April 23, 2014 Leave a comment
Behind the scenes at Performance Bicycle
March 19, 2014 2 Comments
Since the 2014 edition of the North American Handmade Bicycle Show was right down the road from our home office, as it was held only a few hours away in Charlotte, NC, we couldn’t miss out on the chance to see what this creative array of small and custom bike builders have been dreaming up. While many of their designs aren’t for everyone, that’s precisely the point! Having a small and nimble design and build team (of sometimes just one person) means that they can cater to niche markets and often anticipate new trends in the cycling industry.
So what did we notice while we perused the convention hall – well, quite a bit of creativity! But one of the big trends (pardon the pun) was the growing number of fat bikes on display, in a wide array of sizes, colors, suspension and utility:
Gravel bikes were also on display from many builders, again in a variety of shapes and sizes. The line gets kind of fuzzy between gravel and cyclocross bikes, but the idea for a gravel bike is one that you can ride any where – on road, off road, and everything in between. Wide tires, lots of clearance, and disc brakes were common factors on these do-anything “road” bikes.
But a lot of the fun of the Handmade Bicycle Show is just taking a look at the creative and sometimes wacky designs on display – all a direct reflection of the builder and the person that the bike was designed for.
And finally, while we didn’t catch them all, we also loved checking out the headbadges that each bike builder used on their bikes – one last bit of personality to finish off a frame!
February 25, 2014 4 Comments
I’m not much of a mountain biker. Mostly, I get my kicks—such as they are—on the road. I dabble every now and again, but nothing serious. That is until the dreaded Polar Vortex (I, II, or III– I can’t remember which now) pummeled our North Carolina office with a couple of inches (gasp!) of snow, taking road cycling off the table. I was getting all ready to not ride a bike at all and go lift, when instead I was given a chance to test ride the Charge Cooker Maxi fat bike on a snowy trail ride. I scrounged around for some ill-fitting clothing, geared up and headed out. I admit I looked at the bike dubiously, but within minutes of getting on, I was sold.
About The Bike: The Charge Cooker Maxi is a fat bike with a steel frame and fork. The bike is designed to accommodate massive, 26X4” tires that mount on 26” x 80mm wide Wienmann rims. This gives you the feel of riding a full suspension bike without all the mechanical moving parts. The bike is a beast that can pretty much roll over anything, and is great for snow, sand, loose dirt, or just generally finding your inner-gnar on the trail. It’s equipped with a SRAM X5 2×10 drivetrain (with an FSA Comet crank).
Unboxing and Set Up: My Charge Cooker Maxi was already set up as a demo bike, but it should be generally straight forward, since it’s basically a conventional full-rigid mountain bike (with massive tires), so you don’t have to worry about setting suspension sag or fork rebound. The only thing to be aware of is pumping up the tires— they’re so big that even getting to the ultra-low volume of 8-10 PSI can take you several minutes.
I added a set of Forte Platform pedals, bringing the weight to about: 36.6 lbs.
The Ride: Taking the bike out on the trails in the snow was just pure fun. At first I was a little nervous riding the bike over the snow and compacted ice, but all my worry turned out to be for naught. The bike handled the snow, ice, and buried trail hazards with ease. The feel of the bike is less like riding a mountain bike and more like driving an Abrams tank, sans cannon. It didn’t so much roll over the snow as churn through it, and I rarely felt like I lost traction (actually, the only time I did was when I tried to take an icy corner too tight). I truly felt like I could roll over just about anything—which proved to be the case. Because the tires are so huge, and have such a low volume, the bike can handle rough trail like a full suspension bike—making tackling rocks, logs and trail bumps feel easy and comfortable, but the full rigid frame and fork gave a feel of pedaling efficiency you sometimes don’t get from a full-squish bike.
The bike isn’t the lightest thing in the world, particularly if you’re used to a featherweight XC rig, but to lament it’s weight is to kind of miss the point. The fat bike isn’t about winning races, it’s about going anywhere you’ve ever wanted to go on a bike. Even with all that heft, it’s still maneuverable and light enough that I was able to chase down some of that ever-elusive Fat Bike Air at one point. Handling was pretty easy, and didn’t feel nearly as sluggish as I had expected. The bike easily got up to speed, and carried momentum nicely into turns. The mechanical disc brakes provide great all-weather stopping power that easily scrubbed speed and provided well-modulated stopping power when I needed it.
The gearing on the bike is also nice and low, so you can spin at a high cadence, but still generate plenty of torque and power to tackle almost anything in your path. One small niggle I did have was fit. Because of the geometry modifications that had to be made to the chainstays to accommodate the massive rear tire, I found the q-factor on the cranks to be a little too wide for me, however that was fixed by simply switching from clipless pedals to a pair of platforms. This actually turned out to be preferable anyway, since I was able to wear hiking boots instead which were A) warmer, and B) easier to get off the bike and go check out stuff off the trail.
The bike also incorporates rack mounts, which make it almost ideal for bikepacking or really getting out and exploring the back country. With no suspension to worry about, the Cooker Maxi would be a nice and dependable rig for some serious trail trips. I love touring and s24o (sub-24 hour overnight) bike camping, so I’m pretty excited about the possibilities of taking the fat bike out and exploring the mountains of western North Carolina this summer.
If you’re looking for a fun, versatile, go-anywhere bike, the Charge Cooker Maxi is definitely for you. No matter what conditions or terrain, I have no doubts that this bike could handle them with ease. The Cooker Maxi takes the best aspects of a full-suspension and a hardtail and mixes them together—but with more utility. If you’re not worried about racing, but just want a pure adventure machine then this is the bike for you.
January 22, 2014 6 Comments
Mountain bikers and cyclocross riders alike will understand the difficulty of discovering chain slap marks on your beautiful new bicycle. Chain slap just happens. Especially in a sport like cyclocross where you’re tearing around dirt roads and through fields with no suspension to absorb the trail chatter. Here’s a quick fix to deal with chain slap.
Follow this quick and easy guide to get your bike all-ready to go off-road.
If this is just too much work for you or you don’t have access to any flat tubes, Lizard Skins makes a great ready-to-go chainstay wrap.
Is there anything else you’d like to see a quick and easy fix for? Ask us in the comments section below and we’ll add it to the list. Thanks!
January 6, 2014 Leave a comment
Fresh new trails are the siren song for mountain bikers – when you hear about a new line or some sweet new singletrack, you have to go and check it out. So when we heard about a new section of trail being built, by professional trailbuilders, on our usual home office lunchtime loop (a 6 mile trail system in a local sustainable development) our ears perked up and we had to know more!
We rode by to check out the construction progress and meet the guys from Elevated Trail Design, otherwise known as Andrew Mueller and Peter Mills. Based out of the Carolinas and Boulder, Colorado, ETD creates trails that integrate unique trail features into the natural landscape while maintaining high standards of safety and sustainability. They offer a variety of natural surface and resurfaced trails for many types of clients, and their specialties include multi-use trails, mountain bike trails, backcountry hiking trails, and bike parks. With experience building both machine built and hand built trails and all types of mountain bike features, they take pride in being a rider-owned company, and strive to secure projects which allow them to build creative and progressive features.
With that in mind, we fired off some questions to Andrew to find out more about what goes into building great trails.
I started building trails the same way a lot of pro trailbuilders do; by building illegal trails. I guess it started around age 12, when digging holes to build jumps (without permission, of course) in the neighborhood was just a good way to get out of our parent’s houses. After all, until you can drive, a bicycle is about the closest thing to freedom that a teenager can get. Spots came and went, jumps were built and torn down, but I knew by the time I was 18 that I loved building bike trails…I just didn’t know it could be a job. My desire to ride and build led me to Appalachian State University, where I studied Geographic Information Systems and Sustainable Development (you could argue that I minored in downhill mountain biking!). I took an internship my senior year at the newly-envisioned Rocky Knob bike park in Boone, NC. We worked alongside a trail contractor, both working on the trails and then mapping them. It all pretty much fell into place from there; I got a job working for a trail company, met Peter Mills, and realized that we should be doing this on our own. We knew that if we wanted to build the unique features and trails that were in our heads, we had to go legit, and Elevated Trail Design was born.
I think design is huge. So much of a trail’s potential comes from its design. Our first step is looking at maps and exploring. I want to know where all the rocks are, find the cool trees, and learn the layout of the terrain before we drop the first flag for the line. The next thing is drainage; you have to understand how water is going to behave if you want to build something that lasts. The last thing is experience. I think what sets Peter and myself apart as bike-specific builders is our diverse backgrounds as riders. We’ve ridden so many different types of trail and terrain that we have a unique vision for what mountain biking should be. We understand how trails evolve beneath knobby tires and how to prepare for that. It’s fun to think back to a fun section you rode in some other place and envision how we can replicate that experience where the users might not expect it.
The tools really depend on the project. A lot of people think pro trailbuilders just drive through the woods with a bulldozer and build some boring trail, but we really try to work with the client to build what he or she wants. We do machine built and handbuilt trails, and I think there are a lot of great things about both. Nothing beats the artistic quality and minimalist traits of a handbuilt trail, but there are also situations where a machine can build better product in less time. I can confidently say that learning how to build trail with an excavator has made me much better at handbuilt trail and vice versa. For handbuilt trails, we start with chainsaws and blowers, then remove organics and cut the trail with trail tools (Rogue Hoes, Mcleods), then touch up with rakes and loppers. For machine built trail, we only use mini excavators. The excavator is the ultimate do it all trail machine; we can use it to build minimal trail with rocks and roots, or we can build big dirt features that make places like Whistler famous. Either way, separation of materials is key…it’s all about keeping as much of the good mineral dirt on the trail and discarding the waste materials in a clean fashion.
I’ve ridden a lot of great places, but for this question, I think I have to stick with my roots. I learned to ride in Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina, and I still have to say it’s my favorite. I love the rugged trails there and the remote feel that they have. I hope that people see that we try to pay tribute to the rocks, roots, and rhododendron of Pisgah even though we’re trying to build sustainable trails and also make a living. Peter would probably tell you his favorite places to ride are Whistler Mountain Bike Park or any nice big dirt jumps. I think that’s what makes us a great team; we draw from different mountain bike experiences and put them all into a totally unique product.
It’s hard to pick just one, but believe it or not, I have to mention a hiking trail here. Last spring we did a 1.5 mile “face-lift” on part of NC’s Mountains-to-Sea trail near Boone, NC. It was called the Boone Fork Trail and it involved hiking into a remote drainage each day to build a huge variety of trail features. We did excavator trail, hand-built, rock armoring, and ladders with local timber, all on one job. Just working in that beautiful setting; with huge hardwoods and cascading rapids all around us every day, made that job really memorable.
I like variety in my trails. My favorite trails mix new-school mountain bike trail building with natural terrain. I love a trail when you are smashing through some crazy rocks but there’s a perfect berm at the bottom to hold your speed into the next section. I love turns; if I’m riding in a straight line I better be hitting a nice jump or some roots and rocks, otherwise I’ll be bored! I also love trails that descend through different zones and environments, making you feel like you’re experiencing the forest and having a blast in a way a hiker could never understand.
Briar Chapel was just an all-around great project for us. It was a design/build, so it allowed us to show off our full vision and potential as trailbuilders. We tried to maximize the terrain in every way possible, striving to show people that you can have a rugged and fun mountain bike experience even in a suburban, residential setting. What that vision resulted in is a huge variety of building and riding styles packed into a small amount of trail. We built flowy berms and rollers, tight singletrack, rock gardens, stuff that’s clearly machine-built, stuff that people will think is handbuilt, and stuff that actually is handbuilt. We were calling it the party trail while we built it; it makes you just want to do lap after lap. If people come there and ride our trail two or three times in different directions, we accomplished our goal [note for locals: please check trail conditions before riding - the new section of trail may not be open yet due to weather].
November 30, 2013 Leave a comment
We’ve gotten a lot of questions from our customers lately about all the different drivetrain options available for mountain bikes. To help answer your questions, we turned to our in-house expert: Mark (some of you might recognize Mark and his mustache from our videos).
If you are in the market for a new mountain bike or a new drivetrain for an existing mountain bike, then the crankset and gearing options can seem overwhelming and a little confusing. Triple crankset, a double, or just rolling with a single ring…which is the right one for you? Why would you choose one chainring over three or two? Can more actually be less? Let’s take a look at the options and when it comes time to upgrade, you will have a better sense of what will work best for you and why.
For years the traditional mountain bike drivetrain consisted of a triple (3 chainrings) crankset paired with a cassette (or freewheel) that has grown from 6 to as many as 11 cogs. Fast forward to now and you still have the triple (3x) crankset option, but you also have double cranksets with 2 chainrings (2x) as well as single cranksets with just one chainring (1x).
The Triple: Early mountain bikes used whatever components were available at the time, and at that time it was primarily touring components. The wide range of a triple crankset was also necessary because the bikes were quite heavy when compared to today’s standards and the low range was needed to get those klunkers up the hills. Over time cassette ratios were refined and the gearing on triple cranksets became more compact, with smaller jumps between the 3 chainrings. Most current triple mountain bike cranksets have gearing in the 22/32/42t, 24/32/42t, or 22/32/44t range. A triple crankset typically offers the broadest range of gears, and depending on your specific needs it may be the best option for you. Good examples for using a triple would be large changes in elevation on your trails, riding to the trailhead via the road, or the desire to have a low gear that you can “spin” up the hills with.
The Double: Before double cranksets were embraced by component manufacturers, many riders would ditch one of the chainrings from their triple cranksets. Some people removed the large chainring to gain some ground clearance and because they didn’t need the tall gear that it offered, while others would get rid of the small ring because their terrain wasn’t hilly enough to dictate a gear that low – or they were just strong enough to do without it. Either way it was a compromise and the rider was losing some of the wide range that a triple crankset offered. When 10-speed cassettes were introduced to mountain bike drivetrains, double crankset gearing was optimized and the gear range was expanded to rival that of a triple drivetrain. The 2×10 speed drivetrain offers reduced weight, optimized front shifting, and a minimal compromise on overall gear range. Now that there are options at most price levels, a 2x drivetrain would be a great choice for anyone looking to shed some weight from their bike without giving up much in terms of versatility.
The Single: Just as riders were removing a chainring from their triple cranks, some were going a step further and removing the inner and outer ring and just keeping the middle ring. The reasons were numerous – further weight reduction by getting rid of the front shifter and derailleur, simplifying the drivetrain, and reducing some of the redundancy that comes with multiple chainrings. But like the early 2x adopters, they were compromising the versatility of their mountain bikes. Folks without much elevation change could get by with it, but the reduction at the high and low end of the gear range was significant. Another challenge of a 1x drivetrain is chain retention. Without the front derailleur to help keep the chain in place you need some sort of chain device to manage chain drop. It can be as simple as a road or cross style “chain watcher” if your trails are fairly smooth, but faster, rougher trails require a full-on chainguide to keep the chain on the chainring. Then came the 1×11 mountain bike drivetrain. Pioneered by SRAM, the 1×11 drivetrain offered the widest gear range for a cassette (10-42t), a narrow/wide chainring tooth profile to manage chain retention, and a rear derailleur with a clutch mechanism that also assisted with chain management by keeping more tension on the chain. This ushered in a 1x option for people actually riding in the mountains and significantly reduced the weight, friction, and noise of the drivetrain. The one caveat at present with the 1×11 drivetrain is cost – the technology is new and hasn’t trickled down to the lower price levels. If you aren’t overly concerned with the cost, there is a viable option for riders seeking a 1x drivetrain who don’t want to limit where they can ride.
Hopefully you now have a better understanding of how the mountain bike drivetrain has evolved over time, the available options, and why you might choose one over another. If you ride in extremely hilly terrain a 3x drivetrain may serve you well without breaking the bank. If you are a stronger rider who wants better front shifting performance and less weight, you may opt for a 2x drivetrain. Or if you want the ultimate in light weight, less clutter, and smooth shifting check out a 1×11 drivetrain. Thanks for reading and enjoy the ride!
November 21, 2013 2 Comments
The Access Stealth Trail 29er is an all-new hardtail mountain bike that resulted from a lunch ride conversation about making a hardtail 29er that would deliver the most bang for the buck. The more the bike guys tinkered with the design, the better it got, until they ended up with a bike that’s perfect for everything from weekend XC racing to letting you tackle a new line on your favorite trail. No matter if you’re already a 29” convert, or are looking to upgrade from 26”, this is a bike that delivers up the goods when it comes to performance and fun.
The Stealth Trail frame is made of lightweight aluminum. The oversized downtube and top tube/head tube/down tube intersection is designed for lateral stiffness and stability under rider torque. The wishbone shaped chain stays better resist deflection from pedaling forces and further reduce trail vibration; a leading culprit of premature muscle fatigue and loss of traction. Finally, don’t overlook the fact that the Stealth Trail is a 29er. There’s no denying that the rock crawling, root crushing power of a larger 29″ wheel. Making the largest of obstacles the smallest of matters is a defining trait of these bikes. By offering decreased rolling resistance, increased traction when cornering and improved ground clearance, a 29er is sure to sway even the staunchest skeptic.
Rounding out the great package is a Rock Shox Recon 29er fork with 100mm of travel, and a mix of Shimano SLX/XT components for smooth, easy and accurate 2×10 shifting (*note, the pictured photo sample bike has an FSA Comet crankset, the production version is equipped with a Shimano Deore crankset) . Finally, a set of Stans NOTUBES ZTR Arch EX wheels wrapped up in Kenda Small Block Eight tires give you the perfect set up for high-speed XC riding.
The Access Stealth Trail 29er is only available for a limited time, so don’t wait.
October 23, 2013 Leave a comment
Diamondback Bicycles pro rider Kelly McGarry taking second place in the 2013 Red Bull Rampage with a backflip over a 72-foot-long canyon gap (the first place run wasn’t too bad either, as GT Bicycles rider Kyle Strait took the win with a suicide no-hander).
August 16, 2013 2 Comments
When we heard that Diamondback was adding a new lineup of Overdrive Carbon hardtail mountain bikes for 2014, we were excited. Utilizing the same trail/XC geometry as Diamondback’s Aluminum Overdrive series, the 29″-wheeled Overdrive Carbon designs incorporate their proprietary Advanced Monocoque Molding Process (AMMP) technology using the highest-grade carbon, constructed in the most precise manner, to produce world-class cross country machines. Our bike buyer, Ben, got a chance to try out one of the new high-speed off-road machines at the 2013 Sea Otter Classic XC race (a stern 40 mile test of California hills and dusty trails). How did he sum up the new bike? In a word – impressed. He called the Overdrive Carbon “a great all-around 29er race bike that climbs like a mountain goat, with crisp, precise single track handling and the components to match.”
The 2014 Diamondback Overdrive Carbon Pro Mountain Bike is dialed-in from top to bottom, featuring a lightweight carbon frame, Fox suspension and SRAM XO components. 142×12mm carbon rear drop out, a tapered head tube, and a 15mm thru-axle fork increase stiffness for enhanced steering and traction. The sloping top tube provides ample standover clearance. A 71° head tube angle and a 73° seat tube angle create the perfect XC/trail geometry. The 440mm (17.3 inch) chainstays equate to an extremely snappy bike.
The top shelf FOX 32 FLOAT CTD 29″ E-S fork gives you 100mm of plush travel up front with a CTD damper that supplies five different compression settings to optimize your ride for low and high rates of speed from a handlebar-mounted remote. A top shelf SRAM XO group including shifters, derailleurs and hydraulic disc brakes give you the absolute best of the best in performance, period. Add in Easton EA90XC 29″ Clincher wheels and you have one of the most comprehensive competition-based packages on the market.
The 2014 Diamondback Overdrive Carbon Expert Mountain Bike is built for maximum speed, stiffness and fun. With the same lightweight carbon frame and Fox suspension as the Overdrive Carbon Pro, the Overdrive Carbon Expert comes equipped with SRAM X7/X9 components. The bike’s Avid Elixir 7 Hydraulic Disc brakes have 180mm front and 160mm rear rotors for maximum modulation on the trail. The 10 speed drivetrain features a high quality X7 Front derailleur, X9 Type 2 Rear Derailleur and the S1400 10-speed crankset. Add in Diamondback SL-7 double wall rims with WTB Wolverine Race tires and you are set to conquer any and all off-road obstacles.
The 2014 Diamondback Overdrive Carbon Mountain Bike is sure to elevate your heart rate before you even hit the saddle. Utilizing the same Advanced Monocoque Molding Process (AMMP) carbon frame as the Overdrive Carbon Pro and the Overdrive Carbon Expert guarantees an extremely snappy bike with enhanced stiffness for precise steering and control. Avid Elixir 1 Hydraulic Disc brakes with 180mm front and 160mm rear rotors provide ample stopping power. SRAM provides a 10-speed drivetrain with an X5 Front derailleur and crankset mated to an X7 long cage rear derailleur for smooth shifting performance. Diamondback SL-7 double wall rims with WTB Wolverine Race tires round out this race and trail-ready package.
August 6, 2013 4 Comments
We all have a dream cycling list in mind. Whether it’s the carbon fiber-everything bike we’ve been eyeing for months, some new clothes, or the ultimate upgrade kit, there’s something that every cyclist dreams of having. For a limited time, we can help you make that come true when you enter online for your chance to win a $1,000 shopping spree at Performance Bicycle.
When word about this contest got out around the office, it got us thinking about what we would do with $1,000 to spend at Performance. We asked some folks and got some pretty interesting answers.
So how about it? What would you spend $1,000 Performance Bucks on? Tell us in the comments section.
Ben from our bikes division is clearly already looking forward to the start of CX season:
Johnny, one of our in-house product developers, has had the chance to test out a lot of the latest and greatest mountain bike equipment. Here are some of his favorites:
Robert the copywriter is getting ready to head out for some bike touring this fall. Here is some of the gear he’s going to be taking with him (this is also some great stuff for commuting):
Kyle, who’s one of our designers, is a pretty dedicated tri-guy. When you’re doing three sports in one day, having the right equipment is important. Here’s some of his favorite triathlon stuff:
Erik, one of our buyers, is kind of our go-to in-house authority on all things road racing. Here’s some of the stuff he finds essential for training and racing: