Category Archives: Bike and Components Reviews

Outstanding Trail Bike Upgrades!

I’m still riding, and loving, my 2014 Yeti SB95c.  However, over the years I’ve rode a bunch of demo bikes with different component setups and slowly figured out what works best for an intermediate who rides rocks carefully and doesn’t want a trip to an emergency room.

This post is useful for any trail category bike with a beginner or intermediate rider.  Advanced riders on all mountain bikes have plenty of resources online.  These upgrades had a major positive effect on my riding!  I have a whole new bike!

I’ll never be a strong 24 year old stud again with legs like pistons.  When I was a ski bum for 3 years after high school, 100 days a year on skis, and then 2 years as a power company lineman climbing poles and towers my legs were damn strong.  No MTB back then however.

My Yeti SB95c riding Great Escape Trail, Moab, Utah.

First I’ll update my opinion of the 2017 Fox Factory 34 140mm fork I installed in October, 2016.  I have a previous blog post about this.  Then my rear shock upgrade.  Last I’ll give you the details of my gearing upgrade from the original 2 x 10 to a 1 x 11 that includes the same low gear range as the old setup.  I have a 1 x 11 that can climb!

2017 Fox Factory 34 140mm fork.

I rode this fork for two weeks in Moab and Fruita in late October, 2016 and never crashed!  For me that is amazing.  I didn’t ride much during our very wet Northern California winter but I returned to Hurricane / St. George, Utah, Fruita, and Moab for three weeks in March and April, 2017 and started riding gnar I previously hiked the bike on.  Again, no crashes!  This fork gently lifts me over everything I’ve hit, even a very low speeds such as 6 mph.

For 2017 Fox re-engineered their slow speed bump performance, probably the first fork manufacturer to specifically target intermediate riders with a performance fork.   It made a huge difference in the low speed gnar performance over Rockshox, and probably the others.  Before this the manufacturers were focused on racing and we got the leftovers.  Now we have a product designed for us but it also performs for advanced riders.  Fox has tweaked the low speed bump performance a bit more for 2018 but I haven’t rode one of those yet.

The bike performance is so good that I’m starting to ride very famous gnar such as the infamous Drop-in to Horsethief Bench near Fruita and Flying Monkey in Virgin, UT – and still not crashing!

My riding skills aren’t better – my equipment is.

So I just put the new fox fork on my wife’s SB95c and she is starting to ride stuff she used to walk.  My strong feeling is: Screw Rockshox.  I won’t ride them anymore, and that includes the Pike which sent me over the handlebars on not very big rocks.  They aren’t designed for us slower intermediates.  I had two Rockshox reps, several mechanics, and eventually me adjust the shit out of my Rockshox Revelation.  No adjusting made up for antiquated engineering.

I’m going to restate:  This blog is for intermediates.  I have no opinion for advanced and expert riders.  I can’t and don’t test for their riding styles.  If they think Rockshoxs are great then fine, they were designed for them anyway.

Fox Factory Aircan upgrade.

I asked the Fox factory reps at the Trailhead Dirt Days demo event in 2016 if I should upgrade my Yeti to the new and exciting Fox X2 rear shock.  They recommended the simple Aircan upgrade which costs about $100.  So I upgraded my shock and noticed a softer more plush ride through rock gardens.  The result is a little safety and more control and comfort.  Not a big deal by itself but when combined with my other upgrades it helped to improve my bike’s performance in a major way.

1 x 11 gearing setup for climbing. 28T x 40T.

My new Shimano gearing has a 28T (tooth) in front and a 40T as the largest in the back.  This gives me the same low gear as my old standard 2 x 10 setup.  I’m not a strong climber and the standard 1 x 11’s on demo bikes don’t have that low gear.  That is why I didn’t change over years ago.  This upgrade cost me about $600 but I could keep my XT crank because it was originally for 3 gears up front, although I was running 2 from the beginning.  The middle placement worked for the 1 x 11.  Hey, I got a good deal on it when building up the bike!  Shifter and derailleur are new Shimano XT’s.  They have to also be replaced.

This is a close-up look at my Shimano cassette.

For your reference the above shows all the gears in the cassette and how many teeth they have.  The 37T and 40T are the most important for me.  I need low gears for climbing and these nail both the long grinds and the technical rocky climbs.  Earlier setups didn’t do both well.

My wife’s SB95c with a 1 x 11 setup and an oval chain ring.

After I tested my setup and it worked fantastic in Moab, Hurricane, and Fruita, our favorite rocky trails, I recently setup my wife’s SB95c similar but not the same components.  Not cheap but worth it!  The only changes are that she has a beautiful black Box 46T cassette, a pretty gold 30T oval chainring, and a new crank.  Oval is supposed to help on the climbs. Shifting and derailleur are new Shimano XT’s.  She hasn’t rode it enough yet to have opinions on the gearing.  Total cost for this plus the Aircan was $900 installed.  The Fox Factory 34 140mm fork is $879 retail and hard to find cheaper.  She has noticed a huge improvement with the fork on the gnarly Styles Ranch Trail in south San Jose.  She’s had the fork a few weeks longer than the gears.

Gold oval 30T chainring.

I don’t know the manufacturer of the chainring, it is not on it or the invoice.  She has a Raceface crank but I don’t think it is important for intermediates who makes this stuff as long as they are reputable manufacturers.  Whatever you bike shop supplies should be fine.

46T Box cassette.

The 30T gold oval chainring required a bigger 46T cassette to achieve the same low gearing as my setup.  Gearing gets technical so I rely on my mechanic, Scott at Trailhead Cyclery in San Jose, and the software he uses to figure this out.

So now our bikes ride like the new ones or even better for us.  We see no need to upgrade our trail bikes.  However, yesterday we demoed the Yeti ASRc, a lightweight cross country bike that can handle some gnarly tread, and the Specialized Turbo Levo FSR pedal assist bike with 3 inch tires.  Both would be terrific second bikes for us but my wife fell in love with the Levo 🙂

Meanwhile, we’ll be riding the Santa Cruz Mountains, Henry Coe State Park, and the Sierras this summer.  Back to Utah and Colorado this fall.  See you on the trails!

Rocky Mountain Instinct 990 MSL BC Edition 29er

Rocky Mountain Instinct BC Edition

I rode this fine stead on the Guacamole Trail, Virgin, Utah during the Hurricane MTB Festival in March, 2016.  I don’t demo many bikes on “The Guac” but ride it several times a year and know the trail.  There are some great places to test a bike on this trail with steep rock climbs, descents, rock gardens, and two foot jumps.  The scenery in front of the red cliffs of Zion National Park is stunning.  It is one of our favorite trails anywhere!

Continue reading Rocky Mountain Instinct 990 MSL BC Edition 29er

Niner WFO 9 2016 Trail Bike

I’ve liked Niners for years.  As their name indicates, they only make 29ers.  Their people at the MTB festivals are really nice and helpful and the frame designs are good.  They ride well.  However, they haven’t produced a real trail bike until now, and the WFO 9 is a great ride!

Niner WFO 9
The model I rode had the 150mm Rockshox Pike, alloy metal frame, 1×11 XT setup, and the Reverb infinity dropper.  The head tube angle is 67 degrees, nicely between XC and all mountain.  It weighed in at 29.5 pounds, not bad for alloy and a large frame.

Continue reading Niner WFO 9 2016 Trail Bike

Trek Fuel EX 9.9 29er A Solid Ride

My wife Katya demoed this bike during the 2016 Hurricane Mountain Bike Festival.  She felt it was not as agile as her Yeti SB95c or the Liv, see my blog post about the Liv.  Still, it is a good ride and value and worth considering.  She felt she had good control even though the head tube angle was at the cross-country level.

Trek Fuel EX 9.9

The bike is a 29er with the great roll-over of the big wheels.  Katya tested it on the North Rim Trail on Gooseberry Mesa.  This is mostly intermediate but there are some rock gardens and ledges that can be challenging for intermediates.  Low advanced level in places that requires some agility and courage, especially along the edge of the mesa.  One mistake in places and you drop over 100 feet to a pile of rocks.  Good place to test a bike!

Continue reading Trek Fuel EX 9.9 29er A Solid Ride

2016 Live Intrigue (Giant woman’s bike) Agile

My wife Katya demoed the Liv Intrigue on the South Rim and Hidden Canyon trails on Gooseberry Mesa, Hurricane, Utah during the Hurricane Mountain Bike Festival in March 2016.  Those are upper intermediate to double black diamond trails and a serious test of a bike.

Live Intrigue 2016

Her conclusion, the bike felt light and sporty and she had no problems with the less expensive components compared to XT level components on her Yeti.  Katya is a slower cautious intermediate rider who rides the toughest trails but knows when to walk it.

Continue reading 2016 Live Intrigue (Giant woman’s bike) Agile

Fox Factory 34 2017 Fork! Wow Upgrade!

I’ve rode a Rockshox Revelation RCT3 140mm fork for the past two and a half years since my Yeti was new.  Nice, but I’ve been over the handlebars or crashed more than a few times on what I consider small rocks, maybe 6 – 10 inches high.   After two nasty crashes recently, one that had me limping around Fruita, CO for a few days and unable to ride,  I had enough.

Testing the fork on Moab ledges. North 40 Trail.
Testing the fork on Moab ledges. North 40 Trail.

Fox redesigned their 34 line in 2016 and I was noticing the smoother and more controlled rides over gnar at the Outerbike and Hurricane mountain bike festivals.  After the Fruita incident on the Holy Cross Trail, which I blogged about recently, I was headed to the fall 2016 Outerbike in Moab.

Continue reading Fox Factory 34 2017 Fork! Wow Upgrade!

Yeti SB5+ 2016 demoed near Moab, Utah.

Trying out the 5+ on the Moab Brand Trails, my favorite testing grounds. I didn't ride Deadman's but with fresh legs would love to. Maybe March 2017 Outerbike.
Trying out the 5+ on the Moab Brand Trails, my favorite testing grounds. I didn’t ride Deadman’s but with fresh legs would love to. Maybe March 2017 Outerbike.
I’m impressed! This is probably the first plus tire bike I’ve rode. The wheel and tire diameter is only 1/2″ less than my 29er but the roll-over with the 150mm fork and plus tire is amazing! 
 
It isn’t just tire size that counts. Unlike most plus bikes the 5+ is designed for a plus tire.  Yeti has made small design changes to fit the bike purpose.

Continue reading Yeti SB5+ 2016 demoed near Moab, Utah.