Greetings folks, and welcome to another edition of Flow’s Fresh Produce! We hope you’re all safe and sound wherever in the world you’re reading this from, and continuing to practice your social distancing skills along with good hygiene (remember: a fist pump transmits 90% less germs than a handshake). And on that note, how good are bikes eh? What a bloody marvellous escape vehicle for getting out of the house and away from it all. Without bikes, we would surely have gone round the bend by now, so let’s have a quick ‘Hip-Hip-Hooray!’ for our favourite two-wheeled mental health machines!
Sure, it’s been a bummer not being able to travel to ride our bikes. Just before lockdown restrictions came into effect in Australia, we were due to head on a Tassie road trip to check out the new St Helens trail network. Unfortunately that trip had to be put on hold – dang! Things are looking on the up here in Australia though. Restrictions are beginning to ease, and that means we’re able to ride in small groups again (keep it safe folks!), which has been wonderful. Despite not being able to travel though, we have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to explore and rediscover trails in our own backyard. And it’s also been an incredible time for the bike industry as a whole, which from all reports has never been as busy as it is right now. Bike shops are run off their feet selling new bikes and servicing old bikes, as more folks discover (or rediscover) cycling as a way to get outdoors and exercise now that traditional team sports are off the menu. Of course we all know how much fun mountain biking is, and how good it is for both your physical and mental health, though it’s great to see new riders discovering this too. Indeed our local bike paths and trailheads have never been busy and that’s great!
There’s been plenty of work-related motivation for us to get out and ride too, since we’re now well and truly in the thick of new bike & gear launch season. We’ve had a brand new 1×12 Shimano Deore groupset turn up for testing (head here for pricing & details), and Cannondale sent us its totally overhauled Scalpel to put to the test and see just how big of an improvement it is over the previous model. Check out Flow’s verdict here.
The Big Red S has also been busy with new bike launches, having released the budget-conscious-but-still-ripping Rockhopper hardtail, along with the new 2021 Diverge gravel bike. There’s a lot of tasty features there for those who like to take their curly bars off into the forest, though Spesh also raised eyebrows with that curious Diverge EVO model.
On top of that, we’ve welcomed a gaggle of fresh test product here at Flow HQ, which we’ve kindly arranged all together in this handy article for you. Read on for a closer look at all the new goods, and as always, be sure to ask any questions and tell us your thoughts in the comments below!
Bontrager Rally WaveCel Helmet
Bontrager’s innovative WaveCel helmet technology arrived to much fanfare last year, with some very bold claims about the effectiveness of this new wunder-material. Designed as an alternative to MIPS, WaveCel is a plastic cellular structure that lines the inside of the helmet. It looks a bit like honeycomb, and not unlike the Koroyd material that Smith and Endura use for their helmets. However, Bontrager claims that WaveCel can do a whole lot more.
In the event of an impact, the WaveCel layer is designed to flex and glide to create a slip-plane (like a MIPS liner), which allows the helmet to rotate on your head slightly, reducing the likelihood of your brain rotating inside your skull. If the force is high enough though, the WaveCel layer is also able to crumple just like EPS foam, helping to absorb more of the impact energy. It’s this three-pronged approach (flex, glide, compress) that makes up the magic, and safety, of the WaveCel concept.
To begin with, Bontrager launched just a couple of WaveCel helmet models, which included the $350 Blaze MTB helmet. We’ve used the Blaze plenty, and while we dig the concept and the fact that Bontrager is putting so much emphasis on rider protection, there’s no denying it’s one pricey lid. The good news? There’s now a much cheaper alternative in this helmet here – the new Rally WaveCel.
In terms of size, shape and style, the Rally is basically identical to the Blaze, and we honestly couldn’t tell the difference when it first showed up. Look a little closer inside the two helmets, and you’ll see that there’s a little less WaveCel material used in the Rally. Whereas the Blaze basically wraps the whole rider’s head with WaveCel, the Rally doesn’t have quite so much coverage at the rear. It does make the Rally a bit lighter though (380g vs 420g), and the fit is slightly more forgiving. In fact, we’ve found the Rally is more comfortable having ridden with it over the past week. It’s also really secure on the head, with none of the wobble that came with the previous Rally MIPS helmet.
Otherwise both the Blaze and Rally share a similar fit and are available in Small (51-57cm), Medium (54-60cm) and Large (58-63cm) sizes. They both get a BOA retention dial for the harness, along with a full in-moulded construction and an adjustable visor. The Rally saves some money by skipping the magnetic buckle in favour of a standard buckle, and it also doesn’t get the integrated magnetic light/GoPro mount. However, there’s a flat zone on top for sticking on a GoPro mount.
- From: Trek Bikes
- RRP: $229 AUD
Bontrager Jet WaveCel Kids Helmet
Also new from Bontrager is the Jet WaveCel. This is the very first kids helmet to feature WaveCel technology, and we suspect that’ll be of huge interest to the parents out there with budding young shredders. It’s a high-tech helmet – as well as getting a full layer of WaveCel, it has a neat FidLock magnetic buckle that is a lot easier to use for little fingers. There’s also an adjustable harness, and a full in-mould construction. That means there’s no exposed EPS foam around the underside of the helmet rim, so even when tantrums arise and a helmet flies across the garage, the helmet will be the least of your worries! Available in Kids (48-52cm) and Youth (50-55cm) sizes.
- From: Trek Bikes
- RRP: $149 AUD
DT Swiss XRC 1200 Carbon Wheels
We recently finished a long-term review of the DT Swiss EXC 1200 wheelset, which impressed us to no end with their strength, stupendously high-end hubs, and sub-1700g weight. With those tough carbon enduro wheels on their way back home, the folks at Apollo Bikes (DT Swiss’ Australian distributor) decided to send us the ultra-light XC version, called the XRC 1200.
These wheels are also built around DT Swiss straight-pull spokes, nipples and the exotic DT Swiss 180 hub set, which features SINC ceramic cartridge bearings and the new Ratchet EXP freehub system. Being designed for XC use instead of enduro though, the carbon fibre rims are much lighter. We actually have two wheelsets on test – both are 29in, but they have different rim widths. Mick has the XRC 1200 Spline 30 wheelset, which features a 30mm inner rim width and is fitted with 2.3in Maxxis Minions, while Wil has the XRC 1200 Spline 25 wheelset, which features a 25mm inner rim width and is wrapped with 2.25in Goodyear Peak tyres. Weight is very low at under 1500g for each wheelset – pwoar! Stay tuned for a full review once we put these high-zoot hoops through a proper thrashing.
- From: Apollo Bikes
- RRP: $3,389 AUD
Giant Proshield MTB Jacket
Like it or not, winter is indeed on the way here in Australia, and that means it’s a very good time to take stock of your cold weather riding kit to make sure you have what it takes to get outdoors and amongst it. For those in need of a full protection outer shell, Giant has launched a new high-end rain jacket called the ProShield. This number is made from a luxurious fabric called ProTextura™ Plus, which is nice and soft, but still has proper seam-sealed waterproofing with a 10,000mm rating. There’s a magnet-lined storm flap that shields the main zipper, and you also get adjustable cuffs and a big helmet-compatible hood to squash any of your “it’s raining I can’t go out riding!” excuses.
The membrane construction means its also plenty breathable though (10,000g/m2/24hr), though you also get zippered armpits and ventilation holes for exhausting all your hot air. Available in Black and Blue, and in sizes from Small through to XX-Large. As you can see above, it’s a fairly relaxed fit, so there’s plenty of room to go over other layers.
- From: Giant Bicycles
- RRP: $234.95 AUD
Giant Recon HL 1800 Head Light
Another winter riding excuse-buster is this high-powered headlight from Giant. This model is the Recon 1800 HL, which uses two LEDs to produce a total of 1800 Lumens to the FL-1 standard. They’re packed inside a CNC machined alloy housing with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that’ll get you 1.5 hours of runtime on full blast, or up to 65 hours on the flash mode. The light clicks into a handlebar bracket, or you can slide it onto a GoPro mount to run it on your helmet. Both mounts are included in the box along with a USB charging cable. At 190g it’s potentially a touch heavy for the helmet, so we’ll be running this one on the bars and pairing it with its slightly lighter pal.
- From: Giant Bicycles
- RRP: $179.95 AUD
Giant Recon HL 1100 Head Light
Matching the Recon HL 1800 on the bars, we’ve got a slimmer Recon HL 1000 for the helmet. This light uses a single LED and offers a slightly narrower beam with 1100 Lumens of power. The smaller body and battery does make it lighter – just 107g according to Giant. It still hits the same runtime of 1.5 hours on full power though, which you can step down to Medium (3.5 hours) or Low (7 hours) via a rubber button on the top of the head unit. A small vertical window on each side of the light body offers greater visibility to other road users – useful for the commute to and from the trails.
- From: Giant Bicycles
- RRP: $124.95 AUD
Giant Recon TL 200 Tail Light
To match the high-powered lights up front, Giant has this suitably powerful tail light, called the Recon TL 200. Those two LEDs pump out an incredible 200 Lumens (!) on the High Flash setting, which affords proper daytime visibility for riders who’d like other road users to pay them a little more attention. The Recon TL 200 has a USB-rechargeable battery inside, and it’ll get you between 2.5-10 hours of run time depending on the setting you’re using. The mounting bracket has a simple rubber strap for wrapping around your seatpost or seat tube on the frame, and it allows you to run the light horizontally or vertically.
- From: Giant Bicycles
- RRP: $74.95 AUD
Giant EnergyPak Plus Battery
MOAR BATTERY! New from Giant is the EnergyPak Plus – a piggyback battery designed to fit certain e-Bike models, including our Reign E+ long-term test bike. The battery mounts on top of the downtube (where your water bottle would normally go) and adds on an extra 240Wh, which takes total capacity to 740Wh. Time to plan some proper weekend adventures in the hills eh?
- From: Giant Bicycles
- RRP: $649.95 AUD
DMR Vault Brendog Flat Pedals
Just in at Flow HQ is a fresh set of Brendog’s signature flat pedals – the Vault! Complete with a 105x105mm CNC machined body, a tough chromoly axle, plus DU bushing and cartridge bearing internals, these are set for some serious abuse. DMR gives the Vault a 17mm concave platform that’s designed to let your shoes sink into the pedal for maximum grip. There are 11 replaceable pins per side, and each pin can be flipped to fine-tune both feel and traction levels. Vicious!
- From: Pushys
- RRP: $179.99
And for the other key contact point on your mountain bike, we’ve just gotten in some fresh DeathGrips to match. Also inspired and endorsed by Mr Brendog, the iconic DeathGrip gets a highly-textured tread pattern that combines three different designs into the one grip to deliver maximum traction for white-knuckled shenanigans. Available in Thin and Thick versions, as well as flange and flange-less profiles, and a tonne of colours.
- From: Pushys
- RRP: $24.99
Ride Mechanics Bike Syrup
Fresh chain lube to sate Mick’s appetite for clean drivetrains, Bike Syrup is an Australian made product from Ride Mechanics. It’s a ‘wet film chain lubricant’ that is claimed to quieten down drivetrains while lasting up to 1000km of riding. And since you only need to apply it on every 3-6 rollers of your chain, this 60ml bottle should last a very long time. Then again, we’ll see just how long it lasts with Mick’s unhealthy obsession.
- From: Ride Mechanics
- RRP: $24.95
Cannondale Scalpel Carbon 2
In case you missed it, Cannondale has just launched a brand new Scalpel for 2021. The frame has been completely overhauled and has dropped some 200g in the process, which makes it one of the lightest full suspension frames on the market. It’ll still fit two water bottles though, and there’s a very cool integrated tool storage system. The big news with the Scalpel is its revised suspension design and geometry, which makes this a razor-sharp XC race bike that loves to eat up technical singletrack. We’ve been riding this bike for the past month, and you can check out the full review right here.
- From: PSI Cycling
- RRP: $7,899 AUD
Mo’ Flow Please!
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