Flow’s Fresh Produce | Specialized launches new Ambush 2 & Camber helmets

It’s been barely a week since we last caught up, but already we have another freshly baked edition of Flow’s Fresh Produce ready for you to sink your teeth into! Don’t say we never spoil you ok?

As we come in at full speed, two-wheel drifting into the new product season, the bike launches and events are coming through thick and fast. Strap yourself in folks, because there is a lot going on to get your mountain biking stoke levels topped up for 2022!

Pivot Cycles made its first big move of the year with the release of the Shadowcat — a lightweight trail bike that has replaced the venerable Mach 5.5. We’ve also just recently finished testing the brand new Liv Embolden, which impressed us with its comfortable suspension, confidence-inspiring handling and the well-appointed build kit given the modest price tag. Indeed while there are some crazy expensive bikes and gear on the market, the entry-level stuff just gets better and better — check out our RockShox Domain fork review for proof.

2022 liv embolden 2 full suspension
Roz railing through the dust on the new Liv Embolden.

On the events side, you may have been one of the unlucky buggers who missed out on the epic Cannonball MTB Festival at Thredbo that made headlines across MTB media all around the world. But don’t fret — we’ve just published a vibe-heavy video following the behind-the-scenes shenanigans of the Polygon crew that we guarantee will cure those FOMO blues!

Got a hankering for some MTB stage racing? The good news is that the Port to Port is back for 2022. It’s not the only race that’s back either — check out our story on the XC stage racing calendar to get you and your mates fired up for some upcoming events. While you’re at it, get up to speed on the Wild Mersey trail network in Tasmania, which has added a load of new trails that we are gagging to get our tyres onto.

And last but certainly not least, we have had a humongous delivery of new gear here at Flow HQ. So without further ado, let’s dive into the new edition of Flow’s Fresh Produce!

Specialized Ambush 2 Helmet

specialized ambush 2 mips helmet
Fully redesigned from the inside-out, the new Specialized Ambush 2 helmet is packed with features.

The Specialized Ambush has been a super popular trail helmet ever since it was released back in 2015. While there have been updates in that time, its distinctive style has remained unchanged. Well, until now.

Here we have the brand new Specialized Ambush 2, which is the freshest mountain bike helmet to come from the Californian brand. It looks nothing like the old one, and instead follows similar design cues to the recently released Gambit full face helmet, adopting a more organic shape with softer edges. There’s a fixed visor that integrates seamlessly into the helmet’s shell, providing a decent amount of coverage while being just out of your peripheral vision. You can also store sunglasses underneath the visor while climbing, with discreet rubber flaps tucked away in the side vents to help secure the arms and minimise vibration.

Under the hood is a thick dual-density EPS foam core that puts softer foam in the key strike zones around your forehead, temples, and the back of the skull. Further protection is provided by an integrated MIPS SL liner, helping the new Ambush to receive a 5-star rating from Virginia Tech. Externally is a fully in-moulded polycarbonate shell with a classy two-tone finish, and a nice broad platform in the centre of the helmet that’ll accommodate a helmet light or a stick-on mount for an action camera. The Ambush 2 also has a dedicated spot on the harness to fit a stick-on ANGi crash sensor, which is available separately for an additional $50.

The thicker construction means weight has increased slightly, with the Specialized Ambush 2 coming in at 354g for our Medium-sized helmet. That’s still lighter than most of its competitors though, which includes the Giro Manifest (369g), Bontrager Rally Wavecel (394g), Fox Speedframe Pro MIPS (398g) and Lazer Jackal MIPS (412g).

We’ve been impressed with the fit too. The harness offers height adjustment, and you can cinch up the tension via an adjuster dial that’s integrated into the helmet shell. We also love the adjustable Tri-Fix splitters that prevent the straps from rubbing up against your ears.

While you do get excellent coverage around the back and sides, there’s still useful clearance for sunglasses. Goggles don’t seem to fit as well as they do with a Fox Speedframe, but we expect goggle users are gravitating towards lightweight full face helmets these days anyway. Otherwise both of our testers have found the overall shape and comfort to be top-notch, with decent ventilation thanks to the large intake port over the forehead and sculpted internal channels. Along with the distinctive styling and suave matte finish, we expect the new Ambush 2 to be even more popular than its predecessor.

Specialized Camber Helmet

specialized camber mips helmet
The new Specialized Camber adopts a similar style to the Ambush and Tactic, while coming in at a much cheaper price point.

Another fresh lid out of California, this is the all-new Specialized Camber helmet. That’s right folks – the short travel trail bike from the past has been reincarnated as a budget-oriented trail helmet! That might not be what some fans were hoping for, but we’re happy to see the name back on the scene regardless.

The arrival of the new Camber completes the three-tier trail helmet lineup from Specialized. There’s the Ambush 2 at the top ($280 AUD), the Tactic in the middle ($180 AUD), and now the Camber at the bottom ($120 AUD).

Despite its lower price point, the Camber bears a striking resemblance to its pricier siblings with a top quality finish. There’s a sleek in-moulded polycarbonate shell to protect the EPS foam core, a neatly integrated visor, and a bonafide MIPS liner inside. You don’t get quite as much coverage at the rear of the helmet compared to the Ambush and Tactic, and the EPS foam is a simpler single density construction.

There’s also no vertical adjustment to the harness, but there is a simple tension wheel at the back that provides a broad range of adjustment for dialling in the fit. We’re also glad to see that Specialized has carried over the brilliant Tri-Fix strap splitters, making the Camber a comfortable and great-fitting helmet out of the box. It’s available in a huge size range from X-Small through to X-Large, with each size getting its own unique shell. Even the weight is impressive at 367g for our Medium sample size, making the Camber a well-priced for trail riders, kids and commuters.

Ride Concepts Tallac Flat Pedal Shoes

ride concepts tallac flat pedal shoes
Designed for backcountry trail riding and alpine scrambling, the Ride Concepts Tallac shoes feature a more rugged rubber outsole and a tough Cordura upper.

We’ve also just received some snazzy mountain bike kicks from Ride Concepts. This is a brand new model called the Tallac, which has been named after Mt Tallac – one of the tallest mountains in the Lake Tahoe area, where Ride Concepts is based.

Designed for trail riding and backcountry exploring, the Tallac employs the same uber-sticky Max Grip rubber compound used on other flat pedal shoes from Ride Concepts, like the Hellion Elite and Powerline. The tread pattern is unique to the Tallac however, with knobblier sections that extend around the toe and heel for maximising grip when you’re bushwhacking or scrambling up off-piste singletrack.

As a further nod towards their outdoors practicality, the Tallac is built with durable Cordura fabric for the upper, which is reinforced with bonded TPU armouring around the toe and heel cups. Cushioning is provided by an EVA midsole, and the footbeds utilise D3O inserts for additional shock protection.

There’s a fully gusseted tongue to keep dirt and debris from working their way into the shoe, and laces keep things simple while offering greater fine-tuning of the fit compared to a fancy BOA dial or ratchet strap.

The internal profile mimics our experience with previous Ride Concepts shoes, and most feet will slide into these without issue. They’re a touch wider and feature a slightly higher volume compared to a Shimano GR9 flat pedal shoe, though are pretty similar to a Specialized 2FO. One aspect that we really like is the heel pull tab – a simple but welcome feature when you’re tugging the shoes on.

Ride Concepts Tallac Clip Shoes

ride concepts tallac clip shoes
Also brand new is the Ride Concepts Tallac Clip shoe.

For those who like to clip in to their pedals, we’ve also got the new Ride Concepts Tallac Clip shoe. These are available in two versions — one with a BOA dial, and the standard model we have here that uses laces and a Velcro strap.

As with the flat pedal version, the Tallac Clip gets aggressive rubber tread that’s built to provide a supportive platform while clipped in, and reliable traction when you’re off the bike and hiking it up the hillside. A nylon shank provides a stiff platform for your cleats, and there’s a deep channel that extends in front and behind the cleat to provide uninterrupted entry.

Inside is an anti-bacterial mesh lining to minimise stink, along with a gusseted tongue, a cushioned EVA midsole and D3O inserts in the footbeds. It’s all wrapped with a low-profile but tough Cordura upper that features TPU armour for tree-kicking protection.

Camelbak Rogue Light 2L Hydration Pack

camelbak rogue light hydration pack roz
If it’s a lightweight and minimalist pack you’re after, it doesn’t get much more compact than the Camelbak Rogue Light.

As far as backpacks go, the Camelbak Rogue Light is about as minimalist as it gets. It’s supplied with Camelbak’s excellent 2L Crux reservoir, which has the best bite-valve going, a high-flow tube, and a shutoff valve. The hose is also detachable so you can leave it in place when removing the bladder for filling or cleaning.

Despite the svelte shape, the Rogue Light possesses two decently-sized zippered pockets. There’s the main compartment that houses the bladder, and a slimmer pocket at the front. In between is a stretch overflow pouch that’ll take a lightweight jacket or low-profile knee pads.

The simple harness features adjustable shoulder straps and a sternum buckle. There’s no waist strap, so it does tend to shift around if you’re riding steep descents or hitting jumps. It’s not as big of a deal for everyday trail riding however, since the bag is light and it sits close to your back to reduce movement. Breathability is quite good due to the pack’s small surface area and the fact that all the main touch points are made with big open-eyelet mesh padding. Certainly for those who want a lightweight option that’s still able to carry a decent amount of water, the Rogue Light is a suitable option for tackling longer distance XC rides and marathon racing.

Camelbak Podium Chill 600ml Bottle

camelbak podium chill insulated bottle
Featuring a layer of insulation thanks to its dual-wall design, the Camelbak Podium Chill helps to keep your drink cool on hot days out in the saddle.

The Camelbak Podium Chill uses exactly the same cap and one-way bite valve as the standard Podium bottle, but it features a dual-wall construction with an insulating layer in between that’s designed to keep your drink cooler for longer. It’s more expensive as a result, but it really has become a must-have bottle for us while riding in hot summer conditions. Indeed once you’ve used an insulated bottle, you’ll wonder how you ever managed to swill lukewarm water in the past.

The only downside is that the bottle is slightly taller — it’s closer in size to a typical 700ml bottle, so we’ve had a few full suspension bikes that it won’t quite fit in. Providing you have clearance though, it’s an excellent option for the warmer months.

Time Speciale 12 Pedals

time speciale 12 clip pedals
Featuring a machined alloy body and the iconic ATAC mechanism, the Time Speciale 12 is a seriously trick pedal.

Whereas the Time ATAC XC pedals are made for XC racing, the Time Speciale is purpose-built for trail riders and enduro racing. They’re a little heavier, but they feature a broader and tougher platform that’s designed to sync up with chunkier trail-style shoes (think Shimano ME7, Specialized 2FO Cliplite, and the Ride Concept Tallac shoes shown above).

Spinning on stainless steel cartridge bearings, the pedal body is manufactured in France from 6106-T6 alloy, and it’s available in three different anodised colours. Threaded grub screws are also included, allowing you to increase traction between the pedal body and the underside of your shoes.

The ATAC mechanism is carried over from the XC pedals, though on the Speciale model you have a slightly finer range of adjustment for the spring tension. As with the ATAC XC pedals, you can swap the asymmetric brass cleats from left to right to change the release angle from 13° to 17°.

Confirmed weight for the top-end Time Speciale 12 pedals we have on test here is 403g for the pair, without grub screws. That puts them at around 30g lighter than a set of XTR Trail pedals, though they do sell for considerably more. Are they worth it? We’ll be putting through the wringer over a long-term test to find out.

Time Speciale 8 Pedals

time speciale 8 clip pedals
At nearly half the price, the Time Speciale 8 pedals offer greater value for money over the top-end Speciale 12.

Coming in at almost half the price of the Speciale 12, the Time Speciale 8 pedals use a slightly smaller and cheaper alloy body. This actually makes them a fraction lighter, coming in at a confirmed 393g for our test pair.

They still feature hollow steel axles and replaceable stainless steel cartridge bearings, and they have the same ATAC mechanism with adjustable spring tension. Grub screws are included in the box, so you can choose to run the pedals with or without. We’ve got a set of black Speciale 8 pedals here, though they’re also available in a jazzy anodised orange finish.

Time DH 4 Pedals

time atac mx dh pedals clip
If it’s durability and all-weather functionality you’re after, good luck finding a pair of pedals with a better reputation than the Time DH 4!

As the chunkiest and most heavy-duty option in the range, the Time DH 4 pedals are built around an alloy body with an oversized axle for maximum rock-smacking durability. They’re not exactly light, with a confirmed weight of 474g for the pair. However, it’s worth noting that these are primarily designed for the downhillers, e-MTB riders, enduro racers and trail riders who are after the toughest option that they can get their feet on.

They use a similar ATAC mechanism as the Speciale and ATAC XC pedals, but the tension bars are round rather than square, as they’re actually an extension of the spring itself. It’s a wonderfully simple system, and it’s worth acknowledging the huge cavities built into the alloy platform that allow mud and debris to easily evacuate when clipping back in. From a durability and all-weather perspective, there’s a lot to like about these pedals.

While there’s no adjustability to the spring itself, you can tweak the release angle as usual by swapping the cleats from left to right. If you want a slightly tighter release angle again, Time also offers an aftermarket ‘Easy’ cleat option for a 10° release angle.

CushCore Pro Tyre Inserts

cushcore pro mullet 29 27.5 tubeless tyre inserts
CushCore now sells a mullet pack with a 29in insert for the front and a 27.5in insert for the rear.

You’ll no doubt have seen CushCore tubeless tyre inserts in Flow’s Fresh Produce before, and that’s because we’re regular users of these rim-protecting, pinch flat-defending, sidewall-boosting, impact-damping inserts. But with Mick having recently purchased a new bike, it was time to get our hands on a fresh set to protect his fancy DT Swiss carbon rims.

Available in 27.5in and 29in sizes, the CushCore Pro inserts we have here are designed to suit tyres up to 2.6in wide. You can buy them as a single insert or as a pair, and they come supplied with tubeless valves. Previously only available in green, the ones we’ve got are red. And you know what they say about red eh?

Canyon Spectral LTD AXS 29

2022 canyon spectral ltd axs flight attendant
Mick’s new bike – a stunning Canyon Spectral fitted with electronic gizmos galore!

Having been mighty impressed with the RockShox Flight Attendant bike that we’ve been testing lately, Mick set out to get his hands on a new trail bike equipped with the automated electronic suspension system. The bike he decided on? That would be this all-singing and all-dancing Canyon Spectral LTD AXS 29. Looks pretty sharp eh?

The Spectral LTD AXS 29 comes equipped the new RockShox Lyrik fork and Super Deluxe shock, both of which are able to alternate between three compression modes (Open-Pedal-Lock) depending on what the terrain and rider are doing. It’s very clever stuff, and we can tell you that it works exceptionally well.

In addition to the electronic suspension, this bike also gets a wireless Reverb AXS dropper post, a SRAM AXS X01 drivetrain, Code RSC brakes, DT Swiss XMC 1501 carbon wheels, and a one-piece carbon cockpit. The ultimate trail bike? Well, it’s been a while since Mick sought out a bike with such vengeance, so it better bloody be!

Rapha Trail Pants

 rapha trail mtb pants
Rapha continues to roll out some seriously impressive mountain bike riding gear, which includes the excellent Trail pant.

We’ve been using a heap of the new Rapha mountain bike kit over the past year, though more recently we got our legs into a pair of the latest  Trail pants. These are manufactured from a double weave fabric that uses a nylon and elastane mix to provide a combination of durability and flexibility. The articulated knees minimise lifting around the ankles while pedalling, and there’s enough room to fit a lightweight set of knee pads. Reinforcing fabric is applied around the leg cuffs to ward off damage from your bike’s drivetrain, while a DWR treatment is applied to the full garment for some additional splash protection.

The Rapha Trail pants are available in six sizes from X-Small to XX-Large, and there are four colours on offer. They feature an adjustable waistband belt, two regular hand pockets and two vertical zippered pockets with a dedicated phone sleeve inside. Another nice feature is the inclusion of a repair kit, though quite incredibly, Rapha also offers a free repair service for the lifetime of the product. Crashy riders take note!

Pearl Izumi Summit Gloves

pearl izumi summit gloves
We’re digging the bright colours on the new season Pearl Izumi Summit gloves.

Apparel brand Pearl Izumi has launched a bunch of new season gloves, which includes the classy Summit gloves. Designed for maximum tactile feedback, the Summit gloves use a thin, single-piece synthetic leather palm that skips any padding or gel inserts for a seamless fit. The palm then extends up around the top of the fingers, which means there are no annoying stitch lines rubbing under your fingernails.

The fingers are touchscreen compatible, and they feature silicone detailing for a little extra grip on your handlebar controls. There’s a sweat wipe on the back of the thumb, and a low profile Velcro closure for the wrist. Available in sizes from Small through to XX-Large and in three colours, including the Timber/Ocean Blue colour shown here.

Pearl Izumi Summit Pro Gloves

pearl izumi summit pro gloves
The Summit Pro adds TPU protection on the outer knuckles – a useful feature for riding through scrubby singletrack.

The Pearl Izumi Summit Pro gloves build on a similar theme as the standard model, but add some welcome protection via TPU panels over the outer knuckles. These have already proven ideal for whipping past spiky native bushes on some of our overgrown test trails.

The Summit Pro also steps up to a Clarino synthetic leather palm that features freakin’ laser-cut perforations in the middle for improved ventilation. There’s a wide elastic stretch-band around the cuff for a more secure fit, along with silicone grippers on the fingertips, touchscreen compatibility, and a sweat wipe on the thumb.

Pearl Izumi Elevate Gloves

peral izumi elevate gloves
The Pearl Izumi Elevate gloves ditch the Velcro strap and employ a thin and stretchy fabric for the back of the hand.

As a more minimalist option in the mountain bike range, the Pearl Izumi Elevate gloves put a stronger focus on breathability and flexibility. The Clarino palm features ventilation holes across its full length, and the fabric used on the back is both super lightweight and stretchy. To keep things streamlined, there’s no Velcro wrist closure. You still get silicone detailing on the thumb, index and middle fingers, as well as a sweat wipe. Available in sizes from Small through to XX-Large, and in two colour options.

Pearl Izumi Elevate Mesh LTD Gloves

pearl izumi elevate mesh ltd gloves
If it’s the glove-less feel you’re after, these super-light Pearl Izumi Elevate Mesh LTD gloves are the ones to go for in the range.

For riders who would prefer not to ride with gloves at all, the Pearl Izumi Elevate Mesh LTD glove is one of the lightest full finger options going. These strip all the features back to the absolute bare minimum, and build the glove around an open-eyelet mesh fabric for the back that is about as breathable as it gets. There’s no protection built in, no gel pads for the palm, no silicone gripper details and no wrist closure. Instead you have a one-piece synthetic leather palm with perforated holes for ventilation, and a simple elastic strip around the cuff. Available in sizes from X-Small to XX-Large, and in four colour options with some pretty funky designs!

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