Out of the Box: Shimano XTR M9000 Pedals

By: Brandon Oct 22

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Not more than a few weeks ago a shiny new pair of Shimano's new M9000 XTR pedals dropped. Fortunately, not a moment too soon as I am sporting yet another pair of Egg Beaters with wings flopping around and a spring losing tension.

A few years ago I ran XTR pedals, M980 series to be specific. The engagement of those pedals was much more secure than that of my Egg Beaters, but I had some issues with durability. The first pair stopped spinning like they should within a few weeks of getting them mid-CX season, so I dropped them and was back on my Egg Beaters.

Back to the M9000. Shimano bettered their mud clearance of the M9000 pedals, which was a weak point of the M980 series, as evidenced by so many sponsored pros riding either modified versions or previous generations. I'm happy to test the claims of added mud clearance, which I've enjoyed plenty of from my Egg Beaters.

A bit of a letdown (though fully expected), the weight of these new XTR pedals. My set came in at 304g, which is 6g below the claimed weight, but also 29g heavier than my previous Egg Beater 2's, which retail for approximately 1/2 of these new XTR pedals.

Weight aside, engagement of these new pedals is very positive, one of my favorite aspects of my previous foray into Shimano pedals. Compared to the light engagement and release of the Egg Beaters, the Shimano certainly give you audible and tactile feedback to clipping in and out.

One thing I did notice, the float on my right foot is slightly more free than the left foot. A minor cleat adjustment and the difference in float was taken care of. I'll admit a minute of concern, but it showed to be unfounded.

Otherwise, there's very little to report, which is expected with $200 pedals. They work just as they should, the engagement is crisp and positive, and since this is Embrocation, it's nice that they match. Shimano's fit and finish is what it always in.

A few rides in, I'm happy to be testing these pedals and initial impressions are very positive.

photos and words by Brandon Elliott


Long Term Test: SRAM Force CX-1 Groupset

By: Brandon Aug 27

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652g. Racers and weightweenies alike spend gobs of time and money for 652g. Hell, they'll gobs for 50g. But 652g? Unreal. 652g is what I shaved from my personal Gaulzetti Carbon when I "made the leap" to SRAM's new CX-1 drivetrain recently from my all-but-perfect Shimano R785 drivetrain.

Why the switch? There are a couple of answers to that question, the most basic of which is that I was asked to try it out. Simple as that. And I love new stuff.

But the real answer is much deeper than that. Being in bicycle retail, I've felt burned a few times over the last couple of seasons by SRAM. First, Elixir brakes, their noises, air leaks, and crazy bleed procedures. Quite literally, more sets were sent in under warranty replacement than I sold. Not good. Then came Gen 1 Red front shifting, or lack thereof. Recently that's been readily addressed by SRAM's YAW technology, so we're getting somewhere.

Most recently, the straw on the camel's back if you will, was the HydroR recall. I commend SRAM for stepping up to the plate, admitting fault, and doing everything in their power to remedy the situation. As a retailer though, I had to go back and call numerous customers to let them know the drivetrain I recommended they use could now lead to serious injury.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, and I get a call. The voice on the other end of the line says "hey, I know you have a lot of time on Shimano's hydro system, want to try our new one out and see if we've done a better job?" After 6+ months of perfectly silent and strong braking as well as flawless shifting, I thought they were asking for trouble. How could SRAM ever compete?

Right on time, the boxes rolled in and I wasted no time yanking parts out. SRAM is known for pushing the weight envelope, so I knew I needed to pay attention here. I weighed every piece out of the box from SRAM that was going to find it's way onto my bike. Hoses were uncut, as was housing. When I pulled the R785 from my bike I kept every piece that was getting replaced together. Cassette and chain were not weighed since they carried over, though the chain was cut a couple of links shorter. The net result was a savings of 652g. 1.44lbs. .103 stone.

That's the difference of going from Aksium to Carbone Ultimate. CAAD10 to SuperSix HiMod.

Though, both of those upgrades cost you money. In this instance, CX1 is actually cheaper. $650 cheaper at MSRP than R785 for those of you counting.

Enough with that, what did I notice once the group was installed? Shifting is crisp, which I expect to remain with my full housing run setup. Not much room for contamination.

Also supremely important, the ergonomics are great. When SRAM first introduced HydroR last year, they were critiqued for the size of the front of the hood, myself being one of those people. It's a large hood, no doubt. But from the cockpit, it's not overwhelming and actually provides another measure of safety in rough terrain. Also a nice touch, you'll notice on the front of the hood, above the lever, is a groove cut that seems to fit my hands like I was used for the mold.

Of course we know braking is the real question here. I have to report that initially I was a bit let down. I had some of the turkey gobble that SRAM/Avid are known for. Though after closer examination of their setup instructions, I had only done about 15-20 runs on the bedding period, and SRAM recommends 30. I am THIRLLED (no joke) to report that after roughly 40 miles on the road the gobble is all but completely gone, and only barely noticeable under extremely heavy braking, such as avoiding disaster (cars). I have yet to really jump on the brakes off-road, though I don't know how much that will realistically happen since these brakes do have quite a lot of power. To grab enough lever to get the gobble I would have some pretty nasty wheel lockup offroad.

What does this mean? SRAM did their homework this time. Time will tell what happens in the cold, which will be the real proving ground for CX1. Until then, I tend to log as many miles as possible, flog this group and see where it's at come mid-season, or maybe even January.....

photos and words by Brandon Elliott


Mad Alchemy Skin Care Products - The Ultimate Guide

By: Brandon Aug 4

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It's been part of our ethos from Day 1 and the mindset still lives on. There's nothing quite like supporting small businesses/builders, boutique goods have a certain je ne sai quoi, panache, even intimacy.

While Mad Alchemy has now landed itself at the forefront of skin care in cycling, it's still very much the kind of company we love to support. Fortunately, their products stand above the rest, so it's not much of a stretch to align ourselves in their corner.

With all of that said, I called my local shop to order up the most recent batches coming out of Colorado. Yes, I bought the product in this review just like everyone else, no free product here. Why? Of course I don't want to have my reviews "bought", and if I find that spending my own hard-earned money on a product is worthwhile, I can feel good sharing that. If I wasn't jazzed on the product, I can share that as well without the guilt of doing so after receiving the product for free.

Pete (Mad Alchemy's founder) doesn't even know this review is coming.....

Anyhow, I nabbed the Pro+ Chamois Cream, Euro Pro Chamois Cream, Ultimate Shave Cream, Warm Weather Embrocation, and Gentleman's Blend Embrocation. Let me break down my thoughts on each.....

Pro+ Chamois Cream

I've dabbled with nearly every major chamois cream manufacturer, and each one leaves me wanting. Be it the consistency, aroma, longevity, they weren't quite right. I decided to give Pro+ a try only because I was already ordering the other jars from Mad Alchemy, it wasn't even supposed to be part of the review.

Here's the deal: Pro+ is a bit "thinner", less viscous, than other creams I had tried. It also smells better than probably anything I put on my body. In my opinion, it's the perfect chamois cream.....for about 3 hours. Beyond that, I assume because of the reduced viscosity it starts to wear off and really needs a reapplication in my experience. Up to 3 hours, it's the best I've ever used, bar none. On longer rides I tossed a small snack bag in my pocket with enough to reapply and I was set.

Euro Pro Chamois Cream

My review of the Euro Pro is going to be short. My taint couldn't handle the tingle. I'm not too proud to admit my skin is a bit sensitive, and the new formula was too much for my taste (and taint). If you're into a big menthol hit in your nether regions, this is your chamois cream.

Ultimate Shave Cream

Going back to my mention of my all-too-sensitive skin, I had really high hopes for the Ultimate Shave Cream. It's labeled "Ultimate" for God's sake, it better be good. The best summary I came up with? My wife stole the jar after I told her how good it was and I've never gotten it back.

I fortunately didn't enlighten my wife to Ultimate Shave Cream until I had used it a number of times, and it really is that good. So good in fact that I will not shave without it now. Won't do it.

Warm Weather Embrocation

What's the point? That's the question I get, and posed. Well, Warm Weather Embrocation isn't about heating you up, it's about protecting you. Naturally bug-repellant and nourishing, this stuff was as much about the process as the result for me. Being a long-time user of embrocations for cyclocross, Warm Weather Embrocation kept me in the process of the leg rubdown, which is the short time when I mentally prepare for hard efforts.

The aroma is calming and exciting at the same time, a balance I find difficult to describe but thoroughly enjoy experiencing. Try it, if you're an embrocation-type-person, Warm Weather Embrocation will make so much sense after you give it a shot

Gentleman's Blend Embrocation

This is about as "warm" as my skin will allow me to go without embarking on a world of hurt. I rode with Gentleman's Blend for ButterGOLD in April where most people were sporting leg warmers. To be honest, those guys complained a bunch about the cold, but I was sitting completely comfortably (until I was unmercilessly dropped in the middle-of-nowhere on the Front Range). A bit of a bite without causing discomfort, if you're new to embrocation or have sensitive skin, this is your jam.

Where did this leave me? Well, I'm on my third jar of Pro+ Chamois cream this summer, I had to order a second jar of Ultimate Shave Cream to replace the one my wife yanked from me, and I've gone through an entire jar of Warm Weather Embrocation throughout the summer and it graces my legs on every intense ride I do in the heat.

I wouldn't tell you to get this stuff if I didn't use it and appreciate it myself. But I do, so you should.

photos and words by Brandon Elliott


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