Category Archives: Reviews

2015-stance-review

A Review of the 2015 Giant Stance

For the 2015 season, Giant introduced a new bike to the trail mountain category.  The Stance differs from the Giant Trance on a couple different levels: first and foremost, the Stance has a different suspension platform called Flexpoint.  Flexpoint is a single pivot derivative that relies on the seat-stays flexing a bit to allow for the 4.7 inches of travel that the Stance offers.  The Flexpoint suspension platform on the Stance is both inexpensive for Giant to manufacture and doesn’t require Giant to pony up for any expensive patents.  The Trance trail bike differs in that it features Giant’s renowned Maestro suspension, which is a floating pivot point design, and costs quite a bit more to both manufacture and to sell than Flexpoint.

The Stance is offered in three models, the Stance 0, Stance 1, and Stance 2.  As with all Giant products, the higher the number the less expensive the bike. The Stance 2 comes in at an incredibly low $1470, the Stance 1 at $1905, and the Stance 0 at $2650.  At Start Haus we carry both the Stance 2 and Stance 1 models.

The Stance 1 features a solid Shimano Deore drivetrain with a Shimano XT rear derailleur.  The suspension is by RockShox and features a Recon Gold RL Solo Air with remote lockout and a Monarch R shock in the rear.  The Stance 2 at the starter price point has Shimano Alivio shifters a Shimano Altus front derailleur, Deore rear derailleur and Shimano M355 hydraulic disc brakes.  The suspension is a RockShox 30 Gold fork and RockShox Monarch R.

Sales for the Stance have been very successful. It’s obvious that there is a substantial market for price-point full suspension bikes that have great components.  And it rides great! If you’re thinking about your first full suspension bike or searching a trail bike on a budget you’ll want to check out the Giant Stance.  With almost 5 inches of travel the Stance can handle just about any terrain the mountain can throw at you.  For the price, the Stance will likely blow your mind on the way up and the way down.

Check out the bike here.

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2015 Giant Stance 27.5 2: $1470. A great bike that wont break the bank.

 

 

Tecnica Nordica Side by Side

The Straight Dope on Ski Boot Liners

The heart of the boot story for the 2015 season has most certainly been advancements in ski boot liners.  Several manufacturers have spent significant research and development on creating liners that do three main things; ski well, fit comfortably out of the box, and resisting packing out (feeling too loose) too quickly.

The result of all the hard work is some interesting technology that is sure to trickle down through lines across the board and dictate design trajectories in the future.  First a short history lesson is in order; in the dark ages of boot design vague shell shapes and inferior liners were the obvious issues with performance and long term fit.  Foam injected liners became the primary solution; if you were a serious skier you had to have a serious liner, and spend some serious coin while you were at it.  Foam injected liners still exist and people still use them, however they are far less popular than in years past.

Stock liners have improved by leaps and bounds in the past decade; an injection molding process has replaced over padding and cutting away a material that is disturbingly similar to the material that is placed under a carpet before instillation.  The injection molded foam has far more anatomical shape than previous materials so it fits out of the box far better and will stand the test of time better than ever.

Two manufacturers, Tecnica and Nordica, are at the forefront of new manufacturing processes and materials for this 2014-15 season.  Tecnica produced a trick liner of a new material they are calling C.A.S. or Custom Adaptive Shape in their new model line the Mach1.  The C.A.S. foam is a dense material that fits well and offers great heel hold and shape, it can also be ground with a dremel or punched by a competent boot fitter if you need customization.   The C.A.S. foam has been such a success it is going to be featured several different models next season, and has really been a homerun in sales, and refits- we’ve seen almost none!

Not to be outdone, Nordica has produced a semi-custom liner using a material that is not at all new to the industry but has a proven track record with hundreds of World Cup victories and Olympic medals to its name.  Cork has been used in World Cup liners for quite some time and is the current standard for the elite level.  The cork is usually mixed with petroleum, which allows it to flow or move to the correct crevices.  On their popular NRGy series Nordica placed cork panels in the ankle and navicular area to give great control over the shell and again, a great fit out of the box.  The cork can be heated up for just a few minutes to dial in the fit of the boot, and has had great result from fitters and owners of the boot.

Liners have come a long way in the last decade; they ski far better and fit better than ever before.  More and more skiers are finding they don’t need to invest three to five hundred dollars in custom liners to get their desired fit and feel, and the breaking in process is less painful than ever.  The next few years I expect more research and development in ski boot liners and would expect more exciting innovation.

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Backcountry Head to Head: Scarpa Freedom vs. Dynafit Mercury

The Scarpa Freedom and the Dynafit Mercury are the two powerhouses when it comes to AT boots. Both make the elusive backcountry become an attainable haven for those desiring well-earned first tracks and big adventures.  However, there are a few key differences that create advantages and disadvantages depending on the users’ specific purposes.

1.  Profile– The first key difference lies in the sheer mass of the boots. Simply put, the Scarpa is bulkier. Don’t let this dissuade you though; the thicker materials create a superior descent giving a more classic Alpine boot feel and flex. On the other hand, the Dynafit is much slimmer, creating a boot that is going to tour and articulate in a superior manner.

2.  Shell Type– The Dynafit is a 3-piece shell and the Scarpa is a 2-piece shell. Relationally, the Dynafit attains 60 degrees of cuff articulation while the Scarpa attains 27 degrees. Again, depending on the desired use of the boot, one will be superior to the other. Are you going on long tours and overnighters and racking up miles upon miles? If so, the Dynafit is going to find a nice spot in your quiver. If your style is going on shorter tours and morning hikes, and the descent is more important, then the Scarpa is most likely a better option.

3.  Hiking– The time inevitably comes when the snow thins and you have to hoof-it. In varying terrain (i.e. rocks, grasses, bushes, varying slopes) both the sole type and profile of the boot come into play. The Scarpa comes equipped with a VIbram brand sole, while the Dynafit is equipped with an equally as solid proprietary rubber sole. However, no need to be blindly brand-loyal to Vibram as the smaller, neater profile of the Dynafit creates a superior option if you know that billy-goating is going to be a larger part of your trek.

4.  The Fit– Both Boots are heat-moldable; therefore, the “out-of-the-box” fit is not going to be as crucial as a non heat-moldable option. There are still some differences in shell fit, however. At first fit, the Scarpa is a bit higher over the instep with a little wider heel. The Dynafit is certainly going to be snugger in the heel, but is still happy to accommodate a D width. When it comes down to it, head over to your local boot fitter and let them size you up and allow them to work their heat molding magic. Both boots are happy to accommodate a varying width of foot with the right tweaking.

A fair conclusion would be to say that the backcountry skier who is seriously racking up the touring miles and distance tours are on the forefront of the journey, then the Dynafit is going to create a happier leg in the end. However, if quicker morning tours for some up and down laps are the goal, then the Scarpa is going to give you the extra beef you need to shred those downhill lines.

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Anon M2 Ski Goggle Review (with Video)

The Anon M2 goggles have been getting a lot of attention this year, thanks to their magnetic interchangeable lens design. They’re touted as the easiest lens change on a ski goggle, and playing around with them in the shop, it’s hard to argue.

But I decided to put them to the test over the weekend on the snow, skiing in bright and overcast conditions, mild temps and in a cold wind. My normal goggles are photochromatic – which change darkness in response to ambient light, so swapping lenses would be a change of pace.

First off, the fit. These large goggles have great coverage that also translated into a wide field of view. The face foam is comfortable and without any gaps to let in cold air, and no pressure points to make them uncomfortable. A person with a smaller face may find these pushed down too low by their helmet, but that’s why you should try on goggles with a helmet when you can.

The optics are great. I’m not normally a fan of a gray base lens, but these are sharp and without distortion, and plenty dark for the bright sunlight. Switching to the yellow storm lens (included), they are also very clear, and offered a ton of contrast in flat light, exactly what you want on stormy days.

Speaking of swapping the lenses, the Anon M2 live up to expectations. It’s a little different when on your face vs in hand, but after a few swaps I had it down – the key is to rock the top edge away from the goggle, rather than trying to pull the whole lens away from your face (the elastic band just stretches when you try to do that). Putting the new lens on is as easy as setting the lens in place – the magnets take care of the rest.

I had no issues with fogging, slipping or other possible annoyances with goggles. The two lenses it comes with are very dark and very bright, so the initial switch can leave you blinking or straining to adjust, but this range gives you a lot of versatility.

Overall, these goggles are highly recommended. Check them out at Start Haus or online here.

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Scarpa Freedom SL Backcountry Ski Boot Review

At the Start Haus we don’t bring in new boots lightly, and when we bring in a new brand, we do it after serious testing and consideration.

This year we brought in Scarpa, specifically for their new Freedom SL. The Scarpa Freedom SL (also available in a women’s boot), in our opinion, strikes a great balance between tourability and skiability, perhaps better than almost anything else on the market.

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Their are backcountry boots that are stiffer for the downhill, there are boots that are lighter for the uphill – but if you want something that will perform in the skin track on the way up, then feel close to your alpine boot on the down, the Scarpa Freedom SL is worth serious consideration.

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Bootfitter’s Notes: Lange RX 90W Women’s Ski Boot Review

One of the questions we get a lot in the boot room is, “what is your most comfortable boot”, or “what is your best boot?” The answer to these questions is an infuriating, “that depends entirely on your foot.”  What’s good for the goose may not always in fact be good for the gander, if you have a wide foot a narrow boot is obviously not going to be comfortable and vice versa.

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However, one boot we have extraordinary luck with for the intermediate or advanced woman skier is the Lange RX 90W. The Lange RX 90W is 100mm wide at the forefoot, and has a medium instep height. If you truly have an average foot shape the RX 90W is one of the most successful boots we have in the category.

The RX 90W has a superb liner which does a great job of combining comfort and performance, meaning the liner skis well and isn’t lumpy or obtrusive.  Usually when a manufacturer makes a comfortable liner it is too soft to ski well, and many a high end “good skiing” liner is uncomfortable for the advanced skier let alone the intermediate.

No doubt the Lange RX 90W had become the benchmark medium fit women’s boot in the industry, sell-through is always strong and 2014-15 numbers don’t appear to be any different than the last several years the boot has been around.

The skiability of the RX 90W is very, very good. The heel shape and instep fit quite well and make for a responsive sharp skiing boot that both experienced testers and first time boot buyers love. The 90 flex is progressive and snappy and matches up nicely with a wide range of skiers from the cautious intermediate to the aggressive advanced all-mountain skier.

These attributes have made the Lange RX 90W a no-brainer as a try on for the medium fit category intermediate or advanced lady looking for a quality boot that blends comfort and performance.

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Bootfitter’s Notes: Lange XT 130 Ski Boot

The Lange XT 130 LV is a high-end expert ski boot with a great snug fit and a hike/ski function that releases the cuff.

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Now on its second year, the XT has proven itself as a workhorse boot, and is an excellent choice for those who’ve been skiing performance fit boots or race boots and shudder at the thought of going to a mushy roomy alpine touring boot.

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fronstside-carver-review

2015 Frontside Carver Comparison – SierraJim

As a western (Tahoe) based ski shop, we at Start Haus have a lot of demand for wide-ish waisted, soft snow biased skis, and for sure, we carry a wide array and sell a lot of stuff in the 88-110mm range.

However, even on a “normal” year in this snow-rich area, there are periods when it doesn’t snow for a week or more. For the 2012-13 and 2013-14 ski seasons, we just didn’t get much snow at all for most of the season. For the hard snow periods in those mythical “normal” years, and then especially for seasons like the last two, it really pays to have a good hard snow ski.

For the last two seasons, we have had a lot of demand for this category of ski in Tahoe because they put fun and excitement into a day on the groomers. We also shouldn’t forget that there are many skiers who just prefer this type of skiing, regardless of the year, and there are places in the country where these firm conditions are the norm basically most of the time.

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2015 Giant Reign 27.5 Review

One of the bikes everybody is talking about for 2015, Giant or otherwise, is definitely the new Giant Reign 27.5. Updated for the coming year, the Reign got the tweener 27.5 or 650B wheel size, 160 mm of travel, front and rear, and new geometry that epitomizes the modern all-mountain, enduro-inspired genre.

Jared, his Reign and riding companion Zee.

Jared, his Reign and riding companion Zee.

Jared, a Start Haus sales person and resident paddle sports guru, has spent the fall on a new Reign 27.5, and his experiences have reflected the glowing reviews bike magazines and websites have been posting up. He came from a 26 inch wheeled Trail bike with shorter travel.

“I wanted more travel without compromising on pedaling too much on longer rides,” Jared said. “I wanted to be able to hit bigger stuff and go faster, and I don’t need to race uphill.”

The Reign didn’t disappoint, not giving up ground on the uphill, thanks to the efficient Maestro suspension design. “There’s almost zero bob,” he said. On longer climbs, Jared flips both the rear and front shocks into pedal mode, and on steeper climbs, he drops the travel on the fork to get a steeper head angle, lowering the bars for a more efficient position.

With the bigger wheels, super-plush suspension and slacker geometry, downhill performance is almost a foregone conclusion. It wasn’t that long ago that something with 160 mm travel and a 65 degree headtube would have been called a downhill racebike.

“It’s super plush, and the bigger wheels just go over everything,” Jared said. “It’s just super easy and fun.”

The Pike fork lives up the the hype, and has been specially-modified by Giant to complement the bike’s geometry, and the Maestro suspension is perfectly dialed for everything from small stutter bumps to big square-edged hits.

Jared said he’s had to adjust to the lower bottom bracket – which makes for amazing in-the-bike handling, but means a few more pedal strikes, and the wide bars take a little more attention in tight, technical switchbacks – but Jared was having to scrape the bottom of the barrel to come up with any complaints.

“There’s nothing I could do on my old bike that I can’t do on the Reign, and all my ride times are faster,” he said.