It’s always going to be a great weekend when you can grab the big bikes, a whole bunch of buddies, your finest heckling devices and road trip down to Greenvalleys. Last weekend it played host to Rocky Trail Entertainment’s biggest Downhill event of the year; the NSW Red Ass Downhill Enduro State Championships.
Greenvalleys, situated in the lush pastures of Tongarra and only 2 hours’ drive from Sydney city, has become one of NSW’s best mountain bike destinations. Boasting a hill full of trails and jumps as well as shuttle road, it is the perfect home for the rowdy crowds and racing of the State Champs.
The first year of the new ‘Downhill Enduro’ format, riders get the chance to take the best of two race runs as their final place. This allows for a far more friendly competition for all that have problems or crashes in their race run, keeping everyone stoked when they go home.
“Having Green Valleys close to home works out pretty well for me. It’s helped me to be more spot on with my riding – linking every section together and trying to push in spots where you never thought you would. It has also gave me the chance to meet the young local shredders that are aiming to keep getting better and better.”
Rotorua’s Louis Hamilton is an awesome rider to watch in action – he skims and bounces where other riders smash, barely seeming to touch the ground. As he rolls on into his second year in Elite, he’s looking to make his presence known on the World Cup circuit. But in this vid, he’s back on home turf, riding the pines, roots and ruts of Rotorua’s legendary Taniwha downhill.
Country and Western star Kenny Rogers has a very famous song about The Gambler. Essentially the song is a metaphor for life; dealing with what you have been dealt, and knowing when to walk way from trouble. It has nothing to do with this bike as you can change what you’ve been dealt and should never need to be walking away from anything that may trouble you on the trail.
The Scott Gambler is a very slack, very capable and adjustable downhill race machine that can be easily dialled to suit you and/or the terrain you’re riding. Add to that a pretty good suspension platform, and some pretty capable spec, and you have a downhill machine that fits very nicely in its price-point.
Thredbo was the perfect testing track for the Gambler, especially as it was nearing the end of the bike season and the downhill track was at its best (roughest). Also, the rain gods sprinkled the hill with water the night prior so we had that ultimate testing environment to sink our tyres into.
The Scott is a beautifully built and solid bike that stands out amongst the crowd. A full aluminium bike with welds and neat hydroformed tubing with almost a carbon look to it. Everything is beefy and burly with large pivots and hardware, the whole rear end is obviously very stiff.
The suspension is what stands out. Scott call their design a “Floating Link” and to paraphrase of their own marketing: “There is a subtle dual progressive curve to achieve the goals, but not too exaggerated to avoid shock tuning limitations. The floating link creates a progressive feeling suspension with an almost direct compression of the shock, minimizing DU bushing rotation. This increases shock bushing life and improves small bump sensitivity.”
Basically all those links and pivots are there to support the suspension curves and feel, for what is a single pivot bike; which pivots on the seat stay, directly above and in-line with the bottom bracket. The Gambler uses a long 3.5″ shock stroke that ramps up progressively (slightly rising rate) as the shock compresses. Given that the travel of the bike is 210mm this also means a leverage ratio of around 2.3-2:5:1 (leverage ratio can change through the stroke). That’s a low number and the advantages of low leverage ratios are increased small bump performance and a wider range of shock tunability. The downside can be too much bob and action on the rear-end when you don’t want it but seeing as the Gambler is designed for super steep downhilsl then this should be less of an issue.
The Gambler’s geometry is super adjustable. The head angle can be adjusted in two different ways, the first is with the adjustable bottom bracket height. This little chip near the bottom of the shock can be flipped to raise the height of the bike (from 345mm to 354.5m) also sharpening the head angle by +0.7°. The second method to adjust the head angle was to play with the Syncros headset (either integrated or via a separate cup) for a change of either +/- 1°, or +/- 2°. The permutations of headset adjustably were massive however we left ours at the factory default of 62° – pretty damn slack already.
The other bit of adjustably was the bike’s overall length, which you can adjust by 15mm via another chip around the rear wheel axle. At the stock length of 425mm the Gambler is nice and short with an overall wheelbase of 1185mm (size tested). We did push the rear-end out to the longest setting but it did feel a little too long for us, especially considering the slack head angle. We also think there’s a chance to fit in a 27.5″ wheel at the longer setting however we didn’t try this ourselves.
The Gambler is also full of other neat and nice design features. Bumps stops on the down tube to prevent denting from the forks in a crash is a nice touch, as to is the rubber protection at the bottom of the down tube to protect against those hard rocks flinging up at the frame. The cable routing is also quite neat and we loved the little trick of routing the shifting cable through the chain stay. You will however need a few zip-ties when it comes time to change the cables.
Finally, you’re either going to love or hate the bright green colour of the Gambler 20 but but the looks and the questions we got when riding it sure made us feel popular.
The Gambler sits at the lower end of downhill bikes when it comes to price. The $4499 price tag does net you a very decent build kit though, with highlights being FOX 40 fork, a FOX Van RC rear shock and a Shimano Zee drivetrain.
The drivetrain is taken care of with all Shimano Zee parts. The Zee is the more affordable cousin to Shimano Saint. The rear derailleur uses a clutch mechanism to reduce the whole thing flapping around and worked perfectly, it’s just that it looked a bit plastically and we wonder how well it would hold up to a few hits. Chain retention is taken care of with a E.thirteen chain device (with bash guard) and during our test we noted no issues with shifting or chain loss.
The FOX 40 is a good entry level fork from FOX, however basic pre-load and rebound (and spring changes) are your only options for tuning. During our testing we found the fork to be fine, we only having issues with spring noise. The rear shock is also the more basic unit; FOX VAN RC with adjustable rebound and low-speed compression. The rear shock felt pretty good for us and the spring was pretty much spot on for our weight. It would be great again to have a little more adjustability but the lack of it is the norm at the this price-point.
The brakes are a lower spec single piston stoppers, Shimano Deore with big 203mm rotors. This would probably have been the low-light of the spec. Sure, the brakes did work well, but at Thredbo we were wishing for a little more. By the end of such a long run you were wishing for something with a bit more bite when your hands were tiring. A great upgrade to the bike would be a set of ZEE brakes.
Syncros rims with Formula hubs were all fine, and held up well to our testing. The Schwalbe Magic Marys are a great tyre and when Thredbo was a little wet they are exceptional. We actually ran tubes in the test (which is almost unheard of for us) and didn’t flat once. That’s a good sign but of we had the bike for the long term we would have converted it to tubeless.
The cock pit was comfortable and the 800mm Syncros bars were actually wider than we would normally run, however we got used to them pretty quickly. The quick release on the seat post clamp was a weird one as a downhill bike is a set-and-forget type of thing when it comes to seat height.
The Gambler is stable, and even more stable at speed. The slack head angle, low bottom bracket, and long front end all add up a very stable bike at speed, especially on the steeper sections of the track. The bike really does want you to go faster.
The other notable was the bike felt better when ridden a little further back, with your weight over the rear wheel. This would let the rear suspension shine as the rear suspension was a highlight, small bump performance was great and we never felt like we were bottoming out at all. If you see Scott world cup downhiller Brendan Fairclough ride you will see he is often hanging right off the back, and we can see why this bike suits him.
While the Gambler was really good at high speed and rough straight lines, it was a little harder to get around the tight stuff. We also found it a little harder to jump than other downhill bikes we had ridden.
All that slackness and lowness though does have its downside and it’s when the trails get a little less steep. If it’s flat, or you have to work a little more for your speed, the Gambler is a bit more of a slug. If you’re thinking about buying this bike, really think about how steep your riding will be. The steeper the better your experience will be.
The bike also rode pretty quiet, which is a nice thing. Some people have mentioned noise issues however we noted none.
Just like the FOX 40 on the Giant Glory 1 test, we had issues with the spring clanging around inside the fork. While where on the subject of the forks, the price you pay (or don’t pay) for a lower spec fork is lack of adjustability. The FOX 40 was good at it’s designed job, it’s just that we feel a better fork would have made the riding package a whole lot better as the rear did outshine the front.
We liked the Gambler and think you will too. It’s a bike that makes you feel very comfortable at speed and across the tough and rough stuff – as long as the terrain is steep and fast. We did find it a little harder to manoeuvre on the tight stuff, and it was a little harder to be playful and jump about on. However, we’re pretty confident that if we had more time to get more aggressive and comfortable with this beast it would have taught us a different way to ride.
We also dug the adjustably of the Gambler. 60 degrees is probably too slack for most Australian riding but if you’re heading off to the steeps of Europe then this beast can be pointed straight off Mt Blanc without any fear. The Gambler does 20 weighs in at 17.8kg, which is admittedly a smidge heavier than some of its competitors, but this is a bike designed to have plenty of gravity on its side.
Kenny Rogers didn’t sing about this Gambler bike but maybe if he had of ridden it he would have changed the words to his most famous song to: “You’ve got to know when to smash it, know when to jump it, know when to let off the brakes, and know when to have fun…”.
In 2011 Danny Hart won the UCI World Championships on the Giant Glory. However, at that time he was on a bike that was a little different from what us consumers could buy off the shop floor. “World Cup” angles, changed geometry and a slimmer weight was what Danny needed to get on the podium.
Lucky for us soon after Danny’s rainbow striped win Giant released the same bike to the world and the 2014 Glory’s have continued with that same winning formula. A slacker head angle, longer wheel base, lower bottom bracket, and lighter bike all add up to a package that’s world cup race ready.
We took the Glory 1 to Thredbo for some testing to see if we could channel Danny Hart a little, and ride like a World Champion.
The Glory 1 is based on the same Maestro suspension platform you’ll find on the entire Giant range however this beast gets 203mm/8″ of travel. This suspension design has been proven on their entire range and its liner spring curve means a nice even stroke. Maestro utilizes four pivot points and two linkages (upper and lower) that all work to create a single floating pivot point.
The Glory 1 frame is made from Giant’s ALUXX SL aluminium and is essentially the same frame as the top of the line model. Giant have an extensive line of carbon bikes now however at this stage they have chosen not to include it in their downhill offerings. On the graphics and look side, there’s no missing that the bike is either a Giant or Glory as the styling and colours really mean you wear your brand with some pride.
As mentioned in the opening paragraph Giant have stuck with the same new angles as released after Danny Hart’s World Championship win. The head angle is 63.5°, seat angle 61.8°, bottom bracket height at around 330mm, chain stay length 444.5mm and overall wheelbase 1211.5mm (on the size Medium). If you look at the stats of the older Glory you will see the wheelbase has really been extended from the bottom bracket to the front wheel – the from-centre measurement. This lets the bike stay playful at the rear but adds stability to the front to the bike.
There is no adjustability with the frame however a shortish head tubes means you have some flexibility in the set-up and can change the head angle a little.
The cable routing is neat but we’re a little puzzled with running the cables on the underside of the downtube. As downhilling tends to be a little more extreme we’d be a little concerned about damage to cables, especially brake cables.
Any Giant is always excellent value for money and their OEM sometimes leaves you wondering off which truck did they steal the components. At $4299 off the rack, the Glory 1 is kitted out with a full Shimano Zee group set, FOX suspension and DT Swiss wheels.
The Zee is the more affordable cousin to the Shimano Saint and the biggest noticeable difference is the more “plastically” looking rear mech. Performance wise the Zee group worked really well. It shifted well and chain bounce and security was great with a clutch derailleur matched with a MRP G3 chain device.
The Zee brakes share the same twin-piston design as their more expensive cousin – Saint – and over all the Zee’s still did a good job. Thredbo has always known to be brutal on brakes and it’s really only going to be the top-of-the-line models that can handle it best. That being said, the Zee’s still had power at the end of the run, it’s just that you needed to pull them just that little harder and at no time did we ever feel like we didn’t have enough to stop us. Our experience with the Shimano Saint maybe has made us a little lazy in the braking department.
You’re also treated to FOX front and rear, with an Performance series 40R fork and RC2 shock. These items don’t offer the same adjustability as the more expensive Factory series fork and or RC4 shock, but that’s a tradeoff we’re certain many will be willing to make. We found it took a little while to get the suspension dialled and we felt the rear of the bike a little under-sprung for our 72Kg tester. Once set-up though the bike handled really well and most noticeably in corners, jumping through rock gardens and hitting the big jumps. You have to appreciate that the price point of this bike means a little less adjustability and you really need a few extra fork and shock springs to swap around to get that perfect performance.
The wheels are a mix of Giant hubs, DT hubs, and DT rims. We noted no problems with rims and they stayed straight during our testing period. The Schwable Magic Mary tyres were great when you were able to get them to dig into the soil, really great actually, and especially after a little bit of rain and ensuing hero soil. However we think they’re probably a little less suited to really hard-packed terrain as the knobs won’t be able to dig in and you can feel them move under cornerning.
The cockpit is comfortably equipped with a 750mm Giant Contact bar, Giant grips and Truvativ stem. We would have like the bars to be a tad wider and sorry Giant, you have to get a better grip designer, we ditched ours straight away.
The Giant Glory comes with proven World Cup pedigree and the ride felt like a winning Danny Hart run. Fast, a bit loose, and ready to jump all over the place.
The strength of the Giant is its ability to move around the trail quickly as you pop in and out of corners and across rock gardens with ease. It’s more a bike that prefers to be gently lifted and placed on the trail rather than ploughed through the rough stuff. Think of it as doubling through a rough section more than pointing and hoping. The Glory also felt better when ridden more centred on the bike with your body weight pretty much over the bottom bracket.
If you’re lacking a little confidence in your jumping then the Glory may be the bike for you. We found it super easy to jump and at times we found ourselves jumping a little too far. The Glory even made the big double at Thredbo feel like a breeze.
When bottoming out the Glory does feel a little harsh right at the end of its travel and you will hear it screaming back at you with a bit of a “thud”. There was never an issue with performance it was a little harder than the rest of the stroke. We think our Glory was under-sprung for us as we pushed the bike to that point a bit too often. A few turns to pre-load the spring would help this but that’s reality never a recommended way to adjust the suspension. A new spring would be the answer.
The only real negative was the rattling spring in the FOX fork. It’s a common fault with the lower spec. FOX 40 as the plastic wrap on the spring works its way down the length of the spring, thus enabling the spring to rattle inside the fork under low speed compression. It’s an easy fix though and we recommend you ditch the standard wrap and add a full length one of your own.
The Giant Glory 1 is a great downhill race machine – straight out of the box. You’d be hard pressed to find a better value bike that has been race proven at the world level. It’s best ridden with a lighter more playful style and if you channel Danny Hart before you begin your run it will actually let you pull an amazing whip. Just fix the forks and you have a bike that’s quietly ready for anything.
Location: Thredbo, NSW.
Conditions: Dry to a little moist. Cool with a high around 18 degrees.
Tester Weight: 72kgs.
Tester Height: 172cm.
Bike Size Tested: Medium.
Changes made: Grips.
Issues during test: Fox 40 spring rattle.
Connor Fearon (SA) and Danielle Beecroft (NSW) rode strong races on the technical Adelaide course to run away with the first DownHill elite wins of the season.
Fearon seeded fastest on Saturday and followed up with his first Elite win, on his birthday no less, since moving up to the Elite category in 2013, all while racing against a world-class field.
Racing took place on the downhill course at Eagle Mountain Bike Park in the hills of Adelaide, a venue that hosted the 2010-12 Australian Championships.
Early running saw both local Will Rischbeith (SA) and Joshua Button (NSW) spend time in the Subaru hot seat as the fastest rider, with Button’s time of 2:04.03 holding up for third place overall.
The Elite Men’s race, however, was always likely to feature both of the Adelaide prodigies Troy Brosnan (SA) and Connor Fearon. In the words of Brosnan, the pair have featured on podiums together “almost too many” times.
Brosnan, the 2010-11 Junior World Champion, has had an amazing year finishing in the top 10 of the UCI World Cup Season. He seeded second on Saturday, and was the second-last rider down his home track in Adelaide in the final.
With a clean run, managing to go 1.07 seconds faster than his seeding run on the Saturday, he found himself the fastest rider in a time of 2:02.33 with only Fearon left on track. This time would ultimately secure second place, and Brosnan said “I’ve had a pretty good off-season training, trying to improve and second place here at home behind Connor is pretty good”.
Brosnan spoke with confidence about his and Fearon’s place in the Australian downhill landscape in 2013. “Connor’s riding really fast at the moment and it’s hard – it’s likely to be between us two for the season”.
Fearon knew since yesterday that he would be the last rider down the hill for the event, and as he came out of the rock garden the screams from the crowd let him know that he was in with a chance.
Keeping the final switchbacks low and smooth, he finished in a time of 2:00.89, 1.44 seconds clear of Brosnan and the field.
“It feels awesome to win, I raced all of last year in Elite and didn’t get a win, so I was super hungry, on my birthday, and it’s my home town as well”.
He spoke about the tough conditions. “It was a bit faster today but a few corners were sandy so I had to be cautious”.
He plans to contest the whole World Cup season this year. “I’ve been training really hard, both for the World Cups and the National season to be a bit fitter.
In the Elite Women’s race, a dominant performance by Danielle Beecroft saw her win her first national race at the elite level.
“I couldn’t be more excited – it’s a great way to start the year and hopefully I can keep it going”, said Beecroft.
Beecroft raced conservatively, today racing without jumping due to a small injury on Saturday. “I took it a bit easy today, kept it rubber side down and got down the track”.
In Under 19s Men’s racing, Andrew Crimmins (NSW) won in a time of 2:04.15, amazing still managing to win after a drivetrain malfunction in the final section of the track leaving him unable to pedal. Max Warshawsky (QLD) placed second, and Ben Hill (TAS) finished third.
In the Under 19s Women’s, rising junior Tegan Molloy (NSW) won in a time (2:25.79) that would see her claim the fastest female time of the day. Second place went to Ellie Wale (VIC).
Round 2 of the Subaru Australian Mountain Bike season will take place at Mt Buller, Victoria from 7-9 February and categories exist for riders of all levels to join in the national season action.
The Giant Glory was once all over the downhill scene, like sesame seeds on a Big Mac. In the past few years, the value proposition of some of the Glory’s competitors has improved – bikes like the Specialized Demo, Norco Aurum, Trek Session have risen to challenge Giant’s dominance.
At the same time, the Glory was perhaps 12 months behind in terms of geometry development too. It was a little steep and short when compared to some of the opposition, and in the trend-driven world of downhill, this was enough to dampen the enthusiasm for the Glory a bit as well.
But Giant have fought back, not only improving the value of the Glory once again, but completely revising the geometry too, slackening the bike out to 63-degrees up front and lengthening the front-centre measurement markedly.
At $4299 off the rack, the Glory 1 is kitted out with a full Shimano Zee groupset. This will be our first experience riding Zee, but early impressions are that it’s incredibly Saint-like (the rear derailleur is noticeably cheaper looking, but everything else is very similar). You’re also treated to FOX front and rear, with an Performance series 40R fork and RC2 shock. These items don’t offer the same adjustability as the more expensive Factory series fork and or RC4 shock, but that’s a tradeoff we’re certain many will be willing to make.
We are pleased to be able to advise that all rounds for the 2014 MTB National Series are now open for entry.
MTBA are very pleased to be able to say that the 2014 MTB National Series rounds will be conducted in partnership with a number of local organisers and clubs. The support, assistance and cooperation we have received from organisers and the mountain biking community has been invaluable. The passion displayed by all those I have meet has been extremely positive and highlights the vast opportunities and potential for the sport through mutual cooperation.
We are delighted to still be able to honour a commitment made to host a round of the 2014 MTB National Series at Echuca/Moama. The new Moama Mountain Bike Park, near Echuca is the site for a series of races in Round 3. Local organisers are very excited at the opportunity to showcase the wonderful sport of mountain bike and our community of National level riders. The track should prove fast and physically challenging. With a number of activities planned, including an XCC, Come’n’Try activities and the track’s official opening, I feel sure that this round will prove extremely exciting and I encourage as many riders as possible to attend.
The 2014 Australian National MTB Championships will be held as announced in Bright VIC on 6-10 March.
With a head angle slacker than a yokel’s jaw, the Gambler 20 is a serious gravity beast.
This is the first time we’ve been up close and personal with the new Gambler and it’s a pretty heavy duty piece of machinery. The Floating Link suspension system dominates the frame; the whopping 3.5″-stroke shock is housed centrally, in an arrangement that compresses the shock very directly, with a minimum of rotation at the DU bush that should increase durability and small bump compliance.
Adjustability was always a hallmark of the old Gambler platform and that trait continues with the new version too. Chain stay length, bottom bracket height and head angle are all independently adjustable – you can drop the head angle to an absurdly slack 60-degrees should you want to ride down a cliff.
The $4499 price tag nets you a very decent build kit, including FOX 40s and Van RC rear shock (dishing up 210mm travel), a Shimano Zee drivetrain and Shimano brakes. The Gambler 20 weighs in at 17.8kg, which is admittedly a smidge heavier than some of its competitors, but this is a bike designed to have plenty of gravity on its side.
We’ll be logging some summer shuttle runs on the Gambler soon.
The Minion DHF was designed for the often loose and muddy conditions of aggressive all-mountain terrain. The DHF incorporates ramped knobs for low rolling resistance and channel-cut knobs to increase gripping edges, giving straight-line control and precise cornering.
What a race! Stating the Atherton’s are on it doesn’t do their performance justice. Rach and Gee smoked the field and made a super rough track bow down and obey.
There were some stand out saves and lines in this race, the prize for best gap goes to Remi Thirion with his rock garden huck. Keep an eye out at 3.25 for this one.
Some of the big guns were slain by this savage track, Danny Hart and Sam Hill were both big hopes for this race but came unstuck high in the Italian valley.
Check out all the race action and some interesting post race analysis with Sven Martin as he talks to Steve Jones Rachel Atherton about everything from racing and bikes to his best question. “Why did you suck so much at World Champs last year?”
Trek World Racing’s new signing Brook MacDonald took his Trek Session 9.9 to a first ever Elite National Title on the Rotorua course earlier today.
The former Junior World Champion and World No.5 has had a busy couple of weeks both preparing for this event, racing in Hunua and filming in Queenstown for Anthill Production’s new project.
Brook qualified fastest after his main world class rival Sam Blenkinsop, who’s won the last 3 rounds of the NZ National Series, flatted in his seeding run. This meant Sam set an early time that was good enough to keep him in the hotseat until Brook hit the track. Sam’s time of 2m 49.90secs looked solid and placed him ahead of team mate and current Junior World Champion Loic Bruni (FRA), but Brook crossed the line more than 2.5secs quicker with a 2m 47.22secs and was understandably ecstatic.
“It’s my first ever National Champs title so I am pretty stoked. I made one pretty big mistake up the top and I was pretty sure I was going down. I dont know how I rode that out, so I was pretty lucky and I knew from there I had to make up time. For the amount of training I’ve been able to do with a back issue and a lot of travelling, I still have my fitness so it is super cool and great to be back on the top step. To be able to wear the national jersey for my new team Trek World Racing will be sick.”
The team’s other downhiller from New Zealand, George Brannigan, did not compete as he is still recovering from knee surgery.