5 Predictions For The 2015 Tour de France

Champs Elysees (via Peloton Photos)

Champs Elysees (via Thomas van Bracht | http://pelotonphotos.com/)

We’re pretty excited to see the Tour de France ready to kick off tomorrow, July 4th. With the sport’s biggest names getting ready to face off against each other in the biggest race of the year, it should be one of the most exciting races in years. Here are some of our predictions for how things will unfold.

Have your own ideas about how things will go? Let us know in the comments section.

Learn more about the Tour de France

1. The Cobbles Won’t Be As Decisive

Last year’s reintroduction of the cobbles into the Tour on stage 5 produced some of the most epic racing we’ve been treated to in recent memory. The conditions were perfect (horrific) and the racing was amazing, and quickly revealed who brought the grinta to the race, and who forgot theirs at home. Lars Boom rode an amazing stage for the win, but it was Vincenzo Nibali who put on a cobble gobbling clinic for the other GC riders (those that managed to survive), and solidified his strangle hold on the race before a mountain top was even sighted.

Cobbled sector under repair (via https://twitter.com/letour/)

But this year, the teams all know what to expect and have planned accordingly, stacking their teams with classics riders to shepherd their GC contenders through those tough first couple of days. While someone like Boom or Stybar will probably get away for a solo win again, it’s doubtful that we’ll see another breakaway feat like Nibali’s being allowed to go free again.

Learn more about the 2015 Tour de France stages

2. The Big Four Will Be Reduced To the Big Two

The press has really been hyping up the coming battle between Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali, Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana– what will hopefully be the ultimate showdown between the sport’s best riders. Or not. Chris Froome, we love you (and your cat)– but bike handling skills and toughness aren’t your forte, and you’ll need plenty of both in the opening days of the Gran Boucle.

Chris Froome and his cat (via https://twitter.com/chrisfroome)

With rainy weather in the forecast, plus the cobbles and tight, twisty, narrow roads of Holland on the docket, it’s almost assured that the Kenyan climber will hit the deck at least once. The only question is how badly. Our bet is that two of the big GC guys—possibly even Froome and Contador again— will crash out in the first week, as well as a few other second tier favorites. Nibali showed last year that he can not only survive but thrive in bad weather and bad roads, and Nairo Quintana headed to Flanders this spring to put in some time on the rocks and he actually didn’t do too badly. Our best is that it will be those two who are left standing at the end of the first week

3. Kristoff Will Cement His Sprinter’s Status

This year’s sprint field looks almost as exciting as the GC field. With an on-form Cavendish and Mr. Green Jersey Sagan lining up against up-and-coming favorites like John Degenkolb and Alexander Kristoff, it’ll be a tightly contested match. However, Sagan has not exactly been his usual magical self this year, and seems to have been struggling to find his place on the new Tinkoff Team, and may suffer from a lack of support since the team’s priority is putting Contador in yellow, not Sagan in green. Cav is looking good this year, but his form usually only lasts so long as things are going perfectly and he has the confidence to know he can win.

Kristoff in winning form (via https://twitter.com/katushacycling)

Kristoff on the other hand just can’t seem to stop winning. Since the season’s opening days, he has won nearly every race he has entered, including a few with head to head sprints against Cav and Sagan. He has the racing acumen to make good decisions, the experience to stay upright when things get hairy, and the raw speed to match the other favorites. Plus, with trusted lieutenant and pilot fish Luca Paolini by his side, they will make a formidable match.

4. The French Will Do Very Well

But they just won’t be on the top step of the podium. Many Next Great French Hopes have come and gone since the days of Bernard Hinault, but Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet have certainly been the most promising in a great long while. Last year saw veteran Jean Christophe Peraud and Thibaut Pinot on the second and third steps of the podium, and it’s not unreasonable to think we could see Pinot and Bardet either on the podium, or taking the Climbers jersey and best young rider jerseys. But honestly, it’s doubtful that they have the chops to really hang with the likes of Quintana, Contador, Froome, or Nibali once the race heads into the mountains.

5. Quintana Will Take It All

And by all, we mean literally everything. He’s still young, so he’s eligible for the white jersey—which he has already won. He’s a pure climber, so he’s a solid bet for the polka dot jersey—which he’s also already won. And since the race will almost assuredly be decided in the mountains, where he rides best, he’s a good bet for the yellow jersey too—which is just about the only one missing from his collection.

Nairo in action (via https://twitter.com/Movistar_Team)

Quintana looks to be in good form coming into only his second Tour de France, and if his first outings at the Tour and the Giro are anything to go by, we’ll probably be seeing the little Columbian stoically spinning his way up the mountains while maintaining a completely neutral facial expression on his way to victory. If he manages to take all three jerseys, it’ll be the first time in we’re not exactly sure how long, if ever, a rider has managed to do it. But if anyone can, it would be Nairo.

Tell us in the comments, what are your predictions for the race?

2015 New Bike Preview: Van Dessel

Edwin, the man behind Van Dessel, is probably one of our favorite people when it comes to bikes.

  1. He’s a real life Belgian, which gives him an automatic street cred.
  2. He’s really fast on a bike. Like, top 10 in the National Racing Calendar Criterium series fast.
  3. He’s a really nice guy who really loves bikes.
Edwin and his new bikes. And the Van Dessel Mobile.

Edwin and his new bikes. And the Van Dessel Mobile.

So when he rolled up in the Van Dessel Mobile a few months ago to go for a ride and show us his latest wares, we were pretty excited. After going for a fast lunch ride where he rode a 1×11 ‘cross bike with 38mm tires and still almost dropped us on a hill, Edwin took a minute to show us his new 2015 bikes. We also got a peek inside the Van Dessel Mobile, and we’re already scheming about how we can get one of our own.

Make way for the Belgian Pain Train... from New Jersey.

Make way for the Belgian Pain Train… from New Jersey.

You might have already seen some of these featured in Bicycling Magazine, Bike Radar, and Road Magazine, but let us walk you through his new line up. Edwin definitely has his finger on the pulse of what’s happening with bikes right now, and designed each bike to have plenty of options, and to be pretty much future proof. With so many cool build options available, we decided to carry them as framesets, so you can turn any one of these into your own dream bike.

The inside of the Van Dessel Mobile. We're already scheming about how we can get one of these...or at least some of the bikes

The inside of the Van Dessel Mobile. We’re already scheming about how we can get one of these…or at least some of the bikes

The Motivus Maximus

While the Van Dessel Gin and Trombones CX bike may be grabbing all the headlines (more on that soon), we actually think Van Dessel’s new Motivus Maximus road bike is the more interesting bike from a design and compatibility standpoint. If you keep up with cycling news, you probably already know that road bikes are in transition, between mechanical and electronic shifting, and rim and disc brakes. While everything is in flux wouldn’t it make sense to have a bike that is pretty much future proof? Edwin certainly thought so, which is why he designed the Motivus Maximus to be exactly that. The Motivus Maximus is available in two options, disc brake or caliper brake. But here’s the secret: the only difference is the fork. The frame has both a caliper brake mount on the brake bridge, and a carefully concealed and integrated flat mount disc mount on the rear triangle. Both frames also come with modular rear drop outs, so you can change between 130mm QR, 135mm disc brake QR, and 12x142mm thru axle if you want. That means that even if you buy the caliper version, if you upgrade to discs at some point in the near  future, all you need to do is find yourself a disc-brake ready fork, and you’re set to go. And of course, the Motivus Maximus is both Di2 and mechanical shifting compatible, and can clear up to a 28mm tire no problem.

The Hellafaster

AKA the Crit Killer. Our office has seen a resurgence in interest in aluminum road bikes this past year, with several employees supplementing their carbon stables by building up alloy bikes for winter training and criterium racing. So when the made in the U.S.A. Van Dessel Hellafaster came along, there were plenty of raised eyebrows. The Hellafaster is made by Zen Fabrication in Portland, OR and has an unbelievable level of finishing detail. The welds are super smooth, the fit of the PF30 is incredibly precise, and the whole frame just looks nice and clean. Plus, with its 27.2mm seatpost and super-thin seatstays, the Hellafaster is a lot more comfortable and forgiving than some of the older, stiffness-at-all-costs alloy frames we’ve been using. And oh yeah, it’s both Di2 and mechanical compatible, and can clear up to a 28mm tire with clip on fenders. We’ll probably be seeing a few of these around the office pretty soon.

 

The Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

What exactly is this? Well….that’s kind of up to you. The Van Dessel Whiskey Tango Foxtrot can be built with 700c wheels or 29er’s. It can be built with drop bars and flat bars. You can mount racks and fenders on it. Take it touring, out on the trail, race monster cross with it. Whatever you want. The only thing you can’t do is use rim brakes, because this thing is disc brake only. When most of us first saw this, we all pretty much said “interesting…but what would you use it for?” Then the proverbial wheels started turning, and we realized the answer was: everything. A few weeks ago we saw our first employee Whiskey Tango Foxtrot build, a drop bar bike with Shimano Ultegra 6800 drivetrain, Shimano R685 hydraulic disc STI levers, and 700×38 tires. It was pretty awesome, and we’re sure it won’t be the last one to pass through the shop.

The Jersey Devil

Rounding out the new models from Van Dessel is the Jersey Devil. It’s a tough as nails hardtail 29er mountain bike that looks as mysterious as the creature of the Pine Barrens it was named after. We haven’t gotten to see one built yet, but word around the campfire is that it’s kind of the Goldilocks of XC bikes. It’s carbon, so it’s super lightweight and stiff, but since it also has to cope with the rocky, root-snaked, craggy trails we have here on the East Coast, the Jersey Devil is also super tough, and can take a licking and keep on ticking. Plus, with its stealthy matte black and green paint job, silver metallic logos, and aggressive geometry, it looks about as fast as it rides.

Simple and Fun Bikes

Getting on a bike and riding is easy, to be sure, but riding a bike over great distances or for maximum performance can be a real challenge. Whether you’re participating in an important charity ride, or if you are planning on a full season of road racing, you need to set goals, plan your training around those goals, and stay on track to accomplish them. If this is your game, there are lots of great choices to help meet your needs, like the Fuji Transonic road bike or the GT Helion full suspension all-mountain rig.

However, in your quest to improve your performance, it’s easy to lose sight of the reasons why you wanted to ride your bike in the first place. This is fun, remember? Take a day or two and put down the Garmin, stop posting pictures on Instagram, and ride simply for the love of it. Coast your bike. Coast a lot. Now, try taking your hands of the handlebar; that feels good, right?

One of the many wonderful things about the age of bike specialization is that every bike is designed to meet a certain need. We’ve handpicked a few of our favorite bikes that are designed to deliver as much fun and good feelings as you can handle on a Saturday afternoon.

Access Chinook Charlie and Bravo Fat Bikes               

These are our bikes for us. No really. One of the great things about riding bikes all the time and working around them is that we also get to design them. The Access Chinook Charlie and Bravo Fat Bikes have a Shaquille O’Neal sized tire footprint with the strength to match. They’re built with high quality parts, but more importantly, they’re built to float over sand and snow like no other style of bike can

     

    

Shop All Fat Bikes

Diamondback Apex Mountain Bikes

No mountain bike is as simple to use or as versatile as a hardtail (no rear suspension), but not all hardtails are equal. We love the Diamondback Apex series because they stay true to the heritage of hardtails while adding a modern spin: the Apex matches frame sizes with wheel sizes. That means the frame sizes that are Extra Small and Small have 27.5” wheels and sizes Medium, Large and Extra Large have 29” wheels. The result is a bike that fits your body more appropriately  and more fun because of it. That’s why these bikes are aptly named Right Fit bikes.

Want to learn more about wheel sizes and the difference they make? Learn about 27.5” here. Learn about 29ers here.

Fuji Absolute Flat Bar Bikes

The Fuji Absolute is a flat bar road bike that is among the most popular sold in the U.S. Thanks to its non-aggressive, easy riding style, it’s pretty much the perfect bike for cyclists who would rather see the sights and enjoy the ride in their everyday clothing than get all dressed up in lycra for a road ride. The Absolute is ideal for just about everything on a road; especially having fun.

The Absolute series of bikes all feature a durable and lightweight frame, with either a carbon fiber or a high tensile steel fork that helps absorb road noise and chatter, while increasing comfort. The flat bar setup gives the rider a more upright position for greater comfort and improved stability and visibility.

Even the shortest ride can have an incident. Be prepared with these 11 must-have emergency items.

GT Transeo Hybrid Bikes

Some of us just need an excuse to leave our cars in the garage and enjoy the simple pleasure of feeling the sun and the wind against our faces more often. Sound good? It did to us and GT supplied the means to unlock all of those stress-free feelings with the GT Transeo hybrid bike series. With plenty of comfortable standover height, front suspension, and easy to use shifting, the GT Transeo bikes are loaded with comfortable features to make every neighborhood or park ride enjoyable.

 

Even new bikes make some strange noises. Curious about what’s going on down there? Check out our article What’s that Noise? to learn more.

Schwinn Beach Cruisers

The Schwinn brand is over 100 years old, making it one of the oldest bike brands in existence. Today, they continue to churn out great bikes, but their beach cruisers have always held a soft spot in our hearts. With great colors and unique styling, there’s sure to be a Schwinn cruiser that matches your personal tastes.

 

Not sure which bike is right for you? Check out our 10 FAQ on how to pick the best bike for your needs here.

These are just a few of our favorites, but if we talked about them all, we wouldn’t have time to go for a ride ourselves (it’s almost lunch time and the bikes are calling us). Do you have any personal bike favorites? We’d love to hear which bikes put a smile on your face in the comments section below.

CX ’15: How To Set Up Your Cyclocross Bike

durham_cross_230

One of the best ways to be fast, on any bike, is to be comfortable. When you’re comfortable on the bike you can pedal more efficiently and spend more time focusing on performance and less time squirming on the saddle or constantly changing hand position.

Setting up your cyclocross bike is pretty straight forward, but still a little bit different approach from your road bike.

 Handlebar Height

Most riders prefer to have their cyclocross bikes set up with the handlebars a little taller than on their road bikes. Being low and aerodynamic is less important in ‘cross because of the slower speeds.

Using stems of different lengths and drop angles allows you to customize the fit of your bike

Notice how the CX bike on top is set up with a taller stack and shorter reach than these road bikes, for more comfort and easier handling

 Bar Tape

Using thicker bar tape than on your road bike can help eliminate a lot of the jolts and jars that happen when riding your bike off-road.

Beefier bar tape can make riding off-road more comfortable

Beefier bar tape can make riding off-road more comfortable


Saddle Position

To avoid back pain and limit the jarring impact of the remount, it can be helpful to have your saddle further forward than on your road bike. This will limit the amount of work your hamstrings have to do while slogging through the mud, and help limit back pain.

Wheels

No matter what braking system you use (cantilever or disc), choosing the right wheels is super important. One secret of many successful CX racers is using a deeper dish wheel. It doesn’t necessarily have to be carbon, but looking for a wheel with a more aero profile will help keep mud from glomming on to the rim.

Wheels a one of the best upgrades you can make to any CX bike

Wheels a one of the best upgrades you can make to any CX bike


 Tires

Choose the right tires for the course conditions and your area. If it’s going to be hard and dry, you might be able to get away with a more minimal tread, but if it’s going to be muddy, go for something with plenty of knobs. If you run tubulars, make sure you pick a good intermediate, all-around tire.

Picking the right tire can make all the difference on race day

Picking the right tire can make all the difference on race day

 Chainrings

(this link goes to an MTB article…but it works for your ‘cross bike too)

One or two? The choice is up to you. Two chainrings give you more gearing options to suit different conditions, but running a single chainring eliminates weight and limits the number of possible mechanical failurs. But before making a decision, you may want to check out an online gear calculator and play around with different combinations to find the right one.

And remember, if you’re running a single chainring up front, you either need a single-ring specific chainring, which will have specially designed teeth, or a chain keeper.

One or two chainrings? It's up to you.

One or two chainrings? It’s up to you.


Gearing Options

We definitely recommend running an 11-28T cassette. Combined with a traditional 46/36 CX chainring combo or a 40T or 42T single ring should give you all the gearing options you need.

Getting the right gearing in the rear can make all the difference

Getting the right gearing in the rear can be one of your biggest decisions


Saddle

A lot of CX bikes come with road saddles, but this might not be the most comfortable for you. There’s nothing wrong with running a mountain bike saddle on your ‘cross bike for more comfort and padding.

Picking the right saddle can have a big impact on your race

Picking the right saddle can help prevent everything from saddle sores to lower back pain

CX ’15: Choosing the Right Cyclocross Tire

 

durham_cross_076

There’s a lot of reasons to invest in a cyclocross bike— not only are they excellent for actually riding ‘cross, but they make great adventure bikes, gravel grinders, commuters, and road bikes too. Whether you’re using your bike to chase down some adventure or the front of the pack, picking the right tire will go a long way towards enhancing your ride. Since cyclocross bikes can be used for everything from road riding to racing on conditions from asphalt to mud pits, you need to choose a cyclocross tire based on the terrain and weather conditions where you live, and your own personal riding style and goals.

The two biggest things to keep in mind when shopping for a new set of cyclocross tires are tread pattern and tire width.

 

 Shop for cyclocross tires on Performancebike.com

 

Tread Patterns

Tread patterns are the next most important factor in picking a tire. Not all tread patterns are good for all conditions, but there are some really good all-around ones out there. It’s important to consider your local conditions when looking for new tires.

The tread pattern on the Clement MXP is a good, versatile, all around one that should perform well in most conditions

Knobs

These are the main “treads” of the tire. Some are very aggressive with high knobs and hard edges, others are lower and more rounded. Generally, the more aggressive the tread, the more it hooks into the ground—but at the cost of speed. The lower the tread, the faster, but the less traction you’ll get.

Shoulders

These are the side treads of the tire, and they help with cornering. A good cross tire should have plenty of sharp knobs on the outside edges to help bite into the ground and keep you from sliding out.

Pattern

Generally speaking, chevron-shaped tread patterns offer lower rolling resistance so you can ride faster, but don’t have quite as much traction and can easily pack in with mud. Blockier tread patterns improve traction and easily shed mud, but have a higher rolling resistance.

Slicks

Yes, they do make CX slicks. If you’re somewhere with fairly hard, dry soil or on the road you can probably get away with these, but we would highly advise keeping a set of knobbys on hand as well.

 

 Shop for cyclocross tires on Performancebike.com

 

Width

Width is a really important part of picking the right cyclocross tire. Generally, the wider the tire, the wider the contact patch and the better the traction. However, if you’re racing in a UCI-sanctioned event, or even some local events, your tire width might be limited to 32mm. Another limiting factor is frame and fork tolerance, but most cyclocross bikes can easily handle up to a 38mm tire without any problems.

 

Performance Rides the Zolder Circuit

On our trip to Belgium we got to do a lot of cool stuff. Touring the Ridley factory was really interesting, and riding the Ronde van Vlaanderen Sportif was awe-inspiring. But the most fun we had on the trip was the hammering the pace line at Circuit Zolder. This legendary F1 track is normally used to car racing, but a few nights a week it opens up for cyclists for a mere 3 Euro entry fee.

So what made it so fun? One word: Speed.

zolder_finish

Crossing the finish line at Zolder

Imagine having a wide open, immaculately paved road, free from cars and without any speed restrictions. The track was teeming with groups riding at different levels and different speeds. You just jump on with a group that feels good to you, give a friendly nod to the people around you, and hold on for dear life. Our home offices have plenty of Cat 1 and 2 road riders who can put some hurt on, but the level many of the Belgians ride at was beyond compare.

zolder_corner

You had to fight to hold your line in the S-bends!

At Zolder we saw cyclists of all stripes. From middle aged folks just out to ride some laps on flat bar road bikes, to pro’s from United Healthcare and Liv Pro Cycling putting in some speed work, to juniors learning how to ride in a group. We saw carbon super bikes, TT speed machines, older steel Pinarello’s and De Rosa’s hung with vintage Campagnolo, and more Ridley‘s than you could shake a stick at (seriously, it seemed like every third rider was on a Ridley).

zolder_hill

Don’t lose the pace heading up the hill on the backstretch!

It was fast, it was exhausting, and we still fantasize about going back. And lest you think you have to go all the way to Belgium to get to experience something like this, take heart. There are plenty of places like this around the world. Here in America, you can check out the Mazda Speedway in Laguna, CA; Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX; and Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal, Canada.

 

Check out our galleries below to see more.

 

Heading In

Make Way For The Pain Train…

Young Guns

Calling It A Day

Shop for Ridley Bikes

 

See more about our trip to Belgium Here

 

Wordless Wednesday

Eddy Merckx impersonator at the Tour of Flanders

5 Easy Spring Upgrades

When we think of upgrades, we often think of parts for our bicycles. But this doesn’t always have to be the case. You can get a significant performance advantage by updating some of your older, worn out gear without dropping a bunch of coin.

Here’s our suggestion for 5 easy upgrades that can help you go faster, be more comfortable, and be safer. And the best news is that there’s plenty of options to fit any budget.

1. Helmet

Did you know that most cycling helmets should be replaced after 5 years, regardless of whether or not you’ve been in a crash? If you’ve been in a crash that involved a head impact, replace your helmet immediately, even if it looks fine. Fortunately for you, helmet technology has come a long way. Helmets now are lighter, breezier, and more aerodynamic than ever.

New helmets have more vents, are lighter and more aerodynamic than older models

2. Shorts

After about 50-100 washings, most cycling shorts are about ready to call it quits. The chamois pads become compressed with repeated use and cease to provide enough support and cushioning, and the lycra will wear out and become more transparent (which might be why nobody wants to ride behind you). If it’s been a while, you might be surprised by how comfortable a fresh pair of shorts feels.

Give the guys behind you a break, and get some new shorts. Our newly redesigned Ultra shorts are engineered for speed and comfort

3. Sunglasses

We used to think that sunglasses were simply sunglasses…until we got to try out some of the new ones available. Today’s glasses have features like photochromic lenses that change tint in the sunlight, hydrophilic construction so the glasses won’t slide down your face when you sweat, and lighter, tougher frames.

Newer sunglasses, like these Scattante Mestre shades, are packed with features to help better protect your eyes and enjoy the ride

4. Water Bottles

Hopefully you took our advice and gave your old ones a thorough cleaning, but sometimes it’s just nice to have a new set–especially if your old ones are leaky. New water bottles can be a fun way to add some color to a ride, or replace those old leaking bottles you’ve had forever.

New water bottles that don’t leak, like this insulated one from Camelbak, won’t get sticky hydration drink all over your frame

5. Socks

Ok…this one isn’t so much of an upgrade, we just love cycling socks. New socks are a good way to express yourself in a sea of lycra. Whether you go super serious with some all black tall socks, or let out the wild side with a bright pattern, new socks can make even pasty winter legs look good again in the spring.

Land of Enchantment indeed. Socks are an great way to spruce up those pale winter legs

Up Close With The Pro’s: Diamondback and Optum Pro Cycling

Optum Pro Cycling Training Camp, Feb. 2014

If you haven’t heard yet, one of America’s top pro teams has recently made the switch to Diamondback bikes for this upcoming season. The Optum Pro Cycling Presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies men’s and women’s team will be riding Diamondback’s amazing, and much lauded, Podium series bikes during the 2014 season. You’ll be able to spot these bikes everywhere from the Tour of California to the U.S. Pro Challenge.

Diamondback visited the Optum men's and women's team training camps in California

Diamondback visited the Optum men’s and women’s team training camps in California

To get a more in-depth look at what’s going on with the team, Diamondback took a trip to their training camp in Oxnard California.

Check out some photos here.

U.S. Women's National Champion Jade Wilcoxson was riding well at training camp

U.S. Women’s National Champion Jade Wilcoxson was riding well at training camp

While there, they caught up with U.S. Women’s National Champion Jade Wilcoxson and got to ask her a few questions.

Click here to read the article.

The team mechanics have their work cut out for them to prepare all of the team bikes for the season

The team mechanics have their work cut out for them preparing the team bikes for the season

They also took an opportunity to visit with the team mechanics and get the scoop on the new Diamondback bikes.

Click here to see what they had to say.

Meatball doesn't like being called Meatball. Can you think of a better nickname?

Can you think of a new nickname for this guy? Also, those socks are amazing.

And, of course, they got up close and personal with the delightful Mike “Meatball” Friedman. Apparently, he doesn’t like the nickname “Meatball” though.

So it’s time for a contest: Suggest a new nickname for Mike, and we’ll select the best one to receive a $50 gift card – just post your suggestion in a comment below by the end of the day on Friday 3/7/14.

To read the interview with Mike, click here.

The Diamondback Podium Optum Team Bike is now available from Performance Bicycle

And, of course, you can check out the whole line of Diamondback road bikes, including the new Optum Pro Team edition Diamondback Podium, at Performancebike.com.

Ridden and Reviewed: Fuji SLM 29er 1.1 Carbon Hardtail Mountain Bike

Race-ready with the Fuji SLM

Our coworker Eddie getting ready to race with the Fuji SLM

We first had an opportunity to throw a leg over the Fuji SLM 29er 1.1 at the Outdoor Dirt Demo. It was hot off the presses at the time and was something like the 48th bike claiming to be “The Ultimate Bike Ever Made” that we’d seen that day. By this point in the afternoon though, we needed to see some proof in the pudding. You can’t imagine our surprise when after a couple of laps the Fuji SLM 29er 1.1 turned out to be our favorite bike of the day.

IMG_5922

About The Bike:

The Fuji SLM 29er 1.1 is a 29″ carbon fiber hardtail bike that’s tailor made for the XC and racing markets. Reading over the Fuji SLM 29er 1.1 parts spec, there’s a lot to be impressed by. This is a carbon fiber hardtail that’s dripping with XTR. XTR shifters and derailleurs, sure. But brakes? Cassette? Chain? This bike is decked out in Shimano’s highest level of racing components with only the carbon Oval M600 Crankset breaking the pattern. Why would Fuji decide to pass on Shimano’s crankset? As anyone who has recently spec’d a mountain bike will tell you, Shimano doesn’t make their XTR crankset with a true PF30 spindle. You can get an adapter for the Hollowtech II spindle, but if you truly want to take advantage of the increased stiffness afforded to you by the SLM’s PF30 bottom bracket, a crankset like the Oval M600 is going to deliver.

The Oval M600 crankset gives you the benefits of a 30mm axle spindle

The Oval M600 crankset gives you the benefits of a 30mm axle spindle

The next area that the Fuji SLM 29er 1.1 excels in is the frame. Rather than trying to pass off some lesser carbon fiber as the next big thing, Fuji actually uses the next big thing. C15 super-light high-modulus carbon outfitted with internal shift cable routing, the aforementioned PF30 bottom bracket, a tapered headtube and wide 142x12mm dropouts. This makes for one of the lightest hardtail frames available while also providing stiffness to spare. The bike darts uphill so fast you will leave your friends in the dust.

Fuji also offers Fuji SLM 29er 1.3, 2.1, and 2.3 to make it easy for riders to find the 29″ hardtail to fit their needs and skill levels

The (almost) full Shimano XTR group delivers pro-level performance

The (almost) full Shimano XTR group delivers pro-level performance

The Ride:

Enough about the components, let’s get to the riding! The very first experience we had on board the Fuji SLM 29er 1.1 was one that would be repeated with nearly every ride: the tester riding the SLM 1.1 had to wait at the top of the climb for everyone else to catch up. The 29” wheels and knobby tires gave confidence to spare on the descents and it even held its own through moderate rock sections. Where this bike truly excels, however, is the climbing. You’ll float uphill as though the tires are filled with helium.

Another thing that became clear in the ride quality is that this bike was spec’d by someone who really rides and understands mountain bikes. A perfect example is the handlebar. Sure, it was probably picked out of Oval’s lineup for being the lightest bar they make at an amazing 185g. But that’s not all a bar is about. This bar is 710mm wide and has a 9 degree sweep giving the rider confident handling and a comfortable hand position.

Well spec'd parts, like the bars, give the bike an amazing ride feel

Well spec’d parts, like the bars, give the bike an amazing ride feel

The Verdict:

Thoughtful component choices and a finely tuned ride quality make this one of the finest hardtails we’ve ever ridden. This bike is for the rider who wants to squeeze every ounce of performance from his machine, who wants to win races, and who will settle for nothing but the best.  The XC racing bike snob will be as happy as the everyday trail warrior. They are all sweet perfection in mountain biking, balancing weight, comfort, and performance. If you’re thinking about buying a hardtail that you’ll never want to part with, look no further than the Fuji SLM 29er 1.1. The bike was so fast, that we all started arguing about who would get to use our demo model for the upcoming race season. Sitting atop the Fuji, our coworker Eddie rocketed straight to the top of the podium.

Most races on the SLM end only one way: the top of the podium

Most races on the SLM 1.1 end only one way: the top of the podium (#3 left early, it wasn’t just a two person race)

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