First Impressions: Bontrager Line Pro 30 Wheels

1700g, 29mm rims, 108 engagement point hub… where’s the catch?

Alloy is so 2016…

There has been an explosion of carbon mountain bike wheels (sometimes literally) in the past 18 months. A market that was once cornered by the likes of ENVE has been democratised and now proliferates with carbon hoops of all kinds of origins and qualities.

Along with the abundance of options, we have started to see prices come down, though not to the extent that we’d have anticipated or hoped. Most carbon wheels are still north of the $2000 mark, ouch. Bontrager, however, are doing their bit to make the performance of carbon hoops just that little bit more attainable, and without sacrificing features either.

You could’ve forgiven Bonty for taking short cuts with the hubs, but they didn’t.

Tell us the price!

The new Bontrager Line Pro 30 wheels are $1698 for the pair. That’s not chicken feed, but it’s very reasonable for a carbon wheelset from a top-tier manufacturer, and it’s a lot cheaper than many comparably featured wheels. The competition are on notice!

Proper tubeless rim strips for a tight tubeless seal.

So what do you get for the coin?

Fully modernised rims, for starters. With a 29mm internal width, these OCLV carbon rims are right in the sweet spot for trail riding / enduro riding.

They also come fitted with Bontrager’s tubeless rim strips, which are a robust, hard plastic strip, not just tape. These strips won’t budge or slip no matter how many times you remove or install tyres.

The six pawl freehub.

The freehub has 108 engagement points; there are six pawls (two sets of three) and they engage faster than a Bachelorette winner. We pulled the freehub off to take a look, and the sealing seems to be much better than previous Bonty free hubs. Let’s see how winter treats them.

Our 29er version weighs in at just on 1700g, so it’s not even like they’re a heavy set of hoops. Really, there’s nothing we don’t like about these so far, other than they took a bit of wrestling to mount our tyres too.

Stay tuned. We’re taking these bad boys to Rotorua next week to put some miles on them!

Tested: Praxis Works C32 Mountain Wheels

Praxis Works have entered the carbon wheelset game.
Praxis Works have entered the carbon wheelset game.

Praxis Works’ C32 Mountain wheels are the Californian brand’s first foray into the carbon wheel market, and you can read a bit more information about the history of these wheels and what you can expect out of the box in our First Bite.


How did the C32’s ride? 

The Praxis Works C32 Mountain wheels ride exactly as you’d expect from an all-mountain carbon wheelset, stiff and direct. Moving from an alloy wheelset onto the C32’s, the difference in stiffness is immediately noticeable when pushing through corners, or trying to track a straight line through rough terrain.

The C32's are about as stiff as wheels get.
The C32’s are about as stiff as wheels get.

Where on an alloy wheelset you feel a slight amount of flex pushing the bike into a corner, the C32’s go exactly where you point them, so be ready to hold on tight!

If you can hold on, the C32's will always go where you point them.
If you can hold on, the C32’s will always go where you point them.

The sensation is much the same through rough terrain. When you hop on the C32’s from an alloy wheelset, their stiffness and directness mean if you can hold on, the wheels will track a precise line without flexing and twisting, which is a sensation you don’t realise is happening until you ride a wheelset like the C32s.

We're big fans of the understated decals.
We’re big fans of the understated decals.

Whilst the extra stiffness is appreciated when laying down the watts, or keeping your line to the millimetre in a corner, it takes time to get used to the C32’s stiffness, as their lack of deflection and absorption of trail chatter requires a bit more of a forceful hand to stay on track when you first start riding them, where on a softer and flexier aluminium wheelset the wheels will absorb trail chatter, and can also settle the bike if it your line wavers.

You might want to take rough sections of trail a little easy on your first few rides on the C32's.
You might want to take rough sections of trail a little easy on your first few rides on the C32’s.

If you’re confident in your line selection and bike control, you’ll feel a lot faster on the C32’s quickly, but if technical terrain isn’t your forte then you might want to run slightly lower tyre pressures, to compensate for the C32’s stiffness.


They’re not too much lighter than many alloy wheelsets out there, do they feel faster?

Despite not weighing in at the lighter end of the carbon wheelset spectrum at 1761 grams for the set, these wheels are meant to take a battering, they’ve got a 32mm internal rim width, and we discovered throughout testing that they are indeed incredibly strong.

The C32's feature a spot on 32mm internal rim width.
The C32’s feature a spot on 32mm internal rim width.

When you want to get up to speed however, the C32’s are very crisp on the uptake, offering faster acceleration and rolling speed than their weight might suggest. The C32’s replaced a set of Bontrager Line Elite wheels on a Trek Slash 9.9, and whilst they’re only a tad over 100 grams lighter than the Bontragers, they feel much faster to accelerate out of corners, or up a pinch climb when starting from a low speed.

The front wheel feels easy to pop up into a manual or over trail obstacles.
The front wheel feels easy to pop up into a manual or over trail obstacles.

Part of this eagerness comes from the stiffness of the rims, and part of it the responsiveness of the Industry Nine hubs, which were a real standout.


Why were the hubs a standout?

Our C32’s were laced onto a set of Industry Nine Torch hubs. Both hubs spun smooth for the entirety of the test, despite most of the testing taking place in atrocious Sydney riding conditions, and the engagement on the rear was excellent, adding to the C32’s ability to quickly get back up to pace out of a corner or on a punchy climb.

In terms of servicing the hubs, after a few weeks of solid riding, we whipped the wheels out of the bike to see how the freehub internals have been holding up, and to gauge how easily serviceable they are.

To access the hub bearing and freehubs, it’s a matter of pulling off the end caps but blimey they are tight! We pulled and pulled on them for quite some time but the o-rings lock the end caps on very securely indeed. We ended up having to crack out a bearing puller tool kit to pop off the end cap it was so tight.

The Industry Nine's hub end caps are very tightly sealed.
The Industry Nine’s hub end caps are very tightly sealed.

The next step was to gently pull off the freehub body, but be warned the pawls and springs are not held together like many hubs are, resulting in a pawl flying out onto the work bench. These little objects are not what you want going missing on the floor; our advice would be to be gentle and careful when removing.

Six pawls provide almost instant engagement.
Six pawls provide almost instant engagement.

Once inside the internals of the freehub we expected a cleaner mechanism considering the extra-tight seals, the grease was a little dirty and there was evidence of moisture (the bike had just been washed).

The internals were a touch dirtier than we were expecting, but they were subjected to some attrocious riding conditions and unforgiving hosings.
The internals were a touch dirtier than we were expecting, but they were subjected to some atrocious riding conditions and unforgiving hosings.

What about the overall maintenance?

From a maintenance perspective, we’ve ridden the C32’s hard for a couple of months now, and the wheels haven’t needed any time in the truing stand, with the spokes remaining the same tension as the day we picked them up- that’s a thumbs up in that department!

Despite a few scratches on the rim, you wouldn't know our C32's are a couple of months old.
Despite a few scratches on the rim, you wouldn’t know our C32’s are a couple of months old.

Should I be worried about breaking a set of C32’s?

During our testing of the C32’s we had two incidents, both where we went into a clearly audible rock versus carbon duel, and to our disbelief there was no damage to be seen, and the tyre also remained intact and inflated both times.

We were really impressed by the C32's strength.
Fancy slamming your rear wheel into rocks? The C32’s can handle it.

Had these incidents occurred on an alloy wheelset, we’re almost certain we would’ve dented or cracked the rim, or at the very least suffered a flat tyre.


If they break and it’s not my fault, what’s the warranty like?

If you do happen to get unlucky (and judging by our testing we think you would have to be very unlucky indeed!) and break a set of C32’s, Praxis offer a discounted rate to re-lace the hub to a new rim, which can be arranged through your local shop.

The wheels also come with a two-year manufacturer’s warranty against defects, so you’re covered there as well.


Any lowlights?

Not really. The C32’s were subjected to a cruel test period and they remained in prime condition throughout. There was no loss of spoke tension, the wheels are still straight as an arrow and the hubs are spinning as smooth as they did on day one, with the crisp engagement you would expect from an Industry Nine hub.

Industry Nine's Torch hubs were a pleasure to ride.
Industry Nine’s Torch hubs were a pleasure to ride.

We discussed in the First Bite that the practicality element of these wheels is a big selling point, with their external nipples and J-bend spokes, and despite not having to true the wheels, or replace a spoke, in the event that you do have to do some maintenance, these features will make your life (or your mechanic’s) much easier. 

Hooray for external spokes!
Hooray for external spoke nipples!

Who are the C32 Mountain wheels for?

The C32 Mountain wheels would be a good upgrade for a wide variety of riders, from casual trail riders through to enduro racers. Their excellent balance of weight, strength, stiffness and serviceability make them a great option if you’re looking to upgrade your wheels, and we’re confident after riding the C32’s back to back with several other wheelsets that you’ll notice the difference on the trail immediately.

The C32 Mountain wheels are a versatile wheelset.
The C32 Mountain wheels are a versatile wheelset.

Are they worth it?

How long is a piece of string? Sure, these wheels are an expensive upgrade, but by no means are they the most expensive out there, and the performance benefits are there compared to a standard aluminium wheelset.

Praxis Works C32-9504

We’ve enjoyed our time on the C32’s immensely, now to figure out a way to not give them back!

 

 

Flow’s First Bite: Praxis Works C32 Mountain Wheels

The C32 Mountain Wheelset is Praxis Works' first carbon wheelset.
The C32 Mountain Wheelset is Praxis Works’ first carbon wheelset.

Out of the box it’s a chunky looking wheelset, with a hookless bead, wide profile and some fancy hubs, but that’s pretty standard for carbon wheels these days, so let’s jump into the interesting stuff.


What makes this carbon wheelset different?

One thing that stands out to us about the Praxis Works C32 Mountain Wheelset from the outset is its nods to practicality. Where many carbon wheelsets go for internal nipples and funky proprietary spokes, Praxis Works have stuck with external nipples, 32 hole hubs and classic J-bend spokes.

It's a double thumbs up for us for external nipples.
External spoke nipples get a double thumbs up from us.

The wheels also come with rim strips, valves and some spare service spokes, so you’ll be ready to roll out for your first ride in no time!

All taped up.
All taped up out of the box.

What’s the C32 Mountain wheelset intended for?

The Praxis Works C32 Mountain wheelset is aimed at the trail/all-mountain/enduro segment, utilising carbon for its strength and stiffness properties rather than creating an ultra-lightweight rim.

Our build uses Industry Nine’s Torch hub with a 6-bolt rotor system, and comes in at 1761 grams for the set, which is solid considering the wheel’s 38mm external diameter and 32mm internal rim width, as well as the wheelset using 32 spokes front and rear.

Praxis Works C32-4888


What sizes does it come in?

The C32 wheels are available in both 27.5” and 29” options.

Praxis Works C32-4897
We’re testing a set of 29″ C32 wheels.

Does it come in different hub options?

It sure does! You can get them in 142x12mm and boost 148x12mm hub spacing options, and there are two builds levels offered.

The C32 wheelset built up with Industry Nine torch hubs that we’ve got on test retails for $2800, and the Praxis Works branded DT Swiss 350 hub option costs $2600.

Our build uses Industry Nine's Torch hubs.
Our build uses Industry Nine’s Torch hubs.

The only exception is the 142×12 Praxis hubs, which come with Praxis’ own straight pull spoke design on one side, which is said to increase the stiffness of the 142x12mm wheel to that of a boost wheel.


What about freehub options?

You can purchase the C32 Mountain wheelset with both Shimano or SRAM compatible freehubs.

We'll be popping SRAM's soaring Eagle onto our wheelset.
We’ll be popping SRAM’s soaring Eagle onto our wheelset.

What’s the warranty like?

This is a question we get all the time when it comes to carbon wheelsets, and rightly so considering their price. The Praxis Works C32 Mountain wheelset comes with a 2-year warranty against manufacturing defects, but this doesn’t include barging into rocks at warp speed. We’ve got lots of riding planned for this wheelset, so lookout for the full review where we’ll be able to shed light on the C32’s durability over time.

Praxis Works C32-4884


Where to now?

Time to get some miles in we think. We’re fitting these wheels to a Trek Slash 9.9 that we use for some pretty demanding riding, so we’ve put on some beefy rubber. Keep an eye out for our full review once we’ve logged some solid trail time!

Introducing The Next Generation Intense Tracer

Dean Lucas aboard the new Intense Tracer.
Dean Lucas aboard the new Intense Tracer.

We’re very excited to see a new Tracer from Intense, after having a ton of fun on their Spider trail bike in both 27.5″ and 29″ iterations last year. Hopefully we’ll be able to get our hands on one soon, the geometry and suspension tweaks sound like real winners on paper. Read on for the official word from Intense.


Three years in the making, the new Tracer has big shoes to fill. Its predecessor was one of the brand’s most acclaimed, best-selling models to date and won the “Interbike Bike of the Year Award” in 2014.

The new Tracer has big shoes to fill!
We’re expecting big things from the new Tracer!

For 2017, the new bike offers up a modern trail geometry, with longer reach and a full extra inch of wheelbase, for a more stable ride.

The JS Tuned suspension platform has been refined and offers an updated carbon top link, providing a stiffer package and more efficient pedaling platform.

The Tracer's suspension layout characteristics have received some tweaks.
The Tracer’s suspension layout characteristics have received some tweaks, including a new top link.

The Tracer is available in five builds, and is also offered as a frame-only.


ELITE BUILD // Carbon Front & Rear Triangle / JS-Enduro link pivot system / Carbon upper link / Sram X01 Eagle / Fabric Saddle / RoxkShox Reverb Stealth Seatpost / Sram Guide Brakes

The Intense Tracer Elite Build is the most premium build of Tracer being brought into Australia.
The Intense Tracer Elite Build is the most premium build being brought into Australia.

PRO BUILD // Carbon Front & Rear Triangle / JS-Enduro link pivot system / Carbon upper link / Sram X1, 11-speed / Fabric Saddle, RockShox Reverb Stealth Dropper Post / Sram Guide Brakes

The Intense Tracer Pro Build.
The Intense Tracer Pro Build.

EXPERT BUILD // Carbon Front & Rear Triangle / JS-Enduro link pivot system / Alloy Upper Link / Shimano XT, 11 Speed / WTB Saddle / RockShox Reverb Dropper Post / Shimano XT Brakes

The Intense Tracer Expert Build.
The Intense Tracer Expert Build.

FOUNDATION BUILD // Carbon Front & Rear Triangle / JS-Enduro link pivot system / Alloy upper link / RockSox Lyric RC 160mm fork / RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 rear shock / Shimano XT, 11-speed / WTB Saddle / Shimano XT Brakes

The Intense Tracer Foundation Build.
The Intense Tracer Foundation Build.

Get all the details, including full specifications, geometry, photo gallery and more at:

www.intensecycles.com/bikes/tracer

Meet The All New Norco Sight Carbon

The Sight C7.1 (pictured_ and 9.1 are the flagship models in the range in their respective wheelsizes.
The Sight C7.1 (pictured) and Sight 9.1 are the flagship models in the range.

Finally! There’s been news on the grapevine for some time about Norco having some big release news early in 2017, and here it is!

Norco Athlete Jill Kintner aboard the new Sight.
Norco Athlete Jill Kintner aboard the new Sight.

The new Norco Sight follows in the footsteps of the Optic trail bike by offering both 27.5″ and 29″ wheelsizes, with an all new carbon frame. Norco’s engineering team have a pretty interesting take on giving consumers 27.5″ and 29″ wheel options for their models without compromising the overall ride qualities of the bike, which we discussed with Norco engineer Owen Pemberton last year. We’ve also reviewed how Norco’s approach to bike fit at length in our Norco Optic review.


We’ve reviewed many versions of the Norco Sight previously. Take a read to see how the bike has evolved.

2016 Norco Sight C7.2 review

2015 Norco Sight C7.1 review

2014 Norco Sight Killer B


Norco’s decision to offer riders two different wheel sizes in the new Sight is an interesting one, especially given the undeniable swing back towards popularity currently being enjoyed by longer travel 29ers (bikes such as the Yeti SB5.5 and YT Jeffsy that we’re reviewing at the moment). We’ll be interested to see which option proves most popular as the bikes arrive.

As with the Optic, the 29er version of the Sight has slightly less travel – 130mm rear, 140mm front – versus the 27.5″ version, which runs 140/150mm.

The 29" Sight models feature 130mm of rear travel and 140mm up front.
The 29″ Sight models feature 130mm of rear travel and 140mm up front.

With the launch of the new Sight, Norco have also released a round table discussion between Senior Design Engineer Owen Pemberton, Norco Product Manager Jim Jamieson, and Engineering Manager P.J. Hunton outlining why they’ve made the changes that they have to the geometry and suspension, and also some interesting discussion around how the bikes are specced.

The 27.5" Sight features 140mm of rear wheel travel paired with 150mm up front.
The 27.5″ Sight features 140mm of rear wheel travel paired with 150mm up front.

We think it’s worth a watch, as Owen Pemberton really simplifies Norco’s philosophy with regards to the Sight’s handling, suspension and fit, and Jim Jamieson does an excellent job explaining why certain components were decided upon with regards to spec.

We think Norco have done a great job in speccing the Sight across the range.
We think Norco have done a great job in speccing the Sight across the range.

We’re hoping to have a Sight C9.2 in our hands next week, when we’ll bring you more thoughts once we’ve had time to scratch and sniff it. Now let’s jump back into the official word from Norco.


Building on the best qualities of the previous generation Sight, our engineers applied their evolved geometry philosophy to redesign the frame from the ground up, and to introduce a 29er with the same fit and nearly identical handling characteristics as the Killer B. The result is a versatile trail killer with longer, lower, and slacker geometry to suit modern All-Mountain riding styles, and a new A.R.T. Suspension system for improved suspension performance.

To achieve the renowned fit and handling of the Killer B in a 29er platform, the 29er is designed around the same rear center lengths, with a longer front centre, steeper head tube angle, shorter stem, and 10mm less travel front and rear to offset the characteristics of the larger wheels. Although the stack and reach measurements of a Sight 650b and 29er will differ, when stem length is incorporated (a measurement Norco engineers call Reach Plus and Stack Plus), the fit between the two platforms is identical. 

The Sight Carbon 29er is available in the widest possible size range without compromising the geometry, fit, and handling. Whether you prefer the quick acceleration and playfulness of 650b wheels or the improved rollover and momentum of a 29er – the Sight Carbon offers riders choice without compromise.

Norco Sight Launch JK--4

Balanced climbing and descending capability combined with grin-inducing playfulness and nimble handling make the Sight the ideal accomplice on any aggressive All-Mountain ride. The dialed spec includes metric rear shocks, 1x drivetrains, integrated frame protection, wide tubeless-ready rims, stealth dropper posts, and other thoughtful details that make the Sight Carbon feel like a custom build, straight out of the box.

Norco Sight Launch JK--6

For more details, visit norco.com/sight


We’re very excited to be taking delivery of a Sight C9.2 model in the very near future, as we think the new Sight suits the type of riding we do alot of here at Flow. Keep your eyes peeled for a First Bite soon!

We're excited to get our hands on a Sight C9.2 for testing!
We’re excited to get our hands on a Sight C9.2 for testing!

Advance Traders will be bringing all three models in the Sight range into Australia in both 27.5″ and 29″ sizes, and prices range between $4999 and $8199.

Flow’s First Bite: Zelvy Funn PDL Wheelset

We’ve got a set of Zelvy’s Funn PDL wheels for testing, to see if they’re worth stretching the budget for.

The carbon weave on these wheels is gorgeous.
The carbon weave on these wheels is gorgeous.

Who is Zelvy?

Based out of Toowoomba, Zelvy is an Australian brand with a growing reputation for carbon wheelsets, particularly in the all-mountain/enduro category.


What wheels are we testing?

We’ll be fitting the Funn PDL wheelset to our Canyon Strive long-term test bike, which has previously with SRAM and WheelWorks Flite wheels for testing.

Zelvy has sent a wheelset that incorporates two different rims. The front rim’s internal width measures 36mm and rear is slightly thinner internally at 30mm wide. Zelvy told us that the different internal rim widths allow for better tyre profiles (a wider, more aggressive tyre at the front paired with something slightly thinner and faster rolling on the rear).

zelvy-wheels-4483
The rim profile is hookless, and tubeless setup was a breeze.

What do you get for your money?

The wheelset we’re testing features Zelvy’s PDL rim, which is their most commonly used rim. The rims are laced onto Funn Fantom hubs.

We're hoping to have lots of fun with these hubs.
We’re hoping to have lots of fun with these hubs.

Funn Fantom Hubs?

We don’t see many Funn products here at Flow, but the Fantom hubs look to be great value for money. They incorporate a 6-pawl design that engages every 3.5 degrees, which feels very snappy in the work stand. High quality sealed bearings should make for many smooth miles.

When purchasing your Zelvy wheels, you can choose either a regular freehub or a Sram XO driver at no added cost.
When purchasing your Zelvy wheels, you can choose either a regular freehub or a SRAM XD driver at no added cost.

What sort of tyres suit these wheels?

Due to the wide internal rim widths of these wheels, we’re running the new ‘wide trail’ tyres from Maxxis, which are specifically designed for wider internal rim widths. The 2.4 Maxxis Minion DHF up front has an extremely beefy profile, whilst the Minion DHR II on the rear is also chunky, but the slightly thinner internal rim width noticeably reduces the tyre profile.


What about the warranty?

This is probably the number one question we hear about carbon wheelsets, and Zelvy gets the tick of approval by offering a five-year warranty on all their wheelsets. Zelvy sell rims separately, which also have a warranty of five years providing the wheel was assembled professionally.


What happens if I crash?

Accidents suck even more than usual when you’ve got a nice set of wheels strapped to your bike. For this reason, Zelvy offers a lifetime fifty percent discount off the retail price for either a complete wheelset or damaged rim due to a crash. 

We'd like to see more brands adopt crash replacement schemes like Zelvy.
We’d like to see more brands adopt crash replacement schemes like Zelvy.

Will these wheels match my bike?

Zelvy offer fifteen (yes you read that correctly) custom sticker sets on every wheel purchase. White and silver are the standard colours, but for twenty dollars extra you can purchase any of the other thirteen options, which should cater for most riders. We couldn’t believe how well our wheelset matched our Canyon Strive, but unfortunately, the stickers are showing signs of a little peeling on the sharp edges and corners of the logo. When we contacted Zelvy about this issue, however, we were told that they had already identified the problem and new wheels would ship with stickers that no longer have this issue.

Now THAT is colour coordination!
Now THAT is colour coordination!

We enjoy testing new wheels; they have such a significant role to play in how a bike rides, and are an area always worth upgrading, especially with wider rims becoming more available.

So we will be giving these wheels a thrashing to see if they’re good enough for your steed, so stay tuned!

For purchasing options, pricing and more click here to the Zelvy online store.

Tested: Avanti Torrent CS 7.2

New Zealand is home to some of the best trails in the world, don’t we all know that, but how many know it is also home to a well accomplished bike brand we’ve grown fond of over the years, Avanti. Their latest range of carbon suspension bikes have impressed us, the Ridgeline we reviewed last year was excellent so we eagerly hit the trails with its bigger 150mm travel brother, the Torrent.

We tested the Torrent’s slimmer brother, the Avanti Ridgeline 2 with a carbon framed 100mm travel 29er recently and loved it. (review here)

Catering for the growing segment of the market, the Torrent with 150mm of travel, carbon frame, stiff FOX forks and a wide range drivetrain, ticks lots of boxes. How’d it go on the trails?

Avanti Torrent 18

[divider]Build[/divider]

Avanti have built their dual suspension bikes around the classic four-bar linkage system since the late 90s, and they stick to it for 2015. The proven design may not be specifically unique to Avanti but they do a great job of incorporating what makes the four-bar system so popular into a solid and reliable package. Laterally the Avanti feels very sturdy when given the good old rear end flex test, and whilst we had a few bolts shake loose during our first ride the hardware and massive one-piece rocker arm gave us confidence that it will last the distance.

Avanti Torrent 2
A squarely shaped carbon front end meets an aluminium rear, tied together with a massive one-piece rocker arm.

A carbon front end is mated with an aluminium rear end, giving the bike the best of both worlds. The carbon gives the Torrent a very direct, sharply snappy handling ride frame, whilst aluminium out back is impact resistant and a less expensive to manufacture. At 13.4kg though it’s not a featherweight.

Avanti Torrent 29

With a matte black finish and vivid green highlights, you catch a glimpse of the shimmering carbon glinting in the sunlight. It’s a beautifully finished frame, and while it may not have all the colour matching components like some of the big brands, it makes up for it with nicely subtle branding and lack of silly in your face acronyms plastered over the place.

Avanti Torrent 11

There was a noticeable lack of a chainstay protector, whilst the e*thirteen chainguide roller and Shimano Shadow+ derailleur keep the chain from slapping around too much, we’d still appreciate one for cleanliness sake.

Cable routing is internal for the front and rear derailleurs, while the seatpost and rear brake lines run down the underside of the frame. The cables up an the handlebars are in desperate need of a little grooming and organisation to neaten things up a little, we’d re-route the rear brake around the other side of the head tube, too, end definitely trim a few inches off all the cables and brake lines.

Avanti Torrent 14

Our medium size frame had provisions for one bottle, but no regular sized bottles would fit in the tight space without rubbing the frame, so it was a Camelbak only bike for us.

The geometry chart displays pretty neutral and modern numbers for a 150mm travel bike; a 66.5 degree head angle, 438mm chain stay length, and a 595mm top tube (medium size).

Avanti Torrent 31
Note the carbon material shining in the sunlight, nice nice!

[divider]Spec[/divider]

The Torrent is a real mixed bag of great components from all sorts of brands, while they do have their in-house component line, Zero, they don’t extend to much high end kit, so it’s only Zero grips that make it on to this high end model. From Shimano, Easton, DT Swiss, FOX, Kenda, Prologo and X-Fusion the Torrent almost has a custom build feel to it, the designers behind the bike must know what components would suit the frame’s nature, rather than shopping from just one catalogue.

Avanti Torrent 9

The new DT Swiss Spline X1700 wheels with fancy straight pull spokes felt light and fast to ride, although we did dent and put a wobble in the rear wheel, luckily they use conventional spoke nipples for easy maintenance. Perhaps keep in mind they aren’t touted as an enduro ready wheelset, so if you’re keen to race it hard, take a spoke key along too. Tubeless ready though, tick!

The Star Ratchet system in the freehub is a real winner, simple to maintain and provides a quick and solid engagement when you put the power down into the pedals. Our first ride on the Kenda Honey Badger tyres was not exactly on their ideal terrain to be fair, so they lacked bite in loose surfaces but on hardpack or slick rock surfaces they really held on nicely. Their low-profile and sparsely set tread combined with a big volume would be ideal for drier and more consistently hard packed terrain. We did slice a hole in the rear tyre during the violent rim denting incident, and the Stan’s sealant we used wasn’t enough to seal the hole, so in went one of those old school inner tubes for the remainder of the day.

Avanti Torrent 23 Avanti Torrent 8

The Shimano XT drivetrain paired with a double chainring and chainguide setup will please those who haven’t fallen victim of the single ring fashion and actually appreciate a wide range of gears. Single ring setups are definitely increasingly popular, but with a Shimano setup it will take some aftermarket conversion parts to turn this bike into a single ring setup with a gear range that isn’t too hard. The added clutter that comes with a double ring if offset by the excellent range of gears on hand, we loved dropping down to the small chainring and cleaning the steepest trails without grinding our teeth of blowing our knees apart. Double rings still have a place!

Avanti Torrent 32

Our test bike needed a bit of setup tweaking to remove the chain from dragging on the inner plate of the guide, but the bottom roller did a great job of silencing and securing the chain when trails got super rough. It’s a double chainring setup without the noise or any unwelcome surprise of a dropped chain.

While we welcome the sight of any adjustable seatpost on pretty much any dual suspension mountain bike these days, the X-Fusion HILO STRATE post with 125 of infinitely adjustable travel lacked the speedy and slick action that we’ve become used to with a the popular offerings; RockShox Reverb, Specialized Command Post or KS LEV. The cable tension was a little finicky to, finding the exact tension in the cable was vital to stop either the remote lever rattling noisily, or alternatively the seatpost dropping in height as you sat on it. We eventually got used to its lazy action, learning to allow a little extra time for it to drop or return. But without an adjustable post the Torrent wouldn’t have descended as well.

We set up the X-Fusion post’s remote lever inboard from the brake levers, and it was always within reach with the left thumb, it is quite an ergonomic lever that can also be mounted underside the bar in place of a left hand shifter if a single chainring conversion happened.

Avanti Torrent 26 Avanti Torrent 6

We love Shimano SLX brakes, they feel like the higher level XT brakes just without the pad contact adjustment which we rarely touch anyhow. The power and control was what we’d come to expect from these reliable and mighty stoppers. Our set required a top up of the mineral oil levels, but that’s a simple job that can be done at home.

Avanti Torrent 15 Avanti Torrent 7

It’s a full FOX affair with the suspension, and it’s great to see the beefy legged Float CTD 34 leading the charge, and the steering rigidity that you gain over a 32mm FOX fork is stellar. Our fork felt a bit lumpy when in climb mode, but felt nice and supple on the whole.

Avanti Torrent 17

For $5499 the spec list is fair, not particularly amazing value but you can see the worth in the hand-picked nature of the spec.

[divider]Ride[/divider]

The Torrent’s heart is set on singletrack, it’s a bloody lot of fun to let fly in the tight and twisties. The super-short 50mm stem makes for lightning fast handling when weaving through turns and making quick direction changes, and takes very little time to get used to. Punching down rough lines with the big FOX 34 fork up front was plain sailing, and once we knew how hard we could push the front wheel into the rough stuff, we rode the Torrent harder and harder (until we flatted…) and loved it.

Avanti Torrent 5

The four bar suspension offered more of a tight and efficient ride than a super plush one, the top of the stroke felt firm and allowed us to really spin on the pedals hard without the suspension sucking away our energy. The CTD (Climb, Trail, Descend) rear shock might lack some of the suppleness of the high end versions, but the three adjustments were perfectly effective and we found the middle Trail mode to suit the Torrent’s suspension system until the roughest descents where we’d flick it over to descend.

Avanti Torrent 13

The short 50mm stem on our medium bike would normally be found on bigger travel and downhill bikes, while it really lifted its descending and fast handling it did made climbing a bit of a chore at times. The front end was challenging to keep trained in a straight line when we were searching for traction up steep gradients. The bar and stem is from Easton’s new over-oversize standard with a unique 35mm bar clamp diameter in place of a 31.8mm that is found on the vast majority of bikes these days. Sure the oversize cockpit is stiff and solid to steer with, but switching stems for a different sizes will require hunting down an Easton one, or perhaps other brands will jump on board and make 35mm cockpits too?

We would have been keen to try a longer stem, and perhaps pushing the seat forward at the same time too, just to put the rider in a more aggressive position for climbing and aggressive pedalling.

Avanti Torrent 30

On flatter terrain the Torrent wasn’t the type of bike that we found ourselves jumping up out of the saddle and sprinting all over the place on, perhaps it was the short reach, low gear range and slack seat angle that made us spend a lot of time spinning around pushed back into the saddle. But when trails turned on their heads, we were popping off drops and launching blindly into rocky chutes with real confidence.

With such a wide and useable gear range, the Torrent made light work of long rides. Steep pinches at the end of the day became achievable without hopping off and pushing, nothing good about pushing.

[divider]What are your alternatives?[/divider]

There are more options than ever in the long travel trail bike or all-mountain category (or whatever it is called) these days, you can thank the increased popularity of the enduro racing scene for that.

At 150mm travel, the Scott Genius blurs the lines of an all day trail bike with adjustable travel and category leading lightweight (review here). Trek’s Remedy comes in two wheels sizes and its supple and balanced suspension is a real highlight (review here). Cannondale’s Trigger 275 Carbon is worth a look if you’re after an all day adventure bike with a unique take on suspension (review here). A Flow favourite, the Lapierre Zesty AM uses electronically adjusted suspension, and that is so cool! (review here). For killer geometry and Spanish flair, the BH Lynx is a great and close option to the Torrent (review here). For some classic Colorado craft, the Yeti 575 remains in the catalogue for 2015 for good reason, check it out (review here). Giant’s Trance SX Advanced was a real winner with us, and would make for a great race bike for the enduro nut, (review here). Or a GT will please the heavy handed rider with its efficient feel and unique suspension linkage system (review here).

[divider]Verdict[/divider]

Our time aboard the Torrent was certainly a good one. We enjoyed the chance to ride a bike from a local (well, close enough) brand which presents itself without all the hype and mumbo jumbo of some of the bigger brands. The finish and appearance is sweet, the components has been well-picked to suit the bike’s vibe and the suspension performed really well.

If you ride on looser terrain, we’d recommend seeking out some tyres with more bite, and perhaps a single ring conversion to clean things up if you have the legs to push a bit harder. Perhaps seek out a stem length option too.

We’d happily take a local enduro race on with the Torrent, or pack a bag and ride all day. It’s been great, cheers, Avanti.

 

 

Tested: Intense Carbine 29

Everything about the Intense Carbine 29 is big. Large tyres wrap big diameter 29″ wheels, a tall 160mm travel fork up front leads the way for a generous 140mm of travel out the back. Who would need such a big bike, and what type of trails will such a unique monster feel at home on? We found out.

Intense Carbine 29 27

The Carbine has been around in various incarnations over the last few years, it’s well-known as quite an adaptable bike with the 27.5″ Carbine and older 26″ Carbine using special dropouts that would let you adapt between two wheel sizes, we tested one in 2013. For 2015 the Carbine 29 receives a sleek new carbon rear end dedicated to the use of 29″ wheels.

With Intense now offering complete bikes rather than just frames, the components are carefully selected to play to the strength of the bike’s unique intended use.

Also you can read our review on the 130mm travel 2016 Intense Spider 29c here: Intense Spider 29c review.

[divider]Build[/divider]

The Carbine is all about carbon and the VPP suspension linkage, carbon is the lustrous material that gives the frame its light weight and responsive stiff frame, and the Virtual Pivot Point delivers Intense’s trademark pedal efficiency. VPP suspension is found on both Santa Cruz and Intense, and also many other ‘non-patent infringing versions’ of the design can also found on a Giant, Pivot, BMC, Ibis and many more. In short the rear suspension gets its efficiency from the way that the rear end of the bike moves away from the bike’s front end when the rear suspension compresses, adding tension to the chain. So when you’re pedalling and applying your own tension to the chain, the suspension has a firmer feel and allows your pedalling effort to not get lost in unwanted compression of the suspension.

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The upper linkage is a delicately CNCd piece of aluminium, and note the second hole to mount the shock, that drops it from 140 to 125mm of rear travel.
Intense Carbine 29 6
Two grease ports will allow quick and frequent maintenance to the lower linkage, handy as it’s always in the worst place imaginable, catching any mud and water you’re riding over.

Two CNCd aluminium linkages make up the VPP, and you’ll find nifty grease ports on the lower linkage to make maintenance a snack, with the bearings so close to the dirt and in direct firing line of any debris shooting off the front tyre, it’s well worth keeping the moving parts full of fresh and clean grease.

Rear travel is adjustable between 125 and 140mm by swapping the mounting of the lower shock mount to the other hole. It’s a big jump in travel, and we’d only imagine that running the bike in 125mm with the fork still at 160 would make for an awkward and unbalanced ride with such a difference in travel amount, so we left it at 140mm. Perhaps with a 140mm fork setting you’d effectively have two bikes in one.

Intense have run most of the cables internally through the frame, it’s only the seatpost that runs outside the frame. Love it or hate it, the use of internal cables sure does make for a tidy and neat frame, but when it comes to maintenance directing the cables in one end and out the other can more painful than picking a lock with a piece of cooked spaghetti. We would have voted for externalyl routed cables done right.

But most importantly, how GOOD does this frame look? Intense have taken a bit of a risk with this fairly unconventional frame paint job, and we bloody love it. The red, orange, black and white colours combine to make a bike look like nothing we’ve seen before. All the decals and graphics are also so nice to look at, neatly finished and cleverly placed to highlight the creative shapes of the lovely carbon frame.

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Intense Carbine 29 14

[divider]Spec[/divider]

In recent times Intense made a move to offer their delicious frames to consumers as complete bikes, whereas for many years you were predominantly faced with a daunting and costly process of building one up from a bare frame. Each Intense is available in a few different build kits, and we tested the Carbine $7799 Expert model. The $7999 Pro build and a top shelf $11999 Factory build are also available here in Oz. Frame only price is $4199 with a Cane Creek Inline rear shock, so no, these bikes aren’t cheap. A real mixture of parts made their way onto this Carbine 29; with Renthal bars, a Thompson stem, a KS seatpost, Stans wheels and a Shimano drivetrain and brakes. We appreciate the way smaller boutique brands like Intense can pick on-trend parts that we rarely see come stock on bikes, it adds to the fact that you’re buying something different and a little bit exotic.

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From moto to mtb, Renthal bars are not a common sight on a stock bike. We love the feel and shape, but some may find the bike’s front end tall, and seek a flatter handlebar.
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A nice bit of jewellery from Thomson to hold your handlebars in place. Short in length, low on rise, just perfect.
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A KS LEV seatpost is actuated by this tiny little lever.
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Biting trails harder than a shark with a surfer in its mouth, the Maxxis High Roller II is a mighty tyre in any terrain.

Front to back all the spec worked a treat during our test duration. The wheels with meaty Maxxis High Roller II tyres felt light enough to get rolling – especially considering their size – and can easily be set up tubeless with a couple valves and a good squirt of sealant. The cockpit suited the bike nicely, but we’d love to try the bike with a flatter handlebar to help counteract the tall feeling front end a 160mm travel fork gives you.

The drivetrain is a classic Shimano 2×10 setup, with two small chainrings up the front. This may not please those riders who are falling over themselves to simplify their bikes with a single-ring drivetrain conversion or SRAM setup, but the gear range that you have on offer here is fantastic. Nothing beats that feeling of dropping down to the small ring and spinning lightly on the cranks to get you back up to the top of the trails. A burly 29er like this one takes a lot more to get moving, so a low and wide range of gears is nothing but a blessing in this instance.

Brakes from Shimano are a real Flow favourite, and we aren’t the only ones who call the Shimano XT brakes the best out there, we’d just like to have seen the Shimano i-Spec system used to combine the brake lever and shifter into one handlebar clamp in the name of neatness.

Do we need to comment on the RockShox Pike? What more can be said about this magically smooth, supportive and controlled fork that we haven’t already? Although, to match the adjustable rear end travel amount the Carbine could have benefited from the Dual Position Pike (travel adjustable on the fly) version. This would have widened the bike’s abilities, especially as a more general trail bike with less travel. The RockShox Monarch Plus on the other hand is a fairly simple version with only air pressure and rebound speed adjustments, it is factory set with a fairly firm compression tune. The plushness is there, but at times we wished for a more supple ride when the speeds turned up, and the three position version of the Monarch Plus would have been sweet.

Intense Carbine 29 8
Leading the charge is a 160mm travel RockShox Pike, superb.
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With only a rebound dial, the RockShox Monarch Plus is a basic version. We wished we could increase the sensitivity at times, but we did like the supportive tune when pedalling.

[divider]Ride[/divider]

We knew the Carbine 29 was going to ride like a monster truck, and we weren’t at all surprised when we took it to the trails when started running over stuff. It’s a real point and shoot type of bike, it’s all about finding hard terrain and mowing it down with reckless abandon. Line choices became less important, ledges on the trail felt smaller and steep roll-downs were significantly less intimidating. But is that what you really want from a bike? Did it just make things too easy?

There is always going to be a tradeoff of a bike with this much confidence in the rough, but in this case, the Carbine as been able to minimise two particular drawbacks that would normally come with such a burly ride; weight and efficiency. The high end parts build and lightweight carbon frame help keep the weight down, and the firm rear shock tune combined with the VPP makes sure the 140mm of travel doesn’t bog you down when you need to get moving.

Intense Carbine 29 31
A real rock eater.
Intense Carbine 29 32
Steep rollers don’t feel as daunting on a bike like this.

But take a look at some of the numbers in the geometry chart. The chainstays are 451mm in length, that makes for a lot of bike trailing behind the bottom bracket. What comes with a long rear end is a bike that is less flickable in tighter terrain, and also a chore to lift the front end on when climbing up steps and ledges. Add to the fact that as the rear suspension compresses the rear end moves away from the bottom bracket to a degree, lengthening the bike even further. It takes some getting used to, but even after a few good rides we found it a hard task to duck and weave through tight singletrack. We even battled to pop a wheelie, or manual the Carbine, it’s really quite long.

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Geometry for a size medium that we tested.

Of course on the positive flip side of all this is there advantage to having a long rear end? Yes, of course. You just need to let the brakes off and seek out more open terrain to ride. We took the Carbine to a rough old fire road littered with ruts and loose rock, and it was time for it to shine, in its element the Carbine was as stable and confident as your average downhill bike. With a big 29″ wheel, a short and wide cockpit and the venerable RockShox Pike leading the way, you felt unstoppable.

The 67 degree head angle is on the slack side of things, and with such a tall fork the whole front end felt tall and a little sluggish at slower speeds, so climbing out of the saddle the bars feel quite high. We’d love to try the Carbine 29 with a travel adjustable fork to drop the front end down with the flick of a switch when climbing, and even a flatter handlebar if you’re not over 6 foot in height could be a good option.

Laterally the Carbine isn’t the stiffest of frames we’ve ridden lately, the rear end doesn’t quite match the front end stiffness, and when pushed hard the rear wheel can chatter sideways. And it didn’t get the best marks in the classic carpark rear wheel flex test, the tradeoff for low frame weight.

The VPP suspension does a great job of keeping your hard pedal power from getting lost in translation, the pedal efficiency is right on the money. In the small chainring you’ll feel the rear chain tugging on the pedals as the rear shock compresses, it’s a bit lumpy but something that you eventually forget about after a few rides.

Intense Carbine 29 30
For tall or heavy riders who aren’t afraid of steep and rocky terrain, the Carbine is a bit of a weapon.
Intense Carbine 29 33
It’s a unique ride, at home on rough trails in the hands of a strong pilot.

[divider]Verdict[/divider]

The Carbine 29 is a very specific bike that is best suited for a specific type of trail. If you’re a rider who cares less for choosing the smoothest lines, and don’t mind lugging a bigger bike through the slower trails in search of the toughest technical trails around, the Carbine 29 is your guy. But if you’re a lighter rider and under 175cm the height and length of the bike might be a bit much to handle unless you’re lucky enough to have massive mountains within range.

It’d even make for a fast enduro race bike if you don’t mind a 29″ wheel beneath you.

Trail Testing a Rocket: The GT Helion Carbon Pro

Gone are the days where you needed loads of suspension travel to let you go bloody fast off road. A bike with top quality short-travel suspension, dialled geometry in a stiff and responsive frame is so incredibly capable of a fast ride. The GT Helion is one bike that knows its place: it’s not a do-it-all, one-bike-wonder kinda thing, this is a cross country weapon.

[divider]Construction[/divider]

From afar, the Helion looks so simple with its straight carbon tubes creating a clean and angular looking frame, plus the way the top tube and chainstay both follow a parallel path gives the Helion an uncluttered and traditional appearance. But tucked away underneath out of sight is effective technology that’s far from traditional, more on that soon.

The Helion Carbon Pro is of course a carbon frame; all tubing is made from the fantastically stiff, responsive and lightweight wonder material. The wheels are 650B, which is not such a common sight in such a short travel machine – we would usually expect to see the bigger 29” wheels with shorter-travel bikes of around 100-120mm of travel.

GT Helion 2
Set the trails on fire, on this rocket ship.

A new generation RockShox Maxle (found and loved on the Pike fork) fastens the rear wheel in tight, and all the cables are externally routed down the underside of the frame. External cable routing may not be the flavour of the times, with many brands boasting internal routing as a feature, but gear cable and brake line work is far easier like this. GT prove that routing externally can be as neat as internally routed frames, and the way the rear derailleur cable goes internal just towards the rear is a nice way of keeping the cable away from the slapping chain.

GT handle the task of directing the cables with real class, especially with the tricky task of navigating a clean path around the suspension linkage.

GT Helion 30
That silver linkage delivers on what many bikes fail to do: offering great suspension, but with minimal drivetrain feedback.

 

GT use a suspension design called AOS, Angle Optimised Suspension. The whole idea behind this system is to have the rear suspension pivot around a very high main pivot – note how far above the bottom bracket the main pivot is. This all adds up to a rearward axle path that helps the rear wheel can move up and over impacts, helping maintain your momentum. Confused? Watch this video from GT.

But that’s not the end of it, having such a high pivot means that the chain length will grow dramatically as the suspension compresses, which creates hectic pedal feedback. The solution was to de-couple the cranks from the frame, isolating any tension added to the chain from the rear wheel moving away from the frame. The bottom bracket is housed in an independent section of frame, which retains the optimal location as everything compresses and rebounds.

GT Helion 10
From the drive side, the Helion hides all its trickery.

This system is not new, we’ve just seen it in many variations over the years, and even the old GT i-Drive from the 90s was achieving similar results. GT also uses the AOS system across their entire dual suspension range, from this short travel Helion up to the massive GT Fury which Gee Atherton rode to victory in the Cairns World Cup Downhill this year.

This all might sound like a lot of complication, but in fact there is no more moving parts than your typical Giant, Specialized or Santa Cruz. All the bearings are large, and held together with solid hardware and not once during our testing were any concerns of increased maintenance raised.

The rear shock is protected from any mud or debris from the rear tyre by a nifty guard, so that solves any of those issues nicely.

[divider]Ride[/divider]

Geometry wise, the Helion errs on the sharp and racey side of things. Not only does the short travel lend itself to cross country, the frame’s geometry, too, is clear about its intentions. Our medium frame has a long 606mm top tube, a sharp 69.5-degree head angle, and behind you are long 438mm chain stays. These numbers combine to give the Helion a very stong personality, and a distinct place in the lineup of offerings from GT.

During our testing time aboard the Helion, we were also ripping around on a Trek Fuel EX 9.8 and a Specialized S-Works Enduro 650B, so when it came to throwing a leg over the Helion it sure felt racey! Setting up the suspension on the Helion is a little different to most bikes as the rear shock is hidden away out of view, making sag measuring the traditional way with the rubber o-ring a bit tricky. GT incorporate a sag indicator into the frame. Some bikes do sag meters better than others, and we found this one a bit hard to gauge precisely where we were at. We went out a couple times with not enough sag, eventually dropping the shock pressure to find that sweet spot, which just required a bit of trial and error.

Immediately we noticed the bike’s length: it’s a big one! The long top tube allows you to really get out of the saddle and put the hammer down with enough room to keep your hands away from your knees. And not having such a short rear end is a blessing on the climbs, you don’t need to put in any effort to keep the front wheel from lifting up uncontrollably like you do on your typical all-mountain bike.

The Helion really does fly up the climbs, it’s bloody fantastic at gaining traction and transferring your hard efforts into lightning fast motion.

When the trails get tight and twisty, the length is a bit of a handful, but we got used to it quickly, drawing wider lines and keeping a consistent pace rather then throwing ourselves into turns like we have been doing on the Enduro or Fuel EX. But as soon as the trails open up, you’ll be hard pressed finding a bike that takes off and holds its speed as much as this one.

If you’re into the new-school enduro bikes, or even take downhill racing seriously this style of bike would be the ultimate training tool to sharpen your handling skills and appreciate the feel of a razor sharp bike again.

GT Helion 4

It’s an engaging ride, the stout 110mm of travel is firm and supported, so you’re really able to work the terrain to your advantage, pulling on the handlebars out of turns and pumping it into undulations in the terrain. Add the light and fast wheels into the mix, and we found ourselves ripping through our local singletrack with less pedal stokes than we’d usually need to keep the bike moving.

Our medium frame came with a 80mm stem, and 740mm wide bars, and we appreciated the way that the wide-but-long cockpit helps to counteract the bike’s razor sharp head angle. We wouldn’t suggest going any shorter in stem length on the Helion, it may make the handling a touch too quick and quite a handful.

Where this bike doesn’t exactly shine is no surprise the area that you’d expect such a fast and efficient climber, steep and challenging descents.

It requires a composed pilot to make the most of the stiff and sturdy frame when the trails start turning up the pace and pointing down. Maybe the lack of dropper post that we are so used to using contributed to that nervous attitude on steeper trails, but it didn’t like to be jumped or lofted off drops. But in fairness to the Helion, this is simply just the trade off you pay for with a bike that is so strong in other areas.

GT Helion 11
The front end of the frame is long, and also incredibly precise when steered through twisty trails.

With remote lockouts on both fork and shock, you have immediate control of compression adjustment, and on this type of bike, the remote lock outs are a good fit. The FOX lever might be a little clunky in appearance, and adds cables into the mix, but at least the GT is without a front derailleur, so that’s a bonus. A little time and a pair of cable cutters would be worth it, trimming the cable a bit shorter would reduce the spaghetti mess. Activating the remote lever with one click puts both the fork and shock in ‘trail mode’, great for climbing trails, or when the terrain is buffed. One more click and both end lock out firmly for tarmac jaunts. If it wasn’t for the remote lever, a traditional lever on the shock would be a stretch to reach do to when riding, as it’s a long way down.

GT have nailed it, the balance between suppleness, comfort, control and traction is spot on.

Even without the use of the remote lever, the rear suspension remains firm and supportive under pedalling, resisting bob or unwanted compressions leading to energy loss. This is about as good as it gets, GT have nailed it, the balance between suppleness, comfort, control and traction is spot on. The FOX CTD shock is tuned to perfection, the 110mm travel is delivered in a plush yet efficient manner.

The whole AOS thing works a treat, the efficiency is really noticeable in reducing those mushy moments you don’t want from a dual suspension bike. We did notice the bottom bracket back and forth in relation to the main frame when the suspension was cycling through its motion, especially when seated, but only ever so slightly and didn’t bother us one bit.

[divider]Spec[/divider]

GT do it differently when it comes to speccing parts and they’re not afraid to mix it up – just take a look at the drivetrain for example. A Shimano XT 10 speed drivetrain is mixed with a RaceFace crankset with their take on the narrow/wide chainring, first pioneered and proven in SRAM’s single ring drivetrains.

To keep the gear range low enough, an e*Thirteen sprocket is retro fitted to the cassette by removing the 17 tooth sprocket and adding the large black 42 tooth cog.

To keep the gear range low enough, an e*Thirteen sprocket is retro fitted to the cassette – the  17 tooth sprocket has been ditched at the large black 42 tooth cog fitted. The range of gears is actually pretty good – whereas a single ring conversion with 10 speed Shimano loses a bit too much on one end of the range, the Helion’s e*Thirteen conversion works a treat. Shifting into the low gear is fine, perhaps not as seamless as with regular Shimano cassette, but it’s worth it for the extra climbing gear. A chain guide is fitted for extra security, though perhaps not really necessary, and we’d happily ride the bike without it.

GT Helion 23
Note the big black sprocket? That’s the e*Thirteen 42 tooth that gives the Shimano 10 speed drivetrain a lower range of gears. Nifty!

FOX take care of the bouncy bits in excellent fashion and we especially love the custom coloured decals on the forks. The fork felt smooth and supple, once again re-affirming that FOX are back on their game for 2015. All the cockpit parts are great, even if the Tundra saddle is a bit firm. Did we miss an adjustable seatpost? Yes, even on this type of bike an adjustable post would widen its abilities, the weight penalty is always worth it in our opinion!

The wheels were fine, and the refreshingly quiet DT rear hub was a nice change after riding some seriously noisy Specialized and Bontrager wheels. The tyres however were not tubeless ready, and are best suited to softer soils, so buyers beware. A tackier set of rubber sealed up with a tubeless valve would have taken the bike to the next level of awesomeness.

A highlight of the parts were the Shimano XT brakes, with 180mm rotors at both ends, they simply can’t do any wrong.

[divider]Verdict[/divider]

The GT really grew on us! We really appreciate the way that its geometry and efficiency combines all the things we like about hardtails, but with what we love about a dually! The long and roomy frame puts you in a seriously powerful position to sprint through singletrack and fly up climbs, and the unique gear components and sharp appearance give the Helion that feeling of riding something special, and different.

A short travel dually of this quality in the hands of a skilled rider can really show up any slack trail bike or enduro weapon on calmer trails, or if you’re seeking a fast bike for marathon events or taking on a cross country race, you’ll be well served with this one.

A True Classic In Its 3rd Generation, The Ibis Mojo HD3

The new Mojo HD (HD3 for short) is the third act in the Mojo HD/Mojo HDR trailbike trilogy. Everything is new from the ground-up, notably featuring the latest and greatest refinement of the famed dw-link suspension.

Ibis Australia website.

Frame RRP: $3999 AUD

Geometry is fully modern: longer, lower and slacker, with 6” of plush rear wheel travel. We’ve built in versatile internal routing and updated the frame design, allowing us to put a water bottle on top of the downtube. We also achieve a drop in weight and pedaling performance on par with the Ripley, so the bike is very fast going up, and scary fast going down.

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FEATURES OF THE MOJO HD

  • 650b (27.5″) wheels
  • The most advanced version of the dw-link suspension on the planet
  • 6” of rear wheel travel
  • Weight for the frame and shock, size large, matte finish: 5.9 lbs
  • 67 degree head angle with a 150mm fork (66.6º with 160 fork)
  • Shock specs: Fox Float CTD Adjust Factory Series with Kashima Coat, 7.875″ x 2.25″, 175lb boost, med velocity, med rebound, LV can, .92in3 volume spacer,
  • Optional shock: Cane Creek DBinline
  • ISCG 05 compatible with removable adapter
  • Threaded bottom bracket
  • Super versatile internal cable routing including internal dropper routing.
  • Optional polycarbonate down tube cable guard
  • Chain stay length: 16.9″
  • 12 x 142mm Maxle rear axle
  • 160mm post mount left dropout, carbon fiber
  • Tapered Head Tube and Steerer
  • Up to 2.4″ rear tire depending on brand and height of cornering knobs
  • Dual row angular contact bearings on the drive side of the lower link that have less play than standard sealed bearings. Preload adjustment is not necessary. Large 28mm x 15mm x 7mm radial bearings on the non drive side for stiffness and long wear
  • Bottom Bracket height 13.4″
  • Removable direct mount front derailleur mount for a clean 1X look

 

 

 

Fresh Product: New 2015 Bikes From Cannondale

Cannondale are one of those brands that carry an air of prestige both in and out of the cycling world, you can bet that your mate at work who doesn’t ride will know of Cannondale as a premium brand. With a hole-proof line up of top end mountain and road bikes, these guys have a rich heritage in the race scene with their supremely lightweight frames.

With their proprietary suspension ‘fork’ the Lefty, and wild FOX rear shocks Cannondale don’t blend in with the rest, and aren’t afraid to show off their engineering talents. Cannondale may have been a bit quiet in terms of visibility in Australia, but with a recent move to the massive bicycle and motorcycle distributer, Monza, we’ll surely see more of these sweet bikes on shop floors and out on the trails in Oz.

We stuck our head into the Cannondale marquee at their recent 2015 range launch, and these are a few the bikes that caught our eye.

*click on the smaller thumbnail images to expand and more info.

[divider]Cannondale Jekyll 27.5[/divider]

The Jekyll has been around for a very long time, but the name is the only common component, it’s been reinventing itself over and over into a real all-mountain bike, with a whopping 160mm of travel front and back dressed in a parts kit that is clearly ready for some seriously hard riding. The top shelf Jekyll Carbon Team was the first bike that caught our eye in the whole room, it’s a mighty head turner and wherever you look there is impressive technology features and immaculate finished detail all over the frame.

Now only in 27.5″ wheels, the Jekyll is the biggest suspension bike in the Cannondale catalogue, and in Australia two carbon models and one alloy version is available starting at $4999.

Cannondale 2015 45
The Jekyll Team Carbon joins the elite sub 12kg 160mm travel bike club, but you need to spend $8999 to get it.

There are so many unique features to the Jekyll, but it’s the fork and shock in particular that really make up this unique ride. The new Lefty Max is a whopping big fork, with 36mm lowers that slide on a combination of concealed bushings and roller bearings inside its huge carbon chassis. The Lefty will always freak people out with its appearance, but they do ride great with category leading low weight and massive steering stiffness. We often wonder if Cannondale should spec more FOX or RockShox forks to simplify things for the new consumer, but with Cannondale being all about the system integration, maybe they just wouldn’t have that solid and light feel on the trails?

The Jekyll starts at $4999 in an aluminium frame, and up to the Team one we have here for $8999.

Cannondale 2015 19
The carbon Cannondale bikes are all about big, wide axles with minimal material. A huge 15mm axle on the upper linkage is super wide to keep the crazy light frame laterally rigid.

The FOX DYAD RT2 shock is also a pretty wild concept. Rather than compressing like we are used to, it pulls apart, and is actually two separate shocks in one unit. Using the remote lever on the bars, you can switch between ‘Flow’ (what a great name…) and ‘Elevate’ mode, this – to over simplify things – converts the bike into a descending and climbing mode with short (95mm) and long travel (160mm) modes. The adjustment subsequently has an impact on the bike’s geometry. We’ve seen Cannondale and Scott use this style of suspension to great effect, there is nothing like hitting that lever when the trails turn up, sharpening the angles and reducing the travel without locking it out for climbing efficiency and traction.

[divider]Cannondale Trigger[/divider]

The Trigger is Cannondale’s all round trail bike, two wheel size options 29″ (130mm travel) and 27.5″ (140mm) and geometry that aims to do-it-all in a lightweight frame. Looking a lot like a scaled down Jekyll, the Trigger also uses a FOX DYAD RT2  using the two shocks to give the rider choice of travel amounts to suit the terrain.

The Trigger starts at $3599 for the Trigger 29 Alloy 4, and goes right up to the Trigger 27.5″ Black Inc for a staggering $11999.

Cannondale 2015 53
The Trigger is available in the $11999 Black Inc model, which basically means that Cannondale have spared nothing in speccing the highest quality parts available on one bike… Whew.

We currently have the Trigger 27.5″ Carbon 2 on a long term test, so keep an eye out for our thoughts. Our first impressions of the red rocket are here:  http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/flows-first-bite-cannondale-trigger-carbon-2/

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Our long term test bike, the Trigger 27.5″ Carbon 2.

[divider]Cannondale F-Si[/divider]

The bike that Kiwi power house, Anton Cooper rode to Commonwealth Gold in Glasgow is now available to the public. The F-Si is their new 29er carbon hardtail with a funky offset rear end to allow a short chain stay for snappy handling but still have the ability to use a double chainring for a big range. Carbon engineering guru Peter Denk is also behind the design of the F-Si, and with a focus on integrating their Lefty fork, a new SAVE seat post and the Cannondale Si cranks to complete the package of a very clean and minimal bike.

Boasting to have the shortest chain stays in its category at 429mm, the F-Si uses new-school geometry and their lightest hardtail frame yet. 

Cannondale 2015 32

You can snag an entry level F-Si for $3999, with four models topping out at the Black Inc F-Si at $12999 with Shimano XTR Di2 electronic shifting.

[divider]Cannondale Scalpel[/divider]

Their sharpest dual suspension bike in the range, the Scalpel is a real marathon racer’s delight. 100mm of fine suspension in on hand to take the sting out of the rougher or longer cross country race tracks, and all the numbers point to a very quick handling bike for the experienced rider seeking ultimate efficiency.

No changes to the Scalpel for 2015. This featherlight carbon frame does away with a pivot on the rear end of the frame in favour of a slight amount of flex engineered into the tubing, one less pivot can keep weight down even further. This is about as close to a hardtail as you get.

Cannondale 2015 22
The second top end Scalpel, for a cool $9999.

We’ll be testing as many of the new Cannondale’s as possible, first up is the Trigger and then we plan to line up a Jekyll and F-Si for review, so keep an eye out for more from Cannondale on Flow.

 

 

Flow’s First Bite: Polygon Collosus N9

You ain’t seen curves until you’ve taken a good look at the new carbon monster from Polygon, the Collosus N9. As ridden by the strong Hutchinson UR team, this 27.5″ wheeled 160mm travel bike with the new FS3 floating suspension design is a seriously trippy looking machine, and it’s all ours for a little while for review.

Polygon bikes from Indonesia are growing rapidly into the higher end of the range here in Oz, with an effective online consumer-direct purchasing model from Bicycles Online, the impressive value and ease of availability of their huge range is a real standout feature. Sure, value is a good thing but most important importantly how do the high end bikes ride? We’ll find out soon enough, but to begin we deliver our first impressions in our Flow’s First Bite.

This is the same bike that Kiwi mad shredder, Jamie Nicoll won the mighty Trans Savoie big mountain enduro on, not a bad reference to begin with at all!

From Polygon so far we’ve reviewed their 2014 downhill bike and a budget dual suspension rig.

Tested: Polygon Collosus DHX 

Tested: Polygon Recon 4 

Polygon Collosus 6
If Batman was Indonesian, and rode mountain bikes, he’d surely choose the N9 to match his bad ass style.

To satisfy the needs of the Hutchinson UR enduro team as they take on the Enduro World Series, Polygon have come up with a seriously burly and hardy bike with many of the vital areas for serious shredding covered off; relaxed angles, a short rear end, meaty tyres and a wide and roomy cockpit. Just looking at the numbers, the N9 looks to err on the side of an agile long legged trail bike rather than a big steam roller, with its fairly sharp 66.5 degree head angle and a tight 431mm chain stay.

What makes the N9 appear to be so unique is the long and curvy seat stays and myriad of wild carbon shapes. Typically when you have long sections of carbon like we see here, there is the risk of unwanted lateral flex, but our first impressions when riding just around the block exhibit nothing to be worried about at all, it is solid. Looking down on the frame the crazy shapes of glisten and shine as they curve and weave all over the place, and closer inspections reveal some highly intricate graphics and very smart detail touches making this bike one of the most striking to ever grace our presence.

Polygon Collosus 25

 

Spec wise, Polygon have got it spot on with the N9, a mixture of SRAM, Shimano, e*thirteen, Spank and RockShox deck out this high end ride. A SRAM 11 speed single ring drivetrain and Shimano XT brakes represent what we believe is the best of both worlds from the two main players in the mountain bike game. The XT brakes are as tough, powerful and reliable as they come, and we have never found the limits of SRAM XX1 on any style of bike.

Flow fave’s the Schwalbe Hans Dampf tyres find their way onto the N9, with a smaller casing one on the back wheel to keep weight down and the lower profile tyre helps the N9 to achieve such a short rear chain stay length as tyre clearance looks quiet tight. Mounted to  e*thirteen wheels with one of the loudest freehubs in existence, the wheels are sure to be up to serious abuse.

The lustrous gold coloured Kashima FOX Float X rear shock is sandwiched between two opposing aluminium linkages which compress it from both ends. The lower link is of the ‘floating’ type to give the rear wheel the Polygon engineers a specific axle path as it motions through its suspension range. A variation of the popular design seen in major brands like Santa Cruz and Giant, what makes the N9 different is the way the top shock mount also pivots, compressing the shock from the top. The FOX Float X CTD shock has three modes of compression adjustment via the blue lever on the drive side.

Whoa swoopy!
Whoa swoopy!

Polygon Collosus 8

There is no geometry or travel adjustment options, or any provisions for a water bottle on the bike, but that just gives us the opportunity to wear a brightly coloured hydration bag that matches our gloves in true enduro fashion.

So, off we go to the put the N9 through its paces, keep an eye out for our full review soon.

 

Flow’s First Bite: Specialized Traverse SL Fattie Wheels

Specialized are the latest entrant into the growing market of wide-bodied carbon wheels, rolling a set of the new Roval Traverse SL Fattie wheels Flow’s way last week. These extra fat hoops are available in 29 and 27.5″ – we’ve got the smaller size on hard for review.

Specialized Traverse Fattie 2

When it comes to ‘in-house’ wheels, Specialized’s Roval wheel line up is really leading the way (along with Bontrager, who also have a seriously impressive range of in-house wheels for Trek), especially with regard to carbon mountain bike wheels. We’ve had very pleasant experiences with Roval wheels in the past, including the Roval Control 29 Carbon wheels. These new Fatties are the A380 of the Roval range – the biggest, baddest and widest hoops in the line-up, with an internal width of 30mm.

Why so wide? The concept of a wide rim has been growing in popularity steadily over the past few years (in mountain biking and road riding too). A wider rim offers more support to the tyre, allowing lower pressure and consequently more traction, with less of the negative effects of tyre roll that you’d encounter with a narrower rim. Here at Flow we’re also currently testing the Ibis 741 rims, which take this concept even further than the Rovals, with an internal width of 35mm.

Specialized Traverse Fattie 8

It goes without saying that the Traverse SL Fattie wheels are meant for aggressive riding and big rubber – they’re standard fare on Specialized’s S-Works Enduro models for 2015. Even still, the weight of these things is incredibly impressive. Our set, configured with a Shimano freehub body, valve stems and rim tape, weighs in at just 1571g!

Specialized Traverse Fattie 10

Taking a quick look at the other stand out features, the Fatties use a hookless bead construction (the rim does not have a traditional bead hook) which makes for a more impact resistant profile and also gives the tyre more volume. The freehub mechanism uses DT’s Star Ratchet system, while the front hub can be configured for 15mm or 20mm axles. Colour matchers out there will rejoice that the rims are supplied with three different sets of decals, so you can pimp your ride. Of course these wheels are also ready for tubeless use, fitted with a simple tape system to seal up the rim bed. Specialized Traverse Fattie 11

 

As well as coming a 29″ variant, the Fatties are also available in an lower-priced alloy version too which come in at around 160g heavier for the set. We’ll be fitting these rims to a variety of bikes in the coming weeks. We’ve also got a set of the new 27.5″ Specialized Purgatory tyres for review too, so we’ll be wrapping these hoops in Specialized rubber as well.

Flow’s First Bite: Norco Revolver 7.1

The new Norco Revolver series caught our eye at the 2014 Norco launch and since then we’ve been regularly dropping an email to Norco Australia to find out when they would have a model in Australia. So we were frothing when got word that a Revolver 7.1 had arrived, even more froth was produced when we were offered a chance to review it.

NorcoRevolverFirstBite 5

Norco are embracing the matte carbon finish on their bikes for 2014 and we are big fans, the Revolver with its dark grey frame, black decals and black componentry just looks bad ass, the sort of bike that would give other bikes the nerves at the starting grid.

The Revolver hasn’t missed a beat with the inclusion of a 142×12 rear axle, forward mounted rear brake calliper and Press Fit BB30 cranks.

NorcoRevolverFirstBite 2

We are big fans of the 1×11 technology from SRAM and it’s great to see the XO1 variant on a race bike, providing riders access to this hot technology at a decent price point.

Just from a quick glance at the tech data for this bike and seeing it in the flesh you can tell that the geometry has one purpose in mind, cross country racing or riding cross country trails like you are racing. Thin is an efficient race rig, but a few spec choices and geometry numbers are telling use that it is also won’t be too scared of letting its hair down on the trails and having a good time.

NorcoRevolverFirstBite 6

 

With a 70 degree head angle we were certain that this bike would provide a  format to play on the trails with, and so far we haven’t been proven wrong. There is something magical about cross country race bikes born in Canada that makes them ride like no other race bike.

NorcoRevolverFirstBite 7

NorcoRevolverFirstBite 8

NorcoRevolverFirstBite 1

Our first impressions are rosy and sweet so far, now let’s get it dirty and deliver a proper review soon. Stay tuned.

Tested: Avanti Ridgeline Carbon 2

Avanti Ridgeline Carbon 2-34

FACT: There are almost as many bikes in the Avanti range as there are sheep in New Zealand. This well-regarded Kiwi brand has options from some of the sweetest beach cruisers going, through to triathlon, road and of course mountain biking. They’re very much the big little brand.

Avanti Ridgeline Carbon 2-2

The Ridgeline Carbon 2 is Avanti’s peak cross-country dual suspension offering; a taut and efficient 100mm-travel carbon main-framed machine. With a few long days on the trails planned scouting out the Port to Port MTB course, we thought the Ridgeline would be just the ticket.

Avanti Ridgeline Carbon 2-16

Build:

Magic plastic out front, metal out back. The carbon/alloy construction combo of the Ridgeline is a sensible choice, making for a light yet robust frame. That’s really the gist of the entire frame build – light enough, but built for the real world, where crashes and cack-handed riding happens.

Avanti Ridgeline Carbon 2-4
Alloy out back, carbon out front, and a FOX shock in between.

From the stout head tube, to the oversized PF30 bottom bracket shell and compact dimensions of the front triangle, this is a frame that is built to resist twist. The rear end keeps that theme running, with what Avanti call their Integrated Rocker, which is really just a massive welded rocker link. This link drives a FOX CTD Evolve shock, for 100mm of suspension travel.

Avanti Ridgeline Carbon 2-8
The beefy, welded rocker link is a the heart of the rear end stiffness. Note the cable routing for the rear shock remote lockout.

There are no undersized pivots, just large diameter bearings, all culminating in a Syntace X12 rear axle which ties the whole rear end together ferociously. Wibble wobble like jelly on a plate, she does not.

Avanti Ridgeline Carbon 2-6
Both gear cables are internally routed, while the brake and shock remote run underneath the down tube.

Lockout cables have the potential to ruin a bike’s clean lines like bird crap on a freshly polished Benz, but Avanti have done a decent job of preserving the bike’s aesthetics, with the shock lockout looping up to launch a surprise attack from behind the seat tube. The gear lines are internal through the front triangle too.

Avanti Ridgeline Carbon 2-18
With a short seat post and seat tube, we were forced to run the seat post just beyond the minimum insertion mark. Not advisable.

One element of the compact front triangle is the short seat tube, which is bizarrely paired with an overly short seat post. Our medium sized test bike was so low slung in this area that we had to run the seat post just beyond the minimum insertion point (DON’T DO THIS) in order to get the right seat height. As as many will attest, our test rider for this review is quite a stunted fellow. Taller riders will need to buy a longer post or opt for the more stretched-out ride and taller seat tube of a size large.

Spec:

Shimano XT is a truly ace groupset. When you say ‘shift’, its only answer is ‘how fast, sir?’ The brakes still have the best lever feel of any offering on the market (in this reviewer’s opinion anyhow) and while 2×10 drivetrains aren’t as hip and happening as the latest 1×11 setups, the gear range is much appreciated.

Avanti Ridgeline Carbon 2-24
Shimano XT all over.

Wheels are one of the most important items on a 29er, and they can really make or break the way a bike rides, so it’s fortunate the Avanti have gone high-end with the rolling gear. The DT X1600 wheels are light and the hubs have the hassle free performance you want, especially if you plan on tackling longer events or stage races on this beast.

Avanti Ridgeline Carbon 2-28
A good set of wheels is critical to keep a 29er feeling lively. The DT 1600s are up to the task.

Unfortunately the Kenda Slant Six tyres are an overall poor choice. Too narrow, too heavy for their meagre tread, and frustratingly stubborn in their refusal to be converted to tubeless. We wasted a lot of sealant trying to get these buggers to seal up before reinstalling the tubes.

Avanti Ridgeline Carbon 2-14
We don’t mind the tread pattern of the Kenda Slant Six tyres, but they’re very narrow and can’t be run tubeless, which lets the bike down.

Some will love the dual remote lockout, made by Shimano for Fox. It allows you to simultaneously toggle the fork and shock between the three compression settings: Climb, Trail or Descend. On the whole, we think it’s a great system, though occasionally we did wish we could just adjust the rear shock to Trail or Climb mode while leaving the fork in Descend. It’s the kind of feature that racers will undoubtedly love.

Avanti Ridgeline Carbon 2-27
This neat junction box allows both fork and shock lockouts to be actuated with a single lever.

For the price tag, we do think it’s a little disappointing that the Ridgeline misses out on a carbon bar or seat post. It’s still a good value bike, but some carbon in the cockpit would’ve been a nice touch.

Ride:

This bike oozes reliability on the trail. Despite some horrendously dusty riding, the Avanti never so much as murmured during our testing, remaining tight, true and quiet. That’s the exact traits you want if you’re planning on racing this bike, so you can just concentrate on the pain you’re in, rather than worrying about the bike!

Avanti Ridgeline Carbon 2-1

With 100mm travel, you shouldn’t expect a plush ride, and the Avanti is certainly on the firmer side when it comes to suspension feel. Even though we had no troubles extracting full travel when needed, that upper half of the suspension stroke is fairly stiff. It kind of suits the bike’s style though, and we embraced the notion of switching the fork and shock into Trail mode and getting out of the saddle to attack climbs. With the firm suspension and stiff frame, it really responds well to hard efforts. We think that changing the tyres to a tubeless setup with slightly more volume would make a lot of difference to this bike’s compliance over the small bumps. We also diligently cleaned and sprayed fork legs with Finish Line Max Suspension spray before every ride, as we did find the fork had a tendency to get a little sticky in dry, dusty conditions.

Avanti Ridgeline Carbon 2-10
In dusty conditions, we found it important to keep the fork legs and seals clean and lightly lubricated.

Speaking of compliance, the saddle on this bike treated our undercarriage like we had just insulted its family. Damaging stuff. But anatomy is personal, so maybe it will suit you better!

Feature_PortToPortMTB0084

In terms of handling, Avanti have the numbers spot on for cross country riding. The 70-degree head angle is stable enough for all but the roughest, fastest riding and still sharp enough to slot into a single track corner nicely. With 447mm chain stays, it’s not overly ‘flickable’ but it settles into long turns well, and the climbing position is nice and neutral as well, so there’s not a lot of weight shifting needed to maintain traction. With some tyres that deliver a bit more bite, we’d like the Avanti’s handling even more.

Overall:

This is a very solid offering from Avanti, both figuratively and literally. As a cross country machine, it feels a damn sight more reassuring beneath you than many others, but without becoming too hefty. It’s a great overall package, and one we’d happily put in the same league as bikes like the Giant Anthem or Trek Superfly as a ready-to-roll marathon, cross-country or all-day machine. With a new set of tubeless rubber, and perhaps a carbon bar or post, the Avanti would reach another level too, so keep some change aside for these little upgrades down the line.

Avanti Ridgeline Carbon 2-33

Flow’s First Bite: Bontrager Rhythm Pro TLR 27.5 carbon wheels

Test_BontragerRhythmWheels0003

One of two all-new carbon mountain bike wheels in the Bontrager line-up, the Rhythm Pro TLR carbon 27.5″ wheels have just found their way into the dropouts of our long-term test Giant Trance Advanced SX all-mountain machine. And all of a sudden our bike just got a whole lot sexier.

Test_BontragerRhythmWheels0004

Built from Trek’s OCLV carbon, these are a tasty set of hoops. While the 1670g weight for the pair won’t necessarily sizzle your sausage, these wheels are built for bombing, not mincing around the trails, so weight alone isn’t the driving design consideration. Our initial impressions of these wheels’ stiffness after just the one ride is very positive; they come out the box with a whopping amount of spoke tension which, when combined with the stiffness of the carbon rim, makes for a rock-solid set of rolling gear.

The rim is offset, to reduce wheel dish and allow more consistent spoke tension.
The rim is offset, to reduce wheel dish and allow more consistent spoke tension.
Test_BontragerRhythmWheels0012
Unlike increasing numbers of wheels which use a tape to seal up the rim bed, the Bonty wheels use these plastic rim strips.

As with other Bontrager rims, converting to tubeless is incredibly clean and simple; Bontrager rim strips snap into place, providing a rock solid seal that won’t lose air over time like some tubeless tapes can. With an internal width of 22.9mm, they’re wide enough to offer good support for 2.3″+ tyres (though not as wide as some other similar offerings, such as Enve’s AM or Specialized’s Traverse rims). To complete the Bontrager setup, we’ve fitted a set of chunky XR4 tyres in a 2.35″ width and we think they’ll totally dominate in loose conditions.

Test_BontragerRhythmWheels0001
Snap the rim strip in place, fit the valves and you’ve got one seriously bombproof tubeless setup.

With the tight tubeless seal and obviously robust nature of the rim construction, we’ve already begun playing with lower tyre pressures than usual, dropping down to around 22psi in the rear and even lower up front. Unlike alloy wheels, you don’t feel compelled to wince every time the rim bottoms out against the tyre – they just feel tough!

Test_BontragerRhythmWheels0002

One of the other highlights of these wheels is the new Rapid Drive freebub, which has exceptionally quick pick-up, thanks to 54 engagement points. Of course, they sound bloody great too. We’ll be running these wheels for the next few months and we’re looking forward to seeing just how hard they can go.

Test_BontragerRhythmWheels0016
Meaty. Will the XR4s prove a worthy replacement for the Schwalbe Hans Dampfs we like so much?

Tested: Giant Trance Advanced SX long-term test update

_59V1737

We’re a little over a month into our long term test of the 2014 Giant Trance Advanced SX now and things are going swimmingly, literally in the last couple of weeks as the trails have been a bit swampy.

Straight up, this bike is a riot. A blacked-out package of confidence and playfulness, a 12kg piece of weaponry that turns every rock into a kicker or a landing ramp. It’s everything we’d hoped. We’ll get into the way the bike rides a little more in later updates, but for now here’s a few observations about the suspension and drivetrain.

Slyly edging her way out the office door, to sneak off to the trails.
Slyly edging her way out the office door, trying to sneak off to the trails.

Suspension: Man, the rear end of this thing is smooth. FOX have really done their best work with the new Float X. It’s like butter, poured over Teflon. It’s a true pain in the arse to adjust the rebound speed, as the dial is really hidden very deep underneath the shock eyelet, but that’s the only gripe.

More control than NASA.
More control than NASA.
Can you spot the rebound adjuster in there? Adjusting the rebound speed out on the trail is thankfully a rare occurrence as you need an Allen key, small stick or the tiniest fingers in the universe.
Can you spot the rebound adjuster in there? Adjusting the rebound speed out on the trail is thankfully a rare occurrence as you need an Allen key, small stick or the tiniest fingers in the universe.

The 34 TALAS fork has spent most of its time in the 140mm setting so far, only being bumped out to its full 160mm travel for the descents. Unfortunately our fork had a damper problem (sporadic topping out, seemingly at random) and so it went back to FOX. They had it back in less than a week, with a brand new damper installed. While in the workshop, they popped in some new seals and the fork is near frictionless now.

Formula 35 fork-16
Less than 1750g is pretty amazing for a 160mm fork. Let’s hope there’s more to this fork’s performance than just low weight. We’ll find out soon!

While our fork was back with FOX, a new test fork arrived from Formula – the Formula 35 with 160mm travel. Because the Trance uses Giant’s proprietary Overdrive 2 headset standard (with a 1.25″ upper bearing, instead of the standard 1.125″ bearing) we needed to order a new upper headset assembly to suit. Unfortunately it’s not as simple as just swapping out the upper headset bearing, you need a new headset cup as well. FSA make the whole assembly. You’ll also need a different stem too, which we thankfully had on hand.

Giant long term update-1
Knock out the old upper headset assembly and pop in the new (left).

With the Formula fork fitted, the entire bike has dropped a bit of weight too, now clocking in at a seriously impressive 11.85kg (without pedals fitted)!

Drivetrain: Any fears we had about the 32-tooth chainring being too small have gone out the window. Even with 27.5″ wheels, we rarely find ourselves in the highest gear. This bike has once again reinforced the idea that it’s important to gear your bike around the climbs, more so than the descents.

We're happy with a 32-tooth chain ring so far and while we've dropped the chain the once, we're not going to fit a chain guide just yet.
We’re happy with a 32-tooth chain ring so far and while we’ve dropped the chain the once, we’re not going to fit a chain guide just yet.

The X01 drivetrain is quiet and stable as a sedated Buddhist, though we have thrown the chain once when pedalling out of a very rough, drifty sandstone corner. If it was ever going to happen, this is exactly where you’d expect the chain to drop. We’re not going to fit a chain guide at this stage as we don’t think chain drop will be a regular occurrence.

Tested: SRAM ROAM 60 Carbon Wheels

We’re not into blowing smoke up people’s arses. But if these rims were a person we’d be lighting fires with old truck tyres and getting a jumbo jet to blow the plumes right up there. The ROAM 60 simply is one of the best wheelsets we have ridden.

We honestly cannot fault them and after a month of solid abuse they’re still kicking like the day they came out of the box. Straight as an arrow and solid as a rock.

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If you have a red, white and black bike, these will match.
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Straight pull spokes, high flanges and a deeper dish helps keep the spoke length shorter and the whole package stronger.

The ROAM 60 are a 2nd generation carbon wheel (rim is carbon, hub is alloy) from SRAM and are designed for more aggressive trail and all-mountain riding.  At 28mm wide they’re not the widest on the market but they’re still pretty beefy and their strength is second-to-none. They’re also not the lightest either (still pretty damn good at 1570g for our test 27.5″ offerings) but they’re made for aggressive riding so weight weenies need to think beyond the tale of the scales.

Inside the ROAM 60 box there’s all manner of spacers and adaptors to fit the wheels to any mountain bike you can imagine. Standard QR, 15mm, 20mm – they will fit them all. Speaking of which, the hubs are large with high flanges, strange pull spokes and the rear hub comes spec’d with a SRAM XD driver body for 11 speed. The rear freehub isn’t so loud as to stop conversations but it makes enough noise to keep you smiling.

And (hallelujah) they now come 100% tubeless ready. We slapped some Maxxis tyres on ours, threw in some Stan’s sealant, and they sealed up with a track pump.

Test_SRAM_ROAM_60-4
We liked how the wheels made life a little easier in the rough stuff.

In terms of improving performance, a set of great wheels is probably one of the best upgrades you can give your ride. Whether it’s to save weight, add strength, or both, you will always feel the benefits of better wheels and the SRAM ROAM 60 ticks both of those boxes. All up we saved around 200-300g (give or take a few millilitres of Stans) on our Giant Trance SX test bike, and whilst that’s nothing to scribe onto the walls of your local public toilet, it’s a pretty big improvement on what were pretty light OEM wheels.

The improvements in acceleration and braking that come from saving rotating mass are obvious, but it was the way these wheels improved our ability to hold a line that really grabbed us. The SRAM ROAM 60s just loved the really tough rock gardens or rough corners. Rather than being deflected from our chosen path, we immediately felt an increased ability to hold some pretty tight lines. Just point and go. We can hear the sceptics out there, but we’re 100% serious, the difference is marked.

Test_SRAM_ROAM_60-3
Point and shoot. Rock gardens are one area where these wheels show their colours.

We tested these wheels on the rocky loamy trails of Mt Buller and the loose dry soils of Stromlo Forest Park. If you’ve ridden at Mt Buller you will know that rocks seem to appear from nowhere and ping your wheels unexpectedly. We heard that harsh ping though the spokes as the rim squarely hit a rock or two but post ride inspections yielded not a single bend or dent in the rims. On a deliberate test at Stromlo we let our tyres down to around 20 psi and went and hit a few rock gardens. There was a bit of noise from the spokes as the tyres squashed against the rims but not a single problem was noted. They are still straight.

Test_SRAM_ROAM_60-1-2
Even when the rims did hit the rocks it didn’t matter.

Pedal engagement was positive and the wheels accelerated with ease. We didn’t witness any burping or loss of sealant from the Maxxis tyres but the rear tyre did frequently loose some pressure during our testing. We’re unsure if it was the tyre or the rim that was loosing the air however and as the front was holding pressure we’re pretty sure it was the fault of the tyre.

If you’re looking for an upgrade then you should consider adding these carbon hoops to your dream machine. Sure $2500 isn’t cheap, but you’d pay that for a big screen TV and the TV isn’t going to make you anything other than fat and lazy. These wheels will make you faster and happier…and that’s priceless.

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Jumping for joy on the SRAM ROAM 60.

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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.

SRAM_ROAM_C1

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).

SRAM_ROAM_C2

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.

SRAM_ROAM_C3

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.

Flow’s First Bite: Specialized S-Works Camber 29

Well, there’s really not too much to say; this bike is exquisite.

Specialized S-Works Camber-3

When you spend some time assessing the whole (massive) Specialized mountain bike range, it’s easy to pass over the Camber series. It’s somewhat overshadowed by the whippet-esque racing performance of the Epic line and the legendary versatility of the slightly longer-travel Stumpjumpers.

But ask anyone who has ridden a Camber for their thoughts and they’ll launch into a mushy soliloquy about how the Camber is their perfect ‘one’ bike and they’re in a state of monogamous bliss.

Specialized S-Works Camber-4

Quite frankly, if this bike doesn’t blow us away, we’ll be disappointed. At around $10,000, it ought to leave us in a right lather of joy. We’ll be taking the Camber with us when we head north to Atherton next week, and putting it through the wringer on our rocky local trails when we return. Full video review to come!

You can view the full geometry here and the spec here.

Flow’s First Bite: Storck Rebel Seven Update

Well we’ve finally got the Storck Rebel Seven build completed! We previewed this bike as a frame only a few weeks ago, but put it on the back burner while we headed to New Zealand to shoot the Ride Rotorua Top Ten Trails series.

What a sleek, smart brake mount! We also like the low-profile 142x12mm rear axle.
What a sleek, smart brake mount! We also like the low-profile 142x12mm rear axle.

Looking at this beast now, we don’t know why we waited so long! It looks gorgeous and even simply throwing a leg over it in the office, you just know it’s going to be a real pocket rocket. The frame is just wonderfully finished, and it has that compact, flickable look to it.

The Revelation is a great fork, and we're also very pleased to see some appropriate tyres on the Rebel Seven. Great spec!
The Revelation is a great fork, and we’re also very pleased to see some appropriate tyres on the Rebel Seven. Great spec!

We love the graphics, the matte finish, the sleek rear brake mount and the spec too. It would’ve been very easy to give this bike a euro-style spec, with skinny bars and pizza-cutter tyres, but the Rebel Seven is dressed for Australian conditions. The Rockshox Revelation, Shimano XT brakes and drivetrain and confident cockpit and tyres should give it some real go in the singletrack.

Storck Rebel Seven9

We look forward to hitting the trails on board this little German this weekend!

The Soapbox: Carbon? Not For Me

Welcome to the Soapbox – a place where we invite you to express your opinion, no matter how well or ill-informed. A chance to vent your spleen, sing your praise, or chuck a tantie.

Soap-Box-Masthead

 

Got something to blurt about? Send it to [email protected], and we might put it online. All Soapbox submission must be less than 500 words and will be kept strictly anonymous unless requested otherwise.

 

PLEASE NOTE: All Soapbox pieces represent the opinion of the writer solely and do not necessarily reflect the views of Flow!


It’s going to take lot more than some market spiel about carbon being ‘five times stronger than alloy at half of the weight’ to convince me to ever ride a carbon fibre mountain bike.

Like most riders, I’m on a budget. I have two kids, a mortgage, plus two dogs that eat possessions rather than dog food. But I also love my mountain biking and I’ll work hard to find the cash to treat myself to a new bike every couple of years. This time around was the first occasion I’ve found myself seriously considering a bike with a carbon frame.

It was the weight, and the looks, that got me thinking about it. I read the reviews too, the ones that always talk about how nice carbon bikes feel on the trail. But I’m not going to do it. I simply don’t trust carbon fibre to go the distance.

I’m not saying I don’t believe the tech data that carbon bikes have more resistance to fatigue, or that they are stronger than aluminium when it comes to sheer strength. But until someone can show me a carbon bike that won’t break when I crash it onto a sharp rock, I’ll be sticking with a bike made from alloy. I’ve seen two frames just amongst my local club broken in the past three months from simple crashes that would’ve scratched an aluminium frame, but wouldn’t have meant handing over wads of cash for a new chain stay or main frame.

Maybe these blokes were just unlucky? Maybe they are hacks? Even if that is the case, it’s reason enough for me to stick with an aluminium bike for time being. I need a bike that will let me cock up and crash, or drop it onto a rock, without potentially costing me a thousand dollars. I can’t afford a mistake to cost me. That’s the real world for me, and that’s why I won’t buy carbon.

 

Flow’s First Bite: Storck Rebel Seven

Markus Storck – a man with a very good brain but a very bad haircut – is well regarded as one of the greatest design minds of the cycling industry. Interestingly, he’s also one of the founding fathers of Eurobike.

Storck Rebel Seven -7

His namesake company makes superb carbon and high-end aluminium bikes out of their facility in Germany. While the brand’s reputation is strongest on the road, they’re developing a healthy following in mountain biking too.

We’ve recently taken hold of the new Rebel Seven, Storck’s premium 27.5″-wheel cross country hardtail. It came to us as a bare frame, and we thought it look so good we’d shoot it naked, rather than dress it up with its build kit.

Storck Rebel Seven -8

The frame weight is a little under 1100g with a beautiful finish. All the features you’d expect at this level are present: press-fit bottom bracket, tapered head tube, 12mm rear dropouts, well presented cable guides.

Storck Rebel Seven -3

We’ll be building it up and hitting the trails soon. It’ll be our first experience on our home trails riding a 27.5″-wheeled hardtail (we’re usually on 29er if we’re riding a hardtail) so we’re intrigued about the performance the mid-sized wheel will offer.

Storck Rebel Seven -11

Fresh: Yeti Carbon SB95C and ARC Carbon Hardtail

Yeti announces the SB95C and ARC carbon hardtail.

SB95C

SB95C

The ultimate big-wheeled trail bike just got better.

The SB95C isn’t just the most advanced 29er we’ve ever made, or the most advanced carbon frame we’ve ever designed, it might be simply the best bike we’ve built to date.

This is the culmination of more than six years of work and testing on the SB platform. There’s the revolutionary Switch Technology suspension platform, which received rave reviews on the SB-95, for snappy pedaling and predictable bump absorption; the slack, low-slung geometry that keeps the bike attached to the trail; and a new carbon frame that makes the whole package lighter and livelier.

And now we have the SB95C, which carries the same progressive geometry, short chain stays, and five-inch travel as its 29er predecessor but wraps it all in a light, stiff high-mod carbon frame that is the result of years of R&D and testing on the trails we call home. The one-bike quiver? This could be it.

Features:

• HIGH MODULUS CARBON FIBER MAIN FRAME AND SWING ARM
• SWITCH TECHNOLOGY PATENT-PENDING SUSPENSION SYSTEM
• FULLY SEALED ECCENTRIC SYSTEM
• OVERSIZED PIVOT PINS WITH ENDURO MAX BEARINGS
• SPLINED BB SHELL ACCEPTS REMOVABLE ISCG 03/05 TABS
• TAPERED INSET HEADTUBE – 44MM/56MM
• DROPOUTS ALLOW FOR 142MM X 12MM AXLE
• POST-MOUNT REAR BRAKE TAB
• INTERNAL CABLE ROUTING ON REAR TRIANGLE
• CUSTOM CHAIN-SLAP GUARDS
• CABLE STOPS FOR HEIGHT ADJUSTABLE SEAT POST
• DIRECT MOUNT FRONT DERAILLEUR

Specs:

Travel: 5.00” – 127MM
Weight: 5.75 LBS  – 2.6 KG
Sizes: SMALL, MEDIUM, LARGE, X-LARGE TURQUOISE, BLACK
Rear Shock: FOX CTD ADJUST – 7.5”X2.0” / 191 MM X 51 MM
Bottom Bracket: 73MM SHELL
Rear Wheel: 142MM SPACING – 12MM AXLE
Front Derailleur:  DIRECT LOW MOUNT – E-TYPE
Seatpost: 30.9MM DIAMETER
Build Kits: ENDURO, RACE, XTR

Pricing:

SB-95 Carbon Pricing is $3990 Frame/Axle RRP
SB 95C XT EASTON – $6990
SB 95C XT RACE – $7450
SB 95C XTR – $9100
SB 95C SRAM X0 – $7590
SB 95C SRAM XX1 – $8050
All prices with FOX 34 120MM CTD

 

ARC Carbon

ARC Carbon

A perfect blend of carbon fibre, big wheels and Yeti XC heritage.

We never like to think of ourselves as slow, but we were definitely deliberate in our approach to 29ers. And as with all things, once we committed, we committed fully. The hardtail Big Top, the first 29er we were proud to call a Yeti, debuted in 2010 after years of above- and below-the-radar tinkering by a core group of Yeti employees who were enamored with big wheels.

It was no one-off. The following year we rolled up on a full-suspension 29er, the ridiculously fun SB95. And now we’re back again, taking everything we’ve learned over the years about bike racing, big-wheel handling, and materials engineering to deliver the all-new ARC Carbon. Twenty years of ARC racing heritage updated with fast-rolling 29-inch wheels and a light, snappy, high-mod carbon frame. For you smaller riders, we made the small and extra small sizes with mid-sized 27.5” wheels for added stand over and improved handling.

Basically, take Yeti’s most storied XC race bike, make it even more stable, add bigger wheels, then make the frame as smooth and responsive as only the best carbon frames can be. That’s the ARC Carbon.

Features:

• HIGH MODULUS CARBON FIBER MAIN FRAME
• TAPERED INSET HEADTUBE  -44MM/56MM
• INTERNAL CABLE ROUNTING FRONT/REAR DER
• 29” WHEEL SIZE ON M-XL SIZES, 27.5” ON XS-S SIZES • YETI LOOPTAIL REAR TRIANGLE
• GEOMETRY COMPATIBLE FOR 100MM-120MM FORK
• REMOVABLE ISCG MOUNT
• BOLT-ON CABLE GUIDES
• DIRECT-MOUNT FRONT DERAILLEUR
• 142X12 REAR AXLE

Specs:

Weight: 2.6 LBS – 1.18 KG
Sizes: X-SMALL, SMALL, MEDIUM, LARGE, X-LARGE BLACK, TURQUOISE
Botton Bracket: 73MM SHELL
Rear Wheel: 142MM X 12 MM THRU AXLE
Front Derailleur: DIRECT MOUNT
Seatpost: 30.9MM DIAMETER
Build kits: ENDURO, RACE, PRO

Pricing: 

ARC – Carbon Pricing is $2690 Frame/Axle RRP
ARC XT EASTON – $5600
ARC XT RACE – $6050
ARC XTR – $7700
ARC SRAM X0 – $6200
ARC SRAM XX1 – $6650
All prices with FOX 32 100MM CTD

Kettle Cycles Carbon Rotors

Kettle Cycles fantastic new rotor
Barely heavy enough to register on the scales, Kettle’s flagship rotor weighs just 40g

A bicycle rotor that is light weight, wear resistant and has superior heat management. Sound good?

What is SiCCC?
SiCCC, is a Silicon Carbide, Ceramic, and Carbon fiber braking material developed specifically for cycling. Our goal from the start was to create a more reliable, better wearing, lighter weight brake rotor. Silicon Carbide for friction, Ceramic for heat, and Carbon fiber for strength.

The SiCCC disc rotor braking surface provides a level of power and progressive feel that equals or surpasses the best conventional rotors. The progressive power is excellent; not much lever effort is required, and the response is quick but not over-the-bar grabby by any means.

The SiCCC disc rotor braking surface is a non-metallic composite and it is thermally inert, meaning it doesn’t expand and contract as all metal rotors do. There is no heat-induced stress distortion on the disc.

SRAM Rise 60

Let’s get the elephant out of the room right from the start.  These rims aren’t cheap and rather than harping about the price constantly throughout the review we will talk about it up front.  Yep, $2199 is a bucket-load of money and yes you can buy a hell of a lot of other things for that money – we agree.  Spending that kind of money will not be everyone’s cup of tea but if you have the coin these rims are actually very much worth it.  It’s not just the sexy factor we’re talking about – we have Strava times that show how they improved our speed. [private]

If you don’t have the money, don’t stress as the prices of these (and other carbon offerings) will surely reduce over time and become more obtainable for the rest of us.  Also, if you need extra justification to squeeze the bank account a little more then these aren’t even at the high end of the carbon rim market.  Just keep reminding yourself of that fact as you pass the credit card over to your local bike shop – it will help the healing process.

We’ve ridden this trail a zillion times and straight up these wheels made us faster.

But let’s not talk about money again.  That just gets in the way of things.

We were initially sceptical about the rims.  ‘How much difference can a carbon rim make?’, were our initial thoughts.

To be honest, and this is the 100% truth, we were blown away by how good they felt on the trails and how they actually made us faster.  On the very first ride on one of our favourite well-ridden trails, our Strava times were quicker.  We hadn’t been EPO’ing the night before, the rest of the bike was unchanged and the trail conditions were standard.  It was the rims. Their weight savings, their strength, their acceleration, their ability to hold a line, it all added up to make the difference.

Day one of testing we were sold.  Carbon rims rock and SRAM really had a killer with the Rise 60.

Rather than rattling off specification after specification we want to focus on the ride.  The technical details are a nice sound bite used for marketing but how they rode on the trail proved more telling than a bearing count or spoke diameter ever could.  There is one very important specification we do wish to highlight though, and that is the weight.  At 1410 grams for the set (we weighed them ourselves) these represented a significant weight saving from what we had already on our test bike.

Our test bike became more playful with these rims and we just wanted to jump and float over everything.

That weight saving made a huge difference.  Rolling weight is a big thing and the less weight you have rolling underneath you the better you can accelerate and brake.  In the past the only way to save grams on rolling weight was to use rims that were either super thin or had less spokes than a guitar has strings – all meaning a sacrifice in strength.  SRAM solved all these issues by using super strong carbon (obviously) while still maintaining a 19mm rim width and 24 spokes.

Carbon is not only strong, it’s also sexy.  Look at those fibres glowing in the sun.

We really noticed the difference in the reduced rolling weight immediately and the bike felt faster out of corners and more playful over jumps and across rocks.   It was like new-bike-fever all over again as it made our old familiar steed feel new again.  The strength was also immediately noticeable and the rims enabled us to hold our lines better.  We cannot explain it (beyond maybe the lack of flex and overall strength in the rims) but rather than the normal deflection and throwing offline that we were used to we were able to hold on to those difficult line choices across rough terrain and through rock gardens.

Another notable plus was acceleration performance.  The rear wheel engages super quickly thanks to a combination of 54 teeth and 9 points of engagement (3 paws @ 3 teeth each) hidden in the freehub body.  Not only did this make the rear hub sound like a dream (oh, it sounds so, so good) but it also made pedal engagement instantaneous.  The speed of engagement may not always be noticeable to everyone but the security of the engagement gives you a certain level of confidence when you’re stomping on the pedals.

With all that engagement, stomping on the pedals felt good.

Worthy of a little special comment is the rim noise – or lack thereof.  Some rims ‘ping’ and ‘pong’ as you ride and the noises make you cringe.  Not these puppies.  These rims are quiet and there is no noise at all from the spokes or rims – even when we were hitting rocks really hard.  A nice artefact of the carbon material perhaps, and nice if you love a silent bike (like we do).

Without a doubt the rims are strong.  All up we have been riding these for about 3 months on all kinds of terrain and not all 100% recommended by SRAM for this wheel-set.  They are designed more for cross country riding but we have been giving them a good workout on some big trails including big rocks and jumps.  Even after our abuse they’re still straight and we haven’t had to touch them.   Don’t tell SRAM, but we even threw these onto a 6” travel bike for a week or so and still we didn’t get any problems.

We tested the rims beyond their expected capacity and they held up like a dream. Smash away.

The only negative we want to highlight is the lack of tubeless compatibility.  If you run tubes, these rims are 100% perfect and feel free to skip the next couple of paragraphs.

For that money (I know we said we weren’t going to talk about money again) we expected them to be fully UST compliant.  They’re supposed to be run with tubes but we prefer tubeless hands down and the latter option isn’t part of any factory setting.  We converted ours to tubeless using Gorilla tape and a DT Swiss tubeless valve. That combination made the rim airtight, no issue – the issue was more with the rim bead (the part of the rim that locks onto the tyre bead giving that perfect seal).  We felt the rim bead was a little too shallow and thus it was a pain to get a tubeless tyre to get that initial hold.  We were able to do it, but it took some skill, lots of swearing, and a few beers to get them to seal with a compressor.

Tubeless conversion worked no problem – it’s just that it was much, much harder to get them to hold that first time.

The other factor that showed the lack of tubeless capability was the leaking and burping we experienced.  They burped more than Homer Simpson at Moe’s.  Maybe not that bad but it was enough to notice the Stans sealant on the tyres.  That being said, and to their credit, it never caused an on-trail issue but it did mean that we had to check our tyre pressures regularly before rides.   Also, over the test period they never came off the rim and we had no flats or any other issue on the trail.

Just to reiterate.  The issue was more with the initial setting up of tubeless tyres and some minor burping.  Once set, they actually held air pretty well.

Burping. It may look bad but was never an issue. Just make sure you run plenty of sealant and regularly check tyre pressure.

We acknowledge that this ‘negative’ is essentially by our own design as the rims are not UST compatible, but we think it should be an option.

The rims also come in 29er size ($2399) and whist we haven’t tested any yet, we do expect the performance improvements and all the good stuff we experienced with the 26er’s to be comparable.  The 29er’s may (and that’s a big “may”) take a little less abuse but a comfortable assumption would be that they would be fine for their designed purpose – cross country riding.

The box came with a myriad of adaptors and sleeves so you can mount them on most bike configurations.  Remember, these are designed for cross country performance so don’t expect a big bolt through rear axle or anything that will suit your big travel bike.

We were very impressed with the on trail performance of the SRAM Rise 6o carbon rims.  They were noticeably fast, noticeably strong and noticeably fun….all money aside.

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