It's amazing to watch guys like Rémy Métailler send creative jumps that most mountain bikers wouldn't even spot, but an old-fashioned, gnarly adventure caught on film is just as awesome in a very different way. Joey Schusler and three comrades did exactly that when they took off on a self-supported adventure through the Caucasus Mountains in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, with the goal to reach Mount Kazbek. Adventure filmmaker Joey Schusler, his friend and riding buddy Sam Seward, photographer Ross Measures, and Bike Magazine editor, Brice Minnigh, found incredible singletrack in a region of the world that's seen more than its fair share of drama, but they also returned home with stories of unforgettable warmth from the locals.
Schusler's film, 'The Trail to Kazbegi' is a 15-minute reminder that we should do our best to get out there and see the world and that videos don't have to be filled with massive gaps to make them interesting.
Budget 1X Drivetrains
Spend Less, Get More
We know that SRAM's XX1 group works well, but we also know that it's pretty expensive. As in around $1,500 USD expensive. That's why the release of their $564 USD (including cranks!) GX single-ring drivetrain makes so much sense, and we finally had enough time on the budget-minded group to post up a long-term review. The verdict? It basically works the same as XX1, but it costs almost $1,000 less. Sure, you can always convert your current 10-speed drivetrain to a one-by setup, but it's not going to quite offer the same range of what GX has on tap. The surplus weight is really the only penalty when compared to XX1, but that's a gram VS dollar comparo that will mean different things to each of us. As the final line of our review said, "this is the trickle-down group that riders have been waiting for, and there's no doubt that we'll be seeing it spec'd on plenty of complete bikes in 2016."
Graves and Specialized
It's going to be weird seeing Graves not on a Yeti or wearing turquoise. Specialized's mid-December announcement that they've signed the Australian enduro wizard and all around beast (he has major wins in 4X, dual slalom, and downhill, and he was even chosen to represent Australia in BMX at the 2008 Olympics) is major move that's just as big as them not re-signing the reigning World Cup DH overall champion, and it also shows that enduro racing is quickly becoming more of a focus for many companies. ''The whole team is set up really well with the best support, the best mechanics, and the best teammates,'' Graves said of the change.
''Racing with my old buddy, Curtis Keene, is going to be unreal. We have been buds forever, and now to be teammates, I am confident we can help each other, and both become better riders through the process.'' The off-season has been full of big riders going to different teams, which is going to make the racing in 2016 very interesting.
Riding in the Winter
Put Away Your Skis?
While some locations in the northern hemisphere are getting their usual amounts of rain and snow, much of the east coast of North America and parts of Europe are going through the warmest, driest winter that many people can remember. At the time of typing this, a gondola in Les Gets, France, recently re-opened for bikes, while the Windham Mountain Bike Park in New York has both bikers and skiers on different parts of their slopes. Riders are also able to pedal high up into the alpine, into locations where there would usually be enough fresh snow to warrant concerns of avalanches.
Sure, there might be good reason to put this down in the 'Bad Month' section if this was a website that covered climate change, and this dry winter could very well have a negative impact when the spring and summer seasons return, but it sure is nice to be riding bikes in the mountains during the winter.
Gwin and Specialized
An Amicable Divorce
Despite Aaron Gwin winning four World Cups in 2015, one of them without a chain on his bike, and taking the World Cup overall title, the American racer and Specialized will not be continuing together in 2016 and beyond. That bit of news wasn't exactly a shock when it was announced - rumors of the split had been swirling around for awhile - but it's rare for a winning combination to part ways immediately after what was an extremely exciting and eventful season of racing. Both sides are saying the break-up is happening on good terms, and that it's a pure business decision of Specialized wanting to use that money (Gwin's price went up for 2016) in a different way. They've since signed Jared Graves, and the gossip is saying they're about to announce a new downhiller as well.
Gwin has since told us that another, yet to be named company has agreed to pay him what his former employer wouldn't, and for their part, Specialized seems stoked to have Graves on the roster. So why are both in the 'Bad Month' section? After a tough few years, Gwin and Specialized had obviously found a winning formula in 2015 and would have likely continued to be extremely successful had they not parted ways.
More Traction, More Speed, More Fun
I wanted to dislike 27.5+ so bad, but then I spent a ton of time on a plus bike and came to see how legitimate these funny looking bikes actually are. To be fair, 27.5+ was an already existing, although somewhat niche, tire size rather than a new wheel size altogether, but that's not how many riders seem to be viewing things. Anyways, 27.5+ bikes have their own strengths and weaknesses, and it's their strengths that make them much more of a genuine option compared to regular 27'' wheels that have taken over from the now old school 26" wheels. Plus bikes are obviously not going to be for everyone, but it is amazing how much they ride like a regular bike, only with a lot more traction and forgiveness on tap.
Graves Not in Turquoise
From John Tomac, Missy Giove, Aaron Gwin and many others, Yeti has a long, rich heritage of sponsoring some ridiculously fast racers. Many of those began their career at the Colorado company, only to move on shortly after they've had some success - Yeti is a relatively small brand, after all. And then there's Jared Graves. He had been with Yeti for over a decade, winning championship titles in both enduro and 4X, competed in the Olympics in BMX, and has even won a bronze medal at the downhill World Championships aboard a 6" travel bike. Hell, the Aussie also won a national cross-country event in his home country. The modern day John Tomac, which is surely the best way to describe Graves, has moved on to Specialized, leaving current EWS champ Richie Rude to defend his title in turquoise.