Knolly Warden Review....

The review is HERE! 

Review of 2014 Knolly Warden

By David Llewellyn for

This year’s test bike was ready a little later than normal.  That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.  While we missed most of the prime riding season, when the trails are in top shape, we got to test it out in more challenging conditions.  Ontario had a pretty awful, wet fall this year, which actually made for pretty good testing grounds for 27.5” wheeled bike with knobby tires.  I’ve been riding the 2014 Knolly Warden through fall 2014 and winter 2015.  I’ve put quite a few kms on it, on varied terrain and trail conditions (though very rarely dry and grippy). 

Spoiler alert:  I can comfortably say that the Knolly Warden is the most versatile and intuitive mountain bike that I have ever thrown a leg over! 


But before we go into how it rides, I want to touch on the high (and low) points on the different parts that make up this awesome machine. 


The bike came with mostly Shimano XT, in 2x10, with a Race Face crank.  Shifting was practically perfect with nary a missed shift or dropped chain, even without the rear derailleur’s clutch engaged.  I continue to love the double-downshift option on the right shifter. 

One gripe is that the shifters were mounted to the same clamp as the brake levers.  While this reduces handlebar clutter (and a few grams), the relative rotational positioning of these controls is fixed, which I

feel compromises setup.  Further, while there is some lateral adjustability of the shifters relative to the brake levers, it was not hardly enough for my tastes.  Being a 1-fingered braker who usually mounts the brake levers substantially inboard of the shifters, I found it quite cumbersome to move the shifters as far outboard as possible.  The shifter perch mounts to the brake lever clamp using a nut and bolt and then the shifter mounts to this perch with another bolt.  None of these fasteners are easy to reach with tools, especially when the shifter is pushed to the outboard position. Moreover, I still had to reach/reposition my hands to shift…hardly an optimal setup, especially when shifting and braking concurrently.

It took me some time to consciously understand why I was struggling in some places to push the same gear combinations as I do on my own bike.  In particular, the 32t front X 34t rear (which is my normal ‘bail-out-gear’) was noticeably taller with the larger wheels.  As a result, I found myself having to drop into the small chainring on some not-so-hard climbs.  This was hurting my (apparently) fragile ego until I realized I was not getting old and weak, rather I was getting old and dumb.  With 27.5” wheels, the final drive (ie. circumference) is about 12% greater than with a 26” wheel.  Duh.  Still, it stings a little to have to pop in into the small ring on climbs that I habitually ride in the middle. 

Continue reading "Knolly Warden Review...." »

9Point8 Pulse Seatpost

3pulseinline_420_577_90The other day, one of the founders of 9Point8 asked me if I wanted to try their Pulse seatpost.  Now I've known they were working on an adjustable travel post for sometime now but was never interested before because for the riding that I do, I never felt the need to adjust my riding height.  Jack said just try it and I thought why not, what have I got to lose.  This review is a user based review on my experiences riding on trails that I would typically ride on. 

So I met up with Jack, he measured my existing setup on the Mach 429 Carbon and took a Pulse post out of a box and I kid you not, within 10 minutes, we were ready to go.   I opted for the ThumB remote lever instead of the Pulse Lever for the remote and Jack placed it beside my XT brake lever.  We picked the inline head to match my existing seatpost and the interesting thing about this head is that it allows for for and aft adjustment indepentant of tilt plus of the way it's designed, it allows the saddle to flip over and out of the way for cable changes or maintenance.  It's absolutely brilliant!  Having wrestled with more than my fair share of installing saddles on seatposts, the ease of installing saddles and making adjustments alone would be enough for me to buy this seatpost.  You have to see it to believe it.   I'm  of the type to install and forget but when it comes to saddles, I like trying different ones and this post just makes it so easy.  Everything is made of machined aluminum and you can tell a lot of engineering has gone into this post.  There were no corners cut and it shows. 1_2014pulse_inline_thumb_420_577_90

How does it work?  The main feature of this post other than the head design is that it is the first and only available seatpost in the industry that allows stepping.  What this means is that with each press of the remote lever, the seatpost drops 5mm increments or if the lever is fully pressed drop it fully down or reset back to default height.  The idea being that it is not simply all the way up or all the way down like the other posts out there.  This allows you to find the optimal seat height for the section of trail that you are riding on. 

How does it perform?  I planned a ride with Jack and John on a beautiful Sunday afternoon with the Pulse installed and ready to go.  Jack and John are familiar with the trail but me not so much.  I rode between John and Jack and we were off.  One thing that did catch me a few times during the ride is that I would mistaken the Pulse ThumB for the Shimano XT shift lever because both were roughly in the same area and also because the feeling is quite similar.  Other than that, it was click click click to drop 15mm or fully press to go either way.  One thing that always turned me off of adjustable seatposts is that you used your 'weight' to adjust saddle height.  So on a rough section as I'm negotiating jagged rocks and slippery roots, I have to try to adjust my optimum saddle height with my 'weight'?  Really?  By the time that was done, I'd have finished the section already.  The trails we rode were a mixed of short techinal uphill and downhills, a few switchbacks, single track, some double track and everything in between.  One thing I immediately noticed was how much I used the height adjust and not to go either fully up or fully down.  It was simply so easy and consistent that it became second nature after awhile.  Drop it down a few notches for the technical sections or downhills and up a few notches for the straight aways.  Whereas before for the technical sections, I would get off the saddle and used my legs, now I can stay seated and let the suspension do what it's designed to do weighted hence we always set sag or preload for our forks and rear suspension.  The bike tracks better, doesn't bounce around so much and it's just easier not having to get off and on the saddle constantly.  6pulsethumb_420_577_90

Another benefit of the stepper post for me riding behind John who knew the trail well was that I was able to tell when the technical sections of the trail were coming because I can hear John in front of me adjust his Pulse seatpost.  So for me not familiar with the trail, it was great not being caught in the wrong gear or wrong saddle height!  So once I hear click click click, I knew something was coming.  I was thinking this would be a great way to introduce riders to a new trail but actually not having to say one thing.   I was never caught off guard and I was able to learn how John rode the trails simply by using my ears and paying attention. 

In the non technical sections, I was able to raise the saddle easily so I can get my legs extended and something that I've never been able to do of course with a fixed height seatpost is what 9Point8 is calling Negative Drop.  For long uphills where you would shift forward on the saddle to keep the front end down, you are effectively lowering the distance of the saddle to the peddles and your ride height is not optimal for power.  But what 9Point8 recommends is to set your saddle a little bit higher than normal so that on those long hills with the saddle fully extended and you riding on the nose of the saddle, you are maintaining that optimal height.  If you think about why you get off the saddle when going up hills is to weigh the front and also to increase power because you can fully entend your legs.  So having the seatpost setup that way allows you to do that without thinking about it.  And once you are over the top of the hill, one simple click and you're back to level ground riding height. For a regular post, the height would be fixed too high for everything else.

The ability to adjust the seatpost in consistent and precise steps simply make riding that much more enjoyable.  At the end of the ride, I felt less tired, less beat up and cleared more sections than I would normally have.  Drawbacks?  A bit of weight but we're carrying so much stuff with our hydration backs, and spare tools and tubes and gels and phone and keys and GPS and so many other things that the extra weight is really a moot point.  Maybe if I was riding on the Tour de France and doing a time trial where every gram adds up and every fraction of a second counts would I care.  But I'm not riding in the Tour de France.  I just like riding my bike and every gram does not add up and fractions of seconds count even less.  For me there is simply no reason not to have a stepper post.  And note I say a stepper post and not just an adjustable seatpost.  Adjustable seatposts have been around forever and the benefits are not new.  The difference in this case is attention to detail in the final product, the consistent performance that is immediately noticeable to the every day rider and the fact that the founders are also the designers and also the testers and truly believe in their product.  These guys know their product inside out, every technical detail and nuance. 

Too often in today's industry in a bid to have a me too competing product, companies can simply slap on their logo on a product produced and frankly designed and tested elsewhere.  I can come out with my own branded carbon frame, wheels, stem, seatpost, bar and cranks in less time than it takes me to write this article.  The parts are already there.  But can I offer Lifetime warranty?  Do I trust my own products?  As consumers, it's too easy to look at the label and automatically assume the proper design and testing has gone into the products. Support the companies that have shown innovative designs and attention to detail and not just because it looks cool.  Talk to them and find out why their product is different and not just a 'me too' product.  You'll find that the ones that care want you to ask questions, begging in fact because they want to tell you why their product is not just a knock off and is different than the others.  If they know their stuff, they'll be able to tell you the differences and how it's better and not in generic terms like because it's 'stronger' or 'lighter'. 

Email the guys at 9Point8 and find out what they are about and how to test one of their seatposts.  You can buy it online through them or us here.  Tell them Spokewrench sent you! :)





Pivot Mach429 Carbon Reviewed

P525004110Pivot MACH 429 Carbon Review

The long awaited review of the Mach 429 carbon is here and it's definitely worth the read.  Dave brings up some very interesting things in his review. 

Last year Alan brought in a pretty sweet Pivot Mach 429 (aluminum) which I had the great pleasure of riding for the best part of 6 weeks.  This year he upped the ante, with its sibling:  the Mach 429 Carbon.

I am fairly skeptical of using carbon fibre as a frame material for mountain bikes.  It just doesn’t seem like a logical application of this material when you can virtually guarantee rock-to-bike-frame contact at some point.  Having said that, carbon trail-bikes have been around for at least half a decade, and have only grown in popularity in recent years, so maybe the threat of total frame failure in a wreck is overstated.  Pivot did strategically place a plasticized leather insert on the lower third of the downtube to protect the area most vulnerable against flying trail debris.  Additionally, the same protective material was wrapped around the drive side chainstay and a smaller insert was placed on the inside of the seatstay near the dropout (ie. the area adjacent to the cassette).  Presumably these were designed to protect the frame from gouging by the chain, although they did not adequately (for me anyway) quell the noise of the chain slapping against the frame in rough terrain. 

Mach429_Carbon_geometryCarbon fibre opens many doors to bicycle design that just can’t be done by welding bits of pipe together, even with CNC and hydroforming.  One of the first things I noticed was the huge amount of rear tire clearance afforded by the sculpting of the rear suspension, specifically the left-offset vertical support strut.  Even with marginally shorter chainstays there is gobs more tire clearance on this frame than last year’s aluminum Mach 429.  There are a number of other reviews already out there in cyberspace and they all tout the spectacular stiffness of this frame.  Pivot claims something in the order of 15% greater rear end, BB and head-tube stiffness over the aluminum version (which was already plenty stiff in these areas).  With the caveat that I’m not that big of a guy, I found no difference in stiffness between the carbon and the aluminum versions.  There is a huge difference in frame stiffness, however, between either 429 version and my own Ellsworth Epiphany, especially in the rear end.  I wonder how much the 12mm thru-axle increases stiffness over a regular 9mm QR axle.  Personally I think thru-axles just make plain good sense, front or rear.

 The beauty of any bike is subjective, and the 429 carbon is no exception.  I’m not going to swoon over its flowing curves, carefully juxtaposed by the numerous angular-looking sections (wait…maybe I just did).  I loved the naked carbon color but could have done without the various red and blue shiny bits scattered throughout.  I also found that the relatively large size of the frame’s “tubes” coupled with the large hoops generally made the other standard parts (eg. 32mm forks and air shock) look downright spindly in comparison.  Fortunately, I am more concerned with function than form and any misgivings I had about how the bike looked completely disappeared once I was in the saddle.  My concern that the larger, boxy frame sections would amplify trail chatter, however, was confirmed.  This is not a silent bike to ride on rough trails. 

P525002604The carbon 429 has a number of subtle geometry changes compared to its aluminum brethren.  I sincerely wish that I had ridden the bike prior to informing myself about these differences, as I am confident that I could have identified each one by the way the bike handled.  The 429 carbon has 8mm shorter chainstays, 2.5 mm lower BB and a slightly slacker head-tube (depending on frame size…the aluminum frames vary from 69.0 to 69.9 while the carbon frames are all 69.3 degrees).  According to the specs on Pivot’s website the standover has increased for all sizes as well.  These differences were all noticeable on the first ride, though not all in a positive way.  First came the pedal-strikes, which were exceptionally rare on the 429 aluminum.  One quarter of a centimeter sounds like a ridiculously small difference (the same as going from 172.5 to 175 mm crankarms), but hardly a ride went by that I didn’t whack the pedals at least once, whereas last year I had 2 pedal-strikes over the whole test.  One of the standout features of last year’s aluminum 429 was how easy it was to hop up over trail obstacles.  I am pleased to report that shorter chainstays on the 429 carbon further amplified this trait making it the easiest to loft full suspension bike I have ever ridden.  As far as I’m concerned that’s the final nail in the coffin for the commonly rumor/belief that big-wheeled bikes are harder to loft.

Since the componentry on this year’s bike were almost identical to last year’s bike, I won’t spend much time discussing this aspect.  Component highlights include full Shimano XT 2x10 drivetrain (I still love the multi-release on the rear downshifts) fantastic XT trail brakes, DT wheelset, diminutive looking (but plenty grippy for most situations) Kenda Slant 6 tires (same as last year), and 120mm Fox Float FIT CTD fork (with 15 mm thru-axle) and Fox CTD rear shock (both with the slippery Kashima coating).  This year’s bike was in the order of half a pound lighter than the aluminum version.  Both bikes are several pounds lighter than my trailbike and yes, the difference is noticeable.

While on the topic of suspension, I’d like to emphasize that the Fox Float FIT CTD fork was flawless throughout the test and maybe the best performing Fox product I have ever ridden.  The CTD, which is basically a 3-position (Climb-Trail-Descend), trail-adjustable, low speed compression damping system was a highlight for me.  In the back end, the CTD shock worked well, but I was unable to feel any difference (either on the trail or in the parking lot) between the 3 levels of compression damping.  The RP23 on my friend’s Pivot Mach 5.7 is similar, with no discernible difference between the compression damping settings.   According to Pivot’s website, their shocks are specially ‘tuned’ to be optimized for the DW link system.  When I contacted Pivot directly about a potential shock malfunction, the rep bristled at my implication that the shock was ‘de-tuned’ (be careful with your wording folks…these people take their suspension designs seriously!).  Maybe my needs are different from most; I do a considerable amount of riding on smoother terrain (eg. I’d prefer to riding to the trailhead than drive) and I would have appreciated a higher level of compression damping to further minimize suspension movement.  Don’t get me wrong, the DW link is already stellar at limiting bobbing, but if they are going to spec a top of the line shock, why not have all of its features function as they are intended to?  Otherwise a simple Float be sufficient (aside from the sex appeal of the CTD)? 

My main gripe with the bike, which the published changes in geometry can’t properly account for, is the disconnected feeling that I had whenever the trail got twisty and technical.  Last year’s 429 had an almost telepathic quality about it; seemingly reading the trail and just railing it, with minimal rider input.  I never felt that effortless flow on the carbon 429, but I can’t put my finger on why exactly… there was just this sense of having to fight with the bike to get it to do what I wanted it to.   I also noticed some minor suspension-induced feedback in the pedalling, like there was a slight backwards tugging on the drivetrain. This was only apparent on smoother terrain, when the suspension was not under great stress…that or when my brain wasn’t totally focused on keeping rubber side down.  Some simpler suspension designs, like the single pivot, are known to interact with the pedalling, in some gear combinations, depending partially on the location of the pivot relative to the chainrings.  This shouldn’t be the case with the DW link and I’m at a loss to explain it.  Since it happened in both chainrings, it appeared to be independent of gearing combination. In the grand picture, these are minor gripes.  On the trail, the bike rode very well.  Despite the diminutive looks, the tires were plenty grippy for most trail conditions and super-fast rolling.  Special care was needed in muddy sections, both in getting the power down and maintaining control.  The round profile of the tires were also not great on the slick limestone rocky sections that are common in this area of the world (eg. Niagara escarpment). 

The real test, at least for me, is how well a bike handles steep and technical climbs.  And in this terrain, I was completely blown away at how well the Mach 429 Carbon handled.  It was super easy to put the power down to the ground.  This is one of the biggest joys of riding a big-wheeled bike; the tires just stay hooked up.  No special acrobatics were required to keep the front end planted either on steep climbs….just grit your teeth and, if you have the power and balance, this bike will grind its way up pretty much anything.  I nailed one rooty climb at Twin Ponds that I failed at least the last dozen times to get up on my Ellsworth.  More than nailed, it was downright easy…and it left me giddy for the rest of the ride!  It took several tries, but I also cleaned another climb near Guelph, which I essentially gave up trying on my Ellsworth because it is so steep, rooty/rocky and very washed out.  Impressive.

While this is a small point, white grips are never a good idea.  Neither are white highlights on a saddle, especially during deer-hunting season.  About a decade ago A hunter stopped me on the trail and confessed that he had almost shot me, having noticed the white flash of my saddle bouncing through the forest in a similar fashion to a white-tailed deer.  Good thing to keep in mind during those autumn rides.

I’ve been struggling for some time to come up with a positive ending for this review.  But the whole point is to give my unbiased impression not a glowing review of Pivot’s sexy new wunderbike.  If I had to choose between the carbon or aluminum version of the Mach 429 I would definitely go for the aluminum, even if cost was not a consideration (the carbon frame will set you back about an extra $500).  It simply had a more intuitive feel, for my type of terrain and riding style anyway.  Results may vary.  If you are lucky enough to try before you buy I strongly recommend that you do so.  The geometry numbers do not always tell the complete story.

Pivot Mach 429 Review

4292The long awaited Mach 429 review is here!  Dave has put together his review for the Mach 429 and we couldn't agree more.  We had some preconceptions of what a 29er would be like and all those were wrong and in some way surprised by what we found.  We've always had some reservations abour 29er in general thinking it was solving a problem that wasn't there so to speak but we've come to realize that there's no one way to ride a trail and we've come to really enjoy the 29er so much in fact we're bringing in the carbon version this coming spring!  Onto the review...

It has been several years of trying to convince Alan @ Spokewrench to bring in a 29er to test.  Being something or a retro-grouch myself (thumbshifters anyone?) I'm not one to jump onto any new technology bandwagon, but considering the 29er's burgeoning market-share....well it was high time dontcha think?

Enter Pivot's MACH 429, built up with a very respectable Shimano XT and top-end Fox parts kit.  This was my 2nd time on a DW-Link equipped bike from Pivot and I was uber impressed with the MACH 5 26er I rode a few years ago.  In fact, I think it is still my all-time favorite bike....ever.  Given that, the MACH 429 had a pretty high standard to live up to.  Question is, did it deliver? IMG_1931

Early 29ers suffered their share of growing pains and they developed a reputation for unbecoming handling characteristics:  slow acceleration, dodgy steering in tight stuff, hard to bunnyhop, odd looking frames with negative-rise stems and such.  I certainly had my share preconceptions of what I was probably not going to like about this bike.  But, to put it simply, everything that I thought I knew was undesirable about 29ers was wrong.....  DEAD WRONG.

Continue reading "Pivot Mach 429 Review" »

Pivot 429 Impressions

4291Our first Pivot 429 review has come back.  What we did was build up the Pivot 429 with the XT build kit and here are John's thoughts about the bike. 

Just as context, here's a little background on my riding, my bike preferences, etc: I’ve been mountain biking for about 20 years. I grew up riding in Newfoundland, and tend to prefer, technical, rooty, rocky, steep terrain. I’m mostly a run-what-ya-brung kind of rider, in that I’ll ride any bike anywhere, and tend not to get hung up on the details of having exactly the right setup, but based on where and how I like to ride, I do tend to prefer beefier, slacker, longer-travel bikes, even for ‘XC’ use. I currently ride an ‘07 Giant Reign X1 - while I do have an ‘01 Rocky Mountain Element XC bike, the Giant is my go-to bike for most of the stuff I like to ride. Ultimately, I’d like to replace the Rocky with a bike somewhere between the two - a little lighter and more efficient than the Giant, and a little slacker and longer-legged than the Rocky. I’m traditionally pretty poor at evaluating the differences between bikes and components, setting up shocks, etc, probably because I focus on the riding rather than on what the bike is doing, but I’ve tried to pay particular attention for the purposes of evaluating the M429. For reference, I’m about 5’7" and 150lb geared up.

So, with that in mind, here's my review: My first impression of the Mach 429 was that despite being a small frame, it was big. Standover was marginal, and I felt stretched out. I found it difficult to lift the front wheel. After my first ride, I swapped the stem (was about 100mm I think) out for a 75mm stem. This brought the fit more inline with my other bikes (my Rocky is about 20mm shorter in the top tube). I was immediately more comfortable on the bike and found the steering, climbing, and ability to lift the front wheel improved. My ability to lift the front wheel to clear logs and step-ups was adequate, but manuals and wheelies were still difficult, which I attribute to the chainstay length (more than 1" longer than my other bikes!). This generally wasn’t a big deal for most riding, but to me it takes away from the fun factor a little. I suspect this wouldn’t be as big a deal for a taller rider. Bottom bracket height is pretty low, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I would probably run 170mm cranks.

DW-Link suspension on this bike is as good as everyone says it is. It was basically invisible to me - a perfect blend of pedalling efficiency and compliance suitable for the bike’s XC nature. It has a sportscar sort of feel - taut yet supple. Certainly not as plush as my Giant, but definitely more efficient. I never felt the need to switch the ‘CTD’ shock out of ‘T’ mode.

In general, I felt the bike was a good climber, though despite it being more efficient and substantially lighter than my Giant, when it comes down to which bike I’d choose as the best bet to get me up a technical climb, I’d choose the Giant every time. This may simply come down to tire selection (Slant 6 vs Minion DHF), and my better fit and familiarity on the Giant rather than any deficiency with the Mach 429 though.

The M429 was never going to be a match for the Giant on the downhills either, though I was actually really impressed with its performance. It was stable and confidence inspiring going downhill at speed, even over some reasonable jumps. I didn’t try any real slow speed, super steep techy descents on it, but I’d definitely choose the Giant for that stuff.

Well, I’ve written a couple of paragraphs so far, and I haven’t even mentioned the wheel size! This is the first 29er I’ve ridden. To me, I simply didn’t find a night and day difference vs. 26" wheels. Do they roll over stuff better, yes they do, but to me it is just another factor among many that go into choosing a bike. Wheel size on its own certainly wouldn’t be at the top of my list of factors to consider. If I could do a back-to-back comparison of the same bike in a 26" and 29" version (ie a Mach 4 and 429 for example), I could probably form a better opinion and have a better understanding of the benefits, but as it stands it's just not a big deal to me. I didn’t find the benefits justify any significant compromises to fit or geometry, and I find this bike does compromise both (for me) in order to package the big wheels. I also initially failed to understand all the comments about being "in the bike" rather than "on the bike" that people make - I feel far more ‘in’ my Giant! I did swap bikes briefly however with a guy on a 26" Epic, and I did feel a whole lot more perched on top of that, so I now understand where those comments come from, but I guess that effect can be lost when comparing across genres of bike.

Component-wise, I found nothing to complain about, but the new Shimano brakes deserve special mention - feel and function is, in a word, awesome, though I can’t say I’m crazy about the look of the master cylinders or the way the clamp on the bars is configured. They're super nice as single finger brakes, though when setup that way I found it next to impossible to use the index finger shifting option, but not a big deal since I'm used to shifting with my thumbs (SRAM on the Giant).

I put about 200km on the bike, everywhere from Dundas Valley to Hilton Falls. All-in-all, I liked the bike, but didn’t love it. Highly competent, but missing a little of the fun factor. Jumping from the M429 to the M5.7, I immediately found what I had been missing in terms of the ability to move my weight around on the bike (in particular over the rear wheel). I’m not ready to write off 29ers yet, but I’ll be looking carefully at geometry. I’d be very curious to try a Devinci Atlas with its super short chainstays. Interestingly, the just-announced Mach 429 Carbon has revised geometry... Shorter stays, shorter wheelbase, lower standover...

Dave's review on the 429 will coming shortly as well so stay tuned!

Pivot Mach 5.7 Review 3 - Personal Take

Following Ian's review, I feel that I should offer my take as well after having been riding the Pivot Mach 5.7 for sometime and having a good feel of how the bike handles in a number of different type of trails. If I can say something about this bike is that it is fast, the DW Link really enables it to stay at speed and really pushes the rider to go faster. Comparing to the Moots Cinco, this bike is not a XC bike with its long travel 150mm fork and 5.7" rear travel but it's definitely not a Firebird so for certain trails where it's super techincal with big drops and large boulders, it wouldn't be ideal either, travel or otherwise. So that's why there are so many arrows in the quiver. In this day and age of specialization, it's difficult for one bike to excel in all conditions.

Hill Climbing - As with Ian, I found the front end with the longer travel fork to wander a little bit while doing technical climbs. What I found however is that if I lifted the front end and gave the bike a bit of a push, I was able to easily ride over the obstacles rather than around or through them. So the important thing when climbing with this bike I found is to be in the right gear to attack the hill so to speak. Just found out that the Fox Float has 150mm travel instead of 140mm so that would contribute to the higher/lighter front end feeling. May get the travel reduced to see how it feels.

Downhill - I can't comment too much here as the bike's abilities are higher than what I'm comfortable with. All I can say is that this bike doesn't feel nervous or sketchy downhills, I didn't feel like I was going to get tossed over and the bike felt stable and in control. It felt confident and felt like I could go faster. So there is definitely room for me to grow here. So this is where the extra travel would help so it's always a balance and what you value as a rider.

Rock Garden - The suspension performed really well in these type of trails. I did not find the rear suspension losing momentum or wallow in pockets while riding and it felt very effective. The bike felt stable and I was able to pedal through as though the bike floated over the rocks. The pedals did hit from time to time but I would expect that of any bike but not so much so that it was annyoying and so the BB height did not cause any problems for me. I really enjoyed the bike over the rock garden sections of the trail that I was on.

Fast Fire Roads / Flat Sections - Why is this important? This is important for the fact that the industry as a whole has been working very hard so that the full suspension bike you ride works well here (well, not just on flat sections but it's easy to see the problem on flat sections) from lockout to various anti squat, VPP, NRS, Pro Pedal,Brain and everything else that that the collective industry can think of. The whole idea being to eliminate or resist pedal induced feedback. This has sort of become the holy grail of sorts for the bike industry so it's important to note that different designs solve it to various degrees. If you take it too far, it becomes a hard tail and that's not the perfect rear suspension design. When I was riding on flat fast sections where I was constantly peddling, I did not notice much bobbing or other traits of bob/squat while accelerating or braking. I didn't feel any brake jack which I've only felt once on the Moots Cinco. It is very important to set the sag right with DW Link designs so Pivot has come up with a neat collar around the rear shock that helps you measure the sag properly regardless of rider weight. The first time I rode a Mach 5 last year, I was blown away. I couldn't believe how effective it was. Parts of the trail I was expecting to be bucked off the bike I found I was able to ride seated and pedal through. It was eye opening.

Conclusion - If you're looking for a bike that handles well, not too heavy, effective rear suspension, then you really owe yourself to put this bike on your short list. There are a lot of companies licencing the DW Link rear suspension for a reason. It just works. Now then it becomes who implements it well so that the overall package works well together. A good rear suspension design is one that you don't even feel working and that's how I feel about the Pivot implementations after trying the Mach 5, 5.7 and Paul's impression of the Firebird. At the end of the day, I felt like I can ride longer harder and isn't that what we all want?

Enjoy the Ride

Pivot Mach 5.7 Review 2

Now that our Pivot Mach 5.7 is built, we wanted to give it to someone to try to see what they think of it. Dave had already reviewed the Mach 5 last season so we wanted to get another person's opinion on the Mach 5.7. Ian who rides in the area was just the person. He rides a small frame and has been riding for years and years. He would be just the type of person who would be looking for something like the Pivot 5.7. So as soon as it was built, we gave it to him and here are his thoughts.

A bit of context, hopefully done without over selling myself. I love riding, I’ve been doing it a long time.I’m a mechanic and tech geek. I’m also married with 2 young kids so I don’t get to ride every day or have multiple bikes, but riding is a shared passion and we strive to have a good sport/family balance. My current rideis a custom 5 by 5 marathon xc/trail setup that I will throw at anythingnot requiring a chairlift or body armor. I got out 7 times over two weeks, hit Kelso, Twin ponds and Hilton Falls with it and my normal bike. First impressions were good, so good I was very glad I brought my normal ride along to switch up between laps. I spent a good 3 hours fussing over the setup when I first received it because it had just been assembled. Worth while time because I felt it was dialled in by the time the brake pads started making nice with the rotors. I’ve always been a bit dubious of user reviews, call me a pessimist, but I think the reality is that it’s very difficult to separate the object from the user. Determined to be objectiveI brought a ‘control group’ along, and I didn’t take long for the question to be asked; Did I just have the cleanest on rails ride of the month because I’m really on my game tonight or because this new bike has masked all my suck? If I give you a play by play this will take all day, so here is the cole notes version.

Likes: Super stable at stall/balance speed,its very confident on man made diversions like bridge works, skinnies and teter totors. Low BB lets you rail around corners with plenty of speed and confidence. The DW link has a lot of forgiveness for single logs/rocks/stairs, it carries over without stalling your momentum even when your rear wheel lift technique is a bit off The bike always seems to have more speed available.. a little kick and off it goes without any lag at all. On long non technical climbs it’s like an xc racer, powerful and smooth, very impressive.

Shortfall: The front was hard to hold downand keep from line hunting on steep climbs. Locking the fork helped, I’m not certain but this could simply be a function of needing to change technique for the long travel geometry, something I’m not used too. Low BB means you must be prepared to accept pedal hits on severe rock exposure trails, no Egg Beater Ti at Hilton for this bike

The overall: There is a lot to like, and my only real critique boils down to a feeling that 140mm is not my cup of tea… can’t nail it down with a good reason… maybe its simply my build and ride style, it seemed ‘bit much’ for me. That said, I found myself pushing the edge of things regularly, I could go fast and hard and it never felt like the travel or angles were anything but confidant. Any rider would be grinning happily to ride this thing around all day long at pretty muchany pace, it’s a bike and a ride style that’s definitely dialed right in to the top of the pack for ‘trail’ category.

Personal note: To borrow from Pivots own findings,the long travel 5.7 might be a bit unnecessary for our not so mountainous trail systems. A 120mm fork equipped Mach 4 might be more the ticket if you lean more towards a heart rate monitor and lycra while still ripping all the hard lines and a few stunts along the way for fun. I’m even thinking pretty seriously about trying out a 429 for my next ride.


Pivot Firebird Review


I just got Paul's review of the Pivot Firebird and so I'll let the review speak for itself.

I am a firm believer that you need different bikes for different types of trails. I ride a variety of trails from fast, flowy cross country to the occasional downhill but what really floats my mountain biking boat is ultra technical rocky rides or rides full of steep technical climbs - I know, it's weird. For these two quite different types of trails I have an all mountain bike and a longer travel, big-tire'd, slacker-angled bike. The 2011 Pivot Firebird is making me question my logic. Can the Firebird be the ultimate do-everything mountain bike?

I was very excited to test ride this bike as I have heard fantastic things about Pivot's other offerings and I really wanted to see if this rendition of the DW link(R) suspension is as good as it sounds. It doesn't hurt that this bike is eye candy. The welds, black anodized frame, carbon rocker and laser etched markings are nothing short of beautiful. It also looks to me that the frame has been peened. I am a Structural Engineer and have been designing jet engines for over 20 years and we peen many parts because the increase in fatigue life is remarkable. I think that this level of detail is what separates your average mountain bike from a bike of this calibre.

Another interesting little detail that Pivot has done with this frame is incorporate a floating front deraileur that pivots away to avoid hitting the chainstay as the rear end cycles through its travel. This means that Pivot doesn't have to make a radically asymmetrical chainstay which improves stiffness in the rear end. This is easily the best shifting bike I have ever ridden. Shifts are clean and crisp and it's impossible to loose a chain off the granny because there's nowhere for it to go since the ISCG mount and floating deraileur hardware is there. The chain will rub the front deraileur when it's running in the lowest and highest gears at the back. Shimano and SRAM really need to incorporate some sort of micro adjust feature for front shifting. The downside of this arrangement is that it might be a little more prone to chain slap on the chainstay but a chainstay protector quietened things up.

There's a lot going on in the rear linkage area of this frame which means there is plenty of real estate for mud to hang out if you do take it out in the mud. I really like the full length cable routing and I think there should actually be a law against non-full length housing. There is also a nicely gusseted seat tube / top tube area for strength.

Tire clearance is amazing. This is an important factor to me if you are planning to do a lot of riding on slimey limestone rock and I usually run 2.5" Nevegals. You should be able to get 2.7" tires in between the seat stays yet the stays themselves are slim enough that your leg isn't rubbing against them. If you ride in the snow you'll also like the ability to run big tires.

The frame was built up with a mix of fairly high end parts with the vision of being light but not stupidly expensive; an RP23 shock, a 170mm travel 2011 Fox Float RC2 fork, SRAM X.9 rear derailleur and shifters. Formula brakes (8" front, 7" rear), DT Swiss EX500 rims with Hope Pro II hubs, Maxxis DH 2.35 Minion tires, Raceface crank and bars, Chromag stem and saddle, and Lizard Skin lock-on grips . A Shimano E-type deraileur is the only option for the front. At 30.5 lbs it is about the same weight as my 5" travel all mountain bike! Wow.

The frame features a 1.5" headtube so you'll need one of those reducing headsets if you'll be using a tapered steerer tube fork. You might be able to use one of those fancy head angle adjusting headsets too. The Propedal valve is easy to reach when you are riding. This is the 4th shock that I've ridden with a propedal valve and I am very embarrassed to say I still can't tell a huge difference when it's open or closed. I got the full 170mm travel on the fork and 2.5" out of the shock but never once noticed either bottoming out.

I am also a believer that it's critical that a bike has to fit you well. My brother once gave me advice about sizing childrens clothes, he said "look at what the label says and then ignore it because it doesn't mean anything". I think the same is true of bikes because my rock bike is an XL, my trail bike is a L and my DH bike is a medium. Seat tube length doesn't mean anything either. I think the only thing that matters is horizontal top tube length. The Firebird comes in 4 sizes so you should be able to find one to fit you. I am 6' 1.5" tall and the large fit me perfectly. The head angle is fairly slackish 67.2 degrees. It felt slightly floppy on some twisty XC trails and some switchback climbs but not bad. I like the angle for the endo-preventing nature and wouldn't change it one way or the other. 17.25" chainstays means that this bike can catwalk with the best of them, critical for style points. There is a veritable boat load of standover clearance.

I rode the Firebird on a variety of Southern Ontario trails. As you would imagine, ripping the trails on the descents is a blast on this bike. It is stable, solid and eats up all the bumps. I never felt like I was going to be bucked off, never detected any brake jacking, and the suspension worked to maximize traction. I think that getting a bike to work well at the other extreme of riding; steep technical climbs, is a far more challenging.

There are different ways that a bike can be a good climber. A hardtail is good at being light and efficient but will spin out on some roots and rocks. A DH bike can be good at getting traction but feels heavy and sloppy. The firebird is the best of both worlds. It's efficient suspension makes it feel even lighter than it is but it is the king of traction. On super steep climbs you can stand and hammer away with very little bob. There is one steep that I always ride and I don't always make it but I could make it up on the Firebird like it was nothing. This is the best climbing bike I've ever ridden.

You might notice that I haven't discussed the BB height yet. I was initially concerned it was a little too low. I used Pivot's fancy sag-o-meter thingy to set the shock pressure which gave me 200 psi for my 195 lb weight. I was hitting my pedals off of rocks a bit more than I would like. It wasn't until 2 weeks into testing the bike that I read on the "Tech Info" section of Pivot's website that the sag should be set by "sitting down hard in the saddle" and not by "sitting down gently". I am not sure I know exactly what "sitting down hard" is but using this new approach gave 230 psi and better pedal clearance. Pedal clearance is one area where I would only give the firebird 4 of 5 stars but I suspect it will only be a problem for you if you are riding really rocky trails.

On the trail the technology really delivers. There is some bob when you're hammering on the pedals but it's not annoying at all and for a 6.7" travel bike it feels quite snappy. The suspension soaks up the hits from everything and produces a very comfortable ride. I was actually amazed a few times at the end of some super intense technical sections at how fresh my legs felt when they would usually be screaming at me - that's a pretty powerful example of how the efficient suspension and light weight can help you out and one of the best reasons to consider getting yourself a Firebird.

There are some things I didn't like, most being component related. The sliders of the fork extend down a little below the axle and then the rebound adjuster knob is at the bottom. The knob is protected by a little aluminum cover but I would be concerned with the longevity in this area if you ride a lot of rocks. Likewise, this version of post mount means the front rotor can't be any smaller than an 8" rotor. A water bottle cage makes a convenient location to hold a bar light battery, unfortunately the Firebird doesn't have one, not a huge deal.

In the 4 weeks of testing I rode roughly three 2 hour rides per week and I had the following problems: one of the little clips that holds the front shift cable to the downtube popped off and the glossy smooth seatpost would slip (but only when catwalking). So it was basically flawless.

The firebird would be very capable for the moderate Southern Ontario DH scene but I wouldn't be inclined to use it for that purpose any more than just occasionally. It's not a Whistler / North Shore / big huck bike. If you don't mind the bottom bracket height then it's an absolutely flawless rock bike. If you're ok with the slacker head angle it's an awesome trail bike. Is the Firebird the best do-it-all bike I have ever ridden? Absolutely!

Paul Stone

Project Spring 2010 and Review

Pivot Dave has finished the review of the Pivot Mach 5 and we think it's one of his most favourable yet.  

The bike comes to just slightly over 28lbs for a medium.  The frame comes with a Ritchey headset and XT front derailleur already installed.  It's a mix of XT and SRAM with Shimano XT wheels, brakes and cranks.  Thomson Elite post and SRAM x.9 shifters/rear derailleur round out the package.  Tires are Kenda Nevegals Dave switched to tubeless using Stan's so this is a package that would suit most riders looking for something that is durable, still relatively light weight and performing reliably and consistently.

Here is Dave's Final Review! 

This was my first extended ride on a VPP suspension design.  Previously, my brief ride on an Intense 6.6 left me unimpressed with how the VPP design handles.  While the design clearly minimized pedal-induced bobbing, I couldn’t get past the dead feeling, especially during out-of-the–saddle efforts and while negotiating technical terrain.  I was curious to see how Pivot’s take on the VPP design, utilizing Dave Weagle’s patented DW-link, compared.

I’ve been highly impressed with bike designs from Chris Cocalis’ previous company, Titus and I was eager to get my hands on the flagship trailbike from his new company:  a Pivot Mach 5.  I don’t usually go out on a limb before delving into all of the gory details, but I fell in love with this bike from day 1.  It took a couple of rides before the suspension fully broke in, but I could instantly tell that this bike had what I wanted from a trailbike. Its neutral, intuitive handling gave the illusion that bike was an extension of my body.  It carved corners, flew over obstacles, descended with conviction and climbed faster than I ever thought a 5” travel trailbike could.  The most outstanding feature, for me, was the bike’s uncanny ability to filter out rider input (ie. bob) while responding seamlessly to trail irregularities.  This was especially noticeable during out-of-the-saddle efforts where it didn’t matter how hard I mashed the pedals, the bike would shoot forward like it was a hardtail, yet it would follow the contours of the trail exceptionally well.  Several of my riding buddies even noticed that I was spending way more time riding out of the saddle than normal (and riding faster).  They were right, this bike is pure joy to just stand up and hammer.  It was with some reluctance that I returned this bike at the end of the test and hopped on my personal trailbike, an Ellsworth Epiphany.  Don’t get me wrong, the Epi is a fantastic bike.  It is super comfortable and a fantastic technical climber.  But it feels like I’m riding everything a gear slower.  It just doesn’t have the same get up and go.  As an aggressive rider who likes to ride hard and fast, the Mach 5 is a perfect match for my riding style. 

Continue reading "Project Spring 2010 and Review" »

Knolly Endorphin Reviewed

Endorphin We've been antiously waiting for Dave's review of the Knolly Endorphin and here it is! Just a few quotes from this review..."This is the best pedaling full suspension bike I have ridden...", "This is the most silent bike I have ever ridden, total stealth..", "This is the stiffest bike I have ever ridden, resulting in awesome, confidence-inspiring tracking.." and "It is the best pedaling, non-XC bike I have ever ridden."  Now onto the review!

It was with great anticipation that I finally took delivery of the Knolly Endorphin to thrash.  Knolly has gained quite a reputation in a short time period for making fantastic free-ride bikes and fully supporting their customers.  They are probably the best-known Canadian maker of boutique full suspension mountain bikes.  Check out the Knolly forum on and you’ll get a pretty good idea of the general vibe surrounding this company and their bikes.  All 3 of the frames in their lineup get perfect scores in’s consumer reviews section.  The Endo is the shortest-travel in their 3-bike lineup, geared towards the epic riding, all mountain, and pedal up as well as down category.


The Endo was all black (my favorite bike color), hard-anozided beauty outfitted with a large volume Fox RP23 shock and a 36 TALAS RC2 fork and a Cane Creek 110 headset.  Shifting was handled by SRAM X9 with an XT front derailleur and cranks.  The new XT brakes with Servo-wave handled stopping duties (7” front, 6” rear).  Thompson looked after the stem (100 mm) and seatpost, while I used my own preferred seat, handlebar, pedals and grips.  The bike came outfitted with an Atomlab DHR wheelset (Formula front hub, Hope Pro II rear) shod with my current favorite tires:  2.35 Kenda Nevegal Stickies with a Kevlar bead.  As delivered the bike weighed a hair less than 34 lbs, which is respectable but a bit heavier than I had hoped for my type of riding:  fast and technical trails with lots of climbing.  After a couple of rides to dial things in, I swapped the wheelset for Mavic Crossmax XL’s and converted the tires to tubeless using Stan’s.  This shaved darn near 2 pounds off the bike, making a huge reduction rotating mass and vastly improving in climbing.

The bike is visually striking, although the ‘4x4’ linkage design looks complicated and, dare I say it, almost flimsy.  I was quickly proven wrong though, this bike has the stiffest rear end of any full suspension design that I have ridden, it tracks beautifully and is totally silent.  Cable routing is a little funky on this bike, favoring guides for full housing over the traditional housing stops on most bikes.  Sure, full housing increases friction a little bit, but it also helps to keep the cables free of contamination.  It also permits more swooping cable routing which reduces sharp bends and eliminates the potential for the suspension action to cause ghost-shifting.  Despite the full housing, this bike had the best, snappiest shifting I have ever experienced (front and rear).

I was very excited to try the new XT brakes.  The reach and contact point adjustments worked flawlessly, making it very easy to quickly set up the brakes according to rider preference.  Unfortunately, the brakes never quite lived up to my expectations.  While offering great modulation, they never quite had the top power that I expected.  In addition, applying the brakes in rapid succession (ie. less than 2 sec. between applications) caused the engagement point to move earlier in the lever throw.  Perhaps not a big deal for most, but I found it disconcerting to have such a significant change in lever feel.

Continue reading "Knolly Endorphin Reviewed" »