Tested: Trek Stache 7

The Trek Stache, with its big, balloon-like wheels.
The Trek Stache, with its big, balloon-like wheels.

What the hell is 29+?

When Trek decided to create a bike in the ‘plus hardtail’ category, they developed the Stache from the ground up using 29″ diameter wheels, instead of jumping on the existing 27.5+ wheel (27.5″ diameter with 2.8-3″ tyres) size bandwagon.

Not sure what we are talking about? Here, have a read of this if you’d like to know what a plus-size bike is all about.

Essentially, Trek developed the Stache around 29+ wheels due to the increased contact patch of the tyre when compared to 27.5+, but it wasn’t going to be so simple. 29+ wheels are huge, too big to fit into a normal shaped frame, hence the wildly asymmetrical rear end of the bike and its elevated chainstay arrangement. There have only ever been one other 29+ bike make its way to the masses, we reviewed the Surly Krampus a few years ago, while we loved its endless traction it was hard work to manoeuvre through any form of a tight corner and was a boat to try and rip through singletrack.

With the elevated chain stay design and a boost spacing hub, Trek can tuck the chainstays to a length adjustable between 405-420mm (the bike ships with the length at 420mm) in the world of 29ers that is incredibly short!


Why?

An increased contact patch is beneficial in two main ways. Firstly, with a bigger contact patch you’ve got more grip on the ground in virtually any condition than a goanna scaling a tree. The second advantage of 29+ tyres is the small bump sensitivity that can be achieved by running the voluminous tyres at lower pressures. While the Stache is never going to feel like a dual suspension bike in choppy terrain, setting up the monstrous Chupacabra tyres tubeless and with the pressures low the bike has excellent small bump compliance.

The Chupacabra tyres are critical to the performance of the Stache.
More grip than a jealous ex.

We were lucky to chat with Trek’s Travis Brown where we discussed the Stache, and he summed up the decision to go with 29+ wheels by saying ‘if you’re the type of rider willing to take a small weight penalty for a lot of extra control and traction, and the ability to run low pressures, we came out with the 29+ to be superior.’


29+ wheels with 3” tyres must be heavy right?

At first glance, you would presume that the Bontrager Chupacabra tyres would weigh significantly more than regular tyres, however, one of the key aims of the Stache project (which was entitled ‘project weird’) was to create a lightweight 29×3.00 tyre.

The result of the project was the Bontrager Chupacabra, a 3” tyre that weighs just 860 grams! Despite the light weight, the Chupacabra is tubeless ready, and the sidewall protection was high. We know this because with a 3” tyre you’ll be scraping the sidewalls of the tyre against lots of stuff on the trail, but despite this, the Chupacabra remained intact throughout the review.

Check out the scraping above the Bontrager logo- that's some sturdy sidewall protection!
Check out the scraping above the Bontrager logo- that’s some sturdy sidewall protection!

The tread pattern of the Chupacabra sits somewhere between a Bontrager XR2 and XR3 which we found struck an excellent balance between rolling efficiency, sidewall stability and traction.

We appreciate the development that went into the Chupacabra, it's an excellent tyre.
We appreciate the development that went into the Chupacabra; it’s an excellent tyre.

The only negatives we have with Chupacabra tyre is that once you really get to know how the Stache handles, a beefier front tyre to allow the rear to break traction into a slide or drift before the front tyre does might let us ride more aggressively, as we found that when the bike is tipped over and losing traction (far later than any other bike we’ve ever ridden), both the tyres slid together, a sensation that unnerved us somewhat.

Another point to mention is that there is no alternative to the Chupacabra than from Bontrager, and a replacement is going to set you back a mega $169 each!


You can run 27.5+ or 29” wheels instead of the 29+ due to the Stranglehold dropouts, should you be considering changing wheels?

No! At least not to begin with. Throughout testing, what we continually discussed was just how well the 29+ wheels worked with the short rear end, as well as the bike’s stubby cockpit. Being able to throw the bike around easily in combination with the insane traction and rollover of the 29+ wheels was a great match.

As we’ve discussed, the contact patch and subsequent traction afforded by the 29+ tyres is crazy. What we found with the bike’s tight geometry was that despite the massive wheels, if you tip the Stache over enough it’ll negotiate pretty much any corner- as long as the pilot holds their nerve!

Lay it in!
Lay it in!

Is it easy to jump the big hoops?

It’s different. Getting the Stache off the ground to manoeuvre between lines isn’t really the Stache’s forte, it prefers to barge through trails rather than creep delicately. Whilst subtle line changes of the aerial variety are off the menu, when you need to get airborne, other than having to work the bike initially to get in the air, once it’s up there the short rear end is easy to work into a landing, and the big rubber feels very cushy if you go further than intended.

The Stache loves getting up to mischief!
The Stache loves getting up to mischief!

Many of the trails near Flow HQ feature jumps and drops that often result in the bike landing pretty much pancake flat, and the with low tyre pressures (we settled on as low as 13psi in the front and 15psi in the rear for a 78kg rider), the Stache doesn’t feel like a conventional hardtail when it’s time to come down.


When do you get reminded that you’re still riding a hardtail?

While the Stache happily ploughs through most terrain, when the going gets really rough, or you’re coming into a square edge hit, the ability to plough through or jump the obstacle as you might on a dual suspension bike is not really an option. We found ourselves coming into sections like these too fast at times considering the low pressures you run on the Stache, which make a square edge or very rocky terrain the perfect place for a puncture – and a potential $169 visit to the bike shop!


What’s the spec like?

Despite having truly enjoyed riding the Stache, the spec is somewhat underwhelming considering the $3299 price tag.

Firstly, it’s understandable in a way that this bike is dearer than it should be because this is a one of a kind bike and the frame is quite involved. If you read our interview with Travis Brown, you’ll see the time and resources not only Trek and Bontrager, but companies such as SUN Ringle and Manitou invested to make this bike a possibility.

Trek worked with Manitou to develop the Magnum 29+ fork.
Trek worked with Manitou to develop the Magnum 29+ fork.

That being said, the battleground of mountain bike sales is a vicious one, and there are many bikes around the $3000 price point with very nice specs indeed; dropper posts, quality suspension front and rear and high-end drivetrains.

For $3299 with the Stache, you get a Sram GX groupset (with X1 cranks), Sram’s Level Trail brakes and relatively unheard of SUNringle Duroc rims, which create an excellent profile for the Chupacabra, but are on the soft side for a bike with hard-riding intentions like the Stache.

None of these products are bad- in fact, it’s unbelievable how good 11-speed drivetrains of all levels are these days – our SRAM GX/X1 bundle was flawless, and the Level brakes were excellent for general trail riding, although they were untested this time around on particularly long descents.

Bontrager products have always been a favourite at Flow for their efficiency, robustness and understated graphics, and the Bontrager products on the Stache such as the stem, handlebar and saddle were no different.

Two parts we weren’t fussed on however were the push-on grips, which we would change to a set of lock-ons immediately, and the non-dropper seatpost.

No dropper and not much room to drop the seat due to the curved seat tube makes you appreciate what we've become so used to!
No dropper and not much room to drop the seat due to the curved seat tube make you appreciate what we’ve become so used to!

The Stache is pleading like a child at a candy store for a dropper. If there were ever a bike that would truly benefit from a dropper, it would be the Stache. Further to this, the rigid seatpost doesn’t actually move that far within the frame, as the seat tube is flattened and curved to accommodate the 29+ wheels, so dropping the seat at the top of a descent still doesn’t get the seat as low as you would with a dropper.


Okay, so what about the model above, or below in the range?

We believe this is a situation where the model below, or above are worthy of consideration for potential buyers.

The Stache 5 retails for $2399, and features the same frame, wheels and tyres as the 7. Regarding the drivetrain, it’s a 1×10 system, however, the 11-36 spread isn’t too bad regarding range. The another significant downgrade is going from the Manitou Magnum with 34mm stanchions to the Manitou Machete with thinner 32mm stanchions.

The Stache 5 comes with the Magnum's younger brother, the Machete. Both are violent.
The Stache 5 comes with the Magnum’s younger brother, the Machete. Both are violent.

While these are downgrades, in the fork department plus bikes tend to mask inefficiencies in dampening, as the small bump sensitivity from the tyres allows the rider to run more pressure if the fork is very linear. This was the case with the Manitou Magnum. Despite feeling linear in comparison to a comparable Fox or RockShox product, the Magnum performed well on the Stache, as we ran it slightly firmer and faster than we would on a regular bike, allowing the tyres to give small bump sensitivity, and saving the travel for bigger hits.

For the $900 saving the Stache 5 offers, and the fact that the $2399 price point is somewhere where the Stache competes with entry level dual suspension bikes that perhaps come with entry-level suspension components, the 3” tyres would potentially work more efficiently at dampening the terrain, as well as giving the rider more traction and control.

Another option we would consider is spending $1200 more and purchasing the Stache 9.6. The Stache 9.6 comes with all the upgrades we wanted! A dropper post for starters, as well as a RockShox Yari fork, and a gorgeous carbon frame. We featured the Stache 9.6 in our Trek World wrap up from earlier this year, so go and have a look!

We like the Stache 9.6. Alot.
The Stache 9.6 is an extra $1200, but it’s pretty dialled.

Is the Stache an alternative to a $3000 duallie?

The concept around this bike and the way it behaves on the trail is remarkable. Consider this: you’re coming hot into a corner, tagging the inside a bit more than you should be. Where you would normally be about to lose the rear (and possibly the front too) and you get pretty ragged, with the Stache you keep those feet up, pull as tight as you want, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to stay glued to the ground.

Keep those feet up!
Keep those feet up!

Here’s another one: it’s been a long day out on the bike, and you’re coming up the final loose, rock-strewn climb. You want to get out of the saddle and power those last few pedal strokes, but you’re losing traction. You end up admitting defeat, hopping off and walking the rest of the hill. Aboard the Stache, unless you’re putting out the horsepower of Nino Schurter, those tyres are staying right where you want them, in or out of the saddle.

Forget spinning circles and mash those pedals all you like aboard the Stache.
Forget spinning circles and mash those pedals all you like aboard the Stache.

So is this bike better than a $3000 duallie? It’s hard to say because it’s just so god damn different!


Alright, let’s cut to the chase, who is this bike for?

The Stache is for a rider who appreciates traction, braking control and simplicity. You’re unlikely to get record times on your local XC loop, but the Stache can tackle much, much more than the humble hardtail of yesteryear, and you’ll amaze your mates with the new line options it opens up.

The Stache reminded us that sometimes riding isn’t about who has the most dialled, out and out speed machine, that sometimes popping a manual or a wheelie, or taking a silly line through a corner is what brings the biggest grins.

Don't you want to have as much fun as this?
Don’t you want to have as much fun as this?

As Travis Brown told us when we were asking him how the bike rode, until you ride a Stache, you just simply won’t understand what these quirky little things are all about!

Flow’s First Bite: Trek Stache 7

As we’ve learned over the past few weeks, however, first impressions aren’t everything, but we certainly have done a lot of laughing whilst riding this thing, it’s a whole lot of fun!

Ahead of our review, here is a little preview of this very unique bike.

Oh, and does anyone know what a Chupacabra actually is?

Say hello to this funky little beast from Trek.
Say hello to this funky little beast from Trek.

What is 29+?

The Trek Stache is a quirky beast, an aluminium hardtail from Trek that rolls on with ginormous 29+ wheels, that’s a 29″ wheel with 3″ tyres. Mounted to 40mm wide rims the wheels look huge and could probably float if we dropped it into the lake while taking pretty photos, we didn’t though, promise.

If you want to know more about why Trek decided on 29+ wheels, rather than the more common ‘plus size’ industry standard of 27.5+, check out our interview with Trek’s Travis Brown about the development process for the Stache.

Despite the enormous wheels, the Stache's creative rear end allows for 420mm chainstays. Note the elevated chainstay allowed by the 1x specific design.
Despite the enormous wheels, the Stache’s creative rear end allows for 420mm chain stays. Note the elevated chainstay made possible by the 1x specific design, and the curved seat tube for tyre clearance.

What on earth for? 

The Trek Stache 7 is designed to be an alternative to a dual suspension trail bike in the 110-130mm travel range. Whilst the Stache is a hardtail, its unique 29+ tyres with massive volume are paired with slacker geometry angles than you would regularly see on a hardtail, such as a 68.4-degree head angle, as well as crazy short 420mm chain stays (which are adjustable depending on wheel size and rider preference).

The Stache also runs a 120mm Manitou Magnum fork with beefy 34mm stanchions, further signaling the disorderly intentions of this bike.

Trek's Travis Brown on the Stache under sunny Stromlo skies.
Trek’s Travis Brown on the Stache under sunny Stromlo skies.
The chunky 120mm Manitou Magnum up front tells you this bike isn't for the racetrack.
The chunky 120mm Manitou Magnum fork isn’t for the racetrack.

Can 29+ wheels give this bike a degree of suspension?

This is a question we’ll answer more in-depth in the review, however, what we’ve learned in our time on the Stache so far is that asking if the bike replicates the abilities of a dual suspension trail bike is not the right question to be asking.

The Stache’s strengths include insane levels of traction and a geometry aimed at being able to throw those big hoops around at will. These attributes mean that the riding style required to get the most out of the Stache is different to how you would ride a standard dual-suspension trail bike.

Is this even possible? Could Trek be onto something here? Stay tuned for the review where we’ll discuss this further.

The Bontrager Chupacabra tyres are named after a legendary Latin American goat-slayer, and hold the key to unlocking the Stache's potential.
The Bontrager Chupacabra tyres are named after the legendary Latin American goat-slayer, and hold the key to slaying trails aboard the Stache.

Is there an option to swap wheel sizes if I don’t like the 29+ wheels?

Yes! The Stache’s ‘Stranglehold’ dropouts allow for the bike to be configured in 29+, 27.5+, regular 29”, and even as a singlespeed!

Despite the Stache being more open to change that Donald Trump’s policies, we would definitely recommend giving the Stache a good crack in its original 29+ guise, as the benefits of the 29+ tyres are really what make this bike shine.

The Stache is a highly adaptable bike. Tensioners for singlespeed setup as well as chainstay length adjustment allows for multiple wheel sizes and gearing options.
The Stache is a highly adaptable bike. Tensioners for singlespeed setup as well as chainstay length adjustment allows for multiple wheel sizes and gearing options.
The Stranglehold dropout's elevated chainstay features a protective layer to protect the chainstay from the chain slap.
The Stranglehold Dropout’s elevated chainstay features a protective layer to protect the chainstay from the chain slap.

What advantages do the 29+ wheels provide?

The huge contact patch of the tyres, which can be run at very low pressures when setup tubeless (the Stache ships with rim tape installed as well as tubeless valves) gives insane cornering grip as well as small bump sensitivity to compensate somewhat for the rigid rear end.

Tyre pressure setup on the Stache is more critical than for most other bikes, so we’ve been experimenting with different setups to get the best combination of traction, tyre stability and rolling efficiency.

29+ wheels means the 3" tyres are meatier than the barbeque on Australia Day.
29+ wheels means the 3″ tyres are meatier than the barbeque on Australia Day.

What about the spec?

The aluminium Stache 7 retails for $3299, and includes a Manitou Magnum fork with 34mm stanchions and 120mm of travel, a Sram groupset consisting of 1×11 GX gearing and Level Trail brakes and most of the finishing kit is handled by Bontrager.

The Bontrager Chupacabra tyres have a tread pattern that sits somewhere between a Bontrager XR2 and XR3, and are a good fit out of the box for the Stache. Trek have specced the Stache with SUNringle DUROC rims- we’re interested to see how they perform throughout the review.

Sram's Level Trail brakes have excellent ergonomics, and are a good fit for the Stache.
Sram’s Level Trail brakes have excellent ergonomics and are a good fit for the Stache.
It's odd to see a Trek bike specced without Bontrager rims, so we're interested to see how the SUNringle rims perform.
It’s odd to see a Trek bike specced without Bontrager rims, so we’re interested to see how the SUNringle rims perform.

Any complaints?

Out of the box, the only issues we’ve identified are the befuddling Manitou fork axle, which takes the humble thru-axle to a perplexing level of complexity, and the non-lock-on Bontrager Race grips, which feel very squirmy underhand.

This bike begs for a dropper post! For a bike with such reckless and fun riding capabilities like the Stache, a dropper post is a no-brainer in our eyes.

You shouldn't have to complete a degree in engineering to tighten your fork axle.

You shouldn’t have to complete a degree in engineering to secure your fork axle.

We would love for this lonely dropper post port to be filled out of the box.
We would love for this lonely dropper post port to be filled out of the box.

Where are we going to ride it?

Everywhere! We’ll be riding this bike on all the trails we would normally ride with test bikes, to see if it’s a realistic alternative to a dual-suspension trail bike, so watch out for a full review soon.

Trek Go Mid-Fat, With New Stache 29+

Trek announced today the release of the all-new Stache, the completely redesigned mid-fat trail hardtail that offers riders the capability of a full suspension trail bike and the efficiency and simplicity of a hardtail.

Stache delivers more on-trail confidence than ever before with massive 3” tires mounted to 50mm rims for better traction cornering, climbing, and negotiating rough or loose terrain.

2019000_2016_A_1_Stache_5

2024000_2016_A_1_Stache_9

Stache’s mid-fat tires and wide rims are paired with some of the shortest chainstays Trek has ever engineered, making it the most capable and agile hardtail on the trail. The incredibly short chainstays are achieved through Stache’s all-new frame design, which features an elevated drive-side midstay that keeps the chainstay out of the way of the crank and rear tire.

The bike that redefines expectations and brings the trail hardtail category back into relevance features Trek’s proprietary Stranglehold Dropout for the ultimate in wheel-size versatility. Stache can be optimised with 29+, 27.5+ or standard 29er wheels depending on ride style and terrain and can also be set up as a singlespeed.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 9.50.22 am

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 9.51.16 am

Stache is the first bike to feature the all-new Boost 148/110 front and rear hub spacing for stiffness, precision handling, and predictability on even the roughest trails. The new Stache lineup will include 3 alloy models and a frame set.

SLorence_tucsonstache_409

For more details – http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes/mountain/trail/stache/

Tested: Whyte T129 S

So why are you reading this review? You’re either bored, or you are actually thinking, “is this bike for me?” If you’re of the latter then that’s always a tough question to answer.  Whether a bike is for you is determined by many factors including riding style, riding preferences, and the terrain in which you will most commonly ride. If you are more playful, like aggressive angles, and ride a more mixed trail type then the Whyte T129 S may be for you.

TEST_WHYTE_146S-5
As English as a warm pint of beer, the Whyte is proud of its roots.

As a snapshot we think the Whyte T129 S is a silent achiever that really makes a bold statement in 29er design.  It’s not beating its marketing chest to yell that fact at you, but  after a month or riding this rig we’ve found it to be one of the most playful and fun trail bikes we’ve ridden. It’s not a XC racing machine, and it can’t take the huge hits, but if you like to ride somewhere in the middle of those extremes then this bike is a winner.

TEST_WHYTE_146S-34

Build

The T129 S is a recent move into the 29er market for Whyte and as a company with a history of some very aggressive and worthy 26” bikes the move to big wheels called for some wholesale changes.  In order for Whyte to produce a 29” bike with their trademark aggressive style a new suspension platform was needed. Enter the Quad 4; similar to the 4 Bar Specialized FSR design, Whyte have produced a package that meets their design specifications of being compact, stiff and weather proof (something of a trademark feature for Whyte).

TEST_WHYTE_146S-11
The top link of the Quad 4.
TEST_WHYTE_146S-30
Those aren’t actually the pivot bolts, they are just the dust caps. There’s no way you’re going to get dust or mud in there. The pivots also have a lifetime warranty so you’re even more assured of continued performance.
TEST_WHYTE_146S-7
The Quad 4 has a long stroke shock and we found we had to run it a little softer than normal to get full travel.

The entire frame is made from 6061 T6 aluminium with a tapered head tube and 142mm dropouts. The top tube looks a little thinner than most big-tubed modern bikes but the big welds and solid feel of the frame certainty discounted any concern about frame strength we had. If anything, the frame may be a little over engineered but gram counting wasn’t a goal of the T129 S.

The whole bike weighs 13.4 kg (sans pedals) and whilst that’s not a featherweight, for a 120mm bike it’s still very respectable. As always you have to consider price and purpose when thinking of the grams and the T129 S satisfies the balance of those two elements well.

TEST_WHYTE_146S-38
This could be your view.

The geometry is a real showpiece of the bike. At only 120mm of travel you would think it’s more designed for and XC/Endurance type rider but with a slack head angle (68 degrees), short chainstays and mid range bottom bracket height (343mm) it’s more suited as a more aggressive trail riding machine.  The only angle on the spec sheet that was against this is the seat tube, which at 73 degress pitches you more forward for increased pedalling efficiency so you don’t feel like you’re ploughing a field when riding.

TEST_WHYTE_146S-35
It’s all in the angles and Whyte seem to have it right on the 129S.

We recall fondly how the interwebs went crazy when the Specialized Enduro 29er hit the market, with class changing geometry and a chest beating chainstay length of 430mm. The T129 S too should be shouting loud and hard as it comes in just 1mm longer at 431mm.  This short chainstay was immediately noticeable as manualing and tight cornering were very much not 29er-like. The downside to a short chainstay can be less stability at high speeds and matched with the slightly floppy wheels we did notice a little of this.

TEST_WHYTE_146S-C7
The frame has two internal ports for cables. The first (on the top tube) is for the front derailleur.
TEST_WHYTE_146S-31
The second port for internal cable routing is for the dropper post. The cable routes mostly externally (under the downtube) and only enters the frame for a short journey up to the dropper post.
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The house branded stem was a perfect length for the bike (70mm) and we flipped it to help keep the front end down. Whyte actually offer different size stems depending on the frame size and we think that’s a nice touch to help deliver a similar ride for all people.
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Routing the cables down the donwtube is a nice way to hide the mess and Whyte have done it well. The cable clamps are easy to work with and held everything well.
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The tubing on the 129S is interesting – it’s rare to see traditional round tube shapes these days.
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Bottle mounts. A must for some and increasingly disappearing from many modern frames.
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Sometimes it’s the little things that matter. How’s this for a nice patriotic touch?

Overall the frame build and design is top quality and much thought has been placed into making the bike durable.  The colours on also stood out from the crowd and the turquoise splashes are a nice touch to give it that bling look.

Spec

Choosing spec on a bike has to be one of the harder jobs in the cycling industry. Not only do you have to think about form and function but you also have to think about price point.  No bike in this price range is going to be perfect, and nor should it, and the Whyte team has done a pretty good job on spec to meet their design brief.

The T129 S is mid-level in the range and the spec highlighted the design intentions of the bike. Wide bars, dropper post, clutch deraillier, all matched with the geo that shouts “trail”. For the price we think the Whyte is a good purchase. Standard is a RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper, X9 clutch derailleur, 120mm RockShox Reba fork (with 15mm axle), 750mm wide bars, and a great mix of strong parts.

TEST_WHYTE_146S-C1
The drivetrain is all SRAM. An X9 clutch derailleur kept the chain on all test, and the 2x set-up up front with X7 front mech gave a huge spread to cover all type of mountains. This bike would be perfect for a 1x set-up too.
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A 12mm x 142mm rear and 15mm front clearly shows where the bike is targeted. Matched with some colour coded house brand hubs the whole setup looked nice and stiff.
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The Whyte seat was comfortable, the wide bars were perfect, and overall the cockpit had a great feel.
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The Reba took a little while to loosen up in terms of small bump compliance but once over that initial period it held up superbly to everything put in its path.

The wheels were probably the only let down exhibiting too much flex. The axle and hubs were nice and big, and well matched with the WTB rims and double-butted spokes, so we expected them to be a little better. It’s not that they aren’t a decent set of hoops, but when considering the type of aggressive riding the bike is designed for, they didn’t match the strength and abilities of the rest of the bike. That being said, they’d probably last a good year of flogging and then you will have saved enough for a wheel upgrade.

The tyres were also not that well matched to the bike.  At 2.2″ (front and rear) we thought they were a little too narrow. We swapped the front for something a little wider and also converted to the rims to tubeless. The WTB Nano 2.2 that we left on the rear held up well despite out reservations. Still, maybe a 2.3″ would be a little better.

TEST_WHYTE_146S-C6
We can’t ride a bike without it being tubeless so you can imagine the joy at reading the sticker on the rims that read, “tubeless compatible”. We later learnt that just because the rim states it’s tubeless compatible it doesn’t quite mean it’s actually tubeless ready. Unlike a true tubeless rim, that has the spoke holes covered in the manufacturing process, these needed a rim strip.
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Avid Elixir 5 stoppers were more than adequate for the job. 180mm front, and 160mm rear. They worked straight out of the box, had generous reach adjustment, and never gave us an issue.

The Ride

To use one word – great.  As expected the bike was playful and easy as (cold pork) pie to manual and pump through the terrain.  It climbed well, but on the steepest of steeps it was a little hard to keep the front end down and some extreme body language was needed.  That’s common trait of a 29er but the shorter chainstays does add to it.

TEST_WHYTE_146S-1
This section of trail is super, super steep and like most 29ers you have to really get over the front to stop the front from popping.

It did take a little while to get the suspension right and we ended up running a little less pressure than normal.  The forks were initially a little firm but did soften up after a while and quite possibly a quick disassemble and lube would have made them more buttery. The rear end took us by surprise and we ended up running about 35% sag to get better small bump compliance. Initially we thought that would be too soft and make the bike bobble and bottom out but none of that was noticeable.

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Playful is such an overused word in mountain biking so we’re going to invent a new word. Funful – the T129 S was funful to ride.

The downhill and jumping performance was excellent, when the super short chainstays and slack head angle come into play. On the rhythm sections and berms of Stromlo Forest Park the bike was quick to respond to body language changes and the dropper post added to the ability to keep low on the frame.

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The geometry was great. You could point the bike down and over anything and it could handle it with glee.

The only real let down was the wheels (yes, we know we have mentioned it before). The frame and pivots are all super stiff and feel strong, however that strength then exaggerated the lack of stiffness in the wheel set.  When we pushed it hard through a corner or picked a rough line through a rock garden we did notice some wobble in the wheels.

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The 129S did like to be pushed hard in corners but maybe that invitation was just a little too much for the wheels to handle; the old spoke key got a bit of work.

Overall

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A Whyte with a view.

Overall this bike was great to ride, strong, and of course, funful.

What makes it better than others or makes it the bike for you? (That’s probably the question that got you all the way to the bottom of the page.)  It has to be the geometry.  The Whyte delivers the confidence of a longer travel bike with the agility of a 120mm frame; it’s the kind of bike that backs up the notion that good angles are better than longer travel. If you’re a rider who likes to jump around a little, corner hard and be more playful then this bike is for you.

Also, if you’re still on the fence as a 26″ rider this is probably one of the better bikes to make the leap over to the dark side.

TEST_WHYTE_146S-45
Another look at the bike as the golden sun sets.

 

The Test

Rider Weight: 72 Kgs
Proving Grounds: Stromlo Forest Park, Bruce Ridge
Adjustments: Tubeless, new front tyre, stem flipped.

Tested: Specialized S-Works Camber 29

It wasn’t too long ago that we declared our desire to “marry” a Specialized test bike (the Stumpjumper Expert Carbon), so deep was our love. But now, it seems that we’re lusting after another… we’ve had an affair with the lady in red, and it felt good. Ladies and gents, our new love, the Specialized S-Works Camber 29.

The Camber confused us for quite a while. There aren’t many bikes in that 110mm-travel category; in Australia we’re used to seeing 100mm-travel cross-country bikes or 140mm+ trail bikes. With so little apparently separating the Camber from the Epic, we didn’t really understand its place in the world.

But after a few days together on the trails of Atherton in Tropical North Queensland, we’ve definitely got a handle on what this very glamorous bike is all about. We know it’s easy to be wooed by the superb components, immaculate finish and low weight of the S-Works version of the Camber, but the fundamentals that make this bike so great are echoed throughout the Camber range.

Watch the video and learn why the Camber might just be the one you’ve been looking for too.

We tested the Camber up in Atherton, in Tropical North Queensland, where we stayed at a fifth generation farm.
We tested the Camber up in Atherton, in Tropical North Queensland, where we stayed at a fifth generation farm.
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The greasy berms and jumps of the Ricochet track proved just how relaxed the Camber is even when the tyres are sliding about and the landings are harsh.

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Looks nice from this angle too.
Looks nice from this angle too.
The Formula brakes are lovely to look at. Specialized specced a 160mm rear rotor and a 180mm up front.
The Formula brakes are lovely to look at but we feel their performance is not in line with the rest of the componentry. Specialized specced a 160mm rear rotor and a 180mm up front.
Brakes, suspension and drivetrain aside, everything else on the bike is made by Specialized, including the Henge seat and Command IR dropper post.
Brakes, suspension and drivetrain aside, everything else on the bike is made by Specialized, including the Henge seat and Command IR dropper post.
The Camber uses a 15mm axled fork - it's another small difference that gives this bike a very different ride to the Epic, despite the two bikes being quite close in travel and geometry terms.
The Camber uses a 15mm axled fork – it’s another small difference that gives this bike a very different ride to the Epic, despite the two bikes being quite close in travel and geometry terms.
The cockpit setup is key to the Camber's confident and playful ride. The stem is 70mm, the bar 720mm - ideal in our minds. We spent a bit of time adjusting the bar position - it has a lot of backsweep, and so rolling the bars back or forwards it in the stem has a big effect on the ride feel.
The cockpit setup is key to the Camber’s confident and playful ride. The stem is 70mm, the bar 720mm – ideal in our minds. We spent a bit of time adjusting the bar position – it has a lot of backsweep, and so rolling the bars back or forwards it in the stem has a big effect on the ride feel.
The Camber gets Specialized's new SWAT system, which stands for Spares, Water, Air, Tools. Basically it's all about carrying these items on the bike, rather than on your body. There is a multitool mounted to the bottom of the bottle cage. We initially thought it was a bit of a silly idea, but sure enough it came in handy on a few occasions!
The Camber gets Specialized’s new SWAT system, which stands for Storage, Water, Air, Tools. Basically it’s all about carrying these items on the bike, rather than on your body. There is a multitool mounted to the bottom of the bottle cage. We initially thought it was a bit of a silly idea, but sure enough it came in handy on a few occasions!
Unlike the Epic or Stumpjumper, the Camber doesn't use a Brain shock. Instead, it's equipped with a standard FOX CTD Kashima shock. We have to say, as good as the brain is, we prefer this setup.
Unlike the Epic or Stumpjumper, the Camber doesn’t use a Brain shock. Instead, it’s equipped with a standard FOX CTD Kashima shock. We have to say, as good as the brain is, we prefer this setup.
Another element of the SWAT system is a chain breaker, mounted underneath headset cap.
Another element of the SWAT system is a chain breaker, mounted underneath headset cap.
The Control SL carbon wheels are spoked with a radial pattern on the non-disc side up front. They're plenty stiff, and have a lively feel and sound on the trail.
The Control SL carbon wheels are spoked with a radial pattern on the non-disc side up front. They’re plenty stiff, and have a lively feel and sound on the trail.
Wow, that is a truly striking bike.
Wow, that is a truly striking bike.
The DT-made rear axle is as neat as it gets, cinching up the 142x12mm dropouts without tools or fuss.
The DT-made rear axle is as neat as it gets, cinching up the 142x12mm dropouts without tools or fuss.
With a 2.3" up front and a 2.1" out back, the Ground Control tyres are ideal for this bike. We didn't suffer any cuts or tears in the rocky testing terrain (this can't be said for other bikes we were testing on the same trails).
With a 2.3″ up front and a 2.1″ out back, the Ground Control tyres are ideal for this bike. We didn’t suffer any cuts or tears in the rocky testing terrain (this can’t be said for other bikes we were testing on the same trails).
There are Formula brakes on a large swathe of the Specialized range this year. The T1 Racing brakes took quite a long time to bed in - a trait that seems to be common across all Formula brakes. The master cylinder piston works on 'pull', rather than 'push' mechanism. Once they'd bedded in, the power was decent, but not incredible.
There are Formula brakes on a large swathe of the Specialized range this year. The T1 Racing brakes took quite a long time to bed in – a trait that seems to be common across all Formula brakes. The master cylinder piston works on ‘pull’, rather than ‘push’ mechanism. Once they’d bedded in, the power was decent, but not incredible.
Some riders might be concerned that the Camber uses a 32mm fork, not a 34mm-legged fork, but we disagree. The 32mm fork is light, and because the travel is only 110mm, there's less flex than with a longer travel fork.
Some riders might be concerned that the Camber uses a 32mm fork, not a 34mm-legged fork, but we disagree. The 32mm fork is light, and because the travel is only 110mm, there’s less flex than with a longer travel fork.
The cabling is all internal, and we had no problems keeping it all clear of the frame for zero cable rub.
The cabling is all internal, and we had no problems keeping it all clear of the frame for zero cable rub.

Test_SpecializedCamberSWorks 40

Specialized's Auto-Sag suspension is brilliant! Inflate the shock to 250psi or more, hop on the bike in your riding gear, depress the valve under the red cap. That's it! Perfect suspension sag in seconds.
Specialized’s Auto-Sag suspension is brilliant! Inflate the shock to 250psi or more, hop on the bike in your riding gear, depress the valve under the red cap. That’s it! Perfect suspension sag in seconds.
We were truly impressed by how easily the wheels and tyres sealed up for tubeless use - getting the tyres to bead was simple, even with a standard track pump.
We were truly impressed by how easily the wheels and tyres sealed up for tubeless use – getting the tyres to bead was simple, even with a standard track pump.
Specialized have gone to the trouble of colour matching the gloss black finish of the frame and fork. The shiny black looks fantastic against the gold Kashima fork legs.
Specialized have gone to the trouble of colour matching the gloss black finish of the frame and fork. The shiny black looks fantastic against the gold Kashima fork legs.
The Camber is equipped with the new internal routed Command IR dropper post, with 125mm of adjustment. The small remote lever is integrated oh-so neatly into the grip lock-ring. Compared to the standard Command Blacklite post, the new IR version is far superior.
The Camber is equipped with the new internal routed Command IR dropper post, with 125mm of adjustment. The small remote lever is integrated oh-so neatly into the grip lock-ring. Compared to the standard Command Blacklite post, the new IR version is far superior.
Carbon hoops! The bike comes tubeless ready - just install the supplied valves, add goo and go.
Carbon hoops! The bike comes tubeless ready – just install the supplied valves, add goo and go.
Bike schmike, give me some shit to roll in.
Bike schmike, give me some shit to roll in.

Tested: Specialized Purgatory 29 x 2.3 Tyre

Specialized have really done an amazing job with their tyre range. On any Specialized bike we’ve ridden, reviewed, or tested over the past few years, we’ve always been completely happy with the rubber, and we’re normally fussy buggers.

No matter what style of mountain biking you like or what type of terrain you ride, it’s pretty likely Specialized have a tyre to suit. The new Purgatory sits towards the trail/all-mountain end of the spectrum, and we’ve been testing the 29×2.3″ size in the Control guise.

Good braking stability, plenty of room to bite in on looser surfaces, rolls when and supportive in the corners - it's all there!
Good braking stability, plenty of room to bite in on looser surfaces, rolls when and supportive in the corners – it’s all there!

The Control designation simply means it’s a little heavier, but also tougher, than the more expensive S-Works version. It uses the same compounds, tread pattern and is ‘2-Bliss’ tubeless ready as well.

We would easily rate the Purgatory as one of the best all-round trail tyres on the market.

It’s not the lightest tyre, but this far it has proven tough and it holds air very well when set up tubeless. There’s clearly a bit of weight in the tread blocks themselves, as they’re well supported and hardwearing. In rubble or sand, the Purgatory strikes a great balance of floating when you want it to (thanks to a decent footprint) but biting in too.

The Control version is heavier, but cheaper and tougher than the S-Works Purgatory. We're running ours tubeless and the sidewalls haven't leaked or suffered any damage to date.
The Control version is heavier, but cheaper and tougher than the S-Works Purgatory. We’re running ours tubeless and the sidewalls haven’t leaked or suffered any damage to date.

The unique tread pattern rolls well. With a harder compound of rubber (60a) through the centre tread, it’s nice and fast. The side knobs have a durometer of 50a, but they don’t feel as gummy as many similarly rated treads. Still, they hang on tight, even in situations where we’d normally have favoured a softer compound tyre. While we’ve been using this tread on the front, we’ll be looking for another to pair up on the rear.

There are size options for 26 and 29″ riders, but being a Specialized product, 27.5″ riders won’t be catered for. Sorry!

Flow’s First Bite: Whyte T129 S

The Whyte T129 line up has plenty of accolades to its name already, but that’s not why we’re looking forward to riding this bike.

Whyte T129s full bike

Nope, it’s the geometry that’s got us excited. With chain stays just 431mm long and a head angle of 68-degrees, the geometry of this bike is not like most 29er trail bikes. Whyte bikes are always angry little buggers, with geometry that rewards aggressive riding, and we’re very happy they’ve managed to lever those same signature geometry traits into a 29er package.

We’ll be onboard the T129 express a lot these coming weeks. Full report to follow soon.

Fresh Product: Niner RIP 9 RDO

  • Carbon full suspension from the only 29er only mountain bike company
  • 125mm of patented CVA suspension is efficient in every chainring
  • Compatible with 120-140mm forks
  • Tuned for CVA – Fox Float CTD shock with Kashima coat
  • Removable ISCG 05 tabs and offset linkage design for chainguide compatibility
  • Carbon suspension linkage and unique Niner alloy hardware
  • 142mm x 12mm rear spacing
  • Available in:
    Black Licorice
    Rally Blue

TRAIL BIKE
“Quiver Killer” meets carbon. 2 years in development, Niner’s highly anticipated and requested carbon trail bike finally makes an appearance. The RIP 9 RDO incorporates global rider feedback as well as Niner’s rigorous carbon design, engineering and testing standards. Our alloy RIP 9 has over 30 glowing media reviews for ride quality and handling – the RIP 9 RDO takes these characteristics and ups the ante with carbon frame, linkages, ISCG compatibility and additional travel.

CVA™ SUSPENSION
The R.I.P. 9 RDO features Niner’s patented CVA suspension (U.S. Patent No. 7,934,739) and delivers 125mm of fully active travel with superb compliance and damping via a tuned for CVA Fox Float CTD Factory Shock with Trail Adjust and Kashima Coat. For those seeking the technical advantages of 29” wheels combined with pedaling efficiency across all chainring combinations (not just the middle ring), CVA™ is the front-runner. The result? A faster, smoother ride up and down the trail.

VERSATILE GEOMETRY
To progress as a rider you need predictability, balance and nimble handling and Niner is the company that first made fun trail bike 29ers a reality. Climbing or descending, the geometry of the R.I.P. 9 RDO is tuned to keep you in control and ready to conquer new terrain at every turn. The R.I.P. 9 RDO is intended for 120 to 140mm forks, allowing riders to further fine tune the ride.

C5 WARRANTY
Our robust R&D program – computer modeling, physical prototype testing (both in-house and at independent testing facilities), and hours of riding by skilled and abusive individuals make us confident that the RIP 9 RDO will exceed your expectations. We maintain that our carbon fiber development rivals the best in the bike industry and to back it up we offer our C5 warranty (five year) and a standard-setting commitment to customer service.

TAPERED HEADTUBE
The increased surface area of a tapered headtube allows for a larger downtube, increasing strength and rigidity at this critical intersection. Tapered fork steerer tubes measurably reduce fork deflection, which means your Niner tracks straight and true. The full spectrum of riders from XC racers to All Mountain shredders benefit from these features which is why we incorporate the technology in all our new frames. The R.I.P. 9 RDO lets you take full advantage of increased steering precision as you negotiate your daily dose of singletrack.

ATTENTION TO DETAIL
When you are in the backcountry, the details are what take your ride into the sublime. The trim and sexy carbon links rotate on oversized Angular Contact Bearings for awesome lateral rigidity and immediate power transfer, dropper post routing and ISCG 05 chainguide compatibility mean you can build this bike to fit your ride style and an integrated replaceable skid plate lets you try that optional line with confidence. The RIP 9 RDO features more tire clearance, full housing internal cable routing for a clean look and precision-machined alloy interfaces for the bottom bracket, direct-mount front derailleur and brake caliper post mounts.

Flow’s First Bite: Specialized Ground Control and Purgatory Tyres

Specialized bikes are a little different in that they often come off the showroom floor with different tyres front and rear; a meaty tread up front with slightly faster-rolling rubber out back.

This mixing of tyres is seen more commonly on the bikes of  experienced riders who know exactly what they want out of their rubber, so it’s pretty cool to see Specialized offering this setup from stock. One of the common pairings on their trail bikes is a Purgatory up front and Ground Control out back, so we thought we’d give this selection a try too.

The Purgatory 29x2.3. Big, openly spaced tread blocks give the tyre the ability to bite into loose surfaces.
The Purgatory 29×2.3. Big, openly spaced tread blocks give the tyre the ability to bite into loose surfaces.

We’ve opted for the ‘Control’ version of both treads, rather than the lightweight S-Works version, as we’ve found the S-Works options a little fragile in the past. The Control versions are said to offer 15% more cut resistance, however the hell you measure this!

Both tyres are 2-Bliss Ready (butyl wrapped tyre bead) and sealed up tubeless very easily on SRAM Roam 50 rims. For a 2.3″ tread, the volume of both tyres seems smaller than we’d anticipated, but that’s probably because the Schwalbe rubber we’ve been using is notoriously oversized. Weights are 793g for the Purgatory in a 29×2.3 and 723g for the Ground Control in the same size.

Specialized Purgatory Ground Control-1

Both the Purgatory and Ground Control are 2-Bliss Ready.
Both the Purgatory and Ground Control are 2-Bliss Ready.

We’ve done around 15 hours on the treads to date and we’re completely sold on the Purgatory in particular thus far. We’ve been running pressures in the mid 20s (far lower than the stupidly high 35psi recommended on the sidewall) and while we’ve burped the front tyre once, the grip is excellent. Testing conditions so far have included lots of rock and sand, but also a smattering of dark root trails. The Purgatory has proved both supportive and tacky enough to hold an edge on the rocks, but also sensitive enough to find grip on the roots.

The Ground Control features lower-profile centre tread blocks and runs a faster-rolling and more durable 60a compound across the entire tyre.
The Ground Control features lower-profile centre tread blocks and runs a faster-rolling and more durable 60a compound across the entire tyre.

The Ground Control feels great too, rolling nice and fast with a 60a compound. We’ve pinged the rear rim a few times so far without any damage to the tyre, so that’s a good sign in terms of durability.

We’ll continue to run these treads for the next couple of months to get a better idea of their performance once some wear sets in.

While you’re here, check out some of the other tyres we’ve reviewed recently!

Bontrager XR4
Rubena Scylla
Maxxis Ardent
Bontrager XR2

Fresh Product: SRAM Roam 50 29er Wheelset

ROAM Farther.
Fast climbs and fast descents—from sun up till sundown. Truly made for the modern mountain biker, ROAM wheels use a special balance of low-inertia design, weight and strength to excel on a wide variety of terrain. They’re durable enough for hours in the saddle, yet light enough for race day.

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.

• Intended use: XC/TR
• Available in all 3 wheel sizes: 26, 27.5 and 29in
• 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, 10- or 9-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
• SIDE SWAP easy conversion to all axle types
• DOUBLE-DECKER hub shell design
• Weight: 1475g (26in), 1530g (27.5in), 1610g (29in). Wheel pair in lightest configuration

Tested: Trek Fuel EX 9.8 29

I was listening to the nightly quiz on an AM radio station recently – AM radio is my secret vice – and the topic of discussion that night was movie remakes. Specifically, was the original movie always the best, or could a remake surpass the original. There were plenty of examples – The Blues Brothers, Batman, King Kong and loads more – with the general consensus that the original was still the favourite. I couldn’t help wondering if people are biased by nostalgia, and if that blinds us to the improvements made in a remake. Or could something truly be lost in that mad rush to ‘update’ a classic?

Trek Fuel EX 9.8 2919
Insert wolf whistle here.

A few days later I headed to Canberra to pick up a new test bike, the eagerly awaited Trek Fuel EX 9.8 29er. The 26-inch version of this bike is celebrated as one of the greatest trail bikes on the market, but Trek believed it could create a better bike by adding larger wheels. Would this remake prove to be a genuine improvement? Or would it be the mountain bike equivalent of watching a classic movie in 3D – a cool effect, but not actually better?

TREK FUEL EX 9.jpg.8001.
The bike that stole our hearts; the Fuel EX 9.8 26er leaves big shoes for the Fuel 29er series to fill.

I was bringing my own nostalgic baggage to this review. I absolutely loved my time on board the 26″ Fuel EX when I reviewed it last year, so much so that I hung onto it for weeks after the test period had finished. As dispassionately as I tried to approach my time on board the new EX 29er, this wheel-diameter-enhanced remake was always going to have to live up to the glorious memories of my time on board the earlier rendition of the Fuel EX, the 26-inch version.

The Fuel is an interesting bike in terms of the evolution of the Trek brand. Up until a few years ago Trek and Gary Fisher Bicycles co-existed but had separate identities: Trek manufactured the ‘core’ mountain bikes, while Fisher produced the 29ers and had a more quirky approach. As the 29er market grew, this two-pronged approach no longer made sense, so Trek absorbed Gary Fisher Bicycles, creating the Gary Fisher Collection of 29ers under the Trek banner. In the meantime, Trek had been beavering away on a massive program of redevelopment for their mountain bikes. Let’s be honest: up until half a dozen years ago, Trek full-suspension bikes were absolute dogs. Acknowledging this (though perhaps not so bluntly), Trek began investing heavily in its mountain bike program, bringing in some of the industry’s best minds and starting with a clean slate. The results are clear to see; the Trek line-up is consistently excellent, and the Full Floater and ABP suspension system Trek uses across its entire full-suspension range is one of the best. And the Fuel EX 29 marks the completion of the Trek and Fisher merger – the Fuel EX 29 is Trek’s first 29er to employ the complete host of technologies developed by Trek for its full-suspension range.

Fuel EX 9.8 296
Nice lines! The Fuel EX 29 is low and compact.

On a bleak Canberra morning, I got acquainted with the Fuel. You only get one first impression, and the Fuel EX 9.8 29er made it count, with an incredible smoky-red carbon finish that glistened in the light like heavily lacquered timber. All of the same sensible and practical details that had left me enamoured with the 26″ Fuel were on display; clean cable routing, a Rockshox Reverb Stealth post, Trek’s trademark Full Floater and ABP suspension system… But more importantly, the bike still looked fun and sleek. Somehow Trek had grafted bigger wheels onto the Fuel EX platform without making the bike look like it had run into the back of a car.

Fuel EX 9.8 2914
With a short head tube, it’s easy to keep the bars at a height that’s gives you a great climbing position.

The EX 29er’s OCLV carbon frame has compact proportions and gorgeous lines, all packaged into a wheelbase that’s less than three centimetres longer than its 26-inch predecessor. The EX 29 doesn’t present as a ‘big’ bike, unlike many 120mm-travel 29ers. Twenty-niners with an excessively tall front end and a head tube length of just 10.5cm is one of my pet hates. But even the bar height on the Fuel EX 29 reminded me of the 26-inch bike I loved so much. Before I’d even turned a pedal, I was enjoying this remake.

Stromlo was the first testing ground. Funnily enough, this was also the first place we rode the 26″ Fuel last year. The maiden ride began with a long climb, right to the top of the mountain, and instantly revealed the new Fuel 29er to be a superb ascender. The more technical the terrain became, the greater the bike’s climbing performance. The rear suspension tune demonstrated the perfect balance of sensitivity and efficiency. In its trail setting, the EX’s CTD shock kept the rear wheel on to the ground but used only as much travel as was necessary. It may be that Trek has improved the suspension tune, or it could be simply the result of the bigger wheels, but the EX lapped up Stromlo’s rocky pinches where keeping climbing momentum is key. With an 80mm-stem, the climbing position was ideal, keeping the steering responsive, without making the front end light or prone to lifting.

Fuel EX 9.8 2915
We found the Fuel’s suspension to be superb. Whether it’s just a product of the bigger wheels or a revised shock tune, the Fuel to be very smooth over the chatter even with the shock in Trail mode. We’re very impressed performance on the big hits too – the Full Floater linkage and DRCV shock handles harsh impacts like a champ.

The top of Western Wedgetail, with its incredible views from the top of Stromlo, is a good place to ponder a bike’s performance. Hands down, the Fuel 29er has the edge over the 26-inch one when it comes to climbing. I’d barely had to leave the 38-tooth big chain ring the whole way up, and the bike had made it round even the tightest of Stromlo’s switchbacks without feeling like too much of a squeeze.

Trek has given the Fuel 29 the G2 treatment – that’s a geometry concept that was developed by Gary Fisher as a way of increasing the slow-speed responsiveness of 29ers without sacrificing high-speed stability. Essentially, it uses a custom offset fork crown to reduce the trail measurement of the bike, allowing the use of relatively slack head angles but simultaneously reducing the tendency for the steering to wander or flop about at slow speed. The results speak for themselves: I was consistently surprised by the way the Fuel nipped around tight slow-speed turns.

Fuel EX 9.8 297
The chain stays and EVO link are alloy, the rest of the frame is carbon. The Fuel’s chain stays measure up at 450mm, on the longer side.

Compared to the 26″ bike, the 29er Fuel loses 10mm of suspension travel, front and rear, but overall the 29er’s sheer bump-eating performance far exceeds that of the 26-inch-wheeled version. Back on home turf in Sydney, I took the new Fuel to the same trails I’d ridden on the Fuel 26″. These are rocky, rough tracks, and they require a mix of high-speed blasting and slow-speed technical moves. When it comes to carrying speed through the rough, the 29er was far superior, its wheels sailing over obstacles that would’ve tugged at the 26-inch bike. The abilities of Trek’s suspension to deal with the big hits is inspiring; the DRCV rear shock feels bottomless, and we felt happy taking the Fuel into trails that would ordinarily be more suited to a 150mm-travel bike.

Fuel EX 9.8 2917
Bontrager XR3 rubber is a favourite, but make sure you go tubeless!

When I pushed hard, I found myself wishing for a wider bar, but this would be the only tweak I’d make if this bike were my own. Oh, and I’d go tubeless too, of course – having to fix four flat tyres in as many rides may be good for the biceps, but it’s a pain in arse. Otherwise, Trek has done a splendid job with the build kit, selecting only the most reliable components for this trail bike.

Fuel EX 9.8 2910
Shimano XT brakes and running gear, plus a Rockshox Reverb Stealth is a winning combo. Without the use of Shimano’s I-Spec mounting system, the bar is a little cluttered.

When remaking a classic, preserving the character of the original is one of the biggest challenges. For the most part Trek has succeeded, surpassing the ride quality of the original Fuel EX. But fitting in the bigger hoops has reduced the playfulness of the bike. Amongst my favourite elements of the 26-inch wheeled Fuel’s ride performance was how easily it took to the air and how it could be chucked into corners like a go-kart. These attributes don’t carry over to the 29er. The chain stays on the Fuel EX 9.8 29 are 450mm (as compared to 425mm on the 26″ bike), definitely on the long side for a modern 29er and contrary to the design trends of other brands. It takes more muscle to get the 29er airborne or to pop the front wheel up for slow-speed drops, and you just can’t flick the back-end into a corner with quite the same pizzazz as on the 26-inch bike.

Of course, these attributes won’t be particularly important to every rider. In the more primary areas of speed, confidence, comfort and efficiency, the new Fuel EX 29er is superior to the original. And these traits bring their own flavour of fun – you will blast your local trails faster on this bike. For the time being, Trek will have 26- and 29-inch versions of the Fuel available, so there are options to suit your riding style.

Fuel EX 9.8 2912
Thumbs up!

And me? Do I prefer the original version or the remake? It’s a very tough call and I’d be happy with either bike, if I could switch between them for different circumstances. On the balance of things, however, to put it back in movie terms, while the original version will always have a place in my heart, I’m picking it’ll be the 29er that gets the popular vote and claims the Oscar.

Tested: Specialized Rumor Comp

When Specialized’s new women’s 29er trail bike arrived at the Flow office, we were so excited we ate lunch sitting on the floor next to it. You can’t ride on an empty stomach and we didn’t want to waste any time getting to know this new machine.

IMG_0387
A Specialized Camber with just the right amount of a female twist – the Rumor.

As we rolled the mid-range Rumor Comp out the door we already had two questions begging to be answered: How would a women’s specific design, in both frame and component choices, add to our trail riding experiences? And in what ways does the design reflect the relationship between research into high level women’s racing equipment and bikes at the entry to mid-level of the market like this one?

Finding out was both a pleasure and a privilege. The size of a set of wheels is one thing, but it’s new technology and manufacturing practices that continually redefine the ride experiences they offer. Lucky our lunch was a big one.

The Design

Specialized found that a lot of their female consumers were gravitating toward their Camber model, so they set about making a women’s specific version of this popular 110mm travel trail bike.

The biggest difference is the standover height and a women’s specific part selection. The geometry and handling characteristics of the rear end are very similar. This what we found when we recently reviewed the S-Works Fate Carbon 29 – a female version of the Stumpjumper 29” hardtail.

Low enough standover height for a bike with 29" wheels is a tall challenge.
Low enough standover height for a bike with 29″ wheels is a tall challenge that Specialized has stepped up to.

The V-shaped top tube, which utilises a combination of aluminium forging techniques, is key in allowing shorter female riders to pilot a 29” dual suspension trail bike. This means the frame can do away with all the extra material we see around the same area of the Camber, saving a good amount of weight.  It also stops the top tube from collapsing like a beer can under your shoe at a party.

Subtle graphics with real style.
The standover is not only low, but low where it counts – where you will be positioned if you have one or both feet on the ground. In fact, the stand over is so low, it only grows a small 3.7mm between all frame sizes (from 707.3mm in the small frame to 711mm in the large).

The technology isn’t available yet to achieve this using carbon fibre, but you can bet people are working on it. In addition to the ride experiences this design affords shorter riders, it’s a powerful example of how women’s frame designs are not just adapting existing technology, but really driving it.

Another area where we can see small frames driving new technology is at the head tube, which is a short 90mm in the small sized frame. In order to fit front suspension with a tapered steerer to a bike with a shorter head tube, Specialized have asked RockShox and Fox to redevelop this part of their forks (it helps to have massive buying power). The end result for users is improved frame geometry, snappy steering and reduced need for stems so bent you can’t read your Garmin.

Aside from a low top tube, a short head tube is imperative for good standover height.
Aside from a low top tube, a short head tube is imperative for good standover height.

Because of the smart engineering discussed above, the bike as a whole fits 29” wheels and 110mm of front and rear suspension without looking compromised or squished. Long chain stays (449mm) and a low bottom bracket height add stability. The minimal looking FSR suspension design and internal cable routing provide a sleek, uncluttered finish.

The Gear

Another area where this bike is exciting in terms of innovation and usability is due to the addition of ‘Autosag’ to Specialized rear suspension for 2014. We talked a little bit about this in our recent review of the Stumpjumper FSR Expert Carbon. The Rumor also shares the use of a block mount, which integrates the shock to the frame with a simple elegance.

The biggest benefit of Autosag is that it takes the confusion out of suspension set up for riders who haven’t gone to tech school. You can set and forget, and get stuck into the trails. Some riders may want to tweak this based on personal preference, but it isn’t necessary for a great ride feel.

We found the Autosag valve on our RockShox Monarch RL air shock tended to rattle loose while riding, and would dump all the air from the rear shock if we bumped it. Keep an eye out for this on the first few rides and do it up nice and tight.

Specialized proprietary technology here, the Autosag. This make setting up the bike for your weight so very easy.
Autosag (grey coloured valve) is basically a very clever hole. Pump the rear shock up to 275psi (for the Rumor), sit on it in all your riding gear, and depress the Autosag valve. This sets the sag and air pressures for an optimal ride experience based on your weight. The shock simply depresses until it covers this hole. It’s delightfully simple.

The Rumor Comp boasts a incredibly well thought-out part selection for female riders; Women’s Enduro lock-on grips that suit smaller hands, custom tuned RockShox front and rear suspension, a Specialized Body Geometry Jett saddle, narrower bar width and appropriate length cranks and stem. Refer back to our review on the Fate for the impact this has on ride experiences and budget.

The custom-tuned RockShox Monarch RL rear shock was nicely paired with a RockShox Reba RL up front to provide a consistently smooth ride feel. We also appreciated being able to comfortably move through all the travel without having to send them off for post-purchase tweaking.
The custom-tuned RockShox Monarch RL rear shock was nicely paired with a RockShox Reba RL up front to provide a consistently smooth ride feel. We also appreciated being able to comfortably move through all the travel without having to send them off for post-purchase tweaking.

We are also impressed with the high performance of the moving parts given the sub $3000 price point of the Comp. A 2×10 drive chain is specced to provide ample gearing across all terrain types. A SRAM X9 Type 2 rear derailleur keeps the chain silent throughout the ride and provides smooth, snappy shifting. A X7 front derailleur was ample on the front. We never dropped a chain during the test period.

The Avid Elixir 5 SL brakes provide strong stopping power. The reach is easy to adjust to fit any hand shape on the fly allowing quick and simple set up. Paired up with 680mm bars and a stable, manoeuvrable frame geometry, we found the Rumor enabled exceptional error correction skills if we took a bad line or went into a corner a little too fast.

The very popular Jett saddle is standard.
The very popular Specialized Jett saddle is standard, winner!
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We can’t overstate how highly we rate a user-friendly spec for female riders of all types.

The Roval 29 wheelset matched to Specialized Hi Lo hubs is also well-specced for the intended use of our test rig. We found they tended to drift a little wide entering corners but we quickly got used to this after a couple of rides and it was no longer a problem.

This may discourage some women upon test riding the Comp, but our advice would be to stick with it for a few rides, then upgrade to a lighter wheelset if it still doesn’t feel how you want it to. It’s not a reflection of the bike, it’s just a weight thing, or a 29” wheel thing.

A winning combination of playfulness and confidence-inspiring stability allowed us to milk our favourite trail networks as the playgrounds they are.
A winning combination of playfulness and confidence-inspiring stability allowed us to milk our favourite trail networks as the playgrounds they are.

With the addition of a dropper post and a lighter, higher spec all ‘round, the $4199 Rumor Expert is worth the extra cash if these are upgrades you’re considering from the outset.

A small rubber stop under the down tube prevents the forks bumping the frame under load, or the bars twisting and scratching the top tube in a crash. And even the smallest size frame fits a full size drink bottle. Usability is important, and key to this bike’s appeal.
A small rubber stop under the down tube prevents the forks bumping the frame under load, or the bars twisting and scratching the top tube in a crash. And even the smallest size frame fits a full size drink bottle. Usability is important, and key to this bike’s appeal.

On the Trail

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Hitting up some familiar trails, the Rumor felt comfortable and instinctual. The low standover and balanced design of the bike meant we assumed a natural riding position without even thinking about it. We didn’t have to force ourselves to keep our weight where it mattered for maximum traction or stability. It rolls so quickly over moderately rough stuff we were off the brakes a lot more often as well.

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For us, the only drawback to the stable, confidence inspiring build was the Specialized Ground Control 2Bliss Tyres. They’re great on loamy trails and we like that the bike is specced with a fatter 2.3” tyre on the front and a 2.1” on the rear. We found them a little skatey on grainy over hardpack surfaces like Stromlo and Bruce Ridge in the ACT. They also didn’t offer much traction on uphill sandstone obstacles around Sydney.

While playful descents were a highlight of our rides on the Rumor, we were impressed with its climbing characteristics as well. Not only does this mean more confident descending, but you don’t get any sensations of lost energy while climbing.

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At 12.9kgs (with pedals), the Comp is reasonably light for a bike of this spec, but it is always going to be slower up the hill than something more whippety. But it never ‘felt’ slow. The weight was only noticeable on more technical climbs making us more deliberate in the way we muscled the bike around.

As for smaller obstacles like logs and small rocky ‘ups’, the large wheel size of the Rumor rolled over these easily with a bit of leg strength alone. We constantly meet women in skills clinics whose main aim is to clear this type of obstacle on the trails. Not because they want to cameo in the next Danny MacAskill video, but because it’s preventing them from holding on to a group on social rides.

The great thing about the Rumor is it allows these women to enjoy a wider variety of trails with increased enjoyment from the outset. This would be our main reason for encouraging this type of rider to consider the Rumor over a bike with 26” wheels or the mid-size 27.5”.

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Overall

The Rumor puts women on a level playing field with guys who are able to jump on a trail bike and confidently ride it from the shop door to exciting trails without having to tweak a thing.

The stability of this 29” trail bike, combined with the thoughtful, robust spec make it a great value option for new riders. It gives a real boost to the variety of trails these ladies can enjoy, providing a great platform for discovering how much fun mountain biking can be. A base model Rumor has just been realised for $1999 as well.

The other rider type that will enjoy the Rumor are women who just want to cut loose and play. The low standover means you can really throw the bike around and the long wheelbase, wide bars and powerful brakes help to keep you out of trouble if you botch a landing or mis-judge a corner. This bike begs you to have fun whatever ability level you bring to it and is guaranteed to help you lift your skills to the next level as a result.

It’s exciting to think that more girls will discover mountain biking through a rig that caters for them as well as this one does. The mind boggles at the ways future bike designs may also be impacted by this rapidly expanding section of the market as a result.

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THE TEST:
Test rider: Kath Bicknell, our test rider for this review, is 56kg and 164cm tall.
Suspension: 20% rear sag and around 15% up front.
Tyre pressure: 22psi rear, 20psi front.
Test conducted: Locations included Stromlo Forest Park and Bruce Ridge, ACT, Manly Dam and a few secret trails in and around Sydney.
Other notes: Autosag doesn’t set rebound for you. Take your time to wind the rebound dial to each extreme, ride a rocky section of trail to learn what it does, then find a middle ground that suits the ride feel you enjoy.

Flow’s First Bite: BH Lynx 4.8 29

It’s nice to have your expectations exceeded once in a while; isn’t that why people always say, ‘under promise, over deliver’? That’s not to make out that the new BH Lynx 4.8 29 didn’t look promising, just that it sure as hell over delivers.

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She’s a funky looking thing, and that is a big part of its charm.

We’ve only spent one day riding the latest from BH, but even those few short hours gave us enough time to form a very, very positive impression of this bike. At the same time, those few short hours weren’t nearly enough to let us explore the full capabilities of this stunning new 29er.

It wasn’t long ago that we tested the BH Lynx 6. It was a good bike – spot-on geometry, excellent suspension – but it was only 90% of the way there. This beast, however, is a great bike, it’s the full monty and then some.

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It has the same superb Dave Weagle-designed Split Pivot suspension as the Lynx 6, but travel is kept to an efficient 120mm, the shock housed deep within the belly of the gorgeously curvaceous carbon frame. The lines are unconventional to say the least, but wouldn’t dare call it ugly, and the cables run largely internally to let the frame shapes shine.

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Carbon to the max, only the upper link is aluminium. Up close the frame is pretty, and beautifully finished.

Casting an eye over the geometry chart got us excited. The head angle resides at a casual 68-degrees, which when combined with a big wheel should equate to plenty of confidence. The bottom bracket is slung low as well, another good sign for stability. But it was the tight rear end measurements – with the chain stays only 430mm long – that really got us  going. Long stays are fun killers, and so often a drawback on 29ers. At a smidgen over 17-inches long, the rear-centre measurement of the BH is as short as we’ve ever seen on dual suspension 29er.

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To cram the rear wheel in, the seat tube is crazy slack, but once we had the seat post adjusted up to our regular riding height the reach from saddle to bars felt perfect. It must be noted that we did change the cockpit out before our test ride. The original 90mm stem and seriously out of place 670mm handlebar looked determined to sap all the fun from the bike, so off they went and in their place we fitted a 70mm stem and a 730mm bar. This was PERFECT. The only other tweak we’d make would be a dropper post (there’s cable routing provisions) and maybe some different rubber.

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BH utilize DW’s Split Pivot design, with a concentric pivot around the rear hub axle. This is all in aid of decreasing the stiffening effect that the rear brake can have on the rear suspension.
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Where is the shock? Tucked into a nice carbon rabbit hole, that’s where.

The entire bike tipped the scales at 11.95kg, which is simply brilliant given that the Shimano XT running gear and brakes are a tad weighty. Smart tweaks or deep pockets could get this puppy down to the low 11kg range – it’s a thought that tempts us to try….

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Sleek lines and internal routing options for an adjustable seatpost.

We’re not going to give you too much of a run down on the way it rides just yet; we’ll save that for the full test once we’ve had more time to get acquainted. But we’re not afraid to tell you that we’re a little smitten. Hold tight for more soon.

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The FOX remote shock lever is one hundred times neater than the previous one, but the way the cable moves back and forth against the carbon frame as the rear shock compresses raised some concern with us. But, time will tell.

Tested: KTM Myroon 29 Cross

Motorbike riders across Australia will wet themselves over this orange and black machine, and KTM Bikes Australia can probably expect to sell a mountain of them on that fact alone! The KTM brand has such a fine reputation in the world of motocross, enduro moto and on-road motorcycling – it’s a brand that attracts fanatical loyalty. One look at the KTM softgoods catalogue will show you what we’re on about: if you wanted to, there are enough KTM accessories and clothes that you could make your entire life black and orange.

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KTM Myroon 29 Cross.

However, KTM moto and KTM bike are actually completely separate entities, and their bikes are not just some cheap-o rebadge frame or hair-brained design wet dream like we’ve seen from other automotive companies in the past (eg Porsche and Ferrari!). No, KTM Bicycles have been making bikes solely for over 40 years and the brand has multiple Austrian and European titles to its name. But enough about the brand, more about the bike.

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You just can’t go past those traditional KTM colours.

Design and construction:

The Myroon 29 Cross is a sub-$4000 race-ready machine. On spec alone, it’s a competitive little beast, ticking all the boxes: carbon frame, FOX fork, DT wheels and full Shimano XT running gear. If you were so inclined, you could build it on a Friday, race on the Saturday and know you’d be worry free.

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We loved the set-and-forget nature of the FOX CTD fork – we just left in ‘Trail’ mode the entire test and found it supple yet supportive and efficient.

Taking a closer look at the frame reveals some really nice, well-thought out design and aesthetic features. The line of the top tube melds nicely into the seat stays that culminate in some sweet 142x12mm dropouts. Tucked neatly away between the seat stay and chain stay, the rear brake caliper position just enhances the smooth lines, as too do the internally-routed cables. A press-fit bottom bracket and requisite tapered head tube ensures stiffness where it matters while the elegant gentle curve of the seat stays should allow some vertical compliance. The seat tube isn’t curved like on some 29ers, but actually joins the down tube in front of the bottom bracket, allowing the rear wheel to be tucked in nice and close. It’s all very neat!

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Tucked neatly away between the seat stay and chain stay, the rear brake caliper position just enhances the smooth lines.
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Note where the seat tube has joined the frame – just in front of the bottom bracket. This allows more room to move the rear wheel forward.
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The frame reveals some really nice, well-thought out design and aesthetic features.

The Gear:

We cannot fault the spec at all, aside from the foam grips, which have a large bulge directly under the palm that we found uncomfortable. When you’re racing, the very last thing you want to consider is a mechanical fault or a miss-shift mess with your rhythm, and the Myroon looks after you in this regard. Front shifting in particular was excellent with the direct-mount XT front mech banging out crisp changes on the twin-ring crankset. While we didn’t go tubeless, the wheels are tubeless ready, so just whack in some valves and sealant to make the bike lighter, smoother and even more reliable for racing. We loved the set-and-forget nature of the FOX CTD fork – we just left in ‘Trail’ mode the entire test and found it supple yet supportive and efficient.

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Lucky it’s a cheap easy fix if you don’t like grips.
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Ritchey bars and stem combo rounds out some very good spec on the Myroon.
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Shimano XT gear works flawlessly and the brakes are perfect.

On the Trails:

When we hit the trails, a few sizing quirks became apparent. Once again, we cannot stress how important it is to get a test ride on a bike before you lay down your hard-earned cash! Our test bike was a 17” (the size we’d ordinarily run) but we really needed a 19” in this instance.

To get the right seat height we had the post on maximum extension, and the 584mm top tube felt cramped. By way of comparison, a Trek Superfly in the same size is almost 20mm longer in the top tube, so we’d say that KTM should consider lengthening their frame. The steep 70-degree head angle enhanced this feeling, meaning the front wheel was right underneath us and it was actually possible to brush the front tyre against our shoe. (We do run our cleats quite a rearward, so this may not be an issue for every rider). Going a bigger size would’ve given us more breathing space and made for a more confident ride.

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Putting aside the sizing dramas, the Myroon delivered everything we expected.

While most of the frame proportions are tight, at the same time, we found the head tube too tall. The 120mm-long headtube is almost 20mm longer than most of the competition, and with the large cone-shaped spacer of the Ritchey headset we just couldn’t get the bar position as low as we wanted it. The only fix here is a stem with more drop (negative rise) or changing the headset upper assembly.

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A great climber and good XC racer.

Putting aside the sizing dramas, the Myroon delivered everything we expected. The light DT X1600 wheels and speedy Continental tyres (the stock spec is actually with Schwalbe Racing Ralph rubber) picked up speed like a scared rabbit, and the steep geometry gives the kind of instant responsiveness that cross country riders crave. It’s doesn’t give you the descending confidence of some bikes with more ‘new-school’ 29er geometry (ie longer top tubes, shorter stem with a slacker head angle), but for its cross country racing purpose, it’s ideal, climbing with great precision.

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The DT X1600 wheels come matched with Schwalbe Racing Ralph tyres (our test bike had Continental).

In Conclusion:

Our sizing gripes with this bike can be avoided by carefully selecting the correct frame for your height and riding style. If we’d been on a 19” frame we’ve got no doubt our confidence and comfort would’ve been greatly increased (though the problem of high bar height would’ve remained). Overall – especially at this price -we’re sure we’ll be seeing many more of these striking machines at cross country and marathon races across Australia in the coming months.

The Test:
Test Rider: We had two test riders for this review, Pat Campbell and Chris Southwood. Pat is 172cm tall and 75kg, Chris is 172cm tall and 64kg.
Test track: We conducted this test at Manly Dam and some other secret trails around Sydney.
Suspension setup: 15% sag.
Tyre pressure: 30psi front and rear (a little high to avoid pinching).
Other notes: We ran the bike completely stock, but consumers’ bikes should come with Schwalbe Racing Ralph tyres, not Continental Race Kings as on our bike.

Tested: Cube LTD Race 29

Cube is a 20-year-old German Bike Company that only recently made a name for itself on Australian shores. Cube has quickly gained local acceptance with a large range of performance mountain and road bikes at very competitive prices. One of Australia’s better known and more successful XC racing teams; Team TORQ is sponsored by Cube and so the 29” Cube’s are often seen at the pointy end of the field. We took the new Cube Ltd Race 29 out to see if this budget racer could keep up within a highly competitive and popular segment.

The Cube LTD Race 29.

First pulling this bike out of the box, we were pleasantly surprised. The LTD Race 29 looks twice its price and the colour-matched scheme of charcoal grey and green is difficult to dislike. Looking over the frame, it’s obvious that Cube has put a lot of thought into creating a short and snappy rear end; what Cube calls ‘Agile Ride Geometry’ or ‘ARG’. ARG is what Cube claims to make their 29” bikes handle closer to a 26”. Tucking the rear wheel tight to the seattube is no easy task and Cube employs the use of a direct mount front derailleur to aid in additional clearance. While clearance increases, the direct mount front derailleur is stiffer and easier to setup compared to conventional band clamp style derailleurs.

The use of a direct mount front derailleur has helped with frame design and keeping the rear-end short. Look how close that tyre is the the seattube.

Further clearance is achieved with the lack of a chainstay bridge near the bottom bracket. With a double-butted aluminum construction and mostly round tubes, the frame relieves weight out of the center of the tube while keeping the thickness at the ends where it is needed most for weld strength. Other areas of the frame aren’t as innovative and Cube makes use of a standard 1 1/8” straight head tube, threaded bottom bracket and IS type brake mounts; all features that work perfectly but are becoming a rare sight amongst the latest offerings.

It could almost be considered ‘retro’ to have a standard 1 1/8″ head tube these days.

On the trail, the LTD Race was no different to many other alloy hard tail frames and didn’t offer much compliance or comfort. On longer rides, we found our bodies more fatigued compared to higher end, smoother riding options. The upside to this is the immediate reward of power transfer with little hint of frame flex under power.

Geometry wise and thanks to ‘ARG’, the Cube features a competitively short rear end which made the bike feel more sprightly and flickable in tighter trails and on steeper climbs. At front, the head angle is a fairly slack (By 29” XC standards) 70 degrees and due to this, we experienced the front end drifting and washing out by surprise in a few turns. Lowering the handlebars would counter this handling quirk and Cube has gone to great lengths to make the head tube amazingly short, sadly this is then undone with the fitting of a 20mm tall headset top cap. This kept us from reaching our ideal bar height, although most riders will be happy with the available bar heights and shallower top caps can be bought cheaply if a lower bar height is desired. It’s worth noting that the issue of bar height is not specific to the Cube and is a common trait of many 29ers and there are now many aftermarket offerings in handlebars and stems to help achieve a lower bar height.

A short head tube will enable you to make bar height adjustments. You will just have to purchase a new headset top cap to replace the big 20mm one the bike comes with.

The LTD Race 29 features a few componentry surprises for the price and the 100mm RockShox Reba RL air fork with remote lockout is one of them. This fork was a pleasure to setup and will please newcomers with just air preload and rebound to adjust before hitting the trail. Even with the lack of a thru-axle and tapered head tube, the short travel Reba handled technical terrain with confidence and the lack of easily detectable flex is much in part due to the stiff and solid wheelset.

The RockShox Reba SL is an excellent fork for such a well priced bike.

The wheelset uses Shimano XT hubs that were a true delight for the price point. Using quality double-butted spokes with good even tension to the Alex 24 rims, these wheels were a fantastic mix of stiffness and durability, however they won’t be winning any weight weenie awards.

Wrapped around the rims were the brand new Schwalbe Rapid Rob tyres in a cool matching grey charcoal. Sharing the pattern of the much loved previous generation Racing Ralph, these feature close packed knobs for fast rolling and more than adequate traction on all but the loosest dry and soggy terrains. With a roomy 2.25″ width, the Rapid Rob’s certainly helped take the harsh sting away from the rock solid frame.

Schwable Rapid Rob, in grey.

A combination of a Shimano XT and SLX drivetrain offered dependable shift performance and didn’t miss a beat all test, and while the cheaper non-series level crankset worked a treat, it adds weight to the overall package. The Magura MT2 brakes didn’t offer a firm lever feel that many newer riders prefer, however they proved to be reliable stoppers with easily controlled bite. These brakes lack the all out power of higher end brakes, though the larger rotor on the front made up for this shortcoming.

The Magura MT2’s did the job but you have to remember this bike is at the bottom end of the market and they’re not going to be the best avaliable.

The wide 720mm handlebar had a comfortable bend and rock solid feel, however many riders upgrading from older bikes or coming across from the road will want to trim the width of these bars down to a more manageable 660-680mm width. Cube’s own grip was overly firm and didn’t help with fatigue, this is the first upgrade we’d suggest and luckily it’s a cheap one.

Bar width is a very personal thing and with 720mm as a standard with there is plenty of room to play with for adjusting.

There are many great offerings for sub 2 grand 29er hardtails and the Cube LTD Race 29 can be added to that list. Cube has managed a smart balance of a quality frame and components where it really matters while still not skimping in other areas. Even without the latest tapered steerer tube, thru-axles and weight saving frame features, the Cube’s great fork and durable build will serve for many years to come.

Flow’s First Bite: Trek Fuel EX 9.8 29er – First Ride

It was only a couple of weeks ago that Trek announced the release of the new Fuel EX 29 series – a 29″-wheeled version of their immensely popular 26″ trail bike. The global press launch of this bike is going on right now over in the USA, but we’ve been lucky enough to score a full-blown test right here, on Australian soil. Here are our first impressions after ride number one.

The dull light at Stromlo this afternoon doesn’t do this bike’s finish any justice – it almost looks like polished dark mahogany in the light!

We’ve just come back in from a couple of hours on the trails around Stromlo Forest Park, getting ourselves acquainted with the Fuel EX 9.8 29, the second from top in the new EX 29er range. Tomorrow we’ll be taking the EX to some rougher, super technical Canberra trails before bringing it back to Flow’s own neighbourhood for some longer term testing.

Trek’s James Collins preps our test bike, prior to its maiden voyage.

This is the bike that people have been crying out for from Trek – a lightweight 29er trail bike, taking advantage of all their technologies that they’ve spent the last half dozen years refining. Until now, other 29er offerings from Trek haven’t utilised the same Full-Floater/ABP suspension system that has won Trek accolades world wide. The new 29er Fuel takes these suspension technologies and couples them with the excellent G2 geometry concept that found on the other ‘Gary Fisher Collection’ 29ers in Trek’s range (the Superfly and Rumblefish).

The Fuel EX 29er is the first 29er from Trek to make full use of the brand’s awesome Full Floater/ABP suspension platform. The one-piece EVO Link ties to all together stiffly, allowing the DRCV shock to do get to work without having to contend with any flex.

From our first ride we can tell you this bike is a winner. It retains the same taut, responsive and efficient feel of the 26″ Fuel EX but is just plain faster, especially on the climbs. Lumpy, ugly slow speed climbs are a delight on this bike; it’s pretty inspiring really!

A full XT drivetrain and brakes means worry-free performance. We appreciate the choice of a twin-ring crankset, rather than a triple.

The overall bike dimensions have grown when compared to the 26er, but the Fuel still feels playful. A super low stand-over height and low head tube height gives it a compact feel, encouraging you to chuck it about. The exceptional frame stiffness hasn’t been diluted at all with the longer stays either, and the Bontrager Rhythm wheels exhibit no flex.

We’d have to say the build kit is close to perfect as well. Amazing braking and shifting, and the Rockshox Reverb Stealth is the icing on the cake. We wouldn’t change a thing.

Arguably the best dropper post on the market is part of the deal.

This particular model, equipped with a Rockshox Reverb Stealth post, full XT drivetrain and constructed from Trek’s OCLV Mountain Carbon throughout, retails for $5500 and weighs in a bit over 12kg. But there are some very sweet price point bikes, including the EX9 which has largely the same build kit (with an alloy bar and a couple of other tiny changes) but runs an alloy frame – it retails at $3999, making it a really hot ticket item. You can also pick up the EX 9.7 for the same price. It runs a carbon mainframe and a slightly lower specced component package, making it a prime bike to buy now and upgrade along the way.

For the 26″ fans, don’t stress! 26″ Fuel EX bikes will still be available…for now.

We’ll have a full review up soon, as well as featuring the bike in issue #4 of Flow mag too (on sale 3 July). You can view our full video review of the 2013 26″ Fuel EX 9.8 here to whet your appetite.

 

Flow's First Bite: Trek Fuel EX 9.8 29er – First Ride

It was only a couple of weeks ago that Trek announced the release of the new Fuel EX 29 series – a 29″-wheeled version of their immensely popular 26″ trail bike. The global press launch of this bike is going on right now over in the USA, but we’ve been lucky enough to score a full-blown test right here, on Australian soil. Here are our first impressions after ride number one.

The dull light at Stromlo this afternoon doesn’t do this bike’s finish any justice – it almost looks like polished dark mahogany in the light!

We’ve just come back in from a couple of hours on the trails around Stromlo Forest Park, getting ourselves acquainted with the Fuel EX 9.8 29, the second from top in the new EX 29er range. Tomorrow we’ll be taking the EX to some rougher, super technical Canberra trails before bringing it back to Flow’s own neighbourhood for some longer term testing.

Trek’s James Collins preps our test bike, prior to its maiden voyage.

This is the bike that people have been crying out for from Trek – a lightweight 29er trail bike, taking advantage of all their technologies that they’ve spent the last half dozen years refining. Until now, other 29er offerings from Trek haven’t utilised the same Full-Floater/ABP suspension system that has won Trek accolades world wide. The new 29er Fuel takes these suspension technologies and couples them with the excellent G2 geometry concept that found on the other ‘Gary Fisher Collection’ 29ers in Trek’s range (the Superfly and Rumblefish).

The Fuel EX 29er is the first 29er from Trek to make full use of the brand’s awesome Full Floater/ABP suspension platform. The one-piece EVO Link ties to all together stiffly, allowing the DRCV shock to do get to work without having to contend with any flex.

From our first ride we can tell you this bike is a winner. It retains the same taut, responsive and efficient feel of the 26″ Fuel EX but is just plain faster, especially on the climbs. Lumpy, ugly slow speed climbs are a delight on this bike; it’s pretty inspiring really!

A full XT drivetrain and brakes means worry-free performance. We appreciate the choice of a twin-ring crankset, rather than a triple.

The overall bike dimensions have grown when compared to the 26er, but the Fuel still feels playful. A super low stand-over height and low head tube height gives it a compact feel, encouraging you to chuck it about. The exceptional frame stiffness hasn’t been diluted at all with the longer stays either, and the Bontrager Rhythm wheels exhibit no flex.

We’d have to say the build kit is close to perfect as well. Amazing braking and shifting, and the Rockshox Reverb Stealth is the icing on the cake. We wouldn’t change a thing.

Arguably the best dropper post on the market is part of the deal.

This particular model, equipped with a Rockshox Reverb Stealth post, full XT drivetrain and constructed from Trek’s OCLV Mountain Carbon throughout, retails for $5500 and weighs in a bit over 12kg. But there are some very sweet price point bikes, including the EX9 which has largely the same build kit (with an alloy bar and a couple of other tiny changes) but runs an alloy frame – it retails at $3999, making it a really hot ticket item. You can also pick up the EX 9.7 for the same price. It runs a carbon mainframe and a slightly lower specced component package, making it a prime bike to buy now and upgrade along the way.

For the 26″ fans, don’t stress! 26″ Fuel EX bikes will still be available…for now.

We’ll have a full review up soon, as well as featuring the bike in issue #4 of Flow mag too (on sale 3 July). You can view our full video review of the 2013 26″ Fuel EX 9.8 here to whet your appetite.

 

Tested: Commencal Meta AM 2 29er

Without a doubt aesthetics has a lot to do with a consumer’s bike choice. You could have the world’s best performing mountain bike but if it’s ugly then you’ll be hard pressed moving it off the shelves. The same can be said for the opposite.  Make it sexy, but if it has little substance, then the novelty will soon wear off and the people will shy away.

This is where the Commencal Meta AM 2 29er shines, it looks damn good and works well to match. The bright colour, big tubes, the low and positive stance, and the neat internal cable routing all make for a clean and strong looking mountain bike. There weren’t many times when people didn’t stop us to check out the bike, and conversely, there weren’t may times when we were asking for more performance out on the roughest and toughest of trails.

We took the Commencal out for a test recently and here’s what we thought.

The Design

We think the bike looks very sexy. Just look at the cables disappear into the frame.

The 130mm travel Meta AM 29er is designed for all-mountain riding and is built for a more aggressive rider who loves to hit the trails hard. Made from triple butted aluminium the AM 29er is big and strong. Every tube is oversized and some of the pivot bolts require allen keys sizes which you probably won’t have in your toolset. The frame looks a little over-engineered and maybe some weight could have been shaved off, however the strength and durability of the AM should be something you have little to worry about.

Everything is big. Most people would not have a 10mm allen key, let alone a torque wrench that goes up to 35NM. The bottom pivot did come loose once and lucky for us we had both tools. It never came loose again.

The head angle is a relatively slack 68 degrees, bottom bracket drop -33mm, and chainstay length 458mm – all elements designed to make the bike more stable at speed. The top tube is very sloped and gives the bike excellent standover height and cockpit room, both of which are very important on bigger wheeled bikes.

The rear suspension is based around the Contact System Evo design initially launched on the Commencal downhill bikes. Simplistically, it has been downsized from the downhill design and is basically a linkage driven single-pivot rear-end with the shock neatly tucked away low in the frame. The shock position is great for lowering the centre of gravity but the position does have an unintended consequence, which we will go into later.

The Contact System EVO, based on the successful downhill suspension platform, and scaled down for the smaller bikes.

The rest of the design continues the theme of big, strong and aggressive. The 142×12 rear was notably stiff, the tapered headtube keeps the front pointed, and the massive pivots reduced flex.

One standout design feature we loved was the internal cable routing. Yes, the bane of bike mechanics world wide, but we loved how neat and functional Commencal had made all the routing. Every cable disappears seamlessly into the frame and only re-appears at the last possible moment – making for a very clean looking frame. No additional noise was noted from the routing either.

One of the best displays of internal cable routing we have seen on a mountain bike.

There where two notable negatives from a design perspective and those were the lack of water bottle mount and the rear shock position – nice and low and tucked away. The first is pretty explanatory and you better invest in a good hydration pack, however the latter needs a little explanation. We have raved and raved about how good FOX CTD is and how much we love to be able to adjust our bikes while riding. However, the rather “tucked away” shock position did make it harder for shorter riders, or those built like a T-Rex, to reach down and find the CTD adjusting lever.

For those who like the data and stats here’s the important numbers.

The Build

The Meta AM is built with middle level spec – but is priced there too. All parts are strong and durable but do add to the overall weight. That can be a good thing as it enables you to throw your leg over an excellent frame for a good price, and then later update the parts to continually improve your ride.

The FOX suspension was excellent with CTD (Climb, Trail, Descend) on both ends. Having on-bike adjustability is a key for all-mountain bike riding.
The bars, stem and grips are all Commencal in-house brands. The grips were comfortable and the 730mm bars felt the right width. We did flip the stem to get a little lower on the front but that was definitely a personal preference rather than to compensate for any design deficiency.
The drive train was a mix of SRAM products. X5 cranks (38/24), X7 front and rear derailleur, X5 shifters, and SRAM PG-1030 11-35 rear cluster. Nothing you would Instagram about but all worked well together. We do love the new clutch/type 2 derailleurs and thought that was the only missing part.

As with many a bike in this class we would have liked to see a single right setup with chain guide. The frame has ISCG mounts so of you do choose to do go down that path you can easily.

The wheels are 15mm up front and 142×12 rear. We did notice some steering flex from the front end of the bike and felt the wheels could have been a little stiffer to reduce this. That being said, they remained straight and true with no issues.  The rims are not UST compatible however we did convert them to tubeless without any hassles (using a good rim strip). It’s almost blasphemy to not run tubeless in this day-and-age.

The Formula RX 12 brakes worked very well with no noise or issues noted. We have been impressed by Formula as of late and matched with 180mm rotors, both front and rear, we had no hassles pulling up when needed.
The Kenda Nevagal tyres are a good choice for more aggressive riding, however, we noted that the European spec for the same bike supplied a Kenda Small Block 8 for the rear. We did have some issues with rear tyre rub on the front derailleur cable and a single instance of the rear tyre hitting the seat tube on extreme bottom-out, so we recommend you change the rear tyre to something smaller.

The Ride

The AM gave us the confidence to attempt the toughest lines.

The Meta AM was a great bike to ride on the rougher, steeper trails. Once pointed downhill the bike would be able to maintain any line you asked …or didn’t ask. Great at masking poor line choices, the strong frame and larger wheels were able to keep us surprisingly upright even when we had our eyes shut in preparation for something worse. We found this to be the real strength of the bike – its ability to mask mistakes and maintain momentum at the worst of times. We could pick any rock garden and ride down it with little regard to line, or self.

Of course, a bike being this heavy was a little sluggish uphill. We’d be lying of we said anything else. But that’s not why you would buy this bike. As long as you begin your journey with that in mind you will recognise that the energy you can save by going a little slower on the climbs is better expended on the fun stuff when pointed down anyway. We were still able to climb the steepest trails no problems, just a little slower, or a little more exhausted if we tried to smash it.

The Commencal loved going fast and the more momentum you gained the more it kept.

We did find the rear suspension to be a little linear and finding that perfect balance between blowing through the travel and small bump performance a hard balancing act. We found we would blow through the travel with little “ramping up” at the end of the stroke and thus had to keep adding air to the rear shock to avoid harsh hits on the really large knocks. However, once we added too much air the small bump performance was compromised. We did end up getting the balance correct and had to run the shock with a little less sag than normal and set the CTD on Trail mode for climbing and left in the the Descend mode for pretty much everything else.

The larger tubing and wide setting of the rear end did mean some shoe rubbing on the frame but that’s less of an issue for clipped in riders than those on flats. It was never noticed on the trails and only post bike-wash was it revealed.

Overall we loved the ride of the AM 29er and found joy in hitting rock gardens with more confidence. The bike wasn’t nimble on the tighter stuff but once allowed to wind up, it was hard to stop. We, in fact, were able to ride sections of trails faster than we ever had and joyed at sessioning difficult sections of trail.

The Conclusion

The Commencal Meta AM 2 29er is a great if you prefer riding more down than up. It’s more than confident holding a line and the faster you go the more stable the bike feels.  Without a doubt, it will instil confidence in your descending and technical riding. It is a big bike, a little the heavy side, so you will just have to make sure you take your time enjoying the sights as you slowly climb.

If this bike was a little lighter it would be in our shed.

Cannondale Trigger 29er 1

Fresh from the folk who approach things a little differently comes the Cannondale Trigger, a peculiar looking beast packing enough tech features to make a vegetarian single speeder throw their hands in the air.

The Cannondale Trigger 29er 1

With 130mm of adjustable travel, aggressive tyres fitted to 29” wheels, wide bars and a dropper post this guy is pretty new school and attracts a lot of confused looks. For starters, it uses Cannondale’s radical one sided Lefty suspension ‘fork’ (can we call it a fork?) that still puzzles people, and out the back, resembling something you would use for underwater exploration, the FOX DYAD shock. It’s all about adjustability and adaptability for this bike.

Let’s begin with the front suspension. This Lefty is a fatty, with a far bigger girth than any Lefty we’ve seen; hence the steering precision is simply outstanding. To allow you to run a short stem (normally impossible with a Lefty, due to the top of the leg interfering with the handlebars), this new Lefty Max uses a 60mm offset axle allowing Cannondale to run a stumpy 50mm stem for rapid steering.

The ability to run the shorter stem was a great addition to the Trigger. It matched the type of riding the bike was designed for. The stack height is adjustable also via the five spacers.

Without going into too much detail about the fork’s workings and internals, what is does well is go exactly where you point it. With a firm grip on the bars you can steer it through all sorts of surfaces without that uncertainty that twisting fork legs can give you when pushed hard. It was a real highlight in fact, and we found ourselves using the bike’s solid steering to its fullest. Line choices were less crucial, as the notion of simply ploughing through whatever was in your path became a very good option.

This Lefty is fatter than most and we loved the steering precision. The only downside we noticed was its competence with high speed bump performance.

It was however not all rosy and sweet. We found the Lefty’s suspension action to be very harsh on our hands when the speeds increased, as if the fork just wasn’t reacting fast enough for repetitive hits, even with the rebound adjuster wound as fast as it would go. We raced this bike in the Flow Rollercoaster Gravity Enduro down Thredbo’s new Kosciusko Flow Trail, where you go flying full speed into repetitive braking ruts for over ten minutes. After back-to-back comparisons between a 26” bike with a FOX fork, the Lefty just felt wooden and harsh on the hands. We tried various air pressure settings, but that didn’t have much of an impact.

At slow speed however, the front and rear suspension felt plush, smooth, sensitive and balanced. It left us wondering if the fork could be tuned internally (or wishing for more external adjustments) so we could dial it in for faster terrain.

The unusual looking FOX DYAD uses two air chambers.

The rear suspension on the other hand pleased us and does what it sets out to do perfectly. Via the remote lever on the handlebar, you are able to toggle between two travel modes (130mm and 80mm), noting that this also has an effect on the bike’s riding position. Hitting the ergonomic lever is very easy; pushing it lessens the rear travel and stiffens the suspension, plus it lifts the back of the bike up slightly, putting you in a better climbing position (similar to dropping a travel-adjustable fork down in its travel).

The DYAD remote leaver enables you to change the travel from 130mm to 80mm and is easy to use at any time.

We used the lever regularly when we riding undulating singletrack, partially because in full travel mode the bike did wallow slightly under big bursts of pedal power, but also because it helped the bike jump up and get the uphills over and done with super fast. Setting the rear suspension air pressures is a little bit more involved than usual (as you’ve got two air chambers to deal with), but Cannondale have a handy little app that does the calculations off your body weight for you, taking out the guesswork. FOX also has this helpful page to help you set-up yours.

The performance of the rear suspension pleased us and via Cannondale’s setup guide app, it’s not too hard to set up either.

The way the Trigger rides is what we’d like to call new school. Our test bike came in size small, but still the generous length in the front end coupled with a short stem and wide 730mm bars put you in a position ready for trail negotiation, rather than racing efficiency. Take the Trigger to a technical trail and it will eat it up. The traction from the 29” wheels and the mighty Schwalbe Hans Dampf tyres is more generous than we could hope for, and breaking traction through a corner or up a steep climb became a novelty if it ever happened. We absolutely love these tyres, even though they may be a little slower to get rolling, the added traction outweighs that when you need far less braking to get through the turns without slipping.

Wide handlebars and a short stem matched with aggressive tyres gave the Trigger a great level of traction and control.

It seems like when a 29er with more than 120mm of travel is released, all attention goes to the length of the chain stays and how short they can be (shorter means snappier handling). At 448mm it is a couple millimetres shorter than the comparable Specialized Stumpjumper FSR we reviewed recently, and on the trail the Trigger rips through turns as fast as we could ever hope for. 13.6kg is a fair weight too, considering its burly nature.

If you take a close look at the frame, the fine construction and neat finishing will be easy to see. Large axles in the suspension pivots and wildly shaped tubing make the Trigger look even burlier than it rides, and give the bike its laterally stiff character. The rear dropout is a classy feature, using one 5mm allen key in the Syntace X-12 rear axle system, no quick release skewer to bash on rocks, but requires a key for wheel removal like the front does.

The frame is built large and strong and looks even burlier than it rides.
The details are not just aesthetically pleasing, they too are built for strength and purpose.

Cannondale have dressed the Trigger for success, with all the components performing well during our testing session. Even the basic X-Fusion adjustable post – although pretty squeaky when compressed – was always there for us. The brakes were super, and a Shadow Plus rear derailleur kept the drivetrain from losing composure in the rough. In one muddy ride the rear tyre, being tucked in so close, did deposit a lot of trail gloop right into the front derailleur mechanism and the front shifting started to go bad – just one more reason to fit a single chain ring setup we say! The only real mechanical issues was having to spend 15 minutes with a spoke key on the front wheel, after it lost a lot of spoke tension after only a few rides.

Oh yes we did like the Trigger, if it wasn’t for our aching hands at Thredbo we would have never given it back. It’s a real ‘one bike for all rides’ type of bike, and enjoyed what we were able to conquer on the trails aboard such a grippy and agile riding bike.

 

Syntace supplies the rear axle. The X12 system is neat and simple, using only one 5mm allen key to remove the wheel.
X-Fusion’s adjustable post lacked a smooth action, but never failed to work fine during testing.
Hit the blue lever and the fork nearly locks out, and to unlock simply push on the red section to engage.
Many of the suspension pivots use an axle and clamp system.
Note the fork axle offset.
Shimano XT brakes are simply amazing, all the time.
For a bike with a remote lever for the seatpost and rear shock, the cabling is still very neat.
Looks funky, doesn’t it? It rides great too.

 

 

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.

 

Specialized Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29 Review

[SV_VIMEO id=”59379854″]

Can a 29er out-perform a 26er when it comes to technical trail/all-mountain riding?

Specialized certainly think so; they’ve been espousing the virtues of a bigger wheel for many years and have been incredibly active in pushing 29ers into longer travel applications. In fact, Specialized are so convinced the big wheel is the right tool for the job, that in Australia they only offer one 26″ bike with less than 160mm travel. You can read more about the range here.

When we set out to test the beautiful carbon Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29, we had a head full of questions we wanted answered. Would a 29er with 130mm travel feel like ‘too much’ bike? Could this bike be manhandled in techy terrain? How would a 130mm-travel 29er compare the 150mm-travel 26ers we’d usually opt for?

This beautiful machine ended up bring full of surprises and possesses a versatility that few bikes can ever hope to match. Could this one be a quiver killer?

 

Gorgeous lines, and none of that ran-into-the-back-of-a-bus kind of pug nosed look that many 29er have. It’s even sexier in the flesh. Plus you can fit in a full size water bottle.
The finish is just sensational. So glossy, so sleek! Clean cable routing adds to the appeal.
Specialized have incorporated a range of practical and unique features into the Stumpy’s rear suspension. The Brain Fade rear shock allows you to tune the bike’s pedalling efficiency / suspension feel, meaning you can have bob-free pedalling without needing to play with lockouts and the like. The firmer you make it, the firmer the suspension will be on smooth terrain; we only ran it on one click of six and still found the pedalling performance and small bump response to be excellent. The rear shock also features Auto Sag, meaning you’ll always have the perfect rear suspension sag in seconds – simply pump the shock up to 300psi, sit on the bike in your riding gear and depress the red valve! The use of a block mount does away with the rear DU bush too, so that’s one less thing to worry about!
Specialized’s own Command Post is a welcome addition. It has three positions: full extension, one-inch drop and a fully compresses five-inch drop. The lever is nice and small too, but still easy to operate.
The Fox 32 TALAS fork features travel adjustment from 130-105mm, and the CTD damper lets you firm things up for the climbs. In all honesty, we didn’t feel the need to use either the travel or compression damping adjustments.
We’re seeing a lot more Formula lately, particularly on Specialized bikes. These T1 brakes didn’t overwhelm use with their power, but the lever feel is very nice and there is good modulation on offer. They also mate with the shifter clamps neatly to declutter the handlebar.
The attention to detail is exemplary. Check out the neat cable management with the adjustable post and brake lines/gear cables. Specialized’s cool Dangler chain guide keeps the chain under control, though we didn’t feel it was necessary with the new SRAM Type 2 derailleurs and so we removed it.