Review: Guideline Cabo Sunglasses

Guideline Eyewear sent me a pair of Cabo sunglasses in December to try out. (It’s one of the perks of being the infamous mountain biking blogger I am… OK, it’s the only perk). They arrived Christmas eve…so festively, I put them under the tree, and opened them in the morning.

It doesn’t take long for me to know if I like a pair of sunglasses or not. It’s usually love at first sight, first fit, and first sweat (if it’s love at all)… all of which you can get in one ride. I’m lucky, living in Arizona, to have spectacular riding weather all winter long, so I have taken the Cabo lenses out on many rides, mountain and road.

First off, the Cabo is for the mountain biker who wants a great pair of everyday sunglasses without spending the cash equivalent of a brand new XO derailleur. I shop for shades that I can actually replace when they break (kids, crashes, butts). At $50 retail ($38 in the outlet store now) the Cabo is priced just right for the rider who wants to get the best gear his hard earned pennies can buy. Here is the skinny after wearing them nearly every day for three months:

Sight: The Cabo look really cool – style, shape, color (In fact the new 2013 line-up includes even more sweet designs as well, including the Draft model). The most important view though, is the view from inside out. The polarized polycarbonate lens is crisp. The best lens I have used at this price point. The polarized lens reduce glare and really make the rocks pop on the trail.

Fit: I must have a “medium to large face,” because they fit me well, and the marketing copy says that’s the size face they fit. The nose pads are slim, and stay put where they belong. On most sunglasses I have owned, the nose pads are what usually break or tear, or simply wear out first. The Cabo pads, because of their low profile, look like they will endure a mountain bikers’ abuse. The Cabo are also featherweight. They look and feel really good.

Sweat: When I ride, I like to climb. Climbing means large drops of sweat will be beading off my forehead. If my shades fit too close to my medium to large face, and are touching my eyebrows, the beads of climbing sweat will fall across the lenses – not good when navigating technical terrain. The Cabos pass the sweat test.

There’s not much I don’t like about the Cabo. Interchangeable lenses would be a plus. I tested the gray lens and it is solid in full Arizona sun. But I prefer an amber lens while riding in overcast and rainy conditions. Lucky for me Arizona has full sun over 300 days a year.

The Cabo get my recommendation. The 100% UVA/UVB protection keep my eyes safe, while the fit, feel and look have made them my everyday sunglasses of choice. They have replaced my old sunglasses, which I have worn for the last 4 years, and have now been demoted to my lawn mowing/safety goggles, and backup riding shades for when I can’t find my Cabos.

Other Cabo Reviews:
Adventure Cycling
Cabo Review at Cabelas’s

2006 SRAM X-0 Rear Derailleur

My trusted 2006 X.0
My trusted 2006 X.0

I know what you’re thinking…why would Mike review an ancient 2006 model SRAM X0, when all the talk is about the new 2011 2×10 group? Here’s why:

* This X0 is the stock derailleur on my 2006 Fuel EX9
* I’ve ridden 2,417 miles with the X0 at my side
* The X0 survived one bent hanger incident
* Only three adjustments from the X-9 trigger shifter needed. That’s it.

It’s unbelievable that a four year old derailleur with over 2,417 miles (yes, I keep track of every mile on every bike, making note of when new parts are installed) is still shifting strong and smooth. This rear derailleur has been the most maintenance-free derailleur I have ever owned, or even heard about. Even after I bent the hanger out exploring some rugged primitive singletrack, I just replaced the hanger — keeping the cable attached — one adjustment and the X-0 is shifting smooth.

The X-0 has never let me down, never slipped or caused me any grief on the trail. And I’ve banged it up pretty good, even buried it in the sand. It is scratched and bruised to no end, yet it keeps on shifting.

Maybe I got lucky, or just maybe SRAM makes an incredibly durable rear derailleur. I’m pretty sure it’s SRAM. Thanks for all the shift you’ve given me over the last 4 years.

Let’s hope the new stuff holds up as well as the old stuff.

Bruised and beaten but never fails
Bruised and beaten but never fails.

Review: Pearl Izumi X-Alp Enduro

Pearl Izumi X-Alp Enduro 2008-2009
Pearl Izumi X-Alp Enduro 2008-2009

Outdoor Demo 2009, Day Two — I was waiting for the Interbike Flatbed, a Pivot Mach 429 in hand, making smalltalk with a mountain biking unicyclist…

The flatbed arrived, the driver parked just a little bit off and riders had to jump about a foot and a half from the edge of the dirt to make it into the flatbed. No problem, everyone was managing just fine. I step up, take the leap, land on my fully exposed cleat, foot slides out, I twist, turn, drop the bike and fall flat on my face in the dirt, feet hanging up on the flatbed. Silence…I jumped right up, everyone cheered and I cursed my worn out Specialized MTB shoes… (cursed the worn out shoes, not the brand, I love Specialized!)

I knew I needed new shoes before this, but this silly spill solidified the search. I wanted a shoe that was comfortable to walk in. One that ate up the hike-a-bike sections of trail I found myself on more often than normal. Was I asking too much? Amidst my search, Chad Brown posted up a single photo on his blog and the words: “If you are looking for a hike-a-bike shoe, consider this one.”

If you know anything about Chad it’s that he rides like a madman/superhero. If this shoe lasted him a 11 months, I can go at least 33 on them. His recommendation came with serious clout so I took it seriously and ordered a pair from an online retailer for a good price.

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve pedaled 400 over miles with the X-Alp Enduros. Not all was pedaling though, there was also plenty of Hike-a-Bike to see if they lived up to their fame…up Telegraph Pass, down super tech spots on Alta and Kiwanis… The Sedona HHH had some real sketchy slickrock HAB that was actually fun with the Enduro’s sticking like glue. Sometimes walking moves is actually scarier than riding them…but with the X-Alps, there was no fear to walk what I feared to ride.

Here’s what I love:
Comfort. Walking in these shoes is comparable to walking in a stiff hiking shoe. Plenty of support, but enough give to make walking, hiking, hike-a-biking a good experience.

First attest to comfort: Usually after a ride the first thing I do is take off my cycling shoes and slip into my Keen Newport H2s. On my first few rides with the X-Alp Enduros I forgot to take them off after the ride. They were so comfortable off the bike, I subconsciously thought I had already slipped into me Keens… I could wear them all day. Which brings me to my second attest to comfort: Wearing them all day. I’d been planning the East Mesa Epic for a long time, I’m just glad now that I had the Enduro’s strapped on making this 60 mile feat, easy on the feet. This ride had it all, climbing, descending, walking, HABing…at the end of 12 hours and 15 minutes of epic adventure, my feet felt as good as ever. My legs and my back and my neck though…if only there were Enduro’s for those body parts.

Traction. HAB used to mean, carrying my bike up a steep rock section of trail while trying to keep my balance not letting the cleat make too much contact with the rocks. Now I look forward to HAB. Traction, comfort, fun to HAB.

Here’s what I do not love:
The giant ratcheting buckle: It hits on every rock it can – looking for that one special rock to run away with. So far it’s still attached, but others have reported having to super glue it back on.

Sizing. Make sure you try them on first. I am a 9.5 and I got the 43s. They seemed just a bit tight on the first few rides, but I wanted to break them in to see if it changed. They broke in fine, and feel good now — so they will stretch — but I really wish I had tried on the 44s to see how they felt. (If you’re going to buy online, I recommend you buy at Zappos! Get your size plus the next size up and then return the smallest at no cost.)

The tongue: It’s too short and falls below the top of the top strap. Looks funny and feels like it will slip below the strap. A fellow Enduro owner told me I should pull the strap up often so it doesn’t get buried. Another fellow owner told me to shoe goo the outer area near the pinkie toes as a preemptive strike against wear. I looked at mine, and sure enough, that’s the spot with the most wear.

Sole Separation. After three months and 400 miles of abuse, I have noticed the very beginnings of sole separation on one of the outer edges of the shoe. Looking back I can remember hitting that foot extra hard on a rock within the first few weeks of use. The separation is still minimal and can most likely be stopped with some shoe goo, so I’m not worried yet.

Bottom Line:
The X-Alp Enduro is a popular shoe amongst endurance riders. I have seen them on many a mountain bikers. I always ask the riders how they like them and they all tell me, you can’t beat the comfort on and especially off the bike.

If you prefer comfort and endurance over super stiff race speed and maximum pedaling efficiency…if you regularly find yourself on trails to big for your wheels…if you finally want a mountain biking shoe you can wear all day without looking “too’ forward to wearing your favorite post cycling shoes at the end of the ride…if you want to be like Chad Brown…then the X-Alp Enduro is for you. It’s definitely for me.

The 2008-2009 shoe has been replaced this year with the 2010 X-Alp Enduro II model, which sees a few new features including a sleeker lower profile buckle. They are really cool looking too. I’d like to get my feet into a pair of those…

Other Reviews of the X-Alp Enduro
MTBR | BikeRadar.com | Examiner.com | mountainbike.com

The famous flexible & grippy sole. 400 miles of wear.
The famous flexible & grippy sole. Three months, 400 miles of wear.

Review: Serfas Aileron Sunglasses

Serfas Aileron Sunglasses
Serfas Aileron Sunglasses

Not five minutes into the Outdoor demo at Interbike last year, as I was making my way to the Turner booth to demo a Sultan… I happened upon the Serfas booth where they were handing out sunglasses like candy. Could it be true? Free sunglasses? They said no catch, just try them out and keep them.

I picked up a pair of Aileron interchangeables (without the interchangeable lenses though) and wore them the rest of the week. In fact I’ve been wearing them as my regular sunglasses on and off the bike for the last six months.

I love them. Not only do I love them because they were free, but I have been in the market of sub 50 dollar sunglasses my entire life, and these baby’s take the cake in comfort, style and durability and protection.

Now they don’t come close to the quality of a pair of Giro Filters sunglasses (at $220 that is an entire different league of eyewear), but they do work really well for mountain biking and occasionally road biking in the sunny Arizona weather conditions. The standard dark lens is just the right amount of dark and it has all the UVA/UVB protection you need.

What I love best about the Aileron’s is their durablity. They are a solid pair of sunglasses. Not flimsy or fragile, like they’ll break just putting them on (which has happened to me before). And they fit around my cranium just right — snug, without loosening up over time. The elastomer nose pads are soft and comfortable as well as the temple inserts.

The top rim of the sunglasses stays off my eyebrow, letting the sweat drop to the side of my face instead of dripping down the lens. Dripping sweat down the lens is a dealbreaker. I’ve had many a shades that did that…

I also picked up a pair of Serfas Hunter Sunglasses that did come with 4 sets of lenses. The Hunter is a decent frame, but not at all as rigid or durable as the Aileron. I have only worn the Hunter for Photo-Chromic Sunset Oange lens, when it’s overcast out, which isn’t all that often in AZ.

If I can get the extra lenses for the Aileron I will have the only Sunglasses I’ll ever need. (Which makes me really happy that my buddy was with me at Interbike and picked up a pair as well, he handed them right on over to me as my backup pair.) It looks like I can order lenses and other parts right from Serfas. Free shipping. Woo whooo! But at 10 bucks a lens I won’t be ordering all the colors, maybe just one extra set of rust orange or yellow.

I’m set for at least the next couple of years in shades, thanks to Serfas. Hope to see you at Interbike again this year!

My future's so bright... I gotta wear Serfas Aileron shades... MTB readers: please forgive Big Red in the background...the MTB is in the garage hooked up to the kiddie trailer.
My future's so bright... I gotta wear Serfas Aileron shades... MTB readers: please forgive Big Red in the background...the MTB is in the garage hooked up to the kiddie trailer.
Stock photo of the Aileron from the Serfas website.
Stock photo of the Aileron from the Serfas website.

Kenda Nevegal 2.1 UST Tubeless

Kenda Nevegal on Tom’s Thumb from MTBikeAZ

I’d say at least half if not more of the bikes I demo at Interbike are stock with Nevegals. I’ve always liked them on the demo bikes but never owned a pair for my own steed where I feel completely comfortable with bike geometry and can really feel just the tires against my riding style.

Last September the Kenda crew Interbike set me up with a pair of 2.1 Tubeless John Tomac Series. I finally had the chance to put one on the front of the Fuel EX9 and have gotten nearly 200 miles in on it. My first impressions were really good, based on Interbike demos, but now that I have felt their performance on my own bike I can say I am a big fan.

I raved about the Captain Control, and never thought I’d put another tire on the front…until now. The Nevegals perform just as sweet as the Captain. Cornering in all conditions is predictable and controllable. These tires are not the dual tread compound (DTC), but they are still soft, and I happen to really like the grippiness of a soft compound over the speed and durability of a harder compound. Since my riding style favors traction over speed, these tires are perfect for me and my Arizona trails.

There are a lot of Nevegal fans on the MTBR Forum. Every time someone asks for a tire suggestion for the rugged desert conditions, Nevegals are always on the list of recommendations by several riders.

My only beef with the tire is the warranty. It’s VOID if any sealant is used. Not very customer friendly (unlike Specialized unconditional tire warranty). I asked Kenda what was up with their policy and the rep said that a lot of riders have the same beef, but use sealant anyway and 99 percent have no problems. (My experience falls in the 99 percent category…200 miles later with Stan’s I’ve never had an issue, even running 25 lbs up front.) He also hinted that Kenda is working on a sealant compatible UST tire. When we’ll see it? Who know’s.

I’ll post updates as I ride the tire longer to show how many desert miles I can put on it before she goes the way of all the trail.

Kenda Blog: We needs an update Kenda bloggers!

The 2010 Catalog (10 MB PDF)

Titus Demo Day at Hawes

Titus Rockstar

Last Saturday I hit up the Titus Demo Day at Hawes. I had one thing in mind…riding the Rockstar. Right from the moment I hopped in the saddle I felt at home. I seriously either get a good vibe or a bad vibe from a bike as soon as I sit on it…and the medium Rockstar really felt like it was made just for me. (I’m 5’11 150 lbs.)

I’ve been demoing 29ers now for a while, I think I’ve ridden most of the major brands, Santa Cruz Tallboy, Niner Rip 9, Turner Sultan, Pivot Mach 429, Specialized Stumpy 29er and Epic 29er… let’s see I know there are more… Kona Hei Hei 2-9, Rocky Mountain Altitude 29, Gary Fisher Superfly 29…that’s a pretty good line up (I still need to ride the W.F.O. and the Lenz bikes). To tell the truth I loved them all (at least the 29 part of them all). I’m not an expert in recognizing the subtle differences in the bikes, I just ride them, roll them and turn them over chunk, and base my gut on how the ride feels.

Maybe the Rockstar feels sooooo good because it is the freshest in my mind, but maybe it just plain Rocks. I definitely recommend throwing a leg over a Rockstar if you are serious about converting to 29ers. Below are some clips of my day with Titus.Just for fun, I grabbed a bright orange El Guapo with a coil shock and spun it up Las Sendas to the top of Hawes (only one roadie passed me and he was going 1 mile an hour faster than me). Hawes isn’t near enough trail for El Guapo, but it was still fun…The last time I was on El Guapo was in 2007. I loved it so much I claimed it the http://coolest.bike.ever.com/.From the lookout at lower mudflaps, aka cardiac, down. I ran into Dave (liteandfast) as well as a few other mountain bikers down the trail. This vid is mostly our conversation about El Guapo and what a rad bike it is.Thank you Titus for an awesome day of riding. I love the company, I love the bikes. MTBikeAZ.com just might be looking for a sponsor soon, and a sweet Arizona bike manufacturer like Titus would be just right.

Titus Demo at Hawes


Map your trip with EveryTrail

Review: Specialized Captain Control 2Bliss 2.20

Specialized tubeless CaptainI found Ned Overend’s Captain Control by chance when my Roll X blew a sidewall. The Specialized tire guarantee pulled through and I exchanged the Roll X for a brand new Captain Control.

November 25th, 2008 was my first ride with the Captain out on DC West up the Goat, “I’ll give a proper review for the Captain later, but for now, all I can say is this tire sticks to the trail like no other front tire I have owned.”

This is one tire I can fully endorse as a front tire for desert riders in all conditions. Until the last day the Captain spun at the helm of my ship, it still railed corners like the day it was brand new. The dual compound let the tire roll through the straights and rail around the corners.

Whether I am casually riding or teching it up, the Captain kept me glued to the trail. Once when I was cornering a steep technical down into a wash at Pass Mountain, I found myself riding into a deep granite rut. The Captain led me ride right out of the rut without slipping in. I was amazed. Over and over again the Captain saved my face from kissing dirt.

Finally after 577 desert miles and seven months of riding, the captain developed a sidewall tear. Initially the Slime Pro sealed up the weakening sidewall and I still put a few more miles on it (I have been using Slime Pro in this tire on the front since it was new.) But I finally decided to retire the Captain after a worthy bout sailing the Arizona singletrack.

I confidently recommend Ned’s Captain Control for desert riding. Slap a Captain on the front and Larsen TT or a WTB Wolverine on the rear and you’ve got yourself the perfect AZ set up.

Captain Control Reviews
Bicycling.com | Singletracks.com | Buzzillions.com | MTBR

From The Cabin Loop-Mogollon Rim
From Goat Camp XC
From Silly Mountain Park
From Silly Mountain Park

Review: Slime Pro Tubeless Sealant

Slime Pro Tubeless SealantI picked up a bottle of Slime Pro Tubeless Sealant at Interbike last year while it was still in testing. They called it the Pro-series and endurance racer Jay Petervary was one of the first pro users. The folks at the slime booth were awesome for giving me a bottle to test out in the rugged cactus spine infested Arizona desert.

Slime Pro just hit the market this spring. I’ve got two stories to tell about the Pro Sealant. Two tires, two different stories.

Front Tire: Brand New Captain Control 2Bliss
Installation was a snap. Quick, clean and easy. After six months I’m still riding strong with no front flats. I cracked the bead last week and added another 3 oz. I did have one instance where I picked something up and it took just a few seconds to seal, the green slime oozing out (see pic below), but it did seal and I rode on without adding air. The tire maintains good air pressure from ride to ride, though I do add just a little pressure every couple of weeks. On a new tire installation I’m fully satisfied. Rivals Stan’s and Super Juice for performance.

Rear Tire: Previously filled with Stan’s Larsen TT
The rear tire was a little more problematic. The bead took a bit longer to seal and I lost about a half ounce of the green stuff in the process. Good thing I started with three ounces. Out on the trail I ran into one burp issue and one “took way too long to seal” issue.

The burp was the result of extra low pressure set for a technical climb. The sealing issue knocked me out of the second spot in a sweet climb on Goat Camp. I wasn’t happy about that. I had to stop and add pressure holding the tire just right so slime could fill it. In addition to those two instances, I have a cosmetic beef with the sealant. The slime never completely sealed all the previous spine punctures. Just the smallest bit of slime oozed out giving my tire slime spots. No measurable amount of pressure was ever lost, but it just looked really bad. Even my wife commented, “That’s not going to get on the carpet is it?” I’m at a loss to know why it leaked out the old punctures. Despite the issues I always finished my ride with air.

Bottom line
Slime Pro does its job. No flats six months and rolling. Only a couple of sealing issues in six months is fantastic. It works better on the Captain than on my previously Stanned Larsen TT. I like it… but…I prefer the confidence I have when using Stan’s. And ultimately, I stick with the products that I have full confidence in. If you are a fan of Slime, you’ll love Slime Pro . If Stan’s has already won you over, it’s my opinion that Slime Pro doesn’t offer anything above and beyond what Stan’s delivers (except the different smell) and it’s more expensive – Slime Pro is advertised at 19 dollars for 16 ounces. Stan’s is advertised at 22 dollars for 32 ounces.

<--->

Two last words about Slime
Slime tubes. I’ve got nothing but great things to say about Slime Smart Tubes. I’m running one Smart Tube shrader valve and one self-slimed presta tube on my converted singlespeed. Both have held air for over a year each. I carry a spare presta Smart Tube in my CamelBak on every ride. Thank you Slime for keeping me rolling.

Review: WTB Wolverine 2.2 Tires

After 50 plus miles of riding on a pair of WTB Wolverines, I’m happy to say that they are very good tires for most of the dry desert conditions. I’ve been riding my converted singlespeed with the Wolverines since December last year, courtesy of Justin at WTB, who sent me a pair to demo. (Yes, I deserve a slap on the hand for only riding 50 miles on my singlespeed in the last 5 months, but that’s beside the point.)

I rode classic Arizona trail conditions: dry, hardpack, loose over hardpack, and rock gardens. They are a fast roller for sure and their performance is superb in everything but loose over hardpack – arguably one of the toughest condition to excel in. I’ve heard from a fellow AZ rider that the Weirwolf excels in that department.

On the front, the Wolverine tended to wash out cornering on loose over hard trail conditions such as those at the San Tans and Hawes. Other riders I talked to said the same of their experience with a Wolverine on the front. I found that lowering the tire pressure to about 26 really helped with cornering (I only weigh 150 so I can do that). Plus a conscious effort to keep more weight on the tire as I turned helped too. Where the Wolverines really rock up front is on the rocks. Tech descents on South Mountain filled me with confidence, the tires stayed glued to the stones. I give the Wolverine a solid B up front overall, bumped to a B+ if you ride just the dry desert rocks.

I give the Wolverine an A for climbing on the rear. Hammering up steep pitches on the singlespeed, I have yet to slip. Over rocks and tech the grip is just right. I’m not a weight watching gram freak, but these tires are light. They compare pretty tightly with Maxxis Crossmarks, which I had on before the Wolverines.

So if you like to spend your time in XC tech, the Wolverine will take you where you want to go.

MTBR user reviews give the Wolverine 4.5 out of 5. A thread on the MTBR discussion forum also gives some positives and negatives of the tire.

Here’s a short promo clip from Interbike

Bikemag.com review