As one of our lovely followers on Facebook let us know, we are past the winter solstice, which means longer days and warmer weather are moving ever closer — woohoo! Welcome to a brand-spankin’ new edition of Flow’s Fresh Produce.
With spring just over the horizon, there has been a steady stream of new bikes and news of new trails, and we even dusted off our bike bags for the first Flow Nation, must-ride destination trip in over a year!
In the last month, both Cannondale and Norco lifted the veil on new high pivot big travel brawlers. Is 2021-2022 the era of the high pivot enduro bike? It sure seems like it.
We also learned Bec and Dan McConnell are headed to the Olympics yet again, and our friends over at Krush have announced a grassroots scholarship so the next generation of mountain bikers can follow in their footsteps.
If the depths of winter have left you in search of a bit of fitness, our friend Mathias Witt from Orbis Coaching has put together a strength training routine that will help you get back on track.
After many kilometres aboard the Orbea Rise, we’ve wrapped up an in-depth review of this lightweight, low powered e-MTB. Speaking of e-MTB’s, we also caught up with e-Bike National Champ Josh Carlson about the problem with e-Bike racing and how he plans to fix it.
We also brought you news of what’s happening with a new mountain bike destination in Mogo, and a developing trail network in Canberra that is the result of a unique trail building partnership.
And last but certainly not least, we have pressed play on a feature about our Rock’n and Ride’n trip to Rockhampton. Two trail networks, giant steaks, a bike museum, kooky locals, fishing, and the zoo; it was a trip for the ages!
Now that we’ve covered all of that, sit back, relax, maybe grab yourself a drink and keep on scrolling for Flow’s Fresh Produce.
Bontrager RSL MTB Handlebar/Stem
Bontrager has just released a new one-piece handlebar and stem under the RSL label, and golly gosh does this thing look sharp! Made from OCLV carbon fibre with a boxy stem and titanium hardware, the RSL handlebar is available in both 750mm and 820mm widths.
Why the one-piece construction? By using longer fibres throughout the entire structure, it’s possible to increase overall strength and stiffness. You also don’t need to overbuild the centre of the bar to deal with the clamping forces of a traditional stem, and that helps to reduce weight. Our 750mm wide test bar, with a 70mm virtual stem length, comes in at 239g. That’s considerably lighter than most traditional setups, though it isn’t quite as light as the 226g Syncros Fraser iC SL cockpit.
However, the RSL bar is 10mm wider and it uses an alloy insert to help distribute clamping forces around the steerer tube. Featuring a more conventional T-bar profile and compatibility with both regular and Knock Block headsets, you’ll also find an integrated Blendr mount on the front for fitting a GPS, light or GoPro.
We expect to see the RSL handlebar appear on high-end Trek Supercaliber, Top Fuel and Slash models for 2022, though it is also available to purchase separately for just shy of $600 AUD. That’s a whole lot of moolah, though it is a similar price to an ENVE M5 bar & M6 stem combo. Is the reduced bar-roll adjustability worth it for the purported stiffness increase and 50-100g weight saving? Perhaps only for those chasing the most marginal of gains and those who love the futuristic aesthetics.
- Price: $599 AUD
- From: Trek Bikes
Pearl Izumi Monsoon WXB Waterproof Jacket
Impeccable timing Pearl Izumi! With winter biting hard down in Flow’s Victorian HQ, this uber-bright Monsoon WXB jacket could not have arrived at a more opportune occasion. This colour is appropriately named ‘Screaming Yellow’, which we we have been informed is actually visible from beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. It may also negate any need for lights on our weekly night rides. For shy types, the same jacket is available in non-retina burning colours such as Navy and Black.
Designed as a durable waterproof outer shell to help you brace the most foul of conditions, the Monsoon WXB is built from 2-layer fabric with a breathable membrane, taped seams and waterproof zippers. The fit is relaxed and it features a dropped tail, adjustable cuffs, a helmet-compatible hood, and pit zips for added ventilation. Winter who?
- Price: $260 AUD
- From: Pearl Izumi
Pearl Izumi Canyon Shorts, Merino Base & Summit LS Top
The Pearl Izumi Canyon shorts feature a slim fit for XC and gravel riding, along with a casual style that’s designed to blend in around town for post-ride burgers and beers. There are two zippered pockets for valuables, internal waist adjustment, and they’re supplied with a padded liner short.
Up top we’ve got the new Summit long-sleeve top, which is almost entirely made from recycled polyester. It also comes from the factory wrapped up in recycled packaging – nice! Lurking underneath is Pearl Izumi’s Merino Base – a snug-fitting base layer that combines recycled polyester with Merino wool to enhance both insulation and sweat evaporation.
- Price: $160 AUD (Canyon Shorts) – $140 AUD (Merino Base) – $120 AUD (Summit LS Top)
- From: Pearl Izumi
Pearl Izumi Expedition Short
The Pearl Izumi Expedition comes in both bib-style and short varieties. Shown here is the Expedition Short, which has a large pocket on each thigh for stuffing full of snacks, your phone, keys, or even drugs. We’re still yet to test all possible combinations.
The soft waistband feels really comfortable with minimal belly-pinching, and makes mid-ride toilet breaks less of an awkward juggling act compared to bibs. Inside you’ll find the premium Elite Escape chamois, as well as silicone detailing for the cuffs to keep them snug.
- Price: $180 AUD
- From: Pearl Izumi
Fox 34 Float GRIP2 Factory Fork
Following the arrival of the new 36 and 38 last year, Fox has turned its attention towards the 34 series. Receiving a ground-up redesign to reduce weight and improve performance, the new 34 Float is available with 130mm or 140mm travel. Purpose-built for aggro trail bikes, the 34 features the EVOL air spring and will be offered with FIT4, GRIP, and GRIP2 damper options.
Our test fork has the GRIP2 damper with adjustable high and low speed compression and rebound damping. So many knobs to twiddle! It’s also the Factory Series model, complete with Kashima Coat stanchions and the distinctive orange lowers. Mick has just fitted this one to his Santa Cruz Tallboy in place of a RockShox Pike Ultimate. How do the two compare? Be sure to check out our first look at the 2022 Fox 34 Float.
- Price: $1,689 AUD
- From: Fox Racing Shox
Specialized Trail Wind Jacket
Another new jacket, though this one isn’t designed to be waterproof. It’s the Specialized Trail Wind Jacket, and it’s made from a much lighter and softer fabric that feels lovely even on bare skin. There’s a bit of spandex in there to give it a slightly stretchy feel, and the half-zip design results in less bunching around the tummy. Best of all? It packs up really small into its own pocket, which you can easily fit into a pocket or backpack. Or if you’re operating within the wider Specialized ecosystem, within the SWAT box of your bike frame.
- Price: $220 AUD
- From: Specialized
Hornit Airo Balance Bike
In a Flow first, Mick has just taken delivery of a balance bike, the Hornit Airo.
Claimed to tip the scales at 2.95kg, the frame is made from lightweight magnesium alloy and sees footrests neatly integrated into the stays for max freewheeling speed. Many balance bikes roll on plastic mag-style wheels and foam tyres, Hornit spec’d the Airo with pneumatic rubber tyres mounted to spoked aluminium rims — they even spin on sealed bearings.
Neoprene padding on the stem adds a bit of safety when your little one takes a digger, and a long adjustable seat post allows the Airo to fit kids from about 18-months to 5-years old. Mick picked this balance bike for his little one because of its weight, thoughtful design features and build quality, now he just needs to wait a few months until his daughter gets big enough to ride it.
- Price: $249 AUD
- From: Hornit
The weather at our Queensland HQ has been overwhelmingly wet, and the arrival of some indoor training bits from JetBlack was a welcome sight for restless legs. The Volt is the Aussie outfit’s answer to the modern smart trainer, and it’s based around an electromagnetic resistance unit, capable of generating a leg-breaking 1800W to an accuracy of +/-2.5-per cent, and simulating a 16-per cent grade. It speaks both Bluetooth and ANT+ and plays nice with training apps like Zwift, Trainer Road, and The Sufferfest.
A nifty feature that JetBlack has added to the Volt is what it calls the Bluetooth HR Bridge. Essentially, you can pair a Bluetooth HR strap to the trainer, and it will transmit that data along with your power, speed and cadence to your training app of choice. Say, for example, you’re riding Zwift using an Apple TV that only supports three simultaneous Bluetooth connections; HR Bridge transmits all your riding data, and only occupies a single slot, leaving space to pair with headphones, remotes or an accessory like the Elite Sterzo.
Out of the box, some assembly is required, and the Volt comes with end caps for 130/135mm quick releases and 142/148mm thru-axles; Colin has mounted up his Norco Optic, a Trek Top Fuel and a road bike too. The trainer comes with an 11-28t, 11-speed cassette installed, and a Shimano HG cassette body. If you’re running 12-speed, SRAM XD drivers are available for purchase, or you can go for an HG compatible 12-speed cassette like the SunRace MZ90 or the SRAM NX Eagle PG1230 11-50t seen here.
So far, we’ve only ridden the Volt half a dozen times, split between Zwift and TrainerRoad, so we’re still getting to know the smart trainer. The Volt is virtually silent and even suffering through an 800-watt interval, your gear shifts make more noise than the trainer. The overall ride feel varies from brand to brand, and in our experience, Tacx trainers seem to feel a bit more ‘draggy’ like you’re pedalling on dirt or grass, whereas Wahoo and Elite trainers are a bit ‘smoother,’ more akin to riding on the tarmac; the Volt feels somewhere in the middle.
We can’t speak to the accuracy just yet as we haven’t done a complete torture test, but both free riding around Wattopia and doing intervals, the transitions in resistance are smooth and responsive — what you feel at the pedals matches what you see on the screen. In a few low cadence, high watt situations, we did experience a bit of surging. This could result from either belt slip, or it can mean the trainer needs to be calibrated with a spindown — more investigation is required here. We will be putting the Volt through its paces for a full review, and among other things seeking to work out if we can replicate this surging to figure out if this is the hardware itself or user error.
- Price: $1200 AUD
- From: JetBlack
JetBlack Rocker Plate
There are literally hundreds of DIY rocker plate designs online and before timber prices went through the roof, they offered an economic proposition to add some dynamic comfort to riding inside — provided you had the carpentry skills to get the job done. Now that plywood is as valuable as gold that has been dipped in oil, the commercially made versions are a bit more viable.
Tipping from side to side, a rocker plate allows some movement as you pedal and forces you to engage your core. This small amount of motion relieves pressure on the saddle and makes it glaringly obvious when you’re pedalling squares.
The JetBlack Rocker uses cylindrical anti-vibration mounts running up the centre to provide the pivot point, and two inflatable balls to tailor how much it can move. The trainer is mounted to the top plate using velcro straps, and there are plenty of mounting options for various trainer footprints. JetBlack even includes a spirit level to help you make sure you’re pedalling on an even keel.
With half a dozen rides totalling about six hours on the JetBlack Rocker plate, it dramatically changed the indoor riding experience. Typically with a trainer on the floor, things downstairs start to go numb right at about 45-min and require a bit of time out of the saddle to get things circulating again; and after about an hour sitting planted on the saddle, we start to get a bit squirmy. So far, the rocker has delayed the onset of both of these problems. But, again, six rides of about an hour each is a bit early for sweeping declarations, so watch this space.
The Rocker Plate is available on its own, or as part of a bundle, including the trainer, turning riser block, a mat, TV stand or training table.
- Price: Rocker Plate $599 AUD
- Riser Block $69 AUD
- Trainer Mat $99 AUD
- TV stand $149 AUD
- From: JetBlack