G’day or Dobry den as they say in the Czech Republic, where the XC World Cup stopped in over the weekend, in Nove Mesto for its second stop. How great is it to have racing back on for the season? So far, Mick’s predictions aren’t as sharp as Colin’s, falling just behind in the PinkBike XC Fantasy League. Great to see Bec McConnell doing so well, though we much prefer Loana Lecomte’s winning interview to Tom Pidcock, two very different personalities indeed.
It has been seemly all-electric everything here at Flow, with the launch of the Specialized Kenevo SL and the Polygon MT Bromo dropping in the last few weeks, as well as Shimano’s new Linkglide drivetrain. We also put together our thoughts on the Canyon Spectral:ON, one of the greatest handling e-MTB’s we’ve ridden yet.
If batteries and electronics aren’t your thing, not to worry, dear reader, we’ve also spent plenty of time on the brand new naturally aspirated Merida Nine-Six 8000 and RC 9000, and took a closer look at the upgraded but also cheaper Zipp 3Zero Moto wheels.
With winter beginning to creep into the air, if you’re in search of somewhere warmer to ride, the new trail network at Nitmiluk National Park in the Northern Territory might just be the ticket. The rocky plateau above the river system there is in a trail that drops down into the breathtaking Katherine Gorge!
The Warburton Mountain Bike Destination team gave us an update on their progress through the Environmental Effects Study that must be completed before trail construction can begin.
Still in Victoria, the small farming community of Omeo is getting a new trail network; it’s going to big, and everyone is excited.
We also saw highlights from two brand new and very different events, the Highline Mountain Bike Festival in Mansfield and Dragon Trail Stage Race in East Coast Tasmania.
Flow also caught up with gravity superstar Jack Moir for a healthy heaping of surf and turf and did some boat racing and adventuring with XC and Marathoner Tasman Nankervis.
In Flow news, our dynamic duo has become the three musketeers, with Colin Levitch joining the team as the News and Content Editor. If you’ve been a dedicated Flow-er for some time, you will already be well acquainted with some of his fine work, digging into the curious Case of the Warburton Trail Project, the story behind Bare Creek Bike Park, and What’s up with the Wangetti Trail.
We are honoured to have Colin on board and welcome him to the Flow team.
So, let’s check out some of the swag that has found its way to us recently.
Roval Control Carbon 6B XD Wheels
Last year, Roval launched its Control SL carbon XC wheels. While these Gucci hoops only tipped the scales at 1278g, they also came with a heavy price tag of $3,600.
The newly launched Control Carbon 6B XD wheels use the same rim construction as the Control SL, but see DT Swiss’ new 350 hubs, with the 36t Star Ratchet system. Tipping the scales at 1440g, the Carbon Control cost a more digestible $2,000.
The rim itself sees a 29mm internal width, a 4mm wide hookless bead designed to help prevent pinch flats. The updated 350 hubs are strung into the middle of the wheels with 28 straight-pull spokes.
We’ve only put in a few rides on these new wheels so far, but to say we are impressed would be an understatement. With the wider internal rim width and numbers on the scale that would satisfy even weight-conscious road cyclists, the Roval Control Carbon 6B XD wheels might just be our favourite in the category.
From: Specialized AU
Oakley Custom Flight Jacket
Spend time at any trail around Australia, and we’d venture a guess that you will see more than a few people wearing Oakley sunnies — for good reason, between the fit, the quality of the optics and the various styles, there something to please just about everyone.
A few months back, Oakley Australia asked if we’d like to try out their custom program, and dear reader, if you like sunglasses, it’s a bit like being a kid in a candy store. Just about every piece of the sunnies can be tailored to your taste, however loud and lairy they may be.
We opted to mock up a pair of Flight Jackets, and after quite a few tries and some seriously ugly colour combos, we came up with these ‘Matte Blue Milkshake’ frames with orange accents to match the Prizm Trail Torch lens. The Flight Jackets have a unique look, to begin with, but we’re fans of the short Oakley ear stocks and the Advancer nose piece that pushes the lens out a few millimetres to allow additional airflow. It does help a bit with fogging, but the real benefit comes when you’re overheating on a slow climb; that extra breeze makes a surprising difference.
Oakley also gives you the option to add an engraving to the lens; we chose to use this as motivation for post-ride gummy bears.
The cost varies slightly based on your specific design and any extras you add, like engraving, but a pair of custom Flight Jackets start at $318 with a Prizm trail lens, whereas an off-the-rack set with the same lens is $298.
From: Oakley Australia
One UP EDC Threadless Tool
The shift from carrying bags full of tools and spares to utilising nooks and crannies on the bike has been a freeing — literally — experience. One such tool that has allowed many to ditch their bag is the One UP ECD, which can store a multi-tool, tire levers, chain breaker, quick link and plyers, spoke tools, tubeless repair or Co2 cartridges, valve core tool, and spare rotor bolt inside your steerer tube.
The trouble with this system was that you previously needed to tap your steerer, which may void your warranty and required the purchase of a tap tool that you would use once or twice and a bit of mechanical know-how. But, the folks at OneUp are a problem-solving bunch and have come up with a solution that allows you to fill this space without cutting threads.
You will need to knock out the star nut to install the threadless carrier, but provided you have a cassette tool, a ratchet and a flat head screwdriver, it’s a piece of cake and takes about 15-20 min. So far, there are no rattles nor has any water collected inside the steerer.
If the prospect of being able to carry all your trailside bailout bits inside your steerer has piqued your interest, we should note that it won’t work with the Fox 38 with the oval steerer, Giant Overdrive 2 forks, Cannondale Leftys or anything with a carbon steerer. You will also need to have 220mm of available steerer on RockShox forks or 190mm of steerer available on Fox and other compatible forks.
Price: Threadless Carrier – $65 for every colour except for Oil Slick, which will cost $89
EDC Multi-Tool V2: $89.95
Plug and Plier kit: $54.99
From: MTB Direct
Tubolito MTB P-SENS
If you haven’t come across Tubolito before, these orange tubes are made from thermoplastic elastomer, weighing a fraction of a standard butyl tube and folding down to almost nothing. They make for great spares because they can comfortably be stored in a pocket, SWATbox, saddle bag or wherever else — though despite our best effort, we weren’t able to cram one into the EDC tool. According to Tubolito, they are also 65-per cent more puncture resistant than a rubber tube too.
The Austrian outfit’s latest tube, the MTB P-SENS, features an NFC chip powered by passive electromagnetic energy and transmits tyre pressure data to the companion app.
Considering that the vast majority of folks reading this ditched inner tubes many moons ago, it’s unlikely that the lot of you will be throwing your credit card on the desk at your nearest bike shop to spend the very high $50 asking price. However, if this same NCF chip were integrated into a valve, rim strip or tyre insert, now you’re cooking with peanut oil.
But before you write this off and drag us on social media, putting on our speculation hats here, we’d bet this is precisely where Tubolito was headed with this concept and has used the P-SENS tube as a stepping stone.
Of course, Quark’s TyreWiz already does exactly this, but it requires a coin-cell battery, and unless you have a set of Zipp 3Moto wheels with the unit preinstalled, they don’t integrate into the valve all that cleanly.
If Tubolito is headed in the direction we hope they are, being able to fine-tune tyre pressures with far less trial and error, without the need for batteries or electronics sticking out of your valve waiting to be broken off by an errant rock. If you like the idea of a low profile spare, Tubolito’s are also available in 27.5in and 29in sans NFC chip varieties for $39.99.
Price: MTB P-SENS $50, Standard $39.99
From: FRF Sports/BikeBug
Silica Floor Pump Chuck Disc Adaptor
The pump head on many floor pumps, at both ends of the price spectrum, leaves A LOT to be desired, which is why there are so many upgrade options on the market.
Having snapped our fingers one too many times with the locking lever found on most pumps, the push on, pull off the design of Silca’s ‘Floor Pump Chuck Disc Adaptor’ caught our attention. With a bell-shaped gasket beneath the knurled compression head, it works as advertised, and the dog leg design means you won’t skin your knuckles on disc rotors when you pull it off.
We haven’t had any blow-offs, nor have we made it anywhere near the 393psi max claimed pressure, but we can report the chuck will happily stay attached to the valve at the pressures you’d want for both road and MTB tyres. One important note, if you’re using a standard pump hose, you’ll also need the Schrader thread on the adaptor because the chuck does not have a hose barb (nor is it compatible on its own with Schrader valves), and we’d recommend picking up a ¢60 hose clamp too.
From: Echelon Sports
Bryton Rider 750
There are tons of GPS computers out there that will record more metrics than any of us actually know what to do with. The Rider 750 comes from Taiwanese outfit Bryton and is the brand’s flagship model. It features a full-colour touchscreen that will display graphic versions of specific data fields and detailed base maps.
You don’t get integrated Trail Forks maps on this head unit, but it will provide turn by turn navigation on the road and even has a nifty voice search feature to help you find the nearest post-ride burger — you do need to have the app open in the background on your phone to use this feature, but it works flawlessly.
The Rider 750 also plays nice with SRAM’s eTap AXS drivetrains to show info like remaining charge, and gear ratio and eBike support for Shimano’s Steps drive unit to display power mode and estimated range.
Setup takes place through the companion app, and this is where you will customise your data screens, choose your satellite network and pair with sensors. The app also does over-the-air ride uploads and will push the file to the third party service of your choice, like Strava, Training Peaks or Today’s Plan.
Priced at $429, it’s cheaper than the offerings from other brands with similar specs, like the Wahoo ELEMNT Roam and Garmin Edge 830 — though the base maps on the latter two are a bit better and have more MTB trails. Still, if you’re looking for a reliable data-based training tool, for the money, there aren’t many computers out there.
Fizik Gravita Tensor Shoes
Just landed on our feet are these snazzy new kicks from Fi’zi:k. Available in clipless and flat pedal compatible soles, we have the former version, both of which utilise the stickiest Virbar XS Evo rubber compound. The tread itself is tapered to provide a stronger connection with pedal pins through the midfoot, while the heel and toe have deeper, sharper tread to help you stay upright as you hike a bike.
The clipless version has a stiffer plate than its flat pedal sibling, and the cleat track allows for a rearward position to help you drop your heels on steep descents. The laces closer sees a velcro strap across the midfoot to keep the bunny ears out of your chainrings while also not allowing your arch to collapse. There’s plenty of armouring on the heel and toe, and the inside of the cuff is extended for a bit of ankle protection and should do a good job of keeping mud and water out of your socks too.
Available in black, red and black or grey and aquamarine, the Fi’zi:k Gravita Tensor are available in sizes 36-48 — though our size 42’s feel a bit big up the front so far.
From: Advanced Traders
Specialized Phenom Mimic Saddle
Specialized’s Phenom was initially designed as a classic mountain bike saddle, shaped so that it wouldn’t catch your shorts as you move around on descents. It has a mostly flat profile with a slight kick in the tail that gives you something to push up against when you’re climbing.
The standard version sees a full cutout; however, Specialized recently add its Mimic technology to the saddle, filling the cutout with memory foam, a flexible TPU creating a concave groove, and using softer foam on the nose to eliminate hotspots.
Mimic was originally a women’s specific technology designed to address swelling and discomfort that cut out saddles can cause. As time went on, riders, both female and male, found that Speicailzed Mimic saddles improved their comfort on the bike. So while this may ‘technically’ be a women’s saddle, so far, it’s kept our derrieres pretty darn happy as we pedal the day away.
New Season Fox Flexair Kit and Speedframe Helmet
Fox has just dropped a bunch of new colours across its range of Flexair, Defender and Ranger clothing, and the Speedframe Helmet.
We’ve got our hands on the latest Flexair kits, and the fit and high-quality hard-wearing materials continue to impress. Fox is no stranger to bold graphics logos, so while we’d love to see more subtle designs, it’s an aesthetic choice we’re willing to overlook because the clothing is so well fitted, light, breathable and of decent value.
We’ve also been fans of the Speedframe Pro Trail helmet since it launched last year. With plenty of coverage, the Speedframe and Speedframe Pro both have MIPS-C2 liner, which is designed to lessen the energy transmitted to your brain from rotational impacts — a feature we hope not to test the real-world efficacy.
The ridge on the rear of the helmet creates a channel that locks goggle straps into place, and the three-position visor allows ample room to stow them underneath so don’t boil alive as you climb. It’s well vented, has a nifty magnetic buckle and fixed ear splitters, so you won’t have to faff with the straps to get them to lay flat.
Price: Flex Air Jersey $99.95, Flex Air Shorts $139.95, Flexair Gloves $59.95 Speedframe $199.95, Speedframe Pro $270.00
From: PSI Cycling
Albek Luggage and Custom Logo Backpack
From the same folks who look after Lusty Industries, Albek is a new luggage brand out of Newcastle that designs bags ‘Fit for Purpose.’ With everything from backpacks and rolling duffels to a bike travel case, everything is designed to make getting around the airport and living out of your bag easier.
Inside, the bags have mesh dividers, so you can keep your stinky used riding clothes separate from the clean ones, the zippers are lockable, and the Izuma Wheel assemble replaceable for when they develop a dreaded flat spot. Albek also offers custom embroidering too.
We have the Dudley and Whitebridge Backpack plus the Long Haul suitcase packed and ready to head out on our next couple of trips; we’ll report back once these bags have a few air miles behind them. How #Pro do we look with a Flow logo, eh!
Price: Dudley Backpack $129.95 Long Haul $299.95
Axles are something that we down often replace; however, the DT Swiss joint that came in Mick’s Santa Cruz Tallboy was often making a rattling noise. So, he swapped it for a ‘bullion gold’ anodized Burgtech axle.
This axle is 168.5mm long and has an M12x1.0mm thread pitch, and has a get out of jail 6mm axel fitting on the drive side, should you accidentally round out the fitting.
The source of the rattle on the DT Swiss system was the RWS (Ratchet Wheel System) that is the defining feature of the DT Swiss axle. This allows the lever to be adjusted independently of the axel to be perfectly positioned and doesn’t require a hex key.
The RockShox Pike on the front of Mick’s Tallboy requires a 6mm anyway, so losing the lever is no big deal, plus it’s lighter and has more obstacle clearance too.
From: Link Sports
Polar Insulated Bottles
While the weather in quite a lot of Australia is cooling down for winter, at Flow’s Queensland HQ, it’s still balmy and warm. We’ve been using ordinary bottles and hydration packs for such a long time that when these insulated Polar Breakaway bottles showed up the first time, and we grabbed a drink after a hot climb, it was a pleasant and refreshing surprise. They don’t sweat and, with a few ice cubes, stayed cold for about ~3-hours in 29C heat.
They come in various sizes to play nice with frames that may not have room for huge bottles. The Surge Cap has a self-sealing leak-proof valve, is available with a muck protector and is two pieces for easy washing. One of the reasons we stopped using insulated bottles some time ago as they were hard to squeeze and didn’t deliver their contents quickly enough; however, the insulation and BPA-free plastic are soft and pliable — a modest squeeze is met with a torrent of water.
Price: $14.00-$15.50 depending on volume.
From: Bicycle Peddler / Polar Bottle