Its no secret by now that my fatbike frame is cracked and I sold my trusty Norco. I enjoyed my time on the Norco Torrent (review here) but needed less of a "go fast" bike and something more along the lines of a quiver killer. I set my sights on the RSD Sergeant from a relatively new company based right here in Ontario. These guys are big into the fat and plus bike scene and have incredible value for the dollar, not to mention well spec'd bikes with no corners cut. Customer service at Rubber Side Down is top notch. I placed my order late on a Sunday night and I had an email Monday morning from Alex, the head honcho at RSD, thanking me and providing my tracking number. Wow.
So, here it is, the RSD Sergeant.
The bike has what I'm calling a "super spec". I can only find one part I don't like, but more on that later. It comes with 27.5" x 3" tires, but do some nosing around the interwebs and you'll find that it can swallow 27.5" x 3.8" tires from Maxxis and Bontrager. A true two bikes in one, or a fatty with a narrow Q factor (73mm bb shell). I'll be rocking the 3" tires for everything but snow, whereas I'll toss on some 3.8" tires. I can't wait to put some miles on this bike and will do a full review after putting it through its paces.
The only part I don't like right off the hop is the cassette. Nothing wrong with the cassette but its a cheaper Sram model with no carrier body and mounted to an aluminum freehub. Tisk Tisk! This is a recipe for a completely fucked freehub body and I'm changing out the cassette before I even ride it. Would have been a non-issue with a steel freehub body.
The rest of the build is tough looking with a 34mm stanchion fork, 4 piston Avid brakes, and Race Face Turbine cranks. There are a few nice touches too, like Race Face grips, Avid matchmaker clamps, and genuine brand name handlebars / stem / post that you don't see alot of for OEM. My completely stock large weighs in at 31 lbs.
I was recently given the opportunity to take out a Rocky Mountain Blizzard fat bike for a real ride around my home trails of Turkey Point. The bike was one of the rental fleet owned by Elevation Mountain Bike Camps and Coaching who operates a mountain bike coaching / guides / rental business based in Turkey Point and were kind enough to lend me the bike for a morning of riding and testing while my personal fat bike is down. They are also the local Rocky Mountain dealer.
The bike is a 2016 model Blizzard 30. It features a Shimano Deore 10 speed drivetrain with Shimano m396 brakes. The wheels are Sun Ringle hubs and rims shod with Vee Rubber Bulldozer 4.7" tires. The Race Face Affect crank is a quality touch and the build is rounded out with Rocky Mountain branded post, bar, and stem.
Its no secret that I love the Specialized Power saddle on my CX bike, so when it was time to shop for a mountain saddle to replace the OEM anvil that Norco supplied on my Torrent 7.2 I went directly to my local Specialized dealer - The Brantford Cyclepath. Another go on the Specialized Ass Ruler and I was out the door with a blacked out Phenom in 155mm width. I briefly thought about buying the Henge (which I really liked on my old Fatboy) but was talked into the Phenom as it shares the same rear section as the Power saddle, just with a longer nose more suited to mountain biking.
Once installed it felt at home right off the get go. Comfort and fit are exactly what I expected after my experience with the Power saddle. I did have to do a bit more position tweaking than the Power and ended up with the nose slightly higher on this setup.
I've put alot of miles on this saddle now and it has been great. Lots of epic rides spending between 4 and 6 hours riding and it was still comfortable. Moving around and getting on the nose for climbing is quick and comfortable. The saddle has a waterproof grippy material covering it to keep you from sliding off unintentionally.
I do have two small gripes with the seat though. Firstly, the nose of the saddle has developed a bit of wear, which isn't too uncommon but I'd expect it to hold up better after only 6 months of riding and spending 130ish bucks.
My second concern is that the rear of the saddle where the rails go into the plastic base has developed some movement. While this does not affect performance, it does cause some creaking at times and again, I'd expect more from a saddle like this. Time will tell how much of an issue this may or may not become. I'll have to post an update after some more long term riding.
In the end, its one of the only mountain saddles I've been able to spend half a day on and not feel like I've had a vasectomy, only held back by two little concerns. I rate it 4/5 stars.
About a year ago I picked up a Revelate Tangle Frame Bag from the awesome crew at Outspokin Cycles in London to replace the undersized Jandd frame bag I was using on my CX bike. I can't remember the exact cost but it was just over $100 if I can recall.
My first impression of the bag while groping it in the bike shop was that it looked well made. I took it home and mounted it to my CCX then filled it with all the junk I usually carry. It has no issue swallowing a multitool, tube, pump, patch kit, etc. The right side zipper opens into the large compartment, while the left zipper opens into a flat storage compartment great for a phone, camera, money.
The bag sits nicely under the top tube and out of the way. I've had it loaded quite fat and never had any issues with hitting my legs on it or being cumbersome in any way. The bag does limit the size of water bottle you can carry though as tall ones will interfere with the bag. I use my regular sized Camelbak bottles without issues but my big one litre "Magnum" bottle won't fit. This really is a non-issue though as the bag is big enough to carry a 3rd bottle if need be, along with all your other usual junk.
Bag construction is great. Its made from Zipstretch and Cordura and sewn in the USA. The liner material is made from red and yellow fabric which contrasts against your gear and makes it easier to find that one thing you're looking for in the bottom of the bag. The large right side compartment has a handy pump loop to secure your mini pump against the underside of the top tube. There is also a port to run a hydration bladder tube through if you choose to toss in a 2 liter hydration pack bladder, although your cargo room will be much less.
The left pocket is a flat one with enough room for some food, camera, money, wallet, etc. It has a nice divider to keep everything organized into three separate areas. I've even tossed in an "emergency diaper" while pulling the kids around. The zippers are very heavy duty units that should last a long time and are easy to use while riding.
I've put this bag through hell and back. Its been on a number of tough rides and seen lots of offroad cyclocross action and never missed a beat. Its been covered in sweat, mud, snot, and even some blood and still looks great. I have no complaints for this bag and would buy another in a heart beat. Matter of fact I'm looking to bag up my fatty for bikepacking and the Revelate bags are topping my list right now.
Easy 5/5 stars.
Back in December of 2015 I bought my new 2016 Norco Torrent 7.2 from the good guys at Totally Spoke'D in Stratford. I bought the bike for $2258 with taxes. I wrote about my initial thoughts on the bike after riding it for a few weeks here: My Norco Torrent 7.2.
I've put 10 months of riding on the bike now and love it. The slack geometry and high traction make for a very aggressive ride that likes to be pushed to the limits. Speaking of traction, this bikes had gobs of it. The Nobby Nic tires hooked up on everything and I actually swapped out the rear tire to a Rocket Ron 3.0 as I didn't need all that grip, even in the sandy trails of Turkey Point. I always liked the Nobby Nic / Rocket Ron combo on my 29ers and it didn't disappoint here.
The fork is a little hit and miss. The SR Suntour Raidon works well and the air spring is reliable, but I've had to remove the lowers a few times and clean the seals and bushings then reapply a thin spray-on grease to the insides of the lowers as there is no oil bath to lubricate the bushings and the fork gets a little sticky after a couple of months. I've heard of lots of failures and warranty replacements of this fork but mine has been doing good up until a few weeks ago when the compression damper began to leak. It is fine other than a slight leak if I hang the bike in the garage by the front wheel. Looks like I'll be contacting Totally Spoke'D soon for a warranty claim.
The wheels have been good. The hubs are reliable and the rims keep true. I did have to rebuild the rear wheel with Sapim Force (triple butted) spokes, but that has more to do with my weight than anything else. I popped a number of spokes and the wheel came apart, a quick rebuild and I was good as gold again. The rim and bead interface on these wheels are tight, I imagine tubeless would be an easy conversion.
The Shimano SLX driveline is great. Typical Shimano quality and never misses a shift. I was a bit apprehensive at first going to a 1x system but the 1x10 has proven to be all the gears I need. The 28 tooth chainring makes for some low gearing to grunt up steep hills and surprisingly holds it own everywhere else. I've only ever spun out my top gear on a long road section moving faster than I normally would (about 35 km/h).
The Norco brand bar / stem / post combo is of typical OEM quality and works great. The handlebar and stem have a 35.0mm interface and makes it much stiffer than the old oversize of 31.8mm. Can't fault anything here.
I did have to ditch the OEM Norco saddle. It was a lesson in pain riding that thing. I swapped it for a Specialized Phenom (review coming soon) and couldn't be happier. The Norco saddle was tossed into the bin of saddles I've somehow collected that are all torture devices.
The Shimano brakes work. They are not as powerful as I'd like but as a lower end Shimano brake they use resin pads that wear quickly and lack grabbing power. They fade quickly. I'm going to upgrade the pads to sintered metal and the rotors to something that can handle the abuse of the upgraded pads. If that does not work, I'll just throw on a set of XT brakes (when cash allows) and put these M396 (Acera level FYI) brakes on the fatbike.
Those are all the points I felt I needed to go into depth with. Here is a summary of what a like and dislike about the bike.
I love this bike. It feels like its almost the perfect bike for a guy my size, with traction and toughness built for a big guy. The thru axles do a great job of keeping the bike stiff and handling fast. The drivetrain is simple and reliable. The frame is setup for hidden dropper post cable routing if your rides get super gnarly. Norco did a great job spec'ing this bike out and the 2017 model has upgraded to a Rock Shox fork instead of the hit/miss Suntour.
This bike decends and handles technical trail sections like a dream. Norco's north shore heritage proves that they can tune a bike for the gnarliest of conditions. It laughs in the face of rock gardens and root sections. It climbs great and never spins out, the perfect balance of rear/forward weight. Bike fit and feel are great, you feel like you are in the bike and not on top of it. Alot of other bike brands I've bought in the past needed the stem length changed or a handlebar with a change of sweep, but the Norco fits me great as it is. The bars fell at just the right spot from day one.
Going forward I believe that the 650b+ / 27.5+ wheel platform will be the "go-to" size for people who just want a trail bike or live in areas where conditions are loose (aka Turkey Point). It also seems like the perfect Clydesdale wheel size in the fact that the wheels are smaller and stiffer than a 29er but still have the 29er diameter.... with a ton more traction.
I couldn't ask for much more from this bike. Its an easy 5/5 for me.
This pack looked great at first. It has lots of internal pockets for organization and a really neat tool roll, as well as a fleece lined pocket for your glasses / phone / whatever. The magnetic hose clip is pretty cool too. I like the stiff back panel, it gives the bag some much needed structure that the previous generation of Camelbak lumbar packs was missing (the Volt and Charge). The side pockets are nice to have but are much too small to fit anything useful other than a Cliff bar. I'm a fan of the Lowrider design, I've been using a Wingnut Hyper (the original lowrider design) for a couple of years now and it helps with back pain on long rides.
My biggest beef with this pack...... its too small. I'm a big dude built like a gorilla and it does not fit. With the straps loosened all the way its still much too tight to get around my 38" waist comfortably. The shoulder straps are up and over my shoulders for the most part and the sternum strap it just below my neck at its lowest setting. I can't ride with this pack. Its like putting on a Hello Kitty backpack for a normal sized person, just does not work. In contrast, my Wingnut has tons of adjustment left in the straps when I wear it, I'm sure someone 7' tall could use it. I really wish Camelbak would offer some larger sizes of bags, as it stands the HAWG and MULE are the only packs from them that I can comfortably use. I'll just have to stick with my Wingnut for now.
I have to give this pack a big 0/5 for me. Useless as it does not fit. Fellow Clydes beware.
I think that its no secret that I have a love-hate affair with Specialized but I've been a believer in the Body Geometry products since they first started appearing in my local bike shop. I've owned a few BG saddles over the years and had mostly positive results. I needed a new saddle for my CX bike as the WTB Rocket V was giving me alot of grief that I just couldn't take anymore and I wanted to put on some big miles without my ass feeling like I had sat atop a jack-hammer for an hour, so I wandered into the friendly Brantford Cyclepath to get fitted for a BG saddle.
The Specialized saddle purchase experience is much more in depth than looking at a saddle and pressing your thumb into it to get an idea of the "comfort rating". First thing they had me do was sit for a minute on the Specialized Ass Ruler, or whatever it was called. Once my sit bones were measured up it was time to test a few saddles in the proper width. It turns out that my ass calls for a 155mm wide saddle, so a conventional looking Phenom was attached to the fit bike for me to sit on a pedal. It felt ok. Then I was introduced to the Power saddle. I was a little apprehensive as it had a very odd look to it, but we tossed it on the fit bike for a test. It worked great. I put down my money and $120ish later I was out the door with the ugly ducking saddle.
I've logged alot of miles on the saddle already, including the TillsonBurn, and I have to say its the most comfortable saddle I've ever owned. It takes the fit and feel of the older BG saddles and kicks it up a notch. Even after long days in the saddle, where my old WTB would have had me in agony, the Power saddle was super comfy and supported my sit-bones perfectly. The version I bought has hollow Cro-Mo rails and very thin padding. The graphics are subtle and don't draw alot of attention to the saddle (I really hate huge 'look at me' graphics on products). Setup was a breeze with a setup guide right on the packaging. I had the angle dialed within a few minutes. I think Specialized has the saddle purchase experience locked down, having the proper width saddle for your sit bones is an essential part of having a comfortable seat.
I've been using this seat on my CX bike and am super happy with it. I've been doing some reading and have found some people liking it on their mountain bikes too. I was sold on getting a Phenom or Henge for my mountain bikes but might try the Power for a ride or two to see how it stacks up in the mountain bike side of things.
I realize that saddles are a personal choice, but the fit procedure and in-store testing have the Specialized product ahead of the rest. Some might balk at the price tag, but take into consideration the time and fit procedure of the purchase and it works out to be a good deal. I'd rather spend $120 on a saddle that fits and I can test in the store, than $80 on something that feels like a torture device once home and installed on my bike. I have to give the Power saddle a perfect 5/5 score. Its that good.
Well, I've put a few rides on the Norco now. I'm running 25% sag in the fork and 14psi rear, 11 psi front in the tires (I'm 260lbs). The bike is 100% stock at this point. It weighs 29 lbs.
When I got the bike home I had to do a few little fixes right from the factory. The left crank arm would rub the frame under load, I had to remove the cranks and bb and place the spacer from the right side to the left, no rubbing issue and better chain line now. The levers needed to be repositioned, and the lever reach shortened, but this is all personal preference.
I had my sights set on a few other 650b+ bikes (Spec and Cannondale) and even a couple of trail 29ers but the Norco beat them out because of a few key features. The Spec has only 28/24 spoke count wheels, for a guy my size I don't trust them, the Norco is reliable 32 spoke wheels. Both the Specialized and the C'Dale have pressfit bottom brackets, whereas the Norco is good old BSA threaded.... its no secret that I fucking hate pressfit bb's. The Norco has more aggressive geometry compared to the Spec and Dale, which is what I was looking for in a bike like this. The Norco has a kick ass Race Face Affect crankset.
I decided to move away from riding fat bikes exclusively. While they are more than capable of handling any terrain / situation that I could throw them at, I have to admit that they did have their drawbacks as well. The biggest drawback for me was the Q factor put my hips in an odd spot and caused me lower back / hip pain over long rides (as in 6+ hours). I'm not leaving fat bikes all together though as I still own the Nashbar and plan to use it for many miles on both dirt and snow, and the 'plus' size tires don't offer near the float that the fat bikes do, the big advantage to 'plus' bikes is traction. That and variety is the spice of life. Whats better than having a nice variety of bikes?
My thoughts in no particular order:
-Fork works surprisingly well, have not even been close to the limit of its travel
-The Nobby Nic tires grip it and rip it. A very aggressive tread that hooks up everywhere. I might run a 3.0 Rocket Ron in the rear for summer conditions, that combo (in a 2.25) works good on my 29er.
-You can't ride this bike lazy, you need to be on the gas to get the most out of the massive amount of grip and aggressive geo.
-The grey/black paintjob with safety orange/ yellow decals looks awesome in person, the photos don't do it justice.
-The 1x gearing is spot on, a 36-11 cassette with a 28t chainring works great, no cassette adaptors or diner plates needed out back and improved ground clearance at the chainring.
The Shimano shifter and derailleur work superbly, Shimano quality as per usual.
-The chainstay yoke is a work of art
-The fake lock on grips are cheesy as shit, Norco should have spec'd a real lock on grip.
-The brake hoses and shifter cable housing need to be trimmed up alot, this should have been taken care of at the factory.
I can't wait to rack up a bunch of miles on this sweet rig, it seems like the near perfect trail bike for the loose / sandy trails in TP.
Ever since I sold my Fatboy SE, I've had people picking my brain about why I rid myself of it and if it was a good bike or not. I've decided that I'll put it all out in the open, right here where people can choose to read it or ignore. Did I like the bike? Sure did. Did it have problems? Oh fuck yeah. Here are some honest thoughts from a guy who paid his own hard earned cash on the bike.
The Good Stuff:
The Fatboy is a phenomenal handling bike. Specialized really knows how to tweak geometry and get a quick but stable ride out of this bike. It never felt slow or sluggish, it carved hard and got up to speed quickly. Fit was excellent too, the stock cockpit was well sorted and the OEM bar / stem / post held everything together nicely.
It is decently light weight for a fat bike. With my 1x conversion and lightweight tubes I got the bike down to 31lbs, which I feel is reasonable for this type of bike.
The Specialized Ground Control tires are fantastic. They might cost an arm and a leg to replace but they work wonderfully. They roll fast and bite everywhere, with supple sidewalls to soak up the trail chatter.
I really liked the Specialized Henge saddle. I had some doubts about it at first but it won me over in the end. I liked it so much that I'm thinking of having my local Specialized dealer hook me up with one for my new trail bike. The Body Geometry grips were great too, the shape and feel were excellent, no hands going numb after spending hours riding.
The Bad Stuff:
First off I'm going to say fuck off with the pressfit bottom bracket creak box. I hated pressfit before but this bike took it to another level of mind numbing creaking and groaning with every pedal rotation. Maybe it has something to do with the wider crank spindle or increased loads due to the fat tires, either way it was an annoying and loud bunch of shit that could have been solved with running a good old BSA threaded shell.
The cassette. In its own, the cassette isn't all that bad. Its a lower end offering from Sunrace that seemed to shift just fine..... BUT...... Specialized tossed on a cassette with no carrier body onto and aluminum freehub. What the fuck are you thinking Specialized? What a bonehead move on your part. Here is a photo of my freehub body after one easy ride around the block with mentioned shitty cassette. Over a few weeks it would have been total annihilation of the freehub body. What pea brained idiots decided on that cassette / hub?
Since we are already talking about the hub, I might as well mention how shitty the Specialized hubs are. The rear hub had a tendency to puke the freehub body bearings on a few occasions, and judging by numerous online threads, I'm not alone here. Thanks Specialized for spec'ing Swiss Cheese for a hub.
Still on the hub topic..... why not a thru axle setup? Would have stiffened the bike up, and added some much needed longevity to the rear hub. That along with the fact that all of Specialized's competition has moved to thru axles.
The brakes. One thing I know fer certain is that if you're going to spec a mechanical brake on your bike, skid all the shit out there and go right for the best (and very affordable) Avid BB7. No excuses here, the OEM Tektro brakes are total fucking garbage. Also, the levers and cables / housings can be tossed into the trash along with the brakes.
Specialized nearly hit a home run here with a super handling bike, but some of the parts spec really holds it back. They might want to go back to the drawing board with a few choices or be left in the dust by better offerings in the same price range. I ended up modding mine enough to overcome some of the drawbacks but the hub and bb issues were the straw that broke the camel's back so to speak.
Maybe Specialized can offer me a job to spec their bikes with more of a "working man's" build kit that would stand up to some decent abuse, but I won't hold my breath waiting for it. I would get fired after the first day for telling the engineers and designers that they are fucking idiots for moving away from a threaded bb shell.
Agree or disagree, like it or not, thats how The Bric sees the Fatboy SE. This isn't a review so I won't give it a rating. If I hadn't gotten such a deal on the Fatboy I most likely would have bought something else, like a Kona Wo or Norco Sasquatch, but I don't regret my time on the Fatboy either.
Oh, and while I'm in a bitching mood and before I forget, here is the obligatory "Get the Fuck off my Lawn!"
I've got a problem with hydration packs. They always seem good but never "perfect" and I've been searching for the "perfect" pack for a long time. I read some favourable reviews of a little company out of the USA called Wingnut Gear. After looking at their site and reading online forums, I went ahead and ordered a Wingnut Hyper 3.0. It took about 6 weeks to show up as it was custom made to order by a small company and hand built in the USA.
I've had the Wingnut for a month now and have but a bunch of miles on with it. The quality of construction is A1 and the pack is well thought out. It has a few unique features including a pocket for your gel flask, the lowrider system, and the wing pockets. I don't use gels so the gel flask pocket has gone unused. The lowrider system keeps the weight of the pack around your hips while the shoulder straps keep it stable. It works very well and keeps the pack from tugging on your shoulders and wearing out your back and neck, which is my biggest peeve with the offerings from Camelbak. The shoulder harness is made from a highly breathable mesh style fabric, while the rest of the pack is build from durable and lightweight sail cloth.
The Bric...._ mountain biker, road rider, heavyweight gear abuser. Built like a brick sh*thouse. No bike is safe.