Specialized 2018 Range Highlights

The new, new Enduro! A few worthy revisions have been made on this recently improved platform.

More #enduro Enduro

Wait, didn’t this bike get a massive update just 12 months ago? Yes, it did. But the feedback from the market and team riders was that perhaps the geometry and suspension rates weren’t quite right, and so Specialized have made some tweaks.

Full credit to them here, as it’s bloody expensive to open new carbon moulds, but obviously Specialized regard the Enduro as a real flagship bike in their range hence their willingness to bite the bullet and re-jig the bike.

Ok, the best looking bike of the year is here.
The Enduro 29er is more than a enduro slayer, it’s a great trail bike too.
Specialized are making it easy and affordable for 2017 Enduro owners to upgrade their linkage to the 2018 version.

Geometry and suspension changes

“We want it longer” was the message from the market, particularly with regard to the 650B version of the Enduro which was proving a little tight for riders who were getting rowdy, and so length has been added to both bikes up front. The Enduro 29er grows by 10mm in a medium, while the 650B bike is 15mm longer.

At the same time, a new shock link and yoke provide a more progressive suspension curve and a small degree of geometry adjustment too – there’s a simple flip chip to give you half a degree of head angle tweakage to play with.

Owners of a 2017 Enduro will be happy to hear the new linkage/yoke is retrofittable, and Specialized are making it available super cheap too.

Longer and more progressive, so you can get more aggressive. #rhyming

WU Post adjust the angle of the dangle

This one has been in the works for a while, as hinted by the massive 34.9mm seat post found on the Enduro frame last year. The new WU Command Post is a re-think of the traditional dropper – as the seat is lowered, it also tilts rearward by 14 degrees. Anyone who has ridden a downhill bike will know the advantages of having your seat angled like this, as it aids getting behind the saddle and makes it generally less obtrusive when you don’t want it.

On our test ride around the You Yangs, we definitely found the WU post’s unique positioning to be more noticeable than we anticipated – we think on steeper terrain the benefits would be more obvious, whereas on flatter terrain it felt a bit funky.

What are you hiding in there….?

Slicker SWAT

The coolest thing ever? Specialized’s SWAT on-bike storage integrations go to a new level for 2018, with a steerer tube stashed multitool and chain breaker. Flip the little door open and the spring loaded system pops out your multitool. Remove the whole system from the steerer tube to get access to the chain breaker and spare quick link.

Making use of dead space to stash your tools.
The SWAT steerer tube assembly removed. Note the chain links stashed too?

Ohlins, now in 650B and with revised sealing

The Specialized/Ohlins partnership gets stronger, with the Swedish manufacturer now offering 650B Boost forks, whereas last year Ohlins forks were only available in 29er format. The reliability issues that plagued last year’s air shocks has apparently been resolved, though obviously time will tell on this one. Hopefully it’s all hunky dory now, as the sealing issues last year really put a damper on our experiences with this bike last year.

Ohlins are now supplying Boost 650B forks too, so there’ll be more of them in the range than before.
The simple adjustments of the Ohlins shock are ideal.


Epically improved Epic

One of the most successful cross-country bikes of all time has had a huge rethink for 2018. The new Epic is a much more modern take on what XC racing is all about, and a really lovely piece of work. We already took a good look at this bike in a previous piece here, but a few recaps below.

The Epic was always going to be a hard one to keep improving, but Specialized have gone to a new level with the latest iteration.

More shredding, less flying over the bars. 

The geometry was been toned down from the savagely sharp handling of previous generations to deliver a more confidence inspiring ride, suiting the increasingly technical tracks of the XCO circuit. With more trail friendly handling now, we’d be surprised if this bike doesn’t woo a few riders away from the Camber. Things like bar width and tyre width have been upped too. Hooray! Going fast uphill doesn’t have to mean being terrified when the trail gets gnarly going back down.

Super light

The Epic has dropped a ridiculous amount of weight. 350g has been shed from the S-Works model, and over 500g has been weaselled out of the Expert level frame. Those are huge chunks to carve out!

No more Horst link!

No more FSR

The Horst link is gone! A big portion of the Epic’s weight loss has been possible with a move to a flex stay arrangement, rather than a using a pivot on the chain stay like just about all previous Specialized dual suspension bikes. Flex stays are nothing new – on a short travel bike like this they can still deliver all the sensitivity and control needed, but with a big gain in lateral stiffness and huge weight savings. Bikes like the Cannondale Scalpel and Scott Spark all use flex stays too.

Improved suspension sensitivity

The Brain system has had an overhaul as well. It’s been shifted from its previous position mid-way along the chain stay to sitting right on the rear axle. This should lead to faster responsiveness of the Brain in transitioning between its closed and open states. The oil flow from the Brain to the actual damper has been improved too, with less convoluted routing.


Gender neutral platforms

Specialized have abandoned the use of gender specific frames, across the board. There are still men’s and women’s versions of most bikes (all the way up to S-Works variants) , but the differences are restricted to things like paint, saddles, crank length, grips, bars and suspension tune.

Now the bike industry is full of spin on this subject, and there are certainly going to be detractors who’ll portray this move as a purely cost saving exercise, but Specialized have their rationale. They say that it’s all about delivering performance first and providing a bike that is most suitable for the ‘experience’ a rider is after, no matter what gender. Just because a rider happens to be female doesn’t mean they want their bike to somehow handle differently to a man’s. After all, a woman riding an Epic wants the exact same performance traits as a guy – they want it to rip uphills and devour fast racetracks.

Men’s and women’s bikes now share the same frames, which means guys can get their hands on this ridiculously good paint job.

Specialized say that the subtle differences in fit that might be required can all be handled in store with position adjustments and small equipment changes, especially if the shop has access to the Retul bike fit system that Specialized own.

Look, it’s a hard one to decipher; on one hand, you’ve got this line from Specialized about experience first. On the other hand, you’ve got brands like Liv bringing out a huge range of women’s specific bikes and pointing to their own research into biomechanics that validate their approach. We’re confused, and we’re sure consumers are too.


 

Lighter, stiffer, more natural feeling and longer travel. The Levo carbon is here.

Levo goes carbon

The e-bike that really spearheaded things here in Australia makes a leap to carbon, gets more travel, and a more natural feeling motor too. If you want to know what we think of the Levo, make sure you check out our full review here.

The S-Works and Expert models get a more powerful battery for longer range than the Comp.

Lighter, stiffer

The full carbon S-Works version of the Levo sheds almost 700g compared to the full alloy frame, but it’s the stiffness gains that are more impressive. With a bike this heavy and with this much traction, keeping it all stiff and stable is hard work and carbon construction does a much better job of keeping it all tracking where you point it.

It’s important to take a moment and consider how impressive the construction really is too. It must be bloody tricky to make a carbon bike strong and stiff enough when you chop out half the down tube to stick a battery in there!

Gaping holes, just waiting for POWER. It’s an impressive piece of frame building.

More natural pedal response plus walk mode

The motor and software has been reworked to make the pedal response feel more natural. Previously, the motor relied on the rider pedalling with a high cadence to operate effectively, which felt a bit strange at first. Things have now been tweaked so the motor will reach peak power output at around a pedalling speed of around 20 RPM less, which is more in line with a natural cadence on a regular bike.

A walk mode has also been added that scoots the bike along at 5km/h (super handy if you need to push it along), along with a remote mode to make it a lot easier to toggle between power outputs on the fly.

The belt drive inside the Levo motor is good for 15,000km.
Razzing about the You’ies on the Levo Carbon.

More travel

Front and rear travel has been bumped up to 150mm as well, which is a welcome addition. As we noted in our previous test, the rear end struggled to keep up with the bike’s abilities in the past, so giving it all slightly longer legs is a big win. After all, it’s not like getting that extra travel up the hill is an issue!

A bar mounted button makes for easier mode adjustment. The bottom button toggles the walk mode too.

We discussed the changes coming with the 2018 Levo models in more detail here.


Canola You’ie Vehicle Pan.

2018 Norco and Merida Range Highlights

Merida One-Forty 

Merida seem to be making a real effort to diversify their image from the cross-country racing heritage that has long been part of the brand’s identity (no doubt in part due to the wrap up on the Merida Multivan team). The new One-Forty will play a key role in this repositioning. Available in three models, all with alloy frames, the One-Forty looks to be tough-nut, workhorse of a trail bike. It now employs the same Float Link suspension as the One-Sixty we reviewed last year, which we were full of praise for.

Flight of the bumble bee. We’re keen to get this onto review, ASAP.

The One-Forty models are all 27.5″ wheeled, 1x drivetrain specific, with short 435mm stays, trunnion mounted shocks and clearance for 2.6″ tyres.

The top-of-the-line model shown here comes in at less than four grand, which is a steal. It gets the new Revelation (with 35mm legs) up front, FOX out back, the superb GX Eagle drivetrain and massive 2.6″ Maxxis rubber. This one is at the top of our review list for Merida.

Big rubber, mid-travel. Looks like fun.

Merida One-Sixty 800

Last year, we called the Merida One-Sixty (review here) one of the most surprising bikes of the year. And now Merida are bringing the same fundamentals that made that bike so awesome to an even lower price point. At less than $4000, the new One-Sixty 800 is a lot of Enduro beast for not too much cash.

$3999 for this beast.

The frame has been lengthened since we reviewed this platform last year, answering one of our only concerns about the bike. It now gets 170mm up front with a RockShox Yari, and 160mm out back with a trunnion mounted Super Deluxe RCT shock. Big SRAM Code brakes bring it to a stop, and a GX Eagle drivetrain has all the climbing gears you’ll ever need. This one will be getting a review soon too.


Merida One-Twenty

Whether you’re a fan of e-bikes or not, you’ve got to admire Merida’s insanely good pricing on their e-mountain bike offerings; most of their e-bikes come in at a price point that matches (or betters) an equivalently specced non-e-bike Norco!

 

$5299 is a bit of a bargain for an e-bike of this caliber.

Merida have embraced the Shimano E8000 motor/battery system, which is a super compact offering that allows the use of much shorter chain stays than most other motor systems. We appreciate this, as it means the bike has handling that’s far closer to a regular mountain bike.

 

Merida see huge potential to cement themselves as a leading brand in the e-bike segment, and so their aggressive pricing is all about getting early market share. It’s clearly working; in 2017, Merida had forecasts to sell just 25 of the EOne-Sixty 900E model here in Australia… They ultimately sold over 250.

At $5299, the new EOne-Twenty 500 is another very impressive package. A stout Yari fork with Maxxis 2.8″ Plus sized tyres are key items to give this bike a confident poise.

2.8″ rubber.

Norco Range A1 

Norco have brought the geometry and suspension changes which were debuted on the carbon Range and Sight last year across to their alloy models too, for 2018. This means longer and more aggressive geometry, with more active suspension too. Both the Sight and Range will continue to be available in 27.5 and 29er platforms, with sales apparently fairly evenly split between the two wheel options.

The Range A1 is the top model in the alloy Range series, at $5399, a price that includes a great FOX suspension package of a 36 and the new DPX2 shock. You’ve got to appreciate the extra effort put in the two-tone paint and sticker job too!

Orange and black one side.
Blue and black the other.


Norco Threshold

If gravel riding or maybe a bit of CX is your thing, like it is ours, then you’ll appreciate the sharply presented 2018 Threshold C Rival 1. The muted grey / fluro yellow combo is dialled, and speccing a chain guide and boot to keep crap out of the seat tube shows the Norco have been paying attention to what riders are after in this segment.


Norco Revolver 

Nothing has changed in the Revolver series for 2018 except for paint and spec, but we couldn’t go past this green and gold fade on the $6499 FS1.


Range C2

While the geometry of the Range series is unchanged, the top two carbon models in both wheel sizes now get a carbon seat stay, shedding a little weight and gaining stiffnesses. The C2 model, at $7299, grabbed our attention with its interesting spec of E13 tyres and rims in a lineup dominated by Maxxis and Easton.


 

Giant / LIV 2018 Range Highlights

Reign Advanced 0 and 1.

The Reign Advanced 0 is savage. 13kg of fury.

Let’s start with the one everybody’s talking about, the new Reign. Already one of the most popular and aggressive 160mm bikes on the market, the new version is positively ferocious. It has a poise that makes you feel like it wants to head butt you – hell, it comes with a Maxxis Shorty front tyre, talk about aggro!

A new trunnion mounted shock with carbon link. While the coil sprung shock mightn’t be quite so convenient in terms of adjusting spring rates, it is plusher than a feather bed. A remote lock out keeps it all stable on the climbs.

Travel is still 160mm, but the move to a trunnion mounted shock means a longer shock and lower leverage ratios, for improved sensitivity and more damping control. Geometry is on the slaaaack side, with a 65 degree head angle, and even longer reach than its predecessor (460mm in a medium).

The Reign Advanced 0 is full SRAM spec, with a Lyrik, Eagle drivetrain and even a RockShox Super Deluxe rear shock. The use of coil shocks in this category of bike has been gaining momentum (Josh Carlson has been using a coil in his Reign for a couple of years now – take a look at our bike check with him here). The addition of a handlebar mounted lockout is wise. It’s kind of a best of both worlds solution – coil-sprung grip on the descents, with a firm lockout for fire road climbs.

Brighter than a radioactive frog, the Reign Advanced 1.

Interestingly, there are no more carbon wheels in the Reign lineup, with the high-end bikes now moving to DT rims. We never had a drama with Giant’s carbon wheels in the past, but in the Enduro race world, alloy rims are still seen as the safe option, so perhaps this is simply a nod towards the race crowd.

There are four models of Reign coming into Australia, two in carbon and two in alloy. Pricing starts at $3799 for the Reign 2 and tops out at $8999 for the Advanced 0. The luminescent Reign Advanced 1, in the picture above, is $6499.


LIV Hail 

LIV are cementing their advantage in this market, with a comprehensive line-up of big travel women’s bikes.

LIV are doubling down on their range of women’s specific trail bikes and Enduro bikes too, clearly determined to put their stamp on the hard-riding women’s market. The women’s specific segment is an interesting place at the moment, with a number of brands discontinuing women’s specific frames, while LIV keeps on growing their offering.

We were grabbed straight away by the Hail Advanced 0, which essentially has all the same intentions and burly spec as you’ll find on the Reign, but with slightly revised geometry and a lighter suspension tune. It’s heartening to see that just as with the Reign, there will be four models of the Hail coming to Australia too – two carbon, two alloy. At $5299, the stunning brushed-alloy Hail 1 is probably the model offering the best bang for the buck in the Hail line up.

 


LIV Pique

The Pique gets more travel up front for 2018. We love this model with its superb suspension and top notch spec.

LIV have given the Pique lineup a bit of curry too, adding 10mm travel up front (130mm front, 120mm rear now), pushing it into the trail bike realm, rather than strictly an XC bike.

We couldn’t walk past the range topping Pique Advanced 0, which has a very cool, slightly 80s inspired ‘fade’ decal kit which we love. It reminds us of 2017 Anthem SX actually, especially with the spec of a piggyback shock and big-bagged Maxxis Forekaster rubber. If you’ve got the budget to stretch to this bike’s $8499 price tag, we don’t think you’ll find many finer women’s specific trail bikes out there.

With the Pique getting slacker and longer-travel, we can’t help but wonder if we’ll see more of a cross-country race bike from LIV in the near future. With the recent release of the new Anthem 29er, you’d have to assume something is on the way. (Though whether or not it’ll be a 29er or 27.5 is anyone’s guess).


Trance 1

Cheers! The Trance 1 is a robust beast, but with money spent in all the sensible areas.

The Trance line up was comprehensively overhauled last year, and so there are no great changes for 2018, but the range does look great. We particularly like the working man’s bling of the Trance 1, which blends a tough and proven alloy frame with some high-end components.

For a little over $5000, you get an Eagle drivetrain, carbon wheels, and a great FOX Elite suspension setup, with the new DPX2 shock. The money is clearly being spent in the areas where it’ll have the most impact.


Anthem 29er 2

We’ve already had an in-depth look at the new Anthem 29er in our launch piece, but we were impressed to see that you can get rolling on the platform for less than $3500, with the alloy Anthem 29 2. A no-fuss SLX 1×11 drivetrain keeps the cost down without sacrificing performance (read our SLX review here), allowing money to spent on high-quality suspension, including a FOX 32 Step Cast fork. If you’re after a bike that’s race-friendly without spending a tonne, then this is a good contender.

It’s cool to see a lightweight Step Cast fork at this price point.

Revised dropper post, more tubeless out of the box

A new under-bar dropper lever.

Some welcome tweaks have been made to Giant’s in-house dropper post, which has a greatly improved under-the-bar lever now. This was one item we whinged about in our recent Trance Advanced review, so it’s cool to see this feedback taken on board. Apparently, the sealing is improved too.

More bikes in the range are now coming setup for tubeless too, which will be welcomed by bike shops. Rims are largely pre-taped now, with tubeless valves installed, so all that is required is a splash of sealant, and you’re set.


Fresh trail and downhill footwear

The Shuttle is a robust looking shoe, with a high cuff on the inside of the ankle to protect you from banging against the bike.

Giant have added two new shoes to their growing range of footwear, with the Line and Shuttle ($189 and $169). The Line is aimed at trail riders and the Enduro market and has been on the leg-ends of Josh Carlson a lot this EWS season. The Shuttle is more of a downhill shoe with extra ankle protection, but we can see its popularity crossing over into the trail market too.

Both shoes have a nylon sole and a pretty chunky tread too, for clambering about. While Giant weren’t keen for us to chuck them in the pool, apparently the material is highly resistant to absorbing water, so even when sopping wet they only weigh 30g more.


GPS units

Hello! At $299, the Neos Track is superb value.

Giving you more information at a glance than the NSA, Giant’s new Neos Track computer is going to rattle the cage of some of the bigger GPS brands. At $350, it’s crammed with features, including turn by turn navigation, Di2 integration, plus of course power and just about every other metric under the sun. Battery life is over 30hrs, so you can DOMINATE Strava next weekend, and the weekend after, and the one after that too.

Cannondale’s Jekyll and Trigger Get a Massive Overhaul

The Trigger 1.
The Trigger 1.
The Jekyll 1.
The Jekyll 1.

When we interviewed Boobar last year, he alluded to us that the Jekyll would be a major focus for him. And not too much later we started to see EWS legend Jerome Clements on board what looked to be a decidedly different shaped Jekyll, which has evolved into the beasts you see here.

The Trigger is completely new too. For all intents and purposes, it’s a shorter-travel, less aggressive version of the Jekyll. All the key tech points are the same, so we’ll deal with both bikes together below.

CDALFINALE17_team action_By ADL0314


In a nutshell

Jekyll: Full-blown Enduro beast machine. 170mm front, 165-130mm rear. Slack and ready to get nasty.

Trigger: Trail weapon. 150mm front, 145mm rear. Still pretty slack and hungry for the gnar, just not as much so as the Jekyll. 


CDALFINALE17_BIKE AND LIFESTYLE_By ADL0920

No more DYAD shock on either bike!

Gone are the funky dual chamber FOX DYAD shocks, which looked a lot like a scuba tank bolted to the bike. While we liked the way these shocks facilitated on-the-fly travel adjustment, they were tricky to set up, required an aerospace engineering degree to service them, and limited frame layout a lot. Plus they just looked weird, and if they blew up (and they did) you couldn’t just bung a different shock in while yours was getting revived.

Ditching the DYAD has meant that Cannondale can now fit a water bottle into the frame too. Good.

A bottle will now fit!
A bottle will now fit!

Say hello to the Gemini shock!

If you’ve been a long-time Cannondale fan, you’ll no doubt be happy to see the name ‘Gemini’ back in the C’dale vernacular. The new Gemini shock is a partnership with FOX, like the DYAD, but for all intents and purposes it’s not too different to a regular FOX Float shock, other than the on-the-fly air volume adjustment talked about below.

The Gemini shock looks just like a regular FOX Float, but a remote lever changes the air volume to adjust travel and geometry.
The Gemini shock looks just like a regular FOX Float, but a remote lever changes the air volume to adjust travel and geometry.

This means you can also fit ANY other shock to the Jekyll or Trigger. Blow up your shock? No worries, stick a mate’s shock in there and go. Want to fit some exotic shock your mates don’t have? Go for it.


Is it still rear travel/geometry adjustable?

A key component of the Jekyll has always been its dual identities (Jekyll/Hyde) via adjustable rear travel and geometry. This has been retained in the new bikes, just with a much simpler shock arrangement. As in previous versions, a bar-mounted lever switches modes on the fly. There’s a longer travel Flow mode (145mm in the Trigger, 165mm in the Jekyll) and the shorter travel Hustle mode, which reduces the shock’s air volume and drops the travel to 115mm on the Trigger and 130mm on the Jekyll.

CDALFINALE17_Bike and Lifestyle_By ADL8809

We like this system. Because it uses volume reduction rather than compression adjustment to achieve the change in travel, you don’t lose suspension performance when you change modes, you just get a firmer spring curve.


What are the geometry standouts?

Cannondale describe the Jekyll and Trigger as having ‘proper’ geometry, which just means they’ve been brought up to speed with the slackness and reach measurements that are now expected on modern trail and Enduro bikes. The Jekyll runs a 65 degree head angle, the Trigger is 66 degrees, and both use steep seat angles to stop you feeling like you’re pedalling a recumbent.

The rear ends are short, so hopefully there's still good clearance for big rubber.
The rear ends are short, so hopefully there’s still good clearance for big rubber.

Cooler are the super short rear ends. Both bikes have 420mm rear-centres, made possible by Cannondale’s Asymmetric Integration (Ai) rear end spacing, which was launched on the Scalpel last year (read all about it here). All you need to know, is that 420mm is super short, which should make these bikes very playful.

By the way, the Jekyll and Trigger are 27.5″ only. For now. We’ll bet you $50 there’s a 29er Trigger one day soonish.


We’ve got a Jekyll coming our way on an plane very soon, so hold tight for a review!