Tested: Four great trail bike treads

Looking for some rubber with bite? Feast your eyes on these four tyres – treads that roll fast but fill you with confidence in corners and when it gets rough.

Maxxis Ardent

Sizes available: 26, 27.5 and 29″ diameters in 2.25 and 2.4″ widths.

Ardent Masthead

The Ardent has been part of the Maxxis lineup for years. It’s a trail tyre, through and through, sitting somewhere between the Crossmark and legendary Minion in terms of rolling speed/grip stakes. As an all-weather, all-rounder, we rate the Ardents very highly.

In a 2.25″ size, the Ardent has a good, tall bag to it, offering plenty of cushion and encouraging lower pressures. It’s also available in a 2.4″ which we’d consider as a great front tyre option for looser or sandier conditions; 2.25″ out back, 2.4″ up front = aggressive trail riding perfection.

Ramped centre tread for speed. The intermediate 'shoulder' area is very open meaning it's quite a transition from centre tread to the side knobs.

The tread pattern is pretty unique. It’s a fast rolling pattern, thanks to the sloped centre tread, and the side knobs offer good support whilst still retaining enough sensitivity for grip on wet roots thanks to extensive siping. The intermediate zone, between upright and full leant over, is a little vague – the knobs in this space are sparse and fairly flexible. We noticed this most on hardpack or sand, while in loose conditions it didn’t seem to affect the tyre greatly. In a nut shell, this tyre works best if you’re fully committed to a corner and tip it in!

Strengths: Fastest rolling of this bunch. Lightweight. Durable compounds. Good range of sizes.

Weaknesses: A bit vague in intermediate corners.


Bontrager XR4

Sizes available: 26×2.2″, 26×2.35 and 29×2.3″

Web Test Bontrager XR4

Bontrager have really hit the mark with the XR4 tyres for all round aggressive trail use. The XR4s are quite voluminous for a 2.35″ tyre and exhibit a wide footprint. That, in combination with a round profile, make for a lot of traction and predictable cornering behaviour.

The blocky tread is somewhat of a wonderment, being very grippy on the loose stuff as well as equally adherent on bare rock – something we weren’t expecting. This property in a tyre can often result from a softer, faster wearing compound – not so with the XR4s. The XR4s actually surprised us with their durability and resilience considering the irreverent treatment we gave them.

The aggressive XR4 in 2.35" size

We only had one small gripe with the tyre in that we had to use a bit more sealant than we were used to prevent them losing air during the ride. Otherwised they ticked all the boxes. Overall a well mannered tyre and a better choice for those whose trail choice is more rocky road than caramel slice.

Strengths: Meaty, moto-style tread digs into loose surfaces. Great under brakes.

Weaknesses: Not the best for tubeless use.


Continental Trail King

Sizes Available: 26×2.2″

Continental Trail King

The most aggressive trail tyre in the Continental line-up is the Trail King (previously known, rather kinkily, as the Rubber Queen). It’s a blocky tread that reminds us vaguely of the pattern found on Schwalbe’s Hans Dampf – that can’t be a bad thing – and was developed with input from freeride guru Richie Schley.

There are UST or ‘Revo’ Tubeless Ready versions of this tyre – unless you’re very hard on tyres, we’d suggest the Revo version is fine. With the Protection reinforced sidewalls the casing is very tough and while the lovely  logos of our test tyres are pretty scuffed up, we haven’t experienced any sidewall cuts or tears.

Continental Trail King Protection

Conti’s Black Chili compound seems to improve with use. The grip afforded by the Trail Kings got better with a bit of trail time, the tyres losing their coating and the knobs becoming more pliable (but still supportive). Given their robust almost ‘paddle-style’ centre tread blocks, the Trail Kings aren’t sluggish at all, something we can only attribute to the Black Chili compound. Compared to some of the other tyres here, the Trail Kings are a little lean on air volume. They are available in a 2.4″ as well, but not in Australia at present.

Strengths: Resilient sidewall. Black Chili compound wears well.

Weaknesses: Not available in 27.5 or 29″ in Australia yet. Skatey at first.


Schwalbe Hans Dampf

Sizes available: 26×2.35″, 27.5×2.35″, 27.5×2.25″, 29×2.35″

Schwalbe Hans Dampf

Like crack cocaine, the Schwalbe Hans Dampf tyres are expensive and addictive. Billed as a Jack of all trades tread, we’d have to agree that this is some of the best all rounder rubber available and we’ve used these tyres on multiple bikes now.

The sheer size of these tyres comes as bit of a shock. Marked as a 2.35″, they dwarf just about all other non-downhill specific tyres out there. But despite this, their weight is  reasonable and their rolling speed remarkable too.

At low pressures, the Hans Dampf has a large footprint that floats beautifully over sand and delivers mountains of climbing traction. All round grip is superb; from hardpack to rubble to mud, the Hans Dampf is versatile like few other treads we’ve ever used. They’re very tough too, particularly in the Snake Skin sidewall option.

Hans DampfThe harder-wearing PaceStar compound is recommended for the rear or you’ll be shelling out for new rubber very quickly. On the front, we’ve found the durability fantastic, even with the softer TrailStar compound. The tyres in the shot above were installed at the same time, and you can see how pronounced the rear wear is.

Strengths: Huge volume at a reasonable weight. Grippy compound. Stable sidewalls.

Weaknesses: Big dollars.

Long Term Test: Yeti SB66 Is Fitted With SRAM X01 And RockShox Monarch Plus

Out with the old, and in with the new, it was time to show the Yeti SB66 long term test bike some love, and give our shiny new SRAM X01 a worthy home.

The Shimano XTR cranks and shifters have served us so well, it’s really quite impressive. And the Shimano XT derailleur and cassette also deserve a fine send off for never missing a beat during its tough life aboard the super bike.

We’ve run the Wolf Tooth Components chainring for many months now, and for only $70 it’s a really sensible and simple solution to convert your bike to using a single ring (check out our review). We feel a shorter cage derailleur with more tension is needed for maximum retention, as we dropped the chain twice with our long cage XT derailleur.

Shimano XT and XTR is so damn durable, it may look a bit beat up, but function is 100%.
Shimano XT and XTR is so damn durable, it may look a bit beat up, but function is 100%.

X01 signifies a step forward for the Yeti, with eleven speed single ring drivetrains becoming the latest and favoured trend. Shimano will have eleven speed one day too, so why not. We’ve loved SRAM XX1 since day one, and with X01 being so incredible similar in construction and features, we are curious to put it on long term test, but we can’t help but think that it’s just XX1, only a minute fraction heavier. So that means it should be just as good on the trail, right? We’ll see.

One advantage of running a brake and shifter from the same brand is combining the clamps, into one.
One advantage of running a brake and shifter from the same brand is combining the clamps, into one.
WEB_Test_YETISB66SRAM_0318
Off comes the Shimano, cheers for the good times.
Hello SRAM, and your thick and thin chainring teeth.
Hello SRAM, and your thick and thin chainring teeth.
The shifter and brake lever, are now mated very neatly.
The shifter and brake lever, are now mated very neatly.
WEB_Test_YETISB66SRAM_0354
Very neat indeed.
SRAM XD driver body and the outgoing standard one. A new standard is always a pain to begin with, but the new system actually makes sense, simply in the way that the bearings are positioned to support the cassette.
SRAM XD driver body and the outgoing standard one. A new standard is always a pain to begin with, but the new system actually makes sense, simply in the way that the bearings are positioned to support the cassette.
The big and bulky X01 derailleur is a target for impacts and abuse, we'll need to keep that in mind, as the Shimano Shadow it replaces tucks away out of harm very well.
The big and bulky X01 derailleur is a target for impacts and abuse. We’ll need to keep that in mind, as the Shimano Shadow it replaces tucks away out of harm very well. We’ve already dropped the bike, and the derailleur walloped the ground, whoops.
The Rockshox PIKE is so bloody good, we simply cannot get enough of its controlled, smooth and sturdy action.
The Rockshox Pike is so bloody good, we just cannot get enough of its controlled, smooth and sturdy action. (check out our review)
Is it so, are the crowns creaking? This is usually a negative trait to FOX forks from a few years ago. We greased the headset bearing, bar clamps, and fork axles, but when you stop to a halt with the front brake on, there is creaking.
Is it so, are the crowns creaking? This is usually a negative trait to FOX forks from a few years ago. We greased the headset bearing, bar clamps, and fork axles, but when you stop to a halt with the front brake on, there is creaking.
The best tyre in world? We love the Schwalbe Hans Dampf, but the rear tyre is showing serious signs of wear, after an acceptable term of shredding. The front tyre could stay on for a while longer, but we have fresh rubber to test.
The best tyre in world? We love the Schwalbe Hans Dampf, but the rear tyre is showing serious signs of wear, after an acceptable term of shredding. The front tyre could stay on for a while longer, but we have fresh rubber to test.
A Specialized Ground Control 2.3" sealed up the the ENVE wheels nicely.
A Specialized Ground Control 2.3″ sealed up on the ENVE wheels nicely.
Up front, the Specialized Purgatory in 2.4" width. We've had great experiences with these guys, and they are also lighter than the bigger Schwalbe tyres that it replaces.
Up front, the Specialized Purgatory in 2.4″ width. We’ve had great experiences with these guys, and they are also lighter than the bigger Schwalbe tyres that it replaces.
One of the Shimano XTR Trail pedals felt a bit sloppy in the axle, so we whipped the axle out, and nipped up the tiny bearing adjustment. A quick and easy job.
One of the Shimano XTR Trail pedals felt a bit sloppy in the axle, so we whipped the axle out, and nipped up the tiny bearing adjustment. A quick and easy job.
The Thompson post is a real winner, the up and down action is so slick. The collar/seal was coming loose a few times during each ride, a quick bit of Loctite on the thread fixed that and it hasn't budged since. No additional play has become obvious either, so far so good for the most expensive seatpost we've ever sat on.
The Thompson post is a real winner, the up and down action is so slick. The collar/seal was coming loose a few times during each ride, a quick bit of Loctite on the thread fixed that and it hasn’t budged since. No additional play has become obvious either, so far so good for the most expensive seatpost we’ve ever sat on.
The latest Rockshox Monarch Plus rear shock also found its way onto the Yeti. We plan to do back-to-back comparison testing with the FOX Float X. We d have to say, that it has its work cut out for it though, the FOX Float X is superb, and our past experiences with the Monarch shocks have been fairly average. Let's hope the latest revisions to the damping have helped the sensitivity.
The latest Rockshox Monarch Plus rear shock also found its way onto the Yeti. We plan to do back-to-back comparison testing with the FOX Float X. We’d have to say, that it has its work cut out for it though, the FOX Float X is superb, and our past experiences with the Monarch shocks have been fairly average. Let’s hope the latest revisions to the damping have helped the sensitivity.
PRO Tharsis controls, we love the feel, weight and look of the gear. It is well worth a look into for taking any bike the next step into all mountain terrain. We use a 60mm stem and a 640mm wide bar.
PRO Tharsis controls, we love the feel, weight and look of the gear. It is well worth a look into for taking any bike the next step into all mountain terrain. We use a 60mm stem and a 740mm wide bar.
Hey good looking! Ready for Flowtorua next week, the Yeti is born again and looking hot!
Hey good looking! Ready for Flowtorua next week, the Yeti is born again and looking hot!

If anyone has some ideas to further upgrade this juicy test bike, we are all ears. Just look at the thing!

 

Long Term Test and Video: Yeti SB66 Carbon

This Yeti was never actually meant to be a ‘long term test bike’ – but after a few weeks on board, we decided we’d do all we could to avoiding giving it back. So, here it is, almost a year on and going mighty strong, we give you the Yeti SB66 Carbon, the most desirable 26″ all-mountain bike in the cosmos.

 

Oh, hello super bike.
Oh, hello super bike.

Fact: the name SB is derived from the term ‘super bike’, good call, Yeti.

The SB66 came to us as a bare frame – a blank canvas – opening up amazing potential to build the sweetest bike ever. It was to be a test mule, where the Flow team would fit bits and bobs to it for reviewing. And since the beginning, it has seen many different parts, varied road trips, enduro events and loads of totally sick airtime. The best thing about long-term test bikes is that we are able to muck around with setup options, like cockpit, fork travel and rear shock tunes. Plus, the assessment of durability can come into play, which is somewhat hard with regular bike tests.

How did it fare? Do you really need to ask?

Suspension – the old switcheroo:

The SB66 Carbon runs Yeti’s Switch Technology suspension system – you’ll note the nice turquoise eccentric pivot just above and behind the bottom bracket. So what’s it all about? See if this makes sense:  As the bike moves through its travel, the fully-sealed eccentric ‘Switch’ rotates, moving in one direction in the early parts of the travel, before ‘switching’ its rotation deeper into the suspension movement. This allows the system to achieve what many dual link bikes (such as DW Link, Giant Maestro etc) accomplish, but without the linkages.

The Switch Technology allows the SB66 to have a rearward axle path to counteract suspension movement under pedalling forces in the early part of the stroke. The tension that pedalling puts on the chain helps to stiffen the suspension, and that’s what gives the Yeti a real spritely and efficient feel. Later in the stroke at around about 100mm into the travel, the turquoise coloured eccentric pivot cleverly switches direction, shortening the chain stays to limit the effect of  chain growth.

This allows Yeti to give the SB66 an axle path that allows for both pedal efficiency at the top, and then the ability to use all of its travel without excessive pedal feedback when the time is right.

IMG_3988
A perfect balance of frame stiffness and solid pivot axles gives the rider confidence in the Yeti’s stability at times of need, like when you’re completely out of control and about to compress so hard your eyes pop out.
IMG_3965
There’s that cheeky little patented switch pivot, responsible for the SB’s efficiency and plushness. An adaptor mount for ISCG tabs is available if you choose to run a chain guide, but we’ve been loving this Wolf Tooth ring that requires no guide at all. Clean, neat and quiet.

 

Up and down on the SB66 at the Flow Rollercoaster Gravity Enduro - Stromlo.
Up and down on the SB66 at the Flow Rollercoaster Gravity Enduro – Stromlo.

The bike responds exceptionally well under power, the rear shock is visibly stable when mashing away on the pedals. We found ourselves using the FOX Propedal adjustment in the mid-range to light setting most of the time, even when descending.

It’s quite unassuming in its action though, whereas some rear suspension bikes have quite obvious anti bob/squat/energy robbing bizzos, the SB66 just feels very neutral. It looks like a single pivot from a distance, but on the trail it feels a lot more like an FSR or a DW Link bike, with a perfect amount of suspension activity when climbing and under brakes to maintain great traction.

Any durability concerns have long since faded. After almost a year of riding, we removed the shock from the bike and the suspension up and down to determine how the Switch Pivot was faring. It’s still silky smooth, top marks there.

IMG_3955
From jumping in Stromlo puddles at the Flow Rollercoaster and straight into the photo studio.

Confidence plus:

We love the way the SB66 takes big impacts in its stride, particularly how it handles big impacts even when already deep into its travel. Pushing the bike hard into the trail, or pumping down the backside of a rocky step to gain speed feels great.

The Yeti holds excellent momentum when ploughing through repeated impacts and the way we set up the bike in terms of component choices definitely lends itself to the more aggressive end of the spectrum, so letting off the brakes and hanging on tight became the norm. The SB66 prefers to be ridden with real gusto, much harder than its predecessor the Yeti 575 – the rear suspension feels so supportive and balanced. It’s not one of those bikes that reacts to every single little thing that it rolls over, hence why it can be ridden really rough without it squirming or feeling mushy and vague.

A temporary 2012 model FOX shock - RP23 in place of the FOX CTD shock which had some issues, but nothing we couldn't sort out.
A 2012 model FOX shock – we used an RP23 in place of the FOX CTD shock which had some issues.

Teething issues:

Initially when we first took the Yeti out into the woods, we found the rear suspension feel to be surprisingly choppy and the early part of the suspension travel very insensitive. Compared to the aluminium SB66 we had ridden prior, it felt surprisingly harsh – quite the opposite of what you’d expect from a carbon bike. We persisted with it though, mucking about with air pressures but with no luck, the bike just felt wooden. Slightly frustrated we sent the shock back to Yeti and the diagnosis was that it was a bit of a dud with too low air pressure in the Boost Valve. We actually replaced the shock with an  older model FOX RP23 which made the bike feel amazing and smooth like it should be.

Some of the neatest rock and chain slap protection we've ever seen, in all the right places and smartly integrated.
Some of the neatest rock and chain slap protection we’ve ever seen, in all the right places and smartly integrated. Water bottle mounts are under the frame. This not too much of an issue for the hydration bag wearers, but it makes for very awkward water bottle use.

Geometry and component choices:

Geometry wise, the SB66 is long, with our medium frame stretching over 61cm in top tube length. We like this as it can help widen the bike’s range of usability. Fitted to the medium frame, a stem length over 70mm the position will make the riding position very open and roomy, and steering won’t be too nervous or twitchy when the climbs begin. For longer and calmer rides, we’ve fitted an 80mm stem and 700mm bar for a more cross country feel. Currently we’ve opted for a short 60mm length stem and a 740mm wide PRO Tharsis bar – this setup is more suited to the bike’s intended riding style, giving you a stable, centred position for high speed confidence.

IMG_3986
Big volume tyres, wide rims and low tyre pressures in conjunction with a sturdy cockpit and stiff legged fork. It doesn’t get much better than this. The Rockshox Pike is a wonderful fit for this bike and leads the way into rough terrain with real big balls.
Wide, low and bloody fast.
Wide, low and bloody fast. Almost as fast as Jared Graves.

With a 150mm travel fork, head angle is 67 degrees which is in line with the contemporary 26″ all-mountain/enduro/aggresive trail bike. It can shred hard, but still feels great to ride all day long up and down all sorts of trails. We did experiment with a longer 160mm FOX 34 fork, but in the end we preferred the slightly sharper steering provided with a 150mm fork.

We decided to ditch the front derailleur and run the FOX D.O.S.S. post lever under the left side of the handlebar.
We decided to ditch the front derailleur and run the FOX D.O.S.S. post lever under the left side of the handlebar.
Ok, ok putting ENVE wheels on any bike lifts it to another level, and these AM wheels with a bit more width and volume enabled a big tyre to be run with fairly low pressures.
Ok, ok fitting ENVE rims to any bike lifts it to another level, and these AM wheels with a bit more width and volume enabled a big tyre to be run with fairly low pressures with no drawback. Did we say we like the new Rockshox Pike?

Unlike so many bikes in this category, the SB66 will be remaining as 26″ (for at least a while)  keeping the ‘old school’ wheel size fans (like us) happy. So, in the end after all we’ve thrown at it, the SB66 keeps on trucking and confirms its reputation for being one seriously desirable bike. It’s almost $4000 for just the frame – holy crap that’s a lot – but hey, you buy a Yeti for more than its ridiculously good looks, right?

Tested: Bontrager XR4 Expert TLR Tyre

Bontrager have really hit the mark with the XR4 tyres for all round aggressive trail use. The XR4s are quite voluminous for a 2.35″ tyre and exhibit a wide footprint. That, in combination with a round profile, make for a lot of traction and predictable cornering behaviour.

The Bontrager XR4s are aggressive trail tyres.

The blocky tread is somewhat of a wonderment, being very grippy on the loose stuff as well as equally adherent on bare rock – something we weren’t expecting. This property in a tyre can often result from a softer, faster wearing compound – not so with the XR4s. The XR4s actually surprised us with their durability and resilience considering the irreverent treatment we gave them.

We only had one small gripe with the tyre in that we had to use a bit more sealant than we were used to prevent them losing air during the ride. Otherwised they ticked all the boxes.

Overall a well mannered tyre and a better choice for those whose trail choice is more rocky road than caramel slice.

New SRAM Roam And Rail MTB Wheels

You don’t win by being the lightest. Or the stiffest. Or the toughest. You win by being the fastest. And that takes a wheel designed specifically for the modern mountain biker. At SRAM, we start with the demands of the terrain and work forward from there—carefully balancing each wheel’s design around five key attributes: weight, inertia, engagement, stiffness and durability.

No matter where you ride, SRAM wheels will take you further. RISE higher. ROAM farther. RAIL harder.

ROAM 60 (Intended Use: XC/TR/AM)

ROAM 60 – it’s the only wheel you need. By layering extra material onto stress points, ROAM 60’s UST compatible CARBON TUNED rim is light enough for long climbs and strong enough for the toughest Enduro races. It’s DOUBLE-DECKER hub shell design takes straightpull spoke slots and stacks them two-by-two—distributing force perfectly around the wheel’s SOLO SPOKE design. The resulting wheel dish is wider, maximizing lateral stiffness while retaining frontal compliance. If you love to ride, this is your wheel.
  • Available in all 3 wheel sizes: 26”, 27.5” and 29”
  • CARBON TUNED unidirectional and woven carbon fiber, asymmetrical rim profile
  • WIDE ANGLE profile: 21mm inside, 28mm outside rim width
  • UST compatible
  • Available with 11-speed XD driver body for SRAM XX1 or 9/10-speed driver body
  • Aluminum nipples with nylon lock ring
  • SOLO SPOKE design with double butted, stiff stainless steel spokes
  • Durable hub internals with STAR RATCHET 36T system
  • SIDE SWAP easy conversion to all axle types
  • DOUBLE-DECKER hub shell design
ROAM 60: Weight*
26” - 1495g
27.5” - 1550g
29” - 1625g
*Wheel pair in lightest configuration

Available: July (26”) and August (27.5” and 29”)

ROAM 50 (Intended Use: XC/TR)

It’s everything the modern mountain biker could ask for. One of the lightest alloy trail wheels in the market, ROAM 50 delivers a smart balance of weight, inertia and stiffness—making for a very responsive and predictable wheel. Thanks to our WIDE ANGLE rim, its tire profile delivers superior traction.
  • Available in all 3 wheel sizes: 26”, 27.5” and 29”
  • Lightweight aluminum rim with asymmetrical TAPER CORE profile
  • WIDE ANGLE profile: 21mm inside, 25mm outside rim width
  • UST compatible
  • Available with 11-speed XD driver body for SRAM XX1 or 9/10-speed driver body
  • Aluminum nipples with nylon lock ring
  • SOLO SPOKE design with double butted, lightweight steel spokes
  • Durable hub internals with STAR RATCHET system
  • DOUBLE-DECKER hub shell design
Weight*
26” - 1475g
27.5” - 1530g
29” - 1610g
*Wheel pair in lightest configuration

Available: July (26, 27.5” and 29”)

RAIL 50 (Intended Use: AM)


An alloy rim that does what other alloy rims can’t. With WIDE ANGLE rim design providing superior stability, RAIL 50 can withstand the most aggressive All-Mountain/Enduro riding while setting a new benchmark for lightweight in the category. Featuring the perfect balance of strength, stiffness and width for All-Mountain/Enduro terrain, RAIL 50 delivers best-in-class ride quality all the way down.

  • in all 3 wheel sizes: 26”, 27.5” and 29”
  • Lightweight aluminum rim with asymmetrical TAPER CORE profile
  • WIDE ANGLE profile: 23c, 28mm outside rim width
  • UST compatible
  • Available with 11-speed XD driver body for SRAM XX1 or 9/10-speed driver body
  • Aluminum nipples with nylon lock ring
  • SOLO SPOKE design with double butted, stiff steel spokes
  • Durable hub internals with Star Ratchet system
  • SIDE SWAP easy conversion to all axle types
  • DOUBLE-DECKER hub shell design
Weight*
26” - 1690g
27.5” - 1750g
29” - 1830g
*Wheel pair in lightest configuration

Available: July (26, 27.5” and 29”)

TECHNOLOGIES

TAPER CORE
Strong in the right places. The sidewalls of SRAM rims are reinforced along the wings to withstand major impact. But the sidewalls then taper in along the center—reducing overall mass. The result is a very light rim with excellent dent resistance.
SOLO SPOKE
With SOLO spoke, you’re never wrong. SRAM wheel design eliminates the need for different spoke lengths—one size fits the entire wheel. This identical-length design means no longer wondering whether you have the right front/rear/drive-side/nondrive-side spoke handy.
Front + Rear + Drive-Side + Nondrive-Side = 1 Spoke
CARBON TUNED
Strong like bull, light like carbon. Every Carbon Tuned rim is designed with a distinct style of riding in mind. By selectively layering woven carbon fiber at high-stress points and using unidirectional fiber throughout, SRAM creates rims that yield a remarkable level of strength and durability—while remaining lightweight and responsive.
WIDE ANGLE
Take corners as fast as you want. SRAM wheels have a wider rim profile without significant added mass. This profile holds tire shape better, preventing tire roll and giving you superior comfort and traction around corners.
19mm XC Racing
21mm Trail
23mm All Mountain
DOUBLE-DECKER
Stacked in your favor. This hub shell design takes straightpull spoke slots and stacks them two-by-two—distributing force perfectly around the wheel’s SOLO SPOKE design. The resulting wheel dish is wider, maximizing lateral stiffness while retaining some frontal compliance.
XD™ DRIVER BODY
XD is a new driver body design that allows the use of the SRAM XX1 10-42 cassette and provides an improved interface.
SIDE SWAP
Switching axles has never been easier. Threadless side caps can be installed and replaced by hand—no tools necessary.
STAR RATCHET
This patented freewheel system uses precision ratchets with extremely high load capacity and reliability. Thanks to its no-tools-required design, routine maintenance is easy.
UST TUBELESS
No tube, no-brainer. UST Tubeless rims feature hooked edges designed to seal with UST compatible tires. The result is improved traction and control, less inertia and fewer flats.

 

Mongoose Teocali Expert

Ah, Home and Away. A TV institution, a series that seems to have been around forever and which, despite its longevity, basically remains the same. Tinkered slightly – a family division here, a druggy subplot there – but never drastically overhauled.  The 2013 version of the Mongoose Teocali is the bicycle equivalent.

A smart looking bike in anyone’s book, the Teocali presents as more than $2800-worth of machine.

It has a few evolutions from the previous generation, but beneath the new finish, frame tweaks and spec changes it’s basically the same underlying machine. And that’s not necessarily a criticism. Home and Away has been beamed into lounge rooms for 24 years, making dinner times less painful for millions of Australians – it’s part of our social fabric, and it’s obviously pretty good entertainment or it would’ve been axed last century. The Teocali too – it is a bloody good bread and butter bike for the intermediate rider.

So what are you getting in this striking red and white beast? A trail bike, with a penchant for rough and tricky trails, and good value too. It’s not light, and not pushing any technological boundaries perhaps, but it hits the nail on the head for riders who prefer the satisfaction of conquering tricky trails on a two hour weekend ride, as opposed to all-day fireroad adventures.

The Teocali packs 150mm travel (front and rear), which is the magic number for many riders, hitting the balance between forgiveness and manoeuvrability. Despite the bike’s fairly hefty 14.38kg, it’s really quite efficient (a hallmark of the Freedrive system), so it’ll trundle along nicely, rolling surprisingly quickly on the aggressive Kenda rubber. Mongoose have been smart enough to keep the rims quite light, so there’s not too much rotating mass, and the rear tyre is a skinnier 2.1” (the front is 2.25”) to reduce drag. The rear suspension doesn’t feature any kind of lockout, and we didn’t ever feel like we wanted it either.

 

 

The Kenda Excavator rubber is aggressive but rolls better than expected, helped along by the narrower rear tyre.

While the tall bars do their best to make climbing a chore, it will chug up most ascents happily. Some people will instantly want to pop on a longer stem and lower the bars to give the bike a little more direction on steep, seated climbs. In contrast, it actually relishes the odd technical out-of-the-saddle pinch; jump up on the pedals and it’s easy to make quick, snappy accelerations as the suspension doesn’t wallow under power.

The wide bar / short stem combo is just the ticket for technical trails, but we found the front end too high and wanted a bar with less rise.

The handling is even and predictable as well. It scoots casually through singletrack without any nasty surprises, and good weight distribution makes it easy to pick up the front wheel for drops. The upright riding position gives you plenty of confidence and the angles are nicely suited to picking your way down technical descents. We love the addition of the X-Fusion adjustable seat post too. It’s the perfect item for a bike like this, letting you hang it all out with your hanging-out bits getting snagged on the saddle. We were surprised by the level of confidence we had on the Teocali from the first ride, negotiating steep chutes that we’ve baulked at on other, pricier bikes.

Perfect! It’s great to see more adjustable posts (like the X-Fusion) coming as a stock item on trail bikes. While this post uses an under-the-saddle-lever actuation, the Teocali features cable mounts to allow you to run a remote handle bar mounted lever too.

Suspension balance is more questionable; we were very impressed by the fork, which is ultra smooth (though heavier riders will need a firmer spring), but the rear end is a little choppy in comparison. The Freedrive suspension is very firm near the end of its travel, and the Rockshox Monarch is not known as the smoothest suspension item in the business. If you’re the kind of rider who is good at hopping or pumping through the terrain, you’ll appreciate the Teocali’s ability to generate speed but pumping the terrain. If you’re more of a ‘plougher’ you’ll find the rear end a bit harsh. The frame and fork are both laterally stiff, so even hard riders will find the Teocali can hold its line when pushed into uncomfortable situations.

Rockshox suspension graces both front and rear of the Teocali. We found the coil-sprung Sektor fork to be incredibly smooth and responsive. Heavier riders will want to fit a stiffer spring however. This fork has limited adjustability but, damn, it works well!
We’ve never found Rockshox Monarch shocks to be particularly smooth when compared to their Fox counterparts.

At under $2800, there are few holes to be found in the ’Goose’s component spec. The SRAM/Avid mix isn’t flashy, but it’s all appropriate gear, especially the 2×10 drivetrain and aforementioned X-Fusion post. The lack of lock-on grips is a shame, don’t leave the shop without them, and the rims seemed to dent up a little easily too. Grip gripe aside, the Teocali’s components should run trouble free for years of rough riding.

A 142x12mm rear axle keeps things stiff out back, while the fork’s 15mm axle takes care of steering precision up front. The whole bike is quite stiff laterally, which may surprise some as the linkage looks like it would be prone to flex.
As you can see from the location of the o-ring on the shock shaft, we didn’t get full travel from the rear shock despite running the recommended sag.
If you want to run a water bottle, it’s under the down tube only. This is a hydration pack kind of bike anyhow.

 

Despite looking pretty complicated, the Freedrive suspension system features no more pivots than a standard four-bar linkage suspension design.
The SRAM X5 shifters may feel a bit cheap under your fingers, but the shift quality when matched to an X7 rear mech is fine!

 

The 2×10 drivetrain was a pleasure to use. Sure this bike is heavy, but we never found ourselves short of gears on the climbs and we prefer the simplicity of two chain rings instead of three.

 

 

Norco’s Sight 2 goes through the wringer

[SV_VIMEO id=”49000838″]

Well done Norco. This bike sums up what trail riding is all about, fun. So far the Sight has attracted a lot of attention in the mountain bike media, we were eager to find out why.

What’s this Sight all about then? Well, don’t look here if you are after a big-hitting all mountain bike, or a super-efficient endurance bike, the Sight fits nicely in the middle. It’s 140mm travel amount and fairly sharp angles gave us the feeling that the Sight is long-legged trail bike, for rapid riding through steep, tight and demanding terrain.

 

Love the curves. We thoroughly enjoyed out tim aboard the Sight.
A relatively short front end with super-wide handlebars puts the rider in a ready-to-react position for anything the trail can throw at you.
A fine rear end indeed. Using a stiff, secure and user-friendly Syntace X-12 axle also looks so much better than a standard quick release.
Now that is a roomy cockpit. 740mm bars are pretty damn wide, but a narrower option is supplied to Australian shores due to standard regulations.

Note the small black aluminium bolt threaded into the frame. This will replace the derailleur hanger bolt if it breaks off in case of accident, so you don’t need to carry a spare hanger on each ride, very nice touch indeed!

 

A large air volume FOX RP2 shock does a stellar job, and matched the suspension rate perfectly. And this was one of those bikes that rarely needed the Propedal lever as the rear suspension bobbed very little.
The 140mm travel Rockshox Revelation takes the task of leading the Sight into the trails. With the ability to drop the fork down into a shorter travel mode for climbing and lock out for stints on the road, this Revelation is ideal for this type of bike.
Hit this lever to drop the fork travel down for a more efficient climbing position. And showing off to your mates.
The Shimano XT brakes are running on resin only rotors, for extra bite and braking power an upgrade to Ice Tech rotors with metal sintered pads would be a good upgrade.
ISCG tabs will allow the fitting of a chainguide for the single-ring fans out there.
Shimano XT all over the place, and it absolutely killed it. The brakes are a real highlight, and the integrated shifter and brake clamp neatens the bars nicely.