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Liked a comment on the item Tested: Five Ten Kestrel Clipless Shoe 3/5/2015 9:27 AM

Hey guys. I'll leave Joel to confirm this, but from shooting them for the review, I can confirm that the cleat range is further back than the shoes of the past. Not sure if it's positioned as far back as the new Impact, but it's certainly on par with the more recent Maltese...more

Liked a comment on the item Tested: Five Ten Kestrel Clipless Shoe 3/5/2015 9:27 AM

I don't have a pair of Impact VXi shoes in the garage at the moment, but they have just as much as the Maltese Falcon LT. You can also see from my cleat position in the photo that I have tons of room to move further back.

Even folks that want to run the pedal nearly in the...more

Added a comment about photo 2015 Fezzari Timp Peak X01 3/4/2015 6:34 PM
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Read the Timp Peak review: http://www.vitalmtb.com/product/guide/Bikes,3/Fezzari/Timp-Peak-X01,15549#product-reviews/2032

Catch several photos of it up close and in action: http://www.vitalmtb.com/photos/features/2015-Test-Sessions-Fezzari-Timp-Peak-X01,8653/2015-Fezzari-Timp-Peak-X01,87287/bturman,109

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Added a product review for 2015 Fezzari Timp Peak X01 3/4/2015 6:10 PM
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2015 Test Sessions: Fezzari Timp Peak X01

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Reviewed by Brandon Turman and Steve Wentz // Photos by Lear Miller


Introduced in 2014, the Fezzari Timp Peak is the brand's first full carbon dual suspension mountain bike. Sporting 150mm of travel, 27.5-inch wheels, and geometry that makes it a good all-arounder, the bike is best suited to trail, all-mountain, and light duty enduro race use. For many the most appealing aspect of the bike is the great value it represents - a comparable build on most competitors' full carbon frames would set you back nearly $10,000, while the Timp Peak slots in at just over $6,000 thanks to a direct to consumer sales model. Curious to see how it stacks up against the competition, we spent some quality time aboard the bike during the 2015 Vital MTB Test Sessions in San Luis Obispo, California.

Highlights

  • Carbon frame
  • 27.5-inch wheels
  • 150mm (5.9-inches) of rear wheel travel // 150mm (5.9-inches) front
  • Tapered head tube
  • 67-degree head angle
  • 72.5-degree effective seat tube angle
  • 367mm (14.4-inch) measured bottom bracket height
  • 438mm (17.2-inch) chainstays
  • Press Fit bottom bracket
  • 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured complete weight (size 18", no pedals): 25-pounds, 14-ounces (11.7kg)
  • $6,199 MSRP

At just 3.75-pounds without the shock, the Timp Peak's low frame weight coincides with the relatively skinny tube appearance of the carbon front end, rear triangle, and rocker link. Fezzari says they did their best to optimize the strength to weight ratio on this frame. This adds up to a very respectable complete build weight of 25.9-pounds. That's nearly 2-pounds lighter than any of the 15 other men's bikes in our Test Sessions lineup, at a cost thousands less than the next closest competitor.

When it comes to the carbon construction process, Fezzari utilizes 3D printing machines to create collapsible mandrels, which, according to Fezzari, allow a tighter wrapping of carbon for higher strength and lower weight. The process gives the inside of the tubes a smooth finish and better consistency over a larger number production frames. Mandrels are removed before the curing process, piece by piece. The carbon layup uses smaller sheets of carbon at junctions to make the layup more precise while decreasing carbon fiber waste. The brand says this technique is more expensive to use but creates better performance at a lower weight. A mix of carbon types are used to tune stiffness, flex, and weight in strategic locations. On the Timp Peak, an additional carbon plate is integrated into the underside of the downtube for impact resistance and frame protection, though there's no rubber guard like on many other carbon frames.

Cable routing is internal for the rear brake, rear derailleur, optional front derailleur, and stealth dropper seatpost. Rubber grommets at the cable ports help keep moisture and grime out of the frame.


The rear suspension design is a linkage driven single pivot design called FRD Tetralink, where the main pivot doubles as the lower shock mount. The compact design puts the shock in a pretty convenient position for on-the-fly adjustments while leaving plenty of space for a water bottle inside the front triangle. Just one linkage pivot point utilizes bearings, while the remaining points rely on Igus bushings. We noticed some slight binding while cycling the linkage with the shock removed, as is typical of frames with bushings.

Our test bike came equipped with SRAM's X01 drivetrain, but it's also possible to set it up with a 2X system. It uses a press fit bottom bracket and there are no ISCG mounts, but if one wanted a chain guide the direct front derailleur mount could be used for a top guide. Additional details include ~1cm of rear tire mud clearance, a tapered head tube, and 12x142mm rear axle.

What's the Timp Peak name all about? Fezzari's headquarters near Salt Lake City, Utah is surrounded by several large mountain peaks. The Timp Peak is named after Mount Timpanogos, which the bike was tested on prior to production.

The early 2015 release Timp Peak X01 model comes in at $6,199, even with carbon wheels. Fezzari has historically offered several models of this bike, so we expect additional builds will be offered in the future.


On The Trail

Our time aboard the Timp Peak was split between the wide open, jump filled trails of Montana de Oro State Park and the rocky and rougher singletrack on West Cuesta Ridge in San Luis Obispo. The two offered a good variety of terrain to see where the bike is best suited.

Every bike Fezzari sells goes through a 23-point custom setup program to ensure it's just right for you. They consider your riding style and use measurements including your height, weight, inseam, torso, and arm length to determine a good setup. Bar width, stem length, saddle position, crank length, brake reach and angle are considered in the equation. They'll even trim the stock 800mm wide RaceFace Sixc35 carbon bars to your desired width. With a 50mm RaceFace Atlas35 stem in place, the cockpit on our size 18-inch test frame (428mm reach, 584mm effective top tube) felt perfectly roomy while standing while also putting us in an upright position for seated climbs.

A single bottomless token was added to the RockShox RCT3 Solo Air Pike fork, and the rear RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 DebonAir shock seated sag was set to the recommended 30% before hitting the trails.

While the claimed 330mm (13.0-inch) bottom bracket height sounds low, when we measured it to the center of the bottom bracket it actually comes in quite tall at around 367mm (14.4-inches). In talks with Fezzari after riding the Timp Peak, we learned that the number was quoted from when the bike used a shorter shock, before reaching production. Unfortunately this discrepancy makes use question the listed geometry. Fezzari has since updated the site to read 349mm (13.75-inches). The bike's moderately slack 67-degree head tube angle lends itself to all-around use, providing a good compromise of chunk eating capability and quick handling traits. At times the handling felt so quick that we're inclined to think the bike may be a bit steeper.

Numbers aside, when pointed downhill the Timp Peak is quite fun to ride. It has a very calm and controlled disposition most of the time, which inspires you to let loose and jump around. The bike's low weight only adds to the playfulness. The ride is comfortable and confidence inspiring at slow and medium speeds.


Aided by the Monarch Debonair shock, rear suspension performance is quite good with a supple and active feel when off the brakes, which balances well with the Pike fork. The bike responds quickly to rider inputs, and changing lines at a moment's notice is easy to do. The snug 438mm chain stays add to the snappy, precise feel and encourage you to whip it around turns and pop wheelies. There's enough progression built into the system to prevent a harsh bottom out while still allowing it to use a good amount of travel often. This compromise is often difficult to master in a single pivot design.


On the brakes the suspension feel is quite different, however, as the rear brake placement on the chain stay creates an excessive amount of brake squat. This firms up the suspension greatly during heavy braking, which can cause it to feel a little harsh. As trails became truly rough and fast, requiring more braking power quickly, the suspension felt a tad overwhelmed. Most of the time it was great, but occasionally we would hit a rough section that felt a whole lot more square than it was. When slowing from high speeds we also sometimes noted a severe chatter/vibration feeling as the suspension would be forced to compress, causing a momentary loss of traction, rebound, catch traction again, and repeat until we let off the brakes. Delicate rear brake modulation was the only solution to the problem. This occurred a handful of times each ride. Subsequent re-tests of the bike by the company on their own trails haven't reproduced this result.

Because the rear brake line is secured to the rocker before entering the top tube, when the suspension compresses the brake line is forced into the top tube. The Timp Peak lacks any sort of internal guide system for the cable, so this can create a lot of internal rattling. It was not all the time, but when it did happen, we couldn't help but wonder if it was something actually wrong, or if it was just the cables acting as drumsticks inside the frame. While it's possible to add a little bit of electrical tape around the brake cable where it exits the frame near the seat tube, re-routing the brake externally or past the lower pivot would create a quieter ride.

Speaking of the routing, we wish there were two ports for cables on the left of the frame, and two on the right. Currently there are three cables that enter the frame by the headtube on the right side, and only one on the left. As sent from the factory this makes for an awkward rear brake line that has more bend than it should have and a more cluttered front end than we would want.


Sprinting, the bike reacts pretty quickly, stands up in the travel, and gains speed well. Seated climbs are just fine with the shock wide open with no drastic loss of power or suspension movement, leaving it free to absorb bumps and keep traction. The 72.5-degree seat tube angle puts you in a good position for climbs while still being easy to get the front end up over obstacles. We experienced no front end pushing in uphill switchbacks, which it snapped right around. Technical climbs were handled very well for the most part, so long as we were smooth and spun up them. The geometry helped with this, especially the high bottom bracket height.

Build Kit

As we mentioned previously, most bikes with a comparable spec run several thousands more, so you know the components are all the cream of the crop from RockShox, SRAM, Race Face, Ergon, Reynolds, and Schwalbe. The bike arrived almost fully built, requiring just 20 minutes of our time to have it assembled and ready to rip.


Up front, the RockShox Pike RCT3 Solo Air fork provided buttery smooth action, great sensitivity, a dialed chassis, and good bottom out control with one or more Bottomless Tokens installed. We'd love a little more high speed support, but as we've noted before it's a remarkable fork for the vast majority of riders. In the rear suspension department, the Monarch Plus Debonair did a commendable job masking some storied single pivot flaws, and made the relatively simple system work well in most circumstances.


New for 2015, the Timp Peak comes setup tubeless with the recently updated Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.35-inch tires (not the Maxxis Ardents mentioned on their site). Traction was quite good on both sandy and loose-over-hard terrain, but then again dirt conditions were very favorable. On drier, more gravely terrain, we did experience some front end washing when really pushing it, which was tough to recover from given the compound that came stock on the Fezzari. We'd love a softer TrailStar rubber compound installed up front, but the stock PaceStar version will last quite a bit longer, especially out back. The tires roll quickly while providing much better cornering traction than the previous version.


The 3.8-pound Reynolds 27.5AM Carbon tubeless wheels help keep the weight down where it really counts while adding to the precise feel of the bike. With our tire pressures at 28psi up front and 31psi in the rear, the Reynolds wheels didn't have an overly harsh feel that some carbon wheels do. Hub engagement was average. They still ran very true at the conclusion of our test.

SRAM's new Guide RSC brakes coupled with dual 180mm rotors provided plenty of power, good modulation, and improved feel and adjustment range over the Avid X0 Trail predecessors. We experienced no inconsistencies or fading. We feel the Timp Peak would benefit from a smaller rotor in the back, though. Less force going into the rear suspension would be a positive thing without hampering braking too much, and an already light bike would become marginally lighter.


The SRAM X01 drivetrain worked flawlessly with quick shifts and plenty of range while remaining dead silent. Hard charging riders may consider a top chain guide, as well as sizing up from the stock 30-tooth chainring. While there is a neoprene chainstay guard for chainslap, there is no guard on the inside of seat stay which could help quiet the bike a touch more.

Once again, the RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post functioned very smoothly, and Fezzari took care to spec the most ergonomic lever option possible.


If you're not sold on any one component, Fezzari will upgrade or change out parts at a very reasonable price without charging any restocking or shop fees.

Long Term Durability

Other than a few paint chips on the rocker link and the potential for the Igus bushings to require service more often than bearings, we've seen nothing that indicates a potential durability issue. All Fezzari bikes come with a 30 day money back guarantee and a three year warranty on the carbon frame, which speaks well about the confidence they have in the product. All other original components are warranted for one year.


What's The Bottom Line?

The 2015 Fezzari Timp Peak is a quick handling trail/all-mountain bike that's capable of taming a wide variety of terrain while remaining incredibly light and pedal friendly. It's well balanced for the most part, though the above average bottom bracket height gave us some trouble in corners and lacked that oh so coveted feeling of being 'in' the bike. The rest of the geometry encourages you to play, however, making even mundane trails more enjoyable. Lower the bottom bracket, solve the brake squat problem, sort the cable routing, and give us ISCG tabs and you've got an outstanding ride. While the build kit may be better, we feel Fezzari needs to dial in the details to really knock it out of the park. That said, it's a good value considering the great build kit and care that goes into each purchase. Buying direct may be a sticky point for some as you lose the shop component, but Fezzari has programs in place to make setup and warranty as smooth and seamless as possible, even for the novice rider.

Visit www.fezzari.com for more details.

Bonus Gallery: 16 photos of the 2015 Fezzari Timp Peak up close and in action


About The Reviewers

Steve Wentz - A man of many talents, Steve got his start in downhilling at a young age. He has been riding for over 18 years, 11 of which have been in the Pro ranks. Asked to describe his riding style he said, "I like to smooth out the trail myself." Today he builds some of the best trails in the world (and eats lots of M&M's).

Brandon Turman - Brandon likes to pop off the little bonus lines on the sides of the trail, get aggressive when he's in tune with a bike and talk tech. In 15 years of riding he worked his way through the Collegiate downhill ranks to the Pro level. Formerly a Mechanical Engineer, nowadays he's Vital MTB's resident product guy.

Which reviewer resembles you the most? Don't miss our Q&A with the testers for more insight about their styles and preferences.

About Test Sessions

Three years ago Vital MTB set out to bring you the most honest, unbiased reviews you'll find anywhere. That tradition continues today as we ride 2015's most exciting trail, all-mountain, and enduro bikes in San Luis Obispo, California. Reviews can be accessed 24/7 in our Product Guide. Test Sessions was made possible with the help of Foothill Cyclery. Tester gear provided by Five Ten, Race Face, Easton, Troy Lee Designs, Club Ride, Kali, Royal, Smith, Pearl Izumi, and Source.

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bturman added a feature story Earn $100 at Jenson USA for Your Vital MTB Member Reviews 3/4/2015 2:56 PM

Every 30 days, we award the Top User Reviewer with a little prize. This month Jenson USA pitched in a $100 gift card! Vital MTB member xyian wrote a few in-depth reviews that we'd like to highlight. They helped earned him the Top Reviewer spot.

Dakine Exodus Bike Gloves - "I...more

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Added reply in a thread Florian Nicolai's Nose Pivot 3/4/2015 2:20 PM

Sickest thing ever! I need to improve my euro turning skills. Dang.

Added a new photo album 2015 Test Sessions: Fezzari Timp Peak X01 3/3/2015 10:57 PM
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Added a comment about photo 2015 Liv Giant Intrigue 1 3/3/2015 9:53 PM
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Read the Intrigue review: http://www.vitalmtb.com/product/guide/Bikes,3/Giant/Womens-Intrigue-1,15056#product-reviews/2031

See photos of it up close and in action: http://www.vitalmtb.com/photos/features/2015-Test-Sessions-Liv-Intrigue-1,8648/2015-Liv-Intrigue-1,87243/bturman,109

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Added a product review for 2015 Liv Women's Intrigue 1 3/3/2015 9:47 PM
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2015 Test Sessions: Liv Intrigue 1

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Reviewed by Amanda Wentz and Courtney Steen // Photos by Lear Miller

After its debut in 2014, the Liv Intrigue is back for more with some nice upgrades. Liv claims the bike will help boost your speed and skills, and is "built specifically for women seeking maximum control and confidence on aggressive trails." Was this just some marketing talk or is there really a difference? We were in sunny San Luis Obispo, California to find out. Enduro Pro lady shredder Kelli Emmett helped with the design process, so we knew it had potential to be a ripper going into the 2015 Vital MTB Test Sessions.

Highlights

  • Aluminum frame
  • 27.5-inch wheels
  • 140mm (5.5-inches) of rear wheel travel // 120-140mm (4.7 to 5.5-inches) front
  • Tapered head tube
  • 68-degree head angle
  • 73.5-degree effective seat tube angle
  • 327mm (12.9-inch) measured bottom bracket height
  • 447mm (17.6-inch) chainstays
  • Press Fit bottom bracket
  • 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured complete weight (size M, no pedals): 27-pounds, 15-ounces (12.7kg)
  • $4,700 MSRP

Liv, a Giant Bikes brand, creates bikes with their 3F (Fit/Form/Function) guiding principle in mind. At the basic level, when designing bikes specifically for women, they consider our unique strengths and physical characteristics. How so? For starters, the Intrigue was designed from the ground up using body dimension data collected from women all over the world. According to Liv, this data has led them to finding the best angles to complement how women carry their weight and balance over their bikes. They also consider stem lengths, handlebar width, crank arm length, and saddle ergonomics into the equation. It's much more than the usual "shrink it and pink it" approach.

The Intrigue rides on an ALUXX SL-grade aluminum frame, 27.5-inch wheels, and 140mm of Maestro suspension. The dual-link suspension design creates a single floating pivot point claimed to perform consistently under pedaling power and remain fully active while braking. Additional features include internal routing for everything, a chainstay guard, ISCG tabs, Press Fit bottom bracket, room for a water bottle inside the front triangle, and lots of mud clearance. Liv has also moved back to the original OverDrive headtube (standard 1 1/8 to 1 1/2-inch tapered) to make things easier.

2015 sees a few sweet upgrades in the components department for the $4,700 Intrigue 1 model - most notably the Giant P-TRX1 Composite wheel system. Another big upgrade is in the SRAM drivetrain, which is still a 2x10 system, but instead of GripShift it now has X0 trigger shifters paired with X9 front and X0 rear derailleurs. There's also a $2,775 Intrigue 2 model featuring a Shimano Deore build, RockShox suspension, and a dropper post. XS, Small, Medium, and Large sizes are available, with the XS being one of the few bikes small enough for short women who may struggle to find a good fit.

On The Trail

We had the difficult job of testing the Intrigue 1 in some of the most beautiful scenery that California has to offer (rough job, we know). We rode several West Cuesta Ridge and Madonna Mountain trails near San Luis Obispo that really put bikes through the wringer.

As testers with two very different body types, we believe we were able to get a well-rounded perspective on this bike, especially in the fit department. We are roughly the same height, but Amanda (5'6" tall) has long legs and a short torso while Courtney (5'7" tall) is just the opposite.

The 403mm reach is average length for a Women's size Medium frame, and we found that it strikes a good balance for a range of rider heights and arm lengths. All sizes have a better than average standover height, which is great for women with shorter legs. Short seat tubes are also welcome for more adjustment and fit options.

In the cockpit area, Amanda rode the bike completely stock at first, while Courtney immediately switched out the stock Giant Contact SL 700mm bars and 80mm stem to suit her preference. This bike is intended to provide "unrivaled handing on descents," so the lack of wider bars and a short stem was a bit puzzling to us. In the end we both agreed that swapping out the bars and stem for something in the 750mm wide and 50mm length range gave us more control over the front end, both uphill and down.

The Fox Float CTD rear shock was initially set to 30% sag, falling within the suggested 25-30% range. Up front the Fox Float CTD Talas Performance fork was set to 25% sag. Once we had our bike feeling dialed we headed out to a network of trails that would give us the best variety. We had some time to settle in on a short road climb then dropped into a trail littered with some slower techy rock features. After that, we bombed through some fast, chundery, loose rocks before some jumps and a quick flowy section with a mix of berms and flat turns.

Both of us tend to favor the downhills, so we were super excited to see how it would perform on the rocky trails. Once we got past the slight distrust of the front Schwalbe Nobby Nic tire and replaced the cockpit, the Intrigue rewarded us with responsive handling and stability at speed. Popping off rocks and other trail features made the ride a blast and we were psyched the Intrigue was able to get us out of a few spots of trouble we got into. We feel like the moderately slack head angle and low bottom bracket height added to the stable feel, and allowed us to ride the bike down some rowdier terrain than most 140mm travel women's bikes would be up for. While the Intrigue would reward rider input, it didn’t necessarily need it. It would motor comfortably over trail features without making us feel like we were along for a wild ride.

We were also pleasantly surprised how well the bike handled under braking. Amanda came into a few switchbacks a bit too hot, and even with the rough ground she was able to brake quickly without losing control of the back end.

Suspension wise, we both agreed that with the CTD shock in Descend mode it tended to push through the first bit of travel quite quickly with a super plush feel, then ramp up almost too much at the bottom of the travel. Trail mode gave something more predictable to push against when jumping or changing lines, so dropping just below 30% sag and riding in Trail mode seemed to strike the best balance. Chattery sections at speed could be a bit rough at times in this setting, however.

In the last section of trail we were rewarded with some fast and flowy turns through a fantastic eucalyptus grove and around some gnarled live oaks. There were even a few jumps thrown in to mix it up. While the Intrigue didn’t necessarily want to rail through corners, it was quite stable. Manualing through puddles and over waterbars was a bit of a challenge due to the somewhat long chainstays, though these add to the stable feel at other times. Jumping was another matter though. It did make that fun, and the ramp in the suspension saved one of our testers who may have cased one of the jumps pretty solidly.

Along the road and on the trail we noticed that the 27.9-pound bike feels light on its feet. The front end feels planted on climbs, yet it is still easy to move your weight forward or back to get up and over a feature. Compared to some lighter bikes we tested, it felt more efficient, but only when we were in the Trail suspension setting. Those composite wheels also make for a bit of an easier job pedaling. We noticed that in Descend mode, the bike has a descent amount of pedal bob, especially when standing out of the saddle. During a slightly rocky climb with some waterbars we switched both the front and rear into Climb mode to see how it would perform. It turns out that Climb mode wasn’t the greatest choice for this terrain as it functions more as a full lockout that felt too harsh and unforgiving, so reserve it for smooth fire road ascents. Ultimately Trail mode also became the preferred ascend mode for both of us, as it allowed the wheels to maintain traction and added a platform for hard efforts. The Maestro suspension design makes it easy to get to the CTD adjustment lever.

A glance at the specs shows that this bike has a 73.5-degree effective seat angle, putting you into a pretty aggressive pedaling position. While the downs are the best part, what goes down must sometimes go up, and we faced some steep climbing sections which made us thankful for the seated geometry. Up front you get a Fox Float CTD Talas Performance fork which can be set to 120 or 140mm of travel on the fly. Only Courtney used the travel adjust feature, dropping the fork for climbs then turning it back to 140mm for descents which felt was more efficient. Overall the performance of the fork was something we were happy with and it was easily adjustable to fit all riding styles.

Build Kit

The 2015 Intrigue 1 comes nicely spec’d for the $4,700 price point, especially when you note the Giant P-TRX1 Composite wheels that you typically wouldn't find on a bike at this level. While we did notice increased stiffness in the wheels versus the aluminum alternative, the first difference noticed was the level of noise when blowing over rocks, or lack thereof. Where our aluminum rims would make a loud PING when we weren’t so graceful, the carbon muted mistakes quite nicely. There was also some level of damping that we could feel when rolling over smaller bumps and chatter at speed. Plus the wheels accelerated nicely and the hubs had good engagement to get us up and over tech sections. Should you want to upgrade to a 1X drivetrain, we believe they are compatible with the SRAM XD driver body design. One thing we didn’t get to test is the ease with which the wheels could be converted to tubeless, but they do come with the necessary parts from the factory.

2.25-inch Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires are spec'd both front and back. We were slightly skeptical of this choice for a front tire because they seemed relatively low profile, but we knew they would be fast rolling. Weighing in at 610g per tire they are quite light, but we found that the weight savings may come at a trade-off in sidewall thickness. According to Schwalbe this tire is supposed to have superior sidewall protection from cuts and pinches, but we had the rear tire pinch flat in terrain that we didn’t expect. Setting these up tubeless could help prevent pinch flats. On the plus side, Schwalbe made some improvements to this tire in the last year and we felt that the cornering knobs seemed a bit more robust. They did feel a bit drifty when we rode some loose over hard pack, but many tires would have felt the same way. Overall we were happy with the way they rolled and had good traction under braking.

In addition to the cockpit swap, neither of us were a fan of the foam grips. They were huge in comparison to many women’s hands and difficult to change out. We felt that lock-on grips would have been a better choice. They would have made the bike look better, and we could have more confidence that they would stay put over time. They may have saved a few grams, but the savings here seemed negligible.

This bike comes with Giant’s own internally routed Contact SL Switch-R dropper seat post which has some cool features, like the ability to adjust to any point in its travel. While hydraulic seat posts are popular, a cable actuated post like this one can be kind of cool. Let’s say you’re just riding along 15-miles from home and the cable breaks. We're guessing that a bleed kit isn’t part of your gear bag, but a spare derailleur cable is. Problem solved. Don’t have a cable? That's fine too. The post will just remain in the upright position for the duration of your ride. As much as we appreciated the way the dropper post has changed riding, we do have one beef with the Giant Contact post. The Intrigue comes with just 75mm of dropper travel, and this just isn’t enough to get the saddle out of the way on steep descents. There were a number of times the saddle would bump us in the bum on rowdy descents and would make us feel a little sketchy. The bike can tackle steep terrain, but sometimes we felt limited by the saddle all up in our business. Giant does make a 100mm dropper post, and even at the seat height needed for our shorter legged rider it looks like there would be room for that extra 25mm of adjustment. The single bolt clamp design is also a little difficult to adjust and keep tight.

The bike should have come with the SRAM Guide R brakes, but instead we had the Avid Trail 9s. We had heard good things about the Guides and were looking forward to checking them out, but the Trail 9s didn’t disappoint. The lever was comfy and it was easy to adjust the reach thanks to the knob on the outside of the lever. This is a fine adjustment that can be beneficial to the ladies with smaller hands. Modulation was quite good, and we never felt like we were locking up our wheels when we didn’t mean to. Lastly, the 160mm rotors provided sufficient stopping power. Overall they were well matched to the capabilities of the bike, but we are still looking forward to checking out the Guides.

While the range of gears provided by the SRAM 2x10 system is fantastic, we found that it dropped the chain way too much. And by too much we aren’t being overly dramatic here. Almost every bumpy downhill ended with us having to stop and put our chain back on. This costs the bike some points overall. Unfortunately this is something that also occurred on the 2014 Intrigue, and hasn’t been corrected for 2015 despite other drivetrain upgrades. On the plus side, the X0 shifting seemed precise.

Finally, the internal routing could use some serious help. The cables, particularly the seat post cable on our test bike, bounced around in the frame a lot. The frame has big ports to accept the cables, but there is no internal guide to keep them from moving around or to help with installation. The cable length is also very excessive from the factory. Trimming down the housing and making sure everything is pulled tight in the frame would help.

Long Term Durability

We've had another Intrigue in the field for quite some time, and even after almost a full year of riding it hasn’t seen much obvious wear and tear. Much of this is thanks to some clear tape on the head tube which comes with the bike to protect against cable rub. As for the components, they are solidly spec’d for this bike's intended rider so nothing stands out as a liability. Liv backs the frame with an impressive lifetime warranty plus one year on original components.

What's The Bottom Line?

We set out to see if Liv had in fact created a bike that would allow women of all sizes to feel comfortable and stable. There is a ton of merit to this claim, though it took a cockpit upgrade to achieve the feel. Overall the Intrigue 1 was able to rise to the occasion in almost all the situations we put it in. Provided you find the sweet spot in the suspension setup, it's capable of taming very rough descents without feeling like it's overkill on the rest of the ride. There are a few shortcomings to the build kit and cable routing, but these could be overcome with a few small tweaks. The geometry promotes balance, and while responsive it doesn’t always need to be told what to do. Because of this we felt that this bike would be fantastic for helping a beginner progress or a more advanced rider hone her skills, so it could be a good investment for several seasons of use.

Visit www.liv-cycling.com for more details.

Bonus Gallery: 16 photos of the 2015 Liv Intrigue 1 up close and in action


About The Reviewers

Courtney Steen - Courtney has been at it for seven years and racked up some nice race results along the way in various disciplines. Today she travels the country in a RV in search of the next best trail and writes women's reviews for Vital MTB. Her technical background helps her think critically about products and how they can be improved.

Amanda Wentz - Over the last decade Amanda has soaked up all aspects of mountain biking and continues to push herself to progress. Just last year she fell in love with the rush of racing downhill. She recently turned her passion into a career by coaching riders to navigate the sometimes painful entry into mountain biking.

Which reviewer resembles you the most? Don't miss our Q&A with the testers for more insight about their styles and preferences.

About Test Sessions

Three years ago Vital MTB set out to bring you the most honest, unbiased reviews you'll find anywhere. That tradition continues today as we ride 2015's most exciting trail, all-mountain, and enduro bikes in San Luis Obispo, California. Reviews can be accessed 24/7 in our Product Guide. Test Sessions was made possible with the help of Foothill Cyclery. Tester gear provided by Five Ten, Race Face, Easton, Troy Lee Designs, Club Ride, Kali, Royal, Smith, Pearl Izumi, and Source.

This product has no reviews yet

Added reply in a thread Vital Feature Requests 3/3/2015 8:58 AM

Excellent suggestions. Thanks, Nicholast. We're aware of the arrow key issue when commenting, and plan to address it. Love the Test Sessions mockup as well!

Liked a bike check Ibis HD3 "Quicksilver" 3/2/2015 2:19 PM
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Added a new photo album 2015 Test Sessions: Liv Intrigue 1 3/2/2015 12:22 PM
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Added reply in a thread The Theory of Vital Test Sessions 2/27/2015 3:54 PM

Thanks for starting this topic, Nicholast. We'll move it to the main forum so it can get a little more attention. The nature of our reviews and how to improve them is something always at the forefront of our minds, especially around Test Sessions time. ... more »

Liked a comment on the item 2015 Test Sessions: Santa Cruz Nomad Carbon X01 2/27/2015 12:21 AM

SO many sexy bits Santa Cruz put into the development and production of these bad boys. Everyone I know who rides one has had just as positive an experience as you Vital fellers. Thanks for a tasty write up.

Added a comment about product review 2015 Test Sessions: Santa Cruz Nomad Carbon X01 2/27/2015 12:21 AM
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Cheers for voicing your concern. Part of the reason why we have multiple testers ride each bike is so that a system of checks and balances is in place, preventing scenarios like the one you mention. In this case I personally verified the statements written above by Steve, the bike owner, in addition to writing many of them myself. Steve's extensive time on the bike only strengthens his positive and negative ride impressions, in my opinion.

We also don't discuss our ride impressions with one another prior to jotting down our ride notes, just to prevent preconceived notions.

The Nomad rules, and after riding it at Test Sessions I'd willingly buy one with my own dollars too.

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Added a comment about photo 2015 Santa Cruz Nomad X01 2/26/2015 6:40 PM
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Read the Nomad review: http://www.vitalmtb.com/product/guide/Bikes,3/Santa-Cruz/Carbon-Nomad-27-5,15577#product-reviews/2028

See several photos of it in action and up close: http://www.vitalmtb.com/photos/features/2015-Test-Sessions-Santa-Cruz-Nomad-Carbon-X01,8637/2015-Santa-Cruz-Nomad-Carbon-X01,87142/bturman,109

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Added a product review for 2015 Santa Cruz Nomad Carbon X01 27.5 2/26/2015 6:35 PM
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2015 Test Sessions: Santa Cruz Nomad Carbon X01

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Reviewed by Steve Wentz and Brandon Turman // Photos by Lear Miller

The 2015 Santa Cruz Nomad is built to be an absolute beast. Now in its third generation, it is longer, slacker, lighter, has updated VPP suspension, and even sports more travel than the previous model. 27.5-inch wheels round out the package, as well as a parts pack that's ready to rock. With all the hype around this bike it was high time to officially weigh in on the Nomad during the Vital MTB Test Sessions.

Highlights

  • Carbon CC frame
  • 27.5-inch wheels
  • 165mm (6.5-inches) of rear wheel travel // 160mm (6.3-inches) front
  • Tapered head tube
  • 65-degree head angle
  • 74.2-degree effective seat tube angle
  • 340mm (13.4-inch) measured bottom bracket height
  • 433mm (17.0-inch) chainstays
  • Threaded bottom bracket
  • 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured complete weight (size L, no pedals): 28-pounds, 6-ounces (12.9kg)
  • $6969 MSRP as tested

At the heart of the new bike is a closely guarded carbon construction process that Santa Cruz prides itself on. Their fantastic plastic frames have incredibly smooth insides, while many other brands have rough patches and inconsistencies which can result in a weaker frame and unnecessary weight. The "Carbon CC" frame is more refined from what they were even able to do a couple years ago as the technology is advancing at such a fast rate. Santa Cruz also offers a more affordable "Carbon C" version.

Looking inside the frame also reveals the most dialed internal cable routing system in existence. Santa Cruz uses small carbon tubes to make routing internal cables incredibly easy, which also eliminates the chance of cables rattling. Both stealth and external dropper post cable routing options exist as well.

The frame uses the tried and true VPP suspension design to deliver 165mm of travel. You'll notice that the lower link has been recessed on this model with a pivot above the bottom bracket, protecting the link from rock strikes and allowing the designers to really shorten up the chainstay length (the 1X drivetrain specific frame helped, too). Both links are forged, the collet-style axle pivots are easy to access, and the use of angular contact bearings helps stiffen the rear end.

Completely new geometry is another big highlight, and as always the Nomad continues to be geared towards the descents. There are no geometry adjustments, but the 65-degree head angle should suit the bike's target rider well and make for no excuses on the way down. A 340mm bottom bracket height, long wheelbase, increased reach measurements, and compact 433mm chainstays round out the package. Those wanting to get really wild can throw up to a 180mm travel fork up front.

Extra details include a threaded bottom bracket, 12x142mm rear axle, ISCG 05 tabs, and some of the best molded rubber chainstay, seat stay, and downtube guards in the industry. Mud clearance with the stock 2.3-inch Maxxis tires is acceptable with about 1cm of room for the muck. There's room for a water bottle inside the front triangle as well, though it's a tight fit so you may have to use a small bottle with some cages.

Complete Carbon CC Nomad builds start at $6,599 for the X01 option and $8,299 for XX1. Upgrades to the suspension and wheels are available from the factory, with the most expensive build running $10,669 for ENVE wheels, a FOX 36 Float RC2 fork, and RockShox Vivid Air R2C shock. Our X01 build with an upgraded shock and fork ran $6969. If you're looking to save a few bucks and aren't afraid of a few grams, the Carbon C model with X1 starts at $5,599. Or you can build it from the ground up starting with the Carbon CC frame and RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 Debonair shock for $2,999.

We were able to test the murdered out flat black Nomad, though if you prefer some color you can choose the Miami Vice tribute magenta and baby blue version.

On The Trail

As luck would have it, one of our testers actually bought a Nomad before our test and has ridden it everywhere between Colorado and California. Resort riding, shuttling, and some all day adventures were just part of the weekly routine. During Test Sessions in San Luis Obispo, California, we were able to try different suspension components and experiment on more trails to complete the experience.

The build kit on our test bike provided 800mm wide Santa Cruz carbon bars, a short 50mm RaceFace Turbine stem, and plenty of seatpost adjustment up and down to accommodate a wide range of riders. Check the reach and top tube numbers in the specs, and make sure you can work with the new sizing as it's longer than Santa Cruz bikes of the past. Our 5'10" tall tester loved the 438mm reach and 610mm effective top tube on the size Large frame. Meanwhile our 5'8" tall tester is usually between Medium and Large frame sizes, and the Medium was a better for him.

We experimented with rear shock sag settings from 30-40% while seated (30-35% is suggested), noting quite a range of performance through those different pressures. After settling on a fairly standard ~20% sag on the FOX 36 fork with the bike weighted evenly, we felt slightly rearward in our orientation, but this lent itself well to downhill use.

The bike's geometry encourages the bike to go fast, and regardless of a good or poor suspension setup the geometry will still take care of you, to a point, which really highlights how far frames have come. We would have killed to have controlled suspension and a 65-degree head angle on a DH bike just a handful of years ago, but now it's standard in a package where you have great pedaling performance to get up the hill as well. The slack head angle, relatively low bottom bracket height, and long front center all make for a bike that's made for hauling down any trail where speed is readily available, and it can come very close to DH bike speeds in rough terrain. It's really incredible how well the bike worked at the limits of our bravery and mental speed limits, a sign of a truly confidence inspiring ride.

On a casual ride, though, the Nomad might not be the best thing. At slower speeds or while you're not fully on the gas the ride can be a bit boring. Why? Because the Nomad is so capable you don't have to pick super precise lines or worry about the little stuff in your path. The trail can disappear beneath you, but that's the trade off for all the stability it offers. Sometimes we like the nature of picking lines, the challenge of keeping our feet on the pedals, or the excitement of finally nailing a tricky section we've had fits with before - the Nomad makes all of these things almost too easy. If you don't want to feel the rough stuff, then by all means bring this gun to the fight.

It responds well and does what it's told, but we wouldn't call it nimble or playful in the tradition sense. It will change lines, but be ready to muscle the bike around a bit due to its length and suspension feel. Then again, if your definition of play is to pull up hard and gap massive sections of the trail, then sure, it's "playful." It's also easy to get over the back of the bike and feel ready for anything that requires a quick front end lift.

A huge part of the Nomad's capability comes from the suspension. There were no situations where the bike didn't work well in rough terrain. The RockShox Vivid Air shock upgrade is borderline cheating, resulting in tons of control and consistency. The frame stiffness is also top notch. Really compressing the bike into corners yields a confidence that's sometimes a scarce commodity on San Luis Obispo's rockiest trails.

Due to the relatively linear mid-stroke that's typical of VPP designs, the Nomad uses a lot of travel a lot of the time. It's regressive through the sag point, then progressive after that. This allows you to sit into the travel, both aiding in smoothing out the trail and also giving the feeling of a muted ride. Despite using a lot of travel, it's still fairly difficult to bottom out. There is a pronounced ramp up at the end of the stroke which helps immensely on big landings or impacts. That's a very good thing, because odds are that you'll be moving at a high rate of speed when you do use all the travel. Small bumps disappear under the VPP suspension and Vivid Air, and the Nomad is one of the most stable we have ridden on trail chatter. The amount of travel and the quality of the Vivid's damping seem very well matched. We dare say that the capability of the Nomad would not be fully exploited with less of a shock, though the alternate RockShox Monarch Plus Debonair has proven to be a good all-around performer as well. Due to the overall progressive nature of the leverage curve it will also work very well with a coil shock.

On trails that were rocky or had ledges, the Nomad would stay very composed. It wouldn't ever kick us forward, try to spring us off, or surprise us, which is an improvement over the previous versions.

We can see how it would be easy to think of the Nomad as a purely descending machine - it does that job better than many. What really surprised us, though, is what a capable climber it is. The seat angle is very steep, giving you an upright seated riding position that feels more over the pedals than the off the back feel when standing. Owners of the previous generation Nomads will really notice this change, and it makes climbing much better than we anticipated. The fact that the Vivid Air did not have any external climb switches or settings was just fine by us given the added anti-squat that's built into the suspension design.

We were often tempted into questionable lines, and on occasion we would have to sprint into them. Santa Cruz's refinement of the VPP suspension is put to excellent use here, with the Nomad feeling very neutral during all out efforts. This is no doubt caused by the system's use of chain torque to keep the bike around the sag point, instead of extending the swingarm like some other designs. When climbing, the neutral feeling never made it seem like we were flying up the hills, but we always arrived at the top with few hassles. Other than the random pedal spike due to the low bottom bracket, the only other issue while climbing concerned the front end. There will always be a trade off for this type of steed, and in this case it's difficulty maneuvering up steep, tight turns. With a front end so far away and so slack, we really had to lean the bike over to change direction, or else it would feel like we were driving a bus at times.

Build Kit

Our X01 edition test bike came equipped with quality parts from FOX, RockShox, Maxxis, DT Swiss, WTB, RaceFace, Shimano, SRAM, e*thirteen, and Santa Cruz. At nearly $7,000 it's a bit of a let down to not see a top of the line component group, but the bulk of the money goes towards great frame quality and suspension more than anything else - components very necessary for a great ride.

As mentioned previously, our test bike had two upgrades to the stock build, including the FOX 36 Float RC2 fork and RockShox Vivid Air R2C shock. Were they worth it? We think so. The behavior of the 36 coupled with the Vivid Air on the rear made encouraged us to make otherwise questionable decisions, and the adjustability of the compression and rebound in both the front and rear of the bike made for a highly tunable ride. We can't overemphasize how much we appreciate not having extra knobs and levers on the bars, and instead of on/off switches, tuning adjustments that actually make a difference. The 36 had very smooth action and compression control, as well a stout chassis that pairs well with the frame. We also like the Vivid Air's ability to tune the beginning and ending of the rebound circuits independently. These adjustments could be overkill for some people, or some terrain, but for the Nomad it all seemed to fit and align with the purpose of going through rough terrain quickly.

On the tire side of things, the 2.3-inch Maxxis High Roller II treads aided in the bike's stable, capable feel. They roll surprisingly well for the size, and we had no issues with flats thanks to the Tubeless Ready design and EXO casing. While we'd prefer a little more predictability when really leaning the bike over in flat turns (especially once the side knobs start to peel away after a few weeks of use), braking is great and traction while climbing is good, so all in all they're solid performers.

The wheels were entirely capable, and we like the fact that normal spokes, rims, and very reliable hubs were all in place for easy service. The decently wide profile of the WTB Asym i23 rims gave the tires a good seat, and the solid engagement on the DT Swiss 350 hubs was just as we have come to expect. In the several months one of our testers has had with the same wheels there have been a few dents here and there, but nothing too bad considering the WTB rim is one of the lightest available for its width.

Shimano's XT brakes handled stopping duties with dual 180mm rotors, and it's reassuring to not write much more about them other than they were exactly as we have come to know. They're reliable, fade free on all but the longest descents, and easy to adjust. We do wish they would fit on the bar better with some of SRAM's product offerings, however. The dropper post, shifter, and brake levers coming from different companies made for a cluttered bar clamp area with reduced customization options.

Coupled with RaceFace Turbine Cinch cranks and their 32-tooth Narrow/Wide chainring, we didn't have any issues with the SRAM X1/X01 drivetrain. The addition of a E13 XCX top guide means the occasional chain drop is no longer a concern. The whole system works very quietly thanks to to the clutched rear derailleur and excellent swingarm protection that comes standard.

Finally, Santa Cruz includes a 150mm travel RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post that worked perfectly well. The extra 25mm of travel allows you to move the bike around even more on those really steep descents and jumpy trails.

Long Term Durability

Considering the fact that this bike should be purchased for the purpose of going downhill quickly, we would only worry about the relatively lightweight rims. They will hold up fine for a while, but they are not the perfect match strength wise for how capable the rest of the bike is. Other than that, the frame features an easy to use grease port on the lower link, as well as double sealed pivots for better bearing life. It's easy to take care of all areas that could be stressed with heavy use. The company backs the frame with a five year frame warranty and lifetime on the pivots.

What's The Bottom Line?

There is no Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde here, the latest edition of the Santa Cruz Nomad is 95% Hyde. We have not ridden a more capable bike with this amount of travel. If your motto is "go fast, have fun, safety third," this could very well be your calling. Only its surprising ability to climb well makes us believe it really was intended to go up and down. Just remember, this is not a bike for the lazy, as it can morph crazy trail sections into rideable terrain under a motivated rider, but at the same time your average trail might end up feeling a bit more boring than you ever intended.

Visit www.santacruzbicycles.com for more details.

Bonus Gallery: 21 photos of the 2015 Santa Cruz Nomad Carbon X01 up close and in action


About The Reviewers

Steve Wentz - A man of many talents, Steve got his start in downhilling at a young age. He has been riding for over 18 years, 11 of which have been in the Pro ranks. Asked to describe his riding style he said, "I like to smooth out the trail myself." Today he builds some of the best trails in the world (and eats lots of M&M's).

Brandon Turman - Brandon likes to pop off the little bonus lines on the sides of the trail, get aggressive when he's in tune with a bike and talk tech. In 15 years of riding he worked his way through the Collegiate downhill ranks to the Pro level. Formerly a Mechanical Engineer, nowadays he's Vital MTB's resident product guy.

Which reviewer resembles you the most? Don't miss our Q&A with the testers for more insight about their styles and preferences.

About Test Sessions

Three years ago Vital MTB set out to bring you the most honest, unbiased reviews you'll find anywhere. That tradition continues today as we ride 2015's most exciting trail, all-mountain, and enduro bikes in San Luis Obispo, California. Reviews can be accessed 24/7 in our Product Guide. Test Sessions was made possible with the help of Foothill Cyclery. Tester gear provided by Five Ten, Race Face, Easton, Troy Lee Designs, Club Ride, Kali, Royal, Smith, Pearl Izumi, and Source.

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Added a comment about video Vital RAW - Eddie Masters // Reece Potter // Skyline MTB Park Madness 2/26/2015 1:54 PM
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Holy shit balls indeed.

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Liked a comment on the item Vital RAW - Eddie Masters // Reece Potter // Skyline MTB Park Madness 2/26/2015 1:54 PM

After watching that, i realize i cant corner for shit!

Added reply in a thread Im gettin' a copy 2/25/2015 10:03 PM

YEAH BUDDY!