Flow’s Fresh Produce | Sticky shoes, a limited edition frame & wireless shifting

A’hoy to all you Frisky Frothers out there, and welcome to this shiny new edition of Flow’s Fresh Produce! We bring this big booty of shwag to you following a trip to the mighty Victorian High Country, where we put the the brand new Specialized Levo to the test on the rugged backcountry trails around Mt Buller. It’s been a while since we were last up at Buller, but we can happily report that the trails are in bloody good nick, with a near endless supply of delicious loam and crunchy granite to help sate your alpine appetite. Not seen the video on our Buller Bonanza yet? Do yourself a favour and check it out here.

For those whose feet are now feeling particularly itchy, we’ve got a load of juicy travel features to get you inspired for your next mountain biking holiday. St Helens in Tasmania has been generating a load of buzz since its official opening, so we sent Christa & Andy to check out all the new trails, along with all the other activities you can do outside of riding. Don’t miss Part One and Part Two of this brilliant travel feature on St Helens!

While your finger is hovering over Tasmania on the spinning globe, you’ll also want to check out our story on Maydena’s softer side, which takes a look at the newer family-friendly trails on offer. And if a family trip is on the agenda, Derby is of course one of the most popular destinations going. Here’s why.

Looking for something a little different? We’ve also published a huuuge travel feature about all the different ways to mountain bike in Alice Springs. With colder months on the horizon for many of us coastal folk, migrating inland to the warmth of the Northern Territory sounds like a damn good idea to us!

Speaking of mountain bike trips, you might want to mark October 1-4 in your calendar because Sea Otter is coming to Canberra. As one of the world’s biggest cycling expos, this is the first time Sea Otter will be held in Australia, and we are very excited to see just how big it’ll be.

Back at Flow HQ, we’ve had an absolute time testing a heap of new bikes lately, including the brand spanking Pivot Trail 429 – quite an incredible bike that one. We’ve also wrapped up our long-term review of the burly Trek Rail, and we recently took delivery of a Marin Alpine Trail 7 – an enduro bike that offers a frankly staggering package for the money. Oh and for those who prefer their bikes not to have a rear shock, make sure you get stuck into our review of the Canyon Stoic and our long-term test of the Cotic BFeMAX. Hardtails FTW!

Right, so that just about covers it. Lot’s happening eh? Trust us though when we say we’re just getting warmed up though – there’s a whole lot more coming your way. For best results, we recommend grabbing yourself a brew, plonking yourself down somewhere comfortable, and ignoring all work duties. Ready to roll? Right on – let’s hook in to Flow’s Fresh Produce!

Troy Lee Designs A3 MIPS Helmet

troy lee designs a3 mips helmet
Mick’s been loving the lush comfort and deep coverage of the new A3 helmet from Troy Lee Designs.

The A3 is the latest iteration of Troy Lee Designs’ premium trail helmet, and as expected, it comes packed to the hilt with loads of slick details.

Having earned Virginia Tech’s highest possible safety score (a 5-star rating), the new A3 aims to provide maximum coverage in an open-face design, with the shell dropping further down further behind the ears compared to the current A2. The three-piece shell is layered over a thick dual-density EPP/EPS foam core, while the inside of the helmet features an integrated MIPS liner and a sweat guard that sits over your brow to keep sweat away from your eyes and riding glasses. Spares are included in the box, though if you’re not into it, the foam bar can also be removed entirely.

TLD has harnessed the sorcery of magnets for the Fidlock buckle and the three-position visor, while a more conventional adjustment dial at the rear of the helmet helps to cinch down the harness. The padding offers a soft and luxurious feel, and you get two different thickness pad sets for dialling in the fit. Speaking of, there are three sizes covering noggins from 53-63cm, and a tonne of colour options. All those features don’t come cheap of course, though it’s worth noting that TLD will continue to offer the A1 and A2 helmets at cheaper price points.

Ride Concepts Hellion Elite Shoes

ride concepts hellion elite flat pedal shoes
Adding a stickier rubber outsole to the Hellion has resulted in a superb all-round trail shoe from Ride Concepts.

The Hellion Elite is a brand new flat pedal shoe from Ride Concepts, which takes the existing Hellion platform and adds the super-sticky DST 4.0 rubber compound to the outer sole. The result is a high-traction flat pedal shoe with a less racy and lower-cut profile than the bulkier Powerlines we reviewed last year. The fit is slightly slimmer on the Hellion Elites and they feel lighter and less doughy overall, with a more direct connection to the pedal body. There’s still plenty of damping via the EVA midsole and the D3O inserts in the footbeds though, so they’re plenty comfortable on longer and rougher descents, with a little more cushioning compared to the Specialized 2FO Roost shoes.

In Australia you can get a Black/Charcoal colour or the Tan/Black colour on show here, and they’re available in sizes from US 7 (EU 39.5) up to US 13 (EU 47). We’ve found the mid-volume fit to run true to size, though they have opened up a bit as the internal padding has compressed and bedded in after the first dozen rides. With that in mind, next time we’d go for a size 44 rather than the 44.5.

So far the overall fit and finish of the Hellion Elite shoes has impressed. There isn’t a tonne of ventilation on offer, but the synthetic upper appears tough and well made, and the gusseted tongue helps to keep debris from working its way into the shoe. The lace-up design offers excellent adjustability and durability, and paired to OneUp flat pedals, we’ve not been left wanting for any more traction.

Specialized Levo Pro

2021 specialized levo pro
There’s a new Levo in town, and after putting it to the test up at Mt Buller, we reckon this is the best performing e-MTB we’ve ever tested. It’s that good.

Specialized has just rolled out its 3rd generation Levo, and what a bike this is! We’ve been spending some quality time testing the Levo Pro, which comes with lots of carbon things, along with a Fox Factory 38 fork, Float X2 shock, and Transfer dropper post. While the frame does look pretty similar to the previous Levo, it’s entirely new from its 2.6in tyres-up. In fact, there are so many changes that we’re not going to bother trying to list them all here – check out our mega review of the new Levo instead.

The bike has since left Buller with Mick, and will spend some time razzing around his home trails around Newcastle and the Hunter Valley. We’re keen to dive deeper into this bike’s adjustability – not just with its geometry and suspension, but also with the MasterMind TCU. Stay tuned to hear more about Mick’s experience of living long-term with the Levo.

STFU Drivetrain Damping Module

Have a burning disdain for chain slap? Looking to stealthify your mountain bike’s drivetrain? Whistler-based STFU claims to have a solution with its ‘Drivetrain Damping Module’. Co-developed with a chap called Chris Kovarik, who seems relatively adept at riding bicycles, the STFU system comprises of two ‘modules’ that are built from a hard plastic core with rubber-lined guides. These modules are secured with cable ties onto your frame’s chainstay, while the chain passes right through them. When aligned into the correct position, the chain doesn’t contact the guides at all while running through the gears in the workstand. When riding over really rough terrain however, the modules are designed to manage the whiplash from your chain, reducing contact and damping down noise.

Does it work? We’ve just fitted an STFU kit to our Cotic BFeMAX test bike to find out. Fitment is relatively straightforward, though we expect some trial and error will be required for less conventional frame designs and bikes with heavily textured chainstay protectors. As well as the XC/Enduro kit that we have here, STFU offers specific kits for downhill bikes too.

If You Give A Girl A Bike – Book

With the addition of one of our newest team members, Mick got his hands on this brilliant children’s book written by Hayley Diep. For those of you with budding young riders in the house, here’s an excerpt;

If you give a girl a bike, she will ride and ride and ride. She may also ask for a skateboard, climbing shoes, and a surfboard! Follow these adventurous girls as they learn new sports. They may fall every now and then, but they aren’t afraid of a few scrapes or bruises!

Misspent Summers Meltdown 2020 – Book

Mick’s clearly been in a book-buying mood, and given his past collection of Hurly Burly magazines, he decided to pick up the latest creation from the talented crew behind Misspent Summers. This is a seriously high quality piece of print – a properly good addition for the coffee table. For those who are interested, here’s the synopsis;

With fewer downhill World Cup and Enduro World Series races than usual in 2020, we decided to roll our downhill and enduro yearbooks (Hurly Burly and The World Stage) into one while adding a load more stuff from across the mountain bike world. Meltdown includes photography and writing from the 2020 downhill and cross-country World Cup and Championships, Enduro World Series and select other events. Plus, numerous comment pieces from a total cross-section of mountain biking by people involved in just about every aspect of the sport.

SRAM GX AXS Upgrade Kit

SRAM has just unveiled its newest mountain bike groupset in the form of GX AXS, and after testing it over the past month, we can confirm it is bloody impressive. It’s a little heavier than its pricier X01/XX1 AXS siblings, but it is vastly cheaper, and it turns out that much of the shifter and derailleur construction is identical between all three. For all the juicy details, upgrade options and confirmed weights, check out our SRAM GX AXS review here.

SRAM Level Ultimate Rainbow Brakes

We’ve been impressed by SRAM’s premium XC race brakes, which still manage to come in at less than 250g per end while offering noticeably more power than their predecessor. Along with the MatchMaker compatibility, pleasant carbon lever blades and silky smooth sealed bearing pivots, the ergonomics are top-notch too.

So what’s different here? Well, err, nothing actually. The Level Ultimate itself is unchanged, but SRAM does offer it in this alternative ‘Rainbow Hardware’ option, which features a colourful oil-slick finish for all the main mounting bolts, pivot bolts, and even the pad retaining bolt and spring. You can still get the regular non-coloured Level Ultimate brake, and the pricing is the same, but we’ve got this jazzy Rainbow setup for a rather special custom build. We’ll be revealing the whole bike soon, though in the meantime you can read our detailed SRAM Level Ultimate brake review here.

ODI F-1 Float Grips

Fresh grips for a fresh build. This is the lightweight F-1 Float grip from ODI, which Wil decided to try out after getting along well with the F-1 Vapours. In comparison, the F-1 Float uses a much simpler full-tube profile with no dimpling, and they feel notably smoother on the hand. The F-1 Float grips are still made from ODI’s own A.I.R.E compound, which claims to improve comfort with a slower rebound characteristic. They have a 31.5mm diameter, and you can get them in Black, Blue, Red or Green.

AMS XL Frame Protection Kit

Is there anything worse than putting a nasty scratch on your brand new bike on the very first ride? No, no there is not. To avoid such horror, Barcelona-based brand, All Mountain Style (AMS) has a range of frame protection sticker kits for shielding your bike’s lovely paint job from rock chips, scratches and cable wear. Shown here is the XL Frame Guard kit, which features ten large panels that are made from impact-resistant PVC. The stickers are sufficiently flexible for wrapping around curvy downtubes and slender seatstays, while automotive-grade adhesive is designed to create a strong bond between the guard and the frame.

The XL Frame Guard kit comprises of a large panel for underneath the downtube – a particularly vulnerable area on any mountain bike – along with arrow-shaped panels to line the underside of the BB shell, and several rectangular strips for protecting the chain and/or seatstays. AMS also makes an XXL kit that comes with additional panels, as well as specific kits for fork legs, crank arms, and chainstays.

Specialized Chisel LTD Frameset

specialized chisel ltd frame
It’s the Specialized Chisel, but not quite as you know it.

Last, but certainly not least, we have a gorgeous new frame from Specialized. Unlike the Levo above however, this bike doesn’t have a motor or a rear shock, nor is it made from carbon.

It’s the Chisel – Specialized’s latest XC hardtail that claims to be one of the lightest alloy hardtail frames on the market. There is only one complete Chisel on offer in Australia, the Chisel Comp, which sells for $2,700 AUD. Wil had been considering buying one for himself, but after hearing whispers from California about a limited edition frame option, he decided to hold out a little longer. And we’re glad he did!

Offered in four limited-edition designs, including Earth, Fire and Water, the Chisel LTD frameset shown here is the Air option. It features a luminous wash that, according to Specialized’s designers, represents “the fog rolling over the hills off the Pacific colliding with Silicon Valley. Just as the fog envelopes you in the natural world, the digital world can also envelope you in its technicolor infinity, which is represented in the colourful and glitch-filled logos.” Mmm, arty.

As for the frame itself, it’s identical to the off-the-shelf option. It’s made from Specialized’s M5 alloy, with near-seamless welds courtesy of the D’Aluisio Smartweld technology. You get a 68° head angle, 74° seat angle and a 63mm BB drop. There’s a Boost 148x12mm thru-axle on the rear, 160mm post-mount brake tabs and a threaded bottom bracket shell. Confirmed weight for the standalone frame in size Medium is 1,500g on the nose. That’s more than claimed, though that figure does include the derailleur hanger, seat clamp and headset cups.

We’re waiting on a couple more parts to finish off this build, and once Wil’s had some ride time on it, expect a more detailed look to come in the near future. In the meantime, check out all the details on the new Specialized Chisel here.

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