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Specialized Turbo Levo Expert Carbon
By Randy Archer
Could this be the ultimate e-MTB?
The 29" tire is back. Combine the Specialized Butcher 2.6, tubeless mounted 29" tire, with 150mm of travel, and the magic Gripton® rubber, and you get a remarkable combination of confidence inspiring ride and handling. The center of mass is low, providing fantastic balance and control. This is trail geometry at its best. The Levo picks its way through slow technical trail sections, with few pedal strikes, like a ninja. On the open trail, fast sweeping flowing trails are exhilarating. Balance in the air is perfection, launching off ledges like they aren't even there. For the biggest challenge, downhill handling over technical terrain, the 29" wheels change direction, while staying stuck to the ground, without a hint of under steer.
I rode this dream bike around under various conditions. Power application on the lowest Eco setting, is smooth and responsive. In fact, I rode mostly with the power on low. On steep, loose, technical climbs, I raised the power to medium, Trail mode. Climbing step-ups became manageable and my heart rate never spiked, leaving me in full control for the entire hill. On a few flowing uphill climbs, I set the power on high. It was effortless and exhilarating. The coolest feature was being able to adjust the motor power setting from the Mission Control App on my phone. I'd say that after SAG setup, fine tuning power is the second most important step in preparing your ride. Mostly though, I enjoyed Eco mode, giving me a good workout and extending my day. At the end of a long ride of 45 miles, I still had power to ride the rest of the way back home.
No clutter here. The super clean perch is a standout. With the battery display on the top tube, and a neatly designed power selector on the bars, the cockpit is simple, with easy access to the controls. When you combine the elegance of the bar arrangement, with the engineering of the motor and battery integration, and the super quiet Specialized 2.1 motor, you will blend into the landscape like any other mountain bike.
It's incredible to believe that Specialized reduced motor weight and size by over 11%, increased battery capacity by 40%, and still managed to keep the bike light and nimble. The Roval wheels work perfectly with the carbon fiber chassis to delivery a stiff and responsive ride. On the trail, I never felt like the bike was hard to change course or was pushing the corners. Handling was plush, yet predictable, on slow technical sections, as well as high speed drops. Primarily an all-mountain setup, performance was outstanding on tight, slow climbs, but still felt refined and very stable on fast flowing downhill runs. Coming off ledges, catching a little air, let me feel how balanced the bike was when not in contact with the ground. The center of gravity is close, making the bike feel flickable and light, even in the air. In no case did the Levo ever feel heavy or sluggish. It hits the motor assist limit of 20mph smoothly, disengaging completely, allowing a natural transition to higher speeds.
Don't care for 29" wheels? The Levo Expert comes with a Flip Chip, letting you easily change the bottom bracket height and angles for different riding styles or wheel/tire size changes. Changing the geometry is subtle, but effective. It's a great feature for the intermediate to expert level rider who wants to fine tune his/her ride.
The 2019 Specialized Turbo Levo Expert is a remarkable and beautiful machine. It's fun, stylish, modern and the epitome of engineering perfection. Visit our shop today to find out more or test ride any of the great Levo mountain bikes available from Specialized.
- 150mm travel front and rear
- Flip chip to change geometry to fit different wheel or tire setups
- Mission Control Blue Tooth interface to map your ride, change motor settings, and more
- Extra capacity 700Wh battery
- Super quiet torque from industry leading Specialized 2.1 motor
- SRAM X1 10-42 11-speed shifting
- New TCU remote battery and power controller mounted on the top tube to help eliminate clutter
- Convenient minimalist, bar mounted, remote power switch, for changing power levels instantly
- 160mm Specialized Command Post with indexing for precision seat height on the fly
- Walk assist mode to get out of tight climbs
- 780mm bars
- SRAM Code R, 4-piston caliper, hydraulic disc, 200mm
- Low and tight center of mass, improving handling under all conditions
Copyright 2019 ©
By Randy Archer
I have ridden most of the Pivot top-line mountain bikes. I have also had the opportunity to ride many other brands of pedal and electric mountain bikes. Without question, Pivot makes some of the very best mountain bikes in the world. I expected the best when I first put the Shuttle together at the shop. Right out of the box, what struck me was the attention to detail, right down to the packaging. The fit and finish is remarkable. Since I’m going to ride this bike for my own, I went over the component specs very carefully. I was delighted to find the Shuttle equipped exactly as I would have built it myself.
Before venturing out, I set the SAG, adjusted the perch and started at a baseline air pressure. On the trail, I further refined the compression and rebound and tweaked the air pressure. I did remove the air chamber volume spacers because I don’t weigh a lot and do like a plush ride (slower, technical). Setup guides are included with the bike. I chose 25% SAG in front and 28% in back. It’s a little less than I would use on a pedal bike (30%) due to the increased weight of the bike itself. At this setting, I experienced no bottoming out, few pedal strikes and a good mid-stoke ride, while holding up in the stroke under demanding terrain. Naturally, this is exactly what I expected from the Fox Elite setup.
Weight & Handling. Sure, a carbon fiber frame can make a lightweight bike. The Shuttle is light: under 45 pounds. The lightest Class 1 e-MTB made. But light cannot come at the price of lateral and torsional stiffness. A flexible frame feels unpredictable under stress and very unnerving in corners; a big problem with aluminum frames. The carbon layup and design must consider tremendous forces that twist the frame in unusual ways – especially when adding the weight of a motor and battery. Fortunately, Pivot is world renown for exquisite carbon fiber design. The Shuttle performs like any world-class, conventional mountain bike, despite the added weight. On the trail, I drove the bike hard into corners, landed off some big ledges and dropped down some technical rock falls. In every case, the bike felt predictable and not different from my Pivot Mach 4 carbon. The geometry and travel make the Shuttle at ease on any fast, technical trail and really shine on more technical sections, both up and down (thanks to the pedal assist).
Anti-squat is important for a longer travel bike. Bobbing while climbing is annoying and makes technical climbs more difficult. The DW-Link, and 140mm rear travel, make climbs crisp and controlled. When paired with the Fox Elite DPX2 shock and Fox 36 Elite fork, technical climbs are a snap. Overall, the effects of added static weight are minimized, especially once under way.
Motor. I have had the chance to ride most of the e-bike motors out today. Everything from high powered hub drive and mid drive, to economical low power assist units. I also ride a Honda CRF450X in the desert – so am accustomed to a motorcycle. On Class 1 e-MTBs the motor is designed to help pedaling effort, mostly on climbs, subtly on the flats and minimally on decent. It is not a motorcycle. You must pedal. Given this backdrop, a good e-MTB motor should integrate fluidly and smoothly, providing a sublime, seamless assist experience. Best in class motors are lightweight, have a narrow profile (less than 174mm Q-factor), are stingy on power consumption, have strong torque on demand and an effective application of power over a broad RPM range. Shimano provides this and more. The E8000 is firmly positioned as a best-in-class motor.
Shimano provides fine tuning of performance, and easy downloads of firmware updates, on their e-Tube app. This means you can update and control your motor’s action, right from your own cell phone, over Bluetooth. It’s integrated with the Di2 derailleur, with an easy-to-read perch-mounted display. With minimal motor whine, the E-8000 is not the quietest, but nonetheless, stealthy. Using three power assist modes, and mostly settling on eco mode, I was able to ride a comfortable 50-miles, with power to spare at the end of my ride. Shimano’s 70Nm of torque is more than ample for even the most demanding climbs. Programming is excellent, providing a very smooth application of power, based on demand. Even the roll off transition of assist decoupling, after 20mph, is not abrupt. The E8000 is one of the best, if not the best, motor available.
Components. Shimano XT, 4-piston brakes, mounted on 180mm rear and 203mm front discs, are phenomenal. I tried my best to overheat these and could not. The Di2 rear derailleur is mounted to an 11-46 tooth, 11-speed cassette, providing superior range. The 150mm Fox Transfer dropper post is very smooth and adjustable on the fly. All this is attached to controls that are easily adjusted on the 760mm carbon bars, making an enjoyable interface with critical components, positioned exactly how I like them.
The DT Swiss EB1550 40mm rims are mounted on a Super Boost Plus, 147mm rear axle, and 110mm front axle. This construction is strong, light and very stiff when leaning into corners. Rubber on the bike is provided by Maxxis. Pivot chose the Minion in front and the Rekon in back, both 27.5 X 2.8, tubeless. I usually run lower pressures up front, but the unique combination of tires accomplishes the same result, with better control. Nice. Driving the wheels hard on corners and sharp rock edges, I experienced no flex, but still a very light, flickable, feel. Even at 17psi, there was no rolling, burping or pinching. This exemplifies Pivot’s superior engineering and keen understanding of total bike design.
Attention to the smallest details are seen on the chain stay protector, integrated bash guard, and the DW-Link debris cover. Not that I am a fan of falling, but the Shimano control interface is tucked away between the bar and the stem, lending a very protected nook in the event of unintended dismount. I really like the paint scheme, which makes the bike disappear, like a stealth fighter, on the trail. It does not look like an e-bike.
Having ridden and raced for some time, and enjoying the added benefit of pedal assist, extending my ability to keep riding, I appreciate the perfection found on the Shuttle. No matter your age or skill level, there is no better choice to experience high-level engineering and technology on the trail. No, it’s not cheap, so not everyone can afford this delightful ride. But, if you can, there is no better build and geometry to be found than the Pivot Shuttle.
Like the Shuttle, but can't afford it? Read further down for the Haro Shift i/O 9. Similar setup on and aluminum frame, Di2, and the Shimano E-8000 motor.
Copyright 2018 ©
Classic Masi Gran Criterium Moderno
By Randy Archer
The transcendent beauty of this classic, steel icon remains unrivaled. The Gran Criterium positioned Masi USA as a force in the emerging ten-speed scene in the early 1970's, to become our flagship model for many years to come. The timeless formula of Columbus steel and investment cast lugs combine to recreate a stunning vintage racer with a modern-day twist. Campagnolo’s 11-speed Potenza group honors the relationship between three great Italian bicycle institutions, while a Brev.M 3D cockpit completes the retro package.
In the 1970's, I raced criteriums on a Masi. Then, it came with the most modern components, including: twelve speeds (12-18), Campagnolo Super Record groupo, super light Columbus double-butted tubing, and Super Champion Arc en Ciel tubular rims. When I "clipped-in," it meant that the only way to get your foot out was to reach down and release the leather toe strap. Today, Masi has the modern version, with updated components, but maintains the old-school style. When I ride it, it always turns a lot of heads. It's very cool looking.
Naturally, I do have a new carbon Masi, with all the latest upgrades, like: tubeless carbon wheels, Di2 shifting and a Dura Ace Groupo. It climbs and accelerates like a rocket ship. However, nothing is quite like the ride of Columbus tubing. The whole riding experience is nostalgic. It's still light, not like carbon of course, but not heavy. The steel flexes differently and gives a very comfortable ride. Carbon is harsh and unyielding compared to steel. Although a bit heavier, it still feels remarkably nimble and responsive. My most startling observation is quiet. Steel and aluminum is significantly quieter than carbon, especially wheels.
The latest edition from Campagnolo, Potenza, is very crisp and responsive. I do miss the Di2, but the Potenza is in no way "old." Every aspect performs like a modern bike. Shifting is crisp and precise. The drive train is smooth, without any any annoying sounds or glitches.
With a very clean fit and finish, Masi took time to highlight the details. Chrome lugs pop, showcasing the exquisite detail of the paint and frame. I really like the detail in the chrome fork crown. Wide flange hubs, encasing precision bearings, laced to Brev. M Classic Road rims, provide a smooth, contemporary ride feel. Even the Clement Strada tire choice gives a look of the past, yet they are better handling tires than any clincher from 1970.
This is Masi!
Copyright 2018 ©
By Randy Archer
Pure fun. Ride farther, longer and enjoy the ride. Starting with the geometry, the Levo Expert effortlessly handles the roughest terrain, as well as any bike, electric or pedal. Once rolling, you simply cannot feel the extra weight. Plush, responsive, suspension that tracks confidently in all conditions, makes even a novice feel like an expert.
Starting out, I rode the bike without power, just to see how heavy it would feel. On flat and downhill terrain, it honestly felt like a regular all-mountain bike. As expected, climbing without power is like pedaling a downhill bike up a hill. But then, it is an E-MTB. Point is, if necessary, you could pedal home in a pinch.
Handling is astounding, rivaling any bike in this class. You get all the benefits of a 2.8” contact patch, control and confidence, with none of the pedaling/climbing drawbacks. There is not even a hint, thanks to the carbon frame, of flex or disturbing inflections. The Levo Expert instills confidence on every turn, tracks sharp gnarly rock gardens like a smooth road, and climbs like a mountain goat. Balanced and planted, the Levo Expert is a very refined ride by any measure. From the Command Center App to the carefully engineered geometry, Specialized made no shortcuts. Fit and finish is perfect, right down to the integrated battery.
Plain fun. Enough said. The Specialized Turbo Levo Expert has no rivals. It’s the trail king.
I prefer a plush or soft setup on my suspension. This is not a cross-country bike, so a snappy ride is not my goal. With 30% SAG up front and a 25% (AutoSAG) in back, coupled with a fairly slow rebound, keeps the ride extremely planted and predictable. Even on the rockiest sections, the bike tracked consistently, with no bouncing, and little loss of tracking, even when pushing it to the limits. The weight chart, printed right on the fork leg, made for a perfect starting point to get the air balance right where I like it. Even in the most active sections of the trail, the 150mm of travel stayed in the middle third for perfect response, with no hint of "stiction."
Ohlins makes a superb fork. Compression adjustment is simple, thanks to the three air chamber design. The Ohlins is not flexy, tracking perfectly through the entire stroke, with unparalleled small bump compliance, the buttery-smooth fork is unquestionably the best on the market today. This is a racing-level fork. The harder you push it, the better it handles. It never bottoms out and maintains its composure on the roughest terrain. However, if you are looking for ride on a couch, this is not your best choice.
Specialized chose the RockShox Monarch RT3, Rx Trail Tune, with AUTOSAG, rebound and 3-position compression adjust for the shock. On any e-MTB, the shock has to work overtime. Rockshox meets the challenge perfectly, complimenting the fork action, giving a very predictable feel, even after an active descent. Setting the SAG was a snap. Fine tuning the rebound and air, for a perfect 25% SAG, worked like magic on the trail.
Specialized’s Command Post IRcc works as good, if not better, than any other adjustable seat post on the market. I absolutely love the ratchet feel and preset stop positions. It locks in place without hesitation and is easy to find the perfect spot, especially when looking for that in-between stop for technical climbing.
The SRAM Code R brakes are great. I prefer to ride with one finger and the SRAM levers, coupled with 200mm disks, provides the sensitivity and light touch I look for when riding. The four-piston caliper and large braking surface means no fade, even when stressed by a long downhill run.
With 38mm carbon rims and 2.8” tires (mounted tubeless), on wide Boost axles, the wheels are light, stiff and don’t rollover in the corners, even at 15psi up front. Rolling weight and stiffness are paramount for consistent performance in hard corners and hard-charging acceleration or climbs. Wider rims also mean that the tire is well supported, deep into the corners. Better yet, mounting the tires was a breeze. The fit was not too tight and hookless bead means I can get these tires back off, once seated.
Coming stock with the Specialized Butcher Grid tire, the footprint is excellent for most terrain. However, if you mostly ride the desert, the Slaughter Grid may be a better choice. Small block designs do work better in decomposed granite and the Slaughter has great side knobs for lean-angle traction. I have also found the Slaughter excellent in the sandy wash (especially at 15-17 psi in the 2.8” profile). I weigh 175 pounds and have the tires at 15 front and 17 rear.
At 66.1°, the head angle is relaxed (51mm offset). However, there is not excessive trail, so the steering is responsive and not sluggish, or an excessive caster feel. 780mm wide bars add to the controllable, natural, character. It’s not a long bike either. At 1,215mm of wheelbase, the Turbo Levo is not unusual for a short chain stay, low bottom bracket, MTB. Road feel is very much like any all-mountain bike. I really pushed the bike in the downhill corners, and on some substantial drops and ledges, even some great doubles, to find that the bike handled with unusual competence for an E-MTB. Specialized obviously spent a great deal of R&D on this design before finalizing the production model.
At 504Wh or 14Ah, the Specialized M1-504 integrated frame battery, with the Trail Display and ANT+/Bluetooth, makes this a real stand out. I ran for over 40-miles, on Eco mode, and still had power to spare. And, that’s a long ride on a mountain bike. I like the key-less mount and solid axle-based retention system. Keys always seem to get lost and it’s not easy to just run off with the battery, despite the lack of a key.
The perch is clean and uncluttered. It looks like a pedal bike and has no gadgets to get broken and no spaghetti bowl of wires. Although I do miss having at least a minimalist display, the Mission Control Smartphone App is easy to use and has all the gadgets you would expect from a wired interface. Personally, I like the least attachments on my bar as possible. The Turbo Levo delivers on this expectation. A cool feature on the Mission Control App is the ability to adjust power levels on the Eco, Trail and Turbo modes.
There is a display on the battery, but it is very utilitarian and best used when stopped. The discrete UI remote provides easy access to change power levels and use walk mode. Feedback is tactile and accompanied by a beep from the battery module. Perfect.
With a very natural application of power, especially in Trail mode (50% power) and Eco mode (20% power), the programming expertly applies torque, making it feel like there is no motor at all. Even on Turbo (100% power), the torque sensor masterfully regulates the power so there is very little “push” in the corners or excessive lift on climbs. But when the trail gets steep, the Specialized 1.3 Rx, trail tuned programming, kicks into high gear, navigating nasty assents like a pro. Sublime.
Most E-MTBs stop applying power at about 18mph. Some, like going over a Sedona rock ledge, disengage quite abruptly. Specialized paid close attention to this and has programmed the assist to back off very smoothly, avoiding the ledge.
Quiet. No whine. That’s the 1.3 Rx’s strong point. It may weigh a little more than some, lighter than others, but it is stealthy quiet. Primarily, this is due to the belt drive silence, that contributes to a smooth, hushed motor.
The Walk-Assist works perfect. Just hold the button and go. I tried it on a really steep hill and it worked great. It starts slow and controllable and progresses to a little more help as you hold the button - very cool.
One very notable feature is the power to RPM range. The Specialized 1.3 Rx works phenomenally well at low RPM, giving a very controlled feel, yet is maintained even at higher RPMs. When coupled with the Command Center, which allows customized power adjustments at each level, and adjustable acceleration, you can match the programming to your style and preference. This is awesome.
•90 Nm of torque
•Bluetooth connectivity and Command Center App
•Lightweight feel on the trail
•Seamless, natural, application of power
•Integrated water bottle cage!
•USB charging port
•Add a discreet display w/power level and battery reserve
SHIFTER: SRAM X1, trigger, 11-speed, 10-42t, 32t chain ring (plenty of gear range – low and high).
SHOCK: RockShox Monarch RT3, Rx Trail Tune, AUTOSAG, rebound and 3-position compression adjust.
FORK: Öhlins RXF 36, 6Fattie/29, Single-Tube design, air spring w/ adjustable 3rd chamber, adjustable low speed compression, adjustable rebound, 15x110mm thru-axle, 51mm offset, 150mm of travel.
HUBS: Specialized, sealed cartridge bearings, 15x110mm Front, 12x148mm rear.
RIMS: Roval Traverse Carbon 27.5, hookless carbon, 38mm inner width, 24/28h, tubeless ready, hand-built.
TIRES: Butcher, GRID casing, Gripton compound, 2Bliss Ready, 27.5 x 2.8".
SEATPOST: Command Post IRcc, 12-position micro-height adjustable, alien head design, bottom mount cable routing, remote SRL lever, 30.9mm, 125mm of travel.
BRAKES: SRAM Code R, hydraulic disc, 200mm, (Fr & Rr).
FRAME: FACT 9m carbon chassis / M5 Alloy rear triangle, 6Fattie/29 Trail Geometry, Integrated down tube battery, enclosed internal cable, Command Post IR routing, 148mm spacing, fully sealed cartridge bearings, 135mm of travel (rear).
BATTERY: Specialized M1-504, Li-ON, integrated Trail Display, ANT+/Bluetooth® module, Mission Control App connectivity, 36v 504Wh or 14Ah.
MOTOR: 36v, 250W nominal, 530W peak, 25-50 miles, depending on conditions, three assist levels, 20mph max assist.
Copyright 2018 ©
Haro Shift R9LT
Riding the 2018 Haro Shift R9 LT Dual Suspension mountain bike ($2,829)
By Randy Archer
The New Haro Shift R9 LT MTB is, no exceptions, the best possible combination of features and components of any mountain bike in this price level. Modern and detailed, superior fit and finish, marks this MTB as outstanding in its class. The frame is stiff, yet forgiving, light, agile and very predictable. Combine this with top-of-the-line components and you have the new R9 LT.
- Shift R LT 6061-T6 alloy 4-Bar Linkage frame, 140mm rear travel, tapered head tube, 73mm BB shell, Boost 12mm thru-axle dropouts
- New RockShox Revelation RC Boost fork, 150mm travel, RockShox Monarch 140 rear
- Praxis Cadet forged crankset w/ 32T alloy chainring
- Shimano XT GS 11-spd Shadow Plus rear derailleur
- Shimano XT 11-46T cassette
- WTB STP i29 DW rims
- Kenda Nevegal X 27.5x2.35 120 tpi tires, Aramid beads
- Shimano SLX 7000 Hydraulic disc brakes w/ fins
- TranzX internal dropper post 31.6x100mm
- Frame 2018 6061-T6 series alloy dual suspended 4-Bar linkage frame, 140mm rear travel, tapered 1.5" head tube, 73mm BB shell, Enduro bearings, Boost 12mm thru-axle dropouts
- Fork 2018 RockShox Revelation RC 27.5, 1-1/8 - 1.5in tapered alloy steerer, 35mm stanchions, Solo Air; 150mm travel, w/ 15mm Maxle thru-axle included
- Cranks Praxis Cadet w/ 32T 1x, Forged alloy Chainring, Boost
- Chain KMC X11-1 NP/GY, 1 x11 specific w/ Missing Link,
- Bottom Bracket Praxis Cadet 73mm sealed cartridge
- Front Derailleur N/A, w/ Mr. Control alloy direct mount plate cover & upper chain guide
- Rear Derailleur Shimano XT RD-M8000 GS 11-spd Shadow Plus design
- Derailleur Shifter Shimano Deore XT, SL-M8000-R, Right, 11-Speed, Clamp w/o gear display
- Freewheel/Cassette Shimano XT CS-M8000, 11-spd 11-46T
- Tires Kenda Nevegal X, 27.5*2.35, 120tpi, Aramid beads
- Wheels/Rims WTB STP i29 TCS 27.5" x 35mm alloy DW rims, Tubeless Compatible
- Brakes Shimano SLX hydraulic, BR-M7000, 180/160mm rotors
- Brake Levers Shimano SLX hydraulic, BL-M7000
- Grips Ritchey MTN Trail WCS LockRing, 135mm
- Handle Bar Ritchey MTN Trail Low Riser, 20mm rise, 740 / 760mm wide; 9 Deg. sweep
- Stem Ritchey MTN Trail, 3D Forged, 0 DEG, 60/70mm
- Headset Ritchey Comp Logic Zero Press-Fit 1-1/8" / 1.5", Semi-Cartridge bearings, for 44/56mm head tube (28.6/41-39.8/56mm)
- Saddle WTB Rocket Comp
- Seat Post Tranz-X Internal Dropper post w/ shifter-type remote, 7000 alloy, 31.6x100x360MM / 80x315MM for 14.5" frame
- Seat Clamp Pivit alloy 35mm quick release
As with any mountain bike, setting up the shock and fork SAG is critical to ensuring a good ride (setting your SAG - scroll to the bottom). I did find a pre-installed bottoming token in the Revelation fork, which I removed. The token is unnecessary for me because I want the full travel and don't weigh a lot (175). The Revelation fork matches well to the Monarch RL rear shock, working harmoniously together, especially when full open, on the technical downhill sections. I also converted the tires to tubeless, since they came ready, including valve stems and tubeless ready tires (although, I did have to tape the rim to ensure a good seal). The Nevegal's do have a fairly stiff sidewall, so I ran at 23psi in the front and 24psi in the rear. I made a few test excursions to fine tune all the settings, ending with 33% (front) and 30% (rear) for the SAG and 25/23psi on the tires. I did find the Nevegals to be a good all-around tire, but for the desert, would prefer something a bit larger (>2.3 - the Nevegal's seem on the small side of their rating) and smaller block (like the Maxxis Chronicle or Vittoria Saguaro). The real star of this show is the Monarch shock. It's just outstanding in every respect. It's plush, providing fantastic small bump compliance, yet even at 30% SAG, did not bottom out. On climbs, in lockout, the Monarch still gives short-travel action, with no squat or squishy pedal strokes. In the full open position, the fork and shock track chop and sharp edges like a long-travel downhill racer (I do use a faily slow rebound). Even with the rebound set slow, I felt no packing or harshness. Both the front and the rear are near flawless, instilling confidence and no hint of chatter.
The Haro linkage is remarkably efficient and predictable, delivering a progressive feel and great bottoming resistance, despite a 30% SAG. I think this is primarily driven by the Haro Progressive Linkage Ratio (PLR) and the main pivot position (fulcrum), being slightly in front of the crank, providing fantastic anti-squat and a plush action throughout the entire stroke. Big G-outs and hard landings are soaked up by the shock and fork, however, neither bottomed out, attributed to the PLR and the shock. The entire suspension, coupled with the head angle and overall geometry, made the bike handle and ride like a premium class bike, costing much more than the unbelievable $2,829. Lateral strength is important for a mountain bike. Too much flex can make the bike feel unpredictable in the turns and lose traction suddenly. The frame on the R9 is quite stiff, yet still has some give, making the bike fast, but responsive and comfortable. Fine touches, like the Shimano SLX brakes, using the finned brake pads, make this bike an unusual bargain. It even comes with a Trans-X Dropper. I really put the bike to the test, navigating hard, steep, rocky descents and flowing, banked turns, punctuated by some pretty brutal climbs. In every case, the Shift R9 LT shined.
Don't be fooled into buying that entry-level carbon frame bike, some starting at under $3k. Not only are the frames heavy, they make a lot of compromises on the wheels and other components to keep the price low. I weighed the Shift R9 LT and was surprised to find it under 31 pounds (20.5-Lg/no pedals/tubeless). I have weighed some of the cheaper carbon frames and seen up-wards of 36 pounds, with many compromises on components. To get the same quality in carbon, you would have to spend way more than the R9.
In any case, if you are a novice to intermediate rider looking for a great handling bike, at an unbeatable price, go ride the Shift R9. The R9 is best suited for all mountain, yet versatile enough to handle some aggressive downhill, and lockout for fast sweeping cross-country. I consider myself an advanced rider and tested the R9 on some of the gnarliest trails in the area. I have some very expensive mountain bikes and the R9 is a great all around bike. On a budget, the R9 would serve even an advanced rider's requirements.
Copyright 2017 ©
Haro i/O - The Payoff
Haro Shift I/O 9
First impressions on the Haro Shift electric mountain bike ($5,899)
By Randy Archer
The New Haro Shift I/O 9 e-MTB is an incredible machine. Haro really outdid themselves with the combination of cutting-edge technology, superior geometry and a classy look on this edition of their I/O lineup. Plus, it's outfitted with the industry leader in bicycle technology, Shimano controls and motor. This is identical to the I/O 7, except for color and no Di2.
- Shift Plus I/O X6 Aluminum frame for Shimano STePS E8000 motor, tapered head tube 1-1/8"-1.5"
- Rockshox Monarch RL 200mm rear shock, DebonAir, LL Tune, 430 lbs. lockout force, 140mm travel
- Rockshox Revelation RC 27.5" Boost fork, 35mm stanchions, 15mm Stealth Maxle, Solo Air, 150mm travel, w/ hydraulic lockout
- Shimano STePS E8000 drive unit / 250 Watts / 70Nm Torque, 500 w/h STePS E8000 battery
- Shimano XT Di2, 11-spd, Shadow Plus rear derailleur & shifter
- Shimano XT 11-spd, 11-42T cassette
- Shimano E8000 crankarms, forged, 38T chainring
- Shimano SLX M7000 hydraulic disc brakes, Pads w/ fins, 180mm rotors
- TranzX Internal dropper post 100mm x 31.6mm
- New Kenda Havoc 27.5" x 2.6" Folding tires, Pro EMC, Tubeless Compatible
- Wheels/Rims WTB i35, Tubeless Ready, 27.5"x40mm, Double Wall
As always, before starting out, I set the SAG (35% in front and 30% in back), tire air pressure (15psi in front and 17psi in back, tubeless), and the seat height and perch set to my liking. The fork and shock selection are good, but the Revelation fork is a little finicky. I found the Revelation a bit too progressive, with poor small bump compliance and excessive bottoming resistance (and a lot of "sticktion," where the fork grabs the stanchion too tight, causing the fork movement to stick in place). There was one token installed in the fork, which I removed, improving total travel use. To moderate and soften the action, I set the SAG softer and the rebound slower and left the compression full open. After everything was set, the overall fork performance was good. It also improved as it warmed, sliding more freely. (Follow-up: once the fork had a few miles on it, it started to smooth out significantly and works quite well now.)
Overall, this is a very nimble, fast and responsive bike. The geometry and frame are geared for cross-country (SAG at 25%) and all-mountain (SAG at 33%). The frame is very stiff laterally, giving a predictable feel and lively response on flowing, fast trails. For an e-MTB, it's very light. The basic geometry is responsive, with a light, flickable feel in technical terrain. The most outstanding highlight is the Shimano STePS E8000 motor. It is very compact, yet quite powerful. Once in motion, the centralized mass of the battery and motor, makes the added weight disappear. At speed or in the slow technical sections, the bike responds like any non-powered bike. The center of gravity is very low, making the bike well balanced. Many e-bikes have excessive flex, may feel tippy or top heavy, but this bike is stiff and predictable. The Q-factor is optimal, where the width of the crank arms are quite narrow, or closer together than any other center drive system I have tested. I could squeeze through some very narrow gaps and experienced a great lean angle, without the pedals hitting the ground.
The application of power by the STePS E8000 is impressive. Torque and power is remarkably smooth, especially in setting one, "Eco" mode. I never felt the front wheel push the turn, climbing is a snap in "trail" mode and "Boost" is really only necessary for fun. Compared to other motors in this class, The E8000 seems to have a broader RPM application, with the sweet spot between 55-90 rpm - an incredible range. The display is bright and easy to read, while the levers for changing power levels are simple and accessible on-the-fly, neatly tucked under the left side. Next to the power buttons is the dropper lever. The lever is compact and easy to reach and use. I love the TranzX dropper, it's definitely one of the best. On the right hand is the Di2 shifter. The Di2 is outstanding, with crisp and precise shifting in every gear. It's a real technology treat (although not quite as much fun as Syncro Shift when combined with a front derailleur). Plus, when coupled with the STePS, it displays your gear selection on the power meter. The STePS system also comes with Bluetooth and an App the allows the user to change settings, such as which button shifts and power application. Very cool. I did try the walk assist option and was delighted with how well it worked and how easy it was to use. Simply pressing and holding the power level lever activated the walk mode. It works fantastic!
The wheel and tire choice is well matched for a cross-country bike. The tread pattern is excellent on the decomposed granite found in the desert, yet they are very forgiving on the choppy sharp edges on some rock faces. The steering worked great on tight, slow, technical sections, giving a confidence boost when things got dicey. The combination of a 40mm rim with a 2.6 plus tire, yields superior traction and cornering performance, without the large tire penalty (rolling resistance). Great choice.
The Haro Shift I/O 9 is market-leading, technically competent, e-MTB, that is packed with excitement and applicable features. I can find no other bike that is better in this segment (all mountain / cross-country). Production bikes are in stock now. See you on the trail.
Copyright 2017 ©
Haro FLC 29 Pro
The New Haro FLC 29 Pro $4,129
Review By Randy Archer
On first look, the chrome and black frame is outstanding. It looks like lightening and rides the same. The paint and finish are superbly applied, leading edge, with graphics that jump off the bike. It's eye candy. As shown, the whole bike, less accessories, weighs less than 20 pounds. The key to a good cross-country bike is a laterally stiff ride, with no crank flex or frame twist in the corners, translating into full forward motion with each pedal stoke. This new FLC 29 does just that. It is so fast that I hardly had time to snap a picture before it blew away. The Sram XD 1X12 drive train is flawless and accelerates the bike to Mach 1 in seconds. When climbing up ledges, the bike is nimble and easy to loft.
As shown, the Reynolds TR309, 30mm tubeless rims, compliment the package, making the bike corner accurately, with no hint of large-wheel flex. The wide rims allow the Saguaro tire a very confident contact patch, even at 25psi, resulting in unparalleled acceleration when climbing, with 100% power transfer to forward motion. Simply stated: this is the fastest cross-country mountain bike I have ever ridden.
Sram has made a great drive train with the X01 12-spd. 34 teeth up front and 10-50 teeth in back is phenomenal. Gear spacing is perfect, allowing a perfect match of cadence and effort, no matter what terrain. Crisp, precise and smooth as silk. Sram's X01 is effortless and sublime, performing flawlessly, even when downshifting on a climb. I never needed a lower gear or higher gear. Simply amazing.
Naturally, ground clearance is outstanding, exactly what you want from a 29er hard tail. I experienced no pedal strikes on my entire first ride out. However, the pedals do come equipped with boots to protect the crank arms from inadvertent rock encounters.
With a perch mounted fork lockout, on the Rockshox Reba, flowing trails are a real treat. The Reba performs very well and even with the fork set at 25% sag, has no hint of bottoming out, or harshness. When descending, the fork does its job, managing chop and sharp edges, with a subtle feel mid-stroke, yet no sense of sticktion. The Reba is a great choice with this frame. The frame is forgiving, but still retains the rigidity you would expect from a cross-country hardtail. Together, they instill confidence and predictability when riding under the worst conditions.
Equipped as shipped, for $4,129, the FLC 29 Pro is an outstanding value. If you are looking for a super-sharp-looking, cross-country racing bike, you must ride the FLC 29 Pro. You will not be disappointed by the performance and delighted by the craftmanship of this Haro jewel. It deserves to be called Pro.
- Haro FL Carbon Series frame, tapered head tube, BB92 shell, thru-axle
- RockShox Reba RL taper fork, 100mm travel, thru-axle, Onelock remote
- 29" frame, fork, hubs and crankset feature Boost specs
- Ritchey WCS Logic Zero Drop-In headset w/ AC bearings
- Sram X01 Eagle 34t crankset
- Sram X01 Eagle 12-spd rear derailleur & Trigger shifter
- Sram XG 1275 10-50T 12-spd cassette
- Ritchey WCS cockpit and Lock-On grips
- Ritchey WCS Streem V3 saddle
- American Classic Onward 29" wheelset, sealed bearings w/ thru-axles
- Kenda Honey Badger XC 29" x 2.2" 120 TPI folding tires
- Sram Guide RS 180 / 160mm disc brakeset
- Frame: 2018 Haro FL Carbon 29" series w/ tapered headtube, BB92, 12mm rear thru-axle, Direct mount front derailleur, Boost rear hub compatible (17", 19" & 21")
- Fork: RockShox Reba RL 29 tapered, Boost 15mm thru-axle, 100mm travel w/ Onelock remote Lock-out
- Cranks: Sram X01 Eagle 34t
- Chain: Sram X01 EAGLE 12-spd
- Bottom Bracket: Sram GXP Press Fit BB92
- Rear Derailleur Sram X01 Eagle
- Derailleur Shifter Sram X01 Eagle Trigger 12-spd
- Freewheel/Cassette Sram X-Glide 1275 EAGLE 10-50T cassette, 12-spd
- Tires Kenda Honey Badger XC 29*2.20" 120TPI folding
- Wheels/Rims American Classic Onward AM28, 29" (15X110 front, 12X148 rear)
- Brakes Sram Guide RS 180 / 160mm
- Brake Levers Sram Guide RS
- Grips Ritchey WCS Lock On
- Handle Bar Ritchey WCS Flat bar
- Stem Ritchey WCS stem
- Headset Ritchey WCS Logic Zero Drop-In, tapered 1-1/8" / 1.5", w/ ACB sealed bearings
- Saddle Ritchey WCS Streem V3
- Seat Post Ritchey WCS 27.2mm
- Seat Clamp Alloy for Carbon post, 31.8mm O.D.
As shown above (extras and upgrades not included in base price):
- Reynolds TR309S 30mm tubeless carbon rims
- Shimano XT brakes
- Vitoria Saguaro 29X2.2
Copyright 2017 ©
Populo Sport Review
Populo Sport (Reduced: $899)
In this price level, I have found no other bike to compete. The Sport is fast, light and a delight to ride. In the under $1,000 price point, especially as a commuter, the Sport is amazing. A very stylish bike - and surprisingly peppy - is perfect for urban riding, commuting, casual rides and is available in three frame sizes and three colors. Wiring is internally routed, resulting in a very clean look. It even has two USB charging ports for a quick connect of your phone or an LED light. Even with the 36v, 7Ah battery locked in place, the bike only weighs 36 pounds. The geared hub provides superior torque, revving up to a top assisted speed of 20mph, very quickly. I especially liked the display and easy access to the pedal assist level control. I even rode the Sport uphill without assist and was surprised at how easy it was. Normally an electric bike is super heavy to ride without the battery. Not the Sport. It rides like any pedal bike. The key to the Sport's efficiency is its emphasis on a clean design, leaving off all the heavy accessories. This also means there is less to maintain and less to repair.
If you are looking for a clean, light and affordable commuter, ride the Populo Sport before you make your buying decision.
Randy Archer, President, Archer’s Bikes
Bolt to work or play on today’s modern, lightweight, and eco-friendly Populo Sport Electric bike. This new gateway electric bike will get you to work or a social gathering, without the sweaty mess of a traditional bike. Let the 250-watt motor effortlessly energize your day with speeds up to 20 MPH, and a range of 30 miles or more! Your choice of 8 electric assist levels will give you just the right amount of effort you desire. Forgot to charge your phone or light? Well, no problem; both the Smart LED screen and the 36 volt Panasonic battery come equipped with USB charging ports to plug and play! With all these features combined, you are ready to take on the city with style and confidence!
We've recently updated Populo Sport with new features:
- 4 sizes instead of 3 so you can fine-tune the fit
- Frame features a braze-on for rear racks; forks have eyelets at dropout for fender
- We've added a water bottle boss on the seat tube and included a side-entry bottle cage
- New stylish metal head tube badge
- Heavy-duty kickstand that easily handles the extra weight of an electric bicycle motor and battery
- Wider 700x28 tires for more comfort and control on rough surfaces or gravel roads
- Cartridge brake pads for faster, more accurate pad changes
Panasonic Lithium-ion 36V8.7Ah
Smart LED Screen w/USB Charge Port
|MAX ASSISTED SPEED |
20Mile/h or 32Km/h
=30 Miles or 48KM
|REAR BRAKE |
Black Alloy Linear Pull Brake Lever
With Sensor Control Design
Single Speed Gear w/8 Assist Levels
Double Butted 6061
31.8mm 3D Forged Alloy
Forged Alloy 31.8*22.2mm Riser Bar
|SEAT POST |
Forged Alloy 27.2*300mm
KMC Z410 Anti-Rust
|FRONT HUB |
13G Stainless Spoke
36 Lbs/16.5KG (M)
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