Arcteryx Atom LT Vest and Jacket Review

As I’ve said before, I’m going to expand my gear coverage a bit to cover my favorite pieces of gear…like my Asolo boots.  Today, I’m going to talk a bit about Arc’teryx.

Years ago, I was first exposed to North Face gear, and thought that it was the most amazing stuff in the world.  I was blown away by the quality, and I fell in love with stores like REI.  Hey…we don’t have a ‘local’ gear shop of that nature in my neck of the woods.

A couple years back, I was looking for a new raincoat/shell to replace a North Face jacket that had met its Waterloo.  In the course of my search, I started looking at Arcteryx.  I ended up settling on an Alpha SV jacket, which I’ll talk about someday.  It is bombproof.  The best jacket ever.

But today, let’s talk about the Atom.  I have had the opportunity to spend some time with the Atom LT Vest and LT Hooded Jacket.  Both share Coreloft insulation in the front and back and Polartec Power Stretch exterior for a bit of water resistance and good durability.  They have a drop back hem, for a little extra butt coverage.  The vest has fleece side panels (for ventilation).  (The newest version of the jacket also has this feature).

I’m a little over 6′ tall and around 145#.  Arcteryx gear is cut athletically, and true to their measurements.  Even with my long arms, I have no issues with sleeve length on their smaller sizes.  I wear a medium in all of their tops/jackets.

Here’s the vest:

Breathable side panel.

Trim design.

Here’s the hooded jacket:

Not vented; no pit zips.

Stretchy cuff detail on jacket.

Full coverage hood almost covers my German schnoz.

One interior pocket.

Two exterior pockets, nicely placed. Note that unlike many Arcteryx jackets that have high pockets to clear backpack waist straps, these are set at hip level.

While it doesn’t look roomy, the hood is plenty roomy for a massive ski-helmet to cover your noggin.

This is both jackets, layered. They’re low enough profile that the vest doesn’t really show.

We haven’t had super-cold weather here in Illinois yet, so my reviews are a bit limited in that regard at present…this is my first year with the Atom.  I’ve worn the jacket, over short-sleeves, in temps down to the low 30s in comfort.  For as thin as the jacket is, it is AMAZINGLY warm for normal activities.  I’m not talking about sitting around…but if you’re moving, it is warm.  It traps all of your warmth.

The jackets are rated to be water resistant, not waterproof…but I’ve had the hooded jacket in downpours and it beads up admirably.  I haven’t washed it, so we’ll see how it holds up long term, but short-term, rain clouds don’t scare me off.

The fabric finish is soft and comfortable, but has been durable thus far.  It does not catch or snag easily.

The vest is very unobtrusive, and fits under just about any jacket.  By itself, it’s a nice layer for when you need to keep just a little extra torso warmth…when you’re doing outdoor activities in the low 50s or upper 40s and need a smudge of Coreloft.

I can’t say enough good things about the Coreloft…I don’t have a ton of previous experience with it, but it performs amazingly.  Very thin, non-bunching, non-stinky, and super-warm.

You can see that they don’t have huge gusseted features, but it is amazing how comfortable they are and how easily you can move in them.  There is no restriction in arm or torso movement.  The zippers are high-quality, and both have a stormflap behind the zipper to keep you warm and dry.

For me, I’ve basically abandoned the traditional ‘three season’ combination ski coats with zip-in liners, and replaced them with a high-quality liner jacket and high quality shell.  I’ll be pairing the Atoms with my Alpha SV, for what I think will be the ultimate in jackets.  More to come later.


Surly Lou Doesn’t Fit 2012 Mukluk

I was really stoked to try out a new 4.8″ Lou on my 2012 Mukluk 2.

However, after a test fit, not all is well in the world.  The center lugs on the Lou hit the yoke between the chainstays on the Muk at 10psi.  At 15psi, the lugs completely lock-up on the yoke.  They’ll clear at 7psi or less…right now (but I’m advised that they grow significantly over a couple of weeks at pressure).  This is using 82mm Holy Rolling Darryls.

1450 grams

Lookin’ Beefy.

Pretty wide on 82mm Rolling Darryls.

Even with my modified cassette, the bottom 1/2 of the cassette is useless in the smallest chainring.

The middle chainring clears, no problem.

This is 10psi:

Lookin’ Huge:

It makes the Big Fat Larry up front look TINY.

This is the clearance at 5psi:

Buh-hmmer.  Back to Husker Düs?


UPDATE:  I left them at 25 psi overnight.  The next morning, they didn’t fit at all.  Not at all.  Not even at 4psi.  The amount they stretched was HUUUUUUGE.  It’s a no-go.

Ben Berden’s Hydraulic Drop Bar Brakes

Just saw a video shared of Ben Berden’s cable actuated TRP hydraulic brake setup.

Watch more videos on CyclingDirt

(If that embed doesn’t work for you, click here).

I’ve talked about the TRP brakes before, twice.  I’ve even had the chance to ride a similar system (a Hope V-Twin setup).  I loved the feel of the drop bar functionality with hydro brakes.  There was a definite increase in braking power and modulation/control.  Frankly, though…I find the cable over hydraulic kludgy.

I can’t wait for SRAM to release their integrated drop bar system with hydraulic brakes.

Dear SRAM,

I’d like a complete set of your integrated hydraulic brakes for drop bar bikes.  SRAM Red, for the Vaya.  Please also include a 2013 Red front and rear derailleur, and a rear cassette.  (And of course, the brake lines and calipers.)

Very truly yours,


Surly Krampus: Drive-By Review

On Saturday, I had a chance to do a ride with and a brief ride on a demo Krampus.

There was my Muk, BPaul’s Necromancer, the Krampus, and Nevdal’s Ti Mariachi, hittin’ the trails.

The flat, flat, flat trails.

We rode trails, did a bit of fatbike bushwacking, and otherwise had a blast.  The Krampus demo was courtesy of the folks at North Central Cyclery, who tend to be the origin of all things cool in the Northern Illinois cycling scene.

As for the Krampus, riding it makes you want to be more radical.

Tobie, airing it out.

Giant BMX Bike.

I am greatly intrigued by the one-piece bottom bracket area yoke.  It’s a pretty elegant piece of design, and shows a commitment to doing things right.  Instead of weirdly bent tubing or hacked together weldments, Surly designed and built a specific piece for this application.  It looks elegant, and is perfect for the requirements of this bike.  I like parts of bikes that show forethought and consideration.  The yoke is pretty high up there on both elements.

Nice little frame details abound.

1x up front with a Paul chainkeeper.

1×10 SLX in the back…11-36t.

Knards look Knardley.

Along with the Rabbit Holes.

Definitely rocking the short stem/long bars combination.

Ample fork clearance for Knard.

I didn’t get a chance to weigh it, but reviews show it around 30#…I’d guess it’s just a bit heavier than my pretty heavily modded Mukluk, heavier than a Beargrease, but lighter than most stock fatbikes.

The short stem/wide bars coupled with the view of the tall 29+ tire up front dominate the handling of the bike.  It’s quick handling but not twitchy.  It wants to turn.  It wants to roll over things.  It wants to hop little berms in the trail.

I can see a temptation to put a set of riser bars and a taller stem on the Krampus, but I think that would kill its BMX-y vibe.  Geometry is more BMX/mountain oriented (think Pugsley) than the relaxed riding position of a Mukluk.

I didn’t get a chance to do a ton of riding on the Krampus, so my impressions are pretty limited.  In the fatbike world, there are people that are going to go ga-ga over the Krampus, and add it to their fleet.  I also think it will be a gateway drug for people who are intrigued about Fat, but for whom the 3″ tires on the Krampus make more sense than 3.8 or wider tires.  The Knards roll fast and are great trail tires.  The rumored 3.8″ knards should be well received.  I’m very pleased with my current Husker Düs, and I think the Huskers will do better in show, but I can see a place in the world for the Knards.

Am I going to run out for a Krampus?  No…it wouldn’t replace my Mukluk, and I’m not hard core enough to need another trailbike.  That’s where I think the Krampus is oriented…trailriding.  The lack of a double or triple chainring is going to hold it back as an exploration or race bike.  Yes–there have been times that I’ve been geared out in the Mukluk with a triple up front.  Barry Roubaix’s downhills come to mind, as do some strong tailwind/gravel road situations.  But I do think the Krampus occupies a unique niche…and its playful handling characteristics are likely to sell a lot of bikes.  It’s a bike you should ride to experience.  I think the perfect home for one would be some alpine trails with log crossings, rocks, creek crossings, and some banked corners to rail.

Of note, one of the demo Krampii that NCC had was set up with 29er wheels and some regular 29er tires (2.2s?), showing that the frame does have quite a bit of flexibility.  I can see this as a bike that woudl kill with a suspension fork.

It’s the beginning of the end for Fat Bikes.

My wife just sent me this picture from her Title Nine catalog.

A Pugsley, being ridden by an oh-so-smiley winterwear model.

They’ve been in Outside twice, and now this.  (Judging by the angle of the bike, it looks like she’s about 0.3 seconds from wiping out.)  Public acceptance of fatbikes = end of the world.


What do I think it really means?  I think that it really means that Fatbikes are catching on.  There may come a time when they are not a niche.  I’ve seen bike shops try to hop on the trend, like a local bike shop that stocked one Surly fatbike (but didn’t pay attention to chainline alignment and has some serious assembly issues).  I’m glad to see Fatbikes growing in popularity, but am hopeful that people will look before they leap, and find a shop with expertise in Fatbikes as I’ve blogged about in the past…rather than just someone who ordered a novelty from the QBP catalog.

Title Nine.  Color me surprised.

Campton Hills Cyclocross Report: Supercross

I heard about the course at Campton, and decided to rock the Superfish.

After a quick ‘go fast’ potion from my chief princess, I was ready to go.

I started off near the back of the pack (close to 100), and finished in 44th.  There was a lot of passing.

Out of the gate, there was a nice start, a few gentle curves, a few tight curves, and then things funneled into a slight hillclimb.  The hillclimb had railroad ties set across it for erosion control, and on the far right side of the course was a gentle ramp for CX bikes to roll up the ties.  That pushed almost all of the bikes into a single line…which cued me up.  Riding a full-suspension 29er felt like cheating.  I took a line right up the middle, passing the other riders in clumps.  There were a couple of spots with the railroad tie climbing, and the Superfish dominated in each.

There were also a series of off-camber switchbacks.  People were wiping out left and right on those.  On the ‘back’ set of switchbacks, I only had 1 lap in 4 where someone didn’t crash out in front of me.  I was quite pleased to be able to not only ride the course cleanly, but to do so without stepping out or dabbing.  The only time I was off the bike was over the barriers.  Even when I had a guy wipeout immediately in front of me, I was able to stop, turn 60 degrees right, and continue uphill.  Riding the mountain bike felt a bit like cheating a times like that.  Wide bars, wide tires, big hydraulic brakes.  I was able to rail the corners, and I just kept hearing Chad in my head: NO BRAKES NO BRAKES NO BRAKES.

At one point on the course, there was a paved downhill that turned to dirt with an off-camber, decreasing radius turn into a little wooded singletrack section with a couple little rollers.  After the rollers, there were some rough roots, and then you were dumped immediately into a series of steep gooseneck curves.  That section was my favorite part of the course.

Guys on CX bikes were braking and swinging wide for the turn into the singletrack.  I would fly down the hill, brake late, and turn aggressively, passing on the inside–flow through the single track–full suspension across the roots–wide bars to manhandle the bike around the goosenecks.  Here are the rollers:

Here’s one part of the goosenecks:

And here’s some prairie scenery.

The bike couldn’t have been better suited for the course.  It was really, really fun to ride it on the Superfish–far more fun than the Vaya would have been.  Everything on the Superfish performed perfectly.  I didn’t need the full range of gears, but it was nice to have the double chainring, so I could drop into the little chainring for the tightest/steepest areas, and then shift once and hammer out of them.  The 2.2″ tires let me sneak steeper, faster turns than the CX bikes, and let me carry more momentum throughout the course.

As far as my riding went, I rode hard.  I was very pleased with how I did, and the passing I did.  After the race, I felt as if I hadn’t held anything back.  For my third cyclocross race ever, coming up through the ranks as I did was pretty sweet.

The Superfish is an incredibly versatile bike.  I cannot think of a single thing to improve or upgrade on it for today’s race, or for 99% of the riding that I do on it.  It’s that good.  Thanks, Tobie.

Best part of the race?  Hearing my two cheerleaders hollering for me.  It was pretty awesome–and I felt pretty lucky all around.

Worst part?  I need to work on my barriers.  Dismounts were ok, remounts were good, but I was basically coming to a stop at the actual barrier.  I should have practiced more with the Superfish before the race.

And in answer to the gentleman at the gooseneck curves who shouted questions each time I passed:

1.  Yes, my mother does know I ride a full squish.  She likes it.

2.  Yes, I can track stand, and no, I was not trackstanding during the race…except for when you saw me trying to not run over the guy who crashed immediately in front of me.

3.  Yes, it did feel pretty good.

4.  Yes.  Carbon does make me faster.

This is what the course looked like: