New Intense Sniper XC – First Impressions

Ah, Intense. How can you not love this brand?

Maybe its just a product of our rapidly advancing years, but Intense Cycles pulls at our heart strings. We would’ve joyfully given a kidney to ride an Intense back in the day. This is a brand with such heritage, presence, such cool – it oozes out, and that’s why aficionados have always been willing to fork over the big bucks for an Intense. You’re not just buying a bike, you’re getting a small slice of Intense cred. The all-new Intense Sniper is the latest bike to join their range.

You’re not just buying a bike, you’re getting a small slice of Intense cred.

Short travel, long days, small weight, big grins.

Over the past decade the brand has had ups and downs as they’ve moved some operations away from the US and navigated the world of Asian manufacturing, but the legions of Intense fans have stayed true. The brand is back at its best now, and with a new Rider Direct sales model (more on that later) the pricing puts Intense within the reach of many more riders. The Intense Sniper XC is the first dedicated cross-country bike from Intense in many years and it joins a crew of trail bikes and Enduro bikes that have been getting a lot of accolades recently.


Check out our review of the luscious Intense Spider 275 C here!


Super sharp paintwork!

Shhh, it’s in disguise!

No, we’re not talking about the pop art-esque digital camo graphics. At first look, the Intense Sniper does a good job of pretending to be a conventional high-end cross-county race bike; with 29″ wheels, 100mm travel at both ends and a feathery 10.2kg weight, it has all the boxes ticked to sit alongside the likes of Giant’s new Anthem 29 or Specialized Epic. But when you look deeper, it’s clear this isn’t your usual XC race bike.

The upper link is carbon, and the lower magnesium.

Let’s take a look at that geometry.

If you don’t like numbers, just skip this bit, but if you’re a geo-nerd this is interesting stuff! Just like other categories of bikes, XC race machines are getting slacker. But the Sniper’s head angle puts it way ahead of the curve. At 67.5-degrees it’s a full two degrees slacker than the Specialized Epic, and 1.5 degrees slacker than the Giant Anthem 29er.

Similarly, its reach measurements are longer too, designed to work with a 50-60mm stem. In a size medium, the Sniper has a reach of 444.5mm and a wheelbase of 1152mm. Again that’s much longer than either the Epic or Anthem. Compare the Epic in particular and the Sniper is a massive 3omm longer  in the wheelbase, despite having practically identical rear-centre measurements.

The Sniper’s head angle is what you’d expect to find on a 130-140mm trail bike.

So what?

What it all means, is the Sniper has the confident kind of geometry you’d usually associate with a longer travel trail bike, but mated with the weight and efficiency of a cross-country bike. So does it blend is the best of both worlds, or is it a watered down version of the two? That’s what we’ll be aiming to be find out in our full test to come.

It’s so good to see a dropper post on an XC weapon like this.

Proper dropper.

Reinforcing the Sniper’s trail bike vibe is the speccing of a 125mm-travel dropper post from KS. More often than not, a dropper post would be the first addition we’d make to a XC bike, so a big high five to Intense for speccing it out of the box. Even better, the dropper is found on all models in the range, not just the top tier. Intense could easily have been tempted to run a conventional post and get the weight even lower, but we’re happy they didn’t. A 76omm bar and 50mm stem tell you even more about how this bike is meant to be ridden.

The compact front end will fit a full size bottle.

It gets better the more you look at it.

The more time we’ve spent with this bike, the greater our appreciation for its construction. We love the lightweight asymmetric rear end, what a stunner! The upper link is carbon, while the lower link is magnesium (the base model frameset found on the Expert spec bike gets an aluminium link, which is about 50g heavier). You won’t find provisions for a front derailleur, nor do you need one with the Eagle drivetrain.

The rear end is asymmetrical.

A full size water bottle fits easily, and there’s good chain slap protection, plus a protective guard on the down tube too. The paint job (while pretty lairy) is bloody fantastic, with awesome detail and sharp, crisp lines.

The only downside we’ve found so far is the cable routing for the rear brake. Like some other US brands, they seem to have forgotten provisions for riders who run the rear brake on the left. It would be nice to see a port for the brake line to enter on the other side of the head tube, for cleaner routing.

We’re big fans of the slender FOX 32 Step Cast fork – it’s way more capable than its slender build would suggest.
A 50mm stem and 760mm is not your standard XC racer fare.

What’s the whole JS Tuned thing about?

‘JS’ is Jeff Streber, founder of Intense. The JS Tuned tag signifies a wholistic approach to the bike, not just a suspension tune. It’s all about picking the parts that are most fit for purpose, rather than just whatever is convenient or will hit a certain price point. The eclectic spec on this bike demonstrates this perfectly: a SRAM drivetrain, Shimano brakes, a KS dropper post, DT hubs… the spec looks more like it has been hand picked by a shop staff member, rather than chosen out of a catalogue to hit a figure on the shop floor.

The Pro build we have been riding rolls on Intense’s own carbon rims laced to DT hubs.

Spec options and Rider Direct sales.

There are five tiers of Sniper XC available in Australia, and while our Elite-level bike comes in at a hefty $10499, models start from $5499 for the Foundation build kit. That’s a far cry cheaper than you could ever purchase an Intense for in the past, an outcome of their recent shift to what they’re calling ‘Rider Direct’ sales.

In a nutshell, you now have the option to buy an Intense direct and get it delivered to your door, or you can have it sent to an Intense dealer for assembly and pick up.  Either way, the price is the same. Because the model means dealers aren’t required to hold huge amounts of stock, the pricing is a lot sharper. In our mind, the Expert level spec ($6999) is especially competitive.

This bike is going to be with us for a few months, we’ll be racing it at Port to Port MTB, so expect an in-depth review and plenty of updates!

 

Kiwis Control MTBA Cross-Country on The Gold Coast

The current Oceania Champions dominated the fields on both days with commanding victories.

On Saturday Sheppard, devastated the women’s line-up winning in a time of 1:27:21, more than four minutes ahead of Australian champion Rebecca McConnell (ACT) and Holly Harris (NSW).

Samara Sheppard.

While Sunday the minor placing’s were filled by former Kiwi champion Kate Fluker (NZL) and Eliza Smyth (ACT).

The two wins put Sheppard on top of the national series ladder after her victories in Orange late last year.

“I’m really happy the way my season is going so far. Feeling really strong and good on the bike.”

“Tried to ride all the technical stuff really smooth and then the climbs worked to my strength,” the Wellington native said.

It was the first race back for McConnell who admitted she hasn’t been on a bike since the world championships in September.

Bec McConnell.

“That was a huge shock to the system.”

“You can’t bring your B game and expect to beat Samara and the only way I knew I would be a chance is to be at the top of the descent which I managed to do on the first lap but then we hit the start straight on lap 2 and she was gone,” said the Canberra rider.

In the elite men, Cooper showed his early season form is nothing but solid as he left the field in his wake on both days with Daniel McConnell (ACT) and Tasman Nankervis (ACT) on the podium on Saturday while Cameron Ivory (NSW) bounced back from a flat tyre in Round 3 to take second with Reece Tucknott (WA) in third.

Cameron Ivory.

“It was a lot cooler than Saturday’s race, which was brutal. ”
“I felt really good out there today and it is a great start to the season,” Cooper said.

For McConnell it was his first hit out of the year and was under no illusions about how tough it would be.

“I made so many mistakes on the single track but it was good to get that one under the belt and look forward to improving from here,” the multiple Australian champion commented.

Daniel McConnell.

The weekend racing also allowed the Kiwis and Australia’s two elite champions a look at the Commonwealth Games Course to be used in April.

“It’s a course that is really made for Aussies and I hope it gives us a great advantage,” the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games elite women’s bronze medallist commented after Saturday’s race.

Eliza Smyth.

Cameron Wright (QLD) once again was a cut above the rest of the field in the Junior men taking the double wins ahead of Matt Dinham (NSW) and Sam Fox (TAS).

Cameron Wright.

The next two rounds of the 2018 MTBA Cross-Country National Series will be held on the Australia Day long weekend in Pemberton, Western Australia.

Zoe Cuthbert

Photos – Element Photo & Video

Team Torq Becomes MOTION MTB Team

The Torq Australia Mountain Bike Team, one of Australia’s most successful and longest standing mountain bike teams, is changing its name to the MOTION MTB team and will continue its close partnership with Merida Bikes and TORQ nutrition for the 2018 cross country season. 

Motion are excited to announce the new name and ongoing sponsorship deal with Merida, one of the largest global bike brands that has supported mountain biking at all levels for the last 10 years.  Other team partners include SRAM, Complete Wealth, Krush, Flight Centre Active, Met, Go Pro, Adidas eyewear, Mitas Tyres, FTP Training.

Team founder and manager Dean Clark said, “This team has been our passion since 2006.  We have helped more junior riders develop into national champions than any other mountain bike team in Australia, but more importantly we have helped young people achieve their goals and develop their cycling careers. The name change is really only cosmetic and more about promoting our own Melbourne-based cycling apparel company, MOTION.” MOTION has been involved with the team for many years and has been instrumental in the testing and R&D of our range of retail products, and its bespoke range of custom kit for stores and clubs. 

The Team has always had a big development focus at National/Oceania/World Cup level cross country, but has also competed in most major endurance stage races in Australia.  The 2018 Motion Merida Team will have a good balance of male and female riders across all age groups and will continue its focus on rider development, whilst ensuring they have fun in a great team environment.

All-New Specialized Epic

The paint job on this S-Works model is ridiculous, changing colour like a carbon chameleon.

From our perspective, it feels like cross country is on the ascendency again. The World Cup coverage of XC is superb, huge players like Iron Man and Red Bull are investing in top-tier cross-country events and athletes, and there are loads of brilliant new XC race rigs hitting the market too. In the past 12 months, both the Scott Spark and the Giant Anthem have had a complete overhaul, and now you can add Specialized to that list.

Hey! Where’d your Horst link go?

There are so many changes with the new Epic that we don’t really know where to start. Perhaps we could begin by pointing out that this bike is no longer the Epic FSR – it’s just the Epic. Why? Well, it no longer uses an FSR linkage. For the first time since god knows when, Specialized have ditched the Horst link, a design that has been underpinned their dual suspension bikes for decades.

Another look at that sleek and pivot-less rear end.

Instead, you’ll find a flex stay arrangement. Travel is still 100mm, but dropping a pivot obviously, saves weight, reduces a point of wear and potential flex, and makes for a super stiff rear end laterally. Even the alloy versions of the Epic use a flex stay.

For the first time, RockShox supply the Brain shock for the Epic. The layout and damping has been changed entirely from the previous version.

There have been some absolutely massive weight savings. The mainframe alone is 500g lighter than its predecessor. 500g! That’s like removing the shock, all the pivot hardware and the paint. And that’s just the front end. On the models with a carbon rear end, Specialized have shaved another 200g+. That’s the better part of a kilo chopped from an already light bike.

Specialized’s long-standing partnership with FOX for their Brain shock seems to have come to an end, with RockShox providing the new rear damper across all Epic models. The Brain system is totally revised too, both in terms of structure and damping. The Brain reservoir now rearward of the brake caliper, behind the rear axle. By our reckoning, this should increase the responsiveness of the inertia valve hugely. But what really grabbed us, is the integration of the shock, the linkage and the hose that joins the shock to the Brain unit. The pictures do a better job of telling the tale, but in a nutshell, the linkage forms part of the conduit from shock to Brain, with the damping oil actually running through the linkage. Insane. Brilliant. Sleek as hell.

The hose from the shock to the Brain valve is integrated into the linkage, which becomes an element of the shock itself.

With every iteration of the Brain, Specialized seem to strive to make it feel less intrusive when you don’t want it. While we haven’t ridden the new bike yet (we will soon!) Specialized claim the new Epic has a far more plush ride, closer to that which you’d expect from the Camber.

Of course, the bike uses Boost hub spacing, and like all new bikes, the geometry is slacker and has more reach than before. The head angle is now 69.5 degrees, a full 1.5 degrees more relaxed than the previous Epic. The Epic uses a custom RockShox SID Brain-equipped fork, with just 42mm of offset (compare that to the 51mm found on many 29er). It’ll be interesting to see how this affects the handling, it should make it very stable in theory.

The new cable routing deserves a mention too, running over the top of the bottom bracket shell (which is threaded, not press fit – hooray!), and there are provisions for running a dropper post too, which we think many people will. This bike has a much more ‘trail bike’ kind of vibe to it than earlier Epics, so a dropper would play to those strengths.

Apparently, we’re not going to be waiting long to actually get a ride on this bike too, with stock arriving in July 2017, but prices have been set as below:

S-Works (men’s and women’s) – $12,500

S-Works Epic frameset, including fork – $6500

Epic Expert – $6900

Epic Comp Carbon (men’s and women’s) – $5200

Epic Comp – $3800

2018 Giant Anthem – First Ride

Say hello to Giant’s new cross-country weapon.

While Giant’s 2017 Anthems steered away from the bike’s race focused history (their 2017 model bordered on trail bike territory with a 120mm front end paired with an 110mm rear – read our review here), the 2018 Anthem 29” takes this ever-popular model back to its racing roots. We know a lot of racers who are going to be very excited to see this bike back in its pure, Watt-bombing form.

The Anthem is back rolling on big wheels.

Apart from the move to 29” wheels, the new Anthem also sports a 100mm front end paired with 90mm of rear suspension. Yep, 90mm out back. Didn’t we tell you this was a dedicated XC weapon?


Why all the dramatic changes- weren’t Giant 100% committed to 27.5” wheels?

Where the previous year’s Anthem models focused on versatility and appealing to a wider audience than merely dedicated racers, the 2018 Anthem is an unashamed race bike through and through.The goal for the 2018 Anthem, was speed. Filthy, nasty speed.

The frame is beefy where it needs to be, and slender everywhere else. Our complete bike was 9.8kg.

The bike’s intentions were perhaps best summed up by Kevin Dana, Giant’s Global Off-Road Category Manager.

“We’re completely unapologetic, we know this isn’t a bike for everyone, this is a purebred cross-country race bike”

Southern California’s smooth single track was the perfect testing grounds for the new Anthem.

So, the bigger wheels are faster now?

Yep. Giant were staunch 27.5″ advocates – indeed, they might have been the industry’s strongest proponents for 27.5 – proclaiming that the handling attributes of a 27.5” wheel outweighed the benefits of a 29” wheel. Maybe this was the case in 2014, but we don’t need to spell it out that 29ers have come a long way in the past three years, across all segments of the mountain bike market. New technologies and approaches to geometry have seen 29ers get their mojo back, and Giant has incorporated these into the new bike.

The new Anthem’s geometry is radically different to its 2013 predecessor, and Giant feel they can now create a bike that takes advantage of the benefits of the big wheels without the handling compromises of previous years.

Boost spacing played a big role in the new Anthem.

We’ll spare you the standard longer, lower and slacker diatribe, but the triple threat treatment means the bike feels far less twitchy than a cross-country bike of yesteryear- no more sweaty palms descending aboard a 29” cross-country bike with a 72-degree head angle! Full geometry is below.

The new Anthem 29 handles the descents far better than its predecessor.

One area of geometry that drastically effects the Anthem’s handling is the shorter rear end. During the prototyping phase, long-time Giant athletes Carl Decker and Adam Craig wanted the bike to be easier to flick around on the trail and pop onto one wheel for getting over obstacles.

Carl Decker was instrumental in this bike’s development.

The number they settled on, which they were able to achieve through the new standards of 1x drivetrains (the aluminium model features a brazed-on front derailleur mount for nostalgic purposes), Boost spacing and metric shocks, was 438mm. That a full 24mm shorter than the previous Anthem 29er! That number felt pretty spot on to us, providing the right mix of making the bike’s handling livelier than its boat-esque predecessor while keeping the bike’s wheelbase in check for its intended use (1133mm for a size medium). 438mm is a sensible length – we’ve often noted that going too short on a XC bike can make it harder to keep the front end from lifting and can detract from the overall stability.

The new Anthem features a trunnion mounted rear shock.
The new Anthem is a 1x only affair, with the exception of the aluminium model.

What about the suspension- why 90mm of rear travel?

90mm of travel definitely feels like a pretty hardcore approach – we can’t think of many bikes in recent years emerging with less than 100mm out back. Giant’s rationale for the abbreviated travel isn’t just about positioning this bike as a race weapon, it’s also because they feel that 90mm of premium quality travel is better than 100mm with compromises.

The aim with the Anthem was to provide 90mm of fully usable travel.

Less can be more. Explain, please! 

When Giant first set about reincarnating the Anthem 29”, they tested several 29” dual-suspension cross-country bikes already on the market, all of which had 100mm of rear travel. What they found was that due to the short shock strokes, low air volumes and high leverage ratios generally used on these bikes, the shock’s air pressure had to be run quite high, which lead to suspension performance compromises.

With high suspension leverage ratios and the associated high shock pressures often found on XC race bikes, it was often difficult to obtain full travel. And often, to get full travel, they ended up having to run too much sag and lose mid-stroke support. Finally, high shock pressures can result in less usable rebound tuning range – it’s something we’ve seen often, too much pressure leads to you having just a couple of clicks of truly relevant rebound adjustment, with the rest being largely superfluous.

The Anthem features a more usable rebound range than other XC bikes on the market.

So, how does the Anthem’s 90mm shock solve these problems?

What Giant found after trialling a couple of 100mm prototypes was that moving to 90mm travel with a lower leverage ratio, and using a shock with a higher air volume and a longer stroke length, allowed for lower air pressures to be used.

Carl Decker explains the rationale behind the Anthem’s rear suspension.

Pushing through all the tech talk, lower air pressures let Giant obtain better shock sensitivity, more mid-stroke support, more rebound control, and the usability of the full travel range without blowing through and bottoming out.

We would describe the Anthem’s rear suspension as supportive and efficient.

The mid stroke support gives you a better riding position, as regardless of whether you’re in or out of the saddle there’s minimal bobbing and good traction. Cutting to the chase- we were very impressed by the Anthem’s rear travel. It’s not the brutal, and super firm feel we anticipated when we first heard it had 90mm of travel, but rather it’s quality, and it’s effective.

The Anthem’s 90mm of travel isn’t a lot on paper, but it works superbly.

How did the rest of the bike go out on the trail?

Fast. We were aboard the top of the line Anthem 29 Advanced Pro 0 for the bike’s launch, a bike featuring nothing but the best components available, and the bike didn’t disappoint.

Suffering on the climbs behind Carl Decker.

Our testing took place in Southern California at Giant USA’s headquarters, on perfect testing grounds for the bike of predominantly smooth and fast singletrack, although the treacherous loose over hardpack surface kept us on our toes! Due to the trails’ slippery surface, many of the climbs were best tackled in the saddle, where the bike’s seated traction was impressive. It felt precise and easy to manage on the switchback climbs too, whipping through nicely with the shorter rear end.

The rolling terrain was best ridden with intent.

Opening up the speed a bit more on wide open fire trails, punchy ascents and undulating singletrack, the Anthem came into its own. The impressively light overall weight (9.98kg without pedals for a medium) was backed up by predictable traction, and the bike’s geometry encourages you to go for it.

A big chainring for a fast bike.

With the suspension’s excellent sensitivity, out of the saddle efforts over choppy surfaces resulted in far less skipping of the rear wheel than we’ve experienced in the past, meaning more of our power was delivered to the ground, even on the seriously loose trail surface.

We enjoyed powering out of the saddle on the Anthem.

The shock uses a remote lockout – it’s a two-stage system, with the compression either open or locked. Racers will love it, though we’d like to have seen a middle setting here – something similar to Scott’s Twinloc system would be very useful. With the bike locked out, the super firm compression setting tended to see the rear wheel skipping. And with the bike fully open, the compression sometimes felt a little more wallowy than we would’ve liked if we were racing and every second was on the line.. Something in the middle would have been ideal.

The longer paddle is used to open the suspension.
The shorter paddle is used to lock the suspension.

This is a minor complaint, and perhaps setting the bike up with a touch less sag (Giant recommend between 20-25%, and we were using the latter measurement for our testing) would allow you to run the bike fully open all the time whilst retaining as much efficiency as possible, saving the lockout for only full blown sprints.

Sag setup on the Anthem is critical. 20-25% is the recommendation. We’d urge you to go closer to 20%.

What about the descents?

As mentioned above, the new Anthem features the standard longer, lower, slacker treatment that barely rates a mention when a new bike is released these days.

Who said you can’t have fun on an XC bike?

Key measurements like a 69-degree head angle, 73.5-degree seat tube angle and a 610mm top tube in a size medium mean the Anthem’s handling on the descents is far less twitchy than in years past. Combined with the more pliable rear end, the Anthem is a surefooted descender for a cross-country race bike, however, we think a dropper post would’ve been a welcome addition.


No dropper post?

Nope. And with a 27.2mm seat post, there aren’t too many options to fit one. This is another nod to the Anthem 29’s intentions as a dedicated XC race bike, however, there are provisions for an internally mounted dropper. As a side note, Giant’s Senior Global Marketing Manager had a dropper on his Anthem, and he was flying down the descents!

Giant’s Andrew Juskaitis tips his dropper equipped Anthem into another slippery Socal turn.

Giant also justify the decision as the 27.2mm seatpost provides additional compliance when smashing along in the saddle, and by running a rigid post there are the obvious weight savings over a dropper. Still, as comfortable as the bike is when powering in the saddle, we’d be looking to install some kind of dropper – even if it were just a short-travel XC-specific offering.

A rigid seatpost was never going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

Any other neat touches?

We’re big fans of the Kabolt axles front and rear on the Anthem, that both shave weight and give the bikes a clean look. The skeletal, one-piece carbon Maestro link is also svelte looking piece of kit, as is the hidden seat post binder – schmicko.

The carbon Maestro link has been refined for maximum weight savings.

Something that’s often overlooked on cross-country bikes is that an 180mm front rotor provides quality stopping power- we’re glad Giant chose to sacrifice a bit of weight over speccing a 160mm offering.

An 180mm front rotor gets a thumbs up from us.

Lastly, the cabling of the bike rates a mention. Giant have always done a superb job, but the way they’ve kept it all smooth and rub-free is nicely done. The dual lockout lever is clean and ergonomic, and the rear lockout comes out neatly just underneath the bottle cage, very unobtrusive.


Right, how many Anthem models will we see in Australia, and for how many dollars?

There are four Anthem models, with three carbon models and one aluminium bike in the range. The bike we were testing is the only full-carbon model with both a carbon front triangle and a carbon rear end, while the other two carbon models feature an aluminium rear end. According to Giant, the carbon rear end saves around 120 grams.

We tested the top of the line Anthem Advanced Pro 29 0.
The Anthem Advanced 29 1 features an aluminium rear end.
The Anthem 29 1 is the only aluminium model that will be available.

The 2018 Anthem models that will be coming into Australia, as well as their prices, have not been confirmed, but watch this space!

Tested: Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup

if going fast is the objective, there aren't many better options than the all-new Scott Spark.
If going fast is the objective, there aren’t many better options than the all-new Scott Spark.

Much like the Fed wouldn’t settle for a rubbish racquet, Nino Schurter wouldn’t rock up to the start line aboard anything but the best, so when Scott released an all new Spark frame last year, we sat up and paid attention.

The top of the line Spark RC 900 SL is the lightest dual suspension bike in the world.
The top of the line Spark RC 900 SL is the lightest dual suspension bike in the world.

We covered the revisions to the frame, as well as the spec on the model we’re testing in our launch recap and First Bite for this bike, so we’ll jump straight into how the bike went out on the trail.

Onto the important part!
Onto the important part!

What’s the Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup all about?

The Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup is about going fast everywhere, all the time. Every watt of power that you put into the pedals goes straight into moving you forward, at pace, through the incredibly stiff frame, efficient suspension and light overall weight.

The chunky bottom-bracket area of the Spark delivers every watt of power straight into moving you forward.
The chunky bottom-bracket area of the Spark delivers every watt of power straight into the trail.

The seated position is a real winner, comfortably stretched, and perfectly suited to spending extended periods of time on the bike, either racing or chewing up long training rides. In the saddle, the Spark’s riding position felt long enough in the front end to give stability and confidence, and short enough in the rear to feel like you could whip the bike through a corner or take the tighter line.

The Spark allows you to get in more of this, every ride.
The Spark allows you to get in more of this, every ride.
Scott have done a good job on the geometry of the new Spark, it’s a far more confident bike than before.

In terms of pumping and weaving the Spark through the trails, we’re seriously impressed with how the new Spark has improved upon its predecessor not only with lighter weight but with increased frame stiffness, which means the Spark goes where you want it, without feeling squirmy or deflecting off track.

The new Spark is seriously stiff, which is a real confidence booster when the trail gets fast.

The Spark climbs like a scalded cat. Seated pedalling puts you in a good position to grind away powerfully, but for short bursts of power, utilising the Twin Loc remote, locking the rear shock out and pounding out of the saddle delivers devastating efficiency.

If the climb is loose or technical, we found leaving the shock open useful to increase traction to the rear wheel. With the TwinLoc system in its open position, the suspension is very smooth at the top of the stroke, so the rear wheel tracks over loose terrain nicely. Around switchback corners, the Spark goes exactly where you point it, which was a refreshing reminder that not all bikes have 65-degree head angles and kilometre long wheelbases!

Leaving the shock open on technical climbs delivered excellent rear wheel traction.
Leaving the shock open on technical climbs delivered excellent rear wheel traction.

Whilst it’s a bit of a given that a ten-kilogram XC bike is going to climb well, the descending performance of the Spark was sound too. The combination of the longer front centre, slacker head angle and shorter chainstays than the previous Spark was noticeable, meant the bike felt confident in some pretty technical terrain.

The biggest limiter for the Spark on the descents was cornering traction with the race focused Rocket Ron tyres, which we had to run quite hard due to the combination of the flexy sidewalls, narrow rims and minimal puncture protection.

The Rocket Ron tyres are great for the racetrack, but a bit sketchy for general riding.
The Rocket Ron tyres are great for the racetrack, but a bit sketchy for general riding.

The other limiter on descents was the lack of dropper post- we stopped to put our seat down for a couple of descents and it demonstrated just how capable the Spark has the potential to be. Even if you’re a racer who wants the lightest possible weight, unless your descending technique is flawless, we seriously think a dropper post could be the faster option, not to mention a ton more fun riding with your mates on the weekend.

As much as we loved the Ritchey WCS components, we think a dropper post would be a great upgrade to the Spark for all but the most proficient descenders.
As much as we loved the Ritchey WCS components, we think a dropper post would be a great upgrade to the Spark for all but the most proficient descenders.

Through twisty and undulating singletrack, the Spark delivers an efficient and addictive ride. We always found ourselves wanting to push harder aboard the Spark, it just rushes forward, even when you should be exhausted – this thing would be an XC Marathon destroyer.

The only criticism we would have about the Spark out on the trail is the commitment it requires from the rider to get the most out of the bike.

Where on a trail bike with a more relaxed geometry a rider can safely potter through singletrack in the saddle if they’re not feeling it, and ride technical sections with a dropped saddle and slacker geometry, the upright and forward position of the Spark rewards hitting the trails at pace, as the steering is twitchy at slow speeds, and the bike feels tippy coming into technical terrain slowly.

The Spark rewards committed and aggressive riding.

Put faith in the Spark’s stiff frame and excellent geometry however, and you’ll find yourself negotiating tricky sections and singletrack with more confidence than you would think aboard an XC race bike. It just takes a more confident approach!

As we discussed before, with the addition of a dropper post and in the hands of a skilled pilot, you would have yourself a super light and super capable bike not just for the race track, but a bit of lighter trail riding also.


Who is this bike for?

There’s no doubt that the Spark is aimed at the gel-munching, leg shaving XC racer. Its race credentials in the hands of Nino Schurter prove far beyond our amateur opinions that this bike is ready to be ridden up, down and all around at serious pace.

It's fifth gear or bust aboard the Spark.
It’s fifth gear or bust aboard the Spark.

Despite this, we think that if you place a high value on having a bike that is light and fast, and your trails are relatively smooth and non-technical, then a skilled rider could have a lot of fun aboard the Spark. Fit it out with a dropper post and you’ll surprise yourself with how capable this machine is, not to mention the fact that on a bike this light you’ll be able to ride much further before getting tired.

If you're a technically proficient rider looking for a fast bike to take to the trails, and the races, the Spark could be the ticket.
If you’re a technically proficient rider looking for a fast bike to take to the trails, and the races, the Spark could be the ticket.

What upgrades could you make?

As we discussed in our First Bite, it would be difficult to blame your bike if this was your race weapon and you had a bit of an off day.

The Spark won't let you down come race day.
The Spark won’t let you down come race day.

Despite this, if you really wanted the ultimate race machine, you could go for the Spark 900 RC SL model, which is the lightest full-suspension bike in existence, weighing in as a complete build at under 10kg, and coming stock with Fox’s Factory level suspension, a full Eagle XX1 groupset and carbon Syncros wheels.

We got a test ride on the SL model at the launch in Lenzerheide, and we weren't disappointed.
We got a test ride on the SL model at the Spark launch in Lenzerheide, and we weren’t disappointed.

Another option is to get yourself a set of race wheels for the World Cup model tested here. The stock Syncros XR RC wheels aren’t a bad wheelset whatsoever, and they did the job perfectly throughout the review. Impressively, the lightweight and relatively nondescript aluminium wheelset stayed true throughout testing. However, a set of slightly wider, lightweight hoops for race day would give the Spark even more zing.

The Syncros wheelset was reliable, but a little on the narrow side.
The Syncros XR RC wheelset was reliable, but a little on the narrow side.

Is it good value for money?

Cynics will probably point to the Fox Performance level suspension, Eagle X01 drivetrain and alloy Syncros wheels and see them as below par for a bike of this cost. However we think the Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup is hard to go past for the discerning XC racer.

The Performance of Fox's Performance level suspension really surprised us.
The name says it all when it comes to the suspension- performance.
The Spark's stiffness in key areas is what gives it so much panache on the trail.
The Spark’s stiffness in key areas is what gives it so much panache on the trail.

With an overall weight of ten kilograms on the dot, and perhaps the best dual suspension XC frame currently on the market, not only in terms of weight but in the areas of stiffness and geometry, we would sacrifice the top of the line components in a couple of areas.


How did the components perform?

The Eagle X01 drivetrain was flawless throughout testing, as were the wheels as we discussed earlier. If you bought a set of race wheels, the XR RC’s would make an excellent training wheelset. Another potential upgrade you could make to the bike with a second wheelset is saving the lightweight Rocket Ron tyres for race day, and using something a bit sturdier that can be safely run at lower pressures for everyday riding.

The Rocket Ron's are a race tyre through and through.
The Rocket Ron tyres aren’t the most confidence-inspiring.

The Fox Performance series suspension was a real eye opener. Far from feeling like Fox’s second tier offering, the fork and shock felt supple, stiff and well tuned to the purpose of the bike. The way Fox have managed to lower the weight of their 32mm fork offerings through their ‘Step-Cast’ technology has not led to any loss in stiffness or increased flex, which is astounding.

We were seriously impressed with Fox's Performance Series suspension, and the Twin Loc lockouts are an excellent feature for XC racing.
We were seriously impressed with Fox’s Performance Series suspension, and the Twin Loc lockouts are an excellent feature for XC racing.
The Ritchey WCS cockpit was comfortable and stylish.
The Ritchey WCS cockpit was comfortable and stylish.

As we noted in the First Bite, the Ritchey World Cup Series components are real standouts on this bike. Not only do they look gorgeous, but the stem and handlebar combination worked well, and the seatpost stayed put with just 4nm of torque and a smear of carbon paste.

Scott’s Twin-Loc remote system worked excellently on the Spark, as its pace-demanding attitude meant that having the option to stiffen or lock out the suspension completely was highly useful during short sprints, climbs and smoother sections of trail. The ergonomic positioning of the remote with its integration with the grip clamp meant it was easy to reach the levers for on-the-fly suspension adjustments.

The Twin Loc remote aboard the Spark integrates with the Syncros grip for an ergonomic position.
The Twin Loc remote integrates with the Syncros grip for an ergonomic position.

Any gripes?

We think the rims should be slightly wider internally, as their narrowness meant we were forced to run the Rocket Ron tyres at very high pressures or they felt very squirmy, which meant there wasn’t a heap of traction available on loose trail surfaces.

The narrow Syncros XR RC rims forced us to run higher pressures than we would've liked.
The narrow Syncros XR RC rims forced us to run higher pressures than we would’ve liked.

Secondly, whilst the integration of the Twin-Loc remote onto the Syncros grips gives the handlebar a clean look, it means you can only run grips with the same lock ring fitting as the stock Syncros offering. As grips are often a personal preference on a bike, we see the lack of options for changing them out as a potential dilemma for some riders- for example, lots of XC riders use push on foam grips, which is not an option aboard the Spark.

The integration of the Twin Loc remote limits the options for changing grips.
The integration of the Twin Loc remote provides excellent ergonomics but limits the options for changing grips.

So, who would the Spark light up the trails for?

The all-new Scott Spark is a cross-country race bike through and through, but it’s reminded us how much fun blasting through the singletrack at full pace and having a bike that responds with ferociously sharp steering can be. Whilst the majority of people that own this bike will probably enjoy racing, it doesn’t have to be your number one focus to have a good time aboard the Spark. 

Harris And Johnston Break National Elite Series Drought

It also marked the continued dominance of Cameron Wright (QLD) in the Junior Men, as the 16 year old again produced a scintillating ride to make it five straight victories.

For Harris, who is competing in her first year of elite competition, it was the win she’d been waiting for as the Armidale rider took up the challenge to defending series champion Rebecca Henderson.

“I was sitting in behind Bec feeling alright and my team-mate Kathryn (McInerney) made a big attack and I sort of followed her and then somehow I took off on the front.”

However, Harris had to hold off more than the challenges from the chasing pack as the final of the five laps approached on a dry and dusty Mt Taylor course.

“I sort of remembered the mistake I make every single race and that’s blowing up so I tried to not do that.”

Hunting her down was Jodie Willett (QLD), who made her move on the fourth lap and was closing.

“I’ve been here helping with the MTBA junior squad and I think it’s a bit inspiring, I was riding on inspiration as it’s their first race and it inspired me to get involved and give it a go.”

The last time Willett medalled in the national series was at Pemberton two years ago.

Harris finished in a time of 1:29:52 ahead of Willett and McInerney, with Henderson more than three minutes back in fourth.

It’s been a big week for the dual Olympian, having signed on with a new bike sponsor Scott earlier in the week.

“There’s been a lot going on and it’s been a pretty stressful time trying to get everything together, and today I was just really low on energy.”

“These back to back races aren’t doing me any favours, and I’m just struggling to recover and it’s taking its toll the next couple of weeks.”

No such trouble for Johnston, who in only his third race this series stormed off the start line and held his place at the front of the 25 man field.

“I was lucky to be at the front and fortunate not to consume too much dust,” he remarked.

After back to back seconds at Armidale, Johnston again attacked from the race gun and this time it would pay off with Tasman Nankervis (VIC) and Reece Tucknott (WA) unable to real the Canberran back in as he crossed the line in a time of 1:26:47, more than 30 seconds in front of the minor places.

“It’s my first ever elite win and it’s something I’ve maybe thought it was out of the question in the era of Dan McConnell, but the rest of us are starting to really challenge him and I’m just really happy.”

Nankervis, who finished second here last year, tried to match it with Johnston early in the six lap race.

“First lap was ok, then I had a stack into a tree and Trekky was going that solid I couldn’t catch him again.”

“Lately I’ve been doing a lot of training for these types of races and haven’t tapered at all, and I think it might work in my favour,” warned Nankervis ahead of Round 6 on Sunday.

In the junior men, Wright’s purple patch of form continued, as he produced the third fastest overall lap time of the day and accounted for another stacked junior men’s field.

Despite his untarnished record this season, the Brisbane-based rider wasn’t expecting to again dominate a talented field.

“Going into the season I’ve been feeling really strong but I actually had my doubts today.”

Cameron Wright once again won the Junior Men's category.
Cameron Wright once again won the Junior Men’s category.

Another junior relishing the Australian season is New Zealand’s Jessica Manchester (NZL).

The diminutive Kiwi was again unstoppable as she racked up another victory on foreign soil and is heavily backed to claim the Oceania title in two weeks time.

Flashing Finish For Henderson

The duo were locked together heading into the last of the 5 laps around the 6 km course, before it came down to the final 50m.

“The outside line wasn’t ideal but I was able to carry that little bit of extra speed and thankfully it was a little quicker,” Henderson admitted.

“It’s been a couple of years since I’ve had a sprint finish.”

The Canberra rider got home by eight hundredths of a second with time of 1:37:08:24.

For Kwan, it was foreign territory out in front battling for the lead with the dual Olympian.

“I’ve never been in that position before, so this is a first for me and it’s given me a big confidence boost.”

“I thought I might try and get in front to try and control the pace, and I didn’t want her to get too far ahead so popping out into the open section I knew I might as well go,” said Kwan.

It was local favourite Holly Harris (NSW) who took up the challenge to Henderson early and tried to pull away on lap three before the reigning national series champion made her move.

“I just used that rock garden to get a little bit of a gap and got away again and then Eliza caught me through the pedally section.”

While in the elite men Jared Graves (QLD) was a late withdrawal from Round 4 through illness, which left it a battle between Dan McConnell (ACT), Cameron Ivory (NSW), and Brendan Johnston (ACT), and it was the Novocastrian Ivory who made it back to back victories in the New England.

“I wasn’t sure how I was going to pull up after yesterday but I was happy to find the form and managed to pull Trekky back,” Ivory said.

Ivory finished in a time of 1:21:59:85, with Johnston in second and Ben Oliver (NZ) holding out for third.

Riders were faced with only five laps on a fast and flowy course with only a few technical rock features, the section where Ivory proved his legs were up to speed.

“Just in that punchy section he’s at another level than me and I tried to hang on through the rocky section and get away but he mowed me down and he was just too strong for me in that part of the race,” said Johnston, who notched up his second runner-up place of the weekend.

There was no change in the junior men and women’s results, with Cameron Wright (QLD) showing his turn of pace to wrap up another top of the podium finish, ahead of Matt Dinham (NSW) and Kian Lerch-Mackinnon (VIC).

In the junior women’s race, Jessica Manchester (NZ) had to fight off Armidale favourite Katherine Hosking (NSW) in a sprint to the line earlier in the day.

Ivory And Henderson Prevail In Armidale

Despite having little time on the mountain bike heading into the season, the Newcastle rider showed a change of coach in the off-season has paid off, finishing in a time of 1:46:21, 33 seconds ahead of Brendan Johnston (ACT) and Jared Graves (QLD) after eight laps.

Jared Graves made an appearance, finishing an impressive third.
Jared Graves made an appearance, finishing an impressive third.

“Coming in here I didn’t know what to expect with all the quick guys and I knew Trekky (Brendan Johnston) would be hard to beat as always,” Ivory remarked.

“For me it’s the start of a new mountain bike racing year coming into the European season, and it should be a good year.”

It wasn’t the opening round reigning national series champion Daniel McConnell had hoped for, crashing in the rock garden before removing himself from the race with three laps to go.

That left Johnston and Graves to chase down Ivory who looked strong right to the finish on a course that physically punished the riders with tough climbs and tougher descents.

“Coming into the second lap thought I’d test the legs and see who could come with me,” said Ivory.

“I knew it was a good course for Gravesy with all the skills work out there so I just tried to get a little gap and hold it.”

Johnston, who has been racing on the road recently found the early going tough.

“It was hard first up and the track really made the day pretty solid with that punchy climb right in the middle every lap and with the obstacles you never got a rest and you had to work hard the whole time.”

In the elite women, Henderson was pushed all the way during her win in by Anna Beck (QLD) in second and Holly Harris (NSW) in third in her winning time of 1:36:16.

Bec Henderson took the win in the elite women.
Bec Henderson took the win in the elite women.

“That was seriously brutal all day and my heart-rate was always in the 180’s, which is very high for me,” Henderson commented.

The 18 women had 6 laps of the punishing course.

“I was seriously suffering on the last two laps,” said the national series reigning champion

“The middle bit suited me really well and I was able to get up the rock pinches and got a little bit of time there. I hated the climb though, you had to pedal and pedal and you wanted to rest but you couldn’t.”

Beck, who was looking for her second win of the series, faced a tough mental battle as Henderson kept pulling away in the rock garden section.

“I could feel myself catching her on the climbs and on the rest of the course there was a bit of cat and mouse, but she had one up on me today,” Beck said.

In the junior women New Zealand’s Jessica Manchester spoilt the possibility of a home town win for Katherine Hosking, who finished second, taking vital UCI points in a time of 1:09:37 seconds.

Cameron Wright (QLD), who averaged just over 13 minutes a lap in the junior men’s race, produced a dominant performance to take the top step of the podium ahead of Matt Dinham (NSW) and Kian Lerch-Mackinnon (VIC).

Flow’s First Bite: Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup

The brand new Scott Spark is drastically different to the previous design.
The brand new Scott Spark is drastically different to the previous design.

Okay, maybe nobody said that to us, and we certainly haven’t thrown the Spark sideways through the air like the Swiss wizard himself, but the all new 2017 Scott Spark has been filling our heads with thoughts that maybe we missed our calling in life as fit and powerful cross-country racers.

Motoring through the trails is what the Spark is all about.
Motoring through the trails is what the Spark is all about.

So, this is a brand-new Scott Spark for 2017?

Yep! We were lucky enough to attend the launch of the new Spark range earlier this year, and we won’t go into the incredible number of changes and new additions the 2017 frame features here, but check out our recap of the launch to see just why the new Spark is perhaps the most desirable cross-country bike on the planet right now!

An integrated derailleur hanger is one of the Spark's many weight saving revisions.
An integrated derailleur hanger is one of the Spark’s many weight saving revisions.

It looks like there’s some top of the line kit on the Spark- is there anything on this bike that you can upgrade? 

Our large sized Spark RC 900 World Cup weighs in at ten kilograms on the dot without pedals, and the only components that aren’t top of the line are FOX’s Performance Line suspension, a set of alloy Syncros wheels and SRAM’s XO1 Eagle groupset rather than the flagship XX1.

Fox's Performance Elite forks still get the Step-Cast treatment.
Fox’s Performance Elite forks still get the Step-Cast treatment.

Despite this, we’re pretty much of the opinion that if you’re on this bike you instantly relinquish any bike/weight/equipment related excuse that you may have used in the past.

The Ritchey World Cup Series finishing kit is simply sublime.
The Ritchey World Cup Series finishing kit is simply sublime.

The Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup sits one model below the top of the line SL model, which comes decked out with factory level Fox suspension, a full complement of Syncros carbon finishing kit and some super light carbon wheels made for Syncros by DT Swiss.

The Scott Spark RC 900 SL is the lightest dual suspension bike in the world.
The Scott Spark RC 900 SL is the lightest dual suspension bike in the world.

What sort of geometry numbers are we looking at?

The Spark is an out and out cross-country race bike, but that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t received some of the ‘modern’ geometry touches that have increased the capabilities of bikes in all travel categories. The new Spark has moved from a 70-degree head angle to 68.5 degrees; the reach has been lengthened in every size (for example, our large sized bike has gone from 438mm to 456.8mm) and the chainstays have been shortened across the range by 13mm to a very snappy 435mm.

The geometry changes Scott have made to the Spark make it a more lively ride.
The geometry revisions have made the Spark a more lively ride.

What’s the lever on the left hand side of the handlebar if there’s no front derailleur or dropper post?

Scott loves their bikes to be adjustable, and the new Spark is no exception. The bike features a Twin Loc remote that controls both front and rear suspension simultaneously. The system has three positions. Firstly, a fully open position that allows full travel, front and rear. One click of the black lever switches the rear shock to Traction mode, while the fork remains fully active and the shock is switched to a firmer setting. Click again and rear shock and fork both lockout fully. The silver lever returns the suspension to full travel.

The Twin-Loc remote system is an excellent feature for Cross-Country racing.
The Twin Loc remote system is an excellent feature for Cross-Country racing.

On trail bikes, we’re not huge fans of lockout levers cluttering the handlebar and creating a bird’s nest of cables adorning the front of the bike, but the Twin Loc system on the Spark makes a lot of sense for cross-country racing and is well integrated. In a recent interview, Nino Schurter commented that he often finishes races with a sore thumb from using the Twin-Loc system continuously throughout a race!

The Twin Loc cable for the rear shock pops out neatly at the bottom of the downtube.
The Twin Loc cable for the rear shock pops out neatly at the bottom of the downtube.

What about if I don’t want to race cross-country World Cups?

We’ll point this out now after only a few rides on this rig- it’s not a trail bike. Every single element of the Spark has been engineered to optimise performance on the cross-country race track. You don’t have to be Nino Schurter to reap the benefits of this machine, but unless you’re racing, or your riding consists of flowing, non-technical trails, then perhaps this bike isn’t the right choice.

The Spark wants to go fast all the time.
The Spark wants to go fast all the time.

Despite this bike being a dedicated race bike, look out for a full review soon, where we’ll go into more detail about how the Spark handles the variety of riding we plan to throw at it.

Flow’s First Bite: Scott MTB RC Lace Shoes

We're into the aesthetics of the simple lacing, what do you think?
We’re into the aesthetics of the simple lacing, what do you think?

As is often the case, what starts on the road eventually makes its way to the mountain biking industry, and following in the same vein as the opinion dividing Giro Empire, the Scott MTB RC Lace shoe is a cross-country mountain bike shoe that forgoes the fancy closure systems we’ve become so accustomed to in favour of trusty laces.


Hold on, this is a cross-country shoe with laces?

Indeed! Despite most cross-country shoes relying on ratchets and BOA dial closure systems, which undoubtedly have their place, Scott believe there is a market for laced cross-country shoes. Benefits of laced shoes include increased contact points, increased aerodynamics, and most importantly increased comfort.

The laces on the Scott MTB RC Lace give a snug fit over your entire foot.
The laces on the Scott MTB RC Lace give a snug fit over your entire foot.

How do the laces compare to ratchets, or BOA dials?

As mentioned above, laces offer increased points of contact over the more commonly seen ratchet or BOA systems, which in theory should result in a more comfortable fit. The Scott MTB RC Lace shoes feel comfortable out of the box, although setting them up did take longer than a ratchet or BOA system, as we took our time tightening and adjusting the laces to ensure optimal pressure across the whole foot. Once you’ve done the laces up, they tuck away neatly into a strap located in the centre of the shoe.

A simple strap across the middle of the laces allows you to tuck them away neatly once tightened.
A simple strap across the middle of the laces allows you to tuck them away neatly once tightened.

Who is the Scott MTB RC Lace Shoe for?

With a rating of nine on Scott’s stiffness index, which means very stiff, and a lightweight design (a US 8.5 weighs in at 350 grams), the RC Lace shoes lean towards the XC side of the mountain biking spectrum. Despite their low weight however, the shoes feature nods to durability and adjustability though reinforced toe and heel boxes, provisions for mounting studs and long cleat grooves. Despite the shoes having mounting points for studs, they don’t ship with them as standard.

Stud mounts and long cleat grooves give riders options to setup these shoes for a variety of riding styles.
Stud mounts and long cleat grooves give riders options to setup these shoes for a variety of riding styles.

How’s the fit?

The fit was comfortable out of the box, but should you find the shoes uncomfortable, the insoles feature removable metatarsal buttons and arch inserts. Like the studs, these inserts are additional purchases, but they’re a nice touch to allow you to customise your fit.

The insoles of the RC Lace's feature two points of adjustment.
The insoles of the RC Lace shoes feature two points of adjustment.
Replaceable metatarsal and arch inserts allow for a more customised fit.
Replaceable metatarsal and arch inserts allow for a more customised fit.

Are there other colour options?

The Scott MTB RC Lace shoes only come in black, however the shoe ships with two lace options. We’re big fans of the poppy red laces, but if you prefer a more modest look you can swap them to black out of the box.


What sort of money are we talking?

The Scott MTB RC Lace shoes retail for $289.95, which we think is a fair price for a carbon soled, lightweight shoe with additional features such as the adjustable insoles. In comparison, Giro Empire VR90’s retail for $349.

The carbon soles on the RC Lace shoes are terrifically stiff, and shiny.
The carbon soles on the RC Lace shoes are terrifically stiff, and shiny!

That’s it for now, it’s time to see how these fresh kicks go out on the trail!

$6,000 in Cash and Prizes Up For Grabs as the Evocities MTB Series Moves to Wagga

The 2016 Evocities MTB Series has now reached the halfway point with racing set to continue in Wagga Wagga on Sunday, 4 September 2016 with $6,000 in cash and prizes up for grabs in the fourth race of the series.

The ‘Wagga Evocities 6 hour MTB Enduro’ is an event for solo riders, pairs and teams being held at Pomingalarna Park on the western outskirts of Wagga Wagga.

2016 Evocities MTB Series Coordinator Tracey Willock said the fourth race will be an endurance format race, so it’s all about solos, pairs and teams doing as many laps as possible.

“The full circuit is a 13km figure of eight loop through natural bushland which will cater for riders of all levels and abilities with plenty to test and satisfy the more seasoned riders,” Ms Whillock said.

“Unlike most endurance rides where laps completed after the six hour mark are counted, Wagga Wagga’s race has an interesting twist. For this event, riders must be back in transition before the six hours are up in order for their last lap to count.”

“In addition to the solo riders, pairs and teams who race the full circuit, there will also be a 30-minute event for the under twelves run on a 2km course adjacent to the transition area.”

“The Wagga Evocities 6 hour MTB Enduro’ will have something to cater for riders of all ages and skill levels, not to mention there’s $6,000 in cash and prizes up for grabs,” Ms Whillock said.

The generous prize money is on offer with the support of Evocities MTB Series sponsors including Fairfax Media; QantasLink; Forestry Corporation; NSW Mining; Charles Sturt University; Macquarie and Orange Anglican Grammar Schools; Spinifex Recruiting; Maas Group Properties; and Prime 7.

Online registrations for the ‘Wagga Evocities 6 hour MTB Enduro’ can be made at www.evocitiesmtb.com/enterwagga.

To stay up to date with the series, visit www.facebook.com/evocitiesmtb or www.evocitiesmtb.com

About Evocities:

The Evocities MTB Series is supported by Evocities, a campaign that showcases the abundance of opportunities in seven of NSW’s leading regional cities due to the lower cost of living, stronger career and business prospects and enhanced lifestyle.

The seven Evocities are Albury, Armidale, Bathurst, Dubbo, Orange, Tamworth and Wagga Wagga. Living in an Evocity means less time commuting, working and stressing and more time for you and your family to enjoy NSW’s beautiful natural surrounds.

 

Tested: Reid Solo 360 27.5″

We’re beginning to see a real shift in how we understand value-for-money in the bike industry. For the last couple of years we’ve witnessed the prices of bikes begin to creep up, driven by the falling Australian dollar and rising material costs. At the same time, these prices rises have been made even more stark by the proliferation of direct-to-the-consumer brands in Australia (such as Reid, Cell, Polygon, Canyon and YT), most of whom have seen less dramatic price increases than their traditional retail counterparts. So on one hand, traditional retail offerings have become more expensive, and on the other, there are now more ‘direct’ brands than ever offering pricing that is relatively cheaper. Interesting times indeed!

FLOW5051

Industry analysis aside, we’re very impressed by what Reid have served up with the Solo 360. Sound geometry coupled with attractive construction, all complimented by the performance of its great components, make it a bike you must consider if you’re looking for a good hardtail without spending a fortune.

The triple-butted alloy frame is sleek, with its understated gloss on matte black graphics, it hits all the right chords with us. If a bike doesn’t have the instant name recognition of a more established brand, then looking good is important, and the Reid ticks this box. It’s clearly a pretty light frameset, with the whole bike weighing in at 12.05kg, and the smooth finish of the tube junctions is what you’d expect at a much higher price point.

 

The clean lines are enhanced by the internal cable routing. We did experience some cable rattle though, which made the bike a bit noisy when it got rough. (You can alleviate this by jamming some light foam rubber into the frame – sounds hokey, but it works.) You only get one water bottle mount, which is unusual on a hardtail, but it’s only an issue on longer rides when you might want to take a pack instead.

Quality components set this bike apart from most at this price. With the exception of the handlebar (which is too narrow for our tastes) this bike is equipped for serious riding and all the components are solid choices.

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The FOX Float 32 is a real boost to this bike’s performance.

The FOX fork is the standout item – it’s rare to see a fork of this quality at this price. With the FIT 4 damper, the 100mm-travel Float 32 offers plenty of grip and control. It’s sensitive for the little stuff, progressive for the big hits, and it’s a simple fork to tune and understand. The three-position compression adjustment makes sense to the less technically inclined rider, and so it’s a real set-and-forget item.

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Shimano’s XT brakes and drivetrain need no introduction. The control and power of the brakes are real confidence boosters, and the crisp and reliable XT shifting is hard to fault. Reid have saved a few dollars and specced a derailleur without a clutch mechanism; we understand the importance of hitting a price point, but we’d love to see a clutch derailleur on this bike, just to add some chain security and make it all a bit quieter on the trail. Still, we didn’t drop a chain or miss a shift once during our testing. The gearing range with twin chain rings and an 11-34 cassette is more than adequate, especially if you think you might use the bike for the occasional commute too.

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A double ring crankset is a sensible choice for this price point and style of bike.

We opted to pop on a wider handlebar for our testing – 660mm was too narrow for us, and with a 720mm bar fitted the bike immediately felt more confident and the riding position was stronger. We’d suggest you do the same if you buy this bike, as it’s definitely capable of some fast and aggressive riding, and the wider bar makes it all the more stable.

Even though we didn’t opt to convert this bike to tubeless, we still found there was plenty of grip on offer with the Continental X-King tyres, and they’re a fast rolling set of treads too. Reid have paid attention to the smaller details too; good lock-on grips, a twin-bolt seat post, a stiff and secure four-bolt stem… it’s all really good stuff, and shows that they’ve considered every item from a serious mountain biking standpoint.

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The stem length is great, but we found we needed a wider bar than the stock item to get the most out of the bike’s capabilities.
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Continental X-King tyres are a sensible choice. They’re fast and well-suited to hard packed trails.

Geometry wise, Reid haven’t taken any risks, picking frame numbers that are playful and agile, but not nervous. The 69-degree head angle is a good balance between confidence and speedy steering, and once we’d swapped the bar, we found that the relatively short stem, good tyres and excellent brakes gave us all the confidence we needed to tackle steeper descents. On the climbs, the 430mm stays are short enough to keep plenty of weight in the rear tyre too, so you’ve got good grip when you put down the power.

Reid definitely surprised us here, and the Solo is the kind of bike that’ll open up a whole new world of riding to a lot of fresh mountain bikers. It forms an awesome platform for progressing your riding and it’s the kind of machine that you can upgrade and tweak to suit your style and trails. Upgrades like going tubeless, adding a clutch derailleur, maybe a dropper seat post, are all worthy considerations down the line, and the bike is definitely good enough to justify these investments in time.

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The Solo 360 mightn’t offer the same cred as some of the brands that have traditionally played in the mountain bike world, but none of that matters when you hit the trail – it’s a good-looking, great handling, superb value machine that’ll leave you with plenty of coin in your pockets to spend on all the other mountain bike essentials.

 

New Stiffer, Lighter, Smoother RockShox SID

RockShox have returned fire in the battle for cross country suspension supremacy! Only a few weeks ago FOX created waves with the release of their lightest ever XC fork, today RockShox have revealed they’ve been hard at work too, announcing a new stiffer, lighter and smoother version of the venerable SID series.

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It must be coming up on twenty years since the first release of the SID, and while it’s definitely the most winning fork ever in cross country circles, we were beginning to think that the SID might have been on the way out. There just hadn’t been a lot of improvements made to SID in recent years as RockShox focused their attention on the development of the RS-1 (review here). But behind the scenes, RockShox had been beavering away, incorporating technologies pioneered in some of their other forks to make the SID a stiffer, leaner and smoother offering. There are four SID forks in the range, all available in 27.5 and 29″, with Boost or regular hub spacing: the World Cup, XX, RLC and RL. Let’s check out the details.

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100mm travel ONLY:

RockShox are taking the SID back to its XC roots – there will be no more 120mm version of the SID, it’s 100mm only. RockShox are letting the Revelation and Pike handle the 120mm market now. Smart move – people are riding 120mm bikes very hard now, and the SID isn’t built for that kind of flogging. Removing travel variants allows RockShox to optimise the air spring specifically for this this travel too, and they say it’s more linear than before, which is good for lighter riders. Heavier or more front heavy riders can still add Bottomless Tokens to increase progressiveness.

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The lower leg is one area that RockShox were able to shave some weight. The dropouts are also Torque Cap compatible.

Lighter:

Moving to a 100mm-only platform allows RockShox to create a lighter fork. In the past, the 120mm and 100m versions shared the same chassis, and so naturally it had to be on the beefier side to accommodate the harder riding demands of those riders on the 120mm fork. Now, as 100mm-only offering, the whole fork can be made a little leaner. The new SID is on average 100g lighter across each of the four models than in the past. The carbon crown/steerer equipped World Cup fork is 1366g, in a 27.5″ version, about 10g heavier than FOX’s new 32SC fork. We don’t have weights for the 29er versions on hand.

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All new SIDs have the option of running the Maxle Stealth. It requires a tool for removal but offers a small weight saving.

Stiffer, kind of:

RockShox are making the claim that the new SID is stiffer than its predecessors, but that’s on the proviso that you’re running one of their Torque Cap hubs, which gives you a much bigger contact area between the hub and fork dropouts. Of course normal 15mm hubs are compatible too, but you lose the increased hub/fork contact and its stiffen gains.

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The Charger damper makes its way into the SID range on the World Cup and RLC models.

New damper: 

The RLC and World Cup versions of the SID get a new damper too; the Charger damper has external compression adjustment plus a two-position lockout (it’s either open, or has a very firm lockout). Beginning stroke rebound is adjustable, but deep stroke rebound is factory set with the excellent Rapid Recovery system. The new damper (did you know that auto-correct thinks the SID has a new diaper?) is complemented by lower-friction seals as well.

We’ll do our best to get you pricing, but as this release came through on a Friday afternoon, we weren’t able to get it confirmed right away.

 

Cannondale’s New Scalpel Si

The company that brought us ‘over-mountain’ are back to their category creating tricks again! This time they’ve added another ‘X’ to XC with the launch of an all-new Cannondale Scalpel Si, which Cannondale say is ‘Built for XXC’. It looks bloody fantastic.


Cannondale Scalpel Si-3

In case you’re wondering, the extra X is for X-TREME, so get radical, dudes. Cannondale have designed the Scalpel to be capable beyond the bounds of a traditional XC bike (i.e. getting all XTREME), but it’s also X-TREME (ok, we’ll stop that now…) in that it’s extremely stiff, extremely light and generally on the cutting edge of this category.

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Fontana, AKA James Bond, was effusive about the traction afforded by the short rear end of the Scalpel Si.

Putting the XXC stuff aside, the new Scalpel doesn’t desert its racing roots but the geometry and construction have been thoroughly modernised, broadening the appeal of this already super popular cross-country machine. We took some time away from the race track at the Cairns World Cup to get a better look at the Scalpel Si. In fact, the bikes we were lucky enough to inspect were the race machines of superstar racers Manuel Fumic and Marco Fontana.

Cannondale are fortunate to have this popular and progressive pair of riders on the team; they’re well known for being incredible bike handlers, and their feedback has clearly influenced the shred-ability of the new Scalpel Si. Let’s delve into the details.

Fumic on board his Scalpel Si at the Cairns World Cup.
Fumic on board his Scalpel Si at the Cairns World Cup.
White loafers for Fontana. Regulation Italian tropical footwear.
White loafers for Fontana. Regulation Italian tropical footwear.
The 55mm offset is key to ensuring the steering is agile while still running a relatively slack 69.5 degree head angle.
The 55mm offset is key to ensuring the steering is agile while still running a relatively slack 69.5 degree head angle.
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Team replica colours. We weighed this frame as 2.16kg.

OutFront Geometry: More stability without sloppy handling.

The Scalpel Si gets Cannondale’s OutFront Geometry treatment. Essentially this relates to the Lefty’s large 55mm offset, which greatly reduces the the trail of the fork, allowing Cannondale to run a slacker head angle, without the usual floppy climbing performance. Paired with a shorter stem and wider bar, it gives the Scalpel more confidence-inspiring, trail-bike-ish handling, but still a nice agile, light steering feel. Cannondale aren’t the only company to use custom fork offsets to improve steering feel, but the 55mm offset is significant and should have a big impact on handling.

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An X12 rear axle (standard 142mm spacing) with a flex stay pivot-less rear end.

Shorter Rear End: Asymmetric Integration.

Long chain stays are so 2012. In order to get the Scalpel’s chain stays down to a snappy 435mm whilst still retaining front derailleur compatibility, Cannondale have employed their Assymetric Intergation rear end design that was initially rolled out on the F-Si hardtail. In a nutshell, the whole drivetrain is shifted outboard by 6mm, away from the tyre. To compensate, the rear wheel has zero-dish, pulling the rim back 6mm the opposite way, so your bike still rides in a straight line. The net result is that you gain more clearance for the tyre and front derailleur, while the rear wheel gets even spoke lengths on both sides, giving you a stiffer wheel.

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Tucking the shock up inside the top tube opens up plenty of room for two water bottles.

Flex Stay suspension with custom RockShox shock.

The Scalpel has long employed a flex stay suspension system, just like the Cannondale Habit SE we reviewed a few months ago. Using a flexing seat stay instead of a pivot point saves weight and makes the rear end laterally stiffer too, as there are fewer places for play to develop. The rear brake is mounted to the chain stay via the new flat mount standard, so the flex stay performance is unhindered by braking forces.

Check out the slick way the rear shock is partially housed within the top tube – it’s gorgeous! RockShox have worked with Cannondale to create a cleaner integration of the Full Sprint dual lockout system too. Both the fork and shock are locked at the push of a button, but the way the rear lockout line disappears straight into the frame is really very tidy, you’d never even know it was there.

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Clean lines.

Twin water bottles and dropper post and Di2 ready.

Cannondale have managed to create enough room up front to fit two 500ml bottles, which is a rarity with a dual suspension bike, and will be greatly appreciated by marathon racers. While none of the Scalpels come stock with a dropper, there are cabling provisions to run one. On the topic of internal routing, Cannondale have also developed a specific Shimano Di2 battery holder too, which houses the battery securely in the top tube, so you can run Di2 and a dropper without an issue. The weight of the frameset is impressive too. Just over 2.1kg including shock, rear axle, seat post clamp and the hydraulic line for the shock lock out.

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The brake mount is the new flat mount standard, which allows less load to be placed on the seat stays facilitating the proper functioning of the flex stay setup.

Women’s models and 27.5 wheels on smaller frames.

Cannondale have gone down the small wheels for small riders route. On size small men’s frames, you’ll find 27.5″ wheels, and both women’s models get smaller hoops too. We’re happy to see there’s a properly high-end women’s model in the range too, which is often neglected.

It’s still a few months till these bikes arrive in Australia – July or August is the ballpark. Of course, we’ll do our very best to get a ride on one before then, so keep your eye open for a write up!

Port to Port MTB 2016 Course Preview

For full event details, head to porttoportmtb.com



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Perfect Port Stephens, stage 1.

It all gets underway a couple of hours north of Sydney in beautiful Port Stephens, where riders take on the shortest stage of the event. It’s a 35km loop out of Nelson Bay, through the loose sandy trails of the National Park, with plenty of coastal views along the way. It’s not a long stage, but the sand and some tough, short climbs make it a real heart starter for the event, especially at the front end with riders looking to open up an early lead. For the full course map, head here.

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With the race not starting until midday, you’d be wise to come up the day before and make the most of your time in Port Stephens as it’s one of the prettiest places you’ll find on the NSW coast with dozens of idyllic beaches and plenty to do off the bike for the whole crew, like dolphin watching, camel rides, tobogganing and eating a mountain of fish and chips before lying in the sun.

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For the second stage of Port to Port MTB, you now head inland to the heart of the famed wine-growing Hunter Valley region. It’s a real contrast to the previous day, swapping sand dunes and beaches for vineyards and huge escarpments. As is fitting for the region, the race starts and finishes at wineries – Lindemans for the start, Briar Ridge for tired legs at the end. And the legs will be tired, as it’s a long stage with a hefty climb, rewarded by a pretty wild descent and, of course, a vino at the finish. You can view the whole course map here.

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Day three of Port to Port MTB is a favourite; heavy on the singletrack, with plenty of new trails for this year too. Leaving the Hunter, the third stage heads south-east towards Lake Macquarie and the Awaba Mountain Bike Park. Awaba is known for having some of the best flowing trails in NSW, and stage 3 takes in just about all of them. There’s another solid climb to contend with, up high in the Watagan Ranges, but a whole swathe of new descending singletrack has been included in the course for the first time for 2016, and the locals tell us it’s awesome, so the pay-off is there for your climbing efforts. Being so close to Lake Macquarie, it only makes sense to cool of with some time on the water, a bit of R&R ahead of the final blast into Newcastle the next day. For the full course map of stage 3, head here.

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The fourth and final leg of Port to Port 2016 runs back up the coastline, from the shores of Lake Macquarie, to the superb singletrack of Glenrock, before finishing right by the beach in Newcastle. This is another very popular stage, with a mix of fast bunch-riding and incredible singletrack, it’s an awesome way to cap off the event. There’s not a lot of climbing to worry about, so leave nothing in the tank and enjoy that beer by the ocean in Newy on the finish line! Take a look at the full stage 4 course here.

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Flow’s First Bite: Reid Solo360 27.5

That’s a neat looking head tube area. Cabling is a mix of internal/external.

We’re well accustomed to seeing flocks of Reid’s brightly coloured, basket-adorned, women’s step-through bikes all over Sydney – the brand has done very well in the urban/lifestyle cycling market. Now they’re looking to emulate this success in the mid-range mountain bike market with their most advanced hardtail to date.

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The Solo certainly looks the part in the flesh, with smooth finished welds, curvy dropouts and an integrated headset giving the Solo a very sleek feel, complemented by the understated satin paint job. It has the kind of subtle looks that will win over many buyers at this price point, who generally don’t appreciate ‘look at me’ paint jobs.

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The 100mm-travel FOX Float 32 is an impressive addition at this price.

But in your internet browser, it’s the value proposition of the Solo that is the immediate drawcard – $1599 gets you a seriously well-equipped bike. When you draw a direct comparison between the Solo360 and bikes at the same price from most other brands, you’ll find the Reid is generally a couple of rungs ahead.

Getting a FOX fork with a 15mm axle and FIT4 damper, superb Shimano XT brakes and a predominantly Shimano XT drivetrain (admittedly it’s lacking a clutch derailleur, and the cassette is down specced too) is possibly all the convincing many people will need to drop their cash on this bike. It’s largely excellent kit, all durable and easily serviceable, and helps keep the bike’s overall weight to just 12.05kg.

It's only the handlebar which we feel immediately unsure about - 660mm is very narrow.
It’s only the handlebar which we feel immediately unsure about – 660mm is very narrow.

We’re yet to hit the trails on the Solo, but judging by our experiences with it in the work stand and casting our eye over the geometry chart, it seems to have bones in place for a fun ride. The narrow 660mm handlebars are the only item that leaps out to us as being out of place, so we may pop on something a bit wider before we get shredding. The rest of the angles, at least on paper, are right where you’d want them – a 69-degree head angle and reasonably short 430mm chain stays are number we like, though it’s the $1599 number most people will be paying attention to!

 

 

MTBA Announces World Champs Junior Team

Mountain Bike Australia is pleased to announce the Australian XCO and DHI junior team to take part at their respective 2016 World Championships.

Eight riders have been selected to represent Australia in the U19 Downhill team for the World Championships to be held in Val Di Sole, Italy in September, while six athletes were selected for the U19 Cross Country team for their World Championships in Nové Mësto, Czech Republic in late June.

XCO

JUNIOR MEN: Michael Harris, Kian Lerch-Mackinnon, Luke Pankhurst, Jack Feltham, Nick Pedlar

JUNIOR WOMEN: Sarah I’ions

DHI

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Remy Morton is amongst a very strong junior DH contingent.

JUNIOR MEN: Jackson Frew, Joshua Clark, Remy Morton, Harry Bush, Baxter Miawald, Harry Parsons, Ben Zwar

JUNIOR WOMEN: Sian A’Hern

The selection committee took into account the riders results from the recent National Championships and National Series. National Development coach Jodie Willet believes the pathways implemented by MTBA are paying dividends.

“It’s all fresh faces this year for the U19 XCO team, although half of them have come through the MTBA Under 17 development program so that makes the transition a lot smoother.”

“The DHI team includes riders who experienced international competition with the MTBA program last year and are looking to build on that in 2016.  We’re all looking forward to our first camp in Cairns, in conjunction with the World Cup later this month.”

Mountain Bike Australia President Russell Baker also congratulated the 14 athletes who’ll be representing Australia in coming months.

“It is a great honour for you to be able to wear the green and gold stripes – a mark of cycling known and respected around the world. My thanks also go to all the Parents, Clubs, Coaches and Sponsors who have supported these riders throughout their development.”

“For many, this will be their first step onto the world stage at this level and irrespective of the result, the experience gained will be a huge benefit to the riders and to mountain biking in Australia into the future.”  Well done on your selection and my best wishes to you as you represent Australia.

Tested: Scott Spark 900 Premium

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Awwww yeah!

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What is it, and who is it for?

We know riders win races, not bikes, but you still can’t ignore the fact the Scott Spark is one of the most successful World Cup cross-country racing bikes on the planet. There are now two versions of the Spark to choose from (29er or 27.5″) across a broad range of price points. The 900 Premium is a 29er, and it’s the second top tier model in the Spark range. But no matter which wheel size or particular model you opt for, you’re getting a bike with real racing intentions.

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You can get the Spark with either 29″ or 27.5″ wheels, across a huge range of alloy and carbon variants. It’s a super popular bike, and we can see why.

With a weight figure (10.3kg) and spec list that befits its $8999 price tag, the Spark 900 Premium is obviously pitched at the serious (or seriously well-off) cross country or marathon racer. It’s a wheels-on-the-ground, foot-on-the-gas kind of bike. Roll it off the showroom floor, put a bottle cage and a number plate on it, and get to it.


The frame

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The laid back seat tube is a real hallmark of the Spark frame. It looks slack, but with your seat at the right height, you’re no further back than usual though.

With its strikingly swept back seat tube and schmick graphic highlights, the Spark frameset is a gorgeous, lightweight wedge of a thing. It’s constructed from Scott’s HMX carbon throughout, which they claim is a unique blend,  yielding 20% more stiffness and 9% more statistics than other carbon. It’s light, and it’s plenty stiff for its intended use. Ignoring the clump of cables around the bars, the frameset is remarkably clutter free; the way the upper link kind of envelopes the seat tube is beautiful, and the seat stays are sleek and minimalist.

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The linkage neatly encompasses the seat tube.

We praise Scott for resisting the temptation to make the pivot assemblies weedy and overly light. They’ve opted for tough and properly sized hardware instead, with 8mm Allen key fittings, which helps give the rear end more stiffness than we expected, especially given the bike’s weight. The dropouts are 142x12mm, but you can swap them out for 135mm if have some absurdly light set of Euro tubular wheels with old-school hubs.

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All the pivot hardware uses robust axles with 8mm Allen key fittings.

The rear brake mount is squeezed into the tight space between the chain stay and seat stay. It’s tucked out of the way but at the expense of ease of adjustment – we found it quite fiddly to line up properly. There’s more room up front, with plenty of space for a full-sized water bottle.

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You can flip the chip on the rear shock mount to tweak the Spark’s geometry. We never moved it from the slacker setting, as it’s still fairly steep.

Unlike the paint job, the Spark’s geometry numbers are pretty traditional. You do have some geometry adjustment via the rear shock mount, but even in the slacker setting the bike is still more edgy than a drug mule passing through customs, with a head angle of 69.5 degree.

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Gorgeous, thin seat stays. The location of the brake looks neat, but can be a little fiddly to adjust.

The chain stays are longer than a West Wing binge, at 448mm, which has a real impact on the bike’s handling as you’ll read below. We can’t help but feel this is where Scott will tweak the Spark next – going to a Boost rear hub would afford Scott’s engineers a bit more room to move and perhaps shorten it all up. By way of comparison, the rear-centre on a Specialized Epic is 439mm, a Trek Top Fuel is a tight 433mm.

It’s interesting to note just how different the Spark 27.5’s geometry is – the head angle is more than a degree slacker and the chain stays are 433mm, plus it has more travel (120mm). We’d love to try one of the 27.5″ models out as a comparison.


The suspension

Scott’s approach to the Spark’s suspension is pretty different to that employed on most other cross country race bikes. The suspension configuration is unremarkable – it’s a traditional single-pivot, with the link driving the shock – but the approach to damping and adjustability is unique. We’re talking about TwinLoc, which is not a wrestling manoeuvre, but a holistic suspension and geometry adjustment that allows you to change the Spark’s character on the fly via a well constructed, bar-mounted lever.

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The TwinLoc lever has been refined over a number of years now. If you run a single-ring, you can purchase the DownSide TwinLoc to position the levers where you’d normally find your shifter.

You’ll either love the TwinLoc system for its effectiveness, or you’ll hate it for the complexity, but it’s intrinsic to the Spark’s performance. Push the main lever to move to a firmer suspension mode, the silver lever drops you back down a level.

 

In the ‘open’ mode, the Spark has 100mm of rear travel and the suspension is fully active, and we mean ‘fully’ – there is no pedalling platform, slow-speed compression damping and minimal anti-squat chain tension forces at play, allowing the shock to work to maximum effect. Scott figure you should be able to get the full benefit of the suspension, without compromise, when you want it (e.g. descents or rough climbs).

The TwinLoc system engages both fork and rear shock - it's really a complete transformation.
The TwinLoc system engages both fork and rear shock – it’s really a complete transformation.

Push the lever one click and you’ll engage Traction mode. This simultaneously stiffens the fork compression, as well as reducing the rear travel to 70mm. The reduction in travel firms up the suspension considerably, which means a huge leap in suspension pedalling efficiency. Traction mode also has less suspension sag so you get a higher bottom bracket height and steeper angles, which is perfect for climbing.

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The low-profile lockout pulley on the shock is unobtrusive and leaves plenty of space for accessing a water bottle.

The third position is a proper lockout. The rear end becomes almost completely locked out, and the fork is stiffened even further. Essentially it’s a mode for tarmac, sprints or super smooth fireroad only.

Of course, all this adjustability is only useful if you remember to use it! If you’re coming from a bike that has a more set-and-forget suspension system, all the button pushing might seem infuriating. But it’s worth persevering as it has a huge impact on the bike’s abilities.

While we didn’t need to carry out any maintenance on the TwinLoc system during our testing, it is still a cable system, so don’t neglect to give the cables a little bit of lube love to keep it all working smoothly if you ride in dusty, wet or muddy conditions a lot.

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Many cables. Maybe humans will evolve to have more thumbs if we keep riding enough ?

If you decide to run this bike single-ring, it’s good to know that there’s a neat ‘under-the-bar’ DownSide TwinLoc lever available. We like the sound of this as, as it’d be nice to have access to the TwinLoc lever without having to lift your thumb above the bars.


Parts report

Scott have gone to town with some of the lightest racing kit out there for the 900 Premium, so banish any thoughts you had about hucking this bike off a drop of any considerable height, ok?

Syncros bits: Scott acquired legendary component brand Syncros not long ago, and some of their lightest components are found on the 900 Premium. It’s good kit; the 720mm-wide FL1.0 carbon bar has a comfy sweep and is zero-rise to help keep the front end racy. We initially had some misgivings about the stem, but it turns out to be just a carbon-wrap, not full carbon, which we think is sensible.

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The Syncros finishing gear is all very light and sleekly finished. We found the 720mm bar spot on.

Narrow rims: Syncros also provide the xR1.5 wheelset, which is a scant 1630g. The rear hub has a 36-point engagement with a light, crisp feel. We’re not overly fond of the narrow 20mm internal rim width, which is certainly on the skinny side. We understand this is a race bike, but even XC racers can benefit from a slightly wider rim to provide more tyre support. We never felt comfortable dropping the tyre pressures to the degree we’d have liked on such narrow rims.

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Schwalbe’s Rocket Rons are greatly improved over the previous version. The Syncros rims are narrow however, so you can’t drop the pressures too low.

XTR mechanical: There is a Di2 version on the 900 Premium available if you’re up for the full XTR experience, but the mechanical shifting is sensational too. The 900 Premium has a twin chain ring (24/34) with an 11-40 XTR cassette out back. If this were the Di2 bike, we’d leave both chainrings in place and use Shimano’s cool Syncro Shift mode (one shifter, two derailleurs) but as a mechanical setup our preference would be to run a single ring to declutter the bars and simplify things. The rear shifting is superb; for the first 30km or so on this bike, the drivetrain was a tad noisy, but it seemed to quite down soon after and delivered flawless performance.

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If a front derailleur is your preference, you cannot get crisper performance than XTR. The shifting is perfect.

XTR Race brakes: As noted above, we found it tricky to properly align the rear brake on the Spark, which meant our rear brake always felt a tiny bit spongy in comparison to the front, which had a light, snappy feel. The power certainly wasn’t effected though, and we found the 180/160mm rotor combo served up a huge amount of power.

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The XTR Race brakes don’t have the Servo Wave lever of their Trail counterparts, but there is still plenty of power. The I-Spec brake/shifter integration is very neat too.
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180mm rotor up front.

Fast Schwalbe rubber: The name ‘Rocket Ron’ says it all – these tyres are super quick – and they’re a great improvement over their predecessor (which seemed traction-phobic on most surfaces). The 900 Premium has the firmer Pace Star compound front and rear, we found them good on loose or loam surfaces, but still a bit nervous on roots or anytime things got off-camber. Maybe a Nobby Nic up front could be a good idea?


The ride

The 900 is pure-bred; its window of intended use is narrow, but it excels in that domain. It’s an accomplished mile-eater, a race winner, with riding position that is easy on your body and a weight that is easy on your legs. That said, you’ve really got to make sure you’re using the TwinLoc to full effect to get the most out of this bike.

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Climbing in Traction mode is fast and efficient. Leave it on Open mode if you require more slow speed grip.

Climbing: With the Traction mode engaged, the 900 absolutely motors along smooth fireroads, the light wheels and fast tyres are easy to prod into life, accelerating with just the lightest stab on the pedals. We were blown away by the ease with which this bike sailed up smoother climbs, and we found ourselves holding our cadence and gear, where we’d normally be slowing down and clicking for easier gears like mad. If you do need to drop into the small chain ring, you’ll find the shifting to be flawless – we never worried about a mis-shift or dropped chain with the XTR drivetrain. With the roomy 720mm bar, you’ve got plenty of leverage to engage your upper body in the climbing efforts too, sharing the load with your legs.

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Forget to engage Traction mode, however, and the climbing is less effortless. Because the shock doesn’t have a pedalling platform, choppy, tired pedalling will set the bike bobbing. That’s not to say we didn’t sometimes use the Open mode for climbing, but we limited its use to those times where we really needed maximum traction, on loose, rock-strewn climbs. The Rocket Rons aren’t the greatest on really scrambly rocky climbs either, so having the extra suppleness of the Open mode helps get the most grip possible.

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The Spark is happiest in fast, open trails where it just flies along.

Descending: Flick the bike into Open mode, and point it down the hill and you’ll find the 900’s descending abilities are a mixed bag. On fast, sweeping descents it’s like a comet blazing out of the sky, stable and smooth. The long rear end and supple suspension (in Open mode) keeps it all planted and calm, and in a straight line at pace it’ll skim over rough terrain. The FOX Float 32 might have slender legs, but it’s a good pairing for this bike and the slick Kashima coating on both fork and shock mean that the bump performance in Open mode is near frictionless.

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Long stays mean the Spark isn’t the most playful ride out there, but it’s so light that popping it around is pretty easy.

Slower speed descents or those with steep ledges that require a lot of body language are the bike’s nemesis though. The rear wheel trails along way behind you, and without a dropper post to let you get lower on the bike, you sometimes get the feeling of riding a bucking horse – you can’t get much weight over the rear axle with such long stays, so the bike tends to dive onto its front wheel, which can be a nervous experience!

100mm isn’t a lot of travel, and we feel the Spark 900 does a fine job of delivering its bounce for the job at hand. You don’t need a particularly bit jump or drop to bottom the fork and shock out, but nor should you – this bike is built for wheels on the ground riding primarily, so it should be able to deliver full travel without being thrashed.

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Cornering: Once again the Spark’s performance in this area isn’t one-dimensional. With the long stays, to get the bike through tight whippy turns, you’re either going to have to do a lot of steering or get used to sliding the back wheel in (much more fun). You can’t steer it off the rear wheel easily, and it’s near impossible to manual, so if that’s how you like to corner you’ll be frustrated. Thankfully, even if you do lose a bit of speed on the tight turns, it takes the blink of an eye to have the bike back up to full speed.

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Get on the gas out of a corner and the Spark is at full speed right away.

The flipside of the ungainliness in the tight turns is the performance at speed, which is where are race bike will spend most of its ride time. It slots into a long corner beautifully. The tyres aren’t the world’s most aggressive, but in a fast turn they’re super consistent and offer no surprises as you crank it over from centre tread to side knobs.


Overall

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The Spark 900 Premium is a true cross country bike – fast, sharp and light, a race winner. If you’re after a trail bike/race bike, perhaps the 700 (27.5″ wheels) will be a better option, with its longer travel and slacker angles. But if hunting down the rider in front, powering over the crest of a climb and flying through fireroads of a marathon race is your game, then you’re not going to be disappointed.

The Spark’s weight, TwinLoc system and sharp handling make it one you must put on the shortlist.

Flow’s First Bite: Scott Spark 900 Premium

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29″ wheels, on-the-fly compression and travel adjust, and so, so light.

For the past few seasons, the Spark has been available in both 27.5 and 29er formats. We’ve opted to test the 29er version, which has slightly less travel than the 27.5″ model (100mm vs 120mm). In this category of bike we’re still inclined to prefer the larger wheel; when you’re hammering along a fireroad or hanging onto the bars at the end of a five hour marathon, we find the big wheels really help cover ground and cover up mistakes._LOW0635-2

 

24/34 dual rings.
24/34 dual rings.

Coming in at 10.3kg, the 900 Premium is lighter than an angel’s fart. Scarily enough, there are even lighter models in the Spark range – the frameset is one of the lightest on the market, which is part of the appeal these bikes possess for racing.

A full XTR drivetrain and brakes, super light Syncros carbon bar, post and stem, and some very racy Syncros wheels all help to keep this bike incredibly lean. Needless to say, we were diligent about using a torque wrench when it came to building this bike – a carbon stem is a weight saving we’d happily forego, tightening that sucker up is terrifying!

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The FOX Nude shock isn’t an item you’ll find on other brands’ bikes. The TwinLoc system lets you drop from 100mm to 70mm travel at the push of a button.

The TwinLoc suspension system is well-proven and extremely effective, giving you simultaneous control over the damping (and travel) of both fork and shock. The handlebar-mounted lever has three positions: open – the fork and shock are fully active; traction mode – the fork is toggled to a firmer damping setting and the rear travel drops to 70mm, which firms up the suspension and raises the bottom bracket slightly; lock out – the fork and shock are fully locked out. This system is incorporated into a FOX Nude shock, which you won’t find on any other brands’ bikes.

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Yes, there are lots of cables, but they’re all well managed.

Because the Spark 900 Premium has a twin chain ring in addition to the TwinLoc system, there are a lot of cables to keep an eye on! It’s executed very neatly all things considered, but we’d probably be inclined to run a single chain ring, then get a TwinLoc ‘Downside’ remote which positions the TwinLoc lever under the bar in place of the front shifter.

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The Spark gets a 32mm-legged fork and filthy light wheels. This is a proper XC bike, and the balance between weight and robustness is definitely tipped towards saving grams.

Set up has been simple – the TwinLoc system doesn’t require any funky shock pumps or use two rebound dials like the Cannondale Jekyll’s DYAD shock which also has travel adjustability. We’ve opted to leave the Spark’s geometry adjustment in the lower/slacker of the two settings, and we’ve gone tubeless with the wheels of course too. Now all that’s left is to go hunt down our mates and leave them in our dust!

24/34 dual rings.
24/34 dual rings.

Tested: Norco Revolver 9.2 FS

On the other hand, if you’ve been conscious and paying attention for the past little while, you’d have been witness to an amazing transformation from Norco that has led to them producing one of the most cohesive and polished ranges on the market today, including this stunning cross-country machine you see here.


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What is it, and who is it for?

The Norco Revolver FS, first spotted a year ago at Sea Otter, is a dedicated cross-country flier. It’s everything you need to dominate a marathon race or XCO, and nothing you don’t.

It’s available in both 29er and 27.5″ formats, and we’ve got the bigger-wheeled version on test. A lightweight full-carbon frame houses 100mm of race-tuned travel with firm lockouts at both ends, and the geometry is all about motoring up the climbs and flicking you through speedy singletrack. The absence of a dropper post, coupled with the lightweight RockShox SID fork and narrow, quick-rolling tyres is a polite reminder of this bike’s boundaries. If you’re after a play bike, this ain’t it, unless you make some modifications.

The best looking Norco yet?
The best looking Norco yet?

The price point, at a bit over five grand, places it within reach of many keen racers. It’s not an elite-level race bike (there’s a $9999 XX1 and RockShox RS-1 equipped version for that) but if you’ve got visions of finishing towards the pointy end, then the Revolver can take you there.


The frame

When we first pointed a camera at the Revolver, we got some unholy kinds of feelings. It’s a freaking stunner, with a silky paint job and great lines that are well-preserved by the internal cable routing, carbon from tip to toe, including the linkage, and claimed frame weights are around the two-kilo mark (the complete bike is 11kg). The suspension configuration is kind of inverted from the standard Norco setup, which leaves loads of room in the front triangle for a water bottle, and there’s a second bottle mount under the down tube too, which will keep the marathon crew happy and watered. The other benefit of this configuration is that you can get at the shock’s lockout lever easily too.

Norco’s Gizmo internal cable system is really neat, and there are spare ports to allow you to run a dropper post too. You won’t be adding a front derailleur to this bike however, as it’s single ring only, but that’s the way we like it.

Bottle mounts on both sides of the down tube.
Bottle mounts on both sides of the down tube.

For such a race bike, the rear end has a burliness that is appreciated, if unexpected. The swing-link is a robust hunk of carbon, the pivots are sturdy with big axles, and overall the rear end is very stiff. It all makes for great power transfer, though the fork is left feeling pretty limp in comparison to the rigidity out back.

As with other Norco’s bigger frame sizes don’t just get longer up front, but the rear-centre measurement increases too. In a size medium like our test bike, the rear end is 439mm, whereas in an XL is 444mm.

The suspension layout is a little different to most Norco duallies.
The suspension layout is a little different to most Norco duallies.

The suspension

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The shock’s location makes it easy to hit the lockout on the fly. Check out how stout that seat stay / linkage junction is too.

Norco employ their ART suspension system throughout their whole range. It’s a tried and tested four-bar linkage, which Norco tweak extensively across the range. Comparing the Revolver with, say, the Sight C7.2 we recently reviewed, it’s easy to see the big differences in the suspension layout. On the Revolver, the axle path has less of a rearward path, leading to less pedal feedback when putting down the power, which is what you spend a lot of time doing on an XC race bike. Overall the 100mm of suspension travel is quite firm, especially as you move towards the end of the travel where it ramps up in a pretty pronounced way.

The dropout pivot is only marginally below the axle, leading to a more vertical wheel path than longer travel Norcos.
The dropout pivot is only marginally below the axle, leading to a more vertical wheel path than longer travel Norcos.

 Component report

Lightweight fork: Its weight figures would make Kate Moss pout, but the RockShox SID RL has some limitations. As we noted above, the stiffness of the rest of the bike makes the fork feel a bit undergunned in rougher trails. It’s well matched to the rear end in terms of the suspension action however, and the Solo Air spring is easy to set up. We can’t help but feel the SID platform is due for a refresh.

The RockShox SID RL is a real cross-country fork, all about keeping things lean.
The RockShox SID RL is a real cross-country fork, all about keeping things lean.

New-school cockpit: For what is essentially a race bike, Norco have gone with a pretty progressive cockpit setup, running a 740mm bar. The 70mm stem is a welcome change from the 90mm fishing rods that would’ve been specced on this kind of bike in the past.

Bullet-proof XT: Shimano’s butt-whipping XT drivetrain and brakes are the kind of components you’ll never have to think about. On our test bike, the 1×11 drivetrain was matched to a set of Raceface cranks but production bikes have XT cranks too. The braking and shifting is perfect.

Rims and tyres are future upgrades: The rims of DT’s X1900 wheelset are a narrow 21mm, out of place amongst the trend towards wider hoops. Something wider to offer a bit more support to the tyres would be ideal. As it stands, the Schwalbe Racing Ralph treads are pretty nervous – they’re the basic Performance version, and the side knobs are a firm compound that don’t inspire much confidence in fast corners. A tread with a stiffer sidewall and a stickier compound might add a couple of hundred grams to the bike, but it’s a tradeoff we’d be happy to live with.

Schwalbe's Performance level Racing Ralphs don't set our world on fire.
Schwalbe’s Performance level Racing Ralphs don’t set our world on fire.

Setup

The Revolver is an easy bike to get the most out of. First up, we went tubeless – the rims are taped and ready to roll. The tyres aren’t the best for tubeless use to be honest (the sidewalls leak a bit we found – another reason to swap them out when they’re worn) and we ran the tyre pressures a little higher than usual, to compensate for the narrow rims and lightweight construction.

No remote lockout levers to be seen. Clean as a freshly cleaned whistle.
No remote lockout levers to be seen. Clean as a freshly cleaned whistle.

Suspension-wise, the 90psi recommended by the pressure chart on the SID was perfect for our 63kg test rider, and the sag markings on the rear shock made it easy to dial in just over 25% sag (around 135psi).

After a bit of twiddling we set the suspension rebound one click faster at both front and rear than we’d generally opt for, which helped keep the suspension lively. With the suspension slowed down, the overall firm feel means the Revolver can easily start to feel a bit dull on the trail, and no one wants to ride a wet blanket.


Ride

The Revolver is a stealthy achiever. On a number of our test rides we were pleasantly surprised to see that our climbing times were right up there with our fastest ever efforts, but without feeling like we’d been really going for it. This is of course what you want in a cross-country race bike – it should make the climbs feel easier and shorter. Power delivery is superb, with the unobtrusive suspension letting you keep on the gas when it’s rough, and the stiff frame ensuring all your effort is fed directly into dropping your mates.

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It’s a stealthy ride in other regards too, with barely a whisper coming from the bike on the trails. The cables don’t rattle in the frame, and the suspension operates in almost total silence. Again, useful for launching surprise overtaking manoeuvres  on your mates right before the singletrack starts.

Descending, like on many cross country bikes, is smoothest when you keep it all rolling. Keep those 29″ wheels up to speed and it’ll silently gobble up the kind of terrain that you’ll find on most cr0ss-country race tracks, with the wide cockpit giving everything good stability. On technical slow speed descents, or when hard on the brakes, the twist in the fork is more apparent and the Revolver doesn’t feel as confident.

The Norco is happiest descending at speed.
The Norco is happiest descending at speed.

We’re big advocates of dropper posts, even on cross-country bikes, and we think a dropper would be a worthy consideration for the Revolver so you don’t feel quite so perched up there when pointed steeply downwards. Obviously it’s your choice as to whether or not your terrain and the weight penalty justify adding a dropper to the bike. The cable routing is there should you decide to do so.

The Revolver doesn’t have any remote lockout levers, but we didn’t miss them for moment. Without remotes, the whole bike looks and feels much cleaner, and we found it easy to lock it all out on the fly anyhow. The lockout force front and rear is well matched too, so hard sprints on the fireroads or tarmac don’t feel mushy or unbalanced.

Fully sick.
Fully sick.

We think the speed of this bike in the singletrack would be amplified with some new rubber. The handling is awesome and precise through the corners, but so often the tyres become the limiting factor, getting skatey before you’re properly tipped into a corner. Luckily, that’s an easy an inexpensive upgrade.


Overall

The Revolver FS 9.2 reminded us again that there’s definitely a difference between a trail bike and a proper cross-country machine. You might be almost as fast on the climbs on your trail bike, but almost doesn’t cut it at the races, so if that’s a focus for you then you need the right tool for the job.

Norco are on a roll!
Norco are on a roll!

All up, the Revolver FS proves once again that Norco are really charging hard across all categories of the mountain bike world. They’re really on a roll, taking the knowledge they might learn in one market segment and then applying it appropriately across their range.  Considering it’s a new addition to the Norco lineup, it’s truly impressive how polished this bike is – it’s ready for the race track, right out of the box._LOW1503

Course Preview of the First XC World Cup in Nové Město na Moravě

Join Specialized Racing’s Jaroslav Kulhavy as he takes us around the Nové Město na Moravě World Cup cross-country course. 

Opening the cross-country World Cup season is the Nové Město na Moravě course. A firm favourite with fans and riders alike, this round is often voted the best XCO event of the World Cup.

The 4.1km course weaves through dense forest – featuring sharp and technical sprints, twisty singletrack, tricky rock sections and a power-draining climb.

Take a look at the track in the video above to find out what makes this course and venue so special for the MTB elite. 

The Cross Country Boys Who Are a Class Apart

Will 2015 see another World Cup duel between perennial favourites Julian Absalon and Nino Schurter?

It was fitting that the two men that have dominated the men’s cross-country circuit in the last decade, France’s Julien Absalon and Switzerland’s Nino Schurter, fought out an epic 2014 edition of the UCI Mountain Bike Cross-Country World Cup.

Absalon and Schurter went into the seventh and round of last season, at Méribel, locked on three race wins each following a World Cup series dominated by the pair. Schurter finished the French race in first but behind him in second was Absalon, and with that finish the Frenchman secured the overall World Cup title for a sixth time.

There is no doubt that these two will continue to be right in front of the competition for the 2015 edition of World Cup. Younger by six years, Nino Schurter remains the hot favourite for the overall but given last season’s form you can’t rule out the 34-year-old Absalon springing more surprises.

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Will Kulhavy have a better year than 2014?
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Nino missed Cairns World Cup to attend a few road races, we hope we’ll see him all year this time.
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Going for his 30th World Cup win, Absalon is dominant.
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Dan’s 2014 season wasn’t as standout as 2013 with a win in Germany, but still finished high up in the overall series with a consistent performance.
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Man machine, Julien Absalon.

The rest of the field has very much been left in the shadow of these two greats in recent years with no one really emerging as a consistent challenger. Australia’s Daniel McConnell, a winner in Albstadt in 2013 and a man who has finished second and third in the overall in 2013 and 2014 respectively, could be the one to break the Absalon-Schurter hegemony, while other names worth looking out for with an eye to a World Cup win are Germany’s Manuel Fumicand his Cannondale team-mate Marco Fontana.

Check the video above for a quick recap of the 2014 season as a teaser for this year’s World Cup.

Tune in on May 24 to watch live coverage of the women’s XCO race from Nové Město na Moravě. Watch the UCI World Cup LIVE on Red Bull TV – available online and on mobile via Android, iOS and Windows Phone.

Watch Out For These Cross Country Ladies in 2015

There’s strength in depth in 2015’s women’s XCO field, but will one name dominate like last year?

The 2014 Mountain Bike Cross-Country World Cup saw the emergence of one young woman who could be set to dominate the sport for years to come. Switzerland’s Jolanda Neff won three rounds of the seven-race series to take the overall title and become the youngest winner of the World Cup, aged just 21.

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Jolanda Neff

Neff is the overwhelming favourite going into 2015, but there’s plenty of talent bubbling underneath to challenge the Swiss rider. France’s Pauline Ferrand-Prévot won consecutive rounds last year in Nové Město na Moravě and Albstadt, but a decision not to travel to the North American races ultimately cost her the chance to challenge for the overall.

Ferrand-Prévot’s Rabobank-Liv teammate Marianne Vos is another name to look out for in 2015. Vos is the standout female cyclist of the last decade, riding and winning across multi-disciplines. She’ll be racing in the World Cup this season in preparation for an assault on winning Cross-Country gold in Rio in 2016. Vos’s presence strengthens an already-strong women’s field, where the likes of Tanja Žakelj, the 2013 World Cup Champion, and current World Champion Catharine Pendrel will be hoping their experience will lead to more World Cup wins.

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Bec Henderson
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Bec Henderson
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Jolanda Neff
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Julie Bresset
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Emily Batty

Check the video above for a quick recap of the 2014 season as a teaser for this year’s World Cup.

Tune in on May 24 to watch live coverage of the women’s XCO race from Nové Město na Moravě. Watch the UCI World Cup LIVE on Red Bull TV – available online and on mobile via Android, iOS and Windows Phone.

Golden Triangle Epic Paves The Way For World Class Trail Network in Bendigo

With only a few days to go before race kick-off, the town of Bendigo is set to welcome hundreds of mountain bikers from all across the country to the Goldfields region this Sunday the 26th of April.

The Golden Triangle Epic will be celebrating its 10th year in 2015, and this years event will no doubt be the biggest and best yet. As one of the largest club-run mountain bike events in Australia, the Golden Triangle Epic is unique in that all the money raised from entry fees will go straight back into local trail development.

Competitors can expect a brilliant course for 2015, which includes freshly revamped singletrack that the Bendigo MTB Club has been building as part of its ongoing trail development program in Spring Gully, located just 5km from the centre of town.

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Vice President of the Bendigo MTB Club, Rim Martin, has been spearheading the Trail Development Committee, which is responsible for developing sustainably built trails for the local riding community.

“We have identified Spring Gully as the priority area for MTB trail development in Bendigo”, said Martin.

“There’s already lots of great singletrack in and around the forests of Bendigo, but the emphasis with the Spring Gully Trail Network is to build sustainable, purpose-built trails that are inclusive of all rider types.”

Hand built by volunteers from the Bendigo MTB Club, the new Green loop is only 65% complete but has already become a roaring success for the local riding community.

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“We have been working within Zone 1 of the study area to develop a beginners Green loop. This trail is already open and is receiving an average of 300+ riders a week,” staid Martin.

Longer term, Martin expects that Bendigo has the potential to develop as a mountain biking centre to rival those of the Alpine regions.

“The intention is that the Spring Gully Trail Network will form the northern entry point to the Goldfields Track; a 210km off-road trail that goes all the way to Ballarat. The really exciting part of the Goldfields Track is that it will connect five mountain bike hubs along its length through Central Victoria with Spring Gully being a key component of this.”

President of the Bendigo MTB Club, David Macauley, is excited about the clubs trail building plans, which are turning into a reality thanks to the 2015 Golden Triangle Epic.

“The money we raise from event entries goes straight into developing the Spring Gully Trail Network” said Macauley.

“We have completed Stage 1 by hand with volunteer labour from our members. The next step is to get a proper trail Master Plan developed for the whole area.”

As for this Sunday, Macauley is looking forward to seeing new riders turn up to experience the fantastic riding that Bendigo already has to offer, including those who are choosing to do the full 160km course option.

“The 100 miler was unique when we launched it. Luckily there were a couple of crazy guys who were willing to give it a go the first time. This year there are over 20 men and women having a crack at it, which is amazing!”

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But if racing 160km off-road doesn’t float your boat, competitors also have the choice of competing in the 15km, 50km or 100km categories. The cash prize pool has now topped $10,000 thanks to the generous support of the event sponsors, including Andy’s Earthmovers and Isuzu.

Along with spot prizes from TORQ, Birzman, Maxxis and Frameskin, every competitor who enters into the Golden Triangle Epic will have the chance to win a Trek Superfly FS 8 thanks to Cyclescape Bendigo.

So get amongst it! If you’re still yet to get your entry in, registration on the day is fine.


Event Details:

·      Date:               Sunday 26th of April 2015

·      Location:         Spring Gully, Bendigo, Victoria

·      Distances:       15km Pioneer, 50km, 100km, 160km (100 Miler)

·      Entries:           www.mtbbendigo.com

2015 Australian U19 Cross Country and Downhill Mountain Bike Teams Announced

Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA) is delighted to announce the 2015 Australian U19 Cross Country and Downhill Mountain Bike athletes that will represent Australia at the 2015 UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships in Vallnord, Andorra from the 1 – 6 September. 

Cross Country

Liam Jeffries (VIC) will headline the U19 Men’s Cross Country Team following a great start to the year that saw him take home gold medals in both the Subaru National Mountain Bike Championships and the Oceania Mountain Bike Championships.

Alongside Jeffries will be Bryan Dunkin (NSW), Luke Brame (NSW) and Alex Lack (TAS) who placed second, third and fourth respectively in this year’s Subaru National Championships, as well as Michael Potter (NSW), who took home silver in this year’s Oceania Championships.

Fourth placed junior rider in the Oceania Championships, Callum Carson (NSW), rounds out the Men’s team.

2015 Junior National Champion Megan Williams (QLD) will represent Australia in the U19 Women’s Cross Country category. 

Downhill

The seven-member U19 Men’s Downhill team is stacked with talented athletes, including this year’s Junior Oceania Champion, Junior National Champion and National Series winner Andrew Crimmins (NSW), as well as Max Warshawsky (QLD) who placed second in the National Series.

Accompanying them to Andorra will be Remy Morton (QLD), who placed second in the National Championships earlier this month, Jackson Frew (ACT), Joel Willis (NSW), Harry Bush (QLD) and Dan Booker (TAS). 

Multi-disciplined rider and Junior National Downhill Champion Ellie Wale (VIC) will be representing the U19 Women.

MTBA President Russ Baker congratulated the riders, “It is a great honour to be selected to represent your Country. I congratulate all these riders on their achievements and hard work, and also thank the parents and supporters who encourage and support them in mountain biking.” 

The full list of riders is below.

— 

2015 Australian U19 Cross Country and Downhill Mountain Bike Teams

U19 Men’s Cross Country Team

  • Liam Jeffries (VIC)
  • Bryan Dunkin (NSW)
  • Luke Brame (NSW)
  • Alex Lack (TAS)
  • Michael Potter (NSW)
  • Callum Carson (NSW)

Reserves:

  • Foley Lachal (VIC)
  • Guy Frail (NSW)

U19 Women’s Cross Country Team

  • Megan Williams (QLD)

U19 Men’s Downhill Team

  • Andrew Crimmins (NSW)
  • Max Warshawsky (QLD)
  • Remy Morton (QLD)
  • Jackson Frew (ACT)
  • Joel Willis (NSW)
  • Harry Bush (QLD)
  • Dan Booker (TAS) 

U19 Women’s Downhill Team

  • Ellie Wale (VIC)

2015 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano: All you need to know

More teams, more countries represented (including newcomers China, Indonesia, Iran and Israel), and larger audiences: the 2015 season of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano looks like being as enthralling as ever. A quick overview of the nine rounds of the season, which starts on April 11 and will be available on Red Bull TV:

  • Two new rounds: Lourdes (France) which makes its debut by opening the season, and Lenzerheide (Switzerland), at the beginning of July
  • After a year’s break, the return of Val di Sole (Italy) which will close the season at the end of August, one week before the UCI MTB World Championships in Andorre
  • 6 venues already part of the World Cup in 2014: Nove Mesto na Morave (CZE), Albstadt (GER), Fort William (GBR), Leogang (AUT), Mont-Sainte-Anne (CAN) and Windham (USA).

The 2015 MTB World Cup at a glance

Date Venue Country Discipline
1 11-12.04.2015 Lourdes France DHI
2 23-24.05.2015 Nove Mesto na Morave République tchèque XCO
3 30-31.05.2015 Albstadt Allemagne XCO
4 06-07.06.2015 Fort William Grande-Bretagne DHI
5 13-14.06.2015 Leogang Autriche DHI
6 04-05.07.2015 Lenzerheide Suisse XCO/DHI
7 01-02.08.2015 Mont-Sainte-Anne Canada XCO/DHI
8 08-09.08.2015 Windham Etats-Unis XCO/DHI
9 22-23.08.2015 Val di Sole Italie XCO/DHI

Lourdes
New to the UCI MTB World Cup presented by Shimano in 2015, Lourdes will be one of three rounds – with Fort William and Leogang – 100% dedicated to Downhill. A regular French Cup stopover, the city in the south-west of France will kick off the season. The riders will no doubt enjoy its demanding track that offers a stunning view of the city.

Nove Mesto na Morave
Voted best XCO/XCE event in 2013 and again in 2014, the Czech round is appreciated by athletes and the public thanks to its modern infrastructure. For its fifth consecutive participation Nove Mesto na Morave opens the XCO racing and provides a dress rehearsal for the 2016 UCI MTB World Championships for XCO/XCE/XCR.

Albstadt
The German venue organises an XCO round of the UCI World Cup for the third time since it first joined the calendar in 2013. Created in 2004, the bike park features a combination of physical passages and technical sections and is used by a number of athletes as preparation ground in the lead-up to the World Cup. It is no surprise that Albstadt, in the south-west of Germany, is popular with the XCO riders.

Fort William
After first joining the UCI World Cup in 2002, this British stopover features on the calendar for the 14th time. Also host of the 2007 UCI Mountain Bike & Trials World Championships, this spot in the Scottish Highlands is a not-to-be-missed destination on the DHI calendar. Proof: Fort William was voted best DHI event in 2012 and 2013.

Leogang
With its bikepark launched in 2001, Saalfelden-Leogang is one of the most popular European meetings for the downhillers. The Austrian winter sports resort, not far from Salzburg, joined the UCI World Cup in 2010 and organised the Downhill / 4X UCI World Championships in 2012 followed by the 4X Worlds in 2013 and 2014. With its spectacular views, Leogang once again promises to be sensational.

Lenzerheide
Scheduled for the beginning of July, the Swiss resort is – along with Lourdes – one of the new venues this year. Lenzerheide will welcome the season’s first combined XCO/DHI event, which will also be the first of three rounds (2015-2017) at the venue in the lead-up to the 2018 UCI World Championships. The Swiss, traditionally strong in XCO, will have the chance to race at home and the athletes wait impatiently the first weekend of July.

Mont-Sainte-Anne
The Canadian round has gone hand in hand with the UCI MTB World Cup since 1991. This year it celebrates the organisation of its 25th UCI event. Hosting a combined XCO/DHI event in August, Mont-Sainte-Anne comes before another North American round, Windham. Situated in Quebec, one of the “Sommets de Saint Laurent”, the Queen of the World Cup deserves its reputation as a Mecca of mountain bike.

Windham
The round in Windham, a small resort nestled at the foot of the Catskills in the State of New York, will welcome XCO and DHI competitions. The downhill track is renowned for its final section, nicknamed Peaty’s Plunge. It is an event that is eagerly awaited by the fans, who benefit not only from the competitions but also the concerts for youngsters and families.

Val di Sole
After a year’s break, the resort in Trentino returns to the UCI World Cup calendar in 2015. It will be the final round, and therefore decisive for the XCO and DHI rankings. It will also enable the riders to put the finishing touches to their preparation for the UCI World Championships one week later. Host of the Worlds in 2008, Val di Sole will again organise the World Championships for Downhill in 2016.

Teams to watch

In total, 130 teams are registered for 2015. This is the highest number of teams since 2012 (132) and up nine from last year’s total of 121. The number of nations registering at least one team is on the rise (33 compared with 31 last year), a sign that the mountain bike discipline continues to push back geographical barriers. Four countries have registered a team for the first time in 2015: China, Indonesia, Iran and Israel. Of the 130 teams registered for the 2015 season, 15 Endurance (XC) teams and 15 Gravity (DH) teams have UCI ELITE Mountain Bike status. UCI ELITE Mountain Bike teams benefit from advantages such as free entry to all races on the UCI Mountain Bike International Calendar in the discipline in which the team has ELITE status, including all rounds of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano. In return, they are obliged to enter at least one rider in all rounds of the UCI MTB World Cup series.

UCI Endurance Team ranking

Team Nation Riders
1 Trek Factory Racing Etats-Unis Emily Batty (CAN) ; Rebecca Henderson (AUS) ; Kohei Yamamoto (JPN) ; SergioMantecon Gutierrez (ESP) ; Daniel Mc Connell (AUS)
2 BH-Suntour-KMC France Julie Bresset (FRA) ; Hanna Klein (GER) ; Adelheid Morath (GER) ; Maxime Marotte(FRA) ; Jordan Sarrou (FRA) ; Stéphane Tempier (FRA) ; Nicolas Bazin (FRA) ;VictorKoretzky (FRA) ; Hélène Marcouyre (FRA) ; Perrine Clauzel (FRA)
3 BMC Mountainbiking Racing Team Suisse Julien Absalon (FRA) ; Lukas Flückiger (SUI) ; Ralph Naef (SUI) ; Reto Indergand(SUI) ;Martin Fanger (SUI)
4 MultivanMerida BikingTeam Allemagne Ondrej Cink (CZE) ; Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (NOR) ; José Antonio Hermida Ramos(ESP) ; Rudi Van Houts (NED) ; Thomas Litscher (SUI) ; Julian Schelb (GER)
5 Scott-OdloMTB RacingTeam Suisse Andri Frischknecht (SUI) ; Michiel Van Der Heijden (NED) ; Jenny Rissveds (SWE) ;Nino Schurter (SUI) ; Marcel Wildhaber (SUI)

Gravity UCI Gravity Team ranking

Team Nation Riders
1 Madison SaracenFactory Team Grande-Bretagne Manon Carpenter (GBR) ; Sam Dale (GBR) ; Matthew Simmonds (GBR)
2 GT FactoryRacing Grande-Bretagne Gee Atherton (GBR) ; Rachel Atherton (GBR) ; Taylor Vernon (GBR) ; DanAtherton (GBR) ; Martin Maes (BEL) ; Taylor Vernon (GBR)
3 MS MondrakerTeam Autriche Danny Hart (GBR) ; Markus Pekoll (AUT) ; Innes Graham (GBR) ; EmmelineRagot (FRA)
4 Polygon UR France Andrew Neethling (RSA) ; Michael Hannah (AUS) ; Tracey Hannah (AUS) ;FabienCousine (FRA) ; Aurélien Giordanengo (FRA) ; Remy Morton (AUS)
5 Commencal/Vallnord France Myriam Nicole (FRA) ; Gaetan Ruffin (FRA) ;Thibaut Ruffin (FRA) ; RémiThirion (FRA) ;Gaëtan Vige (FRA)

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Collaboration with our partners

The continued success of our UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano is thanks in large part to our collaboration with our partners.

Shimano: presenting partner
Shimano is the world leader when it comes to bike equipment (derailleurs, gear cables, brakes, pedals, wheels etc). Shimano has been in partnership with the UCI since 1999 and provides technical assistance to the UCI World Championships (road, track, mountain bike & trials, MTB marathon, cyclo-cross and para-cycling) and for the UCI World Cups (cyclo-cross). Testament to their reliability, SHIMANO was also contracted for this service at the last three Olympic Games (Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012) as well as at the Youth Olympic Games (Singapore 2010 and Nankin 2014). The contract with Shimano was extended in 2012 for a period of four years (2012-2016).

Red Bull Media House: official media partner
Red Bull Media House has been the UCI official media partner since 2012, and this is the fourth consecutive year that it will produce the live broadcasts, highlight magazine shows and various clips from all nine rounds of the series. Nearly 37 million television viewers in 19 countries worldwide tuned in to watch either live coverage, highlights or news broadcasts of the 2014 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano, while 2 million chose Internet. Our exclusive production and online broadcast partner, Red Bull Media House reported a total of 1.2 million live views worldwide on Red Bull TV and redbull.com/bike, plus 800.000 views by VOD in the first four days after each race.

GoPro: official partner
As the exclusive camera sponsor of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, GoPro is once again looking forward to adding a sensational dimension to the series coverage. The maker of the world’s most versatile camera and enabler of some of today’s most engaging content will provide fans across the world with new and unique viewpoints of the world’s best mountain bike athletes. In addition, GoPro is excited to meet two-wheel fans around the globe at the UCI World Cup stops!

Henderson and McConnell Shine Bright at Subaru National Mountain Bike Championships

Day three of the 2015 Subaru National Mountain Bike Championships, hosted by Mountain Bike Australia, saw spectacular action across Olympic Cross Country racing, Observed Trials and Downhill Seeding in the idyllic location of Bright, Victoria.

Day three of the 2015 Subaru National Mountain Bike Championships, hosted by Mountain Bike Australia, saw spectacular action across Olympic Cross Country racing, Observed Trials and Downhill Seeding in the idyllic location of Bright, Victoria.

Cross Country

Dan McConnell (ACT) and Rebecca Henderson (ACT) are true mountain bike champions, and today they delivered as champions do, defending their National Championships titles and once again earning themselves the green and gold jerseys.

DanMcConnell_leads_BrendanJohnston-Credit_RussBaker

In the Elite Men’s race, McConnell, Brendan Johnston (ACT) and Cameron Ivory (NSW) made a break from the get go, putting a small gap between themselves and the rest of the pack.

They led the other riders for the first half of the race, but on lap 3 teammates McConnell and Brendan Johnston (ACT) broke away from Ivory and the pair would race wheel-to-wheel until the very end.

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The final lap was anyone’s game, but as McConnell is the third-ranked rider in the world and almost unbeatable at home, he found the extra energy to break away.

McConnell charged into the final straight, high fiving his fans as he crossed the finish line, to claim yet another National Championships jersey.

“Everything went really perfect,” said McConnell. “To be away with Trekky [Johnston] really early, we were able to just control the pace and dictate when we could put in the work and when we could recover a little bit. I’m really happy, not just for myself, but for Trekky to get second is awesome.

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“I’ve never gone back to back before so this one is extra special,” McConnell explained. “I’ve really wanted this one for the last couple of months so to get a win and to be able to take the jersey overseas again is awesome.”

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In the U23’s race, it was all about Tasmania’s Scott Bowden, who backed up his Oceania Championships title from just two weeks ago with National Championships glory.

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A crash on lap 1 resulted in a gash on his right knee and removed the number plate from his bike, but Bowden was unstoppable, putting a 1m47s lead in front of the other U23 riders by the final lap, and in the process, completing an Australian season that is almost without peer in 2015.

Under 19 champ - Luke Brame.
Under 19 champ – Luke Brame.

Much like the Men’s, the Elite Women’s race turned into a challenge between top-ranked riders Henderson and Peta Mullens (VIC), who both went hard from the start, putting a 35.2 second gap between themselves and third and fourth placed riders Jenni King (VIC) and Jenny Fay (ACT).

Despite a small crash on the course, Henderson built this lead up to 50 seconds by the last lap, ensuring that she would once again be crowned the Elite Women’s National Champion.

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“This one is really special,” said Henderson, speaking about retaining the title in her post-race interview. “Coming in as defending champion and Oceania champion, it was really important for me to have a good race.

“I came in with everything to lose and I was able to pull it together so I’m really happy.”

In third place was King, Fay finished fourth and Mountain Bike Australia’s Junior Development Coach Jodie Willett (QLD) rounded out the top five.

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The most exciting finish of the day went to the U23 Women’s race, where Holly Harris (NSW) and Em Parkes (VIC) literally went head to head in a sprint finish for the title as they rounded Subaru corner on the third and final lap.

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Riding in to what was an amazing photo finish, Parkes just edged out Harris on the line, finishing only centimetres in front to take the win.

Downhill Seeding

The Bright Downhill course is renowned in the mountain bike world for being both technical and spectacular, and as we heard Connor Fearon (SA) say at the Oceania Championships in Toowoomba last month, it is “capable of hosting a World Cup”.  

For the 2015 Subaru National Championships we are again lucky to be treated to a feast of Australian downhill royalty, with Tracey Hannah (QLD), Mick Hannah (QLD), Tegan Molloy (NSW), Troy Brosnan (SA) and Fearon all present and racing.

Downhill racing takes place over two days, with seeding held this afternoon and racing taking place tomorrow

Today’s action for the Elite Women saw defending national champion Tracey Hannah record the fastest time of 4:35.72, with Canadian Claire Buchar second in 4:59.10 and Oceania champion Molloy third in 5:15.13.

Brosnan is the hot favourite in the Elite Men’s race and today he did not disappoint fans, setting the fastest time for seeding, 3:56.22.

Fearon was a very close second, 0.21 seconds behind Brosnan, and Dean Lucas (VIC) was third in 4:03.46.

Observed Trials Finals

Today also saw the start of the spectator-favourite Observed Trials competition, with the valued 20 inch title up for grabs.

Taking out the title with exceptional riding was Nathan Mummery (VIC), and finishing runner up in the closest of competitions was Andrew Dickey (VIC), with Lachlan Sens (VIC) in third.

The Expert category was raced combined with women’s action, and it is no surprise that trials superstar Janine Jungfels (QLD) took the win.

Second place in expert went to Mitch Ho (NSW) and Kyle Rolands (QLD) finished third.

Final day action

Action on the final day of the of the Subaru Mountain Bike National Championships will be headlined as always by the downhill finals – with Group B racing at 1.30pm and Group A at 3.30pm.

Excitingly, the Group A finals will also be live streamed via the Mountain Bike Australia website at mtba.asn.au/livestream, allowing fans around the world to follow along.

Spectators in Bright will also be treated to a feast of Cross Country Short Course, Cross Country Eliminator and Observed Trials 26 inch action.

Anyone is welcome free of charge to watch and cheer along here at Mystic MTB Park in Bright, Victoria.

All information about the event can be found online at:

http://mtb.subaru.com.au/national-championships

 

Henderson and Bowden ride to Subaru National Series Glory in the Scorching Queensland Sun

The first day of the final round of mountain bike racing in the Subaru National Series for 2014-15 was contested under the hot Queensland sun in Toowoomba on Saturday, with the event presented by Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA).

The series has travelled Australia, starting in December 2014, and racing took place in both Cross Country and Downhill disciplines.

Elite Men’s Cross Country

Dan McConnell (ACT) is the third-ranked cross country rider in the world, and as such starts any race he enters across the world as one of the favourites – and on home turf, McConnell is almost unstoppable.

The Elite Men’s race started smoothly in the midday heat, with a lead bunch of five riders, including McConnell and New Zealand National Champion Anton Cooper.

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McConnell, crowned this week as the Oceania Champion, is renowned for starting steadily and then maintaining a pace that other riders cannot sustain over the duration of the race.

Today’s race ran to this familiar plan, with McConnell breaking away from the bunch on lap four to create a lead that would never be challenged.

CamIvory-Credit_ElementPhotoVideoandVideo AntonCooper-Credit_ElementPhotoVideoandVideo

“In the middle of the race I was able to get to the front at the start of the climb, open the legs a little bit and get a gap,” said McConnell.

“From there I was able to ride comfortably to the finish”. 

Second behind McConnell was again Cooper, with third place going to 2013-14 National Series winner Cameron Ivory (NSW).

Scott Bowden (TAS) landed in Toowoomba as the National Series leader, and with a strong ride to fourth place, he will be leaving Queensland as the overall Elite Men’s Subaru National Series winner.

“I was hoping that I could get on the podium fairly consistently and be in the top five but I wouldn’t have even dreamt of taking out the series this year,” said Bowden.

“It exceeded all my expectations and I’m just over the moon”.

Ivory and Brendan Johnston (ACT) rounded out the top three overall series winners.

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Both men finished the series on level points, but second was awarded to Ivory on countback.

Under 19 action saw Liam Jeffries (VIC) win both today’s race and the overall National Series crown in a dominant fashion, with four wins from five races, and today he incredibly rode without a seat-post and saddle for most of the final lap.

Elite Women’s Cross Country

The women’s race was a star-studded affair, with the very best riders from Australia and New Zealand stacked across the front row of the startline.

Kiwi young gun Amber Johnston (NZ) rode hard from the start to lead the riders into the forest, where proceedings were broken open early by the experienced New Zealand power duo of Kate Fluker and Karen Hanlen.

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Fluker has form this week after riding to a strong silver behind Henderson on Thursday in the Oceania Championships, and was again strong today surging to the lead at the end of lap two.

On lap three she further accelerated and established a lead that would ultimately be insurmountable.

“I was maybe four or five deep on the single track but I really utilised that grassy climb,” said Fluker. “I have to use my strengths the best I can and I love climbing so I made sure I went hard where I could.

“Amber Johnston, the New Zealand U23 Champion, was out in front and I said to her ‘Amber I’m behind you’ and she pulled over for me and let me pass. Kiwi’s are pretty good at working together”.

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The Subaru National Series title was on the line today and fittingly it was our two best athletes of recent years in contention, Rebecca Henderson (ACT) and Peta Mullens (VIC).

Henderson, the 2014 Commonwealth Games Bronze medallist, walked away with the spoils, adding the overall National Series title to the Oceania title she won 48 hours earlier at the same venue.

“I’m really happy to win my first National Series – it’s really cool,” said an ecstatic Henderson.

In under 19 action, New Zealand’s Jemma Manchester capped off a successful trip, adding today’s Subaru National Series round win to Thursday’s Oceania Champion title.

Worthy of note in the youngest category is the prodigious Zoe Cuthbert, who today completed a whitewash of the Under 15 series with performances that often saw her battling with Elite riders.

Elite National Series Winners, Bec Henderson and Scott Bowden.
Elite National Series Winners, Bec Henderson and Scott Bowden.

Downhill Seeding

Downhill racing will take place with riders today participating in a seeding event to both earn points towards their Subaru National Series rankings and also decide the start order for Sunday.

In the Men’s event, Jared Graves (QLD) was fastest with a time of 2m39.60s, while Richie Rude Jr (USA) and Connor Fearon (SA) rounded out the top three.  

For the Women, Tegan Molloy (NSW) seeded quickest in 3m12.79s, with Michelle Crisp (NSW) in second and Kellie Weinert (NSW) in third.

Spectators are welcome free of charge here at Jubilee Mountain Bike Park, with Sunday’s racing to include both Short Course Cross Country and Downhill racing.

All information about the event can be found online at: http://mtb.subaru.com.au/national-series/2014-15-national-series-toowoomba-qld/

McConnell and Henderson Deliver at the 2015 Oceania Championships in Toowoomba

Australia’s two best cross-country mountain bike riders, Rebecca Henderson (ACT) and Dan McConnell (ACT), rode dominantly to Oceania titles in Toowoomba, Queensland, today at the 2015 Oceania Mountain Bike Championships, hosted by Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA).

McConnell was the hot favourite for the Elite Men’s title, being the third ranked cross-country mountain bike rider in the world and holding an impressive five Oceania Elite titles before today’s race even started. But competition was always going to be tight, with the Men’s field starring New Zealand National Champion and 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Anton Cooper and Cairns World Cup Cross-Country Eliminator winner Sam Gaze (NZ).

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For the first two laps the three men were neck and neck, as they were at last year’s Commonwealth Games, but this time McConnell was the first to make his move, going early and pushing hard on lap three. “It was always going to be really fast off the start with Sam and Anton,” explained McConnell. “I was able to settle in with them and the pace was fairly inconsistent and fast, it was fairly cat and mouse. “I think at the third lap I was able to get to the front at the start of the climb and put a bit of pace on. Once I was away by myself it was a lot easier to get away and just ride my pace and settle in.”

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McConnell rode to a very convincing championship win from Cooper, acknowledging the day’s weather was tough on all riders, as evidenced by both Paul van der Ploeg (VIC) and Gaze withdrawing mid-race. “It was super hard conditions, there’s not really any breeze once you get into the trees – I’m not sure you could get much tougher than this,” said McConnell.

Third place in the Elite Men went to Cameron Ivory (NSW). Scott Bowden (TAS) took the Oceania title for Australia in the U23 Men’s race, after the initial leader Harrison Ersnt (NZ) fell away with a flat tyre early in the race.

In the Elite Women’s cross-country race, it was the battle of the National Champions, with Australia’s own Henderson (ACT) going head to head with New Zealand Champion Kate Fluker.

The two female cross-country stars led the field for the entire race, with 2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Henderson sitting just in front of Fluker. For the first half of the race there were only 13 seconds between the two, but Henderson extended this gap to 43 seconds by lap three, creating a lead which Fluker was unable to close. Despite extreme Queensland heat, Henderson, who has four Oceania titles at the Under 23 level, appeared to cruise to her first Elite gold medal.

“I’m very relieved to take the win today and obviously take my first Oceania Elite title,” said Henderson. “I was able to beat the girls a couple of years ago when I was in U23s but last year it just slipped away from me and Karen rode away on the last lap so I was watching my back for the whole day today and really working hard.” Fluker took home the silver medal for New Zealand, while three-time consecutive Oceania title winner Karen Hanlen (NZ) secured bronze.

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In the U23 Women’s race it was New Zealand’s Amber Johnston who took out the Oceania title, moving steadily through the field.

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The wins by Henderson and McConnell gain additional significance with each win securing an invaluable position for Australia on the mountain bike startline at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The best mountain bike riders from the Oceania region will continue to do battle in Toowoomba over the next three days, before the action heads to Bright, Victoria for the 2014/15 Subaru Oceania Mountain Bike Championships.

For all Oceania and Series information, please visit:

For full race results, please visit:

Henderson & McConnell Monopolise Mountain Bike Action on Stromlo Trails

Canberra mountain bike power-duo Rebecca Henderson (ACT) and Daniel McConnell (ACT) have monopolised the tough Stromlo course in Canberra at Cross Country Round 4 of the Subaru National Mountain Bike Series presented by Mountain Bike Australia. 

On Saturday, the Elite Women raced the Cross Country, with dual Olympian and Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Henderson turning on the power from the very beginning.

Bec Henderson - Credit Jaime Black
Bec Henderson

After just one lap, Henderson had put a 32 second gap between herself and the rest of the field, which was led by Peta Mullens (VIC). This lead more than doubled to 1 minute 10 seconds after lap two, and by lap three, her lead had virtually guaranteed her the win, Henderson regaining the Series Leader jersey in the process. “I couldn’t have asked for a better result or a better ride for me,” Henderson said. “It’s a really challenging and technical course, which works in my favour and obviously I’ve got a bit of extra time to practice on it being a home course. “I’m really trying to peak for the Oceania Championships, that’s pretty important to me, and then the National Champs.”

Peta Mullens
Peta Mullens

Jenni King (VIC) rode consistently to maintain a third place position for the entirety of the race, while Jodie Willett (QLD) and Em Parkes (ACT) battled it out in the final few laps, with Willett finishing the victor in the battle for fourth.

In the U19’s, Sarah Tucknott (WA) secured victory in the heat ahead of Ebony Tanzen (VIC).

Once again, of notable mention is local 13 year-old rider Zoe Cuthbert (ACT), who rode to another Under 15 Women’s gold medal, finishing her second and final lap ranked 7th outright across all women’s fields.

The Elite Men did battle at midday, riding the same number of laps as the Elite Women due to the ever increasing heat, with McConnell gunning it from the start to complete the first lap in just 12 minutes 19 seconds. Riding in front of current Series Leader Scott Bowden (TAS), McConnell created a gap early that would never be breached, riding to yet another win as the other riders battled for their spot on the podium. “It was the first hot day we’ve had for a few weeks so it was a bit of a shock to the system,” said McConnell.   “I really wanted to set my own pace and go out really hard, then sort of hold onto it and then get into some good lap times in the back half of the race. “I had a fairly aggressive set up,” he added. “I was running the 36 tooth chain ring on the front, which is pretty hard on the climb so it was really important to me to dictate the pace and not be in a bunch, which is harder, but it all panned out really well.”

Scott Bowden
Scott Bowden
Cam Ivory
Cam Ivory

At the half-way mark, Bowden and Brendan Johnston (ACT) were neck and neck, and they would stay this close until the final corner of the race. A tough sprint that would last the length of the finish straight saw Johnston secure the silver in front of Bowden who retains the Subaru Series Leader jersey. Fourth place went to 2014 Subaru National Series winner Cameron Ivory (NSW) with perennially fast Andy Blair (ACT) recording fifth.

Series Leader Liam Jeffries (VIC) took out gold to record his third Subaru National Series round win a row in the Under 19s, followed by Luke Brame (NSW) and Alex Lack (TAS).

Short Course Cross Country – Friday 

Kicking off the weekend with Short Course Cross Country races on Friday night, McConnell was the hot favourite in the Elite Men’s competition and he did not disappoint the crowd. McConnell rode hard from the start, working with Brendan Johnston (ACT) and building a lead from the rest of the pack. This lead would see the two riding together for the thirty minutes of standard race time but on the final lap McConnell put the hammer down, riding away to a convincing win.

In an intense and exciting battle for third place, Tristan Ward (NSW) proved to be the best of the chasing group, sprinting for the bronze medal after a technicality meant that third place was awarded before the overall race had even been won.

In the Elite Women’s race, Naomi Williams (VIC) and Rebecca Locke (VIC) pushed hard through the heat for the duration of the race.

While Williams sat in the lead for each lap, Locke sprinted on the final Subaru arch corner to take the win in front of a cheering crowd.

The 2014/15 Subaru National Series comes to an end in three weeks, with the final round held in Toowoomba, QLD from 27 February – 1 March, in conjunction with the Oceania Championships, which will run 25 – 27 February 2015.

For all Series information, please visit:

For full race results, please visit:

Trek Racing Australia Secures $300K Funding

Off the back of yet another successful year of racing for Trek Racing Australia we are excited to announce a financial commitment of $300,000 over the next three years to the Team from our founding and long term supporters, the Peil Family.

2014 saw Trek Racing Australia rider’s claim 7 National titles across XCO, XCM and 24hr Solo categories, representation at UCI MTB World Cups, UCI MTB World Champs, and the Commonwealth Games. Coupled with dominant performances like those achieved at the Kowalski Classic and the Highland Fling by Brendan Johnston & Dylan Cooper the Team is in a very strong position to keep moving forward.

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Combined with the unrivalled support from industry leading companies like Trek Bicycle Corp Australia, Shimano Australia, Anytime Fitness, FOX, GU Energy Labs, Finish Line Lube and Aussie Butt, contrary to rumors, the Team is now very well funded until 2019.

Our absolute focus is to continue supporting Australian Mountain bikers. Our plan is to run frequent Junior Skills Development camps and use our Elite riders to mentor junior mountain bikers throughout the country. Our number one goal is to keep our riders on mountain bikes, give them a pathway to the world stage and decrease the bleeding of so much of this country’s mountain biking talent to the road.

To find out more about Trek Racing Australia please visit www.trekracingaustralia.com 

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Mullens and Ivory Impress in National Series #3, Pemberton, WA

Cameron Ivory (NSW) and Peta Mullens (VIC) have secured the gold at Round 3 of the Subaru National Mountain Bike Series in Pemberton, Western Australia, presented by Mountain Bike Australia.

Sunday’s race was the second leg of a double-header in the idyllic location in the South Western corner of Australia, with riders having to contend with tired legs and a brand new challenging course.In the Elite Men’s category, Ivory and Brendan Johnston (ACT) had an entertaining battle, with Johnston holding a small lead for the majority of the race.

Elite Men's Podium - Credit MTBA
Elite Men’s Podium

The riders came together on the final lap, with Ivory making the definitive move as they crossed the finish line for the second-last time. “That was so hard trying to chase down Trekky [Johnston],” said Ivory. “I kept getting him, then losing him, coming back, and with a few laps to go I just left it all out there. Luckily I caught him at the start of the last lap and just went for home from there.”

The 2013/14 National Series Champion is happy to return to the top step of the podium, and is looking forward to the challenge of keeping the position. “I had my European season last year and learned a lot so I’m trying to put it to use this year,” he explained. “Hopefully when Dan McConnell comes back I can see how I compare to him.”

Cam Ivory
Cam Ivory
Brendan Johnston
Brendan Johnston

In second place was Johnston, who set the initial pace for the race and held on to the lead until the very final lap. “I had pretty good legs so I wanted to make it as hard as I could,” said Johnston. “I thought I could hold Cam [Ivory] off but he never really got out of sight and with one lap to go he showed why he’s the rider he is. “I’m happy with a second place, for me today it wasn’t so much about the position but having a solid race, the course is a credit to the course designers and event hosts, it made for good racing both days.”

Third place went to 2013 Cross Country Eliminator World Champion Paul van der Ploeg (ACT) who pushed hard on the final laps to move through the field.

For the second day in a row, Liam Jeffries (VIC) took out the U19 Men’s title and now wears the Subaru Series Leader’s jersey.

Second place went to Luke Brame (NSW), with Bryan Dunkin (NSW) finishing third.

In an exciting Elite Women’s race, Peta Mullens (VIC) took the win and in the process claimed a rare victory in front of 2014 Commonwealth Games Bronze medallist Bec Henderson (ACT). In early running, both riders went hard to have a 36 second gap on the field after only the first lap. The two women would stay together until the end of lap three, when Mullens crossed the finish line 4 seconds in front of Henderson. “I was feeling pretty sick out there,” explained Henderson. “I was giving it everything on the first few laps but Peta marked me and she could tell I wasn’t on it. She probably didn’t even know that I was trying to attack, but I was and she rode amazingly.” On lap four, Mullens made the race her own, creating an unassailable lead of over two minutes, which she extended to almost five minutes on the way to the win.

Elite Women's Podium - Credit MTBA

“I think yesterday I left it all out there and today I wanted to do the same and I think I can be content with that,” said Mullens. “On the third lap she [Henderson] gave it a bit of stick and then didn’t really get the gap she wanted and started to suffer a bit. I thought that on the fourth lap it was my time to go when she was probably at her weakest and feeling yesterday’s race in her legs.”

Second place went to an ecstatic Jodie Willett (QLD) who again rode through the field to a result that surprised even herself. “Obviously Bec wasn’t having a good day and she really showed her class yesterday so don’t believe she’s down at my level,” said Willett. “Jenni and I had a great battle again and she kept me honest. We were both cramping for the last half of the race, which made it tough but I am stoked with second place.”

Bec Henderson
Bec Henderson

Jenni King (VIC) rode strongly to round out the top three.

The Under 19 Women were again in action today mixing it with the Elites, with West Australian local Sarah Tucknott (WA) taking both wins for the weekend and Megan Williams (QLD) scoring her second silver medal.

A special mention goes to Under 15 rider Zoe Cuthbert (ACT) who again won her category, remarkably finishing as the seventh rider on course at the time, with only Elite riders ahead.

The Subaru National Series continues in two weeks from 6 – 8 February with Cross Country Round 4 and Short Course Cross Country Round 2 in Stromlo, ACT and Downhill Round 2 in Thredbo, NSW.

For all Series information, please visit:

http://mtb.subaru.com.au/national-series/
For full race results, please visit:

http://www.racetecresults.com/Results.aspx?CId=16429&RId=46&EId=21

 

Henderson and Bowden Power to National Round #2 Wins at Pemberton, WA

Olympian Bec Henderson (ACT) and Scott Bowden (TAS) have powered to Cross Country wins at Round 2 of the 2014/15 Subaru National Mountain Bike Series, run by Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA).

Scott Bowden
Scott Bowden

Bowden signalled his arrival in this year’s Series with a second place in You Yangs, and today he confirmed this with his maiden National Series win. He led the field from Lap 1, with Cameron Ivory (NSW) and Brendan Johnston (ACT) hot on his heels.

Many riders mounted a challenge but Bowden was untouchable today, increasing his lead every lap for the first four. “After You Yangs I had fairly high expectations of myself but I also didn’t really know what to expect, but I’m over the moon,” said Bowden. “I just tried to push the descents and keep the legs as fresh as I could – it was such a hard course, fair bit of a climbing but I just tried to ride to my strengths.”

Second place went to Cameron Ivory (NSW) who recovered from an early incident to have an outstanding second half of the race, moving up from fourth place to give himself a genuine winning chance. “I had a little bit of bad luck on the second lap, I hit something pretty hard on one of the descents and I think I might have burped my tyre,” said Ivory. “I got to the top of the descent and I thought it was still ok but over the doubles it was just all over the place so I thought I better pull in and fix it, I tried to settle back in and not go out too hard but on that last lap I was just corked, especially up the climb.”

Cam Ivory
Cam Ivory

Brendan Johnston (ACT) rode strongly into third place and is already looking forward to tomorrow’s race. “I’m really happy with third – I knew second was out of reach so I tried to shut it down for the last lap and save a bit for tomorrow which I’m looking forward to. “There’s strong guys that turn up to every round and it’s good to see a lot of them travelled over here to Pemberton. It’s a long way but as I think everyone today would say, it’s worth it.”

Winner of the Under 19 Men’s, Liam Jeffries (VIC) rode an epic race setting a pace equal to the Elite men early on.

Luke Brame (NSW) and Guy Frail (NSW) went head to head in a fight for second place, with Brame edging out Frail in a sprint finish to retain the Series Leader’s jersey.

In the Elite Women’s race, Henderson took an early lead, accelerating to be clear of the field by Woodcutters Climb half-way around Lap 2, which turned out to be the decisive move. “I didn’t have a race plan today which is kind of unusual for me,” said Henderson who is undefeated in the series. “I got a little gap on the first lap and Peta closed it down. I could hear her puffing behind me starting the climb so I thought I better pounce and I was just able to open it up from there.”

Bec Henderson
Bec Henderson

Recently crowned 2015 Subaru National Road Series Champion Peta Mullens (VIC) had a great race to secure the silver medal, pushing Henderson early. “I wanted a hard race today,” said Mullens. “At You Yangs we all went out a little slower because it was hot and we knew it would be a long race. But today I felt a little bit fitter and I wanted to go out and have a hard race. “Bec went from the gun and put the pressure on and I was trying to chase her on that second lap and she just kept getting out of the saddle on those little pinch climbs”.

MTBA Junior Development Coach Jodie Willett (QLD) closed the gap to Jenni King on Lap four, riding into third place. “I did a triathlon last weekend and I’ve just been doing random stuff, lots of endurance but nothing hard,” said Willett. “I knew if I went out too quick I would just blow up so I sat behind Em [Parkes] for a while and just worked my way through the field”.

Elite Women's Podium
Elite Women’s Podium

In the Under 19 women’s race, local Sarah Tucknott (WA) rode strongly to take the win ahead of Queensland’s Megan Williams.

Tomorrow will see the men and women take to the tracks in Pemberton once again for Round three of the series.

Bec Henderson spoke of the challenges that await: “There’s even more single track and not that long, gruelling climb – it should be fun and hopefully we will have a little bit left in the legs!”

Pemberton Mountain Bike Park is a new location for the 2014/15 series, with Perth Mountain Bike Club combining some of Australia’s most challenging and enjoyable mountain bike trails with some fantastic leisure facilities including a natural swimming pool.

Ben Walkerden
Ben Walkerden

Spectators are welcome free of charge.

For all information please visit: http://mtb.subaru.com.au/national-series/2014-15-national-series-pemberton-wa/

The Subaru National Series continues in two weeks from 6 – 8 February with Cross Country Round 4 and Short Course Cross Country Round 2 in Stromlo, ACT and Downhill Round 2 in Thredbo, NSW.

Follow the 2014/15 Subaru National Series online:

Series Dates:

  • 6 – 7 Feb 2015 — Mt Stromlo, ACT (XCO)
  • 6 – 8 Feb 2015 — Thredbo, NSW (DHI)
  • 25 Feb – 27 Mar 2015 — Toowoomba, QLD (2015 Oceania Championships – DHI, XCO, XCC, XCE)
  • 27 Feb – 1 Mar 2015 — Toowoomba, QLD (XCO, DHI, XCC)
  • 12 Mar – 15 Mar 2015 — Bright, VIC (National Champs – XCO, XCE, XCC, DHI, XCR, OT)

Dan McConnell Riding Tour Down Under with Trek Factory Racing

Dan McConnell of Australia will be part of their seven-man lineup for the Tour Down Under in January. McConnell races for the Trek Factory Racing XC program which, same as the UCI ProTour team, is owned and managed by Trek Bicycle. 

McConnell finished the 2014 season on a high note, placing third overall in the XC World Cup, and taking the start in Australia’s only WorldTour event will give him an intense and early boost to the 2015 season.

McConnell: “This is super exciting for me. I participated in TDU back in 2006 with Team South Australia. It was incredibly hot, but more than anything I remember the crowds in and around Adelaide; they were just phenomenal.

“Mountain bikers spend quite a bit of time on a road bike, especially when we build endurance in the months before the World Cup season starts in May. At this time of the year, I probably ride 70 percent of the time on my Trek Domane,” says McConnell. “Of course, a 90 minutes maximum effort with an average heart rate of over 180 is very different than a 150km stage with a sprint at the end. It’s sort of hard to know where I’ll be. At the national road championships I go pretty well, and that’s on a hilly course.”

For Team Manager Luca Guercilena, McConnell’s selection is one of many benefits of factory management between two world-class programs. “Trek owns a handful of cycling teams, and they all compete under the Trek Factory Racing umbrella. These crossover projects are very valuable. Grégory Rast rode a cyclocross race the other day, and Sven Nys swaps cyclocross for mountain bike and road cycling in summer.”

TFR cross-country manager Jon Rourke agrees: “When Dan approached me with this idea, I thought it was great. Luca was receptive too, so we didn’t have to push this down anybody’s throat.”

McConnell isn’t the first mountain biker to ride on the road, temporarily or in a more definite way. “The unique element is that Trek owns both programs, which allows for a much more seamless participation of riders into either disciplines without major hassles or sponsorship conflict worries,” says Rourke. “Some people might say ‘Oh boy, here’s another mountain biker going on the dark side’, but Dan still loves the dirt, and this race works into his favor for his mountain bike schedule. We support this opportunity and know Dan is fully committed to mountain bike racing – especially as he prepares for the Olympic Games in Rio2016. It’s nice that these mountain bikers get to drop in and have fun and then go back. At the end of the day, we all love to ride bikes: road or mountain.” 

“This is a great opportunity for all parties involved,” agrees Team Manager Luca Guercilena, who has a background as a performance coach. “I saw Dan’s power output numbers and I’m curious to see how Dan will fare in a stage race on the road. A mountain bike race is a highly anaerobic event, significantly more so than road racing, but there are similarities. Especially when it comes down to climbing it will be interesting. It’s more an individual effort, a bit like a time trial, and Dan can produce consistent high power for a long period of time, so I’d say the climbing stages will be favorable for him.”

Trek Factory Racing’s lineup for the 2015 Tour Down Under:

Eugenio Alafaci (Italy) 
Marco Coledan (Italy) 
Laurent Didier (Luxembourg) 
Daniel McConnell (Australia) 
Giacomo Nizzolo (Italy) 
Hayden Roulston (New Zealand) 
Calvin Watson (Australia)

2014 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano: Record TV and Internet Audiences

The 2014 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano not only saw athletes reach new heights, it was also the most successful season yet in terms of Internet and television audiences. The nine rounds of the 2014 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano were raced in nine different countries and four continents between April and September.

Television: audience more than doubles 

Nearly 37 million television viewers in 19 countries worldwide tuned in to watch either the live coverage, highlights or news broadcasts of the 2014 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano. This compared with 16 million the previous year. 

Of the nine rounds of the 2014 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano, the final event in Méribel, France, drew the largest television audience and was a fitting end for an unforgettable 2014 World Cup. 

Internet: Live, clips and highlights 

All rounds of the 2014 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano were also streamed live on the Internet. Exclusive production partner and online broadcaster Red Bull Media House reported a total of 1,2 million live views worldwide on Red Bull TV and redbull.com/bike, plus 800.000 views by VOD in the first four days after each race.

A popular feature in 2014 series were the onboard Downhill runs and course introductions thanks to GoPro cameras installed on selected riders’ helmets. 

“Our leading mountain bike series is very popular and continues to gain momentum,” observes UCI Off-Road Manager Peter van den Abeele. “With more channels in more countries coming on board we are reaching a wider fan base which further serves to develop this exciting discipline.” 

“The UCI is constantly working with its partners to ensure innovative and exciting race coverage,” explained UCI Head of Marketing Cyrille Jacobsen. “Thanks to our partnership with Red Bull Media House, which dates back to 2012, our methods of bringing the action to the fans is constantly improving and evolving.” 

He added that the World Cup series for this Olympic discipline continued to gain momentum thanks to its long-standing partnership with presenting sponsor Shimano, which is also exclusive provider of neutral technical assistance. 

Television coverage at a glance: 

• Broadcast by 53 channels in 19 countries 
• 69 live broadcasts in Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Pan-Africa, Slovakia and Sweden 
• Television audience totalled nearly 37 million 
• 1.52 million TV viewers watched live. 

Internet coverage at a glance: 

• 54 hours’ live coverage 
• 1.2 million live views 
• 14 highlight magazines produced 
• 800,000 Video on Demand views within four days of each event.

McConnell and Henderson Dominate at Round 1 of the Subaru National Mountain Bike Series

The opening round of the 2014/15 Subaru National Series presented by Mountain Bike Australia kicked off to an exciting start, with Commonwealth Games bronze medallists Dan McConnell and Rebecca Henderson taking out the Elite Men’s and Women’s Cross Country gold medals.

Dual Olympian Dan McConnell (ACT) went up against a fierce field of competitors, in a hot and windy six-lap race in the You Yangs.

You Yangs 13

Andrew Blair (ACT), Scott Bowden (TAS), Chris Hamilton (VIC), Adrian Jackson (VIC), Brendan Johnston (ACT) and McConnell finished the first lap within 1.9 seconds of each other, and stayed as a tight bunch for the first four of six laps.

On lap five, McConnell succeeded in breaking away from the group by making a surprise move on a downhill section, converting the bunch of six into a lead pair with Bowden. McConnell would ultimately take the win in just under two hours of tight and exciting racing, ahead of the young pairing of Bowden and Hamilton who finished in second and third place respectively. McConnell reflected on a tough race: “I was a little bit worried about them but I was able to ride fairly smart and I think that helped me get the wind today and just go to the front when the course suited me. “On lap 5 I thought I better pick it up a little bit and try and thin them down and see who’s got some legs. “Scotty (Bowden) was the only one who could come with me – he was riding really well and its really good to see some young guys like that coming up and giving it to the older boys”.

You Yangs 17

Scott Bowden in second place.
Scott Bowden in second place.

In the Under 19 men’s category, Luke Brame (NSW) reigned supreme, leading the pack in front of Michael Potter (NSW) and Liam Jeffries (VIC).

Rebecca Henderson (ACT), the 2014 Commonwealth Games Bronze Medallist, battled against a strong and experienced field, including Commonwealth Games teammate Peta Mullens (VIC) and last year’s Series winner Jenni King (VIC). In her first UCI event since the World Championships in August, Henderson sat with Mullens and King for the first three laps before making a break in the fourth and developing a 14 second lead – one that couldn’t be closed. In the end, Mullens finished in second place with King in third.

You Yangs 1

Henderson said “I could see that Jenny was really enjoying a consistent pace and I knew that if I wanted to get away at any point I had to have the pace a little inconsistent. “When it got technical I really gave it everything I had and hit it and I opened the gap up quite quickly and was just able to grovel around and hold that gap”.

You Yangs 10

In the Under 19 women’s race, Megan Williams rode strongly to take the win ahead of Sarah Tucknott (WA) and Ebony Tanzen (VIC).

All event information can be found at the series website: http://mtb.subaru.com.au/national-series/youyangvic/

 

Avantiplus Hellfire Cup: Final Race Wrap

The Avantiplbus Hellfire Cup is a done deal! Read on to learn how it all went down over the final two days.

Hellfire Cup Final wrap 4

STAGE 4: OVERVIEW

The time trial course takes racers out of the village in a 6km cruise stage to the time trial start on the Marchweil property. Special access to the stunning private property has been arranged for the Hellfire Cup which follows the coast and is below the event’s namesake Hellfire Bluff. The course then heads into nearby hills via a plantation fire road. The riders then jump off via a single track gully link which takes them onto the main climb for this short and sharp 14k time trial course.
STAGE 4: RESULTS
Day 3 started cool after a clear starry night over the Kellevie race village. Tasmanian competitors wandering around in t-shirts were greeted by interstate competitors in down jackets and beanies for the race briefing. The cruise stage allowed racers a chance to chat amongst the pack – there’s nothing quite like seeing a huge pack of riders winding their way up the hills on the gravel back roads of South East Tasmania. The chance to chat with pros and just enjoy the scenery was a nice leadup to the time trial stage.
At the picturesque Marchweil property the competitors assembled again surrounded by farm houses and a sea of lycra. The competitors were put into seeded pairs based on their results over the proceeding days, and were sent off in 30 second intervals.
Hellfire Cup Final wrap 7
For the Elite Male category Team Torq had a better outing than on Stage 3, and recorded a stage winning time of 25m 46s. They were followed a little over a minute later by Team 4SHAW who came in at 26m 57s. Team Torq’s strong performance will eat into the lead that 4SHAW and Avantiplus have carved out into the overall standings, but will not take them up a place on the overall podium at this stage. The competitive team of Avantiplus Launceston came looking like they hard worked hard for their time of 27m 12s.
The Elite Female teams Team Torq (Em Parkes & Jenni King) and Willylocke (Rebecca Locke & Naomi Williams) came across the line within 2 seconds of each other with Team Torq sneaking the stage win with a time of 33m 06s.
In the Elite Mixed competition team Jeffy & Pesta (Jarrod Moroni & Peta Mullens) came in very strong and took out stage 4 with a time of 31m 11s. Team My Mountain (Melissa Anset & David Ransom) followed in with a time of 33m 09. Less than a minute later A+ Launceston (Sam Calow & Rowena Fry) pushed across the line at 33m 47s.
 
STAGE 5: OVERVIEW
This afternoon stage is based around the classic Kelleive XC course, made famous by the Kellevie 24 Hour races. This track has been further developed and improved over the course of 2014 by new landowners Mtn Trails. The 9.5k course is all single track, which is ridden as a pairs relay for teams and lone wolves get to enjoy two laps of the course.
Hellfire Cup Final wrap 2
After leaving the race village the riders descend into the Kellevie rainforest. This section is a fast-riding, winding path that rewards riders willing to brave the encroaching trees for an opportunity to separate themselves from the pack. The course also features a short, sharp ascent up the Shimano Switchbacks across the crest of the hill. Following a quick paddock sprint, the riders meet the 4SHAW rock garden. After that they will go into the Jeanneret Electrical Technologies luge which will
The return leg is ideal for riders with big engines as pure power here will be the determining factor on the undulating blast back into the Race village and transition.
STAGE 5: RESULTS
Team Torq has notched up a narrow win (57m 59s) just 7 seconds faster than Team 4SHAW (Tom Goddard & Scott Bowden). There was only a small gap between the top 2 placed teams and Avantiplus Launceston which followed in at 59m 32s.
In the Elite Female category Torq Girls (Em Parkes & Jenni King) continue to dominate with a combined time of 1h 09m 54s. Followed closely by WillyLocke with a time of 1h 11m 48s.
In the Mixed Elite category Jeffy & Pesta (Jarrod Moroni & Peta Mullens) have taken out first place for Stage 5 with a time of 1h 07m 33s. Team My Mountain followed less than half a minute next with a time of 1h 7m 57s. Popular local riders Ride Bellerive (Jason Mennitz & Edwina Hughes) were in top form and took out 3rd with a time of 1h 09m 56s.
Hellfire Cup Final wrap 1
STAGE 6: RESULTS
 
Stage 6 of the Avantiplus Hellfire Cup is an optional night event at the end of Day 3 – it’s an XC dash for cash over 9km. This has the first man and woman across the line racing for $1,000 each from Laser Electrical and bragging rights as the King & Queen of Kellevie for 2014.
In a tight race, the King of Kellevie was won by Chris Hamilton with a time of 24m 58s. Chris was followed by the Queen of Kellevie Peta Mullens with a cracking time on the tough course of 29m 02s.
Stage 6 is a special stage and times do not contribute to final race standings, and was just for the people who felt they hadn’t been punished enough by the proceeding stages. It was only the hardy few who could stomach the prospect of a 3rd race leg in one day, however a good portion of the race village turned up at night to cheer them in across the line.
 
STAGE 7: SUMMARY
 
A beautiful sunny morning met competitors, even though the race village was a little slow in waking up after a few days of racing. Late night hooting and hollering was heard happening at the Iron House bar after a sunny afternoon which may have had a little something to do with this.
The Tuff Torq Elevator is a nasty little hill climb designed to wring the last drops of power out of very tired legs. Tough on a good day, but after 3 days of racing? Utterly Brutal. The course heads straight out of the village and up the hill that looks over the race village. Elevation ramps up quickly and switchbacks turn into an uphill straight push sure to demoralise all but the strongest legs. Elites and punters alike found this tough, and those who got the early run at 8am were grateful when they saw the temperature rise for the noon second wave.
Pairs are split for this stage, and sent off in seeded waves.
Hellfire Cup Final wrap 5
Peta Mullens and Jarrod Moroni – get the pair, for just $5000!
STAGE 7: RESULTS
Team Torq (Mark Tupalski & Chris Hamilton) had a good outing (18m 59s) and nibbled into Team 4SHAW’s lead who placed second with a time of 19m 07s. AvantiPlus Launceston were close behind with a time of 19m 36s.
A great stage for the Elite Women racers Willy Locke who took out the stage with a time of 25m 59s. This placed them well in front of Torq with a time of 30m 15s.
Team My Mountain (David Ransom & Melissa Anset) had blazing fast run of 23m 24s. Second place went to Avantiplus Launceston with a time of 23m 38s, which was followed by Jeffy & Pesta (Peta Mullens & Jarrod Moroni) who came in at 24m 08s.
STAGE 8: SUMMARY
 
The last hurrah for the Avantiplus Hellfire Cup 2014 is the Jettech Hectic Mayhem dirt crit. This repurposed motocross track has sweeping bermed dirt corners that allow for a final fast blast over the short course. The course is hectic and close and provides a great opportunity for spectators and team members to encourage their mates along. At around 3-4 minutes for the lap (fast riders), major mechanicals is about the only thing the elites have to worry about and this last leg is all about having a final blast to wring out the last drop of sweat for Hellfire 2014.
 
STAGE 8: RESULTS
The short course was EXTREMELY closely contested by the 3 leading Elite Male teams. Avantiplus Launceston took it with a time of 6m 20s, followed a second later by 4SHAW and another second later by Team Torq. Insanely close stuff.
Hellfire Cup Final wrap 6
WillyLocke, half impressed, took home the five gorillas.
WillyLocke continued to have a great day on the bike, with a combined time of 7m 10s on the short course. Torq Girls recorded a time of 7m 17s for their last stage of racing.
Avantiplus Launceston had a good hit out (6m 55s) and found themselves another 9 seconds on Team My Mountain (7m 06s). Ride Bellerive came in next with a time of 7m 23s.
FINAL HELLFIRE CUP 2014 OVERALL RESULTS
After 4 days of racing, enjoying the very best Tasmania has to offer in weather (read: All of the weather – sometimes all at once) the 2014 Avantiplus Hellfire Cup is done and dusted for another year. The organisers would like to take a moment to thank all of the volunteers who have contributed to the event, you are filled with the Spirit of Hellfire and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. They would also like to thank our generous sponsors and the the community of mountain biking which has got behind us in a big way. Finally, we would like to thank all our competitors for coming out and racing with us, we hope you enjoyed your brief stay in Hell and will join us next time!
The Hellfire Cup is committed to equal prize money for both genders and the winners in each elite category will go home with $5,000 in prize money, second place takes home $2,000 and third place elite team takes home $1,000.
Hellfire Cup Final wrap 3
Team 4-Shaw, surely must be pretty chuffed to have edged out the powerful Torq team for the win.
Elite Male Competition
The Elite male competition was a close run affair with the 3 leading teams looking like they could all take the event out at any stage. In the end the local knowledge and sheer power on the bike won the day and Team 4SHAW will go home as victors for the 2014 Hellfire Cup with $5,000 cash in their pocket. Their total cumulative time for the event was 6h 16m 28s edging out Avanti Plus Launceston who came in second place overall with a combined time of 6h 23m 55sAvantiplus Launceston will take home $2,000 prize money. Team Torq put in a stellar effort and were on the podium in third place overall with a time of 6h 24m 52s and will take home $1,000 prize money.
Elite Female Competition
The Elite Female competition was tight for the duration of the race – often seconds separating them on return from individual stages. At the end of play on day 4 the honours went to WillyLocke with a massive effort of 7h 39 18s combined time. This category was extremely close, in the end Team Torq trailed by only 31 seconds behind 1st place with a combined total time of 7h 39m 49s.
Elite Mixed Competition
From Day 2 onwards Jeffy & Pesta (Jarrod Moroni & Peta Mullens) looked very strong and they keep building their lead into an unassailable margin. By the end of Day 4 their total combined time was 7h 07m 01s which could not be touched by second placed team Team My Mountain (David Ransom & Melissa Anset) who recorded a total time of  7h 33m 50s. Avantiplus Launceston (Sam Calow & Rowena Fry) will take home third place overall in the mixed competition with a final time of 7h 35s 08s.

 

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.

This is What a Bright Future Looks Like

16 year old Jackson Frew is most definitely going to become one of Australia’s brightest stars! How’s his smooth skills on Stromlo, Tuggeranong Pines and the Kambah BMX Track?

Starting BMX racing at six, he’s raced World Champs in Canada, China and South Africa. After spending many years racing in many two wheeled disciplines including four cross, BMX and downhill he’s made the call to focus solely on downhill, and now heads into his first year as a junior.

Supported by Onyabike Canberra, Leatt Protectives, Giant Bikes Aus and Thredbo. We’ll certainly be seeing more of this talented, fluid riding and dedicated kid.

 

Torq and Merida announce new partnership, plus exciting news for the future of Australian Mountain Biking!

Melbourne, VIC: The Torq Australia Mountain Bike Team, one of Australia’s most successful and longest standing mountain bike teams, is partnering with Merida Bikes for the upcoming 2015 cross country season.

Torq are excited to announce a new long term sponsorship deal with Merida, a large global bike brand that supports mountain biking at all levels including a very successful association with one of the top mountain bike teams in the world over the last 10 years. Other team partners include Sram, Motion, Complete Wealth, Santini, Flight Centre Active, Met, North Wave, Crank Brothers, Rudy Project, Schwalbe, FTP Training, and the Bicycle Centre Network.

Team founder and Manager Dean Clark said “This team has been our passion since 2006. We have developed more junior riders into national champions than any other mountain bike team in Australia, but more importantly we have also helped them achieve their goals and really work towards helping them develop their cycling careers. Torq are also lucky to be in a position to sponsor many major events as a nutrition brand, getting extra coverage for our team and our sponsors.”

Torq Train

The Team has always had a big development focus at National/Oceania/World Cup level cross country, but have also competed in most major endurance stage races in Australia. The Torq Merida Team for 2015 will have a good mix of male and female riders across all age groups and will continue Torq’s focus on rider development to prepare for the next level of racing, whilst ensuring they have fun in a great team environment.

As part of the new 2015 program there will also be a significant focus on a new junior development with the launch of a new program, the 2 Wheel Academy. The Academy will start with a minimum of five teams setup across Australia using a standard system to ensure promising juniors have the best opportunity to set goals, improve their skills, train under a structured program with team camps, as well as having a clear pathway to link with Elite teams like the Torq Merida team.

Torq Train

Team sponsor and Managing Director of Complete Wealth, Matt Battye, has set a very strong long term vision for the 2 Wheel Academy.   Battye said “This is a very exciting development that will set up a structured pathway for juniors across Australia using the philosophies that have made Torq so successful over the years. Within the next two to three years we would like to have about 20 teams operating under our standard support model. This as a fantastic framework for kids to develop as mountain bike riders, while also helping provide skills that will help them achieve both in sport and in life in general.”

The Torq team will ride Merida bikes for the first time in the upcoming Cape to Cape Endurance Stage Race in Western Australia in November 2014 with a formal team launch scheduled for November. The 2 Wheel Academy will commence early in 2015.

Tested: RockShox RS-1

RockShox RS-1 v2 11
Looks cool, right? The uninterrupted curve of the carbon crown doesn’t collect any mud either.

The RS-1 is an exceptionally ambitious undertaking. Over the course of the last two decades, the development of mountain bike suspension has followed the conventional train of thought that upside-down fork construction just wasn’t really the way to go for mountain biking. There have been relatively few attempts at developing inverted forks, and those forks that have been at least marginally successful have overwhelmingly been designed for downhill, where they have the benefit of dual crown construction and fewer weight constraints. Similarly, the use of carbon fibre has been largely limited to fork crowns and steerers, and attempts to use carbon in the lowers of a fork have commonly resulted in excessive stiction.

RockShox RS-1 v2 23
There are no leg guards on the RS-1, but it hasn’t been an issue… yet.

So the RS-1, with its inverted, largely carbon fibre construction certainly comes to the game with some serious stigmas to overcome! You get the feeling that RockShox have taken this one on as a real showpiece, to show what can actually be done when all the stops are pulled.

This clean slate approach sees a fork like no other. Carbon fibre is used for the bulk of the construction, and an entirely new axle/fork interface has been implemented to deal with the torsional flex that traditionally plagues inverted designs. With such a novel design, we naturally came into this test with a lot of questions; would the fork be stiff enough, would the unprotected stanchions prove to susceptible to damage, could the performance ever hope to justify the price? You can read all about our initial impressions of the fork here: http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/flows-first-bite-rockshox-rs-1/

Tasmania Flow Nation 154

Over the course of testing, our RS-1 has been fitted to the front of a Trek Fuel EX 9.9 29er (the RS-1 is only available in a 29er format for now) so we opted for an RS-1 with 120mm travel to match the bike’s rear end. The fork is available in 100mm and 80mm travel versions as well, and given its billing primarily as a cross country item, we’re sure the 100mm-travel version will be the most popular. Regardless, offering this fork in a 120mm version clearly sends the message that RockShox feel the RS-1 is up to the job of technical trail riding too.

RockShox RS-1 v2 7
‘Predictive Steering’ – the hub is a structural element of the fork as much as a part of the wheel.

We’re no engineers, but we can imagine the R&D and testing involved in creating this carbon beauty wasn’t exactly carried out over a sandwich or two on a Thursday arvo. Getting this thing right would have been a mammoth undertaking, and that’s reflected in the cost.

Let’s deal with the elephant on the trail first; the price tag. The RS-1 is very expensive, but take a look at it – this is not just another fork. We’re no engineers, but we can imagine the R&D involved in creating this carbon beauty wasn’t exactly carried out over a sandwich or two on a Thursday arvo. Getting this thing right would have been a mammoth undertaking, and that’s reflected in the cost.

With that behind us, onto the testing! Any initial questions we had about how RockShox would tame the matter of flex disappeared as soon as we got a proper look at the Torque Tube hub/axle system. The hub rotates around a massive axle supported by oversized bearings, all secured by a 15mm Maxle. There’s a huge amount of contact between the hub end caps and the fork dropouts too; the hub really isn’t just part of the wheel so much as a vital component of the fork (and therefore the bike’s steering) itself.

RockShox RS-1 v2 4
The Torque Tube hub uses a massive axle with huge, knurled end caps.

The catch (there’s always a catch) is that you’re currently tied to using either a SRAM or DT hub, though other manufacturers may come to the party soon. On the matter of the hub and dropouts, installing the wheel is a bit fiddly when compared to a conventional fork, as the legs can rotate/slide independently – we can imagine changing a front flat in the mania of a race could be frustrating!

RockShox RS-1 v2 5
The legs can move independently with the wheel out (exactly what the Torque Tube hub is there to eliminate!), which does make wheel installation more fiddly. Here you can see how the hub end caps really bite into the dropouts to gain more stiffness.

The gram counters out there will note that the RS-1 is actually a fraction heavier than RockShox’s lightest SID fork. There’s about 50g in it, but the RS-1 is still lighter than just about all its competitors, so this fork sits happily in the feathery realms demanded by racers. Racer types will also appreciate the handlebar-mounted XLoc remote lever which puts a lockout within easy reach of your thumb. For those less interested in racing, it’d be great to see this fork offered without the remote too for a cleaner cockpit.

RockShox RS-1 v2 13
For now, the RS-1 only comes with an X-Loc remote lockout.

RockShox have equipped the RS-1 with a new damper called the Accelerator, which follows the same sealed cartridge design principles utilised in the highly praised Charge damper now found in the Pike and BoXXer. It offers the Rapid Recovery dual stage rebound circuit as found on various other RockShox products, a system designed to get the fork back up its optimum ride height quickly after heavy impacts. Compression is managed by the new DIG valve, which is not externally adjustable. In fact, external adjustments are limited to just rebound and lockout threshold, which will appeal to many.

RockShox RS-1 v2 8
The Accelerator sealed damper uses Rapid Recovery technology for the rebound circuit, helping the fork resist getting caught low in its travel over big hits.

Over our first few rides, we struggled to find the right air pressure to give us the ride feel that we wanted. Running the fork at the recommended pressure felt too soft for us on the big hits, and we found ourselves blowing through the travel too easily. But adding more pressure to increase the firmness of the spring rate left us with almost zero sag and poor small-bump responsiveness. We found the sweet spot eventually by utilising the simple, effective Bottomless Tokens system which is also found on the Pike and BoXXer forks. These plastic threaded ‘tokens’ can be added to the air chamber to change the air volume and therefore the spring rate. Installation is super simple – just unscrew the top cap from of the air spring assembly air, screw in the token/s and you’re done. Adding two of these tokens (out of a possible three) gave us the perfect spring rate – we could now run the recommended pressure, obtain the correct amount of sag, and not worry about the fork riding too deep in its travel.

NB – We have since been advised by RockShox that the RS-1 in a 120mm version actually comes pre-fitted with two Bottomless Tokens. Our fork was an early release model.

Getting the ideal spring rate meant fitting two Bottomless Tokens. It's a five-minute job you can do at home, requiring no special tools.
Getting the ideal spring rate meant fitting two Bottomless Tokens. It’s a five-minute job you can do at home, requiring no special tools.

With the spring rate/pressures sorted, we were able to better appreciate the abilities of the Accelerator damper too, which does a fantastic job of unobtrusively dissipating hard landings, allowing you to hit full travel without any harsh spiking.

RockShox RS-1 v2 18
Production forks will be included with protective stickers to protect any cable rub damaging the lustrous finish on the precious carbon legs.

One of the theoretical advantages of an inverted fork is that gravity helps keep the seals bathed in lubricating fluid which should yield less friction, and all the chat/reviews out there about the RS-1 seemed to support this notion. On our test fork, it took a fair bit of riding to achieve the levels of smoothness we were expecting – unlike the RockShox Pike which is slipperier than a greased dolphin from the very first ride, the RS-1 took about five or six hours of riding to truly free up. Now, with a few weeks on board the fork, it’s a different story, and the RS-1 has a responsiveness that will rival the smoothest forks out there. Is it more responsive than a well-maintained conventional fork (for example, a FOX Kashima Float 120)? It’s hard to say objectively, but we’d definitely rate it as on par with the most supple cross-country forks we’ve ridden.

 There was no twanging or fore/aft wobbling going on, which we can only attribute to the extreme rigidity of the carbon steerer/crown.

RockShox RS-1 v2 15
Sag gradients make setup easier. The fork is also equipped with a recommended air pressure chart. As you can see by the sticker, the RS-1 is 29er only for now.

So, is the RS-1 stiff enough for hard trail riding? The short answer is yes; the Torque Tube axle design and massive carbon uppers ensure the RS-1 does not flex excessively. Of course there is some torsional flex, but we feel it’s in line with what you’d expect from a fork this light and designed for this style of riding, and we never found ourselves battling to keep the fork on line or fighting the bars when the going got rough. In all, we’d rate the torsional stiffness as being equivalent to a RockShox SID with a 15mm axle. Where the RS-1 felt superior to other lightweight 32mm-legged forks was when landing hard or slapping the front wheel down off a drop – there was no twanging or fore/aft wobbling going on, which we can only attribute to the extreme rigidity of the carbon steerer/crown.

Tasmania Flow Nation 177
Hooray for Hobart trails!

Our fears that the sliders would be easily damaged have not yet been realised. Admittedly, we’ve only had five or six weeks of riding on the RS-1 so far, but that has included a lot of rocky trails as well as two trips in a bike bag facing the mistreatment of budget airline baggage handlers, and we’ve not had an issue with the exposed lower legs. On the trail, we haven’t given a second thought to the sliders’ proximity to passing rocks, but overall we’d probably feel more comfortable if the fork did incorporate some kind of lightweight leg guards.

As an exercise in pushing the design envelope, it’s hard to think of a product in recent years that can out-do the the RS-1.

All up then, is the RS-1 a success? 100% yes. As an exercise in pushing the design envelope, it’s hard to think of a product in recent years that can out-do the the RS-1. It has achieved that previously elusive goal of creating a truly high-performance, lightweight, inverted single-crown fork, and RockShox deserve a lot of praise for managing this.

Tasmania Flow Nation 170

But is the RS-1 sufficiently superior to existing offerings to win over consumers and justify the price? That’s where things are less clear-cut, but we actually don’t think that’s the point. Why? The RS-1 is the kind of item that is only going to be bought by a very special kind of rider, the kind for whom having cutting-edge equipment is a priority. What makes the RS-1 so cool is that it delivers a product that succeeds where others have previously failed, offering a high-performance alternative to a conventional fork, without any of the usual compromises. Would we buy one? If we had the cash, yes, we would. But that’ll take a lot of saving!

 

Success and Heartbreak for Australian Olympic Duo at Mountain Bike World Championships

Bec Henderson (ACT) raced to an outstanding 15th place in the Elite Women’s Cross Country World Mountain Bike Championships, while her partner and season team-mate Dan McConnell (ACT) suffered the heartbreak of two flat tyres in the Men’s race.

Racing took place in Hafjell, Norway on day five of the 25th UCI Mountain Bike & Trials World Championships.

Elite Women Cross Country

In the Elite Women’s race, Henderson (ACT) and Peta Mullens (VIC) were Australia’s two representatives.

2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist and 2012 Olympian Henderson (ACT) moved up from the Under 23 ranks this year after a standout 2013 in which she won the Under 23 UCI World Cup Series.

17, Henderson, Rebecca, Trek Factory, , AUS

Today Henderson started from second row of the grid, and she consolidated a position in the early twenties for much of the first half of the race.

A steady start would prove to be a smart strategy with the tough Hafjell course taking a toll on riders over the 6 lap race.

On lap 4, Henderson cracked the top 20 for the first time since the start of the race, and from there she would power from strength to strength, picking up multiple places each lap.

She would ultimately finish in an excellent 15th place in her maiden Elite Women’s World Championship race, leaving the solid impression that the future of the sport for Australian Women is in sound hands.

17, Henderson, Rebecca, Trek Factory, , AUS

Teammate and Australian Cross Country Eliminator National Champion Peta Mullens finished in 61st place.

Catharine Pendrel of Canada won the World Championship title for her second time, completing an amazing 2014 that included a Commonwealth Games gold medal.

Second place went to ‘07 & ‘09 World Champion Irina Kalentieva (Russian Federation), with Lea Davison (USA) rounding out the Elite Women’s podium.

Elite Men Cross Country

In the Elite Men’s Championship race, Australia’s representatives were Dan McConnell (ACT) and 2013 Cross Country Eliminator World Champion Paul van der Ploeg.

McConnell, a dual Olympian, has excelled in the past two seasons, winning a round of the World Cup in 2013 and finishing on the podium for the UCI World Cup series in consecutive years.

Traditionally a slow race starter, McConnell today accelerated hard from the line to be in second place in early running and settled comfortably into the top 5 early on the second lap.

Unfortunately it would be all bad news from here for the Australian.

Day5_XCO_Elite_Men--Race-Start--credit_Marius_Maasewerd

He suffered a flat tyre towards the end of Lap 2, and despite excellent mechanical assistance in the technical zone he lost 6 places and 58s from the incident.

After restarting racing and settling into his new 11th position, the truly unthinkable occurred and McConnell had a second flat tyre towards the end of Lap 3.

He lost 34 places this time around and would withdraw from the race late on Lap 4.

This marks consecutive years of bad luck for McConnell – in 2013 he was injured pre-race in training and finished 42nd.

3, McConnell, Daniel, Trek Factory Racing, , AUS

Team mate van der Ploeg finished in 94th place.

On more than one occasion in 2014 McConnell has battled head-to-head with the two legends of the sport – Julien Absalon (France) and Nino Schurter (Switzerland).

Today they would own the World Championships race to themselves, and after a brutal battle  Absalon was victories, recording a record fifth World Championship win.

Schurter, himself a triple world champion, placed second after surviving a challenging crash just moments from the finish, and Marco Aurelio Fontana (Italy) placed third.

2014 Cross Country Mountain Bike World Championship Results

Day5_XCO_Elite_Men--Wide-Podium--credit_Marius_Maasewerd

Elite Women
1. Catharine Pendrel, (CAN)  1:31:30
2.  Irina Kalentieva,  (RUS)  +0:00:21
3. Lea Davison, (USA) +0:00:43

15. Rebecca Henderson (ACT) + 5:46
61. Peta Mullens – 2 Laps down

Elite Men
1. Julien Absalon (FRA) 1:27:06
2. Nino Schurter (SUI) +1:51
3. Marco Aurelio Fontana (ITA) +3:28

94. Paul van der Ploeg (VIC) – 4 Laps down
DNF Dan McConnell (ACT)

Downhill Timed Session

The 2014 World Championships culminate on Sunday with Downhill racing for Junior and Elite riders.

An official timed-session was held today for the Elite categories, and while results do not contribute to the start order for Sunday they do allow riders to gauge their performance level against the field and to tackle a clear track at race pace.

Six-time National Champion Tracey Hannah (QLD) is Australia’s sole Elite Female entrant, and she set the 7th-fastest time of the day despite crashing during her run.

Troy Brosnan
Troy Brosnan

In the men’s session, Troy Brosnan (SA) continued his outstanding 2014 form, placing 5th and setting the fastest Australian time.

Hot on Brosnan’s tail was triple Elite World Champion Sam Hill (WA), recording 6th place just a quarter of a second behind Brosnan.

Day5_DH_Timed_Session--Connor_Fearon--credit_Jason_Stevens
Connor Fearon
Day5_DH_Timed_Session--Sam_Hill--credit_Jason_Stevens
Sam Hill

Bryn Atkinson (NSW) had a great run to finish 11th and Connor Fearon (SA) recorded 15th position.

Mick Hannah (QLD), Jack Moir (NSW) and Graeme Mudd (NSW) claim 23rd, 25th and 27th positions respectively.

2014 Downhill Official Timed Session –  Mountain Bike World Championship Results

Elite Women
1. Rachel Atherton (GBR) 3:53.538

7. Tracey Hannah (QLD)  +15.019

Elite Men
1. Greg Minnaar (RSA) 3:27.399

5. Troy Brosnan (SA) +2.222
6. Samuel Hill (WA) +2.500
11. Bryn Atkinson (NSW) +4.095
15. Connor Fearon (SA) +5.505
23. Michael Hannah (QLD) +7.849
25. Jack Moir (NSW) +8.379
27. Graeme Mudd (NSW) +8.666

 

Video: World Champs XC Course Preview with Claudio Caluori

Claudio’s quest to ride every discipline at the World Champs continues as he teams up with Multivan Merida Biking Team’s José Antonio Hermida to ride the Hafjell Cross-Country course.

On a course where stamina is important and the climbs are brutal, we were unsure whether Claudio would make it around the Norwegian track, never mind trying to race José Antonio on it.

At least Claudio’s heart and legs had a good workout, though we suspect we won’t be seeing him on a XC mountain bike anytime soon.

Australian Riders Shine on Day 4 of the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships

Day four of the 2014 UCI Mountain Bike & Trials World Championships in Hafjell, Norway, was a busy affair with the U23 Cross Country Olympic (XCO) races, Junior Downhill seeding and Observed Trials all taking place simultaneously.

Cross Country Olympic

Cameron Ivory (NSW) was the star Australian of the day, pushing hard in the second half of the U23 Men’s XCO to finish among the top 20 riders.

Ivory is the current Elite Men’s Subaru National Series Champion for Cross Country and Eliminator, as well as the reigning Australian U23 XCO Champion.

22, Ivory, Cameron, Swell-Specialized Australia, , AUS
Cam Ivory

22, Ivory, Cameron, Swell-Specialized Australia, , AUS

He put on a fantastic show in Hafjell, riding his way up from 37th at the end of the first lap to finish 18th in a field of 96 riders.

Also representing Australia in the U23 Men was Scott Bowden (TAS) who finished 40th, Chris Hamilton (VIC) who placed 49th and Ben Forbes who finished a lap down in 68th place.

In the U23 Women’s race, both Holly Harris (NSW) and Emily Parkes (NSW) had admirable rides in their first year in the age category.

Harris is the current Australian U23 Cross Country Champion and has a friendly rivalry with Parkes, with both often finishing races in neck and neck battles for position.

5rulu
Em Parkes
Holly Harris
Holly Harris
39, Parkes, Emily, , , AUS
Em Parkes

Today the Australians were affected by an early crash that blocked much of the field soon after the start.

In this battle of the teammates, Parkes would be victorious, riding well in the latter half of the race to work her way up to 27th place.

Harris finished one lap down from the winner in 42nd position.

Jolanda Neff from Switzerland completed an amazing 2014 adding the Under 23 Women’s Championship to her overall Elite Women’s World Cup Series title.

Australian Results – 2014 Cross Country Olympic World Championships

U23 Women
Emily Parkes (NSW) – 27th
Holly Harris (NSW) – 42nd

U23 Men
Cam Ivory (NSW) – 18th
Scott Bowden (TAS) – 40th
Chris Hamilton (VIC) – 49th
Ben Forbes (QLD) – 68th

Downhill

Andrew Crimmins (NSW) posted the fastest time of the Australian Junior Men in the downhill seeding.

Crimmins, who last year beat both Troy Brosnan (SA) and Mick Hannah (QLD) in an event at the Thredbo Cannonball festival, seeded 7th for the finals after completing the course in 3 minutes 42 seconds.

Fellow Australians Ben Hill (TAS) and Benjamin Dengate (ACT) are seeded 31st and 33rd respectively, while Matthew McCorkell (ACT) did not finish after an unfortunate crash early in the course.

In the Junior Women’s downhill, UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Series winner Tegan Molloy (NSW) claimed third seeding with a time of 4:33, 12 seconds behind leader Marine Cabirou from France.

Australian Results – 2014 Downhill World Championships

Junior Women
3. Tegan Molloy (NSW) +12.444

Junior Men
7. Andrew Crimmins (NSW) +9.885
13. Aiden Varley (VIC) +12.932
14. Max Warshawsky (QLD) +13.593
31. Ben Hill (TAS) +24.119
33. Benjamin Dengate (ACT) +25.303
47. Jackson Davis (WA) +31.451
DNF Matthew McCorkell (ACT)

Observed Trials

2013 Trials World Championship Bronze medallist Janine Jungfels (QLD) again starred for Australia in the Observed Trials event.

After a strong start today with a clean first section, Jungfels put in a consistent performance in each obstacle lap to finish just one step off the podium in 4th place.

P1vin
Janine Jungfels

Tatiana Janickova (Slovakia) successfully defended her title to again be the Women’s Observed Trials World Champion.

Our men’s Trials team were in action yesterday in the 26” category.

Both riders finished at the semi-final stage after displaying some impressive skills, with Nathan Mummery (VIC) in 21st place and Lachlan Sens (VIC) 30th.

dxKhY
Janine Jungfels, fourth in the world!

Australian Results – 2014 Observed Trials World Championships

Women Elite 
4. Janine Jungfels (QLD)

Men Elite 26″ 
21. Nathan Mummery (VIC)
30. Lachlan Sens (VIC)

 

Video: Ripping Old Man’s Valley with Cell Bikes

A couple of months ago we tested the Awaba 2.0 from Cell Bikes. Now we’ll be the first to admit that in the past, Cell haven’t exactly been near the top of the game in mountain biking, but the Awaba 2.0 really impressed us. The reason for the brand’s turnaround really comes down to one man, Dave Musgrove, and when you watch this vid of Dave shredding it up at Sydney’s Old Man’s Valley you can see why he knows all about creating a great handling bike.

Awaba Screenshot 4

Awaba Screenshot 1 Awaba Screenshot 2

 

Racing: Brosnan, McConnell and Molloy Shine in Mountain Bike World Cup Series

The seventh and final round of the 2014 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup wrapped up the overall series in Meribel, France this weekend after a fierce weekend of racing where Australia’s top riders featured heavily on the round and series podiums.

The UCI World Cup Series included events in seven countries, across four continents, with riders contesting rounds in the Olympic Cross Country, Downhill and Cross Country Eliminator disciplines.

Downhill

On a very fast and rocky track that descended 550m in 2100m length, it was Sam Hill (Chain Reaction Cycles.com/Nukeproof) who shone on the weekend, winning the round and proving to the world that he is back to his best.

Hill is a dual World Cup Series winner (2007, 2009) and broke an almost four year World Cup race win drought earlier this month by taking first place in Mont-Sainte-Anne in Canada.

Following close behind was Adelaide-born Troy Brosnan (Specialized Racing DH), who rounded out a stellar 2014 by recording a career-best Word Cup Series performance of third overall, one point in front of friend and former teammate Hill.

Brosnan took the podium in five of the seven World Cup races on the way to his third place, winning in Fort William, UK and recording a third place in Leogang, Austria and Windham, USA.

The overall winner of the men’s downhill series was Josh Bryceland (Santa Cruz Syndicate).

In the women’s downhill, Australia’s Tracey Hannah (Hutchinson UR) finished fourth after an exciting World Cup season, which included podium places in five of the seven races, as well as winning the Canadian Open DH at Crankworx this year.

In the overall rankings, it was Manon Carpenter (Madison Saracen Factory Team) who held on for the win.

In the junior women’s, fellow Australian Tegan Molloy was the stand out star, earning the Junior World Cup Series winner crown.

Molloy recorded five wins from the seven races, riding to her best finish in the Series in Canada to finish 11th in the Elite field with a time of 5:32.750, an exceptional result from the young NSW rider.

Cross-country

In the cross-country, Australia’s Dan McConnell (Trek Factory Racing) secured back-to-back UCI World Cup Series podiums finishing third overall for 2014, after taking the podium four times across the Series.

McConnell had a best finish of 3rd place in Mont-Saint-Anne in Canada and only narrowly missed out on making the podium in the last round, coming in at sixth place.

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World Cup series leader Julien Absalon (BMC) and World Champion Nino Schurter (Scott Odlo) remarkably won all seven events between them this year.

Absalon held on for the win, securing his sixth overall World Cup Series title.

In the Under 23 men, Australia’s Cam Ivory placed 22nd overall in a series including some challenges, a great result.

Australia’s Bec Henderson (Trek Factory Racing) had her debut year at Elite level and had an excellent year to finish inside the top 20. The highlight of her World Cup year was on home soil during the third round in Cairns, crossing the line in 10th place.

Jolanda Neff (Liv Pro XC) was the overall winner for the women’s Cross Country.

Eliminator

Starting on the Friday, and kicking off the final round of races in Meribel, was the Cross Country Eliminator, a 725m course that saw riders taking a gondola to the start line.

In the men’s overall standings, it was Australia’s Paul Van der Ploeg, the reigning World Champion, who would shine with a fourth place in the overall series.

Van der Ploeg had a solid World Cup season, medalling in each of the first three rounds and making the podium in four.

Fabrice Mels (Salcano Alanya) was crowned the elite men’s champion and Kathrin Stirnemann (Sabine Spitz Haibike) was victorious in the elite women’s series.

Trials

The trials UCI World Cup Series is currently at the midpoint, and Australia’s Janine Jungfels took the honours with an outstanding win in Meribel, taking the honours in the third round of the five race series.

Wrap Up

The mountain bike world’s attention now switches to the World Championships, which starts in Norway on September 2nd.

 

Yeti Launches New AS-R Cross Country Bike

Yeti has introduced the new AS-Rc cross-country bike, expanding its line of ride-driven products. Built for cross-country racers and trail riders, the AS-Rc rolls on size-specific wheels and delivers 100mm of optimized rear wheel travel. The AS-Rc will begin shipping immediately as a complete bike.

Australian Frame pricing is $3890

US Spec XO-1 $7990 AUD
US Spec XX-1 Enve – $12,990 AUD

Details and Australian availability via Rowney Sports. 

2015_Yeti_ASRC_Detail_01

The super lightweight (4.2lb. frame and shock) and efficient suspension has been dialed for shorter travel with an updated and modified single pivot design. Yeti has worked closely with FOX to refine the suspension rate to give the AS-Rc a predictable feel that holds up while pedaling and retains composure when the trail begins to get rough. The new AS-R frame is designed using a carbon Dogbone link to add considerable stiffness to the chassis and sports Yeti’s progressive geometry (69-degree head tube angle, long top tube, low bottom bracket) that has been borrowed from their experience in DH and Enduro. Wheel size on the AS-R is optimized with 27.5” wheels on the Extra Small and Small frames, and 29” wheels on Medium through Extra Large Frames.

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“We have been out of the cross-country market for several years, so it was important that we nailed the form, fit, and function of the AS-Rc.” said Yeti President and co-owner Chris Conroy. “The AS-R has been a storied bike in our line. We raced cross-country for nearly twenty years and have produced some greats in the sport. XC racing is in our DNA and we’re excited to reintroduce people to our heritage with a bike that showcases Yeti’s progressive geometry.”

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About Yeti:

Yeti Cycles is a rider-owned high-end mountain bike company, based in Golden, Colorado that has crafted race-bred and hand-built bicycles since 1985. The company has over twenty-five years of racing experience and focuses its product development on making racers go faster. If you visit their offices at noon, they won’t be there – they’ll be out riding. Visit www.yeticycles.com to learn more.

Norco 2015: Our Pick of the Crop

Last week, Flow was fortunate enough to spend the day up in the rolling hills of Old Hidden Vale, a serene oasis of singletrack to the west of Brisbane. We were there to take a closer look at the 2015 line up from Advance Traders, the Aussie distributors of Norco, Merida and Lapierre. Old Hidden Vale is a key location in the Brissy mountain bike scene, home to a suite of races, and the kind of place you could easily lose yourself for a weekend of riding – put it on the list!

Here we bring you our pick of the 2015 Norco bunch, the bikes that got us most excited and which we hope you’ll take a shining to too. We took advantage of Old Hidden Vale’s fast, swooping trails to get familiar with the Sight C 7.2 as well, and we’ve included our first ride impressions below.

Of all the bikes on display, it was the Sight, Range and Revolver series that really grabbed us. Norco’s year-on-year refinement over the past four or five years has been pretty incredible to watch, and the brand has certainly lifted in our esteem. Here are our favourite models.

[divider]Range[/divider]

Norco Range C 7.2-1

Since Flow’s trip to the Norco 2015 launch, we’ve received a Range 7.2 for a long term test. Click here for our initial thoughts.

The Range series, now in its second season as a 650B-wheeled bike, is globally one of the brand’s biggest sellers. It’s the embodiment of an all-mountain machine; 160mm-travel at both ends, with geometry that blends balls-out descending with respectable climbing. There are both carbon and alloy models, and for 2015 they share the same geometry. In 2014, the alloy versions had more of a ‘trail’ focus with slightly steeper angles, but Norco have realised that riders on a budget (or just fans of aluminium) want to shred the descents too, so they’ve now given the alloy bikes the same ‘enduro’ geometry too.

The $5999 Range C 7.2, above, had riders clamouring all over it, and while we weren’t able to bag a test ride on it (mainly because we couldn’t stop ourselves from riding the Sight!), we we grabbed it for a closer look.

Combing a carbon mainframe and seat stay, with an alloy chain stay / linkage, the Range C 7.2 comes in at around 12kg. The construction and all black presentation is instantly appealing, and it’s specced to the eyeballs with some of the finest ‘enduro’ finery going. Geometry wise, the bike runs a 66-degree head angle, which is balanced enough to rail descents and still negotiate flatter trails or an uphill switchback without feeling like a barge.

As with most bikes in the Norco line up, the Range series employs Norco’s Gravity Tune concept, which essentially means the rear-centre measurement  of the bike is shorter for the smaller sized frames and longer in the larger frames. As opposed to traditional bike sizing (which simply lengthens the front-centre or top tube measurement in bigger sizes), the Gravity Tune concept is designed to keep the rider position consistent across the size range.

Norco Range C 7.2-9
Norco employ a true four-bar linkage system across their whole dual suspension range, though the precise configuration of the pivot locations is changed to suit the intended purpose of each model. Norco call this Advanced Ride Technology, and it’s a step beyond the one-design-fits-all approach some brands take. Note the neat chain stay protection and internal cable routing.
There is a sizeable Rockshox rear shock presence across the Norco line up, particularly in more gravity oriented bikes. This is mirrored up front too, with a lot of bikes running a Pike fork.
There is a sizeable Rockshox rear shock presence across the Norco line up, particularly in more gravity oriented bikes. This is mirrored up front too, with a lot of bikes running a Pike fork. The Range C 7.2 gets a Monarch Plus with the new Debonair air can. The keen-eyed will notice there’s no front derailleur mount on this bike either – it’s single ring only.
The front end of this bike is a monster! Couple this with the ultra-stiff Pike and you're not going to be worried about stiffness when you barrel into a rock garden. The internal cable routing is superbly done too, avoiding any cable rub around the head tube area.
The front end of this bike is a monster! Couple this with the ultra-stiff Pike and you’re not going to be worried about stiffness when you barrel into a rock garden. The internal cable routing is superbly done too, avoiding any cable rub around the head tube area.
Norco Range C 7.2-11
Protection for both the frame and chain ring is a wise call. With the bottom bracket of the Range sitting pretty darn low, you can bet that this bash guard and rubber down tube protector will come in handy!
Norco Range C 7.2-6
Neat cables once again. The frame also runs an internally-routed Reverb Stealth post.

While the C 7.2 was the show stopper, the Range series continues in fine form all the way down to a very attainable $2699 price point, maintaing the same geometry and travel throughout, with smart spec too.  We think it’s the $3699 Range A 7.1 that’s going to fit the bill for a lot of riders. For this money, we’re yet to see a more refined all-mountain bike than this one.

Norco Range A 7.1-9
With 160mm-travel, a FOX / Rockshox Pike suspension package, dropper post, and proven components all over, the Range A 7.1 is a great option.

The geometry and suspension design is proven, but it’s the clever spec that makes this bike a winner; putting a Pike on a bike at this price is just about unheard of, the FOX CTD shock is reliable and smooth, the tyres are excellent, the cockpit suited to task… there just aren’t any real holes in the bike at all. We’re certain that a lot of riders will ditch the front derailleur and go single ring, which will just make this bike lighter and lower fuss once again.

Less than $2700 will get you Norco's entry-level Range, the A 7.2.
Less than $2700 will get you Norco’s entry-level Range, the A 7.2.

The $2699 Range A 7.2 hits a very tasty price point. Lower cost suspension (X-Fusion and Marzocchi) and the absence of a dropper post help keep the price down, but the frame is identical to the Range A 7.1 and all the key elements are there: stiff fork, excellent tyres, clutch derailleur, wide handlebar…. it’s all sorted.

[divider]Sight[/divider]

One step down in terms of travel, you’ll find the Sight series. This 140mm-travel platform has had accolades heaped upon it by the cycling media, and we tested one last year in Rotorua. For 2015, Norco have continued to refine the Sight, and the carbon Sight C 7.2 is one of the nicest trail bikes we’ve seen for the new season. We spent more time on this bike than any other out at Old Hidden Vale and the improvements offered (particularly in terms of the suspension) represent a big leap in performance.

Bloody awesome. The Sight C 7.2 attracts a healthy price tag of $5999, but it backs it up on the trail.
Bloody awesome. The Sight C 7.2 attracts a healthy price tag of $5999, but it backs it up on the trail. NB – this frame is early release, and production frames will not have a front derailleur mount.

There is an awful lot that we liked about this bike, but nothing more so than the way it encouraged us to sprint flat out at every corner, just to see how fast we could get around it! It grips like a go-kart, accelerates like a much shorter travel bike, and has geometry that made us look for things to launch off everywhere – it’s just fun. We’ll definitely be looking to secure a full review on this bike in the coming months.

With 650B wheels, we feel that 140mm of travel is a real sweet spot for technical trail riding, as is the Sight’s geometry with a 67.5 degree head angle. The geometry is actually unchanged from last year, but the bike now comes with a shorter stem and a wider bar, and the better part of a kilo has been shed with a far more suitable tyre choice. On top of all this, the Sight C 7.2 gets a ridiculously good suspension package, with Cane Creek’s new DB InLine shock and a Pike RC fork.

Killer this bike most certainly is!
Killer this bike most certainly is!
Norco Sight C 7.2-12
There’s a lot of performance lurking in this shock, but it requires some knowledge to get the most out of it. The DB InLine now comes with a Climb Switch too, and we found it worked superbly.
Sight 7.1-4
$3599 for the very yellow Sight A 7.1.

Just as with the Range series, the Sight series trickles down to some pretty competitive price points with alloy-framed variants that share the same geometry. In the Sight series, it’s the $3599 Sight A 7.1 that we feel is going to be a favourite. The Shimano blend for the drivetrain and brakes is perfect, and the tasty Rockshox Revelation and KS dropper post just sweeten the deal.

[divider]Revolver[/divider]

One bike that had a perpetual cloud of admirers was the Formula 1-esque Revolver 9 SL, and it’s not hard to see why – it has the vibe of some kind of ‘concept bike’, but this is a full-blown production model. Sleek construction, complemented by the new inverted Rockshox RS1, lets you know this bike lives for the racetrack. The $5999 price tag seems a lot, till you consider the fork alone will set you back almost two and a half grand at retail.

As Norco’s cross country race series, there are both 650B and 29er Revolvers available – they haven’t committed to a single wheel size for this genre of riding just yet. We recently reviewed the 2014 Revolver 7.1, so we’re eager to review the 2015 29er equivalent.

Ridiculous!
Ridiculous!
Please keep the gate shut - if this one bolts, you're not going to catch it!
Please keep the gate shut – if this one bolts, you’re not going to catch it!
Gorgeous lines. Goat not included.
Gorgeous lines. Goat not included.
The RS1 just looks amazing. We've got one on test at present, so stay tuned for a full review.
The RS1 just looks amazing. We’ve got one on test at present, so stay tuned for a full review.

Hold tight for all the highlights from the 2015 Merida range too, in the coming days, including their all-new 120mm platform.

Tested: Norco Revolver 7.1

Stable in the air, rails the corners, switches directions faster than a PUP senator and loves the rough stuff – no this isn’t an another all-mountain bike, it’s Norco’s 650b cross-country race rig.

Tested Norco Revolver 22

[divider]Build[/divider]

Clean and smooth are the two words of choice when describing the build of this bike. The frame lines, the colour and the decals all combine to maintain the understated but eye-catching theme.

The matte finish to the Norco is alluring, the subtly of the black and gray decals draws your eye to look closer at this bike. You notice straight away the lack of cabling on the frame, the brake hoses and gear cable (just one, this bike runs XO1) disappear at the head tube and reappear on the chainstays. The internal routing of the brake line left a few questions around serviceability hovering in the air, however when we spoke with Norco Australia they confirmed that the routing is guided within the frame making replacement straight forward.

There's a spare port for a front derailleur cable should you want it.
There’s a spare port for a front derailleur cable should you want it.

The large head tube section of the frame is in distinct contrast with the thin seat stays; the head tube provides directional stiffness, while the seat stays are designed to flex, absorbing and smoothing out the small trail chatter.

A meaty down tube and chain stays, with supple and slender seat stays.
A meaty down tube and chain stays, with supple and slender seat stays.

[divider]Spec[/divider]

Our first reaction was “Sweet XO1! Finally, a 1×11 setup on a bike that doesn’t cost $6,000!” We’re big fans of the 1×11 set-up and the XO1 setup on the Revolver only reinforced this. The XO1 comes with a 32-tooth chain ring (which we have previously swapped out to 34-tooth on other cross-country rigs), and we found the gearing range worked really well – we would only be considering swapping the size if the local trails required it. The Revolver came with the OEM-only aluminum XO1 cranks, super stiff, especially when combined with the PF30 bottom bracket.

The Revolver uses an oversized PF30 bottom bracket.
The Revolver uses an oversized PF30 bottom bracket.

Matching the race theme, the Revolver gets a Prologo Zero saddle and silicon grips, both of these are big favourites of ours here at Flow HQ. The silicon grips provide the rider with a direct connection with the bike and are super comfy even for our gloveless mitts. While a zero (i.e. flat) saddle may not be the first choice for most, it is one of the comfiest saddles we have come across yet.

XO1 offers all the performance of XX1 - we can't tell the difference out on trail.
XO1 offers all the performance of XX1 – we can’t tell the difference out on trail.
Tested Norco Revolver 7
Check out the supremely neat brake line routing.

The SRAM vibe continues with the anchors on the Revolver being Elixir 7 Trail brakes. While not the pick of the range the 7s did the job, though at times they did lack sheer stopping power. The Elixir 7 Trail brakes had the job of pulling up Schwalbe Racing Ralph treads on Stan’s ZTR Rapid rims laced to Kore Hubs. The wheels held up fine on the rocky test trails and race tracks we rode the Revolver on – we’d be interested to see how the wheels stand up to a full season.

The alloy bar, stem and seat post are to be expected on a bike in this price range, and they provide an opportunity to drop more weight. We were not overjoyed to see fairly basic RockShox Recon Gold fork on such a race-worthy rig. The absence of a remote lockout on a bike aimed for the XC racer was also noted.

The alloy bar, stem and post are all fine, but there are potential weight savings here.
The alloy bar, stem and post are all fine, but there are potential weight savings here.
We've never used the Stan's Rapid rims before. They are sleeved and pinned (rather than welded) but they are still light, fast and easily set up tubeless.
We’ve never used the Stan’s Rapid rims before. They are sleeved and pinned (rather than welded) but they are still light, fast and easily set up tubeless.

[divider]Ride[/divider]

This bike is extremely fun to ride, confident in the air and more than willing to follow you through a corner. While our experience with 650B hardtails has often been a nervous one, the Revolver was anything but, and felt right at home bombing through rock garden of death cookies. We found converting the bike to tubesless certainly helped with eliminating the trail chatter and this was made easy by the Stan’s ZTR Rapid rims.

The Recon fork is light and simple, but its damping is fairly rudimentary.
The Recon fork is light and simple, but its damping is fairly rudimentary.

Acceleration is the name of the game when it comes to winning cross country races, and the power transfer on board the Revolver is excellent. The chunky chain stays and big bottom bracket shell don’t give up an ounce of power, and the light weight wheels get moving on command.

Crowd favourites. The Racing Ralph treads are a good all-rounder. We prefer to run them at lower pressures so they don't feel skittish.
Crowd favourites. The Racing Ralph treads are a good all-rounder. We prefer to run them at lower pressures so they don’t feel skittish.

Only the Recon fork holds the bike back. It feels like you either need to set the fork up for small bump performance or big hits – there’s no real middle ground. If you want good control over the little impacts, you need to accept the fact you’ll be bottoming out often. We preferred to run the fork a little harder, sacrificing sensitivity for support when we really pushed the bike.

[divider]Overall[/divider]

The Revolver’s frame and groupset make a clear statement about this bike’s intention to inflict some pain (the good kind) on the race track. But it’s also a fun bike to ride, an element that’s often missing with cross-country race machines. We’d love to see a better fork (perhaps a SID) on the Revolver to match the rest of the bike’s abilities.

Tested Norco Revolver 15

We’re still undecided overall about whether we prefer a 650B or a 29er for our serious cross-country racing too. We still love the way a 29er eats up the bumps, but we’re certainly stoked with the flickability, fun and acceleration of this wheel size. Maybe this rig could win over some of the 29er diehards, including us.

 

Tested: Morewood Zula 27.5

Riding this single pivot, aluminium, 100mm travel bike was a refreshing experience, like it would be to ditch your iPhone and revert back to an old Nokia 5165 for a week. The Zula to us was a fun ride, and a whiz bang technology detox.

The simple, no-fuss nature of the Morewood Zula was the overarching element that captured us during our test. We couldn’t get the idea out of our heads that we are just too lucky these days, the fancy 150mm bikes we love are just so good that the trails are becoming too easy, we often feel a little isolated as we pedal along with all the bells and whistles of the latest kit.

Test Morewood Zula 45

So what happens when you grab a short travel bike with great trail geometry, plush suspension, and a confident cockpit? You get a bike that rides efficiently, confidently and feels bloody quick, like you’ve hit fast forward from the back seat.

Test Morewood Zula Action 7

[divider]Build[/divider]

Morewood, the South African frame builders with a rich heritage in downhill racing and trail riding, craft fine aluminium bikes with a emphasis on single pivot suspension designs. (Although recently a couple new models have appeared in the range using a linkage driven suspension system). When it comes to brands that utilise single pivot designs, they often seem to have a devoted following of fans that appreciate the benefits of simplicity.

There is just one point connecting the rear end to the front end, one set of bearings and one set of hardware to tie it all together. There is no heralded vertical wheel path, no fancy rearward part of the travel, no wild claims of suspension curves from a plethora of unique linkages; the rear wheel will simply follow one simple arc. How can this be a good thing? Well, if simplicity appeals to you, this bike will too.

Test Morewood Zula 33

SPI Lite (stable pivot interface) is Morewood’s take on using a big oversize axle and just two cartridge bearings as the pivot. The axle threads into itself, eliminating the need for any more fixing hardware or pinch bolts around it to fatten into place.

The frame’s finish and graphics are super smart, although to be fair we’ve seen neater welds on some of the original South African built Morewoods in the past. There’s no new-school internal cable routing here, nor provisions for an internally actuated dropper post, but it’s still a very clean and well-thought out frame nonetheless.

Test Morewood Zula 36
A large hydroformed plate ties the main pivot to the upper section of the rear end with nice shapes and a stout appearance.

Test Morewood Zula 14

Test Morewood Zula 37
Handmade bikes from South Africa.
Test Morewood Zula 38
Morewood use traditional South African names for their bikes. 

The aluminium framed bike rolls on 27.5″/650B wheels, and our test bike came fitted with a RockShox Revelation fork at 120mm of travel to slacken it off slightly. Out the back a Syntace X12 rear hub axle is a nice touch, with the flush axle removed with just one allen key. Water bottle mounts are also a good feature, rounding out this great looking bike.

[divider]Spec[/divider]

Morewood, being quite the boutique brand, are more the frame builder type than a supplier of complete bikes, so that is where the Aussie distributor Pushie step in offering the Zula as a frame or a complete bike. You’ll find an Aussie specced Morewood using many of Pushie’s brands that they offer Australian distribution for, such as Loaded for the cockpit components and wheels, a cSIXX chain guide, and the well-loved KS LEV adjustable post.

Test Morewood Zula 9
The RockShox Revelation at 120mm of travel served the bike just fine. But we can’t wait for the Revelation range to receive the tender loving care that the RockShox Pike has had.

We swapped the handlebar in favour for one with greater sweep (rearward bend), and converted the wheels to tubeless via the simple, snap-in style Bontrager tubeless rim strip and a dash of Stans sealant. Otherwise all the spec was most excellent, especially the Shimano XT brakes and the LEV seat post.

The use of a 120mm fork helped slacken off the angles, but the more cross country race oriented rider may prefer to stick with 100mm front and back for a razor sharp climber and singletrack sprinter.

A FOX RP2 rear shock is certainly a simple unit, with two modes of compression adjustable via the easily reached magic little blue switch. The two modes did feel so very different to each other, far apart in their tune type. The locked mode was super firm, whilst the open setting was a bit too wallowy at times, perhaps a custom tune for the shock may be a good upgrade down the track.

[divider]Ride[/divider]

What we loved most about the way this bike rode was how fast everything felt, and that feeling of speed was only heightened by the fact that we felt confident to push the bike harder and stay off the brakes, but with only 100/120mm of travel we were seriously engaged with the terrain. The suspension may be small in quantity, but it makes up for it with it in quality.

The Zula is super keen to rail a turn, the low bottom bracket and short rear end help to let the rider tip the bike down onto the side of the tyres, biting in to the dirt and holding a tight line without wavering.

The Zula is a confident and entertaining trail bike, capable of pulling out of the other side of a fast section of technical trail without throwing the rider off, but at the same time giving an exciting ride.

Test Morewood Zula Action 5
Let it fly, the solid frame and capable geometry will have your back when the trails get speedy.
Test Morewood Zula Action 4
Tipping the Zula into a turn is a bucket load of fun, you never get bogged down with its stout 100mm of rear travel.

100mm of rear travel is as lean as bikes come these days, mated with a 120mm fork the Zula doesn’t bounce and float across the ground like longer travel bikes do, rather it takes the sting out of the trail just right. Stomping on the pedals exhibits just what short travel bikes do best, jump forward with almost hardtail-like efficiency. We found the FOX shock’s Propedal setting to be a bit too firm for our liking, only using it on the smoothest of climbs, wishing it to be slightly lighter to be used in more situations off road.

[divider]Overall[/divider]

A sturdy and playful bike like this with short travel can be a great accompaniment to a bigger enduro bike as a training tool. Or if your trails are tight, twisty and not too rough the Zula’s stout frame and poppy nature will be a great option.

Think of what the old ‘hardcore hardtails’ were like to ride with burly ling travel forks and tough components on rigid frames, they were responsive and exciting but capable in the right hands. We got that same vibe riding the Zula.

It’s not going to win over the more serious weight weenies, but on the flip side it will appeal to the aluminium fans amongst us. But in the end, if you love single pivot bikes for all the right reasons, or dig Morewood’s heritage and image, you won’t be disappointed in how it handles the singletrack.

Fresh Product: Pivot Cycles Release New Carbon Cross Country and Downhill Bike

The Pivot Mach 4 is the bike that started it all. From the racetrack to the trail, there has never been anything that has performed like the new Mach 4 Carbon. Now in its 4th generation, the Mach 4 Carbon rolls on 27.5” wheels, features 115mm of travel, and introduces the next generation of race/trail geometry—all paired with the lightest full-suspension frame we have ever made.

Pivot Mach 4C

Pivot 2015 15

Whether you are a pure XC racer looking for something nimble, with the acceleration of 26” wheels and the rolling speed of a 29er, or a trail rider that wants something fast and responsive yet stable, the Mach 4 has you covered. The dw-link suspension has been tuned to provide instant acceleration with hardtail efficiency, while delivering the incredible climbing traction that all our dw-link equipped bikes are famous for. The short chainstays, spacious top tubes, and the incredibly stiff carbon chassis all enable you to achieve your fastest time on the climbs. On the descents, the Mach 4 comes alive.

Pivot 2015

 

With ultra-stable front end geometry, a low BB height, and 115mm of travel, you can tackle some of the roughest trails with ease; cornering like the bike is on rails and slicing through turns like a Ginsu knife! But we didn’t stop there. The Mach 4 Carbon is the first Shimano Di2 compatible frame ever developed, featuring an internal battery mount in the down tube and all the required ports for clean internal routing.

Pivot 2015 2 1

Pivot 2015 2 2

 

If you are not running Di2 and prefer a more conventional set up, the Mach 4 has the cleanest cable routing in the sport, with ports for full internal routing (including dropper post), full length housing and options for 1X, 2X and Shimano’s new M9000 Side Swing front derailleur.

Pivot 2015 14

• 115mm dw-link suspension with race and trail tuning

• Full carbon frame featuring Pivot exclusive hollow box internal molding technology

• 27.5” wheels

• XS, S, M, & L sizing, with our X-small featuring the lowest stand-over clearance of any 27.5” suspension bike made

• Full length internal cable routing, and Shimano Di2 compatible with Pivot’s exclusive cable port system

• Dropper post compatible with internal routing

• Enduro Max cartridge bearings

• Custom tuned Fox Float CTD Kashima rear shock

• Frame weight from 5.1lbs /2.3kg

• Complete bike weights from 22lbs/10kg

• 2 sets of bottle cage mounts

• Rubberized leather downtube and swing arm protection

2014 Pivot Mach 4C from eXposureTheory on Vimeo.

We set out to build the lightest, fastest, most capable World Cup DH bike the world has ever seen. The end result: The new Phoenix DH carbon. The Phoenix features 27.5” wheels, an ultra-lightweight chassis, dw-link suspension, and the most forward-thinking features to ever grace a mountain bike.

2015 Pivot Phoenix Carbon

Pivot 2015 12

We have employed Pivot’s exclusive Hollow Core Internal Molding process, along with technology developed from our award-winning Mach 6, to develop a 7.1lb/3.2kg frame. This makes a true, 31lb/14kg, raceable DH bike possible. The combination of 27.5” wheels and dw-link design has allowed us to go longer, lower and slacker than ever before, resulting in a chassis that instills high speed confidence and control on the steepest descents, all while out-pedaling any other DH bike on the course. It is a truly lethal combination for the competition with proven success on the World Cup circuit.

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Pivot DH factory team riders Bernard Kerr, Eliot Jackson and Micayla Gatto have achieved their best World Cup career finishes aboard the new Phoenix.

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• 204mm dw-link suspension

• Full carbon frame featuring Pivot exclusive hollow box internal molding technology

• 27.5” wheels

• S, M, L, & XL sizing

• Adjustable +/- .75 degree headset option

• Full length internal cable routing with Pivot’s exclusive cable port system

• Dropper post compatible with internal routing

• Enduro Max cartridge bearings used throughout

• Fox DHX RC4 Coil-Over rear shock

• Frame weight from 7.1/3.2kg lbs (small w/air shock) or 8.1lbs/3.6kg (small w/coil shock)

• Complete Shimano Saint equipped w/Fox 40 fork, Maxxis DH tires, and pedals from 33.5 lbs

• Rubberized integrated downtube and swingarm protection.

• Carbon ISCG-05 tabs

• 157mm X 12mm rear end

• 107mm full carbon BB shell

• 180mm rear carbon post mounts

Pivot Phoenix Carbon from eXposureTheory on Vimeo.

Video: Port to Port MTB with Drift Bikes, Day 2

Port to Port MTB 2014 – Day 2 – Hunter Valley Lindemans Winery.

The most grueling of this four day stage race. Starting from the picturesque Lindemans Winery in the Hunter Valley NSW, wet conditions over night had left the course holding a huge amount of water. Andrew Blair and Jenny Fay of Swell Specialized battle it out against Australias best marathon racers.

Drift Bikes provided comprehensive mechanical support to all riders bikes participating over the four days of racing.

www.driftbikes.com.au
Supporting cyclists in the Newcastle, Maitland, Port Stephens, Cessnock, Warners Bay, Lake Macquaire and Hunter Valley Areas.

News: GLASGOW 2014 COMMONWEALTH GAMES TEAM ANNOUNCED

Dual mountain bike Olympian Daniel McConnell, currently ranked number one in the Commonwealth and fourth in the world, and Rebecca Henderson who has flourished in the MTB World Cup Series over the past few seasons, head a six-member cross-country mountain bike team. 

Peta Mullens, Tory Thomas, Andrew Blair and Cameron Ivory have also been selected.

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Dan McConnell, currently the highest ranked Commonwealth rider.
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Cameron Ivory.
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Andy Blair.
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Tory Thomas.
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Peta Mullens.
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Bec Henderson.

Alice in Winter and racing the Red Centre

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The mighty MacDonnell Ranges are always there, looming over you in Alice! The way the scene changes colour as the sun drops is incredible.

Alice in winter

By May, when other parts of Oz are taking a right old beating, in the Red Centre smatterings of summer rain have damped down the dust, and clear blue skies are the general rule until next summer. By May the daytime temperatures in Alice are in the high 20s, and the locals are starting to complain about ‘the cold’. Winter conditions like that put the muddy grey days of winter riding in Melbourne and Sydney to shame. Suddenly flights to Alice for you and your bike start to feel as justifiable as post-ride beers and chips.

Alice Springs locals love their winter riding, and the event calendar reflects that. Alice’s mountain bike club, the Central Australian Rough Riders, runs a marathon, a 6-hour, a 12-hour night race, a three-day Easter stage race and a point-to-point series – and they’re all awesome. But for many interstate riders, Rapid Ascent’s Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro is the drawcard.

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A cloud in the sky during an Alice winter is enough to make the locals stop and stare. You’re almost guaranteed perfect riding conditions, with clear days topping out in the high 20s.

 

The Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro

With seven stages over five days, the Ingkerreke (pronounced ‘in-gear-uh-kah’) is long enough to feel like a break, but not so long that you need more than week off work. Rapid Ascent has been running the Ingkerreke for years, so the event runs as smoothly as your bike does on that first post-drivetrain overhaul ride.

This year’s Ingkerreke attracted some fast elites, with Jo Bennett securing an overall win in the women’s division, ahead of Imogen Smith (second) and all-but-local Jess Douglas (third). In the men’s division, Taswegian past-winner Ben Mather took the honours after fighting off recently returned local Ryan Standish (second) and Veteran class winner James Downing (third – more results here). But one of the things we’ve always enjoyed about the Ingkerreke is that it’s not just a race for the sharp end. The Ingkerreke throws together elite riders, mid-fielders and keen mere mortals for a solid week of awesome riding in a beautiful place.

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Jo Bennet, on her way to another Ingkerreke victory, leading Imogen Smith through the ever-shifting, super-fast singletrack.

In contrast to 2013, which started with rain, this year’s first three days were dry – even us locals had to concede that the surface was a bit loose. As we slogged down the sand on Smith St at the start of stage one, we could practically hear the thoughts of the interstaters, who were trying hard not to dwell on all the suffering they were in for in the week ahead. But the groans transformed into grins at the 10km mark when we hit that Alice Springs singletrack.

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Cloud cover kept the first day cool; on days two and three the sun came out, cranking up the heat and restoring the local advantage. On day four a very un-Centralian rain toned down the heat, prompting the locals to resume their complaints about ‘the cold’. But rain is always good news for mountain bikers in Alice – it packed down that otherwise loose, tyre-swallowing sand and rejuvenated the singletrack in time for the final stage, which rode fast.

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The Ingkerreke’s infamous Anzac Hill sprint climb! A brutal 300 metres, but the view is worth it.

 

It’s all Central-ised

When it comes to logistics, racing in Alice Springs is so easy. Alice is small enough that all seven stages of the Ingkerreke can start within a 10-minute ride of wherever you’re staying, and you’ll be finishing your stages in time to lunch at a café. But if the town is small, its trail network is massive, and growing – it can easily accommodate a week of riding without repeating sections. There’s plenty on the track menu, too, from fast and flowing zip-lines and loose, off-camber turns, to tight, rocky and technical switchbacks and step-ups. You can taste every dish within just a few corners and then find yourself back at the top of the menu again. The riding has a raw backcountry feel that Victoria-based Scotsman Gareth Syme described as ‘like real mountain biking’.

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Singletrack and fire trail

Rapid Ascent used fire roads for early course sections to prevent singletrack congo lines. For the sharp-end, those fire roads were an opportunity to hustle; for the rest of us they were a chance to have a break and a yarn. Indeed, one-time-local Adam Nicholson said he was riding singlespeed because ‘there are more people to talk to in the mid-field’. (Adam spent his fire road time exchanging banter about gear ratios with his friend and fellow singlespeeder / bitter rival John.)

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Imogen Smith, Jo Bennet and Jess Douglas. Alice always attracts a classy, talented field.

Alice Springs’s steadily growing tangle of trails can be confusing to the uninitiated, though some tracks are now officially mapped and sign-posted. With so many new tracks added in the last few years, Ingkerreke vet Ben Mather described this year’s event as ‘a totally different race’ to the year of his previous win, in 2009. But combining a mountain biking visit with an event like the Ingkerreke means you can follow the pink tape through some of Alice’s finest sections of track without worrying about geographic dis/orientation.

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James Downing, Ryan Standish and Ben Mather.

This year’s Ingkerreke covered some of the best trails, old and new, while retaining some iconic sections of fire trail from previous years. And on the nights we weren’t racing, there were things on at the Chifley Alice Springs Resort event base, showcasing some of Alice’s local music talent, including local rider Mick Cafe.

For the full results from the 2014 Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro, jump on in here.

Chris’s parting shot

So what is different about mountain biking in the Alice Springs? A lot has been written about that since Alice hit the radar a few years ago, but here’s my two cents: it’s cross-country riding at its purest. There are no big hills and no long technical descents, just endless undulations, pinches and flowing turns under a big sky. The riding surfaces vary, from hardpack to loose corners to short rockgardens to sand, and a bit of mud if you’re lucky. There’s nothing really nasty to spit you off, and the few serious obstacles have B-lines, but every corner promises something different, something to keep you on your toes.

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Must-Ride: James Estate, NSW

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James Estate in the upper Hunter Valley is breathtakingly beautiful; rolling valley plains filled with green rows of grape vines and bookended by the sandstone ridges of the Wollemi wilderness area. It’s the place that Graeme calls home, it’s the place where he works, and it’s also where he plays on superb, hand-built singletrack.

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When Graeme set up shop here at Baerami, three hours from Sydney, he moved away from the singletrack that he loved. If he was going to ride trails, he was going to have to make it happen himself. And so that’s what Graeme did; escaping into the bush on the vineyard’s fringes with a shovel and pick, he began to create his own personal mountain bike playground.

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Fast forward a few years, and the native bush that abuts the Wollemi Wilderness area is a net of singletrack, the product of one man’s toil. And the other staff at the vineyard, who once thought him crazy, now have the bug too, with three of the crew now taking to the trails as well.

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This year, for the very first time, one of Sydney’s premiere mountain bike events is coming to James Estate. The JetBlack 12hr, after many years at Dargle Farm, will roll on in to the upper Hunter Valley on 12 July 2014. And if endurance racing is your kettle of fish, this is one event you’d be foolish to miss.

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The trails are fantastic and absolutely ideal for multi-lap racing, with a good mix of flowing singletrack and fast fire road across the 11km loop. There’s camping amongst the vineyards (and if it’s a clear night, there’ll even be a full moon) and the setting is as perfect as you’ll ever encounter on your mountain bike. Oh, and there’s a lot of good wine too, so the post-race party should be a cracker.

The fun, friendly and relaxed feel of the JetBlack 12hr is legendary, and when you combine that kind of vibe with a setting and trails like these, well you’re kicking some serious goals. Get involved in the JetBlack 12hr. 

 

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Video: Trek Factory Racing | Emily Batty: Pedaling to the Podium

Emily Batty of Trek Factory Racing is invigorated for the start of the 2014 UCI World Cup season.

Hear some of her insights following the opening two rounds in Pietermaritzburg, RSA and Cairns, AUS.

Pedalling in the groove she netted a ninth and then followed up with a silver medal ride. With five more World Cup rounds remaining, the Canadian champion from Ontario looks to stay atop the World Cup XC scene.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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