The not-so-minor details
Cell Awaba 2.0
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Sydney-based manufacturer Cell Bikes have been undergoing something of a reformation of late. The brand made a name for itself with budget-priced urban bikes, but they’re now releasing some surprisingly refined mountain bikes too. Captaining the ship as they sail into these dirtier oceans is Dave Musgrove, Cell’s new head of bike design.
We’ve just taken delivery of the brand new Awaba 2.0 29er hardtail to review and the initially unassuming appearance belies the bike’s attention to detail. It’s clear that every aspect has been considered, to a level not usually seen on a bike of this price point. We were sufficiently impressed to get Dave Musgrove on the blower to ask him a few questions about the bike.
You’ve named this bike the Awaba – does that name choice reflect anything significant in the bike’s design for intentions?
Awaba MTB Park is one of my favourite XC tracks to ride; the climbs aren’t huge, the trails are primarily single track and it’s tight and twisty with lots of fun descents. The smooth flowing nature of Awaba is always a pleasant change from my regular rough riding on Sydney’s rocky Northern Beaches. So, Awaba was the first trail that came to mind when I started playing with geometry and tube shapes for our new high-end 29er hardtails. Throughout the development process I was adamant that these bikes would be suited to technical XC trails like Awaba, so I wanted to provide all the benefits of 29er wheels without the cumbersome handling characteristics that are prevalent on many 29ers I’ve ridden. By using a longer offset fork (many brands use 46mm, we’ve used 51mm) combined with a slightly slacker head angle, we can have a relatively short “trail” measurement, which means the bike has great manoeuvrability at low speed in tight corners but maintains stability at high speed. Short chain stays are also key for swinging around corners, hopping over obstacles and manualling off drops. We opened a new mould to make a slight bend in the seat tube which allowed the chain stays to be shortened without creating mud clearance issues. We call this geometry Pro Geo.
Cell have not necessarily been known as a producer of ‘serious’ (for lack of a better word) mountain bikes in the past. Do you see this as a barrier for this bike’s success?
I hope not! Cell Bikes are well known as offering great value bikes, though admittedly a couple of older models perhaps should not have seen the light of day, let alone a mountain bike trail. The value is remaining the same, due to our factory direct sales model, however the performance of our bikes has been taken to a whole new level. We now go through a far more thorough design, testing and quality control process which is evident through performance of our entire new range of bikes. Our bikes now have the same level of quality as the big brands and we back up this claim by providing a lifetime frame warranty on all of our bikes. I hope that our current focus of offering well priced high quality bikes will have a greater influence on customers’ opinions than some of our cheap and cheerful attempts at mountain bikes from a few years ago. Perhaps customers will also appreciate that we’re a small Aussie bike company that is growing up and offering them a locally designed competitive option, rather than having to settle for a bike from a big international marketing machine with little connection to their local scene.
Who is the targeted rider for this bike, and what aspects of the design reflect this?
It’s targeted at a range of riders, from the first time mountain bike buyer who wants to shred with their buddies without splashing out on a dually, to serious XC racers who are looking for a reliable yet lightweight race bike. To cover this range of needs we focused on making the Awaba light weight with superior handling and longterm reliability. The spec is reasonably light, however it is the frame where we shaved all unnecessary weight. It has triple butted tubing throughout, including stays, seat tube and main tubes. Positioning the rear brake calliper on the chain stay allows the seat stays to be lighter weight and designed to absorb impacts more effectively. The press-fit bottom bracket and fully integrated tapered headset (without cups) save further weight and reduce potential creaking. The Pro Geo is key to the good handling in technical terrain however lateral stiffness is also important, but often lacking in many 29ers in the market. I wanted riders to be able to thrash the Awaba down rough descents and rail it around corners without the wheels, fork and frame flexing everywhere. We achieved high lateral stiffness by using a tapered steerer fork with 15mm Maxle matched with a 142x12mm Maxle to bolt the rear hub in place. Thru-axles add a huge amount of stiffness compared to traditional QR skewers, which is especially noticeable with the added leverage of 29″ wheels. Using strong eyeletted 32 spoke rims allows for high spoke tension which further improves handling and reliability.
Pick a design element of this bike that is the highlight for you (perhaps something people might not notice, but which makes a real difference).
Rack mounts! Haha. No, something that is not the biggest highlight but does make a real difference yet is often over looked – cable routing. We use full length housing for both derailleurs to keep as much dirt and water out as possible. The cables follow a smooth and direct route for a clean appearance and reliable function, and assuming the rear brake is run Australian style (left hand lever), there shouldn’t be any cable rub on the frame. Perfecting the small details is important for the long term function of a mountain bike.