Fat Tires on a Diet – Orange Subzero Tubeless Conversion


I have been running tubeless tires on many of my mountain bikes for several years now and I have always liked the results. The benefits of being able to run lower pressures and eliminate pinch flats has been great. I have the standard complaints – burping the tire on the trail, having to top off sealant, leaking beads, etc…. but for  me, the benefits have outweighed the negatives.

So, when the opportunity came along to test out Orange’s Subzero fat tire tubeless system I was pretty excited about it. If any bike can benefit from a tubeless conversion a fat tire bike is it. Why is that? Several reasons actually. It is a generally well accepted fact  that rolling weight – or wheel weight – is one of the most noticeable elements of a bike. You can shave a pound off your bike with Carbon bars, posts, and bobbles and bits. Add some ano titanium bolts throughout your rig and Voila! You have shaved some weight and made your steed look pretty bling. But if you shave a pound off your wheelset, now that is something you feel. It may not be as sexy as a carbon railed saddle dipped in unobtainum but boy will you feel it. The bike will accelerate faster and easier, and feel more nimble and agile.

This effect is multiplied on a fat tire bike. Cornering momentum on a fat tire bike is a very real and noticeable thing. The weight of these wheels want to keep the bike standing up and rolling straight. Overcoming that force requires equal parts finesse and muscle. Something else that becomes very apparent with a fat  tire is the friction created between the tube and the inner surface of the tire. These rigs are generally  run at very low pressures (5-15 psi) to create a smoother ride and a better tire/snow interface. At these pressures the tube has more ability to move within the tire creating stick and slip  from within. While minor, it still affects acceleration and handling. So, if ever a wheel could benefit from the upsides of tubeless, a fat tire is it.

I knew this would be an interesting trial right from the start. The following is a summary of my conversion experience with the conversion and the subsequent ride experience. An important note. In the mountain bike world its almost just assumed  that most rims and tires are now tubeless compatible. The tire beads and rims are designed to mate up and seal effectively right from the start. The majority of fat tire rims and tires are NOT designed as tubeless systems. This is new and still being figured out.

The Set Up:

2014 Salsa Beargrease

45 North Dillinger Tires

Surly Holy Rolling Darryl Rims


  1. Remove original tires and tubes from the rim
  2. Clean the rim surface with a dry cloth to remove and oil or dirt on the surface
  3. Trim the existing rim strip to create a better sealing surface for the tubeless tape. This can be trimmed back with an razor blade. If you are looking to personalize your bike a little, now is a good time to replace that existing rim strip with a new colour or even a reflective tape. Once you get the tubeless system in you will want to minimize how much you unseat your tires from the rim. 20140317-213700.jpg20140317-213645.jpg
  4. Carefully stretch and place the rim tape into place over top of the existing rim strip. Work the edges of the tape onto the rim. go slowly and make sure that the tape is smooth and sealed and there are no buckles in the tape.20140317-213614.jpg20140317-213625.jpg
  5. Reinstall the tire and the tube. and inflate the tire to 20-25 psi. Work the tire around the rim to ensure the bead has set. Let the tire sit with pressure for an hour or two. the pressure from the tube will press the tape firmly into place and seat the tire bead onto the rim.
  6. Remove only one side of the tire, leaving the bead set on the other side. Remove the tube.20140317-213554.jpg
  7. Install the tubeless presta stem.
  8. Put the tire back on the rim and re-seat the bead by inflating the tire. a medium to high volume air compressor is recommended for this. A standard home compressor should do fine. Work the tire to set the bead firmly.
  9. Deflate the tire through the valve and remove the valve core. This can be don with a core remover or with a pair of needle nose pliers. Make sure the tire is fully deflated before removing the core or the pressure can shoot the core out while you unthread it – and it is a small part that is easily lost!
  10. Load sealant into tire. I used 3-4 oz. per tire. I found the easiest method is to use a syringe that threads onto the valve stem but you can pour it in with a nozzle as well. The syringe is cleaner, simpler, and more accurate though. 20140317-213543.jpg
  11. Reinstall valve core and inflate tire to 20-25 psi. Spin the tire repeatedly allowing sealant to work its way through the air channels. 20140317-213533.jpg
  12. Allow the tire to sit over night. The tire may deflate the first few times. continue to reniflate and rotate the tire. listen for air leaks and rotate to that point to allow sealant to work its way through. This is normal. My tires bled down 4 times before finally seating in.

General Impression:

  • Bead Seal – Getting the tire bead to seal was a bit of a trick. I tried multiple methods to try and create more sealing force in the tire and the one that worked the best was the method mentioned above. The real trick is having an air compressor that can dump a high enough volume of air into the tire fast enough to create a large pressure differential. If your compressor can’t keep up then the air will just slowly bleed out. As I mentioned, these rims/tires are not a tubeless design so seeing a great deal of sealant come through was not surprising. I assumed I would have to top the tire off with sealant and air multiple times before getting it to lock in.
  • The Rim Strip – Orange’s rim tape was a little narrower than I would have liked. A few extra millimeters of width would have given me better coverage over the rim surface and may have sealed better. It was thin and light weight, which is a plus, but I felt like I could have used something with a stronger adhesive. As mentioned above – I used the tube to reset the bead and press the tape to the rim on my rear tire. However, on the front I pressed the tape on by hand only. after adding sealant to both I had leakage through the rim cut outs – which means sealant was working its way around the tape. I had less on the rear tire, which would imply the tape had a better seal, but there was still leakage.
  • Valve Stems – The valve stems in the kit had an easily removed core which made adding sealant a breeze. However, I found the the sealing donuts provided did not create a 100% effective seal. No matter how much I cranked down the nut, I still had noticeable seepage through the valve hole.
  • The First Ride – The front tire proved to be very leaky on the first ride. I rode 10 miles at the Kincaid STA trails and had to pump the tire several times. But, the tire sealed a little better each time. The first time was within the first 0.5 mi and the pressure was very low. The second time was about 1 mi later and still low. The third time was another 1.5-2 mi down the trail and only marginally low. After that I didn’t have inflate it again. When I finished the ride the pressure was slightly lower than my last top off. The rear tire held fine.
  • The Second Ride: The bike went on loan for a short 5-10 mi loop and both tires were topped off before leaving. The rear tire proved a little more problematic on the second ride and lost pressure throughout but the front held much better.
  • The Third Ride: Another 8 miles at Kincaid and I topped up the tires before leaving. No major losses but some leakage.
  • Ride Quality: There was a noticeable improvement in ride quality. The bike handled much quicker and was very nimble. Acceleration and braking were improved and the overall experience felt faster and more controlled. The bike became more manageable and faster in the corners. weight savings are roughly 0.75 to 1 pound per tire depending on the existing tubes and the amount of sealant added.

Overall, I am quite happy with the ride improvement of the bike but I think the system will need a little more work to get it just right. My plan now is to add more sealant to see if that helps shut off the slow leaks. If that doesn’t help then I plan to rebuild the system with a different rim tape to see if that helps the overall effectiveness.

I have yet to test the seal in extreme low temperatures – which is suppose to be a benefit of the subzero system. Other sealants have been reported to freeze or solidify in very low temp ranges whereas this product is formulated for that environment. As my long term test continues I will evaluate that element as well.

Binding Shootout: Marker Kingpin 13 v. Dynafit Beast 16 v. Dynafit Speed TLT

Photo Credit: Dante Petri http://atrailcalledlife.blogspot.com/

Photo Credit: Dante Petri

I have been meaning to write up a review on the Dynafit Beast 16 for quite some time and with a recent turn in the weather resulting in an ugly rain crust plus a few days on the new Marker Kingpin 13 now seemed like an opportune time to get my thoughts on (digital) paper.

First a little about me. Normally I focus on mountain bike related posts but once the snow flies I am a skier through and through. I grew up skiing in the Interior of BC. A lot of trees, fresh pow, and an unfortunate phase as a park rat. I call those the lost years (mainly because of the concussions). I am a resort rat recently converted to backcountry, about 4 years now. I tower over the competition at 5’6″ and 160 lbs. I have not been kind to my ACL’s and now have a frequent buyers card at the Steadman Hawkins Clinic (thanks Steady!).

So, when I look for a binding my priorities are a little different than most backcountry skiers. In this order, I want:

  1. Retention/Release
  2. Reliability
  3. Touring performance
  4. Power Transfer
  5. Weight

Now to the shootout. Here is what the quiver looks like and the rough number of days on each. I ski mainly in the Chugach and Talkeetna Ranges in Alaska but venture back to BC and the lower 48 a few times a season.


  • Armada Magic J 185 w/ Dynafit Beast 16:
    • Roughly 20-25 days, Approx. 100 miles & 100K vertical
    • Single Ski/Binding weight: 6.83 lbs
    • Binding weight: 2.12 lbs
  • Rossi Sin 7 172 w/ Dynafit Speed TLT:
    • 7 days, Approx. 25 miles & 25K vertical
    •  Single Ski/Binding weight: 4.93 lbs
    • Binding weight: 0.83 lbs
  • Rossi Soul 7 180 w/ Marker Kingpin 13:
    • 2 days, Approx. 11 miles & 10K vertical
    •  Single Ski/Binding weight: 5.91 lbs
    • Binding Weight: 1.7 lbs
  • DPS lotus 120 185 w/Plum Guides:
    • Approximately 15 days, 50 miles, 60K-80K vertical
    • I no longer have this set up but I may reference it occasionally.
    • Binding weight:0.79 lbs

I’ll try and be concise as I go through the major points of performance and give you my opinion on how each perform. I have the least days on the Kingpins so there will have to be a little bit of extrapolation on performance.



As I said, this is my number one priority. After a couple knee surgeries I’d rather not have another. I want a binding that I don’t have to worry about and that I trust. Something I know is going to release when I want it too and retain me when I need it most. I like to jump, drop, and (occasionally) huck. I’m not the biggest guy out there and I don’t send it like some others do but I still like to put a fun, smooth, poppy line down with some air along the way.

Dynafit Beast 16: The retention is fantastic. Stepping into this binding felt solid and reassuring. The rotating toe piece performed flawlessly and predictably – as tested when I tomahawked off of a flat light rollover at 50 mph. The release was smooth and effective. 10/10, would crash with these again.

Marker Kingpin 13: Early to say and no crashes yet but the 6 pack toe retention felt noticeably crisper and solid than the traditional 4 spring pin tech toes. The heel piece gave me the confident and solid feeling that I get when I step into an alpine binding. Just doing some bench tests the release felt smooth. The sliding AFD pad on the brake plus the rollers on the heel added to this feel.

Dynafit Speed TLT: The pin tech system has never really given me a reassuring feeling. I have had numerous pre releases which has lead me to ski more aggressive lines with the toe locked in the climb position – HIGHLY unadvised!! I notice that I ski much more conservatively with these bindings and certainly choose very different lines than I would like to. On the mountain and on the bench I find the release to be very exponential in the release rate, not linear at all. The Plums fall into this category as well. Similar results

Winner: Beast 16

Solid, consistent, reliable, and beefy. I am hopeful that the Kingpin may unseat the Beast though, more time will tell.


This is an important one. As my good friend Dante Petri over at http://atrailcalledlife.blogspot.com/ can attest to, nothing ruins a day like equipment failure 5 miles out from the trailhead.

Photo Credit: Dante Petri http://atrailcalledlife.blogspot.com/

Photo Credit: Dante Petri

Dynafit Beast 16: Construction wise, these are solid. The issues I did have were more related to icing. The heel piece tended to have ice build up between the brake and riser which involved some tinkering when switching from ski to tour mode. That said, with a decent amount of mileage on them, I have had no major mechanicals.

Marker Kingpin 13:  Nothing as of yet. I have seen on the interwebs that some people have had toe pin failures. I am watching for this and continually check the pins but have had no indications of problems yet. Another discussion going around is how reliable the carbon mode switch strip will hold up. I have an engineering background and researched the construction behind this quite a bit before making the purchase. I am fairly confident this will hold up in the long run. The band is in tension the whole time (where carbon likes to be) and there are no flex points that point load the band. It is fairly well protected from any sort of impact.


Dynafit Speed TLT:  I have not experienced any failures on mine but have seen failures of the risers from other users.

Winner: Beast 16

I am going to be repetitive here: Solid, consistent, reliable, and beefy. I am hopeful that the Kingpin may unseat the Beast though, more time will tell.

Touring Performance & Weight:

I have a mix of touring days. Some are easy access laps not far from the road, some are long flat approaches to objectives, but most involve a steady approach to the mountain and then several laps before heading out. Days range from 4-8 miles on average and usually in the 4,500′ to 7,500′ vertical range. Some more, some less. I’ll combine performance and weight for this one as it is tough to talk about one without the other

Dynafit Beast 16: This is where the beasts fell down for me. I knew going in to it that they would be heavy (968 gm per binding) but I was willing to sacrifice for the downhill performance. I certainly noticed the extra weight and I worked a little harder then the rest of the crew but I would put it in the ‘ Suck it up, Buttercup’ category, not quite the ‘Just go on without me, I’ll never make it’ category. What the deal breaker was for me was the lack of a flat first position. In order to lock the brake for touring mode the first lifter locks in place, holding the brake down and covering the pins. This means the first position is comparable to being on the first riser on other pintech bindings. This is fine for climbing on an incline but if there is a long flat approach or any kind of down slope that you need to skin on, your quads will likely explode. Additionally, the toe lock can be hard to release from the locked position. With gloves its ok, mitts are harder. I was not really successful using the pole handle like other bindings. I found the most effective way was to loop my pole strap underneath and pull. This isn’t a deal breaker but just an annoyance. Releasing the heel lock was a little more effort and certainly needed the pole tip and leverage to get it to pop.You could use your hand but I always worried about pinching a finger on release.

I looked at taking the brakes off but they are cast into the binding and not removable. the heel piece does rotate, so it is conceivable that you could cut the brakes off and rotate the heel out of the way but i think there would be a lot of issues switching to riser positions.I know a lot of people like to transition without taking theirs skis off. I lack the flexibility for this and I always take a few minutes to have some water and a snack anyways. I suppose this could be done on this binding but it would be a lot of work.

Overall, this would be fine for slack country tours but I wouldn’t recommend for big distances.

Beast 16 Downhill Position

Beast 16 Downhill Position

First position for touring is closer to 7 degrees, not flat.

First position for touring is closer to 7 degrees, not flat.

2nd position

2nd position

Marker Kingpin 13:  I am duly impressed. at 730 gm per binding the weight is more than acceptable for the performance. the standard tech toe is easy to use. switching between walk and ski is easy and could easily be done with the ski still on. The heel piece slides back and out of the way while locking the brakes down. The risers are by far the easiest and fastest I have used. the simply flip up and down, no rotating or fidgeting. They provide a larger platform and a flat, 7 deg, and 13 deg position.

Flat, 7 degrees, & 13 degrees

Flat, 7 degrees, & 13 degrees

Dynafit Speed TLT: Proven lightweight Dynafit performance. Standard tech toe and heel. fast on the up with standard riser angles. no complaints here. The only nuance i would pick on is that the flip risers are quick but small, they needed a little more precision to switch.

Winner: Tie. Speed TLT & Kingpin. 

The Speeds are light and fast but the weight on the Kingpin wasn’t that noticeable. The Kingpins may edge the Speeds out just because I like the risers so much.

Photo Credit: Joe Engel

Photo Credit: Joe Engel

Power Transfer:

I like big skis and I cannot lie. All you other skiers can’t deny, when a ski slides round with an itty bitty waist, I get sunk.

Photo Credit: Dante Petri http://atrailcalledlife.blogspot.com/

Photo Credit: Dante Petri

I prefer a ski in the 95mm to 115mm underfoot range. The float and feel seem to fall in the sweet spot for me. Power transfer can be tough to achieve on planks like that.

Dynafit Beast 16: Very good power transfer. I felt this mimicked an alpine binding closer than anything else. I had the chance to ski this at Revelstoke Mountain Resort for 3 days and the conditions ranged from soft crud to skied out chop. The stability and performance on the variable conditions was very positive.

Marker Kingpin 13:  The best way I can describe these is precise. They did exactly what I wanted them to do. Conditions ranged from deep and soft to chattery backcountry ski luge exits. I felt confident that the power was going where I wanted when I wanted it there.

Dynafit Speed TLT: Shocking I know, but these were not the best in this category. They felt weak and unresponsive and a little delicate. They did not inspire confidence on chop and ice and provided very little feedback in soft conditions.

Winner: Beast 16

As close to an alpine binding as you are going to get on pins. You could go to a Guardian if you are a sadist but with the Beast there is no need to punish yourself like that.

The final Word:

The Beast came out on top in 3 out of 4 categories, and very dominantly at that. It is a clear winner in downhill performance and reliability. But just as high as it soared, it fell dismally short on touring performance. The weight is almost forgivable but the lack of a flat touring mode really is what did it for me. I can see this being a great dual purpose binding for resort and side country but if that is the goal I would rather be on a cheaper and more reliable Guardian or Duke. I can’t recommend this for big backcountry days with long approaches.

Photo Credit: Dante Petri http://atrailcalledlife.blogspot.com/

Photo Credit: Dante Petri

Likewise, the Speed TLT is a clear winner for uphill performance at 373 gm per binding. But the constant worry of reliability and performance on the down was more than enough to take it out of contention for me. I don’t like the feeling of second guessing my equipment when I am about to drop in and I did this every time on these bindings.

While it may be premature, the win goes to the Kingpin for me. It has the best balance of weight and uphill performance combined with downhill stability and reliability. The binding was easy to use and confidence inspiring. Build reliability is yet to be determined but I will be putting it through its paces the rest of the season.

Overall Winner: Kingpin 13

Photo Credit: Dante Petri http://atrailcalledlife.blogspot.com/

Photo Credit: Dante Petri

Bike Check: 2013 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR EVO comp 29er

2013 Stumpjumper FSR EVO Comp 29er – MSRP $3300

This season I decided to take the plunge into the realm of 29er full suspensions. Having ridden 26″ bikes for years I was slightly skeptical of what a 29er trail bike would feel like. I was looking for a capable all rounder to race enduros on this year so I had a particular set of requirements in line. I was looking for a 5″ to 6″ all mountain or trail bike with slightly slack geometry that would slay the downhill but still allow me to enjoy the ride up. I wanted it to corner on a dime, carry straight line speed, and be quick and nimble through technical sections. A pretty tall order for one bike.

Why a Stumpjumper?

I decided to go with the 2013 Stumpjumper EVO comp for a variety of reasons. It fell into the specs I wanted for travel and geometry quite nicely. With 135 mm of rear travel and 140 mm cushioning the front, I was satisfied that it would handle most anything I could throw at it in an enduro race. The relatively short chainstays and aggressively low bottom bracket meant it could attack the corners aggressively and provide that nimbleness I want in a bike. Tipping in at 30 lbs, the M5 alloy bike is heavier than its carbon racing cousins but a more capable big mountain workhorse. Weight aside, the bike is balanced, poised, and pedals lighter than it feels.

What is an EVO?

EVO? What the heck does that mean? Over the last few years Specialized has introduced EVO bikes into most of their line ups. It stands for evolution. They take an existing platform, in this case the standard stumpy FSR, and tweak it to make it more ride style specific. In the case of this bike, they tweaked it to have a more big mountain/freeride feel to it. How? The two big contributors are an additional 10 mm of travel front and rear over the normal platform and by slackening the head tube angle from 69 deg to 68 deg. Some minor kit adjustments were made too. Such as the addition of a chain guide and taking the standard triple up front and switching it for a double with a bash ring. These seemingly small changes totally morph the characteristics of the bike though, definitely an evolution.

Why a 29er?

29ers are here and in a big way. But that doesn’t mean that all 29ers are created equal. I was leery to dive in at first because many of the first round of big wheel bikes had to many trade offs for me to justify in my riding style. It is incredibly difficult to build a 29″ platform that maintains the handling characteristics of. 26″ bike while reaping the rewards of the extra diameter. However, I think this bike pulls off a good balance that will be we’ll suited for its intended purpose – enduro racing. With this style of racing gaining momentum I thought it appropriate to find the right tool for the job as I venture back into the competitive world. Racing multiple stages on varying terrain with varying degrees of technicality over the course of two or three days, enduro requires the racer to be well equipped for any type or riding. Mandatory climbs lead to the start of special stage timed downhills. The kicker is that you only have one bike to compete on no matter the stage. No swaps day to day, no changing forks or wheels. One bike, one rider, all types of terrain. So I wanted something I knew would climb reasonably well and go down with speed and confidence. I wanted the fast rolling benefits of a 29er without giving up the nimble control I love in a bike. The geometry and build kit on the Stumpy EVO Comp 29er checked all the boxes.

The Frame

The M5 Alloy frame is a hydroformed tube set that provides decent rigidness in a reliable and durable package. It runs a press fit 30 bottom bracket and the new, wider 142mm rear dropout, providing a stiff, positive power transfer to the rear wheel. As mentioned, 135 mm cushions the rear of the bike with the patented Specialized FSR design. The design is widespread across the various bikes in the Specialized line up and is designed to create an efficient suspension design that doesn’t react to braking forces, minimizes pedal bob, and gives the most reactive and compliant feel over varying terrain. Multiple incarnations of this technology are included across the range from cross country racers to downhill sleds.

The Suspension

The bike is air sprung with a Fox Float CTD Evolution in the rear and a Rock Shox Revelation RC3 up front. The Fox Float has two new technologies built in for the 2013 season; CTD and Autosag.

CTD stands for Climb-Trail-Descend. It is a series of preset compression adjustments that can be easily swapped on the fly via an easy adjust level on the shock. As expected, each position optimizes the shock for the terrain type you are riding. There is a noticeable difference in stiffness and bike handling in the climb mode. Pedal strokes are more efficient and effective. The trail mode is the setting that will probably see the most use and if you are a “set and forget” type it will handle anything you want to do with minimal fuss. The descend mode is a full open, plush setting that I haven’t fully tested as of yet – more to come.

Autosag was added as well. This is a feature built into the shock to help the end user arrive at the right suspension settings with minimal effort. Setting the shock sag is critically important to ride quality and getting it dialed in can be a hassle sometimes for those just venturing in to full suspension bikes. Autosag takes the guess work out. Simply pump the shock up to 300 psi, put on all of your riding gear, press the little red button, and Voila! The shock lets out air pressure until the appropriate amount of suspension sag is reached. Quick, easy, and seamless. This will get you a solid baseline set up that rides well. More advanced riders who have certain particulars they want I their suspension set ups may use the autosag as a baseline and then tweak and customize from there.

Up front, the Rock Shock Revelation RC3 does a brilliant job of handling any type of terrain you throw at it in a tidy, easy to use package. Sprung with a Solo air damper, the fork is much like the rear shock and has adjustable rebound paired with a three position preset compression setting for, you guessed it, climbing, trail riding, and descending. Setting the air pressure using the handy chart provided on the fork keeps it simple and then it becomes a matter of finding the rebound settings you like best. The compression settings perform as advertised and provide a noticeable response from an easy on the fly adjustment found on the top of the fork.

Overall, the suspension is well balanced and progressive. Providing great small bump compliance while maintaining the ability to take a big hit when needed. Traction is maintained and the compression adjustments can be found and changed intuitively without having to stop or get off the bike. The Revelation is a real bonus for a bike at this price point, a real performer.

The Drivetrain

The Stumpy Evo runs a well spec’d and reliable SRAM drivetrain. An X9 rear mechanical is paired with X7 shifter pods and front mechanical. The X9 provides all the performance of an X0 just in a more subdued and slightly heavier package. The X7 shifts on command and maintains consistent feel but doesn’t have the crisp, positive feedback found in its more advanced brethren. Standard SRAM alloy cranks power the system and provide adequate stiffness and reliability and comes stock with a chain guide. Stopping power comes from a pair of Avid Elixir 5’s. They provide a progressive feel that brings on more power the more you pull. While reliability has improved over the years, I have had multiple issues with the seal assembly on other avid brakes throughout the years. I will be swapping stoppers for a pair of Shimano XT’s for two main reasons; reliability and feel. I prefer the more direct and responsive “on/off” feel of the shimanos as opposed to the progressive nature of the Avids. Neither is good nor bad, it’s a personal thing.

On a very positive note – I’m quite glad to see the command post stocked on this bike, truly a must have for this type of ride.

The Wheels

Rolling on the set of Roval 29er alloy wheels is a relatively non plussed experience. They are neither heavier or light. Noticeably stiff or flimsy. They don’t accelerate mind blowingly fast but they won’t slow you down. They are exactly what you would expect to find on this bike. Well built, reliable, and a stable all rounder. If I were to dress this ride up little bit I would strongly consider adding the new Roval Carbon 29er wheels. Dropping weight and adding stiffness, those wheels would make this bike the bargain of the year.

The Tires

A Specialized Butcher tubeless ready keeps you tracking up from and a Purgatory in the rear. Both are aggressive all mountain tires that will handle anything from sand to mud to hard pack fast with relative easy. They hook up and hold a line quite well. For my taste, they are almost a little toward to break traction on because they grip so well. Slashing and slarving turns takes a lot of effort to get them to release. Not a bad characteristic to have if you want a tire that will let you hook up in almost all terrain though.

First Impressions


At first I was skeptical that a 29er could do justice to the style of riding that I enjoy. I thought it would be akin to riding lumbering wagon wheels with a choppy, slowly responding feel. I was sorely mistaken and pleasantly surprised by the Stumpy Evo. Throwing my leg over it, I immediately noticed two things. First,I felt right at home in the the cockpit. The 720 mm wide mini rise bar was just right for driving the bike into the corners and achieving the right balance across the bike. Second, I felt remarkably “in” the bike. I didn’t feel perched up high or unbalanced. I felt low in the saddle with my weight transferring easily through the bottom bracket. The design of the bike has pulled the rear wheel deep into the frame and has resulted in short, stiff, and responsive chain stays. Paired with the low bottom bracket height, this bike dives into the corners remarkably well. The geometry lends it self to preloading the bike and G’ing out bermed turns with ease. Moving through the fast, flowy, terrain that dominates the Anchorage area was fun and easy. The responds quickly and accelerated astonishingly fast for its size and weight. The benefits of the 29er were felt immediately as it picked up speed on the downhills and rolled over any hazards with easy. With the 30 or so miles I have put in, I am quite impressed and am confident this will be a great racing steed for the season. I will provide updates when I get a few longer rides under my belt. I am particularly interested in the ride quality on aggressive downhills, jumping, and tight technical trails.

The 2013 Stumpjumper Line up has a little something for everyone. If you want something similar but with slightly more aggressive geometry, a standard stumpy will do nicely. Both the Stumpjumper and the Stumpjumper EVO are available in 26″ and 29″ options depending on your preference. The Carbon frames are available and provide unrivaled stiffness and responsiveness but, for the value, I think the EVO comp 29er is the bike to beat this season.

Bike Check: 2013 Specialized Status I

I’m about to try my hand at my first bike review, bear with me on this one folks!

This is just a first impression of my new 2013 Specialized Status I, as soon as I get some decent saddle time I will post a full ride review. A big thanks to the guys at The Bike Shop on Dimond for partnering with me this season, they have been instrumental in moving my plans forward!

So, first things first, why did I buy a Status when I have a stable full of steeds already? Well, I equate it to the same thing as a toolbox. When you build something it is important to use the right tool for the job if you want the right results. You don’t use a sledgehammer for finishing work. I have a fantastic 2010 Specialized Demo 8 II that is an extremely capable bike that I have had countless hours of fun on. But there are several reasons why I chose to go a different direction.

First, lets address the terrain. This summer I am venturing away from traditional downhill trails found at resorts and in established trail networks and I am heading into more uncharted big mountain free riding where the exposure is higher and trails may not exist. The type of environment where you most definitely want the right tool for the job.

When I built my Demo, I built a bike for straight line speed and stability for wide open trail systems. Which is why I sized up medium frame. The longer wheelbase provided much greater stability at the cost of some nimbleness. The demo runs an extremely aggressive race geometry with an exceptionally low bottom bracket height, making it one of the fastest bike on the world cup and allowing it to corner and handle like a dream. For this new type of terrain, nimbleness was critical to me. I want the bike to read my mind and move with me, there isn’t time for delayed reactions. I thought about sizing down in the Demo to a small to achieve the quickness I wanted but at would still leave me on a race geometry.

Enter the Status.20130519-142757.jpg

The status runs a slightly higher bottom bracket and less aggressive geometry, giving it a more neutral and balanced feel. This equips it better for varied terrain and lower speed handling in technical sections. The demo only really feels alive at very high speeds. The Status has a nicely progressive suspension rate and can shred big lines fast or trick kickers with the best of the free ride bikes.

So onto my specific build:

2013 Specialized Status I $2500 MSRP

I’ll give a breakdown of the major components and the changes I made to customize it for my needs.


The alloy frame sports 200mm of coil sprung travel with a Fusion Vector R shock. The frame is strong, well built and uses Specialized’s FSR technology. It’s a progressive spring rate that can handle anything you throw at it. It runs a 1.5″ head tube to give the strongest build on the front end possible. The livery, in true Specialized fashion, look great. The pictures don’t do it justice, the intricate details only come out when looking at it in person.



The Status I runs matching Fusion suspension front and rear with a 170 mm Vengeance up front and a 200 mm Vector R in the back. The fork is a single crown running a coil with rebound adjust. The rear shock, like the front, is a coil shock with adjustable rebound. These pieces are durable, easy to use but lack the tuneability that is found on some higher end models. But for this build kit, they are reliable, well built, and great for someone venturing into the world of free ride.


I elected to run a dual crown Rock Shock Boxxer World Cup up front. While this may be a heavier option than a single crown I wanted the adjustability that it offered with the high and low speed rebound and compression adjustments. Also, I prefer the feeling that it offers being air sprung versus coil. Additionally, the Boxxer runs 200 mm of travel versus the X Fusions 170 mm. In the back I decided to run a Rock Shock Vivid Air R2C, again for the adjustability and feel. Most people would shy away from running an air shock on a freeride bike because of the risk of heat fade. I am fortunate enough to be a featherweight at 155 lbs so I can get away with it. The Vivid Air also runs a thermoplastic rod through the main chamber that expands with heat and compensates for the effects of heat fade, making this shock run as close to a coil feel as I have ever felt out of an air shock. By running the Vivid air I saved over 1 lbs of weight on the bike as well.


The bike rolls on a set of Specialized P-Disc 32 mm rims with Spesh hubs. While I can’t guarantee it, I think these are DT Swiss rims in camouflage. They may not be the lightest wheel set in the world but they can take a beating, and reliability is important. More to come on this as I put some miles down.


A matching set of Specialized Butcher SX 26 x 2.3″ tires come stock. As freeride tires go, it’s not obscenely heavy and it rolls pretty quick. While I wouldn’t run these for all mountain riding, they are a good fit for high speed descents. The knob pattern allows it to hook up and grip well in most any terrain and roll well. I haven’t ridden these in the wet so i can’t speak to how well they clear mud at this point.



You’ll find a mid range spec from SRAM on this bike. A single 34T ring up on a set of Truvativ Rukitron cranks move you forward and the chain is held in place with a status guide. An X7 rear derailleur moves you through the 11-32 cassette, providing all the gearing you need for freeride or downhill the X7 derailleur paired with the X4 shifter provide reliable shifts and long term durability but at the cost of weight and precision. You may find that the trigger action is not as tight or immediate as an X9 shifter pod. I plan on running the X7 mechanicals out of the box and putting them through the paces to get a true test on them. When (not if) I crash and rip the derailleur off, I will upgrade to X9 or X0.



Stopping is kind of important so brakes are too. Avid Elixir 1’s paired with a 200mm rotor up front and a 180 mm in the rear. The Elixir 1 offers a progressive feel with its taper bore assembly with no real frills. They offer great stopping power in a entry level brake. Brakes are very much a personal thing, which is why I chose to swap the Avids out for a set of Shimano Saints with 203 mm rotors from and rear. I prefer the more “on/off” feel of the saints and they offer a more precise feel and action with single finger braking.

The extras:

The Status is stock with a 750 mm Lo rise bar that offers a nice wide feel for dropping deep into corners and great steering input with minimal action. Post and seat are standard Specialized DH stock. I switched to Twenty6 direct mount stem out of necessity with the dual crown fork. I am running SRAM thin grips for a more direct contact point with the bike. I also added on some Twenty6 ti spindle flat pedals that offer a stable platform with excellent grip.

So, that’s the first look at the 2013 Status I. Overall, I think this bike is one of the leaders for freeride/downhill entry level/mid range bikes. The geometry and technology that goes into this frame rival the top end designs coming from competitors. The suspension is a good place to start but may lack some adjustability for more experienced riders. The component spec is perfect for what this bike is designed for. You’ll find it reliable and burly.

Stay tuned for a ride report as I begin to put down some miles on it!

The words I dread most……”On your left!”

Injuries suck.

First off, they hurt. Crashing is not a pleasent experience, I should know – I have done a helluva a lot of it over the years. 

Second, they sideline you. Being forced out of the activities you love is no fun and you can be left feeling like the kid who never gets picked for the kickball team while all the other kids get to go play.

Third, you have to deal with the rehab and recovery.  I don’t bounce back like I did at 17 because, lets face it, I am old.

But injuries are part of what I do. If  I’m not prepared to accept that then I shouldn’t play the way I play. Simple as that.

photo (1)

But to the matter at hand – I’m no longer injured. I’m in recovery. And I am in that part of recovery that is mental torture! You see, the first part of the recovery process can actually be quite relaxing. You have an excuse to lay on the couch, watch TV, drink beer, eat ice cream, and generally fall apart a little bit. You can day dream about the great days you  have had and think about the great ones to come. It can be a nice little reset. On the other end, when you are on the cusp of being back to 100%, you start to feel fired up again, you are back in the saddle, you are charging ahead and doing what you love with barely a  hinderence from that almost forgotten mishap.

But then there is that really awkward and diffcult place in the middle. That place where you are mentally fired up to go at 100% but your physical therapist, friends, and most importantly, your body say “You are not ready.”  That’s where I am at. My mind is willing but the body is weak. 7 weeks on crutches did me no favors for physical fitness, but I accepted that it was part of the deal and moved on. But now it’s time to get after it right? Wrong. This right here, right now, is the mental crux of recovery. That place where every Type A, driven, adrealine addicted fiber in your body is screaming to just GO! GO! GO! but reason, sound judgment and good friends say NO! NO! NO! Recovery is a science and an art. it takes time and the process can’t be short cutted. Rushing back may give some instant gratification but this is about the long game.  And make no mistake, how you handle the now can drastically affect the future.

So yesterday, when I got on my bike for a gentle spin on the road, I was happy to just be on my bike regardless of the pace or distance. The fact that I am riding a bike and walking normally is a win; it sure is better than crutches! And I was able to sit back and relax and enjoy the ride. Knowing that very soon I will be back at 100%.

And then I heard it. That dreaded phrase that is like nails on a chalkboard to me.

“On Your Left!”

Someone passed me. Like I was standing still. I forgot all of that mellow, I’m ok, you’re ok, let’s all be happy and zen stuff. All I wanted to do was grab a gear and chase him down.

Some might say I’m a teensy bit competitive.

But I didn’t do it. Mainly because I couldn’t actually physcially do it….but that’s not the point. So more accurately, I didn’t try to do it. Let’s say better judgment prevailed.

And hey, lets face it, thats a bit of a victory for me.

Mo Trails, Mo Betta – Thank You Singletrack Advocates!

These trails leave everyone smiling

The STA has done it again! This week they received approval to move ahead with Kincaid Phase 2 and I want to give them a truly heartfelt thanks and a big congratulations for such a big win for the cycling community!

These trails leave everyone smiling

These trails leave everyone smiling

Since 2008, the STA has worked to create well built, sustainable, and fun mountain bike trails for all of us to enjoy. They have been instrumental in growing the sport of mountain biking in the Anchorage area. Janice Tower, Lee Bolling, Ryan Greef, Chad Burris, and numerous others have dedicated their time and efforts to continue the momentum and push forward Kincaid Phase 2, and for that I am extremely grateful. At the end of a hard day I can hop on my bike and disappear into the woods for a few hours, emerging on the other side with an ear to ear grin on my face. All thanks to the incredible network of trails that wouldn’t be there without this team of amazing people. The STA has done more than just build trails though, they have done something much greater and more impacting; they have fostered a community.

This is what it is all about!

This is what it is all about!

The world over, cyclists congregate. There is a shared bond between velocipede enthusiasts that transcends age, race, or gender. You like bikes, I like bikes, lets ride bikes together! It is an amazing community that is drawn together simply for the joy of riding and not much more. What the STA has done for the cycling community in Anchorage is astounding. I have met dozens upon dozens of people in the last few years that have either started or rekindled a love affair with mountain biking because of the amazing network of trails we now have access to. Whether it is their first time on a mountain bike or a seasoned professional, I see people coming together daily to decompress on the trails, grow their own skills and encourage others to join them. I have seen bonds strengthened between fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, as well as new friendships flourishing between complete strangers. The community we have is vibrant and energetic and growing at an incredible rate! In no small part, thanks to the STA. It’s more than just riding bikes. It’s the payoff of years of hard work. It’s laughing on the trail with friends. It’s learning new things about yourself and what you are capable of. It’s a trail therapy session after a hard week.  It’s the post ride ritual in the parking lot. It’s coming together to build and maintain the trails we love so much. It’s all these things that make our community so great.

Riders of all types revel in the trails. XC to Freeride there is something for everyone.

Riders of all types revel in the trails. XC to Freeride there is something for everyone.

So come on out and show your support if you love these trails as much as I do! The build season is around the corner and it will require all of us banding together to help out where we can. I would encourage everyone to lean in and give of yourself in anyway you can. Whether through time or money, everything is valuable to a project like this. I can tell you first hand that the work party days are a blast. There is something supremely satisfying about putting your sweat equity into a trail. The first time you ride the section you built is a unique and indescribable reward.

My life is better because of these trails for so many reasons. So to the Singletrack Advocates, I raise my glass. Thanks for everything you do.


Big Dreams & Big Lines

Scheming and calculating

Setbacks, Big Dreams, & New Partnerships – 2013 is setting up to be a good year…

If I am honest, 2013 didn’t exactly start out as planned. My new year was greeted with a torn meniscus and ACL and I quickly traded my ski poles for crutches. But injuries can also be opportunities. Down time, whether self imposed or forced through an injury, can provide a chance to reflect and refocus. Facing several months away from my skis and bike I knew there was the potential to auger in on the negative aspects of injury. The alternative was to focus on recovery and what comes next.

Not exactly the news I was hoping for

Not exactly the news I was hoping for

Post Op - Steady put me back together!

Post Op – Steady put me back together!

The long road to recovery begins with a leisurely wheelchair ride through the airport.

The long road to recovery begins with a leisurely wheelchair ride through the airport.

So I started to look to what was next. Having to accept that my ski season was over (before it even really started) I turned my sights on my summer love; biking.  As I sat back and thought about the 2013 season I began to realize that it was time to explore some new ventures on my bike. I thrive on progression and finding new ways to develop as a rider is what keeps me riding year after year. So I put pen to paper and started mapping out what I wanted out of my 2013 season.

Planning and scheming for the season

Planning and scheming for the season

I came to the conclusion that I wanted to focus my energy into three main areas. The first was to be more active in the cycling community through trail building and rider development. We have a great community here in Alaska and the mountain bike scene is growing by leaps and bounds every season. My goal is to get more people out riding their bikes and having fun. Progressive, well built, and well maintained trails are critical to people enjoying their experience on a bike. So look for me on the trail and feel free to grab a shovel and dig with me!

Second, this season, after a 10 year hiatus, I have decided to return to competitive mountain bike racing. When I stopped racing cross country years ago I rekindled why I loved riding. I didn’t feel obligated to rack up hundreds of training kilometers or try to catch every race in a series every weekend. I started to explore other styles of riding from freeride to road and I never really looked back. But you never really lose that competitive spirit do you? That little bit of fire has been smoldering and with the Enduro class race scene exploding, I decided it was time to test my mettle in the competitive world once again. Enduro is a racing style that I identify with. It is reminiscent of the grassroots nature of mountain biking before it became all UCI’d and stuffy. So as I become stronger and healthier later in the season I look forward participating in as many events as possible throughout the northwest.

Finally, something I have long been dreaming of but hesitant to pursue, this season will mark my first foray into big mountain freeriding. I have thought about this style of riding for years and debated how obtainable it is. The terrain is bigger, sketchier, and riskier than anything I have ridden before. The planning is more in depth and everything is more calculated. But it’s where my passion lies. I see big mountains and all I can think about is riding them. So this summer I will begin exploring zones throughout central Alaska looking for the ideal set of conditions to test myself and progress as a rider. The next several months will mark a journey that will encompass my rehab progression, scouting zones and lines, building and crafting trails, and finally testing my skills as a rider and seeing if I have what it takes to make it out in one piece.

Big Mountain Riding

Big Mountain Riding

Scheming and calculating

Scheming and calculating

So my 2013 has some exciting opportunity in it but I couldn’t do it alone. I am super excited to announce my partnership with The  Bicycle Shop, Dimond for this season as a team rider and Freeride Ambassador. I look forward to representing  the shop, Jamin, and the rest of the crew and I truly appreciate their support as I launch into this new endeavor. A special thanks to Zuzana Rodgers at Advanced Physical Therapy for her continued support in putting me back together. And of course, to all my friends and family who have helped me through this recovery process and encouraged me along the way.

Stay tuned to see whats next!