Category Archives: San Diego Riding

Marin Pine Mountain 2: Steel 27.5+ Hardtail – First Look Review [VIDEO]

Marin celebrates its 30 year anniversary with a new bike that harkens back to the classic, well-liked model it shares its name with, the Pine Mountain. In the video below, we take a look at the 2016 Marin Pine Mountain 2. The Pine Mountain 2 has upgraded build specs and frame construction (compared to the Pine Mounatin 1) that we took a close look at. Not only did we discuss those build specs and frame construction choices made by Marin, but also the possible applications for this 27.5 plus hardtail trail bike.

When looking at the Marin Pine Mountain 2, there were many things I immediately liked and/or was intrigued with.

The first was the frame construction. Columbus CrMo steel catches my attention right away. I have been a huge fan of steel hardtails ever since my first singlespeed 29er. The modern steel frames can be drawn, butted, and formed very precisely yielding a frame that has ride quality and rigidity in just the right places for a great balance of efficiency and comfort. This frame is unique in that it has really cool, high quality, yet understated graphics and design elements. The 30th anniversary emblem on the seat tube looks phenomenal. The raw, clear-coated frame with brazing showing through makes this frame look completely custom and has an industrial feel. As I looked at the brazing, I noticed this steel frame has cable routing through the frame. For a steel frame this is almost unheard of. Mad props to Marin for including this. It isn’t entirely necessary, but isappreciated as it makes this bike look clean, high quality, and if you didn’t know better, a one-off piece that was custom ordered.

Secondly, was the plus sized wheels and tires. While WTB Trailblazers are on the narrow end of the plus bike tread options, they roll quick and add volume that is noticeable. The WTB Scraper rims, with their 45mm inner width, allow a wide profile and will be a good foundation for any other tires you may decide to use in the future.

Thirdly, the rack and fender mounts on the frame are definitely a rarity on a trail bike like this. In my opinion, its better to have them and not need them, should you only use this bike in drier conditions for a general trail bike instead of loading it up or outfitting it with fenders. Like the adage goes, “Its better to have them and not need them, then not have them and wish you had them.” I imagine other frames like this, capable of general trail riding with higher volume tires and a little more comfortable geometry, will start incorporating features that cater to bikepacking, longer rides, and carrying more gear as overnight trips by bike continue to grow in popularity.

Fourth, I noticed the HUGE amount of clearance on the Fox Float 34 fork. This thing could probably come close to clearing an actual fat bike tire. It appears that tires close to 4 inches wide may fit. 29 plus tires should fit no problem, so I imagine just about any 27.5 plus tire could fit up there. That is a great plus. Pun intended.

Fifth, the dropper post. This was very intriguing. While I have yet to use a dropper post on a bikepacking trip, I have used them on trail rides and they are undoubtedly a huge benefit. This is the first time I can recall seeing a bike come factory spec’d with both a dropper post and rack mounts on the frame.  I quickly wondered why. Why haven’t I seen this combination before and why did Marin include both. Both of my two hypotheses hinged on the assumption that because Marin wanted to make this a trail bike (Marin calls it “Trail+”), they included a dropper post. That seems reasonable. My first hypothesis is that in order to utilize a dropper post while bikepacking, the larger seat bags that are so common and often necessary for carrying sleeping bags, tents, clothing, or other bulky items would not be possible. Since the large seat bag wouldn’t be used when using the dropper, rack mounts would provide the opportunity to carry that necessary volume on a rear rack. The second hypothesis is that Marin figured most of the time, trail riders would prefer to have a dropper post, so they included it in the build, but they knew that the plus-size platform, with the trail geometry and steel frame would attract many riders would see this bike as one that can fulfill two roles: trail riding and bikepacking/all terrain touring. If riders plan to trail ride most days, but occasionally use it for an overnight bike trip, it would be easy to either swap out the seat post and use a large seat bag, or mount a rack and bags to carry their gear. I think its a good call and may be ahead of its time in a trend that may start in the future as we see more riders using their bikes to explore and spend nights in the backcountry.

Build Specs as listed on

  • Frame: Columbus Thron Butted and Formed CrMo, 27.5+ Wheels, Boost 148x12mm Naild Locking Thru-Axle Dropouts
  • Weight: 29.01 lb/13.16 kg (published bike weight is based on a size Medium frame)
  • Front Fork: Fox Float 34 27.5+, 3 Position Lever, 110x15mm Thru-Axle
  • Crankset: Shimano Deore XT Hollowtech II, 32T
  • Derailleur Rear: Shimano Deore XT Shadow Plus
  • Shift Lever: Shimano Deore XT 1×11-Speed
  • Derailleur Front: Cassette: Shimano Deore XT 11-Speed, 11-42T
  • Bottom Bracket: Shimano Hollowtech II
  • Chain: KMC X11L
  • Hub Rear: Formula, 148x12mm, Alloy Axle, Quad Cartridge Sealed Bearing, Centerlock Disc, 32H
  • Hub Front: Formula, 110x15mm, Sealed Cartridge Bearing, Centerlock Disc 28H
  • Rim: WTB Scraper, 45mm Inner, Tubeless Ready Spokes
  • Nipples: 14g Black Stainless Steel
  • Tires: WTB Trail Blazer, 27.5×2.8
  • Brakes Front: Shimano SLX Hydraulic Disc, 180mm Rotor
  • Brakes Rear: Shimano SLX Hydraulic Disc, 160mm Rotor
  • Brake Levers: Shimano SLX Hydraulic Cockpit
  • Handlebar: Marin Flat Top Riser Grips: Marin Locking
  • Stem: Marin 3D Forged Alloy
  • Headset: FSA Orbit, Sealed Cartridge Bearing, 1 1/8
  • Seatpost: KS LEV Integra, 30.9mm
  • Saddle: WTB SLC XC



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MTB Tip of the Week – Episode 6: Ditch Your Camelbak

This is Episode 6 in an ongoing series of videos we will be posting regularly to share our mountain biking tips and tricks with our subscribers.

Prior Episodes:

Episode 5: GPS for Mountain Biking

Episode 4: Maps for Mountain Biking

Episode 3: The LBS

Episode 2: 1X Drivetrain Bail Out

Episode 1: Cold Fingers Remedy


EPISODE 6: Ditch Your Camelbak

Back in the early 2000’s, I purchased an aluminum-framed mountain bike with front suspension. With the mountain bike, I was offered 10% off any additional accessories at the time of purchase. After picking out a helmet, pump, patches, spare tube, tire levers, and multitool, I looked over the bike wondering what else I was missing.  I saw water bottle mounts and instantly headed toward the water bottle cages. After picking up two, I began looking over the water bottles. The salesman came back to me and said he would throw in a couple water bottles for free if I was okay with them having the shop logo and contact info on them. I said of course, but then I was surprised as he led me toward some small backpacks that he began telling me about. He had started using these packs to carry all the water he needed for his ride, as well as all his trail-side repair  tools and supplies. It had a hose and a bite valve that were up by your chest where they were less likely to get covered in dirt and more likely to keep you well hydrated without the fear of losing your bottle while riding. I loved the concept and was sold. I used a Camelbak for a decade straight without even thinking about going back to waterbottles ever again. In fact, with each new mountain bike I purchased, I scoffed at the water bottle mounts on the frame as I thought they were archaic and antiquated since the invention of the Camelbak. I was a huge fan.

Then I started seeing how far I could go in a single ride and entered endurance XC races. I quickly realized that having water mounted to my bike felt much better than on my back for any rides over 20 miles or a couple hours. I started using water bottle cages and water bottles again while using a small seat bag to carry my other items that had previously went into the Camelbak. I mounted up to 5 water bottles on my bike at a time to allow me to go into areas without opportunities to refill, all while keeping my back free from the weight that would be too great of a burden to bear over the extended hours of longer rides.

Then bikepacking bags entered my world. Sure, water bottle cages with a small seat bag are what I often choose to use for smaller, local loop rides, but more often these days, I find myself leaving my frame bag on the bike. Why?

Here are 5 quick reasons as shown in the MTB Tip of the Week video below:

  1. Get as much weight as low as possible.  Putting the heavier items that need to be carried (such as a multitool, spare tube, and water in a hydration bladder) as low as possible on the bike, close to the bottom bracket, gets the center of gravity lower. This in turn enables easier maneuvering of the bicycle when moving the bike side to side than it would if the weight was carried higher up. Think of your bike like a lever. It is moved left to right and right to left as you lean and turn it, the tires, where they contact the ground are the pivot points. Getting the weight as close to the ground enables easier side to side transfer into turns.
  2. Comfort. If you have had a heavy backpack on for any length of time, you have realized how fatigued you can get in a very short amount of time. Keeping the weight of your water and other items off your back allows you to stay comfortable for a much longer period of time.
  3. Agility. I already wrote about the ability to keep the weight low on the bike, which helps to maneuver the bike, but it also allows your body to become more agile. Bending and balancing over top of the bike is much, much easier when you don’t have extra weight on your torso. Those of us who have lost weight have undoubtedly experienced this when we pleasantly found it easier to stay on that technical, narrow trail after losing 5 or 10 pounds.
  4. Accessibility.  It is much easier to get into a frame bag to access small, frequently used items while riding than it is in a backpack style bag. the openings are right there beneath and in front of you.
  5. Ventilation. While this one may not be realized as frequently in the winter as in summer, it is huge, especially where I live in San Diego. Allowing your back to breathe through your jersey by not having any pack against it will dramatically aid cooling and keep you feeling fresh longer than you would if you were trapping sweat between you and your Camelbak.


I hope you find this MTB Tip of the Week useful. Many frame bags available these days have a hydration port that facilitates the passing of a hydration bladder hose through the frame bag and up to your handlebar cockpit area. You may need a hose extension kit, but most likely your LBS will have this available for you to purchase. Many of the frame bag builders are located in the USA and will custom make a bag for your individual bike. There are many all over North America, and there may be a frame bag builder very near to you. You don’t need to have a hardtail to enjoy the benefits of a framebag either. Many designs for full suspension frames are already in existence.

Take a look at what Bikepackers Magazine has put together for the list of framebag manufacturers:


Leave a comment below or send me an email at .

Thanks for your support! Now get outside and find some trails to ride!

– Nick

Review: Chumba Ursa 29 plus Bikepacking Rig


My review of the Chumba Ursa 29+ Bikepacking rig got published on Bikepackers Magazine today.

Check it out!



Marines Confiscate Mountain Bikes

For you riders that #RideAlongside us in San Diego County, CA, the long-standing trails, traversing the portions of Sycamore Canyon that are north of Santee Lakes and south of Goodan Ranch is Marine Corps property and always has been. What is different this week is that they are enforcing any trespassing upon their property with tickets and bicycle confiscation.


Read more here in an article by SDMBA:

MTB Tip of the Week – Episode 5: GPS for Mountain Biking

This is Episode 5 in an ongoing series of videos we will be posting regularly to share our mountain biking tips and tricks with our subscribers.

Prior Episodes:


Episode 4: Maps for Mountain Biking

Episode 3: The LBS

Episode 2: 1X Drivetrain Bail Out

Episode 1: Cold Fingers Remedy


EPISODE 5: GPS Tips for Mountain Biking


Last week, I shared a great solution I have found to view where you are on a map with your mobile device, even when you don’t have a data connection.

Sometimes a phone just won’t do what you need it to do as well as a dedicated GPS will however.
My good friend Rick recently purchased a Garmin Etrex. He has used an android phone as well as a Spot Satellite Tracking device to map his routes and send updates to family and friends in the past, but the Garmin Etrex fills a role that other devices cannot.
He asked that I shared some basic tips and tricks for this device, which also applies to many other GPS devices.

Here are some of my tips for utilizing the Garmin Etrex for mountain biking, bikepacking, bicycle touring, or other activities where uploading, downloading, recording, and following routes/tracks are desired.

Part 1:

Part 2:


Let me know your experience with handheld GPS recievers, like the Garmin eTrex for cycling. If I can help you utilize it more effectively, or if you need any custom videos shot to demonstrate a particular way to utilize it, I would enjoy providing any assistance that could help in that area. Leave a comment below or send me an email at .

Thanks for your support! Now get outside and find some trails to ride!

– Nick

MTB Tip of the Week – Episode 4: Maps for Mountain Biking

This is Episode 4 in an ongoing series of videos we will be posting regularly to share our mountain biking tips and tricks with our subscribers.

Prior Episodes:

Episode 3: The LBS

Episode 2: 1X Drivetrain Bail Out

Episode 1: Cold Fingers Remedy


EPISODE 4: Maps for Mountain Biking


This week, I thought I would share a great solution I have found to view where you are on a map with your mobile device, even when you don’t have a data connection.
With the free version of the PDF Maps app (the only one I have used or tested), you can download base maps while you have a data connection and then display them on your device when you are out for a ride. When having your GPS location enabled, you will be able to see where your location is within the map in real time. Not only that, but you can drop a pin (waypoint), give the pin a custom name, save it, and come back to it later. You can also record a track (line) as you ride. The line appears in the map and provides you with a distance and elevation measurement as well. Seeing your route displayed on a custom map is huge.
For example, here in San Diego, we have some riding locations that have new trails that have opened this year and others that have recently closed for habitat restoration. In many of these areas the trails are a labyrinth of segments looping back on one another with many junctions through thick chaparral and scrub oaks that make it very difficult to tell where you are in the landscape. If you have the city’s georeferenced PDF uploaded and displayed in the PDF Maps app, you would be able to see which trail you are on and when you come to a junction, you can see which direction to go and which to avoid. This could save many riders from having to backtrack for miles after finally realizing they had made a wrong turn a ways back.
The maps available in the PDF Maps Store seem to be pretty decent for the San Diego Area and there are plenty of free downloadable maps, such as the USGS Topo Quad maps and many of the City of San Diego’s Open Space Area trail maps. Don’t let the lack of free maps stop you however. Many of the downloadable maps in your area might cost a fee, but most are minimal at $0.99. You can search the PDF Maps Store by viewing and searching a map of your desired location. There is even a check box to display only free maps which is great to see what is first available without spending any money.
Another great option is to make your own georeferenced PDF to use in the app. You will need specific software to place your image on the earth’s coordinate system and export out a georeferenced PDF, but it makes the use of this app limited only to your imagination of what map you could make to bring with you I’m on your next ride. I have made these custom georeferenced PDFs for a few people and it has been exciting to hear how useful they were while out on a ride. One of the most requested types of maps is a satellite background with a route shown that they plan to follow. Sometimes they have used a friends previously ridden route, other times it is a recon mission to see if they can connect a route that they have drawn by studying different segments of trail. Those are the most basic maps and it doesn’t take me too long to make them. I can only imagine the value it has added for them while on the trail.

You can click the icon below to visit the PDF Maps Store, find what maps are currently available in your riding area, and read more about the app and how the vendor, Avenza describes how to use it.

Affiliate Button

(Note: There are many FREE maps in the PDF Maps Store, just add them to your cart and check out, you don’t have to enter any billing info at all if you are only buying the FREE maps, but you still have to click the BUY NOW, add them to your cart, and check out as if you were buying the maps. Its actually a very quick and easy process.)

Here is a quick video I made this week to quickly show me using the app to display my locstion on a few maps while I was out on a ride.

After filming the video above,  I had wanted to make a second video of the track I created, but figured that a screen shot of the custom, satellite background map showing my GPS track after riding around a little would be simpler and take up less of your time.

All of the downloadable maps I have made available for download on the Mappy Trails to You page of are georeferenced PDFs that can be downloaded and displayed in the PDF Maps app.

Let me know your experiences with this app, if I can help you utilize it more effectively, or if you need any custom georeferenced PDF maps made. Leave a comment below or send me an email at .

Thanks for your support! Now get outside and find some trails to ride!

– Nick

MTB Tip of the Week – Episode 3: The LBS

This is Episode 3 in an ongoing series known as the MTB Tip of the Week.

Prior Episodes:

Episode 2: 1X Drivetrain Bail Out

Episode 1: Cold Fingers Remedy




The humble LBS.

Its also known as the Local Bike Shop.

Yes, my tip of the week is to visit your LBS. You may be asking, “Why is this a tip of the week?”.

Well, let me explain by first putting forth a few scenarios that I have witnessed, regarding riders and their LBS.

You may already visit your LBS weekly.

You may visit a variety of Local Bike Shops in your area and “not play favorites”.

You may be like many riders I know and shop wherever you get the best deal (including shipping of course) on the item you are looking for at the moment.

You may have a LBS that has great service, but only stock products that are not at all what you use. So you only visit when you need help getting it back into optimal riding condition.

You may have a LBS that has great inventory of products at great prices, but you would never let them touch your bike because of the horror stories you have heard of about their service department. So you only visit when you have a part that you want to replace or upgrade.

You may never visit the LBS in your area because shopping online is so convenient and you watch videos on how to fix your bike when you need service.

If you haven’t been to your area’s LBS, you are totally missing out.

Here is a quick minute and a half video of the LBS in my area of San Diego:

The humble LBS is a beacon in the fog of local retail shops for those of us who ride the local trails. They provide the products and services that only riders like us are interested in. Many shops have put in serious time, investment, and analysis of what products and setups work best and are most highly desired for the local trails, paths, roads, and climate in your area.
The owners, managers, and employees are well aware of the online shopping alternatives we all have access to and are usually willing to cut you a deal, price match, or do whatever it takes to ensure that you feel like you get a better deal from them. Just ask.
The LBS has riders that work there and know the local places to ride better than many. These employees are often the riders that you have said hello to on the trail. Have them put on a helmet if you have a hard time recognizing them. 🙂 Also, asking what bike they ride makes the connection between who they are and where you might have seen them on the trail. Strike up a conversation with any of them about any cycling discussion to find out what they are about. You will often find another rider that you may end up riding with every week for years. I can tell you from personal experience that I wish I would have talked to shop employees much sooner in my life.
If your area’s LBS doesn’t carry the products you want or need, let them know what those products are. They often will offer to special order them for you (a good majority of the products in a bicycle shop are ordered through the same distributors that all the other shops have access to). They will sell them to you at normal MSRP because they will not normally be aware of what other shops are selling those products for or they are not placing a large quantity order of that item. Have a genuine, honest, and open conversation with them about your wants and needs. They will probably work with you or even suggest another vendor that has those items.
There are many shops that have decided to focus primarily on a particular niche in one area or another within the bicycling world. For instance, there are shops in San Diego that focus primarily on triathlon cycling gear. This should not deter you from entering into the type of conversation I mentioned above about your cycling wants and needs, even if you are strictly a downhill racer. Chances are that they would love to know what other cyclists in the area are into or if they are potentially missing a part of the market that needs a good LBS that caters to their side of the sport. They very well may direct you to another shop, even one that you potentially didn’t know about.
Though you may be finding killer closeout deals online for some piece of gear that you could really use, seeing the items in person, especially those that need to fit well, is invaluable. Trust me. Anyone who has ordered shoes online, only to find that they didn’t fit right can attest to this. Its not only the fit however. By seeing, touching, and experiencing, in person, those items you will potentially buy, is more valuable than you may initially think. Sometimes you have to try the item out on the trail to find out however, which is why we try to provide our honest, and straightforward reviews here at Ride Alongside. There are some items that just plain fail, or need to be refined further, or are spectacular. Not only is it good to vote with your dollar as a consumer of those goods, but it is important to provide feedback to a Local Bike Shop to enable them to do so on a larger, wholesale bulk buy. This has a lot more power than you may realize. Sure, online reviews are good to some extent, but when you have a relationship with the manager at your LBS and they hear how great or awful a new product is that they are deciding to stock, they listen. It really can make the cycling industry better as a whole when you have a great relationship with your Local Bike Shop.
Those are the reasons why this is the Tip of the Week.
Thanks for reading all the way through this article, I really do appreciate it and could literally go on for quite a while longer about the value I have seen so far by developing a relationship with my LBS, but I will be learning more as time goes on and those relationships deepen, so a reminder and follow up article may be in our future, stay tuned.


Drop Bar Mountain Bike Philosophy and Setup Optimization – Salsa Fargo, Deadwood, and Cutthroat [VIDEO]

In this video, Nick gets the rundown on Mikki’s Salsa Fargo setup for mountain biking, commuting, and bikepacking. Mikki discusses his setup, what he plans to change and why those changes will better suit his application. Part 2 will discuss more on the Cutthroat model, how it differs from the Fargo and Deadwood as well as how it could easily be modified from bikepacking race bike to more of a comfortable commuter or a more generally capable mountain bike.
Many thanks to Mikki from for taking the time to discuss his rig with us. If you are ever in Solana Beach, CA make sure you stop by and say hello!

Thanks for watching.

20150908 – Just posted part 2/2. You can view it here:

Salsa Cycles 2016 Deadwood – 29plus [VIDEO]

Check out what I was fortunate enough to demo today!

Many thanks to Mikki from Revolution Cycles in Solana Beach, CA for hosting and Cori from Salsa Cycles !

Laguna Meadows

New video is up showcasing a portion of The Big Laguna Trail in San Diego, CA. 

You can watch it here:


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