Santa Cruz Nomad Carbon, XO-1 kit, Rock Shox Pike Solo Air 160, Rock Shox Monarch Plus $7999

Now in its third generation, the full carbon Nomad frame has been completely redesigned to stay ahead of enduro racing’s ever-more DH trajectory. An aggressive 65 degree head angle takes the geometry to Defcon 1 levels of DH readiness, delivering V10 handling at Syndicate speeds. Santa Cruz has also added a V10-style upper link, increased VPP travel to 165mm and improved small bump performance.


First Look: Santa Cruz Nomad - Completely Redesigned for 2014

First Look: Santa Cruz Nomad - Completely Redesigned for 2014

Nomad Frame Highlights

  • 27.5” wheels
  • 165mm VPP suspension
  • Internal routing
  • Full carbon frame and swingarm
  • Single-chain-ring-only design
  • Compatible with 160-180mm fork
  • Molded rubber swingarm and downtube protectors
  • Forged aluminum upper link and lower link
  • Single recessed grease port on lower link
  • Collet axle pivots with angular contact bearings
  • Carbon ISCG-05 tabs
  • 142mm rear axle spacing
  • Threaded bottom bracket
  • Frame weight: 6.2-pounds (2.8kg) and up with Rock Shox Monarch Plus
  • S, M, L, and XL sizes
  • 5 year warranty
  • Lifetime bearings and crash replacement warranty
  • MSRP:  TBC

Frame Details

The new uncompromising one-by only design also permits a beautifully recessed and protected lower link, resulting in some seriously compact chainstays. Match that with an inch more reach in the cockpit, and you’ve got the ideal set-up for tearing down the side of Chilean stratovolcanoes.

None of that comes at the expense of pedaling ability either. New pivot locations and a steeper seat tube angle place the rider right above the bottom bracket, delivering power to the pedals in liaison stage crushing style.

And as ever with Santa Cruz, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. The internal cable routing is so trick it’s a shame it never sees the light of day. Thin carbon fiber tubes molded into the frame from entry to exit, ensuring completely integrated hassle-free routing every time.

All wrapped up in stealth black or blue/magenta colors with matchy matchy fork and wheel decals, the new Nomad shows just how rad things can get with some single-ring-minded focus.


Nomad Complete Build Highlights

  • RockShox Pike RCT3 Solo Air 160mm fork
  • RockShox Monarch Plus Debonair or Vivid Air RC2 shock
  • Complete builds: 27.1-pounds (12.3kg) and up
  • MSRP: TBC complete for SRAM X01 build, including Reverb Stealth

The Smith Forefront Helmet has landed at Steed.

PinkBike give us the lowdown on the new helmet……

Smith Forefront Helmet

When Smith’s Forefront helmet was first announced, it wasn’t the company’s use of a new material for better impact protection, or the remarkably light claimed weight that lit up the comments section – it was how it looked. The design and overall shape of the helmet turned out to be incredibly polarizing, a love-it or hate-it style with no apparent middle ground. However, out in the real world the helmet doesn’t look nearly as outlandish as the original press release images made it seem, and fits right in with the current crop of extended coverage helmets intended for all-mountain usage. Plus, there’s a good chance that it comes in your favorite color, since there are 10 different options to choose from.


• Polycarbonate shell, EPS and Koroyd liner
• CPSC certified
• Weight: 332 grams (actual, M)
• Integrated camera / light mount area
Ten colors, sizes S, M, L
• Available March 2014
• MSRP: $220

Construction and Features

The Forefront uses what Smith calls Aerocore construction to provide its impact protection. A plastic shell and inner

EPS layer forms the helmet’s exoskeleton, and three sections of Koroyd (the bright green material in the photos) are situated underneath this shell, directly above the rider’s head. Koroyd is made using thousands of co-polymer tubes that are thermally welded together, forming a honeycomb like structure claimed to offer up to 30% more impact absorption than EPS. The material’s straw-like hollow tubes are also claimed to allow for much greater breathability than EPS or foam.

Smith Forefront review

Smith’s Vaporfit retention system uses a ratcheting dial at the back of the helmet to adjust the helmet’s fit around the head, and the positioning of the strap can be further customized by choosing from three different height options at the back of the helmet and four options on each side. A low profile, removable liner uses X-static fabric to help ward off bacteria and the general helmet-funk that can be caused by hours of sweat buildup. There are three positions for the Forefront’s compact, removable visor, and it can be adjusted without fiddling around with tiny screws that inevitably get dropped onto the forest floor. Hidden under a plastic cap at the top of the helmet is a small threaded insert that can accept a helmet camera or a light mount, which Smith will be selling as an aftermarket accessory for $14.99.

Fit / On Trail Performance

The multiple adjustments on the Forefront make it easy to dial in the perfect fit after a few minutes of tinkering, and the rear retention strap dial has a nice solid, positive click at each position. Despite the minimal amount of padding, the Forefront was quite comfortable, and although it doesn’t reach the pillow-like level of cushioning found in Troy Lee’s A1 helmet, it faded into the background nicely, becoming barely noticeable over the course of a ride. As would be expected from a helmet made by a company that has the word ‘Optics’ in their name, the Forefront worked well with both sunglasses and goggles, providing enough room over the brow and around the ears to prevent any interference. Regarding ventilation, we never felt overheated on any of our rides, although the bulk of our testing did take place during the more mild fall and winter months. Still, we did take the helmet on numerous warm rides in the Arizona desert, and Forefront proved to be up to the task. The helmet doesn’t feel quite as airy as the large external vents would suggest, since the inner Koroyd layer dissipates the wind a bit, but the ventilation and breathability are still excellent – the open structure of the Koroyd gives the heat rising from a rider’s head plenty of channels for escape.

Jordan Carr testing the Morpheus Loki in Sedona AZ


One minor issue we ran into was related to the rear retention system. If the retention strap is set into the highest position, the dial becomes a little more challenging to use with one hand because the upper portion sits within a few millimeters of the helmet shell. This is only an issue in this one setting, and we’d imagine most riders will end up using the middle or lower strap position.

Pinkbike’s take:

bigquotes Smith has made quite the entrance into the world of cycling helmets, taking a route that’s a little riskier than just slapping a visor and coat of baby blue paint onto a traditional EPS helmet and calling it ‘enduro-specific.’ The unique styling and the use of Koroyd sets the Forefront apart from the competition, but the new technology comes at a price, and the $220 price tag makes this one of the more expensive half-shell mountain bike helmets around. At 332 grams the actual weight of our helmet wasn’t as ultra-light as we’d expected either, making it a little harder to justify the cost. That being said, the Forefront does bring new technology and the full gamut of today’s must-have features (extra coverage, goggle compatibility, a light and camera mount) to the table, which certainly makes it worth considering in you’re in the market for a new lid. – Mike Kazimer

POC Octal has landed at Steed Cycles


We have been waiting for the new POC Octal to arrive in Steed for a long time. After seeing it in person at Interbike last year and having a pre production one in store to oodle at we know its going to be a huge hit. The looks are not the norm expected from a road helmet, but when have POC ever stuck to the rules. Its all about Airflow and safety with the Swedish Manufacturer.


The helmet weighs 193 grams in Large and the fit is second to none. It comes in 3 colours (White, Garminium Blue, Safety Orange). Expect to see the Steed Team racing in the Orange this season.



One key feature to look out for is the Eye Garage which will hold any style of cycling glass firmly on your helmet. You will not lose your valuable shades on any ride.

Check out for more information. Stop by the shop and try it on. You will not regret it.

Race Face Ambush Pads Review on Vital Mtb

“Tested: Race Face Ambush Knee and Elbow Guards – As Solid As They Come”

Review by Johan Hjord // Photos by Tal Rozow and Johan Hjord

Kneepads are an essential piece of protective equipment, worn by almost every rider who likes to get a bit rowdy from time to time. Elbow pads are perhaps a slightly less common sight on the trail, but many riders will still reach for them when things get a bit hectic, or just for a little extra peace of mind. Race Face has been producing a line of pads (or guards) for a number of years already, offering a full range of protection for different applications. The Ambush line sits on the heavy duty side of the catalog, ready for pretty much anything you can throw at it – we put the 2013 edition to the test to see how it measures up in this highly competitive equipment category.

Ambush Knee and Elbow Highlights

  • D30 high performance shock absorbing foam
  • Perforated Neoprene enhances venting and moisture control
  • Terry lined for wicking and comfort
  • Open-back construction on the kneepads; no shoe removal necessary
  • Foam padded side walls on the kneepads offer additional coverage
  • Heavy-duty 600 denier nylon front panel casing
  • Soft mesh panel at inner elbow to keep cool
  • Woven upper elastic strap and lower Neoprene comfort strap on elbow pads
  • Branded rubber grab tabs
  • MSRP: $119.99 (Knee), $79.99 (Elbow)

Race Face makes quality gear, so we were not surprised to find a pair of pads that seem to have been very well put together right out of the bag. The attention to detail is obvious, and the materials chosen inspire confidence. All the seams appear well executed, and we found no loose threads nor any other apparent quality problems. That meant we were instantly ready to hit the trails to find out how these pads perform where it really matters.

On The Trail

The stand-out feature on the Ambush kneepad is the open back construction. The kneepad opens up completely thanks to three hook-and-loop straps, allowing you to put it on and take it off without removing your shoes. This is a boon, as having to remove your shoes is perhaps the single most annoying aspect of this type of pad from many other manufacturers. How many times have you arrived a big climb wanting to remove your kneepads, but not feeling up to taking your shoes off? Removing the Ambush pad takes all of five seconds – then you’re free to strap it to your pack or even the bike before the climb. This is a brilliant idea and Race Face has executed it perfectly.

The most important function of a knee or elbow pad is of course to protect you during the rougher episodes of your dirt love affair. On the Ambush range, Race Face has chosen to use D3O as the main protective material both for the knee and elbow pads. For those not familiar with D3O, it is a soft and malleable material featuring molecules that lock together to dissipate impact energy during hard hits (go ahead and put a hammer to it to test this – you know you want to).

Race Face has included a generous helping of this magical material in both the knee and elbow pads, complemented by smaller sections of more traditional foam on both sides of each kneepad. The pads are preformed to provide a comfortable fit, but without feeling the least bit flimsy as D3O pads sometimes do. The heavy-duty nylon used on the front panels appears extremely strong, and looks better than the previous generation of these pads – we’ve certainly not been able to put more than superficial scuffs on it.

The inside of the pads is made out of soft Terry liner, which is very comfortable and stays that way after washing. The pads get a little warm, but definitely nothing more than we would expect, given the amount of protection on offer. We found the sizing to be spot on, although the straps are strong so you might want to make sure you try on a pair before buying – they can feel a bit tight when done up. The pads are easy to put on and remove, and easy to adjust. Of course, the pads would be useless if they moved around during riding, and we’re happy to report that these stay put no matter what you get up to. Pedaling, rock gardens, jumps, drops… these pads stay where they’re meant to, ready for your next failure to keep the rubber side down.

On the topic of crashing, we’ve ridden these pads for more than three months and inevitably, there have been some dirt sampling exercises during that time. These pads do a great job of protecting you, at least as good as comparable offerings from other manufacturers, and we were only able to twist one of the kneepads to the side of the knee once (during a particularly acrobatic and not very graceful tumble). As a side note, if you are worried about your shins, Race Face makes a version of these with included shin protector, called the Flank.

Long Term Durability

In terms of wear and tear, besides now looking a bit older, the pads have held up really well. All the seams are still tight, and there are no holes or tears in the fabric to report. Specifically, the lined neoprene used is clearly of the stronger variety here. We’ve used pads from other brands where the neoprene literally fell apart after a few months.

We should also point out that as with most D3O-equipped pads, these are not cheap, at least not at list price (although they can be found online at significant discount at this time). We feel that D3O offers enough advantages to justify the price tag, especially in a well-executed design like this one.

What’s The Bottom Line?

Race Face has brought an innovative approach to a well-established design, and this has worked out really well. These are among the most solid pads we’ve ever tried in this category, and they’ve stood up to abuse quite nicely. They are all-day comfortable to wear and provide effective protection, and the open back design on the kneepads is a game changer for those who like to remove their pads for climbing (*cough* Enduro *cough*). Apart from the minor issue of exposed Velcro potentially snagging your shorts, the design is a homerun.

For more details, visit

POC Trabec MIPS Helmet reviewed

Vital Review “Tested: POC Trabec Race MIPS Helmet – Unique Style Meets Safety Innovation”

by Mihai Moga POC, a fairly young and very successful Swedish company known primarily for high quality ski helmets, has made waves in the world of mountain biking over the past few years. Their unique designs and innovation are quickly gaining recognition. The new Trabec Race MIPS is their top of the line trail helmet for 2013. This helmet stands out for several reasons, including the use of the radically different MIPS technology.

POC Trabec Race MIPS Highlights

  • Inner Aramid filament reinforced EPS core
  • Outer PC shell with seams in the areas of least exposure
  • Equipped with the patented MIPS system
  • Aerodynamic channel system and 16 vent slots
  • Fit is designed to be around the head versus on top
  • Polygiene anti-odor treatment
  • Sizes: XS/S, M/L, and XL/XXl
  • Colors: Black/White, White/Black, or Radon Blue
  •  $229.99 MSRP

Initial Impressions

The reason I wear a helmet is to protect my head in case of a crash. With that in mind, safety should be the number one reason when determining which helmet to purchase. Comfort and style would follow, and then of course the price. Having said that, let’s have a closer look at this new lid.

At first glance, the helmet looks and feels well made – it feels like it could take a hit and protect the head that occupies it. The outer shell is made with an Aramid (similar to Kevlar) bridge. POC claims, “By using the extreme strength provided by the Aramid fiber in bridges in the helmets shell, the structure is reinforced and at the same time, the impact energy deforming the helmet is spread over a larger surface.” The Aramid bridge also helps to increase the helmet’s resistance to penetration. While many POC helmets use an EPP (Expanded Polypropylene) type of foam, which does not deform permanently on impact and is therefore suitable for multiple impacts, the Trabec Race MIPS is made with EPS (Expanded Polystyrene). EPS is used in many traditional bike helmets and permanently deforms after just one impact. Unfortunately that means for the Trabec Race MIPS helmet, it’s a one and done affair. Everything is wrapped in a very smooth, shiny, shell with a contrasting patch of color on the back of the helmet. It’s definitely unique looking, for better or worse. POC’s distinctive style is very smooth and free flowing. There are no sharp edges or corners anywhere on the helmet. This might make it less likely to snag on anything on impact. Fourteen large vents plus two smaller vents located under the somewhat flexible visor provide good ventilation.

The chin straps are very neatly molded into the helmet, eliminating the chance of fraying at one end.

As you flip the helmet over and look inside, you will notice there is a thin yellow layer between the pads and the inside shell. That’s the MIPS Technology, short for Multi Directional Impact Protection System. According to the creators of MIPS, the system is designed to reduce the rotational forces to the brain in the event of an oblique impact. MIPS utilizes a low friction layer on the inside of the helmet liner to absorb much of the energy created by both unilateral or oblique blows to the head. This is achieved by allowing a controlled rotation of the shell relative to the liner. To see the MIPS system in action, take a look at this brief video: The helmet is very comfortable, feels secure once it’s on, and the retention system and straps are intuitive and easy to adjust. My head is round shaped head and a little on the larger size, and this XL/XXL sized Trabec Race MIPS fit very well.

On The Trail

On the trail, the Trabec Race MIPS feels comfortable while climbing. There are no noticeable pressure points anywhere, and I never felt that I needed more ventilation. On the descents, the helmet moved around more than I’m accustomed to. Some of the movement is can be attributed to the shell floating on top of the MIPS system, which I was able to get used to very quickly. However, on slightly longer and more aggressive descents, the helmet migrated slightly forward on my head. I cinched down the retention system at the back of the head as tightly as I could while still being comfortable, and that seemed to help, but it did not fully resolve the issue. This was a very slight movement and not a significant issue – more of a nuisance than anything.

For more details about the Trabec Race MIPS, or to find out what the heck POC stands for, head over to

At first glance, the helmet looks and feels well made – it feels like it could take a hit and protect the head that occupies it. The outer shell is made with an Aramid (similar to Kevlar) bridge. POC claims, “By using the extreme strength provided by the Aramid fiber in bridges in the helmets shell, the structure is reinforced and at the same time, the impact energy deforming the helmet is spread over a larger surface.” The Aramid bridge also helps to increase the helmet’s resistance to penetration. While many POC helmets use an EPP (Expanded Polypropylene) type of foam, which does not deform permanently on impact and is therefore suitable for multiple impacts, the Trabec Race MIPS is made with EPS (Expanded Polystyrene). EPS is used in many traditional bike helmets and permanently deforms after just one impact. Unfortunately that means for the Trabec Race MIPS helmet, it’s a one and done affair. Everything is wrapped in a very smooth, shiny, shell with a contrasting patch of color on the back of the helmet. It’s definitely unique looking, for better or worse. POC’s distinctive style is very smooth and free flowing. There are no sharp edges or corners anywhere on the helmet. This might make it less likely to snag on anything on impact. Fourteen large vents plus two smaller vents located under the somewhat flexible visor provide good ventilation.

What’s The Bottom Line?

It’s great to see companies like POC going beyond the minimum safety requirements, developing high quality helmets with increased protection for riders. The Trabec Race MIPS offers some of the most researched and innovative protection available in a trail helmet, and all the comfort that you would expect from a high end helmet is there. The style on the Trabec is unlike any other helmet on the market, and definitely unique to POC.

All that innovation and comfort comes at a price, though, and in this case it’s $229.99. That’s roughly half the cost of a full face downhill helmet and twice as much as many traditional mountain bike helmets. We can see how some people would be reluctant to spend the extra money on the Trabec Race MIPS, especially when there are many other options available that offer good protection and great style for a lot less money. But if you are looking for the latest in safety and innovations, then the higher price tag might not surprise or deter you. Considering all the above, this is an excellent helmet that offers some of the best protection, and is definately worth considering before you purchase your next mountain bike helmet. For more details about the Trabec Race MIPS, or to find out what the heck POC stands for, head over to Review taken from Check it out in full here.

Vital Mtb Review the Santa Cruz 5010

“2014 Test Sessions: Santa Cruz 5010 Carbon”
Reviewed by Brandon Turman and Steve Wentz // Photos by Shawn Spomer and Lear Miller

The 125mm travel Santa Cruz Solo – excuse us, Santa Cruz “5010” – enters the 2014 lineup as a replacement for the well-regarded Blur TRc and smaller brother to the Bronson. At first glance you’re sure to notice the new wheel size, but there’s much more to the story. The bike sees updates to the geometry, suspension tweaks, feature updates and more. As one of the most memorable videos of 2013 showed, the bike was designed to take to cover some serious ground on your adventures, but also to be a capable rig that’s at home even under downhill crushers like Steve Peat. Having only gotten a taste of what the bike had to offer during the official launch, we invited the boys from Santa Cruz to send one over for the 2014 Vital MTB Test Sessions in Sedona, Arizona.

5010 Carbon Highlights

  • Carbon frame
  • 27.5-inch wheels
  • 125mm of rear wheel travel
  • Tapered headtube
  • 68-degree head angle
  • 73-degree seat tube angle
  • 13.1-inch bottom bracket height
  • 17.1-inch chainstay length
  • ISCG05 tabs
  • 73mm BB shell
  • 142mm x 12mm thru-axle
  • Measured weight (size large, no pedals): 26-pounds

There’s no denying that this bike is a good looker, but what’s inside is equally impressive. From the cutouts we’ve seen, the one piece carbon lay-up is as smooth and wrinkle free inside as it is on the outside. Weighing it at just 5.06-pounds for the frame and shock, the 5010 immediately takes a step ahead of much of the competition. Find and watch Santa Cruz’s frame testing videos and you’ll see there isn’t much to concern yourself with in regard to their carbon frame strength. Carbon done right can be incredibly strong, even when the frame is light. Our complete build weighed just 26-pounds sans pedals, and was the lightest of the 25 bikes in our 2014 Test Sessions lineup. It was also the second most expensive.Close inspection reveals that Santa Cruz took their time as even the minor details have been executed well. One favorite element is the ability to access the lower pivot bolt from the non-driveside, a small touch that can save a lot of time when it comes to maintenance. As with all Santa Cruz bikes, the 5010 features remarkably well-engineered pivots. The collet axle system uses steel-shielded angular contact bearings that boost frame stiffness. Everything is very well sealed with grease ports for quick and easy pivot maintenance. Mud clearance near the lower link with a 2.3-inch Maxxis tire is decent with about 1cm of room for the muck.Internal seatpost cable routing cleans things up nicely, but external cable mounts are still there if needed. External brake and derailleur routing make for easy maintenance. Santa Cruz also kept the 73mm threaded BB, sighting the press-fit alternative as sometimes creaky and troublesome. IS brake mounts ensure that you don’t accidentally goof up your frame by stripping a threaded insert and, according to Santa Cruz, are also positioned more reliably during the carbon molding process.New molded rubber frame protection finds its way onto the frame on the chainstay and downtube. It’s plenty durable and easy to remove. There’s also a rubber guard on the inside rear area of the seatstay to eliminate any chance of chain slap. The 5010 sees the addition of ISCG05 mounts for those looking to bolt on a chainguide. First introduced on 2013 Blur TRc frames, the 5010 also sports a 142mm thru axle rear end. There are two water bottle mounts on the downtube for those looking to ditch the pack.Compared to the 26-inch Blur TRc, the seat tube has been steepened a half degree to offer a better pedaling position. The shock rate has been altered slightly as well, allowing it to sit further up in its travel and again pedal a bit better. Another thing that we’re pleased to see is a shorter seat tube length for each size, allowing riders that opt for a larger frame to still run a dropper post with 5+ inches of adjustment.Out back, the bike relies on the VPP2 suspension system to soak up the hits and provide traction. It uses a pair of super short, counter-rotating links with large diameter axles and angular contact bearings to keep things stiff. The upper link is carbon fiber and the forged aluminum lower link has been offset to allow for a chainguide. You might notice that the lower link is quite low, which may present a clearance issue in extremely rocky, jagged situations.The linkage has been tuned to be regressive up until the sag point before getting increasingly progressive through the end of the stroke. This creates a bike that is responsive to small and medium-sized bumps with (in theory) plenty of support for bigger hits. The FOX CTD Float shock is in a very good position for adjusting the knobs on the fly.The bike is designed to work best with a fork in the 120-140mm range. The stock 130mm Fox 32 Float CTD fork can be adjusted internally +/- 10mm.

On The Trail

When the 5010 was introduced to the public last year we had the opportunity to throw a leg over it in the boggy hills of Scotland. Wanting more ride time before writing down our ride impressions, we spent a few extra weeks rallying it in the hills of Sedona. Trail highlights included HiLine, Chuckwagon, Aerie, Huckaby, Teacup, Slim Shady, Ridge, Brewer, High on the Hogs, Pig Tail… just about anything you can think of. All told it saw a proper mix of terrain and trail styles from fast cruisers to big hits and rowdy steeps.We tested a size Large frame. Before we even left the garage for the first time a stem swap was in order. The stock 80mm Thomson stem is certainly a beautifully made component, but to really unleash the potential in the 5010 we opted for a shorter replacement. Combined with the comfortably sized 750mm Easton Havoc Carbon bars, Brandon (5’10” tall) chose a 50mm stem and Steve (5’8”) a 35mm. After the swap both riders felt perfectly centered on the bike with a spacious reach and lots of room to move around. Note that Santa Cruz’s sizing tends to run on the smaller side, so be sure to consult their suggested size charts before purchasing.While there are no geometry adjustments built into the frame, the chosen numbers create a ride that’s perfectly suited for the full range of trail riding. The moderately low 13.1-inch bottom bracket height, agile 68-degree head angle, and 17.1-inch chainstays worked well on the vast majority of the terrain we rode. It was surprisingly rare that we found ourselves wanting a slacker front end, even on the steeps. If anything we’d just bump the fork up to 140mm of travel and call it good. It very rarely pitched our weight forward, and combined with how the frame works the head angle is more capable than the number typically indicates.Pointed downhill, the 5010 feels immediately comfortable, encouraging you to let off the brakes and pick up speed. It’s playful and rewarding once you reach a minimum speed. Before that speed it’s a very stable but almost muted feeling ride. It lacks the always playful feel of some bikes in that it’s not overly bouncy or “poppy” off stuff, but it’s playful in the sense that it encourages you to try harder things by staying composed through the rough. It felt really planted and stable in corners, was easy to compress and jump off of trail features, and getting the front end off the ground wasn’t hard to do. The traction offered by the VPP suspension certainly adds to the bike’s descending ability, and it’s surprising what you can get away with considering you’re on a 125mm travel bike.When things get really steep and rowdy, though, the bike begins to feel a little overwhelmed. We found ourselves at the end of the travel on several occasions on drops, g-outs, and big impacts. It’s a not a harsh bottom-out, but you can feel it. The bike does a great job of maintaining a line even at the end of its rope, though, so it never feels sketchy. Because it seems to use lots of travel lots of the time, it gobbles up bumps, tracks well through chatter and stays planted, but there isn’t much left for big hits. Previously we had a hard time using all available travel on the Blur TRc, but it feels a bit too easy on the 5010. The bike does, however, stay up in the travel nicely when you’re not smashing down rough hills.Part of that “muted” feel we described earlier can be attributed to a lack of much mid-stroke support. Ridden with the suggested amount of sag, the bike tends to wallow a bit, leaving us wishing for more mid-stoke damping. Sure, one could simply flip from “Descend” to “Trail” or “Climb” on the FOX CTD Shock, but doing so increases the damping in the beginning of the stroke a bit more than we’d like for all-around performance. The initial damping is great for pedaling but comes at a compromise to the great small bump performance that’s available in the softer modes.What we appreciate most about the suspension design and performance is that there wasn’t any funny business. The bike tracks very well with no hang ups, and when ridden hard it doesn’t ever get out of shape.While the 32mm FOX Float CTD fork may look concerning to the aggressive rider, we found that it doesn’t really translate on the trail and the fork isn’t holding the bike back. A lowered 34mm FOX fork (they don’t make a stock 130mm 34) could offer some additional stiffness, but it’s not really warranted, at least for these 175-pound riders. That said, we did have to run about 20psi more than what FOX recommends for our weight to keep it from diving excessively. Heavier riders or those wanting to extend the fork to 140mm of travel may find torsional stiffness to be an issue.Except for rolling speed, everything about the way the bike handles goes hand-in-hand with the 26-pound weight we observed on the scale. While the Maxxis Highroller II tires perform quite well all-around, a faster rolling rear tire could take the 5010 to the next level. This is only a marginal part of the perceived weight argument, though. All else was exceptional.Out of the saddle the 5010 wants to take off. It accelerates quickly and reaches top speed in a hurry. There isn’t much bob and just a little loss of power, but it’s perfectly acceptable given the tracking and small bump compliance offered by the suspension design. You can feel the bike settle into its travel, but once there it offers good support while stomping on the pedals.When climbing seated there is little suspension movement. FOX’s higher initial damping rates do a great job of numbing any movement that could happen with pedaling when using any of the three Trail modes. The bike feels efficient and there is plenty of room to move over the front. Technical climbs are a treat thanks to the suspension design which offers ample rear wheel traction when you need it. Pushing in turns wasn’t an issue, nor was crank spiking due to the bottom bracket height.

Build Kit

For $9,775, the components spec’d on the top-of-the-line 5010 Carbon had better be remarkable. Luckily they are, and this build includes the best of the best in many areas. Those that can afford it will be pleased to know that there’s very little we’d change. Those that can’t will be pleased to know that the other build kits offered by Santa Cruz come at a competitive price and quality.Save the stem, as previously mentioned the only other thing we’d swap out is the rear tire. The 2.3-inch Maxxis Highroller II tires were solid performers in the loose trails of Sedona and occasionally wet trails in Scotland. Loose over hardpack wasn’t the best (when is it?), but once the tires were in soft soil the grip was incredible. Braking traction is phenomenal and there’s great bite when really leaning into turns. If you do replace the rear with something fast rolling, we’d suggest saving the extra High Roller 2 for when the front gets worn.ENVE’s wheels are super light, remarkably stiff, accelerate very quickly, help the bike change direction at a moment’s notice and add to its downhill abilities. Are they worth the additional dollars? For those racing, possibly so. For those out to enjoy everyday trail rides they’re hard to justify. With such little travel and an already stiff, precise, and light frame, the stiffness of the wheels might be overkill on the 5010. Some will appreciate this precise feeling, others may miss the more forgiving ride of aluminum rims. Plus, a little bit of rotating weight could actually help the 5010 in the stability department. It’s already stable as is, but the ease of movement can take a little getting used to.On two occasions the DT Swiss rear hub slipped, but this could likely be remedied by cleaning and carefully re-lubing the ratchet mechanism. This is easy to do.The Shimano XTR disc brakes performed very well all around with zero complaints. There was some disconcerting pad movement in the garage when rocking the bike back and forth, but this didn’t impact the ride on the trail.The RockShox Reverb Stealth seatpost worked without issue and was as smooth as they come. We appreciate that Santa Cruz got the lever position correct and mounted it under the bar.SRAM’s XX1 drivetrain was exceptional, as usual, with no drag and quiet, drop free, dialed performance. It comes with a 34-tooth chainring which may mean some grunts on long, extended, steep climbs even with the added range of the 10 to 42-tooth XX1 cassette.The carbon frame, carbon wheels, clean cable routing, and clutched Type II rear derailleur all helped keep things quiet, and the 5010 was among the quietest bikes we’ve ever tested.

Long Term Durability

We have no concerns regarding durability. The big pivot hardware, oversized shock bolts, and grease ports are smart things for any frame, and especially so for one that’s capable of getting rowdy. Santa Cruz includes a grease gun for easy pivot maintenance.Detailed maintenance tips and videos are available online. The frame is backed with a five year warranty and lifetime pivot/bearing replacement.

What’s The Bottom Line?

The Santa Cruz 5010 Carbon is an everyday rider’s kind of bike good for rough trails, smooth trails, and everything in between. It’s light, strong, stiff, stable, predictable, consistent, and corners like it’s on rails. The carbon construction is amazing and without a doubt improves the quality of the ride. Those seeking a short travel bike with a confidence inspiring feel capable of handling high speeds will be pleased with the 5010. It isn’t vague in the least, and if you’re willing to push it a little the ride is very rewarding. The only improvement we’d like to see is more mid-stroke support and a touch more bottom-out resistance for when things get wild, which they inevitably will do given how encouraging the bike is.Oh, and for the record, we still call it a Solo.For more details visit

Race Face Next SL Crankset


Race Face have been in the Chainring and Crank business for a long time now. In recent years they have really pushed the envelope with Carbon production in Canada. The latest installation is the new Next SL Crank that is manufactured here in BC. The options on this set up are unrivaled.


• Intended use: XC / AM / Enduro
• Hollow carbon arms, aluminum 30mm spindle
• Removable spider
• Sizes: 170, 175mm
• BB options: BB92, 68/73 BSA, PF30, compatible with 190mm and 165/170mm fatbike standards
• Weight: 425g (175mm cranks with 34t direct mount ring)

The weight of these makes them an awesome upgrade to the latest XO1 equipped Santa Cruz Bronson’s as it also allows you to run a ring size lower than 30 if you feel you need it. Coupled with their new direct mount wide-narrow rings and the weight savings is even more. Oh and they come with rubber booties to protect them from strikes off rocks for bikes with lower BB’s.


Part of the crank’s light weight is achieved through the use of hollow carbon fiber arms. These hollow arms attach to an aluminum spindle that is 30mm in diameter, a change from the 24mm titanium spindle found on previous versions. According to Race Face, this change allowed them to achieve the same stiffness and strength of a steel spindle while still being lighter than the titanium version. Race Face also used a new aluminum alloy for the spindle that is claimed to be 20% stronger than the more common 7050 alloy. Compared to other cranksets that have the spindle permanently fixed to one of the crankarms, the Next SL’s spindle can be completely removed, allowing users to swap it out for one with a different width (Race Face has spindles available to fit fat bike BB spacing). Since the Next SL cranks have a 30mm spindle, in order to make them compatible with bikes that use Press Fit 92 bottom brackets a bearing with an outer lip is pressed directly into the frame. Eliminating the retaining cups allowed Race Face to use the same size bearings as are found in a 24mm spindled set up.

Pinkbike’s Take:

bigquotes These babies are expensive, comparable in price to Shimano’s aluminum XTR crankset, but bear in mind that the Next SL cranks are likely the lightest production crankset on the market. Plus, the large number of possible chainring and spindle options should help prevent them from becoming obsolete whenever the next chainring / bottom bracket “standard” arrives. We’d say the Next SL makes the grade, coming in at an incredibly light weight while still being able to handle the full gamut of riding styles, and the fact that they’re made in Canada earns them bonus points as well. – Mike Kazimer

Stop by the store to get a closer look and different options available. For more information on the Next SL check out RaceFace’s website.

2013 Specialized Rime Shoe

I’m a long-time fan of Specialized clipless cycling shoes. I have a large, low-volume foot and they fit me very well. I’ve worn the Specialized S-Works XC mountain bike shoes for years but I’m not a huge fan of how stiff and unforgiving they are, especially when you have to get off the bike and push. I learned this the hard way in the Chilcotins a couple of years ago: the heels slip a hell of a lot and I ended up with major blisters. The lugs are also seriously hard, and tend to be very slippery if you walk on anything harder than loam. Rock slabs are downright treacherous with those kinds of shoes.

Fortunately, someone in the shoe department at Specialized had the same thoughts and decided to crank out a clipless shoe that was adequately stiff for long pedals but were more comfortable, had a sole that was actually designed for hike-a-bikes and had more protection for your foot. They called this new creation the Rime.


The Rime brings together all of the good stuff that I liked about Specialized shoes, namely fit and performance, with some real mountain biking functionality. That includes a Vibram rubber sole with a tread pattern that facilitates off-bike hiking, a relatively stiff midsole for pedalling efficiency without making it impossible to walk (it’s rated 7.0 on some sort of stiffness scale, compared to a 10.0 on the S-Works Evo race shoe) and two Velcro straps plus the S2 Boa lacing system for fit fine-tuning.

Other features include Specialized’s Body Geometry features in the outsole and footbed, ventilated synthetic uppers, welded reinforcement for durability, and rubber bumpers around the toe box and outside of the heel. They’re set up for two-bolt cleats, which means they should work with the major clipless systems out there.

Specialized says they weigh 425g for one size 42 shoe, but that doesn’t really mean shit. In real-world terms, they’re heavier than XC race shoes but considerably lighter than something like a Five Ten shoe. They come in sizes 36 to 50, which is a huge range. I’m a size 14 street shoe and wear a size 48 Rime.

I’ve got a few rides on the Rimes now, and I’ve been really happy with them so far. They’re comfortable out of the box (even with my orthotics), they play nicely with my Shimano XTR pedals, they’re sufficiently stiff for extended descents or long pedals and they’re great for hike-a-bikes, unrideable sections of trail and humping through the bush to take photos. Stay tuned for a full review a couple of months down the road.
Looking for that Happy Medium
Words by Stuart Kernaghan. Photos by Stuart Kernaghan.
Date: 2012-10-15

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Review: Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL4 Di2

In an impressive update to the Tour de France-winning Tarmac line, Specialized has moved away from the uncompromising rigidity of the previous version, the SL3. The new frame maintains the Tarmac line’s traditionally precise handling and drag-racer accelerations—courtesy of a rock-solid bottom bracket and rear end. But after listening to riders on the HTC-Highroad ProTeam, the engineers decided to soften the ride, just a touch. The result is a bike that’s as fast as any we’ve ridden, and lets you feel the road’s surface, but doesn’t overly punish you on rough pavement.

Much of the Tarmac’s compliance is the result of a redesigned head tube; it now has a smaller lower bearing (1 3/8, down from 1 1/2 inches) and a shape cribbed from the popular Roubaix line. The down and top tubes wrap around the head tube, giving it an hourglass shape, which Specialized says better soaks up vertical impacts. Despite this added compliance, the bike retains the SL3’s torsional stiffness.

The rock-solid power transmission that helped drive star sprinter Mark Cavendish to multiple wins proved just as impressive when the pavement turned upward. Aero road bikes might have the advantage in a headwind, but up steep hills, hammering over rough roads, and flying down descents, few bikes are better tuned than the SL4.

In fact, the new bike is better able to resist twisting forces, even as shaving weight was a primary goal. The new frame doesn’t surpass featherweight road racers like the Cannondale SuperSix EVO or Cervelo R5CA (video), but 875 grams for a 56cm frame still qualifies this bike as a climber’s dream machine.

The frame’s geometry was only slightly modified from the SL3: The wheelbase is a few millimeters shorter, depending on frame size, and, distinguishing itself from a trend toward taller head tubes on race bikes, the SL4’s head tube is shorter than the SL3’s, by as much as 20mm on the largest size.

As you’d expect at this price, there isn’t a single compromise on the spec—the S-Works FACT crank even spins on ceramic bearings, and the Shimano Di2 drivetrain shifted smoothly and reliably (a SRAM Red-equipped model drops the bill to $7,700). The Roval Rapide SL 45 aero wheels provided excellent all-around performance, complementing the bike’s overall character. I found the padding on the Body Geometry Romin Pro saddle a little thin for long and casual rides, but it’s probably suitable for more dedicated racers.

PRICE $11,000
WEIGHT 14.88 lb. (58cm)
SIZES 49, 52, 54, 56, 58 (tested), 61cm
FRAME S-Works SL4 FACT 11r, FACT IS construction, carbon OSBB
FORK S-Works FACT carbon, full monocoque, OS race
COMPONENT HIGHLIGHTS Shimano Di2 electronic drivetrain, Dura-Ace cassette (11-25); Specialized S-Works FACT carbon crankset, Roval Rapide SL 45 wheels, S-Works Turbo tires, OS integrated bottom bracket w/ceramic bearings, Body Geometry Romin Pro saddle w/carbon rails

BUY IT IF Your Porsche has a roof rack
FORGET IT IF You prize the cushiest ride and a fat wallet

By Matt Allyn

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