We are bloody excited to have taken delivery of the S-Works Enduro 650B, their appropriately named big mountain gravity enduro bike. The Enduro is available in both 29″ and 650B wheel sizes (29″ with slightly less travel) and of course a few models at lower price points, plus there is also an EVO variant (a coil shock model with gravity focussed components). While we put some quality time in aboard the Enduro to establish our final review, we deliver some initial thoughts on this dreamy ride.
But first let’s just take a moment to recognise any Specialized with the badge ‘S-Works’ is going to be a dream ride by default; you’ll find a froth inducing S-Works badge in most of the high end frame offerings, from hardtails to women’s specific models, right up from cross country Epic to their downhill race bike, the Demo. An S-Works model is simply as good as it gets, Specialized spare nothing in speccing their flagship bikes with the best kit available to them, built onto the lightest frame configurations. Sure a $10499 bike is going to be amazing, but the potential buyer of a bike in this category is a tough crowd to please.
What really stood out about the Enduro, when it first came out in 29″ wheeled version, was the way Specialized focused on making a big travel 29er with a chain stay length of just 430mm, all in an aim to eliminate those preconceptions that big-travel, big-wheeedl bike couldn’t corner like a 26er. Read all about that here. Specialized have long been quite hard nosed about the 29″ wheel being the optimum wheel for all bikes and all riders. But, in our experience, not everyone wants a 29er! When it comes to this category of bike, many riders prefer a smaller wheel, so we’re very happy that the Enduro know lets us enjoy all those things we love about Specialized bikes, but with 650B wheels. Bravo, Specialized this is the bike we’ve been waiting for.
There are a few standout components on the Enduro that we really like. It’s easy to forget that aside from the brakes, suspension and gear set it’s a completely Specialized bike, their in-house components are seriously top notch and assimilate into the bike cleanly. The wheels are especially worth a note, the new super-wide 30mm carbon Roval Traverse SL Fattie wheels take our appreciation for fat carbon rims to the next level, more on those in the final review. The Command Post scores the SRL, a new incredibly neat and ergonomic lever found where a left hand shifter could be, and the new Slaughter tyre with its low profile centre flanked with aggressive side knobs is sure to aid in acceleration without detracting from cornering control.
From the new slippery finish on the Henge saddle, to the nifty top-mounted chain guard, to the ideal cable routing the whole bike is polished to perfection. The frame finish is gorgeous to see, and also quite resilient, not looking tatty at all despite the muddy riding it’s seen so far.
Our first assignment for the Enduro was to Rotorua for five days riding, while we expected it be a little too much bike for the buff and flowing singletrack there, we hoped that the low weight and fast wheels would help keep it rolling fast, and it sure did. Unfortunately for us the Cane Creek DB AIR Inline shock lost most of its rebound damping, and proceeded to get worse during our time in NZ. The replacement shock also seemed to have rebound problems, so it also had to go back to Specialized. We’re currently riding the third shock, and so far so good. Word from Specialized was that our bike was an early release from their Test The Best demo fleet, hence teething problems with the new Cane Creek shock.
First impressions of the bike are mighty positive, we’ve never found a 165mm bike to feel as capable in such a wide variety of trails as this. Usually in this big enduro/all-mountain category we find the bikes to be a real handful, especially to climb on, or to maintain good speed through flatter trails. The Enduro feels like it would happily mix it up with any 130-140mm trail bike but when it comes to higher speeds and steeper, rougher tracks the Enduro rides into its own with real flair.
We’ll delve into the full ride characteristics later, but for now one standout aspect is how the super short chain stays affect the ride: pulling a manual in the carpark on our first ride we almost flipped right over on to our arses! Stay length is 422mm, compared to the Norco Range we’re currently testing at 426mm in the rear (medium size), or a Santa Cruz Nomad at 433mm.
So we’ll be back shortly with our final review of the Enduro, now we’ve been able to spend some quality time with the rear shock working perfectly. Stay tuned!
The French are not known for offering much leniency when it comes to their conceptions of what an item should be or how it should be used: “This is a croissant. It is made with butter.” “This is a baguette. It is eaten with ham and cheese.” And it’s fair enough – what the French do, in their very particular way, they do very well. Therefore, it seems particularly un-French, that Lapierre should now offer a choice of two variants of their vaunted Zesty.
For many years, the Zesty’s formula has been bang on, so were as surprised as anyone when Lapierre brought out the Zesty in two completely different configurations for 2014. It seemed odd to us that Lapierre would muddy the Zesty’s identity, splitting the range into an AM (all-mountain series) with 150mm travel and 27.5” wheels, and the TR (trail series) with 120mm travel and 29” hoops. But as old mate said, “what’s in a name?” What really matters is how this rose smells on the trail.
Let’s start with the area that everyone always asks about first: the e:i Shock electronic suspension system. 2015 is the third year that Lapierre have implemented this brainy, automatically-adjusting suspension and we feel that the system has finally reached the level of refinement that will gain it broader acceptance. We’ve had reservations about the e:i system in the past (read about our experiences in our long-term review of the 2014 Zesty 927) but this year it’s a different kettle of fish.
In a highly abbreviated version, the system works thus: a sensor on the fork and a sensor in the bottom bracket communicate with your rear shock to ensure that it’s using the ideal compression setting for any given situation. If it’s bumpy, the shock is fully open, if it’s smooth/smooth-ish then the shock is either locked out or uses a medium compression setting. If you want to learn more about the detail of the e:i system, watch this video.
What is great about the new version of the e:i system is how much more simple the interface is with the rider, and how much more cleanly it integrates with the bike. The battery (which last for around 24hrs riding) is now offset, meaning a water bottle cage can be fitted (hooray!), and the bulbous head unit is gone. In its place is a small receiver that is fitted with a single LED light to communicate to the rider which setting system is currently in. The sleek incorporation of the new receiver not only looks a lot neater, but it’s far less susceptible to damage too – last year, we unthinkingly flipped an e:i bike upside to fix a flat and broke the display, but that can’t happen now.
As with previous versions of the system, you can opt to leave the suspension in automatic mode (which we highly recommend), or you can select to ‘fix’ it into a medium or locked out compression setting. You also have ability to set the sensitivity level of the automatic mode, which dictates how much bump force is required to disengage the medium/locked-out compression settings. We definitely preferred the most sensitive setting, which delivers the smoothest and most supple ride.
Looking beyond the electronics, this is a striking, bold machine that’s put together to an exceptionally high standard. The front triangle is carbon, the rear end alloy, which is a construction configuration we’re seeing a lot more of now. The Zesty TR 829 shares the same OST suspension design as is found on the Zesty AM; it’s a true four-bar configuration, with a double row of bearings used for the dropout pivot. The seat stays and chain stays are super robust and widely set, giving the 829 a level of rear end stiffness that evades most 29ers. The downside of this beefy construction is that some riders may experience a little heel rub (especially flat pedal users), but thankfully this wasn’t an issue for us. If you’ve got big feet, or your ride duck-footed, expect to clip your heels.
The pivot hardware uses massive fittings, and the rear shock doesn’t undergo any rotation at the DU bush, all of which should reduce the need for maintenance. The shock itself is a Rockshox Monarch – there are no FOX shocks currently compatible with the e:i system. Up until 12 months ago, we’d have regarded this as a downside, but Rockshox have truly lifted their game with their rear shocks of late and the stiction that plagued previous Monarch shocks is gone.
While the cables are routed internally out of the box, the frame has a full complement of cable stops so you can run the brake and gear lines externally too if that’s your preference. There’s a high level of attention to detail as well, with nice touches like a sag indicator on seat stay, a quality chain slap guard and thick frame protection stickers fitted to the exposed areas of the frame. If we’re getting picky, we do feel that the rear axle is a bit average, as the cam mechanism became very hard to operate once it got gritty after a few days’ riding.
As the second-highest model in the Zesty TR range, the 829 is kitted out with some of the finest offerings that SRAM can muster. Undoubtedly the highlight is the XX1/X01 drivetrain (using X0 carbon cranks), which never seems to miss a beat – not one dropped chain or missed shift, and the gear range is tremendous. The SRAM Roam 40 wheels were a pleasant surprise too; even though they’re SRAM’s more basic Roam wheel offering, they’re super light, tubeless ready and the freehub engagement is speedy.
Suspension duties are handled by a Rockshox Monarch rear shock and a SID 120 fork with slick looking Fast Black coated legs.
The new Guide RS brakes and a Reverb Stealth post complete the picture. One the advantages of the full SRAM ensemble is that the Match Maker system can be enjoyed to full effect, with just two clamps on the bar for both brakes, the seatpost remote and shifter.
Schwalbe’s new-look Nobby Nic in a 2.25” width handles the rubber duties. The tread pattern of these tyres is greatly improved, with far more stability available when cornering. We do still have some questions about their long-term durability as we did cut the sidewall of the rear tyre, though we were testing the bike in the notoriously tyre-slashing terrain of Alice Springs.
Zap, zap goes the Zesty’s brainy shock the moment you turn a pedal stroke and set off into the trail, instantly firming up the suspension when the terrain is smooth or opening it up when it’s bumpy.
It takes just a few minutes of riding before you begin to ignore the noise of the little motor working away and you stop paying attention to the LED indicator telling you which mode the suspension is in. But after those few minutes you begin to realise something… You’re not thinking about your suspension, at all.
Reaching for a lock-out on the shock or hitting a lock-out lever on the bars has become such a standard part of riding a dual suspension bike (especially on longer-travel bikes) that it’s really refreshing to be able to forget about all that and concentrate on just riding, knowing that your bike is as efficient as is ever possible. And it IS far more efficient; there’s absolutely zero unwanted suspension movement.
Ignoring the e:i system, the Zesty TR is a fantastic handling bike in its own right. It’s a really solid frame, not in a boat anchor kind of way, but in a shove-it-int0-a-corner kind of way – the rear end is much stiffer than we’re accustomed to on a 120mm 29er and this brings lots of confidence to the ride overall. Confidence is everything as far as we’re concerned, and this bike has it in spades.
With its 1×11 drivetrain, the Zesty’s seatpost remote lever is located where your front shifter would normally reside. This seemingly simple setup configuration actually adds tremendously to the ride of the bike. Because the seat post lever is so easy to hit (just as easy as hitting a shifter) we used it much more than usual, dropping the seat an inch for a fast corner, popping it back up for a pinch climb, slamming it all the way down for a jump… In conjunction with the suspension automatically working its magic, we found it really easy to ensure the bike was in the perfect mode for the terrain at any given moment.
The top tube and cockpit are nice and roomy too, and our size medium fitted us perfectly. We’re big fans of the long top tube / short stem setup, and the 740mm bar and 80mm stem are ideal. You’re left in a really strong, confident position to really work the terrain or slot into a corner, which is one thing the Zesty does exceptionally well. Once we’d settled on tyre pressures of around 23/24psi, we found the Nobby Nics to be super consistent, with a predictable break-away point on the loose Alice Springs surfaces.
On the whole the SID 120 is well equipped for the job at hand. It’s simple setup and lightweight construction are a highlight, but we’re sure some riders will look to put on something a little more stout, like a FOX 34 or Pike 120mm, as the bike is not afraid of harder riding. In the extremely dusty, arid, gritty conditions of Alice Springs, the fork became a little dry and sticky over the small bumps. The occasional hard compression was needed to keep the seals and legs slippery and lubricated. Chatting with locals, it’s a common story – the dust in Alice is so fine that just about every fork will need more love than usual.
Interestingly, we noticed that we rarely clipped a pedal onboard the Zesty, even though the bottom bracket height is right where you’d expect it. We put this down to the bike sitting a little higher in its travel as the e:i system kicks in as soon as you start pedalling, raising the bike’s sag point slightly.
If we had to find one area where we thought the e:i system interfered with our normal riding style, it would be in those instances where we put in a fast half pedal stroke to lift the front wheel. Normally when you jab at the pedals and lean back, the bike would sag into its travel a little in the rear, helping the front wheel to unweight. But with the e:i, because the suspension firms up as soon as you pedal, the bike doesn’t sag so much out back, meaning a bit more effort is needed to get the front wheel up. But that’s it, that’s the only instance we could perceive the e:i system as requiring any kind of adaptation from us.
After some slightly frustrating experiences with the e:i system in the past, we are absolutely thrilled with this bike and the advancements it represents. No, of course you don’t ‘need’ electronic suspension (and no-one’s forcing it upon you), but neither do you ‘need’ traction control in your car, or an electric toothbrush or a 6-megapixel camera on your phone.
The e:i system does add complexity to the bike, but what this test showed us, is that it actually simplifies the ride. The Zesty TR is a really fantastic bike, with great geometry, smooth suspension and well-thought out component choices, and even the non-e:i versions of this bike would be magnificent. But when you add the e:i system’s efficiency to a bike that’s already this good, you get an amazing machine. Nice work, Lapierre, it’s great to see this system reach a level we’re truly happy with (now, hurry up and make that battery pack internal too!).
One of the first indicators that Specialized was succumbing to market (or perhaps industry) demands and dipping a toe in the 650b market, was the release of the popular Purgatory all-mountain treads in a 650b form. This excellent all-rounder rubber is now available for mid-sized hoops, which is a brilliant thing as we happen to think Specialized tyres are some of the best out there (you can read our review of the Purgatory 29″ here) and we welcome the chance to fit them to other 650b bikes. The tubeless ready Purgatory is only available in a 2.3″ width for now, and the 650b version weighs in at 755g. We’re currently riding these on a set of Specialized Fattie SL wheels and the combo is excellent!
If you regularly travel with your bike (or if you’ve just got a bike worth protecting properly!) then you’ll appreciate just how much easier life is when you’re using a proper bike bag, as opposed to a cardboard box. The new Mega Bag from PRO is something of a hybrid between a soft bag and a hard bike case. It has a subframe that you secures your bike’s dropouts, then the wheels simply slip into the pockets on the side. There are numbers zip-up compartments inside too, perfect for stuffing your riding kit into to get the bag right up to that 32kg limit! The bag itself weighs 7.5kg, but it’s very well padded and with four quality wheels, scooting around the airport is easy too.
Bont are widely known for their high end, immaculately constructed shoes, so the addition of quality shoes at an entry to mid-level price point is very exciting. The Riot shoes incorporate technologies that have trickled down from their higher priced models- for example carbon composite construction to create a sole stiffer than Greg Minnaar’s neck, mesh inserts for ventilation, dual Velcro and ratchet closing system and replaceable sole guards- especially useful for scampering up those unrideable sections of trail.
The Bontrager Lithos helmet places the seemingly all-encompassing all-mountain/enduro crowd firmly in its sights, with more coverage out back than your average XC lid to assist you when things get a bit rowdy on the trail. Despite this, the Lithos remains quite light for its profile, with the medium coming in at 330 grams. Bontrager also claim to have the answer to one of the biggest problems for any regular rider- smelly helmet syndrome. The AgION Fit pads have moisture-wicking antimicrobial pads which Bontrager claim “completely eliminate odours”. This will be put to the test on an upcoming trip to Alice Springs which is sure to bring about an outpouring of bodily juices in the cranium region.
Speedwolf are a direct to you lights retailer, allowing them to keep their prices pretty low in comparison with similarly specced lights on the market. The Speedwolf IV is a 1500 lumen light that retails for $179, shipped free of charge straight to your door with a 14 day no questions asked return policy as well as a one year warranty- pretty impressive. Useful mountain biking features include adaptability to be run on both your handlebars and helmet, 5 hours of run time on high and the peace of mind that you can get the light wet as both the light itself and the battery are waterproof.
Specialized are the boss. With their gap-free range of exemplary bikes, strong and visible marketing, thorough array of parts and accessories and their excellent in-house components, it’s no wonder these guys sit so high in the mountain bike food chain. What’s new for the next season? What can they improve on? For 2015 Specialized release a new Enduro, and do more than just dip a toe into the water with the 650b bikes.
We snagged a few quick test rides around the Gold Coast’s fast and zippy singletrack of Nerang, and and in between dirt time we perused the halls of the 2015 dealer show, and picked out our fave new rigs for next year. Here are our thoughts on the new bits and bobs from the bold crew from Morgan Hill, California.
Click on the smaller images for captions and details.
Highlights from the 2015 mens mountain bike range:
New Enduro with 650b wheels.
New wide profile Roval Fattie wheels.
Stumpjumper EVO with 650b wheels (released a few months ago).
New 380g dropper post with a slight 35mm of drop, the SXP, on Epic and Stumpjumper HT.
Low-tread aggressive Slaughter tyre on Stumpjumper EVO, Demo and Enduro range.
The Camber remains unchanged for 2015, aside from a couple of spec changes.
You’ll have to look hard to find SRAM brakes, with more Shimano and Magura on the vast majority of models.
There are five fat bikes…jeeeez.
Specialized have had a bike named ‘Enduro’ in their lineup for many years, long before it became a trendy buzzword, and the sport blew up on the international scene in a big way. The Enduro comes in two flavours, 650b and 29″, with a couple of carbon models and one aluminium framed versions available in Oz.
The downhill World Cup superstars Aaron Gwin and Troy Brosnan both raced the Enduro 650b at the first two rounds of the 2014 World Cup in Pietermaritzburg and Cairns. If they can whack a dual crown fork on an Enduro and light it up at World Cup level, we have no doubts that it’s up to the hardest riding we can deliver.
When Specialized released the Enduro 29, they focused heavily on keeping the bike’s dimensions short in the rear end, with the chain stay measuring a paltry 430mm thanks to the development of a special front derailleur mount (or by ditching it completely for SRAM 1×11 models). 29″ wheels on a 155mm-travel bike is a tough one to get right, but the end result was amazing, the bike never felt too big or too long.
Still, a bike with 29″ wheels still has its drawbacks, hence the smaller 650b option. Here at Flow, we ride medium size bikes, we love to jump, pump and let the bike hang out on the trails, slide a bit, pull manuals and hoon around. That’s where a smaller wheeled bike shines. What the 29″ Enduro gains over the 650b Enduro in traction and sheer rolling speed, it loses to its smaller brother in agility and playfulness. It’s your pick! To be completely honest, we often wish we didn’t have to think about wheel sizes so much. Will bikes like the Enduro all be 650b in the future? We hope so.
We took the 650b out for a razz, and holy moly did we love it! Our initial fears that on the fairly flat and buff trails of Nerang would not be enough to fully appreciate such a capable mountain bike, were banished when we let the brakes off and burned around the turns at reckless pace. So much suspension should really suck you of your pedalling energy, but we give this Enduro the thumb up.
Specialized offer the Enduro in the up-for-it EVO format too, with slightly more travel (180mm) and Rockshox BoXXer and an Ohlins coil shock too. In fact, it’s pretty much the exact bike that Gwin and Brosnan raced early in the season!
Carrying the same name as the world’s first ever mass-produced mountain bike, the Stumpjumper FSR is a bike that suits the traditional mountain biker, one who favours all-day rides, up and down all types of terrain. The good old Stumpy is a well-loved, comfortable and capable classic.
Starting at $3199 for the Stumpjumper 29, the FSR range is an eight-strong offering of well-specced bikes. There are six 29ers (including two EVO models) and two 650b EVO models as well.
The Stumpjumper EVO 650b was the first bike that Specialized announced would be rolling on 650b wheels. The news was received with mixed feelings, as we all know how strongly Specialized professed that 29ers were the way forward, and they had 29″ wheels across the overwhelming majority of their mountain bike range. But, hey presto, we have an Enduro, Demo and a Stumpjumper in 650b now. Maybe Specialized didn’t do themselves any favours with their somewhat awkward media release headlined “Bigger is better, except when its not”. But either way, we welcome 650b bikes to the catalogue.
Giving the purchaser the option of the same bike in two wheel sizes is both a blessing and a curse. Is there too much choice? Or is this the way the whole industry is going?
In the Stumpjumper 29er series, there are no real changes from 2014 aside from spec. The regular Stumpjumper 29 still has 135mm travel, and the two EVO versions (one carbon, one alloy) get a 5mm increase in suspension travel, a long fork, with a few key parts to boost its attitude, like meaty tyres and wider handlebars.
When it comes to the 650b bikes, there are again two options, in carbon or alloy. Instead of making expensive new moulds for the 650b, Specialized have actually added a spacer under the headset of a 29er Stumpy mainframe, to achieve the right geometry for 650b parts to be used, coupled with an entirely different aluminium rear end. Compared to most of the superbly refined range, especially the 650b Enduro, the approach of using a spacer to correct the frame geometry for 650b wheels feels a little underdone. In Specialized’s defence, we’ve been told that through simply using the spacer, they were able to achieve the right geometry without the costs of constructing a completely new frame. So that’s got to be a good thing for the consumer, as they aren’t cheap in the first place.
Construction aside, how did the 650b Stumpjumper ride? We took out the bright yellow Expert Carbon 650b out for a solid few laps, and we liked it for the most part. The geometry is quite unique though, in classic Specialized form, the bottom bracket is low, but this one had us banging pedals on the ground when climbing up rocky terrain. Too low? We think so. Our cranks were scuffed up after one lap.
The handlebars are fairly tall too, we’d drop them down or swap for a flat bar unless your local terrain is steep. On paper, the tall bars, low bottom bracket and a fairly sharp 68 degree head angle seems like an odd combination, but it rides well. The smoothness off the FSR suspension was a real highlight, and cornering the bike was a blast, with oodles of traction and a very confident and centred position with wide bars holding your body in a good position for any unpredictable terrain ahead.
The trails of Nerang are hard packed, with loose gravel and sand patches to catch you out. A few jumps here and there, and many flat turns. The Stumpjumper really was a hoot to blast about on, we’d love to keep one in our quiver for the long all-day rides. Just watch your pedals on rocks.
HT = hardtail. No rear shocks on this one; it’s got an eye for the buffed cross country race tracks.
There are five models in this racy series this year, only one of which is alloy. For 2105, the Stumpy HTs get a SWAT kit (allen key set mounted to bottle cage) and we see a FOX Terralogic fork creep back into the range on the Marathon Carbon. FOX’s Terralogic damping system is not too different to the Specialized Brain damper which many Specialized riders will be familiar with, using an inertia valve to keep the fork firm until you hit a bump.
It’s funny to say, but it’s the seat post on one of the Stumpy HTs that really got us going! The XCP dropper post is found on the Stumpjumper HT and a couple Epics, and with a slight 35mm of drop, it allows the rider just that perfect bit of freedom to move about when the trails are rougher or steeper. It’s a part-carbon post, in 27.2mm diameter, with a neat internally routed cable. Mmm, chapeau Specialized on that one! We think this is just the ticket for cross country racers who don’t need a 100 or 125mm dropper post.
The back end of this bike is gorgeous, with an allen key bolt-up rear hub axle in place of a quick release skewer and a pair of very thin seat stays, offering a bit of give and compliance to the ride quality of the lightweight hardtail.
Specialized Australia bring in a whopping nine models of the Epic in three variations. The three variants of the Epic differ slightly, but are based around the same FSR suspension with a FOX Brain rear shock. There is the mighty sharp angled and lean Epic 29 World Cup, the generously geared and SWAT equipped Epic 29 Marathon, and the regular Epic 29. It’s no wonder why the Epic is the only dual suspension bike to win a World Championship XCO race, these guys are bred for the race track.
There’s no 650b wheels on any Epic, they 100% lend themselves to the bigger 29″ wheel’s rolling efficiency and generous traction.
The World Cup model uses only 95mm of suspension travel front and back. In a world where 100mm of travel is as lean as you get from almost every other brand out there, the Epic World Cup doesn’t pretend to be anything but a pure cross country race bike. All World Cup models use a single-ring drivetrain, and without a front derailleur to worry about, Specialized can go to town in the name of stiffness, with a wide and remarkably fat chainstay. Behind the chainring the tolerances are tight, all in the name of achieving a stiff, and responsive pedalling bike.
We snuck out on the Specialized S-Works Epic 29, the top of the pile, $12500 bike for a couple laps of the buff Nerang trails. What does a bike that costs this much ride like? Not too bad… Ok, it’s a real delight. The low weight, quick wheels and snappy handling made for a fast feel that you’d expect from the most premium of bikes available. It’s not hard to see what you’re spending these type of dollars on when you’re actually riding it, believe us. The new Shimano 11-speed XTR paired with the RockShox RS-1 fork makes for a jaw droopingly gorgeous parts kit and with a Brain damper in the fork matching the FOX Brain rear shock, you can make it as firm or plush as you like with a twiddle of the dials.
Twisting and winding our way through the open forest, we relished in the momentum and efficiency of the low-weight 29″ wheels. The Epic is a super sharp handling bike, with class-leading efficiency and pure speed.
This was also Flow’s first ride on the wild new inverted fork from RockShox. Sure, it twists when you hold the wheels between your knees and pull and push the handlebars, more than a SID would, but on the trail its another story. The carbon legged RS-1 is so incredibly smooth, supple and quiet on the dirt. The fork really takes a lot of the sting out of the trail with the combination of both a good suspension action, and a little bit of ‘give’ in the chassis, in a good way. We’re still worried about the price and exposed inner legs to trail damage, but we love its look and feel so far.
The Epic would have to be our pick for the cross country races or multi day stage races in the calendar.
Now you can ride the bike that Troy Brosnan piloted to a World Cup win in Fort William this year. A 650b wheeled Demo 8.
Specialized have released a completely new S-Works Demo Carbon that is due early next year, but still honour the masses with two versions of the immensely popular aluminium Demo, tweaked to fit 650b wheels.
Aside from the upsize in wheels, the Demo is now available in a new sizing range called S3 Geometry. No longer are the bikes XS, S, M, L etc, where the length and height increases with each size. Instead, you you choose your length, and you choose your height. This has come about from riders going a size up on their downhill bikes for the stability of a longer wheelbase, and so now you can a long size without the seating position going higher if you don’t wish to.
FIVE fat bikes in the Specialized range for 2015. Isn’t that nuts? Like a tumour, it’s growing, and this just proves it.
The Fatboy Expert with a RockShox Bluto fork is a bit of a winner, and with decent suspension, the bikes don’t bounce about uncontrollably anymore. We might even test one…
[divider]Body Geometry and the Retül fit system[/divider]
Specialized bought the exclusive rights to the industry leading Retül Müve body fit system. If you see one of these at your local Specialized dealer, sign up for a proper fit. It’s a whole-body experience and will let you get the most out of your bike, in comfort.
Specialized have a history of taking women’s needs seriously. The company’s 2015 range of women’s bikes took up 30% of the floor space at the Australian and New Zealand launch, a firm statement about the variety of bikes on offer for different types of riders.
While some brands offer ladies a modified head tube length, reach and standover in comparison to their men’s line, Specialized bikes sit in–between the men’s sizes.
That is to say that a medium women’s frame has tube measurements that place it in-between a men’s small and medium. A female rider of average height will sit closer to the middle of the recommended height range for a medium frame, rather than at the top end of a small. Imagine that!
Other features of the women’s range include carbon lay ups better suited to the weight range of their intended users offering a more compliant ride feel. You’ll also notice slightly easier gearing, narrower bars, appropriate stem lengths, a parts selection that’s comfortable at key contact points and aesthetics designed for ladies who want to look fast and get their bikes dirty.
With the exception of two entry-level bikes, the women’s mountain bike range is sticking with the 29” wheel size for 2015. The new women’s XC dual suspension weapon, the Era, was the talk of the show. Racy women will consider selling every expensive possession they own for the experiences this high end, and surprisingly versatile bike, offers on the trails. For us, the biggest highlight was the Rumor Evo trail bike because it’s simply so much fun to ride.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time on the 110mm trail bike, the Rumor last year. This year, the range gets extended at the top end with an Evo model, which sees the travel bump up to 120mm and the angles slacken slightly as a result.
We’ve seen a few women reaching for a small sized Camber Carbon Expert Evo, ourselves included, for the longer travel and more serious spec than the 2014 Rumor range allowed. The Rumor Expert Evo sees similar spec to the Camber Expert Evo, but built around an alloy frame: SRAM X01 and a 120mm RockShox Pike fork being the two parts that draw most attention from prospective owners. It’s great to see Shimano XT brakes make their way onto this bike too. We love the smooth ride feel they offer and they’re well suited to smaller hands.
The low standover of the Rumor frame means riders don’t overstretch the tendons of the inner thigh when getting on and off the bike, something that becomes an issue for shorter statured folk when a bike is raised higher off the ground with 29” wheels. In comparison to our time on the Camber, we were able to squash our weight down further when riding technical descents, making the bike feel much more responsive and in control. Our centre of gravity felt more balanced allowing us to really play on the bike without having to force our riding position.
The rest of the Rumor range remains at 110mm travel and has a refined spec for 2015. Shimano brakes adorn all but the $2299 base model. The range tops out with a new Elite model coming in at $4,399. This one will run a RockShox Revelation fork, a 2×10 drive train, Shimano SLX brakes, a Command dropper post and also comes in a stealthy black.
There is still no model available in carbon, which is either because engineers are still finding a way to make the frame shape remain strong with this magic material, or because Specialized feel the market isn’t quite there yet. While we’re hanging for the carbon model as much as the next girl, riding the Rumor and a Carbon Camber back-to-back, we’d choose the alloy frame for the performance offered by the more intuitive-feeling fit.
While the Rumor Evo is the bike that grabs our attention for trail riding, the new dual suspension 29er, the Era, is the showstopper. The Era for women is what the Epic is for men: a high performance race bike designed with speed and winning World Championships in mind. In fact, Annika Langvad rode a pre-production Era to her Marathon World Champs victory a month ago causing much internet speculation about this new women’s frame.
Everything about the top of the line S-Works Era takes racing as seriously as the women who will ride it. SRAM XX1 build, light Magura MT8 brakes, RockShox RS1 forks, Roval Control SL carbon wheelset. And with gloss black decals over a matt black finish, it looks the part too. The Era runs 100mm travel at the front (90mm on small models) and 95mm at the back.
Again, the sizing of the Era sits between the men’s sizes and offers lower standover. The carbon layup reflects a lower weight range of the intended users, which, paired with such a blinged out, carbon build, gives the bike a much softer and more compliant ride feel than we expected. In fact, the finished product is so tight and agile, we wouldn’t be surprised to see riders on the small size choose it over the burlier Rumor.
Running the Specialized Brain front and rear and weighing in at a reported 10.1kg for the top of the line model, the Era has all the benefits of a racy hardtail buts lets you be less precise in line choice and take on rougher trails at a higher speed. This adds to the versatility of the bike. It’s one we’d love to do a tough stage race on for sure.
Pointing to the high-performance aims of the Era is a high flying price tag. The Black Beauty you see here will sell for $11,499. The Expert model is $7,199 and the base model is a $4,499, once again reflecting a race-ready build.
The Fate hasn’t changed a whole lot since we tested the 2013 model. It has undergone some welcome refinements in spec, which point to ever evolving parts selection available for a light and nimble hardtail. The suspension remains at 80mm keeping the front end nice and low.
The S-Works Fate gets the SRAM XX1 treatment, a change from the 2×10 SRAM and Shimano drive train it ran last year. A price tag of $8999 points to the zero comprise parts list Specialized use when assembling their top of the line bikes and the cost of extreme dieting.
While nine grand for a hardtail will make some riders open their eyes wider than the Great Australian Bite, you have to hand it to Specialized for continually bringing bikes into the women’s market that sit on a level playing field, in terms of spec, design and fit, with the men’s.
The Expert Carbon Fate is the model that attracted us the most. It’s a more modest build than the S-Works model, for a more modest spend ($4,499). That said, the build is everything most riders need: a carbon wheelset, RockShox SID forks (with the Specialized Brain), a 2×10 chainset, and a beautifully designed and fitting carbon frame. The Comp Carbon Fate will sell for $2,999.
Another new model for 2015 is the Jynx. This bike is the only one in the Specialized women’s range built around 650B wheels. The idea here is that this mid-size wheel is less intimidating for riders who are new to the sport.
The robust looking Jynx is designed for people who want to get out and discover what mountain biking is about. It’s more than capable on singletrack and equally comfortable for explorations on fire roads.
Three models are available, ranging from $649 to $899 for the Jynx Comp 650B.
Two new sets of shoes hit Australian shores for 2015. The Cadette will appeal to girls who want something that looks like a running shoe, but offers some of the stability of a cycling shoe. It also gives riders the option of running clipless pedals.
The 2FO Flat Women’s shoe is a bright looking shoe for ladies who like to ride flat pedals. The sole has been carefully developed to offer the right balance of grip and durability. An SPD option isn’t available yet for the ladies, but we’re hoping that’s not the case for long.
Keep an eye on Flow for highlights from the men’s range, including the new 650B Stumpjumper Expert Carbon and S-Works Enduro Carbon.
Last week, Flow was fortunate enough to spend the day up in the rolling hills of Old Hidden Vale, a serene oasis of singletrack to the west of Brisbane. We were there to take a closer look at the 2015 line up from Advance Traders, the Aussie distributors of Norco, Merida and Lapierre. Old Hidden Vale is a key location in the Brissy mountain bike scene, home to a suite of races, and the kind of place you could easily lose yourself for a weekend of riding – put it on the list!
Here we bring you our pick of the 2015 Norco bunch, the bikes that got us most excited and which we hope you’ll take a shining to too. We took advantage of Old Hidden Vale’s fast, swooping trails to get familiar with the Sight C 7.2 as well, and we’ve included our first ride impressions below.
Of all the bikes on display, it was the Sight, Range and Revolver series that really grabbed us. Norco’s year-on-year refinement over the past four or five years has been pretty incredible to watch, and the brand has certainly lifted in our esteem. Here are our favourite models.
The Range series, now in its second season as a 650B-wheeled bike, is globally one of the brand’s biggest sellers. It’s the embodiment of an all-mountain machine; 160mm-travel at both ends, with geometry that blends balls-out descending with respectable climbing. There are both carbon and alloy models, and for 2015 they share the same geometry. In 2014, the alloy versions had more of a ‘trail’ focus with slightly steeper angles, but Norco have realised that riders on a budget (or just fans of aluminium) want to shred the descents too, so they’ve now given the alloy bikes the same ‘enduro’ geometry too.
The $5999 Range C 7.2, above, had riders clamouring all over it, and while we weren’t able to bag a test ride on it (mainly because we couldn’t stop ourselves from riding the Sight!), we we grabbed it for a closer look.
Combing a carbon mainframe and seat stay, with an alloy chain stay / linkage, the Range C 7.2 comes in at around 12kg. The construction and all black presentation is instantly appealing, and it’s specced to the eyeballs with some of the finest ‘enduro’ finery going. Geometry wise, the bike runs a 66-degree head angle, which is balanced enough to rail descents and still negotiate flatter trails or an uphill switchback without feeling like a barge.
As with most bikes in the Norco line up, the Range series employs Norco’s Gravity Tune concept, which essentially means the rear-centre measurement of the bike is shorter for the smaller sized frames and longer in the larger frames. As opposed to traditional bike sizing (which simply lengthens the front-centre or top tube measurement in bigger sizes), the Gravity Tune concept is designed to keep the rider position consistent across the size range.
While the C 7.2 was the show stopper, the Range series continues in fine form all the way down to a very attainable $2699 price point, maintaing the same geometry and travel throughout, with smart spec too. We think it’s the $3699 Range A 7.1 that’s going to fit the bill for a lot of riders. For this money, we’re yet to see a more refined all-mountain bike than this one.
The geometry and suspension design is proven, but it’s the clever spec that makes this bike a winner; putting a Pike on a bike at this price is just about unheard of, the FOX CTD shock is reliable and smooth, the tyres are excellent, the cockpit suited to task… there just aren’t any real holes in the bike at all. We’re certain that a lot of riders will ditch the front derailleur and go single ring, which will just make this bike lighter and lower fuss once again.
The $2699 Range A 7.2 hits a very tasty price point. Lower cost suspension (X-Fusion and Marzocchi) and the absence of a dropper post help keep the price down, but the frame is identical to the Range A 7.1 and all the key elements are there: stiff fork, excellent tyres, clutch derailleur, wide handlebar…. it’s all sorted.
One step down in terms of travel, you’ll find the Sight series. This 140mm-travel platform has had accolades heaped upon it by the cycling media, and we tested one last year in Rotorua. For 2015, Norco have continued to refine the Sight, and the carbon Sight C 7.2 is one of the nicest trail bikes we’ve seen for the new season. We spent more time on this bike than any other out at Old Hidden Vale and the improvements offered (particularly in terms of the suspension) represent a big leap in performance.
There is an awful lot that we liked about this bike, but nothing more so than the way it encouraged us to sprint flat out at every corner, just to see how fast we could get around it! It grips like a go-kart, accelerates like a much shorter travel bike, and has geometry that made us look for things to launch off everywhere – it’s just fun. We’ll definitely be looking to secure a full review on this bike in the coming months.
With 650B wheels, we feel that 140mm of travel is a real sweet spot for technical trail riding, as is the Sight’s geometry with a 67.5 degree head angle. The geometry is actually unchanged from last year, but the bike now comes with a shorter stem and a wider bar, and the better part of a kilo has been shed with a far more suitable tyre choice. On top of all this, the Sight C 7.2 gets a ridiculously good suspension package, with Cane Creek’s new DB InLine shock and a Pike RC fork.
Just as with the Range series, the Sight series trickles down to some pretty competitive price points with alloy-framed variants that share the same geometry. In the Sight series, it’s the $3599 Sight A 7.1 that we feel is going to be a favourite. The Shimano blend for the drivetrain and brakes is perfect, and the tasty Rockshox Revelation and KS dropper post just sweeten the deal.
One bike that had a perpetual cloud of admirers was the Formula 1-esque Revolver 9 SL, and it’s not hard to see why – it has the vibe of some kind of ‘concept bike’, but this is a full-blown production model. Sleek construction, complemented by the new inverted Rockshox RS1, lets you know this bike lives for the racetrack. The $5999 price tag seems a lot, till you consider the fork alone will set you back almost two and a half grand at retail.
As Norco’s cross country race series, there are both 650B and 29er Revolvers available – they haven’t committed to a single wheel size for this genre of riding just yet. We recently reviewed the 2014 Revolver 7.1, so we’re eager to review the 2015 29er equivalent.
Hold tight for all the highlights from the 2015 Merida range too, in the coming days, including their all-new 120mm platform.
Flow got a glimpse of the future last week when we were invited to take a sneak peek at the Scott 2015 range. This global giant of sport (not just cycling) always delivers a staggeringly broad and deep range, with incredibly light flagship models, exceptionally refined carbon frames and some of the most versatile bikes out there. Next year’s line up looks set to do it once again. Is it just us, or does the product cycle gets faster every year – it’s not even tax time yet! Here are some of the range highlights.
Of the bikes we had access to, it is only the Gambler which has undergone serious revision for 2015. This is no surprise, as the Spark, Genius and Genius LT have all had significant overhauls in the past few years. Nonetheless, Scott has pulled together a seriously stylish looking lineup, with some stunning lightweight cross country and trail bikes in particular.
SPARK series – 27.5″ and 29″
The world-beating Spark line continues to be available in two wheel sizes, with a 27.5″-wheeled 700 series, and the 29er 900 series. It’s not just the wheel size that differs between the two variants – with the smaller wheels the travel is increased to 120mm front and rear, while the 900 series runs 100mm. This makes a lot of sense, for many reasons; 100mm of travel helps keep the big-wheeler more responsive, allows a lower front end height, and the greater roll over of the big wheels requires less travel to rumble on through.
With 120mm, the 27.5″-wheeled Sparks have the capability to play double duty as a cross country race bike and as a trail bike too, which will ensure they continue to be a super popular machine for occasional racer. Add to this Scott’s killer ‘three-bikes-in-one’ Twinloc system, and you have a very versatile machine. This system (found across the Spark, Genius and Genius LT lines) reduces and stiffens the travel at the flick off a switch, and can lock the suspension out entirely if you push the lever through to its second position.
As in previous years, the Spark is available in a range of frame material configurations too. There’s the full IMP carbon frames, carbon front / alloy rear for the mid-priced bikes and then full alloy framed bikes are the lower end of the range. In a trend that we’re confident will become increasingly common, the 29er bikes are only available from size medium to x-large, while the 27.5″ 700 series runs from small t0 large.
We couldn’t take our eyes off the bumble-bee inspired Spark 900 RC, which looks stunning and weighs in at 9.9kg. The SRAM XX1 / Shimano XTR build kit is perfect. As with the other 29er Sparks, travel is rear travel is adjustable from 100-70mm on the fly,
One bike that was not on show (but which will be available in Australia) is the Spark 700 Ultimate Di2. As the name implies, it gets the full XTR Di2 treatment, plus a custom FOX iCD electronic lockout which runs off the same battery as the shifting. Even with all the electronics, this bike is said to weigh only 10.1kg, and it’ll be 27.5″ only.
GAMBLER series – Scott’s downhill beast makes the jump to big wheels
The big news on the downhill front is bigger wheels. It’s no secret that Brendan Fairclough and the rest of the Scott contingent have been experimenting with 27.5″ for some time now (we remember seeing test shots from at least 12 months ago), but now the larger hoops have made it onto the production bike.
While visually the frame looks pretty much identical, it has been re-engineered around the larger wheels to still facilitate some very short chain stay lengths even with 27.5″ rubber. Interestingly enough, the frame is ‘backwards compatible’ with 26″ wheels, though we can’t imagine too many folk will go down that route.
The Gambler retains its massive range of adjustability too, with the head angle alterable from 61-65 degree, 10mm of bottom bracket height adjustment and 19mm of wheelbase adjustment (from 421-440mm). Another subtle tweak has been made to the Floating Link suspension design. It still deliver 210mm of travel, but the kinematics have been tweaked to significantly reduce pivot rotation for better durability and less friction.
Two variants of the Gambler will be coming to Australia. The 710 here will retail for $7299. We don’t unfortunately have pricing on the 720, which comes with Shimano Zee and slightly cheaper suspension items.
Genius LT – more models available in Australia
Previously available in only very limited numbers, the Genius LT will finally brought into Australia in a fairly considerable manner for 2015. This is music to our ears, as we think this bike is a real gravity enduro weapon. With 170mm travel front and rear, the has enough to take on just about any trail. With the Twinloc system dropping the rear travel to just 110mm at the push of a button it’s a very versatile machine.
There are three versions of the LT making their way to Australia, from the incredibly light ‘Tuned’ version which is said to weigh just 12.1kg, through to the all-alloy 720 which we have featured here ($4799). Even the LT 720, kitted out with some fairly weighty parts, comes in at just on 14kg.
All three models feature the newly updated FOX 36 fork, Shimano brakes, stealth dropper posts and some of our favourite tyres on the market, the Schwalbe Hans Dampf.
Genius series – 27.5 and 29er options once again
For a number of years now, the Genius has been one of the leading long-travel trail bikes on the market. It doesn’t try to position itself as a really hard-charging bike, but instead focuses on bringing longer travel into the realm of lightweight, all mixed in with geometry that is evenly balanced between climbing and descending.
As with the Spark and Scale, the Genius is available in both 27.5″ and 29″ wheel sizes, with 150mm and 130mm travel respectively, though it’s the 27.5″ bikes grabbing the lion’s share of sales. Again, there are full carbon, full alloy and alloy/carbon mix frames in the line-up too, depending upon the model. Topping the range is Tune series Genius, which is a sickeningly light 10.6kg out of the box, but it’s the 710 and 910 models that we think are the real meat and potatoes of the Genius range, with their reliable XT drivetrain and Rockshox Reverb posts.
The $3999 Genius 740 (below) is the entry level steed in the Genius 27.5 range. All that’s missing is a dropper post and it’s set! If 29″ wheels are more your thing, the Genius 950 is a very reasonable $3499 too.
Scale series – amongst the lightest on the market
For the racers, the Scale is a hard one to look past, if only for the amazing off-the-shelf weight of some of the models. Again, there are 700 and 900 series bikes ( 27.5/29 ) available at a number of price points.
It’s Nino Schurter’s bike of choice, the Scale 700RC team replica, that grabbed our attention, for obvious reasons. It looks truly amazing, and at 8.6kg it’s crazy light too. Scott actually do offer an even lighter version, with the 700SL claimed to shed another 100g (for just another $2000 ).
Is this be the next evolution of tubeless? A system that allows more traction than ever before, but without the risk of burped air, snake bites or tubeless tyres rolling off the rim? Or is this complication we don’t need, especially with the new generation of super wide rims?
Schwalbe have finally given us a look inside the belly of their new ‘dual chamber’ tyre system, Procore. We’ve know about the existence of this system for some time, especially since riders on the World Cup circuit began riding around on bike with two vales on each rim, but the exact particulars haven’t been known until now.
The system is actually a collaboration between Schwalbe and Syntace; both companies had been working on the concept independently but have pooled their knowledge and resources to bring this project to fruition.
So what’s it all about? Procore is ultimately aimed at allowing riders to run lower pressures for a smoother and grippier ride, at the same time as nullifying the risks of either a puncture or rolling the tyre off the rim.
The way it works is actually pretty simple. Procore is a high-pressure, secondary air chamber that is located inside a standard tubeless tyre. This chamber is run at between 55-85psi and serves a few purposes; it provides an extra layer of protection against punctures, it help protect the rims from damage normally associated with running lower pressures, and it helps lock the tyre to the rim protecting against any risk of rolling or burping the tyre. Furthermore, should you still somehow get a flat, Procore offer an emergency ‘backup’ keeping some pressure in the tyre.
In testing, Schwalbe claim that riders have been running pressures as low as 14psi without issue, and relishing in the extra grip and control this provides. That’s an impressively low figure, though not that much lower than some riders are currently achieving using a standard tubeless setup on a super wide rim.
Schwalbe claim the system will only add 200g to a conventional tubeless setup, and that some of this weight will be offset by the ability to run lighter tyres than in the past. Until Eurobike, we won’t know further details about compatibility or pricing. We’re certainly intrigued – it’s a cool concept, but is it more complex than your average rider will accept? We can definitely see it appealing to racers, and perhaps that’s where this technology is primarily aimed. In that vein, Nico Lau, Sam Hill and Emmeline Ragot have all had success on the Procore system already, so it clearly works at the highest level of competition.
Avanti have just given us a look at their 2015 range, highlighted by a revised Torrent series, which we’re very excited about. We’ve ridden a number of evolutions of the Torrent in past years – including the 2014 Torrent 2 recently – and we’ve always found them to be remarkably smooth bike with well-sorted geometry and faultless construction.
In 2015 Avanti have given the Torrent series a number of revisions. Firstly, travel has been boosted across the line-up, with 150mm front and rear now. With the travel increase also comes a slacker head angle (66.5 degrees) and a 5mm longer top tube. All these tweaks should make an already superb descender even better.
But even more interesting is the introduction of carbon to the Torrent range, with two carbon ‘CS’ models, plus a carbon frameset option. Unfortunately Avanti didn’t have a Torrent CS 7.1 on hand for us to check out, but we got a good grasp of what the range-topping Torrent CS 7.2 is all about, and also had a look at two ‘S’ series alloy-framed Torrents.
Below are some of our initial impressions and observations about the Torrent range. We hope to have one on test very soon!
Torrent S 7.1 $2799
Torrent S 7.2 3699
Torrent CS 7.1 $4499
Torrent CS 7.2 $5499
For the two CS models, a carbon front end is paired to an aluminium rear, and the mainframe looks fantastic, very beefy through the down tube, with a PF30 bottom bracket shell and Syntace X12 rear axle. Frame stiffness was a highlight of the Avanti Ridgeline we tested recently, and the new carbon Torrent follows a very similar construction by the looks of it. We don’t have a figure for the frame weight, but the complete CS 7.2 weighs in at just over 13kg.
Avanti have continued to utilise their Tru-4 suspenion system, which is a proper four-bar configuration, using a chain stay pivot very close to the drop out. This should ensure very little pedal feedback and a very active suspension feel.
While both CS carbon models are equipped with FOX CTD Evolutions series shocks, the alloy framed S 7.1 and S 7.2 get a Rockshox Monarch RT rear shock. Interestingly, the Torrent frameset gets a shock upgrade, with a Kashima FOX Factory shock.
In terms of the forks, it’s a mixed bag: the CS 7.2 gets a 34mm FOX CTD Evolution series fork, while the CS 7.1 gets the same fork in a slimmer 32mm format. Brent Burrows, Avanti’s mountain bike product manager, explained that he felt there is a market of riders who want longer travel but don’t need or want the extra beef of a 34 fork.
On the alloy Torrents, Marzocchi and X-Fusion are represented. These aren’t forks we see all that often, but they look great, the Marzocchi 350CR in particular. The X-Fusion Sweep fork on the Torrent S 7.1 is also highly acclaimed, and we’re looking forward to actually giving one of these a ride!
Dropper post routing can be run internally ‘stealth’ style (perfect for X-Fusion Hi-Lo post on the Torrent CS 7.2) or through the top tube, popping out just before the seat tube junction for posts that have external actuation. Only S 7.1 misses out on a dropper.
On the carbon CS models, any unused cable ports (for instance, if you decide to run a single chain ring) can be fitted with the supplied ‘blanks’ to keep the frame neat and smooth.
In keeping with the push towards wider rims, the Torrent range comes with fatter hoops, with wide-ish DT1700 wheels on the CS 7.2, DT1900s on the CS 7.1 and Mavic 421 hoops on the S 7.2
Kenda Honey Badger tyres feature across the whole range. These gummy treads are quite low-profile with a 2.2” width. The CS 7.2 scores the new Kenda SCT tubeless-ready rubber, for easy tubeless conversion.
All the Torrents feature multiple chain rings, bucking the 1x trend. Brent Burrows explained that he feels 1x is too limiting for the average rider, with a 2x system suiting most. The cheaper S 7.1 actually gets a triple chain ring for maximum versatility. However, going to a 1x system on CS 7.2 is pretty easy, as the new e13 TRS+ cranks can easily be converted to run the new spline-mount e13 narrow/wide chain ring.
The Torrent CS framset is a hot looking piece of kit. Included in the package is a headset and the new X-Fusion HILO Strate dropper post with 125mm of adjustment.
Unfortunately a test ride of these bikes wasn’t on the cards today, but we’re hoping to secure a Torrent for a few weeks on our home turf soon. Stay tuned!
YES! This is the bike we’d be hoping that Trek would release and right on time they’ve answered our prayers. Yesterday, Trek revealed that they would be adding another suite of 27.5-wheeled bikes to their range, with the trail-ripping Fuel series now available in mid-sized hoops. Flow followers may remember that we reviewed the Fuel EX 29 about 12 months ago; it was a weapon of a bike, but big wheels aren’t everyone’s cup of tea and we’re happy to see a more playful version of this bike back in the stable.
The 120mm-travel Fuel 27.5 continues to be constructed around the same frame architecture as we’ve seen over the past few years from Trek, and they’ve gone all-in with a complete line of bikes, including three aluminium framed bikes and two carbon models. The range-topping 9.9 is not shown here, but will feature a Shimano XTR 1×11 drivetrain.
Frame geometry for all models is listed below:
But it’s not just the introduction of a new wheel size for the Fuel – Trek, already a leading innovator when it comes to mountain bike shock and suspension technologies, have partnered up with high-end automotive suspension company Penske Racing Shocks and FOX, to develop an all new damper. Called the Re:aktiv damper, it’s all about delivering better pedalling/climbing efficiency with a more seamless transition to bump absorption than other systems have been able to achieve.
In Trek’s own words: “Regressive damping had been utilized in Formula One racing and then moved over to Indy Car and NASCAR with much success. It provides a much firmer hold in straights and corners for incredible support, but when it hits a sudden obstacle, like the square angles encountered on technical trails, the shock’s hold instantly gives way to a plush, controlled progression. In short, the shock was smart enough to get out of its own way… fast. The result of the mountain bike application of this concept is RE:aktiv, which delivers on the unrealized potential of an inertia valve. And to date, regressive damping had never been used in mountain biking.”
“The unique thing about Penske and Trek is that we’ve really only scratched the surface,” said Penske Racing Shocks Director of Research and Development Bill Gartner. “Regressive technology helped with one compromise that was there in mountain biking but there’s a whole other world of technologies that may apply. Not only from Formula One but all the markets we work with.”
We’re very excited about this bike’s imminent arrival. As soon as they land in the country, you can bet a kidney on the fact we’ll have one in our grubby mitts to review!
It’s no secret that Lapierre have been working on a 27.5-wheeled downhill bike for some time now – even last season, Sam Blenkinsop and Loic Bruni were spotted racing on the bigger wheels at the Pietermaritzburg World Cup. So while we have been anticipating the release of a 650B downhill rig, we did not expect it to be an entirely new machine. But when Lapierre lifted the wraps on the new steed to be raced by the Gravity Republic team at Fort William this weekend, they revealed a completely different beast with an all-new suspension system. Let’s take a closer look!
The new design, built solely for 27.5″ wheels, moves well away from the ‘what-the-hell’ Pendbox design of previous years, opting for a single-pivot arrangement, with a linkage driving the shock – Lapierre call the system Supra Link Technology (SLT) and say it is directly inspired by motocross suspension designs. Travel is 210mm, and Lapierre say the kinematics are all about suppleness off the top and an aggressive ramp-up at the end stroke.
As is characteristic of Lapierre, the attention to detail appears to be excellent, with fork bumps, internal cable routing, rubberised chain slap protection and an integrated mudguard (not fitted in these pics) to protect the shock from crud.
In terms of geometry, the frame has +/- one degree of head angle adjustability from the standard 63.7-degree stock setting. It’s interesting to note that this isn’t as slack as some designs we’ve seen in recent years; theoretically, with the higher axle heights of a 27.5″ wheel, a steeper head angle is possible without compromising confidence. Will this be a trend we see increasingly on bigger-wheeled downhill bikes?
There will be two versions of the new bike available to spend your hard-earned on; the Team version (with a BoXXer WC and the new SRAM X0 DH 7-speed drivetrain) or the 727 (BoXXer Coil / FOX Van shock). Both frames are aluminium at this stage, though we’ll eat our hat if the Gravity Republic aren’t on a carbon version of this bike at the World Champs.
Flow’s heading over to Lapierre HQ in France next month too, so we look forward to bringing you more info about this bike’s development (and a whole raft of other French goodness) very soon!
We’re shocked! Shimano have finally brought electronic shifting to the mountain bike market with 11-speed XTR Di2.
This electrifying development has been rumoured for years, but when Shimano announced a new mechanical 11-speed XTR groupset last month, we started to have our doubts; perhaps Di2 for mountain bikes wasn’t going to happen after all? But the electronic era is here, and frankly it looks amazing.
The benefits of electronic shifting are many and are arguably more significant for the mountain bike world than on the road; zero cable maintenance, no shifting degradation in bad conditions, instant shifting response. But the potential for electronic shifting to free up frame design is also massive – without the constraints of keeping a clean, smooth line for a shifter cable, who knows where suspension design can go?
Flow was lucky enough to spend some time at Shimano Australia’s HQ recently, where we got the opportunity to actually test ride a near-production prototype version of the Di2 groupset.
The Di2 XTR groupset shares many of the same attributes with the mechanical version (gear ratios, crankset options etc), so we’ll stick to the points of difference and the aspects of the Di2 system which really grabbed us.
Just what the Di2 shifters would look like and how they would operate was a real unknown. Speaking to Shimano representatives, we learnt that there were many iterations, before ultimately settling on a paddle design that’s not too dissimilar to existing XTR shifters. The shifters still feel and sound like a mountain bike shifter – there’s a snappy, loud click with every shift, and there are separate paddles for up and down shifting.
Maintaining the feel of a traditional shifter (albeit without any cable friction) was a very smart move. If there’s one criticism that Di2 shifting encounters in the road world, it’s that the shifting action feels too disengaged, more like clicking a mouse than shifting a gear. XTR Di2 manages to keep that engaging, positive feel of a ‘real’ shifter.
The operation of the shifters can be customised too, via Shimano’s E-Tube tuning system. The up/down-shift function of each paddle can be swapped to suit your preferences, and the number of shifts executed when the shift lever is held down can be set. For instance, you can determine if you want to shift a maximum of two, three or four shifts in one go, or if you’d like to keep shifting for as long as you’ve got the shifter depressed. You can also control the speed of the shifts.
Now this is pretty cool. Part of the appeal of a 1×11 drivetrain is the absence of a left hand shifter and the clean simplicity this brings. The downside, of course, is the slight reduction in gear range associated with having fewer chain rings. But XTR Di2’s Synchro Shift option allows you to run multiple chain rings ( 2x or 3x ), and with only one shifter. It’s pretty crazy.
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As you shift through the 11 gears of the cassette, Syncro Shift automatically shifts between chain rings to ensure the jumps between gear ratios are smooth and even. The video above is perhaps the easiest way to grasp the system. It shows Synchro Shift in operation for a triple chain ring setup. On the right you can see which gear of the cassette is currently selected, on the left is the chain ring currently in use (Top, Middle or Low). As you can see, it covers the whole gear range, from the very highest to the very lowest gear, in 14 consecutive shifts. NB. We weren’t able to show you the actual derailleurs in operation as they were deemed to be ‘too prototype’ for video.
By way of example, imagine you’re riding in the big chain ring. As you start to shift to lower gears, the Synchro Shift system will automatically drop the chain to the next smallest chain ring, and will simultaneously shift up a gear or two on the cassette to ensure the jump between gears is even.
Once again, the parameters of the Syncro Shift system are all totally customisable. For example, you might want to program the system to use the big chain ring primarily; in this case, you could set the Synchro Shift to only drop to the smaller chain ring once you reached the lowest gear of the cassette. You could also set it to then jump back up to the big ring once you’d up-shifted to the fourth gear of the cassette. Because you can determine the parameters of when a front shift is executed, you’re not going to be sprung with a ‘surprise’ jump between chain rings. To be doubly sure, the system actually gives you a double beep to let you know when it’s about to shift between chain rings.
Of course if you’d prefer the more traditional approach of separate shifters for front and rear derailleurs, then you’re not out in the cold – XTR Di2 systems will still be sold with both left and right-hand shifters and the system can be set to Manual mode, rather than Synchro Shifting.
Like Shimano’s Di2 road groupset, the XTR Di2 system uses one central battery for the whole system, rather than individual batteries for each derailleur. The cylindrical battery can be bolted to bottle mounts, or it can be run internally if your seat post allows. There’s also scope for mounting it inside the fork’s steerer tube, as we’ve seen some riders (such as Dan McConnell) already do with FOX’s electronic iCD lockout battery. In the pipeline is a range of specially designed bars and stems with ports for Di2 wiring.
As with Di2 road shifting, we’re sure it will only be a matter of time till the batteries are internalised and frames are optimised for wiring, rather than shift cables.
The simple display sits neatly alongside the stem, where it won’t interfere with other devices like your GPS or lights. Aside from displaying which gear/chain ring you’re currently in, you’ve also got information about battery life, the mode currently selected (Manual or Synchro Shift), as well as suspension settings (see below). The display also serves as the adjuster for fine tuning the shifting, just like a barrel adjuster does on a mechanical shifter.
FOX suspension integration:
The partnership between FOX and Shimano continues to strengthen with XTR Di2, with FOX’s iCD electronic lockout integrating with the XTR display. On the far right of the screen you’ll find an indicator letting you know if your shock and/or fork is in a Climb or Descend setting.
While at Shimano HQ, we managed to get our hands on some all new XTR wheels too. With carbon laminated rims and a very pretty hub finish, these are the best looking XTR hoops yet. Rather than using a dedicated UST rim (without any spoke holes), the new XTR wheels go for the far lighter option of a tubeless tape, as has become the standard of late.