New Specialized StumpJumper Mountain Bike

It only took me 30 years to upgrade mountain bikes. My old Scott Pro from 1990 served me well, but I badly needed an upgrade.  Here was my list of requirements:

  • Full suspension (front and rear shocks)
  • Seat dropper
  • 29 inch wheels
  • Hydraulic disc breaks
  • Modern geometry
  • Good looking
  • Around $2k price range
  • Medium frame size

Shopping was a little difficult because of the Covid-19 pandemic.  Some shops were not open or were only open by appointment or special hours.  Some shops didn’t have inventory that met my requirements.  After visiting 4-5 shops I got a little bummed out and bagged the search.  Then after a few days I took it back up again and found a Scott bike and a Specialized StumpJumper in my size and with my requirements at one shop.  I test rode both.  The Scott felt cheap and didn’t ride very well.  The StumpJumper rode very smooth and “felt” like the one. I pulled the trigger right there and have been thrilled with the choice so far.

The bike is a 12-speed (photo below).  I didn’t have enough knowledge about the gearing options and manufacturer to have a “requirement.” I’m happy so far with this 12-speed setup.  It climbs well.  I just wish I had a gear or two more for higher speeds, but this is a mountain bike, not a road bike.

The rear shock (below) is fantastic. After riding a hard tail and hard fork I’ve felt every bump for 1000’s of miles.  Nice to have some absorption now and the shocks are a must when riding bumpy and rocky trails.

Upgrades

After my first ride, I had a flat tire.  We have these nasty, nasty thorns here in Utah.  So after some research I decided to go “tubeless.”  This is a process where they remove the tube and treat the rim with some tape, then fill the tire with air and sealant.  Since then I’ve had no flats at all.  Going tubeless was the right decision for sure.

I also upgraded the pedals.  My feet kept slipping off of the stock pedals.  The new pedals cost about $80, so that may factor into the purchase if considering this bike.

Total upgrades: $140.00.

On The Trail

I’m not the world’s foremost expert in mountain biking.  That said, I’m quite happy with how the StumpJumper performs in varying terrain.  I’ve taken it through mud, sand, rocks, gravel, pavement, slick rock, bark, pebbles, and just about any mix of terrain one could think of.  The only area that the bike doesn’t perform well is in sand, which is not unexpected.  The tires are pretty fat, but not fatties.

I find the bike climbs very well and I almost never need to use the lowest gears.

Downhill biking is a blast with the 29 inch tires and full suspension.  I love catching air and knowing that I can land softly without too much of a kick.

Final Thoughts

I’m just scratching the surface on my StumpJumper, and the whole mountain biking experience.  I’m thrilled with the performance, durability and style and looking forward to many years of riding enjoyment.

First Look: Arva Access TS Shovel

One of the most essential items in a skier’s backcountry equipment list is a good shovel.

The shovel must be light and compact for carrying, while being strong and efficient when digging in a rescue situation.

In for review is the Access TS Shovel, which looks to be up to the task.

The Access TS features a telescopic “T” handle with 32cm and 46cm lengths, anodized aluminum blade, and weighs only 620 grams.

I’ve been carrying the Access TS Shovel in my backpack for a few days in the mountains.  Have yet to put it through some tests of pit digging and rescue training.  I will report back with a full review when I’ve had a chance to fully evaluate the TS.

Stay tuned!

First Look: Backcountry Access Snow Saw

One of the snow study tools I’ll need when in the backcountry is a snow saw.  I finally picked one up.  It’s a BCA (Backcountry Access) 35cm Snow/Wood Saw.

This is a very solid saw with measurements up to 35cm, and even a snow crystal study card right on the blade.

I’m looking forward to trying this snow saw out the next time I’m in the backcountry.  I’ll post a review in a few weeks after I’ve had ample time to test it out!

Stay tuned.

 

Arcade Belts Review

I’m keen on what gear ski pros use because I want to use the best gear I can for myself. After all, skiing isn’t exactly a walk in the park. Gear can make the difference between enjoying a great run or suffering badly.

Arcade and Cody Townsend

Over the last year or so I’ve become a big Cody Townsend fan. If you don’t know who he is, I highly recommend checking out his YouTube channel and The Fifty Project, where he is skiing the 50 most iconic lines in North America. Cody started up a belt company for skiers, ski mountaineers, hikers and the like. He saw a need and a niche that wasn’t being filled and Arcade Belts was born.

Getting in Shape

I’ve since acquired a total of SIX arcade belts and love them all. I have numerous reasons why I have these belts in play, one being their flexibility.  You see, since winter of 2018-19 I made a decision to ski a lot more, both downhill and backcountry.  I knew I’d need to be in better physical condition, so in 2019 I made a big effort to “move more and eat less.”  It worked!  I lost nearly 40 pounds and several inches off the waist.  The problem with that is that none of my apparel fit anymore.  Good problem to have I suppose. Belts needed.

In Action

The Arcade Belts flexibility and adjustability has allowed me to milk some more use out of some of my old ski pants.  Plus, the flexibility of the belts has really helped me with my movement and comfort while skiing.  The belts move with me, and stretch when they need to.  If I’m taking a jump, bending down low to absorb bumps, or simply bending over to buckle my boots, my belt doesn’t choke me out.

I’m also using Arcade Belts on my pants and shorts, not just my ski pants.  I’ve got a lot of pants/shorts which would simply fall right off my body without my Arcades. Plus they look great!

Style

Not only are Arcade Belts super functional, they’re very stylish.  There are dozens of different styles, designs and colors to choose from.  With my arsenal of Arcade Belts I’ve got a good match for most outfits I wear, but I’m surely not done.  I need more.

Final Thoughts

Hats off to Arcade Belts.  They’re a great belt for outdoor activities like skiing, hiking, camping, climbing and so on and can go straight from the mountains to a night on the town.

First Look: Osprey Kamber 32 Men’s Backcountry Riding Backpack

Now that’ I’m getting more serious about backcountry skiing and in general, being better prepared on or of piste, I needed a better and bigger pack.  After a lot of research I settled on the Osprey Kamber 32.  This pack is designed for backcountry enthusiasts and holds 32 liters of gear, snacks, drinks.

32 liters is a good fit for slightly longer day tours or even overnights. This pack came in very handy for me during my 4-day Level 1 avalanche training course.  I was able to store all my needed avalanche gear, roughly 60 ounces of beverages (hot and cold), as well as all the snacks, cameras, and other gear I needed in all-day sessions.  Here’s the Kamber 32 in action:

I’ve had the Kamber on the mountain a few times now.  I have a hydraulics reservoir on the way and will be implementing that as well. Stay tuned for me review soon.

First Look: Arva Axe Snow Shovel

As I get deeper into the backcountry skiing world I’m learning more about the gear needed.  One of the most important parts of a backcountry setup is a good shovel.  I’m currently testing out the Arva Axe, seen below.

The Arva Axe shovel is quite cool.  It breaks down into 3 pieces for easy storage in a backpack.  It has two shovel modes, standard and hoe mode.  Hoe mode is in the photo below.

I’ll be putting the Axe to the ultimate test in my upcoming Level 1 avalanche training course next week.

After I’ve had enough time in the field and shoveled enough snow to formulate my opinions, I’ll post my full Arva Axe review.  Stay tuned.

 

Armada ARV 116 JJ UL Zero Ski Review

I was fully engulfed in ski mania last spring. I picked up tons of new gear, including the Armada ARV 116 UL Zero skis. Unfortunately in the spring there were never conditions which warranted gaming the the JJ’s. I did take them up for a day of spring skiing just because I was so excited to have them, but sticky slush groomed runs were far from off-trail big mountain deep powder.

About the ARV 116 JJ UL Zero

The JJ’s feature an “AR Freestyle Rocker.” These are light, big mountain freestyle skis rockered tips and tails combined with a positive camber underfoot and an ultra-light core.
This design shines in powder and unpredictable conditions. They ride on top of the power or even thick muck. Riding on top makes the ski so much easier to control.

The flex of the ski is somewhat stiff in the tips, and a little more stiff in the waist.

Bevels on the tip and tail help the skier transition in deep snow.  The tips are like boat hulls!

Dimensions

Size (cm) 165 175 185 192
Tip Width (mm) 139 139 139
Waist Width (mm) 116 116 116
Tail Width (mm) 135 135 135
Turning Radius (m) 17 18 19

In Action

I’ve now had a few more sessions with the JJ’s this winter, and experienced some great powder days. Last weekend as absolutely thrilling with about 10-14 inches of fresh pow. The JJ’s performed tremendously.

It didn’t take me long to get used to the JJ’s. I felt like I was floating on the clouds. I had fantastic feel and control, and the skis never EVER ducked under the powder. They were always floating on top. It made skiing pow so easy and effortless.

In the video above you can see the Armada JJ’s in action. Note how smoothly the move through the powder and choppy conditions.  They always float.

Conclusion

I’m thrilled with my JJ 116’s.  They make powder even more fun, which I didn’t think was possible. I can’t wait for the next big storm.  In fact, the next storm is coming over the next few days. 48 inches possible.  My JJ’s and I are ready to roll.

First Look: Arcade Belts

I’m thrilled to have a set of Arcade Belts in for review. I originally found out about Arcade Belts through professional skier Cody Townsend.  Cody founded the company.

What attracted me to the belts originally, is their flexibility and the fabrics they’re made from.  I’m not a big fan of stiff leather belts.  I want a belt that moves and stretches with my waistline.

Stay tuned for a full Hike.Ski review of Arcade Belts coming soon.

Picked Up Some Blizzard Zero G Skis

I’m upping my ski game. I just picked up a pair of Blizzard Zero G’s with Marker bindings which work for downhill or backcountry.

This rig is a little heavy for backcountry, but looking forward to testing them out this coming season.

First Look: Arva 18 Liter Ski Backpack

Now that I’m going to be doing some backcountry skiing, I need a pack.  That pack needs to hold my avalanche gear: shovel, probe, skins and so forth. I picked a light bag to start as I’m going to start out with some shorter tours which won’t require me to carry several days worth of supplies and gear.  I chose this Arva 18L pack.

Here’s a shot with some of my avalanche gear inside:

I’ll be posting a full review after I’ve had ample tours and time on the slopes to evaluate the pack.  Stay tuned!