Shimano Enduro Tour: All-New Three Race Series Announced

Australia’s top Enduro event managers, Event Management Solutions Australia have today launched a brand new, top-tier Enduro Series, the Shimano Enduro Tour.

The 3-round series will take in some of Australia’s most iconic riding destinations.  Starting on the Gold Coast in October, the series will then travel to the home of the Blue Derby Trail network in the Northeast of Tasmania.  Riders will then round out the 3-round series at the top of the Mt Buller trail network.

All three events will aim to cater for the top level rider, looking to prepare for, or break into the Elite level of riding in the Enduro World Series.

Ripping through the snow gums at Buller.
The Derby EWS in 2017 was a real highlight of the season, with Detonator claiming the trail of the year too.

All three events will aim to cater for the top level rider, looking to prepare for, or break into the Elite level of riding in the Enduro World Series.  All events will carry qualifying points towards the 2019 Enduro World Series.  The Derby and Mt Buller events will also form legs 1 and 2 of the newly formed EWS Asia Pacific Continental Series before it continues in New Zealand in early 2019.

Following on from the success in 2017 of the Shimano Enduro Tasmania, Shimano has once again partnered with the EMS Australia team, to take Enduro racing to the masses.  Whilst there will be plenty of motivation for the top riders to participate, the relaxed and fun atmosphere that EMS Australia are known to create will carry through with participation categories, and kids / junior events at most venues.

 

Series Dates

Gold Coast, QLD                 Sunday October 14

Derby, Tasmania                 Sunday November 11

Mt Buller, Victoria           Sunday December 2

 

With significant industry support the series will be able to offer over $20,000 in cash prizes with over $10,000 for the series top 3 elite men and women.  Thanks to Shimano there will also be over $10,000 of product to give away to participants.


About the venues

Gold Coast.  With views to the skyscrapers of Surfers Paradise, the trails on the Gold Coast can be brutal.  With many stages consisting of rocky technical sections that can be very unforgiving once off line. With the beaches just ten minutes drive from the venue, every day is going to be a great day.

Derby.  What hasn’t already been said and written about Derby, probably isn’t worth talking about. Since the inception of the Blue Derby Trail network, the area has continued to grow and develop.  The accommodation offerings continue to grow along with the trail network itself.  In the lead up to this event, the team at World Trail are busy constructing event more trail, some of which will rival, Detonate, voted Trail of the Year by the EWS community in 2017.

Mt Buller.  One of Australia’s original Alpine Mountain Bike Parks, the Bike Buller network will utilise a range of trails in the area to ensure that participants get the most out of the Alpine riding experience.

Event Website    www.emsaustralia.net.au/events/shimanoendurotour/

Facebook and Instagram @emsenduro

e-mail  [email protected]

First Impressions: FOX 36 vs RockShox Lyrik

The FOX 36 changed the game forever, bringing performance and stiffness that rivalled many downhill forks to a single-crown package. With its then jaw-dropping 36mm stanchions it was unlike anything else on the market. Over a decade later, the 36mm legs remain – it really was leagues ahead of its time. We reviewed the 2015 version of this fork too – have a look here. We’ve got the top-shelf Factory version here, all glossy and lustrous with its Kashima coat legs.

The RockShox Lyrik is a relative new comer. It’s a direct evolution of RockShox Pike, which itself has proven the second most influential single-fork in this market segment, after the FOX 36. It shares the same 35mm stanchions and damper as the Pike, it has a more robust chassis to give it the kind of stiffness demanded by the Enduro market now. We reviewed the 2016 version recently and we were blown away by the way it chewed up terrain like a full-on downhill fork. Our test fork is the premium RCT3 model.

We’ve going to be running these forks on our Commencal Meta AM 4.2 long-term test bike – we’ve got them both in a 170mm travel version, with Boost hub spacing. On paper there’s very little between these forks. Let’s take a look at them now.


FOX 36 vs RockShox Lyrik:

Chassis and appearance:

With its 36mm legs and characteristically girthy lowers that have always been an attribute of the 36, the FOX definitely looks like the beefier fork, ready for a pounding. The Lyrik is a little more svelte. Black is a slimming colour of course, and the Maxle Stealth axle and lower profile rebound adjuster give it a cleaner looks than the FOX.

Axles:

Our Lyrik has the Maxle Stealth axle setup. It requires a 6mm Allen key, but looks super slick and won’t snag up on rocks. You’ll notice the large axle recesses on the Lyrik – these are for Torque Cap hubs, made by SRAM, which have a larger interface between the fork and hub. The FOX runs their QR15 axle setup, for neat tool-free wheel removal.

Weight:

There’s sweet FA difference here. With the steerers both cut to 185mm and with a star nut installed, the Lyrik weighs in at 1998g, while the 36 is 2027g.

Dampers:

Both forks’ dampers offer essentially the same adjustments. The FIT4 damper found in the FOX has a three position compression dial (open, medium or firm) along with low-speed compression adjustment that only effects the fork when it’s in the Open compression setting.  The Lyrik’s RTC3 damper mirrors the FOX – you’ve got three compressions modes, again with low-speed compression adjustment.

Air spring:

FOX has just introduced the EVOL air spring concept (previously found in their rear shocks) into their forks for 2018. There’s a larger negative air spring than previous generations, which makes for more sensitivity and less breakaway friction. The DebonAir air spring in the Lyrik purports to do the same thing – smooth off the top, more ramp at the end stroke.

To assist setup, both forks have a recommended pressure guide on the lowers, to give you a ball park air pressure to work with. The sag gradients marked on the Lyrik’s leg are super useful in this regard too.

In addition, both forks offer you spring curve adjustment via a token system – adding or removing spacers physically changes the air volume. We’ll begin testing both forks with two spacers/tokens in each as a starting point.

Axle to crown: 

While both of these forks have 170mm travel, the FOX has a slightly longer axle-to-crown measurement of 570mm vs 560mm on the RockShox. Something to keep in mind if you’re particular about stack height. Ok, enough waffle. Let’s get these onto the bike!

Aussie Video: Fry and Flint, Enduro Champs at Blue Derby


Row Fry is a legend of the sport here in Australia, though you’d most likely associate her name with XC racing, rather than ripping it in Enduro on a bike like the Scott Genius. She’s former National XC Champion and marathon racing star, and it’s only recently that she turned her hand to Enduro (read our interview with Row Fry here) and has quickly risen to the top.

Isabella Flint is a young pinner on the ascension – at just 15 her performance at the Enduro National Champs would have placed her fourth in Elite Women. She has the EWS in her sights and will be one to watch closely.

We caught up with Row and Izzy at Blue Derby, just a hour or so from their hometown of Launceston, for an arvo of ripping the trails. Enjoy!

Learn more about the 2018 Scott Genius range.

And if you want to read more about the bikes they’re riding, make sure you check out our Genius First Ride Impressions here, or our First Bite pieces on the Genius 920 and Contessa 720.

Blue Derby on the 2018 Scott Genius

 

 

 

2018 Santa Cruz NZ Enduro – Entries Open Friday!

After three successful sold out years the fourth annual Santa Cruz NZ Enduro opens for registration this Friday. This three-day multi-stage enduro race will take place from March 9-11, 2018 in beautiful Marlborough on the top of New Zealand’s South Island. It is home to some of New Zealand’s most scenic and sacred trails.


Last year saw racers from seventeen countries take the start with Damien Oton and Ines Thoma taking the overall win.

Photo: Boris Beyer
Massive crowd at the riders meeting before everything started! Photo: Boris Beyer
Photo: Tim Bardsley-Smith

The entry link will be posted on the NZ Enduro Facebook page and NZ Enduro website on 17th of November at 7 am AEDT (9 am NZDT). Entries will be open for 36 hours. 140 Successful applicants will be drawn and notified by direct email. You will be able to submit group entries if you are travelling with a partner or group of friends.

Get to the choppa! Photo: Digby Shaw
Cedric Gracia. Photo: Boris Beyer

Basic Facts: Three wild days of racing and riding with your mates around the Marlborough Sounds, NZ. Close to the Picton Ferry terminal and South Island towns of Nelson and Blenheim. Natural trails, native NZ beech forest, scenic liaisons, challenging, fast, flowy, technical and steep at times. Laid back vibe and atmosphere. No start order or set liaison times. Professional timing, ride with your friends, have a swim if you want. Race entry costs are $375 NZD and that includes shuttles, helicopter uplift, food, beer, BBQ and good times, not to mention the infamous NZ Enduro swag bag on sign up.

Mark Scott. Photo: Digby Shaw
Photo: Tim Bardsley-Smith

Both Facebook and the website will be updated with the latest information.

Kia Ora

Sven and Anka Martin

Anka Martin. Photo: Sven Martin
There is nothing better than a well deserved dip in a mountain stream to finish off a fantastic weekend of racing! Photo: Digby Shaw

Follow NZ Enduro on Instagram @nzenduro

NZ Enduro is thinking globally and acting locally, partnering with local providers, food and refreshments sourced locally and giving back directly to MTB trail advocacy programs targeting the trails we are using through the Marlborough MTB club and trailfund.org.nz with a raffle. 

Interview: 2017 Enduro National Champs, Brosnan and Fry

Take one World Cup downhiller and one cross-country National Champion, mix them with a little Fox Creek grit, and then stick them in the Adelaide oven for two days… Voila! They emerge as Enduro National Champs!


Rowena Fry adds another National Champion title to her collection, this time in Enduro.
Troy Brosnan proved that it doesn’t matter what travel bike you put him on, he’s damn quick.

Troy Brosnan and Rowena Fry harken from completely opposite ends of the mountain bike spectrum, and given their niche backgrounds in mountain biking, you might have thought them a pretty unlikely pair to be donning the Enduro National Champs jersey for 2017. But that’s what’s great about this discipline; it allows riders to bring to bear experience from all areas of mountain biking, rewarding those with the full basket of skills and fitness.

We caught up with Troy and Rowena to chat with them about taking the win over two great days of racing in Fox Creek, Adelaide.


Troy Brosnan, hometown hero, had a close battle with fellow World Cup racer and Adelaide lad Connor Fearon at Fox Creek. Fearon had the edge on day 1, but Troy edged ahead on the final four stages. 

Flow: Firstly, congrats on a great season – second overall in the World Cup, and now a National Enduro Champs jersey too. 

TB: Yep, I’m super proud of how the season went. Obviously it worked well for me in terms of the team and the bike, it was my best season ever, and I’m super excited to have been the first rider to take a Canyon to the top step of a World Cup.

Flow: And then to come out in the off season and win the Enduro Champs too. Was that a focus for you at all?

TB: It certainly wasn’t something I’d planned to do or was training for, in fact I only entered a week or so before because it’s right in my backyard and the trails out there are pretty fun. I actually thought it was a one day race, so I when I found out it was two I thought about pulling out. Even though it was pretty painful, I’m glad I did it in the end!

Flow: It looked like a great battle with Connor, another hometown rider. Do you guys ride together very much?

TB: Yeah it was good racing him. We don’t actually ride together very much in the off season – I mean, if we both end up riding at the same place we do, but it’s not something we plan. We have talked about it a bit in the past, but with our training both being on different schedules it hasn’t worked out.

Flow: So what bike did you decide to ride for the Champs? 

Just my usual trail bike, it’s a Canyon Spectral (read our review here). I prefer it to the Strive, it seems to stay planted a little better, and I prefer less travel on a trail bike. It’s completely stock other than the Rockshox and shock, but otherwise it’s the very same bike you can buy off the website. It’s pretty cool, you can buy a stock bike and then race it to a National Championship!

Flow: So, National Champ, we’re not going to see you stepping into the ranks of the EWS any time soon? 

TB: No, EWS rounds are off the cards for me, it’s a bit too hectic with the World Cup too, and it’s not something I really enjoy doing. I love riding my trail bike, but when it comes to the EWS it’s a bit of semi shit show I feel, and it doesn’t really excite me. Maybe when I’m all washed up like all the other old downhillers I’ll think about it!

Flow: Haha! Are you calling Sam Hill washed up.

TB: I’d better not! He almost beat me at the World Champs!


Rowena Fry is a name you’ve probably seen at the top of cross-country, marathon and stage race results sheets a lot over the past decade. The Launceston local has shifted her focus to Enduro this year, and after a good result in Derby stoked the fire, she’s stepped up to beat some impressive names to win the Champs.

Row Fry nabbed the very first Scott Genius 900 Tuned to arrive in Australia, and put it to good use straight away!

Flow: Congratulations on the win. There are a lot of fast bike riders from Tassie.

Rowena: Yeah, we probably punch above our weight for that. We’ve got heaps of good roads and forests to ride in; and we don’t need to spend lots of time travelling in traffic anywhere!

Flow: Which local trails do you ride the most?

Rowena: We go out in Derby a fair bit; it’s only an hour from our place. The local Lonnie trails are more XC focused so we ride up Kate Reed and Trevallyn but they’re getting more gravity trails in now.

Flow: We see people coming to enduro from downhill backgrounds as well as cross country. Having been one of Australia’s top cross country racers, what brought you to enduro?

Rowena: Ummm, you don’t have to train as much! Enduro’s sort of just the best bits of cross country without as much of the not-so-nice bits – having to train for the hill climbs. I was probably one of the better cross country riders on technical trails. I’m trying to teach myself to jump at the ripe old age of 34, whereas the liaison and uphill or pedally stages come a lot more naturally to me than a lot of the downhillers.

Flow: You had a close battle with Philippa and Shelly. How did you feel coming to this race against these local women, both with quite a lot of downhill and enduro experience?

Rowena: I was feeling pretty good and then I saw the trails, and realised there was a fair old advantage if you know them. They were really hard trails to race on because they were so loose, so they were pretty demanding. I actually would’ve liked a few extra days practice, so will remember that for next time! Only practicing stages once or twice each was really hard work from my side of things. You also had to be conservative too because the trails were fairly unpredictable, if you were pinning it you could easily crash and loose massive chunks of time as well, so it was quite a tactical event in those regards.

We’re hoping to see Row at all the major Aussie enduro events next year, even if she’s not likely to head overseas to contest the EWS.

Flow: Can you tell us about the bike you were racing?

Rowena: I was lucky enough to have the first new Scott Genius Tuned 900 to arrive in Australia. Scott didn’t really have a true enduro trail bike before this. It’s bang on; super light, 65.6 degree head angle. I run it mostly stock. I use the integrated bar and stem which is only 760mm wide, which is what I was running anyway. The new SRAM Eagle is so good; the get out of gaol gear at the top is really amazing. I swapped out the tyres to a Maxxis Minion on the front and Aggressor on the rear which I’m running at about 17/21 PSI without any rim protection.

Flow: Earlier in the year we saw you race at the Derby EWS and finish 10th. How was that race for you?

Rowena: I loved it. That was my first enduro race so I really didn’t know what to expect. Obviously, training was super dry and dusty and then it pissed down in the race. That was actually the most fun I’ve ever had in a thunder storm for seven hours, completely saturated, I’ve never had so much fun! I was actually a bit disappointed with my result. I hadn’t done the first round in Rotorua so I didn’t have a ranking which meant I had a lot of issues with traffic and because of the riding conditions it was just so hard to pass the girls I was catching. To be honest, I was actually trying to plug for a top 5 down there. I was obviously still stoked to get 10th but it made me a bit hungry to do a couple more.

Yeah, I think I’ll do more enduro races. I haven’t raced national level cross country for a number of years because the enjoyment wasn’t quite there for me after racing it for so long.

Flow: So what are your plans for next year? Will we see you take on more enduro national series races?

Rowena: Yeah, I think I’ll do more enduro races. I haven’t raced national level cross country for a number of years because the enjoyment wasn’t quite there for me after racing it for so long. But this is like a new sport; it makes me want to get out there and push my skills, learn to jump and go bigger and further. If they fit in with what I’m doing in life then I’ll certainly try and do a few more.

Flow: What does fill up the rest of your life?

Rowena: My husband, Ben, and I own the Avanti Plus bike shop in Lonnie, but I’m a physio as well so work as a physio full time. We’re into fishing as well.

Flow: Despite being awarded the best EWS trail of 2017, Tassie doesn’t have a round of the EWS next year. Australia and NZ completely miss out. Are we likely to see you venture further abroad to race any EWS rounds?

Rowena: I’d love to but it’s probably going to be too expensive, I think. I’d love to race Whistler, but it is so hard for Australians, if you are self-funded, to get across to those events. Especially after doing it for so long with XC; I’d love to, but I don’t think it’s realistic. That said, there are some good races in New Zealand that look fun to go and do as well.

 

 

Hamilton and King crowned Red Hill Gravity Enduro Champions

The Arthurs Seat Trail Network on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula is home to the inspirationally zealous Red Hill Riders Mountain Bike Club. As advocates and caretakers of the trails, they welcomed everyone to join in the fun at their premiere event, the Red Hill Gravity Enduro Presented by Mercedes-Benz Mornington.


Saturday morning practice, heading to the hills.

The two-day event attracted a sell-out field including two-time marathon national champion King and Paul van der Ploeg who recently returned to Australia after racing at the Enduro World Series Finale in Italy.

Paul Van Der Ploeg having a good old natter before starting.

Paul Van Der Plow boosting into stage 6 on Saturday’s practice.

Mornington Peninsula born Jenni King and Rowville’s Jeremy Hamilton were crowned Red Hill Gravity Enduro Presented by Mercedes-Benz Mornington champions at Arthurs Seat on Sunday.

“It feels great to have taken the win at this year’s Red Hill Gravity Enduro,” said Hamilton, who was second in the 2016 edition. “I had six fairly clean stages and pedalled hard all day! Thanks again to Red Hill Riders MTB Club and everyone for putting on another well run event.”

Jeremy Hamilton putting the power down while practising stage 2 on Saturday.
Hamilton feeling confident halfway through the race

For King, it was a return to both her hometown and racing after a year away from mountain biking. “Having had a year away from mountain bike racing, I had a few nerves leading into the Red Hill Gravity Enduro,” said King who grew up in the region.  “However I pretty quickly relaxed, enjoyed the trails and was lucky to have a great bunch of girls to ride, and enjoy the amazing views, with. The trails that made up the six race stages were some of the best I’ve ever ridden and I had such a fun time pushing my limits down them. To finish up on top of the podium was a bonus to cap off a great day out,” said King.

Jenni King looking fresh as a daisy after stage 2.

Two riders push up the very steep liaison from the end of stage 2.
Races like this don’t happen without a crew of dedicated volunteers. Thanks, guys!

The event consisted of six timed ‘stages’ throughout the 32km course, which took riders from the top of Arthurs Seat to the Boundary Road Reserve in Dromana before competitors rode back to the start, taking in 1200metres of climbing and stunning views over Port Phillip Bay.

Jack Hewish, U19 winner, pinning the Rock Roller on Stage 3.

Club President Terrence Toh was thrilled with the event’s success. “This year’s Red Hill Gravity Enduro Presented by Mercedes-Benz has been a huge success with a sell-out field of entries and an awesome atmosphere all weekend on Arthurs Seat and in the event village. Red Hill Riders Mountain Bike Club are proud of this unique event, which showcases our club, our trails and the Mornington Peninsula. I’d like to thank Parks Victoria, Mornington Peninsula Shire, and all of our sponsors for the event including Mercedes-Benz Mornington who have put in a huge amount of effort to support not only the event but the Red Hill Riders MTB Club and what we do.”

Club President, Terrence, blasts through Pins and Needles, Stage 5 on Saturday practice.

RESULTS

Elite Men

1. Jeremy Hamilton, Rowville (17:07.26)
2. Paul Van der Ploeg, Mt Beauty (17:16.08)
3. Shannon Hewetson, Werribee (17:19.67)
4. Murray Stephens (17:27.42)
5. Nicholas Swayn, Rosebud (17:39.13)

Elite Men’s Podium

Elite women

1. Jenni King, Mornington Peninsula (21:31.69)
2. Ellie Wale, Somers, Mornington Peninsula
 (21:51.62)
3. Kate Braithwaite, Mornington Peninsula (23:18.67)
4. Mandy Davis (24:28.49)
5. Kathryn Visser 24:56.22)

Elite Women’s Podium

U19 Men

1. Jack Hewish (18:33.68)
2. Timothy Milliner (19:28.18)
3. Finn Morcombe (19:50.42)
4. Bryce Heathcote (20:09.30)
5. Lachlan Ingram-Smith (21:47.37)

Under 19 Men’s podium

Stage Sponsors

Shimano Stage 1

DHaRCO Stage 2

Life of Bikes Stage 3

Canyon Stage 4

Hillview Quarries Stage 5

Mornington Cycles Stage 6

The Red Hill Gravity Enduro was held on October 7 & 8 at the Hillview Community Reserve, Boundary RD Dromana, Victoria. For more information head to www.redhillriders.com.au or visit the Red Hill Riders MTB Club Facebook to view the full event photo album.

Flow’s First Bite: Giant Reign 2

The new longer and lower Giant Reign is here, and we have the base model $3799 Reign 2 on review. Excuse me; this is supposed to be the base model…?

While it does sit at the bottom of the range of the Reign lineup, on paper, the Reign 2 is everything one could wish for when it comes to hard enduro riding. The 160mm travel Reign scores some chassis updates for 2018, a notch up the aggressive parts scale, and a very sleek new paint job.



The new Reign is a real looker with a clean finish, cool graphics and aesthetics.

2018 brings updates, what are they?

Longer, lower. The decision to stretch out the reach and wheelbase even further was a request from the factory enduro racing team, making this bike really appeal for those who prefer a lot of bike in front of them when speeds get high. What does that mean for us mere mortals though, will it be so big it’s too much to handle, or will we change our attitude on the trails and begin to ride with reckless abandon with a renewed sense of confidence?

Much longer in the reach, time to ride off the brakes!

The suspension gets a few small tweaks, most notably the upper shock mount and linkage. The new trunnion mount shock is driven by a very tidy little one-piece carbon rocker arm, and the result is the shock uses a longer stroke in a smaller package. Lengthening the shock stroke while maintaining the 160mm of travel has enabled the frame designers to run a lower leverage ratio to let the shock react more to smaller bumps.

Sweet one-piece carbon linkage on all the Reign models, even this one.

How’re the parts for the cash?

From where we sit, the Reign 2 is pretty dialled for $3799. The Yari fork is a solid performer, we already know that, and we’re stoked to see wide rims with super meaty tyres and a single ring drivetrain.

160mm RockShox Yari, smooth and solid performers.
Praxis Works cranks, MRP guide and a Shimano Deore drivetrain.
Maxxis Shorty tyre, miniature DH tyres!

The new Giant Contact Switch dropper post remote feels super light to actuate, and it even comes with tubeless sealant to seal the tyres. It’s very much ready to go.


Shootout test time! What’s it going to be compared to?

We’re aiming to have the Reign 2 up against a few other new-for-2018 bikes in a sub $4500 160mm travel 27.5″ wheel shootout. We’re talking; Norco Range A3, Specialized Enduro Comp 27.5 and the Merida One-Sixty 800. So, stay tuned for the ultimate entry-level enduro bike showdown!

Let’s ride.

So, stay tuned for the ultimate entry-level enduro bike showdown!

 

Tested: Cannondale Jekyll 2

Watch our full video review below: 


Nothing like the old Jekyll – Cannondale, we thank you.

So what’s new?

Everything. Cannondale went right back to the fundamentals with this one, leaving a lot of previous development behind. We think it was the right call. Cannondale’s mountain bikes have been crying out for an injection of practicality and rider-first design, and with Jeremiah Boobar (the man behind the RockShox Pike) at the helm of suspension design now, they’re getting it. The only carry over from earlier Jekylls is the fact you can adjust the travel on the fly.

Super neat cable routing all round. Even with the extra cable from the Gemini shock, it’s all very neat.
We took our Jekyll to Trailshare at Kulnura – beautiful, private trails, check them out here: http://www.trailshare.re-zycle.com

Not a trail bike, no sir.

The previous Jekyll awkwardly tried to straddle the divide between trail bike and enduro bike, but Cannondale have been clear this time around. This bike is here to win Enduro races and hammer descents. 165/170mm travel, slack as, big rubber.

Yes, it has adjustable travel down to 135mm, but that doesn’t mean it’s trying to disguise itself as a trail bike – the travel adjust is there to add a little zest on the climb to the top of the next descent.

Eagle X0 – never worry about gear range again.
A proper chain guide with a bash guard – this bike is built to get you through the roughest race stages, hassle free.

Where does this model sit? 

Our Jekyll 2 is the second top model in the range, at $7999. You can spend a little more to get Eagle XX1 and Factory level FOX suspension, plus carbon wheels, but we don’t think many people will be looking to upgrade beyond this level.

Room for a 600ml water bottle. It’s a bit tight to get in/out, but at least you can leave the pack at home if you want.

How’s the build?

The aesthetics of this bike were a little jarring to us at first – we’ve all become so accustomed to seeing the rear shock tucked down low on most new bikes, that it seemed quite strange to have such a high and forward shock position. The advantage of course, is that you can still run a water bottle, which is a big plus on an enduro race bike, where lots of riders are looking to ride without a pack if possible. Anyhow, we’re used to the frame layout now, and we’ve been impressed by the attention this bike gets – the general consensus is that it looks “hot”.

The finish and construction are beautiful. The paint job is so crisp, and in the sunlight, the darker olive patches come alive with glimmering metallics.

Expanding collet style pivot hardware should stay nice and tight. The bike isn’t the stiffest out there through the rear end, but it’s far from being too flexy.

Is that link carbon?

Sure is! The link is massive, so making it from carbon was probably pretty important to keep it all light, but it also adds stiffness to the frame. Looking at the distance from the rear axle to where the linkage joins the frame, it’s a pretty long unsupported span. If the link wasn’t super stiff, this frame would definitely be at risk of being quite flexy. As it stands, it’s not the stiffest bike we’ve ridden, but the whopping chain stays and linkage keep it all in line. Less obvious is the use of expanding collet style hardware on all pivots, which has been rock solid over the course of our testing.

A massive carbon link lies in the heart of the frame.

Tell us about that shock! 

The Gemini shock is a partnership between FOX and Cannondale, with on-the-fly adjustable air volume/travel. Using a handlebar mounted lever, you can switch between two modes, that Cannondale have called Flow and Hustle. Flow gives you the full 165mm of travel. Flick it into Hustle mode, and the air volume of the shock is reduced, giving you 135mm of travel and a much firmer spring rate. This means less sag, a higher bottom bracket height, and more lively pedalling performance.

It’s not a remote lockout – the compression damping doesn’t change at all when toggle between modes. It’s simply an air volume and travel adjustment. It’s simple to use and cleanly executed.

The Gemini shock uses variable air volume, toggled via a remote lever, to adjust the travel and spring rate on the fly.
FOX users might be familiar with the shock lever. Depress the silver lever to engage Hustle mode.

TEST LOCATION: TRAILSHARE CABINS

As part of our review of the Cannondale Jekyll 2, we spent a weekend up at the new Trailshare Cabins, Kulnura, just over an hour out of Sydney. This place is remarkable: over 20km of private trails, in beautiful blackbutt and turpentine forest, rider-friendly sustainable accommodation. It really is a little piece of paradise, and we’re certain we’ll be using it as a base for a lot more bike testing in the future.

Funky, sustainable accommodation at the Trailshare Cabins. It’s just an hour out of Sydney.
Lounging on the suspended deck looking out into the valley below. Neil, right, is the creator of the trails, and the designer of the accommodation too.

There’s accommodation for up to six people, with a communal kitchen, relaxed outdoor dining with a fire pit and as you can see below, the trails literally start from the edge of the verandah. Peace and quiet, trails all to yourself, it’s the ideal place for a chilled out weekend away. Take a look for yourself right here, or book via Air BnB.


Practicality first.

Cannondale have done their darnedest to overcome the perceptions on impracticality from the previous Jekyll. The new shock is easy to service (unlike the notoriously expensive and fiddly DYAD pull shock of years past), and the frame will happily accept any standard off-the-shelf shock, should you wish to change shocks or if you need to get yours serviced.

Fireside, another killer day on the Jekyll in the bag.

The spec is super practical too, all carefully selected to give enduro racers peace of mind; beefy down tube protection, a chain guide with bash guard, alloy rims rather than carbon, and a whopping gear range, thanks to the Eagle 12-speed drivetrain.

Geometry standouts? 

It’s all very descent focused here; 65-degree head angle, a very low bottom bracket for good stability, a steep seat angle for climbing. But it’s the rear-centre measurement that stands out. Through cleverly offsetting the rear end (they call it Ai – Asymmetric Integration) and then using a custom dished rear wheel, Cannondale have kept the chain stay length to just 420mm. That’s very, very short for a bike of this travel, and it has a big impact on the lively way this bike rides.

AI – Asymmetric Integration – is what has allowed Cannondale to keep the rear end so short. The wheel is dished across 6mm, giving it clearance from the chain ring.
165mm travel in Flow mode, 135mm in Hustle.

Setup? 

Getting the most out of the Jekyll took a couple of rides. Initially we ran the bike with 30-35% rear sag, which is not uncommon for a bike like this, with our thinking being we’d use the Hustle mode to keep it up in the travel on the climbs. But we found ourselves blowing through the travel too often, and feeling like we were stuck down in the suspension. Upping the pressures until we had 25% sag was the key. With things a little firmer, we had heaps more support, and the bike’s agile and urgent character came to the fore.

Eager and playful in the singletrack.

What’s the ride like?

This is one of those bikes that suits a rider who likes to work the terrain for speed. As we’ve noted above, the rear end is short and the bike reacts best to a slightly firmer setup, which makes this bike a very lively ride. It likes to get on its rear wheel and manual out of trouble, or jump over ruts looking for a faster line. It wants to pump down the backside of every compression or lander, giving you good feedback about what those big 2.5″ Maxxis tyres are doing beneath you.

The proportions feel great as well, we like the length of the bike; it might be long and slack up front, but the short rear end means you’re never feeling like you’re at the mercy of a massive wheelbase when you need to change direction quickly.

The pedalling performance isn’t mind blowing (unless you switch into Hustle mode), but we found ourselves working the terrain to go faster, rather than hammering at the pedals. In short, it’s much more engaging to ride than a lot of long-travel bikes.

The Jekyll is a very silent machine – no cable noise, a chain guide and dense chain slap protection keeping the chain quiet. It’s a nice feeling, just hearing those big tyres on the rocks, and not being distracted by noises that make you think everything’s shaking apart around you.

What about the climbs?

Switching into Hustle mode makes all the difference here. We only used the shock’s compression lever perhaps once in the whole test. Instead, we just left the shock’s open-mode compression setting in number 2 (the little black dial), and engaged the Hustle mode when it was time to climb. Because Hustle mode doesn’t add any extra compression damping, the shock is still able to deliver excellent traction on slippery surfaces, which is usually compromised with a lockout.

With Hustle mode engaged, we didn’t feel the need to use the compression lever at all.

It’s still definitely an enduro bike though, not a trail bike, and it prefers long fireroad grinds to technical singletrack climbing. Nothing will change the fact you’ve got 65-degree head angle to contend with on the climbs, so don’t expect any miracles when you’re climbing, Hustle mode or not.

Would you recommend it?

For enduro racing, or descent focused riders, 100%. If you’re more of a trail rider, then take a look at the Trigger which shares all the same construction and suspension features, but with a little less travel and more climb friendly geometry.

The new Jekyll is a big victory for Cannondale – a triumph of practicality and playfulness that they definitely needed. We like that Cannondale have been able to retain the key elements of the previous Jekyll that shone (the travel adjustment) and rework the rest into a glamorous, modern enduro bike. Welcome back, dudes!

First Look: Cannondale Jekyll 2

This is going to be fun. It’s a slightly unconventional looking bike, but we like it. Plenty of room for a bottle behind that linkage too.

After the muddle and excessive techiness of the past Jekyll, this version carries itself differently. Like it’s gone through some kind of Anthony Robbins self-actualisation course, and can finally express its real character. Unashamedly, it’s here for a good time, not trying to impress you with complicated proprietary tech solutions. Even the marketing language around this bike is right, read Cannondale’s blurb and it’s all about how the bike feels and should make you feel, rather than burying you in jargon and carbon layups.

An alloy rear end, with carbon up front.
The big link is all carbon. All the pivots use expanding collet style hardware to lock it all together firmly.

It’s a full blown Enduro beast, not a long-legged trail bike like the old Jekyll. The angles are more relaxed than a medicated lap-dog, and travel is a robust 165mm out back, 170mm up front. A long reach paired with a 35mm stem, Maxxis WT rubber, SRAM X0 Eagle… all the fixings are there to see you through a very rowdy day out.

When this bike first emerged, there were a few comments out there about the unorthodox placement of the shock and linkage – it definitely goes against the usual trends in frame design of getting the shock lower and more rearward. But in the flesh it all ties together nicely, it doesn’t come across as kooky, and if it makes room for fitting a water bottle then we’re on board.

On-the-fy adjustment.
Wide bearing placement on the chunky down tube. The underside of the frame has a protective carbon plate too, to guard from rock strikes.

Cannondale haven’t abandoned the adjustability that has always been part of the Jekyll’s identity, but they’ve found a way to incorporate it in a far more appealing manner. You can still adjust the rear travel on-the-fly, but the rear shock no longer looks like a scuba tank and can be serviced like a regular FOX shock. When you toggle between the Hustle and Flow modes, you’re actually altering the usable air volume of the shock, which adjusts the available travel (165mm – 130mm) and the spring curve too, as opposed to simply changing the shock’s compression damping. It’s a similar solution to that found on the Scott Spark and Genius.

Neat cabling for the rear shock.

With the tubes ditched (honestly, why doesn’t this bike come setup with proper tubeless rim tape?) our Jekyll 2 weighs in a 13.8kg. We’re genuinely excited about this bike, and have been for sometime. The new Jekyll is the product of the involvement of Jeremiah Boobar (read our interview with him here), who was hired by Cannondale after a distinguished career at RockShox, where he led the team behind the Pike. The freshness that his involvement brings is written all over this bike, so let’s go hit some trails!

NB. Pricing on this bike is yet to be confirmed, we’ll update this post as soon as it becomes available.

Tested: Liv Hail 1

A proper enduro bike, built for women from the ground up.

We love the Liv Hail. It’s a kick ass bike for kick ass women. It recognises that girls also want to have fun and is designed specifically for that.

It’s an aggressive, 160mm travel bike and the one of the only female bike of its class that isn’t simply a gender neutral frame re-painted and re-branded. It’s not just marketed to women, the Liv team actually took the time to build a frame to better suit women, with differences inspired by the feedback of female Liv brand ambassadors.

A big bike, for sure, but never unmanageably so. The geometry is very well balanced.

So, how did it feel?

Beefy, solid, strong. This bike is not mucking around, we felt confident and comfortable straight away.  The long wheel base keeps you in control and the Maestro suspension system eats up technical terrain with ease.

With the aluminium frame and overall burly feel, we were a bit worried about how the bike would handle climbing, yet were pleasantly surprised.

The alloy frame has a tough wearing shot-peened finish.

Any modifications pre-ride?

Before heading out, we swapped out the bars from 800mm to 740mm (rather than cutting down the stock bars), and changed from a 50mm to a 30mm stem. As we’ve noted later, the medium sized frame was pretty long for us, hence the shorter stem to get the reach feeling good for us.

After the first ride, when we dinged the rear rim, we also swapped out the tires for something with thicker sidewalls to protect the rims and let us ride harder.

We fitted a slightly shorter stem, as we felt a little stretched out on the medium frame. In hindsight, we should have tested a small.

How did it perform?

Over a four week period we took it to our local trails many times – enduro style trails with rocky sections, fast corners, drops and jumps – to get a good feel of the bike on familiar and technical terrain.

At 800mm, the stock bars will probably need a bit of trimming for most riders.

The handling overall is unreal. If you want to ride aggressively, it inspires a level of daring that we haven’t ever experienced in a women’s specific bike. It was stable at full speed, we felt assured right away and it absolutely gave us the confidence to send it.

We also enjoyed the control on slower speed navigating down steep technical rocks chutes. We were able to tell it where to go, not the other way around.

But could we get it back up to the top?

Absolutely. We weren’t about to win any XC races, but we could comfortably pedal all day on this bike and still be smiling at the end.

The Lyrik RC dual-position fork allows you to adjust from 160mm to 130mm when climbing for steeper angles, however we didn’t use this much. We would have preferred to see more adjustability in the rear shock rather than the fork. The bikes comes with a RockShox Deluxe R, Trunnion mounted rear shock, which has an external rebound dial but no compression setting adjustment.

The Lyrik fork’s adjustable travel is a bonus on smoother, steep climbs, but be aware it does lower the bottom bracket height too.

On technical climbs, with rocky features, we found pedal striking a recurring problem. We would have liked a compression adjuster on the shock, not so much to increase efficiency, but to help with pedal clearance by keeping the shock higher in the initial stroke – but there’s not a lot of tinkering on this shock.

The trunnion mounted shock is driven by a carbon link. We’d love to see a shock with some external compression adjustment on the Hail 1.

How does it size up?

The reach on this bike is long, like proper Enduro long. So if you’re considering the Liv Hail, read the size chart and don’t assume that it fits small being a womens-specific frame.

We tested the medium, however at 165cm tall, we would have been more comfortable on the small. The size chart was spot on, also indicating we should have had a small.

Once we had some tough tyres on the Hail, we were ready to send it without second thought.
Neat internal cable routing.

So what’s actually ‘female specific’ about the frame? 

According to Liv, their team takes data from a global body dimension database for its design, coupled with feedback from its ambassadors and refinement through testing. A key physical difference for females is strength distribution, where females have a lower relative upper body strength vs. their male counterparts.

This means women will generally favour leg strength to manoeuvre the bike vs. upper body comparatively to males, and it can mean women are generally positioned a bit further back on the bike as a result.

The mens’ equivalent of the Liv Hail is the Giant Reign, also a 160mm, 27.5 wheel size bike. Compared to its brother, the Hail’s head angle is a bit steeper (66 degrees on the Hail vs. 65  degrees on the Reign) and there is a higher bottom bracket. We assume these difference are all about making the bike more manoeuvrable and less reliant on upper body muscle to command it. The reach measurement is about 25mm shorter than the Reign in the same frame size too, and the cranks are 170mm across all sizes, versus the 175mm cranks found on the Reign.

As we’ve mentioned above, even though this is a big bike in terms of travel, we never felt like we were a passenger on it, so clearly the geometry mix works well for us, and likely a lot of other women too.

The Maestro system is efficient, plush and reliable. We’re very much a fan of this suspension setup.

Any gripes?

We don’t like the lever of the Giant dropper post. We much prefer dropper levers that are positioned under the bar, so you don’t have to compromise your grip to hit the lever. There are lots of aftermarket levers that will work with this post, so we’d swap it out for a different brand if this were our ride.

A ding in the rear rim on ride one motivated us to swap to some tyres with a stiffer sidewall. We like the grip of the Schwalbe tyres, but on our rocky trails we wanted something a little thicker.

The Giant PAM-2-disc rims are pretty soft considering what this bike is capable of. We managed to ding the rims on first ride with our usual pressures.

Other options in the range

There are three Hails in the Liv range – the alloy Hail 1 we have here, and two Advanced carbon versions too, at $5699 and $7999. Seriously, Liv deserve a huge pat on the back here for not only creating a women’s specific Enduro bike, but offering properly high-end versions as well. We’d loved to have had the chance to ride the lighter Hail Advanced 1, which comes with a FOX Float X2 shock with compression adjustment. Without obviously having had the chance to ride it, it looks like a very impressive bike.

 

 

Yep, we like it a lot. And we like the price too.

 

Overall verdict

If you’re on of those girls that when the working day is done you just wanna have fun, then the Liv Hail was made for you. At $4499, you’ll be able to push limits, ride harder and faster on technical terrain, and generally progress your riding. It rides hard and won’t ruin you at the bank.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Look: Henty Enduro Pack

The Henty weighs just over 500g, plus bladder, making it impressively light.

Hen-who?

Henty are an Australian company, based in Hobart. They’ve made a name for themselves with some really smart and successful travel/commuter cycling bags (especially the Wingman) but this is the first time they’ve released a mountain bike pack. The Enduro was debuted at the Derby EWS round, a fitting launch.

The upper harness section is all lightweight mesh.

Like a bum-bag, but more stable.

Essentially the Enduro is like a really big bum-bag (or fanny pack for you North Americans), but with a shoulder harness to stabilise it all. There’s a lot to like about bum-bags, they position the weight lower on your body for a better centre of gravity, and they don’t get nearly so sweaty up top. The downside is that once they’re loaded up with a lot of water and stuff, they have tendency to swing about if your trails are rough and involve a lot of body language. The Enduro looks to solve the conundrum by adding a very light, highly breathable mesh harness.

Jeremy Grey, Henty’s Co-Founder, told us inspiration for the design comes from ammunition belts used by infantry. Getting the weight distributed low and wide around your hips is the aim, and so the hydration bladder (not supplied) runs horizontally, rather than vertically. The idea is similar to the Camelbak Skyline LR pack we tested last year, which uses a wider ‘lumbar’ bladder, but the Henty definitely takes the notion of getting the weight down low even further. We used a 3L Camelbak bladder and on Henty’s advice filled it with about two litres. Filling it more than that made the pack feel a bit bulbous and it didn’t wrap around our hips so nicely.

Two large zippered compartments.

How much does it fit?

Given the pack itself weighs just 500g and looks so minimalist, you can get a surprising amount of stuff into it. In There are stretchy mesh pockets, two large zippered sections (kind of like a toiletries bag!), hip pockets, plus a bunch of loops for hanging grenades off we guess. There’s another large zippered pocket in the harness section too, which could work for something small and flexible, like a lightweight jacket or map perhaps. In the storage to weight stakes, the Henty is impressive.

We used a 3L bladder, filled to two-thirds full.

How does it feel?

Just as you’d assume, it’s a very breathable pack, and even though we had it loaded up with more than our usual trail ride supplies, it felt very light to wear. With all the bulk around your hips, the feeling really was more like wearing a bum bag than a backpack, just without the hassle of it shifting about on rough trails.

Our skinny test rider had the straps just about at their limits to get it all tight, which meant a lot of extra strap ‘tails’ hanging about. The waist straps use neat Velcro tabs to contain the excess, but the shoulder and sternum straps don’t have this feature – perhaps this will be a future addition, as this is a first release.

Worth a look?

Keeping your centre of gravity low is always a plus in mountain biking, and the Henty have done a splendid job of blending backpack storage and security with the positioning and breathability positives of a bum-bag. We’ve only had a handful of rides with this pack so far, so no word yet on durability, but our impressions so far are fantastic.

 

Tested: Praxis Works C32 Mountain Wheels

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

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


How did the C32’s ride? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Why were the hubs a standout?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about the overall maintenance?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Any lowlights?

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

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

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

Hooray for external spokes!
Hooray for external spoke nipples!

Who are the C32 Mountain wheels for?

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

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

Are they worth it?

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

Praxis Works C32-9504

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

 

 

FOX 36: The Evolution Continues

The all-new Fox 36 Float RC2.
The all-new Fox 36 Float RC2.

The new 36 lineup doesn’t feature any dramatic changes from its predecessor, however smaller adjustments should only improve on the excellent performance of the range.

We reviewed the last version of the Float 36 RC2, and you can read our in depth thoughts here.

Now, let’s see what’s changed and some new offerings of this iconic product!


MORE THAN AN ENDURO RACE FORK:

FOX-MY18-FS-36-black-side

We took the award-winning 36, integrated our EVOL technology, updated the air spring curves and damper tune to improve performance across the board. Between wheel size, damper, and axle options, the 36 offers a wide range of options to fit your all-mountain and enduro needs.

• New FLOAT EVOL air spring
• FIT HSC/LSC, FIT4 and FIT GRIP three position damper options
• 15QRx110 mm, 15QRx100 mm, or 15/20 mm convertible thru-axle • Travel options:

27.5” – 150, 160, 170 mm
29” – 150, 160 mm
26” – 100 mm (831), 160, 180 mm

• 1.5” tapered or 1-1/8” (26” only) steerer tube
• E-Bike-specific chassis available
• Factory Series models feature Genuine Kashima Coat
• Performance Elite models feature black ano upper tubes • Matte Black

New Fox forks will include an air pressure chart on the back of the left side fork leg- hooray!
New Fox forks will include an air pressure chart on the back of the left side fork leg- hooray!

Small Tweaks Make Big Changes on the Trail:

A more linear air spring curve gives EVOL forks plushness off the top, extra mid-stroke support, and more tunable bottom-out progression.

  • •  EVOL is Extra Volume in the negative air spring
  • •  Creates a more linear spring curve through first 25%of travel
  • •  Increases small bump sensitivity
  • •  Greater mid-stroke support
  • •  More tunable bottom-out progression
  • •  Used in MY2018 32, 34, 36, and 40 forks
EVOL internals
The EVOL system will be used in all 2018 Fox forks.

FLOAT EVOL: Self-equalizing positive/negative air spring system:

  • •  Utilizes our patented FLOAT shock transfer port technology, first introduced in our circa 1999 FLOAT shock
  • •  New EVOL air spring has fewer dynamic seals
  • •  Less feedback through handlebar
  • •  Highly tunable with air volume spacers – Adjust the amount of mid stroke and bottom out resistance

Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 12.41.49 pm


FIT HSC/LSC:

Using our proven Championship- and award- winning FIT sealed cartridge design, HSC/LSC is our most advanced damper.

  • •  High- and low-speed compression adjust
  • •  Rebound adjust
  • •  Low friction seal head design
  • •  Dual circuit rebound allows more controlled return from hard hits and quicker recovery from successive impacts
  • •  New damper oil with lubricating PTFE for improved compression and rebound flow

FOX-MY18-FS-36-black-d5


FIT4:

Our patented FIT4 (FOX Isolated Technology) closed cartridge system provides three on-the-fly compression damping positions—Open, Medium, and Firm—to adapt to varying trail conditions.

  • •  Three on-the-fly compression damping positions
  • •  22 clicks of additional low-speed compression adjust in the Open mode
  • •  Low friction seal head design
  • •  Dual circuit rebound allows more controlled return from hard hits and quicker recovery from successive impacts
  • •  Updated tune
  • •  New damper oil with lubricating PTFE for improved compression and rebound flow
FIT 4
The FIT4 cartridge features 22 clicks of low speed compression.

GRIP:

Inspired by moto fork damping systems, FOX’s award- winning GRIP damper uses our FIT sealed cartridge technology combined with a coil-sprung, internal floating piston. The system allows excess oil to purge through a specially designed port at the top of the damper to maintain consistent damping and increase durability. Performance Series forks provide Open, Medium, and Firm modes with additional micro-adjust between settings.

  • •  FIT-based sealed cartridge damper with self- bleeding moto design
  • •  Patent pending compression valve design gives wide range damping adjustment
  • •  Blended LSC/HSCLockout
  • •  Increased adjustment for this level of product
  • •  Remote option available
  • •  OE only
FIT Grip
Expect to see 36’s equipped with the GRIP cartridge on lots of bikes this year.

So that’s what Fox have to say about their new 36 range, but the true test will be out on the trail, so keep your eyes peeled for our first thoughts when we get our hands on a set!

Polygon Bikes Reveal The New Square One EX Series

Holy seatstay!
The new Square One EX looks more like NASA research than a bicycle- we’re excited.

Wow. Polygon have come out with something completely new here, a real step away from what everyone else is doing in terms of travel, frame and suspension design.

The Square One's gargantuan seatstay.
The Square One’s gargantuan seatstay.

Everyone loves geometry, so you can check out the Square One’s angles below.

Square One geometry

We definitely weren’t expecting Polygon to come out with a 180mm, 27.5″ bike with this sort of design, but we’re seriously excited to get our hands on one. Whilst the aesthetics won’t float everyone’s boats, its how the bike rides that counts, and from a glance at the spec and geometry it looks like an absolute beast of a bike.

Kurt Sorge aboard the Square One.
Kurt Sorge gets loose on the Square One EX.

Read on to see what Polygon have to say about the Square One EX range.


Polygon Bikes believes that each of our customers want one bike that is easy to be maintained and can be ridden anywhere.

Short chainstays should make the Square One easy to get onto one wheel.
Short chainstays should make the Square One EX easy to get onto one wheel.

The quest to deliver new and special products to our consumers led to the collaboration between Polygon and NAILD. Both brands shared a goal to bring the best riding experiences possible to our customers. Not only did Polygon and NAILD want to create a “one bike” quiver-killer, we wanted to redefine how people classify mountain bikes with a truly capable machine.

Mick Hannah aboard the new Square One.
Mick Hannah aboard the new Square One EX.

The Square One EX Series is a departure from the old way of classifying bikes and creates a new paradigm where travel no longer determines discipline.

“The NAILD suspension design works in conjunction with Polygon’s frame construction to give a ride unlike anything else. We designed the bike to have a short rear end for tackling technical terrain and to provide quick cornering thanks to the elevated chainstay that is unique to the NAILD R3ACT- 2Play Suspension System”, said Zendy Renan, Product Development Manager for Polygon Bikes.

The NAILD R3ACT- 2Play Suspension System is at the heart of the new Square One series.
The NAILD R3ACT- 2Play Suspension System is at the heart of the new Square One EX series.

Square One EX acts as an extension of rider’s movement – body mechanics are one of the critical aspects we focused on during the development process of NAILD’s concept about vertical wheel path and the use of shaft systems.

Polygon Square One images.--5

All Square One EX frames are built around 27.5 wheels and feature a full ACX carbon frame with 180mm suspension travel.

Cous Cous aboard the new Square EX at the Derby EWS.
Cous Cous was spotted aboard the new Square One EX at the Derby EWS.

Two models will be available: the Square One EX8 and our top of the line model, the Square One EX9.

The Square One will be available in two models.
The Square One will be available in two models.

The pre-orders of Square One EX 9 is accepted now and the bikes will be available in June 2017. Check the full infomation about Square One EX at www.polygonbikes.com.

We're pumped to swing a leg over the new Square One!
We’re pumped to swing a leg over the new Square One sometime soon!

Flow’s First Bite: Praxis Works C32 Mountain Wheels

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

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


What makes this carbon wheelset different?

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

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

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

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

What’s the C32 Mountain wheelset intended for?

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

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

Praxis Works C32-4888


What sizes does it come in?

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

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

Does it come in different hub options?

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

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

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

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


What about freehub options?

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

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

What’s the warranty like?

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

Praxis Works C32-4884


Where to now?

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

Norco Release The 2017 Range Carbon

Joining the likes of Specialized, Trek and Evil at the long travel 29” party, the new Range offers the same fit principles they debuted with the Optic. The ideas are, regardless of what wheel size you choose, the fit and handling will be as close to identical as possible. You can read more about the concept in our interview with the bike’s designer, Owen Pemberton, here._LOW4345

The 29” variant comes with a little less travel (160mm front and 150mm rear) to accommodate for the larger wheels, and the 27.5” wheeled machine, which packs 170mm of travel in the front and 160mm in the rear, adopts a slacker head angle and longer stem to accommodate for the difference in reach.

We’ll save you the speech about how this bike has been made longer, lower and slacker than its predecessor to enhance descending confidence – we reckon you know the drill by now. What is more interesting is the employment of Norco’s Gravity Tune geometry, where the rear centre measurement gets longer as you move up the sizes, growing from 430mm to 440mm.

_LOW4331

This is what the new Range is all about.
This is what the new Range is all about.

In Australia, only the second-from-top in the lineup Norco C9.2 and C7.2 will be available, both retailing for $7299. This pricing puts the C9.2 in the same price range as bikes like Trek’s Slash 9.8, and Specialized’s Enduro Elite Carbon 29”. We’ll be putting together some comparative content over the coming months related to this segment, so watch this space! This is a pretty awesome segment, in our opinion, the next frontier of long-travel bikes.

The smaller wheeled C7.2 sits in a very hotly contested price bracket that includes bikes such as Specialized’s Enduro Carbon Elite 650BYT’s Capra Pro CF Race, Canyon’s Strive CF 9.0 Race and Giant’s Reign Advanced 0 just to name a few.

We’ve been lucky enough to receive a fresh Range C9.2 that’s ready to hit the trails, so let’s take a bit of a closer look at some of the finer details._LOW4350

That’s our first impressions of the new Range C9.2, read on for the official word from Norco on the new range of Ranges, and keep an eye out for a full review of the C9.2 once we log some miles aboard this exciting beast.

Below you’ll find an interesting round-table chat with some of Norco’s big-wigs, all about the Range.


Introduced today, the 2017 Norco Range Carbon features a new frame redesigned around both 650b and 29” wheels, with updated modern Enduro geometry and improved suspension kinematics.

Bryn Atkinson on the new Range C9.1.
Bryn Atkinson on the new Range C9.1.

Building on the best qualities of the previous generation Range, our engineers applied their evolved geometry philosophy to redesign the frame from the ground up and introduce a 29er with the same fit and nearly identical handling characteristics as the Killer B.

BARange-5

The result is a geometry that is longer, lower, and slacker, with a new A.R.T. Suspension system with improved performance that is slightly more progressive. The new design is stronger than ever, borrowing elements such as the head tube design and rear derailleur hanger from the Norco Aurum.

“We looked at the way Enduro bikes are being used – yes, they’re pedaled to the top, but essentially in an Enduro event they go through four or five downhill races over a weekend. This is a bike that’s going to be ridden hard, so we took everything we learned from the Aurum, which is the strongest bike we’d ever made, and employed it on the new Range.” – Owen Pemberton, Senior Design Engineer

To achieve the renowned fit and handling of the Range Killer B in a 29er platform, the 29er is designed around the same rear centre lengths, with a longer front centre, steeper head tube angle, shorter stem, and 10mm less travel front and rear to offset the characteristics of the larger wheels.

BARange-3

When stem length is incorporated into stack and reach (a measurement Norco engineers call Reach Plus and Stack Plus), the fit between the two platforms is identical.

Screen Shot 2017-02-22 at 8.45.20 am

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

For more details, visit norco.com/range.

Flow’s First Bite: Liv Hail 1

The Liv Hail 1 is a female specific enduro weapon.
Despite there being many passionate female mountain bikers, from beginners to professionals, female specific models are few and far between. Liv Cycling is attempting to change that.

Apart from the fact that there’s a whole heap of absolute shredders out there who also happen to be women, more and more women are getting into mountain biking every year, which is awesome to see.

Kath Bicknell recently wrote an article on the importance of women to the cycling industry as a whole.
Kath Bicknell’s recent article on the importance of women to the cycling industry as a whole is a great read.

It’s also great to see bike companies starting to put more resources behind female specific models, and in the case of Giant Bicycles, an entirely separate company for women’s bicycles, components and apparel- Liv Cycling.

Liv Cycling is a separate brand to Giant Bicycles, and produces solely female specific products.
Liv Cycling is a separate brand to Giant Bicycles, and produces solely female specific products.

We’ve got a Liv Hail 1 on test, a 160mm enduro race bike, but before we jump into the First Bite, let’s learn a little bit more about Liv, and what makes them unique in the women’s market.


I haven’t heard of Liv, what’s it all about?

Liv Cycling was launched in 2014 as a standalone brand to Giant Bicycles focusing entirely on women’s specific bikes, equipment and apparel. Rather topically, the first ever Liv specific store is about to open in Vancouver!

Liv also offer the Pique, a 120mm trail bike.
Liv’s 120mm trail bike, the Pique.

For 2017, Liv have signed Kiwi shredder Raewyn Morrison to race the EWS aboard the Liv Hail Advanced, which is the only female specific 160mm bike currently on the market.


What makes the Hail 1 female specific, or is it just the fancy colour scheme?

Thankfully, the entire Liv range shows a real attention to detail through bikes with genuine differences to their Giant counterparts- you won’t simply see colour changes with different grips and saddles here! For a bit more of an overview of the entire Liv range, check out our 2017 range highlights piece.

Liv Bicycles might be made by Giant, but the finished product is very different.
Liv Bicycles might be made by Giant, but the finished product is very different.

All Liv products follow their ‘3F’ principal, which encompasses fit, form and function. We think that all bikes should follow these principals, regardless of the gender they’re designed for, but the video below goes into Liv’s ‘3F’ mission and its centrality to all of their products in a bit more detail.

Another aspect that makes Liv Bicycles truly female specific is their use of the Global Body Dimension Database.


What’s the Global Body Dimension Database- is my head going to start hurting?

Thankfully, despite the fancy name the Global Body Dimension Database is pretty simple.

The database provides Liv with information on the average body dimensions of women around the world. Average arm, torso and leg lengths give Liv essential measurements to consider when designing new bikes.

Data from the Global Body Dimensions Database indicates that men and women have very different body positions on the bike.
Data from the Global Body Dimensions Database indicates that men and women have very different body positions on the bike.

Where does the Global Body Dimension Database information come from?

We must admit that initially reading about the Global Body Dimension Database we were a bit sceptical about the data, but Liv’s website gives a clear explanation of where they source the information, its relevance in their bike designs and its limitations. Read below for the summarised version of what the data encompasses.

The Global Body Dimension Database includes over 250 individual body measurements from men and women of nine different nationalities. From this data set, Liv can gather information on things like stature, inseam, torso length, shoulder breadth, arm length, hand length, hip breadth, ischia (sit bone) distance, weight, and strength that allow them to uncover fundamental differences between men’s and women’s bodies.

Liv’s ‘function’ design principal is also an interesting point of difference to their Giant parent company. From the data Liv have collected, they’ve changed the material layup of Liv bikes compared to comparable Giant models to make the bike stronger and stiffer where it needs to be, and lighter where possible. These changes are made relevant to where women are putting forces through the frame and where they aren’t. Interesting stuff indeed!

Liv use different tubing thicknesses in their frames to account for the different forces women put through their bikes compared to men.
Liv use different tubing thicknesses in their frames to account for the different forces women put through their bikes compared to men.

Getting back to the Hail 1 we’ve got on review, the obvious comparative model in the Giant range is the Reign, however there’s some key differences that demonstrates the Hail 1 is an entirely different product designed specifically for women.

The Hail also comes two carbon variants, including the Advanced 1 model pictured.
The Hail also comes two carbon variants, including the Advanced 1 model pictured.

What are some differences between the Liv Hail and the Giant Reign then?

The Giant Reign has a head angle of 65 degrees, in comparison with the Hail’s 66-degree head angle. Liv say that their data indicates that by making the bike slightly steeper in the front end, it will be easier for women to manoeuvre the Hail up and over obstacles due to their generally shorter upper torsos.

The Liv Hail has a one degree steeper head angle than the Giant Reign.
The Liv Hail has a one degree steeper head angle than the Giant Reign.

Another point of difference in comparison to the Reign is the higher bottom bracket height. Liv say that  their data has indicated that the benefit of a higher bottom bracket in allowing a female rider to pedal over rough terrain with more ease is an attribute they wanted to incorporate on the Hail.

The Hail's bottom bracket height is slightly higher than a comparable Giant Reign.
The Hail’s bottom bracket height is slightly higher than a comparable Giant Reign.

The Hail also has more standover clearance than Reign models in the same size, and yes, female specific finishing touches are present such as the Liv Contact Upright saddle.

The Liv Contact Upright saddle is a female specific model.
The Liv Contact Upright saddle is a female specific model.

Are there any other differences other than the geometry?

There sure are! The front and rear suspension on the Hail runs a different tune to a Reign or Trance, to specifically accommodate female riders. We’re very interested to see how noticeable the different suspension tune is during testing.

The Hail's suspension is tuned specifically for female riders.
The Hail’s suspension is tuned specifically for female riders.

How much does the Hail 1 cost, and what do you get for your dollars?

The Liv Hail 1 retails for $4499, putting it squarely in the budget price point as far as enduro bikes go.

There's three Hail models brought into Australia, ranging from $4499 to $7999.
There’s three Hail models brought into Australia, ranging from $4499 to $7999.

For your cash, you’re getting an aluminium frame (except for the carbon rocker link which comes as standard across all Hail models), RockShox suspension front and rear with a Lyrik RC dual position (130-160mm) fork and Deluxe R shock, and the full SRAM package in the form of an X1 drivetrain and Guide RS brakes.

SRAM's X1 drivetrain is about as hassle free as it gets.
SRAM’s X1 drivetrain is about as hassle free as it gets.

Giant provide the handlebar and grips, which are a standout item, offering tackiness and a nice profile. The Truvativ Holzfeller stem is a nice touch, and so is the MRP chainguide, something we see as a must for any bike with more than 150mm of travel.

The Liv branded grips are impressive.
The Liv branded grips are impressive.

The bashguard is another welcome inclusion, especially on a bike with 160mm of travel, saving your chainring from a walloping should you get a little eager out on the trails.

A chainguide and bash guard as standard is always a welcome inclusion on a 160mm bike.
A chainguide and bash guard as standard is always a welcome inclusion on a 160mm bike.

The Giant dropper post is simple and very mechanic friendly, but we would like to see a 125mm drop specced over the 100mm drop model that comes on the medium sized model we have on test.

We feel that a 100mm dropper post on our Medium sized test bike is a bit short.
We feel that a 100mm dropper post on our Medium sized test bike is a bit short.

The wheels are a nondescript aluminium offering from Giant called the PAM-2, however the tubeless conversion with the Schwalbe tyres was simple and the slightly wider rim width than you see on some house brand wheelsets gives the Schwalbe rubber great shape, so our initial impressions are positive.

Giant's PAM-2 wheelset converted to tubeless easily and gives a solid tyre profile, it's a thumbs up performance so far!
Giant’s PAM-2 wheelset converted to tubeless easily and gives a solid tyre profile, it’s a thumbs up performance so far!

Speaking of the tyres, it’s good to see Giant going with the beefier Magic Mary up front paired with the slightly less chunky Hans Dampf out the back to offer predictable traction up front paired with something faster rolling in the rear.

A Magic Mary up front offers oodles of traction.
A Magic Mary up front offers oodles of traction.

Women’s bikes are often more expensive that a comparable unisex model, does the Liv Hail 1 represent good value?

For under $5000 the Liv Hail 1 packs a fair amount of value and is a bike that can be ridden out of the box with no real weak spots in the components.

The Hail 1 packs alot of value for under $5000.
The Hail 1 packs alot of value for under $5000.

Our only complaint would be the lack of piggyback reservoir on the Deluxe R shock, but considering the price and the other nice touches such as the chainguide and bashguard we’ll wait until we get some trail time on the bike before making any hasty judgements.

We're interested to gauge the performance of the Deluxe R shock.
We’re interested to see how the Deluxe R performs against a piggyback equipped rear shock.

Where will we be riding the Liv Hail 1?

Everywhere we would normally shred a 160mm bike! Just because the Hail 1 has a lovely colour scheme doesn’t mean it’ll be subjected to anything but the most brutal trails we reserve for testing 160mm bikes.

We're excited to get the tyres dirty on the Hail 1!
We’re excited to get the tyres dirty on the Liv Hail 1!

Stay tuned for our detailed thoughts in a full review soon!

JEFFSY 27 – Size Doesn’t Matter

No, YT haven’t introduced another wheelsize, they’ve just decided to abbreviate 27.5″ to plain old 27. What they have introduced though is more options in their acclaimed Jeffsy line up. Now you can buy the Jeffsy in both 29″ and 27.5″ options, in both carbon and aluminium models.

The top of the line Jeffsy 27 CF Pro Race.
The top of the line Jeffsy 27 CF Pro Race.

We’re currently testing a Jeffsy CF Comp 2 and loving it, and it’s exciting to see YT offer both wheelsize options for this popular trail bike. Read on for the official word, and be sure to watch the video, although we’re not sure what the nickname ‘doggy’ is all about.


JEFFSY 27 – Size Doesn’t Matter:

It was only last year that YT appeared in the all-mountain market, where they made quite an impression. This segment now sees further growth with the arrival of another model: The JEFFSY 27 is the right choice for those seeking an even more agile and playful bike than the JEFFSY 29 – already one of the most fun-loving 29ers on the market.

We're enjoying our time aboard the Jeffsy CF Comp 2.
We’re enjoying our time aboard the Jeffsy 29 CF Comp 2.

When it comes to getting aggressive, JEFFSY 27 follows in the footsteps of its big brother, too: in giving it a little bit of extra travel, the developers made sure this 27.5” bike won ‘t get hung up on rough terrain. It is available with 160mm of travel on the top of the range model, and 150mm on the rest of the line-up. When it comes to suspension travel, the 160mm JEFFSY CF Pro Race is most suited for racing applications, where in addition to pedaling efficiently the bike also needs to have a tad more gravity potential. YT team rider Bryan Regnier will use JEFFSY for several Enduro World Series races this season.

EWS racer Bryan Reigner races on both the Jeffsy and Capra.
EWS racer Bryan Regnier races on both the Jeffsy and Capra.

“When choosing the right wheel size for you, your personal preferences, your riding style, and of course also the terrain you ride plays an important role in the decision. Everybody should decide for themselves which wheel size is most appropriate for them. At the end of the day, it’s not about numbers but about how much fun you’re having on your bike. Everything is what you make of it.” Markus Flossmann, CEO.


Technical Data:

The carbon frame weighs in at a scant 2300 grams, while its aluminum counterpart tips the scales at 2900 grams. Just like on the JEFFSY 29, a Flip Chip lets you dial in your ride: in the low position, you get an aggressive, 66-degree head angle and a significant BB drop (15mm). Those who climb a lot might prefer the high position, which yields a 75.5-degree effective seat angle.

Naturally, YT’s highly acclaimed V4L suspension layout is also used on JEFFSY 27; it provides great small-bump sensitivity, good mid-stroke support and significant end-stroke progressivity. The BOOST standard was used for the rear axle spacing and the crank in order to provide more space between the chain ring, chain stays, and tire. An E-Type mount makes sure you can always install a front derailleur, even on the single chain ring models. Last but not least, the protectors on the stays help keep drive train noise to a minimum, whilst the discretely integrated alloy “chain suck guides” protect from damage caused by a fallen chain.

You can run a front derailleur on the Jeffsy 27.
You can run a front derailleur on the Jeffsy 27.

The Carbon Models:

The JEFFSY 27 is available in four carbon versions: CF Pro Race, CF Pro, CF One, and CF Two. The top of the line JEFFSY 27 CF Pro Race features only the very best parts, which makes it an ideal choice for racers and pro riders. It’s also the only bike in the range that offers 160mm of travel, ready to get rowdy. The Kashima coated FOX Factory suspension components were designed for aggressive trail riding and serious enduro racing, and they are both ready to mix it up with the best. Drivetrain wise the choice fell to e*thirteen, being a very reliable and robust cassette for racing with its perfect range of gears. Carbon wheels, cranks, and handlebar help keep JEFFSY’s weight really low, this rocket weighs a mere 12.4 kg.

The Jeffsy 27 CF Pro.
The Jeffsy 27 CF Pro.

The JEFFSY 27 CF Pro is also a convincing package with extraordinary specs: The FOX Performance Elite suspension shines with top-class responsiveness on aggressive downhill sections as it comes with exact the same damping cartridge as the big brother Factory Series. In fact, the only difference between the Performance Elite fork and the Factory Series are the hard-anodized stanchions. Another eye-catcher on the CF Pro: the SRAM Eagle transmission which with its twelve gears makes the front derailleur superfluous. Those who prefer RockShox suspension will find themselves in great company with the JEFFSY 27 CF One or CF Two. The CF One offers a crisp, 11-speed SRAM transmission while the CF Two provides 2×11 gears via Shimano’s XT group.

The Jeffsy 27 CF 2.
The Jeffsy 27 CF 2.

The Aluminum Models:

When it comes to aluminum, YT offers a choice between the JEFFSY 27 AL One and AL Two. Neither have anything to envy their carbon colleagues, since they are both based on the same frame platform. The user-friendly suspension components are easy to set up and adjust, even for beginners. Both bikes offer 150mm of ready-to-rumble suspension travel front and rear: A RockShox Pike RC fork and Deluxe RT shock on the AL One, and a RockShox Pike RC and Deluxe R on the AL Two. The biggest difference between the two aluminum models is the drivetrain: the AL One features a SRAM X1 1×11 transmission while the AL Two goes 2×11 with SRAM GX.

The Jeffsy 27 AL 1 has an excellent value for money spec.
The Jeffsy 27 AL 1 has an excellent value for money spec.

All models come in S, M, L, and XL sizes and are available to order as of today on the website www.yt-industries.com. 


JEFFSY 27 CF Build Kits:

JEFFSY 27 CF Pro Race

JEFFSY 27 CF CF Pro

Fork

Fox 34 Float Factory

Fox 34 Performance Elite

Shock

Fox Float X Factory

Fox Float DPS Performance Elite

Travel (F/R)

160mm / 160mm

150mm / 150mm

Crank

Race Face Next SL

SRAM X01 Eagle

Transmission

SRAM X01

SRAM X01 Eagle

Wheels

E.13 TRSr SL

E.13 TRS+

Tires (F/R)

E.13 TRSr / E.13 TRS+

Maxxis High Roller II

Stem

Renthal Apex 35

Race Face Turbine 35

Handlebar

Renthal Fatbar Carbon 35

Race Face SIXc 35

Brakes

SRAM Guide Ultimate

SRAM Guide RSC

Seatpost

RockShox Reverb stealth

Race Face Turbine

Weight*

12,4 kg

12,6 kg

Price

4.499 EUR / 3.799 GBP

3.999 EUR / 3.399 GBP

5.599 USD

4.799 USD

6.999 CAD

5.999 CAD

7.999 NZD

6.899 NZD

7.799 AUD

6.499 AUD

99.900 ZAR

87.900 ZAR

 

JEFFSY 27 CF One

JEFFSY 27 CF Two

Fork

RockShox Pike RCT3

RockShox Pike RCT3

Shock

RockShox Deluxe RT3

RockShox Deluxe RT3

Travel (F/R)

150mm / 150mm

150mm / 150mm

Crank

Race Face Turbine

Race Face Turbine

Transmission

SRAM X1

Shimano XT

Wheels

E.13 TRS

E.13 TRS

Tires (F/R)

Maxxis High Roller II

Maxxis High Roller II

Stem

Race Face Turbine 35

Race Face Turbine 35

Handlebar

Race Face Turbine 35

Race Face Turbine 35

Brakes

SRAM Guide RS

SRAM Guide RS

Seatpost

Race Face Turbine

RockShox Reverb stealth

Weight*

12,9 kg

13,3 kg

Price

3.399 EUR / 2.899 GBP

3.399 EUR / 2.899 GBP

3.999 USD

3.999 USD

4.999 CAD

5.099 CAD

5.799 NZD

5.799 NZD

5.499 AUD

5.599 AUD

72.900 ZAR

74.900 ZAR

unnamed

JEFFSY 27 AL Build Kits:

JEFFSY 27 AL One

JEFFSY 27 AL Two

Fork

RockShox Pike RC

RockShox Pike RC

Shock

RockShox Deluxe RT

RockShox Deluxe R

Travel (F/R)

150mm / 150mm

150mm / 150mm

Crank

Race Face Turbine

Race Face Aeffect SL

Transmission

SRAM X1

SRAM GX

Wheels

DT Swiss M1900 SPLINE

DT Swiss M1900 SPLINE

Tires (F/R)

Maxxis High Roller II

Maxxis High Roller II

Stem

Race Face Turbine 35

Race Face Aeffect 35

Handlebar

Race Face Turbine 35

Race Face Aeffect 35

Brakes

SRAM Guide RS

SRAM Guide R

Seatpost

E.13 Dropper Post

RockShox Reverb stealth

Weight*

13,5 kg

13,5 kg

Price

2.599 EUR / 2.199 GBP

2.099 EUR / 1.799 GBP

2.999 USD

2.599 USD

3.799 CAD

3.199 CAD

4.299 NZD

3.599 NZD

3.999 AUD

3.499 AUD

55.900 ZAR

46.900 ZAR

*Frame size S without Pedals

Due to manufacturing tolerances on individual components the weight may vary by +/- 2%.


JEFFSY 27 Geometry:

S

M

L

XL

Toptube (horizontal)

573 mm

602 mm

625 mm

648 mm

Reach

415 mm

440 mm

460 mm

480 mm

Stack

584 mm

597 mm

611 mm

620 mm

Seat tube

410 mm

450 mm

480 mm

520 mm

Chain stay

430 mm

430 mm

435 mm

435 mm

Head angle (High/Low)*

67°/66°

67°/66°

67°/66°

67°/66°

Seat tube angle (eff)*

75,5°/74,5°

75,5°/74,5°

75,5°/74,5°

75,5°/74,5°

Seat tube angle (act)*

69°/68°

69°/68°

69°/68°

69°/68°

BB drop (High/Low)*

5/ 15 mm

5/ 15 mm

5/ 15 mm

5/ 15 mm

Wheelbase

1138 mm

1169 mm

1200 mm

1224 mm

Head tube length

95 mm

110 mm

125 mm

135 mm

Standover height

708 mm

737 mm

752 mm

782 mm

*Values depend on the position of the Flip Chips (High/Low) and suspension travel (160 mm/150 mm).

Introducing The Next Generation Intense Tracer

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.intensecycles.com/bikes/tracer

Flow’s Year In Review: Enduro Bikes Of 2016

If this is the sort of attire you'd wear out on a ride, you'll enjoy reading this article.
It doesn’t get much more enduro than this.

Whilst the constant confusion around what to call this style of riding and the bikes it involves (aggressive trail, all-mountain, long travel trail, enduro) makes defining this category difficult, here are some of the bikes we’ve ridden in the past 12 months that fit the bill. The links below will take you straight through to the full reviews.

Giant Trance Advanced 1

Merida One-Sixty 5000

Focus SAM C Team

Scott Genius 710 Plus

Polygon Collosus N9

Whyte G-160 Works

GT Sensor Carbon Team 2

Canyon Strive CF 9.0 Race

Pivot Firebird Carbon Pro XT/XTR

Lots of riders out there know that riding capable bikes that make you want to go faster is a tonne of fun
Lots of riders out there know that riding capable long travel bikes is a tonne of fun

We’ve already done a ‘Trail Bikes of 2016’ piece, which summarised some of the best trail bikes we reviewed here at Flow last year, so this article moves one rung up the travel ladder.

The bikes we're talking about in this article are all about how fast you can head down the trail
The bikes we’re talking about in this article are all about how fast you can head down the trail

Where in our Trail Bikes piece we discussed bikes that really nail the ‘jack of all trades’ moniker, this article will take a look at bikes with a bias towards descending fast, aggressively and most probably on the sphincter clenching limit at one point or another.

It's foot out, flat out aboard these bikes.
It’s foot out, flat out aboard these bikes.

Before we get stuck into the bikes, we should clarify that all the bikes discussed fall within the rear travel boundaries of 130mm-170mm of travel. Savvy readers might remember that our trail bikes review covered bikes with more than 130mm of rear wheel travel, however this is a perfect example that the amount of travel doesn’t necessarily define ride qualities, and whilst some bikes don’t have huge amounts of travel, it’s perfectly clear that they’ve got very rowdy intentions when it comes time to get the tyres dirty.

The GT Sensor hasn't got huge amounts of travel, but it makes up for it with its hard-charging attitude.
The GT Sensor hasn’t got huge amounts of travel, but it makes up for it with its hard-charging attitude.

On the flip side of the spectrum, we found that a bike like the Pivot Switchblade has 135mm or rear wheel travel and 150mm of travel up front, however it’s not an out an out descender like the bikes discussed in this article, and is better suited as a trail bike despite its longer travel.

The Pivot Switchblade might have 150mm of travel up front, but it's better suited as a trail bike than an Enduro racer.
The Pivot Switchblade might have 150mm of travel up front, but it’s better suited as a trail bike than an Enduro racer.

In terms of price, just like our trail bikes round up there’s a fair variance between the models discussed. At the low end, the Merida One-Sixty 5000 retails for a shade under four and half thousand. The Pivot Firebird tops out the pricing, with its price approaching the five-figure mark.

The Merida One Sixty 5000 offers outstanding value for money.
The Merida One Sixty 5000 offers outstanding value for money.

Alright, enough disclaiming, let’s jump into some of the bikes we think you should be looking at if the ‘cruise to the top, descend till you drop’ motto is your cup of tea!

Giant Trance Advanced 1:

“What about if I had a bike with a slick carbon frame, carbon wheels, top of the line suspension and a wide range single-ring drivetrain for under six grand,” says the bike shop guy with a grin.”

The Giant Trance Advanced 1 offers excellent bang for your buck.
The Giant Trance Advanced 1 offers excellent bang for your buck.

We know that the link to this bike is for a First Bite, but we’ve spent plenty of trail time aboard this beast over the summer, and a full review is just around the corner.

Paul Van Der Ploeg was shredding aboard a Trance in our Flowtown video.
Paul Van Der Ploeg was shredding aboard a Trance in our latest Falls Creek video of the all new Flowtown trail.

With 140mm of rear wheel travel paired to 150mm of squish up front, the Trance doesn’t push the travel envelope, however some geometry redesigns make it an excellent option for Australian tracks, as our typically flatter and more pedally terrain means that 140mm of rear wheel travel in the hands of a skilled rider is pretty much bang on for technical riding across the country.

The Fox 34 is a superb offering up front.
The Fox 34 is a superb offering up front.

“The Trance platform received major updates to the frame this year, it’s longer in reach, lower in bottom bracket height, shorter in its chainstay length and fork travel is bumped up 10mm to 150mm. The 2017 model comes with a host of new and emerging technologies, such as boost hub spacing front and rear and a trunnion mounted rear shock.”

The Maestro linkage on the Trance is stout and stiff.
The Maestro linkage on the Trance is stout and stiff.

We summed up out first impressions of the Trance by discussing how a few changes for this year have got us really excited, and these changes have delivered in spades out on the trail.

The full review is yet to come, but rest assured we’re pretty content that the Giant Trance rolls together a bike that you can race on, but is also capable of general trail duties at the same time.

Lots of gears for all sorts of terrain.
Lots of gears for all sorts of terrain.

“A bike like the Trance Advanced 1 is probably going to have an owner that uses it for many things, so that’s exactly what we’ll be doing. From buff singletrack to downhill bike worthy terrain, we’re keen to see what this bike is capable of.”

The Trance is ready to be challenged by the aggressive rider.
The Trance is ready to be challenged by the aggressive rider.

Merida One Sixty 5000:

Merida is one of the largest bike companies in the world; their reach spans 77 countries, and they’re found on just about every trail and road down here too. So, it’s about time they cracked open the lucrative current enduro market with a genuinely competitive offering that may well be the cause of a few nervous, clammy hands amongst the big brands.”

The completely redesigned Merida One Sixty really impressed us.
The completely redesigned Merida One Sixty really impressed us.

We don’t think we’re being harsh to say that even at first glance, the Merida One Sixty 5000 is a far superior machine than its predecessor, which was very much due for a revamp. For a brand with such a big presence internationally in almost every cycling discipline, it’s exciting to see them finally step into the limelight of Enduro bikes with the all new One Sixty.

Despite its long travel, the One Sixty felt lively out on the trails.
Despite its long travel, the One Sixty felt lively out on the trails.

“The One-Sixty is a new all-mountain/enduro bike with those key components that are essential to the type of riding this segment is all about. We’re talking about 160mm (you picked it!) out the back and 170mm travel up front of RockShox travel, aggressive tyres, dropper post, wide bars, and a single-ring 11-speed drivetrain.”

A 170mm RockShox Yari leads the charge up front.
A 170mm RockShox Yari leads the charge up front.

In terms of the suspension, Merida have kept things simple with a proven design, allowing them to focus on getting the geometry and spec dialled.

“The all-new carbon/aluminium frame is built around their ‘Floating Link’ configuration. We received many comments that shape of the new One-Sixty resembles the vertical shock mount and kinked top tubes of bikes like the Giant Trance or Trek Remedy. But in all fairness, this is reflected across the whole industry, with bike designers from many brands seeing the benefit of mounting the rear shock low and central to the bike’s architecture.”

The shock is attached via a Trunnion mount arrangement.
The shock is attached via a Trunnion mount.

Out on the trails, despite the One Sixty’s beefy spec and ample amounts of travel, it didn’t have the monster truck-like feel of some other 160mm enduro bikes on the market.

The shorter reach numbers compared to other bikes in this category plays a big part, which we feel is an excellent character trait for the rider looking for a bike with long travel, but snappier handling out on the trail.

The One Sixty was a playful ride.
The One Sixty was a playful ride.

“The reach doesn’t feel as long as many of the racier 160mm bikes we’ve reviewed like the Canyon Strive or Whyte G-160. The new generations of 160mm travel bikes are becoming increasingly long, requiring trails with serious gravity on their side, certainly not for everyone’s capabilities or regular trail rides.”

The One Sixty corners tight trails easier than other 160mm bikes out there.
The One Sixty corners tight trails with more ease than other 160mm bikes out there.

In terms of the spec, for under $5000 we think the One Sixty 5000 is one of the best value for money enduro bikes out there, due to the sheer performance of the components for a fraction of the cost, and marginal gains in weight.

The carbon front triangle is exceptional quality at this price.
The carbon front triangle is exceptional quality at this price.

“Merida has chosen some new offerings from RockShox for this year, with a trunnion mount Super Deluxe rear shock and a 170mm travel Yari. The forks look massive with the Boost hub width and the front hub also uses the Torque Cap system, when in combination with the forks provide a more positive connection between fork and axle to lift front end rigidity.”

Super Deluxe in name and performance.
Super Deluxe in name and performance.

Despite not being the top of the line components, the kit on the One Sixty performed admirably on the trail.

The Merida branded dropper post didn't miss a beat throughout testing.
The Merida branded dropper post didn’t miss a beat throughout testing.

We also appreciated the small details on the One-Sixty, details that truly showed this is an enduro-race ready machine.

“One of the details we appreciate is the adjustable MRP micro chain guide – a simple addition that removes the need for an expensive aftermarket purchase and just makes rides safer, quieter and hassle-free.”

We think every 160mm bike should come with a chainguide.
We think every 160mm bike should come with a chainguide for the rowdiness they will encounter on the trail.

The Merida One Sixty has us excited for the future, where performance will continue to trickle down to lower and lower price points, lowering the cost of entry for riders after a long travel machine to take their technical riding to the next level.

Sram's NX drivetrain is another example of trickle down technology delivering excellent performance.
Sram’s NX drivetrain is another example of trickle down technology delivering excellent performance.

“If you are either looking to tap into the unlimited fun a long travel bike provides, or upgrade to something to take it even further, the One-Sixty 5000 is a legitimate contender in the competitive and rapidly growing segment of 160/170mm travel bikes.”

Focus SAM C Team:

Some Enduro bikes have one focus, and one focus only. Bikes like the Whyte G-160 and the Pivot Firebird have been designed to go downhill as fast as possible, which makes them amazing for racing and flat out, knuckle clenching riding, but less exciting when you just want to go for a razz around some cruisy singletrack, or your regular descents aren’t overly steep or technical. Luckily, if this sounds like you, the Focus SAM C Team is a different sort of 160mm bike.

The Focus SAM is a high energy 160mm ride.
The Focus SAM is a high energy 160mm ride.

Eagerness: the Focus SAM C Team has it in spades. Like an excited dog pulling its owner about as it charges to sniff every tree and post, this is a bike that’s always in a hurry.”

The SAM's stiff frameset encourages you to ride fast everywhere.
The SAM’s stiff frameset encourages you to ride fast everywhere.

The SAM C Team is a bike that can handle the rough and tumble of ‘Enduro’ style riding, but still feels capable of keeping a relatively high pace on undulating and climbing terrain.

“The suspension is a simple linkage-driven single-pivot setup, handing out 160mm of very responsive, lively travel. It’s a buttery, supple suspension feel too, but with enough anti-squat it preserves the sprinty, excited performance under pedalling that we like about the SAM.”

The linkage design is simple and effective.
The linkage design is simple and effective.

If a bottle cage mounted inside the frame is a prerequisite for your next bike selection, unfortunately the SAM is a pack only ride.

“A RockShox Monarch Plus is housed centrally in the frame, which means no bottle mounts, so it’s a pack-only affair. Having the shock nestled there between your knees gives easy access to the compression lever, so you can quickly flick it into firmer setting on the climbs.”

The centrally located Monarch Plus shock allows no room for a water bottle.
The centrally located Monarch Plus shock allows no room for a water bottle.

In terms of spec, the SAM costs a pretty penny at $8999, however you get some quality kit for your money.

Sram's Guide RSC brakes are solid performers.
Sram’s Guide RSC brakes are solid performers.

“It’s an attractively adorned bike, as it should be for the $8999 price tag. The premium SRAM XX1 drivetrain is a standout, with a 32-tooth chain ring. The drivetrain that started the single-ring revolution continues to impress us, its quiet, stable performance is brilliant. There’s no chain guide, but it’s possible to mount one off the ISCG tabs, which would be a good idea if you’re going racing. SRAM have been given the nod for the brakes too, with the premium Guide RSC stoppers. With a 200mm rotor up front, you’ll have all the braking confidence in the world.”

It's always nice to have a full XX1 drivetrain underneath you!
It’s always nice to have a full XX1 drivetrain underneath you!

Summing up the SAM, it’s a bike that is well up for the rowdy descending Enduro racing demands, but also excels in tamer terrain in the way few 160mm bikes do.

“There’s a lot of urgency to the way this bike rides, even on flatter trails, it keeps shooting forward in a way that few Enduro bikes do. It sprints out of corners beautifully, feeling even lighter than it’s already impressive 12.8kg weight figure. We really came to love the way the SAM could pump speed out of trails, letting your work the bike, pumping into terrain that would see you simply holding on for dear life on board a lesser bike.”

Scott Genius 710 Plus:

What! A plus bike? I thought this was an article about Enduro bikes?!

Hold on with us for a second here. If you’ve ridden a plus bike, especially one with the right tyre and suspension settings for the conditions, you probably don’t think we’re crazy for including a plus bike in this list.

Some of our rowdiest riding last year was aboard a plus bike, on Sydney's loose and rocky trails.
Some of our rowdiest riding last year was aboard a plus bike, on Sydney’s loose and rocky trails.

For many riders, the biggest hindrance to increasing their descending speed is traction and control in corners and technical terrain. With a well setup plus bike, your confidence will go through the roof in both of these areas, as the increased contact patch with the ground allows for huge amounts of traction, braking control and the ability to make your own line through choppy sections of trail that would have you bouncing all over the place aboard a regular bike.

Loose corners that would have you washing hard on a regular bike are no sweat on a plus bike.
Loose corners that would have you washing hard on a regular bike are no sweat on a plus bike.
The Genius Plus was a hoot on the trails.
The Genius Plus was a hoot on the trails.

Anyhow, enough on why we’re talking about a plus bike, let’s get into why we’ve chosen the Scott Genius Plus 710 for this wrap-up!

The Scott Genius Plus 710 would be a good bike for lots of riders!
The Scott Genius Plus 710 would be a good bike for lots of riders!

“The Genius platform is now available in three wheel sizes – 27.5, 29 and 27.5+. If you can’t find a version to suit you, you’re a very unique individual indeed. Visually, the three frames are similar, but there are travel and geometry differences. The 710 Plus shares the same travel as the 29er version, with 140mm up front and an adjustable 130/90mm out back, but the geometry is quite different. The 710 Plus is significantly slacker, a 67.5 degree head angle versus 68.9 degrees on the 29er, and the stays are a tad shorter.”

We think Scott got the head angle spot on for the Genius Plus.
We think Scott got the head angle spot on for the Genius Plus.

Whilst handlebar clutter is one of our pet hates here at Flow, we excuse Scott to an extent because their Twinloc system works bloody well, and they’re integrating it in a more aesthetically pleasing way every year. The Twinloc system on the Genius allows for on the fly adjustments, which are great for firming things up for climbs and flatter singletrack, then switching back to fully open as you get over the crest.

That's not a front derailleur shifter, thankfully!
That’s not a front derailleur shifter, thankfully!

“As with all Scott duallies, the suspension system is built around Twinloc. The bar-mounted lever lets you select either 140mm or 90mm travel modes, or you can lock the rear end out completely. The fork’s compression is activated in tandem – open, firm or locked – completely changing the character of the bike at the push of a button.”

“Really the Twinloc system and Plus tyres are a perfect match – the extra compliance of the big volume rubber makes the shorter travel mode more usable in rough terrain.”

The Twin Loc remote gives you three travel settings to play with in the rear.
The Twin Loc remote gives you three travel settings to play with in the rear.

As we touched on earlier, tyre pressure is so critical to getting the most out of any plus bike, and here’s what we settled on with the Genius.

“Tyre pressure is critical with this much air volume. Too high, and you’re not going to get any advantages from the big tyres, just a bouncy, jumping castle kind of ride. Too low and you risk a vague, slow feel. For us, the sweet spot was about 14/15psi. A digital pressure gauge is essential, don’t trust your track pump.”

A bit of trial and error is critical to getting the most out of the Plus tyres.
A bit of trial and error is critical to getting the most out of the Plus tyres.

Once we set up the bike to suit the conditions, we began to consider if the plus bike option would be faster not only for a small minority, but the majority of riders riding the loose, techy sort of riding we experience daily on Flow’s home trails in Northern Sydney.

If you haven't tried a Plus bike, put it on your bucket list for 2017.
If you haven’t tried a Plus bike, put it on your bucket list for 2017.

“We struggled to get our head around the cornering abilities of this bike. Even with its long rear end, the way it flings into a corner is ridiculous. On trails that we’ve ridden a hundred times, we needed to unlearn our usual braking points, and on corners where we’d usually unclip our inside foot, we could ride with both feet up. You just carry more speed through turns, and that makes for a faster ride overall.”

A chainguide was a welcome inclusion on the hard-charging Genius.
A chainguide was a welcome inclusion on the hard-charging Genius.

Okay, we’ve been pretty flattering of the Genius, but there are a couple of downsides as a trade-off for the many pluses (pardon the pun). Other than a small weight penalty however, we believe the Genius Plus has earned its place on this list as a bike that deserves consideration as a long travel, enduro race ready weapon!

“So what about downsides? Certainly, there are some. On smooth, flatter trails, there’s a small increase in rolling resistance, but it’s hardly perceptible. There’s also a little more weight to cart about, but again not a lot. When you compare the Genius 710 Plus to its 29er equivalent, there’s about 600-700g in it. But it’s not weight for weight’s sake, it comes with huge benefits in terms of traction. We know what we’d choose when it comes to trade-off between weight or grip.”

Polygon Colossus N9:

Resembling a prop from a Star Trek movie more than a bicycle with its futuristic frame design, the Polygon Colossus N9 is a bike that impressed with its fun and lively attitude, and it would suit a rider after the forgiveness of a longer travel machine, but more playfulness than an out and out enduro racer.

Funkier than a Gary Fisher outfit, the Polygon Colossus N9 stands out from the crowd.
Funkier than a Gary Fisher outfit, the Polygon Colossus N9 stands out from the crowd.

“It truly is one of the most spectacularly outlandish frame designs going, big scimitars of carbon out back, a collection of tube profiles that comes together in great style, a real demonstration of what’s possible with carbon and creativity. In an era of increasingly similar frame designs, it’s one of the few frames that look like they were approached with a truly blank slate. That attention to detail continues with other design features, like the smart cable ports and bonded chain slap protection.”

The attention to detail on the Colossus frame is flawless.
The attention to detail on the Colossus frame is flawless.

We can’t talk about a Polygon without talking about value for money. Of course, a bike is so much more than the parts attached to it, and without a good frame you’re not going to get very far, but the Polygon Colossus takes the dollars to bling ratio to the next level.

Premium parts adorn the Colossus for a very reasonable price.
Premium parts adorn the Colossus for a very reasonable price.

“The FOX 36 is just one highlight in a truly stacked spec sheet though. Polygon bikes are always incredibly well equipped, and when you consider the price tag, we can’t think of another bike which even comes close to matching the N9’s component offering. A full SRAM XX1 drivetrain, E13 TRS race wheels, XT brakes, a RockShox Reverb dropper… If you’re more of a Shimano fan, you can get a the N9 with an XTR double-ring drivetrain and XTR brakes for the same price! Ridiculous.”

We were big fans of the E*13 wheels for their stiffness and responsiveness.
We were big fans of the E*13 wheels for their stiffness and responsiveness.

Much like the Merida One Sixty and the Focus SAM, the Polygon Colossus prefers a variety of terrain, and a rider that can flick it around over ploughing technical descents at top speed.

“Playfulness and pedalling performance are two of the elements which stand out for us. This isn’t a 160mm bike that hugs the ground like a mini downhill bike. Rather it gives you the engagement you’d normally expect from a 140mm-travel bike, but with some more forgiveness when you need it. You’re not isolated from the trail, and even when already pushed deep into its travel, the N9 can be flicked to a new line easily.”

The Colossus' firm mid stroke allows you to play with the trail more than you would expect aboard at 160mm bike.
The Colossus’ firm mid stroke allows you to play with the trail more than you would expect aboard at 160mm bike.

“This responsiveness is in part due to the supportive suspension which has a firm mid-stroke, and the responsive E13 wheels, but it’s also a product of the bike’s geometry. When you compare a medium-sized N9 to other medium-sized 160mm bikes, you’ll notice the wheelbase is shorter. The head angle is 66.3 degrees (which is pretty standard for this category of bike) and the stays are 430mm (again, pretty much the norm) but the top-tube/reach measurements are 15-20mm shorter than is common. This makes it an easier bike to flick about, at the expense of stability when it’s really steep and fast.”

The Colossus is slightly shorter than other bikes in its class.
The Colossus is slightly shorter than other bikes in its class.

Whilst we loved the nimbleness and fun loving nature of the Colossus, we do think that if Enduro racing is your focus, you might want to upsize your frame for a bit more stability when the pace is getting blurry.

“If you’re hoping to use your N9 for Enduro racing, we’d encourage you to consider ‘up-sizing’ to get more length in the front end. If you’re a trail rider looking for a bike that’ll give you the ability to descend harder, but without too many handling or performance compromises usually associated with a longer-travel bike, then make sure the N9 is on your shortlist.”

A fun and engaging ride, and great value for money are key attributes of the Colossus.
A fun and engaging ride, and great value for money are key attributes of the Colossus.

Whyte G-160 Works:

Rocking up to the top of a trailhead aboard the Whyte and dropping into anything but the most demanding and gnarly descent is bringing a bazooka to a knife fight.

The single minded Whyte G-160.
The single minded Whyte G-160.

This is the bike you want if you couldn’t give a hoot about riding tame singletrack or getting to the top in a hurry, but strapping on a race plate and waiting for hours at the bottom of descents for your mates is what gets you out of bed in the morning.

There aren't many bikes that descend faster than the G-160.
There aren’t many bikes that descend faster than the G-160.

“UK brand Whyte are well-known for their high-quality frames with radical geometry, if you didn’t know that already take a look at this one – the Whyte G-160 Works is a real monster. We absolutely love the way it doesn’t aim to please everyone, its purpose is crystal clear, to dominate descents.”

Getting after it on the G-160!
Getting after it on the G-160!

Long, low and slack pretty much sums up the G-160s’s geometry, which is optimised for the rowdiest Enduro riding imaginable.

“The G-160 Works is a 13.2kg big-travel enduro bike with seriously aggressive geometry and 160mm of travel. It has the longest top tube measurement of any bike we’ve ever tested here, 636mm long for the medium size frame optimised for use with a super-short 32mm stem. Geometry aside the G-160 is built for speed and steep terrain with a burly parts spec and a single-ring specific frame design.”

The G-160 is a loooooong bike.
The G-160 is a loooooong bike.

As with all the Whytes we’ve tested here at Flow, the build quality and finishing touches on the G-160 are on another level, it’s quite clear this British brand have a great deal of pride in their products.

The G-160 features rubber chainstay protection.
The G-160 features rubber chainstay protection.

“Take a close look and you’ll certainly be impressed with the classy finish and the all the pivots and suspension linkages look stout, add in the fact that the suspension bearings are backed by a lifetime warranty, you’ll certainly have confidence in the construction and ability to handle all types of weather.”

Whyte seal their bearings from nuclear warfare.
Whyte seal their bearings from nuclear warfare.

One surprising attribute of the G-160 however was the lack of chainguide as standard- for a bike this aggressive, we’d be strapping one on before heading out for the first ride.

“With no chain guide fitted as standard, we were a little apprehensive when the trails turned ultra rough, and sure enough we dropped a chain when we really needed it most. We’d suggest fitting one, the weight and appearance sacrifice is worth it.” 

Get a chainguide on here pronto!
Get a chainguide on here pronto!

Spec-wise, the G-160 doesn’t muck around with anything but the most meaty and aggressive components for the job at hand.

“A Pike RCT3 fork and Monarch Plus RC3 Debonair rear shock are a perfect match and suited this bike’s appetite for gravity-fed gnar. The combination of a meaty High Roller on the front and the low-profile Minion SS out the back is growing in popularity for the racers, the lighter rear tyre loses the tall centre knobs but retains plenty of chunky tread on the side for cornering traction. While we certainly appreciated its fast acceleration we’d be sure to keep a matching High Roller rear tyre on hand to match the front when the trails are steeper and the dirt is softer.”

A Pike RCT3 fork gives immediate confidence up front.
A Pike RCT3 fork gives immediate confidence up front.

As we continually stressed throughout the G-160 review, this is a bike with single minded intentions, and with that comes limitations in other areas.

“Our first ride on this bike began with a climb, and believe us we were not exactly singing the Whyte’s praises along the way up! With so much bike in front of you it takes great care to steer it where you want it to go when spinning up a climb. The short stem reacts quickly to your steering input, almost too quickly at times, we often found ourselves chasing the front wheel with little warning.”

The ultra short stem makes climbing on the G-160 interesting.
The ultra short stem makes climbing on the G-160 interesting.

Summing up, we think that for the money, if Enduro racing and descending are your out and out priorities, the G-160 should be right up there as an option for your next bike. 

“The Whyte G-160 Works has massive appeal for a rider that knows what they want, can forego all-rounder capabilities and appreciates ultimate build quality.”

If descending fast is the aim, the G-160 should be at the top of your list.
If descending fast is the aim, the G-160 should be at the top of your list.

GT Sensor Carbon Team 2:

Much like the Scott Genius 710 Plus, some of you might be questioning why a 130mm bike is appearing on this list, especially considering we did a trail bikes wrap up only a few weeks ago.

What the Sensor lacks in travel, it makes up for in attitude.
What the Sensor lacks in travel, it makes up for in attitude.

Well, despite only packing 130mm of travel in the rear, we thought that the aggressive, push me harder attitude of the Sensor makes it a worthy candidate on this list, particularly if you want to do some technical riding and Enduro racing, but you appreciate the flexibility a shorter travel bike provides.

“After a few weeks pounding the GT Sensor Carbon Team around our trails we’ve grown an appreciation for its finest attribute – its brawn. GT label the Sensor as a trail bike, but have dressed it in some serious parts. The big tyres, 150mm RockShox Pike and wide bars make this ‘trail bike’ look badass.”

It didn't take long for us to start pushing pretty hard on the trail aboard the Sensor.
It didn’t take long for us to start pushing pretty hard on the trail aboard the Sensor.

Starting with the burly frame, the Sensor strikes a serious demeanour from the get go.

“There’s nothing svelte about this one, it’s built like a tank. Big shapes and wide-set pivot points give the Sensor real muscle.”

There aren't many 130mm bikes as chunky as the Sensor.
There aren’t many 130mm bikes as chunky as the Sensor.

The spec shows real attention to detail, which really impressed us as it allows you to roll out of the shop content that you’ve got the best parts for the job at hand.

The Sensor uses a well thought out mix of parts that suit its personality well.
The Sensor uses a well thought out mix of parts that suit its personality well.

“GT seem to have a thing with shopping around for parts, there’s an eclectic bunch of bits from a wide range of brands on this bike, but all the parts work well together, testament that whoever specs these bikes rides them too.”

A chainguide as standard says alot about the Sensor's intentions on the trail.
A chainguide as standard says alot about the Sensor’s intentions on the trail.

 As we said earlier, despite its 130mm of travel, the Sensor doesn’t want to plod about the trails sedately, it wants its owner to take control and put the 150mm front end and stiff chassis to good use.

“Once up to speed it’s easy to keep it there and if you’re game, the key is to lay off the brakes and give it hell! It’ll hold lines through rocky sections and won’t lose momentum, the rear end stiffness helps gobbles up big impacts transferring the energy of the impact into the shock rather than deflecting. You don’t ride this bike like your run-of-the-mill trail bike, you ride it hard and then reap the rewards from such a solid chassis and firm, supportive suspension.”

The Sensor's progressive rear end begs for the rider to take control.
The Sensor’s progressive rear end begs for the rider to take control.

Where a bike like the Pivot Firebird, with its 170mm of travel front and rear and ground hugging traction wants to plough through the meanest lines with careless disregard, the Sensor is a bike that would suit the rider who likes the challenge of moving around the trail, popping from one line to another and pumping undulations for speed.

“Rather than a ground hugging or offering a supple kind of ride, it’s more a firm and engaging one that responds instantly to your input. Jumping from one side of the trail to avoid a rut, or gapping over a hole and into a corner becomes a possibility when you’re not wallowing in a cushy and comfortable bike. This beast begs you to take control.”

Should you come up short, the 150mm RockShox Pike has your back.
Should you come up short, the 150mm RockShox Pike has your back.

Whilst GT went through a barren patch a few years ago, bikes like the Sensor get us excited about the future for this historic brand. If you’re after a bike that forces you to take control, rather than make the decisions out on the trail for you, the Sensor is worth a look.

Tell the Sensor what to do out on the trail, and it will obey.
Tell the Sensor what to do out on the trail, and it will obey.

“The GT Sensor is a prodigious bike that relishes hard riding. Where many bikes sacrifice robustness, the Sensor manages to keep its weight down to 13kg but still feels so solid beneath you. But it certainly isn’t a peppy and agile trail bike, so if you’re a lighter or gentle rider you may find it a bit heavy to get going.”

low0113
The Sensor in its natural environment.

Canyon Strive CF 9.0 Race:

The word ‘Race’ in this bike’s title, combined with the fact Fabien Barel helped develop, and then piloted this bike to numerous EWS podiums tells you straightway this isn’t the bike to do a bit of everything on.

low0290
The Strive’s lines are ultra smooth.

“Make no mistake the Strive ain’t no casual all-rounder, this is a dedicated enduro race bike. It’s super long, very slack and as we were to quickly find out it needs to be ridden hard or its capabilities will go to waste.”

Fabien Barel could rail a shopping trolley, but he proved the capabilities of the Strive at the highest level of Enduro racing.
Fabien Barel could rail a shopping trolley, but he proved the capabilities of the Strive at the highest level of Enduro racing.

“Our test bike comes from the ‘Race Geometry’ range of Strives, which have a slightly longer front centre than the ‘Regular’ models, a requirement from the race team to meet the demands of top-level enduro racing. A longer bike coupled with a short stem will result in quick handling but with room for stability at speed.”

The Strive adheres to the descending oriented long, low and slack geometry.
The Strive adheres to the descending oriented long, low and slack geometry.

At times, direct to consumer brands get a bad wrap as ‘cheap’ alternatives to the main players in the Australian market, but the Canyon Strive is a truly jaw-dropping bike, both in appearance, and engineering precision.

Neat protection for chainslap and the unlikely event of the chain dropping show great attention to detail on the Strive.
Neat protection for chainslap and the unlikely event of the chain dropping show great attention to detail on the Strive.

“It’s a full carbon affair front and back and wowzers it’s stiffer than an Eskimo’s nipples, there’s a serious lack of twisting or bending when you grab the rear wheel and flex it side-to-side. All the cables travel internally via nice little rubberised ports, and while we did hear some rattling at times from the rear brake line inside the frame we found it all pretty easy to work with.”

Internal routing throughout gives the Strive a clean look.
Internal routing throughout gives the Strive a clean look.

Whilst the Strive is a heavy hitting 160mm Enduro race bike, the very clever Shapeshifter technology promises the old ‘two bikes in one’ claim. Does it work out on the trails though? Hell yes!

The Shapeshifter lever can be mounted in a variety of ways.
The Shapeshifter lever can be mounted in a variety of ways.

“The Shapeshifter is a Canyon developed system that switches the rear shock between two positions via a button at the bars – climb and descend mode. The two distinctly different positions toggle the rear suspension travel between a super plush 163mm and a firmer 139mm while simultaneously having huge impact on the bike’s geometry. It’s very slack and low when descending and in climb mode the head angle sharpens 1.5 degrees and the bottom bracket sits 20mm higher.”

The hardware that makes the Shapeshifter system work.
The hardware that makes the Shapeshifter system work.

“The Shapeshifter is essentially just a volume of air with a lockout button, lean your bodyweight back into the rear of the bike with the lever pressed and it’ll compress into descend mode with a faint clunking sound, increasing the leverage on the shock and dropping the bottom bracket height. To pop back to climb mode shift your bodyweight forward with the button pressed and it’ll extend open again.”

In classic direct to consumer style, the Strive represents amazing value for money, so if Enduro racing on a budget is your priority, you’ll be very pleased with the bang for your buck the Strive presents.

Sram's X01 drivetrain handles the shifting duties.
Sram’s X01 drivetrain handles the shifting duties.

“Canyon went shopping in the enduro section to deck out this one in the best bits. The RockShox Pike RCT3 is ideal, and the SRAM Rail 50 wheels are a worthy. A Maxxis High Roller front and Minion rear combo offers remarkable traction anywhere and are a Flow favourite, we especially like the way they bite in deep with the brakes on.”

The Pike fork and High Roller tyre combo gives huge amounts of confidence up front.
The Pike fork and High Roller tyre combo gives huge amounts of confidence up front.

Much like other bikes discussed in this article, such as the Whyte G-160 and the Pivot Firebird, the Canyon Strive requires an aggressive style and intent to get the most out of it, and ideally some pretty technical terrain.

Just ride like Fabien, you'll be fine!
Just ride like Fabien, you’ll be fine!

“The length of the frame promotes you to really push harder and faster, and the stability from such a long top tube gives us major courage to let the brakes off and really punch it harder. Through the turns you mustn’t forget you’re riding a true enduro race bike, it requires real body language to tip it down and whip it about but after a few runs of our local downhill track we changed tactic and came into the corners drifting sideways instead, foot out and totally pinned.”

You can use some serious body language aboard the Strive, it'll be fine.
You can use some serious body language aboard the Strive, it’ll be fine.

“The trade-off for the length is when the descents got slower and tighter, maybe that’s why Barel does such magnificent nose wheelies around tight switchbacks, because this thing can feel like a mini bus at times. But that is how you pay for the mega stability, fair is fair.”

All in all, the Strive is another bike to add to the list if you’re after a super capable Enduro race bike. And if your rides involve a lot of climbing, the Shapeshifter is a real game changer too.

You won't be able to keep the wheels on the ground either when you're whizzing through the trail on the Strive.
You won’t be able to keep the wheels on the ground either when you’re whizzing through the trail on the Strive.

“And who can look past the price, it’s a seriously good bike for the dollars, a testament to the modern sales method from this huge German bicycle company. Out of the box it is ready to shred, it’s a true modern enduro race bike.”

With it's well thought out spec and geometry, and the innovative Shapeshifter unit, the Strive won't let you down when the trail gets aggro.
With it’s well thought out spec and geometry, and the innovative Shapeshifter unit, the Strive won’t let you down when the trail gets aggro.

Pivot Firebird Carbon Pro XT/XTR:

After spending time aboard bikes like the G-160, and the Canyon Strive last year, we didn’t think we’d get on a bike that was any more downhill oriented in its intent or performance than either of those descending brutes! We shouldn’t have assumed- the reinvigorated Pivot Firebird certainly made an ass out of us!

The gorgeous Pivot Firebird.
The gorgeous Pivot Firebird.

“Put simply the Firebird adheres to the long, low and slack formula that tends to be the standard for bikes with more than 150mm of travel in 2016. Pivot have combined a modern geometry with 170mm of travel front and rear, and even on our first ride, the plushness of 170mm of DW link suspension blew our minds.”

The Firebird is packing ample travel front and rear.
The Firebird is packing ample travel front and rear.

We spent a fair amount of time on the Firebird at Thredbo’s unforgiving, technical trails and in much the same vein as other Enduro-specific bikes out there, we found our own limits on the descents much quicker than the limits of the Firebird.

Most of our time on the Firebird was spent on the edge.
Most of our time on the Firebird was spent on the edge.

“In terms of ploughing through rock gardens, committing to loose, high speed sections and taking the gnarly lines, the Pivot never felt out of its depth- it was always the rider pulling the pin before the bike lost control.”

The Firebird loves eating up rocks.
The Firebird loves eating up rocks.

“On high speed sections, as well as wide open turns, of which Thredbo has about a million, the Pivot felt exceptionally stable thanks to its long wheelbase and low bottom bracket. Combined with a rear end that grips the trail like Velcro, we never felt like we were skipping around through braking bumps, or being taken off line in rough sections. If you point the Firebird in the general direction you want to go, it’ll get you there.”

The Firebird's rear end keeps you glued to the trail.
The Firebird’s rear end keeps you glued to the trail.

With 170mm of travel, and the long, low and slack geometry, the Firebird isn’t similar to a bike like the GT Sensor where you can quickly change lines to stay smooth and pump the trail. Strap in and hold on, if you’re game!

Make sure you put your big boy pants on before dropping in on the Firebird!
Make sure you put your big boy pants on before dropping in on the Firebird!

“In the air the Firebird is very stable. Come up short or land awkwardly, it will save your bacon – we rolled out of some situations where other bikes might’ve bucked us off. In terms of using little hops or transfer lines in the singletrack however, the Firebird felt sluggish- this is a bike that much prefers to plough through disrespectfully than tiptoe its way along the trail.”

Picking the Firebird up requires a fair amount of effort at slow speeds.
Picking the Firebird up requires a fair amount of effort at slow speeds.

By now, you’re probably sick of reading that bikes with long wheelbases don’t corner amazingly when it’s tight and slow- but we should reiterate it, because we know that our home trails at Flow have lots of awkward, slow speed sections that required some real effort aboard the Firebird, so you really need the terrain to back up the Firebird’s capabilities.

“An area where we noticed the Pivot’s slackness and length was in tight turns. Getting the Pivot to corner tightly required either some serious body language to muscle the bike, or forethought about using an endo or cutty to whip the bike around.” 

Getting your fit out on tight corners aboard the Firebird is necessary at times.
Getting your foot out on tight corners aboard the Firebird is necessary at times.

Getting back to the top wasn’t as arduous as you would expect aboard a 170mm bike, and the Firebird retains the classic pedalling efficiency Pivot have been renowned for over the years, which was pleasing.

“The Pivot climbs remarkably well considering it’s a 170mm bike. The low speed compression lever on the shock was excellent for firming the bike up not only on longer, smoother climbs, but almost all the time when the trail points up. As the Firebird is such a long travel machine, the shock does bob a fair bit when it’s left open on the climbs, so utilising the compression lever (which doesn’t lock the shock out completely, and still allows the suspension to maintain traction up technical climbs) gives a much more efficient pedalling platform for climbing.”

The Firebird excelled on technical climbs, but preferred to cruise up less challenging uphills.
The Firebird excelled on technical climbs, but preferred to cruise up less challenging uphills.

Much like the G-160 and Canyon Strive, the Pivot Firebird’s component selections have as much to do with its meaty performance as its design. Continuity within all the models in the range, consisting of solid suspension and wide, aggressive tyres means you’ll be able to get the most out of the bike straight out of the box, regardless of what model you buy.

Fox's delicious Float 36 up front.
Fox’s delicious Float 36 up front.

“We discussed in the First Bite our approval for Pivot deciding to provide continuity within the Firebird models by speccing Fox suspension and Maxxis Minion tyres front and rear throughout the range, and this approval was warranted, as these critical components provide so much of the confidence the Firebird oozes out on the trails.”

The 2.5" Maxxis Minion tyre up front provides grip for days.
The 2.5″ Maxxis Minion tyre up front provides grip for days.

The Firebird is another example of a bike with one mandate, to descend the stuff you’d normally have white knuckles and a tight sphincter through with careless disregard and a smile on your face. Whilst we love this sort of riding, and for racing the gnar we couldn’t think of many better bikes, you need to have some speed and technical terrain on your everyday rides to make the Firebird, and similar bikes worthwhile.

It's flat out all the time on the Firebird.
It’s flat out all the time on the Firebird.

“If you place a high priority on descending fast, you’re an aspiring Enduro racer, or you want to boost your confidence on technical descents, the Pivot Firebird is a very worthy consideration. This bike has a clear mandate – to descend as fast as possible whilst still being able to ride to the top. It knows what it wants to do, and does it incredibly well.”

You'll have no excuse to not descend fast aboard the Firebird.
You’ll have no excuse to not descend fast aboard the Firebird.

So, which of these bikes is the right one for me?

Luckily, we think that if you randomly picked any of these bikes, you wouldn’t be disappointed. That being said, despite belonging to a similar category, many of these bikes are real ‘horses for courses’ options. We see this as a real positive, as it allows the consumer to pick a bike that truly suits their goals and riding ambitions. With that in mind, we’re going to finish this piece by giving examples of what bikes would suit what situations, with questions we hear pretty often from people trying to decide on their next bike purchase.

I’m looking for a bike that I can improve my technical descending skills on, but still head out for faster paced trail rides on with my mates on the weekend?

If this sounds like the sort of bike you’re after, bikes like the Giant Trance Advanced One, Focus SAM C Team and the Polygon Colossus N9 are worth a look.

The Focus SAM is fit for a broader scope of use than its 160mm of travel would suggest.
The Focus SAM is fit for a broader scope of use than its 160mm of travel would suggest.

I’m confident in my handling abilities in technical terrain, and am looking for a playful and lively long travel bike that I can jump around the trail on rather than feel like a passenger on?

For a long travel fun machine, rather than single-minded descending plougher, we think the Polygon Colossus N9, GT Sensor Carbon Team 2 and Merida One Sixty 5000 are pretty good options.

The Polygon Colossus combines the forgiveness of long travel with a playful and lively geometry.
The Polygon Colossus combines the forgiveness of long travel with a playful and lively geometry.

I’m pretty fit, and I don’t want something that’s designed for EWS racing but I do want to feel more confident in technical terrain, both up and down?

If you’re after confidence on the descents and ascents, bikes like the Scott Genius 710 Plus, Merida One Sixty 5000 and the Canyon Strive are worthy options that are still fun to ride on tamer trails.

If you're after more confidence when the trail gets technical, the Scott Genius Plus will have your back. If you're currently shaking your head, go and try one!
If you’re after more confidence when the trail gets technical, the Scott Genius Plus will have your back. If you’re currently shaking your head, go and try one!

I couldn’t care less about anything less than the rowdiest, most downhill-esque trails and riding them at KOM pace in preparation for raceday?

For ultimate downhill performance in a package that can still pedal back up the hill reasonably efficiently, we’d be looking at the Canyon Strive, Whyte G-160 and Pivot Firebird. The last two bikes especially really do require some serious pushing, or rigorous terrain to shine, but if you’ve got the conditions, they’re hard to go past!

We're wondering when we'll see the Firebird shine on the EWS stage...
We’re wondering when we’ll see the Firebird shine on the EWS stage…

We had an absolute blast riding long travel bikes in 2016, which has given us the bug to get amongst some more racing this year on these capable and grin inducing machines. If you’re in the market for a new rig, or just interested in what’s out there, we hope you’ve found this wrap up useful- keep an eye out for more comparative content in 2017!

Flow’s First Bite: Yeti SB5.5 Turq

The Yeti SB5.5.
The Yeti SB5.5 looking majestic high in the Victorian Alps.

Even though the Yeti SB5.5 is a brand-new model from the Colorado based company, it’s refreshing to see that despite its long travel, Yeti haven’t tried to compete in the ‘longest, lowest and slackest’ game some manufacturers seem to be playing.

The SB5.5 isn't pushing the envelope with its geometry, which is refreshing to see.
The SB5.5 isn’t pushing the envelope with its geometry, which is refreshing to see.
untitled-08717
Off the brakes on the new Tombstone trail in Bright, VIC.

What is the Yeti SB5.5 Turq?

The Yeti SB5.5 Turq is Yeti’s first long travel 29” model, combining 140mm of rear wheel travel with 160mm of squish up front.

You know you're in for a good time when you see a Fox Float 36 up front!
You know you’re in for a good time when you see a Fox Float 36 up front!

Much like Santa Cruz’s C and CC carbon models, Yeti have now adopted a two-tier system for frames across their range, with the ‘Carbon’ title representing their budget offering, and the ‘Turq’ series offering a lighter overall frame weight by using higher quality carbon throughout.

Yeti's 'Turq' range represents their top of the line offerings.
Yeti’s ‘Turq’ range represents their top of the line offerings.

Despite the claimed 250-350 gram saving on the Turq model framesets compared to the Carbon framesets depending on model and size, there’s no difference in strength or stiffness between the two.

Regardless of whether you get a Turq or a Carbon Yeti frame, you'll still be able to get as reckless as this guy!
Regardless of whether you get a ‘Turq’ or a ‘Carbon’ Yeti frame, you’ll still be able to get as reckless as this guy!

How much more do I pay for a Turq model?

In Australia, there are a variety of options when purchasing a Yeti SB5.5. The Turq model comes as a frameset, retailing for a mighty $5350, but also comes in four build options (two Sram and two Shimano) ranging from $9890 for a 1×11 XT drivetrain build through to $10850 for the Eagle X01 model with the Fox suspension we’re testing.

Our test bike is equipped with the Sram XX1 build kit, and Fox Factory suspension.
Our test bike is equipped with the Sram X01 build kit, and Fox Factory suspension.

The Carbon model comes in a full build only, retailing at $7390. Major differences include the Fox Performance line suspension in place of the Factory level suspension specced on the Turq models, and the XT/SLX drivetrain. Whilst these componentry changes are downgrades, the spec is ready to roll straight onto the trail, not to mention the fact that despite the slightly heavier frame than the Turq series, the Carbon frame is exactly the same. For those reasons, we’re very happy to see a lower price point option!

The SB5.5 Carbon offers excellent value for money considering it's a Yeti.
The SB5.5 Carbon offers a more affordable price point.

Enough about the Turq and Carbon series, how can we expect the SB5.5 to ride?

Simply having a roll around on the SB5.5 reaffirmed that Yeti haven’t redesigned the geometry textbook with the SB5.5. With numbers like a 66.5-degree head angle, 73.6-degree seat tube angle and an 1168mm wheelbase in a size medium, we don’t feel like we’re regurgitating the ‘jack of all trades’ tagline by saying that the SB5.5 is designed to do a bit of everything.

Equipped with the 160mm Float 36 fork up front, the SB5.5 will handle the burly descents, but the 140mm of Switch Infinity rear suspension pedals insanely well, so combined with the slightly more upright position than other long travel 29” bikes on the market, the SB5.5 should be more suited to all-day pedalling missions in varied terrain, rather than out and out descending.

140mm of rear travel is delivered via Yeti's unique 'Switch Infinity' suspension setup.
140mm of rear travel is delivered via Yeti’s unique ‘Switch Infinity’ suspension setup.

What are you getting for $10850 for the model we’re testing?

As we mentioned before, the SB5.5 we’re testing is X01 Eagle build kit option with Fox suspension, which retails for $10850. This bike is out of the price range of most consumers; however, Yeti has always been, and will always be a boutique brand.

One of the most desirable head badges to be rocking at the trailhead.
One of the most desirable head badges to be rocking at the trailhead.

Obviously, the main attraction of this bike is the stunning frameset. Smooth, curvy lines encase the Switch Infinity suspension design, which uses a custom system provided by Fox to provide some of the best pedalling performance on the market.

The Switch Infinity system is a proven performer.
The Switch Infinity system is a proven performer.

We’ll go into the Switch Infinity design and its effectiveness on the SB5.5 more in the full review, however, to summarise the system uses two rails located directly above the bottom bracket to manipulate the bike’s axle path as it moves through its travel.

These two rails are the crux of the Switch Infinity system.
These two rails are the crux of the Switch Infinity system.

As the bike goes through its initial phase of travel, the carrier moves upwards on the two rails, creating a rearward axle path for improved pedalling performance. As the bike compresses further into its travel however, the rails move downwards (hence the ‘Switch’ part of the title), creating a vertical axle path and reducing chain tension for more supple suspension performance on bigger hits. The rails only move slightly in either direction, but in practice the system works excellently to provide both excellent pedalling performance and a supple stroke as the suspension moves deeper into its travel.


What about the build kit?

The build kit on the model we’re testing is excellent, as you would expect for the money. A Factory series Fox Float fork, with the three position Fit4 damper has low speed compression adjustment in the open position, but also a lockout, which adds to the bike’s ‘do it all’ intentions.

The Float 36 is the 3 position mode, with a full lockout mode.
The Float 36 is the 3 position model, with a full lockout mode.

The Fox Float X in the rear also has three positions and can also be locked out- if the start of your rides typically involve a road pedal, being able to lock out your suspension guarantees you a few extra minutes on the trail!

An awesome build from the guys at Summit Cycles helped us get out on the trails sooner too!
An awesome build from the guys at Summit Cycles helped us get out on the trails sooner too!

The drivetrain is a full Eagle X01 arrangement, need we say more?

Eagle X01 just plain works, enough said.
Eagle X01 just plain works, enough said.

Brakes are also provided by Sram in the form of their Guide RSC brakes, and the dropper post is a RockShox Reverb.

The cable routing from the front of the bike is neat and well thought out.
The cable routing from the front of the bike is neat and well thought out.

In the wheels department, some will be disappointed not to see carbon at this price point, but DT Swiss’ 350 hubs are proven performers, and they’ve been laced to RaceFace ARC 30 rims, with a 30mm internal rim width that gives the Maxxis WT tyres an excellent shape.

Despite costing the big bucks, the SB5.5 is perfectly specced to cope with a huge variety of riding, from general trail duties to rowdier adventures you won’t be admitting to the partner about when you get home.

Dry and loose in Beechworth, VIC.
Dry and loose in Beechworth, VIC.

So, where will we be riding the SB5.5?

Bloody everywhere! We’re very excited to be testing the SB5.5 alongside the YT Jeffsy, another 140mm 29er, and we’ll be riding all sorts of terrain to see how the SB5.5 stacks up.

First up is a huge road trip through the Victorian High Country, we’ve chosen the Yeti to join us in Falls Creek, Bright, Mt Beauty, Yackandandah, Dinner Plain, Beechworth and Mt Buller. Stay tuned!

Tested: Pivot Firebird Carbon Pro XT/XTR

The Firebird soaking up another magnificent Thredbo sunset.
The Firebird soaking up another magnificent Thredbo sunset.

But one style of riding which isn’t going anywhere is the good ol’ ‘plod to the top, shred till you drop’ – it’s what we’ve all been doing for years, the difference now is we’ve got bikes and race formats specifically targeting this style of rider and riding.

The Pivot Firebird represents the evolution of the ultra capable, long travel trail bike.
The Pivot Firebird represents the evolution of the ultra capable, long travel trail bike.

You’re probably wondering where the hell we’re going with this? Well, the big, brash and bold reincarnation of the Pivot Firebird optimises the current ambitions of many trail riders out there- plodding along to the top having a yarn, and riding the descents hard and fast. Unlike Pokémon Go however, we don’t think bikes like the Firebird will fade into obscurity.


Heading to Thredbo? We’d suggest you give the Makin Trax Basecamp a try. They hosted us for our week in Thredbo, and it was the perfect setup for our crew of six riders. With five bedrooms, to sleep up to 12 riders, a huge kitchen, an open fire and plenty of space to store your bikes, it’s just bloody ideal. They’re doing some great accommodation and lift pass packages too. Take a look!  

Makin Trax Images-2053


Do endless lift assisted runs down all sorts of trails float your boat? You'll get along just fine with the Firebird.
Do endless lift assisted runs down all sorts of trails float your boat? You’ll get along just fine with the Firebird.

What’s the Pivot Firebird all about?

We covered off a few of the basics about the reinvigorated Firebird’s geometry and construction in our First Bite, but put simply the Firebird adheres to the long, low and slack formula that tends to be the standard for bikes with more than 150mm of travel in 2016. Pivot have combined a modern geometry with 170mm of travel front and rear, and even on our first ride, the plushness of 170mm of DW link suspension blew our minds. It’s got that same bottomless feel you’d normally associate with a full blown downhill bike.

170mm of DW link suspension delivers an insanely confident ride.
170mm of DW link suspension delivers an insanely confident ride.

Where does the Firebird shine?

It’s not going to surprise anyone that this bike is an absolute beast downhill. Most of this bike’s testing took place in Thredbo, and the Firebird was not afraid of the rocky, technical Cannonball DH track. We mused in the First Bite that the capabilities of the bike’s tester would be reached before the bike itself, and that was very much the case.

Tipping the Firebird into another perfect Thredbo berm.
Tipping the Firebird into another perfect Thredbo berm.

In terms of ploughing through rock gardens, committing to loose, high speed sections and taking the gnarly lines, the Pivot never felt out of its depth- it was always the rider pulling the pin before the bike lost control.

Dropping in!
Dropping in!

On high speed sections, as well as wide open turns, of which Thredbo has about a million, the Pivot felt exceptionally stable thanks to its long wheelbase and low bottom bracket. Combined with a rear end that grips the trail like Velcro, we never felt like we were skipping around through braking bumps, or being taken off line in rough sections. If you point the Firebird in the general direction you want to go, it’ll get you there.

We always felt safe piloting the Firebird into rough lines.
We always felt safe piloting the Firebird into rough lines.

This is a bike that much prefers to plough through disrespectfully than tiptoe its way along the trail.

What about jumping, and flicking the bike around on the trail?

In the air the Firebird is very stable. Come up short or land awkwardly, it will save your bacon – we definitely rolled out of some situations where other bikes might’ve bucked us off. In terms of using little hops or transfer lines in the singletrack however, the Firebird felt sluggish- this is a bike that much prefers to plough through disrespectfully than tiptoe its way along the trail.

The Firebird is alot of bike to nose into a transition, but it's very forgiving should you get it wrong.
The Firebird is alot of bike to nose into a transition, but it’s very forgiving should you get it wrong.

The Firebird has a similar sluggishness when pulling the bike up into a manual. We don’t see these observations as criticisms however, a bike this long and with this much travel is never going to be a bike you can throw around like a shorter travel trail weapon.

A fair bit of body language is required to pull the Firebird into a manual.
A fair bit of body language is required to pull the Firebird into a manual.

If it’s fast and open the Firebird excels, but what about when the trail gets tight?

Another area where we noticed the Pivot’s slackness and length was in tight turns. Getting the Pivot to corner tightly required either some serious body language to muscle the bike, or forethought about using an endo or cutty to whip the bike around.

Whilst the Firebird carves up the open turns, it requires more rider input to whip around tighter corners.
Whilst the Firebird carves up the open turns, it requires more rider input to whip around tighter corners.
Thredbo was the perfect testing ground for the Firebird.
Thredbo was the perfect testing ground for the Firebird.

Whilst the Pivot didn’t love slow speed, tight turns, the bike had a remarkable ability to pull us through some terrible line choices in the corners. The long front centre, ample amounts of suspension and excellent rubber allowed us to move around the bike with the knowledge that there would be traction available almost all the time, and we could exaggerate our weight distribution to wrestle the bike through corners where we’d entered on some pretty poor lines.

You can really tip the Firebird into corners, knowing the traction will be there.
You can really tip the Firebird into corners, knowing the traction will be there.

What about climbing, or less technical singletrack?

The Pivot climbs remarkably well considering it’s a 170mm bike. The low speed compression lever on the shock was excellent for firming the bike up not only on longer, smoother climbs, but almost all the time when the trail points up. As the Firebird is such a long travel machine, the shock does bob a fair bit when it’s left open on the climbs, so utilising the compression lever (which doesn’t lock the shock out completely, and still allows the suspension to maintain traction up technical climbs) gives a much more efficient pedalling platform for climbing.

The Firebird really impressed us on choppy, technical climbs.
The Firebird really impressed us on choppy, technical climbs.

Climbing tight switchbacks and technical terrain will see you shuffling right forward in the saddle –  you need to focus on putting weight over the front to stop the front wheel from wandering like a lost child. This is always going to be the price for a long, front centre and a stubby cockpit- you can’t have it all!

The Firebird definitely prefers this to plodding up climbs.
The Firebird definitely prefers this to plodding up climbs.

On less technical singletrack and undulating terrain the Pivot did an admirable job of hiding its 170mm of travel, but it would not be our preferred bike of choice for long days of meandering singletrack. The bike’s descending focused geometry and spec make razzing through flatter singletrack, pumping undulations for speed and putting sharp bursts of effort in on the trail noticeably more difficult than on a 140mm trail bike.

Flatter singletrack required the sort of effort you would expect aboard a 170mm bike.
Flatter singletrack required the sort of effort you would expect aboard a 170mm bike.

How did the spec perform?

We discussed in the First Bite our approval for Pivot deciding to provide continuity within the Firebird models by speccing Fox suspension and Maxxis Minion tyres front and rear throughout the range, and this approval was warranted, as these critical components provide so much of the confidence the Firebird oozes out on the trails.

The tuneability and dominant performance of the Factory level Fox suspension allowed us to dial in the ride qualities of the Firebird, and the beefy tyres mounted to wide rims gave us confidence in laying the bike over in all sorts of conditions. An aggressive intent is pivotal to getting the most out of the Pivot, as with so much bike underneath you you can really throw it around quite recklessly.

The 1×11 Shimano drivetrain, a mixture of XT with an XTR rear derailleur worked excellently, however we were confused at the lack of chainguide as standard considering the intentions of this bike, and the meticulous attention to detail in other areas of the spec.

The new DT Swiss M1700 wheels, with a 30mm internal rim width were strong and reliable, and other excellent touches included the Fox Transfer dropper post, and the stylish and ergonomic Pivot cockpit.

The carbon Pivot handlebar has a lovely shape.
The carbon Pivot handlebar has a lovely shape.

What other builds does the Firebird come in?

The Firebird comes in four build kit options, starting at $8189.9 for an XT level build, and heading all the way up to $12789.9 for the Gucci XTR build kit.

Our Firebird comes in at a shade over nine and a half thousand.
The Firebird we tested comes in at a shade over nine and a half thousand.

Any gripes?

As mentioned above, the lack of chainguide confused us. If you’re riding this bike to its capabilities, the last thing you want to be worrying about is your chain.

When you're riding fast and aggressively aboard a bike like the Firebird, a chain guide is something you'll want to invest in.
When you’re riding fast and aggressively aboard a bike like the Firebird, a chain guide is something you’ll want to invest in.

The only other complaints we had was the lack of bottle cage mount inside the front triangle, despite there appearing to be space. There are bottle mounts under the down tube, which is great if you like dirt with your water. The low hanging loop of gear cable exiting to downtube and running under the bottom bracket is a little dicey too. On a bike like the Firebird, which is probably going to be exposed to some ragged, potentially off the trail moments, we feel the cable could’ve been routed above the bottom bracket to avoid snagging on trail debris.

We appreciate the burly downtime protection, but the derailleur cable is a bit too exposed for our liking.
We appreciate the burly down tube protection, but the derailleur cable is a bit too exposed for our liking.

So, who exactly is this bike for?

If you place a high priority on descending fast, you’re an aspiring Enduro racer, or you want to boost your confidence on technical descents, the Pivot Firebird is a very worthy consideration. This bike has a clear mandate – to descend as fast as possible whilst still being able to ride to the top. It knows what it wants to do, and does it incredibly well.

There aren't many bikes we'd pick over the Firebird if descending was our number one priority.
There aren’t many bikes we’d pick over the Firebird if descending was our number one priority.

Flow’s First Bite: Pivot Firebird Carbon Pro XT/XTR

Road trip to Thredbo with the new Pivot Firebird? Yes please!
Road trip to Thredbo with the new Pivot Firebird? Yes please!

Firebird is another term for a Phoenix (or so Wikipedia tells us), which is why it’s not surprising that this rig has a lot in common with Pivot’s downhill bike, the Phoenix. Those similarities are going to be put to the test in Thredbo, where we’ll be spending a week smashing out laps of the awesome trails Thredders has to offer.


Heading to Thredbo? We’d suggest you give the Makin Trax Basecamp a try. They hosted us for our week in Thredbo, and it was the perfect setup for our crew of six riders. With five bedrooms, to sleep up to 12 riders, a huge kitchen, an open fire and plenty of space to store your bikes, it’s just bloody ideal. They’re doing some great accommodation and lift pass packages too. Take a look!  


That’s a big looking bike- what are the numbers?

For a few years now, 160mm has been the accepted travel amount for bikes in the ‘enduro’ category. For 2017, many brands have bumped the fork travel up to 170mm matched with 160mm rear ends. Pivot decided that they could go one better, and the beefy Firebird sports 170mm of travel both front and rear.

The Firebird packs 170mm of travel front and rear.
170mm travel front and rear, all damped by FOX.

On paper, it looks like the capabilities of our tester will be reached before the capabilities of the bike, with a very slack 65-degree head angle. While some folk have criticised Pivot’s earlier long-travel bikes for having reach measurements that were on the short side, the new Firebird is very roomy up front, the wheelbase being a massive 1228mm in a size large.

The Firebird will be spending plenty of time hanging on the chairlift during the test.
The Firebird will be spending plenty of time hanging on the chairlift during the test.

Pivot bikes are usually pretty, what’s the Firebird like in the flesh?

Gorgeous. We’re currently also testing a Mach 429 Trail (we know, we’re spoiled) and we described is as the sort of bicycle that begs for an owner who wants a classic trail bike that leaves the ‘aggressive, hard-charging, progressive,’ tags at home.

The Firebird is like the brash cousin of the Mach 429 Trail, it wants to push the envelope from the get go.
The Firebird is like the brash cousin of the Mach 429 Trail, it wants to push the envelope from the get go.

Despite both being Pivots, the Firebird’s construction couldn’t be further from the 429. The chunky tubing screams stiffness and strength, and the frame protection throughout further stresses the Pivot’s trail ploughing intentions.

Heavy-duty downtime protection will come in handy!
Heavy-duty down tube protection will come in handy!

That’s not to say the Firebird doesn’t have a subtle side as well – the bike still possesses the smooth, flowing frame design that Pivot is renowned for, and well thought out cable routing ensures a clean look.

The rear derailleur cable exits the chainstay neatly, which also features a sturdy protection layer.
The rear derailleur cable exits the chainstay neatly, which also features a sturdy chain slap protection to keep it all quiet.

How have Pivot specced the Firebird?

Our Firebird is the Pro XT/XTR 1x build. Highlights include Fox Factory suspension front and rear, with compression adjustment switches on both the fork and the shock to lock out that 170mm of squish when you need to, a Shimano XTR rear derailleur, and a Pivot cockpit with their nicely shaped carbon handlebar.

The Fox Float X2 in the rear is the perfect match for this bike.
The Fox Float X2 in the rear is the perfect match for this bike.

We really appreciate that, regardless of which of the four build kit options you choose, the bike retains a Fox Float 36 fork and the X2 rear shock, as well as a Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5” front tyre and a Minion DHR 2.4” on the rear mounted to wide rims. Not only does this ensure that throughout the range the bikes will ride relatively similarly, but it’s clear that whoever specced this bike rode one first, as these capable components are essential to bringing the best out of the Firebird.

Maxxis Minion tyres are an excellent spec choice for the Firebird.
Maxxis Minion tyres are an excellent spec choice for the Firebird.

170mm is a lot of travel, where would you ride this thing?

170mm is a lot of travel, but Pivots are renowned for pedalling efficiency through the DW linkage design, lightweight frames and spec decisions. Obviously, the Firebird is aimed at the rider who prioritises the descents, but that rider is still likely to have the occasional singletrack blast, so we’ll be seeing how the Firebird fares at all types of riding for our full review.

Many chairlift assisted descents await the Firebird here in Thredbo.
Time for some runs!

With the downhill track, flow trail, all-mountain trail and valley loop handy, we’ll certainly have a variety of riding to assess just what the Firebird is capable of. Keep your eyes peeled for a full review shortly!

Flow’s First Bite: Specialized S-Works Enduro 29/6Fattie

The new Enduro is so hot it's melting the ice here in Thredbo.
The new Enduro is so hot it’s melting the snow here in Thredbo.

This bike comes with a legendary reputation, way back in mid-2013  it emerged as one of the first 29ers to challenge perceptions of what a big wheeler was capable of. It’s received a major overhaul for 2017, and as we discussed in our initial impressions piece back in August, we like the changes Specialized have implemented.

We're excited to give the Enduro a thrashing on the variety of awesome trails Thredbo has to offer.
We’re excited to give the Enduro a thrashing on the variety of awesome trails Thredbo has to offer.

So, what sort of changes are we talking about?

The new Enduro begs to be pushed hard, and Thredbo is the perfect place for that.
The new Enduro begs to be pushed hard, and Thredbo is the perfect place for that.

Heading to Thredbo? We’d suggest you give the Makin Trax Basecamp a try. They hosted us for our week in Thredbo, and it was the perfect setup for our crew of six riders. With five bedrooms, to sleep up to 12 riders, a huge kitchen, an open fire and plenty of space to store your bikes, it’s just bloody ideal. They’re doing some great accommodation and lift pass packages too. Take a look!  

Makin Trax Images-2372


Firstly, a glance at the geometry chart for the Enduro tells you that Specialized has given this bike the ‘long, low and slack’ treatment. In our large 29” Enduro, a roomy 604mm top tube is paired with a 66-degree head angle and 432mm chainstays. For a bike that can also accept 27.5×3.00 tyres, that’s a pretty short rear end!

The new Enduro utilises a longer top tube than its predecessor.
The new Enduro utilises a longer top tube than its predecessor.

Speaking of 27.5×3.00 tyres, for our test we’re going to be alternating between the stock 29” wheels and tyres and a set of 650B+ wheels, to see exactly how the bike changes with wheel and tyre size.

Getting the big wheels of the ground on a fresh section of the All-Mountain trail that is going to blow minds.
Getting the big wheels of the ground on a fresh section of the All-Mountain trail that is going to blow minds.

How much travel is the Enduro 29/6Fattie equipped with?

The Enduro 29/6Fattie comes equipped with a 160mm fork and 165mm of rear-end travel, which is a smidgen less than you’ll find on the 650B version of this bike, which is 170mm front and rear. Even still, 165mm on a 29er is a hefty amount of travel. Will it prove too much?

165mm of rear travel handled by the Swedish maestros of suspension, Öhlins.
165mm of rear travel handled by the Swedish maestros of suspension, Öhlins.

Is that Öhlins suspension front and rear?

It sure is! We’ve reviewed the RXF 34 fork in the past, and we rated it highly, so we’re excited to get some riding in on the RXF 36, which as the name suggests comes with 36mm stanchions, as opposed to 34mm. In this longer travel format, we think we’ll be able to get a better idea of the performance on offer, which was a little tricky to appreciate in the shorter travel version we previously tested.

We're excited to see how the RXF 36 stacks up.
We’re excited to see how the RXF 36 stacks up against the Pike and FOX 36.

What about the frame itself?

Another big tick from us is the inclusion of the SWAT box in the Enduro’s downtube. We love sneaking in rides without a backpack whenever possible, so keeping the SWAT compartment packed with essential spares and room for a snack means that you can pop a bottle on the bike and you’re ready to head out for at least a couple of hours. With the riding this bike is aimed at, you’re going to appreciate not having weight on your back and being able to move around the bike freely!

We're big fans of the SWAT box on the new Enduro.
We’re big fans of the SWAT box on the new Enduro.

Another change to the frame design is the cable routeing. All the internal routeing is guided by sleeves within the frame, which means fewer hassles when working on the bike. Adding to this, Specialized have moved the rear brake and derailleur cables from exiting underneath the bike to running through the chainstays, which eliminates the chance of them snagging and bashing into debris out on the trail.

Neat cable routing through the chainstays ensures that cables are out of the way from trail debris.
Neat cable routeing through the chainstays ensures that cables are out of the way from trail debris.

There seems to be a lot of 170mm ‘enduro specific’ bikes cropping up, do I need one of these bikes if I’m not racing? 

Whilst the emerging trend of 170mm ‘enduro’ bikes is perhaps overkill for a lot of riders, the bike still only weighs a hair over 13 kilograms, so if descending is your priority, then maybe this is the right bike for you, regardless of if you plan to race or not.

We're looking forward to seeing if the Enduro lives up to its 'do it all' reputation.
We’re looking forward to seeing if the Enduro lives up to its ‘do it all’ reputation.

Anyhow, we’re off to do a few laps of the hill here at Thredbo – stay tuned for our detailed review shortly!

This Is Paradise: Riding Finale Ligure

You know where this is going, don’t you? Call off the search party, close the Wikipedia entry, stop selling tickets to the debate, because this is it. We’ve found paradise. And it’s called Finale Ligure.

finale-ligure-4884

finale-damian-4347
Words cannot convey the awesomeness. Finale has a huge variety of trails, but they’re all good.
finale-ligure-7550
This photo is taken from the side of an incredible downhill track, which finishes by the beach. Perfection.

finale-damian-4702


The Shimano Australia crew had rustled together a fine mob for what would prove to be the most memorable mountain biking trip we’ve ever been on. Meet them below:

Left: Damian Breach – Lensman extraordinaire and very (very) proud Canberran. Right: Toby Shingleton – Shimano Australia marketing manager, with a training regime that starts tomorrow/after one more gelato/after one more beer.

Left: Will Levy – Two Wheel Tours head honcho and all-round mother hen. Right: Neil Kerr – Editor of Spoke Magazine and our crew’s dirt abrasion tester.

Left: James Klousia – Token Tasmanian, bends a mean sheet of ply. Bottom left: Chris Panozzo – Australian National Enduro Champion, makes berms quiver in fear. Bottom right: Jon Odams – Pearl Izumi athlete/man model/insurance expert.

finale-ligure-4883
Long-travel bikes are the ticket for Finale Ligure – you’ll do most of your climbing either in a van, or on the tarmac. It’s all about the downhills here.

This flawless little Italian Riveria town is obviously no secret, it’s been the final stop on the Enduro World Series for the past three years, and the destination of choice for thousands of European mountain bikers. But, like the first time you make love, nothing we’d read or seen quite prepared us for the overwhelming reality. We didn’t wipe the grin off our face for a week. Even when our favourite gelateria run out of pistachio, the buzz didn’t die – we couldn’t believe the perfection we’d stumbled into.

"I'll take that one, please."
“I’ll take that one, please.” Ocean, mountains, perfection.
finale-damian-5789
Atop Monte Carmo di Loano. A few hours later, we’d be back on the beach.

Let us paint the picture. On your left, you have the Mediterranean, sapphire blue, languid and inviting, dotted with white sailing boats. On the coast you’ll find the town of Finale Ligure and its medieval sister, Finale Borgo, both charming spots full of seafood and gelato. Inland just a smidge you hit the mountains, thrusting up to a lofty 1400m above sea level. And etched into the rocky terrain of these peaks, you’ll discover more than 400km of trails, largely accessible by shuttle vehicle.

Did we highlight that there's 400km of trails to play with?
Did we highlight that there’s 400km of trails to play with?
finale-ligure-5410
Every mountain bike town has a trail called Rollercoaster, but few are this good.

finale-damian-4524

This impossible sandwich of trails, town and sea was our domain for the week, which was ostensibly all about putting the latest Shimano XT Di2 gear through its paces. But to test something properly, you need to ride it a lot. And riding a lot means you need to eat a lot. And eating a lot means you need to ride a lot. It’s a terrible, vicious circle.

The little fella that brought us here. Finale was the ultimate testing ground for the new XT Di2 groupset.
The little fella that brought us here. Finale was the ultimate testing ground for the new XT Di2 groupset. Read our full review here. 
finale-ligure-5049
HOW GOOD IS THIS?!
Riding back into town after a mammoth day. Just a cheeky castle in the background.
Riding back into town after a mammoth day.

Finale Ligure isn’t a trail centre like we’re accustomed to in Australia, where the riding is often fantastic, but the other essential components of a great holiday can be lacking. Here you’ve got a very best of both worlds – world class trails, butted into  a fully fledged holiday town, set up to handle the huge number of coconut-oiled Germans who flock to the sea each summer. There’s no 7:00pm scramble to find a counter meal after your ride (“Mate, kitchen closed at 6:30!”) – waltz down to the town square and you’re spoiled for choice, which just means you can spend more time riding into the late evening.

Cheers, to another awful day in paradise.
Cheers, to another awful day in paradise.

But what really sets Finale apart is the riding itself, and the level of challenge the trails present. “This one we call little Champerey,” explained Peter, our guide, on our first day of riding. “So, it’s steep then? Like the Champerey downhill track in Switzerland?” I asked. “Not so steep, just a little bit steep,” Peter reassured us, before launching off into a trail that was a ‘little’ steep in the way that Trump is a ‘little’ bit offensive. Brakes cooked, perceptions reset, Finale was treating us to a new level of riding.

finale-damian-3699
Panozzo ripping into another bobsled turn.
finale-ligure-6565
Like many trails in Finale, this one clearly passes through an ancient farming area. The trails flow through old water runs, past ancients walls and abandoned orchards.

There’s no graduated approach to ease you into the trails. You’re all in, or you’re out.

Half way down the insane Monte Carmo descent.
Half way down the insane Monte Carmo descent.

That’s just the way it is – there’s no graduated approach to ease you into the trails. You’re all in, or you’re out. The hand built single track has grown organically over the last 30 years; raw, often unpredictable, nearly always rocky, these trails demand 100% engagement all the time. You’re never on cruise control. Our group suffered a few early casualties, both bike and body, victims of a dangerous mix of jet-lag and over enthusiasm But soon enough we found the rhythm and respect for the conditions, and thankfully everyone made it through the week.

Neil's hip went through all the colours of the rainbow over the course of the week following a crash on day one.
Neil’s hip went through all the colours of the rainbow over the course of the week following a crash on day one.
#lightbro
#lightbro

finale-damian-5055

There’s nothing manufactured about the riding either, the trails feel a natural part of the landscape, with many of them evolved from centuries-old walking trails or watercourses. Quite often you’ll suddenly pop up out into a little village, the trail literally scooting past the front door of a church, or over someone’s doormat. If you’re game to pull your eyes away from where you’re pointed, you’ll see the ruins of farmhouses deep in the trees, or realise that you’re actually riding through an abandoned olive grove or orchard, or over the foundations of a village lost in time.

Very, very much rock.
Very, very much rock.

finale-ligure-5925

An abandoned NATO base is the kick off point for many of the region's best descents.
An abandoned NATO base is the kick off point for many of the region’s best descents.

finale-damian-2721

It’s up to you how you want to enjoy the trails of Finale Ligure, but you don’t come here for the climbs. The trails pretty much universally point downhill, so using one of the eight or so local shuttle services is a good way to start. The switchbacking roads are thick with vans towing bike trailers, heading out to the various trailheads in the hills. Some of the most popular runs actually kick off from the site of an old NATO base, about 1000 metres above the sea. It’s a surreal place to begin your ride, amongst the graffitied ruins with the huge turbines of a wind farm whirring overhead, and networks of secret tunnels below. If you want to stretch the legs, riding up to the top of the trails is manageable as the road never gets too steep – just be prepared for a long, steady climb of about an hour and a half.

finale-ligure-6639

Early morning shuttles. LIKE.
Early morning shuttles. LIKE.
finale-ligure-5711
Heading up into the clouds, from the beach.

Many, many miles off them, in all sizes, the longest rock garden on the planet.

Heading further out into the range presents another world of trails, rawer still, and even more epic. Perhaps the most memorable day of the journey was spent out here in the alpine area of Monte Carmo di Loano, the highest peak in the region. A long shuttle was followed by a tough hike-a-bike, but the pay off was truly something else. The trail down had only one predictable attribute, and that was rocks. Many, many miles off them, in all sizes, the longest rock garden on the planet. Even with 170mm of travel beneath us, it was a hysterically bouncy experience, the bike bucking about for kilometre after kilometre, line choice irrelevant, breathlessly trying to keep light and save our rims from the pounding. By the time we were deposited back on the coastline, hours later, our hands were raw and our legs throbbing from staying out of the saddle for the entire trail. It was unbelievable, one of the most memorable days riding we’ve ever had.

finale-ligure-5864
Beginning the grind up to the peak of Monte Carmo di Loano.
The summit.
The summit.
Just a few more steps!
Just a few more steps!

finale-ligure-6114

Epic.
Just look at that terrain.
Standard Finale mid-descent church drop.
Standard Finale mid-descent church drop.
A rare moment of buff trail.
A rare moment of buff trail.
finale-damian-6465
Rim pinging, flat out fun.

Our trip also coincided with the finale round of the Enduro World Series, and getting to see the level of riding at the peak of this discipline was humbling and thrilling. With Enduro still a relatively new part of the sport, few people have had the chance to actually experience an EWS race in the flesh, and it’s hard to convey just how tough it is. The demands are simply enormous. Some of the stages in the Finale Ligure round were full-blown downhill tracks, but preceded by hour long climbs, rather than a cushy chairlift ride. Over four days of practice and racing, the fitness, focus, preparation and consistency needed to be successful is mind blowing. If you had it in your mind that Enduro was a step back from the demands of downhill racing, then think again, because this game is brutal!

finale-ligure-7669
Just some of the amazing crowd lining the final stage of the 2016 EWS.
Giving Aussie Enduro Champ, Chris Panozzo, some loud (distracting) support.
Giving Aussie Enduro Champ, Chris Panozzo, some loud (distracting) support.

We left Finale feeling permanently adjusted, and not just in the waistline, after a week of pasta, gelato and cheese, but in our outlook too. The convention for developing trail centres in Australia follows the wisdom that accessibility is key – start with more moderate trails to get a critical mass of visitors, then build in the technical stuff to enrich the experience for advanced riders. In Finale, that first step has been skipped – the trails will push even the most skilled riders, but that level of difficulty hasn’t hampered the success of this place as a mountain biking destination at all. We’re certainly not advocating that this should be the approach across Australia en masse, but seeing Finale Ligure certainly gives us the belief that the appetite exists for a truly challenging trail centre experience. We wonder which Aussie destination will be the first to emulate the Finale model?

A big thanks to Shimano for hosting us in Finale and giving us a chance to put Shimano XT Di2 through its paces in fine style – it was a week that will stay with us for a long, long time, as will the two kilos of cheese we ate.


Our test sled for Finale - Canyon's Strive CF. Read more about the bike here.
Our test sled for Finale – Canyon’s Strive CF. Read more about the bike here.
finale-damian-05074
Taking a breather after an hour and a half climbing up to NATO.
finale-damian-4877
Tight tech, on ancient walking trails.
finale-ligure-5057
Odams gets in the hunt.
finale-ligure-5914
Under a glowing canopy, Breachy grinds up into the backcountry.

finale-ligure-6145 finale-ligure-6209 finale-ligure-6270 finale-ligure-6571 finale-ligure-6605
finale-ligure-7304 finale-day-1-4882
finale-damian-5426 finale-damian-05130 finale-damian-05018

finale-ligure-7221 finale-ligure-5675 finale-ligure-6545 finale-day-3-5492 finale-day-3-5446 finale-damian-4428 finale-damian-3936

 

 

 

Tested: Merida One-Sixty 5000


Merida is one of the largest bike companies in the world; their reach spans 77 countries, and due to decades of presence in Australia, they’re found on just about every trail and road down here too. So, it’s about time they cracked open the lucrative current enduro market with a genuinely competitive offering that may well be the cause of a few sweaty brows and nervous, clammy hands amongst the big brands.

merida-one-sixty-5000
Compact frame, raked out forks, short stem, and meaty rubber makes it look aggro.

Seriously, there’s not too much to fault with Merida’s new One-Sixty 5000, especially after seeing the dramatic improvement and updates from the outgoing model.

We have spent a few fun months putting it through its paces on our local – here’s what we thought.


What is it?

The One-Sixty is a new all-mountain/enduro bike with those key components that are essential to the type riding in the fast-growing segment of big-mountain/enduro. We’re talking about 160mm (you picked it!) out the back and 170mm travel up front of RockShox travel, aggressive tyres, dropper post, wide bars, and a single-ring 11-speed drivetrain.

A total re-think from the Merida brains trust has happened since they discontinued the previously clunky-looking and old fashioned One-Sixty. The result is an all-new carbon/aluminium frame built around their ‘Floating Link’ configuration, allowing for ample water bottle space and some very sexy and clean looking lines. We received many comments that shape of the new One-Sixty resembles the vertical shock mount and kinked top tubes of bikes like the Giant Trance or Trek Remedy. But in all fairness, this is reflected across the whole industry, with bike designers from many brands seeing the benefit of mounting the rear shock down low and central to the bike’s architecture. We’re fans of the new shape.


On-trend geometry, you say?

_low0345
This price point and this segment would typically reveal weaknesses in ride quality and spec, so we looked at it all very closely.

It’s all here, don’t you worry. A 65.3-degree head angle keeps things slack and modern on this near-2.5kg frameset, and a 68.5-degree seat tube angle helps provide a seated climbing position that’s not too far behind the centre of the bike. A nice and short chainstay of 430mm keeps it laterally stiff to push sideways, precise to jump and playful through the turns.

The reach doesn’t feel as long as many of the racier 160mm bikes we’ve reviewed like the Canyon Strive or Whyte G160; the silver lining on the cloud, in this case, is that for riders who don’t necessarily race the trails flat-out a slightly shorter reach prefer to ride them cleanly and confidently. The new generations of 160mm travel bikes are becoming increasingly long, requiring trails with serious gravity on their side, certainly not for everyone’s capabilities.

It's slack, but not too long. So it'll serve well as a fun all-mountain bike, not just an enduro race bike.
It’s slack, but not too long. So it’ll serve well as a fun all-mountain bike, not just an enduro race bike.

Complimenting this is the new RockShox Super Deluxe with the new Trunnion Linkage mounts, allowing for extra air capacity without extra eye-to-eye length. We also can’t go past the beautifully finished graphics in a shiny candy red colour, as well as the clean little pinch sockets for the internal routing – little details that prove this isn’t any old budget frame.

Merida has jumped on the Boost hub width train, aligning itself with many other high-end brands adopting the new wider hub size standard.


What do you get for $4.5k?

merida-one-sixty-5000-21
A lot of thought has gone into the spec of this bike, we’re impressed.

Off the showroom floor, the Carbon One-Sixty 5000 comes specced with a satisfyingly sound build kit, undeniably ready to go straight off the bat. It is exceptionally good value once all aspects are taken into account.


Suspension.

Merida has chosen some new offerings from RockShox for this year with a trunnion mount Super Deluxe rear shock and a 170mm travel Yari. The forks look massive with the Boost hub width and the front hub also uses the Torque Cap system, when in combination with the forks provide a more positive connection between fork and axle to lift front end rigidity in a straightforward and unobtrusive way._low0245

merida-one-sixty-5000-22
RockShox’s new Super Deluxe rear shock, our first experience has been a good one.
merida-one-sixty-5000-3
The 170mm travel Yari shares the same chassis and air spring as the Lyric, but comes in a cheaper price point by using a more basic damper. You’d be hard pressed to notice though, it’s an amazing fork and feels so robust.

These both have blown us away with their performance and feel, providing smooth and supple travel, taking colossal impacts in its stride.


Shimano brakes, SRAM drivetrain.

merida-one-sixty-5000-23
Trickle down tech at its finest, the SRAM NX drivetrain is 11-speed, silent and crisp.

Brakes and drivetrain are well suited to the cause, utilising SRAM’s new budget-but-almost-as-good NX 1×11 groupset and a set of Shimano 477 hydraulic brakes on massive disc rotors, both doing well to stand up to the performance of higher end gear for marginal weight gain over the parts triple the price.

While the Shimano 477 brakes do feel great and consistent under the finger, they don’t quite have the power on the long descents like the slightly more expensive Shimano SLX, perhaps an area worthy of an upgrade if your hills are big.

Seatpost, cockpit, and grips are all covered by some impressive stock in-house Merida parts delivering no-nonsense function and strength. While we had initial interest about the Merida branded Tranz-X dropper post, as it was our first experience with one, but it held up to a month of hard riding just fine. And the wheels held up to solid abuse too.

The inclusion of a genuine SRAM XD driver and cassette, as well as an NX cranks, proves quality doesn’t have to be cut with the cost in a perfect example of technology trickling down the range.

merida-one-sixty-5000-25
The tyre of choice for many enduro-nut, the Minion DHR II WT.
_low0253
Chunky rubber translates to huge control through turns, confidence under brakes and traction back up the climbs.

Tyres are usually something that gets under-specced on new bikes – but not this one. Maxxis Minion DHR II’s front and back mean full-on downhill reliability and grip straight away. The bike came to us with inner tubes; we’d suggest a tubeless conversion before going anywhere.


Anything we’d change before riding?

Nope, just ditch the tubes in favour of a tubeless setup.


What about the model up from this one?

There are only two One-Sixty models available in Australia, the 5000 at $4500 and the model above – the 7000 – for $5999.

Spend an extra $1500 on the model above and the major upgrades come in the way of a RockShox Lyrik fork which uses their fantastic Charger Damper for a more controlled suspension performance, the rear shock gets a climbing lockout too. Brakes jump up to the Shimano XTs, and drivetrain to SRAM’s XO. Wheels are from DT-Swiss and the dropper post is a RockShox Reverb too.

But from a distance the vitals of the 5000 and 7000 are pretty close; the suspension adjustability, XT brakes and lighter wheels are the key differences.


How did it handle on the trail?

The One-Sixty hits its mark beautifully, providing everything you would want from a long travel trail bike; It’s slack and stable, responsive to steer quickly and playful to jump around on.

merida-one-sixty-7933
Dropping in! The One-Sixty loves this type of riding.
merida-one-sixty-7960
Yipeeeee!

Throwing it into rough stuff wasn’t anywhere near as hard as it should have been, with the indestructible RockShox Yari and wide bars letting you drive the bike hard into G-outs and through rough sections. The rear end held its own too superbly; the linkage system felt laterally rigid, and the suspension action was very supple. The fork and shock do forgo the low-speed compression adjustment and the rear shock any lockout control, so be warned it is a little bouncy on the climbs._low0281

The bike stayed surprisingly quiet almost the whole time, which makes a huge difference in the ride quality of the Merida, a quiet riding bike just feels more polished in our opinion.


What does it have, that others don’t at this price?

The best part is that you won’t be missing out on just about anything with the amount of all the trickle-down tech on this bike. With the beefy forks leading the way, a sturdy and lively feeling composite frame, piggyback Super Deluxe shock, wide aluminium rims and robust tyres you shouldn’t have much in the way of excuses when the trails become fast and rough.

One big defining factor is how much you get for such a price. It was not too long ago that you had to spend 150% more than the One-Sixty to get all the same features – dropper post, big RockShox fork, 1×11 drivetrain, tubeless tyres, wide rims – it’s all there.


Is it ‘Enduro’ enough?

Does a bear s%&t in the woods? Of course, it is enduro enough. Every aspect of the structure of this bike is ready to take on the toughest riding you could throw at it. With the beefy forks leading the way, a sturdy and lively feeling composite frame, piggyback Super Deluxe shock, wide aluminium rims and robust tyres you shouldn’t have much in the way of excuses when the trails become fast and rough.

One of the best little details we appreciate is the adjustable MRP micro chain guide – a  simple addition that denotes the need for an expensive aftermarket purchase and just makes rides safer, quieter and hassle-free and certainly a must have item for enduro racing.


Would we recommend it?

If you are either looking to tap into the unlimited fun a long travel bike provides, or upgrade to something to take it even further, the One-Sixty 5000 is a legitimate contender in the competitive and rapidly growing segment of 160/170mm travel bikes where the needs of descending and climbing abilities need to meet in a light and durable package.

merida-one-sixty-5000-18
Well done, Merida!

It’s a bike that wouldn’t be afraid of all racing gravity enduro or even the odd downhill with enough travel and beefy spec and construction.

With a huge global brand like Merida joining the Knights of the Enduro Table, it’s easier now than ever to pick up yourself a top performing ride at a price point that would not usually have all the necessary bases covered.

Flow’s First Bite: Zelvy Funn PDL Wheelset

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

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

Who is Zelvy?

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


What wheels are we testing?

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

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

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

What do you get for your money?

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

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

Funn Fantom Hubs?

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

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

What sort of tyres suit these wheels?

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


What about the warranty?

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


What happens if I crash?

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

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

Will these wheels match my bike?

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

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

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

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

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

Flow’s First Bite: E*Thirteen TRS+ 650 Tyres

Wide rims and the reduced tyre pressures tubeless tyres can be run at go together like strawberries and cream.
Wide rims and tubeless tyres with lower pressures go together like strawberries and cream.

E*Thirteen’s first foray into the tyre market, the TRS range incorporates a number of exciting features that draw upon recent advances in wheel and tyre technologies.

What is the E*Thirteen TRS?


There are two versions of the TRS tyre, the TRS Race and the TRS Plus. We’ll be testing the TRS Plus, which uses slightly harder rubber compounds than the Race, however out of the box the compound feels very soft, similar to Maxxis’ 3C tyres, which is impressive considering this is the entry level tyre in the range. The Plus retails for $99.95, and the Race retails for 114.95, and both tyres are available in 27.5″ and 29″ options.

The profile could be described as sitting somewhere between Schwalbe's Magic Mary and a Maxxis Minion DHR II.
The profile could be described as sitting somewhere between Schwalbe’s Magic Mary and a Maxxis Minion DHR II.

The tyre profile is aggressive, with wide knob spacing, but the profiling of the centre knobs is quite low, and the compound of the centre tread is slightly firmer, which should assist in decreasing rolling resistance.

In the pivotal cornering department, the TRS uses meaty, angled knobs. The knobs have additional support at the base, which should assist in preventing knobs from collapsing or tearing during hard cornering. The compound of the cornering knobs is very soft, so it will be interesting to assess the TRS’s durability throughout testing.

The TRS is designed to work with 24-31mm internal rim widths, and the shape looks excellent on SRAM Roam wheels with a 30mm internal rim width.
The TRS is designed to work with 24-31mm internal rim widths, and the shape looks excellent on SRAM Roam wheels with a 30mm internal rim width.

Will they work with my rims if they have wide internal widths?


Due to the advent of wider internal rim widths, E*Thirteen designed the TRS range to work specifically with 24-31mm internals. The test wheelset they are currently mounted to is a SRAM Roam wheelset boasting a 30mm internal rim width, and the tyre profile looks spot on.

How heavy are they?


In terms of weight, the TRS Plus comes in at a very respectable 870 grams. Considering the aggressive tread pattern and reinforced sidewalls, and that an alternative like a 2.3 Maxxis Minion DHF in the comparable Double Down sidewall protection comes in at over 1000 grams, we’re impressed. It will be interesting to see if the lighter weight comes at the cost of puncture protection considering the style of riding these tyres are aimed at.

The weight of the E*Thirteen TRS Plus is very respectable.
The weight of the E*Thirteen TRS Plus is very respectable.

Where would you use this tyre?


The open spacing of the TRS and tall cornering knobs will provide excellent traction in a variety of trail conditions. We will be running the tyre front and rear, however if you were to pair this tyre we would recommend using it as a front tyre with something faster rolling out back.

How will E*Thirteen's first tyre offerings fare against the known tyre brands?
How will E*Thirteen’s first tyre offerings fare against the known tyre brands?

Our first impressions of the TRS Plus are positive, so we’re excited to see how they perform out on the trail.

www.e13components.com.au

Enduro Racing Comes to the Mornington Peninsula

Mountain biking on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula has achieved a significant milestone with the first ever race conducted on trails constructed within the Arthurs Seat State Park.

Organised and promoted by the Red Hill Mountain Bike Club, the Red Hill Gravity Enduro was conducted on the weekend of September 24-25.

A full field of 190 riders ranging from juniors to international level elites competed for more than $12,000 in cash and prizes over a six stage course on trails built by the Red Hill Riders.

Mornington Peninsula is a stunning spot for a race.
Mornington Peninsula is a stunning spot for a race.

The winner of Men’s Elite was Melbourne-based New Zealander Shannon Hewetson, who completed the six stages in 17 minutes and 23.14 seconds and won $1000 in the process.

However, Hewetson’s overall time out on the tracks was more than three hours as the riders had to also climb 1100 metres in the six stages that linked each of the competitive stages.

red-hill-gravity-aerial-full-size-1

The winner of Women’s Elite was Dora Bettridge from Glen Waverley, taking top spot on the podium in a time of 24 minutes 45.53 seconds and less than a minute back was Lyndsay McAlpine.

“The riders had a great time, the organisation worked smoothly and there is no doubt we have learned a lot,” said Red Hill Riders president Mark Gardner.

“Considering we formed the club nine years ago with the dream of one day having dedicated trails and a venue capable of hosting high quality racing as well as recreational riding, this event was a big achievement.

“It wouldn’t have been possible without the co-operation of the Parks Victoria and the Mornington Peninsula Shire, so we extend a big thanks to them.

“We also need to gratefully acknowledge the sponsors which made the event possible; Canyon bicycles, Shimano bicycle components, Continental tyres, local bike shop Chain Brain, DT Swiss wheels and Hill View quarries.”

Gardner said the mountain bike park had the potential to further boost the Mornington Peninsula’s as a tourism region.

“We had riders come from Melbourne, country Victoria and even some from interstate,” he said. “We know plenty stayed for the weekend and that’s great for the wider local economy.

The venue is one hour from Melbourne, five minutes from freeway access and at the heart of a tourism region that offers plenty of attractions once the riding is done for the day.

“Now that we have successfully got underway, the next step is to conduct another event,” confirmed Gardner. “We’re already looking forward to it and we’re sure plenty of riders are too.”

Merida One-Sixty 5000: Flow’s First Bite

Seriously, who can fault their new One-Sixty 9.700, after seeing what a dramatic improvement and update it is over the old model. With a beautiful carbon front end, enduro-spec right out of the box and an all-new aura of performance, we are not opposed to throwing our all at this bike!

Merida One Sixty-7713
Full credit to the team behind this new bike, it looks the goods.

What’s New?

Everything. An all-new frame roughly resembling their OneTwenty models of 2016 (with their Float Link suspension design), Merida have stepped it up with an up to date carbon/alloy frame that rivals the most elite of brands. We haven’t got out the tape measure, but the One-Sixty looks to have nice tight chain stays, and a nice slack head angle, though the overall reach does feel quite short.

New rear end with floating lower shock mount.
New rear end with floating lower shock mount.

Boost hub spacing, internal routing, Trunnion shock mounts and full-size pivot bolts are just some of the exciting features that will no doubt get many people’s eager nod of approval.

One quick ride and a good looking over and we're impressed, killer value too.
One quick ride and a good looking over and we’re impressed, killer value too.

One hell of a parts spec, for $4490

Merida have managed to present one of the most cost effective Gravity Enduro build kit of recent times, ticking almost every box.

Merida One Sixty-7714
The big and burly RockShox Yari.
Merida One Sixty-7696
Our first experience with the new RockShox Deluxe rear shock.

Suspension needs are covered by a RockShox Yari and Super Deluxe – new and exciting options from RS we haven’t had a chance to sample yet… Stay tuned to hear what we make of these in the coming weeks.

Merida has you covered with something you won’t get with most new bikes – a good chain guide. The MRP adjustable top guide sits upon a full SRAM NX 11 speed drivetrain. SRAM’s new entry-level wide range drivetrain brings you all the benefits of X1 and X01, arguably the most widely loved all-mountain drivetrains of recent times, but at a fraction of the cost.

Is that a Merida dropper post?

This is one intriguing feature that has appeared on this bike. Merida-branded and made by Trans-X the cable-actuated post is a new model to us, it is certainly not the top of the line, however initial tinkering with it prove quite promising. Time will tell the reliability of this post as we give it a proper run.

The 160mm travel segment is stacked with amazing bikes, Merida's new entry is promising.
The 160mm travel segment is stacked with amazing bikes, Merida’s new entry is promising.

A super short stem and wide alloy bars, wide alloy rims and downhill casing tyres round out a truly modern offering from a brand that looks to be coming to its full potential as an industry leader in the enduro/gravity arena.

Oh, did we mention its $4490? Yeah, that’s seriously hot price tag. Make sure you keep an eye out for our in-depth review of this one, and expect to see a lot more of them on your weekends.

Trek’s New Slash 29 Enduro Weapon

Holy dooley, say hello to Trek’s new Enduro destroyer! The Slash 29 is a purpose built Enduro machine, and it has us in a violent headlock of love.

FLOW1853
Love at first sight.

Key points:

  • Slash is now 29er only!
  • Bikes don’t get more bad-ass than this
  • 150mm travel rear, with 160/130mm travel-adjustable forks
  • Stiffest dual suspension bike Trek have ever made
  • Will destroy any Enduro track on the planet

Trek Slash 9.9 in Squamish, BC, June 2016

We actually first saw this bike back at the Trek Fuel EX and Remedy launch a number of weeks ago, but threats and blackmail have kept us quiet till now. Trek kept this beast up their sleeve until right at the end of the launch, and it sure got a big response when Trek’s Casey Brown rolled it into the seminar room! The new Slash 29 has got to be one of the most menacing, sensational looking bikes we’ve clapped eyes on, especially in the bold team paint job.

FLOW1684
Casey Brown presents the Slash 29, the bike she’ll be racing on the EWS.

Let’s get this out of the way: this bike is 29er only. That’s right, in contrast to the trend towards 27.5″ wheels in the Enduro category, Trek have opted to go for big hoops on this monster. Why? Well the Slash is designed as an Enduro race bike, and Trek feel that for the job of winning races, a 29er is the best format. They didn’t go into this decision blindly, we might add. Over the past few years Trek have had two of the most successful Enduro racers on the planet on their EWS team (Leov and Moseley) both of whom opted for the Remedy 29er, not the 27.5 Slash or Remedy 27.5.

The Slash gets the Mino Link geometry adjustment - the head angle can be 65.6 to 65.1 degrees.
The Slash gets the Mino Link geometry adjustment – the head angle can adjusted from 65.6 to 65.1 degrees.

Slash 29 geo

 

And so Trek has taken that feedback, combined the big wheels of the Remedy 29 with the travel and laid-back geometry of the Slash, and created a weapon of mass destruction. This clearly isn’t going to be a bike to take for a rip around your local cross country loop, but we are itching to give it a run on the roughest trails we can find.

Trek Slash 9.9 in Squamish, BC, June 2016
Deep chain stays. With a single-ring only design, Trek have been able to keep the rear end stiff and short, at 435mm.
FLOW1846
160mm travel FOX 36 with 29″ wheels and 65.1 degree head angle. What won’t you be able to mow down?

Like the Remedy, the Slash gets the new Straightshot down tube, but the focus on frame stiffness doesn’t stop there with this bike. Trek claim the new Slash 29 is way stiffer than any dual suspension bike they’ve ever made, even the Session downhill bike, and when you look at the single-ring specific chain stays on this thing it’s hard to imagine they’re telling porky pies.

Removing the Full Floater lets Trek fit a larger shock, lower in the frame.
Removing the Full Floater lets Trek fit a larger shock, lower in the frame.

The keen eyed out there will have noticed the Slash has a different suspension configuration to other Trek full suspension bikes – there’s no Full Floater system (Trek’s usual ‘floating’ shock mounting). Instead, the shock is mounted to the down tube in a more conventional kind of design. This is a bit of a surprise move, but Trek have their rationale:

“We developed Full Floater years ago to address performance constraints associated with the air shocks that were available at that time. Since then, mountain bike shocks have evolved. More dynamic and responsive dampers, along with more refined air springs like EVOL and Debonair, offer the performance benefits our engineers sought to achieve with Full Floater.

“Using a fixed lower shock mount opens up the lower frame area, giving us more opportunity to design stronger, stiffer frames and chainstays. This also gives us more flexibility to accommodate larger, more capable shocks. All of these effects are experienced most dramatically on long travel bikes, like the Slash.”

FLOW1806-2

There are going to be two models of the Slash coming to Australia, both using the same carbon frame. The 9.9 pictured here, with SRAM Eagle 12-speed and a FOX X2/36 suspension package for $8999, or for $6999 you can pick up the Slash 9.8 with a RockShox suspension package and SRAM GX drivetrain.


TESTED: Focus SAM C Team


FLOW5243

After testing this bike’s alloy predecessor some years ago, we’ve been waiting impatiently for the inevitable carbon version to arrive. And here it is; an uncompromising, stripped back, pure Enduro machine, itching to tear your favourite descent a new one.

What a killer looking front end!
What a killer looking front end!

Construction

This is a fantastic looking bike. From a humungous diamond shaped top tube, it tapers down to a lean point out back, carbon throughout. With a sophisticated internal cabling system, the clean lines are uninterrupted, especially on this model with a single-ring drivetrain.

All the cables enter the left side of the head tube. We didn't hear any cable rattle inside the frame.
All the cables enter the left side of the head tube. We didn’t hear any cable rattle inside the frame.

There’s a kind of essentials-only approach with the Focus that is going to hold plenty of appeal for many riders: the suspension layout is easy to understand – this pushes that– there are no geometry adjustments, and the travel is fixed at 160mm too. The suspension is from RockShox, top-of-the-line stuff, but without resorting to exotic, lesser-known manufacturers or super complicated dampers.

FLOW5162

Basically, it has everything you need to win, and nothing you don’t. That’s not to say there aren’t some nice embellishments – the neat chain slap and down tube protection for instance – but it’s a bike that puts low-weight, geometry and suspension performance ahead of frame features.


Suspension

The suspension is a simple linkage-driven single-pivot. Easy to understand and maintain.
The suspension is a simple linkage-driven single-pivot. Easy to understand and maintain.

The suspension is a simple linkage-driven single-pivot setup, handing out 160mm of very responsive, lively travel. It’s a buttery, supple suspension feel too, but with enough anti-squat it preserve the sprinty, excited performance under pedalling that we like about the SAM.

FLOW5155
The RockShox Monarch is easily tuned – just one rebound dial and a three-position compression lever keeps it simple. It’s a winner.

Compared to the whopping pivot axles we see on some bikes, the SAM’s pivot points are quite petite, with a pinch-bolt arrangement on the linkage that’s not common. Despite appearances, it’s actually robust and stiff, with double row bearings at rear pivot to handle all the huge forces there. Make sure you keep an eye on the bolt tensions as we experienced a small amount of play from the lower linkage pivot, which was easily sorted and didn’t recur.

Keep an eye on the pinch bolts and axles - they need to be properly torqued to ensure no play develops.
Keep an eye on the pinch bolts and axles – they need to be properly torqued to ensure no play develops.

A RockShox Monarch Plus is housed centrally in the frame, which means no bottle mounts, so it’s a pack-only affair. Having the shock nestled there between your knees gives easy access to the compression lever, so you can quickly flick it into firmer setting on the climbs.

Double row bearing in the drop out pivot keep things steady in this high load area.
Double row bearing in the drop out pivot keep things steady in this high load area.

Components

It’s an attractively adorned bike, as it should be for the $8999 price tag. The premium SRAM XX1 drivetrain is a standout, with a 32-tooth chain ring. The drivetrain that started the single-ring revolution continues to impress us, its quiet, stable performance is brilliant. There’s no chain guide, but it’s possible to mount one off the ISCG tabs, which would be a good idea if you’re going racing.

XX1. Still ruling the single-ring world.
XX1. Still ruling the single-ring world.

SRAM have been given the nod for the brakes too, with the premium Guide RSC stoppers. The ease of adjustment and robust lever construction are icing on the cake for these very powerful brakes. With a 200mm rotor up front, you’ll have all the braking confidence in the world.

 

The balanced suspension package is RockShox front and rear: Pike and Monarch, a pair that work superbly together, ironing out the roughest terrain, with perfectly matched rebound feel. You really get the feeling front and rear suspension are in sync.

We think the cockpit is the only area some riders may want to make some changes - maybe slightly shorter on the stem, and a carbon bar would be a nice touch.
We think the cockpit is the only area some riders may want to make some changes – maybe slightly shorter on the stem, and a carbon bar would be a nice touch.

We think the cockpit is one area some riders may look to tweak. The stem length is a smidge on the long side; given the bike’s sub-66 degree head angle, knocking the stem back to maybe 40mm would add a bit more snappiness to the slow-speed steering.

The DT/Continental wheel combo is worth comment too. The wheels have a taut, stiff precision about them, there’s no spokes pinging or complaining, even in the grisliest situations. The rims mightn’t be that wide, but the super stiff Conti tyres don’t need wide rims to help them hold their shape – they’ve got very firm sidewalls. Our bike had the aggressive Kaiser 2.4 up front and a Mountain King 2.4 out back. We love the confidence the robust construction of these tyres brings, but we did find the inflexibility of the sidewall and bead makes them prone to burping at lower pressures, the bead just doesn’t slide back into place like a more supple tyre.


Setup

Setup was straightforward. The sag gradients on fork and shock take the guesswork out of setting sag (20% up front, 30% our back), and the wheels are tubeless ready too of course. With the neat MatchMaker clamps for the brakes, shifter and dropper post, there’s only two bolts to worry about when dialling in your cockpit too.

MatchMaker clamps clean up the cockpit.
MatchMaker clamps clean up the cockpit.

Ride

The SAM is built for the kind of riding where you’re expected to hit unfamiliar terrain at warp-speeds, where you might find yourself in a white knuckled rock garden one second, and then having to muscle through tight switchbacks the next. It’s a big ask, but that SAM has it covered.

Long up front, short out back. Perfect really.
Long up front, short out back. Perfect really.

With slack angles and roomy length offset by the short rear end, the SAM nails that stability/agility blend that’s the holy grail of Enduro bikes nowadays. Magic numbers, putting you in a confident position to bomb into dicey looking chutes, but not bogging you down when the trails turn twisty.

There’s a lot of urgency to the way this bike rides, even on flatter trails, it keeps shooting forward in a way that few Enduro bikes do. It sprints out of corners beautifully, feeling even lighter than it’s already impressive 12.8kg weight figure.

The gearing range with a 32-tooth ring suited our trails well.
The gearing range with a 32-tooth ring suited our trails well.

The liveliness of the bike is its standout attribute for us. It skims and floats over the chunder, but not in a skittish or unstable way. Rather it just holds excellent speed, and the buttery smoothness of the suspension seems to prevent the rocks from tugging at the tyres and holding you back. We really came to love the way the SAM could pump speed out of trails, letting your work the bike, pumping into terrain that would see you simply holding on for dear life on board a lesser bike.

We certainly used all the travel, but we never felt the shock slam into the end of its stroke.
We certainly used all the travel, but we never felt the shock slam into the end of its stroke.

When you get a bit wild, the progression in the SAM’s suspension is a life saver, and while we certainly used all the bike’s travel, we never had any awareness of bottoming out – it nestles up smoothly to those last millimetres of travel, rather than smashing through to bottom out.

Cornering grip is superb too. The same liveliness we’ve noted above keeps the tyres tracking the dirt in loose corners beautifully, and the bitey Continental Kaiser front tyre will dig deep. Long, seated, foot-out corners are a specialty of this bike too – it’s got that ‘moto’ cornering balance dialled!

FLOW5205
The low pivot point doesn’t have a lot of anti-squat, but with the shock in its middle compression setting, the climbing performance is still excellent.

The SAM isn’t a ‘steady’ ascender like most Enduro bikes, it’s a genuinely enthusiastic and very capable climber. The low weigh is part of the equation, but the suspension nails a good balance of stability and traction when you flip the shock into its middle compression setting. The bike doesn’t use any proprietary travel adjustments or shock technologies, it gets the job done simply with a good balance of weight, central riding position and great suspension kinematics.


Overall:

FLOW5097

A triumphant follow up to the original SAM we loved so much, the new SAM C Team is a superb Enduro machine. It might not be pushing the envelope in terms of frame features or suspension technologies, but that hardly matters when a bike rides so well. Indeed, it’s a perfect exemplar of why nailing the fundamentals of geometry and suspension kinematics should be the first priority. Light and agile, smooth and confident, the SAM is a class act on the Enduro scene.

Flow’s First Bite: Focus SAM C Team

Well now SAM makes a return, but this time in carbon, with updated geometry and construction to put it in the upper echelons of Enduro contenders.

_LOW0055

We’ve got the top tier SAM C Team on review, at a hair under nine thousand dollars. That’s a lot of bucks, so we’re hoping for a lot of bangs. It certainly looks the part; the angular flattened surfaces of the mainframe are really special, and its carbon from end-to-end, excluding the linkage. (Speaking of carbon, an alloy bar is a bit of a letdown at this price.) From the driveside, it’s one of the cleanest bikes out there, thanks to all the internal cables entering on the non-driveside of the head tube.

_LOW0070
Terrific shapes up front.

Travel is 160mm at either end, and suspension is handled by the praiseworthy combo of the Monarch Plus and Pike RCT3. There’s something reassuring about having one brand handling both front and rear suspension, and our initial rides have confirmed exceptional balance between the two items. Ease of setup is a big plus! Less time faffing, more time shredding.

A SRAM XX1/X01 drivetrain promises silent, precise shifting and the use of Matchmaker clamps for the brakes/shifter/dropper shows that Focus haven’t overlooked the details either. For a bike that’s probably going to be used for some Enduro racing or at least serious descending, we would have liked to see the a chain guide specced, but it’s an easy addition.

_LOW0058
There’s a double row of bearings in the rear pivot to fight off flex.

In keeping with the Germanic roots of the bike, it rolls on Continental rubber. The spec sheet tells us the bike should have a Trail King up front, but our test bike has the aggro looking Kaiser tyre in a 2.4″ – front end bite won’t be an issue! The sidewalls of these tyres feel seriously tough.

The geometry looks good on paper, with a short 430mm rear-centre and 65.8 degree head angle. A 60mm stem is about 10-20mm longer than most of its rivals, so it’ll be interesting to see how the steering compares.

_LOW0063
Now that’s a front end to trust – a RockShox Pike RCT3 with Conti’s grippiest tyre.

Finally, the weight of the bike is worth noting. 12.84kg is impressively light, especially as the tyres are nice and meaty, which gives us hope the Focus will climb well enough to leave us with enough energy to enjoy it clear potential on the descents. We’ll have a full review up soon!

_LOW0068
All cables enter the frame through one generous port.

_LOW0054

Flow’s First Bite: Whyte G-160 Works

From two models sharing the same frame comes the G-160 Works for $8550. The G-160 RS is also available for $6175.

Let’s have a look at this big rig then.

_LOW0189
Designed in the UK, a long way from here.
_LOW0142
Long and low, the Whyte is a real race bike.

The frame:

This bike it loooooooong, even longer than the Canyon Strive we recently tested. A horizontal top tube measurement of 636.6mm (size medium) is immense. With Easton making a 32mm stem (shortest possible with the 35mm clamp diameter) Whyte were able to go longer in the top tube with this new frame without changing the riding position too much.

The rear end is quite short though, the chainstays are only 425mm and throw a tiny 32mm stem in the mix and you have some very serious numbers that will no doubt make for a very stable bike at speed. 

_LOW0182
636.6mm top tube and a 32mm stem! We can’t wait to get this thing up to speed.

Made from 6061 aluminium the Whyte is like no other bike when you take a closer look, it’s a real individual. Unique tubing shapes and frame junctions give the Whyte a very distinct flavour.

From their SCR (Single Chain Ring) range there are no provisions for a front derailleur (yay!), this has freed the engineers to really maximise the use of the space around the centre of the frame, with wider suspension axles and bigger pivots all in the name of stiffness and lightweight.

_LOW0180
Wide hubs, 148mm rear and 110mm front. Wider is better.

The G-160 uses the new Boost hub spacing – a wider 148mm rear hub and 110mm front hub. More commonly seen in 29ers to date, we’re impressed Whyte have gone down that path for a 27.5″ bike. It’s another area that opens up possibilities for frame design.

_LOW0157
Sealed rubber cable guides for the internal routing. And a pair of bolts under the downtube for mounting a Crud Catcher. So British.
_LOW0155
The stout and stiff little linkage drives the rear shock for 160mm of travel.

The parts highlights:

The Works model is the team issue, so all the parts are chosen to withstand the highest grade of enduro racing, and by the looks of things they know what they need!

It’s a full SRAM show with suspension, wheels, brakes, drivetrain and seatpost from the red corner. The 2016 Pike RCT3 with Boost 110mm spacing also has Torque Cap compatibility too, but the SRAM Rail 40 wheels use standard end caps.

Keeping it British the G-160 works uses a Hope headset and bottom bracket.

There’s 800mm carbon bars too, it’s going to be a big rig to ride!

_LOW0153
Pike up front, with 110mm-wide Boost hub spacing.
_LOW0181
Those legs look a little wider than normal to you?
_LOW0172
32T chainring on X0 cranks.
_LOW0195
RockShox Maxle rear axle. Nice touch.

We’ll be putting some time on the G-160 over the next few weeks, with the Canyon Strive and Focus SAM also on test too we’ll have plenty of bikes to be comparing this one to.

Stay tuned!

On Track With Curtis Keene | No One Rides For Free- S2E9

After 8 months, 8 races and mind boggling 27,314 meters of descent, our story ends here in Finale Ligure, Italy.


The last stop of the Enduro World Series is the place where the season long Championship will be decided; and the final time in the season the racer’s have to leave their mark on the History books.

For some, this has been an epic season to remember, for others it will be a year to leave as far behind as possible, but whether the toll was paid in effort or in injury, the 2015 EWS season proved to every racer that no one rides for free.

First Ever Australian Enduro Champs Crowned

Chris Panozzo (VIC) and Em Parkes (ACT) have been crowned as the inaugural Mountain Bike Enduro Australian Champions at a thrilling event presented by Mountain Bike Australia in Palm Cove, Far North Queensland. 

The Enduro discipline, also known as Gravity Enduro, has been Mountain Biking’s fastest growing competitive category in recent years. 

Elite_champs_credit_DFA_Photography

The popularity stems from Enduro racing mirroring the riding that mountain bikers participate in with their friends, transitioning up hills and then racing down.

_NOO7343 1N3A8542

The event started on both weekend days in picturesque Palm Cove, with a transition ride taking riders to race stages at the iconic Smithfield Mountain Bike park, the venue of the 2014 and 2016 Mountain Bike World Cups.

1N3A7356

With 2015 World Champion Jared Graves (QLD) absent, competition was fierce for the green and gold title in the men’s event.

Chris Panozzo (VIC) came into the event as the favourite, confidently winning the 2015 National Enduro Series.

Chris_Panozzo_Credit_Russ_Baker

The fastest rider in the prologue on day 1, Panozzo was almost untouchable on race day, winning 4 of the 5 stages to take the overall win by 10 seconds.

“It’s pretty exciting to be the first Enduro National Champion” said Panozzo. “It was difficult out there today, a big day with changeable conditions, with rain during sections changing powdery dry trails into slippery clay”. 

Panozzo is now looking ahead. “The focus is now on solid training over summer, racing some Aussie downhill events with an eye on the Enduro World Series in 2016”.

Second place went to Berend Boer (QLD) and Shannon Hewetson (VIC) rounded out the podium in third.   

In the women’s event, the favourites were 2015 National Enduro Series winner Jaclyn Schapel (TAS) and Em Parkes (ACT). 

Em_Parkes_Credit_Russ_Baker

Parkes has had a landmark 2015, winning the Under 23 Cross Country National title and finishing in the top 10 for the Eliminator discipline at the World Championships. 

She would end up with the perfect race day in the Cairns rainforest, winning all 5 stages to record her second Enduro race win in a row to take the win and the National title.

“It feels great” exclaimed Parkes reflecting on taking another National title. 

1N3A8344 1N3A7551 _NOO7955 TP18 06 15-1-18

“It was a nice experience to re-ride some of the world cup cross country course – it was a positive feeling to ride the A-lines, and it gives me good confidence going into the Cross Country World Champs in 2017”.

Jaclyn Schapel took second place for the Elite Women and Angela Williams finished third.

The Mountain Bike Australia 2015-16 National Series encompassing Cross Country, Downhill and more commences in November, with information available at www.mtba.asn.au     

Chris Panozzo: On Rails at Mount Beauty

Chris Panozzo is not afraid.

Show him a dusty berm or two and you’re guaranteed a display of brake-free, full-speed cornering commitment. Watch what happens when he’s unleashed on his home trails of Mt Beauty as the Shimano/Trek racer prepares for the National Enduro Champs.

Ten Grand $lam! – Rotorua’s Giant 2W Enduro Announces $10K Prize

The Giant 2W Gravity Enduro mountain bike race series is one of the biggest Enduro events in the Southern hemisphere, and caters for a wide range of riders on the world-renowned trails of Rotoruas Whakarewarewa Forest. In its three year history the event has attracted some of the worlds top riders, and the announcement this morning of the Ray White Real Estate Ten Grand $lam will make them even keener to return.

Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 11.29.10 am

James Alexander (aka Geeza) local Enduro rider and Auctioneer/Sales Agent at Ray White Rotorua said his principals Tim O’Sullivan and Anita Martelli were thrilled to be involved in such an iconic local event and keen to back it with a decent reward.

The Giant 2W was already boasting a huge cash prize pool, along with tens of thousands of dollars worth of product prizes, and now the organisers have announced the Ray White Real Estate Ten Grand $lam, a $10,000 bonus prize for any rider who can win all three races this season in the open category! With the round winners receiving $500 per race 1 & 2, and $750 for the final, the Ten Grand $lam winner would ride away with $12750 plus a possible maximum of $750 in stage win bonuses. That makes the Giant 2W Enduro the richest Enduro series in the world in cash prizes.

Prize money is equally divided between men and women in the Giant 2W events, and the Ray White Ten Grand $lam is no different: a woman has the same chance as a man of sweeping her open category in the three rounds, and picking up the cash.

Should both male and female categories produce a winner of all three rounds, the $10,000 bonus prize will be split between them.

Competitors in the six stage shuttled and non-shuttled event categories are given six hours to complete six downhill stages, which can be attacked in any order. Most will choose to have uphill transport included in their entry, but some hardy types will ride to the start lines of all the race stages. Riders must work out their strategy for the day, complete all the stages, and get back to race HQ before their allotted time runs out to avoid time penalties.

The formula has proved to be very popular, and the Giant 2W races are sell outs. An additional 25 spaces have been added to the races, bringing the total places available to 450 per race. With the addition of the Ray White Ten Grand $lam they are sure to disappear!

MTBA National Enduro Champs Course Map and Video Previews

The crew at RideCairns and MTBA are ramping things up ahead of this month’s National Enduro Champs, to be held on the legendary trails of Smithfield 17-18 October. Starting at gorgeous Palm Cove, riders then head into the jungle, for five stages of racing on a wicked looking mix of trails.

Take a look at the course map below, then watch the POV previews of each stage in full. Stage 2 looks absolutely sick!


Falls Creek Announces McKayos Mass Start Race

Falls Creek’s mountain bike program has been going absolutely bananas over the past few years. We took a trip up the mountain last year to take a look at what they’ve been building and it blew us away – watch the vid below for taste!

Falls are celebrating the start of the summer season with something new – a mental mass start race from the peak of Mt McKay (1850m) to the edge of Lake Bogong over 1200m below! The McKayos (geddit?!) mass start race will kick off with a couple of kays of snow, before linking up a variety of trails and surfaces over its 18km course. Read below for the official word from Falls Creek, or head to the McKayos page here for all the details.

Flow-Nation-Mount-Beauty-Falls-Creek-120
Mt McKay, at left, will be a snowy affair!

McKayos Poster

 

Following in the footsteps of Europe, Falls Creek will host the inaugural ‘McKayos’ mass start mountain bike Gravity Enduro event on the closing weekend for the winter season, similar to the Megavalanche style event held in many European resorts.  This unique event will start from the snowy slopes of Australia’s highest drivable peak, Mt McKay at 1,850m to the pristine shores of Lake Guy in Bogong Village at 660m.

Flow-Nation-Mount-Beauty-Falls-Creek-158

Combining Snow, Dirt and Road, the course takes riders 18km through fire trails and sealed mountain roads for a total descent of 1200m. A mass start on snow is sure to see some chaos from the starter’s gun as riders muscle for position.

The riders will start on a packed snow surface for approximately 1-2km.  Roads used will include Mt McKay / Pretty Valley Rd, Road 26 and the Bogong High Plains Rd, plus other local tracks.  Riders will traverse a varying type of surfaces including packed and groomed snow, formed sealed and unsealed roads and tracks and formed, unsealed trail. In the interests of competitor safety, competitors may be requested to dismount and walk across small sections of course.

100 riders are anticipated to race in this unique event on Sunday, 4th October 2015.  This is one riders won’t want to miss.

 Flow-Nation-Mount-Beauty-Falls-Creek-195

EVENT DETAILS

•             Single Gravity Enduro mountain bike stage

•             Single mass start

•             Entries open to Individual competitors

•             Winners will be determined by first individual rider to complete the course

•             The event will not be a timed event. No official timing will be provided by the event organisers

•             Competitors will be shuttled back to Falls Creek upon finishing the stage

•             Full face helmets are mandatory

•             Event will conclude with a presentation and BBQ at Slalom Plaza in Falls Creek

Tested: YT Industries Capra CF Comp 1

Like some kind of rampaging viking ship from across the seas, the YT Capra comes to Australia with a reputation for slaying its competitors in media and magazine reviews worldwide.

The 165mm travel Capra is one of only three frames in the YT catalogue, sitting in between their dirt jump hardtail and the monster Tues downhill bike. You may have seen the dirt hardtail flipping and spinning around wildly in the hands of the French Slopestyle madman Yannik Granieri. Or the Tues blowing up the internet underneath the heavyweights of the big mountain spectrum of the sport, Andreau Lacondeguy, Kelly McGarry and Cam Zink.

[divider]Who is YT?[/divider]

This German company is one of the world’s biggest direct-to-consumer bike brands, a concept which has certainly seen more popularity in Europe than in Australia so far. The allure of this shortened supply chain is its capability to really lower prices, and the Capra CF Comp 1 certainly delivers here. We asked YT Oceania a few questions about supply, warranty etc – jump to the bottom of this review for their response.

But there’s a lot more to a bike than what derailleur you get for your dollars – it’s how it rides that really matters.

YT Capra CF Comp 12
A whole new world, this is our first ever experience with the direct to consumer brand from Germany.
YT Capra CF Comp 5
The new kid on the block, and keen to make a good impression.

[divider]Who is it for?[/divider]

This bike grabs you round the throat and screams “ENDURO”, right in your face.

With a meaty 165mm of rear travel and geometry that puts you right ‘in’ the bike, the Capra really is targeted at your knee-pad-wearing rider who lives for the descents. Or at least that’s what appearances would have you believe – as we found out, the suspension is more efficient than an iPhone assembly worker when the boss is in town, so it’s pretty handy on the climbs too.

YT Ind Capra CF Comp 1

[divider]The frame[/divider]

The Capra is available in both aluminium and carbon versions, with Australian pricing kicking off at $4099 for the base model, up to $6699 for the CF Race, which looks darn near un-upgradable. Interestingly, the two top tier models which run BOS suspension both score a few mills more travel, with 170mm, versus the 160mm found throughout the rest of the range.

YT Ind Capra CF Comp 3
Fresh looks, clean lines and finished with a neat paint job.

YT claim a weight of 2400g (without shock) for their beautifully formed carbon monocoque frame, and aside from the fact there’s no bottle mounts, you’d be a very fussy prick to find fault with it. The chain stays are the only aluminium frame member, with the remainder of the frame formed in chunky, Robocop kind of carbon shapes.

YT Ind Capra CF Comp 34

Cables are whisked away out of site like a drunk uncle at a kids’ birthday party –it’s all handled very neatly, with an internally routed Reverb dropper. The bottom bracket is of the press-fit variety, and it remained thankfully creak-free during our testing.

While we doubt anyone will do so, you can actually fit a front derailleur to the Capra, just bolt on the removable derailleur mount. The rear brake mount will only accept 180mm rotors or larger, ideal for slowing this German sled down when you get too excited (which is going to happen).

[divider]Geometry[/divider]

The Capra’s side profile carries plenty of menace, with the head angle laid back at 65.5 degrees. Restoring the balance, so to speak, is a steep 75 degree seat angle, which feels just perfect once the bike is at its sag point. YT say it’s ‘an ideal climbing position’. Look, yes and no. You are right over the bottom bracket, which is great for a bunch of reasons, but you still can’t hide a 65.5 degree head angle and 50mm stem!

YT Capra CF Comp 14
With so much traction and slack angles, it’s not afraid of the faster but rougher line options.

The common theme with bikes in this category is to match a long front end with a tight little behind. With chain stays of 430mm, the Capra follows suit, which keeps things lively and prevents the bike from feeling too stuck to the ground.

[divider]Suspension[/divider]

YT call their take on the four-bar linkage ‘V4L’, or Virtual 4 Link (hooray for TLAs). It’s a really well tuned four-bar system that does everything on paper that you could ask for; the spring curve is aggressively supple off the top, with a very linear mid-stroke and then a pretty pronounced ramp-up right at the end.

YT Ind Capra CF Comp 36
The V4L linkage gives the Capra its ultra progressive last portion of travel.

It all happily translates from paper to the trail too. It took a few rides to get the setup just right; the firmness of the end-stroke was a little too much until we dropped the pressures to give us just over 30% sag.

The RockShox Monarch Plus has three very useable compression adjustments, we spent the majority of the time riding in the softer setting, and would use the middle option on flatter trails while the firmest was only used on the smoothest climbs or the road. The suspension really is very efficient under pedalling indeed.

The arrangement of the suspension linkage is unconventional. Normally we see brands going for wider and wider spaced bearing placement with their linkages, but the Capra tucks the shock link inside the frame. It keeps it all away from your knees, and it certainly isn’t to the detriment of the bike’s stiffness.

[divider]Spec highlights and lowlights[/divider]

Wheels:

The E13 wheels look a bit under-gunned in this bike, but they’re built very well and must be up the job as our set are still 100% true. Something wider could be an option as an upgrade down the line.

YT Ind Capra CF Comp 33
The e*thirteen rear hub is super loud, love it or loathe it.

You’re going to love or hate the rear hub, depending on which side of the ‘listen to how expensive my hub is’ argument you sit on. It’s very, very loud.

Drivetrain:

SRAM’s X1 drivetrain is just perfect. On the Capra it’s matched to Raceface cranks, and an E13 top-mount chain guide is added for extra security, which we commend.

Comfy contact points:

Extra-long Sensus grips provide plenty of friction in the wet, and the shape of the SDG Duster saddle is really comfy too.

YT Ind Capra CF Comp 31
Big fans of the Sensus grips.

Maximum drop:

YT have opted for the 150mm-travel version of the RockShox Reverb. On the positive side, you can get your saddle miles out of the way. However, for riders with shorter legs, it might be impossible to get the saddle low enough when the post is at maximum extension. Shorter test riders had the post just about as far down as it would go in the frame. Some were borderline needing a smaller frame size, but the top tube length on the medium was perfect.

It’s not a frame sizing issue, just a potential consideration with the overall seatpost length.

Big rotors:

200mm rotors front and back! Fasten your seatbelts and get ready for whiplash baby, not even many downhill bikes run big frisbees like this at both ends. There’s a heap of power, and you won’t ever cook them, but 180mm rotors would save a bit of weight and add some clearance if that’s your thing.

Pike:

YT specced the Capra with the top-end version of the Pike, and it feels to us like they’ve even had it custom tuned to suit the bike’s rear suspension too. We didn’t pull the top cap off the fork, but it felt super progressive, which meant we ran less pressure than usual.

YT Ind Capra CF Comp 35
Top spec RockShox Pike, with slow speed compression adjustment, and three-stage lockout.

[divider]Ride impressions[/divider]

Singletrack manners:

Getting over the front and showing those tyre side-knobs just who’s the commander of the ship is the way to get the most out of the Capra, especially when the trails are mellow. It’s easy to become a passenger on a bike like this, so getting over the bars is the way to ride or you’ll find the front wheel doing its own thing.

YT Capra CF Comp 18
Woooohooooo!

For a big bike, it’s still pretty zippy. The wheels are light, the tyres fast rolling, and the rear hub engages really quickly. Keeping the rear shock in its middle compression setting in the singletrack just adds to the liveliness too.

Climbing: 

Plenty has been written about the surprising efficiency of the Capra when climbing and we have to agree. You’ve got to be a real masher and have your weight right over the back before you’ll get the Capra to squat and sag like some other long-travel bikes do routinely.

If you’re relaxed and concentrate on keeping that front wheel from wandering, then it climbs pretty damn nicely.

If your riding involves a lot of tighter, technical climbs, having 10mm more length on the stem could help. Either that, or a travel-adjustable fork, but that’s a big investment.

A flick of the RockShox Monarch’s switch, and you’ll be able to firm the rear suspension up to your liking, and where the shock is positioned in the frame reaching for the lever is quick and easy.

Descending: 

The Capra charges the descents hard. Every aspect of the Capra aligns to make it feel stable and confident, its super-slack angles and massive cockpit promote you to stay off the brakes and to pin it.

YT Capra CF Comp 15
The faster the better.

For riders like us, who’ve largely stayed away from pure downhill bikes these past few years, the Capra has descending performance that is akin to (or better than) the full-on downhill bikes we regularly rode just a few years ago. Accordingly you need to ride it hard and keep the speeds high for it to really shine – to make the most of its intentions you really need to give it some curry.

It took a few rides to get into the swing of it. Muscle it, get on the front, slam it. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself being taken for a ride, rather than doing the riding yourself!

The suspension is built to keep the bike stable at downhill speeds, and it takes a lot to get to the bottom of the travel in general riding. It was only on the hardest of impacts that we felt it bottom out, both the front and rear suspension are mighty progressive!

[divider]Alternate options[/divider]

It’s a good time for these 160mm-ish bikes. The highly competitive market is booming with great options, and the enduro thing is very on trend right now. We’ve ridden and rated many great options lately, from Specialized, Trek, Norco, Giant, Polygon and Pivot.

[divider]Delivery[/divider]

The Capra landed on our doorstep in a box, but not your typical bike box at all. Inside was a bike that had been assembled fully, and then partially disassembled to reduce the steps needed before riding. Wheels on, handlebars on, pedals in, set up the suspension and you’re good to go.

IMG_0251
Bike in box, not from a showroom.

YT make it pretty easy for you, with detailed instructions like the sample below, so depending on your competency level with mechanical ability, this could be a blessing or a real headache.

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 4.32.49 pm

Shipping is an additional $200 for Australia and $100 for NZ on top of the bike price, which isn’t a small sum, but the overall value of these bikes is pretty bloody good all the same. At the end of the day, it’s about weighing up the pros and cons of buying a bike from a shop or not.

[divider]Final thoughts[/divider]

If you’ve got the pace, the Capra will have your back. Really, the Capra is about as good as it gets in the hands of a capable rider; it’ll descend like mad and won’t rob you up climb, and they’ve nailed the balance of efficiency to bombing ability nicely.

But, the geometry is very slack, and you will need to ride the front end a lot when you’re not up to much speed, but you can get used to that. We wouldn’t call it a single-minded bike, because it climbs too well, but it does require the right attitude. Aggro, fast, unafraid – eyes down the trail, not worrying about what’s happening directly beneath your wheels.

The direct-to-consumer model could be a stumbling block for some consumers, particularly those who aren’t all that savvy with bike setup. Having said that it’d certainly proven and successful in the US and European markets, and if YT can nail the support side of things locally we think it’ll take off.

YT Capra CF Comp 16 YT Capra CF Comp 7

 


 

[divider]How does the direct to consumer model work?[/divider]

You won’t find a YT on bike shop showroom floors, you’ll need to click to the internet to buy one online. The upsides of the direct to consumer model are pretty obvious, the bike bypasses an Australian wholesaler, and a retailer and lands on your doorstep. The price is great, but there are certainly upsides and downsides to all this.

We asked YT Industries Oceania’s Solon Payne a few of the questions that we’d ask if considering a purchase.

– Where are they shipped from?

For our market (Australia & New Zealand) and the United States bikes are assembled in Taiwan. For the European market YT’s are assembled in Germany. The quality of assemble in Taiwan is excellent and YT have their own staff on site to ensure the highest quality standards are met on every assembly run.

All our YT bikes are fully assembled and tuned as you would expect from any professional retail outlet, the bikes are than partly disassembled and packed into a custom YT bike box. – YT Oceania

As a customer all parts of the re-assembly are labelled and the process is straight forward, essentially a YT is ready to ride in 10 minutes out of the box. In our start-up year for Oceania all our bikes are warehoused in Auckland, New Zealand, and dis-patched to customers throughout New Zealand and Australia. This is by no means economic for us but is an essential starting point for the introduction of YT into Oceania. Plans are now well under-way for us to establish warehousing in Australia as well.

– Warranty terms.

YT provide a 3 year warranty.

– Where can a consumer take a YT for a warranty inspection?

For OEM parts we now have a great network of independent service technicians and bike shops throughout both countries that we direct customers to.

If there is a suspected issue with the frame our customers only need to box the frame and we arrange collection. – YT Oceania

In Australia our first warranty partner is in Brisbane and in New Zealand the frame would be sent to us in Taupo. Both warranty centres hold spare parts and although we are yet to be tested we feel our turn around time and service to customers is un-questionable.

– Is there plans for a demo fleet, tour, or any try before you buy program?

Absolutely, we will have a full demo fleet early 2016 and we have been and still are scoping venues for demo days. As we are online and direct displaying bikes and giving people the opportunity to experience how great YT’s are, is essential. Our only challenge is…. Australia is so “flamin” huge, New Zealand is easy in comparison.

– Will there be recommended service centres?

We already have a great network of independent service technicians and bike shops throughout both countries that we direct customers to. We are also working on a new website for Day Zero that will list our service centres and provide more regional specific information.


 

The Josh Carlson Experience: EWS, Round 3, Scotland

Throughout the 2015 Enduro World Series we’ll be bringing you an insider’s perspective of Josh’s performance. For this unique series, we’ve teamed up with Today’s Plan, an Australian training tools provider, who work with Josh to analyse his training and monitor his performance. (Check out our first impressions of Today’s Plan here).


, during the Tweedlove Enduro, Peebles Scotland. EWS#3
The fans came out in droves to line the muddy trails. Josh in lightweight mode on the second day of racing.

Congratulations! You’re racking up good results like a mad man!

Thanks, it was good. Yeah, there’s always stuff to improve on. I definitely put together more good stages than in the last race, but when I look back at the GoPro footage all I can see is me bleeding seconds! Wrong gear here, or where I stuffed up a corner here, I was a bit disappointed. But to come away with ninth is great, and it’s good be competitive, it’s good to be consistent.

And those are bad habits that I’ve got, bad habits that have cost me a lot more in the past than just a few thorns in my arse.

I guess hindsight is a miserable bitch. When you see how tight the times are and you look at the little mistakes, you just realise what your result could have been. Especially if I look back to Ireland – the stupid little things cost you so much time. I mean, there was no reason in Ireland for me to have that first crash, I didn’t need to go 67km/h down that goat track, I could have wiped off two seconds on that straight and made up 15 seconds on the whole stage. And those are bad habits that I’ve got, bad habits that have cost me a lot more in the past than just a few thorns in my arse.

But at least now I feel like I know the speed it takes to be up there. And my plan this year isn’t to go out there and smoke everyone, it’s to be consistent and smooth, and be sustainably competitive.

Weather came into play in Scotland – what’s it like racing in those horrible conditions?

You’ve got to relax. You can’t get stressed about it because you can’t control it – all you can control is what you’re doing, your attitude. Being wet is definitely annoying, but focusing on it achieves nothing.

And man, there was shit flying everywhere! It was like raining from the ground up, it was hilarious.

Stage 5 in Scotland was absolutely diabolical. It was one of the gnarliest, wettest, most rutted riding I’ve ever done. Further down the stage the ruts were bottom bracket deep, you couldn’t take a foot out of your pedal, because as soon as your other foot dropped down it would jam into the rut and it was like a rodeo, like you’d slapped that bull on the arse and it was go time! Your wheels are stuck, your foot’s full of mud, you’re sliding down the hill… it was actually pretty funny, fishing the stage you’re like ‘what the hell just happened?’

, during the Tweedlove Enduro, Peebles Scotland. EWS#3

It was so muddy on that stage that we took off our mud guards. A few amateurs who’d been down ahead of us said ‘take that mud guard off or your wheels won’t turn in stage 5’, but usually the trails are vastly different when we ride them because another 200 riders have been down the track. But then when we saw Brosnan and Ropelato and Curtis Keene all saying the same thing, and it was like this weird panic going around the top 20 riders, everyone was ripping their fenders off! And man, there was shit flying everywhere! It was like raining from the ground up, it was hilarious.


Take a closer look at Josh’s performance, stage by stage, in Scotland. Use the menus on the right to switch between the various stages and to control playback speed. Keep an eye on his heart rate throughout – he might be primarily descending, but his efforts are through the roof. Powered by Today’s Plan


Now in most of the photos I see of you, you’re riding without a pack. What gear do you carry, and how do you stash it?

Yep, I try to get away without a pack if it’s at all possible. Normally I’ll wear a cross-country jersey under my race jersey, and just stash everything in the pockets. It all comes down to water; if you’re never more than an hour or two from a feed station, I can get by with one bottle and a few bars and stuff. And then I’ll take a tube, pump, two CO2 canisters, a multi-tool with a quick-link, a hanger, some tape and a cable attached to it. And for Scotland, because of the mud, I took a little pack of rags and a spare pair of gloves too.

Sometimes you’re in an open face, sometimes a full face. Are there rules, or is it up to you?

Unless the rules stipulate you have to wear a full face, I’ll make a call and commit to one helmet or the other for the whole day. The times that I have tried taking both, I’ve ended up getting my helmet caugh on trees. So as much of an annoyance as it is, if I’m running a full face, I’ll run it all day. I’ll take the cheek pads out on the climbs and even if it’s a bit annoying, I just deal with it. A full face definitely gives you more confidence to go fast.

In Scotland, the second day lent itself to a lighter setup, so I ran an open face helmet. I also changed my tyres to lighter casings (Snake Skins, not Super Gravity tyres), ran an air shock not the coil shock, and changed my shoes to a stiffer more XC style shoe. Pretty simple changes, but they made a big difference.

, during the Tweedlove Enduro, Peebles Scotland. EWS#3
If he can avoid it, Josh will ride without a pack, stashing all his spares in an XC jersey under his race jersey.

There are obviously a lot of different ways that Enduro races can be run, with plenty of different formats. Do you see any consolidation happening there, and do you have a preference? 

My preference is definitely for the Ireland and Scotland style format where you get to practice the tracks. If I can get a couple of runs in, I feel a lot more confident. I guess the blind racing is a skill I’ve never really encountered but I’m having to learn it! I don’t think they will consolidate to one particular format; I think one of things that makes the EWS so appealing is that it’s not just catered to one style of rider – racing those French races, the blind races, is so different because you have to be so sharp and aware.

Do you get at least some kind of look at the track?

Yes, you get one roll down, but it’s a once-over look at a 15-17 minute track, and then you literally have 20 minutes till you go up to race it. So the amount you’re going to remember of a 15 minute track with one roll down is not much. And you don’t even get a chance to really think about it or watch back your GoPro footage, because you normally have only 15 or 20 minutes till you’re heading back up, and if you’ve got a mechanical, or you’ve got to eat or something, that 20 minutes evaporates pretty fast.

As I said, my preference is for the races where you get a couple of days practice, and I like to try to get two runs on each stage, even though it does mean they’re very big days. In the two weeks that we raced over there, I had almost 40 hours of riding within 12 days, which is a lot to deal with. My team mate Yoann, he went for a different approach, he did only one practice run of each stage so he’d be fresher for race day, because he think he’s faster that way.

When you do hit a piece of singletrack it’s some skinny goat herder track littered with loose rock – it feels like you’re riding a tightrope.

But when we head to France, it’s a different world over there. A lot of time there aren’t even trails – it’s just a bunted section through the grass and shrubs and woods down a 2500 metre high alp. At the end of the weekend it’s the sickest track you’ll ever ride, but at the start of the weekend it’s just wild grass. And when you do hit a piece of singletrack it’s some skinny goat herder track littered with loose rock – it feels like you’re riding a tightrope. I mean, it’s nothing like we do in Australia, and the first time I rode in France like that, I went away in an ambulance.

How are you going to approach it then so you don’t overcook it? 

You just can’t go 100%. Every time you think, ‘it’s just a grassy slope, I’m not going to touch the brakes,’ you need to say ‘hold on a second – why do that?’. The two seconds you might possibly gain by taking that huge risk aren’t going to make the real difference over 15 minutes, what makes a difference is your raw skill, the tools in your tool box, the basics. You see the guys like Jared and Jerome, it’s all about the full skill set – Jared will win in Whistler, and he’ll win in France, Jerome’s the same, winning in Chile and then in Rotorua, completely different conditions.

Then you’ve got a guy like Nico Voullioz who has won 14 World Championships – I haven’t even done 14 international races yet, let alone win one!

_MG_2522

Enduro isn’t like downhill – lots of guys in their 30s, even their late 30s, are doing seriously well – that must give you a lot of confidence still being young that you can have a healthy, long career in the sport.

It does make me feel good to see that the guys who are winning a lot now, like Graves, Leov and Clementz are a few years older. At the same time, compared to those guys, I still feel like I’m a 21 year old rookie! They’ve got so much experience. I remember taking a chairlift was Graves in Whistler last year and he was talking about winning his first National Championship when he turned to downhill after racing XC, and he was 19. That was like 12 or 13 years ago, and he was racing and winning National Champs! Then you’ve got a guy like Nico Voullioz who has won 14 World Championships – I haven’t even done 14 international races yet, let alone win one! 14 World Championships! So on one hand it forces me to realise where I am and what I’ve come to, and that’s a good feeling, but on the other hand it’s a little bit daunting. These guys are winning Enduros for a reason. But on the other hand you’ve got guys like Greg Callaghan who is killing it, first year pro getting podiums. But it does give me confidence to know that I’ve got time to make this happen, and the faith that I’ve got Giant behind me and that they believe in me too, that I can climb up onto that top step.

Do you have a particular rider on the circuit who you most look up to? 

Hmm, it’s kind of funny because I don’t know that much mountain bike history. But I do look at those really experienced riders and learn from what they do; the way Fabien Barel attacks a race track for instance, the work they put in, why they’re so skilful. I guess I look up to them all, because you can’t win one of these races as a fluke. You can’t pull together seven great stages over a whole day of racing by accident. So I definitely respect and admire them all.

 We’ll have to lend you a copy of Headliners 2, mate, so you can brush up on your history of downhill. I think we’ve still got one on VHS. Cheers once again. 

, during the Tweedlove Enduro, Peebles Scotland. EWS#3
Suits you.

 

 

 

 

The Josh Carlson Experience: EWS, Round 2, Ireland

 Throughout the 2015 Enduro World Series we’ll be bringing you an insider’s perspective of Josh’s performance. For this unique series, we’ve teamed up with Today’s Plan, an Australian training tools provider, who work with Josh to analyse his training and monitor his performance. (Check out our first impressions of Today’s Plan here).


So Josh, a good weekend?

JC: Yep, although I’m a little disappointed and annoyed that I made some dumb mistakes, I’m stoked I managed to get back up there in the end. It was a pretty inconsistent day for me really – I was in 48th after stage 1 – so to end up with my best ever stage result (3rd in stage 7) and my second best placing overall was good.

, during the Emerald Enduro, Wicklow, Ireland. EWS#2

What made stage 7 such a good result for you?

JC: I don’t know really, other than that I just really tried to stay calm and collected. I didn’t have any crazy lines, other than one huck up the top, so I guess I just have to put it down to the fact I kept it calm, and that I had a really good picture of the track in my head. Stage 7 was one that I’d walked during the week, so I felt that I knew it pretty well.

, during the Emerald Enduro, Wicklow, Ireland. EWS#2
Track walks are time consuming and energy sapping but valuable nonetheless.

You don’t normally get a chance to walk the tracks, do you?

JC: It depends on when the course is marked and how early we get to town. It’s definitely an advantage if you do get a chance to walk them – by the time you get to practice, you already feel like you’ve done a handful of runs down it.  But it’s sort of a catch 22; walking the tracks might give you a good picture of the them, but it takes a long time and can be really draining too.

Overall, I think walking them definitely helps. Especially at this race, the racing was so close that ever the tiniest error made a huge difference. Honestly, the time differences were hundredths of a second, it was like a full-on downhill race, or seven downhill races really.

How did your preparation compare for this round, versus that of Rotorua? 

JC: I definitely came into this round feeling a lot better. Rotorua kept bringing up all kinds of flashbacks to last year, when I crashed out hard in round 1. I had a few crashes early in practice in Rotorua and it definitely was on my mind.

, during the Emerald Enduro, Wicklow, Ireland. EWS#2

Did you change your bike setup much this time around?

JC: Yes and no – I didn’t make any changes during the race except for my tyre pressure on one stage, but I did change a bit in the lead up, as the tracks dried up getting closer to race day I put a Rock Razor tyre on out back, but the main change I made was with my fork. I actually took a volume spacers out of my fork and increased the pressure, on the suggestion of our team mechanics. We went from four tokens and 75psi, to two tokens with 85psi, and then made some low-speed compression adjustments. The front end grip went up like 100%, so this will definitely be my baseline setting from now on. We’re super lucky to have those guys in our corner – we can throw all our dumb ideas at them, they can tell us we’re dickheads and point us in the right direction!

 The demands of the racing are pretty unique – it’s like an all-day ride, but with half an hour’s worth of full-on, race pace sprint efforts thrown in – so you’ve got make sure you’re getting enough solid fuel in.

One slightly more, I guess, technical thing I wanted to ask you about is nutrition and looking after yourself across the whole week of practice and racing. How do you handle it?

JC: It’s a good question, because I don’t think a lot of people really consider how much of a factor it can be. I mean, over a couple of days of practice, you’ll do 11 0r 12 hours of riding, and then another six on race day, so how you eat and hydrate is a big deal.

And it’s cumulative too, one day will affect the next. I came to practice on Saturday, and within about 20 minutes of heading up the first climb I knew I was in calorie deficit from the day before, so I had to make sure I kept my intake up throughout the whole day. Because come race day, if you’re bonking, there’s no way you can focus. The demands of the racing are pretty unique – it’s like an all-day ride, but with half an hour’s worth of full-on, race pace sprint efforts thrown in – so you’ve got make sure you’re getting enough solid fuel in. I’ll try to have a few larger items, things like pizza even, and then gels and bars too. I make sure I avoid things that are going to send me way up, and then crashing back down again, you don’t want your energy levels to yo-yo. Ok, right at the end of the day before the final stage a sugar hit might get you across the line, but you don’t want that throughout the bulk of the day.

We read a lot about the great atmosphere out on track there. What was it like?

JC: The Irish were unreal, on some stages the track was lined from top to bottom. There was one wooded section that I came into and I thought the air was full of dust, but then I realised it was smoke from all the chainsaws that people were revving! Another section the crowd was so loud you heard them ages before you saw them – they were so loud for each rider you could use them to gauge how close you were to the rider in front or how close the rider behind was to you. And they were all dressed up, crocodile suits, oompa loompas, bananas, it was classic. It really felt like a World Cup race.

ews_emeraldenduro_day2-6398

And was it a surprise to see Greg Callaghan take the win? Any home ground advantage here?

JC: Man, it was amazing to be part of it, having him win in front of a home crowd was incredible, the crowd just erupted! He had like 20 family members out on course, the atmosphere was insane! I don’t think saying it was a home ground advantage does him justice – even if you know the trails, it’ll only get you so far, you need to have all of the tools in the basket. And he sure as hell didn’t fluke the win – that’s the thing with Enduro, you cannot just have a freakish run or somehow fluke the win, you need to be consistent across an entire day of racing, not just a couple of minutes.

It’s great to see when a home town rider wins too, it does so much for the sport in the town, so many people will be pumped on mountain biking in Ireland now. Hopefully we get an EWS round in Australia one day too.


 Take a closer look at Josh’s performance, stage by stage, in Ireland. Use the menus on the right to switch between the various stages and to control playback speed. Keep an eye on his heart rate throughout – he might be primarily descending, but his efforts are through the roof.

Long-Term Test: Norco Range C7.2

The notion of picking a 160mm bike as a suitable long-term test sled for riding on our home trails would’ve seemed fanciful up until the last couple of years. Travel in these meaty portions traditionally has brought with it too many compromises – floppy singletrack handling, ploddy climbing, sogginess like a tomato sandwich.

But lighter frames, 27.5” wheels, more balanced geometries and better suspension have all come together to deliver a delicious cocktail of all-round abilities that have made 160mm+ bikes a viable do-it-all machine. And the latest incarnations of the Norco Range exemplifies this.

Even sicker caption
Go anywhere, do anything… and love it.

The Black Beauty caught our eye almost 12 months ago at the Australian Norco launch. Like a schoolboy too shy to ask for a dance, we didn’t give the Range c7.2 a whirl immediately, but admired it from afar. And so arrangements were made for an extended test ride. We’ve now had a little over eights months of fun on this beast. – here’s what we’ve learnt.

[divider] Build[/divider]

Norco have sky-rocketed in our esteem these past few years; they now produce some of the best looking, best featured carbon bikes on the market. Take a squiz at the Range; full carbon (excluding the chain stay), internally cabled, new-school single-ring-only construction, size-specific geometry, gorgeous gloss-on-matte graphics.

Finer details just emphasise the refinement; the flush Syntace rear axle won’t snag on rocks and roots, the internal cables don’t rub or rattle, and they’ve even managed to make room for both a piggy-back shock and a full-size water bottle.

On the point of the cables, we are a little circumspect about the need for an internal rear brake line. We damaged the line on the SRAM Guide RS rear brake early in the piece and the internal-only routing definitely makes this kind of repair work a little more arduous. But, it does look great. One improvement could be the addition of internal guide tubes too, to make threading the brake line and rear housing a simpler task.

The neglect test is a good way of establishing how well a bike has been assembled, and so we didn’t check the suspension pivots for the use of Loctite or even check the bolt tensions when assembling the Range. They came loose eventually, but it took a lot of riding. The main rocker pivot was the first to wiggle loose, followed by the dropout pivot. Since tightening them both back up, there haven’t been any repeat issues, so that’s a big tick in our books.

The drop out is like some massive carbon shark fin. Please note with appreciation the Syntace X12 axle.
The drop out is like some massive carbon shark fin. Please note with appreciation the Syntace X12 axle.

Norco have a unique take on bike sizing; the different sizes aren’t just longer in the seat tube / top tube, but the rear end correspondingly is longer or shorter too. In a size medium, the chain stays are just 428mm long. Ditching the front derailleur certainly helps free up some space, and there’s plenty of tyre clearance. During our testing we’ve run up to 2.4” rubber and clearance has never been a concern.

One point of note is that while the Range does come with a bash guard, your choice of chain guides is a little bit limited unless you fit a larger chain ring. The Range comes stock with a 30-tooth ring, which we really like, but you can’t run a D-mount style chain guide (no front derailleur tab) and there aren’t many ISCG-mounted guides that’ll accommodate a small ring like this. This is especially relevant to racers, and given that we’ve dropped the chain a handful of times, it something worth considering.

[divider]Spec[/divider]

The Range’s build kit is sensible, robust and very, very black. This is not the kind of bike you want to leave outside your tent at night – it’s invisible. During our testing, we did change a few components on the Range, including the wheels and fork. Both of these changes were in the name of product testing, though the wheels are one item we would consider upgrading on this bike.

 

SRAM’s super popular Pike and X1 drivetrain need no introduction, but the Guide RS brakes with 180mm rotors weren’t a known quantity when began riding this bike. It didn’t take us long to appreciate that they’re a much better brake than the Elixirs and a huge leap forward for SRAM on this front, which a snappy, positive lever feel and shit tonnes of power. We’ve had zero issues with these stoppers, other than some wet weather howling.

Unless you're deadset focused on weight saving, we can see few reasons to buy the more expensive X01 or XX1 groupsets, when regular X1 works so well.
Unless you’re deadset focused on weight saving, we can see few reasons to buy the more expensive X01 or XX1 groupsets, when regular X1 works so well.

The fork and shock have likewise been great, though it must be said the Pike has been sharing the workload with a FOX 36, which we also tested on the Range. We didn’t feel the need to add any volume reducers to the Pike to get the spring rate right for our lightweight test rider (63kg) though some heavier riders might opt to run a spacer or two. As we’ve noted before, it’s an easy fork to get along with, with buttery performance from the get go.

Everyone likes waffles. The grips on Range have a cool half-waffle pattern to them, but if you've got big hand you might find them a little thin.
Everyone likes waffles. The grips on the Range have a cool half-waffle pattern to them, but if you’ve got big hands you might find them a little thin.

We experimented a little with the rear shock pressures, before settling on more sag, rather than less. With 30% sag, we were able to get full travel on the trails where we’d like to, and then we judiciously used the shock’s compression lever to tackle the climbs. Norco have got it right with the Range’s rear suspension feel too – it’s nicely and lively, and it always seems to be shooting you forward.

We didn’t run the Norco’s stock wheelset for very long. After busting a spoke on an early ride, we took the opportunity to pop on some other wheels we were reviewing. While the Range’s stock Sun/DT wheelset is solid, it does have a fair bit of heft to it, especially compared to some of the wider, carbon-rimmed wheels that are becoming more popular and cheaper by the minute. During our testing we’ve run SRAM Roam 60 wheels (too narrow by current standards, and which have since cracked) and more recently Mavic’s Crossmax SX wheels, which are fantastic. Dropping weight out of the wheels brought even more liveliness to the bike, and really improved the climbing performance too. We know wheels aren’t a cheap upgrade, but it’s really the only obvious avenue to extract any more meaningful performance out of this bike.

There's 125mm of ride-freeing travel with the Reverb Stealth post.
There’s 125mm of ride-freeing travel with the Reverb Stealth post.

The reliability of the RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post has been pleasing too. We’ve had some issues over the years with the Reverb’s reliability, but this particular one was put together right and hasn’t missed a beat. We also really like the way Norco have used Match Maker clamps on the brakes/shifter/dropper – it makes for a super clean handlebar.

[divider]Ride[/divider]

In the current #soenduro market, there has been a real push towards some pretty downhill geometries – bikes have been getting pretty darn slack and low in this 160mm segment. The Norco doesn’t dive into the trend quite as eagerly as some, and that’s real part of the appeal for us. It’s a long-travel bike that doesn’t feel like a pig if you’re riding it on less than long-travel trails.

Feeling very at home, on our home trails.
Feeling very at home, on our home trails.

The Norco’s head angle is 66 degrees. Compare this to some of its direct competitors; YT Capra – 65.2; Specialized Enduro – 65.5; Trek Slash; 65.0; Giant Reign – 65.0 degrees. The difference isn’t huge on paper, but it is enough to be noticeable on the trail, keeping the front end on track when the trails are flatter or pointing up. The relatively slim and fast-rolling tyres that come on the Range (Maxxis High Rollers in a 2.35”) help too.

Tight corners are less arduous on the Range than on many 160mm bikes.
Tight corners are less arduous on the Range than on many 160mm bikes.

Norco have their own take on the four-bar FSR suspension configuration, using a longer Horst link than some other brands that run the same system (for instance, Specialized). This gives the Range a notably rearward axle path early in the travel, resulting in more chain growth, which is designed to make for more efficient pedalling. And it is efficient, especially if you’re spinning that little 30-tooth chain ring up a climb. The responsiveness of the Range to quick stabs at the pedals is a highlight too; with the short chain stays and sensible use of chain tension, you can easily pop up the front wheel. You do notice a bit of chain tug back through the pedals when sprinting, especially over rougher terrain, but the power definitely gets to the ground in a nice and direct fashion.

It's all good fun until somebody loses an eye.
It’s all good fun until somebody loses an eye.

On the other side of the equation, those times when you’re pointing straight down the hill and pedalling is far from your mind, the Range is a balanced, precise and fast machine. Getting the front and rear suspension working in harmony is simple with the matched RockShox fork/shock, and we actually found the Norco’s overall balance was better when we had the Pike up front, rather than the FOX 36. We do think the FOX is better fork on the whole, but it didn’t mesh quite so nicely with the Monarch Plus shock.

For a bike with 160mm travel, the Range possesses a serious ability to change lines or take to the air. It doesn’t hug the ground quite like some other bikes in this segment, but rewards riders who like to find ways over, rather than through, the nastiest bits of trail. That said, when you do need to muscle the Range, it’s not lacking; there’s a ton of steering precision and confidence with the massive 35mm diameter Raceface bar and stem.

[divider] Other options[/divider]

With the rise in popularity of Enduro racing, plus the huge improvements in weight and efficiency we discussed earlier, the Australian market is now full of great 160mm-travel bike options that weren’t available in previous years. In the last few months alone, we’ve tested a whole swathe of them.

There’s the unique Breezer Repack Team, which is really more of a long-travel trail bike than a radical all-mountain bike. Trek’s Slash 9.8 is a superb offering, and offers very similar value to the Norco Range. We especially like the wheels on the Slash, plus the fact that Trek opted not to use their DRCV shock. Giant’s Reign 1 will appeal to those who like an alloy bike, rather than carbon. This mango coloured beast is pretty much a mini downhill bike in terms of the way it rides. The Specialized Enduro is a superb platform, and even though we were underwhelmed by the rear shock on the S-Works model we reviewed, we rate the Enduro from the big S very highly. Finally, we’re in the midst of reviewing the YT Capra, which seems to be extremely good value and a potential firestarter in the market.

[divider]Conclusion[/divider]

The Range has been a brilliant addition to the Flow stables over the past eight months. Swapping out the wheels for lighter, more responsive hoops is a nice way to compliment the Range’s abilities as an all-rounder, and would be the only upgrade that we could recommend.

Norco Range 9
Thanks for the good times.

We do have plenty of rough riding on our local loops, but we were nonetheless a bit concerned that the Range was going to be overkill for most situations, and we worried that perhaps the shorter travel Sight would have been a better choice. This wasn’t the case, and we’ve found ourselves reaching for this bike far more often than anticipated. The Range may be big on travel, but its efficient riding position and suspension, and sensible geometry mean it refuses to be pigeon holed.

Cairns to host 2015 Enduro National Mountain Bike Championships

Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA) is excited to announce that Cairns, Queensland, will host the inaugural 2015 Enduro National Mountain Bike Championships from 17-18 October.

The two-day race will be a standalone event separate to the 2015 Enduro Series and will be run on the Smithfield Mountain Bike Trails, under the guidance and hosting of the Cairns Mountain Bike Club, with the event hub located at the iconic palm fringed beach location of Palm Cove.

Flow Mountain Bike’s guide to Cairns and nearby region.

This is the first time a National Championships race will be held for the Enduro discipline in Australia, and the event will see riders return to the amazing venue that hosted a round of the 2014 UCI World Cup. 

MTBA President Russ Baker welcomed the choice of Cairns to host the country’s first Enduro National Championships.    “October will be a big month for Queensland and for Australian mountain biking, with several national events in that period,” he said.    “Cairns, with its world-level history and future, is a fantastic location for our first National Enduro Championships and I thank all those involved in setting up and supporting this prestigious event in the newest discipline of our sport.”

CEO of MTBA Shane Coppin echoed this sentiment and said he is excited to see Enduro racing gain more recognition in Australia.  “Gravity Enduro is one of the most talked about race activities on the mountain bike scene,” he said.  “The discipline has seen significant growth in recent years, combining the thrills and excitement of downhill, with the fitness elements of cross country racing. “We are very pleased to be working with Cairns Regional Council, Tourism Tropical North Queensland and Cairns MTB Club on this event, and I personally look forward to watching the growth of this exciting and popular discipline”.

The event is expected to attract a large number of domestic riders and their families, injecting sports tourism and spending into the area.

Cairns Mayor Bob Manning also welcomed the announcement and the impending descent of riders on the city. “We’re very much looking forward to hosting the competitors and support crews of this international-level event here in Cairns,” Cr Manning said. “The sport of mountain biking is growing here in Cairns and our spectacular natural rainforest terrain provides an ideal backdrop. “I congratulate and thank Mountain Bike Australia and the Cairns MTB Club for bringing this event to Cairns.”

Tourism Tropical North Queensland (TTNQ) Chief Executive Officer Alex de Waal welcomed the addition of the 2015 Enduro National Mountain Bike Championships to Tropical North Queensland’s growing list of must-do mountain biking events. “Through our Ride Cairns brand we are building Tropical North Queensland’s profile as a mountain biking destination for recreational riders with more than 550km of trails throughout the region,” he said. “A National Championship of this calibre will further draw attention to the excellent mountain biking in Tropical North Queensland and support TTNQ’s events strategy to further diversify our calendar of sporting, cultural and lifestyle events for the region.”

Australia boasts the reigning Enduro World Champion and World Series Champion, Jared Graves of Toowoomba Queensland, and he will definitely be one to watch this October.

The 2015 Enduro National Mountain Bike Championships will be UCI Cat. 3 listed and modelled on European events like the Super Gravity Enduro in Finale Ligure, Italy.

Further information on the event, including schedules and entry information, will be available in the coming months via enduronats.com.au

THAT FLIPPIN’ FIVE – ORANGE DIRT WORLD TEAM

Orange Dirt World Team – That Flippin’ Five a
mountainbiking video by CaldwellVisuals

“The Orange Five just begs to be ridden. Check out Phil Atwill give her a good rippin’ down in the Surrey Hills as he obliterates corners, hucks everything in sight and shreds the early summer dust.

Loam tracks, dirt jumps, the south has it all (bar mountains), and Phil gladly nails the 5 inch travel bike through everything at mach 10 unscathed. He then decided to top it off by going upside down.. that flippin’ five, eh!

The first round of the EWS is rolling around in a few weeks time over in Ireland, Phil is just giving the competitors a taste of how he’s going to approach the stages. Full throttle and sideways.”

 

Tested: Giant Reign 27.5 1

Giant have really stepped it up a notch with the latest Reign, everything about it speaks the right lingo to the booming new-school crew of hard trail riding and enduro racers. From the bike’s geometry, to the choice of the most popular components, confirming to us that the folks at Giant have their ears to the ground about what riders really want.

The $5699 aluminium framed 27.5 1 (27.5 denotes the use of 27.5” size wheels) is one of four Reign models available here in Oz. They start at $3499 for the base version and top out at the Advanced 27.5 Team 0 with the composite frame for $7699 (click here for our first impressions of the flagship model).

Giant Reign 2

Giant Reign 21
How’s the length on this one!

[divider]Build[/divider]

The first thing you’ll notice is the wild mango explosion paint, it’s unlike anything we’ve seen from Giant in the past, actually we like all the 2015 Reign paint jobs they seem to talk to the new crew with a touch of retro flair. Especially with the colour matching highlights on the rear shock, fork and hubs, it’s very on-trend.

The frame is made from Giant’s ALUXX 6061 aluminium, with a wide array of tubing shapes and well thought out cable routing. Up close the finish is very neat, the welds and details are absolutely perfect, no surprises though coming from the well established industry giants.

Giant Reign 17
Beautifully crafted aluminium with a lick of bright paint.
Giant Reign 25
27.5″ wheels compliment the bike’s near downhill performance.
Giant Reign 27
Giant’s Maestro suspension uses a floating pivot system, and it strikes a balance between all the crucial areas that determine its burly but still very versatile attitude.
Giant Reign 22
The rear shock is offset in the frame, making space for the drivetrain and a solid lower linkage.

The cable routing is neatly carried inside the front end, but we experienced a tough rattling noise from the RockShox Reverb hose inside the frame when riding along, nothing that can’t be silenced with a bit of foam stuffed into the frame.

Their Maestro floating pivot suspension is used across the whole Giant range, and for good reason – it allows the engineers behind the bike to really nail the balance of pedalling performance, suspension suppleness and active rear braking. All the hardware stayed tight the frame displays stellar lateral rigidity, which greatly boosts confidence when riding hard.

Interestingly the shock sits off-centre in the frame away from the drivetrain, creating more space for the drivetrain and the lower linkage and the top shock mount pivots on a sealed bearing in place of a bushing, further reducing any unwanted stiction in the rear shock’s stroke.

Giant Reign 5
A cartridge bearing keeps the upper shock mount feeling smooth and stiction free.

The Reign is from the long top tube, short stem club with a medium size frame stretching you out over a 62cm top tube. The rear chainstay length is on par with many bikes of this suspension travel size at 434mm.

And of course keeping in the theme of the Giant brand, the wheels are 27.5”, with no 29er option. Simple to understand from a consumer point of view across the board, and thankfully Giant are sticking to it.

[divider]Spec[/divider]

What Giant have done really well here is dressing the frame in the most suitable components around, so you could pull it out of the box and ride it hard, straight away, or race it competitively without making one single modification to the parts. It’s so well rounded and complete that we struggled to find a spec choice that we’d rush out to make, if we did have to pick something perhaps a handlebar with greater back-sweep would be a nice upgrade down the track, but that modification is not going to change your life.

The bars are also a whopping 800mm wide, so unless super wide bars are your thing or your shoulders are so broad you turn sideways to walk through doors, you may want to look at trimming a couple centimetres off the ends for quicker handling and clearance from those trees that don’t move out of your way. Bar width is certainly worth customising, it’s a quick modification and can make a lot of difference.

Giant Reign 24
Yes, 800mm bars. Too wide for some, but at least you can cut them down easily. We ran ours at 760 to suit the tighter trails.
Giant Reign 16
SRAM X1, seriously feels a lot like the premium XX1, but without the price tag.
Giant Reign 26
200mm rotors for SRAM Guide brakes, that translates to a LOT of stopping power.
Giant Reign 14
An upper chain guide and bash guard is fitted for ultimate security and peace of mind, no dropping of chains will be possible on this rig. No drag or extra noise at all.

The tyres are ideal for this bike and a crowd favourite. Essentially downsized downhill tyres, the Maxxis Minion/Highroller combo is also set up tubeless with the supplied rim strips and valves. This excellent rubber is responsible for much of the Reign’s confident cornering ability.

Giant Reign 10
A Maxxis Minion, popular on downhill bikes and in a smaller 2.3″ size they are ideal for the Reign, and love to be leant over on a variety of surfaces. Riiiiiiiiip!

It may only be the second tier price point option in the Reign line, but it features the premium fork and shock from RockShox, a nod towards the priority of quality suspension from Giant. The RockShox Pike uses the two-stage air spring system that allows you to toggle between two travel modes, on this one you can drop the fork down from 160mm to 130mm of travel. We’ll come back to this later, but it had a very positive impact on the bike’s versatility.

A RockShox Reverb Stealth seatpost keeps in the SRAM theme and worked perfectly during testing, they really are the industry standard right now. And the SRAM 11 speed drivetrain completes the package with category dominating performance.

[divider]Ride[/divider]

No doubt about it, the Reign 27.5 is a whole lot of bike. The bike’s overall length and slack angles are about as subtle as a train smash; just standing still it looks huge and with the forks so raked out in front of you it feels like you’ve just sat on a regular downhill bike.

Taking a quick look at the frame geometry, with a 65-degree head angle, 620mm top tube and 434mm chain stay we were sure to expect big things when descending but notice a trade off everywhere else. Well, we were pleasantly surprised and after a couple rides we were absolutely flying on the trail.

Giant Reign 1
The Reign rewards riding with the brakes OFF!

The notion of short rear ends on bikes is a real buzz topic in the scene right now, a shorter chain stay (the measurement taken between the bottom bracket and rear axle) will bring the rear wheel closer to the bike’s centre, helping with the agility and snappiness of the handling, especially in tight turns. The Reign won’t make any promises of a category leading geometry, rather it aims to make the most of the generous travel, meaty tyres and stable cockpit to give the rider maximum confidence when the time comes.

You’ll need a fair bit of gravity and rough terrain to make the most of the Reign, and even on our roughest trails we were nowhere near the limits of such a burly bike.

Descending was a blast, letting the brakes off and attacking rocky sections we found ourselves letting it really hang out, wildly hammering over anything in our path with less care for line choice. We began to focus less on seeking smoother lines, or areas of traction and just going for the fastest and most direct line, trusting the bike with real confidence. Such a long top tube would let the bike move around underneath you like a mechanical bull at your 21st party, but with a strong and open stance and determination we were able ride out the loosest riding we’ve done in a long time.

Giant Reign 29
A sturdy frame, and 160mm of travel will let you punch it down terrain like this, confidently.

Sure, the trade off to such impressive descending is that you have a big bike to get back up the climbs, but what made it all so much easier was the fork’s Dual Position adjustment via the dial on the top left of the crown, dropping the fork down to 130mm of travel lowered the bars, sharpened the head angle and allowed us to really get up out of the saddle and right over the bars for an efficient climbing position. Combine that with a flick of the rear shock’s compression switch and in all honesty, it didn’t climb too badly at all!

Whilst the Dual Position feature in the RockShox Pike really takes the bike’s versatility to the next level, you do lose a certain amount of goodness that makes the non-adjustable Solo Air forks so impressive. The Solo Air fork can be tuned with the Bottomless Tokens to achieve the right level of progressiveness you’re after, whilst the Dual Position is not adjustable that way. The fork was a little soft under the brakes and would dive a little more, so we ran a few extra clicks of the slow speed compression to let the damping hold the fork up in its travel. In saying that, what the Dual Position brings to the table in terms of the lower climbing position is well and truly worth it unless you’re after the best descending fork option a Solo Air Spring can be sourced from a RockShox dealer.

Weaving through flat and tight singletrack (once we cut the bars down) required a bit of muscle to keep momentum, but the meaty tyres and supple suspension meant you didn’t have to exercise much finesse or caution to find rear wheel traction on loose terrain, just can engage the legs and power your way up anything.

The bike’s overall weight is pretty good too, considering its burliness!

As an enduro race bike, the Reign would be a killer option, especially with such a hardy and reliable parts kit fitted as standard. We’d also happily pop some 2.5″ tyres and race this thing downhill, it’s certainly up for it.

Adam Craig
Giant Factory Racing’s Adam Craig getting buck wild in the Rotorua EWS on the Reign Advanced.
tim-1
Giant Australia rider Tim Eaton often chooses to race the Reign over his DH specific Glory, that’s saying a lot about the bike’s descending ability!

Giant Reign MAsthead

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

The 150-160mm travel category is loaded with exciting new bikes right now, the mountain bike market is experiencing a massive boom off the back of the rise of the whole enduro thing. The Reign sits at the burly end of the spectrum, for an alternate option there is the Specialized Enduro, Trek Slash, a Norco Range Intense Carbine 29, Polygon Collosus N9, a BH Lynx or the Orbea Occam to name just a few…

The Specialized Enduro in both 29″ and 650B wheel sizes is a fan of the tighter trails and its super-short rear end is a real trademark trait (S-Works 650B review). Norco’s Range is available in a carbon frame for $6000 and we’ve been doing a long term test on the one (Norco Range 7.2 review). Trek’s Slash is one that borderlines trail riding with enduro racing (review here), and the Orbea Rallon is a from lesser known brand with a unique twist, and on a budget (review here). For a real steamroller bike, the 29″ wheeled Intense Carbine 29 is a pretty burly ride (review here).  How about the alien-like all mountain assassin from Polygon (review here) or the swoopy BH Lynx (review here), so many options.

[divider]Verdict[/divider]

If you’ve got the terrain, the will to let the brakes off and don’t mind lugging a bit of extra meat around the trails, the Reign is up for anything. It gobbles up hard riding like a starved sumo wrestler with a sushi roll.

The Reign certainly sits proudly at the robust end of the all mountain/enduro bike spectrum, it may be worth looking at the more do-it-all Trance if you are seeking a bike to have more of an equality between the ups and downs.

We’ve loved our time on the Reign, it’s a bloody courageous steed that fears very little, it just needs a pilot with the same attitude to make the most of it, who’s up for it?

 

The Josh Carlson Experience: EWS, Round 1, Rotorua

Josh Carlson 7
Tipped in on stage 5 of the Rotorua EWS.

We’ll be bringing you an insider’s perspective. So insider, in fact, that you’ll even be able to see what Josh’s heart is doing. For this unique series, we’ve teamed up with Today’s Plan, an Australian training tools provider, who work with Josh to analyse his training and monitor his performance. (Check out our first impressions of Today’s Plan here).

Through the year we’ll be bringing you a replay of Josh’s racing through rider telemetry; watch exactly what Josh puts his body through on each stage. Josh will also be providing us with some background about the racing, his bike setup, thoughts on his performance and more too.

Jump on board with Josh for stage 6 of the Rotorua EWS, straight down the Taniwha downhill track. Take a look at Josh’s ride data for this stage – it’s crazy to see how much time he spends in his VO2 and anaerobic heart rate zones. 


Take a closer look at Josh’s performance, stage by stage, in Rotorua. Use the menus on the right to switch between the various stages and to control playback speed. Keep an eye on his heart rate throughout – he might be primarily descending, but his efforts are through the roof.


Flow: So Josh, how was round 1?

JC: It was a pretty tough race, for sure. There were a lot of pieces of the puzzle to put together! Because a lot of the track was tight and rooty, you had to attack it, if you didn’t you were just bleeding time. There weren’t really any huge huck lines or areas where you could save a bunch of time, so it was all about attacking the entire course, and getting the little stuff right.

Flow: So did it lend itself to a particular style of racer?

JC: Yes and no. All the Frenchies with ninja skills did well, but then stages 6 and 7 were quite different. They were far more balls to the wall, they’re really downhill tracks – I mean, one stage was the previous National DH track, the other is the current National DH track. So it was no surprise to see World Cup downhillers take those stages out.

For me, this round really highlighted that a good Enduro racer has to be an real all-rounder, that your basic skills need to be solid. That’s what I kept coming back to, getting the basics right. That’s the thing with Enduro, you cannot be a one-dimensional rider. Look at Graves or Clementz – those guys are equally as good if it’s blasting down French walking tracks, open grass at full speed, or on the roots.

Flow: As an EWS round, was this race any more physically challenging than others?

JC: It wasn’t necessarily any more physically taxing, but it was still six and a half hours of ride time. Having said that, if stages 2 and 3 hadn’t been shortened it would have been really tight. The liaison stages were already pretty tight – I was getting to the start gate with about 10 minutes till my race run on each stage, which is really only just enough time to get focused, set your suspension or tyres pressures, get your goggles on, then it’s time to go.

But that’s really ideal, it’s what I aim for. If you’re there at the start for much longer than that, you can start to lose focus, get all distracted. That’s one of the real challenges of Enduro sometimes if you’re racing – it can feel too much like a ride with your mates, because you chat away on the climbs and then you have to be able to switch into race mode

Josh Carlson 5
Steep and slippery. Success in these conditions is all about focus, says Josh.

Flow: Is there anything you like to do to help focus?

JC: I guess I just try to take myself away from others a little, focus on my breathing, try to visualise the track. Don’t let myself get distracted by little things.

Flow: Talking about visualising the course, you’re running a GoPro. How much do you use the footage to help learn the trails?

JC: I use it flat out And you really need to – if you’re not running a helmet cam, you’re going to be off the back, big time. Because with the way practice is set up, you really only get maybe two, tops three, runs down each stage. I’m using the GoPro 4 now, with the LCD screen, and I’ll even review the track in between runs during practice. At Rotorua, you had 50 minutes of racing to try and recall, so with just a couple of runs, that’s just about impossible without watching the footage.
Unfortunately at Rotorua there was a bit too much local knowledge about what tracks were going to be raced ahead of time, so while most people had just a couple of runs on each stage, a lot of locals had been practicing the stages flat out. That made having footage even more important.
Flow: You started last year off with a massive, massive crash in Chile. Were you thinking about that this year?

JC: I definitely was aware of it, for sure. Especially since the first stage we practiced had the most potential for carnage, it was fastest, straight into the downhill track. It was very easy to get carried away – new bike, sick track, new kit, heaps of people watching. That’s what happened last year! I jumped on and was like ‘man, I am going to kill it!’, next thing you’re crashing into the rocks going at one thousand! We saw that this year too, they sent like 20 people away in ambulances on that first day.

Josh Carlson 3
A coil shock adds a little weight, but the traction is worth it for Carlso.

Flow: Did you toy with bike setup much for Rotorua?

JC: I changed tyre pressures quite a lot during the racing. On the rooty stages I was running 22psi up front, maybe 25 in the rear. Then for stages 6 and 7, where you’re really hitting stuff faster, I was back up to 25psi in the front and 28 rear. I also used a coil shock for this race too. I’ll be using a coil as my default setup this year, only running an air shock if the course doesn’t require as much traction or I need the lockout. The coil shock is just sick – the amount of traction is insane! A few other guys are running coils too. Cedric (Gracia) love his, so does my team mate Adam (Craig).

Flow: Thanks, Josh. Catch up with you after round 2 in Ireland!

Damien Oton and Theo Galy in Portugal

Join Enduro rippers Damien Oton and Theo Galy on a pre-season training mission in Portugal’s paradisiacal Azores region.

Fifteen hundred kilometers from mainland Europe, the nine islands of the Azores spring from the Atlantic, forming a volcanic archipelago covered in lush forest and featuring fast, flowing descents. Oton and Galy charge singletrack mainstays such as “The Cathedral”, rip ancient fishermen’s trails, and explore cultural quirks from stew brewed in the earth’s bowels—a local delicacy—to high-temp hot spring therapy.

Wyn Masters and Tracy Moseley Win Rotorua’s Giant 2W Gravity Enduro

Masters ‘smashes it’ to take an upset win.

A capacity field of 400 enjoyed dry and dusty conditions in Rotorua during today’s Giant 2W Gravity Enduro, beating the onset of the forecast rain which arrived at the end of prize giving.

New Plymouth’s Wyn Masters put a solid stamp on his credentials as a complete all-round mountain bike racer by winning against a stacked field including the current Enduro World Series champion, Jared Graves. The field also boasted other heavy-hitters like Jared’s Yeti team mate Richie Rude, New Zealand’s best performing EWS racer Justin Leov and a host of other talented Kiwis, Aussies and those from further afield.

NL_2WFeb2015-0596
Jared Graves dropping into the outside line on one of the many root-infested corners on Kataore Trail.

The 2W came after a busy week during the Rotorua Bike Festival during which Masters competed in the Road event ‘Flying Kilo’(placing 5th),  Bike speedway (1st), 16”Dual Slalom World Champs (1st), Downhill National Championships (8th, with a flat tyre in his race run) and Pump track (5th).

When asked about his tactics for the day he said he chose to do the longest and most technical Kataore stage first. I think it was a good move and started me off on a good note. My plan was to smash that stage and go from there,Masters said. It needs heaps of energy because its full-on the whole way.

Im doing three of the EWS rounds this year: Rotorua, Scotland and Italy. They fit in with my World Cup downhill schedule. Asked why he chose to compete at only three of the rounds he replied, I dont want to overcommit myself, so Ive planned to do those three and see how I go.

Skill on technical trails and fitness for intense efforts of a few minutes for downhill races are a strength for Masters, but he doesn’t train specifically for longer stages so was happy with his results on the lengthier tracks today. I thought Jared would have smoked me on the long stage today (stage D, Hatu Patu to Roller Coaster), he said,but I got him by a second.

T-Mo shows her class.

In the women’s field there were no surprises with the UK’s Tracy Moseley (T-Mo)  winning convincingly by well over a minute in her first event for 2015.

My plan was just to get back into racing, its the first race Ive done since October, she said. Ive done very little on my enduro bike and I was definitely pretty rusty so I enjoyed the chance to race.

NL_2WFeb2015-0434
2013 and current enduro world series women’s champion Tracy Moseley got maximum time on the bike by riding all the liaison stages.

It wasn’t all perfect runs, I had lots of mistakes, a few incidents like having to stop to drag out a bit of native bush that got stuck in my back wheel – all sorts of things, but nothing major and I really enjoyed the day.

Using the Giant 2W Gravity Enduro as a stepping stone to prepare for the upcoming EWS round in Rotorua, Moseley didn’t take the easy route

NL_2WFeb2015-0578
Raewyn Morrison struck some slower traffic on race stages but was still able to take the second spot on the women’s podium, seven seconds ahead of Rosara Joseph.
NL_2WFeb2015-0658
Rosara Joseph making quick work of the lattice of roots on her way to third woman overall.

I pedalled everything and didnt use shuttles. It was good to do a big day and I feel fine physically, just technically I was pretty rusty.To say she was ‘pretty rusty’is obviously judged by the high standards Moseley holds herself to, given her race result.

Asked how she found it, Moesley praised the variety of race stages, It was a good mix of trails, I think they did a great job

some techy stuff, some pedalling. Thats what I love about enduro, it tests everything in your riding.

Moseley is in Rotorua for a few more days and among the riding she will be doing will be a repeat loop of today’s courses – a good indication of how enjoyable the trails are.

She then heads south for more races including the NZ Enduro in Havelock. After that it is back to ride in Rotorua and prepare along with the other competitors in the Giant Toa Enduro (round one of the 2015 Enduro World Series), during the Crankworx Festival in March.

Overall results:

men

1.  Wyn Masters  29:41

2.  Jared Graves  29:50

3.  Richie Rude  30:11

4.  Justin Leov  30:20

5.  Ed Masters  30:42

6.  Carl Jones  30:45

7.  Ben Robson  31:04

8.  Byron Scott  31:16

9.  Joe Barnes  31:27

10.  Matt Walker 31:37

women

1.  Tracy Moseley  35:11

2.  Raewyn Morrison  36:33

3.  Rosara Joseph  36:40

4.  Sasha Smith   37:57

5.  Natalie Jakobs  38:37

6.  Vanessa Quin  39:21

7.  Sarah Atkin  39:52

8.  Ruby Morrissey  40:27

9.  Rachel Lynskey  40:50

10.  Christina Sergeant   41:03

La Grande Corsa – The Great Race

People get to the top of the mountain in different ways.

The NS Snabb was designed to get you to the top whichever way you choose, but as Sam Pilgrim and Slawek Lukasik demonstrate, that’s not the important part.


Finally. Something we’ve been working on for a long time. Here it is. The Snabb – our new Enduro and Trail bike.

When we launch a new product, especially one that is so important – we always try to get some cool action shots and videos. We really wanted to feature our superstar rider, but there was one problem. Sam Pilgrim hates riding uphill! And what is enduro riding without the climbs? So we thought hard and long how to put him to work and came up with a plan – and it’s called La Grande Corsa – The Great Race!

Search for the Steep, Episode 2: Lake Garda

 

Joe Barnes is joined by trials legend Chris Akrigg on his latest mission to ride the world’s steepest descents.

Travelling to Lake Garda, Italy, the two go in search of the illusive 122 trail, that some said would challenge even the formidable talent of Akrigg himself.

The long hike in changeable weather brings its rewards as the guys are presented with a steep, technical descent where Chris’ trials skills prove more than useful.