is easy to reach if you choose to use it. I used Pro Pedal on fire roads, but the Marin climbs well even in active mode.

The Mount Vision ride is smooth and the bike is a blast to ride. A bike that inspires me to ride again and again is always a winner in my book. Speaking of suspension, the Marin may be too good for XC riding! As good as the FOX Float works up front, it struggles to keep up with this bikes rear suspension. Some riders may become overly confident in their ability to downhill on this bike. A word to the wise, the Mount Vision will pitch you if you over ride her. The BB height is good for clearing rocks and the head angle is responsive and gives the bike a snappy feel, but these geometry specs are not DH friendly.

Negatives: Well nothing is perfect and I have a couple gripes. For one, the Devo WTB saddle was not comfortable and the edges are sharp. I have more than a few black and blues on the inside of my thighs to support this claim. The WTB grips are too fat and squirmy and they’re not lock on. Under extreme g outs, I could feel some swing arm flex. Please keep in mind that I’m a Pro downhiller and I’m riding down very steep terrain that most XC riders would not ride. I’m also spoiled with my King rear hub and can never get used to a Shimano XT. The XT hub has a lot of play/slop to engage forward momentum.

This bike would completely rule the trails with the rear drop outs (and 12mm Maxel axle kit installed) from the Wolf Ridge (Marin’s 5.5” travel bike). These drop outs will fit the Mount Vision, but you would need a new rear hub that is 135mm x 12mm. Why not slap on a King? With this modification, the Mount Vision would be unstoppable!

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05/24/09
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

I’ve been riding with tubeless mountain bike wheels and tires for the last two years. I have contemplated doing a review on tubeless since I’m still a bit perplexed on whether they’re a worthy upgrade over tube tires or not.

I have to admit that the system does work perfectly fine, but I’ve had some issues over the years. These issues are rather serious and they have me second guessing a positive review. I also wonder if they’re worth the investment or if they’re at all an upgrade over tube tires.

First off let me start with what the advertised, so called, benefits of tubeless systems. Manufacturers will tell you that you can utilize lower tire pressure (for better traction) without the annoyance of getting a pinch/snake bite tube flat. I suppose this statement has some truth to it. Fact is: lowering tire pressure in order to gain traction is something riders will not do for three reasons.

One, running low tire pressure (I assume low pressure for XC is below 30 psi) will dramatically increase your chance of burping air from the tubeless tire/rim bead contact area. Burping will occur if you ride aggressive, blast into turns/berms or jump and land on an off camber. Forget about tire sealant preventing this issue. Tire sealant has not helped my tires hold a bead or has it prevented flats do to punctures.

Second, lower tire pressure is a literal drag to ride. The rolling resistance is very severe and is actually dangerous to ride with either tube or tubeless tires. I’m sure most of you have rode with low pressure before. If not, try lowering your tire pressure and go for a ride. Accept the fact that you’re trying this at your own risk. Most likely, you will scare yourself when the tire flops/rolls from the rim. This unnerving sensation is even more noticeable with single ply tires and skinny rims. Flopping tires are also an issue when running low air pressure on large DH style tires. The skinny is, when your tires roll from the rim, you will temporarily have zero control of your bicycle. I don’t care how good a rider you think you are.

Third reason you’ll never lower your tires air pressure is an obvious one. You have a much better chance of denting the alloy rim with low tire pressure. Not only will your rims suffer possible catastrophic damage, your tubeless tires themselves very often snake bite flat. Yes, straight through the tires rubber casing.

So obviously the advertised ability to safely utilize lower tire pressure with tubeless is a bust. What then are the advantages of tubeless? The only one I can think of is that they eliminate tubes. Without a tube, you will never have another tube style snake bite flat. With tire pressures around or above 30 psi, I have had great success with tubeless!

You will become very aware of how often you run over thorns and also how often you weaken the tires bead when you switch to tubeless. A few companies offer tubeless tire repair kits, but frankly, not one has worked for me (and yes I’ve tried them all). The simple truth is, you must carry a tube with you wherever you go and I also recommend a heavy duty section of rubber for side wall repairs. Some duct tape is also a good idea to keep with you to hold that rubber piece in place when repairing side walls.

A C0 2 cartridge does not have enough volume to blow up a tubeless tire on the trail. A compressor is the only way to fill a tubeless tire with a strong controlled blast of high pressure air. You will need to install a tube during trail side repairs.

I’ve yet to wear a tire out on any of my tubeless tires. I’ve had to replace every tire long before it wore out do to damage to the tire casing, rendering the tire useless (unless I ran a tube). This expensive issue is annoying to say the least.

My tires are always low on pressure before every ride losing up to 15 psi overnight (unless the tire is brand spanking new). Pressure loss is hard to detect and almost impossible to repair if you find the cause. Some pressure loss comes from a loose tubeless valve. This is usually an easy fix, unless you over tighten the external o ring, knurled nut and twist/rip the internal rubber seal. (This happened to me while the bus pulled up to shuttle up to LPS in Moab Utah).

Tubeless tire selection is pretty decent. Many award winning tires are unfortunately only available in tube style, such as Stick e Nevegals. Maxxis offers a wide variety of tubeless tires, but still no mud tubeless tires. I’ve been riding the Maxxis Igniters and they seem very good for east coast conditions. They’re great on rock and hard pack and worked well in Moab and at the Kingdom trails in Vermont. They fall short in slick conditions and I wish they were a bit softer. Maxxis XC tubeless are 70a duro.

I recommend tubeless tires to riders who are competitive. Many a race has been lost due to a tube pinch flat. Riders who have a fat wallet and a lot of patience are also good candidates for tubeless. Weekend warriors should stay clear of tubeless. I feel that most riders will suffer with problems with tubeless. Tube systems work pretty well and are pretty easy to work on trail side.

In the long run, most riders will end up running tubes in the tubeless tires. I’ve battled the tubeless system tooth and nail. As of now, I have a leaky tubeless Igniter on the front of my bike and a Cross Mark on the rear with a tube since the tires bead is weak, not enough to bulge the tube, but just enough to leak all the air if set up tubeless.

In other words, I’ve been beaten by tubeless tires. I have surrendered, forced to run tubes inside this sophisticated, brilliantly engineered, tubeless work of art.

2 Updates

05/16/09
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

I’ve tested a few products recently that have simply astonished me. Every once in a while a product comes along that is technologically light years ahead of the rest and the pack will have to try and catch up.

I have been testing out a new chain lube, CHAIN-L on all of my bikes from Cross to DH. I was always a wax lube type of guy do to the clean trailside repairs and general bike cleanliness, but CHAIN-L has converted me. I now understand the benefits of an oil lube. Besides having the best name ever conceived for a chain lubricant (say it fast), CHAIN-L is by far the best chain lube I’ve ever applied to my bike.

CHAIN-L is actually rather thick oil. I admit I was a bit nervous during the initial application. This lubes viscosity resembles that of honey, but when used properly, your bikes chain and associated components will stay clean. (Just follow the directions and make sure to wipe down your chain after the ride).

This chain lube will make you a faster rider! I immediately noticed my drive train was totally quite, the bike was easier to pedal and accelerated much faster! I’m sure many racer types consider this product a secret weapon.

Your bike will shift much better with this lubricant and you will have less wear issues with your chain and gears. My shift from 1 to 2 on the front rings is now instantaneous and I’ve never experienced one iota of chain suck since I’ve been using this lube.

I’ve found that chain lubrication intervals for east coast mountain biking is around every 5th ride, (with wax lube, every 2nd ride). Sure, your chain may attract some dirt, but the dirt will not make its way into the chains bearings as this is the area of the chain that CHAIN-L protects best.

DOWN Cycles is now a dealer for CHAIN-L and a 4oz bottle sells for a reasonable $12 and last much longer compared to other brands.

You just have to love these new technical innovations!

Chain L

5 Updates

01/28/09
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

A brutal winter is upon us. Do yourself and your bike shop a favor and prepare now for the warmer temperatures. The following Tech Tip is a simple way that you can check the condition of your bikes rear suspension:

Temporarily remove your rear shock and rear wheel. Cycle your swing arm through full travel. It helps to have a bike stand, but you can perform this tip without one. Watch out for bikes with front derailleurs. Shift into 2nd gear before lifting up your bikes swingarm! Some swing arms will hit the front derailleur when it is in 1st gear and cause headaches.

You should be able to move the rear triangle/swingarm though full travel with very little effort. If you feel or hear noise/friction, you have problems. Usually FS bikes need pivot work after a hard season of riding. Many bikes are blamed for bad performance only because they have not been maintained properly.

While you’re at it, check your cables running to your rear brake and shifter. Make sure they’re not rubbing on the frame or being pinched. Also keep in mind that your shock will bottom out long before your rear tire touches the seat/seat post.

Another smart thing to check is your frame/rear shock alignment. Eyeball your suspension links, where your shock mounts and where the front of the shock bolts to your frame. These locations should be parallel to one another. In other words, you’re checking to see if your rear shock is under unnecessary side load. Your shock will dramatically affect your quality of travel if it is under side load pressures. Your shock will also suffer premature failure operating under these extreme forces. You can usually see issue’s with frame alignment when cycling the suspension into full bottom out. I’ve seen bikes that were more than a 1/8” out. This issue is usually not rectified by your bike shop. You will need to warranty your frame if it’s out of wack.

I remember a customer who complained that his BMW race link suspension worked horribly and he wanted to sell the bike because of this. Now I know that the BMW bikes are amazing from first hand experience! I did this exact test to his bike and couldn't believe how contaminated his links were. It was amazing that the suspension worked at all. I could hardly move the suspension with no shock installed!!! Needless to say, many dollars latter, his bike was repaired and he was blown away by how well it now performed! So get on it people, pull that shock off and inspect your bike. Now's the time to drop it off for service as DOWN Cycles is open in the winters (winter hours, so call first). I'm pretty sure everyone out there is pumped for spring; don't let mechanicals hold you back from riding at your best on that first warm sunny day!
Suspension Cycled at Full Bottom Out

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12/19/08
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

Happy Holidays to everyone! 2009 will be an interesting year for the industry to say the least. Exciting new products are now available (or are soon to be) such as the Hammerschmidt 2 speed internal front drive.

I can't wait to see how this system will effect future frame designs. I can't say I'm not worried about the increased drive train wear associated with a single granny front drive. That poor 24/26T is under extreme stress and riders are going to destroy chains constantly. Only time will tell.

Being a rider all my life and running the shop for ten years, I've seen my share of shady designs that thankfully died out. It is amazing to watch the evolution of the bicycle unfold before my eyes. You can buy an amazing MTN. bike for around $750!

This crazy economy may end up benefiting all cyclist in the long run. I'm sure you'll see more people building their own bikes and components from garages (this is how most industries start out in the first place). If America has one thing going for it, it is innovation. What we now need to survive is pride.

Many companies that advertised "Made In The USA" have buckled and now use overseas companies to build their bikes. I know they need to stay competitive, but this must have been a painful decision for them to make. Frankly, I have to wonder if some of their decision was based on greed.

Every US rider should rally up and purchase goods made only in the USA! I'm proud to say that all the bikes in my quiver are built right here!

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08/08/08
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

Summer is now in full effect and the DH race scene is on fire! Racing on the weekends is all fine and dandy, but what are we doing to stay fit during the week?

Some riders weight train, some push their big bikes up local runs, and some ride a bit of XC. "XC" stands for cross country for all you die hard DHer's that only own one bike.

DHer's that love to ride/train on the XC bike will be happy to know that their now is the perfect hardtail/XC bike for us! Most XC specific bikes have geometry designed, well for XCer's. Downhill riders prefer geometry that is completely off the scale as far as XC racers are concerned. Any bike can be pedaled to the top of a mountain, but their true colors shine coming back down.

Training on today's hardtails is hairball scary for the DHer who pins it around turns and down steeps. Lets face it, we are going to charge full speed regardless of the bike we are on. The problem is, we get pitched and injured while we are trying to simply stay fit.

Low and behold, EWR to the rescue. Eastern Woods Research built a hardtail frame back in the day designed for aggressive riders. They called it the "Woods Bike". They're now back in business, producing the "Original Woods Bike". Long as a truck, low and slack, this is the bike we have all been waiting for.

I'm riding on a size large (17.5" with a 24.5" top tube). I slapped on a 70mm Thompson stem, DeeMax with 2.1 tubeless and got myself a ripper. Finally I can ride my XC bike in the attack position (chest over the bars, elbows up) and not worry about the consequences.

The OWB is full chromoly, has got some strange, lugged disc vertical drop outs, is 1 1/8 and is made with love. As of now, two sizes are available, 15" and 17". $1300 may not seem cheap, but I must say, she's worth every penny! Good times brother. Down Cycles can get cha one if ya likes. We require half down for deposit. Special order color will tack on another bean.

Cheers, AJ

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07/22/08
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

Avalanche has released hydraulic bottom out cones, similar to the cones they use in their high end DHF fork, for the Marzocchi 888 forks! These quality parts mount inside the forks lowers and slow down the ending stroke bottom out with hydraulic pressure.

With the Avalanche tapered cones installed, harsh bottom outs are a thing of the past. Finally your DH fork can be set up soft for supple performance without any worries of destroying the fork on the big hits!

I tested the cones on my 2007 Marzocchi 888 RC2X. I had an entire season on the fork without the cones. Like all Marzocchi forks I have owned, the 07 888’s bottom out is harsh. I’m sure most of you are familiar with the metal to metal clank that alerts you that you have used up all 8 inch’s.

I took this same 07 fork off a G out on a local training run that always bottomed my fork. Many times my wrists would hurt from the impact. I prepared for the worst, suddenly, no bottom out, at least no perceived bottom out. Upon closer inspection, my fork used up 7 7/8” travel.

Buyers/Riders should know that with the cones installed, 7 7/8” travel is all you get. The cones take up a bit of space internally, but this issue is a small price to pay for the performance upgrade.

So there you have it, the cones do the job! I have beaten my fork to death trying to bottom it out “clank” style. The Avalanche cones simply take the hit and butter out the forks bottom out. This upgrade is a must for aggressive riders. You will ride with more confidence and less wrist fatigue. Both races and freeriders will benefit from this modification.

The AVA Advantage 888 Bottoming cones can be installed at DOWN Cycles!

1 Update

02/28/08
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

The first year 2006 Mongoose EC-D was impressive, well everything but the tribal graphics.8| The EC-D seemed to come out of nowhere, spanking the competition with performance and affordability. For 2007, mongoose nailed the graphics and really didn’t change much else as far as frame design. The 2008 Goose has a bunch of functional upgrades that make it that much more desirable!

=> Read more!

4 Updates

02/27/08
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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

^:^^XXX!A few years back I wrote an article about a new type/style of bicycle, “Freeride” bikes. I couldn’t help but wonder if this style of bike was a fad. I suggest you read this old article first before continuing on.

=> Read more!

10 Updates

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