Wolf Tooth EnCase NSMB AndrewM.JPG

3 Test Products for Andrew Major: Spring 2020

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Apr 15, 2020

Local mountain bikers are normally coming out of hibernation around this time, or loudly parroting the lack of an off-season. While the forest is doing its spring thing as normal, things are entirely more somber in our local community and the world over. I can't find the words exactly, but I've settled on really hoping that you and your family are well. Hopefully reading about bikes here provides a bit of escape, stimulation, or at least helps keep your spark for charging hard on mountain bicycles.

I'm very much looking forward to future days when I can justify pedaling 1440-gram DH tires up my local climbs so I can try and prove myself worthy of them on the way down, trying to rip the cleats out of my shoes on janky descents, and needing a multi-tool to straighten my handlebars when it all goes awry. Here are some shoes from Giant, tires from Bontrager, and a stash tool from Wolf Tooth that are all ready when a full-throated unleashing of the hounds comes to order.

Giant Line Clip-In Shoes

The Giant Line is a great looking shoe. It also has the features one would expect in shoes that sell for 200 CAD | 150 USD, including a seamless, vented, hydrophobic upper that should breathe well without retaining water. Usually, I'm all laces all the time with shoes these days, with a velcro power strap on my clip-in options, but the Lines have an interesting hook: their ExoBeam, ExoFlex, and ExoWrap construction.

I popped that into Google translate and, when converted from Marketing, it means that shoes are stiff under direct pedaling loads while allowing toes to flex normally, and fit really nicely. They also pass my number one go/no-go test for shoes these days which is a cleat pocket that allows the same rearward cleat position as my much-loved Rally shoes.

Giant Line Shoes NSMB AndrewM (3).JPG

These days if the shoes don't have laces I'm generally not there, but the Line has laid claims to some interesting fit features that have me buckling up.

I'm sure there's a pun in there somewhere but suffice it to say I'm not stuffing a waterproof sock into my usual size 43, which fits me very well lengthwise. The nice pair of the woolies my mom knit me won't even squeeze in. These Giant shoes are not giant shoes by any measure.

My feet are medium-wide and width doesn't usually come up as an issue for me. What's exciting here is that I know quite a few people who complain about the lack of options for long and narrow feet and for them here's a potential choice. My Merino NSMB socks fit fine and I often wear an even lighter sock in summer so fit should be fine.

Giant Line Shoes NSMB AndrewM (6).JPG

The tread looks optimized for hiking steep pitches and Giant claims the shoes are designed with natural toe flex in mind.

Giant Line Shoes NSMB AndrewM (2).JPG

At 489 grams each it's a 44 gram penalty over my go to lace-up shoes. The Line is much stiffer though.

Giant Line Shoes NSMB AndrewM (1).JPG

I like to run my cleats way back and the Line accommodates this nicely. One shoe shield and one plastic shim.

So far I've worn these around the shop, mounted cleats, and ridden around the block. I'm running the cleats all the way back, as I've generally been doing since I started riding flat pedals part-time again, and I'm very impressed that Giant can match the most rearward position of any shoes I've ridden and realistically I have the range to go forward a bit. I don't generally think of them as trendsetters but there are a lot of companies still wasting half their cleat adjustment range up near my toes.

I've started off running the shoes with Mallet DH pedals but they're easily stiff enough to run a pedal without a big cage. I'm certain that I'll have more to say about stiffness vs. comfort once I have the opportunity to put some big, mean days into them.

Bontrager G5 Team Issue Tires

Bontrager's original G5 tire was a collaboration with Aaron Gwin back in 2012 when DH racers were all still running 26" wheels. Now DH and Enduro are racing larger wheels and the true DH tire has been morphed into a 27 x 2.5" and 29 x 2.5" option, both sporting wire beads, and weighing 1440 grams for the 29er version with dual-ply casing for support and durability and an added butyl rubber layer to prevent flats.

These rim-shoes weigh even more than my go to WTB Vigilante 29 x 2.8 Tough Casing tires, in a smaller size, but I knew I'd be running them without an insert so the extra-extra support from the carcass should be a win. I've set a life goal of never again having to insert a tube on the trail so some combination of tire plugs, beefy sidewalls, and inserts is going to get me there.

I've set a life goal of never again having to insert a tube on the trail...
Bontrager G5 NSMB AndrewM (5).JPG

I've never ridden the G5, but the tread design has always looked great to me and I think it scales up nicely to a 2.5" width.

These tires are beasts to install compared to all the folding bead options I've been working on forever. I actually can't remember the last time I popped on a wire bead tire and my thumbs were out of practice. I did eventually get out the tire lever just to finish the job.

The G5 frankly looks like a well-designed tire with no voodoo magic going on. They have open tread spacing, an obvious transition from center-line braking to side knob support, and they feature soft 42a rubber from edge to edge. The rubber feels soft to the touch and threatens to make for quite a chore pedaling up the road to hit the trails but I'm still excited to try them on the downhills.

The G5 Team Issue sells for 70 USD, which is just under 100 Beaver Bucks, giving it the potential to be an incredible value if performance lives up to its billing.

Bontrager G5 NSMB AndrewM (4).JPG

The open and edged tread pattern is made up of soft 42a rubber throughout. The G5 sells for 70 USD making it a potential value contender for WC-proven, aggressive, sticky rubber.

Bontrager G5 NSMB AndrewM (3).JPG

29 x 2.5 and 1440 grams. It's a true 29er DH tire for certain. I'm not exactly looking forward to pedaling these up hills but I'll get there under my own steam.

Two more quick hits. Bontrager's tire sealant is now blue. I had a perfectly fine experience with the first version but the new stuff is claimed to last longer and seal punctures faster than the original. The first is an easily verifiable claim that I'll report back on. I run DH casings in the hopes of not getting any punctures but if it comes up I'll mention it.

Lastly, I'll abuse this pulpit to remind anyone at Trek-trager that's reading that the Stache is a wicked platform that's absolutely worthy of getting 3-4° kicked out of the head tube angle, 2cm cut off the seat tube and added to the reach on every size, and so on as it goes down the path to a modern bicycle. That new bike is going to need some mean shoes as well and a 2.8" or 3" SE5 or even G5 would be the perfect companion! Why not make both? Happy to help and looking forward to testing the 2021 model!

Bontrager G5 NSMB AndrewM (2).JPG

Bontrager tire sealant is 5 USD for these 3oz bottles or 30 USD for the 30oz.

Bontrager G5 NSMB AndrewM.JPG

It makes some bold performance claims over the past generation and it's also Blue Man Group blue.

Wolf Tooth EnCase Tools

Working on my bike today, three feet from my toolbox, I decided I'd like to roll my bars back 0.5°. I can see my Park Y-hex sitting on top of my Shimano torque wrench, next to my colourful Wera hex set, and instead of taking a single step I pull the Wolf Tooth EnCase tool out of my handlebar, pop out the 4mm bit, and go to work.

It's early days and the only trailside stuff I've done with Wolf Tooth's solution to getting tools out of my pack is adjusting saddle tilt and tensioning my chain, but I think they have a winner on their hands. EnCase has a real and usable 8mm hex on a swivel head and a whole pile of nice steel bits that pop into the center of said hex-head to do my bidding.

It's really convenient to grab, genuinely nice to use and takes a few seconds to swap from bike-to-bike. The EnCase hex-bit wrench and its sister chain tool sit in a pair of rubber sleeves and then push into either side of my handlebar and are held in place by bar plugs.

It's early days, but I'm impressed at both the quality of the tools and the fact the system is completely silent. I don't normally ride with a chain tool, just some quick links, so for me the hot buy would be to pick up the hex-bit wrench for 50 USD along with a single sleeve for 20 USD.

The hex-bit wrench has the 8mm hex swivel head, and the additional inserts include a spoke wrench, valve core tool, flat head & Phillips screwdrivers, all the hexes (2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, and 6mm) and three Torx options: T10, T25, and T30. That totals 14 tools.

I know it's a lot of money for bike tools, but assuming everything holds up and someone does want to carry a chain tool & bacon inserts, the fit-and-finish combined with the lack-of-pack will justify the 120 USD outlay for plenty of riders.

Wolf Tooth EnCase NSMB AndrewM (7).JPG

The chain tool is really nice to use and could happily replace the one in my shop; the prong and bacon inserts are standard puncture repair items.

Wolf Tooth EnCase NSMB AndrewM (4).JPG

The hex-bit wrench is the pièce de résistance. The bits are held magnetically in place with o-rings for additional retention.

The EnCase system includes a fit kit for drop bars which tend to have a wider internal diameter at the ends. As it would turn out, I had a need to install them. My SQLab 30X aluminum bars are fairly thin-walled and with a more flexible push-on grip, I had the EnCase tool walking out about a centimeter under hard climbing and full-English descending situations.

This wasn't an issue using the same model bars with lock-on grips, using carbon bars with push-on grips, or other thicker aluminum bars, so I'm concluding that my fitment issue stems from a perfect storm in a sea of varying internal bar diameters.

The fit kit consists of an o-ring that goes between the spines of the bar plug for support, and some heat-activated shrink wrap, and it's simple to install. I'm right on the cusp of a too-tight fit with the kit installed but I'm happier with a bit tight than too loose.

The EnCase wrench is plenty stiff and there's ample leverage for the 8mm hex. It's able to tighten my single speed dropouts or an 8mm bolt crankset, like a Race Face Cinch model. But, but, but, with great power comes great responsibility. If you stick the high-quality 2.5mm hex head in here and go full ham-fisted-Joey on a bolt, you'll either strip out threads, round out a bolt, or pop the head off. Either way, the tool will be fine but you'll be 'that guy.'

While talking about potential negatives, Wolf Tooth has a list of known incompatible bars, presumably due to the minimum internal bar diameter of 17.5mm. Here's the list as of today: Syntace Vector, Diety Skywire, Jones H-Bar Loop SG 2.5, Chromag BZA, BMC RCB01, and the S-Works Hover Carbon. If in doubt, grab some calipers or send the good folks in Minnesota a message.

Wolf Tooth EnCase NSMB AndrewM.JPG

The various bits all fit snugly, and magnetically, into the swivel receiver. I'd hate to lose one so won't tempt fate by forgoing the secondary o-ring security.

Wolf Tooth EnCase NSMB AndrewM (9).JPG

There's enough leverage for the 8mm hex to be usable, which in turn means there's enough leverage for the 2.5mm hex to murder innocent bolts in the wrong hands.

In typical Wolf Tooth fashion, the various components of the EnCase system are available individually from o-rings to chain tool pins, and so on. I'm curious if the vibration-damping rubber storage sleeves will end up being a wear item, but that's something I'll keep a close eye on as part of the review. When we can all get back to sharing tools I have a feeling I'll be pulling the hex-bit wrench out constantly when someone needs to make an adjustment.

Folks who are more than happy to chuck their 20-buck multi-tool in their pack need not apply. These tools are made in the USA, function excellently, appear to be very high quality, and are a unique solution to a pack-less rider's needs. For some riders that could be enough to justify the 120 USD outlay for the complete Wolf Tooth Bar Kit One set.

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Reilly Hohman  - April 14, 2020, 11:51 p.m.

Being that the G5's aren't designed as a tubeless tire, do you expect any issues running them tubeless?


Andrew Major  - April 15, 2020, 12:17 a.m.

Never considered that it would be an issue. I’ve been running tubeless since Stan was hawking his original rim-strip-kits and I’ve used plenty of non-tubeless-ready wire bead tires over the years. So far so good but I’ll certainly report back if any unexpected issues show up!


+1 Greg Bly
fartymarty  - April 15, 2020, 1:18 a.m.

I've been running Bonty tyres (XR4, SE4 and 5) for the past year or so and really like them.  The only issue I have with them (and it maybe slightly OCD) is the sizes across the range is not consistent (at least in the UK).  The 4's come in 2.4" while the 5 comes in 2.3" and 2.6".  I would happily settle on a set of 4s and 5s in 2.5" which could also be used with the 2.5" G5.  Hopefully this is something Bonty sort out as they are great tyres.


Andrew Major  - April 15, 2020, 7:45 a.m.

Ha, can’t say it’s something I’ve noticed. Could be simple SKU management. 

I haven’t look at tires smaller than 2.6” in ages, other than on review bikes, bought the G5 is the one aggressive Bontrager tire I hadn’t ridden. It’s funny how (perception?) the 2.6” SE4 and SE5 look like current +/- rubber but the slightly smaller 2.5” G5 looks like a DH race tire.


AndrewR  - April 15, 2020, 9:50 a.m.

Hey would the encase with bit wrench fit inside the spindle of an XO DUB crank set do you think? I figure you have bikes you could try it on for me please as it would be a good stash for the single tool for me.


Andrew Major  - April 15, 2020, 10:04 a.m.

I do not run DUB cranks or have a tester with them at the moment (and don’t expect to be near a set in the near future). Should be easy enough to mic out the ID and depth of your crankset and compare to Wolf Tooth’s dimensions?

My gut feeling is it won’t work. You need a minimum 17.5mm ID, but I couldn’t find a published number from SRAM for ID.


Mammal  - April 15, 2020, 11:14 a.m.

No idea about XO, but on the opposite end of the spectrum, my NX Dub cranks have an approximate spindle ID of 19mm. So it might be possible, especially since XO are likely to go small on wall thickness.


Andrew Major  - April 15, 2020, 11:55 a.m.

Interesting. I’ll try and measure the Giant Clutch Cranktool I have v. the Wolf Tooth since I know the Giant fits DUB. 

Can you measure the depth of the spindle? Wondering after length dimension v. Wolf Tooth.


+1 Andrew Major
Mammal  - April 15, 2020, 1:10 p.m.

The NX spindle tapers after the crank arm to the 19mm ID, and after that taper, you've got at least 110mm (chopstick transferred to ruler measurement) before contacting the components on the other end of the spindle ID.

Andrew Major  - April 15, 2020, 3:34 p.m.

So not including the cap, the EnCase system is 125mm long. It fits inside a Shimano 24mm spindle and it would be easy enough (I think) to use a larger OD o-ring and heat shrink to make it interface tightly with Shimano cranks.

Personally, like having it in the bar and with notable exceptions in the article the ID of bars is more consistent than the variety of different crank systems. For example it wouldn’t fit inside my Afterburner or Atlas cranks but it fits every bar in my house.

Still, if anyone goes ahead with mounting an EnCase in their BB I’d love to see it!

+4 Andrew Major nate77 Vik Banerjee Tremeer023
Tehllama42  - April 15, 2020, 6:11 a.m.

"the Stache is a wicked platform that's absolutely worthy of getting 3-4° kicked out of the head tube angle, 2cm cut off the seat tube and added to the Reach on every size"
Amen to that - I'd really love to have an opportunity to replace my current hardtail with an upgrade, and the bike you're describing would be precisely that.


+2 nate77 Vik Banerjee
Andrew Major  - April 15, 2020, 7:53 a.m.


The Stache is/was an (almost)* uniquely interesting/risky bike for Trek. My own geometry experiments tell me that pushing it closer to the edge of current geometry trends (without too steep a STA as it needs the flexibility of a good power-creating saddle position) would give up nothing in terms of its other use cases and make it so fun for terrain where’s it’s currently over its head (tube angle). 

It’s a nice riding (aluminum) and fun platform. 

I’ll even accept the drop-in headset and pressfit BB as long as they go far enough with the geo. 

*(The 69’er SS being the other exception to the rule that comes to mind)


+1 Andrew Major
nate77  - April 15, 2020, 9:29 a.m.

I'll third this motion!!


+2 Andrew Major Tremeer023
[user profile deleted]  - April 15, 2020, 10:04 a.m.

This comment has been removed.

+1 Greg Bly
Andrew Major  - April 15, 2020, 10:12 a.m.

That is a delicious looking bike. ~440mm stays. Mmmm... for me the lack of sliding dropouts is the issue where the Stache has a decent system for single speeding.


Zornitta  - May 12, 2020, 4:42 a.m.

Would be nice to have Shimano 12s and 32h better wheels on Stache 7 too!


Allen Lloyd  - April 15, 2020, 9:20 a.m.

If I run a single side lock on grip how does the Wolf Tooth work?  Is my grip going to spin toward the bar end?  I really like the idea of these, but I also really like my grips.


Andrew Major  - April 15, 2020, 9:36 a.m.

If you have a single clamp grip with a solid end covering the bar that will require modifying the grip end.

By no means have I tried every single-clamp grip out there but I’ve ‘removed’ (it sounds surgical that way?) enough of the end from a few grips to run different bar plugs without any negative affect on their clamping. I just cut out a circle where it covers the bar.


Bogey  - April 19, 2020, 9:35 a.m.

A great way to core the end is to loosen the clamp and tap the end of the bar with a rubber mallet. It leaves a nice clean hole. If you have an old bar lying around you can use it as the core tool.


Andrew Major  - April 19, 2020, 9:43 a.m.

Damn. I even have a cut off chunk of bar sitting right on my bench that would be perfect for the job.


(*edit: I’m sort of embarrassed that I never thought of it before...)


AndrewR  - April 15, 2020, 9:51 a.m.

And the SQ-Lab grips have really soft ends anyway (one of the reasons I don't run them on my trail bikes).


Andrew Major  - April 15, 2020, 10:14 a.m.

These new 711R push-on grips (pictured) are actually very firm rubber end-to-end but still comfy with no plastic sleeve. Review pending. The grips I had issues with the plugs coming out were actually the Renthals. Love those grips but they are super soft.

Their MTB grips (70X) are really rigid end to end but the more ergonomic SQLab single-clamp grips I’ve tried have needed to be glued on the non-lock-on end. Presumably those are the models you’re referring to?


+2 Andrew Major Bogey
Tortoise  - April 18, 2020, 11:33 p.m.

That wolf tooth hex tool looks like a cool idea but I can see Mr. Fumble Fingers dropping one of the bits when going to use it and losing it to the trail


Andrew Major  - April 19, 2020, 7 a.m.

They are magnetically held in place on the tool and then magnetically helped into the tool receiver... but I have a friend who has managed to lose a single knee pad and a single glove on rides so I guess it comes down to the individual. 

Personally, not a concern but I’lol certainly call myself out in the review if I do lose a bit!


+1 Andrew Major
Alex Gray  - April 19, 2020, 7 a.m.

Hey Andrew,

This is a bit off topic but I've got a query. What suspension forks have you been able to shove a 29x2.8 tire on a 40-45 internal width into? Thanks for all you do for the 29 plus community.



Fernie, BC


Andrew Major  - Oct. 11, 2020, 12:23 p.m.

Hi Jag,

Apologies for the very delayed response! I didn't get a notification. 

I run i40 rims (RaceFace, WTB, Velocity) with a 2.8" Vigilante in a Suntour Durolux (with a zip-tie-on fender but not the Suntour fender), the Cane Creek Helm (no fender), and the Manitou Mezzer (no fender). 

Take care,



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