This is part 2 of Krob's bike tests from Outerbike in Moab, Utah. Be sure to read KRob's Outerbike 2013 Bike Demo Reviews - Part 1.

Norco Sight

I'd stopped by the SRAM tent several times looking for this size large on the first day but was never successful so it was high on my list for the mad scramble at the bell. Our team had a game plan for Saturday morning and with a little serendipity and dropping of names we were able to score three very comparable and desirable 650b bikes for the Mag 7 shuttle that would leave at 10:00. Everyone we passed on the trail envied our trifecta.

After arriving less than 30 seconds after opening, the Santa Cruz booth had a line of 20 people in it so I waited a minute then headed for the SRAM booth where I picked up this beautiful flo green/yellow Norco Sight. By 10:30 or so we were at the top of Mag 7 clipping in for what would be a spectacular ride on three very good bikes.

The first thing you do on Mag 7 is roll about a half mile down a dirt road to the trail head so I had a good chance to just assess the fit, shift through the gears and generally just get acquainted with the bike. I liked the fit though it felt slightly short in the top tube for a large while seated but I didn't notice that at all when standing. The all SRAM suspension I could tell was set up stiff like most bikes but it didn't feel harsh. It stayed up in its stroke well with a nice firm feel when mashing and ramped up a bit abruptly when just bouncing on it rolling down the hill.

Once on the rolling, mostly down, rocky, ledgy, Bull Run portion of the trail this bike absolutely came alive for me. It loved to be thrown around and had the chops to feel solid while doing it. It felt light, controlled, and responsive to pedal input. (After switching to the FB I realized it wasn't quite as responsive to pedal input as a dw-link bike but for an FSR it was very good). Flowing, carving and pumping off and on stuff was a riot although I did notice it took just a little more effort to pull up the front end (longer chain stays?). Once adapted to throwing my weight back and yanking harder on the bars, all was well.

Descending rough sections of slick rock I could feel the rear wheel skipping and not quite keeping up with the consecutive hits, but after speeding up the rebound and letting some air out of the tires (40 lbs? Really?) it settled down quite a bit. It still had a very solid, damped feeling to it overall that both Ben and Dietrich mentioned after first getting on the Norco. On this type of terrain where you're bombing through rolling slick rock and off little booters and popping up onto small rollers and ledges, and wheelying through multiple small g-outs it was the right set up. I would want it a bit plusher in the initial stroke for the stuff around where I live but overall I though it worked really well. The 150 Pike felt stiff laterally and fore and aft and the stellar RC3 Plus shock worked very well. I'd describe both ends as firm/plush. More BMW than old Cadillac. Whether they can be made to feel more plush in the initial stroke remains to be seen.

The parts spec was nice and these were some of the few AVID brakes that felt pretty good for me and one of the two or three 1x11 set ups that shifted really well. The guy at the SRAM booth suggested that some folks weren't routing the cable correctly after the rollamajig thingy on the XX derailleur.

Not a bad back drop for photos, eh? Weather was perfect this day. I was kinda reluctant to give this bike up even with a Firebird and Carbine waiting in the wings.

I like beefy stanchions and I was loving this new Pike. I also really liked this High Roller II/Ardent Front/Rear tire combo. The HRII really dug in in the corners and the Ardent provided decent traction for climbing and braking while still rolling well.

Next Bike: Pivot Firebird 27.5 »

Pivot Firebird 27.5

About half way down Mag 7 Ben suggested we trade bikes which I knew we should do, but I was really loving the Sight and wanted to hang onto it. Finally I relented and we switched pedals. He'd been ranting about how good the Pivot was and I'd ridden the 26" version at I-bike last year and liked it, but I was still skeptical about the need for a 6.7" 650b bike and didn't think anyone really made an appropriate fork to go with it.

About three seconds into my ride on the Firebird I realized that Sight wasn't accelerating quite as smartly as I thought. If you really want to see where the dw-link has an advantage over more traditional FSR type rear suspensions go directly from the latter to the former. It really is astounding how the dw-link really launches you forward with every pedal stroke.... even on a bike with big wheels that I expected to feel sluggish. Once the initial shock of that realization wore off, I immediately started feeling one with this bike. It absolutely loved this terrain. It carved and weaved a wee bit slower than the Sight due to its taller bb height but was plusher over smaller edges and rocks, manualed easier, and had a deeper, longer, go-look-for-bigger-and-bigger-drops-to-flat mentality than the Norco. I know the Pivot is more directly comparable to the longer travel Range, but when it pedaled so well and flowed so effortlessly over this slick rock terrain and still felt like a big, capable, AM/FR bike I was surprised. It also pedaled quite well on flatter terrain. I was the one that was "stuck" on this bigger bike when we got down off the trail and had a 3-4 mile sandy jeep road to traverse to get back to the demo area and it kept up quite well given its pilot. Dietrich the skinny road racer on the Norco spanked us up the hill but I nearly caught back up to him after bombing down the last Gemini Bridges road descent back to the highway.

The 160mm 34 Float worked admirably and I was not able to detect any significant flex and I did some things on this bike that normally I woudn't feel comfortable doing on anything less than a 36-38mm coil fork. I did bottom the RP23 shock once pretty hard while wheelying through a deep V-shaped seam (pushed the tire to the rim as well) so I wonder if the new Float X or RTC PLus from Rock Shox would be a better match but overall I was very pleased with the suspension.

The only problem with this bike for me is that it overlaps way too much with my Chili (in fact they are squarely in the same category) and I love my Chili.... but I like this bike nearly as well and even better in a few areas. A definite surprise for me. Nice work Pivot.

Even though this was an aluminum frame and had as much or more travel than the GT Force it felt a good 2 lbs lighter.

This bike, like the Mach 6 at Interbike was shod with a big ol' Nevagal up front and a smaller, faster rolling Honey Badger out back, neither of which have any current covetable street cred, but I gotta say, both my experiences on this combo have been favorable.

Next Bike: Intense Carbine 275 »

Intense Carbine 275

We were hoping to get our hands on a Carbine 29er for this ride but were only able to secure this 275 in the frantic rush for bikes. You may remember that this was mine and Craigstr's favorite bike of last year's Interbike Outdoor demo so even though I'd ridden it, I was glad Ben and Dietrich would have a chance to experience it and that we'd be able to compare it directly to some of the new offerings.

I was having so much fun on the Norco and the Pivot that I never got the chance to switch out onto the Carbine except for a brief spin while we were stopping adjusting its suspension and setting it in the longer 6" mode. Dietrich had been complaining that it felt very harsh coming down which was surprising to me but when Ben said the same thing after he had his turn on it I was puzzled. So we stopped and looked over the settings. I was only getting 20% sag (or less) when I checked it so we let out about 20 lbs of air from the CCDB-A setting it at 130 PSI. I think the Chilcotin has a lower leverage ratio but I only run 125 in mine so I knew it was too high. We also determined that it had been set in the shorter (5.5") travel setting so we rectified that, let out a little pressure from the fork and tires and continued downward for the last 1/4 mile of trail or so.

My little spin around the area where we were stopped didn't tell me too much but I was surprised how different it felt from what I remember. Have bikes just all gotten so much better in the past year or was there something (several things?) different about the components and/or set up that just really affected the Carbine for the worse? Ben said it felt a little better after our adjustments but he still seemed less than impressed. It'd be tough to follow either of the first two bikes he rode, let alone both, but we'll just have to await his reviews to get his thoughts.

Novatec wheels and hubs and Vee Rubber Trail Taker tires. I hadn't heard of these tires until about two weeks ago when my buddy who just bought a Burner was looking for a replacement for the Honey Badgers that came on the bike came across a couple of threads here on Mtbr with high praise for them.

Next Bike: Devinci Troy »

Devinci Troy

I'd pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn't find a Troy at Outerbike so was really kicking myself for missing it at Interbike. But while walking by the Enve tent after having struck out again looking for the Flux at the Turner tent, I noticed two or three shiny black carbon Devinci's sitting there. I didn't dare hope that one was actually a Troy in size large but asked anyway. To my surprise one was in fact a Troy but they only had a medium. I asked the tech if they ran a little big because this frame looked like it would fit me. He said they typically run a bit small but I went ahead and sat on it. The top tube felt like it was at least 23.5" (23.9" according to Devinci's site) so I had him mount my pedals and I happily took it off his hands.

Visually, this bike is a stunner. The high gloss black carbon weave with red highlights and well-proportioned lines looks very sharp. Its stunning looks were only surpassed by its brisk, light, rocket launcher feel while accelerating. Wow. LIke the Ripley, this is one bike I wanted to just stand and hammer on. When I got to the trail head there was Ben with the size large Flux! Cool. We must be living right. So off we went to hammer and compare two bikes high on my Chili complement list.

Lunch must've done wonders for Ben's energy level because he was in a mood to push it. I wondered if I'd be able to hang but this bike just wanted to fly. I stood and pushed with my spent legs (this was the afternoon of my fourth consecutive full day of riding) and to my delight the Troy responded.... even begged me to push harder.

Lateral stiffness was exceptional and it responded well to this type of riding. I'm sure the superb Enve carbon wheels, SixC carbon bars and cranks added to this stellar stiff feeling. Carbon just has a very distinct, stiff, lively, but damped feel to it when done correctly and I am fast becoming a carbon snob (Honey, my next bike may be a bit more pricey than the last).The medium size was almost perfect... maybe a tad short but not by much. I'm coming to realize that for tight, swoopy, or more technical terrain where you're standing more anyway, I prefer this more compact feel. At home I mostly do long seated climbs (45-60 minutes) followed by flowing fun 15-20 descents for my morning rides and wonder if for that I might still prefer the large (although at 24.7" that may be a bit long) but for this up and down, tighter terrain the medium was perfect.

This was one of the few bikes that didn't have a dropper post where it didn't really bother me. I set it an inch or two below optimum pedaling height and just left it. I rarely sat down and cockpit was compact enough that it rarely felt like the seat was in my way. The overall suspension feel was perfect for this ride and I loved that Devinci had spec'ed a larger stanchioned fork (Fox 34) and the RP23 rear shock kept up nicely. I don't know what dw would say the split is supposed to do (haven't read the ad copy) but it seems to flat out work right. It was controlled with out feeling wallowy, firm when putting down the power, yet still felt fairly plush without bottoming.

When we got to the halfway point of the trail and it was time to switch, I was very reluctant to give this one up. This is telling, because the freaking Turner Flux was the switchout bike... Certainly no slouch. I'd love some more time on the Devinci in various trail conditions, but it certainly blew me away with its first impression.

I'd somehow lost my camera somewhere between dropping off the Norco, lunch, and picking up the Devinci so didn't get any pictures of the next three bikes (totally spaced the fact that I had an iPhone in my pack, d'oh). Ben shot the Turner and Devinci so maybe he'll lend me a couple photos for these posts. Here's schlim's excellent photos of the Troy.

There is a switch chip in the linkage that allows you to change the geometry by .5 deg without affecting travel. Not sure what setting this bike was in.

The internal cable routing looked nice and tidy and was quiet.

Split pivot rear drop out is 142mm and requires a tool to remove the axle.

Dug this Fox 34 fork.

Next Bike: Turner Flux 27.5 »

Turner Flux 27.5

Like I said, I'd been really wanting to try the Flux after missing it at I-bike and not finding it after several attempts at Outerbike..... but dang, I was having a hard time prying myself away from the Troy. When I first slung a leg over the Flux it felt kinda big.. Partly because I'd just stepped off a medium Troy, but also because it had a longish stem on it (90mm I think). It also felt a little heavier than the Troy though I don't imagine it weighed more than about 26-27 lbs with it's light hydroformed allow tubes and Enve wheels.

Pedaling off down the trail the Flux certainly responded well, but I didn't notice that kick in the pants leap forward that I usually notice when I step off lesser bikes onto a dw-link. Another testament to the pedaling efficiency of the Troy. It also felt very fast and maneuverable... but not quite as fast as the Troy, which is interesting because the Troy has 20 more mm of rear travel. The Flux did feel stable and able to be built into something that could handle a fair amount of more aggressive trail and AM riding with the right set up, despite the diminutive travel.

Suspension action up front was handled by a 32 Fox fork which worked pretty well and saved some weight, but I would prefer to see a 130 Pike or Fox 34 up there and (here we go again) a tad wider bars, and a dropper post. No complaints with the rear suspension. It worked in typical dw-link Turner fashion and the geometry seemed to be spot on for this application.

The royal blue anodizing on the frame looked both industrial and elegant though I'm still not sure I'm totally in love with shape of the new tubing as it joins the elevated chain stay rear triangle. It doesn't seem to flow as nicely visually from front to back as some, though it's not ugly by any stretch..... and fault lies more with the rear triangle than the front.

When we finished out our North Forty loop I decided to keep the Turner for another ride to get some more time on it and give it a fair evaluation..... but I really wanted to just keep riding the Troy. Tells which one I was having more fun on doesn't it? But after another 45 minute ride around Lazy Easy I was starting to really come to dig the Flux as well and with my love of Turner bikes and their excellent customer service could possibly nudge me into picking this bike over the Troy (I just don't know anything about Devinci or have any emotional attachment to the company). It's hard to ignore a stunning first impressions though.

Photo credit to schlim for the Flux.

Next Bike: Santa Cruz Heckler 27.5 »

Santa Cruz Heckler 27.5

I rode with my buddy Tim from Moab on my pre Outerbike rides who has always loved simple, low maintenance bikes and has owned, among others, an old Bullet, a Butcher, and Kona Dawg in the past. He's had his eye on the new Heckler 27.5 so I said I'd try and get a ride on one to see how it compares to all the high dollar, carbon, multi-link fancy bikes I'd been testing.

I usually turn my nose up at such simple, low budget two wheeled conveyances, but if someone knows what kind of bike would be good for Moab riding, it would be Tim so I figured the Heckler was worth a look. Besides, I thought it would be good to confirm to my mind why more complicated, more expensive bikes were better.

When I picked up this simply adorned Heckler at the Santa Cruz tent at the end of the day, I scoffed at its triple chain ring, sneered at its lack of any kind of compression adjustment, and sniffed at its embarrassing lack of carbon and its lone rear suspension pivot. I expected it too feel unsophisticated and sluggish with out-of-control pedal bob sapping my dwindling strength with every stroke. I soon found however that it pedaled just fine.... even with the simple Float R shock set with the propedal on the most active setting. Hmm. Must be a bum shock. I'm sure it's going to be harsh or pogo stick-like once out onto the rockier sections of the trail I thought.

So I turned onto the more techy Deadman's' Ridge trail to expose this simpleton's weaknesses. With tight turns, rocky climbs, ledges, and slabs to deal with I was certain it would soon become evident why I could not own such a bike. Well someone must've slipped a Bronson frame under me without my knowledge, because surely a bike so simple and out dated could not handle this type of terrain without bucking me off or wearing me down quickly. This bike did neither The suspension worked fine. It just kept pedaling along, making every climb, rolling every descent, maneuvering through each tricky section of trail without breaking a sweat. I tried to find its supposed weaknesses but could not. It didn't even feel that heavy! Surely all those low end components and lack of carbon should add up to some tank like final weight. Not bad really.

So when I got out to the far end of Deadman's Ridge I saw I could follow a black diamond connector called Long Branch Trail over to a final double black descent back down to the paved bike bath called Killer B. Surely this is where I'd find this Heckler's kryptonite. Nope. Despite my tired legs and the surprisingly steep up and down nature of Long Branch it continued to impress. It made every tight switch back, scrambled up every loose chute, and negotiated all the steeps, exposure, and tech Killer B had to offer. Once on a particularly complicated bit of steep terrain I thought I detected the rear suspension being out matched a bit (maybe) by the variable and harsh undulating slick rock beneath it..... but it was small consolation. My bubble had been burst. The bike snob in me had to admit that you don't have to spend $6K on a high zoot, multi-link, carbon wunder bike to get a good ride. Of course Tim already knew that.

To add insult to injury, once the suspension was locked out, it even spun up the long paved bike path climb back to the demo area with ease (I think I even passed a guy on an Orbea road rocket on the way). Harumph. The bike snob in me probably would not allow me to purchase such a creature, but I have no problem recommending this bike to those who just want a good mountain bike without all the complicated gimmickery and astronomical cost associated with all the other bikes we tested. In the end, there's nothing really wrong with this bike at all and it kinda made me feel stupid for spending so much time geeking out over every little nuance and acronym-labled gadget found on all those blue blooded steeds.

In the end, the Heckler reminded me that it's not really about the bike. Find one you like and go have fun riding it regardless of the cost or complexity. Sometimes simple is just fine.

I'm really sad I didn't get an on site picture of this bike at the end of the day, all dusty, simple, and humble looking to go along with my tongue-in-cheek ramblings. This stock SC glam shot will have to do.