RockShox have returned fire in the battle for cross country suspension supremacy! Only a few weeks ago FOX created waves with the release of their lightest ever XC fork, today RockShox have revealed they’ve been hard at work too, announcing a new stiffer, lighter and smoother version of the venerable SID series.
It must be coming up on twenty years since the first release of the SID, and while it’s definitely the most winning fork ever in cross country circles, we were beginning to think that the SID might have been on the way out. There just hadn’t been a lot of improvements made to SID in recent years as RockShox focused their attention on the development of the RS-1 (review here). But behind the scenes, RockShox had been beavering away, incorporating technologies pioneered in some of their other forks to make the SID a stiffer, leaner and smoother offering. There are four SID forks in the range, all available in 27.5 and 29″, with Boost or regular hub spacing: the World Cup, XX, RLC and RL. Let’s check out the details.
100mm travel ONLY:
RockShox are taking the SID back to its XC roots – there will be no more 120mm version of the SID, it’s 100mm only. RockShox are letting the Revelation and Pike handle the 120mm market now. Smart move – people are riding 120mm bikes very hard now, and the SID isn’t built for that kind of flogging. Removing travel variants allows RockShox to optimise the air spring specifically for this this travel too, and they say it’s more linear than before, which is good for lighter riders. Heavier or more front heavy riders can still add Bottomless Tokens to increase progressiveness.
Moving to a 100mm-only platform allows RockShox to create a lighter fork. In the past, the 120mm and 100m versions shared the same chassis, and so naturally it had to be on the beefier side to accommodate the harder riding demands of those riders on the 120mm fork. Now, as 100mm-only offering, the whole fork can be made a little leaner. The new SID is on average 100g lighter across each of the four models than in the past. The carbon crown/steerer equipped World Cup fork is 1366g, in a 27.5″ version, about 10g heavier than FOX’s new 32SC fork. We don’t have weights for the 29er versions on hand.
Stiffer, kind of:
RockShox are making the claim that the new SID is stiffer than its predecessors, but that’s on the proviso that you’re running one of their Torque Cap hubs, which gives you a much bigger contact area between the hub and fork dropouts. Of course normal 15mm hubs are compatible too, but you lose the increased hub/fork contact and its stiffen gains.
The RLC and World Cup versions of the SID get a new damper too; the Charger damper has external compression adjustment plus a two-position lockout (it’s either open, or has a very firm lockout). Beginning stroke rebound is adjustable, but deep stroke rebound is factory set with the excellent Rapid Recovery system. The new damper (did you know that auto-correct thinks the SID has a new diaper?) is complemented by lower-friction seals as well.
We’ll do our best to get you pricing, but as this release came through on a Friday afternoon, we weren’t able to get it confirmed right away.
The company that brought us ‘over-mountain’ are back to their category creating tricks again! This time they’ve added another ‘X’ to XC with the launch of an all-new Cannondale Scalpel Si, which Cannondale say is ‘Built for XXC’. It looks bloody fantastic.
In case you’re wondering, the extra X is for X-TREME, so get radical, dudes. Cannondale have designed the Scalpel to be capable beyond the bounds of a traditional XC bike (i.e. getting all XTREME), but it’s also X-TREME (ok, we’ll stop that now…) in that it’s extremely stiff, extremely light and generally on the cutting edge of this category.
Putting the XXC stuff aside, the new Scalpel doesn’t desert its racing roots but the geometry and construction have been thoroughly modernised, broadening the appeal of this already super popular cross-country machine. We took some time away from the race track at the Cairns World Cup to get a better look at the Scalpel Si. In fact, the bikes we were lucky enough to inspect were the race machines of superstar racers Manuel Fumic and Marco Fontana.
Cannondale are fortunate to have this popular and progressive pair of riders on the team; they’re well known for being incredible bike handlers, and their feedback has clearly influenced the shred-ability of the new Scalpel Si. Let’s delve into the details.
OutFront Geometry: More stability without sloppy handling.
The Scalpel Si gets Cannondale’s OutFront Geometry treatment. Essentially this relates to the Lefty’s large 55mm offset, which greatly reduces the the trail of the fork, allowing Cannondale to run a slacker head angle, without the usual floppy climbing performance. Paired with a shorter stem and wider bar, it gives the Scalpel more confidence-inspiring, trail-bike-ish handling, but still a nice agile, light steering feel. Cannondale aren’t the only company to use custom fork offsets to improve steering feel, but the 55mm offset is significant and should have a big impact on handling.
Shorter Rear End: Asymmetric Integration.
Long chain stays are so 2012. In order to get the Scalpel’s chain stays down to a snappy 435mm whilst still retaining front derailleur compatibility, Cannondale have employed their Assymetric Intergation rear end design that was initially rolled out on the F-Si hardtail. In a nutshell, the whole drivetrain is shifted outboard by 6mm, away from the tyre. To compensate, the rear wheel has zero-dish, pulling the rim back 6mm the opposite way, so your bike still rides in a straight line. The net result is that you gain more clearance for the tyre and front derailleur, while the rear wheel gets even spoke lengths on both sides, giving you a stiffer wheel.
Flex Stay suspension with custom RockShox shock.
The Scalpel has long employed a flex stay suspension system, just like the Cannondale Habit SE we reviewed a few months ago. Using a flexing seat stay instead of a pivot point saves weight and makes the rear end laterally stiffer too, as there are fewer places for play to develop. The rear brake is mounted to the chain stay via the new flat mount standard, so the flex stay performance is unhindered by braking forces.
Check out the slick way the rear shock is partially housed within the top tube – it’s gorgeous! RockShox have worked with Cannondale to create a cleaner integration of the Full Sprint dual lockout system too. Both the fork and shock are locked at the push of a button, but the way the rear lockout line disappears straight into the frame is really very tidy, you’d never even know it was there.
Twin water bottles and dropper post and Di2 ready.
Cannondale have managed to create enough room up front to fit two 500ml bottles, which is a rarity with a dual suspension bike, and will be greatly appreciated by marathon racers. While none of the Scalpels come stock with a dropper, there are cabling provisions to run one. On the topic of internal routing, Cannondale have also developed a specific Shimano Di2 battery holder too, which houses the battery securely in the top tube, so you can run Di2 and a dropper without an issue. The weight of the frameset is impressive too. Just over 2.1kg including shock, rear axle, seat post clamp and the hydraulic line for the shock lock out.
Women’s models and 27.5 wheels on smaller frames.
Cannondale have gone down the small wheels for small riders route. On size small men’s frames, you’ll find 27.5″ wheels, and both women’s models get smaller hoops too. We’re happy to see there’s a properly high-end women’s model in the range too, which is often neglected.
It’s still a few months till these bikes arrive in Australia – July or August is the ballpark. Of course, we’ll do our very best to get a ride on one before then, so keep your eye open for a write up!
Bontrager has unveiled all-new Line XXX MTB wheels in addition to the new Drop Line dropper post, 35mm Line Pro bars and stems, Line Pro flat pedals, and updated tread patterns and sizes for the beloved XR4 and SE4 MTB tyres.
Line XXX wheels offer unsurpassed impact strength and a supportive 29mm inner rim that combine to give a no-compromise, precision ride feel for technical trails. Handmade at Bontrager’s North American research, development, and manufacturing headquarters in Waterloo, WI, the new Line XXX raises the bar for the brand’s mountain bike wheels, further distinguishing Bontrager’s long history of exceptional quality.Also unveiled is the new Bontrager Drop Line dropper post, a cable-actuated hydraulic locking post that gets out of the way on descents and comes right back to support the rider when the trail demands it. Drop Line is easy to install and remove by clamping the cable at the lever and is available in 3 sizes.
Line Pro bars and stems come in two levels and bring the sure handling of 35mm bars and stems to any bike. Available in 15 and 27.5 degree rises in both 750mm and 820mm sizes, the Line 35mm bars add a confidence to your bike’s handling while upgrading the aesthetic without adding any uncomfortable stiffness.
Two of the brand’s most popular tires, the XR4 and SE4, have been updated to include 2.4 and 2.55 sized options and feature new tread patterns that save weight and roll faster with the incredible traction for which the tires first became popular.
Along with the Line family, Bontrager is introducing the Kovee XXX, an OCLV Carbon cross country race wheel with 29mm inner width and wheelset weight of under 1400g. With a wide stance and durable rim, the Kovee XXX is pushing the boundaries of what an XC race wheel can be.
Flow like water, trickle down like Shimano. The big S have just announced the launch of the new SLX M7000 groupset, which naturally sees 11-speed shifting move into a truly affordable price point. And by jingoes, doesn’t it look a lot like XT?!
The new SLX groupset clearly takes a lot of visual and functional inspiration from XT, and that’s a great thing – as you can read in our review of the latest XT groupset here, we’re huge fans on Shimano 11-speed offerings.
SLX always kind of slides under the radar in Shimano’s range, but the performance is truly awesome for the bucks. In a practical sense, there’s never been much of functional difference between SLX and XT (until XT went to 11-speed of course), it has always been more of a weight and refinement difference. And now SLX has made the leap to 11-speed too, we think it’ll be an incredibly popular option for riders looking to add all the benefits of 11-speed to their bikes without dropping a money bomb.
Unlike SRAM, who’ve gone all in with their single-ring drivetrain, Shimano continue to offer multiple chain rings if you want them. You can get the new SLX in a 2×11 setup if you desire, with three different chain ring configuration options: 34/24, 36/26 or 38/28-teeth. If your preference is for a single-ring, you’ve got the choice of 30, 32 or 34-tooth chain rings. Oh, you can also still get a 3×10 crankset too, so you can ride to the internet cafe to send a fax.
Both 1×11 and 2×11 drivetrains can be run with either a 11-40 or 11-42 cassette, or if you’re on 1×11 you also have the option of using the recently released 11-46 XT cassette, for huge gear range.
The SLX M7000 groupset also includes new hubs with a much quicker freehub take up, now featuring 36 engagement points. As far as we can discern, the brakes remain unchanged aside from a bit of a visual spruce up and the use of an alloy carrier on the rotors – suits us, they work incredibly well already! The shifters look very XT-ish, with reach adjustability via a sliding bracket mount.
Firm pricing is not yet available, but you should be able to pick up a 1×11 drivetrain and SLX brakes for under $1000, which is a pretty darn neat. Read below for the full details direct from Shimano.
New SHIMANO SLX M7000 groupset expands the possibilities for trail, adventure and recreational mountain bikers
Sleek makeover and high performance from the best pound-for-pound competitive-level mountain biking cranksets, derailleurs, cassettes, shifters, levers, rotors and hubs on the market.
The launch of Shimano’s new mid-range off-road SLX groupset brings many of the performance features of DEORE XT with affordability, durability and compatibility to make it suitable for almost every type of mountain biker.
Provision for a wide range of MTB riding styles was the focus of the new SLX M7000 design. Three types of riders are catered for within the drivetrain options; those who favour a single chainring 1×11 set up for simplicity, those looking for an optimal 2×11 double chainring set up, or those riders needing the enhanced gear options and convenience coming with a 3×10 speed set up.
The lightweight and durable 11 speed-compatible FC-M7000-11 chainring (1×11 and 2×11) teeth feature Shimano’s new Dynamic Chain Engagement technology and are designed for the different power outputs delivered in each ring, offering enhanced chain retention, driving rigidity and highly efficient, precise shifting.
In the 2×11 set up, close gear ratio combinations ensure a minimum shifting gap between gears and allow the rider to maintain an efficient rhythm throughout the complete range of gears. Set up options are kept to a chainring capacity of 10-teeth with three options (34-24T, 36-26T and 38-28T). 1×11 riders have the option of 30T, 32T or 34T chainrings to combine with two cassette options (11-40T and 11-42T). B-spec options are also available in double and single ring set ups to ensure chain lines can accommodate 148mm rear hubs.
The system solution behind these rider optimized gear combinations is known as DYNA-SYS11, which blends Shimano shifting technologies and designs to allow riders to deliver consistent, efficient power while maintaining traction and momentum.
Meanwhile, the 3×10 crankset (FC-M7000-10) with its 40-30-22T tooth profile and DYNA-SYS shifting technology has been designed to give a consistent shifting performance with the most efficient drivetrain and practical gearing for recreational riders anywhere.
The new design of the 1×11, 2×11 and 3×10 cranksets is more than just a stunning aesthetics and outstanding mechanical design. Better bottom bracket sealings reduce water and dirt ingress and increase the long-term efficiency of crank rotation.
At the rear, lightweight and minimally designed 467g 11-40T cassette sprockets are in line with DYNA-SYS philosophies, allowing the rider to make smooth and precise gear changes and keep riding in the most efficient front driving gear for longer. 1×11 and 2×11 riders also have the option of choosing a wider 11-42T cassette for an expanded low end range. Meanwhile 3×10 riders can choose from 11-32, 11-34 or 11-36T set ups with the existing CS-HG81-10 cassette.
Where shift levers command, derailleurs respond. Now featuring at SLX lever, Shimano’s SHADOW RD+ technology provides sharp and silky shifts along with chain stability and a reduction in chain slap thanks to a lockable rear derailleur position. The medium cage 11-speed rear derailleurs (RD-M7000-11-GS) offer a drivetrain capacity of 41-teeth, whilst the long cage 10-speed rear derailleur (RD-M7000-10-SGS) offers a larger drivetrain capacity of 43-teeth to accommodate its triple chainring.
Shifting on the SL-M7000-11/10 levers is taken care of by ergonomically designed RAPIDFIRE PLUS shift levers, allowing riders to downshift three gears in one stroke and release shifts by the index finger or the thumb. This simple but incredibly useful feature also provides light and consistently stable shifting across front and rear gears. I-spec II (SL-M7000-I / SL-M7000-10-I) and I-spec B-type (SL-M7000-B-I / SL-M7000-B-I) mount options allow for adaptable and versatile, rider-tuned cockpit options.
Where shift levers command, derailleurs respond. Now featuring at SLX lever, Shimano’s SHADOW RD+ technology provides sharp and silky shifts along with chain stability and a reduction in chain slap thanks to a lockable rear derailleur position. The medium cage 11-speed rear derailleurs (RD-M7000-11-GS) offer a drivetrain capacity of 41-teeth, whilst the long cage 10-speed rear derailleur (RD-M7000-10-SGS) offers a larger drivetrain capacity of 43-teeth to accommodate its triple chainring.
The shifting power of the 11-speed (FD-M7020-11) and 10-speed (FD-M7000-10) front derailleurs has been increased allowing for rapid shifts with efficient cable routing and a light shift operation. Mounting options include Side Swing, Top Swing and Down Swing front derailleurs to offer compatibility with shorter chain stays and large wheels and tyres.
SLX hubs have been redesigned to provide all-weather durability and reliable performance thanks to high quality sealings and angular contact bearings. FH-M7000/7010 rear hubs also feature a refined and rapid gear engagement mechanism, offering 36 pick-up options over 360 degrees. The front hubs come in at a light weight 189g (HB-M7000) or 148g (HB-M7010), while the rear hubs are 384g (FH-M7000) or 357g (FH-M7010). The both front and rear hubs offer variations compatible with the Boost 110 and 148 standards.
The Rider Tuned position of the SLX BL-M7000 lever allows for smooth, consistent and predictable operation of the hydraulic disc brake system (BR-M7000) and, combined with heat-radiating, mud-shedding SM-RT70 160, 180 or 203mm rotors, you get high performance stopping power in all manner of riding conditions.
In all in, the new SLX M7000 groupset achieves an unrivalled level of high performance, efficiency, durability and value. Competitive-level technologies found in Shimano’s premium MTB components have been transferred to the new SLX M7000 cranksets, derailleurs, cassettes, shifters, levers, rotors and hubs, letting you focus on what matters, getting maximum fun and enjoyment out of your rides.
Zap zap! Shimano have just confirmed that electronic shifting will be soon be available at a more accessible price point with the soon-to-be-released Di2 XT groupset. This is fantastic news, as the benefits of electronic shifting aren’t just relevant to the high-end market.
We’ve been riding XTR Di2 for the more than a year now, and it’s superb (read our review here!). While Shimano billed XTR Di2 a real racer’s product, we’ve found it’s far more versatile than that, but the price was always going to be a barrier to most. Now that’s set to change.
Before we delve into the XT Di2 equipment, let’s quickly recap on our time with the XTR Di2 system. We’ve now had the groupset fitted to two different bikes, the cross-country oriented Pivot Mach 4 and the all-mountain Trek Remedy. We’ve also run it in a number of different configurations, initially we had a double ring up front using the cool Synchro Shift mode before converting it to a single chain ring with an 11-42 cassette out back. Make sure you watch our video explaining all the Di2 shift modes below:
It’s fair to say that over the past 12 months, we’ve been able to put all of our initial fears about electronic shifting to bed – the system has been flawless, impervious to the crud and mud of mountain biking, and intuitive to use too. The benefits of Di2 are pretty obvious once you’ve ridden the system, but to sum up quickly:
The shifts are instantaneous and consistent no matter what the conditions.
There’s no adjustment required as with a cable system.
Unlike with a mechanical cable system, the shift quality never degrades, so shifting feel is always light and smooth.
The whole system is completely customisable (you can set which buttons do what, and the speed of the shift).
You can shift through multiple gears by simply holding down the shifter.
If you want, you can run a front derailleur and still only have one shifter (great if you also use a dropper post).
The system integrates very cleanly into the bike as the wiring is unobtrusive, especially if you use the PRO Di2 bar/stem.
You get a lot of riding out of one battery, like hundreds of kilometres.
We still haven’t seen XT Di2 in the flesh and won’t for another week or so, but from the information we’ve received, it appears to have all the same functionality as XTR Di2, with a couple of notable improvements:
Easier to use E-TUBE software:
Judging by the information we’ve received from Shimano, the XT Di2 groupset has all the same functionality as XTR Di2, but with some welcome improvements to the E-TUBE program, which is the software used to make adjustments or customisations of the Di2 system. Previously, using the E-TUBE software involved physically plugging the Di2 display unit into a PC (it wasn’t Mac compatible!). This has all changed with a new Bluetooth integration that allows users to control all the Di2 functionality from a phone or tablet.
Wider range single-ring drivetrain, or still double/triple compatible:
XT Di2 is compatible with every drivetrain configuration you could ever want. You can run it with a triple ring crankset or a double ring (using an 11-40 cassette) with one or two shifters. Or you can set it up as a single chain ring system, using the recently released XT 11-46 tooth cassette or an 11-42 if you prefer. We’re a big fan of single ring drivetrains, and the massive 11-46 range will be broad enough to satisfy just about all riders we’d imagine.
Shimano have used the XT Di2 release as an opportunity to also introduce new Boost compatible XT hubs as well. Boost hub spacing is rapidly being adopted across the industry, and now you’ll have the option of using XT’s bombproof hubs for your Boost bike too.
In terms of weights, we don’t have any more info yet, but we’d imagine it’ll be very similar to current XT offering. Nor do we have any pricing from Shimano Australia unfortunately, but the best indicator we’ve received is that “XT Di2 will be to XTR Di2 what Ultegra Di2 is to Dura-ace Di2.” We’ll leave deciphering that riddle to you!
We’ve confirmed with Shimano Australia that we’ll be getting a full review on this groupset very soon. Read below for the official word from Shimano.
Di2 technology lands at DEORE XT level
Di2 now features wireless customization capabilities with upwards compatibility to XTR level
Sitting between the granite-hewn professional racers and the weekend warriors you’ll find a group of highly competitive and highly skilled mountain bikers. These are the privateers and the self-supported riders. These are the riders who put the hours in to keep themselves race-fit and have the skills to test themselves against the best. These are the amateur mountain bike racers. And these are the riders Shimano had in mind when it developed DEORE XT Di2 M8050.
If you’ve dreamt of winning races, if you’ve sent in a race application and started to wonder if you’ve got what it takes, if you’ve pinned on race numbers and glanced enviously at the other riders’ bikes then you know what the trail to triumph involves. If you cravethe latest components in search of the technology to change your ride, then the answer is Shimano DEORE XT Di2 M8050.
The technology to change your ride
Two years after launching the world’s first commercially available mountain bike electronic shifting system, Shimano brings the power and the technology to drastically change the way you ride to DEORE XT level.
At the touch of a button and with just one lever you can now change gear with extreme accuracy, speed and precision. When the trail suddenly turns up hill, your DEORE XT drivetrain can now respond to your every demand. When your hands are aching from gripping your bars, a light touch of your Di2 button is all you need to move to a more efficient gear. And together with Synchro Shift technology, which adjusts your front derailleur and your chain line automatically, you’ll always have the right gear options to quickly switch between tough climbs, technical descents and pure-adrenaline racing.
Much like the Shimano DEORE XT M8000 mechanical derailleur, the DEORE XT Di2 M8050 rear derailleur also includes Shadow RD+ technology, which is designed to eliminate chain bounce and keep chains on sprockets over multiple types of terrain, leading to a more stable shifting platform.
The most groundbreaking technology featuring on DEORE XT Di2 M8050 though is a new wireless Bluetooth connection to Shimano’s E-TUBE program, which is the system Shimano uses to set up and control the Di2 shifting behaviour. Through Bluetooth technology riders or mechanics can wirelessly communicate with their computer, tablet or a smart phone via the SC-MT800 system information display and a new battery. As well as allowing wireless workshop customizability, it allows riders to customize their shifting preferences on the trail via an app on their smartphones.
Additionally, Shimano’s wireless D-FLY Data Management system will allow riders to see battery and gear information on their compatible third party display devices (eg bike computers). This technology will be rolled out with DEORE XT Di2 components and will be available as an upgrade for those currently riding Shimano XTR Di2, either with SC-MT800 or SCM9051 system information displays and a new internal or external battery.
The components of adventure
In terms of the components themselves, it’s the drivetrain where DEORE XT Di2 M8050 developments have focused.
SW-M8050 front and rear FIREBOLT shifters are designed to provide easy operation and accurate shifting with an ergonomic rotary action, short single-click action and effortless multi-shift possibilities. The FIREBOLT shift button placement is customizable and can be positioned exactly where the rider’s thumbs naturally rest. This allows you to shift faster and match your efforts like never before.
The SYNCHRO SHIFT technology inherent in the shifters means riders can rely solely on one shifter to take care of their rear and front gear changes. A customizable shift map means riders can program the exact gear ratio at which Di2 automatically shifts into the big ring when going up through the gears, or into the small ring when going down through the gears. Whichever gear ratio you choose, Shimano’s Rhythm Step philosophy ensures that riders make the minimum amount of incremental steps when changing up or down gears, allowing the rider to maintain an even cadence and fluid riding style. No large gear steps, no over-working joints and muscles, just effortless pedaling throughout the gear range. No compromises, just a focus on simplicity and enjoyment.
The shifters are designed to work in harmony with the SC-MT800 system information display, the RD-M8050 rear derailleur and the FD-M8070 front derailleur. Not only does the SC-MT800 system information display give a visual display of the rider’s gear and battery level, but it is also the control point for operating the trim adjustment and reboot function and wirelessly adjusting the multi-shift speed and SYNCHRO SHIFT operation via computer, tablet or smart phone.
The FD-M8070 front derailleur and RD-M8050 rear derailleur retain the accurate and stable shifting developed for XTR Di2 components. Computer-controlled auto trim on the front derailleur keeps the drivetrain running smoothly. Meanwhile, at the rear, changes are seamless, even under high loads, on steep inclines or when cassettes are more mud than teeth. The derailleur motors are twice as powerful as those on Dura-Ace and Ultegra Di2 to give precise shifting in difficult conditions.
Battery performance is identical to that of its big brother, XTR Di2, giving a minimum of several hundred kilometres of power under heavy usage (eg lots of shifting over three chainrings plus control of ancillary devices). The visual LED display indicates battery charge and the LED screen shuts off after a few seconds of inactivity to save battery life. If you do find yourself running low, charging the battery takes around 90 minutes and internal batteries work on a simple plug and play operation so can be easily swapped.
Durability is also in line with XTR Di2 components. A sealed, waterproof system means DEORE XT Di2’s electronic signals will stand up to mud, water and dirt from the worst of winter. Plus, with no worrying about cross-chaining, cable stretch, or cable adjustments, your gear changes will be incredibly consistent.
Today, the Norco Optic can finally emerge from the misty forest of North Vancouver and come out in the world! Norco have been working on this bike for a long time, and once you start to learn some of the detail behind this bike’s development, you’ll begin to understand why it has been such a process.
While on the surface the Norco Optic might look like it’s simply an extension of existing Norco designs (it’s easy to just see it as the little brother of the Sight), in actual fact the Optic represents a pretty serious progression in trail bike geometry and it pushes the envelope in terms of how wheel size should impact on a bike’s handling.
But before we delve into all the tech, it’s also important to note that this bike really fills an important gap in the Norco lineup. We’ve been crying out for a bike to slot into the space between the cross-country racer Revolver (reviewed here) and the all-mountain Sight series (reviewed here), and we’re happy to see that Norco have delivered and then some.
So what is it? The Optic is an aggressive short travel trail bike, available in two wheel sizes (29 and 27.5), and with both carbon and alloy framed models – the carbon frame saving around 350g over the alloy. Pricing in Australia starts at $3499 and the five-model line up tops out at $8999, so there’s a full gamut of spec and build variants on display.
In terms of performance, we can assure you it’s the real deal too. Shortly we’ll be publishing our First Bite review of the Optic C9.2, which we were fortunate to secure for testing ahead of the bike’s official launch. In the brief time we’ve had onboard the bike so far, we’re completely stoked – it’s the hard riding, grin making, effortlessly cornering trail bike we’d been yearning for Norco to build. We plan on hanging onto this bike for some time yet, and we’ll have a full review soon.
As we noted above, the Optic comes in both 29er and 27.5″ wheel sizes, and that’s the case across the entire range. At every price point you have the option of choosing the wheel size you prefer. With the difference in wheel size you’ll also see a slight difference in travel – the 29er is 120mm front / 110mm rear, the 27.5″ get 10mm more at both ends. The 29er is available in four sizes (S/M/L/XL) while the 27.5 gets an XS in addition too.
So, we hear you say, what’s so progressive about that? It’s true – lots of brands offer a choice in wheel sizes across a particular line of trail bikes. Take for instance Trek, who offer a 29er and 27.5″ version of the Fuel EX. Or the Specialized Camber which too comes in both wheel sizes and also has a 10mm travel difference between them. Or the Scott Spark as well.
But where these other bikes differ from the Optic, is that with them the difference in wheel size also sees a marked change in the geometry and the bike’s handling and ride character too. On all of the bikes we’ve listed above, you’re not just choosing a wheel size preference, you’re also having to decide between very different feeling bikes that have truly divergent behaviour on the trail.
This is where the Optic is very unique; no matter what wheel size or frame size you opt for, the Optic has been designed to have exactly the same measurements, handling and ride feel as its counterpart in the other wheel size. If you take size medium 29er and a size medium 27.5 Optic, all the measurements that really dictate how a bike ‘fits’ you and the trail are the same: the rear-centre, the reach from the BB to bar, the stack heigh and the wheelbase are virtually identical (the wheelbases differ by one or two millimetres). The head angles are slightly different as well (half a degree steeper on the 29er), but that too has been a very calculated call to help ensure the bikes have the same steering feel and responsiveness.
It’s an impressive achievement, to isolate the wheel size so it becomes the determining factor when you’re making the call between 29er and 27.5″. The idea is that choosing your preferred wheel size shouldn’t mean compromising on handling or attitude. Your choice with the Optic is not a call between hugely different geometries or suspension feels or attitudes (both bikes are total trail shredders) – instead you’re simply making the call between the subtle difference of acceleration and roll-over abilities between a 29″ and 27.5″ wheel. It’s not all marketing fluff either – we’ve been riding both bikes on our home trails and there’s a lot more that unites these bikes and divides them.
In the next day or two we’ll be publishing an in-depth interview with the Optic’s designer, Owen Pemberton, where he really gets into the nitty gritty of geometry, wheel size and suspension development. If you’re a techo, you’ll love it, the man knows his stuff!
When it comes to the bike’s features, the Optic has a mix of familiar and new construction for Norco. Both the 27.5 and 29er Optic make good use of the new Boost rear hub spacing, which not only allows for a stiffer rear end but also enabled Norco to get the Optic’s rear-centre measurement so short (it’s just 425mm in a size small, and yes that’s with a 29″ wheel).
The suspension system is the proven ART design that has been so highly praised across the industry, and on the Optic the suspension rate ramps up quite noticeably, a clear indicator that the bike is designed to be ridden hard. Up front, all Optics get a FOX 34 fork too, with the Optic 29 getting a Boost version as well. We’re very happy Norco didn’t faff about with a lightweight 32 fork on this bike.
Norco have a new cable management system on the Optic as well, which allows you to run up to five cables internally and has roomy access ports to make the job of threading cables much easier. While most Optics come with a single-ring drivetrain, the frame has a unique removable front derailleur mount that attaches via the ISCG tabs. It’s an ingenious solution, meaning the frame looks super clean with the front mech removed, rather than having the usual front derailleur tab sticking out like a sore thumb.
We’ve got lots more to come on the Optic over the next few days and weeks. We’re very excited about its release and its promise on the trails so far is immense. Nice one, Norco! You guys are alright! For more on the Optic, take a look at Norco’s microsite here.
With the Cairns World Cup kicking off in less than two weeks, it’s time to grab your tickets, dust off your cowbell, buy some sun screen and snake repellant, and get pumped. We thought we’d have a chat with Glen Jacobs, Mr Cairns, and learn a few things about the World Cup that you won’t find in a brochure.
What is the largest snake spotted while building or maintaining the World Cup courses?
The biggest python we’ve ever seen up there was seven metres. We called him Snappy McToothy, but that was many years ago when we built the original course, so he is either dead or gone into hibernation to shed its skin. In recent times we’ve been fairly lucky, we’ve come across only a handful of baby medium-sized rock pythons on the downhill, averaging around four metres.
It’s good to remember, April is mating season for all rainforest snakes. So we warn everybody not to be too concerned if a large snake wraps around you, and pulls you up into the treetops – just ask someone for help while you are still on the ground or play dead.
When I was a kid I asked my grandad if the large snakes would “eat ya’ whole.” He said “Na, not at all, they spit that part out.”
How many stinging trees remain in the Smithfield area that you’re aware of?
All stinging trees have been removed from the main downhill track or spectator routes. But the cross-country course is a different story; due to the limited numbers of track marshals available, we have replanted most of the stinging trees and some large wait-a-while vines on the switchback sections, just to catch any short-cutting by riders.
Deeper in the jungle there are some large clusters of hybrid stinging trees that have somehow bred with illegal marijuana crops, and these plants really mess with anybody smoking the leaves. You usually can tell by the red eyes and swollen lips.
How long does the pain of the notorious stinging tree stay with you?
It depends where you are hit on the body with the leaf. Closer to the bone, the sharper the pain, and longer it lasts. I had one hit that lasted six years, and every time the weather got cold, it would start stinging.
Over the years we found out a few things, like if you wax the wound, it removes the nettles immediately and the pain is gone. If you urinate on the sting, the initial pain reduces dramatically too, just don’t get stung on the face. Many backpackers seem to get stung when they unknowingly use the soft looking leaf as toilet paper in the bush.
Which section of the cross country or downhill track was the most difficult to construct?
On the XCO, it was the steep multiple choice climb of Whiskers O’Flaherty, and rebuilding the drop descent of Jacob’s Ladder. On the DH it would have to be the rock garden, manipulating boulders and rocks into place was tough.
What is the size, from lip to lander, of the largest jump on the Cairns World Cup downhill track?
The largest jump is on the ridge line sitting at 25 metres, if riders take the big line. But most riders take a line that averages around 16 metres. Ronning’s Ramp near the bottom of the course, can be stretched out fairly long with enough speed too.
What does the World Cup mean to Cairns?
A lot, historically because Cairns was were the World Cup first came to the southern hemisphere in 1994 and it’s a real recognition of the role Cairns played in Australian mountain biking, but financially too. The last World Cup had an economic impact of over $3.57 million, and brought more than 300 riders from 35 countries to Cairns.
While Olympic selection is his focus, Brendan Johnston proved he still is a force in the marathon discipline taking out his second straight Elite Men’s Australian Marathon Championship at Derby, Tasmania on Sunday.
The Canberra rider had too much class at the end of the 90km race to claim back-to-back green and gold jerseys ahead of Tasman Nankervis (VIC) and Scott Bowden (TAS).
“I was super nervous coming into the race. I didn’t expect to win it once let alone twice so really happy with how I’m going with my form,” an elated Johnston said.
“Had great amount of power which I didn’t think I would have in the last lap and pretty thankful for that and really enjoyed it to the finish.”
After a early shower before the start, which would ensure a muddy day out for the riders, it would be a pack of four that would take up the challenge with local hope Bowden, Nankervis, Johnston and XCM National Series leader Andy Blair having broken away from the pack.
For Bowden, who had only recently returned from a bronze medal performance at the Oceania Championships in Queenstown, it was his maiden voyage over the long distance.
“That’s my first ever marathon on the mountain bike but it was super good fun out there and I think the muddy conditions made it much harder but it was great.”
As Blair dropped off the pack by lap three, the trio would wage a mini war heading into the final climb of the race, before three soon turned into two, Bowden succumbing.
“On the climb, we all kind of put in a few little surges but it was Tas put the hammer down on bit of a rough section on the climb and I didn’t quite have the legs and I didn’t feel to bad but thought of might have been able to bridge across but in the end they were just two strong,” the 21 year old said.
That left Bendigo’s Nankervis and the defending champ, who at one stage thought he’d be batting to make the podium.
“I was struggling and I didn’t know how to play it with these guys climbing so well,” said Johnston.
But, having conquered the course last year, and with a green and gold jersey on the line, the Trek rider found that extra push and made the break from the 20 year old Nankervis.
“After the river crossing Trekky was just too strong. It was a bloody hard race.”
Johnston conquered the distance in a time of 4:34:17 more than a minute ahead of Nankervis.
“They are really good riders and I was not expecting to ever beat them easy or at all.”
Blair would finish fourth with fellow Specialized team-mate Shaun Lewis in fifth.
A late decision to compete at the Australian Marathon Championships has paid off for Peta Mullens, with the Victorian claiming the Elite Women’s title at Derby, Tasmania.
It is the second time the Bendigo rider has taken out the XCM National title, the last back in 2012.
“I was originally going to race and after Oceanias I had a rough run and thought I probably need to have a big break into Cairns. But was feeling good in training and couple of ergo sessions and really had the itch to race.”
Mullens would finish right on four hours.
“All I had to think about was getting to the top of the climb in the last lap and last hour was great fun.”
It was an intriguing battle for the minor placing’s with Jenni King (VIC) silver and Briony Mattocks (NSW) bronze.
An overcast sky and some light drizzle greeted riders ahead of their 70km journey around the famed Blue Derby trail in Tasmania’s North-East.
For Mullens, it would be a cautious start despite coming into the course blind.
“Wasn’t sure what my tactic was today and didn’t know whether I’d sit with the girls for a lap to see what Atlas was like cause I hadn’t ridden it.”
But the confidence grew and from there, and the former Australian road champion put the hammer down on what riders described as a technical and challenging course.
“I felt good on the first climb and thought I’ll try and dishearten them and go out and hurt myself.”
While it was only a battle with the clock for the Victorian Mullens, King had to overcome an ordinary first lap where she was sitting in fifth.
“I felt terrible at the start but really lucky on the technical descent and those other girls were climbing really well. And I had to put everything in to get second today.”
Briony Mattocks, who finished second at the recent National XCM Series in Alice Springs, would produce a gut busting performance.
The Sydney rider, dropped more than a minute on the third and final lap to over-take Eliza Kwan (ACT) and Anna Beck (QLD) to snatch bronze.
“I would’ve thought top 5 for me would’ve been exceptional so third I’m beyond happy.”
It wasn’t a happy hunting ground for National XCM Series leader Imogen Smith who suffered a technical on the final lap to finish back of the pack.
YT’s rise as a brand as been meteoric, from an unknown upstart to now sponsoring some of the absolute biggest names in the sport, like Aaron Gwin and Cam Zink. But while their image and branding is fantastic and their products great (we loved our time on the Capra, read the full review here), up until now they’ve lacked a bike with real mass market appeal. With the arrival of the new Jeffsy, their quirkily named 29er trail bike, that could all be about to change.
Quite frankly, YT had us the moment we saw this video. It’s quite possibly the sickest bike launch vid we’ve ever seen – the way Aaron Gwin and Cam Zink ride a 29er trail bike will make you laugh out loud with incredulity.
The Jeffsy is a 140mm-travel 29er. Yes, a big-wheeler, which is certainly not what we would associate with YT’s gravity-inspired roots and image. YT themselves admit that when they set out to make a trail bike, they didn’t expect that they’d end up designed a 29er, but that it proved to be the right platform for creating a shorter travel bike that could still shred hard.
The Jeffsy uses the Virtual 4 Link suspension found on the Capra, which we found to have a super progressive rate that is really targeted at hard riding. Geometry-wise, the Jeffsy is exactly as you’d expect; quite slack, a low bottom bracket, 435mm stays (440mm on the large and x-large frames) and plenty of reach up front. There’s geometry adjustment via a simple Flip Chip system too. We also like the Thirstmaster 3000, a specific water bottle and cage to fit the Jeffsy frame.
There are going to be six models in the Jeffsy range, from $3799 for the base model alloy-framed Jeffsy up to the carbon Pro model at $8099.
We’re looking forward to getting a ride in on this bike in the coming weeks. The Capra was a lot of fun, but too much bike for most of our local trails, so the Jeffsy could be the right tool for the job. You can read more on YT’s site, right here.
Mountain Bike Australia is pleased to announce the Australian XCO and DHI junior team to take part at their respective 2016 World Championships.
Eight riders have been selected to represent Australia in the U19 Downhill team for the World Championships to be held in Val Di Sole, Italy in September, while six athletes were selected for the U19 Cross Country team for their World Championships in Nové Mësto, Czech Republic in late June.
JUNIOR MEN: Michael Harris, Kian Lerch-Mackinnon, Luke Pankhurst, Jack Feltham, Nick Pedlar
JUNIOR WOMEN: Sarah I’ions
JUNIOR MEN: Jackson Frew, Joshua Clark, Remy Morton, Harry Bush, Baxter Miawald, Harry Parsons, Ben Zwar
JUNIOR WOMEN: Sian A’Hern
The selection committee took into account the riders results from the recent National Championships and National Series. National Development coach Jodie Willet believes the pathways implemented by MTBA are paying dividends.
“It’s all fresh faces this year for the U19 XCO team, although half of them have come through the MTBA Under 17 development program so that makes the transition a lot smoother.”
“The DHI team includes riders who experienced international competition with the MTBA program last year and are looking to build on that in 2016. We’re all looking forward to our first camp in Cairns, in conjunction with the World Cup later this month.”
Mountain Bike Australia President Russell Baker also congratulated the 14 athletes who’ll be representing Australia in coming months.
“It is a great honour for you to be able to wear the green and gold stripes – a mark of cycling known and respected around the world. My thanks also go to all the Parents, Clubs, Coaches and Sponsors who have supported these riders throughout their development.”
“For many, this will be their first step onto the world stage at this level and irrespective of the result, the experience gained will be a huge benefit to the riders and to mountain biking in Australia into the future.” Well done on your selection and my best wishes to you as you represent Australia.
RockShox have two new rear shocks on the way for 2017, the Deluxe and Super Deluxe. But it’s not new shocks, with the Super and Super Deluxe RockShox are also taking the bold step of attempting to introduce some more standardisation into this super convoluted area of bike design.
Metric sizes for shock length/stroke:
The whole domain of rear shock is incredibly confusing. Over the years, the approaches to shock sizing and mounting have developed in a very random kind of fashion. As new bike designs and suspension configurations have been introduced, new shock sizes and mounting hardware dimensions have had to evolve too. The absence of any real kind of standardisation has meant things have frankly gotten a bit out of hand and the huge combination of shock length and stroke measurements makes interchangability a massive drama. To make things worse, shocks have continued to defined in Imperial measurement terms – furlongs, leagues and inches… stupid stuff! Imagine being a bike shop trying to stock it all, it’s enough to make you weep!
Now we see RockShox attempting to reign this sprawling beast in, restore a little bit of common sense, and hopefully benefit bike designers, retailers and riders in doing so. In short, with their new Super Deluxe and Deluxe shocks, they’re introducing a metric range of shock sizes, plus a new system of shock mounting that promises more compatibility, performance and better fitment options. While the common senses side of all this really appeals to us, RockShox make the point that it’s not just about convenience, but also performance. They feel that all the compromises made over the years have resulted in a huge accumulated loss of performance. It’s a pretty fair call, and we agree.
Take a look at the table below and you’ll quickly see the logic in this new approach. On the left are the current Imperial sizes, on the right are the new metric sizes for the Deluxe and Super Deluxe shocks (we’ll explain more about the new mounting options below too), with logical and even steps in shock length and stroke.
New mounting systems:
In addition to attempting to introduce a bit more common sense into shock sizing, RockShox are using the Deluxe and Super Deluxe to tackle the issue of shock mounting. According to RockShox there are currently 82 different ‘standard’ shock mounting hardware dimensions. 82?! Furthermore, RockShox feel that the methods currently employed for the mounting of shocks have huge performance compromises, both in terms of friction and also frame sizing. As such, RockShox are using this new shock release to unveil their proposed mounting systems.
The first is a ‘shaft end bearing mount’, which is not dissimilar to the current bushing arrangement found on most shocks, with the obvious difference being the inclusion of a cartridge bearing in the shock eyelet instead of a press-in bushing. RockShox feel that the friction present in a bushing system is of serious detriment to a shock’s performance (especially on some frames that see huge rotation at one eyelet), and that a bearing would offer a big improvement. They see this system being ideal in bikes were the rear shock is mounted horizontally (think a Pivot Mach 4, Scott Spark or Norco Revolver).
The second system proposed by RockShox is a trunnion mount, which is essentially what Trek employed on their DRCV shocks. With this arrangement, the shock mounts are located lower down on the air can of the shock, with the mounting hardware threading into the shock itself. There are some clear advantages to this mounting system, especially on bike where the shock is mounted vertically (think a Giant Trance, Norco Range, or Canyon Strive for example). The Trunnion mounting allows for a much shorter overall shock length while maintaining the same shock stroke, which means it’s possible to run lower top tube heights on smaller frames without needing to use short-stroke shocks. Smart!
Check out the below table to see the current range of shock mounting options versus those proposed by RockShox.
What about the shocks themselves?
The Deluxe and Super Deluxe shocks aren’t just vehicles for the introduction of metric sizing and new mounting standards, but they’re entirely new shocks themselves. Both shocks gain a few new technologies, some of which has been made possible by the new metric chassis.
Improved bushing overlap: Both the Deluxe and Super Deluxe have significantly more bushing overlap than the current Monarch or Monarch Plus, which should mean less friction when under load and consequently improved durability and less binding.
DebonAir specific air can: The well-received DebonAir air can is standard on both the Deluxe and Super Deluxe, which also means both shocks are compatible with RockShox simple Token air volume adjustment system.
Counter Measure negative spring: A feature initially debuted on the Vivid Air shock, the Counter Measure spring reduces the force needed to overcome any resistance from the pressure of the internal floating piston (IFP) and improve breakaway performance.
Better sealing: A larger, smoother Scraper Seal has been introduced on both shocks, which should increase service intervals by keeping crap out!
A lightweight cross country and trail riding shock, the Deluxe takes the proven damping from the current Monarch and incorporates all the new features listed above (both in terms of sizing/mounting, and the internal and sealing features listed).
The Super Deluxe:
Higher volume, and designed for more aggressive riding, the Super Deluxe is essentially the next generation of the Monarch Plus which we love so much. It too gets all the above listed features. Interestingly, the rebound adjustment dial on the new Super Deluxe is now a ring that rotates around the top of the air can, rather than the traditional small dial. It’s available in two variants, with or without externally adjustable compression.
Take a squizz at the table below for all the variants of both shock coming your way soon.
Claudio Caluori is back for the first World Cup course preview of the 2016 season.
Lourdes, France, situated in the mid-Pyrenees is the opening venue for the UCI MTB World Cup. Famed for it’s miracles and Christian pilgrimages, the riders will be needing divine intervention to survive this technical course unscathed.
With plenty of rain over the last few days the track is more of a challenge than last year, as Claudio found out…
When Fabien Barel rocked up to Crankworx Rotorua Downhill with an unrecognisable downhill bike cleverly disguised in contrasting camouflage, the rumours were confirmed – Canyon would soon release a new DH race bike, awesome.
The somewhat outdated 26″ wheeled Torque DHX with its aluminium frame and top-heavy four-bar linkage was surely next in line for a re-fresh from Canyon, but we’d not quite expected such a vastly different beast as the Sender CF.
The Sender uses a carbon front triangle with trademark Canyon styling, all sharp contours and defined shapes. It has 27.5″ wheels, noise-cancelling features, adjustable geometry and wheelbase length, a new MX linkage system that is specifically designed for use with an air shock. It’s also available in a huge range of size options.
The top-shelf Sender CF 9.0 has a claimed weight of 16.2kg, so we’re looking at a seriously light package!
Pricing is mighty sharp for Australia too:
Sender CF 7.0 AU$5,599
Sender CF 8.0 AU$6,599
Sender CF 9.0 AU$7,399
Read on for the official word from Germany below.
“To be the fastest, you have to get creative.” It was with this principle in mind that the Canyon Development Team set out to build an all-new thoroughbred downhill machine. With the performance to turn the racetrack into a blank canvas, their creation, the Sender CF, raises the bar to deliver the ultimate downhill racing platform.
From experimenting with initial prototypes back in 2014 to the final pre-production shakedown at Crankworx New Zealand, the Canyon Development Team including triple DH World Champion, Fabien Barel, left no line unridden in pursuit of creating the most advanced downhill bike ever.
The Sender CF comes stacked with a whole host of innovative performance features. Its geometry is at the forefront of the modern approach and can be adapted to terrain and riding style with Geo Tune. The Triple Phase Suspension system guarantees next-level control while enabling the rider to build momentum at crucial points on track.
A rock-solid construction means going big comes naturally, while clever noise-cancelling details across the frame ensure that the Sender CF delivers the stealthiest ride out on the hill.
Three models and a wide range of specs make up the Sender CF range. Canyon now also offers downhillers one of the broadest size ranges on the market, from S to XL, so riders of all dimensions can find the perfect fit.
The Sender CF is available to order right now exclusively at Canyon.com.