Flow’s Fresh Produce | Brand new tyres, a lightweight e-MTB, and high-tech knee pads

Hello and welcome to the latest edition of Flow’s Fresh Produce! We’ve had a busy couple of weeks, chasing the latest news on bikes, trails and everything else!

The news has been breaking faster than sets at Snapper Rocks, with AusCycling announcing its selections for this year’s World Championships in Val Di Sole, Italy, and the EWS popping the top on its 2022 calendar, complete with two stops in Tasmania. On the gear front, Santa Cruz has launched a VPP-free Blur and a Bronson with a mullet, Scott has a new Spark with an interesting internal rear shock, and Rapha has officially entered the MTB clothing arena.

Back at Flow HQ, we’ve wrapped up our review of the light-on-the-wallet-but-not-on-performance Marin Alpine Trail 7 and our long term review of the Shimano EP8 e-MTB system.

Harriet Burbidge-Smith
Look at that send! Harriet Burbidge-Smith flying high at Red Bull Formation.

Flow also caught up with BMX World Champ turned freerider Harriet Burbidge-Smith before she boarded a flight headed for Utah, to ride and dig at Red Bull Formation.

Up in Queensland, we spoke to the folks working on a major trail project near Mackay, and the group pushing to add 70km of trail to Smithfield in Cairns.

Finally in Victoria, we learned all about the new trails planned for Creswick in the Victorian Goldfields. 

So without further ado, let’s dive into some of the gear that has rolled through the door at Flow HQ.

Schwalbe Wicked Will Tyres

schwalbe wicked will tyre tire 29x2.4 super race ground
The new Wicked Will fills the gap between the Racing Ralph and the Nobby Nic. It’s too bad they spelled ‘Wil’ wrong.

The eagle-eyed amongst you may have already spotted this in the news story for the 2022 Scott Spark, but in case you missed it – the Schwalbe Wicked Will is back!

No longer a 26in downhill tyre, the new Wicked Will has been reborn as a high performance trail tyre that’s designed to straddle the growing gap between the Racing Ralph and Nobby Nic. It features a blocky tread pattern that isn’t totally unlike the Nobby Nic, though the tread is more closely-packed and the centre blocks are also shallower and more obviously ramped to help reduce rolling resistance. Bigger, reinforced edging blocks promise cornering stability, while plenty of siping on each block claim to improve the Wicked Will’s bite in mixed conditions.

The Wicked Wil is designed to be run both front and rear on speedy, lightweight trail bikes like the Scott Spark, Merida Ninety-Six 8000, and Specialized Epic EVO. However, XC riders looking for a confidence-inspiring setup could pair it with a faster-rolling Racing Ralph on the rear. Conversely, trail riders could run it on the rear with a Nobby Nic or Hans Dampf up front for drier conditions.

At the time of launch, Schwalbe will only be offering the Wicked Will in a 29×2.4in size. It will be produced in three different casing options though – Super Race (820g claimed), Super Ground (830g claimed) and Super Trail (920g).

We’ve currently got the Wicked Will Super Race tyre (that’s the one with the tanwalls) on test, which come in pretty much as claimed at 816g. We also have the Wicked Will Super Ground tyre, which is a bit heavier than claimed at 874g. Both tyres feature the ADDIX SpeedGrip compound and are due to be available in Australia later this year. We’ll be putting these to the test over the coming months to see how the performance stacks up against comparable options from the likes of Maxxis, Specialized and Bontrager.

Orbea Rise M10

orbea rise m10 e-mtb shimano ep8
Will the Orbea Rise be able to duke it out with the latest lightweight, lower power e-MTBs? Only time will tell.

It’s been a long wait since the Orbea Rise was announced, but we finally have a test bike in our hot little hands! Built around a lightweight carbon frame, a de-tuned Shimano EP8 motor and a slimline 360Wh battery, the Orbea Rise is a low-powered, lightweight e-MTB that’s designed to go toe-to-toe with the Specialized Levo SL. The super-clean frame design is perhaps the neatest of any e-MTB we’ve come across, and with the top-end M-LTD model featuring a claimed weight of just 16.2kg, it’s up there as one of the lightest too.

The model we’ve got on test is the Orbea Rise M10, which is equipped with Fox Factory Series suspension, Race Face Turbine R wheels and Shimano XT components. Confirmed weight is 18.38kg with the tyres setup tubeless. That’s not as jaw-dropping as the top-end model, but then this bike does have a proper Fox 36 GRIP2 fork, a piggyback shock (the M-LTD gets a 140mm travel Fox 34 and Float DPS shock).

There’s a 2.4in Maxxis Dissector tyre on the front, and a fast-rolling Rekon on the back with an EXO+ casing. That’s a relatively light tyre spec for an e-MTB, so Wil’s fitted a CushCore XC tyre insert into the rear wheel for some added rim and pinch-flat protection. Race Face finishes off the cockpit, and to keep it clean and as un-e-MTB as possible, you won’t find a display as standard (it’s an optional extra). Instead, there’s a small junction box attached to the dropper post cable that indicates your assist mode and battery life via coloured LEDs.

Wil’s going to be putting this one through its paces over the coming month, which will include some range testing alongside a full-powered EP8 bike to see just how much mileage the Orbea Rise can achieve with its smaller battery.

2022 RockShox Domain RC Fork

2022 rockshox domain rc fork
Big travel, big stanchions and big rotors. That’s the RockShox Domain RC in a nutshell.

Following in the footsteps of the RockShox ZEB, the new Domain aims to bring similar hard-hitting performance down to a significantly cheaper price point. It’s available with 150-180mm of travel in both 27.5in and 29in wheelsizes, making it well suited to long-travel enduro bikes and e-MTBs. It’ll fit up to a 2.8in wide tyre, features a 110x15mm bolt-up Maxle, and it’s designed for a minimum rotor size of 200mm.

Just like the ZEB, the RockShox Domain also gets 38mm diameter stanchions, though they’re made from thicker and cheaper 6000-series alloy. It also skips the pricier Charger damper in favour of a simpler Motion Control RC damper, which still offers externally adjustable rebound and compression damping. Along with cheaper bushings and changes to the finish on the crown, the RockShox Domain RC manages to come in under $1,000 AUD, making it a more reasonable upgrade for current Yari owners.

Fizik Gravita Tensor Flat Pedal Shoes

The Fizik Gravita Tensor is a brand new high-performance flat pedal shoe from the Italian company, and it comes packed to the hilt with a load of promising features. Whereas many flat pedal shoes tend to be quite bulky and heavy, the Gravita Tensor employs a thinner and more minimalist upper that’s made from rip-stop fabric. Claimed weight is just 310g per shoe (size 43).

There’s ankle protection from a padded and raised inner cuff, along with generous TPU armouring around the toe box. Offset laces promise better adaptability to the rider’s feet while pedalling, while a large Velcro ‘Powerstrap’ wraps around the midfoot for a more secure hold. For the outsole, Fizik has employed Vibram’s Megagrip rubber compound in a classic dot-profile tread pattern to lock in to your flat pedal pins.

Fox Launch D3O Knee Guards

fox launch d3o d30 knee pads guards
Fox’s new D30 pads utilize the non-newtonian D3O padding to allow plenty of protection without sacrificing range of motion or comfort.

Utilising flexible D3O padding and a slip-on design, the Fox Launch D3O is a pedal-friendly knee pad made for trail riders and enduro racers. The pre-curved D3O insert is designed to articulate around your knees as you move on and off the bike, while the perforated neoprene fabric aims to keep the cool air coming on hot days. They’re available in Small, Medium and Large sizes, with dual Velcro straps allowing you to fine-tune the fit. So far we’re finding them super comfortable, and the level of coverage on offer is great for pads that don’t make you feel like Darth Vader.

Fox Launch D3O Elbow Guards

Sharing the same tech as the knee pads, the Fox Launch D3O elbow pads shrink the size down a touch to help protect your forearms and elbows in the event of a crash. The D3O insert provides a heap of coverage, though additional padding is placed on either side for further protection. Also available in three sizes, the Launch D3O elbow pads are designed to offer a snug fit with two Velcro straps helping to secure them in place.

Specialized Butcher T9 Tyres

Fresh rubber has arrived from Specialized in the form of the new Butcher T9. These feature a new super-gooey compound that Specialized calls T9, and they’re ideally suited for front wheel use on aggro big travel bikes such as the Stumpjumper EVO and Kenevo SL. We’ve got them in a 29×2.3in size in two different casing options – the GRID Trail (975g claimed), and the GRID Gravity (1,290g claimed). They can also be had in a bigger 29×2.6in size, and 27.5in diameters too. Having ridden them on a couple of test bikes paired to either a Butcher T7 or Eliminator T7 on the rear, we’ve been really impressed with how well-damped and dependable they are in the loose and rocky conditions that characterise our local test trails.

Specialized 2FO DH Flat Pedal Shoes

More flat pedal shoes, this time from Specialized. It’s the new 2FO DH, which is designed to be a tougher and more durable option over the existing 2FO Roost. In direct comparison, the 2FO DH gets a stiffer sole and a more robust leather upper that offers a higher level of impact protection. It does mean they’re heavier, with a claimed weight of 396g per shoe.

For maximum grippage, Specialized has cooked up a new SlipNot ST rubber outsole with off-kilter hexagonal tread lugs. Given the brilliant traction on the 2FO Roost shoes, we have high expectations here too.

You’ll find a simple lace-up design, along with XPEL hydrophobic mesh on the inside that claims to reduce water absorption so that they dry out faster. And as with every Specialized shoe, the 2FO DH features a Body Geometry profile with the longitudinal arch, metatarsal button and varus wedge promising better foot alignment, and less chance of knee pain/injury.

Garmin Rally XC200

Garmin has finally adapted its pedal-based power meter for off-road use.

Garmin’s first pedal-based power meter was released back in 2013. These were strictly for roadies and required little pods that sat in between the pedal body and the crank to detect cadence and force. Subsequent models of the Vectors ditched the pods, instead packing all of the electronics into the spindle, but were still only available with a Look-style pedal body.

Earlier this year, the Vectors became Rallys, and with the change in name came the ability to swap in pedal bodies that play nice with Shimano SPD SL road cleats and Shimano SPD MTB cleats. The Rally XC body itself looks a bit like a bloated set of Shimano XT pedals, but there is quite a lot happening when we dig beneath the surface.

Claimed to be accurate within +/- 1%, the pedals not only read overall power but can also spit out left-right balance, power phase, seated vs standing, platform centre offset and more. Running on LR44 coin cell batteries, Garmin says they will last 120-hours of ride time.

Colin will be putting these pedals through their motions over the next few months, running them in tandem with a Stages power meter to test not only out of the box accuracy but also how they read after a few rock strikes. So stay tuned, power nerds; there is more to come. 

Bluegrass Rogue Core MIPS

The Rogue Core MIPS is the latest open-face trail lid from Bluegrass.

Perched atop Bluegrass’ range of open face helmets is the Rogue Core MIPS, a snazzy looking feature-packed trail lid. Weighing 355g (size M, actual), the Rogue Core MIPS has 19 vents, including two at the front, which drys the brow pad with ample airflow and combats foggy goggles and sunglasses.

Inside the shell, you’ll find a MIPS-C2 liner that allows 10-15mm of movement, which works in tandem with a visor that’s designed to flex and deform in a crash to dissipate rotational forces and protect your neck.

Speaking of the visor, it has two positions allowing plenty of room to stow a pair of goggles and features a surprisingly secure sunglasses port — though, with your shades stowed here, they are in the direct firing line of branches and other lens-scratching flora.

The straps are made from light gauge webbing, which lay comfortably flat on your face and are joined together using a nifty Fidlock Magnetic buckle. With three sizes, the Rogue Core MIPS covers noggins from 52cm to 61cm and costs $250. If this price tag feels a little steep, there is also a MIPS-free Rogue priced at $180.

Velocio Ultralight Hooded Jacket

It’s the time of year when a lightweight, packable jacket comes in handy. We’ve only used this number from Velocio a few times, but it’s impressed us so far.

New England based Velocio was founded by former Aussie pro road cyclist Kristy Scrymgeour in 2014, and from the outset, only made women’s kit. Since then, the brand expanded to offer a full range of men’s lycra, and as of about a year ago, branched into trail kit. 

With the current cold snap we are experiencing on the east coast of Australia, the Ultralight Hooded Jacket has arrived at the perfect time. Made from 50gsm Pertex Quantum Air Fabric, the lightweight jacket is windproof and water-resistant but still breathes, so it doesn’t feel like you’re wearing a lukewarm sauna once you begin to sweat. The hood is helmet-compatible, though we’d prefer it to be a tad larger, so the cuff isn’t pulled right into your chin. 

The fabric has oodles of stretch built-in, so it doesn’t pinch or bind as you move on the bike or perform trailhead yoga, and it packs down small enough to fit inside the chest pocket. With its weight and packability, this jacket does well to defang chilly morning air but will also serve as an ideal emergency layer to stuff in your bag or pocket when the weather is borderline. The Ultralight Trail Jacket is available in sizes from XS to XXXL.

Velocio Trail Merino Long Sleeve

Velocio has also sent out its new Trail Merino Long Sleeve jersey. Made from an ultra fine merino/nylon blend, it’s soft but not itchy and does well to regulate temperature on brisk morning or evening rides. The areas where you’re likely to wear holes on the forearms and shoulder are made from abrasion-resistant material; it looks a bit dorky, but it’s functional. 

The cut is on the slimmer side, though the fabric stretches in every direction, and the inset sleeve and collar create an articulated fit based on your body position on the bike. Quality of materials and fit aside, we’re also big fans of the almost logo-free aesthetic. Velocio offers this merino trail jersey in ‘rust’ and black and sizes from XS to XXXL.

Rapha Performance Trail Wear MTB Kit

rapha trail kit mick jersey shorts
Our Fearless Leader, the Marvellous Mick Ross, making Rapha’s new MTB kit look oh so casual.

UK premium apparel brand, Rapha, has just announced its leap into the world of mountain biking with a comprehensive lineup that includes baggy shorts, jerseys, jackets, bib liners, sunnies and even a bum bag. As expected the quality is very much up to Rapha’s typical standard, and pricing isn’t as outrageous as we were expecting. Mick and Colin have been digging the fresh threads so far – for a closer, look check out our news story on the new Rapha Performance Trail Wear MTB kit.

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