Fresh Produce | Bike cleaners, new season threads & high-end carbon cranks

Here it is folks, the very last Fresh Produce for 2022! I’m not crying, you’re crying!

To help send off twenty-twenty-two, we’ve managed to sling this Santa sack of goods your way during the lazy limbo between Xmas and New Years, as we figure you could do with a little pick-me-up for the hazy holiday season.

For all of you gearing up for 2023, we’ve got some excellent suggestions to help you plan out some epic riding holidays for the new year. The trail builders have been busy at Mt Buller, which has just opened up a whole bunch of new and refreshed singletrack that you are going to love. You may have also heard about the new Hazy Days trail in Derby, which has given all of us another fantastic excuse to get down to Tassie.

The trails at Mt Buller have had a serious makeover – time to plan a trip to the Victorian High Country!

Back on the mainland, we’ve been exploring some of the lesser-known riding spots in Victoria’s Goldfields region, using the Goldfields Track as our guide. Keen to explore the riding in a different state? Be sure to check out our Complete Guide to Australia’s Best Mountain Bike Trails for loads of inspiration.

We’ve got good news on the tech front too. Santa Claus managed to pay a visit to all the good Flow boys and girls over the past week, and we’ve got a heap of fresh kit to go through. Get yourself a festive beverage, find a shady spot in the backyard, and kick back for the final edition of Fresh Produce for 2022!

Race Face Era Cranks

race face era carbon cranks
The Era is a new high-end carbon crankset from Race Face that’s designed to be lightweight and super durable.

Brand new from Race Face is the Era crankset. Designed to cover everything from XC riding through to enduro racing, the Era is a premium crankset that represents the next generation in carbon technology from the Canadian component creators.

What’s so special about it? The Era utilises hollow carbon arms, not unlike the existing Next R and Next SL cranks. However, the way the alloy pedal inserts are moulded into the carbon arms is different, with a new profile that offers deeper and more seamless integration between the two materials. The result is what Race Face claims to be its strongest, stiffest and most durable carbon crankset yet. It stands by that claim with a lifetime warranty for the original owner, which includes crashing. Pretty impressive!

race face era carbon cranks
The modular nature of the Era crankset allows you to pick ‘n’ mix your chainring and bottom bracket.

Further bolstering durability is the addition of stainless steel scuff guards on the outside of each arm, while thick rubber crank boots provide added rock strike protection.

Despite its strength-forward design, the Race Face Era crankset is still bloody light. Including a 32T chainring, our test cranks came in at just 491g, which is lighter than Shimano XTR and barely 20g heavier than a Next SL crankset.

The Race Face Era crankset is available in a number of different variations. We went for 165mm crank arms, though 170 and 175mm lengths are also available. You’ll then need to purchase a chainring, which comes in a standard direct mount (52mm chainline) and a direct mount wide (55mm chainline). The chainring attaches to the crankarm via the Cinch system.

As with most Race Face cranks, the Era is built around a hollow 30mm spindle made from 7055 alloy. Race Face makes a variety of bottom brackets to suit, and in our case we went with the BSA threaded option. The sealing is substantial, and after installing the crankset, a threaded preload collar is used to snug up the bearings as needed.

We’ve been impressed with the fit and finish of the Era crankset, though that’s to be expected given the premium price tag. As to how they perform? Thanks to their modular construction, we’ll be able to test the Era cranks across a variety of bikes over the coming season to see how they fare, and whether those durability claims hold true.

Muc-Off Pressure Washer

muc-off pressure washer foam bicycle cleaner
The Muc-Off Bicycle Pressure Washer makes short work of bike cleaning!

It’s a New Year, so perhaps it’s time for a New You? You know, a New You that actually cleans their bike, rather than leaving it in a permanently dirty, crusty state?

If it’s time to clean up your act, the Muc-Off Bicycle Pressure Washer might be just the New Years resolution you’ve been waiting for.

Muc-Off says this is the first bicycle-specific pressure washer on the market. Using a 1200W electric motor, it’ll pump out up to 6.5L/min out of three different handheld attachments. There’s a bicycle-specific cleaning lance, an adjustable cleaning lance and a snow foam lance, the latter of which is designed to fit onto a bottle of Muc-Off bike cleaner, turning it into a hilariously-effective foam gun.

After plugging the pressure washer in to mains power, all you need to do is attach a garden hose. Using the bicycle specific lance, spray the bike down with water to get the worst of the dust and dirt off the bike. Then attach the snow foam lance with a bottle of Muc-Off bike cleaner, and cover your bike in sudsy foam. Leave it for 3-5 minutes to work its way in to all the nooks and crannies, then reconnect the bicycle-specific lance to give your bike a thorough rinse.

While Muc-Off says its bicycle pressure washer is designed to be safe on bearings, suspension components and delicate surfaces, we’d always exercise caution when spraying water and cleaner directly at your bike’s headset, bottom bracket and hubs. And go easy on the snow foam attachment, as it can rip through bike cleaner if you get a little trigger-happy. Use it wisely though, and this is an incredibly effective and fast way at giving your bike a thorough deep clean. Also useful for pressure washing non-bicycle items too!

Troy Lee Designs Resist Pants

troy lee designs resist waterproof pants
A carbon handlebar upgrade won’t let you ride more, but a pair of waterproof riding pants will.

For a recent trip to Maydena Bike Park, Mick got his hands on some waterproof riding kit in preparation for some typically Tasmanian riding conditions. Turned out it was a good move too, with these Troy Lee Designs Resist pants proving their worth during numerous rain showers.

They’re made from a waterproof stretch fabric that features a 10k/10k rating, which means they’re designed to be an effective barrier against rain, puddles and mud splatter, while still being breathable. If you’re getting particularly steamy on the climbs, zippered vents across the thighs can be opened up to introduce cool air.

In addition to the waterproof fabric, the TLD Resist pants feature taped seams throughout, as well as waterproof zippers for the main pockets and the fly. And with muddy conditions in mind, reinforced fabrics are utilised for the crotch and the inside of the lower leg cuff.

These feature-packed riding pants certainly aren’t cheap, but they’ve already proven to be a thoroughly effective outer shell for maximising ride time when the weather isn’t playing ball.

Troy Lee Designs Skyline Jersey, Flowline Shorts & Air Gloves

troy lee designs flowline skyline jersey shorts
New Skyline and Flowline riding kit from Troy Lee Designs.

Now that summer has finally turned up, we’ve been able to make use of some fresh season riding kit from Troy Lee Designs. Up top is the Skyline jersey in its short sleeve form. It’s been updated with a new material that is lighter and better at wicking moisture compared to the old design. The result is a lighter and more breathable jersey, that’s still loose and comfortable to wear. Available in heaps of sizes and colour options, including this ‘Jet Fuel Slate Blue’.

We’ve also got a pair of the latest Flowline shorts, which take many of the features found in TLD’s premium apparel line, and packs them into a more affordable package. These get a casual but tailored cut that’s knee pad-friendly, with an adjustable waist band, zippered fly and single-snap button closure. They also come with a padded liner included, which is quite good. Available in sizes from 28-40 and in numerous colours.

Lastly, we’ve got a pair of the excellent TLD Air gloves. These look on the airy side, but they’re loaded with features like a compression-moulded cuff for a snug fit, and discreet TPR armour along the index and middle fingers. They use micro-mesh fabric and a single-layer perforated palm for maximum ventilation, making these a great summer riding option.

Fidlock Twist Bottle & Bike Mount

fidlock magnetic bottle bike mount
The FidLock Twist Bottle utilises a clever magnetic attachment that eliminates the need for a conventional bottle cage.

While many frame and suspension designs have changed over the years, there have been fewer updates to the humble bottle cage. One of the most well-known alternatives to the mainstream is the Fidlock Twist Bottle, which is designed to provide a compact and user-friendly option that fits into awkward frame spaces.

Using the power of magnets, the Fidlock system utilises a rail mount that bolts directly to the normal bottle cage bosses on your frame. This mount contains two magnetic stubs and a central pin, which interlock with a corresponding receiver on the underside of the bottle. Hold the bottle over the mount, and the magnets draw the two assemblies together, locking it in place. It’s very secure on the trail, though it only requires a simple twist to rotate the bottle and free it from the mount.

Fidlock offers its Twist Bottle in three sizes: 800ml, 590ml and 450ml. The latter size is ideal for compact full suspension frames, particular Small and X-Small sizes.

Tru-Tension Grime Guard & Monkey Gel Bike Cleaner

We have just received a host of bike cleaning kit in the Tru-Tension Tungsten Cycle Bundle. So far we’re impressed by how well it works, and the way it smells.

Coming out of the UK, Tru-Tension makes bike and motorcycle cleaning products. We’ve just received the Cycle Bundle, which has the brand’s Monkey Juice Gel Bike Cleaner, Drivetrain Cleaner, a nifty brush called the Muck Monkey and the Tungsten All-Weather Chain Lube.

The local distributor FE sports has also sent out the Grime Guard. A similar design to Krush’s Kluster Kleen, this plastic shield clips onto your real wheel behind the cassette and prevents any contaminants from your drivetrain from making their way over to your brakes. It works well, and keeps any errant grime loosened by overzealous scrubbing or spraying away from your rear disc rotor. Indeed we were surprised at how much splatter was left on the Grime Guard after scrubbing a cassette, which might have otherwise contaminated our brakes. Yikes!

The Monkey Juice Gel Bike cleaner is the brand’s take on a bio-degradable, environmentally friendly foaming bike cleaner. Tru-Tension says it’s safe for use on all surfaces and works to lift grime from your bike by penetrating microscopic holes in dirt particles, while also leaving a dirt-phobic coating behind.

We’re not so sure about the microscopic war on mud, however. The solution is quite thick, and the lather clings to your frame for longer than similar bike cleaners. Tru-Tension also sells this bike cleaner as a concentrate, so you can reuse your plastic bottle.

Tru-Tension Drivetrain Cleaner & Muck Monkey

Many products like this one are simply rebranded brake cleaner. We’re not sure how chemically different Tru-Tension’s version is from brake cleaner, but it smells nice. And boy does it make quick work of chain grime. Just be careful of your bearings.

The Drivetrain Cleaner is an aerosol degreaser that has the power to literally blast grit out from inside the rollers of your chain. When used in collaboration with the cleverly shaped Muck Monkey brush, it makes quick work of grime build-up and can be used on cassettes and chainrings too — agitate, spray and admire the sparkle.

Be mindful of bearings here. Even though most bikes use sealed cartridge bearings, leaving your freehub full of degreaser is going to rapidly shorten its life.

The Muck Monkey is a double-sided brush, with a U-shaped end for scrubbing all sides of your chain, and stiff paintbrush-like bristles for getting into tight spaces in cassettes and behind chainrings. This is a brilliant little gadget, having entirely replaced the Park Tool scrubber that has long been our go-to for grimy jobs.

Tru Tension Tungsten All-Weather Chain Lube

Tru-Tension’s All Weather Tungsten is one of the best chain lubes money can buy, according to independent testing outfit Zero Friction Cycling. If used properly, it could potentially save you big bucks on chains and cassettes.

On the whole, mountain bikers are usually less concerned with saving watts than our road-fairing cousins. But with cassettes costing upwards of $800 AUD nowadays and chains similarly expensive, eking every last kilometre out of your drivetrain components is crucial. And the best way to do that is by reducing friction.

Chain lube is one product that is rife with marketing hype, that the vast majority of folks have no way to prove the manufacturer’s claims. Fortunately, there is South Australia-based Zero Friction Cycling, one of (if not the) only remaining independent drivetrain friction testers in the world. Tru-Tension Tungsten All Weather came out of  ZFC’s torture testing with one of the lowest contamination and wear rates, meaning when used properly it will make your drivetrain last significantly longer. At $20 AUD for 50ml it’s a little bit more expensive than similar wax-based chain lube like Squirt and Smoove, but the thinner viscosity means it penetrates the rollers faster and is easier to apply. This is properly good stuff.

This, the Money Juice Gel, Drivetrain Cleaner and Muck Money are all available as part of the Tungsten Cycle Bundle.

Wolf Tooth Components Echo Grips

wolftooth echo grips
All the colours of the rainbow from Wolf Tooth Components with its new Echo grips.

Wolf Tooth Components continues to expand its product line with the addition of these new Echo lock-on grips.

Featuring a generous 32mm thick profile, the Echo grips are definitely suited to riders with bigger paws. They’re made with a soft and tacky compound, which features a pattern of diagonal lines that hooks up well in both dry and wet conditions. They feel very comfortable, and we’ve been particularly impressed with the grips in the wet while riding without gloves.

While the grip body itself is only offered in a single version, there are eight colour options available for the anodised lockrings. These include red, orange, green, blue, gold, purple, silver and black.

If you need a bit more squish in your life to minimise vibrations and help manage any nerve or joint issues, the Echo grips will be one to add to the list. The soft compound seems to be holding up well, though we’ll be putting more time on them in the coming months to see how they fare for long term durability.

Buzzy’s Slick Honey

slick honey workshop
We’ve got a bunch of fresh Slick Honey in the workshop, just in time for some suspension and dropper post servicing.

If you’re the type of home mechanic that services your own suspension and dropper posts, then there’s a very good chance you’ll have a pot of Buzzy’s Slick Honey in your workshop. Formulated specifically for mountain bikes, Slick Honey has become a go-to option for many professional mechanics and suspension service centres due to its ability to reduce friction on bushings, seals and o-rings, while remaining sufficiently tacky and durable to remain in place.

We’ve been using Slick Honey in the Flow workshop for lubricating fork wiper seals, and for giving a bit of TLC to dropper posts that have started feeling a bit sluggish. Undo the top threaded collar, give the upper seal and bushing a wipe down to clean off any muck, add a dollop of Slick Honey and reinstall to get that dropper feeling fast and smooth again. You don’t need to use a whole lot of it, as a small amount can go a long way. With that in mind, most home mechanics will only need the injector or the smaller 20oz tube.

Specialized Renegade Control T5 & T7 Tyres

specialized renegarde control t5 t7 tyres 29x2.35in
The Specialized Renegade was recently updated with a new tread pattern, and is now available in a bigger 2.35in width and the stickier T7 rubber compound.

Specialized has been bolstering its mountain bike tyre lineup with the addition of new sizes, casing and compound options. Shown here is the fastest-rolling XC tyre of the bunch, the Renegade.

These tyres get a micro-tread pattern that maximises surface contact on hardpack trails for a consistent feel with minimal rolling resistance. Elevated and reinforced shoulder blocks aim to keep them hooking up through the corners, as long as things aren’t too loose or greasy.

While we have used the Renegade before, this is the first time we’ve had them in the bigger 2.35in width. Along with the sensible Control casings, they still come in at an impressive 681g, while offering a nice high volume carcass that’s designed to be run at lower pressures for a smoother ride.

In this size, you have the choice of the faster-rolling and longer-lasting T5 rubber compound, or the stickier and lower-rebound T7 compound. For the ultimate Goldilocks XC setup, you could run the T7 tyre up front with the T5 on the rear.

We’ve got both options to test out, and will be trying them out on some fast, dusty singletrack this summer to see how they stack up alongside the Maxxis Rekon Race and Schwalbe Racing Ralphs of the world.

Endura Singletrack Jersey & MT500 Burner Shorts

endura mt500 burner baggy shorts
The Endura MT500 offers DH durability in a tailored and fitted short with great flexibility.

If you’re tired of mountain bike gear that doesn’t hold up to, well, mountain biking, then you’ll be very interested in these MT500 Burner shorts. Made by Scottish brand Endura, the MT500 Burner shorts are said to be suitable for DH racing, while still offering a sufficient flexibility for trail riding.

To achieve this, the MT500 Burner is reinforced with a tough fabric for the crotch and backside, which is designed to stand up to general use, crashing, and sliding around on muddy seats on a shuttle bus. They’re surprisingly comfortable to wear for pedal-assisted riding however, thanks to the use of 4-way stretch fabric that’s combined with a specific rear stretch panel. They get a modern slim fit, with an angled cuff that allows them to fall over your knees while offering plenty of room for bulky armour. A large adjustable waistband with internal silicone detailing minimises slippage while riding, and you can even button them directly to a compatible bib or liner short using Endura’s Clickfast system.

While they are on the pricey side, and we wouldn’t choose them for long-distance summer XC rides, these are a great-fitting pair of shorts that are well suited to gravity riding and those who put their gear through the wringer.

Up top we’ve got the latest Endura SingleTrack jersey. While this looks like a basic tech tee, it features a supple and soft-feeling technical fabric that’s made from recycled materials. It’s light and breezy to wear, thanks to the micro-mesh construction that employs larger eyelets underneath the armpits. There’s also a small stash pocket at the rear, and an antibacterial treatment to reduce stink. Available in a few colours and in a long-sleeve option, this is a really nice summer riding top.

Tor Custom Steel Hardtail

 tor bikes steel hardtail
From a nerdy discussion on a ride, to some CAD drawings, to a complete bike, the process behind this custom steel hardtail is fascinating.

What kind of bike would you build if you could go fully custom? That’s a big question, and one that Wil started pondering in great detail earlier this year. Following a series of nerdy discussions with Beechworth framebuilder Shane Flint of Tor Bikes, a plan was hatched to build a bespoke hardtail frame that Wil would utilise as a rolling test bed for various components.

Several months later, and the Tor Mullock has arrived!

Handmade from a combination of Colombus Zona and custom-formed 4130 chromoly tubing, this frame features some sweet details including pivoting dropouts from Paragon Machine Works and custom chainstay yokes from Cobra Framebuilding. It was all cut, mitred and fillet brazed together at the Tor Bikes workshop in Beechworth, and has been lovingly painted by the wizards at Velo Craft in Melbourne.

Keen to know more about the custom-building process, and what specs a Tech Editor would choose for his own personal bike? Check out Wil’s article about building a custom steel hardtail for the lowdown!

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