Bike Review: 2016 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Carbon 650B

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After nearly 3 years without a mountain bike, it was finally time to put something together. My previous mountain bike was a hardtail 29er. However, since I ride a small frame, the geometry between the large wheel size and small frame wasn’t exactly what I wanted. This issue helped guide my purchase and I ultimately decided on my first 650B.
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Once I had my wheel size selected, I needed to determine which genre of mountain biking I wanted my new bike to fall into. Previous to this new bike, I had always ridden hardtail cross-country bikes. Without exception. And for no reason other than wanting to experience a new mountain bike sensation, I decided to build up a trail bike. “Trail bikes” take on different meanings to different people. Personally I feel it’s a bike that offers a rider efficient enough climbing while providing comfortable and confidence-inspiring descents.
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With a general idea as to what type of frame I wanted, I decided to go with the 2016 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Carbon 650b frame. A couple of years ago, the Stumpjumer FSR geometry went through somewhat of an overhaul. Now with a spacey top tube, slacker head tube (67 degrees), and a shorter chainstay/wheelbase, the Stumpjumper FSR is snappy and fun to descend on. The frame comes equipped with a custom Fox rear shock with Specialized’s proprietary Autosag system. With Autosag, the shock is inflated to 300 psi through the black valve. Then, with the rider sitting on the bike, air is released from the red valve until air no longer escapes the valve. This procedure automatically sets the sag. After setting my Autosag a couple of different times between six rides, I use about 90% of my rear travel on average.FUSE-SJ-7
The shock also comes with Kashima Coating. In essence, Kashima Coating provides better lubrication and reduces wear on the shock. For a more detailed explanation of Kashima Coating, click here.
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To match the rear shock, I chose the 2017 (yes we are heading into the future) Fox 34 150mm Fork.
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The choice came down to the Fox 34 and the RockShox Pike. And since I’ve never owned a Fox Fork in the past (always RockShox), I decided to give it a go.
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The fork has performed very well so far. The basics are as follows: Air chamber, rebound adjustment, and compression platform adjustment. I followed Fox’s recommended air settings for my weight and it felt fine during the six rides I’ve been on. The rebound, which is the rate in which the suspension releases energy after compression, is set somewhere near the middle. And as far as the compression goes, there are a handful of different settings to play with. The blue 3-posistion lever seen in the picture above has three settings: Open, Medium, and Firm. The Firm setting is not a complete lockout. However, it’s a great compression mode for climbing. I haven’t played with the Medium setting yet. The medium setting is recommended for undulating terrain. When in Open mode, the black dial gives the rider even more options. With 22 micro compression adjustments, the Open Mode Adjust is sure to give the rider whichever specific compression they desire. If after all of these adjustments the rider still doesn’t have the exact tuning they seek, there are always Cip-On Volume Spacers. The spacers rest internally on the air (left) side of the fork. If the sag is properly set, and the rider is still bottoming out the suspension, spacers can be added. And vice versa, if the sag is properly set and the rider isn’t using nearly all of their suspension, spacers can be removed. I found a really cool Youtube channel that explains this process clearly, click here to view the video.
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I had originally planned on using Sram’s new Eagle 1×12 drivetrain. However, patience is a virtue that I do not possess. I decided to run Shimano’s 1×11 XT drivetrain. I’m a big fan of Shimano products and this drivetrain is no exception. The cassette is an 11 speed with a 11-42 range. Combined with a Wolf Tooth 28 tooth chainring up front, there is plenty of low end climbing gear on this bike. I have noticed a couple of times that I can easily run out of high end gear with this drivetrain. However, that is a much smaller concern in my eyes than my climbing gear so I’ll stick with this setup for now.
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I decided to go with Shimano XT brakes. As far as hydraulic systems go, these have the most natural feel in my opinion. Maintenance is about as friendly as I have found with a hydraulic system. A lot of that has to do with the fact the Shimano brakes use mineral oil.
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I went with Race Face Next carbon handlebars as well as a Race Face Next SL G4 crankset. Both components are lightweight and aesthetically pleasing.
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My only complaint is the name “Next.” It reminds me too much of the Next department store bike. It makes me wonder when Race Face will release their new handlebar series, the Huffy.
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This is the first time I’ve ever used a dropper post. Overall I like it a lot. I do find, however, that dropping the post all the way down bothers me. The terrain I ride changes constantly and I find it to be a hassle going from bottomed out to fully extended. I seem to drop it halfway for descents more often than not. It allows me to pedal out of situations if I miss my opportunity to extend the dropper back to climbing position.
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There are a couple of components that I am going to divide up into separate posts. One is my wheelset: Hope Pro 4 hubs with DT Swiss M 442 rims. I’ll also go into a detailed post about a tubeless setup.
I hope you enjoyed this post. If you have any questions/comments, feel free to post them below 🙂

 

Bike Review: 2016 Specialized Fuse Pro 6Fattie

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Some of you may remember my buddy Ben from my Surly Straggler post found here. Well he is back! This time with his 2016 Specialized Fuse Pro 6Fattie.
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6Fattie, 27.5+, Mid-Fat, whatever you choose to call them, 650×3.0 tires have made their mark on on the industry in 2016.
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The most common question asked by riders who are inquiring about +size tires is “why?” There is no doubt that the cycling industry releases its share of gimmicks. However, +size tires are not one of them. Whether you are a seasoned veteran, or a beginner to mountain biking, you can definitely benefit from +size tires.
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The most obvious advantage is contact point. On average, +size tires adds a 69% larger contact point than tires in the 2.1 range. The larger contact point equals greater traction, greater stability, and increased rider confidence.
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Ben has quickly become an advocate for his Fuse Pro. Understandably so. And, having now ridden a Specialized Stumpjumper FSR 6fattie myself, I must say I agree. At the beginning of my first descent, I was weary of the tire’s riding characteristics. I approached my first corner very conservatively. The next corner a little less conservatively. Finally, I was bombing into each corner as hard as I could. At no point did I lose control with the 6fattie tires. I noticed my confidence quickly growing with the +size tires.
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To the seasoned veteran, try them. You will find yourself pushing your previously gained skills into unchartered levels.
To the beginner rider, try them. You will feel more confident with a +size tire than you will on a traditional 2.1-2.3 tire.
*Keep in mind that +size bikes are currently priced high. The Fuse series begins with the Fuse Comp at $1,600 and climbs up to the Fuse Pro at $3,100. There really isn’t a whole lot of down size to running +size tires. So I predict that within a couple of years the price of Specialized 6fatties will be in the $600-$1,000 range.
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The Fuse Pro itself is spec’d very well. All bikes in the Fuse series comes with Specialized’s M4 Premium Aluminum Frame and a 1x drivetrain. The Fuse Pro, unlike the Fuse Expert and Fuse Comp, is stocked with a 1×11 drivetrain opposed to a 1×10 drivetrain. With the 11 speed cassette, you get a 42 tooth climbing gear and a 10 tooth high gear. In comparison, the 1×10 offers a 40 tooth climbing gear and an 11 tooth high gear.
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The Fuse Pro is also the only model in the series that is stocked with a carbon crankset.
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Unless you’re riding a small frame, which comes with 100mm of travel in the fork, the Fuse Pro is stocked with 120mm. Combined with the pneumatic suspension in the tires as a result from their large profile, you should have no issue at all riding this hardtail. The fork itself is the Rock Shox Reba RC3, a lightweight and fully adjustable fork that handles the trail with precise riding characteristics.
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Only Fuse Pro is stocked with the Specialized Command Post, a cable-actuated dropper post with ten internal positions. Specialized claims that this new dropper post eliminates saddle wiggle, unfortunately that claim has not been met in my eyes 😦
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Another nice feature that is exclusive to the Pro level, and an easy after purchase add-on to any other model, is the SWAT (Storage Water Air Tool) bottle cage and stem cap chain tool. Specialized seems committed to keeping weight off your back and creatively dispersing throughout their bikes. I would look for other companies to fall in line with this idea as it is proving to be highly effective and favorable by those who are using the system.
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If you’re skeptical about whether or not you will like +size tires, I suggest finding a shop that will let you demo a bike off-road. It may be difficult to get the full effect of a +size tire on pavement. Or take my word for it. I’m confident in saying that the vast majority of mountain bikers out there will love the benefits of +size tires.
*Take your research further by checking out Bike Radar’s video comparing 6Fattie tires against 29″ tires by clicking here.

Proflex Elastomer Shock Replacement

Ah the 1990’s. What  a wonderful decade. For me, it was about getting my braces off and gluing myself in front of the television religiously in order to enjoy an entertainment-packed evening of TGIF. For the cycling industry, however, it was a decade of testing new waters with disc brakes and production frames made of materials other than steel. There were some good designs as well as some bad. Okay, maybe a lot of bad. In regards to full suspension mountain bikes, companies nowadays are standing on the shoulders of giants, giants who left modern day mechanics angrily wrenching on faulty equipment. One giant in particular was named Proflex.
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Proflex bicycles are notorious for their always-failing elastomer rear shock. To remedy this problem, for those who cannot let go of these bikes, people have become very clever at home in order to keep the pulse of this dying bike beating.
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From tennis balls to bicycle tubes, people are willing to try anything to save money while, at the same time, putting their lives in serious danger. There are even a handful of companies offering products that look prettier than a deflated bicycle tube wrapped around the rear shock, but serve roughly the same purpose. Luckily, after much trial and error, I can say with confidence that there is an aftermarket replacement kit that you shouldn’t fear using.
NuLifeCycles offers an actual coil that replaces the elastomer.
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The coil can be ordered at nulifecycles.com or by phone at 303-330-2737.

The install took about 15 minutes and could easily be done by the seasoned at-home-mechanic. For those of you that aren’t comfortable pulling apart your suspension, take your bike down to your LBS and have them do it.

I really hope you enjoyed this article. If you have any questions/comments, please feel free to contact me 🙂

justinchiazza@gmail.com

Trek Remedy 9 27.5

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This is hands down the coolest mountain bike I’ve seen in some time.  My coworker Sean built this up and has an endless amount of positive things to say about his new 2015 Trek Remedy 9 27.5.
Let’s tackle the wheel size debate right off the bat. Yes 29″ tires, over the course of a full ride, are the fastest tires you can ride. And yes, 27.5 are a better option for riders who like to catch air and throw their bikes around on the trail. Both 29″ and 27.5″ wheels are available in the Remedy line so put off the debate and pick whatever one you like. Sorry 26″ fans, your time has come and gone :,(
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So what sets the Remedy apart from other bikes? To put it simply, versatility. The Remedy has 140mm of travel front and rear but still offers efficient climbing. Through Trek’s proprietary DRCV(Dual Rate Control Valve) and Re:aktiv damping system, the Remedy smashes along with active suspension that automatically adjusts to whatever terrain you are riding. Imagine having two shocks in one; one shock is there to soak up big hits and still keep your tire on the ground, and the other is right there waiting for you to ride along long stretches of small bump rock gardens. This is what DRCV achieves while Re:aktiv allows you to continually pedal through everything.
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The drivetrain that comes stock on the Remedy 9 is 1×11. If you have a presuppositional denial towards the idea of a 1×11 drivetrain, get over it. They shift great and offer plenty of low end climbing gears. This particular 1×11 found on the Remedy 9 comes with a 32 tooth front chainring and a 10-42 cassette. Not low enough? Switch out the front ring to something lower and you’re back on the climb. Also, I highly encourage you to ask your local shop if they have a 10-42 cassette in a box that you can hold in your hand. You would be surprised at how incredibly lightweight the integrated one-piece cassette actually is.
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Bottom line.
If you’re main concern is climbing, you should probably be looking for a full suspension bike that comes with 100mm of travel. However, if you’re in the market for a machine that can take anything you want to throw at it, then you should really consider test riding a Trek Remedy.

I really hope you enjoyed this article. If you have any comments please contact me.
justinchiazza@gmail.com