Fox TALAS 36 2009
Words and photos by Cam McRae
I’ve always wanted to like air forks. They are light, infinitely and easily adjustable, and they allow for options like variable ride height. For the most part, though, I haven’t been converted to the air side. Given the choice, I have until now always opted for coil on DH, freeride, or all-mountain bikes – which is virtually all I ride off road. I tried the previous generation of Fox TALAS forks and while they did what Fox set out to do, the downhill performance fell somewhat short and I opted to spend most of my time last year on the Fox Van RC2.
The Fox Talas RC2 eager for the descent at the top of Seventh Secret on Fromme. This fork is a perfect match for the Trek Remedy.
All that changed when I got the opportunity to try the ’09 TALAS forks in Utah this past spring. Riding the ’08 and ’09 models back to back was a revelation. The ’08 worked the way I expect most air forks to work: a little clunky because of excess stiction and not particularly lively or responsive. The ’09 was a whole new ballgame. A complete redesign allowed Fox to remove two seals, reducing stiction significantly, and they also re-worked the spring curves in each of the three travel settings (160, 130, and 100mm).
The TALAS 36 is available in RC2 trim with rebound and high- and low-speed compression adjustments as well as the R version, which does away with any compression damping control. You can also pick one up in either traditional 1 1/8″ steerer or 1.5″ (RC2 only). No word on aftermarket availablility of the tapered steerer that will be offered as original equipment by both Specialized and Trek in 2009.
The new Talas mechanism works well enough but I don’t think you’ll see it getting any awards for ergonomics. Photo ~ Forrest Arakawa.
When I ride something away from my home trails, I take my own impressions with a grain of salt. Gooseberry Mesa and the North Shore are obviously about as different as two riding areas can be so while I liked the ’09 TALAS there, I still wanted to try it here to see if it was for real. After four rides, I think I may be ready to give up the strangle hold I have on coil forks – the Van RC2 in particular. It’s early yet, but the downhill performance of the TALAS has blown me away thus far. It’s incredibly responsive, resists bottom out reliably and at no point in its travel does it feel wooden or imprecise. All this comes with the stiffness and steering precision I’ve come to expect from Fox’s 36 line of forks.
The travel adjust mechanism has been changed for 2009 and while you can operate it on the fly with your gloves on, it couldn’t yet be described as ergonomically pleasing. I always use the bottom setting for the climb and the aggressive position this puts you in makes the vert slip away much more easily and comfortably. It makes the Trek Remedy I have been riding – already a very capable climber – an incredible uphill machine.
With all the snow lately, it’s been tough to get riding shots – so I have to re-use this one. Photo ~ Pete Chambers.
Recently, I found myself dropping in on a line we call ‘The Stairs of Despair’ on the Baden Powell. It’s a line I find challenging every time and on this day I unwittingly attempted it with the travel in the 100mm setting. I didn’t realize it until a minute or two later but the fork handled everything perfectly and I didn’t even notice hitting bottom.
So far, this is the best performing air fork I’ve had under me. I’ll be back with more down the trail.
MSRP – Canada
TALAL 36 R = $1470.00
TALAS 36 RC2 = $1660.00
TALAS 36 RC2 1.5 steer = $1700.00
MSRP – US
36 TALAS RC2 US = $1045.00
36 TALAS RC2 1.5 US = $1065.00
36 TALAS R US = $920.00
RockShox Vivid 5.1 rear shock
Words and photos by Stuart Kernaghan
RockShox has been refining its short- and mid-travel air spring rear shocks over the last few years, but there was always a big gap in the catalogue when it came to long-travel coil shocks. Those of us who have been riding for a while will remember that there was a coil spring in the RockShox repertoire several years ago (the Deluxe), but it didn’t fare well. And it certainly wouldn’t be up to the demands of today’s freeriders.
Engineers at RockShox used the lessons that they learned while working on long-travel forks and shorter-travel rear shocks when it came time to design a new coil shock. They also focused on the KISS principle – Keep It Simple, Stupid. The result was the Vivid coil shock, introduced early in 2007 for the 2008 product year.
RockShox felt (rightly, in my opinion) that most rear shocks are complicated beasts that often confuse riders. Confusion equals mistakes in set-up and translates into a less-than-ideal ride. So rather than having a ton of different adjustments, the Vivid keeps things simple.
Eric Schutt, SRAM PR manager for MTB, summed up the company’s position on simplicity: “This was a very important direction for this product. Our engineers reduced the number of adjustments to only the ones that riders can really benefit from, and ultimately make them faster. Vivid retains key tuning features but with a ‘more is not better’ approach.”
The RockShox Vivid 5.1, fitted on an ’06 Specialized SX Trail; the shock fits much better than other aftermarket shocks. The red dial on the rear end of the shock is the beginning stroke rebound.
The Vivid 5.1 comes with three primary adjustments: ending stroke rebound, beginning stroke rebound, and compression. There are also two secondary adjustments. Riders are able to adjust spring preload by turning a threaded collar, and bottom-out on the shock with the interchangeble rubber bumpers that make up the new Drop Stop bottom-out system. Unlike selected Fox and Marzocchi coil spring shocks, there is no air adjustment on the Vivid.
Damping on the Vivid is a combination of factory tuning and rider-adjustable settings, again with the focus on simplicity. The new Dual Flow Adjust Rebound damping system controls both beginning stroke and ending stroke rebound on the Vivid. Beginning stroke rebound, according to RS, is “designed to control the speed at which the shock extends to its full travel position after a small compression.” That small compression could be things like rider input or pedaling forces. In other words, it’s designed to increase the shock’s efficiency. Ending stroke rebound controls the speed at which the shock extends to the full travel position after a large compression.
The compression adjustment on the Vivid 5.1 (left) is easy to use and allows lots of fine-tuning. The ending stroke rebound (right) is adjusted with a 2.5mm Allen key.
The compression adjustment feature on the 5.1 shock (which is absent on the 4.1) controls the low speed compression. It allows riders to tune in or out sensitivity to small bumps as well as the impact of their weight transfers on the shock.
The Vivid ships with three different density bumpers – medium is stock, soft and hard are the others – that will increase or decrease the amount of force required to move through the last 20% of the shock’s travel. Thankfuly, it’s possible to change the bumper without disassembling the shock. RockShox says the Vivid is designed to be bottomed out, so I’m going to test that notion and bottom out this sucker.
Weight for the 5.1 is listed at 428g for a 216mm / 8.5” shock without the spring; a spring weighs approximately 475g. The shocks are available in the following eye-to-eye lengths: 9.5 x 3.0, 8.75 x 2.75 and 8.5 x 2.5. Coil steel springs are available from 300 to 500 lb. weights in 50 lb increments. It’s also possible to purchase shocks that are tuned for different ride characteristics, so be sure to talk to the shop about all of your options, not just eye-to-eye or shock weight, when you’re buying a Vivid.
When you’ve installed your Vivid and are ready to hit the trail, be sure to check out the very useful set-up guide for the shock. A lot of instruction manuals for shocks are lacking when it comes to suggested setting for particular riding styles, but this guide is actually quite easy to follow and helpful. I’m starting with the recommended settings for now (three clicks of low speed compression, four clicks of ending stroke rebound, 10 clicks of beginning stroke rebound), but will be going off the chart as soon as the freakin’ snow on the Shore receeds.
Canadian MSRP for the Vivid 5.1 is $500, while the US price is $425. Stay tuned for a full report once I get some time on this shock.
Chromag Lynx DT saddle, Minimalist post & seatpost collar
Words and photos by Stuart Kernaghan
Chromag Bikes is a small company based out of Whistler, B.C. that specializes in steel hardtail frames. Ian Ritz, the man behind Chromag, decided to offer some essential components that go nicely with his sweet frames – as well as stand out on their own.
I’m currently testing a Chromag TRL frameset, and will be writing about that more in the very near future. In the meantime, though, here’s a sampling of some of the Chromag seat-related components available for discerning consumers.
Lynx DT saddle
There are seven different Chromag saddles to choose from, depending on your seating requirements and weight concerns. The Lynx is lightweight, minimalist saddle designed for trail riders or DHers who want to keep the weight down. It comes in two models: original flavour with titanium rails and the new, price-minded DT.
The Lynx DT saddle, Minimalist post, and brass seatpost collar working together. They’re an impressive looking collection.
The DT comes with chromo rails instead of titanium, and it gets a black-and-white synthetic covering in lieu of the natural leather on the higher-priced version. Weight is still a respectable 270g. It also sports the Chromag bear logo, embossed on the covering.
Padding on the DT is definitely minimal, which I prefer, but these kinds of saddles often take a while to break in so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Lynx was comfortable as soon as I hopped on it. It’s found a permanent home on my ride. MSRP on the Lynx DT is CDN$92, and it will be hitting store shelves in March.
Seatposts aren’t rocket science, but some companies still manage to bugger them up. Complicated mounting systems, soft bolts, not enough range of adjustment, the list goes on…
Chromag has designed a simple post that’s effective and strong. It’s made out of 7075-T6 aluminum and is externally butted at the clamping head for additional strength. The post uses a light two-bolt head that is bonded to the shaft, with 4mm bolts to hold the saddle tight. The head has a polished finish for added bling factor.
The head of the Minimalist post (left) and a close-up of the Chromag logo detail on the seat cover.
The 400mm post, which doesn’t have height indicators like some other posts, is machine finished for accuracy and then anodized. It’s available in 27.2, 30.0, and 30.9 diameters. MSRP for the 250g Minimalist post is $79.
Seatpost collars are another basic part, but ones that work well are a bit of a rarity. Most are pretty weak, and get clogged with crap within a ride or two. The Chromag collar is a burly SOB that is made by the folks at North Shore Billet to Ian’s specs, and it seems to deal with both of those issues.
It uses a larger cam surface for a positive closure and a 6mm bolt for tightening. The CNC’d / polished cam, along with the anodized body, ensures smooth operation of the brass or aluminum lever.
A close-up of the current seatpost collar with brass lever (left) and the new, lighter version (right).
The one drawback of all that beefiness is weight – the Chromag collar weighs 80g, compared to about 45g for an all-aluminum collar. Chromag is addressing the issue with a new lighter-weight collar that will be available in March ’09. Weight notwithstanding, the collar is still operating like new even after a few really muddy rides.
The collars are available in 30, 32, or 35mm sizes for an MSRP of CDN$48.
So, what do you think about the first Gear Shots of 2009? Do you want to get your mitts on this stuff? Got some of your own thoughts? Take it to the boards…