2017 Marin Hawk Hill
Consider yourself warned—this is not a boutique bike. It is not—I repeat—not
dripping with suspension you can tweak six ways from Sunday or a carbon frame that weighs as much as a mouse fart. The 2017 Marin Hawk Hill, however, is affordable and smartly spec’d for its price, which makes it worthy of a bit of digital ink. The bike will roll into bike shops this fall with a sticker price of $1,800 (CAD) and around $1,500 (USD).
The aluminum frame offers up 120-millimeters of rear suspension via a fairly straightforward rocker link and “faux bar” system. It's nothing revolutionary, but it’s nicely executed all the same. Thoughtful touches often lacking at this price point include ports for running an internal dropper post line and convertible rear drop-outs. The Hawk Hill comes with a 135-millimeter quick release rear wheel, but easily adapts to any 142x12 rear through-axle. Wheel size? 27.5.
As for suspension, a RockShox Recon fork and X-Fusion O2 Pro RL get the job done.
Hand Sanitizer and Fist Bumping
Perhaps the most obvious trend at Crankworx Whistler this year was the upturn in fist bumping and the near demise of the traditional handshake. One could argue that fist bumping, the most en vogue variant of giving dap, is simply part of a larger cultural trend towards knuckle pounding.
That’s a reasonable argument, to be sure, but I can’t help but suspect that at least part of the uptick in fist-pounding can be explained by the fact that, on a subconscious level, most of us realize that if you shake hands with 100 other sweaty dudes who have limited access to bathrooms, you're just asking for a good case of cholera.
Men, at the best of times, can be cavalier with the concept of personal hygiene. You drink three beers after a long, hot day on the hill and suddenly you’re high-fiving everyone within a square mile of you...and by the time you’re done doing that, your hand is a veritable Hot Zone of its own.
Which is why you need a bottle of this stuff. Because, yes, maybe the guy you just shook hands with just touched his genitals. Hell, after three or four beers, maybe you’re that guy. Either way, it pays to buy a bottle of sanitizing gel and work on your fist-bumping technique.
Specialized Ambush Comp Helmet
Specialized’s Ambush helmet is one of the lightest and best ventilated of the “enduro-style” half-shell helmets on the market. At 316 grams, the Ambush feels like a cross-country lid, but offers a whole lot more coverage. The Ambush, however, also doesn’t come cheap. You can expect to pay in the neighborhood of $220 (CAD)/$180 (USD) for that particular lid. The new Ambush Comp ($160 CAD/$120 USD), however, offers a lot of the same function and will sell for considerably less dough, despite the fact that when it comes to weight and venting, the helmets are said to be nearly identical.
The most obvious differences between the Comp and its pricier sibling is that the Comp does not route the chinstraps or integrate the Mindset 360 dial adjuster within the EPS liner. If that last sentence has you scratching your head, check out the picture at right. The Comp helmet is the black helmet.
Do these differences actually reduce the helmet’s performance? The helmets ultimately meet the same standards. The higher-end Ambush will likely prove a bit more comfortable, but the Comp, with its simpler construction, will be easier on the pocketbook. Always a good thing.
RockShox Suspension 101 Classes
A lot of mountain bikers have a love affair with gear. They obsess over the prospect of buying some new widget with novel damping circuitry, a softer compound or higher-modulus carbon fiber. Fewer riders are equally keen on learning to adjust and maintain the latest, greatest widget they just bought; that's unfortunate because even the best $1,200 fork on the market will ride like absolute crap if it's improperly adjusted. Which is why I found it heartening to see riders tromp up the stairs each morning to attend SRAM's daily RockShox suspension clinics. At each clinic, gurus of all things squishy explained both the theory and the practical aspects of setting up your suspension. Damping, spring rate, volume adjustments...they covered it all and they did if for free. Pretty damn cool.