SRAM, ROCK SHOX, AVID Demo Ride: by c_g

… and off we go with our reports from the 2013 Garda BIKE Festival. All Bikes I have ridden have been covered and it is time to conclude with our demo ride with SRAM.

In those recent press releases (here, here and here) and Grannygear’s Sea Otter´13 coverage (here) we have covered all the news and technologies by SRAM, ROCK SHOX and AVID already and I have the privilege to bring to you my ride impressions of a bike loaded with them – the ROCK SHOX Pike 29″er (140mm), a ´14 Monarch shock, the four-piston disc brakes AVID X.0 Trail, the ROAM 50 wheels and last but not least the seemingly ultra-hip XX1 group set by SRAM. All of them mounted to a well acquainted and much liked NICOLAI Helius AC29″er.

The trip they have picked for us journalists was a shuttle run with about 1.400 m of altitude drop down from Navene back to Riva, guided by mountain bike good guy Holger Meyer and Pro-Rider Timo Pritzel. Unfortunately it had had a severe storm the night before and anyone knowing the region will understand how tricky and slippery the trail do get when wet. Much of it was great fun, but there were multiple sections where the tires just couldn’t perform anymore and it became more of a controlled slide than an actual ride … not so great for our ride enjoyment but a very effective way of sampling experiences on the mounted components.

************************************

So let´s dig into my ride impressions:

ROCK SHOX Pike 29″er (140mm) and RTC3 Shock :

The all new Pike is clearly aimed at the Trail- and All-Mountain rider. With its 35mm stanchions it is bound to be stiff, right? RIGHT!! Whatever I did to it, crocked landings, hard braking before hairpin turns or stutter bumps – there was no hint of excessive flex anywhere – to me it felt super precise and predictable and receives very good grades when it comes to stiffness.

We had our shocks set up before the ride by a Rock Shox employee, but initially the Pike felt a bit too harsh and slow. I tried different damping settings, but only when I lowered the air pressure did it really come to life. Whatever the terrain dished out on us – the Pike took it willingly and never got overwhelmed – be it square edged boulders or ledges, or high frequency rock gardens – I found the Pike to work admirably controlled and without ever diving too deeply into the travel and sticking there. I remember having done the exact same run a couple of years ago on a 80mm travel 29“er bike and back then I was a lot more beat up when we finally made it to the bottom.

Great job ROCK SHOX!!

The only strange thing on my Pike had been that I needed to run the rebound almost fully engaged – something I asked the guys about afterwards, and they confirmed that it wouldn’t be like this in production models. So my first impressions of the new ROCK SHOX Pike are very positive and despite the short time on it, I´d already say it is bound to be a worthy competitor to the current top of the heap, FOX F34.

We are planning a real test later this summer.

As for the ROCK SHOX Monarch´14 HV RTC3 shock, I think I sensed some improvements in terms of small bump compliance and how it used its travel – especially when riding aggressively over the boulders (could be that the new Rapid Recovery Technology incorporated into the rebound is doing some good here) – but overall the differences were not all that tangible to me like they were with the fork. I´d definitely need more time to really come to a conclusion, but even now I can already make the claim that whatever changes have been made, they haven´t decreased the shock´s performance.

************************************

AVID X.0 Trail Brakes

As mentioned the trail had been extremely slippery at places and in those sections the AVID X.0 Trail brakes took my heart by storm. Everyone of us was expecting them to be strong (and they are!), but just how much modulation they have, has been a true blessing on the rugged trails we rode. While absolute power was never an issue in the ride (the tires let go way before that was necessary), it was their excellent modulation and feedback that saved me multiple times from crashing. I always knew when the tires would start letting go and could let up a bit, or increase the braking force – which ultimately helped us all to make it down the mountain side safely and without crashing. I did manage to get my brakes to heat up and „smell bad“ but no sign of fading. After those short stops to gather all the riders, I only needed to pump the lever once, after that it felt as consistent as one could wish for.

By my impressions the new 2014 AVID Trail series brakes have made a huge leap in catching up with SHIMANO, which by my experiences currently lead in performance and value (the verdict on the XTR Race discs we currently ride is still out).

************************************

SRAM ROAM 50 29″er wheels and XX1 drive train

Those ROAM 50 wheels by SRAM also didn´t give me any trouble at all. While the run had been predominantly downhill it was their stiffness and durability at test more than their acceleration, but given the claimed weight of just over 1.600g, they sure were no anchors. They simply got the job done and didn’t show any unwanted traits. Not the widest, but still, good with 21 mm internal width, they did allow me to run low tire pressures, which in this case did help a lot in optimizing traction from those often overwhelmed MAXXIS Ardent 2.4s … I for my part am glad manufacturers are slowly understanding the benefits and employing wider rims.

The SRAM XX1 drive train, with a 32t ring up front, also did its job without any fussing – neither did it reach its limits on the uphills, nor on the fast downhill sections, but given the character of the ride this sure wasn´t all mountain biking has to offer. … still, one thing none in our group would have bet on before- We didn’t have one single dropped chain in the entire ride. Pretty remarkable in my opinion.

So much from our ride experiences with the new ´14 stuff from ROCKS SHOX, AIVID and SRAM. I´m excited to see how 29″ers are more and more being taken seriously when it comes to aggressive trail and all-mountain riding.

RIDE ON,
c_g