Long-term Test: Giant Trance Advanced SX

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 15

The Holy Grail of mountain bike ownership is finding the ‘one bike’. We all like to dream that it’s out there – a garage-decluttering, wallet-saving, partner-soothing super bike that can spin out a 50km cross country ride with the same ease as it will demolish your local downhill track.

Dream crushing time: it doesn’t exist yet. So what is most important is picking the bike that suits 90% of your riding, and in our case this SX most certainly achieves this – for how we ride, the Giant Trance Advanced SX comes very close to fulfilling the prophecy of ‘Uno Bicicletta’.

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 9
Carbon out front, alloy out back. We like this, as it tends to be the rear end of the bike that slaps the ground hardest when you crash. That said, we’ve crashed this bike and gouged up the carbon but it just left superficial damage.

When we went looking for a long-term test bike, we made sure we didn’t lose sight of our backyard. The trails around Flow are rocky, technical, and our favourite descents aren’t too far shy of downhill bike territory. Local climbs tend to be done on fireroads, but they can still be long and steep, so an efficient and light bike is a must too. The Giant Trance Advanced SX 27.5 just ticked too many of the boxes to look past, and so we welcomed it into the fold.

Over the course of the last five months, we’ve taken the SX all over the place; it’s been ridden in Rotorua, Mt Buller, Orange and countless places in between, racking up more trail time and road-trip miles than just about any test bike we’ve ever had. That fact alone tells you a lot about this bike – it’s ready for almost any situation or trail you stick in front of it.

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We tested the ‘regular’ Trance 1 27.5 in Rotorua late in 2013.

One of the influencing factors when choosing the SX as a long term test bike was our experience on board the regular (ie. aluminium and non-SX) Trance 27.5. We rode this bike for four days in New Zealand last year and we were extremely impressed. The SX shares the same bones as the regular Trance – the rear travel and frame geometry are identical ( 140mm out back ) – but gets souped up in all manner of ways, with better suspension, bigger rubber and more powerful brakes.

[divider]Build[/divider]

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 5
Note the way the cables are all routed cleanly away from the head tube and fork crown.

Carbon out zee front, alloy out zee back and doused all over with a paint job that Batman would love, the SX is just a bad mother of a bike. Take a look at this thing; in side-profile it looks like a downhill bike from half a dozen years ago. You don’t need a protractor to work out that this bike is built to excel on the descents: The angles are raked out, the bottom bracket is lower than Eddie Obeid’s morals and there’s wheelbase aplenty out front. With the FOX TALAS 34 fork in its 160mm setting, the bike has a 66-degree head angle. Dropping the fork to 140mm sharpens the angles by half a degree or so.

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 17
Even with the fork in its 140mm setting, the angles are very relaxed. We pushed the seat rails right forward in the post clamp to improve climbing performance on tight switchbacks.

But when you hoik it onto the scales, they tell a very different story to the picture painted by the bike’s downhill dress sense. Out of the box and set up tubeless, the Trance Advanced SX is just over 12kg, which is exceptional considering there are no corners cut with unsuitably light parts.

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 14
The Maestro suspension system is bombproof and feels perfect too in terms of spring rate.

Giant have continued to utilise the Maestro II suspension system, and it delivers 140mm of outrageously smooth and reliable travel; over the course of the five months we’ve been testing this bike, we have not had to so much as tighten a pivot bolt. Finer details aren’t overlooked either, with zero cable rub, and thanks to full length internal cabling we haven’t even had to replace or lube the gear or seat post cable either. Down tube protection keeps your frame safe from rock strikes, and a chunky chain stay guard keeps the already quiet drivetrain hushed.

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 11
The Overdrive 2 system uses a non-standard taper for the fork steerer. Yes, it’s very stiff, but it does cause hassles if you want to swap the fork or stem.

One of the more controversial elements of the Trance’s build is Giant’s Overdrive II steerer system. Rather than the industry standard tapered steerer, Giant employ an unusually large-diameter upper bearing (1.25″). It’s stupidly stiff, but it will cause a headache if you want to change your fork (you’ll need a new upper headset assembly and stem) and your stem choice is constrained significantly. At one stage during our review we fitted a different fork, so we got to experience these quirks first hand.

[divider]Spec[/divider]

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 22
Wow, this shock! The Float X turns rocks into toasted marshmallows.

The SX’s build kit is a gravity-enduro dream; 1×11 drivetrain, killer suspension, four-piston brakes, dropper post, Schwalbe tyres… once again the performance of just about all the components over the last five months has been nearly flawless. The only changes we made to the bike prior to testing were to swap the handlebar and grips. We wanted a slightly wider cockpit than the 730mm supplied, so we whacked on a 750mm-wide Truvativ Jerome Clementz bar, and we fitted some ODI grips – both of these changes are purely personal preference.

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 23
We changed the bar and grips to suit our personal preferences.

We have dropped the chain on the SRAM X01 drivetrain a few times (three to be exact), but this is a minor irritation in the context of the overall performance. We did consider fitting a chain guide, but we opted not to ultimately, preferring the drag-free performance without a guide. In every other regard, the X01 was perfect, never missing a shift. The 32-tooth chain ring is ideal as well, offering the right spread of gears. Even in Mt Buller, with its grinding climbs and crazily fast descents, we never needed more gear range.

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 4
Avid’s four-piston Elixir Trail 9 brakes. We’ve found them reliable, quiet and consistent, even if the lever feel is a bit so-so.

We were admittedly a little uncertain about how the Avid Trail 9 brakes would perform, given the inconsistencies of some Avids in recent times. Overall we’re very happy, and while the lever feel isn’t exactly snappy, the brakes haven’t needed a spot of maintenance and are still on their original pads as well. Power-wise, we’re more than satisfied too, with the funky 180/170mm rotor combo staying nice and cool.

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The Giant P-TRX1 wheels come supplied with tape to seal them up for tubeless use.

Giant have expanded their range on in-house components hugely, and the SX gets Giant’s own wheels and dropper post too. At around 1650g, the P-TRX1 wheelset is nice and light, and once you fit the supplied tubeless tape, these hoops make for a fine set of wheels indeed. The rear hub internals use DT’s Star Ratchet system as well, which is just about the industry standard in terms of reliability.

Perhaps because they are so light, these aren’t the stiffest wheels we’ve used, and as the frame (especially the front end) is so rock solid, we did feel the wheels twisting a little. This would probably be the only area you could conceivably wish to upgrade this bike! We tested the SX with a couple of sets of chunky carbon rims as well (such as the Bontrager Rhythm Pros), and with super stiff wheels this bike is even better.

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 21
The Fiziki Gobi will win fans, as will the consistent and smooth performance of the Contact Switch-R dropper post.

The Giant made Switch-R dropper post has 100mm of adjustment with internal cable activation and very neat remote lever. While the post has a slight rattly when you’re out of the saddle, the actual operation and reliability has been great to date. Unlike many dropper posts, this one has proven a real set and forget item.

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 10
In terms of suspension setup, we spent 90% of our ride time with the fork at 140mm travel and in the Descend damper setting, with the rear shock primarily left in Trail mode.

Finally, Giant have flung some of the best suspension items in the business at this bike. The FOX Float X rear shock turns rock gardens into feather beds – the level of performance here is staggeringly high, and the rear suspension feel is more akin to a downhill bike than a trail bike. Up front, FOX provide the 34 TALAS CTD fork, which can be switched between 140mm and 160mm travel on the fly. We actually had some problems with the fork on this bike initially, with an occasional loss of rebound damping, and so we sent the fork back to FOX for some love under warranty. When it returned, the fork had a new TALAS cartridge and the performance was ludicrously smooth. Apparently FOX reassembled the fork using their new super-duper green oil, which is the slipperiest stuff going. Whatever they did, the fork has been incredible for the past three months.

 

[divider]Ride[/divider]

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 1
The Trance SX on one of Flow’s home trails.

From the berms of Rotorua, to the insane speeds of Buller, to the rough and rocky trails here in Sydney, the SX has conquered the lot. As we said above, there’s no perfect ‘one bike’, but the Trance makes very few compromises!

For a bike that is so obviously at home on the descents, the SX’s ability to ride all day and climb efficiently is outstanding. Sure, it’s not the weapon of choice for a 100km race, but we rode this bike on some long days ( 7 hrs or more ) and never regretted it. The weight of the bike plays a large part in this, but the geometry with its roomy top tube is conducive to long rides too, and with the shock set to Trail mode (where we left it 90% of the time) the suspension is supportive and efficient.

Test Giant Trance SX 2
We took the Trance SX with us to explore the trails of Orange, NSW.

Tight, uphill switchbacks were just about the only area where we battled with the SX a little, with the front wheel wanting to lift. In the end, we pushed the seat rails quite a long way forward in the post clamp, putting more weight over the middle of the bike and this made all the difference.

As well as leaving the shock in trail mode, we also left the fork at 140mm for the vast majority of our riding, which was pretty surprising. When we first started riding the SX, we really thought we’d use the fork’s travel adjustment a lot and run it at 160mm for most descents, but this wasn’t the case. For most riding, we found the head angle too slack in the 160mm setting, and we only used this longer travel setting on the steepest of downhills. When the trails were flatter, the 140mm setting was far better, offering more front end grip and making the bike feel more balanced overall. If this were our own bike, we’d even consider changing the fork to something with the travel fixed at 150mm of travel, which would simplify and lighten the bike even more.

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 3
The incredible suspension encourages you to just huck into the rocks and let the bike sort out those small issues like line choice.

On the subject of the suspension, the Trance’s ability to hug the ground is a real highlight. There’s something about the way this bike follows the terrain and keeps your tyres gripping that just blows us away. There’s zero hesitation, the bump response is seamless, and the fork and shock are perfectly balanced with just the right amount of progressiveness to the suspension stroke. For a bike with 140mm of travel, the Trance rolls through rocks like it as much longer legs. Perhaps it’s a product of the 27.5″ wheels, or maybe it’s that the long front-centre gives you confidence, but the Trance SX is happier running over the rough stuff than any other 140mm bike we’ve ridden.

Giant Trance Advanced Long Terms Update-5

Getting the most out of the Trance in the corners isn’t difficult, as it grips like crazy, but once you get the hang of turning hard off the rear wheel it really comes alive. Load the bike up into a berm, yank the front around and drive your heels down through the pedals and the bike rips around off the rear tyre. Railing a rut with your foot out like a moto feels particularly good on this bike too!

[divider]Overall[/divider]

From the moment we first saw this bike last year, we labelled it as the most desirable bike in the Giant range. It hasn’t disappointed, quite the opposite. The Trance Advanced SX is at the forefront of that quest to create the perfect ‘one-bike’. At $6000 it is beyond what most people will be willing to spend, but we’d argue it’s worth stretching the budget for. The weight, the ride quality and the versatility are such that this one bike could happily take the place of your downhill bike and your cross country bike in the garage, and two-for-one is a pretty good deal.

Test Giant Trance Advanced SX 25

Flow’s First Bite: BH Lynx 6 27.5

Normally we’re filling you in on a new test bike the moment it lands in the office but the BH Lynx 6 is one we’ve had for a little while and we’ve already been shredding the trails from Cairns to Sydney. The BH Lynx 6 27.5 is a 150mm/160mm travel all-mountain machine, and coming with Dave Weagle’s Split Pivot suspension system, we approached this one with high expectations.

BH Lynx 6 Alloy 27.5-5
The heart of the frame; a ‘floating’ shock driven by the Split Pivot suspension configuration. The FOX Evolution series shock has a remote CTD lever.

Click here to check out our full write up.

So what’s in the package? 150mm of FOX CTD damped travel front and rear with a handlebar remote for both, Shimano XT cranks and derailleurs, SLX brakes, Stan’s ZTR tubeless ready wheels (even though we’ve shot ours with DT Swiss), to name a few highlights. The 90mm stem and 680mm bars made us feel like we were back in the 90’s, so we swapped them out as soon as we could. The absence of a dropper post is a pity. We’ve since had a chat with the Australian BH distributor and we’re super pleased to hear that the 2015 version of this bike will come with 50/70mm stem options, a 740mm bar AND a dropper post too – it’s great to see that BH has taken that feedback on board.

The handlebar-mounted controls for the CTD fork and shock make for it easy to stiffen things up in a hurry for the long climbs or sprints. It’s a simultaneous lockout system – it’s either C, T, or D for front and back, at the same time – so you can’t just stiffen the rear and leave the fork fully open, which is a common setup choice.

BH Lynx 6 Alloy 27.5-10
In 1993 Guns and Roses released their 5th studio album called “the Spaghetti Incident”. Just like that album was a bit of a let down, the spaghetti “incident” of cables  is less than appealing. The brakes, however, are awesome.
BH Lynx 6 Alloy 27.5-7
“Floated Mount”? BH boasts that they’re the only company who uses a floating mount on split pivot suspension system. Simplistically, it means that the rear shock is not anchored to the actual mainframe, allowing more control over the shock rate.

The BH Lynx is all about the rear end and it has a list of slogans to describe the technology employed here that’s longer than most people’s weekly grocery list. However, it’s really the ride that matters and our initial impressions of the rear suspension are very good, especially on those square rocks and bumps that tend to hang up the rear end. The BH doesn’t seem to get caught up as much and thus momentum is easier to maintain over the really rough stuff.

With a different bar and stem fitted (as mentioned above), the bike has a neutral, familiar feel. The geometry feels perfect for a bike of this kind, with a head angle that instills confidence and a compact frame that lends itself to flicking about. We’re excited to have the bike for a bit longer, so look out for our full test soon.

Video: No Fuzz. Full Throttle.

Jon Television – No Fuzz. Full Throttle. from Jon Bokrantz on Vimeo.

You all know the drill: summer is here (in the northern hemisphere, anyhow), and ain’t nobody got time to mess around. The only things that matters are riding, eating, sleeping, repeating. So, sometimes you just got to keep things simple.

No elaborate story, no talk, no B-roll, fillers or scenery. 100% free from time-consuming slow motion, and with entertainment as the sole purpose. No Fuzz. Full Throttle. Here’s to the summer of 2014, let’s make it one to remember!

Produced and Edited by: Jon Bokrantz & Jimmy Svensson (Trail Nine)
Music: Dark Country – Evil Ways (Justice Remix)

Tested: Trek Remedy 9 29

We’ve developed a real fondness for the Trek Remedy series of bikes over the past half dozen years. Like watching a teenage boy growing into a man, we’ve seen them change, get stronger, find their way in the world, make some bad decisions (like the DRCV fork) and learn from them.

But now the Remedy is all grown up. So grown up in fact that it’s sprung some 29″ wheels. Say hello to the Trek Remedy in its burly 29er format!

Trek Remedy 9 29-12

Of course this isn’t the only shape you can get your Trek Remedy in nowadays. For 2014, Trek offered two wheel size variants of the Remedy. The wagon-wheeler you see here, and a 650B version which we actually reviewed only a few months ago. While that experience was still fresh-ish in our minds, we thought we’d give the 29er a run too, and see which bike sizzled our steak more.

[divider]Build[/divider]

Trek Remedy 9 29-21
The Full Floater has been integral to the Remedy’s performance for years now.

At the heart of the bike you’ll find the well regarded Full Floater / ABP suspension system, which looks like a four-bar but places a pivot directly around the rear axle. This Active Braking Pivot retains suspension activity under braking, while the Full Floater aspect refers to the fact the shock is not mounted to the mainframe at all, but ‘floats’ between the upper link and a shock mount on the chain stays. It’s all about controlling the shock rate. The third card in the deck of the Remedy’s suspension is the DRCV Fox shock.

This system, like a good lover, knows when to give a little and when to give a lot.

The Dual Rate Control Valve shock has two air chambers, relying on the the smaller one to keep a firm feel for the initial travel and activating a second larger chamber to provide a more linear feel deeper in the suspension stroke. This system, like a good lover, knows when to give a little and when to give a lot.

Trek Remedy 9 29-28
The DRCV shock has evolved into a fantastic performer. Supportive when you need it, plush when you want it.

Geometry is adjustable, from a 68-67.5 degree head angle, via the simple Mino Link on the seat stays. We left it in the slacker setting but if you’re after a sharper ride it’s nice to have that option. Other noteworthy features include room for a full-size water bottle, an internally-routed ‘stealth’ style dropper post, and ISCG tabs. We’re not sure about the mix of internal and external cable routing – it all looks a bit messy, especially with both a front derailleur and a dropper post.

Trek Remedy 9 29-23
Choose your angles.
Down tube protection is a nice touch!
Down tube protection is a nice touch!
Trek Remedy 9 29-14
Room for a water bottle. Win.

[divider]Spec[/divider]

Just like its 650B-wheeled brother, the Remedy 9 29er has a component spec that’s so reliable you’d swear it was Swiss made. The only blemish is the narrow handle bar, but that’s an easy swap, so swap it we did for a 730mm Thompson bar. Otherwise you’d be foolish to make any changes to this bike – the blend of Shimano XT and excellent Bontrager components is hard to top.

Trek Remedy 9 29-27
Converting the Bontrager Rhythm Elite wheels to tubeless is easy with Bonty’s own rim strips.

The gearing range provided by the 2×10 XT drivetrain is spot on, and the brakes have more power than a dinosaur’s fart. It’s a bit of pity that Trek didn’t use Shimano’s I-Spec shifter/brake lever mounting system, as the bars are a mess with so many separate clamps.

After almost finding ourselves stranded in the middle of the jungle after one too many flat tyres, we made the switch to tubeless. We used Bontrager’s own tubeless rim strips for the job. These strips simply snap into place, and we think they’re the neatest tubeless conversion system available, so good that we regularly use them on other types of rims, not just Bontys.

[divider]Ride[/divider]

We were lucky enough to take the Remedy to a wide range of trails during our testing, from the groomed singletrack of Smithfield in Cairns, to muddy rainforest in the Cassowary Coast and then back to the rough sandstone of Flow’s home trails in Sydney. The Remedy took it all in its stride; if you’re looking for a versatile bike to tackle just about anything that comes your way, then this fella is worth consideration.

WEB_Flow_Nation_Cairns_DB-73

Before we actually rode this bike, we’d kind of mentally pigeon holed it. We’d made the assumption it was going to be monster truck, the kind of bike that just ran shit over but which handled singletrack like a barge. We were wrong.

The Remedy remains responsive and lively, which is always a challenge to achieve with 29″ wheels and this much travel.

Yes, the Remedy is jogs rather than sprints about, but this bike also climbs well and flicks through the trails far better than we’d ever envisaged. A lot of this can be attributed to the Remedy’s suspension and the way the DRCV shock offers a plenty of support in the early stages of the suspension travel. This firm feel in the initial stages of the travel ensures the Remedy remains responsive and lively, which is always a challenge to achieve with 29″ wheels and this much travel.

Trek Remedy 9 29-4
We think Bontrager’s XR3 tyres are some of the finest all-round treads out there.

With a 140mm travel fork, we felt compelled to get the bars down low, to keep weight on the front wheel and prevent too much lifting on the climbs. Trek have played it smart, using a tiny 100mm head tube, that ensures it’s possible to keep the cockpit to reasonable height. With the stem slammed, the Remedy did a great job of carving up singletrack turns. The Bontrager XR3 tyres are still one of our favourites, and for fast-rolling rubber they hook in beautifully on just about all trail surfaces giving the Remedy real consistency in the corners.

Trek Remedy 9 29-16
Stiff front end = goes where you tell it.

Like a number of Fox forks we’ve tested lately, we found the fork took a while to reach the smoothness we’d hoped for. It did improve with riding, and lubing the stanchions with some Finish Line Max Suspension Spray before each ride definitely helped. The rear suspension had no such issues; it seamlessly blends a supportive feel in the early stages of the travel with a bottomless and controlled feel on the bigger hits.

Does not come with rayon Hawaiian shirt.
Does not come with rayon Hawaiian shirt.

In terms of sheer smashability, the Remedy was happy to hammer, but still wasn’t quite the bump-eater we’d expected. Strangely, we feel that some of this actually comes down to frame sizing.  Because the Remedy has quite long chain stays ( 445mm ), in the smaller frame sizes (like the 17.5″ we tested) there is proportionally a lot of the bike behind the rider, rather than in front of them. This makes it harder to get your weight over the rear axle or to keep the front end up over holes. We think that the longer front-centre measurement found on the 19″ frame size and up would feel more balanced. Perhaps the Remedy is one bike that adds credence to the idea that shorter riders should consider a 27.5″ wheel, rather than a 29″.

It’s hard not to be impressed with the way the Remedy disguises its travel on the climbs.

It’s hard not to be impressed with the way the Remedy disguises its travel on the climbs.  While it’s not the lightest rig out there, the way it grapples up long climbs is excellent. In the small chain ring, you do notice a bit of pedal feedback, but not enough to disturb your rhythm. When the climbs become super steep or technical, you’ll want to shuffle right forward to stop the front end from popping up, but even when your weight is moved onto the nose of the saddle there never seems to be a loss of traction out back.

Trek Remedy 9 29-19

[divider]Overall[/divider]

We said at the outset that we wanted to pick a favourite; did we prefer the 27.5 or 29er Remedy? For us, the 27.5″ is the one. But that’s just us and our preference – the 29er certainly has advantages in many areas, particularly when it comes to climbing traction or rolling out long kays. We’re confident that many taller riders will gravitate towards the 29er too, as in the larger frame sizes we think this bike would mow down all comers. Whatever your choice – 27.5 or 29 – the Remedy has evolved in a seriously sophisticated and capable all-rounder, and if we had to pick a bike that we’d like on hand to tackle whatever came our way, then the Trek Remedy 9 would definitely be one of our top picks.

Trek Remedy 9 29-25

Tested by: Chris Southwood

Rider height: 172cm

Rider weight: 62kg

Tested at: Cairns, Mareeba, Atherton, Cassowary Coast, Red Hill (Sydney) and other sneaky trails.

Changes made: Wider bar (730mm) and converted to tubeless.

 

 

Tested: Breezer Repack Team

Here in Australia, the name ‘Breezer’ is most commonly associated with an alcoholic beverage favoured by 17 year old girls. There’s nothing fizzy about this Breezer, though just like the alco-pop, it is pretty sweet.

TestBreezerRepack 39

Joe Breeze is the man behind Breezer bikes. Widely recognised as one of the founding fathers of mountain biking, with a place in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame to match, Breeze has a lot to say about bike design. While he’s been pretty quiet on the mountain bike front for a while, recently Breeze teamed up with the Sotto Group (the design team behind some of the industry’s best loved suspension designs) to launch two new bikes. There’s the 120mm-travel Supercell 29er and the bike we’ve been testing, the 160mm-travel 27.5″ wheeled Repack.

[divider]Build[/divider]

The Repack draws its name from the famous Repack downhill, a dirt road descent in Marin County, California that was the site of some the sport’s first legendary downhill races. The bikes’ coaster brake hubs would get so hot racing this famous descent, that they’d need to be ‘repacked’ with whale fat and moss to keep them from catching fire. Or something like that. Needless to say, the Repack Team has a penchant for the downward sloping stuff.

TestBreezerRepack 35

The full aluminium frame is a tough number and it comes fully featured with all the bells and whistles you’d expect, except for internal cable routing for a dropper post – there’s a press fit bottom bracket, 142x12mm rear dropouts (using a superb Shimano-made axle), low-stack internal headset. The cabling is all external for easy maintenance, running neatly tucked under the down tube. There are no water bottle mounts to be seen, so it’s pack-only.

There’s next to no flex detectable through the rear end, thanks to oversize axles and the whopping swing link securing the seat stay, and this robust construction is one of the real highlights. A waggly rear end is fine on a dog or a snake, not a trail bike.

TestBreezerRepack 34

Rear wheel travel is 160mm, and the system that controls all the motion in the ocean is called the M-Link. It’s a very unique suspension arrangement – it’s a four bar system using a pivot midway along the chain stay, in contrast to a ‘short link’ system (such as Giant Maestro or Santa Cruz VPP) or a Horst link (for example, a Norco or Specialized).

TestBreezerRepack 19

The geometry is quite unique too with a 68-degree head angle. That’s a full degree and a half steeper than is common on most bikes of this travel, but Breezer feel there’s a sound rationale behind this decision (see the graphic from the Breezer site below). The aspect that Breezer don’t mention in their explanation above is that a steeper head angle does tend to reduce stability at high speeds and confidence on steep descents. Can the Breezer hit the right balance?

pop_up_design_02

Our test bike was a size 17″, which Breezer classifies as a size small. We’d normally run a medium but this was the only test bike available, plus the top tube measurement is rather generous – looking at the sizing chart, it seems like the Repack runs on the long side across the entire size range. One immediate hitch we encountered was that the seat post was too short (understandable as it IS a size small), and getting the right seat height required some reckless disregard for the post’s minimum insertion mark. We ended up fitting a longer post, but because of the curve in the seat tube, there was only a small amount of adjustability available to lower the seat on descents. The easy answer would be to fit a dropper post straight away. Obviously this adds a few hundred gram, but it’s worth it.

[divider]Spec[/divider]

Absence of a dropper seat post aside, the Repack is an incredibly well specced bike for its sub-$4000 price tag. The fork is a stunner, with a range-topping 160mm FOX 34 Factory CTD w/ Trail Adjust up front. Once we’d converted the WTB rims for tubeless (using Bontrager rim strips and sealant) the bike was pretty much perfectly equipped for its intended life on rough trails. On the subject of tubeless, this is an absolute MUST for this bike, as you’ll read more about in our Ride section below.

The Shimano XT drivetrain, brakes and hubs are just flawless workhorse items. While the Ritchey stem is infuriating to actually do up the bolts on, the bar/stem combo is stiff and perfect for the job. We didn’t feel compelled to make any other changes to get the most of the bike. As a lot of our testing occurred in damp conditions, the Nobby Nic tyres worked well. If the terrain had been drier, a tyre with a softer compound would’ve been fitted.

[divider]Ride[/divider]

The Breezer is definitely more of a long-travel trail bike, than a balls-to-the-wall hard descending all-mountain bike. This is not a criticism at all – rather this bike has a versatility that most 160mm bikes lack, especially when it’s time to get back up the hill.

 

We’re truly impressed by the climbing abilities of the Repack it doesn’t feel like you’re pushing so much travel uphill. The slightly steeper head angle plays a part here, preventing the steering from flopping around as it does on most long-travel bikes, even without a travel adjustable fork.

TestBreezerRepack 8

But the seated pedalling efficiency of this bike is the real drawcard when climbing – the suspension system has just the right amount of anti-squat, and it feels very supportive and resists bobbing. In the big ring or small ring, the Repack will tractor up the climbs without wallowing or wandering. We never felt the need to touch the shock’s CTD lever, not once. It’s fortunate that the Repack climbs so efficiently, as it’s not a particularly light bike. A dropper post will add more weight, and there aren’t many obvious areas for weight saving unfortunately. Most of that mass resides in the frame.

There's plenty of metal here, hence the Breezer's heft. But it does all feel incredibly solid and stiff on the trail.
There’s plenty of metal here, hence the Breezer’s heft. But it does all feel incredibly solid and stiff on the trail.

As well as being supportive on the climbs, the Repack is buttery on the descents. The FOX fork was typically sticky for the first couple of hours on the trail, and initially couldn’t match the smoothness of the rear end – the bed-in time on new FOX forks seems to be longer than in the past.

As mentioned above, the Repack doesn’t have the same predilection for reckless riding as some other all-mountain bikes, and this is partly due to the suspension action of the M-Link design. The spring curve is very linear, meaning the bike tends to use the last two-thirds of its suspension travel readily. There’s no real progressiveness to the suspension, and we found ourselves using the bike’s full travel very frequently.We didn’t notice any violent bottom-outs, but when we checked the shock after each moderately rough section of trail, we’d regularly note the o-ring had been pushed right off the end of the shock shaft.

TestBreezerRepack 6

The advantage of this very flat suspension curve is that the get the full advantages of having 160mm of travel, even if you’re not really hammering the downhills. This means loads of traction, and a real feeling of ironing out the terrain. The tendency to run deep in the rear travel also helps slacken the bike out on the steeper stuff, which does offset the potential for ejecting out the front door. Disadvantages? The rear wheel takes a pounding! Our first ride end with a long walk after three flat tyres in a couple of hours. Technique may have played a role, but so to did the bike’s suspension curve. This is why we feel tubeless is an absolute MUST with this bike. Fortunately the tyres are tubeless ready, so simply fit your preferred rim strip and forget out pinch flats.

The WTB rims claim to be tubeless ready, but you'll still need to fit a rim strip before you go tubeless.
The WTB rims claim to be tubeless ready, but you’ll still need to fit a rim strip before you go tubeless.

After flicking the Repack through some fast, flat singletrack, we could appreciate Joe Breeze’s opinions about geometry. The Breezer doesn’t push the front wheel at slower speeds like a lot of long-travel bikes. But then again, it doesn’t encourage you to point-and-shoot either. It’s horses for courses, so think about what matters most to you.

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[divider]Overall[/divider]

The Breezer Repack was a really great bike to review, if only for the fact that it has its own identity, its own take on all-mountain geometry and a whole new approach to the four-bar suspension system. It does a great job of making longer-travel bikes relevant to riders who aren’t interested in piloting a boat around the trails, and it will certainly appeal to those who prioritise control, traction and comfort over flat-out descending. Set the wheels up tubeless and get yourself a dropper post – at this price you’ll likely have the cash left to spend – then hit the trails.

 

Testing notes:

Test rider: Chris Southwood

Weight: 62kg

Height: 172cm

Tested at: Sydney’s Red Hill, Manly Dam and various other sneaky trails.

Changes made: Longer seatpost. Converted wheels to tubeless with Bontrager rim strips.

 

 

Flow’s First Bite: Breezer Repack Team

Hands up if you know who Joe Breeze is? No, he’s not a cartoon figure promoting a ceiling fan company. Mr Joe Breeze is in fact a mountain bike guru, a hall-of-famer, and one of the fellas who built the scene and made it all happen way back in the day. He’s been designing, building and racing mountain bikes since Adam was a glimmer in a grasshopper’s eye.

Test_BreezerRepack009
There’s only a few degrees of movement from the chain stay pivot as the suspension compresses.

Joe Breeze is back in the mountain bike game in a big way with some very unique looking bikes, including the one we’re currently reviewing, the 160mm-travel, 27.5″-wheeled, all-mountain Repack Team.

It only takes a quick glance to see that the Breezer Repack has a distinctive rear suspension system. It’s called the M-Link, and the unusual mid-chain stay pivot is said to offer the benefits of a four-bar system, without some of the shortcomings Breeze perceives in more traditional ‘short link’ four-bar designs (such as stiffness). While the system does look a bit funky at first, it’s no more convoluted than any other four-bar system; it’s essentially like a Horst link, just with the chain stay pivot moved 150mm forward.

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Big, burly pivots!

Leaving the suspension aside for now, let’s take a moment to consider the price. At under $4000 there is a lot of value in this bike (assuming it rides well too), with a complete Shimano XT groupset, FOX Factory series CTD 34mm fork and quality Ritchey componentry. The only item clearly missing is a dropper post, but to hit such a competitive price there have to be some concessions.

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Shimano XT all over! Tres impressife!

Keeping the weight down has taken a back seat to some degree, in the name of building a reliable and robust frame. The pivot hardware is rock solid and the rear end stiffness is tremendous. Geometry wise, the Breezer is hair steeper than we’re used to seeing amongst all-mountain bikes, with a 68 degree head angle. Breeze’s theory is that with a bigger wheel (27.5″) the head angle can be little steeper than an equivalent 26″ bike, preserving slow speed handling.

We’re intrigued. It’s going to be great to get this bike out onto our local loops and see how all that design experience of a mind like Breeze’s translates to the trail.

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Keep those tyres clean, Chris.

Tested: Avanti Torrent 2

The Avanti Torrent 2 is an excellent all-mountain machine. It’s stiff, strong, has good angles, and rides aggressively and with just a few little touches it can become even better.

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The Avanti Torrent 2 in all its glory.

This 140mm 27.5″ all-mountain machine is a breath of fresh air from a local manufacturer (well, NZ anyway) and really sets the scene for Avanti to increase its trail presence. You can really trust this bike to hold up to the serious trail shredding.

[divider]Build[/divider]

The NZ bike manufacturer has a long history in our region (Nathan Rennie was with them back in his beginnings) but up until recently their bikes lacked that competitive look, performance, and design to match it with the big players in the market. All that has changed now and the Torrent is a worthy looking and performing competitor. To quote a fellow rider, “That’s an Avanti? I though they were average. That looks the goods.”

The Torrent looks and feels strong with large aluminium tubing, a tapered head tube and full cartridge bearings throughout the rear end. Its hydroformed sloping and squarish shaped tubes are reminiscent of a Giant Trance however its very different rear end sets it apart.

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Even if the head tube decals are something from the Transformers we still think the bike looks good from all angles.

The suspension platform is a 4-bar system and taking the words from Avanti: “The Tru4 4-bar mechanism positions the rear axle on the isolated seat stay. This optimises the “virtual pivot point” so the suspension system operates efficiently and independently of rider effects.” We found the performance of the suspension pretty good overall however you will see in our “Ride” notes that we did have few little set-up issues.

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The Avanti has another variants of a 4-bar linkage, with a Horst Link system.
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Just like the rest of the bike, the rear end and suspension is all strong and well made.

The geometry of the Torrent is great (if you like your bikes slack), and even greater that you can adjust it (if you like them less slack). The Torrrent ranges from a 67-65.5 degree head angle and up to a 5mm drop in the bottom bracket height. The chainstays are in the mid range however the bike was easy to manoeuvre and lifting the front wheel a breeze. We preferred the slacker setting, so that’s how we left it for the majority of our testing on the faster trails of Stromlo Forest Park.

[divider]Spec[/divider]

At a smidge over $3500 the Torrent 2 is very well priced, though there are some spec sacrifices to meet that mark. We’re not saying it has a bad spec, it’s just that it’s spec weaknesses are for a reason – to keep costs down.

Suspension is handled by FOX. Up front is a 32mm, 140mm-travel Float CTD fork and out back the 140mm travel is handled by an Float Evolution Series CTD shock. Both performed well for their lower end of the suspension chart and having the CTD is always a nice addition for on-trail adjustability. We did have some issues setting up the rear though and you will read later in this review.

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Simple, yet effective. Like a number of FOX forks we’ve tested lately, we felt these forks could have used a strip and re-lube.
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This is what makes the magic happen and if it’s not right you’re in for a bad ride. We found it hard to get the right balance between too soft (sucks for climbs) and too hard (sucks for the downhills) and ended up on the soft side. A little sacrifice on the climbs for a bit more fun.

The 2×10 drivetrain is taken care of with a mix of SRAM X9 and X7 components. The X9 Type 2 (clutch) rear derailuer is a must on trail bikes and matched with the e*thirteen TRS dual chain device was relatively quiet and secure. The e*thirteen crankest was an interesting (but great) OEM spec and the big burly cranks add to the feel of strength in the bike.

We did get some bottom bracket creaking pretty quickly but as with many a bike it probably came out of the factory with a little less grease than needed.

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Big strong cranks and 2x chain device worked well. We still prefer a single on the front and with ISCG tabs that’s an easy upgrade to the Torrent.

The stopping is taken care of by Shimano and even though Deore is a lower spec, the 180mm rotors on the front and 160mm on the rear did a great job of stopping us. They worked well and are easily adjustable, what more could you want?

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As always Shimano offers great stopping power.

The wheels were a nice touch and Mavic have always been favourites of ours. The wheels are strong and the 142mm rear axle made the bike that much stiffer. Our only gripe with the wheels is lack of tubeless compatibility however we converted them using some tape and they held air without a problem. We noted no issues with the true of the wheels during our testing.

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A view of the Mavic hubs. We have always like Mavic and these hoops didn’t let us down. No quick release either – perfect.

The Kenda Honey Badger tyres are a good fast rolling opten however we changed them to something more aggressive from Maxxis as they were better suited to the type of riding the Torrent 2 was designed for (we also needed some tubeless tyres for the conversion).

WEB_TEST_Avanti_Torrent_2-C5
The Kenda Honey Badger is probably better suited to a XC machine.

We would have just loved to see a dropper seat post squeezed into the spec of this bike – getting off a bike to adjust the seat post quick release is so 2010. The bike has cable routing for a dropper so we recommend you go an add one ASAP.

 

[divider]Ride[/divider]

The Torrent preferred being pointed down. We ran the Torrent 2 in the slackest setting for the whole test period as we found it suited the strengths of the frame design better and more matched the target market. We did play on the steeper setting for a little but but quickly went back to slack.

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A shorter stem and wide bars gave us a more upright riding position – ready for more aggressive riding. This is a bike that wanted us to play a little more; 27.5″ is the new 26! The Torrent did take a little more work than expected to get off the ground, but that’s more a product of weight than it being an energy sapping design.

In a famous story, Goldilocks found one bed too soft, one bed too hard, and one bed just right and that’s how we felt about the suspension on the Torrent. We found it a little harder to get that “just right” feel and after some playing we actually ended up running the bike a little softer than recommended, which improved the handling on descents, however did add an extra log to drag up the hills. Not a worry though – we just used the CTD lever a little more to stop the bike sagging too much on the climbs.

WEB_TEST_Avanti_Torrent_2-2

The stiff frame and rear end made the Torrent a cornering machine and when pushed hard in the bends the bike help up well. This is one reason why we changed the tyres. The Honey Badgers, while being great at straight line speed, just couldn’t hold the corners the bike wanted to. Once some more aggressive rubber was added the bike was able to corner superbly.

Big hits were comfortable on the Torrent and even though we were running the bike on the soft side bottoming out was never a harsh experience. We did tend to keep the bike in the “descend” mode most of the time when the trail was pointed down as the “trail” mode felt a little too harsh.

WEB_TEST_Avanti_Torrent_2-3

Overall the spec of the Torrent worked well and we had no issues with anything other than previously mentioned. The brakes worked well and the larger 180mm rotor on the front was a great help. The e*thirteen device did its job however our test rider would prefer a 1 x setup. As mentioned previously our only testing issue was some noise from the bottom bracket under load and that would be just a simple re-greese to fix.

WEB_TEST_Avanti_Torrent_2-4

[divider]Overall[/divider]

Overall the Torrent 2 is a great all-mountain trail bike. It rides well, has great geometry, handles well in corners, and takes the bit hits. It did lack a little on the climbs though and we think the bike is best suited to the person who prefers the descents (isn’t that all of us?). We also found it a little harder to set-up with the suspension and feel that you should ensure your local bike shop helps you out in the department. Also, we’d love to see a dropper post and a 1x set-up however you can always add them easily as there routing for there cables and ISCG mounts.

At $3649 it’s a great mid-level trail bike with an excellent frame that is worth of component upgrades down the line.

WEB_TEST_Avanti_Torrent_2-39
Even from far away the bike looks slack – that’s a good thing for the aggressive rider.

 

[divider]Test[/divider]

Test rider: Damian Breach

Rider weight: 72kg

Rider height: 172cm

Size tested: Medium

Changes made prior to testing: Grips, Tyres, Tubeless

Test location: Stromlo Forest Park

 

 

 

Flow’s First Bite: Avanti Torrent 2

Despite being somewhat a local brand (New Zealand) you don’t see too many Avanti bikes on the local trails. We think the 140mm Torrent may change that.

 

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The Torrent 2 is a good looking, stiff, and very capable 27.5″ all-mountain machine. The 140mm travel market is pretty well saturated and you have to be a good bike to stand out in that crowd and on paper the new Torrent 2 really does stand out as a viable option against some of the bigger brands.

The all aluminium bike has striking looks and a good relaxed stance. Not that you’ll see it advertised anywhere but the geometry of the bike is adjustable via a little chip at the bottom of the shock. We love this little tune-ability and the aggressive angles of the Torrrent range from a 67-65.5 degree head angle and up to a 5mm drop in the bottom bracket height.

The standout features of the Torrent 2 are a Fox CTD fork and shock, Mavic Crossride wheels, e*thirteen cranks, and a mix of SRAM X7 and X9 components.  There’s even porting for an internally routed adjustable seat post should you want an upgrade.

WEB_TEST_Avanti_Torrent_2-2
e*thirteen crankset matched with a 2x chain device makes for a pretty strong and secure drivetrain.
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“The Tru4 4-bar mechanism positions the rear axle on the isolated seat stay. This optimises the “virtual pivot point” so the suspension system operates efficiently and independently of rider effects.” – Avanti
WEB_TEST_Avanti_Torrent_2-4
Mavic wheels are nice touch and something you see less of as original stock items these days. We’ve always had good experiences with Mavic and we’re hoping the same.  Not tubeless out of the box though so that’s a downer.
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FOX CTD front and rear gives some excellent on-trail tunability. We’ll see how much we need it, especially for climbing.
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The rear end of the bike is really stiff and our initial testing (one ride) showed it to work very well on the bigger hits and held well in corners.

So far we’re loving the whole package and with a few minor changes (the grips suck and we’ll be going tubeless) this bike is ready to be ridden hard.

We’ll be blasting the Torrent 2 up an down our local trails over the next few weeks and give you a full run down soon. On our first rides we found the Torrent pretty lively so we’re looking forward to see how much fun we can have with it.

WEB_TEST_Avanti_Torrent_2-7

Tested: GT Force X Expert Carbon

“I want that for sex!”

“Excuse me?”

“I said; I want that Force X!”

“Oh, yes, of course. It is a nice bike, thank you.”

The GT For Sex, I mean, Force X, is a serious piece of artillery in GT’s fight to re-establish themselves, after a few fairly quiet years on the development front. It’s a big-hitter, a gravity enduro bike with real guts, developed with input from Dan Atherton and the rest of the Atherton clan.

Test_GT ForceX 11

GT’s recent reinvention has won them a lot of fans, or perhaps more correctly rekindled a love that had simply faded a bit, as GT is one of those brands that everyone seems to have a soft spot for.

There are three key models in the range now: the Sensor (130mm), the Force (150mm) and the Fury DH. The Force X (of which there are two variants with different spec) sandwiches in between the regular Force and the Fury. It uses the same frameset as the Force, but with a number of component choices such as a longer travel fork that push its descending credentials a bit harder.

 

Build:

Like a pair of white jeans, the GT screams look at me. The frame has a bulbous well-fed python look to it, and you get the feeling that GT opted for carbon not for its weight saving properties, but its strength and the opportunities for creative frame shapes it provides. The lines are muscular to say the least.

Test_GT ForceX 31
Carbon lets GT create some very involved frame shapes, including the pierced seat tube.

It’s tricked up with all the features too, like an internally activated seat post, a sag indicator to aid suspension setup, a Maxle 142x12mm rear end, and Shimano’s new direct mount rear derailleur system. There are ISCG tabs as well, a feature that is becoming increasingly irrelevant with this new era of single-ring chain guide-free drivetrains.

Test_GT ForceX 29
Behold, the AOS (Angle Optimised Suspension).

The new 150mm-travel Angle Optimised Suspension system is one of the more involved out there. Have a look at video below to see it in action. It’s designed to provide the benefits of a high-pivot suspension system but without fewer negative (brake jack and pedal feedback). The bottom bracket is housed in the Path Link, which rotates slightly rearward with the suspension compression so as to minimise the amount of chain growth. It’s a fair bit to get your head around!

A FOX Float X shock handles the damping duties, sitting low in the frame. There’s a neat mud guard slipped in behind the shock too, to offer some well considered protection for the shock shaft. On the topic of protection, you’ll want to wrap the chain stay with some Framewrap to both protect the bike and silence any chain slap, as the bike makes a racket in the rough.

Test_GT ForceX 19
Neat cabling… until it all hits the Path Link, at which point it all gets a bit complicated! With a single-ring drivetrain, it’d be much neater.

By virtue of the cramped front derailleur / shock mount junction, the cabling is little convoluted. This is one bike that would’ve been far easier to design without having to consider front shifting, but having a good complement of gears doesn’t seem like such a bad option once you point this beast uphill.

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There are some similarities between the AOS system and the iDrive suspension system of years past (namely, the rearward movement of the bottom bracket of the suspension compresses), but the new system is far superior.

This brings us to an issue that can’t be ignored; the GT has a weight problem. Out of the box, the GT is 15kg. Add some pedals and you’re getting into the territory of some downhill bikes. It’s simply too heavy. Fortunately there are a couple of easy tweaks to bring the bike back to a more acceptable figure.

 

Spec:

With the scales showing 16.1kg once we’d fitted pedals and a full water bottle, we had to work out where the weight resided in the GT. It didn’t take long to work out that the problem is predominantly in the wheels, more specifically the tyres and cassette.

2
Some cable trimming is needed! The KS LEV seat post and GT themed saddle are both great! We’d definitely opt for lighter, fast and more supple rubber than these Continental Trail King tyres.

The Continental Trail King rubber is massive with very stiff sidewalls, but just far too heavy, at a kilogram per tyre. Our first move would be to fit something like a Schwalbe Hans Dampf or Maxxis High Roller 2, both of which would save you 200g per wheel. Then we’d go tubeless (another 100g saving per wheel). GT have done the dodgy with a crappy steel cassette – the HG50 Deore-level cassette is close to 400g. Swapping it for an XT cassette would save 110g and shift better. Finally, we’d go for a single chain ring drivetrain. Fitting a 32 or 34 tooth Raceface, e13 or Wolf Tooth chain ring and removing the front shifter, derailleur, the bash guard and associated cabling will save you at least another 200g.

All up, that’s close to a kilo saved right away, without huge expense, whilst simultaneously simplifying and improving the performance of the bike. Easy!

Test_GT ForceX 18
WTB’s Tubeless Compatible Rims really aren’t all that tubeless compatible – they don’t come ready for tubeless use, you’ll still need to install rim strips or tape/valves.

The rest of the componentry is all good stuff. We’re especially fond of the KS LEV seat post, and the Kore bar/stem combo is great as well, with the huge 760mm bars making you feel like a viking! As with a number of FOX forks we’ve ridden in the past 12 months, the FOX 34 160mm fork was a little sticky in its performance. It only takes 10 minutes to pull the lowers off the fork and we highly recommend you do so in order to lube the seals and change the splash oil. It makes a world of difference.

1
Formula’s RX brakes are a little on/off at slow speed, but modulate well once you’re up to pace. The tiny remote lever for the KS LEV seat post is the best out there.

Ride:

Our first ride on the GT was what we’d classify as ‘ok’. It felt big – very confident once gravity was on your side – but hard to get moving and not as responsive as many other gravity enduro / all-mountain bikes. Sure the riding position was solid and the frame relished a hard impact, but the bike felt a bit dead.

Test_GT ForceX 4

We knew there was a more exciting, lively and versatile bike in there. Softening the suspension a little (30% rear sag vs 25% on our first ride) and speeding up the rebound was the first move; suddenly the ride went from being choppy to delivering the kind of control we’d expect from a high-pivot design and the FOX Float X shock.

We also changed out the wheels, although simply swapping to lighter tyres would have had the same effect. With less rotating weight the GT was much easier to get up to speed or to change direction. The bike’s low centre of gravity suddenly shone, as it became easy to flick the bike from turn to turn. Reducing the unsprung weight (i.e. the wheels) also assisted the suspension’s responsiveness to small bumps. Overall, the bike was suddenly one we could appreciate!

Test_GT ForceX 7

The GT catalogue claims that the Force X has a 67.2 degree head angle, but we’re certain it feels slacker. Either that, or the bike’s willingness to run blindly into the roughest trails just convinces you it must have a more relaxed head angle. With a 760mm bar and a 50mm stem, you’re in a very strong, stable position on the bike and so keeping it on track in the rough is made easy.

This is bike that really likes big hits. The high pivot suspension design is particularly adept at smoothing out sudden harsh, square impacts (rock ledges etc). As you’d have guessed, the frame is robust in the extreme, and it doesn’t give a stuff if you wedge it into situations that would twist or upset a lesser beast. It’s only if you really concentrate in it that you become aware of the bottom bracket moving backward and forward as the suspension moves – it’s certainly not enough movement to upset your rhythm.

Despite its weight, the GT is a reasonable climber. The seat angle is sufficiently steep to keep the front tyre on the ground when grinding up climbs, and rear wheel tracks well under power, rarely breaking traction. In the granny ring, despite the Path Link’s best intentions, you can notice a bit of chain tug though the pedals as the rear suspension works. If your regular riding does include a lot of climbing, the 50mm stem might prove to be a little too short as well, as the riding position does become pretty cramped when you shuffle forward onto the nose of the saddle.

Overall:

Whereas some all-mountain bikes have a fairly even split in terms of descending and climbing performance, the Force X unreservedly leans towards the descending end of the spectrum, so keep that in mind if you’re looking for a ride that can handle the odd day shuttling the local downhill track. Make the changes we’ve recommended in this review to drop some weight and get most out of this bike, because it has some savage potential as a gravity enduro / all-mountain bike. Of course, you could also look at the Force X Pro, which already comes with lighter, tubeless wheels and a single-ring drivetrain!

Test_GT ForceX 13

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh Product: Troy Lee Designs A1 Drone Helmet

After years of research and development, the Troy Lee Designs Team is proud to introduce their latest creation, the A1 helmet. Here at TLD, styling, graphics, fit, function and safety are key in everything we create.

Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 3.22.14 pm

This lightweight, fully encapsulated all-mountain helmet utilizes maximum coverage and dimension to keep you safe and protected in all riding conditions. Whether you’re charging single track, riding dirt jumps or grinding out miles on the XC bike, the A1 helmet offers the premium fit, protection and style you want.

With our new A1 helmet we at Troy Lee Designs are proud to introduce our resounding return into the aggressive all-mountain half shell category.

  • Single piece, ultra plush, removable and washable comfort liner made of anti-microbial moisture wicking material for a dry, comfortable feel.
  • The fully adjustable moto inspired visor comes with anodized aluminum hardware and will block the sun and protect you from branches.
  • The triple position adjustable retention system allows you to customize the fit of your helmet depending on your type of eyewear, head shape and riding style. If you wear goggles or glasses, this helmet can be adjusted to fit your needs and still keep you secure and protected.
  • Reinforced polycarbonate shell in-molded with the EPS liner extends down the sides and back of the head for maximum protection and durability.
  • 8 pressurized intake passages draw in cool air for maximum ventilation.
  • 8 rear vacuum vortex outlets help exhaust and draw heat from your head.

Tested: Norco Sight Carbon 7.1

Norco’s bikes haven’t just come on a little bit in the past four or five years. No, they’ve improved astronomically and the Sight range is really indicative of all that progress. A couple of years ago, Norco launched the Sight in a 26” wheeled variant, but for 2014 it undergoes the shift to 27.5” wheels whilst retaining that trail-friendly 140mm of bounce.

We picked up a Sight Carbon 7.1 and took it to singletrack Nirvana, Rotorua, for five days of guess what?

Build.

The Sight’s the best looking Norco we’ve ever seen; clean shapes, the contrasting matte and flourescent colours and the smart little finishing touches had us drooling over the Sight at first sight.

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Hot looking rig, fast just standing there.
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High contrast colours, and groovy shapes.

With the move to a carbon front end, 25% of the grams are gone. Like a number of manufacturers, Norco have opted for a carbon front end and aluminium chain stays out back. We like this method of construction, as the rear end is the part of the frame most susceptible to crash damage, while the front end is largely protected by the bars and cranks.

Norco have taken a step in the right direction with internal cable routing, including some neat rubber grommets do prevent dirt or water accessing the frame. But during our testing the rubber cable grommets occasionally pulled loose, making making a bit of a mess, and requiring us to stop and wedge them back in periodically.

Test_NorcoSightCarbon0025
Internally routed cables are a good concept, but in this case let down by the execution.

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A ‘true’ four-bar suspension design makes it all happen out the back, with Norco’s A.R.T. take on the well-proven system. The placement of the suspension pivot on the chain stay allows for a little rearward rear wheel movement at the start of the suspension travel. This rearward axle path wheel also adds tension to the chain, so if you’re cranking down hard the rear suspension will display a certain amount of anti-squat and the bike jumps forward nicely.

We had some dramas with the pivot hardware coming loose during testing, and because the two main pivots use a spanner and not just Allen keys, it wasn’t something we could fix out on the trail. A spot of Loctite resolved it.

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An aluminium back end ties to the carbon front end with quality hardware, just be sure to keep an eye on the pivot bolts during the first few rides.

Norco don’t settle for the standard one-size-fits-all approach in regard to the frame’s rear end. As the frame sizes go up, it’s both the front end and chain stays that grow in length to keep the rider’s position centred.

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SRAM X01, we couldn’t ask for anything more, it’s supreme.

Spec.

Meaty rubber, four-piston brakes and an adjustable post tells us the Sight is ready for some action, and definitely sways it’s attitude towards the more aggressive side of the scale. The big tyres did feel a bit slow on the flatter trails, but of course the big shoulder knobs held on tight. Still we’d probably opt for some slightly faster-rolling rubber for general trail riding.

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Burly tyres are great in gravity assisted instances, but a bit hefty on flatter trails.
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The whole cockpit and ergonomics are fantastic, we wouldn’t change a thing. Some rider taking on gnarlier trails may wish for a slightly shorter stem though.
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We never dropped a chain, not once.

We battled with the Rockshox Revelation during our testing, the fork’s action just felt uncharacteristically choppy and harsh, not like the usual Revelations we’ve tried. It all came to head when the main seal on the air-spring side came free from the lowers with a loud POP. We think that air had seeped from the negative air chamber into the lower, resulting in a build up of pressure that ultimately popped seal out. We pulled the lowers off, reset the seal back in place and changed the lubricating oil and the result was immediate improvement. Still, the fork was never quite all we’d hoped for.

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We have had better experiences with the Rockshox Revelation, this one had a few niggles that needed more than your average mechanical experience to sort.

SRAM’s X01 gear is simply spot on, but the brakes are a bit weak on bite, especially in the wet. We’d recommend swapping out the original resin brake pads for some metal sintered ones.

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Some love them, some hate them. But these Ergo grips do serve a purpose, protecting your little finger from the odd tree that may come too close.

Ride.

The Sight left us with mixed feelings. The efficiency of the bike is great. It pedals brilliantly, even with the heavy rubber fitted, and in spite of its slack angles it’s easy to keep it on track up a steep climb.

Low weight and a very stiff frame give the Sight a precise feel; it never seems to doubt the direction you take. The lowly slung top tube and wide bars really allow you to tip the bike right over beneath you too, adding to the agility of the ride.

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A very direct and precise feeling ride, the Sight always knew where it was going.

We were less impressed by the suspension feel overall. Perhaps our impression was influenced overly by the fork’s problems, but the ride never felt ‘alive’. The Norco prioritises stability on the big hits over suppleness. Some riders will revel in this firm feel, but when compared to some of the other bikes we were reviewing alongside the Norco, the suspension just felt a bit lacking.

This was admittedly a very big surprise, as most new-generation Norcos we’ve ridden have been incredible – it does make us wonder if there wasn’t some issue (like the wrong shock tune) with our bike that could have been resolved with a longer testing window.

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A lowly slung top tube, wide bars and dialled geometry meant tipping the Sight into a turn was a blast. And very confident.
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You won’t find any unwanted suspension bobbing or squat, this thing jumps forward when you put the power through the pedals.
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140mm of travel, in a light frame makes for a bike that is comfortable and capable to ride all day.

Verdict.

Our short time aboard the Norco may have brought a couple of teething issues, but sorting them out would not have been to much of an issue and we’re certainly positive about the overall potential of this bike. The frame, geometry and component selection are all excellent and with a lighter set of tyres set up tubeless the Sight could hit an impressively low weight. Although we didn’t entirely mesh with the bike’s suspension,  the geometry, looks and ability to hold a line on the roughest trails all make for a great platform to build a dreamy trail bike.

Tested: Trek Remedy 9 27.5

About a year ago, we put the question to some Trek staff: “What are you guys doing with 27.5?” Their response? “Why would we do 27.5 when we’ve got the best 29ers on the market?” Very cagey! Six months later, and out come two new lines of 27.5″ bikes from Trek, including the one you see here, the Remedy 9 27.5. By the way, it’s very orange. Had you noticed?

Trek Remedy 9 27.5-1

Trek Remedy 9 27.5-31

Build:

The Remedy has been Trek’s all-mountain / trail bike for a number of years now, and it’s always been an impressive machine, well noted for its excellent suspension and spritely feel. For 2014, Trek have made two big changes to the Remedy. There’s the wheel size, obviously, with the Remedy now packing 27.5″ hoops, but they’ve also reduced the travel, back to 140mm from 150mm in previous generations.

Trek Remedy 9 27.5-9
Well finished. Small things, like the way the fork crown sits so perfectly flush with the head tube, are very appealing.

It’s extremely rare to see a bike’s travel reduced from year to year. Ordinarily, advances in suspension technologies and efficiencies result in travel increases, so to see a reduction was a surprise.

Trek Remedy 9 27.5-12
The Full Floater suspension system. The rear shock is not mounted to the mainframe, but floats between the upper link and a lower mount on the chain stay. Keeping it independent of the front triangle removes stress from the main frame and allows complete control over the shock rate.

There are two main reasons for the move, as we see it. The first is to create a logical progression in the Trek range. There’s the 120mm-travel Fuel EX, the 160mm-travel Slash enduro bike, and now the Remedy slots neatly in the middle at 140mm. The second reason relates to wheel size. With a larger diameter wheel, you can get away with a little bit less travel somewhat, especially in terms of sheer ability to roll over obstacles.

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The Active Braking Pivot system uses a concentric pivot around the rear axle which keeps the suspension largely unencumbered by braking forces. It also make chaining the derailleur hanger a pain in the butt.

In other respects, the Remedy is largely unchanged from previous years. It still uses Trek’s lively, active and smooth ABP / Full Floater suspension system and large-volume, twin-chambered DRCV shock. The frame is constructed Trek’s Alpha aluminium, with plenty of nice touches, including integrated down tube and chain slap protection, and internal cabling for the front and rear derailleurs. In spite of the internal shift cabling, somehow the cables do look cluttered and a bit messy overall, especially when compared to other bikes like the Focus SAM or Giant Trance which we’ve been riding lately.

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Down tube armouring and chain slap protection help keep the ride quiet and protect the bike in the long run too.
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Looks much neater than an old tube, huh? We like this kind of attention to detail!

The Remedy continues to run the Mino Link geometry adjustment system. Flipping the small chip/insert located the junction of the seat stay and EVO Link gives you a little over half a degree of head angle adjustment and lowers or raises the bottom bracket by 8mm. Given that the Remedy’s angles are already quite sharp by today’s standards, we left the bike in the slacker setting, for a 67.5-degree head angle. It’s really interesting to note that the Remedy’s head angle is actually steeper for 2014 than it was for 2013 (67.5 vs 67 degrees).

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Swapping this chip around will move the head angle from 67.5 to 68.2 degrees.

Spec:

We’ll say it now and get it off our chest. The Remedy’s handlebar is too narrow – it constricts this bike, and feels about five years out of date. In Trek’s defence, the only reason they supply the bike with this bar is because of some outdated Australian standards that stipulate a bike can’t have a bar over 700mm wide! So actually, every other brand is technically in the wrong from a legality perspective. Whatever the case, we fitted a 745mm bar to the very neat 70mm Bontrager Rhythm stem and felt much better.

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The Bontrager Rhythm stem is gorgeous. The bar should be swapped for something wider. Keep the original under your bed to ward off home invasions.

Trek kicked their product development team into overdrive and managed to develop new Bontrager 27.5″ wheels and tyres for the Remedy, and both items are really top notch. The Bontrager Rhythm wheelset and XR3 tyre combo is great. The tyres a massive for a claimed 2.35″ width and we rate their consistently grippy and fast-rolling tread pattern as one of our favourites. Our test bike was set up tubeless with Bontrager’s own plastic rim strips installed. These don’t come with the bike ordinarily, but Trek dealers can supply them. Other standout Bontrager items are the Evoke saddle (this tester’s favourite) and Rhythm grips.

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‘AWESOME,’ say our arses. The Bontrager Evoke saddle is tops.
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Bontrager’s tyre program keeps on kicking goals. Read more about the development of these tyres here in our interview with tyre designer Frank Stacy.

Shimano’s XT drivetrain and brakes are the pick for the Remedy 9. The 2×10 drivetrain and clutch derailleur is precise, quiet and gave us mercifully low gears when climbing big hills with a heavy pack in the Snowy Mountains. Of course, there are ISCG mounts if you’d rather a single ring.

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The 2×10 drivetrain uses a direct mount front mech. With an XT Shadow Plus clutch rear derailleur, we didn’t drop a chain once during testing.

We had a weird recurring issue with the brakes on our test bike; the pads would appear contaminated (lacking power and making lots of noise) when we first hopped on the bike after not riding it for a week or so. After a couple of minutes of riding, they had come good again and the power was back to normal… Strange! We can only assume it was either some minor oil seepage, salt air or ghosts. Probably the latter. Regardless, Trek and Shimano assure us they’ve not had it happen on any other 2014 model bikes and the XT brakes are generally amongst the best out there.

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One, two, three clamps on the left hand side of the bar. Compared to the elegant solution of SRAM’s Match Maker all-in-one mount (with combines shifter, brake and seat post remote levers) this setup is messy.

 Rounding out the package is a RockShox Reverb Stealth post with 125mm of adjustability. The handlebar is rather cluttered – it would’ve been nice touch if Trek had opted to utilise Shimano’s I-Spec combined shifter/brake mounts to tidy up the cockpit.

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The Reverb Stealth post has been getting huge amounts of OEM spec this year, and we’re happy about that. It delivers 125mm of adjustability smoothy and with little lateral play that can affect some adjustable posts.

Ride:

The Remedy is engaging, fun and lively ride. That’s a feeling that we’ve always found with Trek’s Remedy range, and we’re glad the addition of slightly bigger wheels haven’t dumbed down this playfulness at all. In fact, the bigger wheel size really slipped out of view on the trail. This isn’t to say that there aren’t benefits to be found with the slightly larger 27.5″ wheel when compared to a 26er, just that there aren’t any obvious negative traits to leave us wishing for a smaller wheel once again.

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Trek’s ABP / Full Floater suspension is one of the best. It’s a superbly responsive system, it just ripples over the terrain, soaking up the little bumps like they’re not even there. Factor in the large volume tyres and you’ve got one very smooth ride indeed. The FOX 34 fork is a worth accompaniment as well, though we did find the rear suspension outshone the front in terms of sheer sensitivity. In the dusty test conditions, we liked to apply a small amount of suspension Teflon spray to the fork legs before each ride to help keep the fork slick and smooth like the rear end.

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The DRCV shock is made by FOX purely for Trek bikes. It features two air chambers, the second of which is only opened once the shock moves deeper into its travel. The idea is to provide support in the initial stroke, while delivering a more linear spring curve later in the travel for better big hit performance.

There’s very little anti-squat built into the Trek’s suspension curve, which does mean it’s prone to suspension bobbing if you mash the pedals and it can wallow a little on steeper, technical climbs. The upside to this is that the Trek has negligible pedal feedback when pedalling over rough terrain, making it easy to stay on the gas, and there is mountain of rear wheel grip because the chain isn’t causing the suspension to stiffen. Of course, there’s always the shock’s CTD adjustment if you want to firm things up for more efficiency, and running the FOX shock in its middle Trail setting goes a long way to removing all pedal induced bob at the slight expense of some of that silky small bump compliance.

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What you looking at, Chris? On long climbs, we used to shock Trail setting to firm up the rear end and pedal bob.

One of the clear areas that demonstrates Trek have listened to the public and the media’s feedback is the fork choice on the new Remedy. In 2013, the Remedy had a FOX 32 fork which lacked the stiffness to really make the most of the bike’s descending potential. For 2014, Trek have gone for FOX 34 it makes a world of difference. What is pretty amazing, is that even though the 2014 Remedy has both steeper geometry and less travel than it did in 2013, it descends even better. The fork stiffness, along with the bigger wheels, surely play a part in the this. We particularly appreciated the beefier fork on the really big hits; the stiffer chassis helps avoid any binding or spiking and allows the fork to keep up with the bottomless rear suspension feel delivered by the DRCV rear shock.

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There’s nothing wrong with fat legs. The FOX 34 adds welcomed precision and directness to the Remedy’s handling.

We felt really comfortable descending on the Remedy from the very outset. One of our favourite test trails features some steep, swooping chutes/gullies, the bottom of which is littered with loose, sliding pieces of rock. We have a standout memory of just how composed the Remedy felt tackling this bit of trail; even when hard on the brakes, with both wheels sliding around, the Remedy left us feeling like we were in total control, with time up our sleeve to negotiate the next drop or corner.

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Watch that sucker on rocks! The ABP skewer sticks out a mighty long way.

On less extreme terrain, the Remedy doesn’t feel like overkill. In fact, we were distinctly reminded of our time on board the Fuel EX 9.8 26er (still one of our favourite all-time bikes). It feels flickable and fun, pouncing on the next bit of trail rather than flopping from corner to corner, and the low slung top tube encourages you to move the bike about.

Overall:Trek Remedy 9 27.5-30Trek’s new Remedy 9 is a worthy successor in this prestigious line of bikes. While the reduced travel and steeper geometry had the potential to take a bit of the fire out of this bike, we don’t feel like it really has, and the bike’s abilities as a do-it-all machine are as strong as ever. As a package, this is definitely one of the most appealing trail machines on the market and you’d be hard pressed to find a better place to drop your four and half(ish) gees if technical trail riding is your kettle of fish.

Trek Remedy 9 27.5-2

Rider: Chris Southwood
Height: 174cm
Weight: 63kg
Tested at: Thredbo, Glenrock and Red Hill NSW

Flow’s First Bite: Focus SAM 1.0

Click here for the full review. Boom!

SAM is a military abbreviation for Surface to Air Missile, which we guess means this bike is good at jumping and blowing stuff up.

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We first clapped eyes on the SAM 1.0 at the 2014 Focus Bikes presentation two months ago. In a room full of road bikes and 29ers, it looked like one mean bastard of a bike – matte black, angry looking geometry and plenty of travel. We knew right away that we had to get this one in for a full review.

The cables are all internal, popping out just fore of the bottom bracket shell.
The cables are all internal, popping out just fore of the bottom bracket shell.

The SAM is an alloy framed 160mm-travel all-mountain weapon, yet it weighs in at less than most similarly positioned carbon bikes, tipping the scales at just 12.91kg. Admittedly the XX1 drivetrain and Reynolds carbon wheels help keep the bike svelte, but when you consider the Pike fork, Reverb stealth post and big Schwalbe rubber it’s an impressive figure.

The 160mm-travel Pike feels very, very nice. It's actually a dual position model, so you can drop the front end for climbing.
The 160mm-travel Pike feels very, very nice. It’s actually a dual position model, so you can drop the front end for climbing.

A black anodised finish is hard to beat, and with internally routed cables it all looks very sleek indeed. We’re overwhelmed by how smooth the fork feels straight out of the box – fingers cross the Monarch rear shock can match the performance of the front end. We’ve converted the wheels to tubeless and we can’t think of another change we could possibly wish to make before hitting the trails.

Carbon hoops, smothered with Schwalbe's finest all-mountain rubber,
Carbon hoops, smothered with Schwalbe’s finest all-mountain rubber,

We’ll be taking the SAM to Thredbo this week and giving it a few laps down the new Flow track to see how it all fares, before bringing it to our home trails for some ill-treatment over the Christmas period.

 

 

Flow’s First Bite: SRAM ROAM 60 Carbon Wheels

Carbon is definitely the new black. One quick look around your local trail head and you will see carbon bikes galore. But it’s not just frames; carbon wheels are becoming increasingly popular and SRAM have been aggressively developing their wheels for that market.

Last year SRAM introduced their first carbon wheel, the RISE, which received rave reviews and constructive feedback. SRAM seemed to have listened and have not only improved their design, they also added the new carbon model, the ROAM 60.

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We’ve just thrown our test set of ROAM 60s onto our all-mountain Giant Trance SX. Inside the box was a whole host of spares that give you the ability to run them on pretty much any bike. They even come with a 20mm front hub conversion, and they are completely tubeless ready (no need for rim strips).

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We shaved about 200-300g off our ride (Stans sealant isn’t an exact science), and while that’s not a saving you’re going to gloat about across your favourite social media platform, it’s pretty significant.

The advantage of carbon wheels isn’t just in the weight savings though (as you can get plenty of light aluminium wheels), it’s in their strength and ride quality and we expect the same with the ROAM.

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We’ll be giving these a good test over the coming month and let you know how they respond to a rock garden or two.

Fresh Product: Kingdom Hex AM275

The Hex AM275 utilises a short link four bar platform to deliver 140mm of efficient travel, similar to the DW link and KS link systems without all the patent infringement. This allows for exceptional pedalling efficiency while still keeping the suspension active. Its 436mm chainstays along with its 66.5 degree head angle make for a very balanced ride.

The frame is constructed completely of aerospace grade Ti3Al2.5V with a tapered head tube, full titanium pivot hardware and 6061 auminium links, with a carbon optional upgrade. In addition to this it also uses 142×12 dropouts, ISCG05 guide mount and external dropper post routing.

It comes in two build kits, All-M and Enduro. Both versions come stock with X-Fusion products, including the 160mm Sweep RL fork and the O2 RCX shock, while an optional Cane Creek Double Barrel Air with Air Switch is also available.

The All-M comes spec’d with a full X0 10 speed drivetrain, while the Enduro sports a full XX1 drivetrain. If a custom build is more your style a frame only option is also available.

  • – Handmade from certified aerospace grade Ti3AL2.5V
  • – Frame: 3.15kgs – Complete bike: 12.9kgs
  • – Forks: 130-160mm
  • – Shock: X-Fusion – O2 RCX 200mm x 57mm
  • – Rear travel 140mm
  • – Alloy pivot links
  • – Titanium pivot and shock bolts
  • – 31.6 Seatpost
  • – Tapered semi integrated head tube 1.1/8″ – 1.5
  • – Bottom bracket: 73mm
  • – ISCG05 chainguide
  • – Cable guides for dropper seat post
  • – Designed for XX1 or 1×10 gearing (non front mech compatible)
  • – Kingdom replaceable 142 x 12 dropouts
  • – 2 year defect warranty/Lifetime crash/repair warranty

For more info, visit www.kingdombike.co.uk/en/

Fresh Product: Bell Super Helmet

ALL-MOUNTAIN RULER

Though the line between gravity mountain bikes and cross country machines has been blurred the last couple years, most associated equipment is still high-contrast–either overbuilt for DH gear or wispy light for XC. The new Bell Super aims to split the difference, riding that all-mountain line perfectly.

25 vents. More protection needn't mean less ventilation.
25 vents. More protection needn’t mean less ventilation.

In order to meet the demands of the all-mountain, trail ride and enduro racing scenes, Bell has released the Super, a versatile performer with specific features for this growing style of riding. Incorporating an innovative eyewear management system along with a clever, integrated break-away camera mount and advanced ventilation matrix, the Super is the perfect complement to the do-anything breed of all-mountain bikes.

Using input from Bell’s stable of sponsored riders, Bell came up with a purpose-built package for aggressive riders who need the versatility to go from XC-style climbs to near DH descents and everything in between.

Over-brow ventilation. Perfect for those folk with excessively thick eye brows.
Over-brow ventilation. Perfect for those folk with excessively thick eye brows.

Key features include:

· Integrated Camera Mount makes capturing the ride hassle-free with a removable mount that seamlessly affixes a GoPro camera.

· GoggleGuide™ Adjustable Visor System allows riders to manage their eyewear with minimal intrusion into the ride. The flexible system accommodates both goggles and sport glasses and works either with the visor installed or without using the included goggle retention arms.

· Overbrow Ventilation™ works in concert with 25 vents to usher cool air over the head through four intake ports on the helmet brow.

· The Speed Dial™ Fit System is designed to work with helmets that have lower rear coverage. This new system cradles the head and creates a glove-like fit with the turn of a dial.

· Fusion In-Mold Microshell bonds EPS foam to shell for durability

· Internal Reinforcement in order to maximize venting and minimize bulk, high-end helmets feature internal reinforcement structures.

· Lightweight Cam-lock Levers™ for easy strap adjustments

· Lightweight Buckle

· Lightweight webbing

· X-Static Padding is quick-drying and anti-microbial

· 25 vents, 4 brow ports

Flow’s First Bite: Trek Remedy 9 27.5

It was a few months ago now that we first swung a leg over the new Trek Remedy 9 27.5, down at Mt Stromlo during Trek World 2014. But it has taken till now for us to secure a full review on this highly sought after beast. It arrived at Flow HQ just after Halloween, and it looks like a pumpkin Jack-O’-Lantern, but with shockies.

Trek Remedy-8
The DRCV (Dual Rate Control Valve) shock is unique to Trek and helps improve the big hit performance of the Remedy, while preserving stable pedalling characteristics.

The Remedy 27.5 is one of two ‘streams’ of the Remedy series available for 2014. Along with the 27.5″ wheeled bikes, you can also purchase Trek’s renowned all-mountain machine in a 29er format with the same travel (140mm front and rear) should you like your wheels with extra girth. We won’t go into the range specifics, but you can read all about it in our 2014 Trek range wrap up right here.

Trek Remedy-1
It’ll run both 650B and 27.5″ wheels. We’re joking, but the industry must be very eager to see the cycling world decide on a single name for this wheel size!

In Trek’s typical style, the Remedy has more frame features than a Dalmatian has spots, with a list of associated acronyms that’d put the Australia Defence Force to shame, including ABP, E2, Full Floater, EVO and Mino (one of Santa’s reindeers, we think). The last term referring to Trek’s super simple adjustable geometry system, which gives you 8mm of bottom bracket height and 0.8-degrees of head angle adjustment.

Trek Remedy-7
The Remedy scores the gorgeous FOX 34 Float CTD with Trail Adjust. Trek did utilise DRCV technology on their forks for a couple years too, but that has since been abandoned.

The Bontrager, Shimano and FOX build kit with a Rockshox Reverb post is one of the most sound we’ve seen. However, the 690mm-wide handlebar is about as sensible as Teflon chopsticks – it’d make a great stick for swatting flies but it’s not gonna be steering this bike when we review it. We’ll be getting the Remedy dirty on home turf this week, and we cannot wait!

Trek Remedy
If orange is the new black, what does that make an orange and black bike? 140mm of travel, just over 13kg with every box ticked. Let’s roll!

Video: Ride Rotorua Top Ten Trails #3 – Gunna Gotta

Built in 2004, Gunna Gotta, like B Rude Not 2 from last week, is another iconic Redwoods trail that recently received a facelift courtesy of the bulldozer’s blade. In this instance, the logging not only gave builder Dave Hutchings and the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club a clean slate to reshape the trail, but it also revealed some absolutely cracking 360-degree views!

It’s a fair pedal up Katore Rd to reach Gunna Gotta and its neighbouring trails, but it’s not hard to justify the climb. The vista is magic; on a clear day you can look north over Lake Rotorua to the coastline at Tauranga and to the south you might see snow-capped Whakapapa on the far side of Lake Taupo.

Morgan Wilson – the fella behind Zippy Central, a local cafe of legendary repute – might ride a rigid singlespeed, but even with only one gear to get him to the top, Gunna Gotta is one of his favourite trails. The new upper section wraps around the hillside, benched into the steep slope, and offering a fantastic outlook if you can draw your eyes away from the trail. After a kilometre or so, the singletrack plunges back into the forest, rejoining the original trail, chucking you about like a pinball before spitting you out on Katore Rd once again.

Follow the photos below to get a feel for the two distinct halves to this awesome trail.

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The tree won.

 

 

 

Tested: Merida One Forty B

Ah Merida. It’s a brand well loved by cross country racers, but one that has traditionally done little to excite us outside of the realm of XC-whippetry. They make some spectacularly refined machines (albeit a little devoid of personality) but for riders like us who want to tackle rough all-mountain style riding they just never had a truly competitive offering. Until now.

Merida One Forty B-25

When we ripped open the box containing the new Merida One Forty B, we immediately knew that this was a big step in our preferred direction. Fortunately for us, we had a five-hour ride planned the next day on the exact style of trails this bike’s designed for. Let’s get acquainted!

Design:

It says it right there on the glossy black top tube ‘all mountain’. With 140mm of FOX sprung travel, down and dirty geometry and huge rubber on 27.5″ rims, this bike’s intentions are clear.

Tapered head tube with internal gear and dropper post cabling.
Tapered head tube with internal gear and dropper post cabling.

At first glance, you might think ‘yawn… it looks like all the old Meridas, just blacker’. But you’d be wrong. The One Forty B runs the new VPK (Virtual Pivot Kinematics… not everything has changed at Merida, the acronyms are still dull) suspension system, which was debuted late last year. It’s a completely different setup to the old single-pivot Merida’s, utilising a twin-link system in a similar vein to Giant, Intense, Niner and Pivot, to name just a few.

VPK. Oi! Oi! Oi! VPK, it's dynamite... etc.
VPK. Oi! Oi! Oi! VPK, it’s dynamite… etc.

The VPK arrangement not only allows for better performance under braking and pedalling than the old single-pivot system, but gives a more rearward axle path too. Net result, the wheel moves out of the way of big hits better, no matter what you’re doing.

As you can see, the lower link is angled downward, and as it rotates during suspension compression the chain stay measurement grows. This gives the axle path a rearward curve, which is good for absorbing square hits.
As you can see, the lower link is angled downward, and as it rotates during suspension compression the chain stay measurement grows. This gives the axle path a rearward curve, which is good for absorbing square hits.

The Merida doesn’t look all that burly, but it sure felt solid and stiff when subjected to the old carpark ‘runch’ stiffness test. The flush pivot hardware all uses Allen keys, which is a plus for on-trail maintenance – you wouldn’t believe how many test bikes get rattly on the trail and then require either a massive spanner or some obscure Torx key.

Merida One Forty B-16
142x12mm rear end, post mount brake. Very sensible stuff.

Big ticks for the cable routing which keeps the cables well away from points of frame rub, the inclusion of a Stealth dropper post, room for a full-size water bottle and a sturdy 142x12mm rear axle arrangement.

Smaller ticks for the tight clearance at the top of the seat stays. Admittedly the rubber on this bike is huge, but we can imagine it’d get pretty gummed up in the mud.

The Build:

Merida have a good reputation in the value-for-money side of things, but the spec is often a little left of centre. Not so the One-Forty B, which is dressed in very sensible Shimano XT, FOX and a tough set of Sun Ringle hoops. The 150mm FOX TALAS fork is a welcome addition, its ability to drop to 120mm-travel a boost to the bike’s versatility.

The FOX CTD TALAS fork has a lot of capital letters. It also has handy travel adjustment. Our fork actually had a bit of problem with oil volumes (there wasn't enough of it), but this was a random problem and hence we haven't held it against the bike.
The FOX CTD TALAS fork has a lot of capital letters. It also has handy travel adjustment. Our fork actually had a bit of problem with oil volumes (there wasn’t enough of it), but this was a random problem and hence we haven’t held it against the bike.

The wheels are a worthy complement to the bike, as stiff rims are important with the larger 27.5″ wheel diameter. They’re tubeless ready too, already pre-fitted with Stan’s No Tubes yellow tape and are plenty wide enough to stop the big rubber from rolling around in the corners.

That's a girthy tyre. The Nobby Nic 2.4". We ran them tubeless and appreciated the study Snake Skin construction.
That’s a girthy tyre. The Nobby Nic 2.4″. We ran them tubeless and appreciated the study Snake Skin construction.

Schwalbe’s whopping Nobby Nics in a 2.4″ are a good tyre choice. On our rocky and sandy trails they proved a little skatey, but our experience with these treads in softer soils has been great. With the huge air volume, we felt comfortable running them in the mid 20psi range, especially as these tyres are equipped with a reinforced Snake Skin casing. This protection makes them a little heavier, but it’s well worth it.

Ride:

If we had around $4000 to spend on a trail/all-mountain bike, we’d put the Merida on the shortlist. That’s not something we’ve ever said about a Merida before.

From the first stages of setup, it proved to be a very easy bike to get along with – completely hassle-free. Simple things, like setting the suspension sag and adjusting brake lever positions were just easy, whereas some bikes make it hard with tight shock placements or too much garbage on the bars.

FOX = set and forget.
FOX = set and forget.

In terms of suspension setup, we found the rear suspension rebound tune quite heavy, and for our 63kg test rider, we ran the rebound damping almost completely open in order to get the right speed. For heavier riders this won’t be a concern, but anyone lighter than 60kg may struggle to get the rebound as fast as they’d like.

You can drop the front end by 30mm on the climbs (or descents if you forget to flip the lever back like we did).
You can drop the front end by 30mm on the climbs (or descents if you forget to flip the lever back like we did).

Our medium size test bike had ideal proportions, combining a long top tube with a 60mm stem and 740mm bar. This is the kind of confidence inspiring geometry we like, letting us ride the Merida aggressively down steep chutes without fear of going out the front door or having the front wheel flick out from under us in a fast corner. Speaking of which, this test highlighted the importance of matching your tyres to your trails; we know from experience that the Nobby Nic is a great tyre, but its big side knobs were a bit loose on the sandstone of many of our local trails.

Some of the most inspiring moment on board the Merida came on the roughest trails. Hit the dropper post remote, get that saddle out of the way and blast it. With the stiff wheels and frame holding a true line, and the suspension carrying great momentum, it was fantastic to just let the bike run and allow the big wheels and massive tyres to monster-truck over the rocks. (Especially with the tyres set up tubeless making us less concerned about flats.) It wasn’t the quietest bike in these rough situations, with more chain noise than many, but to its credit the XT derailleur never threw the chain.

We love dropper posts. If we could fit one to every bike that came through the Flow office door, we would. The Reverb Stealth is arguably the best too.
We love dropper posts. If we could fit one to every bike that came through the Flow office door, we would. The Reverb Stealth is arguably the best too.

The fork and rear shock work exceptionally well together, their suspension curves well matched. We reset the suspension o-rings regularly, and it was always good to see after a section of trail that both front and rear were using their travel equally. For the majority of the test we left the CTD adjustments for both fork and shock in the Descend mode giving us the most supple performance possible. Combined with the low tyre pressures, the ride quality over the small hits was brilliant.

Due to the rearward axle path, there’s a bit of chain tug when climbing in the smaller chain ring. It’s not a problem, and it’s a trait common to most bikes with a pronounced rearward axle path. Using the rear shock’s CTD lever to minimise the suspension movement (and therefore chain growth) helps. With the big tyres, traction was never a problem, and the steep seat angle leaves you well positioned to spin up most climbs, plus you’ve got the option of using the TALAS lever to drop the front end height should it get really steep.

Overall:

Merida have well and truly smashed our preconceptions with this bike. It’s confident, smooth, well-priced and easier to get along with than a drunk uncle at Christmas, with the kind of build kit that’ll go forever. We even like the colour.

Far more bike than we expected. It's great to be pleasantly surprised!
Far more bike than we expected. It’s great to be pleasantly surprised!

Fresh Product: Norco goes carbon with the Killer B Range

PORT COQUITLAM, B.C., Aug. 29, 2014 – Norco Bicycles is thrilled to announce the release of the iconic Range Killer B Platform in carbon fiber for 2014. Developed specifically for Enduro racing and All Mountain use, the 650B-wheeled Range Carbon features the same philosophy and sophistication as the aluminum version but with the added strength, stiffness and weight savings of carbon fiber.

Big brother to the 140mm Sight Killer B, the Range is a 160mm travel mountain bike with a slack and low geometry that make it extremely capable on descents. The Range Carbon is as much an Enduro race rig as it is the ideal back country accomplice – perfect for exploring shale-covered slopes and remote mountain ranges. The all-mountain-tuned A.R.T. suspension system helps the bike climb to objectives with impressive efficiency, but it is when the trail turns downhill that this Killer B truly comes alive – delivering unrivaled high-speed power, control and confidence to the rider.

The 2014 Norco Range Killer B can be seen for the first time at Germany’s Eurobike, Montreal’s Expocycle and Las Vegas’ Interbike trade shows in the coming weeks. You can expect the Range to be available in February, 2014.

The whole Range Killer B Carbon lineup is below – click the images to make them more biggerer.

Norco Range Carbon LE

Range LE details

Norco Range Carbon black orange

Range 7.1 details

Norco Range Carbon_7.2

Range 7.2 details

 

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.

Knolly Endorphin

Knolly are as Canadian as pancakes with bacon and maple syrup. And like the aforementioned delicious breakfast, we highly recommend giving them a try.

The Knolly brand has its roots in Vancouver’s North Shore and their bikes have always reflected this; big hucks and scary, slippery root-infested trails need solid bikes to tame them and the brand bills itself as ‘a high-end manufacturer of freeride and downhill bikes.’ But the Endorphin, a relatively recent addition to the Knolly stable, is a machine that’s far more relevant to the masses, yet doesn’t stray too far from the brand’s home turf too.

We first clapped eyes on the high-vis yellow Endorphin at a gravity enduro race and locked it in for testing straight away. We wanted to make sure it lived it up to the showy appearance. With 140mm rear travel (paired to a 150mm fork), a kicked-back head angle of 67 degrees and boxy construction, the Endorphin looked ready to fight its way through rough trails. We had a medium-sized bike on our doorstep from importer Endless Flow Cycles within days.

A FOX 34 leads the charge. The extra stiffness of this fork when compared to a 32mm-legged fork is inspiring.

Kitted out with a premium build kit, the Endorphin gave us plenty to admire; FOX 34 fork, CTD dampers front and rear, Hope hubs, Raceface Next carbon cranks, SRAM XX drivetrain, Thomson stem, Maxxis Minion rubber and the highly rated KS LEV adjustable post with a massive 150mm of adjustment. This build kit needs little tweaking in our opinion, though we envisage the narrow DT rims requiring a bit of spoke key love over time with the kind of punishing riding this bike is capable of. Our test bike tipped the scales at a fair 12.8kg, certainly weightier than many other premium-level trail bikes, but not excessively so.

All hail the LEV! Could this be the finest dropper post on the market? 150mm of adjustment at the push of a silky smooth button.

The really eye catching element of the bike’s construction is the ‘Four by 4’ suspension linkage – kind of a link-on-a-link setup. Practically, it’s actually pretty simple; there’s your traditional four-bar linkage arrangement to control the bike’s axle path, and the second linkage controls the shock rate. Before the advent of dropper posts, the system also had the advantage of allowing a full-length seat tube too, so you could get your saddle out of the way. The bike’s rear ends with surprisingly narrow dropouts clamping a 142x12mm axle, which requires a 5mm Allen key for removal, and a tapered head tube up front

Knolly’s Four by 4 linkage is a twist on the standard four-bar configuration. It performed best when ridden hard and fast, not feeling terribly supple at slow speed.

This isn’t a bike for ticking off big kays on fireroad trails. The Endorphin carries the same hunger for technical riding as the rest of the Knolly range, just in a lighter more efficient package, and the bike’s sizing reflects this. With a stocky 17” seat tube and upright riding position, the whole bike feels super compact. Short stays (425mm) mean that even with though the head angle is slack, the overall wheelbase is quite short.

Consequently, you’re really centred over the bike, and it’s very easy to pick and choose exactly where you want to place the wheels. It’s most adept when the trails require lots of body language; the short reach, dropped top tube and compact rear end make it easy to twist yourself all over the bike as you rip it over and around technical trails.

Just right. The combination of a 70mm stem, 725mm-wide bar and robust fork never left you wondering about the front end’s ability to hold a line.

You can slam the big FOX 34 fork into just about anything and it won’t complain, leading the way for you to start looking for more and more nasty rocks or drops to fly off. We had absolute confidence in the front end, finding the cockpit ideal, and feeling very connected to the grippy Minion front tyre. On board the Endorphin we tackled some steep, rocky rollers that we’ve been avoiding on other bikes recently. The kind of obstacles where you need to hit the line just-so or risk going over the bars became fun challenges, rather than terrifying.

We spent a lot of time on this bike with the seat post lowered, out of the saddle, playing with the trail. We ran the rear shock in Trail mode generally, which added to the bike’s responsiveness, making it easy to pick up the front wheel or wheelie-drop off ledges. Hard landings didn’t worry the Knolly, and even though we bottomed-out the suspension with a clunk on a few occasions, the bike didn’t flinch or get out of shape. In fact, the bigger, faster hits really seemed to suit Endorphin. The Four by 4 suspension system isn’t particularly supple, feeling a little choppy over repeated small hits. The rear end performed best when you showed no mercy, hammering over the rocks fast, or slamming back to earth off drops.

While the SRAM XX derailleur shifts brilliantly, we’d still have preferred an X0 derailleur with the new Type 2 clutch mechanism to reduce chainslap and chain derailment.

Fast riding did reveal one hole in the Knolly’s spec, that being the absence of either a clutch derailleur or some kind of chain retention device, and we bounced the chain off a few times. It’s funny how quickly we’ve come to take the great chain retention afforded by clutch derailleurs for granted. The frame is equipped with ISCG mounts so, installing a chain guide (either single ring or dual ring) is hassle free should you wish to go that route.

Raceface’s Next carbon cranks are gorgeous. Unfortunately we dropped the chain and it scratched the finish of the crank arms badly! Yet another reason to run a clutch derailleur or some kind of chain device.

The drawbacks of the upright riding position come when climbing or sprinting. The short reach cramps your style a little if you’re out of the saddle. The best approach for technical uphills was to hit them hard and fast, or alternatively to sit and spin. Grinding out of the saddle didn’t suit the Knolly and tended to set the suspension bobbing. Sprinting was a little awkward on the Endorphin too, the saddle tended to get in the way. Again, the KS LEV dropper post came to the rescue – we really love this seat post, it’s superb. You could fit a longer stem to open up the top tube a little, but this would sacrifice performance in terms of responsiveness. The best bet is try out a couple of frame sizes if possible, and consider going a size bigger than usual. It all depends on your trails and your riding priorities.

Admittedly, the Knolly isn’t quite as versatile as some other 140/150mm trail bikes, which may out-climb the Endorphin or weigh in a little lighter. But the Knolly knows its niche and nails it. It rewards the rider for whom technical trails aren’t a challenge to be negotiated but a playground to be explored and unlike some of the featherweights of this category, we’re sure it’ll be faithfully dependable for years to come.

Trek Slash 8 – Fast and Fun

Introducing the 26″ Trek Slash 8, 160mm of good travel that is able to ride up the biggest hills. Why would you want to ride up a big hill on a long travel bike? So you can get back down them with a very large smile and not fear every rock, drop, and railing turn – that’s why!

We’ve been testing the Slash 8 for a month or so and we’ve gone out for some big rides, including a epic 4 hour cross country mission and an all-day lifted gondola session in Queenstown. It proved to be a great mix to test the abilities of the blue beast and we ended finding it pretty hard to fault this great bike.

Looks hot!  That’s what we think anyway.

The Design

The Slash is a mean looking beast. Bright decals, big fork, slack head angle, large tyres, and aggressive stance all add up to a bike that obviously isn’t designed for your next 100km cross country race. It’s made to be ridden fast on steep, loose and flowing trails.

The Trek Slash 8 is an 160mm travel all-mountain bike. Every mountain bike is essentially an “all-mountain” mountain bike but over recent years the marketing machines have taken that term and turned it into a class of mountain bike design and associated riding. How we love labelling things in our sport.

To explain what all-mountain means in simple terms: think of it like a bike that loses a bit on the climbs in order to gain some on the descents. Basically, it’s slower up but faster down than most other bikes.

However, no bike is perfect at both climbing and descending and generally there has to be compromises at some end of the scale, and most often the uphill loses that battle.  However, with a few little design aspects and specifications Trek has attempted to counter this. The integration of FOX suspension with CTD (Climb, Trail, Descend) makes on trail suspension tuning a breeze so you can tune your bike as per the trail you are facing.  Add to that, a remote adjustable RockShox Reverb seat post and TALAS adjustability on the fork and you can set the bike up for any trail and riding preference you have. All these things seem minor but do make the bike more suitable to most extremes of mountain biking.

On the subject of adjustability, Trek has also incorporated some off-trail adjustability as well with an adjustable head tube via the mono-link “chip”. A quick turn of a nut will change the head angle 0.5° (from 66.5° to 66°) and the bottom bracket height 10mm.

The rear suspension design is coined a “full-floater”. To plagiarise Trek: “Most suspension systems attach the bottom of the shock to a fixed frame mount. That fixed mount can contribute to a harsh ride. We solved that with Full Floater, attaching the shock to two moving linkage points so it can better respond to bumps across a wide variety of terrain. It feels like more travel, but it’s not. It’s smarter travel.” 

Sometimes just a decal on a frame but while we couldn’t feel every inch of the Trek design it sure did perform as advertised.

We did find the rear end very active and yes the travel did feel endless. For us it’s not about the angles, pivots, or design slogans – it’s about how it feels on the trail and honestly the suspension was superb and did feel like an endless source of bump absorption.

Other design features that stood out are the internal cable routing (for the Stealth RockShox Reverb and for the front derailleur), a direct mount front derailleur, tapered head tube, 2×10 speed, functional bash guard on the down tube, ISCG mounts, and 142mm rear axle.

Maybe not as important on the Trek Slash 8, with its aluminium frame, but for little weight the down tube protection is a neat touch.
Internal cable routing, we love it and didn’t notice any rattling.  We just wish there was more of it as not every cable was internal.  Yes, the mechanics in the room will be cursing us but that’s why we pay you the big bucks at the local bike stores.

The Build

The Trek Slash 8 is spec’d out very well, with a good mix of quality parts that are functional and strong. While not being the lightest bike on the market you have to remember its design purpose. There’s no point making that epic climb to the top of a mountain if the parts fail and/or fall off the bike on the way down. It’s all about correct and smart compromise.

The suspension is FOX CTD both front and back. The fork uses 34mm sanctions for extra stiffness, 15mm QR, and TALAS travel adjustability. We rarely used the TALAS function as we don’t like the dramatic change in geometry but for those who find a slack head angle hard to climb with then it’s a great bonus.

34mm Fox forks make the front end much stiffer and give more confidence.

The rear suspension deserves a little more attention. In addition to the CTD it also has Trek’s Dual Rate Control Valve (DRCV) technology. With DRCV the shock has two separate air chambers and manages both small and big bump compliance using a combination of both. It’s a complicated process that happens inside the shock but basically you use one chamber for most of your travel however on the bigger hits the second chamber gets added to the travel and takes up the rest. Set-up however is a little more fiddly than a standard single chamber shock so make sure you take the time to adjust both chambers as per recommendations. If you do find it a little hard we recommend you take it to a Trek dealer and get it set-up right – it will make a world of difference.

The rear shock featuring the extra air chamber capacity for DRCV.  It may be a little more complicated that the standard shock (esp. with CTD combined) but it does work.

The brakes are excellent. The Slash 8 comes with Avid Custom X9 Trail brakes with a big 200mm rotor on the front and 180mm on the rear, all matched with Trek’s Active Braking Pivot (ABP).  The ABP is designed to separate braking force from suspension travel so the rear suspension is still active under braking.  The brakes worked really well however Avid are know for making a little more noise than others and we did experience that from time-to-time. Nothing that lingered but always embarrassing when riding with mates and they can easily tell when you’re braking.

Big brakes mean big stopping power.
The wheels, hubs and tyres are from Bontrager, a “house” brand for Trek these days. We converted the rims on our test bike to tubeless using a Bontrager rim strip and they held with no drama. The tyres are XR4’s and 2.35 wide – big and burly but they also grip really well. The large bag of the tyres adds to the bike’s downhill agility and is one of those uphill compromises we don’t mind. The rear hub is big and the 142mm x 12mm is very strong and stiff.
The handle bars and stem are again from Bontrager. The Rhythm Elite bars are 750mm wide with a 15mm rise, a 4° upsweep and 9° backsweep. The bars felt great and matched with a 70mm Rhythm Pro stem the cockpit was very comfortable.

The drivetrain is a good mix of SRAM parts. The cranks are X-9’s with two chainrings (36-22) with 11-36 spread up the back. If there were one change we’d make it would be to remove the two chainrings and install a 1 x setup (maybe with a 34 tooth). The two-speed Truvativ chain guide and bashring are a nice feature but we still like the extra security of a full chain guide and we did loose the chain occasionally. Not a huge issue and we acknowledge it’s more of a personal preference than a design flaw.

The rear derailleur is a SRAM X0 Type 2 and we love the new breed of derailleurs. We couldn’t imagine riding a mountain bike without them anymore. The clutch mechanism adds to security and noise reduction – all things we love when smashing down trails.

The drive train is a good mix of quality and function.

The Ride

So how did the bike ride?

On our very first ride we were super impressed with the Trek’s want, or need, to be jumped and played with. Seriously, every little bump, jump, and line was taken with vigour and the playful nature of the bike stood out.

We decided to put a different twist on this test. Rather than weigh the bike before we rode it we wanted to avoid any prejudice and so we avoided the scales for the whole test.  It was only when we wrote this review did we put it on the scales.

Wow, we were surprised.  The Slash 8 climbs really well and the 13.8kgs (sans pedals) didn’t feel like 13.8kgs. We used the CTD frequently and found the Trek to be an excellent climber if you use these features. No, it wasn’t as fast as our best Strava times but it was also not a laborious as we would have expected.

The playful nature of the bike was a joy and made old trails feel like new again.

When the trails turned downhill was when the bike really showed its colours.  The DRCV in the rear shock was noticeable in the sense that you never felt like bottoming out and the travel ramped up really nicely.  No harsh hits were felt at all – and that was after many mistakes in line choice across rock gardens. We found we could let more and more air out of the shock and use the CTD to adjust the feel for different trails. We rarely used the “descent” mode but when we did it felt like a different bike and gave even more confidence to hit full on downhill race tracks.

We know it’s cliched but the Slash felt like more than 160mm of travel.

The front end is stiff and the combination of big forks and slack head angle meant we could hit lines with more confidence. In fact, there was a new line at our local trail that we had been eyeing off for a few months and on the very first ride on the Slash we hit it up – first run down the hill, no chicken runs – we kid you not.

The faster you go the easier the rough trails get.  That’s the theory if you have the right bike, and the Slash 8 did support this theory.

There wasn’t really anything that stood out as a negative, apart from some creaking appearing in the headtube and bottom bracket. These would have been from all the dust and use as the bike was an ex-demo and hence would have been ridden by many more people before Flow. However, we found it also a positive. Even after much suspected use, the bike still felt tight and new. We are sure that if we gave the bike a recommended service it would have been silent again.

The conclusion

The Trek Slash 8 is a great bike and we really feel that you’d be hard pressed yourself not to like it either.  Generally to make an all-mountain bike you have to make some compromises in performance somewhere and Trek have done a great job at minimising those. It climbs very well for a 160mm bike and really shines when you start pointing it downwards.  It loves to be pushed really hard and if you want a bike to give you more confidence then we recommend this blue beast.

As 2013 is the year of Enduro racing this bike would also be the perfect race machine.

The end.