2013 All Mountain Bike Tests at Interbike – Part 1

26er 27.5 29er All Mountain Trail Enduro
2013 Interbike Dirt Demo

This is part 1 of Krob’s bike tests from Interbike’s Outdoor Demo. Be sure to read Krob’s All Mountain Bike Tests at Interbike – Part 2.

I always like to preface my Interbike reviews/impressions with a disclaimer.

These are not scientific and comprehensive reviews. They’re just first impressions from brief rides on some really cool bikes, on some really fun, tough trails. Take them for what they’re worth. Setup, bars, tires, adjustments, not to mention my state of dehydration at any given time during the ride can and does affect my impression of a bike. If you’re dumb enough to base a $5000+ bike purchase solely on my semi-coherent ramblings then you deserve what you get. Having said that, I’ve ridden a ton of bikes in a lot of locations over many years and I think I’m a pretty good seat-of-pants judge of whether a bike is good or not. So listen up….. or not.

Who am I

Just a guy who likes to ride bikes. I’m 52 years old. I’ve been riding mountain bikes for 16 years. I love all kinds of trails from fast and flowy to steep and chunky to jumpy and droppy. I’ve ridden mostly in the Western USA but have covered a lot of territory and trails in that region from Moab to Tahoe to St. George to Park City to Oregon to Fruita/Grand Junction to Sedona to Tucson to Phoenix to Flagstaff to Sun Valley but I call Ely, NV home. I’m 5’ 11.5” and weigh 160 lbs. I ride 5-6 days a week year round. I value the ride more than the bike and in the end I’m not that clued in to details but I think I know what makes for a good ride…and a good bike.

General Observations

27.5 is the new 26er: Everyone (except Specialized) has one and going back and forth between these and the 29er offerings it was easy to feel the differences between these two sizes… but I soon forgot how a 26er would feel any different. It was just the bigger wheels and the smaller wheels.

Fat bikes: They were everywhere. It was like an invasion I didn’t see coming.

1 x 11 drivetrains: They are the real deal. Most bikes were sporting this set up and we dug it. Shifts were snickety-snick accurate and the overall range of gear ratios was sufficient. Do we still need front derailleurs?

Fox forks are much improved this year. That is good.

Some companies came back (Niner), some had a bigger presence than ever (Devinci), some didn’t show at all (Trek, Cannondale).

Bikes I wanted to ride but either they weren’t present or I just ran out of time and didn’t get to:
Devinci Troy, Niner WFO, Ibis Ripley, Ibis Mojo HDR, Cannondale Trigger, Transition Covert 29, Knolly Warden, Giant Trance 27.5, Trek Remedy 29, Pivot Mach 429, Banshee Spitfire 650b, Turner Flux 650b…

It was hot (again), it was crowded (again), but it’s still just like a free day in Disneyland for this bike geek (even had strollers, freaks and geeks of all sorts to weave through to get to the good rides just like Disneyland).

I teamed up with Craigstr for the first day of demos so I want to thank him for his help in securing some bikes and for his valuable input. I hope he opts to chime in on add his comments to these first impressions.

Santa Cruz Solo (5010) C

I’ve been looking for a nice short travel 27.5 or 29er as a complement for my Knolly Chilcotin so the 125mm Solo was high on my Interbike demo list. First thing Monday morning I headed straight for the Santa Cruz tent and stood there patiently waiting for them to open. The guys from Santa Cruz were friendly and helpful and got me set up and out the door in short order. First thought? Wow this bike is gorgeous! Love the Mountain Rescue Orange and beautiful, well proportioned, carbon swoopy lines. Second thought? Wow this thing is light. Next thought? This thing pedals incredibly well.

As I climbed the road to the start of the trails I assessed the fit and determined that a large is just about right for me. At 5’11” I’m a bit of a tweener and some large frames feel a bit big but I knew from experience that SC tends to run a bit shorter so there was no question which bike to choose.

As we got on to the trail and started climbing over some of the rocky outcroppings I was trying to sense any of the dreaded pedal kick back that the v.1 VPP was famous for but was unsuccessful in detecting any. The wheel would hang up just a tad on some of the slower, squarer edges but not worse than most other bikes. Generally the rear suspension worked really well on this climb, staying bob-free and efficient when the trail was smooth and smoothly absorbing most rocks and ledges on the way. I was a bit disappointed to see the Fox 32 fork up front because I’ve had less than stellar experiences with it in the past but this 2014 version is a sweetheart. It responded well to small and medium sized edges, rocks, and ledges on the way up and tracked very well.

This was also my first experience with a 1×11 drivetrain setup and was immediately won over. Very slick shifting even up onto the gigantic 42 tooth cog and plenty of range for most any riding you’d do on this kind of bike. Having ridden double shifting bikes for the better part of 40 years (yes I’m that old) I never gave much thought to the what it takes to coordinate shifts and gear combos between the front and rear derailleurs, but having only one lever to deal with all of that was noticeably easier on the brain. I’ll be even more interested when the 1 x 11 set ups start becoming available in the lower and mid-range groups.

When we arrived at the top of our climb and started down the back side into the caldera I was kind of expecting the thin-legged Fox and short travel rear (remember when 125mm was considered long travel?) to show their stripes but not so: This thing just flew and the fork did not hold it back. It displayed very little flex and the action was controlled and well damped only falling behind a tiny bit on some of the rougher sections. Steering was sharp, and tight switch backs took some getting used to after stepping off my 65.5 deg head angled 170mm forked Chili, but once reacquainted with what accurate, playful steering can do to a tight trail it was great . With a relatively slack 68 deg head angle, low bottom bracket, and biggish wheels, the straight line stability was still very good as well. Despite that low bottom bracket number and rocky terrain, I did not get any unusual or excessive pedal strikes.

The Solo … err 5010 (awkward name) was very easy to get comfortable on and gain confidence in quickly—Way more than I would’ve previously expected of a bike with these “travel” numbers. Yes there may have been some visions of Peaty bombing the Scottish Highlands running through my head as I swerved, popped, flowed, and threaded my way down the trail…. But delusions of grandeur aside, the 5010 felt really good. And I gotta say, I didn’t notice the wheel size one way or the other. The bike as a whole just felt incredibly well-balanced, fast, and fun.

Trademark issues may have forced a name change but I’m still going to call it the Solo.

1×11, It’s the real deal

Beefy tires….

And wide bars go a long way in making a shorter travel bike feel All-Mountain capable, but there’s more to this bike than that. It’s the whole package.

Next Bike » Giant Anthem 27.5

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About the author: Kent Robertson

Kent Robertson (better known to Mtbr forum users as KRob) is just a guy who likes to ride. A lot. Kent’s 52 and has been riding mountain bikes for almost two decades, though he says his love of two-wheeled conveyances began when he was 5. His favorite trail type is any, be it fast and flowy, steep and chunky, or jumpy and droppy. Even a mellow bike path cruise with his wife makes him happy. “If I’m on two wheels it’s a good day.” Kent calls Ely, Nevada, home, but he’s ridden all over the western U.S. from Moab and Fruita, to Tahoe and Oregon, to a bunch of places in between. And while Kent focuses on the ride more than the bike, he’s ridden and tested a ton of bikes and knows what makes for a good ride — and a good bike. You can read more from Kent on his personal website, www.stuckinthespokes.com

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  • Craig Manning says:

    Great job Kent! It was great to hook up with you again this year. Sorry I couldnt make it out there on tuesday. The 5010 was a great all around bike. I could see that as being a great all rounder. I really enjoyed the Anthem 27.5 clearly as an XC race bike though. One thing I want to mention. XX1 and XO1 are incredible drivetrains but for some riders there may not be enough range in the ratios to satisfy everyone’s needs. I know SRAM has gone on record to say that 1×11 isnt going to replace 2×10 and it wasnt meant to. The Anthem had a 34 tooth front ring, Bootleg doesnt have any really steep climbs and I found myself wanting an easier gear but on the other hand, I would spin out a 34/10 on a fast XC course.

    • KRob says:

      Thanks Craig and thanks for riding with me Monday. It was good seeing you again and I enjoyed your input. After getting back on some of my normal trails this week I got wondering if I overstated the 1×11’s range…. although with bikes that light I don’t think there’s much I couldn’t climb in a 32×42 and I rarely ever spin out in 36 x 11 on my chilli so 32 x 10 should be close. Although this view may only apply to me. I’ll have to get the gear inch calculator out and do some figuring before I commit to the upgrade.

  • Evan says:

    Pivot Mach 6 wins!!!!

  • Liberty555 says:

    Great review. It’s refreshing to get the sort of review you’d get from a mate rather than the superlative laden stuff you get elsewhere. Honest and to the point. More like this please.

  • Ben says:

    Cheers for reviews, where is the mach 6 did you demo?

  • Mark says:

    ‘All Mountain Bike Tests’ is the title, but I just saw reviews on XC/trail bikes in the 100-125 mm category. Will part II include at least a token AM bike?

    • KRob says:

      I guess because the bulk of my test rides have been AM bike in years past, mtbr titled the feature the same as previous years. You’re right, mostly XC/trail bikes this year with a few stretching into the AM category (Enduro 29, Bronson, Mach 6) in part two.

  • RJ says:

    How did these bikes compare to the Turner Burner??
    Get a chance to ride one for direct comparisons?
    or maybe you can remember from before to give us an idea?

    thanks for all the effor

    • KRob says:

      Here’s my response to a similar question in the Turner forum about comparing the Mach 6, Bronson, and Burner.

      “krob – always enjoy your impressions from Interbike. now the question: can you give us your thoughts on the Burner vs Mach6, Bronson, etc.? thanks!”

      Tough call there. I’d say they are all pretty close. It would come down to your preference (or lack thereof) for carbon, suspension type, and subtle geometry differences. I will say that dw-link on both the Mach 6 and Burner and the VPP on the Bronson offer nice controlled, plush action in the rough and efficient bob-free climbing on smoother stuff. I’d give the nod to the dw-link though.

      The Bronson is very close in suspension feel as well. It might not be quite as active while climbing square ledges but like I said in the review, I do not detect any pedal kickback.

      Geometry is a bit lower and slacker on the mach 6 compared to the Bronson and you notice that some. The mach just seems like it loves to run and is set up for the descent, although there was nothing really wrong with the climbing from the little I did either.

      The Burner seems to fall in between the two of them geometry wise (I haven’t actually looked at the numbers recently to compare) with low bb and 67 HA IIRC and feels like it falls nicely between the two.

      If I were buying a bike in this category I’d have a really tough time deciding. ….. and you know I’d have to throw the Warden in the mix as well when it came time to purchase. Good bikes all.

  • jgray says:

    If you look at the picture of the 5010’s top tube from above, you visually see why 5010 replaced S0l0…

    • KRob says:

      Yeah, I didn’t even catch that it *didn’t* say SOLO when I first looked at it due to the similarity in the font. It wasn’t until I overheard the techs calling it a 5010 that I took a touble take and noticed the change. Very clever of them. Still don’t like the new name.

  • Ron says:

    I am 65 years an started biking 9 years ago. I read everything from your sight to educate myself. All that I have seen is that the bikes keep getting better and the prices keep going way up. How does a average person young or old buy any of the bikes that you keep reviewing. I ride the western frontier at Snow Shoe Mountain and I have to rent them because I can’t afford $4000.00 and up for a good average bike. What can I do

  • Ben Permuy says:

    Very good review I just picked up my Solo from the bike shop about a week ago and have put in about 50 miles on it since, it’s a blast to ride very fast and responsive excellent components and looks sharp could not ask for anything more for the price. I have been looking and tested several bikes in this category and finally decided on the Solo this was the right choice for me. I have a 29er in a small frame and have never felt one with the bike the 29 in tires and small frame did not work for me. I am 5’6 and just could not find anything that fit me right. I was able to fit perfect on a medium frame size thanks to the awesome geometry of this bike.

    • Epacheco says:

      Ben, was the Giant Anthem Advanced 27.5 one of your choices? I’m debating between the 5010 and the Anthem. I’ve ridden the Anthem and was very impressed on it’s swift climbing and the way it responds when pedaling. Can you give me some insight which way to go?

  • johnny D says:

    Seriously Matt, you must be a nob. The guy has clearly explained his background and his credentials and by the look of it they are are a shitload more impressive than yours. Thanks for the feedback Krob. You were telling me the things I was looking for. Lookout bank account…im diving in

  • Dan says:

    Really enjoying these (presumably) unpaid, unbiased, and honest reviews from Krob. My God, how refreshing, real criticism, where have you been the last 10 years! None of this, forget last years bikes, these new models are all awesome, endlessly repeated, year in and year out. What a load of absolute BS. Let’s call a spade a spade, they can’t all be equally good, and some are downright average. To always suggest all these new bikes are as good as each other devalues your currency as a review site and confusers your readers. You read Pitchfork because you know they’ll bag the latest Beck album, whether you agree with it or not, it’s always interesting to read an alternate, but not necessarily contrarian opinion. Keep the honesty coming, much appreciated!

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