Consider yourself very lucky if the only thing digging at your spot entails is sticking a shovel into the earth and having it come up with a heaping scoop of dirt. Unfortunately for us, a heavy session with a pick is absolutely mandatory to break up our rock hard clay before we even think about digging it. Over the last seven years we’ve been through over half a dozen different picks/mattocks from a variety of different manufacturers. Though they’ve all been slightly different, there’s one thing that they’ve all had in common. They’ve been absolutely brutal on our bodies, especially our hands. The shock of striking our hard ground travels right up through the handle, and at the end of the day leaves you feeling like you went a round or two with Mike Tyson, but instead of having boxing gloves on, someone strapped angry woodpeckers to your hands with their beaks pointed straight toward your palms. I had all but accepted that was just the way it was when it came to using a pick at our spot, that was until the Fiskars IsoCore™ 5 lb pick showed up!
I’d be lying if I said that I had any inclination that I’d be reviewing a trails DVD this year. With how easy it is these days to slap some footage together and throw it up on YouTube or Vimeo, I thought the days of DVDs were unfortunately behind us. Luckily our Belgium friends from the MX Trails decided not to go the easy route, and instead took the footage they’ve been gathering up for the past few years from their travels around the world and turned it into a proper full length trails DVD.
You’re just throwing your money away if you spend more than $16.99 on a set of U-brakes. That’s what Mission’s Cease brake retails for, and I stand behind my statement when I say that they’re one of the best U-brakes that I’ve ever owned. A bold statement I know, but hear me out!
U-brakes are pretty simple really. Two pivoting arms that overlap and form their namesake U shape, and some sort of hanger/straddle cable configuration that connects them to the cable running to your lever. Let’s be honest here, there really haven’t been any radical innovations in U-brake functionality since the Scott Self Energizing U-brake of the early 90s. Look those up if you want to see some wild shit! They really were quite brilliant, but they came at the time when mountain bikes were transitioning from U-brakes in the rear to less bulky cantilevers. That left us BMXers as the only ones still using U-brakes, and thus innovation all but died off. We adopted Dia-Compe’s AD-990s and pretty much just ran with them for a good decade. Eventually though in the 2000s companies like Odyssey, Revenge, and later on Fly would come out with U-brake designs of their own.
Fast forward to now and there are around ten or so various U-brakes from different manufacturers on the market. So when I decided it was time to finally replace my 10 year old clapped out Fly brakes with something new, I had plenty of options. After scrupulously looking them all over I decided that I would go with Kink’s Desist brake, but when I called Blackout (Kink’s in-house distro) to order up a set, I found out that they were sold out and wouldn’t have them back in stock for another month. On a whim I told them to just send me a set of the Mission Cease brakes. I had somewhat considered them before but their $16.99 price tag scared me off. With most U-brakes these days retailing for around $50, how could ones that cost a third of that be any good, right? But I figured that if they did suck I’d only be out seventeen bucks, so what the hell.
They showed up a few days later and my first impression was that they actually looked pretty good. While they didn’t have all the fancy post-cast CNC machining like my old Fly’s did, the die-cast aluminum arms did have some nice detailing stamped in. One thing that immediately caught my attention was that the spring adjustment caps where not just extremely low profile to keep them away from your chain, but they were also offset to provide maximum tire clearance. That’s when it hit me that these weren’t just some Taiwanese catalog item, but a good bit of thought had been put into their design. The arms also had extra wide bends to also help with tire clearance, and the one-piece straddle cable/hanger was designed to be simple, stiff and easy to set up.
I was impressed so far and quite anxious to get them on my bike to see how well they actually worked. Thanks to that super simple one-piece straddle cable/hanger system, installing them was super easy and only took a few minutes to get them dialed in. There were zero issues with them working with the wide backend on my frame, and a little jiggle of the arms revealed that there was very little play between the bushings and the post. A squeeze of the lever confirmed my initial prediction that the straddle cable/hanger design would give them a stiff and positive feel. I pulled the bike out of the stand and headed outside to see if all these positive signs would actually lead to them working well, and I’m happy to report that they did. There’s a saying that a bum who almost ran into me on his bike once said, “Mother fucker stop on a dime and make nine cents change.” That saying definitely applies to the Mission Cease brakes. They were smooth, didn’t feel spongey at all and most importantly stopped on aforementioned dime. Not bad for a set of brakes that cost a third of what most do!
Like I said, I purchased Mission’s Cease brakes on a whim, but I’m so glad that I did. I’ve been running them for the past few months and not only have they by far exceed my expectations for a U-brake costing less than $20, but they’ve exceeded my expectations for a U-brake in any prince range. As a matter of fact, I was so impressed with them that I hit up the dudes at Blackout about carrying them in the CYDI Store. They were 100% into it, so if you’re in the market for some new brakes, hit up the CYDI Store or add them right to your cart below and we’ll get a set sent off to you. I can promise that you won’t be disappointed!
It was a sad day last year when our trusty wheelbarrow finally decided to shit the bed. It had done service at two other sets of trails before coming to us, and over the eight year course of its life it moved literally thousands of loads of earth. It was actually kind of a shock when it did finally decide to give out on us. Sure, we had make a few bush repairs to it over the years, but it seemed like that thing was going to be around forever. That was until I went to move a load of dirt and one of the handles ripped completely off. Corrosion had been quietly eating away at the inside of the steel handles and that last load was the catalyst for a catastrophic failure.
Seeing as we were now dead in the water as far as moving dirt went, there was no other choice than to head to the local Home Depot to get a replacement. The majority of the problems that we had from the old wheelbarrow were with the poly plastic tub, so I knew I wanted to get something with a steel tub this time around. I had a Jackson brand wheelbarrow in the back of my mind but price was going to be the deciding factor as to whether or not I went that route. As much as I wanted to get a Jackson, I wasn’t prepared to drop 200 bucks on one. That said, it was a pleasant surprise when I got to the store and they had steel Jacksons with steel handles priced at a digestible $109.97. There was one catch though! The ones that they had were outfitted with strange plastic loops at the end of those steel handles…
Every so often a company designs a new bike that shakes up the standards and norms of accepted bicycle geometry and creates a new category of bike all its own. Sunday did it with their Model C by replacing a 24″ cruiser’s traditional race geometry with scaled up specs and angles from modern 20″ freestyle bikes, Faction did it by designing bikes around a completely new 22″ wheel size that they pioneered and developed, and now Commonground Bikes has done it by creating a bike that merges the best traits and the aesthetics of a 24″ BMX bike and the geometry and ride characteristics of a 26″ dirt jumping bike. A common ground between them if you will. Those things probably seem like weird bedfellows, because they sure as hell did to me the first time I heard about the concept, but I can tell you first hand that as strange as it sounds, it works.
“Holy shit, these things don’t have bearings!” Those were my exact words when I took apart one of my Odyssey Grandstand pedals to try and figure out why it was loose. Now, I don’t mean that I rode the things so hard that the bearings disintegrated and there was nothing left. What I’m saying is that these things really don’t have bearings, not in the traditional sense at least. More on that later, first let me bring those of you who aren’t familiar with Odyssey’s newest pedal up to speed.
The Grandstands are Tom Dugan’s signature pedal that feature a 105mm wide dual concave design that is just 17mm thick in the center. The thin center and large dual concave design allows your foot to settle into the pedal, thus maximizing the grip. A lot of thin pedals sacrifice strength by reducing the spindle diameter in order to achieve their thin design. That’s something that Odyssey was not willing to do, so they specced the Grandstands with a large heat-treated 14mm spindle. Think about that for a second; the center of the pedal bodies are only 17mm thick and the spindle is 14mm. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for bearings, now does it? In order to make this work, Odyssey had to design a completely new bearing and spindle system. What they came up with is like nothing that I’ve seen before.
Basically instead of traditional bearings, the pedals ride on conical plastic bushings. Two of these get pressed into each end of the pedal body and the angled face of the spindle and conical lock nut mesh up with them allowing the pedal to spin. So instead of the pedals relying on the moving surfaces of bearings to rotate, they rely on the low friction interface between the metal spindle and lock nut, and the plastic material of the conical bushings. Just what kind of plastic that is, I don’t know. Probably something derived from black magic cooked up in Odyssey’s lab. Though it’s a different system than what you’d find inside other pedals, the procedure for adjusting any play they develop is exactly the same. As far as how well they spin, when properly adjusted you wouldn’t even know that there wasn’t a traditional bearing system in there.
Now that I’ve gotten all that technical stuff out of the way, here are my thoughts on the Grandstands after running them for the past five months. I had Odyssey’s venerable Trailmix pedals prior to making the switch to the Grandstands. I was perfectly happy with them but the Grandstand’s larger surface and dual concave shape seemed pretty appealing. The first time I put my feet down on them I knew that there would be no going back to the Trailmix pedals. The dual concave shape was both extremely comfortable and grippy, which is exactly what Odyssey was going for. Like I said earlier, that shape allows your foot to settle down into the pedal, which increases the pressure your foot has on the traction pins. As grippy as they are, it’s not so much that you can’t reposition your foot if need be.
I really don’t have anything negative to say about the Grandstands. The shape is super comfortable, they have plenty of grip, and the only problem I’ve had with them after five months is that one loosened up a bit, and that’s nothing that I wouldn’t expect from any other pedal. The only thing I kind of don’t like about them is the dust caps. They’re pretty difficult to get off if and when you do need to service the pedals. A pair of needle nose pliers will do the trick though. On a positive note, you definitely don’t have to worry about them falling out when your riding. I think Odyssey hit home run the Grandstands. Will they have the staying power that the Trailmix pedals did, we’ll see. I don’t see myself running any other pedals though.
The Grandstand pedals retail for under $35 and are available from Odyssey Dealers worldwide.
For the better part of the last year I’ve been riding a cassette hub from Onyx Racing, a Minnesota based manufacturer that’s relatively new on the scene. The story of how Onyx Racing came to be is very reminiscent of how so many companies started off back in the early days of BMX. Dad’s son gets into racing, dad wants him to have the absolute best possible bike, dad decides that he can make something better than what’s out there. In this case that dad was Jim Gerhardt, and his son’s hubs that he set out to improve would eventually evolve into the Onyx Racing brand. Making a set of hubs (more specifically a cassette hub) is a pretty ambitious endeavor. Jim is no ordinary track dad though! His vast knowledge of precision design and machining attained through years of running his family’s company that manufactures specialty farming equipment meant that he was more than qualified to take on the job. It’s been a few years since Jim first set out to make a better set of hubs for his son. Over those years the hubs have been refined and have gained quite a following from other people looking for the very best hubs that money can buy.
At the heart of the Onyx cassette hub is what is known a sprag clutch, a type of one way bearing that gives the hub some unique properties not found in other cassette hubs that use traditional spring and pawl designs. The most notable of those properties is that it offers instant pedal engagement. Inside of the hub, hardened inner and outer steel races contain of a series of angled cam shaped steel wedges called sprags. As soon as forward pedal pressure is applied the sprags wedge themselves against the insides of the races and that is what provides that instant engagement. Since the sprags only contact the races when you’re pedaling, the hub is free to spin without the drag of the mechanism that provides forward movement. This means that not only does Onyx’s cassette hub spin almost as well as a front hub does, but it’s also just as quiet. To really ensure that their hubs are the best spinning on the market Onyx also decided to spec them with ceramic hybrid bearings.
The two things that intrigued me most about Onyx’s hubs were how well they spun and the fact that they were silent. I really wondered what it would be like riding trails with a completely silent hub, especially coming off of what has to be the loudest hub on the market, a Profile Elite. Since it was the middle of winter when I first got my hands on an Onyx Hub, I had to wait a few months to get that answer. I did cruise the streets a bit with it and the lack of sound was definitely noticeable, but just as noticeable was something that I hadn’t even considered. Since the sprags only engage when you pedal forward, you don’t get that vibration coming from the hub’s mechanism like you do from hubs that use springs and pawls. I found that extremely weird even just riding around my house. The best way that I can think to describe it is that it felt like you were almost gliding along.
Fast forward a few months and the trails were finally opened up and I could start getting some answers as to just what it would be like riding this hub in the woods. The first couple of times I rode it at the trails I really didn’t think much of it. Yes it was silent, but after a few laps the novelty of that wore off and I stopped thinking about it. I rode the hub at my spot exclusively for the first few months. My spot is kind of wide open the whole way down, meaning that you don’t need to slow down at any points through the lines. Remember that, cause that’s an important fact for later. Really the only thing that came up riding the hub at my spot was that people couldn’t hear me coming at all. It became a joke that I would just appear at the end of lines. That did make for a few close calls and even one collision, but my woods are extremely thick so I chalked it up to that being as much of a contributing factor as the silent hub was.
Posh was the first set of trails that I rode the hub where there are lines where you really have to control your speed as you go through them. The Sidewinder line is probably the most notorious for that because you’re in for one hell of an over clear if you don’t slow down a bit before the step down into the valley. I’ve ridden the line plenty of times before but not having that audible feedback from the hub made it feel like I was just taking shots in the dark at slowing down. At one point I definitely didn’t slow down enough and I was treated to that lovely feeling of watching the landing go by as I sailed out to flat. Months later and my wrist and ankles are still feeling that! After that one I decided to call it quits on Sidewinder for the day and stick to stuff where slowing down wasn’t so critical.
The drive back gave me plenty of time to think about things. One thing that I couldn’t figure out at first was why would the hub being silent have such of an effect on me being able to judge speed. I’ve ridden with headphones on plenty of times and was still perfectly capable of knowing how fast I was going. Yet with this hub it was like I had lost all connection with my bike. What I finally realized is that it wasn’t just that the hub was silent that was causing that disconnect. It was also the fact that you don’t get any mechanical feel from the hub’s mechanism. I thought back to that first time riding the hub around my house and how weird I thought it was that the lack of vibration made it feel like you were just gliding along. Up until this point I had never even considered that the vibrations transmitted through your bike from a hub’s mechanism helps play a part in how you judge speed. The more I thought about it though, the more sense that it made. With the silent hub not only were you losing a sense in the form of hearing, but also in the form of feel. I tested this theory out when I got home by throwing on another wheel that was laced up with a non-silent hub. To say that it was a night and day difference would be an understatement. I immediately felt more in tune with my bike, and even though I hadn’t had any problems riding my trails with the silent hub, I did notice that I felt better riding them having audible and mechanical feedback coming from my wheel once again.
So now that I’ve gotten all of the stuff out of the way about what it was like riding the Onyx hub, I have to go back and elaborate on what I said earlier about people having a hard time hearing me when I was riding. It turned out that it wasn’t just at my trails. People brought it up at pretty much every spot that I went to. It made for some seriously close calls both with people walking around the trails and even with people I was following through them. There would be times where I would be following someone and they would straight up forget I was behind them because they couldn’t hear me. Not a big deal until the times where they had to stop mid-line for one reason or another and wouldn’t think to immediately get out of the way because I was behind them. Like I said, it made for quite a few close calls but luckily there were no major collisions.
I feel bad that the majority of the things I’ve had to say so far about the Onyx hub have been negative, but I think that they’re only negatives when it comes to riding trails with it. Everything else about the hub really is amazing. The machining and build quality are top notch, and I can say without any hesitation that the combination of the ceramic bearings and the drag free characteristics of the sprag clutch ensure that this hub is absolutely the fastest/best spinning hub that you can buy. Onyx was actually the first company to successfully manufacturer a hub that utilizes a sprag clutch. That’s due to the extremely precise tolerances that’s required for the mechanism to work properly.
Since they control almost every aspect of their manufacturing, Onyx is able to offer their customers literally hundreds of different hub configurations. The hub that I was riding was their mid-range Ultra hub (msrp $449.99), but they also offer a lower priced Pro hub ($399.99) and higher priced Ultra SS hub ($474.99). The main differences between them is the number of sprag clutches in each of them. The more sprag clutches that they have, the more torque they can handle. All of their hubs are available in a rainbow of anodized and powder coated colors, and customers can further customize them by choosing whatever color combination of hub shell, widgets, and hardware they would like. Up until somewhat recently Onyx’s hubs were only available with a Shimano cog compatible cassette body. This meant that a 12t cog was the smallest you could run on it. They now offer their Pro hub with a 9t driver option for people not looking to run a dessert plate sized gear up front.
Even though I wasn’t a fan of Onyx’s hubs for riding trails, I am a fan of them for other applications. Onyx makes hubs for pretty much every possible cycling genre out there. Though you won’t see me running one in the woods anymore, I do have plans of getting a set for my road bike at some point. And you better believe that if the BMX racing bug ever bites me again, these are the hubs that I’ll be rolling on!
Onyx is currently in the process of launching a new website that will allow customers to easily customize and order their hubs. Until then you can get a hold of them by phone (800-328-8896) or by email ([email protected]). You can also visit their FB page and Instagram, both of which they keep updated with photos of all of the crazy color combinations customers come up with.
I just had to throw together a review of the Ergodyne ProFlex 9000 Anti-Vibration Gloves after all of the hilarious comments I got on the picture of them I posted on Instagram! I also have some pretty strong opinions about them as well, so why not go ahead and share them with you all. Let me give you a little background on these things before we really dive into them. It was about a month or so ago that Jake showed up to the trails with them. He had somehow come across them during one of his epic Amazon surfing sessions and figured why not give them a go. Now, I don’t care how fucking tough you think you are, a few hours of packin’ and slapin’ on some jumps puts a hurting on not just your hands but on your whole body. My hands have built up a tolerance to it at this point, but my rib that I dislocated a couple years ago is another story. With each and every slap the vibrations coming up the shovel handle manage to head straight to my weakest point. That said, I was definitely intrigued when Jake broke out these anti-vibration gloves.
Full length BMX DVD releases are becoming fewer and farther between with each passing year, and those with trails in them have become rarer than hen’s teeth. The trails community collectively popped a boner when Back Bone announced that they were going to be releasing a full length DVD. Anyone that knows anything about Back Bone knows that Rhysty and the crew are all about trails. Sure they have a few street guys on their team, but they also have the most impressive roster of Australian trail riders that has ever been assembled. After three years of accumulating footage, Back Bone tasked Brendan Boeck with the job of combining it all into one epic team video simply titled “The Back Bone Video.” Both the team and Brendan more than came through, and the result is 57 minutes of pure Australian bicycle motocross.
I really wasn’t expecting any helmet manufacturers to send me anymore helmets to test after that last buyers guide I did, but to my surprise I got an email from Triple Eight asking if I wanted to check out their new dual certified Gotham Helmet that utilizes MIPS technology. Before we get into just what MIPS Technology is, I want to mention that this review is a little bit different than ones I’ve done before. The Gotham helmet is aimed more at the bicycle commuter market than at BMX. Sure, you can absolutely wear it at the trails, but it has a bit of a different shape than what you’re probably accustomed to. While it may not be necessarily aimed at BMX, it did give me an opportunity to hands or (or should I say heads on) with a helmet utilizing an emerging technology aimed at advancing a helmet’s effectiveness in reducing traumatic brain injuries even further.